Koji Ramen Bar – Spring TX

We are all likely well acquainted with the ubiquitous ramen noodle packs found in most grocery stores. College students live on them, moms keep them available as quick lunches for their children on weekend and vacations, and writers seem to thrive on them. We eat them straight out of the package, cooked up according to the directions (noodles in broth), and we eat them dry (broth drained off and spice pack added directly to the noodles). Some of even get creative with ramen by adding broken meats, veggies, and other items that we have on hand at the time.

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Put what you think you know about ramen out of your mind. Koji Ramen Bar offers a whole new perspective on the ramen noodle and how it should be served, offering deep bowls of broth with perfectly cooked noodles, and the sort of things on top that appear to be pretty traditional and/or local favorites.

The décor is trim, neat, with wall art that is splashy and fun. We had the fortune to sit beneath a six foot tall mineki-neko – the Good Luck Cat.

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We started with gyoza (Japanese pork potstickers) and takoyaki (octopus balls), both of which were outstanding in flavor and texture. The gyoza were tender and fresh, with a firmness to the filling that was not hard or difficult to chew as at some restaurants. The takoyaki were rich and crunchy; very much a new and delightful experience for us.

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Gyoza – Japanese pork potstickers

 

I ordered the chicken version, and was not disappointed. In addition to the chicken, noodles and broth, there were green onion, leaf spinach, bamboo shoots, carrots, corn, nori strips, tea egg and a sprinkled topping of sesame seeds and spices. I topped bites with dried garlic flakes, and the various tasty sauces offered on the table. Delicious!

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Koji Chicken Ramen

 

The full menu is available online and makes me want to revisit the establishment every time I peruse it. There is so much to look forward to trying!

 

On the 1-5 scale, Koji Ramen Bar has earned:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 4.25

Koji Ramen Bar
25403 Interstate 45, Suite A
Spring TX 77380
832-823-5197

Enjoy! We certainly did!30531185_10214338556871563_6198082934243590144_n

– Ann Cathey

Babin’s Seafood House – The Woodlands, TX

Babin’s Seafood House is an extraordinary experience for those who love seafood. They advertise “New Orleans Style Seafood” and they mean it. We were fresh from a trip to NOLA when we were invited to tag along to a local Babin’s location. Are we ever happy we went! DSC_0039From the exterior architecture to the interior decor, Babin’s made us feel like we were back in NOLA. The food held up it’s end of bargain as well, being compared to dishes at fine dining establishments in the French Quarter such as Royal House. DSC_0998Rather than trying to tell you about our experience, we’ll just show you. Enjoy!

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crawfish Appetizer

Crawfish Appetizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boudin Balls

Boudin Balls

 

 

 

 

 

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

 

 

 

 

 

Crawfish Half & Half

Crawfish Half & Half

 

 

Pasta di Mare

Pasta di Mare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beignets

Beignets

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe au Lait

Cafe au Lait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 1-5 scale, Babin’s Seafood House gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 4.5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.7

Babin’s Seafood House
19529 IH 45
Shenandoah, TX 77385

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

 

— Ann Cathey

Holiday Season Activities

There is a lot to see and do in the Greater Houston Area around the holidays. From Galveston Island up to Huntsville, from Beaumont over to Katy, the region is jam-packed with sights and delights!

I stumbled across a list of activities on another blog, Big Kid Small City, and thought I might share it. Things to Do in Houston During the Holidays + Christmas Activities in November and December 2014  is a good starter list for anyone traveling to or living in the Greater Houston Area this holiday season. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and all other great reasons to get together with family right around the corner, now is the time to start making plans for what you would like to do with that family, other than simply go to the movies. From ice skating to visual extravaganzas to specialized shopping venues, this list will get you moving and smiling.

I hope to be able to provide some more in-depth information on some of these items in the weeks to come.

Happy Holidays!
–Ann Cathey

Opt to Adopt – Cats at MCAS

DSC_0300 smAs a followup on yesterday’s post about the overcrowding at a local shelter, here are some additional photos I was able to take in one of the feline play-rooms. These cats are all available for adoption! If you are not in the market for a new companion animal, please share this post with your friends – maybe they will be after seeing these furry gems. 🙂

All of the cats featured are currently available for adoption at MCAS as of 8/27/2014. My apologies for not getting all of their names and ID codes.

DSC_0287 sm DSC_0283 sm DSC_0288 smDSC_0292DSC_0299 smDSC_0297 smDSC_0291 smDSC_0295 smDSC_0290 Chelsea smDSC_0301 smDSC_0286 smDSC_0302 smThank you for taking the time to look at them all. Remember that an adoption application may be printed out and completed before hand to save time in the adoption process.

