Cacao & Cardamom

If you’re looking for the top luxury and gourmet chocolate shop in town than look no further that Cacao & Cardamom, located in the Galleria Area.  Inspired by ingredients and spices from around the world, Cacao & Cardamom brings a new twist on chocolate.  I got to visit the luxury chocolate shop for a ‘Chocolate 101 Class & Cocktail Reception’ hosted by the creator and owner of Cacao & Cardamom, Annie Rupani.  Annie proudly proclaims that each bon-bon is hand-crafted and hand painted in cocoa butter to express the flavors and originality of each piece of chocolate.  Cacao & Cardamom has various flavors such as Strawberry Bubble Gum, Five Spice Praline, Coco Curry, Blueberry Lime and Pineapple Fennel Caramel just to name a few.  They also make about 20 types of chocolate per day!

Fortunately for us we each got to partake in a personal lesson from Annie on how she makes her decadent chocolates. It was my first time taking a class on how to make chocolate and it was very entertaining mixing and mingling with the other guests, having fun, and looking a bit clueless, as to how to make our own chocolates.  Annie was more than personable and patient with her guests teaching us step-by-step her process for making her fabulous gourmet chocolates.

We were also treated to a champagne reception and got to sample some of the sweets.  Perhaps the best chocolate I have ever had! It is a bit pricey? Yes.  Is it worth it? Definitely yes! Each chocolate is like a work of art and you can really see the time and dedication she took for each single piece of chocolate that she hand crafted.  A beautiful decor shop with nicely arranged various chocolate syrups and spices on display for your viewing pleasure.  Not bad for a 24 year old former student who had originally went to school to become a lawyer.

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 10         Overall Experience: 8.5

5000 Westheimer Rd #602, Houston, TX 77056 (281) 501-3567

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Owner, Annie Rupani

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Adair Kitchen

Adair Kitchen mixes a fresh food twist on classic American casual dishes.  Equipped with an Espresso/Coffee/Juice bar, Adair has a down home kitchen style feel and ambiance. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and I heard it can get pretty crowded so I decided to go on weekday for breakfast to beat the rush.  The service at Adair Kitchen is order at the front and sit down service, as the waiters bring the food to you.

I couldn’t decided between a few items so being the foodie I am I ordered everything that sounded appeasing to my taste buds.  Balsamic eggs was the first thing I wanted to try which consists of two poached eggs on grilled asparagus, baked parmesan tomato, and wheat toast.  A little too much balsamic glaze for my liking but I did enjoy the poached eggs.  Unfortunately thats all I really enjoyed from the meal.  The parmesan baked tomato was ok nothing special.

The next thing I ordered was the baked peaches and cottage cheese.  Cinnamon baked peaches served with cottage cheese.  I must admit I am not a fan of cottage cheese but wanted to try this dish.  It was a nice pleasant surprise it was yummy and my son actually ate it as well.

The stand out item for breakfast was the Banana multi-grain pancake.  It was delicious! In fact I didn’t even need butter or syrup it was moist and delicious on its own.  I would definitely recommend ordering the pancakes at Adair.  Overall I must say I wasn’t really impressed with my breakfast.  In total I spent about $22, which is not bad at all (I also ordered a small cappuccino).  I would come again to try their lunch and dinner menu options.

5161 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 77056
(713) 623-6100

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 6         Overall Experience: 8

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Sweet Paris: Crêperie & Cafe

Tucked away in the trendy, Rice Village area not too far from Rice University, is a special place of pastry heaven by the name of Sweet Paris.  It’s been years since I have had the chance to taste a delectable Crêpe since when I used to frequent Creperie NYC located in New York City’s West Village.  They by far are the best Crêpes I have had the pleasure of tasting, but Sweet Paris could be an extremely close second.  

It’s a small cafe and you could easily pass it up if you’re not exactly looking for it.  Taking a page from the small cafes in France, all Crêpes are prepared fresh and right on the spot as soon as you order.  I arrived a bit early in the morning so I wanted to first try one of the breakfast Crêpes, so I selected the CROQUE MADAME (two scrambled eggs, gruyere cheese, smoked ham & béchamel sauce).  Savory and delicious I was extremely satisfied with my choice!  Maybe the best breakfast I have had in awhile.  I had never had gruyere cheese before and tasting it melted with the eggs and smoked ham was beyond satisfying to my appetite. And topped with the béchamel sauce made the whole meal complete. I highly recommend this dish!   Although I’ve read a few reviewers complain of the prices at Sweet Paris (my breakfast was $8.00) I think the price was more than fair considering the amount and the size of the dish.  I shared with my son and we both could not even finish it.  

