Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Houston's Sweet Spots

from visithoustontexas.com

Houston's Sweet Spots


From cookies and cupcakes to macarons and pies, H-Town is serious when it comes to sweets. Whether you’re craving classic chocolate chip cookies or searching for sorbet, there’s plenty to indulge in at every turn.
Crave Cupcakes
Crave Cupcakes

CUPCAKES

Tucked away in a little shop off of Morningside Drive is Celebrity Cupcakes. Co-owner Marie Cagle, who grew up in a baking family, has been cooking since she was a kid. In fall 2010, Cagle turned her hobby into a career, opening her cheerful cupcake boutique in Houston’s Rice Village area. Customers rave about Celebrity’s vanilla bean cupcake and appreciate the spot’s frosting, which isn’t overtly sweet and doesn’t overwhelm the cake.

H-Town’s first Crave Cupcakes location opened in 2008, touting picture-perfect treats and a sleek interior in Houston’s Uptown Park. Today, the biz has two locations, including a West University outpost, where daily-changing cupcake flavors are baked in small batches beginning at 5 a.m. Stop in for treats made with premium ingredients like pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, European chocolates, locally-sourced dairy and seasonal fruit from Napa Valley.

Armed with a degree from the Art Institute of Houston’s Baking and Pastry program, Chef Vanessa O’Donnell took a sweet leap of faith in opening her bakery, Ooh La La Dessert Boutique, in 2007. At her Town and Country store—the third of O’Donnell’s locations—guests find a whimsical space marked by sprawling display cases full of decadent cupcakes, pies, cookies and gelatos. If it’s your first visit, order a mix of cupcake minis, so you can get a lay of the land.
PIES

Macaron By Patisse
Macaron by Patisse
Part all-night diner and part pastry shop, with the vinyl-and-Formica decorative appeal of a bowling alley, people come toHouse of Pies because people come here—a bit of circular logic that has remained pretty much unbroken since the place began serving up slices of chocolately Bayou Goo in the 1970s. Its very lack of pretension is appealing, with freshly-baked sugar-free pastries, classic fruit favorites and sinfully rich offerings like the multi-layered Bayou Goo and chocolate cream, there's a pie for every craving.

The Heights’ family-owned Mighty Sweet Mini Pies is proof that good things come in small packages. Set in a cozy storefront along North Main, the 60s-style shop is decked out in all things retro from the glass display case and tin-tiled wall to the signage and old-school window treatments. On the menu, fans will find a handful of changing flavors like peach cobbler, pecan, blueberry cream cheese and classic buttermilk, along with peanut-butter chocolate and cherry varieties.
MACARONS

Bite Macarons’ owner and executive chef Sandia Horng spent months designing her West University-set bakery. Inspired by modern European and Japanese architecture, the result was a simple, clean and inviting space that sets the stage for customers to revel in a perfect macaron experience. Each of the more than dozen macaron varieties are hand-crafted during an intensive, multi-day process that really helps to produce uniquely-textured and distinctive French-style macarons. Be sure to try the Earl Grey version.

Macaron by Patisse creates beautiful and inventive varieties of the classic French pastry. The colorful, light-filled shop, located in River Oaks Shopping Center, also serves mini pies, cake balls, mini cupcakes, profiteroles and mini ├ęclairs. Loose leaf teas and other drinks help make this a perfect after-dinner stop, particularly those looking for a romantic setting. Expect to find classics, as well as outside-the-box flavors like fig & goat cheese, tiramisu and pina colada.

Sweet started in a small kitchen by two self-taught friends with a pure passion for desserts. After years catering to small parties, weddings and farmers markets, the pair launched their small Sweet shop in CityCentre, offering a quaint urban refuge, designed and put together by local artists. There, fans find a variety of gourmet cupcakes, coffees, teas, espresso, tapioca, cookies and nearly two-dozen macaron flavors. Don’t miss the popular salted caramel and vanilla bean macarons.
SPECIALTY ICE CREAM

Award-winning pastry chef Chris Leung and biz-partner Christopher Balat recently opened their highly-anticipated ice cream and sorbet shop, Cloud10 Creamery. Leung’s first brick-and-mortar outpost comes after years stocking local restaurants with his gourmet desserts. There, patrons find progressive flavor mash-ups like the lemon & mint sorbet, mango pineapple sorbet and toasted rice ice cream, as well as 10 seasonally-changing varieties.

