Sunday, October 2, 2011

Aquarium Restaurant (Downtown)

Aquarium Restaurant Downtown

A few weeks ago, we set out on “seat of our pants” Saturday and ended up downtown exploring a few museums and spending a little time on the campus of Rice University. As we began our way home my son began asking a series of questions.  “What are we going to eat for dinner?” then, “Can we stay in the city for dinner?” and finally, “Can we go to the Aquarium?”.  Hill and I knew where that conversation was heading at the first question and, in truth, had conspired to take Rhys to the Aquarium (over a series of texts) as our day in town stretched on. I mentioned all of that just to impart how the mystique of the Aquarium looms large in the hearts and minds of children. My son was willing to engage in guerrilla tactics just to get into the building.

We arrived and after a short wait, maybe five minutes, we were shown to a table with a wonderful view of the aquarium. This is what it’s all about--the view of those beautiful aquatic animals, the ambient blue lighting and the feeling of being underwater without the wet suits. It lulls you—and that is perhaps wise because when you look at the menu, the sticker…well--it shocks.  I should say that the prices are not outrageous, if you consider the maintaining of the restaurant. Think about the water bill in that place—not to mention the marine biologists…and I could go on. That said, the average restaurant bill for my family (of three) is about $40 dollars. The bill at the Aquarium was in the triple digits. Plan accordingly and remember that you are paying for the theme park experience. 

At this time please forget everything I said about the check. The food was wonderful. My family dining party consists of two picky eaters and one, well…culinary snob, my son. Nothing was sent back, I don’t recall one complaint, and that is rare. Of-course it could be attributed to the ambient lighting. My husband believes that ambient lighting is responsible for 9 out of 10 bad shopping purchases.
Much to the demise of my sweetheart’s point of view on this-I lost all focus for the aquarium when my plate arrived. I was focused.  The food was rather Boss. Please see for yourself.    

Rhys' Plate (Pizza)

Hill's Plate (Southern fried fish)

My Plate (I'm sorry but I can't rememebr the name of it, it was a special). It was shrimp, cod and salmon in an Asian orange sauce and it was divine.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Restarant: Babin's Seafood Restaurant

Babin’s Restaurant

Full Disclosure: This restaurant is a family favorite.  This has become our special occasion restaurant of choice since we’ve been Katy residents. We tried to love Perry’s and that place is wonderful in every way…but a little pretentious (and Rhys can’t stand it). Add to that the fact that I’m such a Southern Louisiana girl that I am not really impressed by meat (even fancy meat in a fancy setting). It’s all about the seafood, and we all enjoy Babin’s.  Our last excursion was both a celebration of the last day of summer vacation, an in anticipation of the first day of school.

Traditional Louisiana flair:  This is one of those places that makes me homesick. I hear the opening to Treme’ when peruse the menu. I what can I say, I’m nostalgic…and you probably knew that about me before you click onto this page. At Babin’s you will be treated to a little je ne sais quoi. I can’t really put my finger on it but something about the place is authentic in the purest way.
The true hospitality and southern flair is filtered through the entire staff and all of the service is wonderful.  Once a waitress helped my reconstruct their hurricane to reflect Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane and she knew exactly what I was talking about because she was from New Orleans.  Needless to say that was the best hurricane I’ve had outside of the quarters (Oh yeah…it’s like that).

The Cuisine:
Pictured below are our selections.

Our appetizer plate

Shrimp poulette

Ceasar Salad

My plate: Fried Oysters, Shrimp and a Sweet Potato

Hill's Plate:  Shrimp and Grits (It was delightful)

We ended up splitting everything anyway(except my sweet potato). I draw the line at that. :) 

Rhys and his day before school Sundae (It's a family tradition)

This place rocks….but don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Restaurant: Baker's Street Pub

Baker's Street Pub

This is one of my favorite Katy, quick meal places. My son asks to go there ever so often during the summer and pictured below is our "usual". I know what you're asking, "Why would you take your son to a Pub?" During the day it's really just a restaurant, the “Pub" activity does not begin until around 5 PM. We slip in well before the end of the work day for a dose of ESPN and a quick bite.

The Food
It has all of the typical pub fare that you've come to expect (i.e. Bangers and mash, Shepard’s pie, fish and chips etc.) It also has a few surprises like a hummus plate, phenomenal fish tacos and my personal favorite, the crispy cod sandwich. It’s perfectly fried (yes I said fried) and served with sweet potato fries. Rhys’ favorite is the sliders which are larger than most and according to him, wonderful.  

The Atmosphere
An air of mystery abounds any first-timer—you can spend five minutes or so just looking for the restroom. No worries, becasue after the first time, "It's elementary my dear watson!". I would tell you the trick, but I know the barkeeps and patrons like to watch you search. Far be it for me to intrude on anyone’s dinner and a show. What I love most about Baker’s street is its simplicity—it’s like a blue collar worker in a sea of white collars. It does what it does well and has no aspirations of luxury. A big screen television and pool table offer the opportunity to let off a little steam while you wait for your bangers. The friendly, although usually preoccupied, wait staff can offer you suggestions if you cannot narrow down your choice.  The prices are very affordable, especially for lunch. If you haven’t experienced it already,  treat yourself and have a little pub fun.  


