Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Finds in Houston: Moroccan Scrub at Hamman Spa and the Best Hummus Ever

I'm a Houston frequently flyer, and I want to share two new discoveries. My typical Houston stomping ground is on Bellarie where I can happily stuff my face with authentic Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese fare.

This time around I decided to try a Moroccan spa at Hammam Spa on Westheimer. I was looking to try something new, and learning about spa rituals from other cultures is something one can't find in Austin. The Hammam treatment is something that is done on a weekly basis in Morocco. There are large bath houses where you would go to do your own scrubbing or you could pay someone a fee for scrubbing you.

At the Hammam Spa in Houston, it is more of a private spa experience. It starts with being covered in olive oil soap which makes you smell like the olive bar at Whole Foods. Then the dead skin is scrubbed off your body. There will be plenty of skin sloughing off. I'm pretty sure I lost of a few pounds of that way. After that you shower off, and you're covered with a rich lotion. I haven't had a scrub that effective in removing extra skin cells before, and I would certainly do it again.

There's only four hammam spas in the United States - Houston, Vegas, New York, and somewhere in Virginia. This one is independently owned so you can feel good about helping other people achieve their dreams while you exfoliate your stress away.

My second find in Houston does not come with a pretty photo. I stopped by Kasra Persian also located on Westheimer to find that their hummus is amazing. My first visit included a lamb shank, rice, and hummus. It had the fast punch of raw garlic and an amazingly creamy smooth texture. It was not as thick as most hummus, but it was definitely the best I've ever had.

I tried recreating it at home, and I this is my version. It is super garlicky and much thinner than most. I can't stop eating it. If you eat it, there is no doubt that you'll be killing vampires for days to follow.


  • 1 can of chick peas, drained
  • 5-8 large cloves of raw garlic, peeled
  • At least 1/2 cup of tahini sauce
  • At least 1/2 cup of really peppery olive oil
  • juice of 6 lemons
  • salt to taste

Blend this up in a food processor until smooth. Keep adding more olive oil until it is a smooth and creamy. It should be the texture of a thick sauce.

*I know the garlic seems like too much. You can dial it back, but you won't be protected from vampires.
*I added 1/2 a bulb of garlic, and it was fantastic.
*The tartness of the lemon will be tempered with the tahini and the olive oil.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Have Yourself a Brooklyn Little Christmas

For a joyful holiday, this year, consider having yourself a Brooklyn little Christmas. Brooklyn  Brewery needs no introduction to those who have been around the block in the beer world. For those who aren't as familiar with Brooklyn, they are one of the old guard. They were there early days of modern craft beer, they are the foundational contributor to the current state of craft beer, and they know how to have a good time.

Representatives from Brooklyn Brewery have been visiting the fair city of Austin for years doing dinners at the Alamo Drafthouse, cheese and beer at the Draughthouse, dinner at Olivia, and now the Brooklyn Mash Series of events. 

A big thanks to Brooklyn for having at their Austin Mash this year!

Torrent and his Brooklyn Bombers!

Well, well, Merry Christmas to me!
This year's Brooklyn Mash offered an array of fun events featuring some of the beer industries' finest. John Holl from All About Beer magazine,  Steve Hindy, Co-Founder of Brooklyn Brewery, and Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson were a few out of towners who hosted the series of events. Let's take a photo tour of the Brooklyn Mash events.

One of the events I attended was the Dinner Lab collaboration held at Vintage Innovation. We were served a lovely scallop crudo with cucumber, charred pineapple, and spicy herb jus.
with Wild Streak.
A big thanks to Choula for sponsoring some pairings.

Here's a beautiful view of the Sorachi Ace.

Roasted squash medley with butternut squash emulsion, alpine cheese fonduta, and candied pepitas.
with Galahad- strong Belgian-style golden ale aged on cider lees.

Venison tartare with rye bread, Jerusalem artichoke puree and syrup, and Cholula-pickled shallots.
with Sorachi Ace

Apples with cinnamon cream, apple butter, and semolina spiced crumble.
with Intensified Coffee Porter

At the three headed beast, the pigs wanted to join in the fun as well. I can't get over these smiles. Chef Zack Northcutt, Swift's Attic, probably had the same expression cooking them. 

The lovely ladies of Brooklyn Brewery meet Torrent, 10 weeks old at the time. That dog is going to have a cultured palate at this rate.

