Posts for the 'USA' Category

Hotel Icon Houston

Hotel ICON - The lobby

Hotel ICON – The lobby

The award winning Hotel ICON Houston was formerly the Union National Bank, a statuesque landmark building erected in 1911 which was converted to a hotel in 2004 and is now part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. Erected with a limestone and brick façade, it’s a palatial building that reflects the grand neoclassical architectural style of the time. Today Hotel Icon continues to maintain many of its original touches such as the Corinthian columns and decorative features of Roman Gods. And now this sense of history has also been intertwined with a modern urban Texan décor to produce a result that is the ultimate in comfort and style.

Hotel Icon is located in the business downtown area and offers fabulous access to the city’s attractions including the theatre district (the second-highest concentration of theatre seats in the country), galleries and museums, Market Square, Houston Pavilions, Discovery Green and Houston’s sports districts. It also operates a handy free shuttle service to any location within the downtown area and is the only downtown hotel on the 7.5 mile, state-of-the-art Houston METROrail light rail line

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Eleven Eleven Houston – Sunday Brunch

Eleven Eleven in Houston is a restaurant and bar that serves Southern Coastal Cuisine with a twist. Alongside the likes of dishes such as citrus tea brined game hen and pecan-smoked baby back ribs, there’s also a raw bar that serves a variety of crab and lobster plus 10 to 15 different kinds of oysters daily. It’s an eclectic, unconventional menu with an equally detailed beer and wine list and an inventive cocktail selection.

Eleven Eleven - Cocktails


Eleven Eleven is housed in a 1940s home in the artsy residential area of Montrose. With its brickwork walls, dark earthy tones and a leather interior, Eleven Eleven has a loungey feel that draws in a hip and trendy crowd. There’s also a large relaxed outdoor patio area, perfect for the American social institution of brunch.

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BCN Taste & Tradition – Houston, Texas

BCN Taste & Tradition in Houston, Texas is one of the latest fine dining additions to the Houston dining scene and pays homage to the very best of Spanish cooking. The restaurant is named for the airport code of Barcelona, the birthplace of chef Luis Roger, who began cooking as a child under the guidance of his grandmother. Finding love of cooking at such a young age led him to study at the Spanish culinary school, Escola d’Hostaleria Hofmann and a 20-year career as a chef that has included stints at the esteemed El Bulli.

Today, Roger’s menu at BCN Taste & Tradition brings together all of his culinary experiences and takes the diner on an explosive journey that blends tradition with the latest culinary techniques. Many of the ingredients are imported from Spain to uphold the essence of a true Spanish experience.

Located in a 1920s house in the beautiful artsy residential area of Montrose, BCN Taste & Tradition is discretely tucked away on a street corner. The décor is elegant but understated with a softly spoken colour scheme of sand-and-white. There are original works by greats Miro and Picasso on the walls to uphold he Spanish theme.

BCN Taste & Tradition’s exploration of Spanish delights begins with appetisers including the likes of a beautifully smooth and rich home made foie gras terrine ($22) accompanied by a lightly dressed side salad. Also delightful was a poached quail egg ($16), our dish of the evening which was perfectly cooked with a runny yolk. A dream to eat, it was immersed in a wonderful smooth potato foam and a topping of seasonal truffle.

BCN Taste & Tradition- Foie gras terrine

Foie gras terrine

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Hotel Sorella and Radio Milano

Houston, Texas is a sprawling city that is home to plentiful eating and the famous NASA Space Centre. During the first two days of my visit to Houston I stayed at the luxurious Hotel Sorella, located in the vibrant CityCentre development which is home to a number of sophisticated retailers, plentiful dining options, commercial office buildings and luxury homes. The hotel is sleek and stylish and designed with custom made details such as a unique European Murano glass chandelier and graphite colored ceramic floors.

Hotel Sorella - Lobby

Hotel Sorella – Lobby

The rooms are comfortably appointed with those on the upper floors offering sweeping views across Houston. There is a well-equipped spa and fitness centre and a variety of meeting room options for the business traveller, including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom.

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Restaurant Zoe, Seattle, USA

Lobster tails

Lobster tails

For me, the highlight of my visit to Seattle was the Pike Place Markets. We spent a substantial amount of time there exploring and eating during our two days in Seattle. There are a lot of stands selling cooked food, but its big draw card must surely be the fresh produce on offer. Jumbo prawns and king-kong sized lobster tails that were as fat as my leg (I kid you not) had my mouth watering. If I were to ever go to Seattle again, I’d like to stay in a furnished apartment with a kitchen instead of a hotel so that I could shop, cook and eat my little heart out!

But seeing as we had no kitchen, the next best option was to head out and sample Seattle’s culinary scene. Research on Zagats and local blogs suggested that Restaurant Zoe was one of Seattle’s finest. More of a bistro than a fine dining venue, the restaurant is simply decorated throughout in dark wood.

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Providence, Los Angeles

I have to confess that I really wasn’t in the mood for going to Providence. Several days of cruising around Los Angeles like a madwoman, plus the 10 hours that I had spent at Universal Studios prior to arriving at the restaurant had left me exhausted. But I decided to persevere, and boy, was I glad that I did. The first two courses at this restaurant were so stunning, they left me gobsmacked.

But let’s start with the amuse bouches at this 2009 two star Michelin holder. (If you read my Spago blog post, you will know that the Michelin guide, in a cost cutting measure, stopped reviewing the city of Los Angeles in 2010. Therefore, while Providence had two stars in 2009, it technically doesn’t have any at the moment.) The amuse bouches, from left to right, consisted of gin and tonic jelly; a greyhound (grapefruit and vodka) raviolo; and Tasman sea trout tartare with lemon jelly, rice crackers, four spices and brook trout roe. With the citrus-y elements of each, all three had a nice zing to them.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

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Spago, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

Here begins the first of several write-ups from my flying visit to the States recently. I will do my best to blog these posts ASAP. But you know how it is – with work and a busy schedule, it will probably take me longer than I would like. Please bear with me. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy the taste of the first instalment – SPAGO.



With the help of some of my American readers (thanks to you all – you know who you are) I managed to come up with a fantastic shortlist of restaurants to try. Spago Beverly Hills is the Los Angeles flagship restaurant of Wolfgang Puck, that all-conquering Austrian-born celebrity chef to the superstars, who for the last 16 years has catered at the star-studded post Oscar’s Governor’s Ball. With its guest list being 1,500 long, this is no mean feat. (An interesting fact about the Governor’s Ball which I picked up during a tour of the Kodak Theatre, the home of the Academy Awards ceremony: there is always one item on the menu that it shaped like the Oscar’s statuette. This year it was the hand-cut Oscar croutons in the salmon starter – can you imagine making 1,500 of these?)

Puck’s name is indelibly marked everywhere. His empire extends across the US, and covers a range of eateries (casual to fine dining), catering products, supermarket food ranges, cookware, and of course, cook books. So I was sceptical about Spago. Could it possibly live up to all the hype? Would it really be that good? It held two stars in 2009, but was that based purely on the fame of the chef’s name as sometimes Michelin restaurants tend to be? (Note that in a backwards, cost cutting measure for Michelin, the guide stopped reviewing the city of Los Angeles in 2010. Therefore there are no restaurants in LA with stars (Michelin ones, that is) at the moment). I debated long and hard about whether to go to Spago, especially given my time limitations, but in the end I decided to try it. After all, this restaurant embodies everything that is LA.

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