Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No Label Brewing Co.

No Label Brewing Co.
Katy, TX

This article is a little different than usual. Usually I go to a place and try their food or beverage and rush home to write about it. In this particular case there was nothing to try, nothing to see and nothing to particularly write about. I am so excited for new businesses to pop up in Houston and I love to watch them grow. I was lucky enough to find a new brewery starting up in Katy that is still in the very beginning stages. I was lucky enough to meet with Brian Royo, head brew master and founder of No Label Brewing Co. Now when I say that things are just getting started I mean they have yet to finish setting up their brewery. Brian is still brewing beer in his garage and this is where it has taken him from home brewing to starting up Houston’s newest microbrewery.
Brian Royo, a Katy Taylor graduate and University of Houston alumni, became inspired to brew after visiting the local Saint Arnold’s Brewery. He headed over to Delfaco’s and purchased his first home brewing kit and he got to work. While making beer for friends and family he figured why not try and make a business out of it; Three year later and that is exactly what Brain has done.
-The Beer –
No Label Brewing Co. is hoping to have the brewery setup and brewing by mid April and if all goes well we can expect to see the beer on shelves by the end of 2010. No Label Brewing Co. is working on bringing you some very authentic and original styled brews from their Ridgeback, a hybrid of Brown and Amber ale, their El Hefe, a hefeweizen and their Silo Ale is a blond ale. Brain seems very passionate about his beer and he is quick to mention Southern Star & St. Arnold as inspirations for small breweries that have grown and spread into the market. I believe what separates No Label Brewing apart from others is that they are a laid back small brewery and they are working hard to get their name out there before the product even hits the shelves. No Label Brewing Co. Has been making a name for themselves tailgating at the University of Houston football games and keeping up with their fans on Twitter and Facebook and I believe it will help them greatly to establish themselves as Houston’s newest brewery. I anxiously await to sample the beer and look forward to their success in Houston.

Be sure to follow them on Twitter @NoLabelBrewCo to find out about their events.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rudy's "Country Store" & Bar-B-Q

Rudy’s "Country Store" & Bar-B-Q
14620 Northwest Fwy, Houston, TX
(713) 462-7954

A few years ago I had constantly heard stories of people jumping in their cars and driving towards Austin to get some great barbeque. What took me by surprise was that they were heading to a little gas station by the name of Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q. I never quite understood people taking a drive that far just to get a bite. Could the food there be that great? I was on a mission to find out but luckily they had just opened a new location right by my house. I know what you are all thinking, “You don’t review chains”. Well this is true but I felt that for Rudy’s I would have to make an exception. I had to find out what made this barbeque so good. Were people just overhyping it or is it really that good?
I felt a beautiful Saturday afternoon would be a great day to pick up some barbeque so I headed down the street to Rudy’s and prepared myself for what I was told is the best barbeque in Texas. Here they do everything by the pound so forget about getting that three meat combo with two sides. From the meat to the sides, Rudy’s is slicing it up and weighting on a scale. Your only other options are sandwiches. I had a few people to feed so I decided to try a few pounds of pork ribs, lean brisket, sausage, pulled pork and some potato salad on the side. Within seconds the cashier calls out the order and the guys in back get to slicing and dicing. They pack up your order like a butcher and you’re ready to go. I have heard some complain about Rudy’s being a little on the high side and while I can see their point, the look and smell of the food I felt it might be worth it. As I headed home the aroma of the smoked meat filled the car. I couldn’t wait to get home and chow down. As I walked in the door I rushed to the table to tear open this food as if it was Christmas morning. I couldn’t get too carried away so I took just a little of everything. I love ribs when they are smoked just right and the meat falls off the bone, so I chose to start with Rudy’s pork ribs. As I picked up the rib the meat all slid of the bone. I don’t know about you but for me that’s a great sign of perfect barbecued ribs. A heavy but even smoky taste fills the month as you take a bite. The meat was so tender and juicy. I didn’t even put sauce on them. With the ribs alone I felt I was in barbeque heaven. I personally like to judge places on their ribs and their brisket so I knew what I was planning on trying next. The brisket had a very beautiful smoke ring in the meat. It carried a very heavy smoked flavor but it was not over the top. This was some very tender brisket with a peppery seasoning. I was head over hills and I haven’t even made a dent in the food. I didn’t even know where to start with the sausage. The skin was soft and it was packed with flavor. The pull pork which is one of my favorite barbequed items was a masterpiece. It was very succulent and moist. I threw a nice slab between a slice of bread and poured on Rudy’s signature barbeque sauce. The sauce had a nice little kick to it that made everything pop not that the food even needed sauce but it did help bring more flair to this already perfect meal. How could I forget the potato salad? This creamy and chunky mustard potato salad was delicious! The mustard wasn’t too overbearing and all together made a very mellow blend of potato salad bliss. I have to admit I was truly taken aback by the quality of the food. I usually wouldn’t expect to find such great barbeque at a place that doubles as a gas and convenient store. So if your driving across Texas or just looking for a local bite stop on by Rudy’s Country Store and Barbeque and tell them Bite Me *Houston* sent ya!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ruby Tequila's

Ruby Tequila's
7748 FM 1960 West
Houston, TX 77070
2616 Louisiana
Houston, TX 77006

About a month ago I started to hear a lot of buzz about a new restaurant opening up in town and luckily one of the two locations were opening up near me. After a long day of running errands I decided to take my mom out for dinner. What a better place to take your mother than the new place in town so we headed to Ruby Tequilas. I was really excited to try this place mainly because I had yet to hear anyone else talk about it. When you walk in, there is a clearly visible sign that states “No Microwaves In Use” with a nice radioactive symbol. I guess they really want to push this point that everything here is made fresh. The décor of the place is nice. It’s very colorful and there are painted quotes all around the room. I will admit I really like the bar setup. They have a nice little patio and you can access the bar from either inside or outside. The doors happened to be open when we arrived which was nice but unfortunately this brought flies. The waitress brought out some chips and salsa while we looked over the menu and assured us that everything at Ruby Tequilas is made fresh. Nothing is premade and there are no microwaves in the building. I can say it felt good to know that. There really isn’t anything worse than not so fresh Mexican food. Another added bonus was their .99 cent draft beers and $1.99 margaritas. I was kind of expecting a long wait for the food since they made sure everything was made fresh. After about fifteen minutes of fly swatting, the sizzling platter of beef and chicken fajitas with shrimp, ribs and mushrooms was being brought to the table. I was pretty impressed by the time it took to bring the food out. The aroma was great, you could smell the parade of flavors that you were about to indulge. A side plate of rice and beans, and another with taco fixings made this meal complete. I couldn’t wait for it to cool down. I started to prepare the tortilla for stuffing while burning my hand on the skillet. The beef fajita was very tender and was cooked to a perfect medium well. The chicken was tender and juicy but there were a couple of strips that were not fully cooked. I couldn’t find anything bad about the shrimp, very tender and not over cooked. They were seasoned in what I could only consider tequila and lime. The ribs were literally falling off the bone. Its hard to describe the seasonings on the ribs because of the light barbeque sauce. It made me think of a mild ancho or chipotle blend of spices. While the beef and chicken fajitas were good they just didn’t seem to blow me away. Unfortunately, this place seemed like a very Americanized Tex-Mex restaurant. While it was good it just didn’t seem too authentic. While I’ll admit everything was fresh I just felt the food really lacked the cojones to be real Tex-Mex. The food was good and I would make a return visit but if I was planning to show friends Tex-Mex food this wouldn’t be my first choice. Granted this place has only been open for two weeks I think after a couple of months they will get into a pattern and maybe the food will have a little more presence. I also believe that if they are going to keep the bay windows of the bar open to the outside that they should invest in some type of fly traps. I could tell you how aggravating it was to enjoy your food while your fighting off four flies. In the end Ruby could use a little work but her tequila is great!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Railean Rum

