One bonus point right off the bat for a balmy February evening wandering one of my favorite parts of Houston!
Christy in the Blog!!!
This is not a very flattering picture of me, but it does show just how excited I am to get Christy in the blog! We've toasted in Sugar Land, Austin, Fort Worth, Sunrise Beach, and even Seaside, FL.
3 bonus points for Christy. Look at her expression and how nicely she puts up with me!
I've eaten tapas in Spain, but my first Flamenco experience is in Houston! 5 points for adding a little authenticity. (Our waiter said at least some of these performers are Spanish.) I loved the Spanish guitar and the sound of the stomping and castanets! There was a singer (blocked in photo) and you can see the percussionist on the beat box. Not sure how Spanish that is, but I loved it. Unfortunately, we were on the patio and didn't take full advantage of this entertainment...but I will come back and enjoy again!
It was a weeknight, so lots of open tables by 8:30. I love the cozy booths as well as the long bar set up with plates and napkins for tapas! As I recall in Spain, the best Tapas Bars had floors covered in paper napkins. That was a sign of lots of good eating. However, I am a big fan of cloth napkins. 1 bonus point for cloth napkins at a bar!
What is Tapas?
You can google Tapas and find out all the conflicting stories about how this festive finger food came about. I mainly like the idea that these small bites of food were supposed to encourage mingling and conversation, because big meals require much concentration. This may be a dining blog, but I only focus on the food briefly. I will give 5 points for our tapas!
The Alcachofas Estofadas (left) was a refreshing mix of artichoke, sweet pea, serrano ham, manchego cheese...not exactly fingerish...but we shared. The crab cakes were yummy and the "Croquetas de patatus" (look like mozzarella sticks) were yummy fried potato snacks with alioli and sour cream. All good!!
For the Ladies...and the Men!
Some might enjoy staring at posters of bullfighters! (They had a few in the Women's Room) And some might like the nude, painted on the door of the Women's Room. I guess I wasn't that drawn to it, because I almost walked in the men's room. Really. The waiter had to steer me away. When I was a child and rated restaurant bathrooms (for the amusement of my family) I would have given this restroom experience bonus points for the excitement of accidently entering the wrong one. But I'm no longer a child. I will give the bathroom 1 bonus point for having some Picassos, though!
It felt like a sidewalk cafe in Spain!
Our outside table gave us the best of both worlds.
Not only could we hear the inside music, but Christy, Lorrie, Shari and I could view the Flamenco performance through the glass....while we conversed in the balmy night air... over our rustic cafe tables.. in our cozy corner... beside a vine covered wall. 3 bonus points for outdoor dining. There aren't enough good places in Houston!
A Surprise People Encounter...well sort of
I was feeling a little disappointed in myself that I had not had a decent "people encounter" to add to the blog. Getting some inside scoop from a waiter or the owner, always adds to my dining adventure experience. I was selfishly enjoying my friends too much to bother, when I happened to glance through the glass and noticed a table of nice looking young people...most with normal heads and 2 with horse heads.
I excused myself from the table and went inside to inquire. "So I'm just curious. What's with the horse heads?" I'm sure Charles and Matt were not revealing the whole story when they answered something about "Just having fun." But they were happy to pose and wanted me to email them the blog. So Matt or Charles, if you end up reading this, please fill us in some more! You made my day and I'm giving you 5 bonus points! I've never had a horse encounter!
A Big 24 Points for the Mi Luna Dining Experience!
2 Thumbs Up!!
Although we had a very enjoyable outing with Bangladeshi food, Carol and Claire are actually giving a thumbs up for their tennis matches! The 3 of us celebrated our Monday morning wins with a dining adventure to "All Bengal". I should have told Claire to hold up 2 thumbs. She actually won 2 (3 hour) matches in a 24 hour period!
People Encounter... at the Counter!
Here are I am with my new friends, Omar and Faruk! Omar was picking up carry outs, so I figured I'd ask him about food suggestions. Turns out Omar is from Tanzania (and nope, there are no Tanzanian restaurants in Houston, that's why he comes here) But he was very enthused about the beef samosas he had just ordered. He even opened the foil and offered one to me. Piping hot and delish...and oh yes, very greasy! 2+2 bonus points for Omar and Faruk.
For your Reading Pleasure!
