Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Controversy over a fictional cookie

So there's been some controversy over this image.

Image source.

Evidently Kraft foods posted it to the Oreo facebook page on Monday.  In other news, oreos have a facebook page. 

Some groups are predictably calling for a boycott of oreos and Kraft foods.  The Washington Post calls this "a harbinger of more gay advertising".  Harbinger, y'all.  Harbinger.  Honestly I don't know where they've been the last few years because rainbow flags in advertising are nothing new.  Targeting advertising to individuals who are gay is also nothing new.

All I know is that this makes me want a cookie. With 6 times the creme filling.

Well played, Oreo.  Well played.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kebab and Curry, new Indian restaurant in B/CS

It's rare that my boss gets to a restaurant before I do, but that's what happened with Kebab and Curry in College Station.  It's located where Spice Bowl used to be located in the former Lack's shopping center next to Ohana, Quizno's and 4.0 & Go.

Looks just like Spice Bowl.  But different.

Those of us who remember Spice Bowl won't help but notice this place looks just like Spice Bowl with a new coat of paint.  I'm not sure if this Kebab and Curry is part a chain that you can see in cities around the country, but the sign out front looks exactly like the others. This restaurant has only been open 2-3 weeks and they often forget to turn on the sign out front.  If it's off, check to see if the door is open.  If it is, they're open for business.  Neither the owners nor the kitchen staff are any of the ones from Spice Bowl.

It's not often that you see wooden menus.

On this trip I as dining with The Lovely Spouse and a long-time friend.  So you'll notice more dishes ordered than usual.  That's because it was all split among 3 people instead of 2.  We all ordered appetizers and entrees, as well as naan.

Mango Lassi.

The Lovely Spouse started with a mango lassi.  For those who have never had a lassi, it's pretty much a yogurt milkshake.  Mango ones are flavored with mango puree.  The one here was also flavored with ground pistashio. 

Chicken strips with tandoori spices.

Aloo gobi pakora. Fried potatoes and califlower.

The Lovely Spouse and I got the chicken strips, aloo gobi pakora, and tamarind chutney for appetizers.  The chicken strips were quite good and the spice mixture played well with the chutney.  The aloo gobi pakora was surprisingly tasteless and needed the chutney to give it flavor.  That said, it would be a wonderful way to potentially get kids to eat their califlower as it tasted very much like french fries.

Pineapple and coconut soup.

Our friend got the chef special pineapple and coconut soup.  It was quite sweet and tasted like dessert. Towards the bottom of the bowl they found roasted garlic, which they said blended nicely with the sweet.  According to the owner or manager this soup is normally served very spicy but this milder version was made with American tastes in mind.  I think I'd have prefered the original spicy version, because the only thing separating this one from a pina colada was an immersion blender and some rum. That, and I enjoy the interplay of sweet and spicy.

Bhendi masala, or okra curry.
Beef vindaloo. Spicy but not as much as is usually expected. I'm suspecting everything was "Americanized".
Shrimp and pumkin curry.

For entrees we got the bhendi masala (okra in tomato curry sauce), beef vindaloo and shrimp and pumpkin curry.  The okra was quite good to start.  I liked it because it was crisp and tasted like okra.  The problem was making a meal out of it.  By the time I was fully I was tired of the taste and it became sickly sweet.  The beef vindaloo had a great flavor but the bone fragments were kind of strange. It was a t-bone and it appears the bone was shattered during prep. The shrimp and pumpkin curry had a great flavor but the shrimp were very over-cooked, as is evident in the image above. All entrees are served with rice, however naan is an extra $1 per serving.

The rice stood out as quite delicious.
So one thing kind of struck me as odd.  The person waiting tables, who I suspect was also an owner/manager, was not cleanly dressed.  Perhaps there was a service accident earlier in the day or something? I don't know.  But when the cook/chef came out to ask us about our meals, something that's quite a cool thing to do, he was absolutely filthy.  I don't expect people who cook and clean all day to look pristine but it's a strange impression to leave with your customers: coming out covered in what's probably food.  We also saw very large men, wearing bluetooth headsets, and obviously not chefs/cooks by the way they were expensively dressed, coming out of the kitchen at one point in the meal.  It struck us as odd to see men who looked like linebackers coming out of the kitchen to see who's in the dining room.  Particularly since the only people in the dining room were our party of three.

