Monday, January 30, 2012

Event: Uchi Houston Grand Opening

One of the nice things about being an active food blogger is that you might occasionally get invited to a grand opening event.  I was very excited when I got the invite to go to Uchi Houston's Grand Opening event on Monday, January 30, 2012.  The location is the historic location of Felix's Mexican Restaurant on Lower Westheimer in Montrose.  Unfortunately the building had to be gutted and rebuilt from the inside.  The exterior facade was modified slightly, but the original arch shape to the windows I remember from my days in Grad School at Rice University remains intact. I was also informed that much of the wood used to make the tables and the entryway was recycled from other buildings rather than harvested from fresh trees.  I say Kudos for making a very green restaurant from the get go!

Now a little background on Uchi:

Chef Tyson Cole’s critically-acclaimed restaurant in Austin, TX has now come to Houston.  Uchi has a menu primarily revolves around sushi and other Japanese style cuisines, with some dashes of fusion which include pan-Asian influences, Latin flavours like Ceviche and local Texas cuisine.  His first location in Austin has been a resounding success, and many lovers of fine sushi and other Japanese cuisine have been eagerly anticipating its opening.  The restaurant has been taking reservations for a few weeks now, although it does not open until February 1st.  However, on Monday, January 30, 2012, the foodie community in Houston got a lovely tasting preview of what's in store for Houston Palates at Uchi Houston.  The restaurant is tucked into the lower Westheimer area very close to Katz's Deli, on the north side of Westheimer, just east of Montrose. 
Houston Food Bloggerati including Albert Nurick, Jack Tyler, Ashli Michelle, Joanne Witt, & Dr. Ricky.
Miya Shay was also present and was very kind to all of us Newsie Nerds.  
The event was very well run.  There were some of the best of Houston's Foodblogger and FoodMedia there at the event this evening.  I ran into Albert Nurick (principal writer/operator of HtownChowdown), Jack Tyler (of Jack Tyler Dines), Joanne Witt (of 29-95 Houston), Miya Shay of KTRK-13, Ashli Michelle (her Almost Veggie Houston blog is very well done), Dr. Ricky of  Dude, are you Going to Eat that?,  and many others in the local Houston Food Media.  It was a veritable Tweet-up for the Houston area food media.    Chef Tyson Cole was circulating and giving tours to the media that were present.  Overall it was a wonderful event that left me feeling quite full, satisfied and quite willing to share with the rest of you all.  

Now, for the tasting menu:
Excellent selection of many different dishes from Uchi Houston's menu.
I was fortunate enough to get to try most of them, with the exception of the
ham and eggs, and the kakiage.  
Although the evening was a bit of organized chaos, we were treated quite well by the staff and ownership of Uchi, and were provided with plenty of food, drink and good service.  I'm going to give a breakdown of the dishes and beverages I sampled with my takes on them.  Refer to the menu above for any of the dishes:

Food and Beverage:

Matsunoi "Wishing Well" Tokubetzu Hanjozo Sake:  This was a very fine Sake that started off with a slight dry palate, with a bit of a nutty middle note and finished clean.  About the best description I can give was that it was like a semi dry Chardonnay mixed with a very purely distilled and highly filtered vodka.  It was a  nice way to clean the palate and start the evening.  Grade: Solid A

Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll:  The fish had a pleasant, smooth, chewy texture that mixed well with the avocado.  The cool cucumber was a nice contrast to the spicy jalepeño.  The rice wrapped roll was served with 2 sauces--one that was a like a mix of Mae Polloy and Nuoc Mam--and was garnished with crunchy black sesame seeds.  This roll was a mixture of flavours and textures that were a delight in my mouth.  Grade: A+

Edamame: Uchi goes beyond the typical boiling/steaming with salt. After doing the usual preparation, they finish them on the grill.  This gives them a smokey flavour with a bit of a punch and separates them from the typical.  Grade: A

