105 Cafe – Conroe, TX

Conveniently located on Highway 105 in Conroe, Texas,  the 105 Cafe has been a popular spot for a number of years. They have been turning out homestyle American breakfast and lunch dishes made with local and organic ingredients to an increasingly loyal bunch of customers. Once you taste the offerings, you’ll be a convert, too.

From brown eggs fresh off the farm, to locally grown organic produce, this place has a refreshing blend of homestyle and slightly offbeat items on their menu.

Our latest visit was for breakfast, and we found some very satisfying meals awaiting us.

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Buffalo Chicken Omelette with Black Beans

 

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The Irishman Skillet – corned beef with eggs, potatoes, onions, peppers and cheese.

Stop by and give them a try. It wounds trite to say but you will be glad you did.

On the 1-5 scale, 105 Cafe has earned:

Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.8
105 Cafe
3010 W Davis Street
Conroe, TX 77304
(936) 539-3447
105cafe.com
Enjoy! We certainly did!

– Ann Cathey

Simple spot turning out homestyle American breakfast & lunch dishes made with organic ingredients.

House Blend Coffee

While piddling about in my kitchen this morning, I noticed myself going through a rountine – emptying the last bits of unused ground coffee into a 5 pound can that I keep available. I call it my “house blend”.

It began as a brand new cannister of Beaumond (a WalMart brand? It’s been several years…) coffee. At one time I put a pound Kroger house lable decaf into the cannister and shook it up. This was several years ago when my medical issues were first being figured out and my doctor wanted me to “slow down” my caffiene consumption. At that point, it was pretty-much half-caff coffee.

Months later, the pressure to stop drinking coffee eased off. Around that time I found that I had several rolled up bags of various brands of coffee grounds taking up space in my freezer. I thawed them out and dumped them all into the cannister.

I receive samples, and one shots of different types of coffee pretty regularly. I’ll try one out, and often dump teh rest of the samples into that cannister as well. Nothing “flavored”, just regular and decaf coffees. It gets stirred up and/or well shaken to make the “blend” and it’s ready to use.

I managed to track down some of the wonderful odds and ends that have gone into the cannister in the last couple of years. Here’s what I discovered:

 

This is not a complete list by a long shot, but the resulting blend is deep, rish and full bodied, sometimes elegantly smooth, other times with a bite. It’s always coffee, all the time, whenever I want  to make a cup or a pot. Guests have repeatedly complimented my personal house belnd and asked for a recipe of what I use. I can only say that I truly do not know what’s in any given scoop of grounds form that particular cannister.

One thing I do not do is add flavored coffees. There are so many flavors out there that might clash in horrible ways that I dare not mix them haphazardly. I do have a couple of smaller cannisters that I drop flavored odds and end into, however. One of them is for baking flavors like hazelnut, pecan, cinnamon, and sugar cookie. The other is for darker flavors like chocolate and Kahlua. I may need inthe future to create a couple of other flavored cannisters, but for right now, two is plenty. The flavors are chosen for their compatibilty and have turned out twisty and delicious every time.

I look forward to adding more odds and ends to the collective, and savoring the resulting brews.

 

— Ann Cathey

Pho Lee Vietnamese – Austin, TX

 

On a recent trip to Austin, some friends directed us to a little strip center restaurant to appease my partner’s craving for a traditional Vietnamese dish: pho.

Pho Lee Vietnamese Restaurant is a small, strip center restaurant. It is immaculately clean,t eh staff is friendly and the jasmine tea is always fresh. In spite of it’s seemingly small size, the menu is full of delights from pho, bun, mi, com chien, and Thai offerings to a small number of Chinese dishes. A little something for everyone who enjoys the savory, good-for-the-soul nature of Vietnamese foods.

We took it easy on our carb intake on this trip, sticking to spring rolls and pho. There’s so much more to try that we will just have to visit again, such as the Cafe Sua (Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, served hot or cold).

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Spring rolls with shrimp.

The spring rolls were unexpectedly well done, with a thin and tender rice membrane containing lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts, boiled shrimp, and served with a light peanut sauce.

