Thursday, April 18, 2013

Taste of Offal

     Calf liver. Snails. Beef heart. When people mention these things to you, you automatically think it's disgusting and unappetizing. However, one restaurant takes these ingredients and turns them into delicious dishes. Drawing their inspiration from Mediterranean cuisine, they have created an exotic restaurant for the adventurous.

     First off, for an appetizer, try their pork fat on toast. It may sound something that will tip your cholesterol to a higher scale, but it is actually just ground pork topped with fried egg. The ground pork didn't even contain fat which was probably the reason why it was a little dry for my taste. However, the fried egg really brought the whole dish together and made it a good starter for the rest of the meal. I also ordered the traditional French dish, escargot. Pairing their garlic snails with toast, the combination is excellent, the snails being very rich while the starchiness of the bread helps add a nice crisp. Both of these simple appetizers are a great way to start off your meal.

     For the main course, however, it was just so hard to pick. After a long deliberation, I finally narrowed my choices down to two. First, there's the braised beef heart and ale pie. The stew of heart and ale is put inside a warm thick crust and cooked in the oven until the outside is golden brown. However, even though the overall flavor is good, I would have loved it more if the outside crust of the pie was soft enough to meld the crust in with the stew. However, the outside was very crunchy almost to the point of breaking your teeth. The heart was somewhat chewy, too. Other than a dentist's nightmare, it has hearty flavors, no pun intended, that make you reminiscent of a home-cooked meal.

     If you don't want a pie, then maybe some calf's liver will fix you right up. Combined with the American staple, bacon, mashed potatoes and kale, this meal takes Southern food and adds some European twists. Combining all the components together makes a great bite or two, but each part on its own is not that appealing, the liver very overpowering and the mashed potatoes somewhat dry. This is something you can get from Luby's for a third of the price. It did not impress me at all.

    Finally, for dessert (the best part of the meal), their most beloved dish is the one to get, their sticky toffee pudding. Every mouthful was so good, combining the cream and pudding makes for a very sweet, very delicious bite.  There is literally nothing bad I can say about this dessert. It is perfection!

    Feast is a restaurant that is only for the bold and daring. It offers out of the ordinary foods that people fear to try. Feast is not for the faint of heart!

For more about Feast...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Heaven In Your Mouth

Flip'N Patties is a food truck that gets it right!

        Flip'N Patties was all started when Michael Jante and Donramon Jante, 2 Filipino cousins, joined in Houston to help bring the "heaven in your mouth" experience of Filipino cuisine through their food truck. Along the way, they discovered that they loved burgers and tried to incorporate this American staple with traditional Filipino food. Since then, Flip'N Patties has gone on to make delicious food for everyone to joy, as well as allowing you to sing karaoke while you're eating.

Their Iconic Truck - Photo By Me

        Flip'N Patties has a wide range of meals that you can positively enjoy. For their traditional entree, try their Flip'N Patty. No ordinary burger, this succulent patty is stacked with lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon, and a stuffed portobello mushroom all between a steamed siopao bun. This burger, due to its special spicy sauce, has a ton of flavor and heat to warm up your winter days.

The Main Dish - Photo By Me

        However, if you don't want to get too messy while eating, try their famous chicken pupu. Although it may sound disgusting, it is anything but. This Filipino version of fried chicken includes their free-range chicken marinated in their secret sauce and then battered and fried to make this sweet and savory chicken.  Honestly, it was good but it didn't wow me like any of their other dishes did.

Chicken Pupu - Photo By Me

        The perfect side to any burger is a good plate of fries. So Flip'N Patties made their own signature dish of fries, the Flip'N Fries. Combining their meat from their patties, chicken pupu, longanisa, or smoked pork butt, with their crispy fries and their house sauces, the Flip'N Fries is a great side dish to share with your friends and family. However, I wish it had more flavor and spices to make you really gasp.

Spicy Fries - Photo By Me

         And for dessert, there is nothing more perfect than the traditional Filipino dessert, halo-halo. A perfect blend of Asian tropical fruits and beans, sweet corn, vanilla and ube ice cream, a sweet leche flan, shaved ice, and condensed milk, this is truly a masterpiece. However, I couldn't eat very much because the cup was stolen from me every time I tried to get a sip. It's that good!

Sweet Sensation - Photo By Me

          Overall, Flip'N Patties is one of the good food trucks, with good food, drinks, and even some karaoke on those drunken nights. I will definitely keep going to this food truck as long as I live. Flip'N Patties is going to be yummy for your tummy!