I had a bit more room in my stomach and did not want to leave without trying one of the sweet Crêpes, I went back and ordered the S’MORES (nutella, torched marshmallows, graham crackers, & semi-sweet chocolate).  I had ordered the vanilla bean ice cream to go with my dish but unfortunately they forgot to add it to my dish, however I didn’t dwell on it too much.  If anyone knows me they know I have a sweet-tooth and a love for chocolate like no other but the s’mores was a bit too much even for me!  It was still delicious but next time I think I will try the Apple Cinnamon Creme Brûlée! 

An amazing and romantic decor, Sweet Paris does have limited seating, however there is outdoor patio seating in the front.  The decor and lighting were very “sweet” and although I haven’t been to Paris yet (traveling next year) I assume the design was to resemble a nice, small cafe on the streets of Paris.  A great place for a first date or to have brunch.  Weekends get pretty busy and crowded so save your trip for their off peak hours.  

2420 Rice Blvd, Houston, TX 77005
(713) 360-6266

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 8.5         Overall Experience: 8

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The Waffle Bus

I have been hearing quite a few rumblings about the infamous Waffle Bus and their fried chicken and waffles.  I just had lunch earlier so I wasn’t in the mood to try their fried chicken and waffles but did opt for dessert, so I wanted to try the ‘Strawberry Irish Cream Creme Brûlée’ waffle.  After I put in my order it literally took about a minute before my name was called and I was staring into the best looking waffle I have seen in awhile.  However when I took my first bite I was underwhelmed. To start my waffle was cold and a bit hard on the outsides, also there was so much creme on the waffle it made it soggy in the middle.  I read from other reviewers that their waffles are nice, crunchy and sweet and unfortunately that just wasn’t the case with my experience.  Did it taste good? Yes no doubt about that, however you can put Irish Cream and Strawberries on anything and I’d pretty much eat it. Did my experience live up to the hype I heard so much about The Waffle Bus? For me that would be a no.  I think if I see them again in the area I will try the chicken and waffle combo and maybe I will have better luck next time. To view their schedule and menu visit their site http://www.thewafflebus.com

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 6  

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Moderno’s Tex-Mex

A new Mexican restaurant, Moderno’s Tex-Mex, opened down the street from my parent’s home about a month ago and I wanted to check it out.  Of course Texas is supposed to be known for the best Tex-Mex food around so I wanted to stop by Moderno myself and see if it satisfied my appetite!  I came on a weekday afternoon and was advised they do not start table service until after 4pm.  That was fine with me, so I ordered at the bar.  I wanted to try the Baja Tacos (2 fried fish or fried shrimp tacos with cabbage & cilantro ranch served with refried beans and rice), so I ordered one fish and one shrimp taco.  I also wanted to try their frozen house margarita ($6.25) so I ordered that as well. 

As I waited for my meal I took pictures of the decor and immediately gravitated towards the bottled wall.  A cool display of wine and liquor bottles mounted halfway inside of a wall. Very cool.  My margarita came a short while later and it was strong! I honestly did not mind I love a good kick to any drink I order.  The food, to be honest, is mediocre. Nothing really stood out or had my taste buds exploding.  I tasted more cabbage than I did fish or shrimp in my tacos and I was a tad bit disappointed. My humble opinion is the price point for the meal should have been lower.  The price ($10.95) did not match the taste where I have had better quality food at other various Tex-Mex spots. Still Moderno may be a place to come when you want to have a couple of drinks with friends and check out their Happy Hour on Fridays until 7pm with drink specials and half off appetizers. 

