Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin, TX - Lunch with friends

On our way back to San Antonio, we decided to have lunch with our friends from Tomatoes to Tomatillos; Cornstalks to Queso in Austin.  We called them up and they suggested meeting at Lucy's Fried Chicken.

2218 College Ave
AustinTX 78704
M-F, Sun - 11 - midnight
Sat - 11 - 1AM

Parking: very few spaces
Noise Level: Loud Music, hard to converse inside.
Outdoor seating: Plenty, with fans to keep you cool
Inside atmosphere: Small, limited tables, ecclectic industrial look to the decor.

Review: MIXED.  I would give it 3/5 Stars.

She said: TomTom told us to look for the neon sign of a girl with chicken, and the restaurant was fairly easy to find.  Warning - there is a fair amount of road construction in the area, give yourself more time than normal to get there.  The parking lot was tiny and crowded, but we lucked out and someone was pulling away as we drove up. 

The outside was intriguing and unusual architecture, looks like a fun place.  

Inside: LOUD - What I can't hear you....

The service - was excellent - the waiter was very pleasant and attentive, made sure to correct any issues and kept our drinks full.  We liked him.

The food - Mixed.  Thomas and goggles got the fried deviled eggs and were kind of "meh" about them.  I shared the fried chicken livers and thought they were rather tasty.  Not the best I have had, but very tasty.  Goggles thought they were dry.

When TomTom and her husband arrived, they couldn't decide on gizzards or livers, so the waiter offered to get them a basket half and half, which was immediately dubbed "lizzards" and saved the day.  I like that they are flexible about their menu.

For dinner Thomas Goggles and I split a basket of fried chicken.  It came with pickles (YAY) and jalapenos (BOO) on top, which was weird, but whatever, I just grabbed my chicken from the bottom.  We also ordered the Mexican Coke Sweet Potatoes and the grilled corn.  

The sweet potatoes were tasty.  I like mine to either be more sweet  or more savory, and these were in the middle.  But the overall flavor balance was good.  The chicken was very tasty and crispy, but slightly greasy - I used a lot of napkins.  There was a good spice to the batter, not spicy per se, but well seasoned. The corn was completely disappointing.  In my opinion, corn is sweet, and if its flavor profile has been drastically altered in the cooking, they should probably have mentioned it on the menu.  They prepare their corn by boiling it in crawfish boil, then grilling it - so I bit into it and was like "oh holy hell what the frag is wrong with this corn did they spray it with mace?" because I don't handle spicy well, especially surprise spicy on food that is supposed to be sweet.  Thomas couldn't eat it because it tasted like it had been grilled with beef. 
Now the corn had a good texture, don't get me wrong, and it would probably rock if you like crawfish boil spices.  

The waiter handled the situation well.
We got dessert: I had the shoofly pie, goggles had the apple pie and TomTom ordered the sweet tea pie.  Thomas didn't want dessert, but he tried all of ours.  All of the pies were pretty good.  The shoefly pie was rich with molasses, the apple pie had a good crust and the sweet tea pie was...interesting.  Light and airy and sweet with tea and lemon.  I highly recommend the pie.

Thomas trying to decide what he thinks of the Sweet Tea Pie.
Over all, I feel that the food is a bit overpriced, and that the menu fails to describe some of the flavors.  It was noisy, so don't choose it for a night where you want to talk a lot.  Plan to park elsewhere and walk because the lot is small.  The pies are amazing and the chicken is pretty good.  The service is incredible, and they have an interesting selection of specials on the chalk board. 

He Said:

On our way home from Waco, as we were passing through Georgetown, we called TomTom asking where a quick/good/cheap place to eat near the 35 corridor was. After her and Val talked a bit we decided to meet at Lucy's. I'd never heard of it but the directions had it close enough for a quick in and out so, sure let's meet them there.

One of the problems of traveling to places that are mass transit oriented, like Austin is, is some places have very inadequate parking. And if they are popular it makes it problematic finding a place to park that won't end up with a large fine and towing. This is the case here. Be willing to park and walk or be a Parking Buzzard.   We lucked out that just as we were pulling in, a minivan being poorly driven was trying to get out and the Yukon behind us was impatient for me to get out of the way so they could swoop in and ended up backing up and running off while exclaiming profusely (glad I can't read lips). So, the shotgun parking lot is really in full effect here.

Once parked I was able to take in the decor. Pallets used as exterior decorating/shielding of a stairwell and an otherwise pretty nondescript building. Look for the Big Neon Sign that is all retro-pin up of a girl giving you chicken on a side street off of So. Congress and Oltorf. They had open air seating with plenty of tables, but Val and TomTom are from the Great White North and we decided that air conditioning would make it more enjoyable.

