Category Archives: Southern

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

Marinade

  • 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.

Notes

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!

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Kitchen 713

There’s no shortage of Southern-cooking inspired restaurants in Houston. They run the gambit from drive-thru to sit-down, white tablecloth. No matter what your budget, time restrictions or personal tastes happen to be, you will find some venue to suit.

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What makes Kitchen 713 different? Its menu is small and focused on a handful of items which they prepare extremely well. They are located deep into the new, scruffy IT neighbourhood of EaDo. In fact, they are so far into EaDo, it might be considered East Houston. They are extremely casual in atmosphere while serving items you could order from a much schmancier venue for half the cost. They are located in leased space from the adjoining church. This last bit you will want to know if you are thinking about alcohol. They don’t serve it and you cannot bring it; its part of the lease agreement.

Atmosphere
Very casual; you’ll find most patrons are in shorts and flops.  Order at the counter, table delivery. Don’t forget to pickup your silverware and self-service tea or lemonade at the counter in the back. Its basic, small (about 6  4-tops) and insanely popular, therefore it can be loud and chaotic but in a fun way. My advice is to try it on a week night but check their hours online before heading out; they are closed Monday and Tuesday, they also roll up at 9p.

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Food
Some of the best in the city. Breakfast Club has been the defacto Southern venue in Houston for a while now but Kitchen 713 is going to give them some competition. All items were extreme wins.

Boudin Balls: I’ve seen these made any number of ways in Louisiana but here they are chopped Boudin sausage mixed with breading then rolled in cornmeal then deep-fried and served with toast points. Of course they’re good, like a hush puppy with a sausage bonus. There was no accompanying sauce but you can roll your own from the large collection of hot sauces on the back counter.

Shrimp and Grits: Depending on who you ask ‘what is the most southern dish?’ in Houston you’ll likely hear Fried Chicken or this dish, Shrimp and Grits. Like Boudin Balls, Shrimp and Grits is prepared differently everywhere you go. Kitchen 713 prepares theirs with a lemon-cream sauce with a hint of garlic bite, which considerably brightens up a typically heavy bite. Grits are forced to share the bowl with a half-dozen or so squeaky fresh 11-count shrimp and the occasional boudin sausage round. Highly recommended for those seeking to escape the bacon-cheesy renditions.

Also featured in the photos, Lamb Belly with Potato Cake – a definite win for the birthday boy who ordered it. Will try next time.

Service
You can steal a look at the kitchen as you walk by the front since its all glass front. You’ll see the two chefs who work tirelessly in the small space; usually they will briefly stop to flash a smile and wave. Considering the heavy traffic at Kitchen 713, the orders are up quickly, 20 minutes or less. For a no-frills venue, the service here exceeds expectations and the staff will ask you many questions about how often you’ve been, what was your favourite, how can they improve. They will also fill you in on any upcoming specials and they will be sure to note their hallmark fried-chicken lunch served only on Sunday – its a whole fried chicken, so bring a friend.

Price
Frankly, given the quality of the dishes here, I think the prices are low – app, drink and entree will hover about $20-ish.

If you’re an urban pioneer willing to brave the what most Houstonians still consider a ‘bad neighborhood’ (it isn’t and ironically it has the lowest crime stats of any inner city zipcode) and you’re up for some classic Southern dishes spun with care and creativity, Kitchen 713 should be high on your culinary to-do list.

 

Dinner: June 2015

Kitchen 713 | 4515 Canal | HTX 77011

Charleston | Persimmon Cafe

Sometimes I tag interesting restaurants I want to try before I travel, other times I ask the locals after I arrive. Since I had success with asking the local teen crowd in Santa Barbara for their favourite spot, I did the same in Charleston. The result was a trip to Persimmon Cafe.

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Atmosphere
Persimmon is located near one of the many in-town colleges. Its also housed inside a laundromat. There are a few stools at a window-side bar next to a row of washers. However I noticed most patrons come in to start a set of wash then order takeaway on their way out. Should you decide to eat in, the window-side stools face Calhoun St., a heavily traveled street, which makes for good people watching. The constant swish-swish  of washers and clank-clank of jeans tumbling around a dryer may not appeal to some but I found it quirky white noise.

Food
The menu wins for simplicity – paninis, soups, sides and cookies; most of the paninis were some variation of grilled cheese. The lump crab panini appealed but the ‘adult grilled cheese’ was recommended by a college student I met earlier in the day. An interesting and delicious combination of smoked Gouda cheese combined with thinly sliced green apple and prosciutto. Tartness of the apple combined beautifully with the smokiness of the cheese and the saltiness of the prosciutto. The melty cheese and crispy bread were good textural contrast all the way to the last bite.

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I couldn’t resist trying the peanut butter and candied ginger coleslaw. It sounded just too odd to pass up and I was curious how the flavours would play out. Short answer – they work. The secret seems to be in using small amounts of peanut butter, which added a subtle nutty flavour, and candied ginger adding a sweetness which complimented the otherwise bland flavour of purple and green cabbage. I rarely eat coleslaw since, to me, it usually tastes like crunchy mayonnaise but I would definitely order Persimmon’s version again.

