Getting back to the “real world”

All smiles on Monday morning for her first day

We survived our first week of daycare! I almost can’t believe how quickly my maternity leave flew by and how our little Heidi will be 3 months old in a few days.

Dropping her off on Monday was difficult but I kept my tears away until after I left the school. I know she’s in good hands but I was more upset about not seeing her happy face all day long. The great thing is that everyday I picked her up she saw me and smiled, which pretty much made my heart explode over and over again. Thank God she missed me.. or maybe just missed the boob, but whatever, that’s me too lol!

I was lucky to have a trial transition this week instead of having to jump back into a full-time work day. I’m sort of in this limbo period between jobs as my current company moves our office to Miami and my new gig gets ramped up. So I put in a few hours a day at the new place to help get us used to an early morning routine and figure out how much time it takes to get us both ready and packed to get out the door. My new office is only about 20 minutes from the daycare in evening traffic so I’m really glad the commute is much closer; it helps with my worry about being on the other side of town from my girl.

Of course being in a new environment has its challenges but overall Heidi is adjusting very well. She doesn’t sleep as much while she’s at school so the evenings this week have been extra sleepy. She woke up for a dream feed 3/5 nights which I wasn’t used to but she went back down easily so I could still get some rest before the alarm went off. 

It was nice to have some more structure to our days this week and for me to feel more like me again with work. Don’t get me wrong, I loved maternity leave and the lazy days and no-limit flexibility but I like working and I’m looking forward to having something for myself again. I’m sure I’ll have days of extreme mom guilt because I’ll miss the small things throughout the day but we’ll find our right balance and Heidi will still be a happy girl, make friends and learn her independence. And I’ll have a reason to get up and make myself presentable to society and contribute to growing a business. 

This will be our new norm soon. I’m mournful and excited for the next step in motherhood. I don’t have a newborn on my hands anymore.

First St. Paddy’s Day

Dining Bliss: Haven

I had been hearing great things about Haven and had read several good write ups about it so when a Bloomspot¬†deal for a 6 course dinner for two at the chef’s table came through my email inbox, I figured it was something we couldn’t pass up. I forwarded it along to the boyfriend and he purchased it and immediately set up a reservation to celebrate our 6 month anniversary. I know this is a small milestone but we will find any excuse to celebrate with good food around Houston! ūüôā

We pulled up to complimentary valet service and upon walking into the restaurant, it felt upscale with a splash of neighborhood casual. While there were white linens on each of the tables, the wood beams and slatted wood walls, along with the large patio off the dining room set a comfortable dining mood.

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We were seated at a two-person bar-like area overlooking the kitchen, directly next to where all the dishes were coming out to be served. We could see everything going on from the chef who was in charge of seafood and sides, to the meat and poultry chef, to the plating area.

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We ordered some wine but were not given a menu because owner and Chef Randy Evans oversaw our entire meal while he simultaneously ran the orders coming in.¬†Within the first 10 minutes I was¬†mesmerized¬†by the organized chaos. The ticket machine was printing table after table of orders, Chef Randy was calling out each menu item and any special instructions, the chefs on the line were dodging each other as they prepared their responsibilities, and runners were busy buzzing back and forth picking up and delivering plates. Seeing all of this first hand gave me a whole new appreciation for the running of a restaurant. We even got to see some “hiccups” and how they were taken care of so smoothly.

Chef Randy Evans sparked the idea for Haven through his desire to highlight the great work of farmers, ranchers, boatmen and artisans in the Texas area. And let me tell you, this farm-to-table concept was very apparent in each of our dishes. Each time one of our courses came out, either Chef Randy or Chef Jean Philippe Gaston took the time to tell us about all of the ingredients, including where they came from. It was really awesome to learn about the many local Texas farmers, ranchers and fishers these guys use as well as how they try to minimize waste by using leftovers for other dishes.

Our meal began with an appetizer from Cove Cold Bar, a raw seafood bar located inside of Haven. The tuna was paired perfectly with the pickled mushrooms and had just enough kick from the dehydrated jalapenos.

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Chicken of the Sea: big eye tuna / pickled beech mushrooms/ jalapeno/ garlic/ radish/ brussel sprout chips

The second and third courses were soup and salad. I wish I had gotten a photo of the soup before it was poured into the bowl. The dish came out with a bed of diced onions and heirloom tomatoes topped w a dollop of lemon-olive oil ice cream. Tomato soup was poured  table-side from a kettle over the ice cream to create creamy tomato goodness!

