Blog of an aspiring foodie

The Houston Chowhounds and Me – Clear Lake edition

Posted by beer_chris on 8-February-2009

I’m a little late on this update, but last Monday I met up with a group of Houston Chowhounds for a lovely day of stopping among some of my favorite places in the Clear Lake/Bay Area. I joined this little group back in late November, ostensibly to get plugged into the miracle berry tasting, but really because I was making a real effort to identify with and get more involved in the rapidly growing online food community in Houston. I dove right in – organizing an event within a week of joining, but I’ve always been a little worried that I am in over my head. After all – I thought everyone was honest to goodness writers and restauranteurs, certainly capable of outstripping my tiny modicum of  ‘aspiring’ knowledge at every turn. In short (I worried), could I really expect to add anything to the conversation or was I going to be a groupie – just getting in the way?

After this last event, I’m convinced that this is a group of people that I ‘fit’ with, and I’m done asking the self-doubting questions and ready to just enjoy being part of the community.

So – to the event: I was overdue a day off, having previously planned on MLK day – Jaime is off that day so I try to take it if I can. As it turned out I had to spend that Monday in the office, so a quick scan of the calendar to replace it and it was obvious – the day after the Super Bowl was downright inviting me to add ‘VAC’ to it.

So I started to plan. Since I’m not going to be in town for my birthday this year I’ve been really lamenting not being able to do my usual tradition: all-day Houston pub crawl. Coupled with some recent discussions with my HouCHie brethern on some yum-tastic places out near my house and I was inspired – lunch at Gilhooley’s in San Leon, followed by a pint or three at the Bayview Duck (with some Scotch eggs of course). Mix in a fantastic spicy bloody mary and some crawfish at Outriggers in Seabrook and wind the day up with All You Can Eat lobster at Cullens.

Honestly, I expected a couple people at Gilhooleys, and then to be on my own for the rest of the day. I was even planning on taking a book to read – like my pub crawls, it  was my event, I was doing it to enjoy myself – so was totally doing it whether I had people with me or not.

Needless to say, I underestimated the tenacity and committment of the Houston Chowhounds. V, J, J, S & C stuck with me the whole day, and we had a great time. From introducing San Leon first timers to the wonders of the boudin balls and the namesake smoked oysters at Gilhooleys all the way to the crusty pizza at our final stop, these folks stuck with it and we had a fantastic time.  A couple thoughts:

  • I was kinda worried about Gilhooleys being open for lunch on a Monday. Turns out they were hopping. V asked me about this – based on the number of guys in nomex it was snap to figure it out – these were plant operators coming off of their 12s and eating lunch before heading  home for bed. I even met an XOM employee (Brent) from the Baytown refinery eating with his son (who worked at Chevron as an engineer)
  • Oysters are definitely off of what they can be. The oysters Gilhooley were great, as usual, but the raw were just not as sweet as I am used to for February. Also, although they were good size they weren’t OMG huge. Ike is definitely affecting the oyster harvest – quality and quantity.
  • Fried chicken livers were not a huge hit with the table, but I LOVE ’em.
  • Patty melts are apparently for quick consumption 😉
  • Fullers ESB is really tasty at the Bayview Duck. Easily the best and freshest English beer in town – even beats Brewery Tap. I had three (or was it four?) pints, and they went down fast. However, Alec (the owner) has me worried. Glazers is getting out of the beer business, and he told me he is going to have to find a new distributor for his beers. Since he is in Galveston County and is one of the only places handling these beers it may be a challenge. Here’s hoping I don’t go back to find only Guinness and American Light Lager on tap next time.
  • Alec can fry a perfect scotch egg (for a whopping $5 each!!) but other items remain a challenge (sorry Alec, but the seafood chowder and Yorkshire pudding were not so great)
  • I’m so happy that Outriggers is A-OK and rebuilding after Ike. The bloody mary there is really the best I’ve ever had, and with the outdoor deck up and going again I am really hoping they are headed for a great summer season. Seabrook really needs a comeback. They need to get the Saint Arnold (and everything else) back on tap though!!
  • Tookies appears dead. RIP squealer and Dr. Pepper in a carafe. I’ll always love you.
  • So far this season (2 meals), crawfish remain a disappointment. While not as bad as the ones I had at Ragin Cajun a few months ago, the ones at Outriggers were still way too small. I was happily surprised to find them freshly boiled for us in the middle of a weekday with no one else in the place.
  • AYCE at Cullens was scrapped in favor of a trip to a place I had never been. On Cs recommendation we went to the Turtle Club in Seabrook. It took some work to find this place – it’s right on the water at Lakeshore Drive off of NR 1. However, it was worth it. Beer only in cans. Dive quality setup – mens restroom didn’t have a door – just those big heavy plastic strips that usually block off grocery store cold boxes. Clearly full of regulars on a Monday evening. After sitting at our table for a few minutes an crusty looking biker guy came up to our table – and promptly began doing slight of hand magic tricks, culminating in a card trick that had a card face up reading ‘magician works for tips’.  ROFL. We did as we were told.
  • I ended up convincing a few of my compatriots to go to Boondoggles with me for some wood-fired pizza and some great beers. We asked them to leave the pizza in a little longer to really blacken it – and they COMPLIED! It was a nice endpoint to a really fun day.

Bottom line – drinking and eating your way from lunch to the end of happy hour with the Houston Chowhounds is downright fun, and I’ve finally met a group of people in this town that enjoy this type of day as much as I always have. We all kept looking at one another at every stop and saying, “This is GREAT! What a DAY!”

What a day indeed. Methinks I’ve found some kindred spirits.

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One Response to “The Houston Chowhounds and Me – Clear Lake edition”

  1. […] actually took the day off of work to join Chris over at Houston Foodie, Victoria, Chris, Syd and Jenny to meet up for lunch.  Yeah, that’s right – I have an eating addiction.  I […]

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