Friday, April 19, 2013

Blog shift

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 8:42 AM

Moving this bad boy over to tumblr ...  follow me there!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Asia Market has the best treats!

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:59 PM

Of course I bought my supply of Pocky and Hello Panda and with all of that chocolate I would need a fruity break.

These self-titled mango gummies use 100% fruit juice and taste very, very mangoey. Also, the nutritional facts list the serving size as one bag, but they are individually wrapped which slows you down from killing the whole bag in one setting. I would guess there was 25-30 in the bag to start... Interesting facts: The gelatin is halal and says so in Arabic. The product is made in China, while the writing on the bag is Japanese. And those mango people are rather adorable. Fact.

Asia Market

1010 West Cavalcade Ste. #D
Houston, TX 77009

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Lone Star Bazaar: Mouth First

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:06 PM

Last Saturday I went to The Lone Star Bazaar, a local vendor centric affair held once a month or so in the parking lot of Numbers. It being Houston, of course there has to be good food there as well, and there was more than I could handle. Boogie had his boudain balls and BBQ pits in full gear, smoking his highly sought meats throughout the day. It smelled insanely good but I wanted to try something new and lighter, as I'd only had coffee so far that day.

On the way in to look at the art for sale, I saw a table with four massive glass vitroleros, those huge glass jars typical of aqua frescas, each filled with beautiful hues—brilliant chartreuse, a milky opaque lavender, deep fuchsia, a pale peach, also opaque—the 'love-waters.' The kind lady who made them allowed me to sample a few, and while the lavender-blueberry-oatmeal(!), was spicy like chai and delicious, I really liked the next one I tried, coconut-peach-lime. B'zam. I was drinking a tropical party on a bright winter day in Houston. I don't jump for coconut, but the lime was taking the lead and the peach and coconut were the perfect wing-fruits—soft enough to make the lime look strong, but still gentle, a lover. Hence...'love-water.' See what I did there? Yes, it's $6 for 16oz, but really, how much did you spend on cocktails last night, hmm? This is good for you, so pay up and drink up. You're worth it.

While I was sipping on liquid Tahiti, someone walked by with a strange, but good-looking taco in a paper boat. They saw me staring and offered, "It's a fried-avocado taco from the (Houston StReats food truck). Stop watching me eat. Please. Please?" I wanted to see their reaction to the flavor before I made up my mind. Do some people not like that? They turned away, but from behind, their body language clearly dictated that I should get that taco, but the menu on the side of the truck made it a little harder to stick with that decision. The steak nachos and truffle-Parmesan fries beckoned. Yet that taco...and you should always go with your first instinct, right? Oh hell. I ordered all of them. There were plenty of people around I didn't mind sharing with and I dropped $12 for the entire order.

The food came out quick and I put away half the taco before I even really looked at it (I had already seen it...) so I didn't get a good shot of it. Oops. I did see that the batter coating the big wedges of avocado was not your average batter. It was awesome, thick, seemingly flecked with flaxseed here and there...nice and brown in flavor, super crunchy but not greasy. And then it was gone.

The beef on the steak nachos was marinated so pro, and the chips were obviously in-house corn tortilla chips, the kind that are thick and get those nice little brown edges that bring out the corn in the corn chips. So good.

The fries were so hot and cheesy and truffled out that they nearly put me to sleep, heady stuff for breakfast. Okay, so it might have been a combination of the meal that gave that effect. But then I remembered there were pretty things for me to shop for, so I got up and shopped. It was a very productive day, indeed. And yes, I shared. But I did have a guard at the table (see elbow in above picture) to ward off food-snatchers until I had a chance to try each and get a photo. See why? One even brought a to-go box for his convenience. Always be prepared.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cali Sandwich & Fast Food

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 5:33 PM

Downtown Houston is known for its upscale restaurants, but it's even better known for the multitude of cheap Vietnamese dining available day and night. While Les Givral's on Milam is the most popular sandwich stop, Cali's is just around the corner and it's always nice to try something different, even if it seems pretty much the same—their menus are very similar. And if you thought Les Givral's had cheap banh mi (starting at $2.50), Cali's competitively prices theirs starting at $2.31. Yes. $2.31. So while it's an amazing deal, it's not the best place to take someone on a first date, lest you wind up looking cheap. However, you could just buy a round of banh mi for everyone there and look baller. (Still, it probably wouldn't add up to $20...)