Railean Rum
The "Original" Texas Rum

This year has to be one of the hottest and driest summers I can ever remember. It seems like no matter what you do you can’t beat the heat. I know it’s not very manly but I have found myself craving frozen tropical drinks. While BBQ’ing in this heat a cold beer didn’t seem to do the trick anymore, so I headed to a liquor store to pick up a bottle of rum and mixers to liven up any party. This is when I came across a rum that was new to me. Since it is known I support everything from Texas, I thought I would give this rum a shot. Railean Rum was a major hit. This is exactly what I had been searching for all summer to quench my thirst. With its mellow flavor and clean finish it added just the special kick to daiquiris and coladas. I had to know more about this hidden gem so I took a short drive south to the coastal town of San Leon, TX. Owner and distiller Kelly Railean was eager to show me around. I was amazed that the rum I was drinking the week before was coming from such a small garage. Off a dusty dirt road Railean Rum is distilling some of the best Texas rum that I have had the pleasure of tasting. It was so hard to believe a product as fine as this could be produced on such a small scale but I think that is what gives this rum so much character. Kelly and her husband are the only real employees and they are both distilling and bottling everything by hand. They use only the finest ingredients to make such an enjoyable rum. From imported sugar to high grade molasses and their in-house filtered water, Railean Rum is sure to use only the best for their rum and the proof is in the product. After showing me around I was lucky enough to taste the finished product. To me rum has always been used as a mixer but once I sampled the rum I was instantly corrected and discovered that Railean Rum was something you could admire even on the rocks. Railean makes three different styles of rum: The Texas White, Reserve XO and the Small Cask Reserve. For all you spiced fans they are working on a recipe to blow your mind. The Texas White was a smooth rum with semi sweet hints of vanilla and caramel. The flavor was not over bearing and it quickly became my choice for a nice pina colada. The Reserve XO was a little on the finer side. Aged in charred oak barrels gave this rum a light smoky caramel flavor and was very mellow on the taste buds. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on the Small Cask Reserve then you are in luck. This beautifully crafted rum is slowly aged to give it a brilliant color and a taste so smooth you would imagine you were sipping on a fine Scotch. Soft hints of the charred wood and mellow sweet tones make this a one of a kind rum. They say everything in Texas is bigger and better and Railean keeps that tradition alive with their delicious and intoxicating rums. If you haven’t had a chance to sample Railean then, my friend you are missing out. Send them an email or give them a shout; they are always willing to show you around. After you try their rum it’s hard to want anything else. So next time you’re out in the heat bbq’ing, pick up a bottle of Railean Rum and beat the heat with a frozen treat!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mallies Desserts

Mallies Desserts

While doing some filming with my good friend Marcelo of Trentino Gelato I was introduced to Luby and Abraham, the mother and son masterminds behind Mallies Desserts. I had heard a lot of good things about this company but I never had the honor of trying them. This proved to be my lucky day. Luby had long been baking up delicious treats in her home kitchen and giving them away for free. This was until her son Abraham took his entrepreneuring spirit and convinced her to go into business. Many of Luby’s original recipes are still used and they are cranking out these baked goods all over town. I was lucky enough to take a sneak peek in the Mallies kitchen and I was welcomed to a buffet of sweet goodness. I have heard so many good things about the Mallies Original Brownie. This was the same brownie that is used in the Trentino Gelato. I couldn’t wait to sample this smorgasbord. The Mallies Original Brownie is unlike anything you will ever try. At first bite your senses set off a rush of ecstasy. A chewy blend of sweet and salty, make this unlike any other brownie. The rich velvety chocolate mixes so wonderfully with the secret layer of salty goodness. I tried my hardest to get the secret out but I was with no luck. All I could do was indulge on the sweet feast before me. The only way I can describe Mallies Original Brownie as a brownie cheesecake. Next up for me was a locally titled "Oh My God Bar". J. R. Cohen of Coffee Groundz named this delicious bar after he took his first bite and I would have to agree 100%. This had to be one of the most amazing sweets I had ever had. It was a perfect combo of pistachios and raspberry with a wonderful crunchy crust. This without a doubt was utter perfection. Everything that goes into Mallies Desserts is all natural so you won’t find substitutes here. They also make everything by hand. That has always been their goal. They set out to make homemade and handmade the freshest pastries and this is a goal they have far exceeded. You can find Mallies Desserts at Coffee Groundz, Agora, Skyline Deli and even Murphy’s Deli. When I originally did this interview it was meant to be a video but due to bad sound it wasn’t able to be used. Words alone can’t describe how great their desserts are, it is something you will have to try for yourself. I can guarantee you won’t be let down.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thank You!

I just wanted to take some time out to personally thank everyone for reading the articles. I have received a numerous amount of feedback and Bite Me Houston has really taken off. I have also received alot of feedback that everyone is tired of hearing about Austin and New Orleans. Don't worry I have finally finished and now I am fully focused on supporting my local Houston businesses. Sometimes it's fun to look outside of your own city. Over the last few months I have met so many people and made some really great friends along the way. I can not explain how much every ones support means to me and I hope you all continue to enjoy the articles. If there is a spot you think I need to check out just let me know. I have some really great articles coming up that I think you all will enjoy. I go into the distillery to learn a little bit about how Railean Rum is made, I get inside the kitchen to make gelato with Trentino Gelato, I calm my sweet tooth with Mallies Desserts and so much more. Thanks again to all my readers. Remember, support local and grow together!


Friday, August 28, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Austin Pizza Toss Off

