Category - Eat

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Community and Great Eats at Red Oak Cafe
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Blonde Biscotti Reigns in the World of Biscotti
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El Panzon y Frida – Scottsdale, AZ

Community and Great Eats at Red Oak Cafe

“Our God is Awesome!”

“I love these pancakes!”

“You’ve got this…God’s got you!” (Philippians 4:13)

“Be the reason someone smiles!”

These are just few of the hundreds of notes written on sticky notes that are decorated all over the walls inside the ladies restroom at Red Oak Cafe in League City. This…along with the exceptional food and service are what prompted me to tell you guys about this lovely family-owned restaurant.

Kim Oravetz is a longtime resident of Friendswood, and mother of four boys, and three grandchildren. It was about ten years ago when her eldest son- Justin, passed away in a car accident. She began searching for a way to honor his memory, and opening a restaurant sounded like a good idea. “Being a mom, he was probably my biggest eater. So I felt like I knew how to feed people, along with large groups of people, because with four boys, you’re always feeding.” She opened up a tea room in Friendswood. When that closed, she still wanted to open up another restaurant. She found the current location at the border of Friendswood and League City, and thought that it was perfect. She felt that the area needed something like it- a place where the community could gather.

When Justin passed, they planted a red oak tree in their backyard because they felt like it represented the strength that he had. So naming the new restaurant was practically a no-brainer… “Red Oak Cafe” just fit. They officially opened September 2015. The cafe has a Christian-inspired environment, which is full of love, inspiration, family…and amazingly great food. Kim feels that due to her hard work and obedience to God, the restaurant has been incredibly blessed.

All her menu items are either something she’s created herself, or family recipes. The granola was her grandmother’s recipe.. She wrote it for Kim on the back of an old bank envelope, and she still has and cherishes that envelope. “She sat with me probably 30 years ago and we would make chicken salad. So that was just totally inspired by who she was and what she helped me learn in the kitchen. My grandmothers were both of my inspirations for learning how to cook. I became a young bride and had to learn very quickly on how to feed my family.”

The story behind the famous sticky note-covered restroom walls is this… It was about two years ago when Vanessa, a server who has been with the restaurant since day one, brought up the idea of putting sticky notes in the bathroom and seeing what would come from it. So they placed a pad of sticky notes and a pen in the ladies room and it exploded. Every square inch of the room is literally covered with prayers, words of wisdom, shout-outs, praises, and more! The mens room also participates, but is not as covered. When I first saw the walls, I was just in total awe. There are times when I loose faith in humanity, especially after watching the news, as well as just in passing when I’m out-and-about. But these walls help restore some faith that people still feel, connect, and love.

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Let’s chat about some of their menu items… One of the things they are known for is their coffee. They not only brew Katz Coffee, but also have their signature Texas Hill Country Pecan Blend, which is 85% of what they sell.  As for breakfast- they are known for the pancakes. “It’s not a buttermilk pancake. It’s sweeter and denser.” I did get to enjoy the pancakes recently, and they are some of the best I’ve had. They were comforting, and didn’t leave me with a ‘ugh, too full’ feeling. What’s also great is that they offer a menu of mix-ins for the pancakes. You can pretty much get anything you want, but the kitchen sink. Speaking of ‘kitchen sink,’ they offer the Kitchen Sink Quesadilla, which is filled with veggies, eggs, black beans, salsa, cheese, etc. For lunch, the Chicken Salad and Club Sandwiches are popular. The paninis are also recommended, especially the Grilled Cheese, which was inspired by her grandmother. They add in apple slices and bacon (“Because everything is better with bacon, I believe.” -Kim). “One of my favorite snacks as a kid growing up, from my grandmother, was apples and cheese, so we threw that into a panini,” Kim explained. Other must-haves on the menu are the Palo Pinto Power Bowl, Jambalaya, and Chicken Pot Pie. I personally LOVE the Prickly Pear Veggie Sandwich with a side of Chipotle Ranch dressing and a cup of Tomato Soup. Be sure to also try the seasoned saltine crackers!

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

“Our culture is what is so important to us…The servers have that culture as well. Our families, the love, the customer service..just that we provide the southern hospitality…You’re going to get good food when you come, but you’re also going to get loved on, and we really think that that’s the most important part.”