The menu lineup features the usual suspects, ranging from rice and noodle plates to banh mi on soft French baguettes. You can order at the counter or sit down for service, and there are several fruit smoothies ranging from mango to jackfruit (we tried both, of course). While green jackfruit is used as a savory ingredient, ripe jackfruit has a vaguely familiar flavor akin to a cross between banana, figs, and maybe a hint of sweet pineapple. 

I've been eating a lot less meat as of late and sprung for the tofu banh mi with an egg and didn't miss my usual grilled chicken version in the least. Not going to lie...the tofu was still tofu, and if you know me, you know my feelings about tofu. I'm trying SO HARD to like it. This was good, but not something I'd eat without a bunch of other delicious things surrounding it, like yolky eggs, cilantro, jalapeno, and grilled onions. 

The kids had beef and chicken banh mi with an egg and didn't hesitate to polish off all of their food, spring rolls, and a fruit smoothie. (The mango was the best!) In all, we had 4 spring rolls, 4 sandwiches, and 3 smoothies for a grand total of $30. We could have saved $5 and skipped the spring rolls, but our eyes were 'bigger than our stomachs' and we over-ordered. Nothing a to-go box won't fix, right? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sacred Salad: Escondida Trattoria, Pisac, Peru

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 2:42 PM

I recently returned from a brief hiatus to a little town in Peru called Pisac, located in Cuzco, at the entrance to the Sacred Valley. While there, I was to participate in a retreat that included a 7-day fast and an ayahuasca ceremony, so certain foods were restricted from the menu, especially those containing meat, tyramine, and excess salt. This was my last meal before the fast began the next day, so of course I had to write about it. 

Chef Tim runs Trattoria Escondida, the most remote restaurant I've ever visited, and it was quite a surprise to see a fully functioning Italian trattoria operating as any other would, only the location was built into into the base of a mountain in a small village, its customers mostly travelers on a spiritual quest of some sort. 

The menu was decided each day based on what the chef found at the local market. The day we arrived, we saw him walking down the path on his return from 'town' carrying a white sack which he proudly opened for us to show its contents- local mushrooms freshly procured from some happy little field within walking distance- though it might have been a longer walk than most of us are used to...the market in Pisac is Peru's largest indigenous gathering of locals from the surrounding villages offering their dizzying selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, potatoes, breads, herbs, spices, and of course the usual tourist-centric doodads for those just passing through. 

The salad you see above was not just any salad. It was the happiest salad I've ever had, happy to be eaten by someone who was happy to eat it. Sounds cheesy, but it's true! Those carrots...smaller than my pinky finger, but the biggest, most nutritiously enhanced flavor a carrot could hope to muster. The tomatoes, smaller than a nickel, finally clarified to me the meaning of 'umami.' They were as satisfying as little bites of filet mignon, showcasing the earthy, almost salty, minerals of the local soil. The baby greens each had their own personality, texture, flavor, history, and were as enjoyable to eat as a good conversation with good friends is enjoyed.

My friend Lucy, the Louise to my Thelma experience, opted for the eggplant parmesan—just look at it! You can see how delicious it was. Luckily, she didn't make me just look at it, and I can still recall the crisp barrier between supple eggplant flesh and the pesto and cheese topping, the homemade pasta, all so warm and full of the valley's richness.  

I had the homemade spinach cannelloni because it featured the mushrooms we'd been introduced to earlier in the day. The sauce was simple yet vibrant—tomatoes and basil—and didn't overshadow the delicate flavors of the more subtle ingredients. Yes, I shared with Lucy, and she agreed that it was super-tasty. We passed our plates back and forth, doing our best to clean them, but sadly, there were a few bites left. I wish I had them now...

So if you're ever in the Sacred Valley in Pisac Peru, with a little luck, you'll find a great meal here. The days and hours of operation vary as does the menu. The scenery of the valley is a feast for all of your senses, and Escondida Trattoria does a wonderful job in bringing it all together on your plate. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Texas Gold

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:50 PM

Sugarcane Dr Pepper. Singles sold cold at Picnic on Bissonnet

Complicated Woman? Maybe.

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:31 PM

But simple needs. Late night snack of a Zin and turkey sausage dog. Mustard or die.