Category Archives: Drink

Bourbon Pork

So, you’ve had your bourbon tasting party and now there a little of the Kentucky spirit left over. You could have another tasting, keep it to yourself for sipping or you could find other interesting ways to use the bourbon. That’s what I tried here and the results were delicious.

Apparently Bourbon Pork is a Kentucky thing, not a surprise from the birth state of Bourbon, however I can’t remember it making an appearance on any menu when I’ve been to Louisville or Lexington; next time I will pay closer attention.

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  • 2-3 lb Pork Tenderloin


  • 1/2 C Bourbon
  • 1/4 C Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 C Orange Juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 C Oil
  • 5-6 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • 2 T Maple Syrup
  • 2 T Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 t Ground White Pepper
  • 1/2 t Ground Ginger

Whisk all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Rinse and pat dry the tenderloins. Add the tenderloin and marinade to a Ziploc bag, seal, turn to coat and let rest in the refrigerator overnight (at least 4 hours, preferably 8). You might turn the bag over a few times while its in the fridge.

When ready to prepare, heat over to 425. Drain the tenderloins of marinade then place on a foil lined baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on thickness; current pork wisdom says a meat thermometer should register at least 155 degrees. Remove, let rest for 10 minutes. During the resting period the meat should register 160 degrees.


The flavours here are spicy; pepper obviously makes itself known first but that gives way to the BourbonPork-3honey overtones of the Bourbon and a retrospective of the many parts of Worcestershire (still not entirely sure what is in that).

I was a little reluctant to cook the tenderloins for 40ish minutes given I used two smaller cuts, but it turned out just fine; juicy and toothy with just a slight crunch here and there on the bottom where the marinade condensed during its oven visit.

I don’t make pork often but this dish is so good I might have to add it to the menu more often.

I used Basil Hayden Bourbon which has a lighter flavour overall but honey and pepper dominated the spectrum of comments during the tasting. I wanted to see if the pork would pick that up; it did.

I squeezed my own orange juice since I didn’t want any extra sugar typically found in off-the-rack orange juice concentrates; oh and I already had oranges so it saved me a trip to the store.

I roasted some carrots using a little ginger, garlic and black pepper; good pairing.

I originally wanted to do some caramelized peaches with this dish but the market peaches looked worked over, so I picked up blueberries instead; sounds weird but it worked very well.

I’ll bet this is really good grilled outside!

Honeymoon Cafe

Honeymoon Cafe is one of several craft cocktail bars recently opening in the Market Square area of downtown. I hadn’t noticed before last month but almost all of the spaces on Main St in this part of town are now bars focusing on anything but off-the-rack cocktails. Good on them.

Honeymoon is a little different from the rest of the craft cocktail bars since they also have  breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner menus. I liked that their breakfast menu was available all day which makes possible the almost irresistible breakfast for dinner option.

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Houston considers ‘old buildings’ anything built more than 50 years ago. Its also prone to yanking those buildings down in favour of shiny glass and steel boxes. Shame, but at least in downtown you’ll find the last remnants of buildings originally built before 1900. Honeymoon is smack in the middle of one cluster.

Historical context and old-world architectural detail aside, you’ll find Honeymoon to be very casual with mixed bag patronage. Early hours usually pulls in post-work suits umbilically attached to laptops, later hours pulls the pre-party crowd getting in some meaningful conversation before the night spins out of control.

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Yep, there is food and I’ve been happy with my food orders here on previous trips, however  this round was about drinks. And actually I just tried the one, Peter Cottontail,  but with different preparations.

The base layer of the Peter Cottontail is carrot juice. Ginger and lemon are added and then there is the variable; either Green Chili vodka or Mandarin Orange vodka. I tried both but my preference was for the Green Chili version. A little amusing heat from the chili, inherent sweetness of the carrot, a little acidity from the lemon and the zing of ginger all in one glass. Its health drink! I can rationalize with the best of them.

Like most ‘craft cocktail’ venues, each drink is prepared with almost ceremonial process so it will take a bit longer. Food orders are typically a 20-30 minute turnaround. Staff here are mostly friendly and knowledgeable however I did get some impatience from one bartender when I asked some questions about preparation. Who knows, maybe dude was having a bad day but this seems an anomaly rather than the standard.