Dishes from Uchi including Crunchy Tuna Roll, Bacon Sen, a pork belly roll,
hamachili, smokey Edamame, and more pork belly rolls
Shag:  The salmon was fresh.  The tomato and the tempura were a nice mix alogether.  It had a nice crunch to it.  Was a little bland after eating the Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll, but satisfying nonetheless.  Grade: B+

Uchiviche: A very interesting take on the wonderful Latin seafood dish known as Ceviche.  The salmon and striped bass were quite strong in flavour, but didn't overcome the other ingredients.  The item was sweet, savoury, salty and bitter at the same time.  I ate several of these and found it to be one of my favourites of the nighte.  Grade:  A+

Pine Ridge "Forefront" Pinot Noir: An excellent red wine--full of oaky top notes, smooth middle and a slightly bitter finish.  I can hear Paul Giamatti from the movie Sideways crying out with jealousy over this wonderful 2009 California Central Coast Pinot.  Grade: A

Machi Cure:  This was an interesting item.  I like yellow tail, but hadn't had the smoked baby variety before visiting Uchi Houston for this event.  The yucca crisp and the Asian pear mixed well with the fish.  The almonds and garlic brittle added crunch and a mild pungency.  This was overall pretty good and one I'd have again.  Grade: A-

Hamachilli: Another favourite of the night.  The yellowtail, golden tobiko and ponzu were crunchy and savoury in contrast to the sweetness of the mandarin orange section it was served on.  These were served on small bamboo flat bowls and we slurped them like raw oysters out of the shell.  It has a nice blend of sweetness at the front and spiciness at the end that made it my overall favourite of the night.  Grade: A++

Bacon sen:  This grilled pork belly on a skewer was full of bacony flavour and goodness.  It was sweet, smokey, and worked well with the other ingredients.  I wish they'd served more of these, but for what I was able to taste, it was awesome.  Grade: A+

La Craie Chenin Blanc, vouvray:  A rather fruity French white wine--2009 Loire Valley in fact--had a fruity front note, had an essence of white grapes and pistachios within it.  It was a fine wine to wrap up the meal prior to desser.  Grade: A

Item I tried that were not on the Tasting Menu:

Yokai Berry: Atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian pear, yuzu, Blueberry--this was a real feast of a tasting dish.  I shared this with 4 other foodies and found it to be quite wonderful.  Grade: A

Jar Jar Duck: coun­tryside farms duck, kumquat, endive, rose­mary smoke.  I shared this fabulous dish with the same 4 foodies and again, this was a true feast all the way around.  The baking of the elements in a jar reminded me of Mijune Pak's "Canadian Pie in a Jar" but with roast duck and kumquats.  This is a dish I will order again on my next visit.  Grade: A+++


On the left, Fried Milk.  On the right, Peanut Butter.
Both were AWESOME!!!
Fried Milk:  This amazing dessert with a mixture of dark chocolate, milk custard covered in corn flake batter and fried all served in a nice dainty dish was quite wonderful and though artisan in nature, would appeal to any mainstream dessert fan.   Grade: A

Peanut Butter: This concoction of apple miso sorbet served on a peanut mousse with threaded peanut brittle and golden raisins is a very diverse mixture of flavours that homogenize together quite well.  I'd have loved a larger portion of this wonderful dessert.   Grade: A+

Overall those of us that came out had a wonderful time and I will be back again soon for a proper dinner visit.  It was very nice to also have a Tweet-up with other local foodies and I give major props to the promotions company for putting together a great mix of bloggers, mainstream media and other guests for a lovely evening.  

Uchi Houston
904 Westheimer Road (near Montrose)
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-4808

And remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fast Food Feast: James Coney Island's Green Chili

