So Many Choices
Only one day in New Orleans...where do you go? It doesn't really matter on a gorgeous day in March, when you're visiting some of your favorite people!
We trusted Dave and Amy to find us a good dining adventure in or near NOLA. They drove us out on the River Road to Convent, LA, where we found Hymel's. We parked, walked past the gas pumps, (they sell gas, too!) and headed for the door.
1 bonus point for any place that serves food and gas!
New to blog...
This is my little brother, Dave's first time on the blog. I'll sneak in some good bonus points for this guy and my wonderful sister-in-law. They have lived many places and have managed to find the quaint and curious wherever they are!
5+5 bonus points!
You have to love a place that doesn't cater to tourists. Most of their customers are locals and nearby plant workers. They do not sell tee shirts with their name. 1 bonus there!
Our server was not the friendliest and that's why she is not photographed. She was fairly abrupt when I ordered iced tea. "Sweet or No?" she sort of demanded. I have to give her 1 bonus point for not caring too much about her tip. That's okay, she did get one.
Anything from crawfish etouffe to frog legs.
You can see the sherry going into the turtle soup on the left. Pretty tasty, along with the Jumbo Mug of beer! The cheesy dish on the right is Sea Spud! That would be a baked Potato with with Crabmeat, Shrimp, Cheddar and Swiss.
5 points for Hymel's seafood!
Where's the action at Hymel's?
At least some of the time, the action is in the bar half of Hymel's. I asked Brook, the young woman behind the bar what kind of entertainment they had. "It's not that good tonight." She admitted. She recommended coming on Thursday when they have a big seafood buffet and her Grand-Daddy's band plays. "He's not alive anymore, but the band is still really good!"
3 bonus points for imagining Grand-Daddy's band performing in this cozy bar with stuffed gators, sharks, and owls.
Some Friendly Chat
Brook introduced me to her Dad, James Hymel. He said his grandfather opened the place in 1900. He started out washing dishes here when he was five. Mark, the customer was a good sport. He had stopped by for a Dr. Pepper. (his excuse) "I'm working today." He was happy to have Brook replace his soda with an unopened bottle of beer for the photo.
5 bonus points for an entertaining people encounter with family history! 3 bonus points for catching a sweet father/daughter moment!
29 points for Louisiana Regional dining at Hymel's!!
Can't visit New Orleans without being reminded of some great (pre-blog) dining adventures!
Here's Eland at Parkway! She served us up delish Po-Boys, along with a great story of Obama's visit to this bakery/tavern!
And here is Mark, who prepared a completely different kind of meal at K-Paul's! From our Sazerac's cocktail to the bread pudding for dessert...unforgettable dining with friendly service, as well!
CAN'T WAIT TO RETURN TO NOLA!
Who is game some Taiwanese for Stinky Tofu?
I had heard about this fermented tofu dish served at Yummy Kitchen, but I wasn't sure I could find anyone willing to go for this food adventure. However, my friend Cheryl (already made a blog debut) was willing... and able to recruit her friend Robin. Robin has dined in Taiwan before, but has never experienced Stinky Tofu. 5 bonus points for finding some willing participants for this outing!
I love an excuse to drive down Bellaire and take in the amazing display of Asian restaurants and shops. Metropole Plaza is in an older area, that I haven't visited. So much to do besides dine. We could have gone for a Chinese Foot Massage after our meal. 2 bonus points for checking out a new plaza!
Kary ranks high on my list of restaurant owners!
Kary greeted the 3 of us right away and was eager to help us figure out the most authentic dishes on the menu. She guided us towards the complimentary, self-serve soup table and she recommended a visit to a nearby shop, when we inquired about ordering some beer.
Despite the fact the small restaurant grew more crowded as the evening progressed, Kary made regular trips to our table to show us how to stir our noodles properly or to bring us small glasses for our newly purchased Taiwan beer. She was so friendly, we offered to share our beer. "No." She frowned and shook her head. "I had too much to drink last night." Later she did walk by with a small glass of beer and she toasted with us. 10 bonus points for Kary. That's the highest ever given to an owner or server!