Red Oak Cafe will soon have an Alvin location! Breakfast is now served ALL DAY! Be sure to also follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

They are located at:

6011 W. Main St.

League City, TX

HOURS: Open Tuesday- Sunday~ 7am- 3pm

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

Red Oak Cafe, restaurant, League City

 

 

Blonde Biscotti Reigns in the World of Biscotti

Lisa and Toni, Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

IMAGE BY: Trevor Gerland Photography

When it comes to biscotti, the mother-daughter duo, Lisa and Toni, know a thing or two about the usually crunchy treat. While looking for a new local coffee shop to go to, on my birthday actually, I saw the Blonde Biscotti on my Google Maps feed. I was in the Montrose area, so I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did. Not only did they have my favorite drink- Matcha Latte, but their soft baked biscotti are unlike any others that I’ve seen or tasted; in fact, they were literally the BEST I’ve ever tasted! That day, I was actually somewhat flustered, but as I sat drinking my latte and nibbling on the biscotti, my mood shifted to a calmer state. I feel like the monochrome space with potted succulents, and the treats really helped. It’s hard to explain, but hopefully, you get somewhat of an idea.

I was able to chat with co-owner Lisa about what got her into baking, and general thoughts the shop. We chatted for awhile, so I’m going to narrow it down to an abridged version.

She recalls that when she was about seven years old, she remembers her mom filming while they were both baking together in the kitchen (as she was really into creating home movies). “{Baking} was our time; on the weekends, after the school rush and the studying was all done. Mom would let me pull all her baking books. We would go through them, and I’d say, ‘Mom, let’s bake this!’ She taught me everything. She taught me how to measure, how you don’t pack flour, how you pack brown sugar. She had learned from her Mom. It was one thing we both loved doing.”

When she was seventeen, she remembers her grandmother calling and saying, ‘Hey, what are you, your mom, and sister doing this summer?’ Lisa wasn’t sure. Her grandmother responded, ‘I signed us up for cake decorating classes.’ So they started taking cake decorating classes. Soon afterward, she started making cakes for friends. Then her mom and she got into wedding cakes, and so on.

Some years went by, and she went off to A&M and studied nutrition, which sort of ties into what they are doing now. Her mom would make her a batch of (natural blonde) biscotti as she knew she’d starve during midterms and finals, and needed something to eat. “I would eat half of them on the way to school. and the other half throughout the week. They were the perfect snacks. I remember her saying, ‘Ah, just baking a batch of biscotti makes me happy. I just want to do that for the rest of my life.’ Lisa let’s that ponder… She’s studying nutrition, thinking she’ll be a dietician somehow in that realm. “So I’m studying and learning, and she keeps saying this bakery thing and I wanted to make her dream come true. and I thought well maybe I can do mine and then help her on the side. I graduated with student loan debt in 2008, I knew opening a shop wasn’t a reality… I was doing a study abroad program in Italy with NYU… I was flying home from Amsterdam. I sat next to one of the corporate managers for FMC Technologies…which kicked my career in oil and gas.” Throughout her stint in oil and gas, she had always had the idea of her mom’s bakery hanging out in the back of her mind. One day, she and her mom talked about it. What are they going to sell? Cakes, cupcakes, etc.?

About a year into getting her MBA, she filed for the business name, and they narrowed it down to just the biscotti, and the perfect complement to it- coffee. She moved to CA for her job, where the coffee culture is more advanced. She spent two years studying coffee in between her job, and drew inspiration from Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia. June 2016, she quit her job in corporate to join her mom in the baking industry. She has not looked back.

They officially opened June 2017, and have been going steady ever since. Toni has over 50 recipes on hand, and the duo comes up with more every day. “Every month has a new flavor rotation. We absolutely love it.” Toni is always experimenting. They have a gluten-free option (which is AHmazing), and are also looking into ways of doing a vegan version. The coffee gets brewed with her La Marzocco espresso machine. “While in Italy and studying the Mediterranean diet and we went to the La Marzocco headquarters in Florence, where they build espresso machines. It’s Italian made… I couldn’t believe that almost 10 years later, I’d be buying a La Marzocca myself.”

The shop’s decor is more of Lisa’s personal style. “I remember being out in California. I lived in Irvine, but Newport Beach was a ten-minute drive… I had a friend whose family owned a beach house. I went to their beach house one day and it was beautiful. They had a boat at the end of the dock… I just remember the white, clean fresh look. I also remember growing up, my mom always kept the walls white. Think fresh white linens. The greys and the white tones remind me of the whitewashed brick walls.”

When asked what her favorite biscotti flavor is? “All of them have a special place in my heart. The Natural Blonde was the one that got me through A&M, and it reminds me of my mom because she’s the natural blonde. The Nutty Brunette’s fun, because I’m the nutty brunette; as well as the Rich Red- our three signatures. People will ask, ‘well, what’s your favorite?’ I try to understand the customer’s preferences because each biscotti is baked with that in mind. I’m the recipe follower, whereas mom’s the recipe inventor. The Birthday Cake is also pretty popular (with not only kids, but with the adults).” I, personally, have tried quite a few of different flavors and haven’t had a bad experience yet. Each flavor brings its own uniqueness to the table. Since they are the only coffee shop in town with a full biscotti bar, they do recommend starting out with the Natural Blonde first, and then working your way around.