 

Pho Tai Nam Gau

Pho Tai, Nam, Gau

Pho Tai, Nam, Gau
Pho noodle soup with thin slices of eye of round steak, well-done flank steak, and marble brisket.

Marble brisket has thin layers of fat like bacon, making it quite tasty.

 

Pho Ga

Pho Ga

Pho Ga
Pho noodle soup with thin slices of white meat chicken, and thinly sliced onion that melts in your mouth.

 

Side VeggiesCilantro, basil, lime, jalapeno and bean sprouts on the side, giving you the options of adding flavor and texture to your pho.

Hoisin, sriracha, a hot chili sauce and soy sauce were available at the table. By adding a bit to each spoonful, rather than the entire bowl, splendid combinations of flavors will keep your pho from homogenization on the palate.

When you are next in Austin and have some time for lunch or needs a hearty, satisfying supper, stop by Pho Lee and indulge your senses.

On the 1-5 scale, Pho Lee has earned:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.5

Pho Lee Vietnamese Restaurant
2601 N Interstate 35 Frontage Road
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 310-8585

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Cool Drinks for a Warm Spring

We are having a warmish spring in my part of Texas, hence the title of this post. Drinks like the ones below are great for any time you want a refreshing cool down, be it spring, summer, fall, or winter (if you live in Texas!). They have been popular on quiet mornings out on the porch, and lazy evenings when the sun starts to set.

The recipes below have been built from several sources and my personal preferences. The notes on substituting ingredients are from my own playing around with the recipes.

MOCHA FRAPPE
Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
2 cups ice
1 cup strong coffee (brewed double-strength and chilled in advance)
1/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
Whipped cream and chocolate shavings for a pretty topping

Place all ingredients (not the toppings) into a blender and blend until smooth, adding more ice if needed.

Serve in glasses with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: This mix is way too sweet for me, though it is definitely richly decadent.

I prefer ice cream to the ice, or coffee frozen into cubes instead of ice of plain water. This increases the richness of the mocha frappe without watering it down.

I also prefer to use the heavy cream with no sweetened condensed milk or sugar. While this may decrease the overall sweet taste of the drink, it will also pull down the calorie and carbohydrate counts significantly.

The whipped cream and/or chocolate shavings are up to individual preference, of course. Personally I don’t care for them (piling on more calories), though they do make an attractive presentation.

 

MIXED BERRY SMOOTHIES
Prep Time: maybe 10 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
¾ cup cranberry or cranberry mix juice (cranapple, crangrape, etc)
¾ cup frozen mixed berries (blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc)
6 oz yogurt, berry or vanilla
½ medium banana, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a blander and on high until smooth. It won’t take long, probably just a few seconds.

Pour into large glasses and serve.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Once again I like to freeze the juice in an ice tray if I have time. This adds extra chill to the beverage without any watering down.

Yogurt may be replaced with sherbet or ice cream for a variety in textures and flavors. For example, substitute the yogurt for lime sherbet, add lime juice to taste, and garnish with a slice of lime for a bitter-sweet alternative. A mellower alternative uses cranapple or cran-blueberry juice, blueberries, and vanilla ice cream. Experiment and find the flavors that suit you best.

In any of the ice cream variations, there are “carb control” ice creams available that may help those on low carb diets to enjoy these beverages.

I hope you have fun with them, and enjoy many happy moments with a cooling drink!

– Ann Cathey

Cruise Cuisine – Pancho’s, Cozumel, Mexico

 

In the duty-free marketplace on Cozumel, our intrepid fellows insisted that we have lunch at a local establishment they were already aware of. It’s called Pancho’s, as might be expected in the tourist area, but the food was not typical tourist fare. It was delightful to have real Mexican cuisine instead of the Tex-Mex hybrid dishes so profligate in Texas.

I started off with a coffee, while some of my fellow travelers indulged in frosty adult beverages as seen in a previous blog. The coffee was a locally grown blend, dark and rich, and served with heavy cream. it was so good I almost didn’t order food.

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My empty cup.

 

 

My partner wanted to try a Mexican beer in Mexico. Upon finding out that Dos XX was available on tap, he chose to make that his beverage experience.

