Tag Archives: Houston

Cafe’ Restaurant Reviews – Houston, New York, Seattle USA

Chanterelle Mushroom and Truffles Brick Oven Pizza at "Serious Pie", Seattle, WA USA

Hi Susitna Cafe’ Friends!  Today we’re discussing eating out…we sure do enjoy a good meal here at the Cafe’, but sometimes we enjoy eating out too.  Don’t you?

It’s sooo exciting when we experience a delicious restaurant meal, but it’s oh so disappointing when we eat a poorly executed meal.  So, we think it’s important to share our eating out experiences with you so that we can all leverage upon one another’s knowledge.

The Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles has recently partnered with Urban Spoon, and we’re now documenting our restaurant reviews on the Urban Spoon website.  Susitna Cafe’ restaurant reviews may be found by clicking on the “Visit Us on Urbanspoon” photo logo on the main Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles webpage…see for yourself our reviews on restaurants in Houston, Texas…New York, New York…and, Seattle, Washington USA.

We’re updating our restaurant reviews frequently, so be sure to visit our UrbanSpoon Susitna Cafe’ restaurant reviews page often to get the latest information.

By the way, have you had a good or bad restaurant experience you’d like to share with our Susitna Cafe’ friends?  If so, feel free to provide comments here on our “Cafe’ Restaurant Reviews” post.  Cheers!

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Filed under September 2010

Eclectic Houston – “To Touch Your Heart”

你好 (nee-how) and welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  “Eclectic Houston” is our monthly chronicle about the unique and international aspects of Houston, TX USA.  Today we’re discussing oh sooo delicious dim-sum…

The culinary art of dim sum began in China hundreds of years ago.  Some believe that it started along the Silk Road at tea houses where travelers often stopped to relax and eat…

Silk Road and Related Trade Routes, Courtesy of Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education

These loud and lively tea houses became very popular.  Since the 10th century, this popularity has resulted in over 2000 different types of dim sum having been created.  Now there are typically over 100 different kinds of dim sum served in large restaurants around the world.

Dim sum translated from Cantonese means “To Touch Your Heart”.  Well, it’s no wonder that something that touches your heart (and is sooo tasty) is so popular around the world.

My own introduction to dim-sum began in Seattle, WA USA in Seattle’s China town when I was very young.  I was mesmerized by all the noise, talking and people eating tasty dumplings.  Thereafter, “R” and I have been on a lifelong mission to find the tastiest dim sum.  Our mission has taken us to China and most recently, Hong Kong, where dim sum is a way of life.

However now, lucky for us, we no longer need to travel far and wide to experience oh sooo delicious dim-sum.  We can make our own or visit our friends at Cafe Chino in Houston, TX USA.

We owe a special thanks to the Houston Chowhounds and Cafe Chino, since it is with them that we learned to master dim sum.  Our cooking class was oh sooo special!

We were fortunate to have had skillful chefs who served as our instructors…Chefs May Chan…

and Eddie Chan…

But that’s not all…the master Chefs’ sons, Randall and Bryan, and Cafe Chino staff were all participants too…

So with 2 award winning chefs and their skillful staff, we just got all equipped and donned our chef hats!

All the Houchies started cooking since there was no time to waste…besides, all of us Houchies wanted a taste!

So, shiitake mushrooms and fresh vegetables we did fry…

Followed by Cantonese eggroll rolling and sealing…Oh Me, Oh My!

After rolling and sealing that we all did try, all of a sudden there were lots of egg rolls to fry!

But wait!  That’s not all for us Houchie chefs to do…onward we went to make pork potstickers too…

We Houchies are an enthusiastic bunch and we wanted more to do…so we thought, why not make some Har-Gau dumplings…say at least one or two?

Next we made Sui-Mai,

with a knife trick I’ll never forget…

Smile, you’re on Susitna Cafe’s website!  Are we hungry yet?

After Sui-Mai dumplings, there was something even better yet!  Cafe’ Chino scallion pancakes!  Will we ever forget?

But before we share the recipe, Chef May cooked her special way…

While us Houchies were ready to eat…”Oh! Can we, can we Chef May?”

It was all so wonderful and delicious…

We all had a great day!

Cafe Chino on Urbanspoon

Cafe Chino Scallion Pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup green onion (scallions), sliced

1/2 cup canola oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Sift flour into a large bowl.  While stirring, add hot water until a dough ball is formed.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to relax for 30 minutes.

To begin making the pancakes, dust your pastry board or work surface with flour.  Roll out dough into a thin rectangle.