Service
Its counter-order setup and if you do eat in, they’ll walk it out to you. I’m pretty sure patrons eating in get preference since I got my order before the takeaway crowd that came in before me. The people working here are young, knowledgeable and exceptionally friendly, which seems to be the case everywhere in the city.

Price
Reasonable. Adult Grilled Cheese + Peanut Butter and Candied Ginger Coleslaw = $9

If you’re looking for great-tasting, low-cost and casual fare with  quirky atmosphere in the inner Charleston area, Persimmon is good choice.

Lunch: December 2014

Persimmon Cafe | 226 Calhoun | Charleston SC 29401

Lucille’s

I’ve been walking past this restaurant for 2 years without knowing it was a restaurant. I still wouldn’t know except last time I walked past, it was Sunday and there was a line. Curiosity drew me closer to realize that it was a line for Sunday brunch. Noted! The following week I chose Lucille’s for a work-lunch and was pleasantly surprised to find the nouveau Southern venue is excellent.

Atmosphere
The property is ensconced by a forest of large trees giving it a mysterious, hidden personality both inside and out. The interior with its dark wood, white tablecloths and upscale table settings I can only characterize as rustic elegance. I see Lucille’s more as a date place or a venue for quiet, refined celebration, rather than a scene or a place for attention whores.

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Food
I saw Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu and the surveying of choice came to an abrupt halt. Any restaurant billing itself as Southern will be tested on this dish – failure will not be tolerated. Luckily the chef here has completely mastered and even improved on the classic recipe. The tomatoes were fresh, neither too thickly or thinly sliced. The cornmeal casing was crispy, greaseless, substantial without overwhelming and there was a faint, fresh garlic flavour adding dimension to the tomato and the Remoulade sauce. The Remoulade sauce was thick, creamy, and well-balanced. The small amount of hot pepper I detected played nicely with the lemon and thyme.

I did make it past the Tomatoes to my main, only because I was sharing them with someone. For my main I went with an Oyster BLT, which was also excellent. Squeaky fresh and lightly fried oysters were dominant against a few strips of thick bacon and the requisite veggies, all packed densely within a crispy-turned-pillowy freshly baked bun. That Remoulade sauce from the Tomatoes showed up again here, a welcomed redux.

My partner-in-culinary-crime ordered the Chicken Fried Steak special which was obscenely large. There wasn’t much conversation during lunch and he did finish most of it, so I assume it was an unspoken thumbs up.

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Service
Knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. The only caveat I will mention is that they pimp the Fried Green Tomatoes as something they will bring to the table since ‘you must try these’. They are not free, if you don’t want them channel your inner New Yorker and speak bluntly to that fact. In my case I was going to order them anyway so it was a zero sum.

Price
A little high but ingredient quality, preparation and presentation are likewise high. Tomatoes $8, BLT $14.

Houston’s Museum District is still surprisingly deficient in restaurants given the meteoric rise in residential units. However, its encouraging that the few new entries, like Lucille’s, are focused on quality and innovation rather than banging out the typical strip center offerings.

Lunch: June 2014

Lucille’s | 5512 La Branch | HTX 77004

BRC Gastropub

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One of our favourite co-workers, 9Bullets, was leaving for bigger and better. This is, of course, a serious reason for a group outing. Since 9Bullets had been pimping BRC Gastropub for freaking ever, we knew no other place would be appropriate for the official goodbye and good luck.

Everyone questions the initials BRC. Its easy since a big red rooster is branded on everything at BRC. However, a rooster is male so it doesn’t stand for big red chicken, it stands for big red cock. There, its been said.

If you think that’s wrong, wait until you get a look at the menu. I double dare you to find something without bacon. It is a diet-violent establishment, so accept it and order away!

Atmosphere
Farmhouse, casual, well-worn.

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Food
Southern and Americana with a focus on bacon, it literally appears in half of the menu items. I had been prompted by several text pictures in weeks prior to try several appetizers.

Cheddar Biscuits. Weighing in with scone-like consistency, the cheddar is prominent but not overpowering and it is mixed thoroughly. Served with smoked-salt butter and bacon jam, the biscuits themselves are a meal. I highly recommend them but make sure a plus one is there to help you with the order. Bacon ‘jam’ is a extraordinary; bacon cooked slowly in simple syrup. FYI, it is available for purchase by the pint and I’m thinking it would be excellent with pancakes.

Deviled Eggs. The eggs themselves are delicious with hints of honey mustard and green onion. But that just isn’t  enough for BRC, they top them off with crispy bacon and fried oysters. You know, it really is worth the extra 10 miles you will need to run later to fit into your jeans.

Fried Chicken Sliders, Brussels Sprouts: Oh no, the appetizers aren’t nearly enough. The fried chicken alone had great spice but it was a bit dry. Paired with the sizable but airy bun, arugula, avocado (add-on) and dressing, it was good but I will probably try something else next time. I pulled a side substitution for the caramelized Brussels sprouts since I saw them come out with an order at the next table. Caramelized to crunchy perfection they come in a bath of creamy bacon vinaigrette. They sweet-savory flavor combination is excellent.