James Coney Island NOW offers green chili stew.: Courtesy photo
JCI Green Chili served dine in
James Coney Island is a favourite Houston fast food chain that's been an institution in our fair city since 1923.  It's a place most well known for its coney island hot dogs, as well as burgers, cheese tots and fries.  However, in recent months JCI as it's affectionately known has been overhauling their menu.  They've hung onto their classics (The Houstonian Combo) but have added in some new options such as their Greek Salad and a full sized Philly Cheesesteak.  While these changes have been frustrating (i.e none of their new premium burgers come in a combo form), I applaud them for being willing to experiment with their menu and try new things.  
Green Chili Cheese Coneys
with Green Chile Cheese Fries
New Mexico style Green Chili made with Hatch Green Chile peppers, Pork, and Green Tomatillos has been gaining a larger audience in recent years.  I myself experimented with making some after seeing a Food Network special on all the different varieties of chili there are.  While I like a bowl of red or one that is chunky with coarse ground beef and chopped veggies (but NEVER, EVER ANY BEANS!), I made a batch of it and found it went over very well with my family and friends.  I make that dish about once a year just to shake things up a bit.  I've had the classic dish at several local eateries during a trip through New Mexico back in 2004.  But when I saw that JCI was serving this wonderful yet obscure dish here in Houston--for the dreaded Limited Time Only, I had to give it a try.  Of course, I also had to try it on a couple of their coney island hot dogs and on their fries with cheese sauce as well.  So that being said, here is your:

Green Chili with Sour Cream
Pepper Jack Cheese and
Tortilla strips served To Go

Green Chile Blueprint:
Sauteed pork
Green Tomatillos
Hatch Green Chile peppers
served with shredded Tortilla Strips
I added Pepper Jack Cheese & Sour Cream for 99 cents extra

This green chili is EXCELLENT!  The pork is sweet and chewy.  The Green Chile and Tomatillo sauce is rich, starts herbal and finishes medium spicy.  The stuff sits in the pot all day and like any good chili, it improves as the spices and other ingredients fuse, meld and harmonize.  The Tortilla Strips, Pepper Jack Cheese and Sour Cream mix well Like any good bowl of red, a bowl of green is warm in the belly and very satisfying.  I give kudos to the folks at JCI for turning out a very good Green Chili and I recommend it to anyone.  I also give the manager at the Southwest Freeway location in Stafford Kudos for allowing me to get my Houstonian Combo with Chili-cheese fries with Green Chili on both rather than their usual red chili.

Some folks are very gaga for Green Chili, but others turn their noses up at it since it's unfamiliar.  My advice is to give this a shot.  It's a nice change of pace from the usual red chili, and the Foodie Professor gives this Dish an A+.  

And Remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Foodie Professor Honour Roll 2011

Greetings Readers!

2012 is well under way, and life is good.  However, one thing that has been on my mind for a while is how I can honour the best of last year when it comes to restaurants I have visited, and going with my Report Card Theme, I'm calling it my Restaurant Honour Roll.  The graphic you see on the left is a sticker that will be given to each restaurant that earned an A or A+ in my reviews last year from after I started running my Report Card rating system.  If the owner or manager wishes to display it, they can place it on their front door or window if they would like.

As most of you know, I already won't post a review that's not at least in the B-level, but will make occasional C+ exceptions as necessary (i.e. The Battle of The Burritos last year).   To get Reviewed by Hank On Food, it has to be better than average, because Average is easy to find.  Above or Way Above average is harder.   To earn the Honour Roll Sticker, I have to have visited there at least twice and have had an overall average of a solid A on all visits.  Now I realize that I'm no New York Times food critic or Professional Chef or Gastronome.  I'm just a guy that likes good food, friendly service, a clean restaurant and a feeling of being welcome and appreciated.  The restaurants that earn this sticker do all of these things well, and do they consistently.  They are HankOnFood Approved!!!

The Foodie Professor's 2011 Honour Roll:

The Burger Guys: A+ on more than 5 visits.
BB's Beef and Hot Dog: A+ on 2 visits
Chuy's Westchase: A+ and A in 2 separate visits
Texas Land & Cattle Steakhouse Stafford: A on 3 separate visits
Yardhouse Houston City Centre: A on 3 separate visits
Bullritos at Eldridge & Briar Forest: A on 2 separate visits
The Spicy Pickle Kirkwood & I-10: A on 2 separate visits
Tony Thai on Bellaire: A in 2 separate visits

Folks, if you go back through last year's reviews, there were a number of places that had grades of B+ or A-, a few A's as well.  The only reason they didn't make the Honour Roll for 2011 was because I only visited them once.  To be fair though, if I revisit any restaurants I've previously reviewed that earned an A, if they earn another A, they will be eligible for the 2012 Honour Roll.  Boston's: The Gourmet Pizza on FM 529 has already earned a spot due to scoring an A in two separate visits--one in a review, one in a separate visit that was not reviewed, but will be added to the existing review next week.