Will we be back?  Maybe.  The food was alright and the prices were good.  But there's still the baggage of Spice Bowl left in that location (Spice Bowl repeatedly failed health inspections).  The lack of cleanliness on the server and cook didn't help instill confidence.  Neither did the watchful eyes of the men from the kitchen. Comparisons to Taz are inevitable and I just feel more comfortable at Taz.

Do I recommend Kebab and Curry?  It's a brand-new restaurant and I'm curious as to what other people's experiences there might be.  Have any of you visited there?  What's your impression of the place?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lanna, there's now Thai food in B/CS

EDIT (11/16/2015): Lanna Thai has closed. A new Thai restaurant, Kluay Kluay in Bryan, recently opened up in Bryan, near the Wal-Mart. I will blog about them soon.

Alright, so there's been Thai food in B/CS for some time. Chef Cao's in Bryan serves it, as do a few others.  BUT now there's a Thai restaurant in B/CS.  They just opened. 

In fact they don't even have a sign yet. That's how new this place is.
I found out the name of the business from the water glasses.
You'll find Lanna where Teriyaki Park used to be, along Texas Ave in the same shopping center as La Riviera and Cindie's, across the street from Smokin' Joes and a tattoo parlor. Pyro, the Mongolian fusion place used to be in the same shopping center and Mac Resources is nearby.

The first thing I noticed was the decor.  I didn't get a good picture of it, but it's dark.  Which is surprising considering there are floor to ceiling windows on one side of the restaurant. But, hey, as long as the food is good I can live with it. 

Another thing I noticed right off the bat was that the menus were fuzzy.  It's the material that covers them. The restaurant is brand new so they're all clean, but, man, over the years that fuzzy material is going to be impossible to clean. I also noticed the menu is quite extensive and is lacking in drinks.  I'm going to assume they don't yet have a permit to sell alcohol.  So The Lovely Spouse and I ordered Thai iced teas.

Talk about a tall one... And notice the cute salt and pepper shakers, as well as the neatly folded paper napkin.
So in the interest of giving the restaurant a really good try we ordered appetizers and entrees. I ordered the chicken satay and The Lovely Spouse ordered what I think was the dumplings.

The chicken satay was enough to share and was quite deliciously prepped. The peanut sauce and pickles were also very tasty. This could also work as a light meal in and of itself.

I thoroughly appreciate that they kept the cilantro in large leaves so that I could pick it off.  These were filled with a bit of shrimp and either beef or pork (I don't remember exactly).  The savory sauce was quite nice but also very garlicy. I only had a taste of it.

The Lovely Spouse got the garlic beef.  It was quite true to its name but not very spicy.  For whatever reason he didn't request the condiment tray (available upon request).  The serving was a bit small, but filling with the rice that came with the meal.

I got the panang curry with squid.  You have a choice of meats or veggies to go in the curries.  I chose panang because for some reason I have the least problems with it no matter where I go.  This was quite delicious, although the veggies were all kinds of sizes, with some massively large and others tiny and bite-sized. They were still nice and crisp. The squid was a bit fishy and I might just get all veggie next time. The curry itself had a nice coconut and spice flavor.  Not too spicy for those who don't want too much heat. This was also served with rice and was two meals for me.

Will we be back? Most likely.  I'd like to give this place another shot.  It's about time we got another Thai restaurant in town after all the others closed.  The prices were a bit high for the college crowd ($13 for entrees and $6-7 for appetizers) so in the future I'm likely to skip the appetizers, unless I get them as my meal.

Do I recommend this place? Sure!  Try some Thai food.  I'm not sure it's authentic as I've never been to Thailand, but it's as tasty as any other Thai place I've visted.

Note: yes, it's been a long time between posts.  I've been busy with grad school and trying to find a job. The job search is ridiculously frustrating but I'm keeping at it.  It seems that the whole "shortage of STEM professionals" thing we've all been told isn't true at all.  So while there are job advertisements all over the place, there are also hundreds of people applying for all the same jobs as me. Why am I wasting time on this blog when I could be applying for jobs? Because it's mind-numbing and soul-crushing applying for jobs all day and my brain needs a break.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

And the verdict is....

