Thursday, February 15, 2018

Checking out some Houston places

I travelled to Houston for work and was surprised when my supervisor told me that since George Bush-Intercontinental Airport was so far north of the city it would be ok to rent a car for the week.  I decided that it would be great to try a few of the Triple D places.  I arrived and got the car and headed out to my first stop.  The first place took me about 50 minutes to get to.  I was really surprised with the conditions of the roads in Houston, they ere pretty rough and pot holed for a place that doesn't have a lot of snow.  "Cool Running's  Jamaican Bar and Grill" is in a mall strip mall on the southwestern side of Houston.  I walked in and saw a "Welcome to Jamaica" sign at the small entrance to the dining room.  I was seated at a table next to a stage where on the weekends they have entertainment.  The walls were adorned with really cool artwork depicting scenes of Jamaican scenery.  The tables had placemats depicting Jamaican themes.

Cool Running's Jamaican Bar and Grill in Houston

Their Delivery Van

A little piece of Jamaica in Texas

All things Jamaica at each seat

As I looked over the menu I decided to try a few of the appetizers to give me a feel of the different types of Jamaican cuisine.  I have tried the famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken in the past so I decided to try a Beef Turnover, Vegetable Spring Rolls, and Coconut Shrimp.  The Turnover came first and had a deep yellow crust surrounding a fine ground beef filling that was a medium heat.  The crust helped c sown the spice of the meat, it was very tasty.  A few moments later the small spring rolls came out and made me remember that there is a huge Asian influence on some Jamaican cooking as they reminded me of the spring tools that you get at a Chinese restaurant.  The Coconut shrimp were big and tasty with a nice coconut crust.  The spring rolls and shrimp came with a very tasty mango-ginger  dipping sauce that I loved, I would have taken it as a drink!

Jamaican Beef Turnover

The tasty crust hides the even tastier beef filling

Veggie Sprig Rolls with delicious Mango-Ginger sauce

Coconut Shrimp with Mango-Ginger Sauce

Before I left I was able to meet the owner and head chef and got him to sign my book, he tanked me for coming and I thanked him for the wonderful meal!  I headed out to start my week of work.

After work on my second night I headed out with my co-worker Melanie for a place that was listed as 18 miles from my hotel.  The trip took about an hour to get to due to traffic and that I had to avoid the toll road, since it was mostly cashless and I didn't bring my EZ Pass.  The good news was that the toll roads have parallel frontage roads in Texas, the bad news there a lot of lights along the way!

"The Original Marini's Empanada House" is in a shopping and restaurant area near a number of office buildings.  I was really looking forward as empanadas are one of my favorite Latin foods.  They are pastry pockets filled with just about anything and Marini's has about 50 different types both sweet and savory.  We entered the place and grabbed a table and menu and went to the front counter to order.

The Original Marini's Empanada House

Inside Marini's

Both Melanie and I decided to try 3 different types of empanada's.  I chose the Beef Gaucho, the Chuck Wagon and the English.  As I ordered I told our server why I was there and asked to get my book signed, she told me that she was part of the family, in fact most of the employees were members of the Marini family.  While we waited, Mr. Marini came over and not only signed my book but talked to us for almost 20 minutes and told us how he started the restaurant in 1971, he was very gracious and friendly, made us feel like we were part of the family!  Our meal came and the empanada's were delicious.  My Beef Gaucho was filled with ground beef, boiled egg, olives, onions and spices.  The Chick Wagon had brisket, tomatoes and red wine and the English was filled with ground beef, peas, carrots, potatoes, and Worcestershire Sauce.  All were delicious, the Chuck Wagon tasted like a pot roast pillow and the English was like an English Pasty.

My Marini's Empanada's

As we were finishing Mr. Marini came back and gave us a small container of freshly made mini sandwich cookies for dessert that were made in their pastry shop. They were delicious and had a Dulce le laches flavor. He also introduced us to his wife, what a great a gracious coupe and family.  The Original Marini's Empanada House is an absolute must if your visiting the Houston area!