Pretty fair. $9-12 per cocktail. $8-15 per food main.

Drinks: August2015

Honeymoon Cafe| 300 Main | HTX 770902

Bourbon Tasting

Bourbon-1Seems like Bourbon Bars, while a novelty a few years back, are taking a more prominent role in Houston’s night spots. In one weekend I went to 3 self-proclaimed Bourbon Bars and that was just in one neighbourhood. Persistent curiosity about the Kentucky spirit set me off on my own experiment. The ‘Bourbon Guy’ at our Home Depot sized liquor store was very helpful when I explained I was having a tasting and I wanted three distinctly different Bourbons.

He recommended the following, to be consumed in the order listed.

Basil Hayden’s
Bourbon Guy called this a good choice for the uninitiated. The lighter and more approachable of three had a spicy smell bordering on black pepper and licorice. The flavours were toasted hay, honey, pepper with an unexpected but very appealing spearmint on the very back of the tongue. The finish was short and clean.

Walking Stick, Single Barrell
When I first smelled Walking Stick I said “Creme Brulee!”. My research assistants laughed but little by little they starting making comments – ‘Vanilla, Caramel, Burnt Sugar, Custardy’. Call me crazy but when you sum those up, its Creme Brulee – QED. The taste was direct, medium bodied and sweet with oak, caramel, pecans, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish here was lingering and sweet, then it snuck out the back door with a quick goodbye.

Knob Creek, Small Batch, Single Barrell
Weighing in at 120 proof you’d expect this one to be the palate hammer. And it is. Bourbon Guy warned me that any bourbon tasted after this one will have no taste. I totally get it now. The flavours were complex and unfolded in layers. First a distinct dried fruit; peaches and apricot. That was followed by a roasted almond, roasted oats, charred oak and leather layer. Lastly I got some spice; a little black pepper, vanilla and cinnamon. The finish was very long and left my mouth feeling like I’d sipped a vanilla coke. An adult vanilla coke.

These were all very good; Walking Stick would probably be my go-to. I would serve Basil Hayden to those not familiar with bourbon or for those who are a bit adverse to strong flavours. Knob Creek, well, that’s likely for the confirmed bourbonistas, I imagine only they will be able to appreciate the bold and complex flavours.

When I asked Bourbon Guy about food pairings he said all I needed to remember was three things: bacon, pecans and peaches. I took his advice and created a bacon deviled egg, which we’ll get to next.

Karbach Brewery

I knew about Karbach beer, however not being a huge beer consumer I was surprised it was brewed right here in Houston. I was also surprised when Karbach Brewery Restaurant popped up for restaurant week, so I felt compelled to investigate their 3-course dinner with beer pairings.

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Disneyland for adults.  Its a modern structure, sporting the ubiquitous soft-loft feel; floor to ceiling windows, lots of steel and polished concrete. The interior is filled with upbeat music, brick walls, wood tables and chairs and people who are arguably the happiest in Houston. From the interior you can see the squeaky clean inner workings of the brewery through large glass windows. You can also see the outdoor seating area which is about as large as the indoors. Its a loud space but not so bad you’ll need to scream. If you were thinking about getting dressed up, there’s really no need, almost everyone was in shorts and flops; I felt over dressed in jeans and boat shoes.

Surprisingly, for a brewery, the food here was great. One of our crew explained that they hired a chef away from another restaurant to create a menu pairing well with their beer offerings. He nailed it.

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Korean Fried Chicken: What’s not to like? Crunchy on the out, juicy on the in, a very spicy glaze of hot pepper, garlic, soy and honey. That they added a bit of chopped kimchi and green onion created a fermented and herbal note that peeked through the glaze momentarily. Very tasty and satisfying in a comfort food way.

Weekend Warrior Chicken: Roasted chicken is uninteresting on its own but here they create a layered approach to the dish both for your eyes and your taste buds.The roasted 1/4 chicken, brined in their Weekend Warrior Pale Ale, sits atop crispy polenta rectangles which sits atop a spicy tomato sauce; a tangle of grilled green onion which, in turn, creates a nest for a grilled lemon. I might have to try it again to confirm that I really liked.

