Friday, March 26, 2010

Quickie post: Deep-fried Sushi...yes, please! Happy Hour at Blue Fish House

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:24 PM

Blue Fish has a great Happy Hour going on right now with $4 Deep Fried Madness Rolls and other great deals until 7pm.

Asparagus with tuna if I recall correctly...fried of course.

Deep Fried Madness- with tuna

Agedashi- "Tasty Tofu" with mushrooms and scallions- very tasty indeed, especially for tofu.

Blue Fish House
2241 Richmond Ave.

Two-Timing Thai at Nidda

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 3:30 PM

A brief review of my history with Nidda...a long time ago I went to my first Thai restaurant, Patu's in the Village, and loved it. Later on down the road, one of Patu's original owner's, Marty Chuenpreecha, opened Bangkok Place in the spot near Erotic Cabaret on Westheimer near Waugh. It wasn't the best place for a restaurant but he did his best. The food was amazing but for some reason the customer base wasn't strong enough to stay open. In comes an interested partner who takes over the place and reopens it as Nidda.

Our family became very close with Marty and his small staff before he moved to California to be with his wife and children who had been living there for a while though he continued to work in Houston. He was so kind and sweet and the chef he had in the kitchen came with him from Patu's, a tiny little Thai lady name Nao. So I was spoiled with their love and delicious authentic meals-- she'd even let me in the kitchen where she prepared the food in a wok large enough for her to take a bath in. So spoiled that after Marty left, I shunned Thai food for several months. When I would finally try it, I was extra critical and couldn't enjoy the meal. Where was the love?

I haven't fully gotten over my first true Thai love but under Nao's tutelage (she stayed on for a while to help the transition) the kitchen at Nidda has started to grow on me. I've been going there for a while now, but usually stuck with my usual, the gang panang with chicken, green beans and carrots. I finally took a leap of faith and ordered the Chu Chee Snapper.
One of my favorite meals with Marty was the Chu Chee Shrimp- a perfectly sweet and pungent 'curry' with lightly battered shrimp and snow peas. The snapper is still prepared the same way and I have to admit that I enjoyed every bite. But I still miss my friend Marty and hold everything Thai to the standards he taught me by.

The kids finally tried something besides Pad Thai. These are the Drunken Noodles and they were good, though I'm not a huge flat noodle fan.

This is the Basil Seafood, my husband's healthy standby.

Tom Yum Soup- It's no tom kha kai but it's tasty nonetheless

Nidda Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thai Spice Express- The fairest of them all

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 8:57 PM

You know you're in the vicinity of authenticity when you see something like this: a hearty meal conveniently wrapped for someone who doesn't have time to stay and eat. Think fast food. This is basically a #4 with fries, Thai-style.

Thai Spice Express is located at 8282 Bellaire near Fondren. There are eight other Thai Spice restaurants in the family, cousins if you will, like Thai Spice in the Village, which is good but a little pricey due to the location and definitely doesn't offer the pre-packaged meals pictured above., Thai Spice Asian Cuisine in the Heights and Thai Spice Buffet at Voss and Westheimer.

Thai Spice Express may sound far off for some folks in my neck of the woods (Montrose) but if you jump on 59 S. you can be ordering in 15 minutes. The "Express" factor means that the food is on the table so fast, that even in the midst of some of my grumpiest hunger bouts, I have made the drive there for dinner knowing I would be feeding the monster sooner than I would be at a restaurant in my area.

We go here quite often and about 93% of the time I order the Tom Kha Kai- the spicy lime and coconut milk chicken soup elixir, which comes in a big bowl and every bite is the perfect love child of all of the best taste sensations. If a place gets this right then you can bet on most of their dishes being A OK.

On our last visit, for the sake of this blog, I would forgo the soup and order something different. Yum Nur is a salad of charbroiled sliced beef, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, mint and cilantro tossed in a spicy fish sauce and lime based dressing. It's a simple dish with complex flavors and being that it's a salad, it's pretty healthy, but the tender meat makes it filling and worth ordering for dinner. I was surprised and pleased that Express' version included the mint. It really makes the dish and I've seen other places omit it, not doubt due to not selling it and having it go to waste.

My husband always has to order something 'special' like this dish of mixed 'whatever you've got' greens, and squid. They usually have all kinds of greens but the selection was limited this time to mostly vegetables. Boring.

There will be more on Thai Spice in the upcoming posts so stay tuned, or better yet, just go there.

Menu- See for yourself.