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Heirloom Tomato Sundae: 1015 onions, lemon-olive oil ice cream, aged balsamic

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arugala, strawberry vinaigrette, candied pecans, pink peppercorn goat cheese and quail

While we were enjoying the first few courses of our dinner I was watching the dishes that were coming out of the kitchen and I noticed corn dogs! When I think of corn dogs I typically associate them with fair food or a kids menu item so I was very surprised to see it come across the line. It was served with a mini glass of what looked like lemonade so I just had to ask Chef Randy about it. I was right about the lemonade, but come to find out they were shrimp corn dogs! He put in an order of them for us to try because apparently it is one of their signature dishes. It was pretty tasty and after trying the lemonade I was half tempted to order a full glass of it!

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Shrimp Corn Dog: lemonade, tabasco mash remoulade

Next up were the two main courses: fish and meat. The queen snapper was dusted in horseradish so it had a thin layer of crispiness on the outside but inside it was tender and¬†flaky¬†— SO good! The wagyu beef was very flavorful and tender as well.

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Gulf Fish & Head-On Shrimp: horseradish dusted, quinoa ratatouille, purple hummus

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Akaushi Flat Iron Steak: leeks, wild mushrooms, sherry glace

At this point I was beginning to feel stuffed but I knew I had to save room for dessert, and I’m glad I did. We got to sample a little bit of everything which was perfect because lately I have been needing to satisfy my sweet tooth after every dinner.

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sorghum ‚Äď pecan ice cream // coconut tres leche bread pudding: dulce de leche sauce, meringue, toasted coconut // chocolate ice box pie: chocolate cookie crust, mocha cream, cocoa nibs, white chocolate shavings // cheesecake: housemade cream cheese cookie crumb crust, salted caramel

Everything about this meal was fresh, full of flavor and inventive without being too “out there”. I think there is something to be said about a restaurant that can offer traditional dishes with a twist. I would recommend Haven even to my friends who are not as adventurous with what they are willing to try. There is probably something on the menu for everyone.

After dinner, Chef Randy gave us a special tour of their garden. They grow a good amount of herbs and veggies on site which is something you don’t see a lot of around town. The variety of stuff they had growing in a limited space was quite impressive.

Chris and I can seriously not say enough nice things about Chef Randy Evans and Chef Jean Philippe Gaston. It is safe to say that they are the ones who really rounded out this dining experience for us and made it well worth every dollar spent. Despite being busy with a Saturday night dinner service they took the time to explain each dish, answer random questions and just have conversation with us. They are probably two of the nicest, most humble guys. It was an experience all in its own to get to pick their brains about the inner workings of this restaurant.

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So, if you haven’t had a chance to catch a meal at Haven, I HIGHLY¬†recommend¬†that you do!

Restaurant Review: The Pass [& Provisions]

It really should have been my New Year’s Resolution, but instead, in addition to giving up things for Lent I’m also deciding to add a healthy habit to my routine — blogging again! I made too many excuses between my last post and this one as to why I was too busy to write, but I guess better late than never, right?

The past three months have just FLOWN by! Back in November I bought the cutest little Corgi pup and named her Nessie. Little did I know that just when I had sworn off boys, this sweet monster of mine would introduce me to a cute dog and his owner. That’s right, 101 Dalmatians style. HAH!

Fast forward a few months and here I am with the nicest and coolest boy on the planet to call mine on Valentine’s Day. ((Had to squeeze something mushy in!))

Well Chris, the boy mentioned above, planned way ahead (I’m talking January 6!) and made reservations for us at The Pass & Provisions for our Valentine’s dinner. When he told me where we were going I had no clue what to expect until I started reading up on the place. We’re talking top-of-the-line foodie spot. As the days ticked off the calendar I was getting more and more anxious for our date. I knew it was going to be super fancy and adventurous but I was not expecting to be mind blown.

The Pass & Provisions is actually two restaurants in one. The Pass is fine-dining with a prix fixe menu while Provisions is more everyday-casual dining. We arrived to complimentary valet and upon walking inside, the place looked very modern-hipster. We told the hostess the name for our reservation and were escorted into a wall. Yes, I said into a wall. I was very confused as we walked past what I could tell was Provisions dining area and were stopped by a huge, black, floor to ceiling wall. The hostess pushed one area of the wall and BAM! secret entrance into a completely pristine black and white dining room. Just by this grand entrance I am already feeling super important.

