An Open Letter to Whoever Dumped Missy and Mr. Big

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Dear Lowlife Coward:

You might remember the two dogs you dumped at the TC Jester Dog Park on April 9 — you remember, the two little scared five month-old puppies you dropped off under the cover of darkness and fled. Oh, you don’t? Well I do. You don’t know me, but I’m the innocent bystander who picked up your dumped dogs. And you can refer to them as Missy and Mr. Big from now on. And you can thank me later, too.

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So many people were concerned for your puppies at the dog park that day because they had been there for hours and hours. Missy and Mr. Big were so well-behaved and sat quietly minding their own business, probably waiting for you to come back and pick them up. Eventually, everyone figured out they’d been dumped and word spread like wildfire. “More dumped dogs here”, said one person. “What is wrong with people?” said another. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with people: they aren’t big enough to take responsibility for their issues and want everyone else to take care of their problems for them. BARC was eventually called.  But since BARC is busy chasing down the other 1.2M stray dogs in Houston, they hadn’t yet shown up to pick up Missy and Mr. Big. So when it was 6 p.m. and they were still there, I did what any compassionate person with integrity who cares about the city in which they live would do: I picked them up.

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What else did I do? I took the blue harness off Mr. Big because it was so small that it was cutting into his skin. I coordinated with my rescue group to get them their first set of shots. Any clue why this is important? Let me tell you! It’s so they wouldn’t catch the highly contagious Parvo disease that basically attacks a puppy’s intestinal tract and kills 91% of its victims. Or Distemper, a viral disease that shuts down their central nervous system — like their brain. Or one of the scores of other diseases non-vaccinated dogs catch and from which they die every single day. But I digress. I got your dogs a flea bomb to kill the fleas that infested their fur. I got your dogs a de-worming pill to kill the worms that were already forming around their heart. I had their ridiculously long nails trimmed. I fed sparingly for a day or so to combat the gas and distended bellies they got from the mounds of cheap dog food you left for them at the dog park. You probably thought you were doing them a huge favor by tossing a bag full of dog food over the fence for them, but what you really did was nearly kill them.  What you obviously don’t know — and probably don’t care to know — is that puppies will eat until they are sick, so Missy has you to thank for that unpleasantness.

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I took your dogs into my home. I gave Missy and Mr. Big a soft place to land; fresh water; a safe fenced yard to play in; and plenty of rawhides to assuage their instincts to chew. I introduced your dogs to my dog and cat; they became fast friends with my dog and were cautiously interested in my cat. I cleaned up after your dogs when they pooped and peed on my wood floors. I spoke softly to them when they became anxious and cried. I bought them good quality puppy food to get them the nutrients they need. I put proper-fitting collars on them and got them a tag so, on the off-chance they got out, they wouldn’t randomly be running the streets of Houston. I got up in the middle of the night to let Missy and Mr. Big out since they are, after all, only puppies. I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep for the last 13 days. All because of you. That said, though, you should know this: while Missy and Mr. Big were with me, they had a grand time. They got to go on long walks along the bayou. They got to lie on their backs spread eagle in the blaring sun with cool breezes hitting their tummies. They got to go for car rides with the sunroof open. They chased squirrels in their dreams as they laid tucked together on the cozy bed I gave them. Missy and Mr. Big got belly rubs and head scratches and lots of love every minute they were with me. It’s likely they had the best 13 days of their very short lives.

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Could I have left the dog park and forgotten all about your dogs? Sure. There were 50 people there that day who wanted to help but didn’t. Maybe they didn’t have space for two more dogs. Maybe they didn’t have time to train them. Maybe they just didn’t care. Who knows. But you know what? It should never have been their decision to make in the first place. You knew exactly what you were doing when you dropped off Missy and Mr. Big — you chose to take the chicken way out of whatever rat-bastard situation you thought you were in and clearly did not have balls big enough to take responsibility for your own animals; rather, you forced your burden onto everyone else. And that, by definition, makes you nothing but a coward.

