Restaurant Week!!

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Of course here in Houston we no longer have just a week to partake in this abundance of food, it is now an entire month. (Insert Everything is Bigger in Texas line here)

Starting today, Houston restaurants will be putting on Houston Restaurant Week! From now through August 31, you can enjoy amazing menus from some amazing restaurants at a budget that most working folks can swallow. In addition, the restaurant will be donating a portion of your meal (actually it will be in monetary form) to the Houston Food Bank!

If you are not in Houston, go to the Google and take a look at when your city might be partaking in this event.

For those of you in San Diego, the event is September 18-23.

Pleasant Surprise at the Empress Hotel

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Whiner #2 and I just returned home from a fantastic cruise on the Crystal Symphony to Alaska. Crystal is known for the quality of food they serve on board. One of it's specialty restaurants is a Nobo - that should give you an idea. So why would we go looking for food in port? Well, that's just what we do.

One of our ports of call was Victoria, B.C. It was a short port call - 8am to 1pm. I'm not an early riser, so by the time we were off the ship we only had a couple of hours in port. We went directly to the Empress Hotel in hopes of a cup of her infamous tea and a bite of breakfast. We were too late, yet too early for lunch. We wandered around the beautiful grounds and returned at 11:30am when they reopened for lunch.

We looked over the menu, blah, sandwiches, salads, then I spotted "Grilled Artisan Bread with a Trio of Spreads". That sounded interesting. The trio included a delightful Hummus, a super yummy Goat Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes, and the third was some of the best Tapenade I'd ever had.

We were delighted! I love when you just happen on to something so good, that hits the spot, and ads to your memory bank. No, this isn't the fanciest dish I've ever eaten, but there I sat, on the veranda of the Empress Hotel, where Queens and dignitaries have also enjoyed a cup of tea and a bite of food, with the man I love, enjoying something lovely, that I will remember for a long time to come.

Quadrophonic Noise- Nestle's Nespresso Machine

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Periodically we will get together and discuss a topic that all four of us have privy to. Whether it’s what Alton Brown did on The Next Iron Chef or the last dinner experience we had at Haven in Houston. We call these ramblings, Quadraphonic Noise. Our first is here below…

Coffee today has much more to do with convenience and quickness rather than quality and flavor. I mean we all really love a good cup of Starbucks right?

My wife, for probably four years straight fell asleep to the movie You’ve Got Mail. I think Tom Hanks sums up our modern yearning for coffee with this quote:

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”
You’ve Got Mail (1998) – Joe Fox (Tom Hanks)

I had become tired of the Starbucks ritual in the morning. Not to mention the $2.95 cup in 1998 has turned into a $4.95 cup. Needless to say my wallet has gotten skinnier while my waistline has started (I mean continued) to grow. For me, coffee serves one purpose…

Wake me the Hell Up!

I love enjoying an after dinner Espresso, the rich creamy froth and intense flavors trapped in that little cup were perfect. Oh and did I mention the caffeine? But as Joe Fox says, you don’t go to Starbucks for coffee and I couldn’t stand in line and shout out Double Espresso! I think we’ve all rolled our eyes at that guy who orders the Quad, no milk, no sugar…

Introducing, my fix.

Confidently order your own Double Espresso at the top of your lungs….at, your house.

In May, we welcomed the newest member to our family appliances. Nestlés Nespresso machine!

No deafening roar of an espresso grinder.

No espresso tamper, no grounds finding their little way into the grout of my kitchen tiles!

This little machine is how I say, awesome! I am amazed at the quality of espresso packed into the pre-packaged pods. Within 30 seconds I have a perfectly poured double espresso in my hands. Nespresso has for your convenience over 20 different individual pods with different intensities from beans all over the world.

One of my favorites, Arpeggio is a combination of “South and Central American Arabicas with fruity or malted profiles, characteristic of Costa Rican coffees.” The Aromatic profile from Nespresso’s website states that the Arpeggio has “intense, grilled notes alongside subtle cocoa notes and woody hints.”

Did I mention 30 seconds?

This machine solves my need for caffeine, it allows me to serve high-quality espresso to my dinner guests without having to make more of a mess in my kitchen; and completes my 21st century version of “Manifest Destiny” everything should be fast and easy, we’re American right?