We are seated. Immediately a waitress comes over and asks if we would prefer black napkins over the white napkins that were already placed at our table. What restaurant have you been to that asks your napkin color choice?! After we decide to stick with the white napkins another waitress comes over to promptly fill our water glasses while we decide on the 8 course experience. We had NO IDEA what kind of back flips our taste buds were about to do for the next 4 hours.

There is a sommelier – fancy word for a wine waiter – in the dining room that helps you choose your drink of choice for the evening. Since we didn’t opt for the pairings we settled on a delicious pinot noir rose.

It was literally freezing inside the restaurant and I had left my jacket with the coat check. I guess our waitress could tell I was shivering and offered me a shawl, which actually seriously helped me to enjoy my dinner more.  The service was impeccable, with everyone on staff being super attentive without feeling like they are hovering.

One detail I failed to mention earlier — the kitchen is open to the dining room area and you can see the chefs and sous chefs working diligently in quiet ordered chaos. If we ever go back, we want to request the table nearest the kitchen just so we can watch how they create these artful dishes.

The menu does the description of these dishes no justice. I could not even try to pronounce or repeat even half of the ingredients and techniques that were described to us as they brought each of our courses out. The chefs themselves even came out to present a few of the plates which was pretty cool. So without further ado…

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Tasting Menu [photo taken from http://www.underconsideration.com]

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The most handsome boy in the restaurant.

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EXTRA: Palate Prep: Dehydrated Gulf Shrimp

This was an interesting way to start the meal. It tasted like shrimp but was like a very fragile chip.

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SNACKS: Oyster/Foie Gras ‘ol Fashioned/Nasturtium Soup/Black Olive Pocky

My favorite of these was the pocky followed closely by the oyster.

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HAM & EGGS: Caviar Service

Interesting play on “ham & eggs” — caviar and pig skin. I have never eaten caviar, but if I was going to try it sometime, I am glad it was at The Pass. The seasonings and pudding layers really added to this dish and it was even yummier when you put a glob of it on the crunchy chicharon pictured below.

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Cracklin’ to compliment the Caviar

This came out literally crackling! I watched in awe at some of the HUGE pieces that were served to the larger parties.

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RAW: Nori Bucatini/Tofu/Uni/Clams

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BEEF: Tar Tar/Yolk

I was nervous to try this because of the experience Chris had told me about eating beef tar tar in Europe. He said he felt so sick after taking the first bite and that it was just horrible tasting. But unsurprisingly, the chefs here knew what they were doing because this was one of my top favorites of the night.

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Marrow Brioche to compliment the Tar Tar

This was a little bread roll that you took out and ate with the tar tar. Inside the bone is bone marrow seasonings that you could add as you pleased to the tar tar.

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BREAD: French (onion soup) Toast/Onion Variations

To.Die.For. I love onion. That is all.

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PIG: Headcheese/Bread (blood) Pudding/Candied Apple

I was literally TERRIFIED when I saw headcheese on the menu. For the weeks leading up to this night I was hoping and hoping they would change the menu and take this off. Chris and I had been on our Sunday grocery shopping trip several times and every time we made our stop at the deli counter he would always point out the atrocious looking chunk of headcheese. It looked like gelatin with chunks of God knows what inside. PUKE. But as with the caviar, the chefs somehow made it pretty dang tasty!

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EXTRA: Transition from savory to sweet. White Chocolate Ice Cream with Cocoa Seltzer

I loved the presentation of this. It came with a lid so it looked like a full egg. This ice cream was so delicious but the overall dish was just enough sweetness to move us into the dessert portion of the night.

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FERNET: Milk Chocolate & 27 other secret ingredients

The presentation on this was incredible. It looked like a mini forest on a plate. There was so much going on here. 27 ingredients.

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CHEESE: Macarons

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PETIT FOURS

The 8 course meal, turned into an 11 course meal with the extras that we got. When they brought the bill they gave us two individual lemon cakes for breakfast the next morning! This dinner was definitely an experience unlike any I have ever had before — it takes “foodie” to a whole new level for me.

If you are an adventurous eater and have a few hours to indulge, I would HIGHLY recommend exposing your taste buds to The Pass!

Valentine’s Dinner SUCCESS!!