BBH Chocolate Cake: Not a dessert person but who can resist taking at least one bite of chocolate cake made with BBH, Bourbon Barrel Hell-raiser, which is Karbach’s much lighter version of a Chocolate Stout. Still too sweet for me but people with more normal taste buds appreciated, particularly when paired with cinnamon vanilla ice cream and, of course, a 4 ounce pour of BBH itself.

Hard to say about their usual menu since this was restaurant week and the 3-course lot was $35. My guess is the everyday menu is fairly priced.

This is part of the atmosphere. While shorts-clad and very young, the wait staff here know everything about the food and beer offerings. Restaurant week meals come with pre-selected beers (4 ounce pours), however that did not stop us from ordering more beer and our server was spot on aligning particular tastes with what was on tap.

While the brewery is a little out of the way for us inner-loopers who don’t normally travel too far north of the 610 and the parking was a little odd, we all agreed we’ll be back. An interesting note, just in case you like to throw large parties, the entire upstairs is rentable.

Dinner: August 2015

Karbach Brewery | 2032 Karbach St | HTX 77092



The Korean sector in Houston is concentrated slightly west of town along Longpoint Rd. near Blalock. There you can find dozens of Korean restaurants and a Kroger-sized grocery dealing mostly with Korean items. However, in town, Korean options are sparse. This in-town restaurant, Dosi, is not strictly Korean, it leans more towards fusion.

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Dosi did a Madonna; It disappeared only to come back with a new look. The look is sophisticated industrial with a tinge of street thanks to inside murals by Houston’s Aerosol Kriminals. The bright pink murals, light trees and wall of marinating produce broke up the rectangular grid of interior and created interest.

There were not many people for lunch but apparently they had a bumper crop the previous night – a late, last minute party of 20 – and they were out of a lot of items. They were quick to offer impromptu substitutes for missing items and they actually closed the restaurant after we were seated so we had full run over the remaining menu items.

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The food here is mostly great, however Korean purists are going to take exception to the ingredients, preparation and presentation.

Bibimbab: I ordered the bibimbap for lunch and it was mediocre. The chicken and vegetables lacked flavour and the rice was dry. I salvaged the lot by applying liberal amount of gochujang, the Korean hot pepper paste.

Kimchee, Pork Belly Pancakes: Stellar. Crispy on the out, soft on the in, good texture play with the roasted pork belly and just the right amount of kimchee to flavour without becoming overpowering. The vinegar, soy, hot pepper dipping sauce was amazing. The homemade kimchee in pots on every table were a great topping with these.

Gulf Oyster Ssam: Also amazing. Crispy potato-starch fried oysters presented with lettuce for wrapping along with nori strips, red bell pepper, kumquats and a gochujang aioli. This is a good example of how Dosi does fusion with excellent results.

Its in line with other Upper Kirby establishments for lunch, $8-10 per app, $10-15 per entree. For those who know the prices of authentic Korean restaurants, this will seem high, however consider the time and money costs of getting to those from an in-town location.

It was our server’s first day and she was faced with 12 hungry people, serious time restrictions and a lot of missing menu items. I applaud her ability to negotiate with the chef to come up with adhoc substitutes and to offer us deals on those items. I would not want that as my first day experience but she handled it extremely well. Hopefully that is a harbinger of the service level in general.

While I’m still partial to authentic Korean I’ll definitely return to Dosi to try more of their fusion items. I’m also curious to try a few of their Soju offerings which are featured prominently during their daily Soju happy hour.

Lunch: July 2015

Dosi | 2802 S. Shepard | HTX 77098

Hawaii | Coffee, Pre-Cup

I have five coffee makers to brew coffee in five different ways. There’s the drip maker, espresso machine, the ubiquitous Keurig, French press and this odd contraption that allows me to make a 24-hour cold brew. Do I need them all? Umm, nope. But when has need mattered to a coffee aficionado?

You’d think with all the coffee gadgetry I’d know every last detail about how coffee is grown and processed before its brewed and hits the cup. Not so much true until last week when I went to visit a friend in Hawaii. It’s merely a coincidence that my first trip to Kona comes right as he bought a coffee farm. Really.

