Monday, February 2, 2015

food for thought: January 2015

I've decided to try something new for the site this year. I'm keeping notes on every meal or noteworthy snack I eat each month. First realization: my God, I dine out a ton. At the end of each month I'll put together a list of the good, the bad and the interesting. Here's what stood out for January:

prime beef rib burnt ends from Killen's Barbecue

The best thing I ate this month: Hands down, with no close second, the prime beef rib burnt ends from Killen's Barbecue. Patrick Feges of Killen's extolled that they "might be the single best bbq bite I've ever had." You can certainly make that argument for them. Great bark, immense flavor and a touch of sauce, this recent menu special is a perfect example of what makes Killen's such a unique and treasured part of not only the Houston dining scene, but Texas' barbecue landscape.

The worst thing I ate this month: As some of you may know, I recently relocated to the north side of town. I have done my best to sample plenty of the dining establishments in my new area, hoping to find some hidden gems and convenient places to add to my regular rotation. What I've yet to find in my new stomping grounds? Acceptable Tex-Mex. You would think this wouldn't be that hard to locate, but I have eaten some truly terrible meals in search of a decent fajita. This month I was subjected to the absolute worst version of refried beans I could ever imagine. Pureed to almost a bisque texture, these beans had no flavor and the mouthfeel of curdled milk. Sadly, they were just an accompaniment to a spectularly bland plate of beef and (rubber) chicken fajitas. Not to be outdone by the plate, the margaritas were straight-up grocery store bucket quality.

banana and Nutella crepe with strawberries from Melange Creperie

Confession: I hate to admit that it took this long, but I had my first Melange Creperie experience this month. I know, I know, where have I been? My wife has long been a fan and had been nudging me to see Buffalo Sean in action for quite some time. Somehow Melange became like that hit movie you didn't see the first couple weekends in the theater. Everyone tells you it's great, you just never buy your ticket. Finally, on a cold Saturday morning I made it down to the stand and was wowed by the food that many have raved about for so long. Delicious, affordable food cooked and served by the most pleasant fellow you're likely to meet. I've already had my second Melange experience. Sorry it took me so long, Sean!

glazed donut from Slough Dough Bake Shop

Opening Day: I made it down to Weights + Measures and sampled the Slow Dough Bake Shop on its opening weekend. It is of course unfair to pass judgement on a place as it opens, but I'm anxious to see how they work out the kinks. The glazed donut was fairly dense, but an unexpected addition of zest was a pleasant change from the usual donut. The bismarck donut had a very nice bavarian cream, but far too much of it that overshadowed any flavor one might hope to get from the pastry itself. The setup of the place is a bit confusing to a first time customer, but that's an issue I think can and will be swiftly resolved. Slough Dough has produced quality product for a long time and I look forward to seeing how this three-in-one business concept works out.

Local Flavor: By local, I mean my new area. After unsuccessfully searching for a bbq food truck, I ended up at a neighborhood greasy spoon, Bill's Cafe in Kingwood. Solid burgers and fries, not a frill to be seen. I'll be back.

Yelpers Love You, and So Do I: Recently named one of Yelp's "100 Favorite Restaurants" based on reviews, Tita's Taco House in Humble is a great cheap eat. While the absurdity of Yelp is well-documented, I'm happy to see this small, family owned place get some recognition.

Old Reliable: One of my lunch staples this month (and every month) has been Zabak's Mediterranean Cafe. The falafel and gyros are consistently good, and this small restaurant on Westheimer near Fountain View is run by one of the friendliest families I've encountered. Don't miss the complimentary chickpeas and pickled veggies.

Full Disclosure: All told, I had 25 meals out this month and 7 substantial snacks. There was a good mix of tried and true staples and new places, and surprisingly only four barbecue outings. We'll see what February has in store.

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