Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for August, 2009

A visit to RDG for Houston Restaurant Week (crosspost with Houston Chowhound Yahoo! Group)

Posted by beer_chris on 22-August-2009

This evening the wife, a couple friends and I made a first visit to RDG for Houston Restaurant Week. It was a pretty enjoyable experience, and deserves a writeup here for all to see (methinks) .

Forgiving the fact that the restrooms are downstairs, the overall layout really is quite nice and certainly encourages what I would characterize as a civil see-and-be-seen atmosphere. People preen and show off, but its not what the place is all about. The small but sheik cocktail area downstairs is quiet, open and kinda’ casual, especially since there is a constant traffic of people enering the restaurant and filing back to the bathrooms. The quasi-floating stair (steps are backlit somehow with lighting) is plastered with signs encouraging patrons that have had anything at all to drink to take the elevator. Since it is in the rear of the restaurant this may be more of an attempt to control overall foot traffic than to ensure safety, but whatever – on to the upstairs.

The bar and dining room really is stunning. Outfitted in a subdued poplar/white pine (ish) wood motif, the slim granite tables match well with the completely recessed lighting. The noise level is pretty high – but with the small tables I didn’t have any trouble hearing my tablemates during dinner. The din actually made me feel more like I was part of an honest-to-goodness scene than trying to eat in a football stadium (as places like Glass Wall can often feel). A well done balance for RDG, especially considering the Tanglewood/River Oaks crowd that seemed to be smashing in on our Friday night visit.

On to dinner – we dined from the HRW menu, and ordered a couple of specialty cocktails. I had the RDG martini, which was a vodka martini flavored with watermelon. I didn’t notice this description on the menu – kinda annoying, since I don’ generally prefer vodka martinis or fruit flavored drinks. It was generally OK though. One of my companions tried to order beer, and was treated slightly like a pariah for even asking – the restaurant doesn’t even have a single beer on tap. What a waste. I can’t say I’m not surprised, but it’s simply ridiculous how fine dining restaurants simply ignore beer as a reasonable accompaniment to food. Shameful, really.

I ordered the tortilla soup, shrimp and grits and ice cream sandwich. Once I finished my martini, I ordered a glass of the Richard Partridge 2006 Chard. At $10/glass, it was certainly not a steal, but I figured it would balance out the slightly spicy flavors of a tortilla soup and the grits pretty well. In honesty, I ordered it as the ‘Robert Partridge’ Chard. May explain why the server looked at me like I was crazy at the time 🙂

My first glass, served with one of those little decanters, was so sour I could barely take a sip. I immediately told our server, who oddly took the decanter (not the glass) and told me ‘someone would taste it for me’. He disappeared. I proceeded to finish my soup and visit the downstairs restrooms, coming back to still no replacement. The waiter finally returned slightly before our entrees were served – informing me that they had opened a new bottle and this was ‘much better’.

He was right, it was much better – it actually tasted of Chardonnay.

I felt vindicated that whomever tasted my wine agreed it was turning to vinegar. However, I was also a little annoyed that my server had to let me know my claim of dislike of the wine needed to be ‘proven’. This annoyance faded as the slightly buttery Chard began to work really nicely with the grits. I let it go.

Wife got the beer glazed skirt, and it was really very good. They allowed her to order it medium, and although it had some ‘chew’ it was exceptionally beefy and very tender. My shrimp were cooked perfectly – the grits were buttery and wonderful and were soaked in the same spicy enchilada sauce-y broth that was in the tortilla soup. It was a nice main course.

In general all four of us were very pleased with our food.

Dessert was an ice cream sandwich. It was a scoop of choco in between two sticky (marshmallow?) cookies. It was good, nothing special. I had a cup of coffee and we called it a night.