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I imagine you came up with every excuse in the book as to why you couldn’t keep your dogs. And why you “did the right thing” by dumping them at the dog park. Maybe it was money. Maybe your kid was “allergic”. Maybe you don’t have a job. Well guess what — neither do I. I was laid off from my job after 9 1/2 years. In the 17 years since I graduated from university, I’ve gotten up every day and worked. I take responsibility for my mortgage. And my car note. And my insurance. And all of my other personal and financial obligations. And now that I don’t have a job anymore, I have to worry about taking care of all of those things, plus my own pets. But you know what I would never do? I would never dump my dog and cat at a dog park (or anywhere else for that matter). I’d try to re-home them with friends or family. I’d put them on Facebook and ask people to share. I’d try to find a rescue group who would take them. I’d look high and low for a safe place for them but, come hell or high water, I would never, ever dump them. I love my city too much to do that and I sure as hell love my animals too much to do that. If all else failed, I would probably have taken them to the Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP) or SPCA — at least there they would have had a chance at being adopted into a nice family rather than left to fend for themselves running the streets of Houston, potentially getting pregnant or hit by cars or, worse, tortured by some idiot off his meds and looking for a good time.

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So after 13 days of keeping your dogs, I made the decision that you were too afraid to make on April 9 — I surrendered them to CAP. Ironically, what I did was considered an “owner surrender” because I had had them longer than seven days. Irony indeed. I had to pay $30 to surrender  your dogs. And I paid an extra $100 in hopes that they might get an extra bone each day or an extra walk each night, mostly to make up for the really crappy thing you did to them.

Let me say this: it was heart-crushingly sad to leave Missy and Mr. Big at CAP. There are great people there, but because of people just like you who don’t take heir responsibilities seriously, they have to euthanize when they have too many un-adoptable dogs. And it’s not like you get a daily report card of what happened to who. Marching those sweet dogs to their potential death sentence was overwhelming for me. I sobbed. I yelled. I cried giant alligator tears. I am an animal-lover, yes. But that I had to do YOUR dirty work today by taking YOUR dogs to CAP infuriated me.

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I like to think I know more than I do, but I do know this: what goes around comes around. I firmly believe in that little lady called karma. And when that time comes for you, I hope you’ll think back about what you did on April 9. If I had to guess, I’d say you probably don’t care. You probably hit your wife and are an absentee-parent. And your kids will probably be just like you because dumping dogs — and not being responsible for the hand they’re dealt — is what they’ve learned. Such a great way to teach your son to become a man, no? Two weeks ago, they learned that their mother or father are nothing but weak cowards. In the meantime, I’ll be praying that Missy and Mr. Big find their way out of CAP and into a home who cares for them like I did. And if they don’t, they’ll be killed and go to doggie heaven simply for the criminal offense of being “your dog”. I may have had to do your dirty work today but, as I see it, I’m still the winner. I did what I did to give Missy and Mr. Big a chance at living, and all you did was give them a chance at dying.

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You’re welcome.

* A special thank you to K-9 Angels Rescue who stepped up and gave Missy and Mr. Big their first set of shots, de-worming pill and flea treatment. Y’all rock!

Houston, We Have a Rodeo

There are literally thousands of reasons that millions of people pile into the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo each year. There are the big name concerts that bring the likes of Brad Paisley, Usher, Maroon 5 (Adam Levine!), Keith Urban and Blake Shelton to play to sold out shows (did I mention Adam Levine?). There is the actual rodeo where good looking cowboys and cowgirls rope, race and ride their way to the top of the BP Super Series (think barrel racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling, ). There are the livestock shows that brings thousands of Texas 4-H and FFA students between 9 and 18 to compete at the world’s largest livestock show and the subsequent livestock auctions that bring in millions of dollars in scholarship monies. Think poultry and pigs to school art, lambs and steer, all hoping to win the title of “Grand Champion”. There are hundreds of exhibitors selling every kind of Western item you could ever want or imagine. There is the Carnival and the Parade1 and a livestock birthing center in Agventure. There is so much to see and do during the three weeks each year in which Houstonians turn our city into the beer-swilling, cowboy hat and boots-wearing, two-step dancing it truly is at heart. Let’s be honest, though: the real reason we all brave the pocket-emptying parking lots and bipolar Spring weather is, of course, the food.

