Archives for April 2014

Bistro Brunch Recap

The Bistro brunch of the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair changed up the status quo from the rest of a weekend celebrating wine by shifting the focus seamlessly from wine to food.  From Wednesday to Saturday the wine and spirits were the momentum that pushed the event.  Of course the food for the duration of these days was delicious and a great compliment to the extensive drink selection but it was clear on who was the superstar.  For the final event of the Affair the festival spotlighted food during their brunch extravaganza.

Indian Dance TroupBrunch without question is one of my favorite meals of the day.  I love savory foods but often crave some of the sweet treats that you can only find on your plate at breakfast.  Brunch offers the best of both worlds as culinary creations can range from sweet to savory to salty all in perfect harmony.  Additionally there is no better buffet offered that what comes with brunch.  Because you choose what selections make up your plate combo you can nibble on smaller qualities but a much wider variety than most meals.  The Bistro Brunch hit the ground running by choosing the central location of Sugar Land Town Square to showcase some of the variety and creativity that can come from brunch.  By offering food selections from paella to French toast and brunch drink staples like Bloody Mary’s and mimosas as well as a wide wine selection the Bistro Brunch covered all the basis of deliciousness.

Lobster and waffles Although I had some really great surprise selections in favor from bagels to salad there was one clear stand out favorite in my book.  The masterminds over at the Burning Pear in Marriott Sugar Land Town Square cooked up a showstopper in their Fried Lobster and Waffles with honey butter and the bacon wrapped quail with jalapeno jam.   As the Houston summer was on the rise it was a toasty out on Sunday, making waiting in line not my top priority.  Nevertheless I decided to wait my turn and mockingly teased Chef Kourtenie Tyson when approaching the service that it better be worth the wait.  At that Chef Tyson ensured I would quickly be in the midst of a foodgasm.  Long story short…he was right.  Fried Lobster and bacon wrapped quailWith stuffed quail wrapped in crispy bacon giving off a kick of spice in the jam and fried lobster that would make me gladly slap my momma the offering was a little slice of heaven on an early Sunday afternoon.  Top that off with a great band that makes you want to move your feet and a fun performance by NAACH Bollywood dancers the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair left an impression that has me drooling in anticipation for next year’s fun.

Rethinking your approach to dating with Its Just Lunch

Its Just LunchAs with the beginning of most years I started off with eager anticipation of what the year could hold.  I made sure to start the year off by crafting a list of things I wanted to do over the year with zealous enthusiasm.  Although I listed making time to be open to love and dating on my list, that resolution quickly dropped in priority as the to do list of my life grows longer and the selection of available single men that are a good fit for me seemingly shrinks.  As a busy professional I find myself in a pickle when it comes to dating.  A lot of times in our personal and professional lives there is an element of control, where if you work hard enough you can eventually meet your goals.  When you add other people in the mix, as you need to in love and dating, the challenge is not just to work hard but to mix in compromise and a healthy helping of karma or luck to lead you to love.  Luckily there is a way to boost your chances when it comes to meeting the right person all in a way that respects the busy life that still has to be juggled when you are a working professional… It’s Just Lunch dating service for busy professionals.

The idea of a match maker sounds very old fashion like Yente from Fiddler on the Roof.  Times have changed, however, and match making has stayed the course in helping people connect with eligible singles.  The idea of match making may have evolved, but for a many of us it may feel like something that other people do while still hesitating to try it out ourselves.  In interacting with the match makers from It’s Just Lunch, however, the vibe is more of talking with a friend who plays attention to who you are and has a keen eye to what would work for you in a mate.  In taking the time to get to know you they help you skip some of the weeding out process that can make dating tedious.  At a certain point just knowing someone is equally invested in finding someone gives you some piece of mind that you are not wasting your time in the dating process with someone not looking for the same.  In doing so you can take the dating process back to something that is old fashioned, taking some time out of your life to have a real conversation with someone and being open to the possibility of where it could go from there.  At its best you step in the door and meet the love of your life and at its worst you have a good time with fun folks who have been handpicked to match up with your personality.  While not every path may lead to love, the chance to get out laugh and talk is always a win, and if nothing else you can remind yourself that with almost any success perseverance is a must.  You have to play to win and when you team up with It’s Just Lunch you are making sure you are playing with a championship team behind you.