The first thing I noticed was the volume of the music. I thought it was loud on the outside because of all the seating out there so it could be heard, but inside it was even louder. Goggles, Val, and I had to lean close and talk like people in a nightclub. Second thing I noticed was the decor felt like someone wanted the Old Austin Weirdness so very badly that they just bought some random stuff and forced it to work together. Although the Wall-O-Chalkboard for the specials menu was a great touch that was actually kinda cool. Old metal drafting chairs and work stools were the seating inside and it looked like retro-70's plastic contour chairs outside.

As soon as we were in the door, the waitstaff was very courteous and helpful. We were seated, had menus, and drinks ordered in very short order. There was no pressure to order as we waited for TomTom and her Husband to show up and when we did order some appetizers they came out quick and hot. Our waiter was apologetic about the grilled corn (more on that later) and took very good care of us.

Lucy's has a very simple menu, That revolves around stuff fried or grilled, a handful of sides, and several appetizers. This could be a good place to grab a bite for those "headed home from the club" munchies.

Goggles and I tried the deep fried deviled eggs an appetizer and we all split an order of chicken livers. The deviled eggs were intriguing but not as interesting as we had hoped. Although the spicy sauce for them was very good. The livers on the other hand were great. Large, moist, livers with a thick crunchy batter with a little seasoning on them in a wire basket. They were made of much yum.

We decided on a bucket of chicken with sides of grilled corn and Mexican Coke (made with real cane sugar) sweet potatoes. The chicken came out in a galvanized bucket that was lined with wax paper with a stack of pickles (boo) and Jalapenos (yay) on top. There was a good mix of light and dark meat. The batter on the chicken was the same as on everything else but was very nice since the chicken was marinated in tastiness and very moist. The sweet potatoes were good. They had a well rounded flavor but nothing to really stand out. In retrospect, adding a quick shake from the salt shaker would have made them a bit better. They just needed something to round out the palate. The grilled corn was a mistake. I love spicy food. I eat Thai peppers straight off of my bushes here at the house. What had been done to this corn was an abomination. Come to find out they are boiled in crab boil before being grilled. One bite and I was done. You couldn't taste any sweetness from the corn and there were meaty flavors that my brain equated with beef ( I have a horrible allergy to beef that makes me react for about 2 weeks and want to shoot myself from the painful disgusting things it does to my body). So, I didn't even bothering asking what else it was grilled with to try and soldier on and try the corn beyond the single bite I had. The sad part is the menu just listed it as grilled corn. You should at least mark that is spicy. I can imagine some poor kid trying to tell his parents the corn is hot the resulting scene if they don't try it themselves.

The desserts were... different. Goggles got the apple pie, Val the Shoofly pie, and TomTom the Sweet Tea pie. The apple pie was good, in a "good apple pie" sort of way. I like mine better. The Shoofly pie was tasty, but a little too heavy on the molasses. The Sweet Tea Pie... I'm still not sure. it had a great texture for a chess pie. It was sweet and lemony. Just, my brain couldn't reconcile the pie texture with tea flavor. I will have to try it again to see if I can process better next time.

So, a wrap up: Lucy's Chicken. Bring ear plugs. Bring a pillow for the seats if you are sitting inside. Order the livers and gizzards (TomTom got them and said the gizzards were great), Get a bucket of chicken and plan on leftovers for a couple days (cold fried chicken is a staple of Southern Cuisine), Avoid the grilled corn unless you feel you need to do penance for something, and prepare for some original desserts. AND try to ignore the forced funkiness. On the PLUS SIDE: I overheard the waiter say that they ONLY serve TEXAS beers. That will bring me back for more.

For yet another opinion, feel free to check out our friend's review
Lucy's Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Cigar Review: Oliva Serie G Figurado

The Oliva Serie G Figurado:
From the website: Serie G is a medium body blend made with authentic African-Cameroon wrapper. The unique flavor notes of this wrapper are complimented by the natural richness of Nicaraguan Habano fillers. Blending notes: Medium body with notes of cedar and coffee.
Wrapper: Cameroon (African) Binder: Cuban-Seed Habano Filler: Nicaraguan Habano
We were visiting with Thomas' son this weekend, and decided to bring along some cigars.  We thought it would be fun to review this one as it would make a nice short smoke, while we hung out after breakfast.

She says:
The figurado shape is a little odd for me, I tend to smoke robusto.  The cigar smelled nice before lighting it.

We were enjoying it with a morning cup of coffee out in the breeze, not a bad way to spend a late morning.

My first impression was the draw itself.  It was like trying to drink a milkshake that is too cold.  A pin would have loosened it up, but I didn't have one on hand.  The flavor was a nice medium, it is excellent for day time, not sure it would be my first choice in the evening.  The flavor for me was mostly leather, which is that Nicaraguan filler tobacco for you (I love Nicaraguan tobacco). Behind the leather was a subtle earthiness with hints of coffee.  At point it had the slightest hint of spice/peppery flavor, but it was very faint.  I did not notice much cedar to the flavor, despite the description.