10455 Briar Forest Dr., Ste 150
Houston, TX 77042
Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 6         Overall Experience: 6
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BLU Restaurant & Lounge

I love a good brunch like any other foodie, so I decided to try a new place located in Sugarland, BLU Restaurant.  It doesn’t hurt that they offer a complimentary drink with Sunday brunch!  We got there exactly when it opened at 11:00am and it seemed like the employees were dragging to get the place still set up, so we did have to wait a bit for a server to come over and take our order, however when our waiter did come I opted with a Mimosa and my mom ordered the Cucumber Lemonade. I am not a pulp girl and my mimosa had a lot of pulp in it however I still enjoyed it!

For brunch I ordered the CRAB CAKE SLIDERS (three mini crispy crab cake, avocado, lettuce, tomato, chipotle aioli & crispy fries) and my mom ordered the FRENCH TOAST (brioche, banana n’ sugar walnut cinnamon, whipped butter).  Again it was a bit of a wait for our food and not sure why when there was hardly anyone there yet but when the food did come out we enjoyed our meal.  Not the best crab cakes I have tasted and trust me I have tasted a lot, but I was so famished by the time the food arrived I ate almost all of it.  

Another fun note to mention is they have a live jazz band during brunch playing outside on the patio (a saxophone and keyboard player).  It was fun and entertaining because my son was trying to be a third member of the band and they gave him a cool toy to play with as well.  Very funny duo and great live entertainment!

Would I come back to BLU for brunch? Probably not. I was not that impressed with the service or food, however I would like to check out the lounge on the weekends and enjoy some of their specialty cocktails. 

2248 Texas Dr, Sugar Land, TX 77479
(281) 903-7324

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 6.5          Overall Experience: 6.5

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Étoile Cuisine et Bar

My final and last stop for my foodie adventures on my Houston Restaurant Week trip was to Étoile Cuisine et Bar located in the Uptown Park area of Houston.  I don’t believe in my 33 years I have ever treated myself to a nice French cuisine.  I have tasted French food but only in passing, like hors d’ oeuvres passed at a party or event, but never truly got the full experience to sample a taste of France.  I must admit stopping by Étoile Cuisine was a last minute decision, I had never heard of it before, but it was in close proximity to a relative’s house so I decide to check it out.  And I am so delighted I did! An amazing gem and mouthwatering and beautifully plated meals!  

They offer a three-course brunch menu for $25/per person for Houston Restaurant Week. Every single bite I had in my mouth was flavorful, pleasurable, heavenly, etc. I could literally go on. The service was exceptional and the food complemented the service (or maybe vice versa).  Every single thing I ordered was divine! I opted to dine outside on their front patio as opposed to inside because again I was with my son and the inside is a very upscale setting but small enough where it feels a bit casual as well.  

My first course was the VICHYSSOISE SOUPE which I was surprised it was served cold which I am assuming is the norm in France but here in the States when you think of soup you think of a warm taste hitting your tongue. The taste and flavor was amazing! I honestly would have devoured it without the salmon and cream but they were an added bonus! My second meal SOLE “MEUNIÈRE” was by far the best meal I have had throughout my Houston Restaurant Week experience. Every single piece of food on the plate was bursting in flavor (and color).  From the potatoes, to the cauliflower and even the snap peas were flavored to perfection and the fish was beyond amazing! I ate every single bite.  For my dessert and final course I went with the most popular ordered item the FINE TARTE AUX POMMES.  Again I ate every single bite. The caramel drizzled over the apple tart was to die for. My eyes did roll in the back of my head once or twice. 

I highly recommend this place to any and everyone.  I was beyond pleased with my meal and service and hope to come back again to try the dinner menu. My regards to French native Philippe Verpiand, who is the executive chef and owner of Étoile Cuisine et Bar. Stunning food and impeccable service! 

