Spanish Wine Dinner at Tony Mandola's

by G&G in , , ,

Owners Phyllis and Tony Mandola will be hosting a four course Spanish Wine Dinner on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, from 7 - 9 pm. "Spanish wines pair beautifully with our Cajun and Italian cuisine," stated executive chef Sam Beier. Cost: $65 plus tax and gratuity.

For reservations, please call 713-528-3474. For more information please visit  

Executive Chef Sam Beier

Spanish Wine Dinner Menu

First Course
Chopped Spanish Salad
Cucumber, tomato, red onion, capers, chickpeas,salami, olives, arugula, tossed with an Italian vinaigrette
Baron De Lay Rioja Blanco
Second Course
Braised Beef Shanks
Served with candied beets, wild mushrooms with a micro herb salad
Scala Dei Priotat

Third Course
Seafood Piaya
Shrimp, mussels, clams, house-made sausage, chicken and English peas in a rich saffron sauce
Marques Caceres Criazna

Fourth Course
Spanish Style Flan
Gran Sarao Cava

Tony Mandola’s is an upscale coastal seafood kitchen with Cajun and Italian favorites, too. Think of it as New Orleans-meets-Italian, with a Texas twist


Photo credit: The Epicurean Publicist

#ArtTasting103 at Plate & Bottle

by G&G in , , , ,

Wayne Luckett & Chef Vicky V

I attended #ArtTasting103 over the weekend and had such a great time. It was an evening filled with great conversation, music from Chase Jordan, wine varietals from Branwar Wine Distributing Co. and delicious lite bites from Chef Vicky V of Foodeez on the Go.  This was a private, invitation only event that packed Rice Village's Plate & Bottle to the brim. 

Branwar Wine Distributing Co. serves as an import and distribution company for South African, Italian, and Spanish wines across the United States. Its current focus is on the Texas wine market, with wines now available in upscale restaurants and wine bars in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.

South Africa’s current introduction to the world wine stage allows it to showcase its hundred year old vines and wine making skills that go into making remarkably balanced wines with a sense of structure and shape. 

Polkadaai, Chenin Blanc (2013)

pura 8, Pinot Noir (2010)

Doolhof, malbec

Warren Luckett, Chief Operations Officer for Branwar shared  3 wines from their portfolio: PolkadraaiPura 8 and Doolhof.  

  • Polkadraai: A spectacularly crisp, balanced and tropical South African Chenin Blanc. 
  • Pura 8 : A delicate Pinot Noir. Light body with notes of raspberry, cherry and plum.
  • Doolhof: A bit drier than the Pinot. Bold and Intense dark cherry flavors. 

Shredded Pork Ragu

Zesty Summer Watermelon Salad

Houston's own Chef Vicky V served up fabulous bites that paired seamlessly with each wine. The freshness of the zesty watermelon salad was super refreshing when paired with the Chenin blanc, I literally stalked the kitchen all night for more. The shredded pork Ragu was divine when paired with the luscious Pinot Noir and Malbec. There is nothing better than that salty/sweet mix you get when pairing bacon and wine. 

Warren Luckett Chief Operations Officer for Branwar Wine Distributing Co.

Keep a look out for the #ARTTASTING  hash tag, for an opportunity to attend the next awesome tasting and wine paring. 

Want more? View my tastemade view for the full scoop!

Houston's 5th Annual Beer Fest - We want More!

by G&G in , , ,

First time attending the Houston Beer Fest and given that it was to rain all day, I was certain that this outdoor event would be cancelled. Well, the sun came out and things quickly heated up.. everything that is but the fest itself. I learned very quickly that if you really DIG beer.. not that watered down shit sold by Budweiser, but real, complex, flavorful beers.. this isn't your event. People like you should only be at private, VIP beer tastings where you get to talk to the Brew Master and not somebody whose never tasted the beer of which they are sampling. 

Houston Beer Fest is for those folks who enjoy "chugging a cold one" then taking said "cold one" and smashing the can on one's forehead.. I am possibly being over dramatic about the whole thing but something was a little off in my opinion.  

Although the assortment of beers were a 2 1/2 out of 5, the other vendors were awesome. Ben & Jerry's was onsite sampling their two newest flavors Bourbon Pecan Pie and Bar-B-Que Peach. Both new flavors are outstanding but the one that should be the "official flavor of Texas" is Bourbon Pecan Pie, without question. 

There's one snow cone truck in particular that's a Houston favorite and can be spotted at nearly every festival in the city. Friohana  Shaved Ice was on site serving up their super fluffy snow balls. I only get the Mango with Chile and Chamoy. It's perfect for a hot and humid day. We happily sat on the curb and  ate it ALL in under 1 minute. {Pats on back} 

It was quickly determined that where there's beer there's weed and you could smell it in the air.. ESPECIALLY during Riff Raff's Saturday set and Scarface's Sunday set.  Luckily, Swisher Sweets was on deck giving away free cigars and cups to keep the party going. Being the adventurous souls we are we quickly ventured over to grab some and to take selfies! 

After an uneventful evening of mediocre beers, Riff Raff throwing pizzas into the crowd, soggy grass, horrible 5-star security and mosquitoes.. all I wanted to do was go home and take a shower.. but FIRST I had to get a foot long corn dog!

It hit the spot and made everything much better.. to top it off my BFD bought us a funnel cake. As we ate that hot, sweet, crunchy yet soft, deep-fried "carb devil" we were at peace and ready to come back to do it all over again on day 2!

