Monday, December 21, 2009


Plans to nosh at Tacos A Go-Go were utterly and deliciously hijacked, and I ended up at Fins instead. Occupying the space Rickshaw's used to be, Fins is a fusion sushi seafood restaurant.

Before I go on, I'll give the full disclaimer that I was with two friends acquainted with the chefs. Now here's the good stuff.

First, the salt and pepper shrimp covered in sauteed chives was killer. Perfectly cooked, and addictively seasoned. Likewise, the calamari was light and crisp, and cornmeal battered fried oysters sizeable and crunchy.

The sushi rolls lacked glitz, but were wonderfully fresh and well balanced in size and flavor. Ditto to the sashimi. Traditional desserts like hot apple cobbler and sour cream chocolate cake seemed like unlikely candidates at a sushi place, but were warm, gooey, and just sweet enough.

Every dish was very thoughtfully prepared, and it was apparent this new restaurant is working towards consistency and getting the balance of flavors and textures just right. Despite my perhaps unfair dining experience, I think it's a safe bet that Fins is worthy of giving it a chance. Sample the non-sushi offerings and let me know how it goes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Houston winter FTW

You know what's great about winter in Houston?
The farmer's markets are unthwarted by silly things like "the cold" or "ice", enabling you to nab the last chocolate croissant from your favorite bread people. (Chocolate croissant to the person who tells me how to rotate this photo.)

I get to go to Central Market! Though, I suppose you can actually shop there year round...

You can roll down grassy hills (perhaps the only hill in Houston?) under clear blue skies.

And best of all, you can enjoy Hank's ice cream in 50 degree weather. These guys do it right with southern flair. Butter pecan, banana pudding, sweet potato pie, and you can even meet Hank. How did I live down the street from this place for years without knowing?? Do yourself a huge service and go out of your way to nab a scoop or two.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

peppermint squareos

DUDE. Homemade oreos. Like whoa. DO IT. These are the best cookies I've made in a really long time. You'll be sad if you don't make them.

And you know what's a lot easier than cutting circles of dough? Cutting squares.
Peppermint Squareos
Adapted from The Essence of Chocolate and Joy the Baker

For the Cookies:
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup plus 3 tbs all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (or baking powder)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant coffee
15 tbs unsalted butter (2 sticks - 1 tbs!), cut in 1/2-in cubes, at room temperature (this is important)

For the Filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (I did half white and dark)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract (taste your dough as you add)

For the cookies:

Heat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and instant coffee and mix. Slowly add the butter a few pieces at a time, stirring as you go. The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces. As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer. It will look wet, but loose. Squeeze a handful. It should hold together.

Roll the dough straight from the mixer. The dough becomes hard to work with if chilled.

Transfer the dough to a board and shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches. Cut the block into two pieces.
One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until about 1/8-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or a knife to cut out your shapes of choice.

Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. These cookies don't spread.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, pending on the size of your cutouts. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for 2 to 5 minutes. They'll be too soft to move straight from the oven. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

For the Filling:

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate and peppermint extract. Make sure all the chocolate is covered by the cream. Let stand for 1 minute (this is important), then whisk the white chocolate until completely melted.

Transfer the filling to a small bowl and let stand until room temperature. You’ll need the filling thicker to assemble the cookies, so cover the filling and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or an hour, until a thick consistency is reached. If the filling hardens too much, it can be rewarmed in the microwave for a few seconds.

To Assemble the Cookies:
Place half of the cookies upside down on a work surface. Whip the filling lightly with a whisk to loosen it. It will lighten in color and fluff up. Don’t overwhip or the filling may begin to separate.

Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Or just spread it on with a knife. Pipe or spread filling in the center of each upside down cookie. Gently, using your fingers, press the cookies together until the filling comes just to the edges. I had plenty of leftover filling for bowl licking enjoyment.