Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dining out of your zip code is more exciting

I have a friend who talks to restaurant managers to arrange ingredients, schedule around who is cooking and line up a dutiful wait staff several days before dining.
I wing it.
Don’t get me wrong: I love dining with her. There is fanfare. There is an appreciation of a client who knows what she wants.
I find an adventure just as exciting. On a recent trip to Houston, I had no trouble convincing my husband to take me to. . . Fiesta supermarket. I knew there’d be some amazing barbacoa, fresh tortilla and some tantalizing salsa, and I was right. I tried one of those crunchy whole fish with the head on, too. I liked it, but I won’t need to get it again. What was also fun was our crazy little table, wedged between soda machines, with our noses inches away from an exit door. At a store like that, shopping is a community affair and multi-generational families are out to do everything from ride little character cars in the parking lot to have lunch from a parking lot vendor. Shopping equals socializing.
Then there was more fun in the produce aisle and I came away with fresh jalapenos and a watermelon. Since we had shared a light meal at the Fiesta counter, I did something out of the ordinary and suggested ice cream. I would have preferred a caramel to go with the Mexican theme, but a pint of Blue Bell cookies and cream, one of my husband’s favorites, shared with flimsy plastic spoons in the hot car, could be my most memorable dessert this summer.
We were in town for a birthday party at Dave & Buster’s, a mix between Chuck E. Cheese for grown ups and a mini Las Vegas arcade. I looked up the menu on line and saw phrases like “stuff yourself silly” and menu descriptions such as “loaded” and “mountain.” A burger tempted me, but I somehow made it out of there for another Houston grocery store must-stop.
A Saturday evening at Central Market yielded olive oil, coffee and other samples, but we made room to share one more treat.
My aunt had been talking about Niko Niko’s on Westheimer for years and we battled the parking lot and line to order a Souvlaki Sandwich of top sirloin shish kebob on pita with tomato, bell pepper, onion & tzatziki sauce. It was such a hot spot I was thrilled to get a corner patio table under an elegant vine and we tore up that sandwich. Next time, I think I can convince Chris to try a gyros with lamb.
Maybe, since he’s out of his zip code, he’ll give it a shot.

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