While Brooklyn Mash in Austin wasn't held around the holidays, the knowledge of the beer industry and the experience of fine foods and beers is something that can be enjoyed year round. However, it isn't too late to have a little Brooklyn Christmas.  The Local 1 and 2 are some of my go-to beers for parties and gifts, and you can pick up a few of their other beers. How about pairing the coffee with a dark chocolate pumpkin cake or Sorachi Ace with some pan fried scallops? That's a holiday worthy meal!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Update your Texas Wine Education

Whatever you thought about Texas wine, let’s update those thoughts. I recently went on a media trip out to Spicewood Vineyards where I got to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones too. Spicewood Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards, Stone House Vineyards, and Inwood Estates Vineyards treated us to a beautiful fall evening of wine, bites, and education with friends.

Welcome to the fine world of Texas Wine. 

After arriving at a beautiful swath of Texas Hill Country, we enjoyed some wine straight from the barrel to bid farewell to the sun. Our wine tasting and education started with and introduction to the history of wine in Texas and the nation. Over the last 20 years, technology in irrigation, advancement in industry knowledge, and the influx of seasoned winemaker in Texas moving Texas wines forward.
Ron Yates gives us a short lesson on growing grapes.

One of the big themes of the evening was quality over quantity. This is not a new concept as this phrase is repeated in many industries that pride themselves on pouring their passion into their products. However, the importance of quality over quantity isn’t pervasive across all parts of the the Texas wine industry yet, particularly in the consumers. The more phenolic concentration in the grapes, the lower the yield, and the higher the price for a great bottle. However, that wine is going to be an exemplar of quality over quantity.

Susan Auler pouring some sips. 

Dan Gatlin feels so strongly about quality over quantity, that he offers an superflight experience at Inwood Estates. During the 2011 drought, Dan sacrificed allowed only 0.29 tons of grapes per acre to develop (9% of typical yield). This produced a harvest that was exceptionally high in concentration and phenolic development which produced a premium quality wine. For just $45 per person, you can taste a flight of these wines against their Spanish counterparts, Numanthia, from  side by side.

A big thank you to Susan Auler and Sergio Cuadra of Fall Creek Vineyards, Dan Gatlin of Inwood Estates Vineyards, Ron Yates of Spicewood Vineyards, and Gina Ross of Stonehouse Vineyard! It was a great way to to further my Texas wine education. 

This is baby Syrah. Oh, you're so young and cute!

Barrels of wine are much more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Sergio pouring some tastes in the cellar. 

And the vineyard mascot.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Treat Oak Ranch: Open for Food, Fun, and Cocktails

Disclaimer: I have enjoyed Treaty Oak products since they were established in a variety of settings. This post is based after an enjoyable media preview of Treaty Oak Ranch.

Pretty in Pink is pretty tasty. Look for some highly inventive cocktails with housemade ingredients. This is the Madagascar Libre made withTreaty Oak rum, Moody’s vanilla bean soda, lime juice, and Angostura bitters.
Treaty Oak has opened their ranch, and everyone in Dripping Springs can rejoice. While there have been several “adult” venues opening up on west of Austin, the ranch is a one stop shop for outdoor games, delicious bites, and inventive cocktails. Did I mention there’s a distillery on the ranch?
My only disappointment was that Matt Moody did not do this shirtless like it is done in Japan. Shaved ice + cocktails +Texas Summer = #winning.

The tacos did not disappoint. Duck confit anyone?
Let’s be Frank, the adjective and not Underwood. you’re reading this and wondering what to eat and drink way out there. During our preview, we were presented with a variety of tacos made on site. These are not your traditional tacos, rather they are thoughtfully created tacos that are still approachable by those who aren’t quite ready to deviate from the norm. In addition to tacos, cocktails, and shaved ice deliciousness, we were also treated to booze infused housemade s'mores. The restaurant isn’t open yet, so we’ll save that for another day.
Roasting boozy marshmallows on a beautiful Texas evening is hard to beat.
Though still in the building process, the Treaty Oak Ranch is going to be a destination for outdoor fun with great food and drinks. They are currently open on weekends. Please check the website as hours may change.

Here's a peak at the appetizers served.

And tacos. More tacos.

And open top fermenters to round it out.