For more than 20 years, Hank’s Ice Cream Parlor has remained a go-to favorite for old-fashioned, handmade ice cream. The bright and cozy business offers guests 18 daily-changing flavors, culled from a list of nearly 100 flavors. Beyonce has even been known to pop by to get her fill of banana pudding ice cream, while other regulars return for dulce de leche, cake batter and chocolate chip varieties.
GOURMET BAKERIES

Ooh La La Dessert Boutique
Ooh La La Dessert Boutique
It’s not just the towering cakes and decadent dessert-filled cases that draw fans to Montrose’s The Chocolate Bar, the store is packed with clever novelties—cell phones, hand tools, cars—all crafted in rich chocolate. Through a large window at the rear, you can look into the preparation area where all this chocolate magic is concocted. But the heart of the operation is a marvelous ice cream cooler with a dozen stunning, made-on-site flavors that use chocolate to varying degrees.

Sherbet-colored walls and paper butterflies on the ceiling create a whimsical atmosphere at Upper Kirby’s Dessert Gallery. Though the cafe menu touts wraps, salads and sandwiches, it’s the confections that keep customers coming back. Expect a line up of cookies, pies, cheesecakes and cakes (sold whole or by the slice) and don’t miss the award-winning carrot cake.

As a Baylor University grad with a fashion merchandising degree, Candace Chang had a thing for the perfect outfit—and the perfect dessert, which led her to open her shop, Dolce Delights. But instead of just copying what great pastry chefs do, Chang was determined to create her own recipes, crafting confections that were tasty and also healthier than the norm—whether it's tofu cheesecake or Chang’s own lava mango crunch cake.

Known locally as the sugar hooker, Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson has manned the mixer at restaurants like New York’s Daniel and The Red Cat, as well as Houston’s Catalan, Ibiza and 17* Restaurant. In 2010, she launched her cyber sweet shop, Fluff Bake Bar. The online store showcases Masson’s confections—cupcakes, cookies, bars, party trays, along with the oh-so-tempting peanut-butter-laden Fluffernutters. Can’t wait for the cyber sweets to arrive in the mail? Masson also sells her confections at Revival Market. ?

Upper Kirby’s Petite Sweets bakery is brimming with a wealth of sinfully satisfying artisan confections, beautifully displayed among glossy white counters, marble and stainless steel accents. There, macarons, cake balls, marshmallows, mini cupcakes and whoopee pies tempt guests, along with gelati, Belgian-chocolate dipped ice cream cones and coffee drinks.

For nearly 200 years the Jucker family has been in the baking biz. The tradition started in Poland in the 1820s, stopped when the family was sent to Nazi concentration camps in 1941 and revived on Houston’s Holman Street in May 1949. Ever since, the Jucker family has been busy serving their famous eastern European style breads, cakes and pastries to loyal Houstonians at both their inner-loop and Memorial-area Three Brothers Bakery locations. Look for the business to open a third Washington Avenue spot in 2014.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Houston's Top Romantic Spots

from houstonpress.com

Houston's Top Romantic Spots


HoustonZoo560.jpg
Photo by Ed T
You'll have to be a little careful with any PDAs as highly impressionable kids are sure to running around, but the Reflection Pond at the Houston Zoo (seen above) makes our list of top romantic spots for its "secret garden" feel. We suggest you try the pond at dusk on a cool fall evening; it's magical.
WilliamsTower560.jpg
Photo by Keith Perkins
 Williams Tower Waterwall 
2800 Post Oak Boulevard.
Suffering from a slight case of over-exposoure, the Williams Tower Waterwall nonetheless makes a wonderful setting for a first kiss. Again, we suggest dusk as the optimum time to visit. Chances are another couple or two will also be visiting at the same time as you, so don't expect total privacy.

