Tag Archives: Texas

Avocado Margarita

It sounded interesting so I ordered it and now I’m on a mission to reproduce. At  El Alma, where I also had some incredible soft tacos, the Avocado Margarita seems a straight up lime-tequila variety but the added avocado smooths out the flavors and adds an interesting richness. A nice touch – the glass was rimmed in ancho flavoured salt.

Be warned, at El Alma, drinks are seriously strong. So strong I forgot to photo the tacos.

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El Alma | 1025 Barton Springs Road | Austin, TX 78704

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Beer Can House

Ironically it was my friend, the Hedge Fund Mistress, who does not even live in Houston, who told me about the Beer Can House. When I read her forwarded article from AP, I knew I would have to go; it was just too odd to pass by.

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Apparently, dude who lived here created the Beer Can House from beer he actually consumed over a 20 year span. Good on you Beer Guy, you were ahead of the recycling curve. Its worth a visit since you miss the context unless you are in person. This piece of art is buried in a cluster of McTownhomes, which, to me, makes it all the more appealing.

Beer Can House | 222 Malone | HTX 77007

Little Lilly Sushi

There are sushi bars and then there are sushi bars. Little Lilly is the later. Lilly’s is running under an old-school philosophy – fish, raw, on a plate speaks for itIMG_1313self. I’m on board with that philosophy. Some newer sushi places have stopped short of adding rhinestone tiaras and sparklers to sushi but they still smother rolls in sickly sweet mayo sauces and misguided presentation as marketing gimmicks to distract from lower quality ingredients.

Lilly’s came as a recommendation from the Marketing Goddess, a good friend and fellow foodie in Dallas. I’m normally on the giving end of restaurant recommendations but Marketing Goddess and I have similar tastes and expectations, so off I went.

Lilly is the owner’s daughter. And the Lilly Roll featured under house specialties is a vegetarian roll created for Lilly since she is allergic to all seafood. If you picked up on the personal touch in those two facts, get ready to feel it up close and in real-time when you take a seat.

Atmosphere
Minimalist but well-appointed decor. Small, 6 seats at the bar, 20 seats otherwise. No club music. The patrons seem to be the conservative, well-heeled variety, more concerned with quality than price. Lilly’s seems more the place for conversation, good friends and lingering.

Service
Great. Sushi chef was deeply knowledgeable about the offerings and very good at matching  personal tastes to whats on the menu. I’m not usually a fan of salmon nigiri but he highly recommended the wild New Zealand Salmon, claiming he had not tasted anything quite so fresh and flavourful in a long time. He was right.

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Food

All wins.

Litmus Test: For virgin sushi restaurants I have a litmus test of Yellowtail and Fresh Eel nigiri. If those don’t pass, I won’t order anything else and usually, I won’t return. Both passed with exceptional marks.

Salmon Nigiri: Chef mentioned the wild New Zealand salmon was some of the best he had tried. While I’m usually not a fan of salmon nigiri, I had to agree with him, it was stellar!

Hawaii Roll: Since chef was spot on with the salmon nigiri suggestion I asked him to pick out a IMG_1316roll, something offbeat, something I could not not find elsewhere. He proudly made me a Hawaii roll which is tuna & avocado on the in, escolar on the out, topped with a small amount of light sauce made from lime juice and sriracha. An odd taste combination on paper but the flavours were truly a fantastic experience; lime, like lemon,enhancing the fish, sriracha sneaking in and lingering after the fish flavours dissipated.

Price
Lilly is on the high side, however the quality is likewise high. Here, I believe you are getting what pay for. 3 nigiri (2pcs each), 1 roll – $38.

Lunch: 10 August 2013

Little Lilly Sushi | 6100 Camp Bowie | Fort Worth, TX 76116

Galveston’s Opera House

I poke fun at Texans for a variety of reasons. Its OK though, they poke back and in the end, they DSCN2285know who they are and they aren’t afraid of a little criticism, particularly since verbal sparring in Texas is more a form of entertainment.

Like all mature people, we acknowledge the positives and negatives in our philosophies. One thing I like about Texans is the connection they feel to their history; they go to great lengths to preserve that history. Case in point, the Galveston Opera House, built in the late 1800’s, severely damaged 3 times by some of the state’s worst hurricanes, neglected for decades due to regional economic fallout,  but rebuilt by the donations of Texans who refused to let it decay. Good on them.

While the architecture is nice and the physical preservation is admirable, that the opera house is still standing and in operation says something noteworthy about the people.

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Galveston’s East End

I read Galveston had some older Victorian homes GTX_EndEndbut I didn’t realize it would be a 10 block area of very well-kept Victorians. I didn’t quite make it through the whole Historic District, as it’s branded on the street signs, however I liked what I saw. The Historic District is centered around Post Office St from Downtown to the east about 10 or so blocks.

The nice thing about the Historic District is that it is wedged in between two areas dense with restaurants and bars. Walk a street to one end, have lunch. Walk back on another street, have a beer. Repeat. Its a nice way to spend the day.

