12 July 2009

texas eatin’ – specifically, houston

a few weeks ago, I went to houston with a few friends to check out the marlene dumas show at the menil. 

as always, when i travel, i can’t help but take pictures of food. anyway, here are some texas/houston treats!

houston01If you drive between any major city in Texas, you’ll probably need to fill up on gas and take a break. I don’t know my Texas history too well, but I am going to fathom that many years ago, Czech immigrants settled in Texas. And all their descendents remained. But they brought one of the most important things from their culture into Texas: the kolache. These little bread rolls can be sweet and topped with a sweet cherry, prune, peach, or even poppy seed filling. The savory ones are often referred to as kolaches as well, but I think their official name is pig-in-a-blanket. Those are often stuffed with sausage, sauerkraut, cheese and jalapenos…  However, people understand immediately if you say “savory kolache” or “sweet kolache.”

houston03Kolaches always make the drive worth it. From top left, going clockwise: 1. vegeterian kolache with mushrooms, spinach, & feta cheese. 2. cream cheese kolache. 3. sausage and cheese kolache. 3. sausage and sauerkraut kolache.

So when you see massive amounts of cars exiting the highway, you’ll know why: they’re all pulling over to get some kolache lovin’!

houston02They’ve got more than kolaches though. They are also a convenience store, a gas station, and sell other misc. things. Like these mini pecan pies. Pecan pie is a very texan thing because our state nut just happens to be the pecan. Although to tell the truth I haven’t had pecan pie in years…

The above goodies were from Hruska’s in Ellinger, TX, on HWY71 between austin and houston. However delicious they are, I’m partial to Czech Stop in West, TX on I35 between Austin and Dallas because i’m loyal to the highway that takes me home.

Kolaches aren’t easily found in the actual cities (and definitely don’t taste as good), so make sure to pull over whenever you see the billboard warning that they are ahead!

houston04once to houston, we hopped to the Menil. this is their front lawn. love it. It’s an installation by Michael Heizer.

houston05then we needed a quick break, so off to a coffee shop named Brasil. And although they served food and coffee, I always make a bee-line for the pastries. No sweets are ever safe from my eyes. Don’t those chocolate strawberry blackberry mousses look delicious? and those scones? And that fresh fruit tart? I didn’t eat any of it, but I definitely looked!

houston06 Then time for dinner. Sushi is always a good choice, no? Off to Oishii Japanese Restaurant!

houston07While waiting for our food, I took a peek at my friend’s K’s mini sketchbook. She’d been drawing a flower we found at the Menil.

houston08 sushi on a boat. yes. mmmm. but not for me.

houston09then we went to half-price books. but we were distracted by The Chocolate Bar – a huge, huge chocolate shop. Usually chocolate shops are boutique sized and cramped, but not this place. You walk in, and you feel as if you are in willy wonka land. Chocolate everywhere. Chocolate truffles, chocolate chess sets, chocolate cowboys, chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate… it doesn’t end!

Sadly, it isn’t for me because I’m currently crazy for chocolate by chocolate makers – from the bean to the bar. I’m pretty sure this place makes stuff from chocolate, but not the actual chocolate. Which isn’t a problem, because it doesn’t make it any less delicious.

houston10Got a special request? with a ton of molds, they can mold you chocolate in in shape and way you desire.

houston11rocky road CAKE or rocky road ICE CREAM? too bad stomachs can only handle a little bit of such richness.

(and on a side note, i’m glad this came up because i’m pretty sure rocky road is an american thing. which means i’ll be sharing it with my future french students!)

houston12 but here’s my favorite. it’s a chocolate pizza. that’s right. and what’s it topped with?

houston13chocolate cows, horseshoes, and chickens! I love texas and our texan pride. <3

houston14houston is either #1 or #2 to the vietnamese population in america. which means… lots of good vietnamese food. lots. and this is where bánh mi comes into play. Although the French didn’t stick around in Vietnam, their bread did. How could it not? And the Vietnamese have their own twist on the sandwich by adding their delicious meats and ingredients such as pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumber, jalapenos, and fish sauce. This particular bánh mi came from Les Givral’s Kahve. It’s nice to go with friends who are from Houston, because they already know all the tasty spots!

extra tip: according to my roommate M and his best friend V, no good bánh mi exists in Austin. You have to go to Houston. Apparently, the places in austin use cold cuts and never toast the bread, which is a big no-no for them. However, it’s the opposite for pho. According to them, good pho exists only in Austin, and not Houston. I’m no expert, but I trust their judgment.

more than likely, this will be the direction of my journal in the fall: exploring places, learning about them, and then sharing them here. can’t wait!


NutsinBulk said...
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Sally said...

Love the Czech Stop in West, Texas shout out! From Dallas, lived in Austin, now in DC. Miss it!

cathy said...

@Sally: isn't texas a wonderful place to have lived? :)