This was going to be the wrap up for the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip in Austin and I felt you couldn’t do it without digging into some pizza. It’s like the top of the food pyramid for college students. When you come to Austin you can find pizza on almost every corner. This probably had to be the hardest contest of all. I have been to many pizzerias in Austin and I like so many of them but I could only choose three. We hit the streets of Austin and set out to find the best pizza in town in the Austin Pizza Toss Off.
Usually with Bite Me Houston I don’t pick chains but there is always a first for everything. I went with this particular pizzeria because of their hard work of promoting themselves online. I have heard many great things about them and I will admit I was interested to see what their Chicago style pizza was all about so I picked Mangia’s. With five locations in and around Austin plus a boat and a location the airport Mangia is pushing their piping pies across the city. You can’t come into Mangia and not try their Chicago Stuffed Pizza. So I did just that. I went with a pepperoni stuffed pizza and prepared myself. Could Chicago be the king of pies in Austin? At first glance I only notice a single slice of pepperoni swimming in a bread bowl of sauce. As you open box a waft hits your nose that makes you think of a sauce prepared by Chef Boyardee. I was beginning to wonder where the rest of the toppings were. As you pick up a slice you find that this is a pizza made upside down. With the toppings at the base covered in fresh mozzarella cheese and a hefty serving of sauce is pour over top. Granted this was a personal pizza it seemed a little flat. I felt that they could have beefed this pizza up a little. This was no thicker than a pan pizza with an inch high crust. While the bread was baked perfectly making it soft and chewy the sauce seemed a little sour. The cheese was evenly melted and delicious as was the pepperoni but the sauce kept kicking this pizza down. I think maybe if they used less sauce and more toppings this pizza would have had more flair. I’m not saying this pizza was awful but I am not a big fan of Chef Boyardee products and the sauce from Mangia kept making me think of SpaghettiO’s. This wasn’t the best experience but I wasn’t worried, I had two more pizzerias to go.
Recently when visiting Austin I started explore the outside regions of the downtown area. By accident one night I crossed over the Congress bat bridge and headed south. I didn’t know where I was going but I knew it was getting late and I was hungry. After a long night or bar hopping nothing sounds better then great pizza. While there are a few really great spots on 6th St. I wanted to beat the crowds and find something a little lower key. Cruising down Congress I saw a red lit building up ahead the seemed to draw me in like a moth to light. From the outside this place just screams Austin. This is how Home Slice Pie became a great contender for the toss off. Home Slice is indoor/outdoor pizzeria. You can either dine in our walk up to the front of the building to order a slice to go. From the line forming outside something tells me I’m in for a great treat. I place my order and give them my name. While waiting outside I take in the Bohemian charm of South Congress. Within minutes my name is called and I pick up my giant slices of pizza. Nothing beats a long night of drinking and ending it with eating fresh pizza on a curb in Austin. Just looking at the pizza my mouth began to water. It was baked perfectly and they were very generous with the toppings. I like a pizza where you get toppings in every bite. The pizza was so hot and I kept burning my mouth but I couldn’t wait for it to cool down because it was so delicious. The sauce to topping ratio was perfect. The bread was crunchy yet still nice and chewy and the sauce was robust and flavorful. Even though I went with pepperoni it wasn’t overly greasy. I was really enjoying this pie and I knew that if the next location was as good then I was going to have a hard decision to make. Before taking the drive back to the hotel I ordered another slice to carry me over. I had another full day of food ahead of me but I couldn’t get enough of this pizza.
As the sun comes up on the last day in Austin the thought of eating is the last thing on my mind. For the last few days I have been eating barbeque, cupcakes and pizza. I had only one more location to go and then I would never have to look at another slice of pizza again, or for at least a week. The night prior on south Congress I saw a pizzeria that for some reason caught my eye. I decided to take the drive back down during the day to see the sights. Southside Flying Pizza is a little building on Congress that is literally hand tossing the dough. As you walk inside to order the pizza is being prepared before your eyes. The soft dough is tossed in the air as it is prepared to be placed in the authentic brick oven. With the summer hear coming through the windows and the brick oven baking pizza this small littler pizzeria can get a little warm. It takes a little longer her to get your pizza here but if you are a fan of true brick oven pizza as I am then you know the outcome is always worth the wait. When we finally get our pizza we kind of sit back to behold this baked beauty. Melted mozzarella cheese adorned with succulent pepperoni and fresh mushrooms make this pizza shine. The crust was toasted to a perfect brown crunchy texture while still chewy inside. The sauce was mellow and tasted very fresh. I could taste seasoning in the dough that made this pizza pop. I couldn’t find anything to complain about. While these weren’t the biggest slices they made up for it in flavor. My mouth waters just reminiscing about it and I now had to come to some sort of conclusion on who was tossing up the best pizza in Austin. Could it be the Chicago style stuffed pizza, the late night bite or the acrobatic display of pizza tossing that would win this challenge? Only time and my stomach could tell.
After a weekend of chowing down on pizza I had a hard call to make. I visited three different spots in Austin and they were all pretty good but this was a challenge. I had to pick the best out of the three and it wasn’t going to be easy. They all had things I loved about them. Mangia had that thick crust that I love, Home Slice had the great toppings and Southside Flying Pizza has that brick oven fresh taste. Really they were all winners in my book but when I had to pick the best of the best I had to go with Southside Flying Pizza. While it wasn’t the biggest slice or the thickest crust they overall flavor and texture is what took the cut for me. Everything about this pizza was fresh and delicious. While it takes a little longer to get your pizza here it shows that good things come to those who wait. Mangia could have done so much in this competition if it wasn’t for their sauce. Home Slice was a very close winner. There is nothing about this place that I didn’t like and it still remains a big favorite of mine but Southside Flying Pie brought everything out and that’s why they have taken the title for the Austin Pizza Toss Off. Great work guys!

Mangia Chicago Stuffed Pizza
8012 Mesa Dr
Austin, TX 78731
(512) 349-2126
Home Slice Pizza
1415 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704-2434
(512) 444-7437
Southside Flying Pizza
2206 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704-4319
(512) 442-4246

Thursday, August 27, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Austin Clash of the Cupcakes