The wonderful cookies, Mr. Marini gave us

Mr. Marini and I

Melanie and I headed back to the airport area and although the drive seemed long we both agreed that it was worth it!

I decided to try one more place before the week ended.   I headed north from the airport to a place that had a unusual name and cuisine.  "Q-Shi BBQ and Sushi" is a Texas-Asian fusion pace in the town of Spring Texas.  I brought another of my co-workers Han on this adventure.  We entered a very busy place and I knew I wanted to try some sushi with a very American side.

Inside Q-Shi

Han decided to try a full Bento Box of sushi that came with a choice of Sake, he chose the Hot Sake drink.  I chose the Q-Shi Sushi #1 which was a brisket based sushi and a side of Sticky Sauce Chicken Wings.  They brought us a appetizer of Seaweed, Edamame Beans and Tempura Shrimp.  The shrimp was a bit bland, but the Edamame was very good and the seaweed was excellent!

Seaweed Appetizer


Tempura Shrimp

A few minutes later our meals arrived.  The sticky sauce on the wings tasted like Teriyaki and were pretty good.  The sushi was very interesting as it looked like traditional sushi but had a protein base of chopped brisket and had a really nice flavor. The manager came by and told him about my travels and he got the owner to come over t meet us and sign my book.  Han sked him what made him create such an unusual restaurant.  He said that it was his lifetime culinary journey.  He grew up in Georgia with a BBQ background, went in the military and was based all over, especially in Asia, then ended up in California where he focused on sea food and sushi and decided to put it all together!  If you want to try food from all over Q-Shi is worth a visit.

Q-Shi #1 - Brisket Sushi

Asian Sticky Sauce Wings

My week in Houston and as I travelled home my Triple D count stood at 616

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Working in Vegas

In early 2018 I was asked by my manager at work if I would be interested in taking a temporary assignment.  The job would have me on the road most of the year travelling all over the United Airlines system.  I hoped that I could use these trips to get to more Triple D places.

One of the first stops was Las Vegas.  I have been able to get to several places in Vegas in the past but there were still more to try.  I flew out the day before my work started so I wanted to try to get to a place before the work began.  The flight I took arrived about 1015a and I knew that the hotel wouldn't be ready so I decided to use Uber (my first time) to get to a new place.  "Crepe Expectations" is in the town of Henderson just outside Vegas and is located in an upscale strip mall.  They had inside and outside seating and it was very busy.  I was directed to a seat at a small counter facing the open kitchen,.  Everything is ordered at the counter.  The menu was overwhelming with both sweet and savory crepes.  Many patrons were also enjoying wines and champagne mimosa drinks.

Crepe Expectations in Henderson, Nevada

Menu Board and Open Kitchen area
I was greeted by a very friendly server and asked her to remind me what they had made during their Triple D episode.  She told me that they had made a savory crepe called The Sonora, so that's what I ordered.  She told me that the owner and chef who cooked with Guy had just arrived and he would come over to sign my book while I waited.  Chef Lou came over and is a big guy with a big beard.  He warmly greeted me and signed my book and we took a picture together.  I really enjoyed the place and during my wait I was able to watch the crepe master cooks in action, they were really fast and talented.

The Crepe Expectation chef in action
 My meal arrived, the crepe was filled with Carne Asada Beef, jack cheese, roasted tomato salsa, guacamole and presented with a small side salad.  The crepe was delicious and the salsa gave it a bit of a bite.

My Crepe Expectations meal
I finished up and thanked the staff and then headed in to Las Vegas to start my week.

Chef Lou and I at Crepe Expectations

After my first work day I decided to check out another of the Triple D places in Vegas.  I headed out to a small casino not too far off the strip called the Eureka Casino.  "Fat Choy", inside the casino, advertises themselves as a Pan Asian American Fusion Diner.  The menu has both Asian and American fare and features Chinese Bao Buns and American burgers and sandwiches.  I was greeted by a very warm server and decided to sit at the main counter.  When she saw my Triple D book and I told her about my travels.  I asked her about the show and confirmed that they had made their famous Short Rib Grilled Cheese on their episode, so I decided to try it.  She told me that the Fat Choy burger featured a fried egg which is something Guy doesn't really like.