— Ann Cathey

Opt to Adopt – Overcrowding Kills

Rescued kitten we are now calling "Muffin". She needs a good home. Any volunteers?

Rescued kitten we are now calling “Muffin”. She needs a good home. Any volunteers?

We had a need to visit the Montgomery County Animal Shelter on FM242 today.

 

Sadly it was to drop off a rescued kitten (half-grown) who had been picked up from behind a trash compactor behind a restaurant. We have a surfeit of rescued pets at home already, and didn’t want to add to their stress with a new resident cat.

 

When we saw the notice below, there was a change of heart.

Euthanasia Warning

Euthanasia Warning

We checked with the receptionist to find that the shelter is hosting 725 animals, as of right then. There were people in looking to adopt a new companion, but they were few this morning. There are kittens of various ages being kenneled in the reception area and halls because the shelter is so full.

So Many Kittens...

So Many Kittens…

 

 

 

A “recycled” pet may not have a pedigree, but if you are looking for unconditional love, does that really matter?

 

A shelter pet may even seem expensive. When you factor in the cost not only of intake, bathing, feeding, de-fleaing, and upkeep while the animal is being kept at the shelter, but of the shots, de-worming, veterinary exams, and spay/neuter, that companion animal is a veritable bargain.

Chelsea (Siamese Blue Eyes)

Chelsea (Siamese Blue Eyes) – longhaired Rag Doll mix

Remi

Remi – female short hair

DSC_0285 Play Room

Kitty Play-Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two feline play-rooms where you can meet several cats all at the same time. These cats are proven to get along with other cats as is borne out by their presence in the kitty play-rooms.

 

 

 

Canine Play Area Out Front

Canine Play Area Out Front

For the dogs and puppies, not only are there the indoor kennels, but a lot of outdoor kennels available to peruse through as well. Most dogs are allowed to be taken out on a leash to the large runs so that you may play with them and get a feel for their character.

 

 

Not every shelter does this, but MCAS hosts the Diamonds in Ruff program offering dogs and Purrls for cats who have been at the shelter for more than 60 days for a flat $25 adoption fee. There are even some who have been hosted over 80 days!

DSC_0279 Take Me Home

Please Take Me Home

This is one shelter who as no-kill as possible, but overcrowding often calls for desperate measures. When there is no room left in the kennels or foster homes, what else can be done? Please help those pets who have been abandoned, thrown away on the road, surrendered because they are too old, the new baby is allergic, or because that cute little puppy grew into a very large dog. It’s not the pet’s fault that humans are so fickle.

All of the cats featured in this article are currently available for adoption.
My apologies for not getting all of their names and ID codes.

O'Brian

O’Brian – male ginger tabby

MCAS is open for adoptions Monday through Friday from 10am until 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Their adoption application is available online if you wish to print one and have it filled out in advance.

For more information, please go visit their website.

 

As a side note, all of the pets in my home and my daughter’s home are rescues or shelter animals. They include a batch of cats, a Siberian Husky, an Australian Shepherd, an American Bulldog, and an American Pitbull Terrier. Not all stays are mixed breeds.

— Ann Cathey

Raising Cain’s – Hammond, LA

Warhol style dedication to Raising Cane I.

Warhol style dedication to Raising Cane I.

The story is on the wall of how Raising Cain’s was formed and named. It’s rather humorous and involves a dog. This is one of those neat success stories where the guy who started it was told that a chicken finger place “just won’t work” by individuals and lending institutions who reviewed his business plan. Guess what, people – you were wrong!

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We first encountered Raising Cain’s in Hammond, Louisiana. We were lucky enough to stumble over another location in the Woodlands, Texas, that upheld all the quality we experienced in Hammond. There is now a location open in Conroe, Texas, too. Each location has had some local flare, but overall the sense of humor and decor follow a distinctive pattern.

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Raising Cane’s in Conroe, Texas.

 

 

The dining area in each location we have visited has been very open and airy. There’s a lot of red brick, light colored wood, and cutesy local stuff on the walls. Not so much as to be distracting; it’s just enough to be interesting.

Airplane propeller ceiling fans add to the cool temps and the ambiance.

Airplane propeller ceiling fans add to the cool temps and the ambiance.