Seeing menus and newspapers in another language, always adds to the authenticity of the experience. But I should have inquired about the language here? I know 98% of the population of Bangladesh speak Bengali, but is this Arabic text on the newspaper? Hmm?
I do like the sign on the restroom door! (I really must start taking photos of restroom signs) 1 bonus point for witnessing a different written language. I welcome any info from readers (especially those living in Dhaka...Audrey?)
Carol in the Blog!
1 Bonus point for getting another friend into the blog! Not only was Carol game to try this little place, with its barred windows, in a not so attractive part of Bellaire Blvd. But she was willing to be photographed after a 3 hour tennis match! She looks darn good for that! And look how she's getting into the best part of adventure dining...chatting with strangers!
I believe Carol was asking about a drink on the menu called, Lassi. We ended up sharing one and it was a creamy, milk based curiosity.
The Store Helped us Communicate!
2 bonus points for having a store attached! I love seeing the foods that are shipped in from faraway places!
Faruk actually took me into the attached store at one point. Since my friend Audrey, who now lives in Bangladesh had mentioned "Dal Turka", I asked Faruk what it was. Faruk didn't know enough English to explain, so he took me into the store and picked up a bag of something that looked like green lentils. A veggie dish, I presume? 1 bonus for communication which involved props! I really felt like I was in another country!
The Store and More
I was enjoying all the mystery bags and cans in the store, when Carol called me over to a window in a small hallway!
I'm really not sure if we were supposed to be watching this guy, who was cutting some kind of beef... but it was very entertaining. It made me glad we had just ordered chicken dishes.
The machine was pretty awesome, though. It reminded me of a bandsaw I used back in college, working on a theatre set crew. That was fun. I bet I would be good at meat cutting!
2 bonus points for a behind the scenes peek!
Authentic Bengali Food!
The triangles on the left are samosas. Yum. The circular mystery saucers were fried and filled with air, then dipped in a spicy green sauce. (minus 1 bonus point for no filling) The 2 crunchy things in the small bowl were a mystery as well. I wish Faruk could have communicated a little better. The rice dish, called CHICKEN BIRYANI was the real deal! My friend Audrey had suggested it, and so did our friend, Omar. He said they used free range chicken! It was marinated in special Bengali herbs and spices for 10 -12 hours in a clay oven, then mixed with rice, tomato, bell peppers and lemon! Yea! The curry chicken on the right was tender and had lots of extra sauce. We had to remind Faruk to bring our piping hot Naan bread! Very yummy with the extra curry sauce!
5 points for Authentic food at All Bengal!
Enjoyable Atmosphere Leads to Good Conversation
So what will we remember about this place? I know I'll remember the food and our fun friends we met, but we actually lingered long enough to just enjoy our own visiting as well. Our converstion went off on a lot of travel tangents. I loved hearing Claire's stories of living in Venezuala and Columbia. I loved hearing Carol's news about an upcoming trip to Europe. 2 bonus points for a dining adventure that left me thinking about Bangledesh, South America and Europe for the rest of the day!
17 Points for "All Bengal Sweets and Restaurant"
Irish Pub or Music Venue?
Mucky Duck's has been been serving food, drink and music for over 20 years! It's squeezed into a cozy spot on Norfolk in Upper Kirby, where on many a night crowds are waiting outside to buy tickets. On this Wednesday night there were two open rocking chairs outside, but the quaint pub was throbbing inside with live music of "Patrice Pike" at 7:30.
Lots of Beer!
There are 32 kinds of draught and 80 bottled beers to choose from. I chose one of the many Irish beers, Smithwick's. 2 bonus points for so many choices!
New friend to the blog...with lots of knowledge!
This was Patrick's first time in the blog, so 1 bonus point there. But a big 3 b0nus for all Patrick's Irish knowledge. We learned about the importance of the head on the beer and how to say cheers in Irish Gaelic! "Slaninte!" (pronounced, "slawncha")
Sigi had the beef and mushroom pie, with peas and baked tomatoes. I chose the Beef Guinness Stew with carrots and potatoes inside a crusty bread bowl! Mine had a tangy, sweet flavor and the meat was perfectly tender. I'm sure there are experts out there who know this dish well, but for my first experience I give 5 points!
