Wednesday, December 31, 2008

so long 2008 hello 2009 NYE in Houston Amazing friends and New Age Tex Mex

today we had what was literally the best restaurant meal of 2008 and the last one we will eat this year
at The Original Ninfa's on Navigation in Houston Texas

So taking a break from caterng events in Cenla and NO Dianne, Rick, Andrew and I a
re on a busmans holiday and quick road trip here in Houston Texas for the New Years

We had a fun and informative visit and sitdown with Linda West, the gracious owner of
Melange Fine Events and Catering, one of Houston's premier caterers
and recent past President of the International Caterers Association. She graciously toured us
around her amazing commissary and warehouse here in Houston and then steered us to some of the best
Tex Mex food we have ever had and in reality one of the most fun and delicious meals of 2008,

what a fitting end to a great year of food, friends and travel.

I hope to post some photos eventually, since Dianne had her camera, but mine seems to be lost
- hopefully it will show up soon as I feel I have lost an appendage almost. So many photo opportunities have been lost even in just one day!!

So we plug Ninfa's into the GPS after spending about 3 hours visiting with Linda
and up comes about 6 location choices, Linda and her manager warned us to only go the
"the original Ninfa's on Navigation Street" and after punching down the line of Ninfa's finally
shouted EUREKA - this one is on Navigation.
parking lot was fairly full and the patio well populated when we arrived after 3 - but since the sun was shining and the weather warm and sunny we asked to be seated outside and after about 5 baskets (no joke) of fantastic fresh chips served with green creamy tomatillo sauce and mild but tasty housemade salsa, we finally get down to ordering. A few mojitos and rum and dt cokes later our apps arrive
andrew and I split a dinner order of the original fajitas they are famous for, the menu stated

" This is where it all started, where Mama Ninfa
first stuffed chargrilled sliced beef into a handmade
flour tortilla and launxed the national fajita craze"
- very old school but absolutely delicious

I know our just off the wagon from being vegetarian son would have loved the MEAT!
Tender strips of marinated and grilled beef skirt steak which was cooked to perfection
medium rare yet tender and juicy, and while it sounds like a shill, believe me it's true!

good guacamole, sour crema, sauteed onions, red and green peppers and a hotter than expected
grilled jalapeno rounded out the platter with warm housemade flour tortillas,
that waitstaff graciously refilled upon request...

on to lunch

choicing was close to impossible but Chef Alex Padilla's specials just jumped out at us and said
ORDER ME - YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY and we were thrilled, happy, stuffed, intrigued and satisfied beyond belief,,.,.

we decided to share (ikinda sort of)

Lamb Shank Mole which was a gorgeous beyond imagination (wait until you see the photos) oversized
square plate with a huge Fresh Colorado Lamb Shank dramatically presented with Rosemary Skewered into the shank and smothered in Oaxacan style red mole sauce which was as complex and lucisous to eat as it was to look at
this was one of those show stopper dishes that you eat with your eyes first before devouring down to the last scrap on the bone and the marrow from within. I got in touch with my inner marrow today!

Lamb Shank Mole - Slow roasted for four hours in banana leaf, served with traditional mole sauce
(and very reasonably priced at 16.95

Our other dish was Chile Pasilla Rellenos
pretty too but even more spectacular in taste with the mmmnnns and ahhs flowing with each bite!

stuffed with cheese, pork, chicken, raisins and slivered almonds,
served with creamy guajillo sauce 15.95

not sure which dish had the side of yummy yellow spanish rice and smokey Charra beans with Bacon
which you know made the Pork Queen of Queens very happy!

At some point, Dianne mentioned to our waitress that we were visiting chefs from NYC and all of a sudden
a lovely man in chefs whites appeared at our table and started what turned into a 2 hours visit
with lots of exchange of food travel and cooking techniques

chef Alex Padilla, originally a Houstonian who trained under the well-regarded Nancy Oakes at Boulevard in San Francisco.
is the executive chef for both the restaurant and the catering kitchen was a blast to hang with
he has worked in NYC, NJ, Northern California including with Thomas Keller and at Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco and even opened a greek restaurant at some point in his career. He originally hails from Honduras, but has strong roots in Mexican cooking and often fuses styles and techniques with his Mexican city born wife and her fabulous family of cooks.