I will be delivering the stickers to the restaurant Managers or Owners as soon as they come from the printers. Show them proudly, folks!  You've earned them!

And remember:

Eat Happy!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Boston's The Gourmet Pizza

Update:  I found out that Boston's closed its Houston location during the 1st Week of May 2012.  This is too bad.  I really liked their pizza and flatbreads.  They still have locations open in other parts of Texas and I recommend you try them in Dallas or College station.  I'm leaving this review up in memory of their Houston presence.
Those of you who know me well are aware that I am an Economics Professor and a TV watcher.  You also know that I am a sucker for a success story about a little guy who makes it big.   Boston's The Gourmet Pizza  has some of all of that in its origin.  As a regular visitor to Vancouver, BC, I am very fond of a pizza chain by the name of Boston Pizza--though they changed their name temporarily to Vancouver Pizza when the Canucks faced the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jim Treliving in front of a US Boston's
As a regular viewer of CBC's Dragon's Den (known as Shark Tank in the US on ABC), one of my favourite Dragons on the Canadian Version is Jim Treliving, who is the majority owner of Boston Pizza.  Boston Pizza in Canada is called Boston's The Gourmet Pizza in the United States.  As a fan of Jim Treliving, Dragon's Den, Canada, the Canucks and Pizza, I was very glad to see that the Houston area has a location.

My kids and I were off for the day from school  and work, so we stopped by for lunch.  I was pleased to see that a lot of their menu choices were the same here as up there.  We shared their gourmet cheese fries, my son ordered a kid's cheese pizza, my daughter ordered spaghetti and meat balls, and I had a small Meat and Pepper pizza.  So with that, here is our meal blue print:

Boston's Cheese Fries
Boston's Cheese Fries
Oven-baked french fries loaded with queso, smoked bacon
cheddar & mozzarella cheeses, jalapeño peppers
tomatoes and green onions.
Served with a side of ranch dressing

Double Meat and Pepper Pizza:
Sausage and meatballs and pizza sauce with
fresh roasted red onions
red & green peppers
mozzarella cheese
Double Meat and Pepper Pizza

Kids Fan-Tastic Cheese Pizza:
An Individual Sized pizza
with Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese Blend

Kids Slammin' Spaghetti and Meatball:

Kid's Sized portion of spaghetti
covered with
Bolognese sauce and
topped with a huge hearty meatball

Each of these dishes was served piping hot, yummy to look at and in a reasonable amount of time.  The cheese fries were AMAZING.  This was no frozen fries covered in liquid rubber cheese.  This was fresh cut spuds, deep fried and then baked with cheese, bacon, onions and tomatoes.  It was served with a side fresh ranch dressing that had the twang of buttermilk and sour cream you just don't get from the bottled variety.  The Double Meat and Pepper Pizza was loaded with savoury flavour.  The spongy, hand-tossed crust was the right mix of crunchy and soft (note to self:  try the whole wheat version next time).  The meatballs and sausages were full of black pepper, fennel seed and sweet, meaty goodness.  The peppers tasted fresh and a nice mixture of sweet and sour.  The cheese was well melted and stringy like I love on a pizza.  My kids were very satisfied with their dishes--Jason gave his cheese pizza two thumbs up, and Helena liked the hearty flavour of the meatballs and the spaghetti.

The staff that runs the Houston location off of FM 249 near Willowbrook was clearly well trained.  They were very friendly.  They gave timely service but weren't overly hovering.  Jay, our server, was very patient with the kids and made good, timely call backs for refills and other needs.  I have eaten at Boston Pizza in Vancouver, BC and found the experience at Houston's Location equally friendly, accommodating and very much up to Jim Treliving's standards.  Although this is a chain, it's a good one and I promise you, I'll be back for a follow up in a couple of months.  And since Jim Treliving does provide investment capital and his expertise to help smaller entrepreneurs develop and succeed, I do not have any qualms about eating at this wonderful restaurant and bar.