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for the meal itself, we went with a couple of dishes we are quite familiar with, wanting to know how they would be served in their homeland. He went with the queso flameado (as we had previously learned to call it), while I settle for the chicken flautas.

The queso came all melty, as we know it, though it came in a shallower dish, and covered in a mild green sauce. It was served with flour tortillas as we are also used to. Somehow it tasted better than anything we had experienced back home.

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The flautas were just as I had been told to expect in Mexico. There was nothing added. Roasted chicken was rolled into tortillas and fried. The chicken was flavorful, but without all the crazy spices Tex-Mex utilizes. The sauce it was served with was a little sweet and a lot spicy, just as I had hoped it might be. There was even a large spoonful of guacamole to help cool my tongue after the first taste of that sauce.

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We were fortunate to be able to get a table on the “beach” as the hostess referred to it. It was outside on a built up bit of sand, with palm fronds for a ceiling and a view of old coral coastline and sparkling blue water.

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and the chance to sit and do relatively little for an hour or so. We hope to be able to revisit Pancho’s and try some of the more adventurous items on the menu.

–Ann Cathey

Foodie Fights!

Foodies find the silliest things to argue over. I mean, really – they’re foodies. They should
be open to new experiences, right?

These are some of the things I’ve recently seen hotly debated on Facebook and other places on the web, with my personal opinions:

1. Cornbread: sweet or not sweet?

Personally, I’m nto a fn od sweet cornbread, though I will make it upon request. The sweet
tends to cloud savoury flavors from dishes like chili or beans. I can see a certin attraction
for sweet cornbread for beans cooked with a hamhck, or as a treat with butter and honey.
2. Chili: beans or no beans?

Who cares? Chili was originally a dish created to serve the worst cuts of met, and meat that
had just started to turn. It’s been turned into a gourmet delight with everything but the
kitchen sink added to recipies from all over the world.
3. Does pineapple belong on pizza?

Why not? Unless, of course, you are allergic to pineapple or are overdosing on vitamin K.
Again, it’s a personal preference, like anchovies.

 

4. Chocolate (cocoa): sweet or savoury?

Yes! Cocoa was not origianlly a confectioner’s device. It’s earliest use was as a spice and
thickening agent. Europeans found it tasty and began the practice of chocolate as we know and love it now. It’s still a valuable spice, being an excellent additive for chilis and stews,
savoury breads, and coffee – without all the sugar.
Share your thoughts with us!

— Ann Cathey

Gypsy Joynt – Galveston, Texas

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In a building that has survived multiple hurricanes, a little hippie restaurant opened that’s a definite winner. Gypsy Joynt is an eclectic mix of atmosphere, food, coffees, and desserts that’s sure to grab your attention. Don’t be fooled by the exterior where the flagpoles proudly bear bandannas, t-shirts and jeans, this place rocks.

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From the time we walked in to the time we left, we were treated to an array of Rolling Stones music. Seemed to be the sound of the day and we didn’t mind in the slightest. The dj booth is built of what looks like scavenged wood, with racks of LPs, and a command station presided over by a computer that rules the sound system. I didn’t get too good a look at the rest of the goodies in the booth, as there was so much more to see.

There’s a lot of dark wood, including the tables and mismatched chairs, that helps to give a comfortably cave-like feel to the interior, Shawls hung over the windows, scarves and beads from the ceiling, with a scattered mix of period posters, toys, and other implementada ranging from the late 50’s to the mid 70’s along the walls. The bar top (they do serve beer) where you place your order, is cut from an old pool table. The slab still has it’s felt jacket, and the pockets their leather baskets.

Pick up a menu and be prepared for a wild ride!

From pizza to focacia sandwiches and wraps, to salads to a truly decadent dessert bar, this place seems to have a little bit of everything.

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Smoretella – Nutella, toasted marshmallow, Graham cracker.

Autumn Cocoa – fudge, pumpkin spice, homemade pumpkin marshmallow.

 

 

Rocco Rocks – mac-n-cheese and brisket pizza. Think what you will, but one of our tablemates called it “possibly the perfect pizza”.