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Gumbo Bar

In all the times I’ve lived in Houston, I’ve never traveled the entire hour south to the island of Galveston. Today some friends were leaving from the port of Galveston for a cruise so I thought why not see them off and spend a little time exploring. Glad about that. I had bookmarked another restaurant but it was not open so I poked Trip Advisor and found Gumbo Bar. Glad about that too.

Gumbo Bar is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike but if you are a table for one you will find no wait and better service at the bar. Its also easier to see the selection of beers in the glass front cooler at the bar and you’ll definitely want one or four of those to cool down.

Atmosphere
Galveston is terminally casual and tourism has quite the large presence so the atmosphere everywhere is extremely relaxed. Gumbo Bar is upscale diner with a mixed bag patronage. I saw an elderly couple with walkers seated next to a couple of scary-looking biker dudes (who ironically would later help the elderly couple out of their booth and into their walkers).

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Beer
I was surprised by the variety of local-ish beers, most of which were from Texas and Louisiana. I tried one from each state; Southern Star’s Bombshell Blonde Ale and Abitas Amber Lager. Abitas is a small brewery north of Lake Pontchartrain, LA. Their Amber Lager is smooth, malty with a light caramel flavor and pairs surprisingly well with peppery-hot and salty. Southern Star is a small brewery from Conroe, TX, which used to be a separate town but has now been sucked into the gravitational pull of the HTX (aka Houston, for non-locals). Their Bombshell Blonde is blunt and squeaky clean with a slight “biscuit” flavor, it did not stand up to the hot-pepper as well as the Abitas but it was great with salty.

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Food

All wins.

Fried Pickles with Ranch. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a state law in Texas that anything fried must be served with Ranch dressing. Fried Pickles are something I had never tried but I’m a fan now. The pickles must have been partially dried before frying since there wasn’t a drop of pickle juice when I bit into these. The casing was a grease-less cornmeal mix; pleasantly crunchy giving way to an even crunchier pickle. The combination of creamy ranch and salty pickle is surprisingly good, even if your blood pressure will hate you for your sodium-intake indiscretion.

Seafood Gumbo. But can she make a roux? The most common quip I heard from boys about girls when I was partaking of New Orleans nightlife. Not sure who is making the roux at Gumbo Bar but they can make a serious roux, which you might know, is the flour and butter fry up serving  as a foundation for all things gumbo. Surprisingly, the gumbo, while super rich, dark and ridiculously dense with seafood (oysters, shrimp, fish and crab) was not the least bit salty. I had a choice of four hot sauces, so I tried them all in succession. Alas, my favourite was the least interesting – Tabasco – straight up, no Jalapeno, Garlic or Chipotle distractions.

Service
Outstanding. Again, there is very little wait at the bar. I was seated immediately, the bartender was on the spot with beers, actually talking me out of a couple of choices which would have been too heavy for my meal. My food order started coming out in 10 minutes. I  felt neither rushed nor overlooked.

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Moderate and worthy

  • Beers, $5 a pop
  • Fried Pickles, $5
  • Seafood Gumbo, $10

I’ll be making more trips to Galveston; I like the casual, leisurely beach culture, the surprising 10×10 block of well-kept Victorian houses and the food scene seems good for a town of only 50,000.

Lunch: 3 August 2013

Gumbo Bar | 2105 Post Office St. | Galveston, TX 77550

Perot Museum

IMG_1239After hearing about how difficult it was to get into Dallas’ Perot Museum but how extraordinary an experience it was, I finally decided to go. I bought tickets on the internet about a week out and found that there were 400 available and they let in 400, so not so hard to get in at all. Actually quite a bit easier to get in than the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

About the experience, I had mixed feelings.

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First, the Perot Museum is a beautiful building and it is architecturally fascinating, somewhat presenting itself as the Borg having landed to assimilate downtown Dallas. You can see most of architectural aspects from the outside. And aside from some interesting views of downtown Dallas, there isn’t much of a reason to go inside, unless you are a kid or have them in tow.

That’s the rub here, the content is geared for those about 14 or younger. I would imagine even a high school student would find the exhibits trite since most of the content is taught in primary school; oil industry and Texas wildlife displays notwithstanding. That said, if you have kids in the tween or younger range, they are going to find it engaging if only for the plethora of hands-on, interactive displays. The interactive displays are extraordinary, however the problem with them is the ridiculously long lines that queue up for each experience. I didn’t wait in any lines since I wasn’t interested, however I did find the constant long lines of children forming a road block an irritating aspect of navigating the interior. Maybe its better during the week?

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One of the more interesting hands-on activities was the bio labs. Kids are queued up for their white lab coats, goggles and gloves then they travel from station to station inside the fishbowl area performing experiments and looking at results through microscopes. There is a focus here on DNA, so I’m thrilled that single digit kids are being exposed to the fundamentals of biotechnology, there is no reason they shouldn’t.

If you do have kids, this is a great stop for 2-3 hours, otherwise I would do a 1-2 stop about the exterior, snaps some shots, then move on to something more interesting.

Glad I went, won’t be back.

12 July 2013

Perot Museum | 2201 N Field St | Dallas, TX 75201