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? When they are made right they are sure to be messy. In Austin and almost everywhere it seems like cupcakes are the newest craze. Big or small cupcakes are to be moist and rich with a creamy sweet heap of frosting. Austin is a very independent city and with that you find many independent businesses and bakeries are no difference. Coming into Austin I wanted to see who was baking the best cupcake in town. Just like everything else I hit the web and started to do my research. I came up with thee of the most recommended bakeries to devour. I was feeling a little anxious about this challenge. I didn’t know if I could handle all this sweetness. There was no turning back now it was do or die. Who would stand victorious in the Austin Clash of the Cupcakes?
Every time I visit Austin I like to take a stroll down South Congress. It brings a sense of nostalgia. From the antique shops to the trendy boutiques there is something for everyone. For me there is a shiny classic Airstream trailer calling my name. Located centrally on South Congress between all the shops Hey Cupcake! stands among other trailer vendors. There is always a line here so I tell myself this must be a great place to start the battle. While talking with Austenites, Hey Cupcake! seemed to be the underdog. This little trailer seemed to draw me in with its cute little pink frosted cupcake on top. We happened to stop by on the day Michael Jackson passed away and it only seemed fitting to get the cupcake named after him along with the southern traditional Red Velvet. The Red Velvet cupcake was good but it was your usual suspect. It was something that you will find through and through in the south. The cake was moist but it seemed to be a little sparing in the coca department. It turned out to be more red then velvet. The frosting on the other hand was delicious. It was very sweet and rich cream cheese frosting with a creamy and smooth texture. At Hey Cupcake! They like the top their cupcakes high with frosting but in the case of the Red Velvet, it seemed to be better than the cake itself. The Michael Jackson is a chocolate cake topped with white cream cheese frosting. In honor of the one gloved king of pop I felt this would be a great cupcake to try. At first bite it was almost everything you would want in a cupcake. The cake was very moist and had chocolate morsels in the batter to melt in your mouth after each bite. The creamy and smooth semi sweet cream cheese frosting just might have made this the king of cupcakes in Austin. This was a true chocolate cake that was both robust and mellow in flavor. It was very moist and crumbly and the melted chocolate chunks seemed to hold this big cupcake together. A shot of whipped cream to the center of this wonderful cupcake and it just seems to melt in the summer heat. Don’t worry once you take your first bite you seem to inhale the rest of the cupcake before the frosting gets runny.
Next on our stop into a diabetic coma I took a drive to the south side of Austin. I kept hearing so much this bakery that it almost seemed like a sin not to stop in. So I picked Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop. This is a small little bakery with very little parking and if you aren’t looking out for it you just might pass it by. I talked with their employee and former Houstonian Nick to find out what made Sugar Mama’s so popular. Just looking at the glass display counter he said, “The cupcakes speak for themselves”. This wasn’t a lie. The look of these sweet little cakes made you want to slam your face in the glass just to take a whiff. Usually I only try or two to judge a place but by the look of these cupcakes I had to try as many as I could. I went with a quadruple bypass box. Ok so it’s not really called that but after all this great food I was indulging in Austin I felt like I might be in the need of one. So here I was trying to find the four cupcakes that will tell me if Sugar Mama’s has what it takes to be the cupcake champion of Austin. I decide upon the Vegan Margarita, Black & Tan, Hula and The Odd Couple. As Nick packed my four pack of fun I say goodbye to the other cupcakes as if they were puppies in the window. I rushed off as fast as I could because I couldn’t wait to taste these little cakes. As I opened the box of cupcakes it was as if a blinding light shined upon these cakes. I reached in and grabbed for the first one. The Vegan Margarita was first victim I chose. The Vegan Margarita is a vegan lime and tequila cake with a lime butter cream frosting. The cake itself was a little too firm and dry. While the frosting was nice and semisweet, it seemed to lack any resemblance to a margarita. Not exactly what I was first expecting. Maybe it was too healthy for this challenge but I still had three more to try. The Black & Tan had man written all over it. It was a chocolaty Guinness stout cake layered with an Irish cream cheese frosting. Usually beer and chocolate don’t make a great combination but this was something to behold. This Guinness inspired cupcake seemed to draw by boozy side. The stout chocolate cake was nice and firm and the texture of the cake was almost perfect as was the frosting but they didn’t seem to complement each other. These were two great things but I personally they would do better with other partners. The Irish cream cheese frosting was delicious but I didn’t taste anything that reminded me of Irish cream. Next up was the Hula. This coconut cake topped with coconut cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with toasted coconut almost made me go coo coo for coconut! This beautiful looking concoction seemed to be the perfect cake. Upon unwrapping this beauty I noticed right away it was very firm. At first bite the strong aroma of almond extract seemed to overpower any sense of coconut. While the frosting and coconut topping was creamy and delicious but the almond extract became a little too much. The cake itself was a little bit of a downer. It almost seemed like a sweet cornbread topped with coconut. I am a big fan of coconut but this kind of let me down.
I was starting to doubt Sugar Mama’s and I only had one cupcake left to try. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough to pull this place through. Could it be too late? The lone cupcake sitting in the box was the Odd Couple. A chocolate cake topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting. Sometimes opposites attract. Like this cupcake that is a blend of sweet and salty goodness. As you unwrap this bond of love you notice the chocolate cake is soft, moist and ready to be devoured. They top this sweet little odd mixture with a chocolate dipped pretzel to add that extra hint of sweet and salty. At first bite I knew I was in love. The sweet decadent chocolate mixed perfectly with the gooey and salty caramel. Everything about this cupcake was perfect. From the texture of the cake to the sweet creamy frosting. I couldn’t ask more from a cupcake. This finally marked high in my books but would this be enough to win?
Lastly I decided to follow the world wide web and its many recommendation. I was on the hunt for Polkadots. By the pictures and descriptions I long awaited to try their cupcakes but when we finally found them I was let down to find them closed on Sundays. Luckily there was a building right across the street calling out for attention. I would rather leave them unnamed since they weren’t even considered as a backup location. I will say though that we found without a doubt the worst cupcakes in town. I had a coconut cupcake but tasted very similar to cardboard and even had the same texture. I remember the cupcake being so dry and flavorless that I couldn’t even finish it. I felt like I had let you all down by only making it to only two locations. They were both very good and I had to still come up with a winner. One the drive back to Houston I let my mind and stomach wondering. Would it be the trailer kings Hey Cupcake! Or would Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop batter the competition. It was going to be a very close call.
When looking for a cupcake people look for different things. Some like a mellow frosting, some like a firm cake, others like a big size and some just like the presentation. As for the price both bakeries were about the same. I can say that the cupcakes at Hey Cupcake! are a lot larger. Both places had their own version of perfect but I had to come to a conclusion on who would win the Austin Clash of the Cupcakes. The decision was a lot harder than I first thought but after thinking it over I had to give it up to Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop in south Austin. I felt that though they might have been a lot smaller than the cupcakes of Hey Cupcake! I felt that they had a better selection. While I still love Hey Cupcake! I think that hands down Sugar Mama’s takes the cake! I was very drawn by their unique selections and the overall textures and flavors from their cupcakes. I wouldn’t call this the best test of Austin cupcakes since we were short one location but I felt that between the two that I had come to a decision I felt comfortable with. Hey Cupcake! was great but they were very traditional in my eyes. The cake was great but it felt a little mediocre. While the frosting was a delicious creamy dream it just wasn’t enough to win me over for this competition. I think this will have to be a rematch and next time I will make sure to have a third location in the battle. I suggest that the next time you are in Austin you take the test for yourself and see what you find. Either way there are no real losers here except maybe for the location the remains nameless. I still have a lot of love for the fine folks of Hey Cupcake! but my sycophant little heart lays with Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop.

Hey Cupcake!
5530 Burnet Rd
Austin, TX 78756-1604
(512) 476-2253
Sugar Mama's Bakeshop
1905 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 448-3727