The cowboys aren’t the only winners during rodeo. The Gold Buckle Foodie Awards have celebrated the best of Rodeo Houston’s food for the last six years. Local micro-celebrities are invited to judge the Top 8 best of the best of the fair food where they impart their food wisdom for the benefit of all the Carnival-goers. This year’s “Best of the Best” in each of eight categories were:

     Best Breakfast: Big stone breakfast sandwich from Stubby’s Cinnamon Roll

     Best Value Food: Barbecue baked potato from Triple J’s Smokehouse (for a mere $13)

     Best Classic Fair Food: Pulled pork stuffed baked potato from Saltgrass Steakhouse

     Best Food on a Stick: Grilled chicken kabob from Saltgrass Steakhouse

     Best Fried Food: Fried pie from Kettle Corn

     Most Creative Food: Frosty bite lemon cream cupcake from Custom Confections

     Best New Taste: Cinnamon roll pancakes from Stubby’s Cinnamon Roll

     Best Dessert: Cookie dough parfait from Aunt Edmoe’s

This year, rodeo organizers introduced the genius “I Ate All Eight” — a program where, depending on the number of “Best” foods eaten, the person receives a button (two stamps); a koozie (five stamps); or a t-shirt (all eight!). Sadly, I managed to eat eight foods at this year’s rodeo, but only one from the “Best of” list. Plus, there were two things not on any list, but that sure should be: Fried Peeps (!) from Fried What? and the Fried Pickle Dog from Get Pickled. I guess there’s always next year.

So what did I eat or want to eat? Prepare your eyes and palate for the goodness!

 

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Frozen cookie dough on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in pecans from Aunt Edmoe’s! #sogood

 

Vanilla Bean Frosty Bite -- a cupcake stuffed with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it's true.

Vanilla Bean Frosty Bite from Custom Creations — a cupcake stuffed with vanilla ice cream. Yes, this exists.

 

Cinnamon Roll from Stubby's.

Cinnamon Roll from Stubby’s. It was DELICIOUS! Except for the pecans because they were pecan bits and got stuck in my teeth.

Crawfish Etouffee from Cajun Unlimited. I later read they showed up on the "food infractions" list from the City for food at the wrong temp. That's what it tasted like, too.

Crawfish Etouffee from Cajun Unlimited. I later read they showed up on the “food infractions” list from the City for food at the wrong temp. That’s what it tasted like, too.

The Gold Buckle Foodie Dessert winning Cookie Dough Parfait from Aunt Edmoe's. I'm unable to articulate how excellent this was -- unable!

The Gold Buckle Foodie Dessert winning Cookie Dough Parfait from Aunt Edmoe’s. I do not have the words to articulate how excellent tasted!

I didn't eat these Cookie Slabs, but can I get an "Oh My Gosh" about this?!

I didn’t eat these Cookie Slabs from Aunt Edmoe’s, but can I get an “Oh My Gosh” about this?!

Curly Fry Loaf that we paired with the Bacon-topped Jalapeno Burger from Holmes Steakhouse.

Curly Fry Loaf that we paired with the Bacon-topped Jalapeno Burger from Holmes Steakhouse.

The obligatory turkey leg. Because it's the rodeo and you just have to go for it.

The obligatory turkey leg. Because it’s the rodeo and you just have to go for it.

Now that I’m looking back at this, it appears that I ate nothing but sweets for three weeks. No one would argue I have a sweet tooth, but I also ate a Corn Dog from Fletcher’s and a Corn on a Stick. My waist line is more than thankful rodeo does not start again for another 320 days and now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit the gym.