I rate it as an enjoyable smoke.  The figurado shape was a bit strange for me, and it took some getting used to.  The wrapper flavor intensified as the cigar narrowed towards the end, and I found that it just got too hot to smoke and had to stop smoking it a little earlier than I would have liked. It was beautifully made, no unraveling or getting bits of tobacco in my mouth. It burned very well with a fairly solid ash, and rarely needed a touch up.

Overall I would give the blend a solid 4 stars out of five.  I would probably prefer the robusto version of this cigar and will try that one next time.  I will definitely buy this cigar again, the tobacco blend is fantastic, it makes for a good every day cigar.

He Says:
We went up to see O for his birthday and to see my Father-in-law, too.

It was kind of a breezy morning but the temperature was just right for hanging out on the porch after breakfast.

These are a nice little figurados from Oliva. The cameroon wrapper had nice hints of earth and leather before lighting and the pre-light draw was nice and leathery with just the right amount of hardness on mine, Val's was kinda hard.

One of the things I like about ths shape is the ease of lighting. Just get the little tip evenly lit and it burns even up the swell of the cigar and is usually maintenance free and these were no exception.

The flavor stayed leathery with just an occasional mild hint of spice.

The construction of my cigar was perfect. Solid white ash with very little flaking and it didn't ash till I was about 1/3 of the way through it.

These were a nice short smoke that went well with good company and coffee.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Texas Wines - Yellow Rose by Landon Winery

Found an interesting article that got me thinking about local wines, and what I enjoy. I very much appreciate the locavore concept, and when possible and affordable, I choose locally grown and produced over imported goods.

She says:  This book sounds like it will be interesting.  I am not much of a wine drinker myself, I tend to dislike the tannins, and prefer mead.  Thomas has gotten me to try some Rieslings and sweeter dessert wines which I have liked very much.  Now when we travel, we check out the local wine shop, and have a good time talking with folks and learning about the local wines.

When we go wine tasting, we prefer to go to Fredericksburg or Gruene, where the wine shops tend to specialize in local wineries. We had an excellent time at Texas Vineyards and Beyond when Thomas took me to Fredericksburg for my birthday.  They are great folks, willing to take the extra time to talk to new visitors and educate them about their offerings.  They often have tastings with the wine makers, and carry a wide variety of local mead, wine, and other fine products, including some amazing port.  I do like good port. 

We also had a good time talking to the people at the Bell Mountain Vineyards tasting room in Der Kuchen Laden, and Oberhof makes a lovely sweet mead, which I just had to purchase.  The folks who work there are kind and friendly, and we got to talking about mead brewing.  Though they also brew mead, they encouraged me to try to bring my own production up to the professional level.  I thought that was really cool. You should visit with them if you are in town.

When we were in Gruene for our anniversary in February, we picked up a lovely white wine called Yellow Rose made by Landon Winery at the Grapevine.  The Grapevine is a lovely shop - well laid out, with a tasting counter, some seating off to the left and also some outside seating by a fire pit.
We tried several wines, but of all of them, the Yellow Rose stood out. It was light and sweet, and by far the best wine I tasted that night, so we purchased a bottle which we enjoyed after dinner last night, since it was a nice evening for it.  I served it with a light dinner of seasoned pork loin, flavored brown rice, and salad.

The wine had a very light scent, with faint floral notes.  The taste was light and sweet.  Not cloying, it was very smooth to drink.  There is a light taste that reminds me of apples. The winery's description includes peach in the flavor profile, and I must admit, I couldn't taste the peach.  The wine has very little tannin bitterness, which is probably why I like it. All in all, I think this is a great wine for summer entertaining.  I highly recommend it for flavor and value.

He says: We had tasted this one while in Gruene a couple months back and decided to bring it home. Val made a wonderful dinner of savory pan seared pork, brown rice pilaf, and a light garden salad and we decided to have some of this sweet, yet light, wine to go with it.

It was a very nice contrast to the spices on the pork and the "earthiness" of the rice pilaf. It was served slightly chilled and the nose just opened up as it slowly rose to room temperature, revealing itself as a little more full bodied than I remembered. The apple/fruit flavor became more pronounced and was very pleasant.

I look forward to trying this at the end of a hot day mixed with chilled spring water.

She says:
In closing, when in Fredericksburg, try Texas Vineyards and Oberhof and when in Gruene, try The Grapevine.  Also, if you like sweet wines, Yellow Rose is amazing.

The Grapevine on Urbanspoon

Texas Vineyards and Beyond, LLC on Urbanspoon

One Cute Cupcake Boutique

She Said: So today I was driving "Goggles", Thomas's daughter, home from school, I thought I would surprise her with a treat.  Over by Olmos Perk cafe is a line of little restaurants and boutiques in boxcars, one of which contains a pink shop called One Cute Cupcake Boutique at 5257 McCullough Ave. SATX 78212. We decided to go there and try out some cupcakes, and bring one home to Thomas.