1101-11 Uptown Park Blvd
Houston, TX 77056   (832) 668-5808
Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 10          Overall Experience: 9.5
VICHYSSOISE SOUPE potato and leek soup, smoked salmon flakes, whipped cream

VICHYSSOISE SOUPE
potato and leek soup, smoked salmon flakes, whipped cream

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SOLE “MEUNIÈRE”  (Gluten Free) lemon sole, fingerling potatoes, roasted cauliflower, snap peas, lemon caper butter

SOLE “MEUNIÈRE”  (Gluten Free)
lemon sole, fingerling potatoes, roasted cauliflower, snap peas, lemon caper butter

 
FINE TARTE AUX POMMES warm apple tart, vanilla ice cream, fleur de sel caramel sauce

FINE TARTE AUX POMMES
warm apple tart, vanilla ice cream, fleur de sel caramel sauce

 
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Common Bond Bakery & Cafe

Is it possible that Common Bond Bakery could be the best new bakery to open in Houston?  After reading several raving reviews online (some critics compared Common to pastries found in bakeries in France) I had to visit Common Bond Bakery, who just recently opened its doors earlier this year. I decided to take the trip to the newly opened cafe with my foodie buddy J’den (my one year old son).

We decided to go on a Sunday and arrive right when they opened at 9:00am.  Unfortuautley everyone else that morning had the same idea. We arrived at Common Bond at around 9:10am and there was a long line already out the door!  Of course this sight may have deterred some, but I for one was excited because it meant that there must be some truth behind the hype of this place!

As we waited in line, which was only probably 10-15 minutes total, I was building more excitement as I smelled the fresh baked goods and got to take a glimpse of the scrumptious pastries they had on display over the counter.  An unfortunate thing to occur while we waited was the limited seating at Common. It’s a fairly small space for customers to eat, although they do have outdoor seating that is limited as well. I felt discouraged because I wanted to order something off their brunch menu and knew that would not be possible upon seeing that the seating area was almost full and there was no room for me and my son to sit.  So that meant we would have to take our order to go.

I ordered the Fruit Croissant (amazing), Sticky Bun, Kugelhopf, and a Chocolate Hazelnut Brioche (delicious)! The total came out to about $20 for everything but I have to say every single pastry we sampled was tasty. I would definitely come back, but I would suggest anyone to come on a weekday to avoid the long lines, crowd and to get a parking space!

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 7.5               Overall Experience: 5

1706 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

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The Tasting Room Wine Cafe

The next stop on my Houston Restaurant Week tour was The Tasting Room Wine Cafe for brunch.  Offering a $25 three-course brunch per person, I decided my first course would be the CRÈME BRÛLÉE FRENCH TOAST (slow dough brioche, strawberries, real maple syrup). My honest opinion is that I’ve had better and the toast was extremely soggy, however it did taste good. I let my son eat most of it because I was reserving room in my stomach for the second course. Next up was the SHRIMP & GRITS (gulf shrimp, creole cream, pico de gallo grits). The best shrimp & grits I’ve had thus far. It had a Creole taste to it, something that could easily be served at a New Orleans restaurant. The cream and flavoring of the grits were delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and cleaned my plate! Finally for the finale was the gluten-free FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE (raspberry coulis, chantilly cream). Very disappointing. It seemed almost frozen like it had been in the freezer and frankly tasted store bought. I took a few bites and did not finish the rest. The positive is the chantilly cream was simply yummy! I loved my experience at The Tasting Room. My servers Andrew and Leah were exceptionally nice and so was everyone who worked there.

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 7               Overall Experience: 8

818 Town and Country Boulevard Suite 100
Houston, TX 77024

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The Union Kitchen

Continuing my journey for Houston Restaurant Week, my next stop was at The Union Kitchen located in the Memorial area of Houston. I was excited to taste the menu since I had previewed what they would be serving beforehand by searching online. Unfortunately, my server informed me that they would not be doing the restaurant week menu due to the busy brunch service at that particular time. Although disappointed, I had never dined at The Union Kitchen and was still excited to try a few things on the menu. I could’ve went for the brunch service but wanted to try some healthier alternatives on the menu so I went with the popular Crab Napoleon and Farmers Market Salad.

Stunning presentation on both dishes and extremely appetizing and enjoyable! The Crab Napoleon consists of Texas blue lump crab with avocado & caribbean fruit salsa. The Farmers Market Salad is a cucumber ring served with local mixed field greens, pecans, goat cheese & cherry tomatoes & balsamic vinegar. Both dishes amazing and you don’t have to put a dent in your wallet for either dish. The Crab Napoleon is $12 and the Farmers Market Salad $8.

Appetite Deluxe Food Scale: 7.5              Overall Experience: 7.5

12538 Memorial Dr., Houston, TX 77024 (713) 360-2000
 
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