 

1Full disclosure: I’m a member of the HLSR Parade Committee. And it’s the best damn committee in the whole damn rodeo if you ask me.

Food on a Stick

There’s just nothing better than food on a stick. It’s portable, doesn’t require utensils and, if you’re at a fair of any kind, likely fried. What other food group can beat that with a stick1? As I chowed down on my first and only corn dog I’ve had in my entire life, my dining partner snapped a photo to preserve the moment for all of eternity. And wouldn’t you know? The girl behind me went all McKayla Maroney and was clearly not impressed. Proof that a picture really is worth a thousand words.

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1See what I did there?

The Chillest Wine Bar in Town

Just on the edge of the point where midtown meets downtown and just before it hits EaDo1, there sits the chillest wine bar I ever did see. 13 Celsius seems to be at once a hipster mecca with a lounge-ish vibe while at the same time packed with business people who know a great bottle of wine when they see one and wine newbies cutting their baby teeth on those slick glass corks. How I have not been to 13 Celsius before today is mind-boggling. And it’s a shame because this is definitely my kinda place.IMG_5904

The interior is bathed in an industrial-modern feel that is very on-trend. Everybody’s doing the industrial thing but, for some reason, 13 Celsius makes it feel authentic and real. The bar itself is a giant block of white marble (my personal fave) that screams cool and buttoned up all at the same time. And they have purse hooks! Praise the purse hooks gods! The mismatched club chairs paired with sleek leather sofas in small sitting areas make you want to sit and stay a while, which we did. And did I mention the patio? Oh, the precious patio. Perfect on a bright sunny day with friends or with its twinkly lights at night that’s perfect for you and your date’s first kiss.IMG_5908

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The staff…oh, let’s talk about the staff! The staff at 13 Celsius looks as if they stepped straight out of the latest Billy Reid catalogue. They are perfectly hipster coiffed from the beards to the large plastic-framed glasses to the plaid flannel button downs and the well-loved Converse. With the look and feel of the place, you’d think the bartenders might not give you the time of day, but nothing could be further from the truth. They were all very warm and genuine, and could pretty much tell you something about every one of the wines in the tome they call their wine list. It was quite impressive. Not only can they tell you something about each of their wines, but they’ll happily let you taste any of their wines, too. I think I’m in love.IMG_5907

So let’s talk wine. As I was at a work event, I could not be my usual party animal self; rather, I had to be my semi-reformed party animal self and take it easy. I had two glasses of a 2010 Mt. Beautiful Riesling, a North Canterbury, New Zealand Riesling that was outstanding; it was dry and petrol-y on the nose, but had a honeysuckle citrusy finish that I love in a good Riesling. It was fantastic and a steal at only $11 for a full pour. Let me reiterate that, were I not at a work function, I would have likely downed the entire bottle. One of the neatest parts of the wine menu was  the “Most Unique” category. Being the adventurous person I am, I had to ask. Rosso Contadino 8 (2010) is an Italian wine by Belgian-born winemaker Frank Cornelissen. His philosophy is to avoid using any kind of man-made interference on his land or vines whether “chemical, organic or biodynamic.” It sounds like he may or may not stomp the grapes himself. On the nose, Contadino smelled of black cherry, licorice and terroir, with a finish that was smoky and meaty, sort of like drinking a piece of beef jerky. It really was the most unique wine I’ve ever tasted and I’m glad I went for it because what is life if it isn’t a food adventure?IMG_5899IMG_5903