If dating is on your to do list why not get to know the matchmakers at It’s Just Lunch? Check out the The Dating Game fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society this Wednesday at Mr. Peeples.  It is a great way to party with a purpose and open your mind to getting some back up as you face the challenge of finding love.

Houston International Festival 2014

ifest signThe Houston iFest is back for the next two weekends again celebrating the fun and beauty of diversity with a focus this year on Australia.  The International Festival offers a festive peek into some of the food, music and dance that defines cultures throughout the world.  Spread across several blocks in downtown Houston each street offers an opportunity to explore a new region of the world.  Vendors 2 WatchesThese streets are transformed with the music and goods of the different regions to give a glimpse at each regions cultural heartbeat.  While the festival offers a chance to explore something new in a different part of the world, it still provides the festival staples we all know and love to produce an eclectic mix of things to do and see and eat.

Without question my favorite part of the international festival are the performances on the five stages set up throughout the festival.  Where else can you enjoy different performances hourly on five different stages at one time? Heart of Texas Stage Down Under Pub Center Stage Each stage takes a different perspective on entertainment.  Some smaller stages work to both showcase and educate on the evolution of music and dance in their region.  In the vast differences in the music and dance you also learn to see the common thread of endurance and love that is shared throughout the world in the expression of dance and music.  In addition to some of the smaller stages, the World Stage and Center stage pull in some headliners from throughout the world and expand your entertainment palette.  AudienceWhether it is something new to you or an act that you love that drew you in there is nothing like relaxing in the grass or letting the music move your feet in dance as you enjoy a weekend at the festival.  Cultural Dancing Cultural Dancing 2Click here to check out the performance schedule for the rest of the festival to see what strikes your fancy.

I must confess that I am a festival junkie.  There is something addictive to me about a good mix of food, music, dancing and art.  A great festival can provide a much needed break from the hustle and bustle that work and life demand every day.  Painting Art Inspriation Me and Chy At my time in the festival I got a chance to paint with my daughter, share some of our favorite foods, enjoy performances of music and dance, and close out the night in a boogie at Tranquility Park.  Not too shabby of a feat for a Saturday evening.  You still have three days for your chance to get in on the fun and explore the country from down under with the celebration of Australia at this year’s International Festival.Tranquilty Park Sunset Downtown

Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Sip and Stroll

To Be or not to beThe Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair outdid themselves once again with another great opportunity to discover new food and drinks in a setting perfectly suited for the occasion.  This day time jump into exploration of new foods and wines offers a chance to both wind down and wine up.  Sip and Stroll 1Set in the Imperial Sugar Factor grounds the Sip and Stroll lets you pick your pleasure as you walk through the buildings and tents throughout the grounds.

 

 

Tullamore DewFrom the second you walk in, greeted with a smile, your glass and champagne you get a sense that the fun is about to commence.  The layout for discovery is split between two buildings and the outside tents.  BandThe great music and band drew me quickly to the outside tents where the beer garden offered an opportunity to check out some of the best brewers you could find in the state.  St. ArnoldsFrom hometown favorites such as St. Arnolds to craft beer experts the selection was the equivalent to a beer lovers dream and offered an opportunity for tasting rarely offered to beer lovers at a wine tasting.

As with the Grand Tasting the power of the event is in the fusion of what you come across.  Just as you think you have had your fill of drinks or your last taste of food you wonder upon something that gets the blood going and the inspiration to make the space you need.  With all of the wine and food booths set up you have to go in with a plan of attack on how to make it all happen.  Tres Leche from ChurrascosThe larger building serves as the main stage for the tasting with rows and rows of food and drinks in the mix.  Gourmet Hot DogsLocal favorites and everyday staples are highlighted as they remind you of the great quality that made them beloveds in the first place.

