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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chef House - South Padre Island!



UPDATE MAY 2015 - REPORTED CLOSED AT SOUTH PADRE ISLAND LOCATION

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2013:
Chef's House Restaurant is now on the island! At the south end, at 1500 Gulf Blvd in former Padre Bar near the Padre South Hotel. Same owners; same fantastic food. Check it out.

I have been wanting to try this small intimate restaurant that gets such great raves on the various review web sites...and I always seem to be wandering that way on a day or time they are closed.  They are open for breakfast and lunch only and are closed on Monday.  Today, however, my sister and I were "on" for lunch following a mani/pedi at our favorite Venus Nails and Spa on the island.  I suggested The Chef House and she was game.  We are soooo glad we made it.  It has lived up to the raves and every table was filled by the time we departed (there are not a lot of tables mind you, it is a small venue).  We started with glasses of iced tea and they served a complimentary basket of freshly made tortilla chips and 3 delicious salsas.  All were very good - and unusual - and not overly spicy!  Excellent start to the meal.

The have a menu of both Mexican and American cuisine and I have heard everyone say "get the daily special" if you are there for lunch.  My sister opted for a grilled chicken breast with some unknown spice and the waitress offered an alternate of a mushroom sauce if she preferred...which she did.  She was not disappointed.  Beautifully plated with refried beans, an amarillo rice, and a grated cabbage salad, she said it was very delicious.  I tasted a bite and concur! The only thing she didn't care for was the cabbage salad - not dressed, it was bland. Everything else on the plate was outstanding.

I opted for the special of the day.  The special includes a main entree, soup of the day, dessert, and iced tea.  Today it was a pork loin with some unknown, yet delectable, spices and a rich creamy sauce...and the soup of the day was cream of asparagus.  I couldn't have been more pleased.

The soup was creamy deliciousity.  I ate every single drop of a very generous bowl.  Then, out came my stylishly plated pork loin leaning against one of the best mashed potatoes I've ever eaten, topped with fresh greens, lightly sauteed red onions, and a marvelous cream sauce.  The loin was so tender it was easily cut with a standard table knife.  It was simply to die for!  Happy, happy tummy :-)

Feeling full at the halfway point, we boxed up the leftovers for my sister's husband and we were both served the perfect small bite of dessert.  I love to have dessert, but rarely order it out...because it is too much.  This was the perfect little mini sponge chocolate cakelet topped with a sprinkling of finely diced fresh fruit and light sauce on top of chocolate sauce....yummmmm I nearly wanted to lick the plate.  It was "just right" as Goldie Locks would say!

I can't wait to go back - I want to try it for breakfast.  It is likely a spot you have driven by many times and didn't even know it existed.  I learned about it via word of mouth.  I almost didn't want to blog about it - I want to keep the perfect ambiance of unrushed personalized dining that really makes it one of my new favorite places to dine!

Oh yes... one of the best parts...our check was under $25 for all of the above.  WOW!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

UPDATE 10/25/2012:

Went to Chef's House for Brunch on 10/23/2012.  I had the Migas with Eggs and Salsa - side of bacon - side of corn tortillas.  OUTSTANDING.  Mr. Flip Flop had the Florentino Omelet with a tasty potato cake.  He said it was absolutely delicious.  Complimentary small-bite dessert again - awesome!

Then, went to lunch with my lady friends today.  I had the beef enchiladas with red sauce. OMG - the beef was roasted and tender, not ground beef.  The tortillas were tender, the sauce appropriate to my please-don't-burn-me palate and coated with delicious melty cheese.  One of my friends had the carnitas - she said they were delicious.  The dessert was slightly different - still the perfect bite - and so very nicely presented.

Rating remains unchanged from the original visit!  Small venue - patience pays off!


SPI FLIP FLOP FOODIE RATING:

5 – OMG – that was an outstanding meal!  I can’t wait to go back J
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Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Cafe on the Beach for Lunch

Sister Sheryl is on the island and we decided to lunch together somewhere she has never gone before.  I had told her about how much I enjoyed the location and food at the Cafe on the Beach at Palms Resort...and she said she was "in".  We had a nice 15 minute stroll down the beach from her temporary island home to arrive at the beach access in front of the cafe.  She immediately started commenting how cute it was and wondering how had they missed it all of these years.  I told her I didn't really find it until we moved here in 2008, so it wasn't really surprising.

When we arrived, there were plenty of tables open...by the time we left it was completely full!  I admit I was a bit surprised at a full restaurant, at lunch on a week day, off season!  One waiter handled it all...and did an excellent job.