Such an odd and cozy place for serving up such big music. The wall on the right shows autographed photos of past performers. During the evening's first musical performance it was pretty loud and difficult to talk at all. ( let's remember, I'm over 50) But when the "Irish Session" began at 9pm, the whole place
mellowed. 5 bonus point for a curious, changing atmosphere.
That is what they call the gathering of musicians every Wednesday around 9. The tiny stage squeezed into the corner of the bar was lined with about 8 chairs. Musicians wandered in and casually opened up cases and tuned instruments and went about playing as if they were just there for themselves. There were a few flutes, a banjo, a fiddle, a cello (not typical to Irish music) and my favorite, the bodran, which is an Irish drum. Sometimes all played. Sometimes a few chatted quietly while others played. Some pieces were impossible to hear without tapping a toe. There were also slower, sad melodies. Even a solo singing voice.
5 bonus points for letting me hear authentic Irish music!
Were they having fun?
At first we were a little perplexed because they weren't very loud...only 2 small mics. And even with the lively jigs, they didn't seem to be having the best time. But when I looked around, the crowd from the early performance had left and the new arrivals were more into their socializing. Maybe the musicians weren't bothering to entertain them.
I had given up on speaking to anyone Irish, (besides Patrick) but as we were leaving I spoke with Rex, the percussionist...who at least has an Irish mother. He was delighted to show Sigi and me how he used his wrist to rotate the odd drumstick against the bodran. I guess he is a lawyer, because of his story about acquiring the drum from an Irishman who asked him to do his will. (He would take no money, only the drum)
Rex also told us about the arguments the musicians had about having any microphones on stage at all. They prefer to gather with their instruments and play as they do in real Irish pubs, which is less about performance.
So, 3 bonus points for having an interesting chat!
Some cool stuff!
I like a place with stuff to look at. The walls were covered in curious clutter! There were old fiddles and long curling smoking pipes hanging over the bar. There was one cozy sitting area with shelves of books and games and near the entrance there was a dusty piano and a wall of old photos and an old framed map. Patrick is pictured below, showing Don where his family is from, back in Ireland...Blacksod/County Mayo. Ahhh. I felt like I was visiting old Aunt Irene's house! (I wish I had an Aunt Irene)
3 bonus points for interesting stuff!
A total of 27 points for an Irish Dining Adventure!!
Tennis and Jamaican food!
On my way to a tennis match on Monday, I drove through Stafford, thinking I might just spot an International food restaurant that wasn't already on my list. On Murphy Road I whizzed by this spot in a strip mall, right next to a liquor store. I kept it in mind.
(okay I might have to subtract a point for the sign. The dotted pink image on top is really the damaged surface where some something was removed! Minus 1 )
Two New to the Blog!
It actually didn't take much arm twisting after the match to convince teammates, Claire and Brenda to join me on a post tennis dining adventure. My list already includes all the easy places like Mexican and Italian, but they said they were willing to step out of the comfort zone a bit. They followed my car and I ran in House of Manna to have a peek. I headed back to the parking lot with my report and a thumbs up. "Guaranteed Dining Adventure!" I announced. 2 bonus points for adding 2 new friends to the blog!
The first thing you notice inside, is the tropical mural with a festive fellow grilling up some jerked chicken... I assume! We were the only diners the whole time, (lots of carry outs) so we chose the best table, right by the mural.
Besides the inviting mural, the tables looked welcoming with their plaid cloths covered by clean glass. There were even a couple of computers set up, reminding me of an internet cafe you might come across in Jamaica. And there was of course, lively Reagge music playing as well. 4 bonus points for Jamaican feel!
Random Bonus points
Lets give some extra points for this and that... We had our words of wisdom written on the wall. I had an actual Jamaican carbonated grapefruit drink that sizzled like pepper on my tongue. And there was a TV that was turned off. (I get so tired of TVs) And there was a gum machine in the corner. Nothing Jamaican about that...I'm just fond of gum machines!
3 random bonus points!
Claire's expression does not match the words we were hearing from her at lunch. I believe she was pondering what exactly was in her tortilla type meal. I would have to say, Claire was probably the most vocal over all 3 dishes. "Awesome!!" Was heard frequently. She is an intense and vocal diner!
Jerked and Curry!