The event also gave a chance to continue the exploration in to Mexico as you escape over to building two.  The festival gave a great nod to Mexico with some of my personal favorites, Churrascos, and tequila heavy hitter, Don JulioDon Julio.  There is also the chance to really challenge yourself to take the fun and love of the food and wine that brought you to the festival home with you with the cook book pop up shops.  For a foodie getting a chance to meet these authors serves as an extra inspiration to bringing the recipes to life at home.  After all the exploration was done you still have a chance to grab a seat and enjoy the music and great vibe of the Sip and Stroll.

My top 10 loves from the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Grand Tasting

IMG_5487The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Grand Tasting puts most wine tastings in the Houston area to shame.  Not only is there a phenomenal selection of delectable food and wines and cocktails, but the planning and set up flows seamlessly.  Instead of being bogged down in one line or another you can quickly flow from food to wine to spirits to conversation in the striking setting of the ballroom in the Sugar Land Marriot Town Center.   There are hundreds of reasons to enjoy this event but here are my top ten loves from a fantastic night in Sugar Land.

10. The Crowd:

The CrowdYes festivals are supposed to be fun but I have been to more than my fair share of them that had the fun drained out by a grumpy crowd.  The crowd for the Grand Tasting came ready to celebrate food and wine in high spirits.  Mixing drinks and lines can be tricky but everyone was ready to mingle and share their discoveries of what moved them from the festival.

9. Don Julio:

Don JulioThis is an old favorite for me but tasting like this really allow some brands, like Don Julio tequila, to showcase not only the great traditional approach but also shine through in a new light.  Don Julio made some great cocktail creations that hit the spot when circling the Visit Mexico tables.

 

8. Tullamore Dew:

Tullamore DEW

If you are not careful at a tasting all the new wines you taste can become pretty murky in your memory.  There is nothing like a brief break to wake up your palette and Tullamore Dew provided that for me.  They are the epitome of service with a smile, always willing to share the great legacy and tips to make the whiskey more accessible to drinker’s palettes.

7. Grand Auction:

Grand AuctionSome auctions try to get a little for a lot but the Grand Auction really showcased some heavy hitters in wine, food and travel.  The auction was irresistible as soon as you enter and really got your imagination going on all the possibilities that the night could hold.  I got away with a trip to the JW Marriott San Antonio for a steal and am ready for my getaway.

6. Chef Interactions: For a foodie there are few things that connect more to the food than the getting into the mind of the person who created it.  Being able to talk to the chefs first hand at some of the best restaurants in Houston gives you a glimpse into what is store when you visit their restaurants.

5. Flora Dora:

HendrickI thought Thursday I had explored all I could explore with Hendrick’s gin.  The Flora Dora was a great light and refreshing getaway from the wine selections that abound that night.  The ginger beer was really a great hidden ingredient and offered some of the great ginger flavor while lightening up the gin flavor.

4. Merlot Rosado:

Merlot RosadoHonestly I have never heard of a pink merlot until last night and it was instantly love at first sip with this offering form Dubacano Wines.  The wine was a great match for both red and white lovers as it offered the full bodied favor of a merlot with a smooth balance usually found in a rose.

3. Haak Madeira Blanc Du Bois:

HAAK MadieraOffering a port with undertones of Carmel seemed like a stretch to me but Haak Wines delivered on their Madeira Blanc Du Bois.  It is a great after dinner treat where you can quickly forget pulling out dessert plates as the drink offers dessert in a bottle.

 

2. Photo Booth:

Photo Booth FunI have a baby obsession with photo booths but I hate when you are limited in space or props.  The photo booth at the Grand Tasting was stocked with easy to use equipment, fun props and pliantly of room to play and a staff to show how it all works.  A review station let everyone get in on the fun to review your pics, find fun pictures from other guests and quickly send the ones you love via SMS or email.

1. Bon Bons!

Frenchs Bon BonsI walked up impressed with dainty display and cookie bon bons, grabbing two and sliding to the next booth.  With every bite of bon bon deliciousness though I was regretting every step away from this delicious treat.  Mister French’s Gourmet Bakery really outdid themselves with the sweet treats in several delicious favors that were truly finger licking good.  It was the one thing at the tasting I wanted to make it back around for round two but atlas, the delicious secret had been exposed and the table wiped clean.