The shop is rather small, with a couple of comfortable couches inside, and a couple chairs outside.  The outside is pink, and rather perky looking and the inside continues the pink theme, with a large chalkboard behind the counter with menu items and prices, and a curtain blocking off the kitchen area.

We were greeted by Lori Hernandez, who is co-operating the shop with her own business, Oh Yeah Cakes.  She has been sharing the shop for the past 6 weeks, and has a truly impressive photo album of different cakes she has made.  For the store front, her cakes are simple, and delicious looking.  We had our heart set on cupcakes, so we promised to return for cake at some point.

Lori is very friendly, and told us about One Cute Cupcake Boutique, as well as some of the other businesses in the area. She recommends the deli next door as well as the hot dog stand.  She told us that Maritza Verazzi, owner of the boutique, was on Cupcake Wars (and because we apparently live under a non-cable watching rock - we had never heard of the show).  Still it was a lot of fun talking to Lori.

There were several different flavors.  The store must be popular because part of the case was empty.  Still there was a wide selection, and ultimately unable to decide, I decided to throw myself on the grenade and try two cupcakes, you know...for science and all.  I picked out a third cupcake to bring home to Thomas and Goggles picked out one for herself.

Undecided, I chose to try the French Toast cupcake and a caramel chocolate cupcake.  Goggles got a Rocky Road cupcake, and we picked out a snicker-doodle cupcake for Thomas.  The cupcakes were 3.25 each, and are on the small side, but with fairly sizable toppings. Cake slices are 4.00, and they also have cake bites and other types of products for special order such as cake push pops (like the ice cream, but with cake) and cupcakes in a jar.  Maritza makes 80 different flavors, in rotation, with some being special order only.  Lori makes a wide variety of custom cakes to order, and her range of artistic cake expression is impressive.

I had the french toast cupcake first.  Like a kid, I have to lick the frosting before I eat the cake part and Oh my! The frosting is just sweet enough and was dusted with spices like cinnamon, and I believe, nutmeg.  The cupcake itself tasted like someone poured french toast out of a blender and into a cupcake.
I next tried the chocolate cupcake with caramel and was a little disappointed.  It was moist and tender and well flavored, but I was hoping for more caramel.  I am not fond of chocolate cake by itself.

Goggles had her cupcake gone in moments, so I assume she liked it a lot.  Thomas will be by later this evening to post about his cupcake, as he just walked in the door from work.

Overall, the cupcakes were some of the most moist and tender cupcakes that I have ever eaten. There were very few crumbs, and a rich flavor.  I would say they are worth every penny. And for the love of all that is beautiful, try the French toast cupcake.

The other - She said: Here is "Goggles'" opinion from her blog: "Oh my gods, they were to die for! I chose a rocky road cupcake, which had mini marshmallows, almonds, and lots of chocolate on top of a German chocolate base. It was very tasty. The best thing yet, was that it was a locally owned shop..."

He Said:
You gotta love it when you've had a rough day at work and get bushwacked by your girlfriend with a cupcake at the front door!

After putting down the handfuls of stuff I had picked up on my afterwork errands I sat down for dessert first, before dinner.

Val had gotten me a snickerdoodle cupcake. It was medium-ish in size and while attractive, not overly frosted or decorated: White frosting with a light dusting of sugar and spices on top. While the body of the "cuppy" was light yellow.

Being a big fan of cupcakes I knew what to do first. You dive for the frosting! Sweet without being cloying while just enough "grit" from the coarse sugar to give it an interesting texture. So, sugar and some spices made the frosting great, the body of the cupcake was a bit underwhelming. I can see where the baker was trying to strike a balance of bold and background, but the "cake" part was, "meh". Being the end of the day it may have been a little dried out, refrigeration may have made the flavors a bit muted, etc.

Overall, it was a nice cupcake, but not deserving the reaction of Val and Goggles. It blows the doors off of most store bought cupcakes, but for me the bar is really high on desserts. Maybe I'll try something chocolatey next time?

One Cute Cupcake Boutique on Urbanspoon

Interesting article about why San Antonio is a great place to live.

I enjoyed this article, and to this author's points, especially when it comes to the hole in the wall restaurants and growth in the downtown sector - I also think that the green changes San Antonio is making - recycling, creating a green belt of walking/biking paths, a bike rental program - these things practically beg people to get out and explore the city.

So what do you love about San Antonio?

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I know it is kind of silly, but since this blog is less than a week old, I am excited that it has reached 100 page views!

Please help us spread the word, I want to make this into something fun and helpful for the community!


CAO Earth Nectar

This one is just from Val's point of view.  Thomas does not often smoke flavored cigars.

