Showin’ some crochet love: Uchi edition

If there’s one thing I need to say about Uchi, it’s that you don’t go there to eat, you go there to have an experience. This isn’t a restaurant where they’ll hand you a pretty plate, only to find out that only 40% of it is actually edible and the rest is just for show. You’re actually expected to eat that flower that’s sitting on the side, maybe even drag it through that oh-so-pretty spiral of sauce drawn on the plate, and it will be freakin’ delicious. Calling Uchi a sushi restaurant is a bastardization to the establishment…this isn’t a typical trendy Japanese joint that tosses random ingredients of the day into a roll and serves saketinis. It’s so much more than that, and it’s definitely a dining experience that Uchi can brand as its own.


Photo credit: Uchi Houston Facebook page

Don’t know what a gastrique is? No worries, you won’t get any of those dreaded condescending eyerolls here (hooray!). The waitstaff walks you through the menu, and they won’t just recite ingredients if you ask what’s in a particular dish – they’ll tell you in detail what’s in it, where it comes from, maybe throw in a fun story about what happened the first time they ate it themselves, all to the point where you’ll be like “Holy crap, that sounds amazing…yeah, I’ll get a plate of that. And throw in that other thing you mentioned too…I don’t remember what it was, but it sounded awesome. Kthanx!”

Yokai Berry
Photo credit: Uchi Houston flickr page 

They have dishes like the “yokai berry” on the menu: it consists of Atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale (I’ll admit seeing the word “dinosaur” written in the description sold me), Asian pear, yuzu, candied quinoa, and blueberries. You’ll see all of that written on paper (my eyes shot straight to “TEEHEE, DINOSAUR!”), and you kinda think “Salmon and kale, and – blueberries? Candied quinoa? Huh?” Sometimes I get skeptical about overly avant-garde sounding dishes…I love seeing creativity put to food, but some restaurants take it too far and you end up feeling the same way as you do at a modern art museum…you pay money, and after all is said and done, you still don’t “get it.” Then you walk away pissed off that you paid money to look at paint splotches on canvas that a four year-old could have replicated at a daycare. ARGH. Anyway, that’s not the case at Uchi. You take a leap of faith and order the damn thing, and it blows you away. The richness from the incredibly fresh and fatty slices of salmon gets paired with the earthiness of the fried kale. Then the crisp, sweet and tart flavors of the Asian pear and blueberries begin to cut through, topped off with an extra bit of sweetness and crunch from the candied quinoa. It’s hard to describe, but it all comes together into a moment where you’ll be like “OH MY GOD I GET IT. AND IT’S DELICIOUS. THANK YOU.” That’s the kind of innovation and creativity that runs across the rest of the menu (none of that “WTF, you just added chocolate to garlic for shits and giggles, I hate you” feeling), and everything I’ve tried has translated from paper to the plate without a hitch.

After having an incredible dinner at Uchi, I decided to do a crochet drop. I could have made little pieces of nigiri sushi, but that would’ve been too generic to any other Japanese-themed restaurant. I wanted to do something unique to Uchi, so I chose a dish that had a name that I could work with: the jar jar duck. It’s a dish brought out in a glass jar layered with duck served 3 ways (duck confit, duck cracklins, duck jus), candied kumquats, endive, with rose­mary smoke wafting out of it. This dish is pure theater when it’s brought out to your table.

Look. At. That.
Photo credit: Rebecca Fondren

And so I present my own rendition of a jar jar duck:

I’ll admit once I made the lil’ guy, I looked at it and thought to myself “Crap…this seemed like a better idea in theory.” What the hell was I thinking?? I put a duck. In a jar. WTF? I came to the horrifying realization that when I handed it off, they were either going to be delighted, or think it was really freaking weird, but give a polite “oh cool, thanks”. Kinda like when a kid gives you a bowl full of mud from outside…you say thank you for the thoughtful playtime gift, but you’re really just going to wash out the bowl once little Billy scampers off and finds something else to play with. Either way, my bf booked a reservation, we had a brilliant meal, and after stuffing our faces, I handed the lil’ duck in a jar to our waitress after we were presented with the check. She said it’ll have a good home in the office! Operation Jar Jar Duck Drop complete! 🙂 I’ll definitely be back to eat my way through any remnants of the menu that I’ve tragically left behind. I’M COMING FOR YOU. NOM NOM.

Uchi Houston
http://www.uchihouston.com
904 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-4808

Duckie pattern from Amigurumi World by Ana Paula Rimoli

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Showin’ some crochet love: Coffee edition!

I’m a hopeless caffeine junkie. Not in the sense that I chug 5 cups of coffee a day or anything, but more in the sense that I’ve been on a one-cup-a-day habit for so long now that I get throbbing headaches if I go just one day without a caffeine fix. Houston has plenty of good coffee shops in the sense that they’re great places to socialize, lounge around, or get some work done over a nice hot beverage. On the other hand, not many of them actually have good coffee. I’m not saying that the other places have bad coffee by any means, but they’re not going to be the places that you’d visit if you want fresh and local roasted coffee for its own unique and inherent taste. That’s where Catalina Coffee comes in.