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dsc_0021Big & Sloppy – a chili cheeseburger that might best be served on a plate instead of a burger basket! I ordered bunless and was not disappointed. The grilled sirloin patty was served up beneath sliced cheddar and a ton of house-made chili. The chili wasn’t hot, which was a very pleasant change from today’s trend toward scorching your face off, though it usually comes with hot onions and jalapenos. Yes, those are sweet potato waffle fries.

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I Love Lucy – This lovely combo sandwich was ordered as a wrap. Stuffed with ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, house-made pickles and mustard, it was a tasty and filling meal when coupled with the sweet potato waffle fries.

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House-made pickles – What a pleasant surprise! With a firm crunch, these thick wavy slices come in somewhere between hamburger dills and kosher, with a sweet afterglow on the back of the tongue.

 

When next you are on Galveston Island and feeling a bit peckish, skip the Strand and give this Joynt a try.

On the 1-5 scale, Gypsy Joynt gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 3
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.2

Gypsy Joynt
2711 Market Street
Galveston, Texas 77550
409-497-2069

 

— Ann Cathey

MOD Coffehouse – Galveston TX

DSC_0515Founded in 2001, MOD enjoys a corner space along Postoffice Street in the heart of Historic Downtown Galveston. With a staple of Fair Trade, Organic coffee and teas, MOD strives to bring the best coffee, teas, espressos and home baked goods, and the warmest welcome every day. They also offer smoothies and Italian sodas as well as wine and beer.

MOD offers daily beer and wine happy hours, too. As of my writing this, there is not yet a menu available online, but it’s coming.

From the study loft, to the open air space with comfy chairs, to the cafe style room filled with mix and match tables and chairs, to the lovely arbor covered outdoor patio, MOD has a comfortable space for you to enjoy your drinks.

Art on the Walls is a MOD showcase for new local artists. Every six weeks a new artist is invited to display their work.

DSC_0519 To GoMOD hosts many more such entertaining and community-minded activities. Live music on the patio, poetry night (dates and times fluctuate), local artist and author exhibits, book groups, creative writing groups, a lovely arbor covered patio, study nooks, and free wi-fi. The folks at MOD recycle, too, having a special relationship with a local farm who takes used coffee grounds to mix into their fertilizers and soils.

Spaces are available at MOD for small group meetings (6-8) or reserve the community room for larger events (up to 50). Contact Holly at MOD 409-765-5659 for information and availability.

This is another dog friendly business, welcoming polite dogs on leashes. Bicycles are also welcome, and even have parking space available.

If you just can’t get enough of MOD, you may want to take some home to brew for yourself. They make their teas and coffees available, as seen on the website:

Organic Fair Trade coffee available by the cup or by the pound and ½ pound

         Espresso beans available by the pound and ½ pound

         Herbal teas available by the cup or in bulk

The Wandering Texans enjoy MOD as often as possible, and are pretty sure you will like it, too.

IMG_1043 Honey Bee

Honey Bee – vanilla honey latte

On the 1-5 scale, MOD Coffeehouse gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.5

MOD Coffeehouse
2126 Post Office Street
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 765-5659

— Ann Cathey

La King’s – Galveston, Texas

“Meet me at La King’s Confectionery.”

La King’s is an old fashioned ice cream parlour and candy factory on the historic Strand. Old time fountain delights, coffee, salt water taffy, lollipops, and so many chocolates! There’s even a case full of sugar-free (isomalt) chocolates for those of us who need an alternative to sugar.

The ambiance is definitely a bit of history, with huge wooden bars and barbacks serving as soda fountain, ice cream service, coffee shop, decorated with antique machines and containers of ingredients once used by La King’s. These fabulous antiques run down one side of the shop. The other side is covered in displays of candies, on tables and in refrigerated cabinets. Down the middle of the space are the nut roaster and popcorn machine, silly coin operated games, and white wireworks ice cream parlour tables and chairs. At the far end is the candy making demonstration area, only it’s not just a demonstration. La King’s prides itself in showing you how it’s done while they are actually making their products.DSC_0490According to their marketing material:

La King’s is your connection to a by-gone era. La King’s Confectionery goes back tot he 1920’s when James. H. King began his apprenticeship in candy making at the St. Regis Confectionery in Houston, Texas. He learned his craft well under the watchful eyes of “old-world masters”. Jimmy established his own business and eventually supplied stores throughout the south. He inspired his sons to learn the candy business with the sme pride and attention to detail.