KemahBoardwalk560.jpg
Photo by Jon Burns
 Kemah Boardwalk 
215 Kipp Avenue
Yes, the Kemah Boardwalk tends to bustle with families and tourists during its frequent festivals, but even that can't mar the boardwalk's appeal. The quite water, wide walkways, beautiful sunsets - and a whole bunch of places to get a drink and dinner

Horse Drawn Carriage Ride Downtown

We don't suggest sharing a carriage ride like the couples seen to the right are doing, but every couple should take a ride in one of the Theater District's horse drawn carriages. Be prepared for your driver to want to play tour guide, but a firm "You don't need to show us the sights, we really just want to look at each other," should get your point across. Also, depending on what time it is, throngs of theater goers may be flooding the streets in a mad dash to get back to their cars, so you might have a little company on the street. (Just wave and get back to canoodling.)

TSBarCouple275.jpg
 Sambuca's Restaurant 
909 Texas Avenue
Love isn't always quiet. When romance requires a party, we suggest Sambuca's Restaurant. Located on the first floor of the old Rice Hotel, the place has live music seven days a week, no cover and lots of dark corners. Great food and good drinks add to the appeal.



brenners-on-the-bayou560.jpg
 Brenner's on the Bayou 
1 Birdsall Street
Long time Houstonians might have a twinge of regret at Brenner's on the Bayou, the former site of the Rainbow Lodge, but Brenner's has done a good job of restyling things its own way and offering a casual, but chic spot for dinner and a few drinks. 

Twilight560FlorianHolzherr.jpg
Photo by Florian Holzherr
 James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyspace
Ah, the James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyspace structure on the campus of Rice University - what a wonder. It should appeal to art lovers and lovers who want a magnificent, constantly changing backdrop to a kiss. Expect a crowd during the scheduled "performances" (check the schedule), but you'll quickly have it to yourself once the show's over.
RainbowLodge560.jpg
Photo Courtesy of Rainbow Lodge
 The Rainbow Lodge
2011 Ella Boulevard
It's no surprise that the Rainbow Lodge takes our No. 1 spot. The place is pure class, with great food and impeccable service (including waitstaff that know when to make themselves scarce so as not to ruin the mood). Generations of Houstonians have fallen in love while sitting in the Lodge's dining rooms, some going on to get married there. If you're thinking about Valentine's Day dinner at the Lodge, be ready to reserve your table a full year in advance. The secret's out - the Rainbow Lodge is the place for grown-ups to celebrate.

From embassysuites.com
So many romantic spots in Houston; so little time!   You just may have to stay over a night or two.  That's why  Embassy Suites Houston Near the Galleria created the  Romance Houston Package.  Visit all the Top Romantic Spots in Houston and then come back to reflect about your day in your two room suite.  The Romance Houston Package includes:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Houston Centennial Celebration for Hermann Park

from hermannpark.org

Hermann Park Train

One hundred years of Hermann Park—what better cause for celebration? Since 1914, the Park has been part of the family for generations growing up in Houston. Through the festivities of the year-long Centennial Celebration, everyone in the Houston community will have the chance to honor the special moments the Park has provided to a century’s worth of children and families, and commemorate the efforts made to preserve it for its next hundred years.

From temporary art installations to a family kite festival, special events all year long in 2014 will bring the community together and give visitors young and old memories that will last a lifetime. The Centennial Celebration will be a citywide effort, with many museums and cultural institutions partnering with the Conservancy on special programs, from lectures to musical performances.

Centennial Celebration Events:

Throughout 2014 - Art in the Park

March 4, 2014 - Hats in the Park Luncheon

March 18, 2014 - Grand Gateway Official Opening

March 29, 2014 - Hermann Park Kite Festival

April 25, 2014 - Evening in the Park Gala

May 24-July 26, 2014 - Julia Ideson Library Exhibition

September 13, 2014 - Park to Port Bike Ride


November 8, 2014 - Run in the Park

from embassysuites.com
Embassy Suites Houston Near the Galleria 6 miles/13 min from Hermann Park

Embassy Suites Houston Near the Galleria is only 6 minutes/13 miles from Hermann Park at the year long Centennial Celebration.

All guests enjoy:
  • Free cooked to order breakfast
  • Complimentary Evening Reception
  • Two Room Suite
  • Packages that include: Free Parking, Free WiFi, Gift Cards, Bonus HHonor Points and more!

Click Here and join in the Centennial Celebration of Houston's Herrmann Park with
 Embassy Suites Houston Near the Galleria or call 1-713-626-5444.



Art in the Park at Hermann Park Houston

Stick Work by Patrick Dougherty