Another thing I LOVE about this place- they only source ingredients from local Texas vendors. Since Lisa has a background in nutrition, using fresh and local ingredients for the coffee, milk, and biscotti are very important to her. “If I won’t eat it, it’s not going into the cookie.”

They also do catering. They are also looking to do mailers. For example, a tea package would include a tin of tea, a brewer, and a Biscot-Tea. It’s a great gift idea, and an experience. Definitely follow them on Facebook and Instagram as well, to see when different things are happening. Lisa is usually at the shop, so if you have questions about coffee and biscotti pairings (or anything else coffee or biscotti related), she’ll have great recommendations for you.

Have you been to the Blonde Biscotti yet? If so, what are your favorite biscotti flavors? Let me know in the comments!

Keep scrolling down for more photos.

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Panzon y Frida – Scottsdale, AZ

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

The story of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s love is a tale of twists and turns; of passion and drama. They were an odd pair, as Diego was twice Frida’s age, portly, and masculine; while Frida was fragile and sensitive.

Restauranteurs Luis Montaño and Veronica Fernandez were inspired by the duality of the famous couple. Hence the name- El Panzón y Frida. El Panzón is Spanish for potbellied. They used that inspiration as a guide when designing the interior and creating the menu. Everything in the restaurant has a duality- something very masculine, and something very delicate and feminine.

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

I love how the restaurant just fills with natural sunlight, brightening the industrial-meets-rustic interior in all its’ glory. The owners really took the ‘duality’ into consideration when combining the tile with the concrete, the wood with the brick and pressed tin. I feel that the flower motif that was stenciled in and is seen throughout the space, contributes to the decor’s femininism.

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

Executive Chef Paulina Martinez has always been inspired by the arts, especially while spending her youth painting with her grandmother in Sonora, Mexico. She went on to study culinary arts at GLION Institute of Higher Learning in Mexicali. After spending time immersing herself in the world of hospitality, food styling, fine dining, and other various aspects of the industry, she eventually found herself in Scottsdale, AZ.

I’m so glad that she was chosen to help with the creation of the artsy dining establishment. The restaurant is branded as a place that serves international and New American cuisines, yet if she can’t find a certain ingredient, she’ll just substitute for a Mexican ingredient. She creates dishes that are largely inspired by Frida’s paintings. “I would describe the menu has very intense.”

Since I’m vegetarian, with some exceptions of dairy and salmon, there’s unfortunately not a whole lot of meat-free options on the menu, however, there are a couple options that I HIGHLY recommend. The House Gyozas ($10) are inspired by Frida’s flower crowns, and just happen to be my favorite dish. The little flower-like dumplings are stuffed with sweet potato, carrots, and beet puree; while floating on a punchy citrus soy sauce. Edible flowers are sprinkled on top as a sweet finishing touch to the exotic dish. I usually have to ask for bread to dip in the sauce once the gyozas are gone, as I can’t stop eating it. I also love the Classic Tomato Soup ($8). Chef Paulina really took this childhood classic and amped it up by adding goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and pesto. It hit every taste bud at exactly the right time. I usually wash everything down with the iced green tea, which is steeped at the table. The tea and coffee are locally sourced from Passport Coffee– a company based in Scottsdale. Their wines are boutique, and beers/cocktails are craft.

They’ve recently added brunch to their menu. It’s available Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. You guys, you MUST try the Amaretto French Toast ($10). Have you ever seen such a beautifully-plated dish, that it makes you almost burst into tears? Welllll…. I almost did. Chef just puts her whole heart into her cooking and plating. She also adds her signature edible flowers as a finish to the dish. Its’ flavors include amaretto, lemon curd, micro mint, and I also tasted some cinnamon as well.It is probably the best French toast I’ve ever tasted. I also suggest getting the French Pressed Coffee, as it was the perfect accompaniment.

Chef tells me about her most popular dishes. “The Grilled Octopus ($14) is remarkably popular, as it takes time to prep and cook it, but it’s worth it. The Sea Bass Ceviche ($11) is a very colorful dish. The Bone Marrow ($16) is a messy, eat-with-your-fingers rustic dish… We use techniques and dishes from all over the world and make it our own.”

I do think that if Frida and Diego were around today, they’d approve of this concept!

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

El Panzon y Frida, scottsdale, restaurant, AZ, arizona

Huge shout-out to all the wonderful staff! You guys are always so friendly and welcoming!

 

El Panzón y Frida is located at:

7323 E. Shoeman Lane

Scottsdale, AZ 85251

(480)659- 1544

@elpanzonyfrida

#PyF

 

Have any of you visited the restaurant? If so, tell me in the comments, what were your experiences? Favorite dish(es)?

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