Now let’s talk food. The menu at 13 Celsius is wonderful. The owner’s grandfather, Joseph, apparently had a butcher shop that was the inspiration behind the menu. The 13 Celsius menu is filled with wonderful cheeses — soft and pliable ones; firm and hard ones; and my personal fave, triple cream ones. The combinations, or “Combinazioni”, allow you to choose several cheeses and are served with sliced baguette, fruit (sliced Granny Smith apples!), nuts (Marcona almonds!) and strong, grainy mustards. The boards they were putting out were simply beautiful and simply delicious. I wanted to move in and eat every morsel on those boards! They also serve panini with meats sliced to order; the basil was fresh and, like the meats, chopped in front of my very own eyes.  I tried a little bit of everything on the boards but really wanted to try a panini, so I settled on the Mortadella. The Mortadella panini was like warm chocolate cake for my soul. Served warm, it was bathed in grilled mortadella, tomato, provolone, chopped cornichons, mustard and a fried egg all on a pretzel bun. And served with house made chips. Seriously. It was stupendous.

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Lastly, I love when they think of the little things and one of the little things I loved at 13 Celsius was the little lights they sit on the mini clipboards they give you with your bill. As it’s a bar, it is obviously dimly lit and the little light avoids the need for people to blind everyone within a five foot radius by breaking out iTorch, because no one needs to lose their eyesight when they’re simply enjoying a night out. Thanks to the owners of my new favorite bar, though, because they have simply thought of everything.20140316-234207.jpg

Being that I live a bit away from downtown, 13 Celsius won’t be a neighborhood joint for me personally. However, I will go back as often as possible because it’s fantastic and because I love supporting awesome local merchants who are creative and have a passion for their craft. My advice is to get out your iCalendar and schedule yourself a night at 13 Celsius as soon as humanly possible. You can thank me later. IMG_5911

1Is this really what we call this area now? That’s so NYC Tribeca, NoDo and SoHo of us.

Let’s Dish. Or Not.

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I wanted to love this restaurant. I really did. But I just didn’t and here’s why.

Ever since my days in Toronto when I ate brunch as often as humanly possible at Lady Marmalade, I have been searching for a brunch spot in Houston that was even marginally as awesome, but without any luck. In fact, I was SURE I had blogged about the other-worldliness of Lady Marmalade’s eggs bennys on my beloved Canadian blog, but after a quick search, my blog tells me I’ve only made very brief mentions of it. I guess I’ve just been chatting with people about it IRL. Imagine that. No matter, though. Just know that Lady Marmalade’s mango and bacon eggs benedict was literally the only food group I ate for weekend brunch for nearly three years — I stood in line outside their teeny tiny digs in snow, ice, blizzards, thunder snow, heat waves, humidity1, and every other kind of weather situation just to have the mango eggs benny. I don’t know if this says more about me or the dish, but I’m going with the latter.

I first learned about Houston’s newest brunch spot on Instagram. My fingers nearly caught fire from googling it so fast. I liked the concept of Dish Society. I read a couple of articles about it and it sounded like the owner/proprietor had done his homework around what people, specifically Texans, wanted in their comfort food, so I had high hopes.

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First of all, Dish Society is on the ground level of an apartment complex. This is not uncommon in “walking” cities like New York, Chicago, and Toronto, where there were three restaurants in the bottom of my building. But as we all know, Houston is anything but a walking city (did I tell you about the time my friend drove from the Chick-fil-a at Richmond and 610 to a new parking spot at Best Buy at Richmond and 610?), so it felt odd to park in the parking garage of an apartment complex and enter the restaurant through the complex’s atrium area. The nice part about that, though, is that there is plenty of parking which is one of my main complaints about so many restaurants in Houston.

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Once inside, the build out is open and airy. Its look-and-feel is like so many other trendy farm-to-table restaurants — lots of concrete and metal finishes. And, my biggest restaurant pet peeve also makes an appearance at Dish Society in the form of lightweight aluminum chairs. I HATE THOSE CHAIRS! Granted, they are only used outside, but that is where I ate because there was no room inside. My other favorite brunch spot, Adair Kitchen, uses them too, and I re-loathe them every time I go. Those chairs are so cold and hard that I want to eat and leave as quickly as possible. Sidebar: obvs, not every one feels this way because every time I eat at Adair, we have to stand in the back and wait for people to stop their incessant chatting and GET UP SO THOSE OF US WHO HAVEN’T EATEN CAN SIT DOWN. But I digress. I just can’t imagine how a restaurant owner can test chairs and settle on those cold chairs? How can they say “ooooh, I like this one! It’s warm and inviting and comfortable!” They are anything but. So I was disappointed when I saw them repeated at Dish Society.