Eureka Casino Home to Fat Choy 

Fat Choy - Home to Asian American Fare

My Short Rib Grilled Cheese came out very quickly and was served with fries and a tomato dipping sauce.  The sandwich was delicious, grilled to perfection with Cheddar and Jack Cheese and a huge portion of shredded short rib.  The tomato sauce was really unneeded as the sandwich was great on it's own.

The "Guy Ate Here" plaque

Fat Choy's specials board

My Grilled Cheese meal


I was able to have the chef sign my book before leaving.  Not only was the meal delicious but the staff there was great!  Friendly and helpful to everyone who entered.  Fat Choy is worth a try, it's very reasonably priced especially when compared with the places on the Las Vegas Strip.  The staff and quality of the food makes it a real hidden gem!

One of the great things about travelling for work and being a old time employee is that some of my former co-workers have either transferred to moved on to other places and visiting areas where I have friends. In Vegas I have two co-workers that I was really looking forward to seeing.  I planned to meet up with my friend Dave after finishing work on my second day of work.  We headed out of the airport to a place about a 30 minute drive away.  "John Mull Meats and Road Kill Grill" is both a meat market and barbecue joint.  The location is in a residential area just outside the North Las Vegas Airport.  There are a few covered seating areas using wood picnic tables.

John Mull's Meat Market and Road Kill Grill in  North Las Vegas

Dave and I entered the building that served both the meat market and barbecue serving area.  I met the main chef and butcher and he warmly greeted both of us and I told him about my travels and asked him what he recommended on the extensive menu that featured about 10 different meats including ribs, burnt ends and Tri Tip steak.  He said let us get you a sample of the different meats and they proceeded to set up a box filled with ribs, rib tips, burnt ends and Tri Tip, on the house and they were all delicious!

Our complimentary sampler box

We went back and ordered, The manager then gave both of us a John Mull's t-shirt, I was so thankful and will wear it proudly.  Dave decided to try the 2 meat sampler with Hot Link sausages slices and the sliced Tri Tip with Baked Beans and Potato Salad and I chose the Tri Tip Sandwich with a side of Baked Beans.  Both of us got the mild sauce on the side  The Tri Tip was great and perfectly spiced, and the Baked Beans were really good with a nice heat.  I tried one of Dave's Hot Links and it wasn't too spicy in a very tasty sauce.  Both of us agreed that the mild sauce was really good but necessary, as the meat was done so well!

Dave's 2 Meat Combo

My Tri Tip Sandwich

John Mull's excellent baked beans
After finishing I went back in to get my book signed and one of the servers signed.  The owner and pit master was away but I can say that the staff was all wonderful!.  Dave brought me back to my hotel ending a great night of food and reminiscing about the past!

There I am at the Road Kill Grill

Dave at the Road Kill Grill

I made plans after my third day at work with my friend Bob.  Bob and I had worked together over 20 years ago before he transferred to Vegas.  I had met up with Bob on my last trip here and we went to Forte European Bistro.  We decided to go to a classic Triple D place that was featured on one the very first episodes of "Diner's, Drive-ins and Dives" and a place that Guy Fieri went to during his days as a student at UNLV.  The "4 Kegs Sports Pub" is north of Las Vegas in a strip mall.  As you enter there is bar area and small area of slot machines.  The dining area is in the back and there are two huge maps that are full of stick pins just for patrons who came in that are fans of the show.  As we entered I recognized Mario, the owner of the 4 Kegs, Guy's friend and the owner who cooked on the show.