I love the coziness of this place. Yummy Kitchen is a good name, because it felt like we were dining in a cozy kitchen. I loved the odd curtain, covering half the doorway to the restrooms. It looked like grandma's apron.
I loved the soup table where we could help ourselves, just like we do at home. The bigger round tables had (very helpful) lazy Susans. And unless it was out of my view, there was no TV!! That seems to be rare in my international dining these days! 3 bonus points for cozy and no TV!
The dining crowd was all Asian, except for our table. I'm not sure how many were from Taiwan, but at least Kary was. The menus did have English as well, but for the most part, I felt as if I might be eating in Taiwan. (Although Robin said she didn't remember most of these foods from her visit to Taiwan) 3 bonus for authenticity...as far as I could tell.
The food kept coming!
Noodles and Buns
The noodle dish above, slithered down easily with green onions and just a little spice. The 2 taco looking treats (STEAMED PORK BELLY BUNS!) were my favorite. Who would have guessed that "soft, fatty belly with pickled greens, cilantro and crushed peanuts and sugar" in a squishy bun could be so yummy. I trusted what I'd read on YELP and I agreed it was very good. The Stinky Tofu, above right, is another story...later.
Steamed Veggie Dumplings and Piping Hot Shrimp!
I was beginning to feel full by the time these dishes arrived. I will remember less about flavor and more about how comical it felt as I attacked the squishy, fat dumplings with my chopsticks. Don't try to pop the whole thing in your mouth! The shrimp had some good zip, in spice and heat! 5 points total for food at Yummy Kitchen!
But what about that Stinky Stuff?
Here's the scoop...it really is stinky! My first bite was so hot, I was distracted by my scalding tongue. "It's not that bad." I insisted after I finally closed my mouth and swallowed. My second bite was worse. The fumes were rising with my chopsticks. Cheryl tried spicing the sauce up, but there's no disguising that manure-like smell! At one point Robin leaned towards the dish, took a whiff and spoke firmly. "I'm sorry. I just can't eat that." Her words of defeat didn't match her confident expression.
This cracked me up, because I've just met Robin, but I can tell she's pretty gutsy and game for things. She raved about every other dish and moment of our evening. She was even the one who raced off to get our beer. But when she admitted she was not capable of sampling even one smelly square, it made me all the prouder. So I ate one more...and almost gagged. We determined they get worse the longer they sat. Dear Kary had to remove our remaining tofu from the table! 10 points for having Stinky Tofu at our table... eaten or not!
Surprise from Kary!
I guess Kary was just having fun with us. She brought us some mussels, drizzled with an oily sauce. "Not on the menu!" She announced, proudly. I didn't mention writing a blog, so I don't think she was trying to sway us! We just happily accepted her gift! 3 bonus points for surprise!!
What I learned from my People Encounter...
I noticed the table beside us had a dish, sizzling over a flame. Kary said it was something with intestines. As I stole another peek, I made eye contact with the man on the right. I used much facial expression and pointed to the dish and asked slowly, "You like?" The man graciously smiled and answered with more of a Texas drawl than I have. "I don't know. My friend ordered it." Luckily he didn't seem insulted that I assumed our table was the only one in the whole restaurant with English speakers! I think I learned a good lesson. They were all good sports and raised their beers in good posing humor! 5 points for my lesson!
46 points for Yummy Kitchen? Wow! Did I count right? I'm really bad with numbers. But I'm also extremely generous with bonus points when I'm surrounded by positive people! This score is off the charts on the dining blog. I might need to get more serious in the future.
TX Hill Country
When dining in the Hill Country during bluebonnet season...
You just have no choice but to stop at Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls! 3 bonus points for a cafe with a Pie Happy Hour!
The Cody's drove over 3 hours from Fort Worth and Don and I drove about the same from Houston. 1 bonus point for a road trip reunion and 2 extra points for Alan...his first time in the blog.
The Cafe is often filled with people gathering together while vacationing. The line is always long and the crowded atmosphere is hardly the place to catch up. But the crowded chaos is half the fun!