For more about Flip'N Patties and where they're at...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Turkey! (Not Thanksgiving Though)

      I've always like the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. The dishes are simple yet packed with an array of spices. So, I've decided to search the net and look for the nearest restaurant that served this exotic cuisine. And just down the street from my church, I found this hole in the wall hidden from the busy Memorial street, The Empire Turkish Grill.

      As we entered the establishment, we were immediately greeted and ushered to our table by the host. We perused the menu and felt lucky that they had a lunch menu available everyday which consisted of a soup or a salad, an entree, and a drink for $10.95.  Wow! I thought it was a great deal!

      We were famished so we decided to order hummus as our appetizer. This dish is made of ground chickpeas and served with a sesame seed paste and olive oil. We immediately dipped the homemade bread called pide into the hummus. It was so good that we devoured the whole plate.

Hummus, a traditional Turkish chickpea dish (Photo by me)

       For my next course, the red lentil soup is just perfect for that rainy and cold winter day. Although a bit grainy, this soup made it up with its wonderful flavor. On the outside, it may look like a disgusting blob of beans but this humble crop is full of proteins, amino acids, and iron.

Red lentil soup, their great appetizer (Photo by me)

       For my entree, I opted for a Turkish dish that is well-known everywhere, the kebab. I chose the ground lamb. This char-grilled ground lamb, although a bit dry, was tasty in every way. This plate included red cabbage, tomatoes, green bell peppers, and onions. The flavors were authentic and everything on my plate was delicious!

A lamb kebab on a bed of rice (Photo by me)

       However, I found their falafel very disappointing. It is a vegetarian dish made of ground chickpeas that are fried in the shape of patties served with tahini sauce.  It was very, very dry.

Fried chickpea patties served with tahini sauce (Photo by me)

       Overall, I enjoyed the experience and the cuisine and I will definitely go back to try some of their dished like the cabbage roll and the DESSERT! 

To learn more about Turkish cuisine and their menu...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Muy Delicioso!

     Living close to the border of Mexico, it is only natural that we become familiar with some of their culture such as Cinco de Mayo, fiestas, and the Spanish language. But the one thing that is probably close to everyone’s heart is their cuisine, which is evident by the hundreds of Mexican restaurants around us.  Who can resist a mouth watering taco and spicy chile relleno?  How about the cheesy quesadilla and the exotic menudo? For me, I always look forward to the end of my Mexican meal because of this sweet, melt in your mouth dessert, a custard with caramel on top, the flan!

2 1/2 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
8 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups of heavy cream
1 1/4 cups of milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Place 1 1/2 cups of the sugar in a small saucepan.
3. Drizzle 1/4 cups of water over the sugar.
4. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar has melted into an amber-colored syrup.
5. Pour the caramel into the bottom of six 8-ounce ramekins.
6. Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl.
7. Heat the heavy cream, milk, and 3/4 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan.
8. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
9. Pour the milk mixture into the beaten eggs.
10. Pour the custard into the caramel-coated ramekins.
11. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan.
12. Add hot water to the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
13. Bake the flans for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
14. Chill overnight.
15. Flip the ramekins over onto a plate and you have your flan!

For more about Spanish desserts and cooking...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Home Sweet Home

    Over centuries, Filipino food has evolved because of the various ethnicities immigrating to the Philippines. These ethnic influences have adapted to the Philippine's indigenous flavor and style to create simple dishes with tons of flavor. Today, I'm showing you a dish that comes close to home, the popular Filipino dish kare-kare, oxtail and vegetables in a peanut sauce. This simple stew brings joy to my heart every time I taste it.


2 pounds of oxtail
5 tablespoons of canola oil
1 small head of garlic, peeled and mashed
2 medium onions chopped
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons of salt
20 longbeans
3 Chinese eggplants

1. Wash the oxtails and place them in a large saucepan with water over high heat.
2. Simmer the oxtails until the oxtails are tender.
3. Refrigerate it overnight to separate the fat.
4. Reserve the broth from the saucepan.
5. Warm up the canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
6. Add the garlic and onions and saute them for 5 minutes.
7. Add the tomatoes and peanut butter and cook them for two minutes.
8. Add the reserved broth and cook it for 15 minutes.
9. Add the oxtail and cook the oxtails for 20 minutes.
10. Add the longbeans and eggplants and cook them for 10 minutes until tender.
11. Cover the saucepan and wait until the stew is the right consistency.
12. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and shrimp paste on the side.