Thai Spice Express 8282 Bellaire Boulevard, Houston (713) 777-4888

Thai Spice Express on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fabio's: Finally, Italian food worth paying for

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 10:31 AM

There are only a few Italian restaurants that I would suggest as it's hard to justify paying $10 for 10 cents worth of pasta and a few toppings. However, Fabio's is the rare exception. When I mention it people either think it's expensive or they don't even know it's there. Since it's right on Westheimer you would think that they would ask a substantial price for their fresh homemade pastas, spot on sauces, and innovative spins on everyday Italian dishes, like the freshly prepared and vibrantly green jalapeno fettucini, but the prices are more than reasonable for any budget.

Located on the main artery of Montrose between a corner store and Number's nightclub, neighborhood yuppies and hipsters alike dine among each other at one of Fabio's 8 tables. When our family went for my sister-in-law's birthday, we took over four of the tables and tried to keep our voices down for the other diners but soon even they joined in on the chatter.

As Fabio soft steps around the room offering wine and taking orders, ask for his specials and suggestions. He's a really nice guy and is proud of his menu and there are many off menu items prepared only when the ingredients are in house, like a medley of raviolis filled with a variety of cheeses, seafood, and osso bucco. For an appetizer he brought out a big platter of fried calamari, fried cheese, bruschetta, and who knows what else but I ate it, that's for sure.

I can't help but always judge an Italian restaurant by its Alfredo and Fabio's is so rich and mellow that you just can't help but make little appreciative grunts while eating it. I had it over the jalapeno fettucini they make in house and the little kick of heat paired well with the creamy sauce. I think there was chicken in it too but I could seriously fare well with just a bowl of the sauce and a loaf of their garlicky bread.

Here are a few shots from our last dinner there. The lighting was low so I apologize for their poor quality.

Fresh pasta > anything and everything? Jalapeno fettucini alfredo with grilled chicken. Tres 'White Girl'...

Ravioli medley, each filled with something better than the last

Frutti del Mar- Off menu so don't be shy to ask! Clams, mussels, shrimp and is that calamari I see? Why yes it is!

Fabio's Italian Bar & Grill
212 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006-3222
(713) 528-4212

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Homemade Chicken Pot Pies

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 5:15 PM

Now with smiley faces for the kiddos!

Chicken Pot Pies: Just like mom made, but not store bought and cheap

I just got my oven fixed and oh how I missed baking! I decided to give these a go when I realized by some miracle I had everything in the kitchen I needed to make them. I did have to make a quick run to the community garden for some fresh herbs- thyme, parsley- but it's in the neighborhood and the weather was lovely. I came across this big fluffy mass of oregano growing in almost a globe shape and couldn't help but kneel down and rub my face in it. It was soft enough to sleep on!

The recipe for the pot pies is pretty fly by the seat of your pants. Here's a quick list of what all I used. You will either need 6 10oz ramekins, 2 pie pans, or 1 casserole dish depending on how you would like to present the meal.


3/4 cup chilled butter cubes
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp ice water

1 egg whisked with 1 tbsp water for later

Throw the flour and salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse 5 times then add the water 1 tbsp at a time pulsing once after each tbsp. Turn it out onto some saran wrap, ball it up and put in the fridge for now.


Chicken- either boil a whole chicken with carrots and onion and shred it, or dice a few breasts
4 carrots cut thin on the diagonal
3 celery stalks cut thin on the diagonal
2 cups peas or green beans (frozen is fine)
1 large onion, diced
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups of stock from boiled chicken OR store bought veggie or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups of whole milk (skim/fat free will separate and be a bit watery in the end but it's still tasty)
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme and parsley each
1/4 dry sherry (or not, but it makes it extra extra)

Saute onion in butter and olive oil until translucent. Halfway through, add the carrots and celery and the salt. Add the sherry and cook for a minute, then add the chicken to this for a few minutes. Next, add the flour then stir for a minute. Then add the stock and the milk and herbs and let simmer for at least 5 minutes. Finally, add the peas or green beans and cook for one more minute.

Place the ramekins or casserole on a baking sheet to make transfer easier and safer.

Ladle the filling into the ramekins almost to the top. If you are just going make one big serving I would use a casserole dish or even a couple of pie pans.

Now, get your dough out and cut it into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll each piece out to a circle just a bit larger than the ramekins. Lay each round over the top of a ramekin.

If you are making one large serving simply roll the dough out into one or two large pieces and lay them over the top of the container.

Tuck any hanging dough under itself and press around the edges with a fork to bind the dough with the dish. Cut a 1" slit in the center of the dough and brush with the egg/water mixture.

Oven time! Bake at 425F for about 20 or until things start looking all nice and golden brown. Remove from oven carefully and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. The pies will be hot like lava until then. I know it's tempting to bust one open right away but if they sit for a while the filling will thicken up a little more and be even better in the end PLUS you will keep all of your pretty little taste buds intact. Patience has its perks.

Bon Grubbin!!