The IPA turned out quite nice.  It's been referred to as "the smoothest IPA I've ever had" and "well-balenced".  It's darker in color than most IPAs and I'll say it's a bit more malty than most as well.  But the hops balance it out nicely.  We'll be testing The Lovely Spouse's red ale this weekend.

The table grape wine was racked into secondary fermentation.  That means we transfered the liquid portion of the wine to a glass jug (or carboy) and placed a new vapor lock on it.  Any time you ferment you'll get a collection of sludge at the bottom of the fermenter.  In order to optimize things it helps to move the liquid portion off the sludge in order to prevent buildup of things that might decay from the sludge.  Those things usually don't taste good. Then it was moved to a cool-ish, dark place to continue fermenting.  It smelled alright so here's hoping.

In other news the supports on one of our cabernet vines collapsed.  This was one of our larger vines and was loaded with grapes.  We're hoping The Lovely Spouse got to it and tied it up in time and that damage to the trunk was minimal.  The dove that keeps building a next on that vine is not happy TLS put bird netting on all our vines.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Perrine Winery

The Lovely Spouse and I have been meaning to check out Perrine Winery ever since we saw it open in the shopping center across Harvey Road from The Tap.  This past weekend we finally got the chance.

Checking out the website for the winery it can be a little confusing knowing what to expect.  It's located in a shopping center, which is definitely not where you expect to find a winery.  And there's a sign that says "all wines made on site".  The part that confused me the most was trying to figure out if the business was one of those bottle your own wine places or if they had wines of their own or if it was some sort of blend your own places. Turns out they have the supplies so that you can make your own from pre-made juices, so no juicing all that fruit, and they have their own wines available by the bottle or glass. [I also couldn't help but notice that Messina Hof started a blend-your-own wine service soon after Perrine opened. Coincidence? I can't find it on the website, but I've received emails about it.]

We had never been there before so The Lovely Spouse and I walked up to the bar and asked what the deal was.  We were given menus.  Very extensive menus.  They have several sets of wines, including fruit-infused wines where fruit juice was added for flavoring following fermentation, and dessert wines.  They also have different series of wines based upone where the grapes were sourced. 

And we were informed that we could create out own flights.  Any 5 wines for $4.  So we made our selections.  The ones that really, truly shined were the fruit-infused selections, the dessert wines, and the whites.  We found many of the other varietals were young.  Not a bad thing, just something to be aware of if you happen to be a wine snob (I say that will affection of course).  The business has limited space and production capacity so it's difficult for them to keep wines around to age them. The owners said this is likely to change as the business expands in the future.

Their wines have won awards, with more to be displayed soon.

The decor is quite nice and we were informed that customers are welcome to bring in food from elsewhere.  Including from the new cupcake place next door and the sushi place across the street, both of which I've been meaning to try. There was a birthday party the night we were there.  They had a limited amount of food for sale: meat and cheese plates and chocolates.  And they have french press coffee for non-drinkers.

And they also have cute wine-related items for sale.

Will we be back? Most definitely.  I truly enjoyed the pomagranate melange and the blackberry wine. The malbec in The Huguenot Series was also very interesting.  And $4-5 a glass is reasonable with a nice place to hang out. Besides, there are a lot of wines on that menu we haven't yet sampled. I misread the bottle pricing while were there but upon re-reading I see they're reasonable. You'll find cheaper varieties at Spec's but those won't support local small businesses.

This place is run full-time by two people who also have regular full-time jobs elsewhere.  I'm not sure when they sleep but they're lovely people and this business deserves support from the community.

If I had to be harsh on anything it's the website. It's...cluttered and the aesthetic is dated.  As a small business making its way in the world the website is not giving a good impression. The main room in the winery itself is nicely decorated and it would be nice if the website reflected that impression.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fermentation, continued...

Here's an update on the yeastie beasties. Primary and secondary fermentation are finished (the vapor lock stopped bubbling) so we put the beer into bottles.

The first problem we encountered was not having enough bottles.  We tend to share our beers with friends and kind of forgot to accumulate more.  So we raided the recycling bin and finished off the beers in the fridge. I tell you, the sacrifices we make for our art. 

Sam Adams Summer Ale is actually quite nice. :-)
To get the labels off we soaked in hot water, scraped with a razor blade, then wiped them clean with scrubby sponge. Next The Lovely Spouse cleaned the insides of all the bottles with a high pressure bottle washer attachment and I disinfected them all with diluted bleach.