 

 

 

A 6 Piece Meal

A 6 Piece Meal

 

 

 

The chicken – that’s all they serve is chicken tenders – is outstanding! The breading is light and crispy. The meat is consistently, across three locations, tender and never hard or dry. The fries are crinkle cut, but they are thin rather than thick. This gives them a lasting crunchy texture. The Texas toast is light and lovely, being a very soft bread that’s butter grilled to a crispy outer layer that accentuates the spices and textures of the chicken. The coleslaw is fresh and not pretentious – it’s green and purple cabbage, slivered carrots and a light sauce that doesn’t overpower the cabbagy goodness. It also has a hint of melon that accentuates the natural sweetness of the veggies.

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IMG_0239While everything else on the menu is good, the sauce deserves it’s own paragraph. At first glance,it seems to be just another ketchup and ranch dressing concoction. Upon first taste, you will find this to be a gross underestimation. There is plenty of black pepper and cayenne, without being too much. Notably, there is a hint of curry underlying the general sauciness that can make you overlook all the other spices that have been included. No one flavor is strong enough to be overpowering. They all work together to delight the palate and bring together all the other flavors on your plate. It’s so good, it made me forget all about ketchup for my fries.

No leftovers here!

No leftovers here!

A friend of mine in Louisiana has been saddened that she is allergic to coconut, and there appears to be coconut in some form in the Raising Cain’s recipes. Whether it is oil in the sauce or ground coconut in the chicken batter, we do not know, and the employees cannot confirm or deny it for us. If you are allergic to coconut be aware. If you are not, go find a location and try them out!

 

IMG_0241If you are into supporting your favorite eateries by wearing their gear, Raising Cain’s is ready to oblige with an online store. They offer apparel, koozies, and the ever present gift cards. They do not, however, offer their sauce (yet) or the recipe!

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On the 1-5 scale, Raising Cain’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5

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Christopher – photo by Ann.

Ann - photo by Christopher

Ann – photo by Christopher

 

 

–Ann Cathey

Culver’s – The Woodlands, Texas

While I prefer to write about independent eateries, some chains just have to creep in and be talked about. One of those is Culver’s.

We have encountered this lovely, somewhat upscale burger joint in several locations, including Conroe and the Woodlands. They actually have locations in several US States. It is consistent across the board. The decor, the friendly employees, the frozen yogurt, the quality and flavor of their food – this place has it down. It offers a’la carte items, baskets, dinners, kids’ meals, snack packs, along with a nice variety of drinks and desserts.

Culver’s is the home of the “Butter Burger” and “Fresh Frozen Custard”. They are rightfully proud of their very tasty products. From the “Fried Cheese Curds” all the way across the menu, everything is fresh and delicious. They offer a Reuben sandwich, which can be hard to find outside of a deli. Their fries are thick and crinkle cut, offering a delectable crunch as well as a hearty potato flavor.

DSC_0157On our most recent visit, my partner-in-chow ordered the fish sandwich. They call it the North Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich. It also comes in a plate version. When first confronted by the sandwich, he wondered how he would get a bit of fish in each bite. it turns out that if you squash the sandwich like you would a tall hamburger that the crispy crust will crack and the meat will flatten out to fill the bun nicely. After that, it was a matter of biting, chewing, moaning, and swallowing, repeating as long as there was sandwich left to bite into. I took this is a favorable sign.

DSC_0159I was able to sneak in a bite before it was all gone. The fish itself has a very light, clean flavor. The breading has a nice crunch, offering a complimentary set of flavor.I may have to order that sandwich next time we are in just to have the pleasure of those flavors again.

Personally, I appreciate their Reuben sandwich a great deal. This is, for me, a comfort food. While not as magnificently built as the Reubens found in various delis, it is crammed full of flavor and of a satisfying size. If you think you want more out of your sandwich, the folks at Culver’s will happily double stuff the darned thing.

DSC_0160I mentioned that they do dinner size portions earlier. We had a few friends along with us and one of them ordered the fried chicken dinner. It comes with a load of chicken, a potato side (he chose fries), and a veggie side (he went for the green beans), and a dinner roll. These dinner plates include fried chicken, roast beef, fish, shrimp and chopped steak among the offerings.

DSC_0158The Culver’s website offers a plethora of information for diners, not just a menu and their locations. They list nutritional information, ingredients, and high on my list, an allergy warning.They also have information available on their sustainability practices for those who prefer an informed, responsible restaurant.

Excellent food and a hometown atmosphere will lead us back to Culver’s again and again. The more we run across it in our travels, the more delighted we are with it’s consistency and outstanding menu.

On the 1-5 scale, Culver’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5

-Ann Cathey