how to spoil a girl like me

the idea of a progressive dinner is a topic that has been discussed more than a few times amongst the chowhounds. the idea is similar to a crawl, but the experience is more formal. a crawl implies multiple destinations in pursuit of a single thing like beer or burgers or fried chicken. a progressive meal involves multiple destinations in pursuit of all the components of a meal; for example: appetizers at one restaurant, entrees at a second, desserts at a third.

in this particular case - a progressive dinner date i was recently treated to - we visited four restaurants in one evening. we arrived at the first restaurant at 7:30 pm and didn't leave the last place until after 11:30.

this date was on a lovely saturday evening. careful planning and strategizing must have taken place beforehand. time estimated at each restaurant and driving time between locations were all taken into account, calculated, and reservations were made accordingly. the night went very smoothly. i had no idea where we were going. i didn't even realize it was a progressive dinner until we only ordered appetizers at restaurant #1. he must have been paying attention.

restaurant #1 - dolce vita

truffled egg toast

enter truffled egg toast. easily one of my favorite appetizers in town. thick, crusty bread with an egg broiled inside. parmeggiano-reggiano and shaved black truffles on top. cutting into it makes all the yummy yolk run out of it.

restaurant #2 - REEF

smoked tuna bacon & sea bass tiradito

smoked tuna bacon & sea bass tiradito, granny smith apples, and avocado. there is no doubt the tuna bacon was the star of this show. texturally, the dish was very successful. the crispy thinly sliced apples and silky avocado paired nicely with the fish. the sea bass made each bite of the smokey tuna really pop.

soft shell crab

tempura fried soft shell crab with avocado and radish salad. the crab was meaty and substantial. a dab of chinese style hot mustard on the avocado salad added depth and heat. roasted pepper sauce was pretty on the eyes and tastier on the tongue.

smoked dr. pepper bearded driftfish

i don't mind being chef bryan caswell's guinea pig. any time, any day. this was a dish he sent to the table. he explained he's been playing around with smoking dr. pepper and combining it with miso to do a more southern interpretation of nobu matsuhisa's famous black cod in miso. it was delicious on a bed of rice noodles w/ mustard greens. i didn't find the fish as oily and pleasing as cod or halibut. my palate wanted more sugar too, but perhaps it's because i can still clearly remember tasting nobu's miso cod for the first time and was expecting something more like it. i can tell this dish will be amazing when caswell is done perfecting it.

restaurant #3 - feast

chicken cracklings

couldn't resist a side of baked chicken skins. i could've and would've eaten the whole plate of them if they weren't so salty.

beef tongue

what's sexier than a little nose-to-tail cuisine on a date? huh? we shared this entree as we shared all the dishes before this. the beef tongue was really tender and had the soft texture that only tongue has. it was served on a bed of mashed peas and roasted turnips. the turnips were excellent. the mushy peas became a bit too mealy after the 5th bite.

restaurant #4 - textile

i was squealing with joy when we drove down shepherd and crossed over washington ave. i knew we were headed for textile.

a dessert tasting with pastry chef extraordinaire, plinio sandalio was organized in advance. it was a 7 course affair that would have impressed even the most critical palates and melted even the iciest of hearts.

#1. plinio's play on wendy's frosty and fries. gianduja and potato ice cream cone. the combination of chocolate hazelnut ice cream and the savory potato cone made a really great balance of sweet and salty. the dessert cones were about 2 bites too, which left me wanting more.

strawberry shortcake

#2 "strawberry shortcake." mini scones w/ vanilla balsamic compressed strawberries, buttermilk ice cream, shaved pistachio. fun with a classic dessert.

truffle w/ quince & milk jam

#3 truffle w/ quince, milk jam, honey. the chocolate shell was very delicate and resulted in a wonderful burst of nectar in my mouth. well-balanced sweetness.

sweet potato beignets

#4 sweet potato beignets & bacon ice cream, cinnamon pudding, bacon sugar. hot and cold. bacon, cinnamon, caramel... very satisfying.