Brush the rectangle with canola oil.  Next, sprinkle the rectangle with scallions and season with salt and pepper.

Roll up one end of the rectangle (lengthwise) and fold to the middle of the rectangle.

Now roll up the opposite end of the rectangle (lengthwise) to the middle of the rectangle.  Brush the top of the folded rectangle with oil.

Now roll up the rectangle again lengthwise and fold into a coiled ball.

Turn the spiral side face up and flatten with a rolling pin or your hand.

Pan fry the pancake in hot oil for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Cut into quarters and serve with hoisin sauce on the side.

Cook’s Note:  You may wish to substitute olive oil for the canola oil in this recipe.

Foodie Note:  Do try Cafe Chino’s “Chilean Sea Bass with Asian Pesto”…You’ll really like it!  Oh, and don’t forget Cafe Chino’s special Thanksgiving Dim Sum Brunch on Sunday, November 21, 2010, 11-3 pm.

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Filed under August 2010

Eclectic Houston – Extremadura, Spain

Hola! and welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  We’re discussing “Eclectic Houston”, our monthly chronicle about the unique and international aspects of Houston, TX USA.

Our Susitna Cafe’ neighbors in Houston come from all around the world… France, Hong Kong, Cuba, Spain, India, Mexico, Armenia, and Texas A&M (Ha-Ha!).  Isn’t that wonderful?  Whenever our neighbors warmly welcome us into their home, we learn about the native food and cultural traditions that they brought with them to Houston.  We are sooo fortunate!

Recently, our neighbor Rita and Fernando invited us to a party at their lovely home to celebrate Rita’s birthday.  Oooohhhh, they are such nice people and they always have a wonderful international smorgasbord.  You know, I really like international smorgasbords and birthday parties!

Fernando’s family originates from the Extremadura Region of Spain, an area bordering Portugal in Europe.  Rita’s mother’s family is from Ecuador.  So, we were delighted to participate in their eclectic Spanish smorgasbord and birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday Rita!

Oh look, there's Fernando (to the right)!

Extremadura, by the way, means “to go to extremes”.  This is a Spanish region that is blistering hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  The Extremadura landscape consists of lush forests, sweeping plains and ancient hilltop villages.  It is an area off the beaten tourist path and a region of Spain where the villages seem frozen in time.

Photo Courtesy of Spanish-Living.Com

Extremadura is well known for its outstanding gastronomy.  Highly prized Iberian pork, for example, originates from Extremadura where the free range pigs feast on acorns which give their meat a unique and highly prized flavor.

Extremadura’s delicious food is based on seasonal availability.  It is simple and down to earth thus reflecting its peasant origins.  Rita and Fernando’s feast included an Extremadura gazpacho amongst other delightful simple and down to earth Spanish dishes…

various canapes and vegetables…Albondigas Al Zafaron (pork and veal meatballs with saffron)…Potatas Alinadas (Andalusian potato salad), and even a Lithuanian beet soup (borcht)…There was a beautiful Empanada Gallega (Galician cod pie) with a patisserie enscription of Rita’s initials too!  Oh my, someone pinch me now! 😮

In addition to the delightful  Spanish smorgasbord, we enjoyed some refreshing sangrias poured by Joseph, Rita and Fernando’s son…

Of course, all the guests had a wonderful time eating fresh seasonal food and sipping sangria…

Oh look, and there's Rita's sister (to the right)!

Handsome Bogart

Oh, and let’s not forget about dessert…Maria, Rita and Fernando’s daughter, made some delightful carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting…

Lucky for all of us, Rita and Fernando have generously shared their family recipe for Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho with the Susitna Cafe’!  This recipe originated with Fernando’s mother, Xela, and it is absolutely wonderful…it’s refreshing and delicious!  Thank you Rita, Fernando and Xela from your Susitna Cafe’ friends!

Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho

6-8 Servings


Ingredients

4 pounds fresh ripened tomatoes, skins removed and cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

2 red or orange bell peppers, cut into chunks

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

3-4 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

2-3 Tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Garnishes

1 bell pepper (any color), diced

2 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped

1/2 medium onion, diced (I use red onion)

1/2 cucumber, diced

2 boiled eggs, chopped

croutons, 1/3 stale baguette cut into small cubes, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and baked until golden on cookie sheet

To begin, prepare your vegetables and tomatoes.  Dip the tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for a few minutes.  Allow to cool to touch, then peel and remove the skins.

