Houston food, restaurants and dining review. Urban living, travel, thoughts and other randomness.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Snacking Houston

This morning, Rekha was intent on purging our closet of clothes. As usual, I woke up too late to be of much use. I did, however, wake up in time to go with the in-laws to the International Festival. This year's theme was India. Pretty exciting considering where Rekha's family comes from and last year's trip to Southern India.

Quite a few people go to the International Festival for the music. We go for the food. Every year, they have the usual fajitas, sausage on a stick, Chinese food, turkey leg, and funnel cake. Although eating outdoor festival food every now and then really makes me feel American, this time we went for the theme food--Indian. We tried the mushy bhel poori, a type of snack consisting of a mixture of puffed rice with potato, onion (not with grandma though!), tamarind chutney and cilantro. Simple and delicious, I can usually down more than a rice bowl full. Not this time. It was too mushy.

We also tried samosa so bland, not even the the chutney could help. We ended our food draught with kulfi, an icecream made from evaporated and condensed milk. Rekha adds cardamom to hers, adding complexity and much needed nuttiness to the flavor. No such luck here. Instead, we accompanied the passable kulfi with bland blood orange tea. Before we knew it, $40 of tickets had gone by, and we had yet to taste good food.

Sad and wet (it rained) from the festiveal, we went home and editted our clothing--ultimately donating four large garbage bags of clothing. After the edit, we got hungry. More snacks!!! Since we needed to go to Hong Kong Supermarket on Bellaire (the one oustide the Beltway), to pick up Shaolin Soccer at one of the video stores in front of the grocery store, we drove for half an hour to our favorite food geography.

We were going to pick up the Nha Trang spring rolls and special dipping sauce from Brodard Bistro, but instead got interested in the kim chi infused noodle soup at Happy Valley in the Hong Kong Supermarket food court. If you haven't tried Happy Valley, you're missing the experience of always flavorful food--if not always perfect. For $4.60, we got a large bowl filled with red broth, one shrimp, some fake crab meat, and what might have been squid. But ignore the seafood. Concentrate on the broth that tastes like it could accompany any noodle and was probably infused with untold of crawfish carcasses. Concentrate on the medium sized brown noodles that match the broth perfectly. Concentrate on the taste of kim chi in what we briefly thought was a Chinese dish. Enjoy the dish with fresh watermelon juice from the stall just steps away from Happy Valley. What a snack!

After our noodle snack, we came home to watch the Rockets game. Rekha had purchased some cut unripened mango, pineapple slices and dipping powder from the vendor right next to Happy Valley. You dip the pineapple or mango into a mixture of salt and red pepper flakes. The spiciness and saltiness accompany the sour flavor of the pineapple and mango magnificently and worked perfectly as a substitute to peanuts for the game.

After watching the Rockets lose a heart-breaking game, we went to console ourselves with antipasto from Grotto. It infuriates me that this bastion of great atmosphere and sometimes great food is owned by Landry's. We tried to drown my sorrows (Rockets game and Landry's imperialism) with a bottle Pelligrino, and a large antipasto plate filled with aged feta cheese, buffalo mozarella, sausage and peppers, whole green olives, garlic spinach, cooked sweet carrots, and asparagus. We wallowed in our misery with the laughter from the tables nearby, the high energy decor of Grotto, the beautiful people everywhere, and the warmth of the fire next to our bar table. We were so distraught we even had to have the brilliant, not-too-much sweet, coconut cream pie.

If you're not looking for a meal, Houston has a fine selection of dining establishments where you can turn the menu into a tasting party. Pull up a chair at bar area of any good restaurant and try their appetizers. It's an inexpensive way to enjoy good food and try new food without gaining too much weight.

Copyright Huan Le 2005 - Powered by blogger
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