I fully acknowledge that these things are my own personal issues. It may not bother anyone else that they have to sit on those ding dang cold, hard chairs in their shorts they’ll end up wearing nine months out of the year in Houston’s godforsken heat after they’ve had to park in an apartment complex parking garage! Clearly, I have specific environmental needs when it comes to dining out that not everyone may have. I GET IT! But this is my blog and five — FIVE — of my readers demanded I write this review and what my readers want, my readers get. Please and thank you.

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Let’s move on to the reason we all go out anyway — le cuisine. I wanted to compare the breakfast I normally get at Adair to Dish, so I ordered migas and (tried to order) a bowl of granola and milk. Their menu referenced “house granola” as an oatmeal topping, so I asked if I could get it in a bowl with milk. Yes, they are newly open, but you would have thought I had asked if they could send me to the moon and back. Good lord, it was tough. The manager even had to come over to enter it into their system.

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The food was cold when it got to me. This was good for the granola and milk, but bad for the eggs. I am an adventurous eater, but I like my food to be temperature appropriate. I hate cold food that should be hot; hot food that should be cold; and, most of all, lukewarm food. Yuck. The migas were bland, although the salsa was tasty. In fact, I should have just gotten a bowl of salsa. The granola, which is pretty hard to mess up, was terrible. I kept chewing it trying to figure out what it was, but the best way I can describe it is that it was overly seedy and kind of overcooked. You know how overcooked pieces of rice get really hard and almost breaks your tooth? That’s how the granola was — as if I kept biting into rocks. The flavor was very date-ish2 and there were no chunks at all. I personally prefer chunky granola. I didn’t finish the bowl and I usually always finish a bowl of granola. #wompwomp

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The Cliff’s Notes version of what I liked about Dish Society are:

  • the yellow and white gingham shirts worn by the staff
  • and how said shirts matched the yellow coffee cups and yellow painted bar. Definitely a cheery touch.
  • they serve Maine Root soda. I like to mix the Mexican Diet Cola with the Mexican Cola and off to Heaven I go.
  • free wi-fi!

The Cliff’s Notes version of what I didn’t like about Dish Society are:

  • pretty much everything else.

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I really wanted to like this place. I really wanted a new place to meet my girlfriends for brunch! But it was not to be…at least in week one. I will go back  because I am a helper and a lover, and I want Houston to have great brunch places! I am crossing my fingers and toes and legs and eyes that they do make some quick improvements. Quickly.

1Yes, Toronto has humidity. And tons of it, too. #lotsofbadhairdays

2The things you eat, not the things you go on.

Fusion Food That’s Not Fusion. But That’s Really Really Good.

IMG_5519It’s fair to say I was somewhere near a retail center last Saturday when hunger pangs struck. Knowing it was National Margarita Day, a holiday that is less “time honored tradition” and more “spirit industry at work”, I ran down the list of mexican restaurants in the area. If you’re like me, you don’t need an excuse to lift a margarita but, still, the only restaurants I could think of were a) overpriced and b) probably overcrowded. It just wasn’t going to work out.

Last year, I was lucky enough to get two tickets to the Houston Culinary Tour of Long Point Road with Chris Shepherd of Underbelly fame and Bryan Caswell of Reef fame as our tour guides. Let me just say that if you have never been on a Houston Culinary Tour, finish reading my blog and, only after you’ve finished reading my blog, click through to the site via the link love above. Run, do not walk to get tickets, because they usually sell out within minutes of going on sale, unless it’s the Vegetarian tour and then it doesn’t. Yes, the tours are just. that. good. 