The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Boston's The Gourmet Pizza:

Boston's Cheese Fries: A
Double Meat and Pepper Pizza: A
Kids Cheese Pizza: A
Kids Spaghetti and Meat Ball: A
     Speed: A-
     Friendliness: A+
Atmosphere: A-

Overall Grade:  A 

Boston's: The Gourmet Pizza Has locations  in 23 US States and in Mexico, and all over Canada as Boston's Pizza.  We went to the location at:

17125 State Highway 249
Houston, TX 77064

And remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January Odds & Ends, Plus Funny Stuff

Greetings Readers!

Just a few odds and ends as we head into January.

1.  Funny Stuff!!!  $#!+ Foodies Say!  

This needs no words or explanation.  I'll just let you watch.  And I've been guilty of a few of these....

And my Foodie Pal Mijune Pak in Vancouver has done her version:

I'll be posting mine in the next couple of weeks!  MuuHaHaHaHaHaaaaaaaa!!!

2. Uchi from Austin is opening in Houston!!!

Here's some info from the Press Release:

Chef Tyson Cole Opens Doors to Anticipated Houston Location of His Acclaimed Uchi on February 2nd
Houston, TX—The second location of Chef Tyson Cole’s critically-acclaimed restaurant, Uchi, will open to the public on February 2nd. Residing in the iconic former Felix space on Westheimer near the corner of Montrose, Uchi brings its hallmark level of quality and service to a new city, successfully melding culinary innovation with an approachable vibe.

Under Chef Cole’s direction, offerings from the kitchen and sushi bar showcase his signature style of combining unexpected textures and flavors, pushing the boundaries of Japanese cuisine, drawing flavor inspiration from numerous points around the globe and mixing traditional master knife work with cutting-edge techniques.

“We have been looking forward to becoming a part of the Houston community for many months,” comments Chef Tyson Cole, recent winner of James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest. “It’s a thrill to open our doors-- we are looking forward to accommodating our guests”.
The cuisine will meld the best offerings of the first Uchi and Cole’s second Austin concept, Uchiko. Chef Cole’s signature menu offerings include hot and cool tastings, makimono, yakimono, tempura and, of course, sushi and sashimi. Each guest at the table may enjoy and share the experience of dining at Uchi together. Every detail is thoughtfully managed so the guest may enjoy the progression of the meal in a seamless flow, each bite meant to build upon the last. Acclaimed pastry chef Philip Speer ends things on a sweet note with his ground-breaking desserts that showcase familiar flavors in completely original forms and combinations. Chef Cole is pleased to name Kaz Edwards of the original Uchi as chef de cuisine in Houston. Monica Glenn, longtime protégé of Philip Speer, will be pastry chef.

The respectful transformation of the building from the Felix space into its current incarnation was helmed by Michael Hsu, the noted architect whose team also designed Uchi, Uchiko and numerous other national hospitality, retail and residential projects. The aesthetic of this space refers to the original Uchi in many ways by using reclaimed woods, warm textures and clean finishes. People will instantly recognize the warmth and modern design.

Uchi opens to the public February 2nd and the reservations line opens January 18th. You may access reservations at, or by contacting the reservationist at 713.522.4808.

904 Westheimer
Houston, Texas 77006
I've received an invite and it has been confirmed that I'm in!  Like the Nabi and Dulce Bakery & Café Grand Openings, I will provide plenty of pics and my take on the various dishes from the tasting menu.

3. The Burger Guys are opening a new location inside the Loop

My buddy Jake Mazzu, co-owner of The Burger Guys, informed me several months ago this was in the works, and based upon an article in The Houston Press, it's in the works now and will be coming soon.  Just like how Phoenecia Foods opened another location in Downtown much to the gratitude of the Inner Loop Foodies, I predict The Burger Guys will be a HUGE HIT there as well.  I'll  pay them a visit once it's all up and running!