I tried the Earth Nectar from CAO the other day, it was a gift from a friend.  I love their Caramelo Joe, it is wonderful for in the morning with coffee.

I was unfortunately not very happy with the Earth Nectar.

Positives: It burned well and is very well constructed. The ash held together really well.  Normally I love tobacco from Nicaragua.

If you really like the Kuba Kuba by Acid (Drew Estates) you might like the Earth Nectar, as there were some similarities in the flavor profile.

Negatives: The wrapper was overly sweet, a very syrupy sweetness that was cloying and did not blend well with the rich Nicaraguan tobacco.  The flavor of "Earth Nectar" is not something that I could identify.  It tasted very artificial to me, and generally I prefer to have a flavor with a definition, such as coffee - I know what coffee tastes like, so I can judge how well I can taste coffee.

I think I have just moved on to liking a more earthy cigar, so I can't blame it on the cigar itself.   I think it just doesn't fit the profile of cigars I enjoy anymore.

Val and Cigars

Hello all! Val here - thought I would tell my readers about my journey smoking cigars.  I am not a fancy cigar snob, nor am I one of the "tee hee look at me a sexy girl with a cigar" types.  I am a pretty woman who enjoys a good cigar, and will tell you about it in plain English.  Does that work for you?

The point of this post is to give you an idea what goes into my choices of cigar, what my particular biases are when it comes to types of cigars, so you know how much to rely on my opinion.  If you like more bitter cigars and I hate them all, you can probably discount a review in which I say a cigar is too bitter.  Similarly, if you don't like leather notes in your cigar, me telling you "OMG best cigar evar!!!" should be taken with a bucket of salt because I love leather notes in my cigars.

I am still fairly new to cigar smoking.  It is something I have grown to enjoy over the course of my time with Thomas.  He loves cigars and will merrily chat away about leaf types, regions, brands, and flavors.  Not in a snobby way, but in that helpful, informative way he discusses everything he loves.

I started off reluctantly trying them, having never been fond of the smell of cigars.  Early on he would ask me to meet him at Finck's. I wasn't sure if I would be welcome at the lounge - it is very tastefully decorated, but feels neutral to masculine in gender.  The lounge is usually frequented by men, and women are relatively rare.  You will see women in the store, but not many sit in the lounge, and even less smoke.

I walked in hesitantly, and asked if I was interrupting a meeting of the "He-man woman haters' club" to which the older men looked confused for an instant protesting that they LOVE women... up until I gave them the hand under the chin wave from Little Rascals, and they all laughed and decided I was cool.  They just didn't expect such a vintage joke out of a woman who is barely into her 30's.  They always make me feel very welcome, and are always willing to give me recommendations on which cigar to choose.

Thomas started me of with some "girly flavored" cigars such as Irish creme and others. He highly recommended the Caramelo Joe by CAO.  If I recall correctly, this was the first cigar I really liked.  I then tried Acid's Kuba Kuba, and liked those for a while, until I stumbled into types of unflavored cigars I liked much better.  Now I can't smoke Kuba Kuba's anymore, and generally stick to unflavored cigars most of the time, with the exception of the occasional Caramelo Joe.

The first cigar that wasn't flavored I remember liking is the Hoya De Monterrey En Cedros.  It has a nice cedar scent to the tobacco and rich earth and coffee notes that blend well with my morning coffee.  Thomas and I like to get away to Finck's on Saturday mornings and have a smoke, and this one is one of my usual cigars.

Since then, from all the times sitting in the lounge and listening to the guys talking, I have gathered up some knowledge of cigars, started learning to recognize different flavors, and transition from the girl who would ask her boyfriend to pick out something she would like to either knowing exactly what I want, or at least being able to walk up to Rosemary or Alex (two of my favorite people at Finck's due to their helpfulness) and say - "I am looking for a cigar with a good draw that has earth, leather, or coffee notes in the flavor...what do you recommend?" and get some outstanding recommendations.  Since then, I don't think a cigar selection has ever been "off".  I also went from keeping a humidor at my apartment for his convenience to having two humidors of my own - one for everyday smokes and the other one for aging my premium cigars.

Over all the flavor profile I prefer is a medium to full flavored cigar, decently strong, but not knock you out. I like medium to dark wrappers - corojo - maduro wrappers - Connecticut shades are a bit too mild for me, though Finck's AN7 are rather nice for a mild cigar.  I prefer certain flavors - in order of preference are: coffee, leather, earth, and am not overly fond of bitter or overly spicy cigars.

I don't always have patience to smoke a long cigar, and many short cigars are too narrow in ring gauge and I end up disliking them because the wrapper flavor is too strong. Over time I have discovered that the best type of cigar for me is the Robusto size. Just the right balance between wrapper and filler, and time spent smoking it.

I like Hoya De Monterrey En Cedros, Excalibur Dark Knight, Perdomo Habano Corojo,  also La Sirena.  There are more, and as I discover them, I record notes about them in my little cigar book.

