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?