In 1976, Jimmy’s oldest son, Jack, moved his family to the historic Strand in Galveston to recreate an old fashioned confectionery. With the help of his family, Jack created La King’s Confectionery. He has continued to use 19th century formulas and methods handed down to him, making confections using traditional equipment and procedures.

La King’s features a 1920’s soda fountain, serving malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, splits, floats and your favorite fountain treats.

Our master candymaker will delight you with his old time specialties made right before your eyes on antique equipment. We make more than 50 candies from traditional recipes.

La King’s ice cream parlour makes and serves “Purity” ice cream. Purity was the first ice cream manufacturer in Texas, The company was founded in 1889 on Galveston Island.

In addition to all the wonderful sweets, La King’s also offers a full service coffee bar serving Duncan coffees. They also carry a full line of roasted Duncan beans in case you want to take some home. The Texas Pecan is a nice treat on a cold day!

The complete array of La King’s goodies may be ordered online and shipped to your home, or to others as a gift. Sweeten your day by visiting their website for more information on La King’s candies and other treats.

DSC_0118On the 1-5 scale, La King’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.8

La King’s Confectionery
2323 The Strand
Galveston Island, Texas
409-762-6100

— Ann Cathey

Cafe Du Monde, NOLA

DSC_0158If the name Cafe Du Monde doesn’t ring a bell, then clearly you have not traveled to the French Quarter of New Orleans. The name should evoke thoughts of a deep, rich, satisfying cup of coffee and the best beignets to ever have passed my lips, and a wonderful people watching opportunity.

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The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862, and with the exception of Christmas Day and those few days when a Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans, it is open 24/7. It is a traditional coffee shop, offering dark roasted coffee and chicory, beignets, white and chocolate milk, and fresh squeezed orange juice. The coffee is served black or au lait. DSC_0164Au lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French-style doughnuts about the size of a man’s palm, lavishly covered with powdered sugar, and served in orders of three. Iced coffee and soft drinks were added to the menu in 1988, apparently due to rising demand.

According to the website: “The taste for coffee and chicory was developed by the French during their civil war. Coffee was scarce during those times, and they found that chicory added body and flavor to the brew. The Acadians from Nova Scotia brought this taste and many other french customs (heritage) to Louisiana. Chicory is the root of the endive plant. Endive is a type of lettuce. The root of the plant is roasted and ground. It is added to the coffee to soften the bitter edge of the dark roasted coffee. It adds an almost chocolate flavor.”

L3AzI have found the coffee at this establishment to be consistent over the years, and some of the best of it’s type I have been privileged to consume. While it is available in many grocery and specialty stores, sporting the unique yellow label, it’s never quite the same as the fresh coffee from the French Quarter.

DSC_0159Cafe Du Monde has branched out from the original coffee shop. There are now eight Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stands in the New Orleans Metropolitan area. They are located in the French Market, Esplanade Mall, Riverwalk Mall, Lakeside Mall, Oakwood Mall, Mandeville, Covington and 4600 Veterans Boulevard as well as a gift shop in the French Quarter.

DSC_0167If you are not inclined to visit the original location, or want to Christmas shop for the coffee lovers in your life, you may also visit the Cafe Du Monde Online Store.

DSC_0166A word of warning for those who try the beignets! Breath out before you bring this pastry near your face, open wide to take a bite, and whatever you do don’t breath or laugh while all that powdered sugar is anywhere near your face! If you think I’m kidding, try it.

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Both my partner and I have experienced the hazards of breathing wrong, either taking sugar into the nose and lungs, or spraying it all over the table and everyone with us. Cafe Du Monde’s beignets are an adventure to eat, to say the least!

On the 1-5 scale, Cafe Du Mond gets:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 4.4

Cafe Du Monde – French Quarter
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544

— Ann CatheyDSC_0161