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Texas BBQ Showdown

“You can all go to hell, I’m going to Texas”. The same is true for Texas barbeque. We pride ourselves over our barbeque and everyone seems to put their own flare to this Texas staple. Whether its brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken or even turkey, duck and pork, Texans have been grilling it up for generations. Everyone looks for a different thing when eating barbeque. Some look for the smoked and seared flavor while others look for the moist and tender texture. Some prefer their barbeque dry and lightly seasoned and others like it swimming in sauce. No matter how you like it barbeque is king in Texas and in the state capital of Austin they are smoking the city with some of the best barbeque in the state. This journey on the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip had me looking to find the best of the best when it comes to barbeque. I was looking for something that made my heart melt and mouth water. I wanted great seasonings, moist texture, smoky flavor and savory sauce. When eating barbeque you can’t forget about the sides. I wanted to find the perfect complement to go pair with the succulent grilled meat. There are a number of great barbeque joints in Austin but I was an outsider so I had to do my research. When I put the word out that I was coming to town emails came flooding in about different spots in town. We had our plates over filled so we could only pick three. Some will say we should have tried this or we should have gone there but we picked the spots the received the most praise. Once we finally decide on the places to try it was time for a showdown.
Austin, Texas is a place known for both great food and great music. Just a couple blocks off the infamous 6th St on Red River sits Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. Here you can have some delicious barbeque some cold beers and catch a great concert all in one place. Stubb’s is smoking the some of the best barbeque in Austin and has gained worldwide attention. From legendary musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Willie Nelson to United States Presidents and even Queen of England. All have praised Stubb’s on his barbeque. I felt like this was one of the best choices to start my showdown. I figured the best way to sample it would be to get the Stubbs Minor, 2 meats with 2 sides. I went with the pork ribs and turkey with potato salad and pinto beans. As the food arrived I felt honored to try the barbeque that was adored by so many musical icons. The barbeque looked very moist and tender. The smoky scent of hot grilled meat made my stomach rumble. I was ready to start the show. As I took a bit of the turkey it seemed firm yet tender. It was semi moist but had a great flavor. The ribs on the other hand were seasoned very nicely. Not too saturated with seasonings I had to admit I really liked the ribs. One complaint if any was that it was a little tougher than some others and the meat didn’t exactly fall off the bone. I compliment the combo with the potato salad that was a good but had that factory made taste that kind of killed this down home cooking vibe. The pinto beans were firm and cook nicely but the flavor fell a little flat. Don’t get me wrong Stubb’s was good but to me the food seemed like I was at a chain restaurant more than a landmark for great barbeque. It was a very filling meal and I wouldn’t say it was bad. In fact I really like Stubb’s but I have been on other occasions and found a better meal. I don’t know if this has what it takes to take the title just yet and I still have two more to go.
Next on my stop I was ready to find something a little different. I was looking for a place that was a little more tame and homey. I found Green Mesquites. From the outside it had that down home cooking road side attraction look. This place without a doubt seemed like it belonged right in the middle of Austin. As you walk in you can smell the sweet and smoky wood burning. Everything about this place screamed great barbeque. They even had an autographed poster of the Food Networks, Guy Fieri. I knew that I had picked the right spot. Like many others I came to Austin to enjoy the nightlife as well as the food and I had planned to partake in some drinking so I was looking for a meal that could carry me over. I felt a nice barbeque Po’Boy filled with brisket and pulled pork could be perfect for the job. Served with Cajun Rice and Potato salad I sat back and relaxed with a beer. The scent of barbeque makes your mouth melt while you wait. When the food arrived the presentation was nice. At this point I was hungry and ready to eat. So much so, that I forgot to get a picture of this big sandwich. As I started to dissect the meal I was beginning to get that not to fulfilled feeling. Sure the bread was soft and toasted but it was just your average bun that you could get from the grocery store. While to meat was good it reminded me barbequing in my own backyard. Nothing was overly season and I felt a little let down because I couldn’t taste that reputable mesquite flavor. While the meat was moist and tender it failed to spark that wow factor. As for the sides they seemed like some family pack you would pick up at the store as well. Green Mesquites was good but I felt that it really let me down in some areas. The prices were good as was the selection. It had a nice family atmosphere with a very decent patio but I think it just doesn’t have enough the take the title in this fight.
Lastly, I was beginning to grow a little tired of barbeque. I felt like maybe Austin didn’t have what I was looking for. Maybe I just didn’t choose my locations wisely. Whatever the case I had one last spot to try. Just a couple blocks away from Green Mesquites on Barton Springs I found Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que. The name alone had my attention. Even if they didn’t have the best barbeque I knew I could atleast get a chance to sample some good beer. From the outside the neon lights seem to draw you in like a moth. Once you walk inside you feel at ease. It seems more like a bar than a restaurant at first. It has very low lighting and a large bar area. As the hostess takes us to our table I felt like we got the best seat in the house, right next to the brewing room where the large beer steels shine. There is nothing better in my opinion than great fresh beer and some hot and smoky barbeque. I was really digging this place. I ordered up a beer sampler and looked over the menu. The selections were pretty good and the prices were bad either. There was so much I wanted to try. We decided to get a little of this and a little of that, a pound over there and a pound over here. When the food arrived it looked as if we ordered for a family. Thank God we had a refrigerator back at the hotel! The pork ribs were so moist they just fell of the bone. I ended up making a rib sandwich out of a couple. The flavor was so delicious I didn’t even need to use barbeque sauce. For a slight moment I felt as if I was in barbeque heaven. I had to say this was one of the best ribs I had ever eaten. Next I dug in on the Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage. The outside skin was a little tough but it didn’t bother me. The mild spicy accents with the sharp cheddar made this sausage a winning combination. The cheese was a perfect blend with the jalapeno and neither were too overpowering. Even the pulled pork scored high in my book. It was so juicy and most. One thing that I loved is that it wasn’t saturated in barbeque sauce. While I liked the taste of the barbeque sauce they had, I didn’t find the need for it. The smoked juices and the natural flavors from the mean made this almost perfect. The brisket was heavily smoked and carried that rich and powerful smoked taste but it wasn’t over done. It was still very flavorful and delicious. Even the sides were something to envy. The potato salad was made with red new potatoes and they we prepared perfectly. It was a nice combination of soft and firm. I was ready to throw in the towel but I still had green beans and macaroni and cheese. Green beans have never tasted so fresh. The color was rich and vibrant. They were cooked with bacon and caramelized onions. This made eating your greens a privilege. The Mac N Cheese was something else. Elbow noodles mixed with a queso style cheese. It was so creamy and rich, topped with crunch bread crumbs. I was stuffed. Between the both of us it looked as if we had barely made a dent. Could Uncle Billy’s take it all or was there something missing from this whole showdown?
After a weekend of eating barbeque I felt nauseous looking at ribs or slab of brisket. I was overwhelmed but not beat. I tried some really great places here and I don’t regret the restaurants I visited. I think in the end they all had great food but it really depends on what you are looking for. For atmosphere you have to go with Stubb’s. If your looking for that backyard barbeque taste Green Mesquites would be your type of place and if you are looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and sample some home brewed beer Uncle Billy’s if your favorite family member. On this trip I wanted to find the best of the best in barbeque. Sure there are a lot of spots out there and picking three isn’t the most accurate way to choose a winner but out of these three one did rise above the rest. I was looking for textures and tastes while judging the showdown and I wanted something that really blew me away and with that on the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip in Austin, TX. We have picked Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que our winner for the Texas BBQ Showdown. There really wasn’t anything I could find about this place that I didn’t like. The service was great, the prices were fair, the portions were large, the beer was cold and the barbeque was outstanding. You know you have a great recipe when sauce isn’t needed. Everything about this place made me fall in love. From the fall off the bone ribs to the fresh colorful sides, Uncle Billy’s is a must when visiting Austin for barbeque. Nothing washes barbeque down better than cold beer. I highly recommend the six beer sampler. These guys have a winning recipe for both food and beer. Cheers!

Stubb's Bar-BQ
801 Red River St
Austin, TX 78701-3312
(512) 480-8341

Green Mesquite BBQ & More
1400 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704-1011
(512) 479-0485

Uncle Billy's
1530 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704-1013
(512) 476-0100

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip

Austin, TX

Austin, Texas, Home to the Texas Longhorns, great music and most of all great food. On this trip I was set. I knew exactly what I was looking for. I like to think of Austin as my second home. Many people congregate in Austin for music festivals or just to party the night away on 6th St. Not me, at least not this time. I’m here for the food. I brought the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip to the capital of Texas to find real Texas barbeque, find out who is hand tossing the best pizza and explore the sweet creamy goodness of cupcakes.
In Texas we are known for great smoky barbeque. Sure there are tons of places we could visit but with such a tight schedule we could only pick three. Emails came in from all over the place telling us to try this place or that place so I picked the three I heard most about. I’m sure there are tons of other spots that we could of checked out but don’t worry. As much as I visit Austin I will get to them all soon enough. To find out who took our vote for the best barbeque be sure to read the Texas Barbeque Showdown. In Austin, when looking for pizza you have more than enough to choose from. Honestly I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a pizza but in Austin they have taken the love for the Italian dish to a whole other level. You can find a pizza parlor or trailer on almost every block in town. It probably has a lot to do with all the college students around. One thing I’ve noticed about Austin is their support for local businesses. Sure you will still find your usual pizza chains but here it’s the independent guys that are taking the cake, or should I say pie? On this trip we chose to triple up on everything so we found three parlors and had a pizza toss off. To see who we picked and who came out on top be sure to check out the Austin’s Pizza Toss-Off.
Looking for something sweet and small? Drive around Austin and you will find some great bakeries baking up some of the sweetest and most delicious treats in all of Texas. I found the cupcake to be a growing trend and everyone is putting their own spin on this tasty little cake. From store fronts to trailers, Austin is baking up some great cupcakes but who’s got the better batter? Be sure to read the Austin Clash of the Cupcakes and find out who has the best bang for the buck.
I would like to say thank you so much to all the new friends me met while in Austin. April from Sweet Leaf Tea was a great host. She offered advice on places to try and things to see and she even introduced us to the wonderful staff that keeps Sweet Leaf Tea brewing. Also I would like to say thank you to everyone at Republic Tequila. If anyone knows how to welcome guest into town its Republic Tequila. They have left a lasting impression on me and would like to wish them the best of luck on the release of the tequila this month. They have made me a true tequila admirer now and I can wait to go back to Austin and see them again. Austin you are a wonderful and beautiful city. I can’t thank everyone enough for their hospitality and their friendship. Bite Me Austin!