So one of the uses for this blog will be for me to share my thoughts about various cigars I try.  I am not a fancy pants super taster, so don't expect super high brow reviews on cigar flavor profiles, but I will do my best in lay man (or woman's) terms to explain what flavors I do taste and how much I enjoy each cigar. Please feel free to comment with your own thoughts if you have tried the cigar.  I love hearing other people's thoughts and recommendations.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Naara Cafe

Greetings readers! Val here, hoping everyone is having a great Friday night. I am posting live from Naara Cafe. Thomas is not much for new-fangled data phones, so he will post his review later.

So here goes our first installment of "And that is what he/she said"

She said:
Tonight Thomas and I decided to go to Naara.  It is one of the places we go to relax.
I tend to enjoy Naara because it has the crucial combination of friendly wait staff, good food, and excellent beverages.

Naara is an excellent place to go when you want a light meal, to enjoy hookah, or just hang out with some of your friends.  They have board games, appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, meals, desserts, and a wide variety of drinks.

One of the things I find most interesting about Naara is that the atmosphere is always a little different. It is a great place to people watch, and has probably the most diverse clientele of any restaurant we go to. It is almost always busy, with people of all ages, walks of life, and ethnicity. Conversation can be heard in at least three different languages, and the crowd is always congenial. The only downide for me is that sometimes they are playing some great traditional or modern Middle Eastern music, and at other times they play pop/r&b like you can hear on almost any radio station. I prefer the Middle Eastern music by far. The patio is gorgeous, tastefully decorated in rich earth tones, with live plants and a merrily bubbling fountain. People gather, laughing and talking and playing games.

When we go to Naara, we are usually greeted by Sol Maz, the wife of the manager, Shayan.  They are usually omnipresent during weekend evenings, greeting guests enthusiastically and making sure every one has a great time.

Thomas sitting on the couch outside at Naara
Tonight we weren't very hungry, so we split a Combination Kabob Plate: four skewers of marinated lamb and chicken, served with Basmati rice, hummus, bread and house salad.

Thomas ordred black tea, I prefer sweetened Turkish coffee.  For shisha, we chose a mix of the house rose and raspberry.  This is one of my favorite blends, though next time we return we will choose something different.

In my opinion, the chicken was sublime.  It was very well seasoned, moist and tender.  Usually I prefer lamb, but tonight it was a bit tougher.  Still, it was well flavored and we enjoyed everything.

Akbar Mash-Dee (Persian Ice Cream) and Turkish Coffee
 The Turkish coffee tonight is incredible as ever, rich and sweet, without being cloying or bitter. The black tea is excellent too, full bodied and perfectly brewed.


Dessert tonight was wonderful.  We both shared Sweet Rolls, described as filo dough wrapped around cashews & walnuts and baked to golden brown.  They were delicious.  Crunchy without being messy to eat, lightly sweet, and richly flavored with just the right amount of honey.  We also shared Akbar Mash-Dee (Traditional Persian ice cream, with rose water, real cream, saffron, and ground pistachio.) This by and far is my absolute favorite dish at Naara.  There is not an easy way to describe this ice cream. It is floral due to the saffron and rose water, lightly sweet, with just a bit of earthiness from the pistachio.


He Said:
It was a long week at work. I was chained to a desk most of the week and really needed to blow off some steam. We decided to go to Naara. One of our favourite places to have dinner and hookah.

We were seated at one of the curved, padded benches that has a low table. There are regular tables inside and patio tables out side as well. This one affords some of the best people watching. We always sit on the patio. Everything is so relaxed and inviting out there. Stucco walls painted earth tones, black wrought iron ornaments, ceiling fans, and lights that blend to make the perfect ambiance for an evening relaxing. There is always a good cross section of people there. From the young soldiers trying to "out manly" each other (Been there and done that myself) all the way to multi-generational families (grandfather and grandson playing chess while everyone else eats and chats) they all blend in to make a rich tapestry of interactions.

Neither one of us was really hungry so we decided to split a combo kabob plate. It has very generous portions of marinated chicken and lamb char broiled to perfection with a fresh salad (lettuce and greens with a light vinaigrette. Garnished with crumbled white cheese and sliced green olives), Perfectly cooked basmati rice, tasty hummus, and fresh grilled pita.

She said the lamb wasn't up to par, I didn't see it. Tasty, moist, with perfect char marks and not over done. The chicken was the same. The hummus was fresh and full flavored without any one of the spices overpowering the earthiness of the chickpeas. Fresh. Grilled. Pita... 'nuff said there. What really stood out for me tonight was the perfect balance of flavours in the salad. I usually don't like olives, but decided to try them out with the salad. Whoa! They fit in and made an incredible balance to the greens. The whole meal was a balance of flavours that fit so well. If you usually eat your food one thing at a time, try mixing it up with this plate. You will taste new things with every combination.