4.  December Charity Results

Once again, I think the hard economy has made it difficult, and I realize that a lot of folks don't have a lot to spare.  I did donate $50.00 of my own money to Kids Meals Houston however, despite the lack of participation from readers.  I think I'm not going to do any more charity donation drives on the blog as times are clearly tough.  I will provide a list of food related charities that I personally support, such as Kids Meals Houston, along with others, and you can choose to donate or not.

Last but not least, I've got more recipes and reviews coming in the pipeline, so please bear with me.  My income earning self is busy with the start of teaching Spring Semester 2012 at the local colleges that employ me, so please bear with me.

And remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Event: Grand Opening of Dulce Bakery and Café

Late one rainy Monday December evening (December 19, 2011 to be precise), my daughter and I drove out West to Katy/Fulshear area to try a new restaurant whose opening we were invited to.  My daughter loves fancy cupcakes with puffed up icing and edible decorations, and based on the photos, this is what we expected.  Well, we got what we expected and then some.  The Dulce Bakery and Café is the brain child of mother/daughter team Chef Cristina Gutierrez and Priscilla Domingo.  It is a local, family owned business off of Westheimer Parkway and Westheimer lakes.  The interior is bright and pastel-coloured.  The environment is inviting but is also set up in such a way that suburbanites who need to grab a cup of coffee and a muffin on the way to work can do so quickly. 

Their menu is eclectic, featuring the beautiful cupcakes mentioned before (also including gluten free options there), along American standards like coffee cake, and Latin favourites like Tres Lechés cake.  They also have different deli style sandwiches, as well as Empanadas.  This is a good mix of European, American and Latin bakery and deli standards, that should satisfy many different tastes and preferences.  They also serve locally roasted Katz's Coffee, made famous by the Montrose Area Katz's Never Kloses.  And if you need a special birthday or wedding cake, Dulce has you covered as well. 

Chef Cristina
On this particular evening, there were a large number of friends and family of the chef that came out to sample the different cupcakes and other treats.  My daughter and I enjoyed several different mini-cupcakes.  Her favourites were the red velvet and a cinnamon cookie that reminded me of a snickerdoodle.  My favourites were the Cookies and Creme topped cupcake and the Emapanadas.  Chef Cristina was actively greeting guests and giving plenty of information about the various cakes, dishes and beverages.  The evening was fairly laid back and relaxed, though a local DJ did begin spinning some records for a little while during our visit.  Although it was rather low key compared to the Nabi Grand Opening I was at a few weeks earlier, it was fun and the food was wonderful.

Helena enjoys the cupcakes
Many of you readers know that I am very big on promoting good, locally owned and operated restaurants and cafés.  Although I don't live out in Katy, my daughter and I were made to feel welcome and it was an enjoyable treat.  Granted you're not going to get the same experience you would at a high end cupcakery like Cako in San Francisco at Dulce.  But that's a good thing.  Especially because the Cako I visited had no place to sit down and eat and didn't have coffee or empanadas.  At Dulce you will get good, sweet treats, friendly service, and you'll be boosting our local economy by patronizing this place.  My daughter and I will come back for some more goodies soon, I promise you that, and I recommend giving Dulce Bakery and Café a visit next time you're out in the Katy/Fulshear area. 

Dulce Bakery and Café is located at
6734 Westheimer Lakes North @ FM 1093
Katy, TX 77494
(281) 394-7772

And remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: Brick House Tap and Tavern on 290

"Dispensing Happiness to the Common Man" is the motto on the entrance to The Brick House Tavern and Tap.  From the exterior of the place, it reminds me a bit of a few brew pubs I've been to in the past, and has a bit of a biker bar feel with its patio.  Going inside, it's a mixture of a high end eatery like Cactus Club Café, a very nice man cave and a sports bar.  It's also classier than a Hooter's (no offense intended), but yet has many of the man trappings that Barney Stinson from "How I Met Your Mother would find "Legen... wait for it... dary!!!"  In fact, even though it's non-smoking, I was able to smell fine tobacco cigar smoke wafting towards me as I walked past the patio towards the entrance.  As Barney would say in a high pitched voice "IT'S  AAAAAAAAWESOME!!!"