Discover your own favorites at the Sip and Stroll today!

On the Rocks Bartender Challenge Recap

Cori and Kyra fun 1Bartenders are typically expected to quickly produce drinks on demand to their customer’s specifications.  However, when you challenge great bartenders to step outside of that role and take on the challenge of innovating new cocktails with great ingredients you open the door to true craftsmanship.  At the Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair on the Rocks Bartender Challenge some of the best bars and restaurants in town sent out their heavy hitters to see what they could create.  SLWFF Judging 3Their inspiration for their creations was none other than Hendrick’s Gin.  Hendrick’s is a great base for a competition that demands innovation as the gin itself did not got the traditional route in its creation.  By infusing the gin with rose petal and cucumber Hendrick’s successfully cuts some of the harshness.   The resulting smooth yet complex beverage sets the stage for the real challenge for bartenders: creating something innovative and new that will be the signature drink for the duration of the festival.

Bartenders Challenge Contestant 5 Bartenders Challenge Contestant 4 Bartenders Challenge Contestant 3 Bartenders Challenge Contestant 2 Bartenders Challenge Contestant 1It was clear early on all of the bartenders competing were up for the challenge.  Some took a fresh approach to common ingredients such as tazo tea while others took a trip on the wild side by adding ingredients like mesquite.  Despite the range of ingredients I felt with every tasting that I was trying something new for the first time.  Some tastes were sweet and refreshing while others were more on the savory side but they all opened my imagination to all that could be delivered by Hendrick’s gin.  SLWFF WinnerWhen you couple the great drinks with the awesome setting of a plane hangar you have an unforgettable night on your hands.

Congrats to the winner, Sheridan Fay, for her Explorer’s Seaside Tipple.  The sea salt foam on top was exceptional and you can look forward to enjoying this drink tomorrow and Sunday at the continuation of the Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair Events.SLWFF Winner (2)

HYP Executive Book Club Series Class 1

Think and Grow Rich seriesStaying on a path of personal development when you are striving to reach your goals is not optional, it’s a must.  Every day challenges pop up and can quickly wear you down if you are not putting the energy into building up your reservoir so you can quickly access the tools, strength and support that you need when you will need to persevere.  The Houston Executive Book Club presented me with the perfect opportunity to build up my skill set through the exploration of the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  I originally heard of this book from a friend and I have never seen someone so excited to explore a book when he mentioned it.  He is not alone in his excitement as “Think and Grow Rich” is one of the most success books on personal development and success as it roadmaps the keys to success from some of the most successful business men and women of all time.

Although reading the book is part of the journey, I find the real benefit in the Executive Book Club Series the crew and captain that I am journeying with.   As I quickly learned in the book club series the leader, Peter Remington, has built a legacy of business and entrepreneurship in previous businesses and as the Chief Possibility Officer at Prepare4More and Publisher for Modern Luxury Magazine.  Peter is passionate in his desire to share the tips he has used himself with others to find and fulfill their purpose.  Having a teacher who practices what he preaches really gives you the inspiration to know you can tackle and defeat the roadblocks that stand in your way to your personal success.  The expertise in leading the group is unmistakable as he candidly share his morning routine in preparing to face each day.  His resolve to write down his intentions, what he is grateful for, how he would like the world to see him and what he wants to create every morning showed how rooted he was in making his dreams come true and inspiring other to do the same.  Just that quickly I was impressed and armed with a new tool in my own personal journey towards my dreams.

The importance of a great leader is matched only by the importance of a crew to go on the journey with.  In introductions it was amazing how many similarities I had in a room full of strangers.  Even without a common place in life or family life we all came in with an open mind and a goal of stepping to a level we had not reached by ourselves.  Finding a group of like-minded individuals who are ready and willing to learn new things and share their own experiences is invaluable and I am thrilled to see how I grown in this six week journey.