We're doing it our way, yes, our way....

After this we added diluted corn sugar (high in fructose - it's what yeast craves) to each bottle and transfered the beer directly to the bottles using a disinfected tubing/bottle filling gadget.

How many households do you suppose have His and Hers beers?

Then we capped them all and put them in a cool, dark place to finish.
They should be ready to drink next week (we bottled them a week ago).
I think The Lovely Spouse is hinting at something. LOL!

All this bottling took quite a lot of time and we kind of forgot to think about dinner.  So we made one of our favorite quick meals. 

Slice a fresh, ripe medium-sized tomato, add chiffonade of fresh basil (it grows like a weed in our yard), add salt, pepper, a bit of smoke paprika, and serve. We ate this with a few slices of farm-house cheese.
Last weekend I also harvested 12 lbs of grapes from the backyard. That's more than we can even give away. So we supplemented this with a few lbs of table grapes from the store and got 1.25 gallons of filtered juice from them. The dark grapes bled red so the juice was a blush.  Next we added yeast and let them do their jobs, sans skins or pulp . This weekend we're planning on transfering all that to secondary fermentation. We've never made wine from table or backyard grapes so this should be interesting.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Los Molcajetes in Bryan

I now have two favorite Mexican restaurants in B/CS.  I've already written on Polly's Cocina in College Station.  And recently I tried Los Molcajetes in Bryan.

I'll keep this pict small because it ended up blury.

Located at the corner of Villa Maria and Texas Ave in Bryan, you'll only find this restaurant if you first look for the Hastings at the Tejas Center. The restaurant is to the right of Hastings, all the way on the corner. It's very hard to find otherwise. 

The decor is unmistakably Mexican but also no-fuss. The restaurant looks empty only because we were there near closing.

After you place your order they'll bring you chips and salsa.  I highly recommend the salsa verde (the green one). The salsa roja (the red one) was just alright.

The menu is extensive.  Their signature dishes are, as their name states, molcajetes.  A molcajete is the dish it's served in: the bottom portion of a mortar and pestle, without the pestle.  I know it's restaurant review heresy, but we actually didn't try one of these on this visit.  And the reason is simple: mole. Mole (pronounced mole-ay) is a traditional Mexican sauce that includes many, many ingredients, including chocolate, and can take days to prepare.  Good mole is hard to find.  I learned at an office party beforehand that the mole here is very good.  Another thing that's hard to find is good traditional Mexican red sauce. So with that in mind we placed our orders.

We ordered the following: a small caldo (because I was coming down with The Sick at the time), chicken enchiladas with mole, chicken and beef enchiladas with red sauce, chicken mole, and rice and beans.  As you'll see in a second, this ended up being several meals.

This is a SMALL caldo.

Caldo is a traditional Mexican soup. In fact the word caldo means soup in Spanish. Most restaurants only serve it on weekends, and Los Molcajetes is no exception.  The one pictured here is a traditional beef caldo and in this case they used barbacoa in the soup.  If you're not used to the texture of barbacoa that might be odd, but I find it tender, moist, flaky and delicous. And I loved all the veggies served with it. The rice was a great way to soak up the broth after eating all the big stuff. 

Then my chicken enchiladas con mole came. The caldo was so filling I took this entire thing home. It was delcious reheated for lunch and dinner the next day. The enchiladas are made with in-house made corn tortillas. Flour tortillas are available on request. And, no, refried beans don't photograph well at all, do they?  Good thing they taste a lot better than they look.

The Lovely Spouse ordered the chicken mole and said it was quite exceptional.  The chicken was not simmered in the mole, as he'd have prefered, but it was still moist and delicous. I didn't photograph his side order of enchiladas with red sauce because they looked exactly like the enchiladas above. With red sauce.  He said the red sauce was also exceptional.

For completeness The Lovely Spouse ordered dessert. These are fried tortillas served with peaches, honey and ice cream. They tasted good but I just couldn't eat many because I was so full from the caldo.

Will we be back?  Very likely. I'm told their margaritas are also quite good.  We didn't get them on this trip because I was coming down with something and certainly not drinking alcohol.  They also serve horchata and tamarindo, as well as Mexican coke products. I also want to try some of their other dishes, including the ones served in molcajetes.  The prices were quite good (Mexican food is rarely expensive in B/CS) and the service was good.  It's nice family-owned eatery.  And the owner is absolutely lovely.

