Friday, July 29, 2011

Sorrel Urban Bistro

One of my friends is a pastry chef at Sorrel Urban Bistro, a new restaurant in Houston. I had the opportunity to check it out today and it was AMAZING!

Sorrel prides itself on being part of the farm-to-table movement. Much of their menu uses local, organic ingredients, in everything from the main courses to the desserts to even the wines (I had a sweet white wine on tap that was made from grapes grown in Texas). The atmosphere is light and casual and it's reasonably priced. They also offer a three-course lunch and a five-course dinner (with or without wine) so you can get a taste of everything.

This time I tried the green peppercorn crusted pork (I'm not gonna lie, the menu listed a bunch of other fancy ingredients and sides that I will not be able to recall from memory, but it was delicious). The meal looked like a piece of edible art; it was elegantly arranged into a neat little stack of tastiness--I almost felt bad cutting it apart...almost. The portion looks small compared to something at a chain restaurant like Outback or Texas Roadhouse (which are terribly over-portioned, mind you), but it was extremely filling and I normally would have skipped dessert had that not been the main reason I had come.

So next came dessert. And let me give you this advice: Make friends with the person in charge of desserts. We were treated to this little sampler plate, which was definitely not on the menu:
I am re-tasting the amazing-ness just looking at it.

Now all of these I can remember: On the left is a bread pudding. In the shot glasses are watermelon granite with cookie crisps. In the center is a lemon bar with raspberry sorbet. And on the right is a peach and blueberry crepe.

I am a huge fan of bread pudding, and this one was fabulous; and I love crepes, especially when they're made right; but I don't think anything can compare to the lemon bar/raspberry sorbet combination. It was the epitome of refreshment on a hot summer day. But who am I kidding? Everything was wonderful. I would eat it all again and then some.

So, long story short, Sorrel Urban Bistro is highly recommended. And I will be going back. Many times. Possibly with my mom when she visits next week...

UPDATE: Thought I would throw in another picture from a more recent visit. I think this one was when I went with my mom.

I can't remember what this was, but like everything else I've had at Sorrel, it's AMAZING!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Move

Well readers, in case you were unaware, I have moved to Houston. Hence my extended absence...again. But fear not, I have been busy cooking and eating up a storm! But first, I went shopping.

In order to get out of my fast food rut (it's not easy to eat healthy when all your food is boxed up and you're on the road, so no judgment!), I made a trip to the farmers market at Rice University. The market is every Tuesday afternoon and, I believe (*insert middle school girl squeals here*), it's year round!

I was a little afraid of what I would find there since Texas is a little less *ahem* tree-hugger than my previous community. I thought it might be difficult to find organic growers or humanely raised animal products. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that over half of the farms at the market were either certified organic or followed organic principles but were not certified. Even better was that each farm had a large banner proudly proclaiming their status, making my shopping much more efficient and less awkward.

In all seriousness, I hate walking up to a stand and not buying anything. I feel like a bitch when I just look and decide there isn't anything I want or the next vendor over is selling it cheaper. I really don't have the guts to walk up and ask about a farmer's growing practices and walk away if I don't approve, so I'm glad I don't have to do that.

While at the market the first time, I picked up some old favorites like tomatoes, green peppers, and eggs (though the egg lady offered me duck eggs as well...I may have to take her up on that later!), but I also got some hummus, some AMAZING feta cheese and some new things to try, including okra and eggplant (which I will blog about later). I also got some spare ribs and some beef stew meat.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with my new farmers market, and I'm excited to visit a different one this or next weekend, but I do have a few grumblings/complaints:

1. The market is kind of small, but I may find the weekend market larger and with more selection, so we'll see.
2. It's kind of expensive, but most of the food seems more expensive here, so I may just have to get used to it. I'm trying to buy less junk, so that should help my food budget a bit.
3. There are hardly any fruits for sale. Seriously, one or two stands had watermelon and one conventional stand had peaches. That was it. I am going through fruit withdrawal. But perhaps the weekend market will suffice my need for fruit as well, so we'll see and I'll report back.

I went to the market this week as well, and I skipped the okra and eggplant because I still had some leftover, but I picked up some local honey. Interesting fact: Honey helps fight allergies because you get a mild exposure to the local pollen through the honey, so it is especially important to buy local! (Note: I looked into this and the New York Times wrote about a study that disproves this theory, so this may not be true. The NYT said most pollen allergens are wind borne rather than insect borne, so you would not be getting exposed to the same kinds of pollens. HOWEVER, I found another article that suggests some pollens are both wind and insect borne, and if those are the pollens you're allergic to, then you would see improvements when eating local honey, so it may be worth investigating further...)

For the rest of my shopping needs, I was excited to find out there was a Whole Foods near my new home! Whole Foods is very similar to the co-op I used to shop at, but bigger and better! The produce section was probably twice as big, and they had a separate fish counter from the meat counter. The fish are MSC-certified and Whole Foods has a lot of control over their supply and their sources, making sure they are properly maintained. They had an even bigger selection of bread made in-house, and a huge wine selection that I have yet to check out.

I was delighted to see they had local milk in quart containers (that's really all I can drink before it goes bad) and I got this Peaches and Cream milk that was also local (and fabulous) in a quart container. I got some yummy rosemary sourdough bread, some catfish, gulf shrimp, lemons, sour cream, butter, spaghetti sauce, and some seasonings. But of course, it wasn't perfect:

1. They only had one kind of butter in a tub, and it was the exact same brand and type as they had at the co-op (which I hated). But I remedied this by putting one of my butter sticks (which I had several options to choose from) in my butter dish and left it out on the counter.
2. The wait was terrible. I had to wait ten minutes before someone could help me at the fish counter and about 15 minutes to get cashed out. It seems like they need to build another location so that half of the people will go somewhere else!

One random perk is that the co-op used to charge extra if you didn't bring your own bags but Whole Foods gives you a ten cent discount for every bag you bring, so I can lightly pack several bags and save even!

I've made a couple random trips to the regular grocery stores for odds and ends (like s'mores ingredients) as well. Mostly I've gone to Kroger because it's closest, but I don't really like it. My husband really likes Albertson's and so he usually shops there (I'm addicted to their Yahtzee scratch cards). I've seen a few Fiestas around and I'm kind of scared to go in because they seem kind of... too focused to price and not on quality. I like H-E-B, it's probably the closest thing to my old grocery store, so once I find one nearby, I'll probably use it to find all those random things Whole Foods doesn't have.

PS: I'm blogging via phone because I dont have my Internet hooked up yet, so please excuse any spelling errors. They are hard to find on here, but I will go through and edit this later!