|Miso Butter Ramen, Cafe Kubo, Houston. Rich, flavorful, and not what most stereotypically think of Japanese food in Texas. The pat of cold butter that melts as you mix the hot broth up is key. It is comfort food, with just a touch of the exotic.
|Taiwanese Lucky Cake, Six Ping Bakery, Houston, TX. Salted duck egg yolks, raisins, and pork fat combine in a riotous combination of flavors and textures. This is one of the pricier options in this otherwise inexpensive bakery, but well worth getting. Also, it's seldom labelled in English. Don't miss out on the quail egg bao, though.
|Fish Tamales, Hugo's, Houston, TX. Takes guts to put something as delicate as fish into the robust masa package of a Mexican tamale, but Hugo dares.
|Crispy fried intestines, Mala Sichuan Bistro, Houston, TX. At the moment, Mala is the focus of quite a bit of foodie buzz, and well deserved. The young restaurant has already tweaked its menu with some unique offerings, and is quickly introducing the Houston public to the maddening pleasures of the Sichuan peppercorn. Though I've tasted some amazingly well seasoned dishes here, from duck to konjac, the intestines surprised me with its delicacy and texture.
Sadly, I don't have much in the way of desserts to report in the Houston area. It's a plight that I am not alone in bemoaning. But did have a couple of notable sweet items this year outside of the city.
I do have a couple of beverages to share with you. I think these are under appreciated gems. Move aside, champagne.
|Drinking Chocolate, Cafe Luz Houston. The scientific genus of the cacao plant is Theobroma, which is Latin for "food of the gods" - and the smooth, subtly sweet concoction holds true to that appellation. Using single source chocolate that is locally roasted and ground (very local - in nearby Spring), the different batches reflect the complex personalities of the beans and methods chosen. Chocolate with character and depth - what better way to welcome hope for the year to come.