Brenda and I couldn't decide over the jerked or the curried chicken, so we shared. Brenda's curry (R) was tender and smooth. My jerked chicken was great on its own, but even better with the spicy sauce. (Brenda is a fan of spicy, so this worked well for her) The rice and slaw were a little tasteless, but there was yet another sauce for the rice. Perfect! Got to love a little plantain thrown in as well!
3+ points for food at House of Manna!
Don't Worry...we had a People Encounter!
1 bonus point for Sharon's Jamaican accent. 2 points for Sharon's sweet, slow moving style. When we couldn't decide which meat to order, she disappeared for what seemed days and returned with a complimentary sample plate...which would have been enough to feed the 3 of us for lunch! She was pretty quiet, but came to life when talking about Jamaica. She couldn't believe we had never been. She also wanted to know if we had won our tennis matches. Pretty cute that she even asked.
Must give Derrick, our photographer a thumbs up. He was the more outgoing of the 2. He was able to firmly let Sharon know her sweater looked just fine. "You don't need to take it off. No one will see those food spots." He was right. 2 bonus points for observing this casual banter between Sharon and Derrick!
16+ Total Points for our dining adventure at House of Manna!
Picking a Book by Its' Cover
After visiting Houston's Asiatown for Chinese New Year, I was reminded that many other Asian cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year. I decided to pick another country represented in this colorful area on Bellaire Boulevard.
So how did I pick Arirang when there are hundreds of Asian restaurants in the area? I thought the facade was pretty entertaining. I have been known to pick a book by its cover, so why not do that with a restaurant? It was equally appealing inside!
I've gotten away from rating my food adventures...but this place is begging me to start up again. 1 bonus point for festive exterior!
Good people encounter despite language barrier
Ping, was a little shy about posing for the photo, but she was enthused and animated when helping us figure out the menu. She is part Korean and said "Kim Chi" was her favorite. I took her advice. She and one other server rushed around the restaurant in their blue and red aprons pushing carts holding steaming dishes. They were gracious and efficient...kind of reminded me of flight attendants...back in the day! 3 bonus points for Ping's great name and smile!
Like a Stage Set!
I must say, I was impressed with how they used the space. The open warehouse was broken into cozy areas with roofs and walls, decorated with Asian detail. A watermill sits in the center of the floor and Asian artwork is spotlighted up near the ceiling. I had the feeling we were in a studio where they were getting ready to film some scenes for a Korean movie!
3 bonus point for cool interior!
The tables are nothing fancy, but I like the way you can divide areas with bamboo curtains! And every table has an impressive burner system for a Korean BBQ Feast! This definitely lures me to come back for an evening of BBQ! 3 bonus points for making me want to come back!
Lunch specials start at $5.95, which is pretty amazing! They call them "lunch boxes" (not Bento) and I think Don's expression reveals disappointment that his lunch box came without a Scooby Doo or Flinstone picture. But he said the BBQ pork was delicious. The "omlettey egg pattie" next to the sushi was curious...and the tangy pickles and stewed potatoes were actually very yummy. We had a hard time communicating with Ping to know what some of the vegetables were...but all in all, tasty.
1 bonus for good lunch price!
A Dish that Sizzles and Snaps at You!
Now, here is the dish I'm coming back for! Kim Chi! I thought Ping said it was vegetarian, but there were small chunks of beef. Luckily, I'm okay with that!
When Ping delivered this dramatic hot pot to the table it was like fireworks! I took one look at the sizzling dish of rice, cabbage and beef and my glasses steamed up!
Ping and the other server seemed delighted to help a first-timer. They hovered over me with long handled spoons and helped stir the mixture quickly. They showed me how to scrape the bottom, where rice had continued to cook against the scalding pot. It formed crusty chunks that I will describe as "flavor burst". 5 points for my meal with "flavor bursts!" Okay, I give credit to my sister Jennifer, who coined that term when she was little...begging my mom to NOT mash the potatoes too well or there would be no flavor bursts!
It's possible I might not have ordered Kim Chi had I realized it is a traditional fermented Korean dish. The mixture of "baechu" or Napa cabbage, onion, chili peppers and seasonings are left for days...in dark creepy places to ferment. You would expect it would take a while for a dish like this to "grow on you" just like it takes days to ferment. But I loved it at the first bite. My lips were stinging somewhat by the end, but I ate every bit! 5 bonus points for loving something that sounds disgusting!
Total of 18 points for Arirang Korean!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.