Busy in the Kitchen
First you wait in line outside. Once you get inside you get to know your line neighbors well as you get shoved into them, each time a bathroom door opens. My favorite part of the line is when it reaches the kitchen door and you can watch them cracking eggs or carrying mountain high pies into the cooler.
3 bonus points for kitchen view...with stacks of eggs!
Really lame photos of tee shirts!
Our server, Tracy smiled, but she didn't stop long enough to get a non-blurred photo. I was hoping to capture her tee shirt with the state of Texas filled with blue bonnets. 1/2 point for that brief "people encounter"
The other tee shirt was worn by a man at a nearby table. If you are from St. Louis, you know Ted Drewes and their frozen custard which is so thick they serve it upside down! 5 bonus points for a people encounter with this customer who was happy to chat about Ted Drewes.
Closer look at the shirt and you realize Ted Drewes has been in the biz the same number of years as Blue Bonnet Cafe! 4 bonus points for that thrilling knowledge!! Both food joints have been open since 1929!
What to eat? Too early for my pie appetite, but not too late for breakfast. My ham and cheese omelet, biscuits and hash browns were pretty much what I expected. I'm no gravy expert. I like the idea, but after 2 bites, it just seemed crazy that I was eating a bowl of gravy! So an okay 2 points for food.
Love a Happy Line
It was 2 when we left and the line was still out the door. People seemed pretty happy, though. (probably not in August heat) So 2 bonus points for cheery folk.
How can you eat in the Blue Bonnet Cafe, then drive out into the Hill Country and NOT get giddy seeing miles of bluebonnets? Christy and I weren't giddy enough to park along the road and pose in them, but we did stop a moment at this pretty patch outside a winery near Sunrise Beach.
5 bonus points for seeing them at all after last spring's dry season!
27.5 points for Blue Bonnet Cafe?
Once again, it's a strange rating scale. 27.5 is pretty high... must have been our company that shot the rates so high?
This is not Galleria Shopping...or Dining!
Harwin is a crazy road filled with bargain, warehouse shopping. Indian silk shops, "name brand" perfumes and purses.
Shoppers come from distant Houston suburbs to find good deals... so wouldn't they at least have some curious restaurants?
No food, but they have rugs and blankets!
The guys might prefer Al or Marilyn. The girls will surely want Hello Kitty or Justin Beiber!
This is an actual statue, not a costume. It sure made me want to stop and shop!
I think all the costumes in use. It was hard driving down Harwin because the intersections were crawling with costumed characters. We always see a lot of faded Statue of Liberty costumes this time of year...eager to help you with your taxes. But the majority of costumes on this day were bright gold stars and gowns. "We Buy Your Gold!" (so you have money for more shopping on Harwin!)
Flags, statues, fountains, anyone?
These statues make me want to buy "exotic dance-wear" from Body Language Fashions!
Where's the food?
Bicycle carts! I had no idea what they were selling, but I parked to find out.
Juan, Pedro and Jose were lounging near the umbrella when I surprised them with my presence. I don't think they knew what to make of my enthusiasm as I asked about the different fruits in the clear plastic containers.
Wonder where the fruit came from?
I didn't ask, but I bought some for $3.00. Papaya, water melon, pineapple and even cucumber. It came with a festive tooth pick and I could sprinkle on generous amounts of kosher-like salt from an old catsup bottle!
I'm pretty cautious about food when I'm out of the country. But I'm more daring about what I eat on my dining blog adventures. (no vacation to ruin) Haven't gotten sick yet.
Posing on Bike Seat
The 3 young men laughed and said no, when I offered to take their picture. First "turn down" for a photo in all my dining adventures...but I wasn't too surprised.
Jose offered his seat on the bike and Juan took my picture. Too bad you can't see the whole bike-n-cart in the photo, but my shirt matches the umbrella nicely, I think!
Part II of Harwin Adventure
I learned there are no restaurants on Harwin. But a block away, I found numerous cafes on Richmond Avenue! Ethiopian, Cuban, Columbian and this??? I couldn't tell what it was, so I parked and went in.