I usually get the Turkish coffee, but on a lark decided to get the plain black tea.(they have a variety of flavoured teas available) It is served in a utilitarian stainless steel pot with a side bowl of rough sugar "cubes". (real lump sugar) The pot came with 2 attractive glass cups to serve into. I was hooked at the first sip. This was excellent tea. Last time I had tea this flavourful by itself was years ago at the Richmond Arms in Houston. Matter o' Fact: I even ordered a second pot. The glass cups are a great touch because of how beautiful of a color the tea is.

On to the hookah. All the hookahs at Naara are works of art. They even sell them up front. As well as coals and shisha. We got a blend that is a favourite of us both: rose and raspberry. The floral notes of the rose and the slight astringency of the raspberry ( it is real raspberry flavour, not at all "cool-aid-ie") makes a well balanced flavour that is enjoyable for the 3 or so hours we stay and hang out here. There is a separate menu for the varieties of shisha flavours they have. If you are unsure, ask the waitstaff. They are all very knowledgeable and can provide guidance. If you don't want to futz with your coals or just don't know what to do, they have guys walking back and forth every few minutes with baskets of hot coals to help or show you the process.

For dessert we got the Sweet rolls and Val got her usual Persian Ice Cream. The sweet rolls were great tonight, as usual. Each one a few hundred layers of tissue thin pastry with nuts and honey rolled inside. Each a little smaller around than my little finger and slightly crunchy. Val really likes the Persian Ice Cream, but I have to really be in the mood for it. It is very sweet and floral (being made with rose water and such) and can be a little overpowering. (But I don't like some Belgian ales for the extreme floral notes as well.) But their desserts are a great finisher for the meal because they are just the right size so you don't feel all "After dinner mint , sir?" finishing them.

All through the night the Manager Shayan and his Wife Sol Maz circle like a hawks (with smiles plastered on their faces). Their sharp eyes making sure that everything is perfect for their customers and ready to answer any questions or provide for your needs. The wait staff satellite from them so there is never a time you have to wait very long to get more of anything or have questions answered. You can tell that they derive great joy from making sure their customers have a good time.

As an aside:
We bought a hookah from there a couple months ago and are having some issues getting it to smoke right. Shayan overheard us asking one of the staff for pointers and he swooped over and said to bring it in with us next time and he will make sure all is right or fix whatever is wrong. Himself.

Great Food, Great Service, Great Place.
Naara Cafe and Hookah

Naara Cafe on Urbanspoon

A Question:

I am a fan of Jenny Lawson's blog - after the post about Beyonce the chicken, how could I not love her writing?

I have just purchased a copy of her book Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) and I am looking forward to reading it - not sure if it is Thomas's cup of tea, but we'll see.

So dear readers, would you be interested in a review of the book?  I know that it is outside our discussed scope of reviews, but she IS from Texas, and resides in the Hill Country.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

April/May plans

So where will we be?

Friday we will be going to spend the evening at Naara Cafe, and we will live blog from their patio.  It is a great place to hang out!

Saturday May 5, 2012 from 3 - 7pm is the Lone Star Cigar Bash - hosted by Finck's Cigar Factory Outlet.

We will be liveblogging from the event, it is Val's birthday gift to Thomas.

I am now going to plug this event to my readers: it is a fundraiser benefiting Fisher House - a Home Away from Home for Families of Wounded Warriors, a wonderful charity that provides a place for the families of wounded soldiers to stay while they receive treatment here in San Antonio.

Tickets are STILL available:
$125 for cigar smokers - comes with 20 premium cigars (check out the link for more info!)
$75 for non-smokers (with purchase of a smoker's ticket)

Both tickets get you food, drink and entertainment for the afternoon at Pedrotti's North Wind Ranch.
This is a seriously good deal, and the cigars and lighter that come with the ticket are worth more than the actual ticket price.  Local distilleries and a wide variety of cigar manufacturers' representatives will be there.  We would love to see y'all join us, share fine spirits, fine cigars and fine company benefiting our nation's heroes and their families.

Favorite Local Places

Hello!  It is Val again.

I thought a good place to start would be a list of our favorite local places, which we will update as time goes on and we try new places.  Even if we have not yet posted a review of these places, if it is listed here, the food or other offerings are amazing!

San Antonio Area Restaurants:
(Current as of 5/22/2013)

Pompeii16109 Nacogdoches Road  San Antonio, TX 78247 - (210) 946-5518

Cerroni's Purple Garlic (small local chain) - 1017 Austin Highway  San Antonio, TX 78209 - (210) 822-2300

Kiku Garden4527 Goldfield  San Antonio, TX 78218 - (210) 662-6699

Koi Kawa4051 Broadway Street  San Antonio, TX 78209 - (210) 805-8111

Pho Hai An - 4934 Windsor Hl  Windcrest, TX 78239 - (210) 590-1688

Yum Yum13777 Nacogdoches Ste 101 San Antonio, TX 78217 - (210) 598-1731 (Amazing food, quiet setting, NEW) - Note - Now called Peng and Po - new owners - still very good, but will need a separate review. 