#5 1 second pisco sour. novel idea. plinio filled our little glasses with pisco sours out of a siphon at the table. less tart than i expected. perhaps b/c of the foam?

smoked brownie w/ ancho chile ice cream

#6 smoked brownie w/ ancho chile ice cream, white chocolate "chips," caramel. the ancho ice cream really added a really interesting dynamic to the plate. the combination of flavors was sophisticated. the smoked brownie was wonderful.


#7 mignardises: dark chocolate truffle, chocolate raspberry truffle, chocolate lemon truffle, scottish shortbread, cocoa nibs pistachio

yes, i was full.
and the evening was amazing, as you can tell.

and before you ask, yes, i'm quite certain this was an expensive night. however, the idea of a progressive dinner isn't to see how many huge tabs you can rack up or how many exclusive restaurants you can get into in one night. the theory is to create the most enjoyable dining experience without limiting yourself to one menu or one dining room. the cost of an evening will completely depend on the price range of restaurants selected and whether valet or paid parking is necessary. and keep in mind that this kind of dinner will probably require less organizing and can be done in a more impromptu fashion on a week night with restaurants more accustomed to walk-ins.

i'd love to plan some group progressive dinners in the future, perhaps even with set, off-menu courses already coordinated in advance with restaurants/chefs selected. the element of surprise was also a major fun factor that i think others foodies would enjoy if they knew they were in capable hands.


from blogger to twitter

yes, it appears as if i've fallen off the map. it seems i've been MIA for 2 months, but really i've been all over the place if you've just known where to look.


if you've been following me on twitter it's likely you know more about my whereabouts than just about anyone.

micro-blogging is my newest obsession. tweets (twitter jargon for posts) must fall within the rigid requirement of 140 characters or less and in exchange for abiding by this criteria, i have almost instant feedback from those who follow me. there are more than a few handfuls of houches and local food personalities who are twitter active and i just love knowing what they are eating or cooking at the moment.

also, i've been playing with the fairly new concept of live-blogging meals using brightkite. it's simple really. i check in at a restaurant, then i upload notes or photos of dishes i'm eating in real-time using my blackberry. these photos and comments auto-post to twitter and my followers can follow along and virtually dine with me responding with comments or questions of their own.

in the past 30 days, i have live-blogged full meals at the following list of restaurants (starting with most current). you can find the juicy details on my brightkite page.

  1. sasaki japanese
  2. hiro's yakko-san (miami)
  3. sra. martinez (miami)
  4. enriqueta's sandwich shop (miami)
  5. grand opening party of chez roux (conroe)
  6. vernon's kuntry katfish (conroe)
  7. chez roux @ la torretta del lago resort (conroe)
  8. beaucoup wings
  9. houston rodeo BBQ cookoff
  10. chez nous (humble)
  11. killen's steakhouse (pearland)

002 magazine

when i'm not tweeting, chances are i'm eating or writing for 002 magazine. the DineWrite column which features one restaurant a month is now a page and a half. i want to get down to all the delicious details and convinced the magazine that i needed 800+ words to do so. here are links to the last three dinewrites:

i've also taken over the new restaurants column in the magazine where 3-4 recently opened restaurants get pint-size reviews each month.

  • feb issue: tradicao brazilian & cielo: page 1
  • mar issue: benjy's on washington, crave sushi, little big's: page 1


i'm the new food blogger for free press houston CUIZINE. i haven't been focusing nearly enough time there as i should be, but my blogging will focus on cheap eats including some of the best ethnic hole-in-the-walls in the country which just happen to be in our own fair city. various members of the houston chowhounds will also be guest writers on the blog. if you haven't, ch-ch-check it out.

juli b

lastly, i'm also writing for modern luxury's e-zine called juli b. i write the eats column which is distributed on the last thursday of every month which highlights restaurants with newly opened doors or those coming soon. i'll also write full features on restaurants from time to time.

catch up with me on juli b:

  • feb eats: benjy's on washington, crave, little big's
  • swell swill: feature on anvil bar (which incidentally opened last night!)

if you aren't a subscriber, you should be. click me. if you have restaurant news for me, please send it to imneverfull@gmail.com

so enough self-promotion already. i promise to have a really meat and guts blog posting here soon.

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