Jeyad, himself welcomed me upon entering. He was very delighted to show me all the breads and cookies they make daily. He tried to explain their complicated ovens and he gave me samples of pita bread with olive oil and anise flavored cookies and figs wrapped in pastry.
Jeyad was most excited about a special bread they make in Jerusalem, where he is from. It looks like a giant sesame bagel and it's best eaten with a hardboiled egg. What a delightful shop owner!
There are boxes and bags of breads and sweets, but Jeyad made sure my purchases came right from the oven. In the shop, they also have products like oils and seasonings that are shipped from Palestine. I nibbled on all my free samples and bought a bagful of goodies.
More smiles at Jeyad's
This nice guy got my pita bread right from the big oven. He spoke less English than Jeyad, so I couldn't understand what he was telling me about clay pots above the ovens. Rising dough, maybe?
It was a nice way to end my afternoon of exploring the foods near the Harwin shopping area. I have no new countries to add to my list, but I did enjoy my day of wandering and sampling!
Honduras is number 34 out of my goal of 50 countries in one year! Luckily I just have to eat the food, not visit the country! 1 bonus point for being on track with my goal!
New Friend to Blog
My point system for rating dining adventures clearly makes no sense. I give bonus points for bringing a new person to the blog...but I can't remember how many I generally give. I might give more points if I had a hard time convincing a friend to come on an adventure...or I might give an extra point if a friend came from out of town. But how about a new twist? Let's consider how Cheryl and I even became friends.
Our dear mothers were roommates for a few years at a Silverado Senior Living. Alzheimer's isn't something I usually bring into my dining blog, but I'm always looking for positive ways to look at this sad disease. And I think I'm going to give this dining adventure 5 bonus points for the positive thought that Alzheimer's brought our mother's together...and our mother's brought us together as friends...and here we are together, outside of a Honduran restaurant!
A People Encounter in Spanish
I always attempt to make a food outing more enjoyable by meeting people. However, it's difficult when I don't speak the same language!
Our server Jessica (who is from Honduras) spoke only a little English, so Don and Cheryl's husband, Bob did most of the talking. In fact I'm not really sure what Bob and Jessica were talking about much of the time. But I do know by the time we were ready to leave, Jessica and I were exchanging email addresses and I promised her I would start learning Spanish.
5 Bonus Points for Jessica's good humor and patience with us!
Different than Mexican Dining
There are numerous countries on my list that serve some kind of Latin American food. So I have to try hard to find things that make this experience different. 2 bonus points for Honduran beer! And 2 bonus points for the complimentary cheese topped bean dip (heated in crock) with chips (served in something besides a plastic wicker basket)! No salsa at this restaurant.
This is just one of many dishes we ordered to share! These are Chancletas Hondurenas! (Pear squash stuffed with cheese) It came with rice, beans, salad and plantain. These moist, floppy, cheesy treats were a nice balance with the Lomito de Res Asado (grilled beef plate) that we also ordered. But I especially loved the Baleadas! These are similar to quesadillas, but softer and more gooey...in a good way! We tried the avocado filled (the best) and one with scrambled egg, cheese and avocado. Portions were huge and we left full. 5 Points for real Honduran food!
No cropping on this photo, so you can see the movement of folks around us. For lunch time, this was a busy place on Bellaire Blvd., east of US-59. 3 bonus points for a nice energy in the cafe. We were surrounded by the Spanish language. There were families with children and workmen and even an old woman in a shawl who looked like she had just arrived from Honduras. The bar looked pretty flashy for such a small place, and I'm sure it was jammed a few hours later when karaoke began.
...there was plenty to look at around the cafe. There were about 5 TVs playing soccer matches and cartoons. (luckily no sound, because we were hollering a bit over the music already) And there were 3 big murals on the wall. I do like to see a flag or a photo or something that tells me about the country. So I have to give 2 bonus points for the Mayan Mural!
Fun experience at Honduras Maya! TOTAL of 25 POINTS!
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.