Photo credit: Catalina website

I’ll preface this by saying that Catalina isn’t my favorite “stay and hang out” type of coffee shop. It’s relatively small, there’s no free wi-fi (but you can try to bum off of some from the places next door), and tables are small, so it’s not really ideal for students/people trying to simultaneously squeeze in a coffee break and work. But dammit, this is 100% where I go if I want a good, freshly roasted cup of coffee that doesn’t need any extra syrups, whipped cream, or fancy toppings to make it taste better. I usually go for a cortado:  a shot of espresso with equal parts steamed milk. I’m not enough of a coffee buff to drink straight espresso, but the cortado is the ideal grab-n-go caffeine fix for me…small portion, plenty of caffeine kick, and about as unadulterated as it comes in terms of the actual coffee itself. I don’t need to add sugar…the coffee is just that smooth. 🙂 On the other hand, if a cortado is too strong, they make some mean lattes and mochas too. They’re not overly sweet, and they always have pretty pretty latte art to boot. 🙂

That being said, since Catalina’s been my go-to source for good cups of coffee, and the fact that I’ve actually sat down and crocheted “in the wild” there on a few occasions, I thought I’d make them a little gift. 🙂

The little heart on top isn’t as pretty as the ones that they make on their lattes, but hopefully it spreads the love one way or another! 🙂 And with that, I dropped by today, ordered a cortado to go, and handed the lil’ guy off to the barista. Spreading more crochet love around town, one critter at a time. 🙂

Catalina Coffee:
Website: http://catalinacoffeeshop.com/
2201 Washington Avenue
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 861-8448

Showin’ some crochet love: Eatsie Boys, part 2

A few weeks ago, I got the following tweet from The Eatsie Boys:

Back in October, I crocheted a little mascot for them based on their logo, and it looks like their lil’ dude wanted some friends. So I was more than happy to get my hook on and grant him that wish. 🙂 A couple of weeks later, he had two new buddies to hang out with.

Two lil’ eboys, hanging out in my egg crate.

Today I dropped by to unite these dudes with their new friend, and lo and behold, the happy trio was together at last! I’ll let the guys fight it out amongst themselves over who gets which lil’ egg dude. 🙂

And of course I got some food while I was at it. I really don’t need to sing the praises of these guys any more than I have already…it’s just plain GOOD. Pork snuggies, Frank the Pretzel, the ice cream…I could eat my way through that damn truck. They’re actually opening a brick and mortar location in the summer, which means mo’ grub for the rest of us! Woohoo! Peace, love, pork snuggies, and the occasional crocheted eggman. 😀

Eatsie Boys:
Website: http://eatsieboys.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/eatsieboys

Showin’ some crochet love

Here in my hometown of Houston, food trucks (aside from the multitudes of taco trucks) are a relatively new phenomenon (yeah yeah, I know all you NY and LA people are snickering away). Regardless, one way or another I’m pretty damn happy that they’ve caught on, and I’ve already found quite a few gems around town that fill me (literally) with deliciousness and happiness. 🙂 Cue Eatsie Boys, by far one of my favorite trucks so far.

Photo credit: Eatsie Boys facebook page

The food’s fresh, local, and freakin’ delicious. They started off serving some AWESOME savory dishes (my fave was the “pork snuggies”: slow-cooked Harrison Hog Farms pork belly, homemade pickles, green onions, homemade hoisin on steamed, pillowy buns = NOM NOM NOM)…then when the Texas heat got to be too much, they moved on to serving ice cream, which was just as awesome (“Makers Mark Some Noise + Golden Grahams”: vanilla spiked with Maker’s Mark, studded with Golden Grahams, and MOAR NOM NOM NOM). After stalking this truck for several months and trying just about everything on the menu, something had to be done. I decided to bring their mascot to life.

 

Left: Original Eatsie Boys logo. Right: My own yarn rendition

I crocheted a little eggman, complete with removable ice cream cone (gotta keep him seasonal if they bring back the pork snuggies, right?), and set out to give the dudes at Eatsie Boys this lil’ token of appreciation. Because dammit, they’ve fed me enough awesomeness that they deserve some thanks. I sent them a tweet with a photo of the lil’ guy, and a few hours later I was at their truck window with the little eggman in hand. When I brought him out, the guy at the window immediately exclaimed “Oh my god, that’s YOU!!” Woohoo! My little eggman was finally home! We exchanged high fives, had a good chat, and of course I enjoyed some ice cream while I was at it (this time around I got “Slow and Low Sweet Potato Marshmallow”…and it is every bit as delicious as it sounds). I got to satisfy my sweet tooth, showed some appreciation to one of my favorite local businesses, and now my little eggman was where he belonged: happily perched in the window of the Eatsie Boys truck.

Home sweet home!

Last time I visited the truck, the lil’ dude wasn’t at his post in the window, but the guy informed me that he’s actually been hanging out in their tip jar, workin’ it for tips. Not only does the little guy have a home, but he’s got a job too! *Sniff*…I’m so proud. In all seriousness though, if any of you are in the Houston area, definitely check these guys out. They’re a fun bunch of hard-working dudes (I’ve joked that the owner is like the Ryan Seacrest of the Houston food scene), and their food is well worth tracking down the truck for. Eat, drink, and be merry, my friends!

Eatsie Boys info: find them on facebook, twitter, or at their webpage.