Dec 29, 2013

Eats: Angela's Oven

I've bought breads and croissants from Angela's Oven in the past. I usually get them at the farmer's market, either from the Eastside one on Saturday mornings or Rice University on Tuesday afternoons. This year, I decided to buy some croissants for Christmas breakfast. Since they're not open on Christmas day, I went the day before and bought them directly from their bakery in the Heights. And I never knew this before but, apparently they serve breakfast and lunch here. I'll have to come back to check it out. They have ample outdoor seating area and inside there are about 4 two-top and four-top tables.

When I got there, there were a couple people in line ahead of me. I chatted with one of the customers and she was raving about their pumpkin pie. I was actually on my way to Flying Saucer Pie Company to get one but, this lady insisted Angela's was better. Apparently you have to pre-order the pumpkin pies. Luckily for me, she had an extra one! Sure enough, it was a hit among my family and friends on Christmas day. The pie was very moist and it wasn't too sweet! I like crust and personally I would've liked more crust on the bottom but, there were enough on the sides to make up for the lack on the bottom. Overall, I like them enough to buy them again.

Red Barn Bakery and outdoor seating area

Fresh baked goods. Yes, that's bacon topped glazed donuts you see!

Croissants and danish


Pumpkin pie

Angela's Oven
204 Aurora St.
Houston, TX

Dec 25, 2013

Eats: Ramen at Sushi Wabi

'Tis the weather for ramen in Houston. After seeing a couple of pictures posted by other Ramen in Common members, I decided to check out Sushi Wabi's ramen myself. This was the first time I visited Sushi Wabi. At first glance, I found their menu is a little confusing. I looked under "Noodle" section but, didn't see any ramen listed. I know they have it since I've seen pictures of it on Facebook. I asked our waiter and he said they do have it while pointing to a picture on the menu. It's the same with their seaweed salad, the picture is on the menu even though it's not listed under "Appetizers". Back to the ramen - they only carry one ramen and that's tonkotsu. Typically not my first choice but, it's all they had.

How was it? It was surprisingly well prepared! I say "surprisingly" because this place is a sushi joint after all - a casual one, too. And considering their sushi (not pictured) was just very mediocre (my husband's words), their ramen blew my mind! The broth was creamy, not too greasy, flavorful with just the right amount of salt from start to finish. The egg texture was perfect! Pork belly still had it's skin on which made it a little chewier but, fatty enough it was still soft. I also thought it was the right amount of thickness. The dish came with 4 pork belly slices which I thought was just right. I also liked there was corn in the ramen although, I felt it could've use more corn.

I will definitely be back for the ramen, and having the option of ordering a few sushi on the side (even if it's mediocre) is an added bonus!

Sushi Wabi
3953 Richmond Ave (at Weslayan)
Houston, TX

Dec 19, 2013

Eats: Ramen Jin, a Preview

There's a new ramen shop opening in Houston. I recently attended a private event here, intended to assist the restaurant before it opens it's doors to the general public. They had previously opened their doors to the public for one night, it turned out to be disastrous. Basically, the restaurant wasn't prepared for the amount of crowd that came and was completely overwhelmed. Carl Rosa, the founder of Ramen in Common, reached out to them to organize this private event where the crowd size is controllable.

Limited menu for private event

When we arrived, we went up to the counter and placed our order from a limited menu. We were then given a number and found seating at an open table.

Disclaimer: even though this was private event, it was not a free one. We did pay for our ramen and drinks. Appetizers weren't "available" but the restaurant gave us some on the house. 

Tempura sweet potato

Not long after we sat down, the staff brought us some appetizers. First was tempura sweet potato, which was deliciously topped with sweet and salty seasoning. Next came tempura fish cake which was good but, way too salty. And then last was chicken karaage - good, no complaints. I thought it was unusual the tempuras didn't come with any side sauce. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not. The tempura was well seasoned so technically it didn't need sauce, I guess I'm just so used to getting sauce with mine.

Tonkotsu ramen

I don't usually order tonkotsu ramen because they're typically very greasy. But, since my brother ordered the miso ramen, I thought why not for variety sake. Turns out, it wasn't very greasy at all. Since I like my ramen spicy, I asked for some togarashi. I was surprised they didn't have any. I thought it's usually standard for any ramen shop to have them. Instead, the staff brought me some chili that's similar to chili oil in Chinese restaurants. 