Next, in a food processor or blender, add a combination of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and garlic with a portion of the olive oil.

Process/blend the vegetables and olive oil until you have a speckled puree.

Pour the speckled puree into a large bowl or non-aluminum pot.  Continue to process/blend the vegetables and olive oil in batches pouring into the large bowl or pot when done.  Add the sherry vinegar, cumin and salt to the bowl or pot and stir well to incorporate the ingredients and flavors.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible to meld all the flavors.  Serve with a platter of garnishes so that your family and guests  can add their own to taste.

Cook’s Notes:  I reduce the amount of extra virgin olive oil when I make this recipe simply because I prefer a little less oil.  Do consider using a colorful confetti mixture of the chopped bell peppers as a nice touch to the garnish platter.  If, by chance, your gazpacho is too thick just add some cold water or ice until you have a desired consistency.

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Filed under August 2010

Do-Sa-Do!

Well a do-sa-do and to and fro to you Cafe’ friends!  We’re do-sa-do-ing at the Susitna Cafe’ today in celebration of our recent viewing of Charles M. Russell’s masterworks at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH).

We’ve been a fan of Charles M. Russell’s artistry and humour for many, many years here at the Cafe’.  In fact, one summer, “R” and I road-tripped all the way to the boonies of Montana to visit the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.  While there, we spent hours reading and viewing Charles M. Russell’s many beautifully illustrated letters.

Afterwards, I searched far and wide for a copy of his book “Good Medicine, The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell”.  Since the book was published in 1930, it wasn’t easy finding a copy.  But I did find a copy, and to this day we treasure it.

So, I’m sure you can guess that when we were invited to a preview of  “The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture” at the MFAH, we got there as fast as we could!

Oh my, it was great fun!  There was a really nice reception with tasty appetizers like assorted cheese and grapes…

Texas size strawberries and brie cheese…

Oh, and did I tell you there was cheese (my favorite :o)?  The exhibit was really wonderful too!

I just love Charles M. Russell’s sense of light, don’t you?

When the Land Belonged to God, 1914 oil on canvas (Courtesty of Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Montana)

This particular painting, When the Land Belonged to God, rarely travels from the Montana Historical Society, so we consider it a real treat to have viewed it in person.  In fact, this painting  just made all the visitors feel like dancing.  So, we did!

Seems like everyone just started do-sa-do-ing…

And to and fro-ing…

There were some singing cowboys too…

Hey, how about if you join us at the Cafe’ for a little dancin’ and cookin’?  What?  You don’t know how to cowboy dance?  No problem, just watch this video and start kicking your legs around.

Next, just start cookin’.  Let’s make Charles M. Russell proud!

Susitna Cafe’ Do-Sa-Do Pecan Tart

Makes two (2) 11 inch tarts.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Shortbread Crust*

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup cane sugar

3 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then set aside.  Next, cream the butter and sugar together with your electric mixer at medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.  Add the pure vanilla extract.

Now begin adding the dry ingredients into the batter at low speed and do so until all ingredients are combined.  The dough will be fluffy and sticky.  Pour the dough into two (2) 11 inch ungreased tart pans.  Press the dough into the pans leaving a 1/2 inch wide thick crust on the edge.  The crust in the center section of the pan should thinner than the edge crust to allow room for the pecan filling.  You may wish to flour your hands to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands while you are working the crust in the tart pan.

Bake the tarts for 15 minutes.  The crust should be “set” but not brown.  Allow the crusts to cool while you prepare the pecan filling.

Pecan Filling*

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/8 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoon vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla in the pecan filling)

1 pound whole pecans

1 cup Ghirardelli Gourmet 72% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar and orange zest in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat to melt the butter, and stir to combine all ingredients.  Raise the heat to medium high and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Allow to cool for a minute.  Meanwhile, sprinkle 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips into the each of the two (2) cooled tart crusts.

Next add the heavy cream and whole pecans to the warm filling.  Stir to combine.  Pour 1/2 of the pecan filling into each of the two (2) tart crusts.  Spread the filling evenly in the well of the crust.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Meanwhile, this is a good time for you to practice do-sa-do-ing while the tarts are allowed to cool to room temperature.

Cut the tart into pie wedges.  Serve either at room temperature or after refrigerating until cold.  Store remaining tart (if any) in the refrigerator.

Cook’s Notes:   This recipe is adapted from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” Pecan Squares recipe.  Although the Pecan Squares are absolutely delicious in the original recipe, I modified the recipe to serve as a tart containing a chocolate layer between the shortbread and pecan filling.  In addition, I’ve placed more emphasis on the orange (vs. lemon) flavoring in the filling simply because we like the combination of orange and chocolate together.  We hope you do too!

Note that if the dough in the well rises too much during the initial baking, you may scoop out any excess with a spoon.  This will ensure that you have enough room in the center for the pecan filling.

Traveler’s Note:  The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)’s exhibit, The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture,  is on view through August 29, 2010.

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Filed under June 2010

Spring Forward

Top of the mornin’ to you my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re just chatting and enjoying our morning coffee here today.  As usual, I’m a wee bit late getting my first cup.

Seems like our routines in the wee hours of the mornin’ are about the same at our house in Houston, TX.  Here’s an example of our wake-up routine:

1.  Get nudged by cold, wet nose*

2.  Arise out of bed

3.  Take red-head outside

4.  Bring red-head inside

5.  Grind coffee beans

6.  While grinding, note that red-head has very sad Irish-looking eyes…

7.  Stop grinding coffee beans

8.  Feed red-head

9.  Grind coffee beans

10.  While grinding, note red-head looking at me followed by a glance at the front door…

11.  Grind coffee beans

12.  Note red-head pointing at front door with cold, wet nose as if he is pointing to something that I surely must agree is of utmost importance…

*Note:  This is not my red-headed husband’s nose

After the top of the mornin’ routine is done and we have alot of ground coffee beans (but, with no coffee to drink…sigh…), my red-headed Golden Retriever, Gus, takes “R” and me on a morning walk at a nearby park.

As we walk, Gus communicates to me as he usually does in his own very happy canine way.  This morning, however, he stopped during the walk to “speak to me” for a moment.  He not only stopped, but he also flopped onto the grass and pointed his cold, wet snoz downward.

I guess I wasn’t quite “listening”, so he made an effort to do so again.  He stopped, flopped and pointed his snoz downward to be sure that I understood the importance of his communication.

Well, I understood.  Today, he communicated, is a day to celebrate green…spring forward green…Irish clover green…

It was, indeed, a wonderful and inspirational walk this morning.  We saw spring forward green all around us.  We observed it on the park trail…

In the woods…

On the ground…

On the bushes and trees…

Yes, even in the Irish clover…

Sigh…when we were done with our walk, I decided to check and see if spring forward green might be elsewhere in Houston too.

So, I loaded up my Irish-looking dog in our car and drove to Georgia’s Farm to Market.  Upon arrival at Georgia’s, I was surprised to see a couple of leprechaun farmers from Richmond, TX.

They had a pot of gold…

It was all so fresh, colorful and green sort of like a rainbow…

So I got some of the pot o’ gold from the Leprechaun farmers amongst their rainbow, and decided to spring forward green at the Cafe’ today.  Would you like to spring forward green with me, my Susitna Cafe’ friends?

Let’s cook a pot o’ gold to celebrate a wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!  Well then, away we go lads and lassies to cook some Colcannon, an Irish potato and kale pot o’ gold dish.

Susitna Cafe’ Colcannon


Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion, rough chopped

4 medium russet potatoes, boiled and chopped

1 bunch curly kale, washed & chopped with base stems removed

salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in frying pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion.

Saute’ until the onions are transparent.  Next, add the boiled chopped potatoes (with peel) and mix with the garlic and onion mixture.

Saute’ while mashing the potatoes with the back of a fork.  Potato consistency should appear somewhat chunky.  Slowly add chopped kale, a small bunch at a time, incorporating into the potato and onion mixture.  Saute’ and allow the potatoes to brown on the bottom of the pan.

The brown bits have alot of flavor, so continue to turn the potato and kale mixture over to brown some more.  Continue to do so until the kale is wilted and the brown bits are evenly distributed throughout mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

“R”, who has some Boston Irish heritage in his family, enjoys Colcannon with eggs cooked over easy for breakfast.  You may wish to serve Colcannon as a side dish to corned beef or as a main vegetarian meal.

Enjoy your pot o’ gold on this wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting chopped cabbage for the kale.  You won’t be disappointed!

Traveler’s Notes: Georgia’s Farm to Market is located at 12171 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX.  Don’t miss the farmer’s market on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm.

I haven’t been to Ireland yet.  However, “R” has been there.  He tells me that the land is the greenist green you ever will see.  Someday, we are going to visit Quigley’s Point in Northern Ireland where his mother’s family originates.  We’re looking forward to this trip together in the near future…

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Filed under March 2010