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Desire Oyster Bar & Bistro
300 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA
(504) 586-0300

Among the bars and drunken chaos of Bourbon St. lays a tranquil and quite restaurant that seems very out of place. The Desire Oyster Bar & Bistro is a little diner that seems to transport you to past. It looks as if nothing in this place has changed since its original opening. Old tiles and grand bar bring a nice nostalgia and makes this place seem very warm and welcoming. Many people have told me about Desire but so far I was a little disappointed in the recommendations. I have yet to find that good ole Creole cooking. Everything we have had in New Orleans seemed a little bland and didn’t give me that nice spicy kick. I was hoping Desire would put an end to that. The prices hovered in the median for what I was expecting to pay and figured it would be well worth it. Almost as soon as the waiter brought us some bread and butter our food was almost ready. I was very pleased with the bread. It was very soft and chewy, still warm from the oven. I was growing a little tired with all the Po’Boy’s on this trip so we decided to go with the Crawfish Alfredo and the BBQ Shrimp. Desire is known for their oysters but I have a utter disgust for them and choose to not take part. As the dishes were rush to our table, an eclectic scent of spices came calling. The food was presented nicely and I couldn’t wait to take a bite. The lone crawfish rested atop a mound of fettuccini seemed to stare at me and anxiously wait to be ripped apart and eaten. I decided to toss the little guy to the side and save him for last I was after the pasta first. The sauce wasn’t too thick so it made twirling the fork a breeze. Jumbo lumps of crawfish tails spread throughout the dish like confetti. The taste of the Alfredo sauce was outstanding. Nice mild spice with a rich creamy cheese flavor. The boiled crawfish tails were plump and added a nice little kick. I felt like I was in Cajun food Heaven. I had finally found some great real Cajun cuisine. I looked across the table to see the BBQ Shrimp swimming in a bowl of butter and seasonings. My mouth watered as I longed to taste them. Butter dripped down my fork and I selected a shrimp. The succulent sent of Cajun spices almost danced on my touch as I brought the shrimp to my mouth. It was near perfection. The shrimp was boiled to perfectly with a firm but chewy texture. The taste though is something that can’t be explained. It had a little kick but it wasn’t too spicy and while it was resting in a bowl of butter it wasn’t as greasy as one could imagine. I was falling head over hills for Desire. I started to wonder if this was how they got their name. After you eat here you seem to only desire more. Who would have known you could find such great food tucked in between all the rowdy bars of Bourbon St.

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Café Du Monde
800 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA.
(504) 525-4544


When people think of New Orleans deserts they usually think of a few things: King Cakes, Bread Pudding and Beignets. On this trip I felt it only necessary to find out what made Café du Monde stand above the rest. In a small in/outdoor café across the street from the St. Louis Cathedral they are frying up these little French donuts three at a time. Unlike your usual donut Beignets are fried and coated with tons of powdered sugar while they are still hot. When I say a town of powdered sugar I mean a lot. The proof is all over the floor. While others have told me about different cafes but Café du Monde has the most history. Café du Monde opened up in 1862 and it still stands in the same spot. They are still making the beignets the same way and pouring out the same coffee. This must mean they have been doing something right. No trip in New Orleans is complete without Café du Monde Beignets and famous chicory coffee. It was very hot and humid on our trip so as we stopped in to the café they last thing we wanted was hot coffee. They have a very smooth iced coffee that compliments the sugar coated beignets. The beignets were nicely fried to a golden brown and doused in powdered sugar and brought to us right away. The taste was decent but it wasn’t something that blew me away. The texture wasn’t as soft as a donut and there were no glazes or fillings just fried dough and powdered sugar. I felt that there was just too much sugar. With every bite it there would be a clump of powdered sugar caking behind my front teeth to the roof of my mouth. Don’t get me wrong it was good but I wouldn’t have minded a little less sugar. Word of warning, this coffee is strong. And not made for those with a sensitive stomach. While it was a delicious beverage to wash down the beignets it did reek havoc on my tummy that evening. While in Café du Monde you will notice tons of waiters and waitresses waiting for customers to sit down. I had to know a little bit about the café so I struck up a conversation with our waitress. I found it very interesting to know that in such a little place they can have up to 15 employees bringing you your fried dough. Each person only has a couple of tables and they work fast and hard in hopes of a good tip. I can vouch for the employees that getting the tables cleaned and ready for the next customer isn’t an easy job. It’s very hectic inside Café du Monde and they are working for very little money. They only accept cash because when you place an order the waiter or waitress has to pay for your order with their own pocket. Next time you stop in to enjoy some beignets and coffee think about your waiter and be sure to tip nicely.

Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Republic Tequila

Be sure to check out Republic Tequila in the July issue of Texas Monthly on page 105.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Tropical Isle
721 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA‎
(504) 529-4109‎

On almost a daily basis hundreds of individuals flock to Bourbon St. looking to let loose and unwind. With an abundance of bars to choose from it almost seems overwhelming. With all of the lights and sounds coming from every direction, you walk down the strip trying to find the most unique and interesting place to stop in. When you come to the corner of Bourbon and Orleans you seem to find yourself drawn to the Tropical Isle. Notoriously known as a staple to the Quarter, Tropical Isle has been mixing up one of the most potent and delicious drinks in town, the Hand Grenade. You can’t walk a single block without seeing groups of people carrying the signature hand grenade cup and the only place to get one is at Tropical Isle. The Hand Grenade is a grain alcohol based drink mixed with melon and pineapple juices that will leave you begging for more. The recipe is kept very secret and not even I could break them. This is what keeps Tropical Isle so popular. This is the only place in the world to get a hand grenade and they like to keep it that way. Tropical Isle was founded in 1984 by Pam Fortner and Earl Bernhardt and they have grown from one bar to four plus the fine dining establishment Orleans Grapevine Wine Bar & Bistro. Sadly two of their locations were severely damaged by fire earlier this year but with the true New Orleans spirit they plan to rebuild and come back even harder.

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Old New Orleans Rum Distillery

Spirits are said to be haunting the streets of New Orleans and I’m not talking about the ones that go bump in the night. Just outside of the French Quarter you will find the New Orleans Rum Distillery. This company is a great example of New Orleanians facing adversity and their fight to keep on going. Over the years Old New Orleans Rum has gone through quite a transformation since Hurricane Katrina flooded them in 8 feet of water. They changed the name, redesigned the bottle and began distilling some great new brews. We were given a tour through the distilleries by Jascha, a northern transplant who said he fell in love with the city a few years ago. Jascha learned distilling over the years while working the company and is hand-crafting some of the rum you taste today. The company produces four different varieties of rum. They have their Crystal, Amber, Cajun Spiced and their 10 Year Special Edition. All of these rums are very smooth to the point where they can be sipped alone without that harsh burn other rums can give you. The Crystal Rum would be your ideal mixing rum to make your everyday mojitos and daiquiris. It has a very mellow with hints of vanilla or molasses. Their Amber Rum is a mix from different oak barrels that is aged for three years and they finish it off with their homemade caramel to add a little added flavor. The Cajun Spiced Rum is something to behold. While they have won many awards for their rum the Cajun Spiced have won the best in category for the last three years. It’s a very smooth amber rum that has been blended with different spices to give it that New Orleans kick. This is a very drinkable rum that has the very unique essence of New Orleans. This had to be one of the best spiced rums that I've ever had. It's a very mellow rum with a mild spice. I mean, I could literally drink this all day. Around here they like to mix it with sweet tea to make their Cajun Tea. A very delicious cocktail if I must say so myself. Old New Orleans Rum even distills a unique treasure that can only be purchased in town. They are bottling a10 year old rum that resembles a fine Irish whiskey. This rum is a survivor of Katrina and supplies are limited. They are only cranking out 700 bottles per year. It is a smooth sipping rum with a warming rich vanilla flavor. It would almost be an insult to use it as a mixer. While at the distillery we were lucky enough to sample a work in progress. Old New Orleans Rum has been experimenting and are working on a coconut rum. This delicious buttery coconut rum is unlike anything I had ever had. It seemed to be a little thicker than your usual flavored rum and that was due to the all natural ingredients. I would have to say this trip taught me a lot about rum and how it is distilled. Before this trip I only knew rum to be something you use to make a fruity frozen cocktail. I really can’t thank Jascha and the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery for their hospitality and a lesson in rum. I highly recommending you pick up a bottle of the Cajun Spiced rum for yourself. If your lucky enough to travel to New Orleans try to find a 10 year aged bottle. You definitely will not regret it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Were Taking Over Texas!