I love clean, clutter-free spaces. Perhaps this is why we bought a house with a huge kitchen. I love modern, minimalistic design. Perhaps this is why I love the Nespresso Machine so much.
My Whiner Husband loves everything nice, shiny, on the front edge of trendy, and expensive. I’m not complaining. Really. It usually benefits me and our family. When he had a taste of the little machine that uses pods and makes a great cup of coffee a few months ago, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He told everyone about it. He talked about how easy it is, how convenient it is, how ‘inexpensive’ it is. He says it so eloquently in the original post, that it almost scared me away from posting after him! (Wasn’t that a great post??)

I wasn’t sure how I would like having one of these makers. Not to mention, how much counter space will it take up? I already have my 2-3 appliances on the counter. What would I take off to allow this, this, thing, to replace?

But, once my Whiner husband gets something in his head (much like his twisted, err… twist-y parent) he will usually go forth with the execution.

My story also includes Tom Hanks. Not Tom Hanks in one of my all-time favorite movies, just plain Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks on Oprah, actually. Did you see it? (Just Google: Oprah and Tom Hanks, it is the very first link, then click on the video to watch "Tom's Big Reveal".) He and Julia were on for their farewell to Oprah or their Oprah Farewell Show… whatever. Tom and Julia gave everyone in the audience a few of their favorite things. And sweet, funny Tom gives away the Nespresso Citiz to everyone in the audience. While Oprah primarily had a woman audience, he appealed to the men by noting the plug. Much to my disappointment, you really couldn’t tell how big it was. I just wanted to know how much counter space will I be giving up?
I did figure, though, if Tom likes it… Maybe I would, too?

So, when Whiner Husband came home with one and the Other Whiner and Twist came over. Everyone raved. It is easy! Everyone loved it. It is convenient! Everyone bought. Cause, really, it is sort of inexpensive, if you already have the pods, the espresso cups, the frother… Everyone was happy. Even me. I can make a latte at three in the afternoon without loading all of the kids into the car and driving to a neighborhood coffee place. Do you know what that means? Now I’ll get nice and fat with all the milk and sugar I am taking in. I really need to learn to make a nice skinny latte.

And you know what? It takes up very little counter space. See what I mean? Everyone is happy!



In my experience, what The Twist wants is usually the next thing that happens. She gets her way in exactly the same way that Navy Seals get their man but, in her case, with more bloodshed.

So when she began to 'suggest' that we get an espresso maker I knew it would lead to a difficult conversation with my beloved French Press. If The Twist is really jonesing for an espresso maker the FP needs to get her resume out and start looking for a job.

Making coffee with a French Press is only slightly less of a ritual than taking Holy Eucharist. You do several different things in a particular order and if you mess up you go to coffee purgatory.

But I like my French Press and it's quiet. I drink a cup of Peet’s French Roast before I run in the morning so it could be 5:00am-- the Twist doesn’t even know there IS a 5:00am.

So what happened last month that became the tipping point in the espresso vs French Press/Whiner vs Twist coffee mess? I'm going to tell you. The other two whiners got an espresso maker. When I heard about it I called the Whiner-in-Charge. "How can you do this to me?", I said. "I'm a goner." I was kind of upset.

And not just any espresso maker but a Nespresso with optional foamy thing.

No argument could hold back this avalanche of espresso momentum. The Twist sat down that night with her laptop and pointed and clicked until the William-Sonoma website promised to pack-up and send in a damn hurry: the Nespresso, the optional foamy thing, and- - - - wait for it - - - little tiny, outrageously expensive, hermetically sealed, aluminum caplets of espresso.

Did you read Brave New World? What were those little pellets or pills or meds they gave out to improve everyone's disposition? That's what this feels like: little caplets of capitulation. And each caplet costs at least 57 cents. They arrive in sleeves of 10-- minimum order five sleeves. A nine sleeve order just arrived, with shipping, $58.25. French Roast at Peet’s is $12.95 a pound.

Our new espresso machine is loud, expensive, and the loud expensive espresso machine makers have a monopoly on the meds used in the machine. No wonder their address in on Park Avenue in New York.

But then there’s this-- I love this Nespresso!! This is the best coffee I’ve ever had. It is absolutely wonderful, it could not possibly be easier to make, and it’s not so loud that it wakes The Twist up.

There are over a dozen blends with overheated titles like Arpeggio- intensity 9, Volluto intensity 4, and Livanto intensity 6. There are some more expensive non-blends that I'm keeping away from The Twist but I'll let her talk about that.

To this date my favorites are Ristretto, Roma, and Arpeggio which score 10, 8, and 9 in intensity. Each one is perfect in its own way: Ristretto is a pure, strong expresso, Roma seems a little more complex with a couple of disparate flavors, Arpeggio tastes, to me, a little like my old friend the French Roast.