Find out more about the series and Houston Young Professionals Chamber of Commerce Here

Making a map back to your favorites at a wine tasting

tequilaCeviche

I love the opportunity to explore that wine and food tasting presents.  You have a real opportunity to try out new things without feeling bound to your order when you find it’s not exactly your cup of tea.  In this moment you can tap into your sense of adventure and try tastes and smells outside of your normal palette range.  With the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair upon us there is the perfect opportunity to try out some of the best of the best when it comes to food and wine in the Houston area and beyond.  There is, however, some skill required to successfully bringing what you love from a tasting into what you love at home.  The challenge can be overwhelming when at a tasting as there are good food and smells all around.  Ambiguous attempts to try everything can result in being too full of food and drinks to remember which ones were the perfect fit.  Even when you find something right up your alley it may slip from your mind two or three stops later.    Here are some tips to winning after a tasting so you not only find the treasure but also complete the map back to it so you can find it again.

1. Less can be more.  It is very tempting to start off a tasting in a sprint and end up at a slow crawl.  Trying some of everything can be an impossible task.   An important lesson can be learned here from the tortoise as slow and steady can really win the race at a tasting.  Unless you absolutely love it, you are not obliged to finish it.  By going at a manageable and steady pace you have space for the things you love while giving more items a shot at make the list of favorites.

2. Devil is in the details.  You know what you like so finding what moves you can come easy while tasting.  It’s two or three days or weeks later that it becomes more of a challenge to remember what you loved and more importantly why.  You may, for instance, find a vineyard with a wine you adore and quickly jolt down the name to purchase later.   When you show up at the store, however, choosing from the merlot or cabernet can seem a lot less clear.  When you write down what you like give yourself more specific details like the type and why you like it.  Your answers to the “why” helps with the recall when the restaurant or wine would work perfectly for your craving or occasion.

3. Ask questions.  Tastings are a great opportunity to get one on one with the people who know the product the best.  Take advantage of the opportunity to engage them on how things are made and why their brand is so different than the rest.  Taste may be the most important factor, but other factors like availability, price, and even where it is made may make an impact on you purchasing the product in the future.

4. A picture says a thousand words.  The schedule of wines provided by most tastings is nice but how often do you keep it long enough to really gain from the notes you made in it.  I like to take a picture of what I love in my phone.  It is pretty easy to make an album in most phones and by dedicating an album to your foodie or cocktail loves you can go back to the things that catch your eye quickly and with ease.  If you have a group of folks who have a similar palette you can also share the album and get everyone in on the fun that discovering food and wine can be.

 

Food, fun, and wine…On My!

winepairingOne of my favorite events, the Sugar Land Wine and Food Festival, is on deck this weekend and I could not be more excited!  The festival offers a multitude of events so regardless of if you like more of a low key experience or the equivalent of the wine tasting decathlon, there is something perfect for you.  Here is a peak into what you can expect for a weekend of jam packed events, learning, food, and fun.

On the Rocks Bartender Challenge: Thursday the festival events spring into action at the Sugar Land Regional Airport.  Houston has really developed its mixology prowess over the last couple of years and this event is meant to showcase some of the best of the best in the bartending world.  An event this fabulous has to have a great foundation, so the drinks of the event will feature Hendrick’s Gin.  For old and new gin drinkers alike Hendrick’s is a pleasant surprise.  The gin’s small production and unique recipe of flowers, roots, and fruits break the mold on what you would expect in a gin.  With the five competing bartenders all sure to bring it for the competition you are sure to experience gin and cocktails in a way you have never seen them before.

Fred Parks Wine Seminar – Battle of Sexes: This seminar prepares to tackle the challenge of what wine really does fit men vs. women.  Put away your preconceptions and really face the challenge head on to see where you are on the palette scale as you explore the gambit of wines in a flight from reds to whites to sparkling.

Herradura Tequila Seminar: With Cinco de Mayo coming up now is the time to power up your tequila knowledge.  Herradura Tequila sources from carefully grown blue agave to produce a masterful tequila loved by aficionado’s everywhere.  The seminar offers a chance to learn about the love and people who go into making one of my personal favorites.