Mike Cortez here of Bite Me *Houston*. Your non sugar coated guide for the best food and drinks in town. We are proud to announce that we will be teaming up with Texas on Air and broadcasting our love across this great state. I would like to send a big thank you to Joey V. for bringing me aboard. This is an honor and I really hope everyone enjoys the articles. As always I promise to bring you the inside scoop without all the hype. Bite It!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Packing the Punch on Bourbon St.

All year long people flock to New Orleans to let loose. Some come to gamble and others come for that southern sin city vibe. No matter the reason, they are all here to drink. Bourbon Street lays in the middle of the French Quarter and is packed with tons of bars ready to drown you in any poison you desire. Drinking can be expensive here if you’re not careful, so I decided to be your test dummy and find out who was packing the best punch for the least amount of money. Sure there are spots along the strip that offer $2 near beers and $5 Huge Ass Beers but it can take some time to get that good warm feeling from beer. Plus you end up pissing it out most of the night. While I don’t condone binge drinking, I support a healthy and respectful attitude towards alcohol. It’s not hard to spot the people that clearly can't handle their liquor. Almost every block you walk down there is someone falling down or throwing up, and every other block there’s a couple fighting. Maybe it’s the humidity or hot air combined with too much liquor that makes people act this way. Either way, this was going to be an interesting test. To be fair I only had one strong drink per night. This would be the only way to gage the effects of the drinks. The humidity in New Orleans is similar to Houston but the air seemed thicker and the heat made it almost unbearable to drink.
We stayed at the historic Bourbon Orleans hotel located on the corner of Bourbon and Orleans. The first stop for us on our intoxicated adventure led us to Tropical Isle since it was half a block away. While they have a few other drinks they are most notable for their famous Hand Grenades. You can’t walk anywhere along Bourbon St. without seeing someone carrying around the green plastic cup. For $8 you get a souvenir yard cup and a little plastic grenade atop a strong but sweet, yummy concoction that tastes of pineapple and melon liqueur. Right away I fell in love. While the taste of alcohol was faint, it was clear this drink had a punch judging from all the people dancing in the streets, but all I cared about was how delicious it was. The recipe is very secretive and the Hand Grenades can only be found here. No exporting on this fine drink. It really makes a trip to New Orleans all worth it. Once I finished the drink, I didn’t quite feel the buzz but I wasn’t disappointed because it tasted so good. I was so intrigued by the company that I setup an interview with the creator of the Hand Grenade so I could learn more but that’s another article. Right now we’re on a mission to find the hard stuff.
Next, we had to visit one of the most famous places in New Orleans, Pat O’Briens to grab their famous Hurricane. A mix of light and dark rums with fruit juices makes this a strong,cold drink to ward of the summer heat. I was expecting it to be frozen, but on the rocks would work too. This was a strong drink and it wasn't hard to taste the booze. While it was somewhat sweet, the stiff taste of alcohol was always present. At each sip, the alcoholic fumes rose to the nostrils followed by a sweet sticky taste of fruit punch. At $8 I wished it came with some sort of souvenir cup to help me remember what I drank the night before. As I continued to drown my liver, the punch flavor disappeared and all I could taste was watered down alcohol. Not exactly the best taste in the world. Once I finished the Hurricane I felt kinda queasy but it wasn’t from being drunk. Maybe it was from the sugary syrup or that watered down taste. Whatever the reason I wasn’t too thrilled about the Hurricane. I was expecting a drink to blow me away with the force of Katrina. Instead it was a tropical depression on both my buzz and my wallet.
On the last night in New Orleans I was still in search of that strong punch. Many people began to recommend I check out Port of Call. An old steakhouse located on the edge of the French Quarter one block north of Bourbon on Dauphine and Esplanade. Granted it wasn’t on Bourbon St., I was told it was here that I would find that kick I was looking for. Esplanade isn’t one of nicest looking areas but it felt safe. Your about 8 blocks from all the action so it’s in walking distance but on a hot night like this I was getting a cab. Walking into Port of Call, it’s a little different...think Gilligan's Island. It’s a very small place that’s very dim lit and the bar takes up most of the space. They are most known for their burgers and stakes but on this visit were looking for the Holy Grail of drinks to make us regret it in the morning. Neptune’s Monsoon was a big cup of fruit juices and alcohol. When I asked what makes it so strong I was told “It’s only got two liquors and that’s all it needs”. They said Neptune's Monsoon was a last request drink for pirates that were forced to walk the plank. I figured if it was going to be their last drink it must be something to remember. This was a pretty big drink and at $9.50 it also came in a souvenir cup. I was a little nervous to drink this on my own but I'm known to take on a challenge, so I sucked it up and started drinking away. It was so very sweet but not overbearing. It reminded me of a Hurricane but not as overloaded with that stiff alcoholic taste. By the time I reached the middle of the cup I was already starting to feel a little warmth. I needed a little help on this one but I had down most of it on my own. I felt pretty nice as I walked out of the bar. I waited for cab to arrive and I could feel the Monsoon's warm breeze flowing over me. I had to admit I finally caught a buzz. Not only was it strong...it tasted delicious. The punch wasn’t too sweet and the alcohol wasn’t too strong. It was mixed perfectly to make this enjoyable drink. Overall I think this challenge could've ended up different for everyone. It really depends what you’re looking for when you’re looking for the biggest punch on Bourbon St. I admired the Tropical Isle Hand Grenade the most because of the flavor I wouldn’t have minded paying another $8 for seconds. While the Pat O’Briens Hurricane was my least favorite, some people enjoy it. All of the drinks were about the same price and granted not everyone cares for a souvenir cup. I just think it adds into the cost of the product for what you get. I think that the Hurricane has become so hyped up that it’s kind of lost it’s flair along the way. The Port of Call's maybe a dollar more expensive, but I believe it’s a bigger drink and it clearly packing the punch I was looking for. In the end you can choose your beer of choice or sample the many different daiquiris and frozen drinks along Bourbon St. but don’t overdo it. If I really had to choose I would say it’s a toss-up between Tropical Isle & Port of Call but my heart has a passion for the Hand Grenade and its yummy secret recipe. Next time you’re in New Orleans you be the judge.

Tropical Isle
721 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 529-4109

Pat O'Briens
718 Saint Peter St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Port of Call
838 Esplanade Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 523-0120

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *New Orleans*

Mother's Restaurant
401 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130-3207
(504) 523-9656

While doing some research for this trip I came across Mother’s Restaurant. It has been highly recommended by many to be the place to find the best Po’ Boy in New Orleans. I don’t care where you go, everyone always thinks they have the best but when your customers are the ones putting the word out, it usually means you have something good. I figured Mother’s would be a great place to start my exploration of New Orleans fare. One thing I find very annoying about the French Quarter is parking. There never seems to be any free parking. Like any downtown I suppose parking is limited but the prices here are a little higher than usual. We park a few blocks down and make our way to Mother’s. I’m starting to feel very good about this venture and I’m looking forward to this over stuffed Po’ Boy. When you walk into Mother’s there isn’t much to say about the place other than it’s a little warm and everything looks aged. This place is said to cook up the world’s best baked ham. It’s even printed on the sign outside. Everyone kept telling me about the Ferdi Special so I had to know what the buzz was all about.
The Ferdi Special is a large Po’ Boy stuffed with Ham, Roast Beef, Debris and Gravy (Debris is roast beef that falls into the gravy while baking in the oven). We figured it would be nice to share a bowl of Red Beans & Rice, a Cajun staple. Once you place the order they begin to prepare it right away. The food was out to us pretty quick and I was pretty impressed by the size of the sandwich. The French bread was over stuffed with plenty of meat to serve two people and Red Beans & Rice seemed like the perfect side to share with a meal like this. I was eager to jump, but intimidated by the size of this Po’ Boy. I decided to just pick it up and dig in. Gravy came running out as I bit into the bread. Right away I noticed something wasn’t right. The roast beef was very dry. Sure it’s usually dry but it almost felt hard to swallow. While the gravy helped moisten the meat it just seemed like it wasn’t enough, not to mention there really wasn’t much for flavor. The red beans and rice even seemed to be a little flat. I had to throw in some salt and pepper just so I could taste this meal. Where was that spicy and flavorful Cajun spice I was expecting? I was a little disappointed with Mother’s. Had the hype killed this place? Maybe it was just a bad day, but for $40 for two Po’ Boys, two drinks and a bowl of red beans and rice I felt a little shafted. I think the Ferdi Special had some real potential but a dash of seasoning to both the Po’ Boy and the Red Beans & Rice would have made this experience so much better. I personally think that’s a lot of money for what you get. Like I said maybe it was just a bad day. Next time you’re in New Orleans check it out maybe you will have a better experience.