We started with both of us ordering the Tropical Tea - sister loved it.  We spent a lot of time perusing the menu and I finally decided on my "regular" - a delicious Beachfront Salad with grilled chicken.  While certainly delicious, I was greatly disappointed that it was missing the Parmesan crisps and caramelized pecans that really go towards "making" this salad extra special.  I guess for a $19 salad ($13.95 plus $5 for the chicken addition), I expect to get all that is advertised.  But, as I said, still delicious.
As described on the Menu:  Beachfront Salad
"Fresh spring mix lettuce using  organic greens
from local organic farms with tomato, kalamata
olives, pears, hearts of palm, Maytag bleu cheese,
and mandarin oranges with tangerine  balsamic
vinaigrette dressing.  Topped with Parmesan crisps
and caramelized pecans."

Sissie ordered the Spinning "Crispy" Chef Salad as a tryout for her husband, Rob.  He likes the chef salads apparently and she was hoping to lure him back down there because she knew he would enjoy the beachfront location....but only if the food was as equally delicious as the view!
As described on menu:  Spinning "Crispy" Chef Salad
Julienne ham, turkey, provolone,  Kalamata olives,
boiled eggs, organic greens from local organic farms,
hearts of palm, tomatoes, and Maytag bleu cheese tossed
with honey mustard dressing..  Served in a crispy
fresh made flour tortilla shell. 

I will likely get that salad the next time I come - I tasted hers and it was delicious.  I do love honey mustard and have gotten kind of stuck in the awesome rut of their Beachfront Salad...but that chef salad was a new contender in my game!  A good buy for $12.95.

Mostly we enjoyed the cool breeze, the gorgeous flowers bloomed up in the low dunes in front of the restaurant (due to a couple of days of good rain) and the beauty of the Gulf Coast.





It's a small place, very personal, and I've never had a bad meal there.  Fingers crossed it never changes!  I haven't talked to my sister yet, but last night when the teen and I joined her family for a delicious lobster dinner, she was encouraging her husband to walk down with her for breakfast (she'd checked out the breakfast menu while we waited for our food).  I hope, if she went, that her second trip was as enjoyable as the first!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


SPI FLIP FLOP FOODIE RATING:

4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!


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Friday, September 14, 2012

"GRAND" TREATS


 

My children know I have a secret addiction to Nestle's 100 Grand candy bars.  I can plow through those candy bars, eyes rolling, and quickly pick up another.  BUT, I shouldn't, so I don't even bring them home any more.

Then, I stumbled upon Inside BruCrew Life's blog with a post called 100 Grand Rice Krispie Treats.  I moved on, thinking I should probably not learn to love those...and if I made them, I knew I would likely love them.

Then, I was strolling down the candy aisle looking for candy corn to lay in for Halloween baking and I saw caramels...usually out of my line of site on the bottom shelf...moved front and center to lure me.  I love caramels.  I grabbed two bags.  I searched for the blog post I had seen, thinking "oh, this would make a great Halloween or Fall treat!"  I FOUND IT!

Oh my, it is quite exciting.  I finished them this morning and am taking them over to my sister's condo on the island for dessert following our lobster dinner!  A grand dinner and kicked up Rice Krispie Treats for dessert...that's how we roll.

I'll ask you to click through to Inside BruCrew Life for the recipe...since I didn't really alter much of anything.  I did use a full 11.5 ounce bag of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips and only 1/2 tablespoon of Crisco for the topping (and no sprinkles).  Otherwise, it is exactly as described.

Here are some photos of the process:

The butter and caramel mixture beginning to melt
Marshmallows added to completely melted caramel mixture
Keep stirring...it will eventually come together

Yes!  The caramel, butter, and marshmallow mixture
Pressed into a buttered pan (using buttered hands)
The melted chocolate (I could eat it with a spoon!)

Smooth the chocolate with a spatula all over the treats and
allow to cool before cutting.  I use a bench scraper
to cut the treats...easier than a knife in my opinion.


I am going to call these Grand Treats - they are indeed yummy!  HOWEVER, I'm going to make them again and up the caramel "oomph" in some form or fashion. They didn't taste caramelly enough to me. They didn't taste enough like the Hundred Grand Bar I love so much.  I have an idea...so keep an eye out for "take two" on these treats!  I'm not saying they aren't good though... they are indeed excellent treats just the way they are...I've already sampled two while I wrote this!   :-)  Give them a try, they are a wonderful tweak to the regular Rice Krispie Treats!



Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Biscoff Crust Marble Cheesecake

 



It's 9/11 and that special day is Mr. Flip Flop's birthday.  Sometimes difficult to be celebratory on such a solemn day in our country.  We persevere.  I wrote about one of his favorite birthday cakes last year; the Marble Cheesecake recipe found in an old Austin American-Statesman newspaper from the 70's, which I have been making him for over 20 years.  It is still a family favorite and his choice for this year's birthday cake as well.

I asked if he was okay with me tweaking it a bit...he said "sure".  I gave him a Biscoff cookie to eat to ensure he thought the flavor would be a good substitution in the crust.  He told me to go for it, so I did.

I only made two tweaks...the original recipe is posted at this link.  This time around I substituted ground up Biscoff cookies instead of graham cracker crumbs...a whirl in the food processor's small bowl with small blade was quick and efficient.  It took 25 cookies to measure 1 1/2 cups of crumbs.

The second tweak was adding 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the chocolate mixture.  I normally use semi-sweet chips, but this time I got a Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate baking bar (4 oz size, used half, or 4 squares).  I thought the higher quality chocolate with a hint of spice would nicely complement the cinnamon flavor in the Biscoff cookie crust.

I'm really glad I completely wrapped the outside of my pan in foil...butter inside the foil when I took it off.  I've never had any spring form pan that didn't leak butter!  I also place the wrapped pan on a cookie sheet...another good thing because lo and behold...butter on the cookie sheet.  Jeez Louise!

Here's the slightly revised recipe:

BISCOFF CRUST
MARBLE CHEESECAKE

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups Biscoff cookie crumbs (about 25 cookies)
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar, divided
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup cream
2 ounces Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine Biscoff crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the melted butter in a bowl.



Press mixture in bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.  I use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust evenly across the pan and slightly up the sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat cream cheese, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy.  Add eggs (one at a time), beating on low speed just until blended.  Add cream; beat on low speed until blended.


While the batter is blending, work on the chocolate.  It needs to be fairly cooled off before mixing into a portion of the batter.  I melted the chocolate in a small microwave proof bowl - it took only 50 seconds total. (30 seconds, then 10, then 10)

Stir 1 1/2 cups batter and 1/4 tsp cinnamon into the melted cooled chocolate, stirring briskly until smooth.
 


Pour slightly more than half of the plain mixture into the crust.  Gradually spoon in slightly more than half of the chocolate mixture next, using a zigzag motion.


Pour or gently spoon the rest of the plain mixture over the chocolate mixture.  Gently guide to edge to completely cover the chocolate.  Carefully, with a sharp knife or the tip of a chop stick, swirl the mixture (not bringing the chocolate to the surface and not disturbing the crust below) in a pattern that you will see after cutting the cheesecake.

I dolloped spoonfuls of the remaining chocolate mixture around the cake and in the center.  I ran the tip of the chop stick around in a circle, pulling the chocolate into loosely heart-shaped swirls.  I dropped a few little droplets and swirled them about as well.  Just get creative :-)


Bake at 325 for 60 to 70 minutes or until the center appears nearly set when shaken. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack; carefully loosen sides of pan after removing foil.  Cool another 30 minutes before removing sides of pan.  Refrigerate once completely cool.

Despite giving the pan a few sharp whacks on the counter, I still ended up with bubbles.  I also have a few cracks.  My family is not bothered by either.  They only care about the taste.



My hubby was particularly impressed with the hearts... he has mentioned them more than once... which made me feel all squishy inside.  I do love that man of mine!  We went into "town" for a movie, picking up the teen from campus after his classes.  We went to see The Words.  When we walked out, Ian said "wow, that was deep".  I was so pleased that this complex movie, which was deep, was something he could wrap his mind around.  Next, we are out to eat on the island since we ended up at an early movie and didn't want to hang out in town for dinner time.

All-in-all, a lovely day despite the sad reminders of flags at half-mast... and news filled with a reminder of the utter sadness of a day no longer just a day to wake up and think "oh, fun, happy birthday"... and while we must never forget...we must also not forget to celebrate the joys of another year of life!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


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Monday, September 10, 2012

La Hacienda

REPORTED CLOSED OCTOBER 2015

I waited a week to write this post because I wanted to let the emotion of the day pass me by.  We had not eaten much over the course of the day and were pretty darn hungry when we arrived at La Hacienda on the bay front in South Padre Island.  Greeted by a "how many?" from the hostess - without a smile - we said "4" and she said it would be 20 to 30 minutes...maybe as long as 45 minutes.  No smile and no eye contact.  I said that would be fine because I had heard from friends that the wait could be long despite MANY available tables in sight.  She noticed me looking and said, defensively, we have a lot of reservations and people waiting.  I said "no problem", smiled, and asked where we could wait.  Vague hand signal towards the bar.  Good grief.