Initially, I felt the broth tasted rather bland but, after a while it tasted ok. I don't know if the chili oil had anything to do with it since it was a little salty, or if everything just came together once it was mixed properly. I liked the noodles that came with my ramen, I thought it was cooked perfectly. The pork belly had good flavor but it was a bit to fatty for my taste, wish there was more meat to it. The egg was excellent, by far the highlight of the dish!

Miso ramen

My brother was the one who had the miso ramen but, I did get to taste it. Initially, the broth was very flavorful but in the end it did become too much. We agreed the tonkotsu broth finished better. 

Overall, the ramen was good, I would definitely go back but, just like Tiger Den, it still doesn't compare to the ramen shops I've visited in CA and NYC. 

Side note: the table layout here is not as packed as Tiger Den's therefore, I think it's more baby friendly.

Their menu board, taken from their Facebook page.
I wish they'd offer certain items as additional condiments such as
pork belly, vegetables.

Ramen Jin
11181 Westheimer Rd (Whole Foods shopping complex)

Dec 17, 2013

Eats: Breakfast at Avalon Diner

This is a great place to go if you're looking for diner style food. The baby and I went here recently for breakfast. As you can see, it's nothing fancy - just good ol' diner style breakfast.

Big Breakfast
Came with eggs, sausage patties, hashbrown and pancakes (pictured below) 

Buttermilk pancakes was just ok, a bit dense.

Avalon Diner
2417 Westheimer 
Houston, TX

Babies: Fisher Price Booster/High Chair

As a mom who loves to eat out, this is possibly one of the best gears I bought for my baby. You know those babies you see climbing out of their high chair in restaurants?! Yes, that's my baby! Ever since he's mastered crawling and climbing, I can't keep him in those restaurant high chairs anymore. I know they come with straps but, that thing is a joke. This Fisher Price chair, however, is a lifesaver. Sure, it's bulky and it's one more thing to carry to a restaurant but, it's the one chair that keeps my baby in.

Another great thing is it attaches to a regular chair so, we always have a high chair everywhere we go whether it's to grandma's house or a pub with no high chair (ahem, Hay Merchant!).

I've also found that despite my baby being in the normal height range for his age, those restaurant high chairs were always low for him, the top of the table hits right in between his forehead so it's always hard for him to see and grab his food. Whereas if I bring this FP chair, I can adjust the height to where it's more comfortable for him or just use the chair's tray.

All-in-all, I've been very happy with this chair and I highly recommend it!

Dec 11, 2013

Eats: Saturday Brunch at Provisions

Saturday brunch at Provisions is new, they didn't start this service until October of this year - while I was in the Middle East. This was another thing I wanted to check out when I got home so, I suggested it when friends wanted to catch up over brunch.

I made reservations on Open Table but, I don't know if it was really necessary as there weren't many diners when we arrived nor when we left.

Prior to coming, we had already scoped out their menu online. That's the good thing about Provisions, especially since they change their menu regularly, they do update their online menu accordingly.

All of us agreed we wanted to start with the buttermilk biscuits. One order came with three biscuits. That was perfect since there were three of us, we shared an order. The biscuits were delicious!! So delicious, we ordered another one!

Buttermilk Biscuits/Butter/Honey

When it came to ordering entrees, all three of us ordered something different. The sound of "fried duck egg" combined with "foie gras grits" intrigued me. Unfortunately, my dish was very underwhelming. My friends were disappointed with their entrees as well. It's definitely a letdown especially after the wonderful biscuit experience we had.

Fried Duck Egg /Foie Gras Grits/Arugula/Pickled Currants

807 Taft St
Houston, TX

Dec 9, 2013

Eats: Ramen at Tiger Den

This place opened while I was in the Middle East and it was one the places I wanted to try when I got home. So, when temps dropped in Houston last Friday, I felt it was perfect weather for some ramen. Luckily since I'm not working, I was able to make it there by 5:30pm. Even then there was already a wait, albeit a short one.

