Popping into Helen Greek Food and Wine (Rice Village)

All I need is to hear a little buzz and I'm there.  The latest buzz and we were excited to visit this weekend when we got a chance to get out was Helen's located in Rice Village.  I believe they took over the Kahn's Deli that was formerly there.  Super cute place, small and cozy.  We didn't make a reservation, but got lucky and were seated immediately.  However, call in for a reservation a day or two and you should be good.  

We had  a great server, she reminded us of Jennifer Garner and said she did get that often.  She was great, she directed us towards, in order that the dishes came out, fried squash interesting flavors and textures, the Greek salad was fresh but so many tomatoes we were almost stuffed trying to finish it off.  It wasn't what we were used to for a Greek Salad, but we assumed it might be the way a Greek salad is traditionally done back in the mother land.  Then our chicken entree came out, we only ordered half which was great because in highsight I think we, overall, ordered too much.  But again, the chicken and chips below it were good, interesting flavors.  Next was the butter pasta, wow, super buttery, but after awhile, I just didn't notice it as much.  This dish was my least favorite in taste because it was so heavy, but the tile pasta was different and like I said, I didn't mind the butteriness of it as much.  We finished off with desserts, Ricotta Mousse (they're most popular) and we also ordered the Baklava, which was not her recommendation.  She also suggested the Pistaschio dessert, but Matt really wanted the Baklava.  I don't blame him, it came in a super adorable presentation, one of those iconic Greek paper coffee cups!  The baklava was not to my liking...I don't really like chocolate and cinnamon in my Baklava, I realized.  But, Matt liked it.  Oh and the mousse...it was fantastic, as she suggested.  And my apologies, but I can't seem to find their menu online so I'm not totally sure what the official names of the dishes were.  

It's more of a mild version of fine dining for Greek food, not so much casual, as most people associate with Greek food.  We really liked the restaurant.  It's a great place for a date or small groups.  We enjoyed the atmosphere, service and the food very much!  Fun place, the perfect spot for our date night on this beautiful evening!

Trying the Newly Opened Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts (Heights)

Well, it's about what you think...just fried chicken and donuts.  A little odd of a combination, but hey...there must be something to it or else they wouldn't be doing it.  They do have a Kale Salad on the menu...I wonder how many people are ordering that.  

The place is brand spanking new, first day opened...and we get there at 730pm and they're open till about 10pm or as they said, when their fried chicken is sold out.  We order the combo #3, which includes 2 breast, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks.  Of course we ordered some donuts, we're not party poopers.  We got 3 glazed, 2 jelly, and as suggested the bacon and praline.  I'm not sure what Matt was thinking with the jelly donut, but who am I judge...I'm all about nostalgic experiences.  I eat mash potatoes with white gravy and a white roll strictly for the nostalgic reasons.  

The fried chicken has to be the best fried chicken I've had since the whole fried chicken movement.  It's super tasty, crispy, flavorful!  We all agreed the fried chicken was really good.  I have to tell you, just thinking about it is making me crave it!  And surprisingly the doughnuts were really good too!  I liked the glazed doughnut the best.  I find it's hard for doughnut shops to get the glaze to dough ratio right.  Shipley's does it right and Krispy Kreme does it right, other than that...most fall short, incudling, in my opinion Dunkin Donuts.  Anyways, I was pretty impressed.  However, the two they high suggsted, apple fritters, which I didn't get to try, sold out, they said were their most popular item.  She also suggested the praline bacon, which I thought was a little too sweet and way to much on it.  I'm a big fan of mixing bacon with the unexpected, but for me and Matt this one wasn't that great.  However, the 14 year old did like it. I took a bite of their jelly doughnuts and did not like it.  We also got the potato salad and coleslaw, which I thought were also both good...we were all on the same page, Lee's gets 3 thumbs up!  Definitely worth the try!  

Truffle Egg Salad at Local Foods

This dish single handedly sabotages my entire diet!  I'm not really on a diet, but I do try to eat healthy and this meal gets me everytime.  I dream about this meal.  Now, I know it's not for everyone, but for those of you that have similar tastes as me, it's delish...mm mm mm...so good.  Definitely go try!  I try to find something new here, but I haven't been able to move off the Truffle Egg Salad Sandwich yet.  Mm!!

Velvet Taco (Washington Corridor)

I have noticed this business in the neighborhood go up and then open but, no strong desire to visit until I saw a write up on it and so it's where our Friday dinner is.  It's pretty cool and hip, big place and quite a bit of a crowd.  The menu is pretty cool, a lot of things that appeal to me.  I had a bit of a hard time choosing, but with the help of the employee, I chose the Poke taco and Grilled Flank Steak Taco.  I liked the Ahi Poke, healthy and light, but it is probably the most expensive item on the menu, at $6.50.  But, it's definitely an item I can put on the regular menu and be happy with.  You know, a gal has to watch her girlish figure!  The other taco...the Grilled Flank was a little bland, but I did request all the heavy, fat stuff on the side...so, it's understandable it was a little boring.  Matt got the Pulled Pork and he and Ethan both got a Brisket Taco.  Ethan did not like the place at all, but you know, he's 14.  He's not exactly a foodie.  The more plain, the more he will like it.  He took a few bites of his taco and hated it...too much stuff on it.  Matt and I both liked Velvet Taco and preferred it over Torchy's.  Anyways, that's my short, two cents.