A few facts about The Brick House.  First of all it is the brainchild of the Ignite Restaurant Group, affiliated with the Pappas chain.  Founded in 2008, it's headquartered in Houston off of Westpark Drive.  There are 17 locations around Texas, Illinois, Florida and other places--which make it a limited run, high end chain.  Per their facts, Brick House Tavern + Tap is the ultimate retreat. This neighborhood gathering spot offers 70+ beers, leather recliners, upscale American classics and service with a smile. Brick House is a salute to the common man with extra touches like 40-ounce bottles of beer, beer bongs, and favorite brews from both local and international breweries.

Much like the ultimate Man Cave, Brick House features:
  • 20 + HD Flat Screen TVs ensuring no one misses a moment of the big game
  • Indoor/outdoor bar, covered outdoor fire pit and patio making eating and drinking an all-seasons sport
  • Soft leather recliners with built-in beer glass holders and TV trays for dining
  • Favorite all-American dishes including Sloppy Joes and the Gun Show Burgers
  • Free wireless internet access to help keep track of fantasy scores
Also, a menu featuring signature dishes such as a Kobe Beef Burger,  Chicken and Waffles, a Beefed up Steak Salad and even Soft Pretzel appetizers, and casked beer on top of that, it's a great place to go to watch sports, enjoy good food and a fine craft beer.  I grabbed a seat in the "Rec Room" area that had the leather media room recliners that included cup holders and a tray that went across the armrests.  I seriously think Barney Stinson had a hand in designing it.  Can a get one up top?  (Virtual High-Five!!!).

As a self-declared Burger Afficianado who loves Kobe Wagyu beef, I went with their Kobe Burger.  Overall I was impressed with it.  So without further jibber-jabber, here is your burger blueprint:

The Kobe Burger:
Hand molded Wagyu beef patty
Sautéed onions
Roasted tomatoes
Spring greens mix
Brie cheese
Roasted red pepper aioli
On a brioche bun
Served with Fries

For a first burger of 2012, this was AAAWESOME!!!  Sweet, buttery Kobe Beef, cooked to juicy medium perfection, seasoned well with salt, pepper and a few other hard to identify yet savoury seasonings.  The sauteed onions tasted like sweet Texas Yellow onions--thoroughly cooked, not raw, but not overcooked either.  The fresh greens and roasted tomato had nice flavour.  The Brie cheese was thoroughly melted and had a mild smooth bite to it.  The brioche bun kept the ingredients all together with a little bit of ooze.  The french fries were crispy and lightly salted.  I spread the roasted red pepper aioli on the burger and also dipped the fries in it and in ranch dressing, made in house.  (I do not use Ketchup.  EVER! I let my kids use it... but once they're 13 no more!!!)

I had iced tea with my burger, but after I was done, I went for their hand-pulled cask beer.  Per their menu:

Hand-pulled from our beer engine, this tremendous beverage is carbonated in the Firkin by live yeast during a secondary fermentation step to create a true English experience.  
Casking beer softens the beverage and also gives it a bit of a boost in the booze content.  I ordered the current Casked beer, which was St. Arnold's Elissa India Pale Ale this season.  I love craft beer---beer has to have flavour, bite, and a good finish.  American Macrobrews like Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft, have their place, but not on my table or in my pint glass.  I've had the Elissa IPA in the bottle before, but I will say that the Casking process softens the edge to the beer, and makes what is already a great IPA even more drinkable.  The beer is full of citrus notes, is slightly bitter, cloudy like many Pale Ales are, but after the casking treatment, is much softer in texture than prior to casking.  The beer has almost no aftertaste--a very clean finish in the way it is served at The Brick House.  My only not so great comment I can make is that my server did not know which beer was Hand Casked beer and could not tell me which brand it was beyond it being an India Pale Ale.  Usually you'd expect a place with a long tap list would better educate the servers on this. Not a big deal, but something to think about.