I remembered a place the chefs mentioned on Gessner near Long Point called Vietnam Poblano, a random fusion of names from Vietnam (obvs) and the interior-Mexican city Poblano. I thought “what better to do on National Margarita Day than eat Vietnamese Mexican food”?! So I did.

There are tens of thousands of hole-in-the-wall restaurants on Long Point. Adventurous foodies could spend weeks hitting the diverse, exciting and delicious restaurants along this stretch of Spring Branch north of I-10. The best part about these holes-in-the-wall is that they’re affordable — heck, I’d say they’re downright cheap! — so even if you stop at some taco truck or Korean barbecue house and hate your food, you’ll still probably only be out a ten spot. Vietnam Poblano is one of these places. It sits at the end of the Royal Oaks strip center next to Tony’s Multiservices and an empty parking lot. IMG_5515

I fully expected to find some kind of viet-tex fusion but instead found a fairly typical Vietnamese sandwich shop. I asked what was good and the guy behind the counter told me they are known for their banh mi, a meat-filled sandwich on — you guessed it — banh mi, or french bread. Sidebar: Vietnam was a French colony for about 90 years and influenced the country not only in its cuisine, but in its religious beliefs, architecture, and broader social culture, as well. I ordered the BBQ pork banh mi (#1), the Gogi Beef fried rice (#10), Thai tea, and a delightfully-wrapped package of four tiny pastel macarons. I always over order when trying a new place so I can get the flavor of more than just one dish. I usually take at least half of everything home or, in the instance it’s really, really good, I don’t. 

The verdict of Vietnam Poblano? It was sublime. The BBQ pork was very thinly sliced with a hint of sweetness. I later learned this is because they add honey to their BBQ sauce. The sweetness of the honey partnered with the biting flavor of the fresh cilantro2 and deliciously pithy jalapenos on the crusty, fresh french bread nearly brought me to tears. I asked if they made their own bread and was told that they focus on the “guts” of their sandwiches and leave the bread baking to the bread bakers. Wise move, in my opinion — their meats and vegetables are cut in-house daily; they pickle their own vegetables; and their butter is made in-house daily, too. Without a doubt, it was the best banh mi I’ve ever had.

IMG_5517The Gogi Beef fried rice was very different but was delicious nonetheless. The meat had a smoky flavor to it and the fried rice was not greasy in any way. The dish was served with julienned pickled carrots into which I could have put my face. Like the banh mi, it was topped with a giant mound of fresh cilantro. They were outstanding and I was assured that they use only the finest of vinegars to pickle their veggies — you know, Heinz. Bottom line: soy sauce, so often needed to add flavor to bland fried rice was not required in any way, shape or form at Vietnam Poblano. It was also served with an egg roll, but it was flavorless and dry; clearly, the egg roll is not made in-house daily. My advice is to skip it and save your stomach space.

Rounding out my dinner was Thai tea and the bag of baby macarons. They were good, but at $5.99 for four macarons the size of a quarter, I can do without.

The service was great, the restaurant was clean and the prices (save the macarons) were very reasonable. In fact, their daily special that includes a banh mi, a side and a drink is a mere $4.99. You can’t beat that with a stick. Like I said, even if you go and hate the food (which you won’t), you’ll still only be out a five spot.

My suggestion? Run, do not walk, to Vietnam Poblano. I can’t wait to know what you think but I think you’re going to love it.

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1The foodie word everybody has come to hate. Yours truly included.
2I love cilantro. I mean, I LOVE cilantro. I know that you either love it or you hate it, but I love it. The End.

Healing My Heart By Pounding My Feet

You know the old saying “kindness is the new manliness”? Well, that was definitely not the case with the last person I dated.

I was pretty heavily in love with him. He told me he loved me. He said we had a connection…”there’s just something between us” he said. He told me I was the person he confided in. He said he couldn’t imagine not ever talking to me again. We hung out with each other’s families. We went on the ultimate road trip date to the church that is Tiger Stadium for the LSU/Florida game. I started the process of buying a new house and we looked at them together. We chatted about which knobs would look best in the kitchen and how to utilize the outside space and which mattress would go where. In total, we dated for ten months and off-and-on again1 for another eight.