I dragged my mom along with me. She ordered the spicy miso ramen. Even though that's usually my go-to ramen dish, I ended up ordering the garlic black bean ramen for variety. Of the two, I liked the spicy miso more. It definitely had more flavor than the garlic black bean one which, I found rather bland.

I'm no ramen connoisseur so I'm not even going to bother talking about the dish in detail. However, I did notice the noodles they use tasted homemade, it was soft not like the instant ramen noodles I'm used to in college. I also noticed that their togarashi (spicy red pepper flakes) wasn't very spicy - I kept dousing it in my ramen but, my dish never got spicy enough. I guess there's different levels of togarashi spiciness?

In addition to the ramen, my mom and I ordered chicken heart skewers from the robata grill. It was good - had nice sauce glazed on it. I would've ordered more from the robata grill but, I wanted to save room for dessert.

I heard great things about their pandan custard doughnuts. Damn, they didn't disappoint! The doughnuts were so soft and airy. At first my mom and I didn't think we'd be able to finish it but, them doughnuts were so delicious and light, we kept chomping away. The pandan custard came as a dip. It reminded me of a jam we have in Indonesia called, srikaya, which happens to be one of my favorite jams. Oh, I wish Tiger Den would sell it in a jar, I'd buy a dozen!!

The restaurant isn't very baby-friendly. We were seated in a booth and on my way to the bathroom, I saw they have high chairs and booster seats. But, they can't place the high chairs at the end of the booth. I understand why. The restaurant is quite tight and servers are carrying bowls of hot ramen around so, a high chair would get in the way. Luckily, I have this Fisher Price booster chair that I brought along with me and I was able to sit my baby in it on the booth. His booster chair wasn't secured but, at least he was strapped in to the booster chair.

In my book, Tiger Den can't compare to the ramen shops I've visited in California or New York but, it's definitely a start for Houston.

Spicy miso ramen

Garlic black bean ramen

Chicken heart skewers

Extra chashu

Pandan custard doughnuts

Tiger Den
9889 Bellaire Blvd (Dun Huang complex)
Houston, TX

Dec 7, 2013

Eats: Thanksgiving Lunch at Haven

It's my friend, Patty's, tradition to eat out with friends on Thanksgiving day. This year, since I was husbandless and my family event didn't start until dinner, I thought I'd crash in and join them for lunch. The group had already chosen Haven as their restaurant of choice. One glance at the menu, I was sold!

Amuse bouche of deviled eggs and pimento cheese celery

Our meal started off with a family style amuse bouche of deviled eggs, pimento cheese celery, olives and pickled beets. Everyone at the table agreed the deviled eggs was rather lacking and the celery was surprisingly better.

Seafood gumbo

For my starter, I had a hard time choosing between the butternut squash soup and the seafood gumbo. As you can see, I ended up choosing the gumbo and I'm glad I did because it was pretty darn good! It's full of flavor and even though it's on the darker side, it wasn't bitter. And the consistency is just the way I like my gumbo.

Turkey w/ gravy, cranberry, cornbread pudding, broccoli rice and sweet potato

For my entree, it was a no brainer. I'm here on Turkey day, I must have my turkey and it's trimmings. I couldn't be more pleased with the way they prepared this entree - they stuck to tradition and kept it original. I only wish they had green beans instead of broccoli rice but, that's just a personal preference. I ended up taking most of this home and it made for nice leftover the next day :-)

Meyer lemon pie w/ toasted meringue, graham cracker-peanut crust

My dessert was the major disappointment of the whole meal. I ordered the meyer lemon pie hoping for a refreshing dessert. Unfortunately, Haven's version was overly sweet, I could barely taste the lemon in it, and the consistency was more cake like than pie. Just not what I expected, at all!

Overall, we had a very enjoyable meal. Service was good and the food came out in good timing - we never felt rushed nor did we wait forever in between meals. For $55/person, it was a very worthwhile holiday meal. Speaking of service, our server was kind enough to split the check for us which is very rare these days.

The only downside to Haven is their limited parking situation but, for that they do offer free valet service.

2502 Algerian Way
Houston, TX

Back in Houston

I've been back in Houston for a couple of weeks now. Between selling our house and moving to an apartment, it's been a crazy couple of weeks! BUT, I can't tell you how happy I am to be home even if it's temporary :-)

I'm way behind on my blog - I still have lots of posts currently on draft. I'll get to them eventually, perhaps when my son starts daycare next month. In the meantime, I'll start blogging about Houston again.