Service
Excellent. Our server was extremely personable and he gauged the mood and pace of the table perfectly. Our table of nine was ordered and served in less than 20 minutes with no mistakes.

Price
Individual items are reasonable but the bottom line can be high for lunch if you add extras and appetizers. My sliders and splitting the cost of the Cheddar Biscuits and Deviled Eggs with my partner in crime was $28.

While we’re sad we wont see 9Bullets on a daily basis, I have a feeling we will find time to make it to what will obviously become our new Rice Military meeting place – BRC.

Lunch: 30 Oct 2013

BRC Gastropub | 519 Sheperd | HTX 77007

Buddha Meets Bubba

I wont go so far to say that I use a bottle of sriracha a week but it is my version of ketchup and I use it on everything. Eggs – sure! Veggies, of course! Turkey Sand – yep, otherwise its boring. Peanut butter – ok, that was a kitchen mishap, unintentional but actually, quite good.

Last night I used some sriracha on some leftover BBQ brought home from a Labour Day celebration. The combination was  good and got me thinking – how else can I combine the eastern flavors of sriracha with typically southern food found here in Houston.

I now drag thee into my experiment.

Sriracha Pulled Chicken with Cilantro-Agave Cornbread

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Sriracha Pulled Chicken

  • 6-8 Chicken Thighs
  • 1/2 C Agave
  • 1/2 C Ketchup
  •  5 T Sriracha
  • 2 T Mirin
  • 2 T Soy Sauce
  • 1 t Sesame Oil
  • 1 t Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, chopped

Everyone except the chicken will meet in a blender and be processed until smooth. Place the chicken into a slow cooker, top with sauce. Cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, then low for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove chicken to a plate. Remove sauce to a large pot. Reduce the sauce over medium high until its the desired thickness (about 7 minutes for me), stirring often. While sauce is reducing, shred the chicken into strands using two forks. When the sauce is done, put the chicken in the sauce and stir to coat.

Cilantro Agave Cornbread

  • 1 Box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 T Agave
  • 1/4-1/2 C Cilantro, chopped.

I don’t make cornbread often enough to investigate a from scratch variety and I find Jiffy to be quite reasonable. In the mix up just add the agave and cilantro to other ingredients and proceed with the instructions.

This dish is happening again next week, I liked it so much that I don’t foretell leftovers from this batch. I had some leftover black beans, made with smoked Jalapeno, they were a brilliant side.

Haven

Its Christmas in Houston! Other people know it as Restaurant Week, now Restaurant WeekS, IMG_1334considering the event runs  from August 1 through Labour Day weekend. Every city has them  and for me its always a good way to try some new venues or to revisit some past favourites.

Today we did some revisiting. Haven was the IT restaurant a few years back and we were curious if the new-Southern localvore favourite had retained their across-board excellence previously making it one of the most popular dining destinations in Houston. Short answer – yes.

Atmosphere
Haven is one big open area; glass-steel-hardwood modern but with a softer, more in-home feeling. Soundproofing is good, which is critical for maintaining conversation in what could be an acoustical nightmare and the chairs are likely more comfortable that the ones about your dining room table. At lunch the crowd here is almost exclusively Greenway Plaza white collar discussing business. Except for the guy in Wranglers and boots who valet parked his big-ass black-out doolie; it is Houston after all.

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Food
All wins.

Chef takes classic Southern dishes and spins them around until they become dizzy and fall down. Once they regain consciousness they are something new made with local ingredients and arguably, better.

Shrimp Corn Dogs: I don’t have the capacity to remember much about previous dining experiences, hence the blog, however I did remember the one item I consistently order at Haven – Shrimp Corn Dogs. Its exactly what it sounds like – shrimp, butterflied, batter-dipped then fried. Three sticks are served with a Tabasco remoulade and a shot of homemade lemonade. The savory then spicy then sweet taste waves are worth the trip here.

Blackened Catfish on Cheese Grits: Not K-Paul hot but the blackening spices are still warm enough to shine through the creamy base of grits topped with lemon-tinged cheese sauce. Catfish does not have a subtle flavor so despite the other bold flavors in this dish it is still present in the taste spectrum. My favourite at Haven is still the Wild Boar Chili but this is a solid runner up.

Service
Service here is can be spotty in the evening, as the groups become larger and the demands higher, however at lunch it is consistently excellent. Homemade rolls appear instantly on seating. Orders are taken quickly and they seem to appear at lulls in the conversation, just when you want them. I noticed the some of the same servers from my last visit and I believe this set is very good at timing business lunches.

Price
For Restaurant WeekS its $20 for a 2-course lunch and this is a fair deal considering its about a 10-20% discount from the usual lunch prices. Not surprisingly, lunch is a better deal even out of Restaurant WeekS; entrees at dinner are in the $20-$35 range.

Parking
A special note about parking. Algerian Way is now all No Parking. While you could churn butter about Upper Kirby looking for street parking, its probably better just to valet and move on.

Lunch: 13 August 2013

Haven | 2502 Algerian Way | HTX 77098