But as it turns out, he lied to me. A lot. About a lot. Pretty much about everything. And lying is never cute. He was seeing other people the entire time we “dated”, just like he continued seeing me when he was dating other people. He told me he wanted to see me exclusively, yet still had frequent “investor meetings” I came to find out were really dates with other girls. I knew something was up but, when I asked, he turned things around by making me out to be a nag. He sold some things for me on eBay and only paid me back for part of what he owed me; the other part was used to buy his next girlfriend her birthday present. Ergo, I like to think of him as the Bernie Madoff of the dating world. I could go on and on and on with a list of his lies, hurts, and indiscretions, but I’ll spare you. Two weeks after I was invited to his family’s ranch where we talked about living together, he decided he didn’t want to see me anymore. Like ever. He let me know via a yelling match on the phone while I was at work and then cut off all communication with me. He never responded to my pleas to talk — not a single time — and I didn’t hear from him again other than on occasion when he called at 10 p.m. to see what I was doing. Shortly after, I learned he’d started seeing someone else a couple of weeks before our trip to his ranch.

All of it, needless to say, took its toll. I withdrew from my friends. I stopped working out. My food habits were shot l and I gained 20 pounds (why can’t I be the girl who loses weight in times of stress?). None of the fallout was his fault; I’d just never been around an extreme narcissist before, much less involved with one, and didn’t manage it very well. I was stuck in a rut, suddenly trusted very few people and needed an outlet besides Whataburger single patty melts. My hurt was deep, but it had gone on long enough. The $60,000 question, though, was how I was going to recover.

That’s when I got down on my knees and thanked the Internet gods for the invention that is Facebook. One of my friends, Mark, had been a workout fiend for the past two years. He was the most focused and dedicated person I’d ever seen where eating habits and working out were concerned; he just did not let anything get in his way and managed to lose ~125 lbs in about 18 months. As someone who is not, and never will be, a stick figure, I was inspired. So when he posted a message on Facebook that entry for the Houston Half Marathon lottery was closing the following day, a light bulb went off — I was going to run a race.

I asked my dear friend Jody, also an avid runner, if he thought I could do it; he said yes without missing a beat. I asked my inspiring friend Mark if he thought I could do it and he said I could do anything I set my mind to. I believed him. I asked my girlfriends and they were so proud I thought they were going to cry. I asked my trainer and she was behind me 100%. So I entered the lottery and told myself that if I got in, it was meant to be.

The verdict? I got in. IMG_1080

I’ve been psyching myself up ever since. It was long past time for me to buy some new running shoes — the treads on my old trainers were literally non-existent — so I splurged and paid a visit to Luke’s Locker. I treated myself to some fancy new socks. I plunked down $280 for a 23-week training course with The Kenyan Way, one of Houston’s premier running clubs (or so I’m told). All of this in an effort to prepare my body, mind, knees and feet for a 13.1 mile trek through Houston.

Truth be told, I’m scared to death. I work out every week with a trainer and actually enjoy it, but I’ve never been a “true” runner. As I’m fond of saying, God didn’t intend for apples to run! But I’ve decided that I’m going to heal my heart and get over the way this person treated me by pounding my feet. It’s time to stop focusing on what he “did to me” and focus on the fact that I’m a pretty great person and deserve to have healthy, trustworthy relationships. Plus, it’s a goal to work towards and I figure 13.1 miles isn’t really that long — technically, my commute is half that distance and I am pretty sure I could walk from my house to work and back again in <4 hours, couldn’t I? On January 19, 2014, we’re sure going to find out. It will be a Forrest Gump-style running adventure of epic proportion.

I just keep reminding myself of this: it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.

Wish me luck, y’all.

1i.e., when he was seeing other people