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The first step to learning about coffee, pre-cup, is to locate a coffee farm. Alright, that was easy. Now there’s the matter of knowing when to pick the coffee fruit, or what I learned are called cherries. They should be solid red. Also, you should check that there isn’t a tiny black hole at the bottom, this is evidence a coffee beetle has made a home there.  Now that you have the fruit you need to extract the beans. You can squeeze the bottom half of the cherry a little and the beans will pop right out of the top. Hand extraction is nice if you’re going to collect a few ounces of beans, otherwise you’ll need a sheller; a handy contraption that extracts the beans and discard the casings automatically.

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The soaking. When the beans are extracted they are covered in pulp. Out of curiosity I tasted the pulp, it was sweet and pasty. Soaking the beans overnight will help to remove the pulp. Also, any beetle-damaged beans will float to the surface for easy removal.

After the soaking, the beans are dried in the sun for about a day. I thought we could start roasting after the beans were dry but there was an outer coating, a husk, that needed to be removed first. These come off easily and you can do handfuls at a time. Congrats, now you have ‘green’ or unroasted coffee!

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Now comes the roasting. First go out and purchase a commercial coffee roaster and lease some space to house it, since its likely to be massive like the old school one I used.  Late model commercial roasters are all programmed but this one was not.  As an aside you can just roast green coffee at home on your cooker in a frying pan. Heat it up to high then dry fry the beans until they turn brown. Brown, not black; if they turn black or get oily, they are burnt – those you can sell to Starbucks.  Roasting is trickier than it seems;  I watched the beans closely and on my first round they went from brown to a black, oily mess in about 1 second. I also smoked out the restaurant where I was roasting them – good thing everything in Hawaii is open air.

That’s all, you’re ready to grind and brew! Now that I know more about how coffee is grown and processed, I feel it’s logical to drink more in appreciation.


Coconut, Key Lime Soda

Sounds good, right? And it is but this was a creation of necessity rather than experimentation.

Last month I started waking up in the middle of the night with severe calf cramps. You know, the kind that make you curl up in a ball, massage your calf and swear at peak volumes. Typically those are caused by a potassium deficiency, so I started eating bananas. Not effective.

Later I started monitoring my sweat rate to assess the quantity of electrolytes I was losing during exercise. I was a bit surprised – 3.5 pounds  or 54 oz/hr. That’s a little on the high side since normal is in the 25-40 oz/hr range. It also explains why I’ve been potassium deficient. The more you sweat, the more you lose electrolytes. So I added a bit of coconut water for potassium to the mix. I was not impressed with the flavour of coconut water – not one bit –  so I added more coconut flavour and a little sweetness with Sweet Leaf Coconut Stevia Drops. Definitely better but I wanted something with a brighter flavour, so I added key limes and sparkling water to the mix.

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Now I drink this at least once a day. I’ve stopped buying all those silly electrolyte drinks and my calf cramps seem to be under control.

  • 4 oz Sparkling water
  • 4 oz Coconut water
  • 1/2 dropper Coconut Flavoured Stevia Drops
  • 2 Key Limes, quartered, 1 quarter squeezed


Cannabis Energy

IMG_2490I had to buy it, it made me laugh, an energy drink under the brand name Cannabis. I have to say the flavour of the carbonated beverage is stellar – a very intense orange, mango and pineapple combination. As far as energy is concerned, I did feel a little lift which lasted about 30 minutes. Cannabis professes their energy formula is derived from hemp seeds. It is true that hemp seed is a major constituent, however so is taurine, which we all know is the jolting ingredient in Red Bull.

I’m glad I tried it, it was good  and I got a 2-cups-of-coffee boost when I wanted it. But I’m not big on taurine for many reasons, so I won’t be buying it again.

Moon Tower Inn

Austin is the one city in Texas which seems not part of Texas – its liberal, its dynamic, it does not adhere to the surrounding cultural norms in a way that does not offend those who do. Hence the city’s tag line ‘Keep Austin Weird’. To a large extent Austin has been successful in preserving its weirdness.