UPDATE (August 2014): Los Molcajetes in Bryan has closed.  I has a sad because they were nice people and had good food. I never got to try their molcajetes but their posole and fideo were quite good. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy Anniversary to The Lovely Spouse

8 years ago, yesterday, The Lovely Spouse and I said "I do" in a tiny, newly-restored historic church in a small town just south of Gettysburg.  The ceremony was serenaded by a swarm of cicadas, rain, and good friends and family.  It really, really doesn't seem that long ago.

To honor the occasion we had dinner at a Nice Place.  The Lovely Spouse wanted duck and our favorite place for it is not open on Tuesdays during Summer. So we went to our second favorite place for it. FWIW he encouraged me to blog this so it's not like I was doing anything to distract from enjoying our evening.

Luigi's is a controversial place in B/CS.  Some people absolutely hate it.  Some love it.  And I think a lot of this comes from a shaky opening, service that often seems to try too hard, some inconsistent dishes, and a menu that really needs to be culled down to a few exceptional and seasonal dishes. When we go we always order the duck.  It's the one thing that we know will be good every single time.  In fact I was about to write them off forever after trying many of the other dishes and finding nothing I liked.  Then I tried the duck.  And we've been coming back once or twice a year since.

Located at the intersection of Rock Prairie and Highway 6, on the North side, Luigi's serves Italian food.  They've been open for a number of years and have a somewhat loyal following.  I credit this to a very nice happy hour, upscale clientele, and select dinner items that make the experience memorable and worthwhile.  The Happy Hour in particular is nice for the live music, which is surprisingly good considering it's B/CS, $5 appetizers, and $5 signature drinks.  I actually recommend most of their appetizers, which I'll be getting to in a minute.

The decor is unexpected.  I can see where they went for the patio theme.  But it comes across as weird the first time you see it.  If you're not at the bar you'll be seated either in the patio area, above.

Or in the "inside" area.  All are indoors, mind you.  As I said, it's kind of strange the first time you see it.

We started our evening off with drinks.  I knew from previous visits that they had an unusual drink called a port martini.  So, naturally, that's what I ordered. The Lovely Spouse got a "normal" martini fixed to his specifications.

Next we placed our orders and started with appetizer and soup.  While we waited bread was brought to the table.

Toasted strips of bread with an olive and garlic tampenade. I, of course, couldn't eat it, but The Lovely Spouse said it was delicious.  Later in the meal they did bring me plain bread and butter. IMO the bread was too...hard. Not sure if it was the toasting or what. But it tasted good.

The Lovely Spouse got the polenta and portabella.  He said the mushroom was perfection.  I've gotten this during happy hour in the past and very much enjoy it.

I got the tomato soup. Very nice tomato and basil flavor. I specifically ordered a cup. It's also available by the bowl. I'd get this again. Yes, there is probably garlic and onions in it, but as long as it's not enough to be in the title for the dish I'm usually OK.  Also, red wine is somewhat protective for my...response, as long as I don't eat too much of the stuff.

We both got the duck.  Here it's slightly over medium and is served with two sauces.  One sauce is a balsamic sauce with chocolate notes and the other is an orange sauce with vanilla notes. It's accompanied by a small stuffed tomato and roasted zucchini.  The Lovely Spouse was happy to have the grilled onions off the zucchini. The duck was tender and delicous and the sauces paired beautifully.  I paired the whole thing with a glass of 2009 Turtle Creek Pinot Noir.  Worked together beautifully.

I know, I know.  We're supposed to get different items if we're reviewing a restaurant.  But, as I said before, the duck is what we both wanted and where this restaurant really shines. Although, there's one more place where it shines: the tiramisu.

I got the regular tiramisu. Lady fingers dipped in espresso layered with zabaglione. Not too heavy, but delicately delicious.

The Lovely Spouse got the chocolate tiramisu.  Cutely plated but I still prefered the "normal" version. The picture ended up dark because it was back-lit.

In all it was a lovely meal and a very nice celebration.  Will we be back?  Most likely.  I really like their happy hour so at some point I have to make a date to leave work in time to attend with someone.  The food really is good, if you're able to navigate the overly large menu and focus on a few exceptional dishes.  The service tries much too hard but really is good service.  And that port martini is a thing of beauty.