Also, I think this creamed corn thing was complimentary, but not really sure.  It might of been what was supposed to be on my Flank Steak taco, but probably not.  It was a pretty big helping.  Nice place!

Asia Market Restaurant Open!! (Heights/East of 45)

Like everyone, I too was wondering if Asia Market's restaurant had opened yet.  I did a cursory search and kept finding the new owner's of the grocery store, Asia Market Thai Lao Food.  But it is not to be confused with "Asia Market Restaurant", which is on the other side of 45...just a few short minutes.

On arriving, it's actually a nice space inside.  It was good to finally see the owner's after several months of not and it was good to see them in their new space...finally.  However, it was unclear to Jodie and I what the protocol was.  We sat for so long, we thought I was supposed to go up and order at the bar.  But, we figured it out and a server finally came and greeted us after 15 minutes.  They're definitely a work in progress, still trying to figure things out.  Looks like they have all new staff and the food seemed a little different.  But, the owners assured me the cook is the same and has been with her since the beginning.  Ok well, maybe just an off day.  

Anyways, I plan to be back with everyone else I've introduced to Asia Market because I'm super supportive of the owners and they need a lot of support.  It's got to be the scariest thing to open a brand new business and they could use all the help in getting the word out, so spread the word, they're officially open!!

Dishes above are the Thai style Papaya Salad, med spicy, Kee Mao Noodles with Chicken, med spicy, Crispy Rice Salad, and a small order of Sticky Rice.

Three Days in Santa Barbara!

And a last stop over back in Los Angeles.  Pictures of food, in order, Los Agaves, Arigato, McConnell's Ice Cream, Tupelo Junction Cafe, Mesa Verde, Persona Pizza, Anderson's Bakery, D'Angelo's Bakery, and lastly Kang Do Hong Dae Restaurant (Los Angeles)...all great!  You would think the highlight of the trip was skydiving for sure, but it was not!  Instead We did the highest jump in the nation, 18,000 feet and I think we all permanently damaged our eardrums!  Jumping out of the plane was frightening and exhilarating, I'm glad I did it, but it was definitely not the most comfortable experience.  I enjoyed the paddle boarding the most, the great eats and as an acquaintance of mine says, "friendship time".  We had full days and we really enjoyed our girls trip to Santa Barbara!  Beautiful city!

Dessert at Sul & Beans (Koreatown)

And had to finish off our Korean dinner with shaved ice of course. I don't know how to say this particular flavor in English, but it's the rice cake powder one. It was so good. The ice was not like the typical shaved ice, not icey, but fluffy powder-like. We three loved it!

Jun Won (Koreantown)

I mean, if you're going to be in Los Angeles, you have to have Korean food!  I looked up Jun Won  Restaurant, who seems to get really high marks from the local scene.  Getting there was pretty easy, finding the actual restaurant was another thing.  We walked around the building, followed a sign, went up some stairs, then down some stairs, ended up back on the front side of the building and then looked a little more carefully and saw a door finally that kind of looked...oh yes, there's a sign "Open", and someone sees us and opens the door, thank God, else we might have just given up.  It is really a nondescript place and after looking at the menu were questioning why we were here.  But we decided to stick it through and I have to tell you the service was great and the food was awesome, super flavorful and tasty!

We ordered the bean soup (dwen jang jigae) which tasted an in between of traditional bean soup and kimchi soup.  We loved it, it was really good, cooked really well.  The spices and soup had all seeped into the tofu nicely, yum, perfection.  We also ordered the kimchi with pork dish and that was really good too.  Again, marinated through and all the spices and flavors were really seeped into the kimchi and pork.  Our server recommended this combination instead of the 2 soups we were going to get.  She strongly suggested and we're glad she did.

We had another friend come, late, an hour late and they were so nice to remove all the old dishes and prepare her a new setting with new side dishes and heat up the soup for her along with her order.  That was unexpected and we were all very impressed with their service!  But do keep in mind the menu is heavy on the fish, which everyone there seem to know.  Mostly Koreans, which is always a good sign.  I love this place!

Sqirl For Lunch in Los Angeles

I ate too much!  The food was so good.  Much creactivity and pure deliciousness, mm mm good!  All these unexpected flavors, the tart, smooth, ahhh...delicious!  I feel inspired just eating the food!   Definitely try the Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl, I added a couple more poached eggs to balance the protein carb ratio and also added some kale and avocado, at cashier's recommendation....great suggestion!  And also got the Brioche Blackberry and Peach Jam...Blackberry better.

There was a bit of a line, but I came in just after 1245pm so figure there should be one, but it wasn't out the door or anything.  Nice place, a must try!  I know, this place is old news to the locals, but to me it's new and so fresh!  I love love it here!  Love the creativity, I want to take this cute little dive back with me to Houston!  

Smoosh Cookies (Rice Village)

For our regular Friday treat day, I took the 14 year-old with me and to my great pleasure he decided he wanted to try my suggestion, Smoosh Cookies, rather than our regular doughnuts or Menchie's...after he looked at some pictures online, that is.  So we head there and we were not expecting a food truck, as it had an address listed online, but I guess this is their temporary home for now.  We walk up and as the menu shows, you pick your choice of cookie, ice cream and a topping.  Ethan chose chocolate chip with peanut butter brownie ice cream, and an oreo cookie topping.  Talk about too much going on.  He's not really in tune with the concep of cohesive flavors, but he said it was good and he liked it and he would definitely go back.  I got the oatmeal cookies, with French vanilla and no toppings....and it tasted like 2 cookies with ice cream in between.  It was good, but I didn't really think there was anything really special going on with it and really, if I was craving something like this, I would just go get 2 cookies and stick some ice cream in between.  It's not really rocket science, but hey, it was fun and I'm glad we checked it out.

Best Wine Bar, Beckrew? (Upper Kirby)

I read recently somewhere that Beckcrew might be the best, current wine bar?  Well today, I decided I would find out for myself for happy hour.  Located in the former Tasting Room spot and I find I like the new mid-century modern atmosphere. And more importantly, I really liked the array of cheeses and chaucuterie spread that I walked up to!  Tasty and that blue cheese, you know I despise blue cheese, but this cheddar blue cheese was delicious!  Mostly because it didn't taste like blue cheese but had the texture and taste of cheddar.  And chorizo, it's my favorite cured meat, mm...had some of that too.  I did like most of our selections, but as the night went on, I found the items not as exciting, including the baked brie.  They also had these pickled okra, tasted like pickles but consistency like okra, I loved it!  They also have these wonderful selections of honey, never seen that before.  We tried Mike's hot spicy honey, love loved it!

When we walked in at 5pm, maybe 2 other tables were taken, but by 8pm Oscar noticed there were a ton of ladies and only 4 men in the whole joint.  So gentlemen...ahem...you know what I'm thinking...great place to see some pretty ladies!  We had a nice time, our server and bartender was great, we enjoyed it, I will definitely be returning!  And please forgive me, my battery ran out of my camera, so must resort to the iphone.

Dish Society (Galleria/San Felipe)

Well I'm not sure what all the hubbub is about...finally got a chance to try Dish Society and sure it's a nice atmosphere, and the food is ok, but I really didn't see what the noise was all about.  We both ordered the Avocado Quinoa Salad, add chicken and actually, I think my salad had 10 pieces of lettuce and the chicken was a little undercooked and I'm not even kidding, but my stomach hurts right now.  Jimy felt the same.  He did mention the chicken was slightly slighty undercooked and the manager was nice enough to offer to bring him a new piece of chicken breast out, but you know...I thought the whole experience was just ok.  

B&B Butchers (Washington)

I was super interested in making a visit and since we still have a week of Restaurant Week left, we decided to visit.  Unfortunately, their earliest availability this week was Monday at 8pm, so that's when we decided to go.  Matt and I both ordered the Wedge Salad, he with Blue Cheese dressing and since I despise Blue Cheese, I went with the server's suggestion, Balsamic Vinagrette, which was not really a good choice, in my opinion.  A Wedge works better with a creamy sauce, anyways...  We both ordered the 8 oz Filet Mignon, Matt ordered his medium rare, mine was medium and they both seemed to be cooked the same, more rare, which was fine by me.  The Filet was amazing, wow delicious!  Really tasty, perfection.  We also had 3 glasses of wine between the two of us, which went perfect with our steaks.  Our desserts were good, but by far...the steak was the standout, perfection!  The others were all subpar, in my opinion.  The atmosphere was nice, not overdone, simple, and masculine.  Good place for a really nice steak.  The charity portion of our meal, the restaurant donates $7 per meal.  Our bill came out to $172 including tip so a $14 donation seems a little ridiculous as a reason to eat, dine out for charity...but you know, it's an excuse and I guess $14 is better than nothing.

The New Camera Is In!

Finally...my new camera is in!  This is now my 5th Nikon camera in the last 6 years.  Wow, that's a lot!  One of those cameras I lost on a United airplane and of course they "couldn't find it"...sorry I'm not bitter...so anyways, really I've gone through 4 upgrades.  This new one should hold up for a few years, I'm hoping.  Well, I've tested it out and the image above is the result of my all day tinkering.  Thank you all for being patient with my less than impressive photos the last couple of months and probably another few posts till I get the settings right.  I did sell my last lens and upgraded to a new one as well.  I'm excited, can't wait to take some photos!