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Apparently a seed from Austin’s mindset has escaped and traveled the 200 miles to firmly plant itself in the soil of Houston’s night spots, because Moon Tower Inn is weird, at least for Houston. I hope this trend continues.

Lets check the weird aspects:

  • Located in what is mostly an industrial park in Houston’s EaDo neighbourhood
  • All outdoor seating
  • No website
  • A mostly wild-game hotdog menu
  • Huge, mostly unknown but appealing on-tap beer offerings
  • Crowd defies categorization
  • Unapologetic 45-minute wait for food. Signs will warn you of this, so don’t bitch or you’ll get some well-deserved attitude in return
  • They run out of beer and food items randomly – have a contingency plan
  • Bathroom signs – you are either a taco or corn dog – figure it out

That said, I first tried Moon Tower Inn soon after it opened since their wild game hotdogs became legendary on Chow. They are incredible. If you are not sure what to order, just ask the bartenders to pick something out. They are personable, knowledgeable and will Q&A until they can recommend something you’ll enjoy.

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The Lamb Dog is my second favourite to the Coon Dog but the boudin-based Coon Dog is almost always out of stock by the time my late ass arrives. The Lamb Dog is extremely flavourful and spicy with what seems to be a little hot pepper. I had mine with feta and onion this time, one friend called ‘chefs choice’ for his Lamb Dog and was happy with the Jalapenos and ‘special sauce’. Good luck trying to figure out whats in the special sauce, it tastes a little like catsup and black pepper – whatever it is,  you’ll enjoy. The dogs come on a pretzel bun which is out of this world good; a little yeasty, a little crispy, a little soft, no salt.

Music at MTI swings wildly around the genres. This time when we arrived it was metal for the first hour then switched to early 90’s hip hop. I had to use Shazam to figure out the artists – mostly it was Will Smith during his Fresh Prince days, with a side of  Beasties, Dr. Dre and Young MC. A hilarious but enjoyable time capsule.

Contrary to what you might hear, the neighbourhood around MTI is not that bad. Its not a place I would want to wander miles solo at 2am but I wouldn’t give a second thought to walking solo 2 blocks back to my car at midnight. About parking , street parking  along Ennis, Canal and Commerce is widely available and not an issue, however do be mindful of the no parking signs, which are clearly visible and in red font.

If you are looking for a place to roll up as-is, have a few incredible beers, a noteworthy hotdog and relax solo or with your crowd, you just can’t beat MTI.

Drinks: May 2014

Moon Tower Inn | 3004 Canal | HTX 77003

Crios Torrontés 2011

IMG_2045It didn’t take a trip to Buenos Aires to become interested in the Torrontés variety, there are reasonable offerings domestically and even a few noteworthy tries from Texas vineyards. However, I definitely leveraged being in Argentina to ask questions and find little-exported renditions of the native white grape known for its aromatic qualities and ‘mouthful of floral’ flavours.

Now that summer is upon Houston, my bent toward red wines is balancing out with an occasional white. This Torrontés caught my eye after a long walk in the steamy afternoon which by coincidence (or not) landed me directly in front of our Home Depot sized wine store.

On the pour the Crios is very pale yellow, almost beige, which is typical across Torrontés I’ve tried. Initial scents of honeysuckle and freshly squeezed lemonade, however after the wine came closer to room temperature I picked up a little fleshy apricot and nectarine. On the first taste I was surprised by a slightly effervescence however there were no tell-tale visual signals. Moving on, I noticed distinct honey and pineapple dominance which did not subside over time. However as the wine warmed up a bit, the honey and pineapple loosen up their death grip to let in mango with plus one Meyer lemon. When the wine makes its way down you are left with an echo of tropical fruit and an fading shale quality, which only prepares you for the next sip.

Torrontés always presents as sweet to me initially, however I think this is a mind over tongue trick since there are so many tropical fruit flavours that register initially. The residual sugar is not very high, nor is the acidity, which makes for a pleasant solo-sip, particularly when the temps start to rise.

I might focus a bit more on Torrontés this summer, it noticed more and more imports available, almost rivaling the whites from Australia and New Zealand. I’m starting to wonder if Torrontés is the new Sauvignon Blanc.

Crios Torrontés 2011 | Specs, Downtown HTX | $11.95