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip

*New Orleans*

With summer here and the recession keeping our money tight, it’s getting harder for people to go on vacation. This year many people plan on staying in their own towns, but I refuse to be held down. The one thing I miss the most from my childhood is going on road trips with my parents to little cities across Texas. I decided this would be a great chance to take Bite Me on the road.

The first half of the tour I drove to New Orleans, Louisiana. This is a city with years of tragic history and a poor image since the media frenzy surrounding hurricane Katrina. New Orleans. Needless to say I was a little apprehensive about choosing New Orleans because of its safety and not to mention the costs. As the trip grew closer I was beginning to regret it but there was no turning back. I had only been to New Orleans once in my past and I wasn’t old enough to enjoy it (i.e. drink). This was my chance to see what the hype was all about and get a chance to sample some great food.
When I announced the trip recommendations flooded in with tips and advice. After awhile I began hearing about the same restaurants and cafés over and over again. While they all sounded like a great place to check out I thought there has to be more out there. I didn’t want to visit the tourist spots and while the French Quarter is a tourist trap in itself, I knew there had to be some great food waiting to be tasted. I’m your average person, I like simple things and I don’t want to spend my whole paycheck on one meal. One thing I noticed while doing my research was that restaurants in the French Quarter can be very expensive with the average plate costing about $25 per person. While that may not seem like a lot to some, I have to spread my money to take this trip from New Orleans, Louisiana all the way back to Austin, TX and still have enough money to pay for the expense of traveling back to Houston.We arrived in New Orleans on a Friday night just before midnight. I have always heard New Orleans was the city that never slept in the south and I was hoping this was still true post Katrina. Since we arrived under the cover of the night we didn’t get a good look at the outer regions of the city but as we reached the inner city lights of the warehouse district I was honestly shocked. It all seems so pretty and clean. I was beginning to think this wasn’t a bad idea after all. The streets of the French Quarter seemed welcoming with that old Victorian feel. I was ready to drop my bags at the hotel and see what hidden gems awaited us. I wanted to explore Cajun food and find out what the locals favored. I wanted to find out who had the strongest drink on Bourbon Street. I was anxious to learn a little bit about beignets and who was serving them up. I knew this would be a trip I wouldn’t soon forget.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip
-Houston, Texas - New Orleans, Louisiana - Austin, Texas-
June 19 2009 - June 28 2009

Its summer time and with the economy in shambles many people are planning on just staying in and exploring their own city. For me, I can’t just stand by and let the economy hold me down. That’s why I’m picking up a camera and hitting the road. This is the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip. I’m headed from the swamps of Louisiana to the hills of Austin. I’m going to find the best food in drinks they have to offer and enjoy that Southern hospitality. In Louisiana I’m going to stop in on New Orleans to see what the French Quarter is cooking up. We’re going to find out who is really packing the punch on Bourbon Street; Battle of the beignets; Cajun fine dining and maybe catch a few spirits along the way. Then we will head back into hill of Austin and chow down on some authentic Texas barbeque; Cupcake showdown, find out what’s the connection between pizza and Austin; See what’s distilling in town and find that home cooked hearty breakfast. The tour starts June 19-28 in New Orleans, Louisiana then we will make our way back to Texas into Austin. I hope everyone enjoys the videos. Be sure to follow along with us on Twitter. @BiteMeHouston

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trentino Gelato

Trentino Gelato

It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Houston and the temperatures were hovering around the mid 90’s. In such an active city it’s hard to stay indoors on such a beautiful day. Though the heat was slowing us down I had a friend on the inside that had a cure that could chill the soul. Marcelo Kreindel, an Argentinean born Houstonian, is bringing the passions from his home country here to Houston. Marcelo is the mastermind and gourmet chef behind Trentino Gelato. I know what you’re probably thinking and trust me I was thinking the same, what is an Argentinean doing making Italian ice cream? Well after introductions and a quick sampling, Marcelo told me about Argentina and their love for these frosty treats. Though Gelato may have been born in Italy, Argentineans have been making their own versions for years. Marcelo told us that gelato shops are as common as coffee shops here. Being in Houston the gelato shops almost nonexistent and Marcelo felt a bit homesick. After returning home to Argentina, Marcelo studied the art of gelato making and was ready to bring that Argentinean passion to Houston. Located in a kitchen just outside of downtown Trentino Gelato is literally whipping up some of the sweetest and smoothest treats in town. These aren’t your average Gelatos. Of course you can get your usual fix of chocolate and vanilla but why stop there when Trentino’s has flavors to make your head spin and mouth drool. They are using some of the freshest ingredients and balanced recipes to bring you out of this world flavors like Egg Nog, Green Tea, Nutella, Star Anise and Wild Texas Honey. That’s just to name a few. And do not worry if you're lactose intolerant. .Trentino’s has a wonderful world of sorbets to keep you chill all year long. With cool and refreshing flavors such as Beer, Chili Chocolate, Cucumber Cilantro & Lime, Gazpacho and a South American favorite Guanabana, you won't feel left out. Marcelo is always in the kitchen trying to come up with new recipes for Trentino Gelato fans. A big appeal to me is his passion for his product and his ongoing support to keep things local. Marcelo uses fruits from local farmers markets and deserts from bakeries and coffee shops around town to add a very special local flair of this cross networking goodness. He has even recently added Saint Arnold’s brewery to his list of flavors with the Saint Arnold Amber Beer Sorbet. For the time being Trentino Gelato can only be found at Spec’s, Rice Epicurean & Belden’s or you can find them every Sunday at the Discovery Green Farmers Market. Trentino Gelato can also be found at Coffee Groundz, D’Amico’s and Crickets Creamery & Café. In my opinion Trentino’s is the best gelato I have ever had. His gelato has such a rich and silky texture that can only set you up for the explosion of rich flavors that be bestowed on your tongue. And all the health conscious Houstonians out there will be pleased to know that gelato has less fat and air than ice cream, so its naturally better for you than ice cream. That nutritional tidbit is what inspired me to sample as many flavors as I could. The Dulce de Leche and Brownie was without a doubt the best thing I had ever tasted. I also highly recommend their sorbets. Trentino's Lemon Sorbet is quite possibly the best thing to have on a hot humid day in Houston. It's sweet and refreshing with a bit of a tangy after taste that bites you in the jaw but it's blended with perfection to balance out the sweet and sour flavors. Trentino's Gelato is the perfect snack to have while spending an afternoon in downtown at Discovery Green Park.

***Be on the lookout for new flavors. Right now Trentino’s is teaming up with Riazul Tequila to make a Blanco sorbet. Sounds yummy and we can’t wait to try it out. I can almost guarantee that once you try Trentino Gelato, you will never go back to ice cream.