Whiskey Seminar – Tullamore Dew: I recently heard about the Tullamore Dew story at a seminar and the incredible history of a boy working at a distillery that transformed into an Irish whiskey powerhouse was only topped by the smooth taste of this single malted spirit.  You are sure to have a great time raising a glass to some fun Irish toasts throughout the event and learn some facts about whiskey as well along the way.

The Grand Tasting: When you combine the best of food and spirits how can you not be guaranteed a phenomenal night? The grand tasting is an unbelievable opportunity to reconnecting with some of your old favorites as well as find new ones as you make your way through the ballroom.  With 14 of Houston’s best restaurants and 28 different wine and spirit companies represented I double dare you not to have the time of your life!

Sip & Stroll at Imperial: More of a daytime or outdoor type of person? Well you can have all of the fun of the Grand Tasting on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a celebration of the best of the best in food and wines.  Take the spirit of the food celebration home with you by stopping by one of the pop-up book shops and come face to face with some of your favorite cook book authors.

Bistro Brunch: The perfect weekend is wrapped up with the perfect meal…Brunch!!!! The mix of savory and sweet brunch when combined with the global reach of this event is a memorable way to wrap up the weekend of fun.  The event is sure to leave a great final impression so you can start the 362 day count down until next year!  Plus you can work off some of the calories from the weekend to the sounds of Joel Guzman, Sarah Fox, and Los Aztex to prevent the guilt from creeping up on Monday.

Accentuate the Positive

Group of friendsI learned early on that a great icebreaker to meet someone new is to pay them a compliment.  If you can find something you honestly like or admire about a stranger it is a good way to ease into a conversation and if nothing else make someone’s day.  Funny enough giving someone some positive feedback is also a great way to boost relationships you already have.  The idea of positive feedback is often lost on those we already have a relationship with.  We make assumptions that they already know how we feel when it comes to the positives and instead share the things we don’t like or want them to change.  When the amount of positive feedback decreases, it can seem that the amount of negative feedback increases.  Here are some tips to help strengthen relationships you have already forged as a small touch of positivity can go a long way.

Positivity encourages positivity: Every relationship has the challenge to balance the good and the bad.  Don’t forget that the operative word is balance so when you go up on one side it can overwhelm the other side pretty quickly.  I heard myself correcting my daughter three times this morning about picking up after herself or paying more attention to things.  It dawned on me that from her point of view almost everything I said to her this morning was negative, even if I felt I was saying things that needed to be said while they were fresh in my mind.  Sharing things you like about the other person while it is fresh on your mind is just as an important correction and can actually lead to the changes you want to see in someone else.

Don’t always couple the good and the bad: Whenever my mom’s pays me a compliment I hold my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.   Sometimes we try to sandwich something negative with something positive to lessen the impact but over time it teaches people that the positive statement is only a pillow for the drop kick to follow.  Sometimes you have to be very direct on something negative, but it gives you an opportunity to share something positive and just let it be and allow someone soak in the complement or accomplishment.

Sharing helps remind everyone why the relationship is important. When I was young I thought I could just pile my life full of things and balance it all.  As you get older you realize you only can carry so much and when you add one thing it is likely you are going to drop another.  Relationships you really want to develop are hard to come by so make sure to do the work to keep it up or it can easily drop by the wayside.  Sharing something positive works on both sides to booster another person in why you appreciate them but also to remind you on what is special about the relationship.  Keeping these tips in mind is crucial when it comes time to put in the work to keep the relationship up.

Make the time to be receptive for feedback: Part of sharing a complement is to let someone know what you are thinking.  At its best, however, communication is a two way street.  Whether it is good or bad, sometimes sharing things with someone else in person on when you have time to talk does an extra step in showing that you care not just about your feelings but about how they feel as well.  When you’re open to it you will be surprised at how even a compliment can booster someone’s spirit or directly face some insecurity.

It may seem like a small thing but why not challenge yourself to share something positive you see in the people who are important around you.  You will be surprised at how the smallest things can make the biggest impact

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