YES, we do!!

Dec 6, 2013

Eats: Indonesian Food in Oman

We were in Oman during an Eid holiday therefore, a lot of local restaurants were closed. We knew for sure the hotel restaurants would be open so we decided to check out Marjan at Grand Hyatt since they serve Indonesian food.

The food was pretty good, it's definitely a fancy take on the Indonesian cuisine. However, dishes like the gado-gado we ordered tasted authentic.

The hotel employs Indonesians to work the restaurant. I think that helps create and maintain the authenticity of the food and service of the place.

Free appetizers of shrimp crackers and condiments

Prawns in black pepper sauce

Gado gado

Chicken in chili sauce

Restaurant's poolside location, outside the main building

Marjan Indonesian Restaurant
Grand Hyatt Muscat

Travel with Baby: InterContinental Hotel Muscat

During our mini Eid holiday in Oman, we stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel Muscat. Like most international hotels in Oman, this was a resort style hotel. Overall, the hotel was ok - the rooms were a bit outdated compared to other hotels we stayed at in Bahrain and Dubai however, it was more spacious than the Novotel in Dubai :-)

The hotel has two main pools - one lap and one leisure. For babies, there's a nice size paddling pool located just next to the lap pool... and it's shaded! The leisure pool is also nice for babies - just watch out for the depth if you're short person like me.

Our room included breakfast in the morning. The breakfast buffet in the main dining room is quite extensive although the food quality was just ok. The plus side for babies, despite the amount of toddlers staying there, they had high chairs available every time we dined.

InterContinental Hotel Muscat
Al Shati Area
Muscat, Oman

Oct 24, 2013

Travel with Baby: Emirates

From Dubai, we flew to Oman on Emirates. Since the baby had an infant ticket, they gave us bulkhead seats which we found out about the night before our flight. However, since it was only an hour's flight time, there was really no need for a bassinet.

Upon boarding, they gave us a bunch of baby knick knacks -- baby food, a plush toy, and a baby care pack that had wipes, lotion, bib, spoon, toy, etc. All this for an hour's flight... I'm impressed!

The plane also had an on demand entertainment system that I didn't get to check out because sleep was calling my name!

Note: if you're pregnant and showing, it's probably best to get a doctor's letter... just in case. They will ask how far along you are and if you're over 29 weeks, they do want a doctor's letter. I'm only mentioning this because I was asked twice - once at the boarding gate and the other by a flight attendant.

Baby knick knacks

Another great thing by Emirates and Dubai airport!
Strollers are available throughout the airport for arrival
and transit passengers.

Travel with Baby: Dubai

We went to Dubai for a couple of nights because my husband had a business meeting there. It was a quick stop before we continued on to Oman for our mini Eid holiday. 

Gulf Air

From Bahrain, we flew to Dubai on Gulf Air. I was a bit weary at first since I've never heard of the airline before but, I soon found out it's the national airline of Bahrain and it flies not only regionally but, to Europe and the UK as well. And because of that, it's not a budget airline that nickle and dime its passengers for baggage weight. One look at their website, turns out they offer Sky Nanny services on their long haul flights similar to Etihad Airways. Can I say, yay, for Middle East airlines?!

Since it was only an hour flight, we bought the baby an infant ticket. We brought his car seat along for our Oman trip but since we didn't need it for the flight, we checked it in as baggage. The airport in Bahrain plastic wrapped it for us for BD 2. 

On-demand entertainment system on board despite being
an hour's flight. The Hollywood movie section wasn't
available though.

Note: if you're pregnant and showing, it's probably best to get a doctor's letter... just in case. I wasn't asked to provide anything in Bahrain but, on our way back from Oman, the gate agent wouldn't let me board without a doctor's note. So, we had to wait until they called a doctor to clear me for flying.

Hotel Novotel World Trade Centre Dubai

We stayed here because it was right next to my husband's office. However, after being spoiled staying at Fraser Suites Bahrain, the room here is tiny! That's the downside about French hotel chains -- apparently they don't make the rooms any bigger even if it's in the Middle East. I was glad we only stayed here for two nights because I was getting a bit claustrophobic.