The Foodie Professor's Report Card for The Brick House:

Kobe Burger:  A
French Fries:  A
     Speed:  B+
     Friendliness: A-
Cleanliness: A
Atmosphere: A

Overall Grade:  A-

There are Three Locations of The Brick House in Houston.  I went to the location at:

12910 Northwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77040
(713) 462-0576

And remember:
Eat Happier in 2012!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

Happy New Year from Hank On Food! A look back at 2011

Greetings everyone and Welcome to 2012.  It's not been a full year at Hank On Food Yet, and already I've just passed 100 entries.  The past year has been eventful personally, professionally and in the realm of food, restaurants and dining.  New restaurants in Houston have opened and closed, sometimes in the same year.   Long term restaurants have closed forever.  New up and comers have solidified their hold on certain markets and in some cases, expanded.  In looking back at the past year, several things have stood out for me as Milestones or Eventful.  And so with respect to that, here are some important milestones I've seen happen with regards to food and restaurants:

1.  Hank On Food Begins--May 14, 2011

3 meat combo at Fadi's
Not too toot my own horn too much, but I finally stopped just making food review videos on YouTube and started this blog in earnest.  I had a lot of backlogged reviews and videos and began getting my blogging feet going starting this particular date, partly at the urging of several viewers on YouTube, I began working at doing food write ups.  With some advice from fellow foodblogger and YouTube personality Mijune Pak, I began carving out my own niche and finding my personal style.  This is still very much a work in progress, but I've gone from quick reviews with short grades to a detailed food report card coupled with blueprints of dishes I sampled.  I am hoping by May 14, 2012, I will have upped my game and be producing better quality postings/columns here.  My first written review was of Fadi's Mediterranean Grill.  Below is an old video. For your enjoyment is my first video review on YouTube of Five Guys Burgers and Fries:

2.  The Battle of The Burritos Begins--May 24, 2011.

After a debate among friends--where can you get the best build it yourself burritos--I went to Freebird's, Mission and Chipolte.  Freebird's was the overall winner by grade, followed by Mission and then Chipolte.  However, later on August 20, 2011, I tried Bullrito's and after evaluating them, they and Freebird's are tied for 1st place in that battle.

3.  A Trip to San Francisco, CA--Foodie Style-- May 30, 2011 through June 4, 2011

Café Bellini in San Francisco
A family trip to the Bay Area netted me a nice group of food reviews.  Café Bellini, Mama's on Washington Square, Dojima Ann, Cako Bakery, Boudin Bakery, Honey Honey Café, and In-N-Out Burger were all visited and had various dishes reviewed.  This trip was special for me because I was able to visit a large number of places in a short time and it really gave me a chance to hone my craft of sharing great food with you readers.

4. Service Issues raised in Hank on Food  July 11, 2011 and October 29, 2011

One area of ongoing concern in Food Service is the Service part.  Customer Service standards have dropped in recent years for a long list of reasons, and many restaurants are actively trying to fix things to make customers happier, as well as shore up revenue streams.  The issue was examined from the perspective of a Table for One as well as HOW Food is prepared (diner's preference versus proper recipe directions).

5. A Foodblogger Friend Hits the Big Time on FoodNetwork Canada

Mijune Pak appeared on Recipe to Riches with her Canadian Pie in a Jar recipe.  While she didn't win, Mijune is always a winner in my book and here is a quick recap of her category's finalists.

Of course there were other things that happened that were great--a few mentions in the Houston Press, 29-95 and Eater Houston on different columns and reviews I posted, I passed up 10,000 views two months ago, and was invited to a couple of new restaurant openings that were just wonderful.  I also posted a few personal recipe/experiments that some folks really enjoyed.  And of course, got some very useful feedback and tips from y'all as well.

Now that it's 2012, I am looking forward to another year of great food, great restaurants and recipes to share with you, the readers.  Let's Eat Happier in 2012!!!

Zao an, Y'all!!!