The most shocking thing of the entire evening was the ‘normal’ menu. Entrees (which for fairness sake do include two sides) were on average about $50. The 2lb lobster main was priced at $68. The classic Cafe Annie dish – coffee crusted filet with potato pancake and (something else) was $48. With starter+main leading me to a $70-$80 per person cost BEFORE wine, I’m not sure that RDG is going to be on my list for return without the benefit of the HRW menu.

Get there while you can and HRW is still on – just make sure if you get some bad wine, show a little patience and take a look around at the beautiful people and space. It’ll get fixed and it won’t really matter that much to you 🙂


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Tasting notes – Saint Arnold DR#3

Posted by beer_chris on 9-August-2009

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #3 – Double IPA. Bottled 2006.

Appearance: Pours quite thin. No head, very little effervescence. Color a light copper, in the low 20s. Avoided settled yeast on the pour – there was a good bit of it for a beer that was not bottle conditioned.

Aroma: dominated by a malty sweetness. Just a hint of alcohol. Hops not really noticeable in the head at first, beer still pretty cold.

Flavor: Hop bitterness amazingly strong, overwhelms almost all other flavors. Use of some of the higher alpha varieties (Chinook? Simcoe?) seems likely, as the bitterness turns into a dryness on the back of the palate. Not much hop flavor – spiciness there somewhere, but doesn’t have that all-around hop flavor that I like so much about strong IPAs. Malt profile actually really nice – and quite noticeable once the bitterness subsides a little. A nice balance of crystal and caravienne. Getting all of that lovely roasty/toasty flavors, and just a hint of caramel sweetness at the very very end of each sip. It’s the malty finish that makes me want to go back for more. No noticeable fruity esters, no yeast or bread flavors.

Mouthfeel: Thin. Carbonation very low, pretty close to out of style. No warming alcohol notes, even at 9.5%. This was brewed extraordinarily carefully to prevent fusels from developing.

Overall Impression: It has aged too long. What I’ve learned drinking this beer is that big IPAs have a more delicate balance of the big flavors than I had previously thought. Time has not been kind to that balance. have so darn much going on that it doesn’t take a lot of entropy to put that out of whack. The good points of this beer are simply shadows of what used to be great. I need to drink this as quickly as I can.

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12 places to drink beer that aren’t Flying Saucer

Posted by beer_chris on 7-August-2009

Note, I have reconsidered my negative opinion of the Saucer – read why. Also, I committed a major sin as a commenter suggested, and left Petrol Station off the list. It’s probably number one for me now. I now know what I have been missing all these years!!

I’m not usually one to pick at a place where beer can be consumed. However, the recent discussion on the Houston Press Eating Our Words blog on ‘most overrated’ places got me thinking, and I couldn’t think of a more overrated place to drink beer than the Flying Saucer in downtown Houston.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the Flying Saucer. I think it’s a fine bar, it has a massive selection, but I just feel like too many times it gets a pass simply based on this fact. The major challenge at a place like that is keeping the draft beer fresh – meaning fresh lines. It’s a formidable challenge, and one the Saucer doesn’t do an especially good job at in my experience. I’ve basically resorted to drinking whatever is on the ‘fire sale’ that day, just because I know it won’t be stale beer-line beer. (As a side note, the fire sale beer is almost always something unique and tasty, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

I just tire of people constantly fawning over the place. When it’s crowded, which it often is at happy hour and prime beer drinking time, it is AMAZINGLY loud, and the service can be a little hit and miss if you don’t have a table and want to just order pints at the bar.

So, I put a comment on this post nominating The Flying Saucer as one of the most overrated places in Houston, and I quanitifed it by saying there were easily 12 better beer bars in town. Another commenter challenged me on this, so I’m going to make my list:

  1. Anvil
  2. Kelvin Arms
  3. Brewery Tap
  4. Gingerman
  5. Under the Volcano
  6. Market Square Bar and Grill
  7. Little Woodrows (Bellaire)
  8. Kays Lounge
  9. Kennealeys
  10. The Stags Head
  11. The Mucky Duck
  12. Hans Bier Haus

I could keep going, and going, and going….

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