Due to it's location, the hotel is definitely catered towards business people. There are no kids playroom or pool in this hotel.

Tiny room

Tiny bed

Tiny closet

Tiny bathroom

European style bathtub

At least it had a decent coffee maker!

Ground Transportation

We took a taxi everywhere we went. Unfortunately, since we were in the process of moving and I didn't really know what our travel itinerary was going to be, I didn't have time to plan or research anything like, how to safely transport our baby around Dubai. We brought his convertible car seat with us so, he had that on the taxi ride to the hotel. But, getting around Dubai... I haven't figured out what to do with his bulky car seat while we wandered around. As spacious as his stroller basket is, it won't fit the car seat. So yes, we resorted to the old fashioned unsafe way of holding the baby on our lap. One of things on my to do list is to research a travel friendly car seats... stat!

Dubai taxis can be rather crazy. I definitely prefer the taxi company the hotel uses. I think it's called Al Salam. They're a bit pricier (not by much) but so worth it. They all drive in brand new Lexus sedans and the drivers are more helpful than your average taxi drivers. 

Al Khobar - First Impressions

After a couple of weeks roaming around other countries in the Middle East, we finally crossed the bridge between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Tuesday evening. Immigration wasn't bad at all despite being first entry for me -- usually it takes a while. From here on out, any back and forth trip to Bahrain should be a breeze for us (traffic permitting).

We got into Al Khobar in the dark so, I couldn't see a whole lot. What I saw was a typical city with huge highways like Houston. I heard the drivers are crazy here but, having lived and drove in Indonesia, this is nothing! By the way, I (as a woman) can't drive here so, I'll have to rely on my husband or one of his company drivers to shuttle me around. 

Our company provided house is not ready, yet so we're having to stay in a hotel for the time being. The bad news: still living out of a suitcase after leaving Houston over 2 weeks ago. The good news: at least I don't have to iron my clothes since I have to cover up everywhere I go (except in the compounds and at women only events). 

Here are my initial observations of my new home town:
1. Welcome to Saudi - or is it America? I can't tell when McD's is the first thing I see on the Saudi side, after we cleared customs. 
2. The bellman at the hotel was honest! My husband accidentally overtipped him with Bahraini Dinar instead of Saudi Riyal, and he came back to return his tip!
3. I haven't seen any women working anywhere! Not in hotels, restaurants or malls. My husband said they work in the lingerie stores now but, I haven't checked it out for myself. 
4. Most restaurant have separate entrances for "families" and "singles".
5. I have to be aware of prayer times now. They actually close all the shops during prayer times. This wasn't so in Bahrain or Oman.
6. I have to wear a clothing cover called an abaya. Yes, it's nice that I don't have to dress up inside but, let me tell you what a pain it is otherwise. It's a pain to get in an SUV -- there's just no graceful way to get in with this thing on. It's a pain to walk in -- I keep tripping on it.  And then at meal time, the sleeves just gets in the way. I'm sure in time I'll get used to it. 
7. Everyone calls Al Khobar a sandbox. Really?! Not from this hotel balcony view...

Oct 20, 2013

Eats: Friday Brunch at The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain

Friday brunch is a big thing here, similar to Sunday brunch in the States. The only difference, they don't start until after noon and they're usually held at hotel restaurants. The good thing about brunch in Bahrain... they serve alcohol :-)

So, we figured for our first brunch in the Bahrain, why not go to the best... at The Ritz-Carlton! Below are sample pictures of the spread. Note: this is just a sample. That's how massive the buffet is. Unfortunately, there's so many delicious looking things I couldn't eat because I'm pregnant at the moment but, don't you worry... I'll be back to indulge!

Our bill for two came to BD 58 (including tax and service charge) which is about $150. Mind you everything in Bahrain is expensive but, considering some of the items on the buffet line and that alcohol was included, I found the price to be reasonable.

There's not a lot on the buffet line that's baby friendly so I asked them to make scrambled eggs with cheese for our baby. It came out delicious, our baby loved it. He also ate bits of the waffles, some cheese and fresh fruit.

To go to any Friday brunch, reservations is highly recommended. We lucked out in getting a table despite not having a reservation, partly because we went early.

La Med
The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain