Food for Thought
Breaking out of a foodie rut: Revisiting favorite old haunts evokes memories &mixed results
To quote Evil Willow: Bored now.
Not in an "I’m-going-to-kill-someone-now" kinda way but in a culinary way. Sometimes you can get in a foodie rut. Going to the same ol’ restaurants and grocery stores. Even though there’s always somewhere new to go, I seem to revert to my comfort zone after a first sampling or two. I went to the new Trader Joe’s and didn’t even buy anything.
So lately I’ve been going back to some old food haunts and dishes, with mixed results.
Sometimes you can get in a foodie rut. Going to the same ol’ restaurants and grocery stores. So lately I’ve been going back to some old food haunts and dishes, with mixed results.
First, I exchanged my gourmet crackers for some Club crackers. Yes, they are mass-produced by elves, but darn if those buttery wafers aren’t good with some homemade chicken tarragon salad on them.
And then, one rainy afternoon with no looming deadlines, I wanted to dine on a quaint Mexican patio and I remembered the front room at Cafe Adobe, the one in Montrose. It’s like an outdoor square in some little dusty town south of the border with plants and gurgling fountains and colorful pottery on the walls. And lots of big, high windows.
Driving over there with Dad I explained the ambiance. I also explained that the food wasn’t very good. Not that I’ve been there in about five years, but in my early Houston days I used to hang there a lot. Again, not for the food, but for the big, strong Margaritas.
The room was perfect, the 'ritas were strong and the food…surprisingly…was pretty good. Not El Real good, but way better than the Taco Bell stuff that it used to be.
I started with queso, real chili con queso with peppers and picadillo in it. It was way better then I remembered. And the Adobe Dinner combo plate was far better than I remembered but just as huge.
It’s the only thing I’ve ever ordered that comes with a starter plate. And by starter plate I mean they bring you a plate with a queso chip, guac and crispy ground beef taco. AND THEN they bring you a second plate with a tamale and cheese enchilada.
With all the leftovers I took home I had about three meals from that.
Thank you Cafe Adobe, I’ll be back. (OK, stopping with the TV/film quotes now.)
Return to Rice
And then there’s grocery shopping. I used to spend most of my food dollars at Whole Foods Market but since the move I’ve been hitting up the Rice Epicurean across from Central Market because it’s spitting distance from the new condo. I thought I’d be spending more shopping time at Central Market, but dang, Rice is amazing.
I thought I’d be spending more shopping time at Central Market, but dang, Rice is amazing.
When I first moved to Houston, so many, many years ago, I shopped at the Rice that is now a Bed, Bath and Beyond on West Alabama. But since then I haven’t been to Rice much. Now, I go about twice a week.
Why? Because they have gourmet foods, local products and all the cleaning, beauty and paper products that you need. Even better, there’s always plenty of parking by the door, lots of friendly staff and no lines at the registers. And none of those self-check out registers where the automated voice asks if you’ve scanned your grocery card yet. Thank you for being on top of things but can you give me a freakin’ minute?
Oh, and I like the miniature stuff. If you’re not a big eater or have a big family, the single serve Häagen-Dazs cartons are perfect. They look like you could fit them in a teeny dollhouse fridge.
And the bakery makes mini loaves of bread, in particular the jalapeño, cheese bread loves are perfect for making little bitty sandwiches or toast points. Oh, and there chefs do wonderful prepared foods like tenderloin and fried chicken and during the Jewish holidays they have a divine chopped chicken liver and pickled herring.
Back to restaurants
OK, back to restaurants. Just had a weird, funny lunch at Alto Pizzeria. Haven’t been there since Ava’s Whiskey Bar & Kitchen closed and moved upstairs at West Ave to comingle with Alto (they were both Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group eateries). I don’t know if they married or are just shacking up, but whatever.
Stuff happens in restaurants sometimes and you need to just roll with it.
It had been a while since I’d been there but I love the view overlooking Kirby Drive and the three-meat pizza and the $20 bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
But when we ordered our wine, the waiter came back and told us they didn’t have it any more, even though it was on the wine list. He suggested another, similar wine that was 10 dollars more. OK. Then he came back and said they didn’t have that one either. Out of all the Sauvignon Blancs on the wine menu they only had three, two of which were twice and three times as much as the Oyster Bay.
Finally we got a $30 bottle of white and ordered the artichoke dip and the three-meat pizza. Both dishes were very different then they had been before, but they were very, very good. The pizza had a lot more Italian sausage on it, but less cheese, which is now made in house. The artichoke dip was less creamy and had more whole pieces of artichokes, but came with a wonderful hunk of hot housemade bread with curled Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
Different but very good.
But then I went to the restrooms and there were no lights! Turns out the folks downstairs had done something while they were working on the old Ava space and threw a switch that put things in the dark. But the manager got the lights turned back on and everything was OK, if a little bizarre.
Or just funny. Stuff happens in restaurants sometimes and you need to just roll with it. I’ll go back to Alto because I do love it. Hopefully the lights and wine list will be back on track.