Thai Chalurn4941 Walzem Rd #1  San Antonio, TX 78218 - (210) 599-6835 (Great food, good prices, quiet place to eat) 

Tong's Thai (actually pan-Asian) - 1146 Austin Highway  San Antonio, Texas 78209 - (210) 829-7345 (on the pricier side, great variety, cool atmosphere)


Bavarian Restaurant5512 Fm 78  Kirby, TX 78219 - (210) 662-7500 (small intimate setting, huge portions, amazing food and baking) 

Middle Eastern:

Naara Cafe9329 Wurzbach Rd San Antonio, TX 78240-1045 - (210) 558-9800 (good food, great hookah, lovely atmosphere, open late) 

Late Night Dining:

Naara (see Middle Eastern)

Iron Skillet1112 Ackerman Road  San Antonio, TX 78219 - (210) 661-8419 (Yes, it is a chain restaurant, but the food rocks)


Magnolia Pancake Haus606 Embassy Oaks  San Antonio, TX 78216  - (210) 496-0828 (great food LONG wait)

Cigar Shops/Humidors:

Finck's - great service, knowledgeable staff, fine quality
6100 West Avenue  San Antonio, TX 78213
(210) 341-8888

                                                New Braunfels Area:
Tobacco Haus - New Braunfels, TX - in the Marketplace shopping center
Cigar bar, trivia, bingo nights - Right off I35

Fork and Spoon - German Food, Marketplace Shopping Center

Winery: The Grapevine - Gruene TX

Who are Val and Thomas?

Hello!  This is Val, the female half of "...And that is what he/she said..."

     We started this blog after we realized we had a number of friends who would ask us about places to eat, liquor to purchase, or cigars to buy.  We discovered that we enjoy sharing our favorite places to eat and relax, and tend to send restaurant owners to each others' restaurants to try something new.  A few of our friends and a few owners of our favorite restaurants encouraged us to blog about our favorite places.

I am a 32 year old graduate student.  I have worked in a variety of fields, including market research, consumer ethnography, and education.  I grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Texas about 10 years ago.  I enjoy cooking, music, gardening, and art.  I have some dietary limitations - I do not like overly spicy foods and certain cuisines due to flavor combinations.  If it burns your tongue off, contains fennel or cilantro, or is overly bitter, I am not likely to enjoy it.  I love Japanese cooking, Italian food, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese for a short list.

Thomas is a 41 year old operations manager, who has lived in Texas his whole life.  He is a genius at logistics and organization, and enjoys art, music, reading, writing and cooking among other things. He loves spicy food from around the world, so we let him review all the set your mouth on fire food.  He is allergic to beef and seafood, so I get to review all of those (...oh how I suffer...) but loves Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican and Italian food.

     We know small restaurants can end up struggling in the best of times, so we are doing our best to help them out.  Thomas and I prefer to dine at locally owned establishments.  It helps the local economy, the food tends to be better, and to be honest, we tend to get better service.  It is a lot of fun to talk to the owners and learn the stories of how their businesses got started.

What you will find in this blog:

A little bit of everything. We like a wide variety of things and while many of our tastes overlap, there is enough variation to allow both of us to express different points of view.  We will both write posts, and may occasionally invite a guest blogger to share their opinions, or a restaurant owner to share their story.

Preliminary categories of posts (subject to change)

1. Primarily we will be reviewing local restaurants.  For the most part we will not review national chains, unless we experience something truly amazing.  We will review smaller, local chains from time to time.  We are starting with our favorite local spots and fanning out from there to try something new every couple weeks.

2. Cigars - both of us love cigars, and have diverse tastes.  You will sometimes hear from Thomas about cigars, and will often hear from me, as I am relatively new to cigars, and am exploring the range of available flavors and types.

3. Liquor - We both enjoy fine spirits.  He loves beer, scotch, rum, gin and bourbon.  I love a good vodka, mead, and "girlie drinks".

4. Local establishments of varied sorts - we enjoy finding local businesses of all types, so if we try a local business, or go to a local museum or attraction, we will share our thoughts.

5. Travel - we love traveling around the beautiful state of Texas.  Favorite locations are Gruene and Fredericksburg.  As we explore sites and restaurants in our travels we will blog about it.

6. Miscellaneous topics about life - We will occasionally diverge from the main subject to share bits of our life and hobbies such as art and gardening.  We will also sometimes post links to interesting articles for events, restaurants, or hobbies to share with our readers.

We hope you enjoy our blog and look forward to your feedback!