We sat out on their beautiful patio and enjoyed the sunset over the bay...a truly lovely location.  Twenty minutes passed, then thirty, then we were counting the five minute marks.  My oldest son, who was visiting, said he was going inside to the bar to get a drink...five minutes later my youngest son joined him...at the 50 minute mark my husband and I followed them in (after listening to every patron on the patio grumble...which was only escalating my irritation). 

I told my son when he finished his margarita, we were going to go ahead and leave.  Right about the one hour mark, the manager walks over and asks if we'd like some chips and salsa while we wait for our table.  I said no, we'd had about enough waiting...an hour.  He looked "concerned" and got my name and came back with the hostess.  We were seated in one of the tables that had been empty at least 20+ minutes and the hostess walked away, without providing silverware or an "enjoy your meal".  If I was her boss, she would no longer be employed at La Hacienda....or at least would be receiving some sincere customer service training.  Her attitude was the talk of the folks waiting on the patio!
Outstanding salsa with roasted bits of goodness...I'd go back
for the salsa alone!

Chips and salsa were quickly deposited on the table and our drink order was taken promptly.  Our waiter was really moving it.  He later told us they had 3 waiters and a cook call in (or not show up) and they were slammed.  I saw only one bus person trying to clean the many tables that were empty but not clean.  At the point of drink orders we had been in the restaurant an hour and fifteen minutes.  Thankfully, the chips and salsa took the edge off.  Unfortunately, I drank my water really fast (feeling dehydrated after the wait) and it took a while to get refills.  I sent my son to the bar to get napkins and the waiter noted we had not been provided the utensil and napkin sets and went to the hostess stand to get some for us.

So - despite the gorgeous location, the lovely decor, and the reportedly awesome margaritas and definitely awesome chips and salsa, I was tired and irritable.  So, moving on to the meal.

We ordered a queso...which never came.  When the meals came, my son asked about it...and they brought some out.  I wish he hadn't bothered.  It was cool in temperature - my son won't eat white cheese queso (which it clearly stated on the menu) and it had a taste of bell peppers...which we are not fond of.  Total waste of money as it wasn't eaten. $7


Seafood Trio Enchiladas - note the right side of the enchilada which
was hard as a rock.  Bummer.
For dinner, I ordered the Seafood Trio Enchiladas - scallops, Gulf shrimp, and lump crab in a seafood cream sauce, sprinkled with 3 colors of bell pepper bits (per the comment above, that was not a happy start for me...but I know how to scrape off stuff I don't like - and I did).  Sides of refried beans and rice.  I ate only 4 bites.  The first bite was rock hard tortilla. I chewed and chewed and chewed...finally got it down.  I know that sometimes exposed tortilla can do that under a salamander.  Still, I didn't expect it and it started my mouth off unhappy.  The second bit was nice and soft and I thought yum...until I bit into a scallop that tasted on the edge of rank.  I thought it was me, so I cleansed my mouth with lemon water and a chip and took another bite.  It was just okay...the flavor was bland and had an unappealing texture.  It cost $16 and I was really disappointed.  No one asked (like the waiter) if my food was okay, since I was obviously not eating my meal.  I filled up on beans and rice...which were outstanding in my opinion, despite complaints from my family that the beans were overly dressed with cilantro.


My youngest ordered a soft taco plate, no vegetables, served correctly - which he enjoyed very much. $10.00


My oldest got classic ground beef enchiladas...he said "they were just enchiladas - nothing special" and he really doesn't like cilantro so the beans were pushed to the side.  He only ate one of his enchiladas.  $12.00


My husband cleaned his plate.  He ordered a Chili Relleno and said it was delicious!  He also raved about the margarita with fresh lime juice.  The Chili Relleno plate was $12.00.

So, I feel the need to try it again...not on a holiday week-end (Sunday before Labor Day) on the night of a big island concert.  I have heard so many good things about the food, I think we must have just gone on a bad night.  I will go again...and I'll report back.

I'm not going to give it a rating just yet.  If so many friends had not raved about the food, I wouldn't be wasting my time on a return.  I think, truly, it was just a bad night.

When I got home, I checked urbanspoon.com ...and they weren't listed.  I reported it as a new restaurant and since it has been added, 3 individuals have checked that they liked it.  Someone reported as of yesterday that the food and service was very good.

Keep an eye out for an updated review within the next month!  I'm looking forward to trying their Tacos Carnitas or Chicken al Carbon...both sound yummy to me.   I'm keeping my fingers crossed.



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