For more about Filipino cuisine...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is Food

     As the holidays are upon us, so many people can’t wait to get presents, start vacations and get on with their Christmas break. However, for some people, it’s not about the expensive things, but about spending a Christmas meal with their family and reminding themselves of the true Christmas spirit. Well, the dish I’m about to show you represents warm memories to all, that one sweet treat that was beloved to all in those old winter nights. I’m talking about the delicious peppermint bark, the one dessert makes you merrier than Santa Claus. And although it’s simple to make, it’s going to be the best holiday treat for sweet tooths all around the world.

My Peppermint Bark Recipe:

What You'll Need:

12 ounces of semisweet chocolate

1.5 teaspoons peppermint extract

1 pound of white chocolate

3 candy canes, crushed

1. Chop up the semisweet chocolate and white chocolate into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil.
3. Heat up water in a saucepan until the water is steaming.
4. Pour all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.
5. Place the bowl over the saucepan but do not let the bowl touch the water.
6. Stir until about 1/3 of the chocolate is melted.
7. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and mix and stir the 3/4 cup of semisweet chocolate you saved earlier until all of the chocolate is melted.
8. Stir 3/4 teaspoon of the peppermint extract into the melted chocolate and mix.
9. Quickly pour the chocolate into the baking dish and spread it until the chocolate is even.
10. Leave the chocolate aside for 10 minutes until it sets.
11. Then, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
12. Repeat the melting process over the water in the saucepan.
13. Stir the remaining peppermint extract into the white chocolate.
14. Pour the white chocolate over the semisweet chocolate and spread it until it is even.
15. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes immediately over the white chocolate.
16. Set the baking dish aside for 1 hour at room temperature until the bark is firm.
17. Break up the peppermint bark into pieces.
18. Congratulations! You have successfully made 2 pounds of peppermint bark.

Your delicious peppermint bark if you follow these easy steps.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Satay Night Fever

     I have been back in the States for more than a year now since living in Singapore for a couple of years. It is a tiny, multicultural country located in Southeast Asia. Because of its diverse ethnicities, Malay, Indian and Chinese, the people of this nation fused the flavors of their different cuisines to suit their taste buds. And every now and then, I would miss that tantalizing aroma of chili and curry in the Hawker Center. I would long for the taste of fish sauce and lemon grass. Luckily, I discovered this gem in the heart of Bellaire. Houston's Banana Leaf Restaurant was the answer to my cravings!

    Banana Leaf is a mom and pop shop specializing in Malaysian cuisine. The place seemed authentic. To whet my appetite, I ordered the classic Malaysian/Indian appetizer that everyone loves. Roti prata is a delicate Indian pancake that is served with a delectable curry sauce. The pancake is somewhat crispy and versatile that you can ask for different types of meat in it, sweet fruits, or even a fried egg. When it came out, I noticed that the curry sauce was a tad watery than I remember it should be. I dipped a small piece of pancake into the sauce. The flavor was wonderful. I thought that it was a good start!

    One of my favorites to eat in Singapore was their charcoal grilled satay. These chicken or beef skewers (or combination if you ask nicely) are perfectly served with a spicy peanut sauce, which, in my opinion, is one of the best sauces on Earth. This dish immediately brought me back to Asia. Everyone should definitely try this because it is such a well-composed dish, street food or not.

    For my entree, I opted for the traditional Singaporean laksa noodle soup. Now this isn't some boring, bland chicken noodle soup. No, this is a spicy coconut and lemon grass soup that will make your taste buds explode with an exotic blend of Asian spices. The noodles, along with the chicken, shrimp, pork, and vegetables, is sheer perfection. Just a word of caution, this bowl of soup is rich not only in flavors, but also in cholesterol. So, eat sparingly!

    If you don't want a soup, that's perfectly acceptable, because there's plenty of other dishes in the restaurant that are designed to feed each person's individual needs. For example, a classic Singaporean dish is their Hainanese chicken rice. A true clean-cut dish, it's merely steamed chicken served over white rice with the chef's special soy sauce. The secret of this dish is in the rice and unfortunately, I didn't get that Hainanese flavor that I was looking for so I was a bit disappointed.

    So if you're brave enough to try the Southeast Asian flavor, you don't have to travel thousands of miles to taste it. Just hop into your car and visit Banana Leaf in the heart of Chinatown. Houston is so lucky to have a restaurant like this, not only because of their delicious food, but because it will one day expose the majority of Houstonians to a different world of gastronomy.

For more about Malaysia and the restaurant...