We store these caplets of joy in our old French Press beaker. Farewell, Old Friend. I’ll let The Twist talk about waking up to an espresso maker at 5:00 in the morning, but she, once again, got her way. This time there was no blood.



A while back our housekeeper broke the carafe to our coffee maker. No big deal, I was ready for a coffee-change anyway. I was leaning toward an espresso maker, but My Whiner wasn’t convinced. I told him Don (my co-worker) who always seems to be an expert on everything - food, wine, coffee, you name it had a Nespresso. He recently brought his to the office to make espresso for his team. That may have been where I went wrong. My Whiner isn’t a fan of Don.

We bought a small Mr. Coffee to get us by-- yuck!

While still on the search for our next serious coffee move we took a trip to New York and stayed at The Sofitel (you may have heard of it in the news—The French Diplomat and The Maid). We ate a lovely breakfast in their restaurant, Gaby’s, and were served a delicious cup of coffee made with a French Press. My Whiner was convinced this was the way to go.

The first day home from our trip the Whiner bought a French Press. Then a few days later the carafe got broken (I’m not naming any names but my Whiner keeps trying to blame the housekeeper).

I said, “I think this is an Omen. We are not supposed to own a French Press. I think this means we should get a Nespresso.” He wasn’t buying it, and the next day there was a replacement French Press on the kitchen counter. Then a few days later Alton Brown had the nerve to have a program on making the perfect cup of coffee… using a French Press.

My Whiner then spent his mornings adding a pinch of salt to the coffee, stirring the coffee and water ever so gently to expose all the coffee and lightly pressing to deliver a perfect cup of coffee. The problem with this is it took nearly 15 minutes to get a cup of coffee. And frankly, I don’t have 15 minutes in the morning to wait for coffee.

Then it happened, we went to Houston…

We are now fully committed Nespresso users. And we love it. This morning my Whiner made me a flight of three of his favorite blends. I prefer the Roma on its own: smooth and easy to drink. The Ristretto makes a wonderful Latte!

And there is peace in the world.

~The Twist


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How the four of us have ended up together is what makes us your prototypical dysfunctional family. However the fact that we all have an opinion is well…pretty much like everyone else. 

How about we take the aforementioned opinion and articulate that onto an ongoing Web Article that all of our adoring fans can read and add our words of wisdoms into their lives…

That’s been done too? 

You say it’s a blog and that almost 200 million of these so called blog’s exist. 


Well we like to eat and drink (damn that narrows us down to about 5 billion; we’re heading the wrong direction). 

How about half of us live in San Diego, the other half in Houston.

Our tastes for drink and food range from Jackie Onassis to Andrew Zimmern and all of those in between.  We’ve enjoyed Dry-Aged Prime beef from Texas, fresh Red Snapper from the Gulf of Mexico, grilled fish tacos from Baja California and Salad Niçoise from where else but Nice of course!

So this blog is about four people, who live too far from each other.  We get together hopefully at least four times a year and typically eat and drink way too much when we are together.  We have been to some fantastic places together and have really enjoyed learning about the Houston and San Diego food scenes…(so far the Houston food scene has continued to draw the Californians, East.) Our taste in foods vary, our flavors in drink vary even more and we’d like to share our great experience to at least each other and hopefully one or two others that may stumble upon our mess.

The three Whiners (not Weiners, there are plenty of those in this world) consist of a mother of three who has her own amazing food blog.  She creates masterpieces that her husband (the picky one) enjoys while at the same time that her three little ones can devour too.  Whiner number two is a runner.  His passion is running as well as the fourth member of the group, The Twist.  He is the eater in our group and can put away a gallon of Breyers® Vanilla Ice cream in less than five minutes.  He’s also the one at the table that tells the waitress silly clichés that always get a chuckle…The final Whiner really enjoys a great cut of meat and the enjoyment of preparing a meal (Whiner #1 would say that he needs to do it more often).  He is the beer drinker of the group, but also enjoys a crisp Pinot Grigio or an oaky Woodford Reserve.  He has seen the back-of-the-house in a handful of restaurants as a chef, manager, bartender, bus boy, and waiter.

And finally with a paragraph break all for herself, introducing, The Twist.  She has opened all of our eyes to the finer things of life and has pushed us to experience more than we ever would have.  Don’t be afraid of her she won’t bite, (mostly because you’re probably not clean enough!)  We look forward to her point of view, mainly because we don’t have a choice.

We will blog about food, drink, and other nouns pertaining to said food and drink. 

Look for our first discussion on our Nespresso™Machine!