Check out all the fun and more below! 

Sipping and Chewing at Wine & Food Week - Woodlands 2015

by G&G in , ,

The 11th Annual Wine & Food Week - Woodlands took place recently at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center and was a huge success. I attended two of the scheduled events Sips, Suds & Tacos and The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase. Both were jam packed with delicious food, wines and righteous beers. 

Sip, Suds and Tacos was a fun filled event where over 300 guests meandered from booth to booth for samples of over 60+ craft beers, assorted varietals of wine and of course.. tacos!  This "taco take down challenge"  consisted of  10 chefs battling it out for the coveted Taco Takedown Trophy. The tacos were tasty, but for the most part very similar with the corn tortillas, meat and cheese. 

This years Taco Take Down Champ was Chef Scott Varnedoe of Restaurant IPO (Baton Rouge). He Wowed the judges with his unique take on the classic crunchy taco. The winning taco was super complex and the flavors were off the charts! I was able to snag one on my way out the door. It was good and the crunch from a hard taco shell was very necessary at that point. 

Restaurant IPO's winning taco!!

The taco was a mix of rare seared Ahi tuna, Salmon, Asian poached shrimp and goat cheese miso, served in a crispy-crunchy 5 spice, house made tortilla shell and topped with pan fried peanuts, candied sesame, pickled mustard seed and collard green kimchi!! Talk about a mouth full. The added flavor from spices like curry, cinnamon, cumin and 5 spice were present throughout each bite!  In speaking with Sous Chef Sara this item was once on the IPO menu but was served in a glass..ceviche style. DELICIOUS! 

G&G with Chef Ja'Nel Witt of Corner Table

The Finale event for Wine and Food week has been dubbed one of the most spectacular culinary events in the country, that may be a bit of an over statement but it was a lot of fun!! The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting  and Chef Showcase was the epitome of chic, from the decadent desserts and food stations to the robust wines and runway fashion.

Macaron by Patisse 

I have a huge sweet tooth and was immediately drawn to the dessert stations.  Eculent located in Kemah, served a "Pig in a Cloud"   that totally stole the show. Their seared pork belly coated in smoked mesquite cotton candy, paired with a kimchi shooter was more than delicious.  Of course the Macarons from Macaron By Patisse were perfect.. I could've eaten them all night.  Make sure to check out their website for details regarding their new location and summer grand opening.

Eculent - "Pig in a Cloud"

Foie Gras Twinkies

Chef Shannon Tune of Revolve Kitchen + Bar, located inside of Hotel Derek, did his thing with his play on America's favorite treat the twinkie. Chef Tune's Foie Gras twinkie didn't just taste great but as guests consumed more of his savory/sweet deliciousness his plating turned into a work of art! It was simply beautiful. There are a handful of chefs who produce ART.. Chef Tune is one to watch! 

With so many beautiful displays I missed getting the name of this vendor but it was simply exquisite as well. If you happen to know who this belongs too, please let me know so that I may tag it! 

To learn more about Wine & Food week and how you can participate next year click here. There is also information on how you can volunteer. I personally can't wait until next years event! 


TastyBits: Curried Couscous with Spinach and Chickpeas

by G&G in , , ,

I love a simple, meatless dish that I can whip together with a few ingredients already in my pantry. I often find myself improvising or tweaking a recipe a bit just so I can use something I already have. My grocery bill tends to skyrocket when attempting to follow recipes verbatim. I find pleasure in substituting  when I don't have an exact item, it makes me feel Alexis Soyer! 

My husband and I  have started to only eat fish when dining out and very rarely do we cook with any meat at home. This leads us to constantly seek meatless dishes/recipes that contain the necessary amounts of protein needed to maintain a healthy diet. Some recipes I've tried have been total disasters while others have been huge hits  and are now  a part of our weekly rotation. 

I am sucker for legumes - Chickpeas are my favorite and I always have bags of them in my pantry. I decided to find a recipe that listed them as the base and stumbled upon a Curried Couscous dish that sounded I went for it and am encouraging you to try as well. 

As I mentioned, this recipe called for items I didn't have so I added what I thought may work, and prayed for the best.  The  sun-dried tomatoes, sherry & fresh dill were   subbed for canned tomatoes, Japanese rice wine and dried dill.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 can of diced, No salt added, canned tomatoes (drain)
1 tablespoon dried dill 
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 handfuls of  fresh, hand shredded spinach
1 tablespoon of Mirin (Japanese Rice Wine)
4 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained or 1 cup fresh (pre-soaked) Chickpeas
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup Israeli couscous
salt to taste

Cooking Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, canned tomatoes, dill, and garlic; cook and stir until onions start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. I left my garlic whole, because I love the flavor it adds to the dish. Stir in spinach, increase heat slightly, and cook until spinach begins to wilt, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. 

Pour in Mirin  (of which I found to be a great substitute for Sherry) and cook until most liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, cayenne pepper, chickpeas, and 1 cup of the vegetable broth; cook for about 5 minutes. Add remaining broth and bring mixture to a boil. Stir in couscous and simmer, about 2-3 minutes. The Couscous will swell.  At this point I tasted it to determine if more spices (curry, cayenne or salt) were needed. 

Remove mixture from heat and cover until couscous absorbs all the liquid, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt. Serve with warm Naan or pita bread while hot! Enjoy...