4 Keg's Sports Pub in Las Vegas - A Triple D Classic
We found a booth in the dining area that has a lot of signs and decorations, it has the feel of a fun neighborhood "joint".  On their episode Stromboli's were featured so I knew what I wanted.  Our server told us that she would give of the lunch special even though it was too late, which included a small Stromboli, fries and a drink.  I chose the Meatball Stromboli.  My meal came with large cut fries and a side of tasty tomato sauce.  The small Stromboli was pretty large and stuffed with meatball and melted mozzarella cheese.  It was great, the meatballs were very tasty and the sauce really added to the meal.

My Meatball Stromboli at the 4 Kegs

As Bob and I were finishing up Mario came over to sign my book on his page.  After signing we chatted for almost 20 minutes!  He told us that he had just returned from going to Guy's 50th Birthday party in Santa Rosa, California.  The 4 Keg's was one of Guy's college hangouts and when he started the show in 2007 and they were looking for places to feature Guy wanted to do the 4 Kegs as a place he had fond memories of.  After taking a picture with us, Mario had to leave and we headed to.  The 4 Kegs is a must, the food and service are great along with being a special place in the life of Guy Fieri.

Me, Bob and 4 Kegs owner Mario

I met up with Dave again on my last full day in Las Vegas, after work we went to the Paradise area to a very unique place.  "Bachi Burger" is what I would describe as an Asian Fusion Burger joint.  It is located in a small strip mall about 10 minutes from the airport.  We were seated and our server explained the menu and made recommendations focusing on the items that were featured on their Triple D episode.

Bachi Burger in Las Vegas; Asian Fusion meets Burgers

We decided to try the Truffle Fries, with a fried egg on the side.  The fries were topped with a jalapenos, a beef truffle sauce and scallions.  Although I didn't eat the jalapenos they gave the fries and nice heat bite.

Our Truffle Fries appetizer

For our meal I chose the Bahn Mi Burger and Dave chose the Ronin Burger.  My Bahn Mi Burger had a patty made up of angus beef, pork, shrimp and pork pate and topped with fresh herbs, and curry aioli on a brioche with pickled vegetables and a fish dipping sauce called nuoc mam on the side.  Dave's burger was an angus beef burger topped with sweet onion marmalade, Japanese Cole slaw, miso goma dressing, katsu bbq sauce and a fried egg on a brioche bun.  My burger was delicious, I could taste all of the different proteins in the patty and the toppings really added to the taste!  Dave also really enjoyed his burger.  As we finished the chef came out to sign my book and thanked us for stopping by.  

My Bahn Mi Burger

Dave's Ronin Burger

We headed out and Dave brought me back to my hotel, the Paris Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.  I really appreciated his hospitality and it was great seeing him after such a long time.

After I was back at the hotel I decided to take a walk to Guy's Restaurant just a few minutes walk from the Paris Hotel, which is located in The Linq Casino.  "Guy Fieri's Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar" is located on the east end of the casino and has indoor and patio seating.  The place has loads of Guy memorabilia along with pictures and signatures of celebrity patrons.  

Guy's restaurant in The Linq Casino on the Las Vegas Strip

I was seated a small table in the back corner.  On the wall there was painting on the wall that said this was Guy's favorite spot, so I guess I was seated at "THE" table!  I decided to try a dessert and asked my waiter to recommend one of the 5 choices.  He told me to try the Cheesecake and I did.  The massive dessert came; a half a marble cheesecake topped with chocolate sauce with potato chips and pretzels.  The dessert had a unique taste both sweet and salty.  I wasn't sure whether I would like it but it was really good!  I can only describe it as decadent!  The dessert was much to big for me to finish, this dessert would feed up to 4 people!

My table!

My decadent dessert - Marble Cheesecake, Chocolate Sauce, Pretzels and Potato Chips

Guy's unique cloth napkins

Guy's wall of Celebrity Signed plates

I literally waved the "white" napkin on the dessert!  My waiter brought my book back to have the chef and sign t and from there I left and headed back to the Paris to end my day and my work week in Vegas.  As I headed home I was very happy to have been able to get to so many different Tripe D places but to also have been able to visit with tow good friends that I haven't seen in a long time!  My Triple D count was now at 613 and this new travel assignment had just begun!