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Restaurant Blitz--Baton Rouge

Drusilla, Ralph & Kacoo’s, Bonefish Grill & Chimes
Last week I explored my home town of Baton Rouge, LA. Like a tourist on steroids and I had a blast! Here is a brief synopsis of my culinary exploits in the capital city.
Drusilla is a sentimental favorite for me.  My father and I used to seek refuge there when my mother was pregnant with my brother—our boisterous behavior was not amusing to her at that time and we just needed to get away. I arrived there in a fit it nostalgia to find that my sacred ground, the oyster bar was occupied by a large group. I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures on another family’s event. So I snapped these few shots and moved on to the next childhood favorite restaurant on my list---most kids liked McDonald’s, right? Not in Louisiana.  My favorite restaurants as a child were, The Village (now closed), Drusilla’s, Ralph & Kacoo’s, Don’s Seafood and if you really wanted to get fancy and look down on others, The Camelot Club (it is located on the top floor of one of few skyscrapers in downtown baton rouge and is somewhat famous as the restaurant where several scenes from Richard Pryor’s “The Toy” were filmed). Each of these restaurants holds a unique memory for me. The Village is where my date and I dined before our prom. I discussed Drusilla’s in my first post. Ralph and Kacoo’s was owned by family friends and was a family gathering place before they sold it to the Piccadilly franchise. The Camelot Club is where every very special occasion has been celebrated in my family for as long as I can remember. It’s where I celebrated my college graduation and where my fiancĂ©e and I stole away for a private dinner the night before our wedding.  

Ralph & Kacoo's
I really hate to say this but I was utterly disappointed with this hometown favorite. Don’t let the pictures fool you, it looked good but tasted processed and uninspired. A far cry from this restaurant in its hayday. It disgraced my nostalgia and the hard work of Ralph and Kacoo that built the brand of that restaurant for decades. As a rule, I do not like talking about bad dining experiences, but this one so shocked me that I felt compelled to warn others. This is not your father’s Ralph and Kacoo’s, you would do better going directly to Piccadilly. Then you wouldn't be surprised. At least the food photographed well (most of it ended up in a box that was disposed of in haste).  


Bread Basket/Huspuppies

Crawfish Etoufee and Fried Crawfish. 

Bonefish Grill
By now everyone knows that I am a seafood kind of lady, greatly affected by my southern Louisiana upbringing. At Bonefish I decided to take a detour from my usual seafood fare and take the suggestion of my waitress. She recommended “Lily's Chicken”. It was robust and creamy with wonderful flavor--a welcomed departure from my usual plates.

Lilly's Chicken

My sister's pork chop dish. She loved it.

This restaurant is set just outside the gates of Louisiana State University (LSU--Geaux Tigers!) and has been a favorite of students from both colleges in the city for decades. Chimes boasts an impressively unique beer selection and menu to match, all neatly packaged within the atmosphere of an Irish pub.  I stepped out on a ledge at chimes and went with another wait staff suggestion. This time the dish was brand new to the menu, the seafood lasagna. It was fantastic. So much so, that I took it with me as I headed out of town and back to Texas. I pulled over to eat it several hours later—and it was still wonderful.

My Sister's Red Beans & Rice.

My Grandmother's Chicken

My Seafood Lasagna


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Ambrosia Bakery (Baton Rouge, LA.)

The Ambrosia Bakery (Baton Rouge, LA.)

On my first free day in Baton Rouge I decided to take a drive around town. I happened to drive past Ambrosia Bakery-pure happenstance-and nostalgia grabbed my wheel and turned my car around. It led to the best culinary experience of my trip.
A little background, when I was pregnant, nearly a decade ago I had two cravings—bacon (which was weird for a vegetarian, as I was at the time), and Ambrosia bakery cake squares. If I were ever profiled on Food Networks “Best thing I’ve ever tasted” these cake squares would BE my list. I only got three because I didn't trust myself to share them. They are magnificent. I originally wrote three lines descibing the taste but erased them—becasue they teetered on being explicit.  The sheer beauty of making something, seemingly so mundane—exquisite and extraordinary is the true mark of greatness….maybe even genius.

Ambrosia is a phenomenal bakery, here in Katy we have a good bakery—“Ooh La La” which doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence. Frankly, I am ashamed of myself for even doing so—but I will—to provide a frame of reference to my fellow katy-ians (not to be confused with Acadians). Where “Ooh La La” is textbook and a little pointed in approach and substance; Ambrosia is all heart, skill and history. They don’t need a book—and trust me when I say you can taste the difference! This is not intended to be a knock on “Ooh La La”, rather just an explanation on how above the fray Ambrosia remains. If you are ever in Baton Rouge, flag Ambrosia as a waypoint on your GPS.  You will thank me.