Maggiano’s Welcomes its New Weekend Brunch Menu

Let’s face it. Brunch is all the rage these days. That little meal that sits between breakfast and lunch has gained tremendous popularity in recent years.

And that’s part of the reason why Maggiano’s Little Italy decided to create a special brunch menu so guests can partake in one of the coolest meals of the day at the restaurant that makes every visitor feel like a part of the family.

Maggiano’s introduced their brunch menu Feb. 28 and the Memorial City location invited 2 Girls Who Travel as well as other Houston food bloggers out March 19 to sample their new menu of classic brunch items with a Maggiano’s flair.

We’re enjoying some mimosas before we eat!

True to fashion, Maggiano’s did not disappoint – from the peach bellini to the masterfully prepared lemon ricotta pancakes, the food left us satisfied, full and ready for the next trip back! Have a look at the eats!

This cute little orange streusel cake packs a big punch. Dense, citrusy and tasty!

Maggiano’s has elevated the eggs benedict breakfast staple by making them truly their own – think meatball benedict! We were wondering too, but it was hearty, well-seasoned and a welcome addition to the usual-served benedicts. Our favorite was the crab cake benny, loaded with jumbo lump crab meat – a real winner on a crispy English muffin with a perfectly poached egg and creamy hollandaise sauce. Also on the menu: smoked ham, smoked salmon and spinach and chicken francese. We’ll have to put those on our must-try list for next time.

Crab cake benedict

The meatball benedict

Executive chef Philippe Verain demonstrates how to cook his lemon ricotta pancakes.

Take a look at these beauties, would ya? All that whipping of the egg whites was worth it because these were light, fluffy and oh so good. Chef Philippe prefers his with no syrup and we see why – none needed … they’re delicious on their own!

Kim takes a selfie with Chef Philippe

This vegetable frittata included mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and smoked mozzarella.

Creme Brulee French Toast – yes, it’s as good as it sounds! This dish of cranberry raisin focaccia dipped in creme brulee stole our hearts!

And if you’re curious about Maggiano’s regular menu offerings, check out this blog post from the Memorial City location’s grand opening!

2 Girls Who Travel Deal of the Month: Dine at Applebee’s for Half Off!

Hello everyone! You’re in luck because we’re here to let you in on a little secret. Well maybe not a secret, but it hasn’t been widely publicized.

Applebee’s Grill & Bar restaurants in Texas will be giving visitors a chance to make use of all those expired coupons and gift cards they’ve been holding on to. Through a promotion Applebee’s is dubbing “March Madness,” 67 participating Applebee’s locations are accepting any and all gift cards, gift certificates, coupons, etc. (even expired ones) from all businesses and brands during the month of March.

A press release stated the idea for the promotion was created from the fact that many people have expired gift cards and coupons to places they won’t visit, so Applebee’s decided they would accept them.

The only two caveats? The promotional offer is only good for up to 50% off any food purchase and alcohol is not included in the promotion.

Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry. 2 Girls Who Travel tried it out at the Applebee’s location in Stafford, Texas and we can say without hesitation – it’s absolutely true!

*Note: Be sure to check with your local Applebee’s to make sure they’re one of the participating locations.

So …. we had a few coupons and gift cards lying around…

Our appetizers: mozzarella sticks and sriracha shrimp

Our entrees: steak for Kim and chicken for Val

Our total bill after the promo deal came out to $23.50. Not bad!!

2 Girls Who Travel Have Brunch at Phil & Derek’s

So here’s the situation … most people remember the old Phil & Derek’s restaurant (you know, the delicious assortment of brunch foods and those three flavors of bottomless mimosas). Well, when they opened up in a new location, everyone wondered if it would live up to the hype – well, we are here to say yes, it does – and then some!

The All-New Phil & Derek's

The All-New Phil & Derek’s

2 Girls Who Travel stopped by the all-new Phil & Derek’s in Midtown (1701 Webster St.) and were instantly excited to see the new look. The bar area and outside patio are perfect for gatherings and parties. We opted for the patio where a DJ was playing a great assortment of new and old favorites. This patio experience was awesome – and one of the standouts of the new location!

Okay yall, so this is where it gets really good … complimentary mimosas! All the mimosa you want, at no extra cost. We decided on the pomegranate, but they also have orange and raspberry. Can you ever go wrong with bottomless mimosas? It’s one of the best parts of brunch! The server even brought us a carafe (swoon).

Bottomless Mimosas - Pomegranate (pictured), Raspberry and Orange

Bottomless Mimosas – Pomegranate

Now to the food. If you ever had the pleasure of dining at the old location, you probably remember the food – catfish, omelets, fried chicken, greens, etc. Expect more of the same here! The brunch buffet is $27 – moderately priced compared to other brunch buffets in Houston! The exhaustive menu included an omelet station, bacon, waffles, sausage, cheese grits, catfish, fried chicken, green salad, pasta salad, potato salad, fruit, smothered steak, gumbo, red beans and rice and desserts. The food is excellent and the buffet was steadily refilled and maintained by the staff while we were there. All good signs for a great buffet experience. No waiting on your favorite food to come!

Our server was attentive – offered refills of our carafe and removed our plates as we went back for seconds (of course we went back for seconds).

Just a sampling - greens, sausage, red beans & rice, smothered steak, catfish and slice of bacon

Just a sampling – greens, sausage, red beans & rice, smothered steak, catfish and bacon

Parking was to be expected for Midtown – there’s a small lot, so expect it to get full rather quickly during peak times. But street parking is also available.

So, we have a cool, laid-back atmosphere, great service and delicious food. Phil & Derek’s is back, stronger than ever. No doubt this will be the go-to spot for brunch – dare we say one of the best brunches in Houston … quite possibly!

For more information on Phil & Derek’s, visit www.philanddereks.com.

 

2 Girls Who Travel Get a First Look at Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane’s New Restaurants

Houston patrons can experience some fine Italian cuisine at new downtown restaurant Potente, located on the ground floor of a luxury apartment building just steps from Minute Maid Park.

Potente boasts a menu of high quality seafood, steaks and pasta; an exhausting wine list and décor that would make anyone stand in awe. Their menus even light up … how fancy is that?

Potente Bar - courtesy photo

Potente Bar – courtesy photo

Potente wine room - courtesy photo

Potente wine room – courtesy photo

Astros owner Jim Crane owns Potente as well as his other, more casual Italian restaurant Osso & Kristalla, which is located next door to Potente. The restaurants are named after his three children.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

The Houston Food Blogger Collective was invited to tour both restaurants Feb. 22 and sample some delicious food offerings at Osso & Kristalla prior to the restaurant’s official opening. And before we get to the yummy food pics, you must be informed that executive chef Michael Parker (personal chef to Crane), Chef du cuisine Micah Rideout and executive pastry chef David Berg are behind the magic. Now … enjoy!

We love our wine!

We love our wine!

Mini wedge salads

Mini wedge salads

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

Get in our belly!!

Get in our belly!!

Arancini with marinara sauce (also known as risotto balls)

Arancini with marinara sauce (also known as risotto balls)

Purple kale, anyone?

Purple kale, anyone?

Can't go wrong with shrimp

Can’t go wrong with shrimp

Beef carpaccio

Beef carpaccio

We're getting a first-hand demonstration of how to make the cocktail Dante's Inferno

We’re getting a first-hand demonstration of how to make the cocktail Dante’s Inferno

We love a good truffle and cake ball

We love a good truffle and cake ball

Both restaurants are now open to the public, so be sure to stop in and get full. Potente opens at 5pm every day for dinner and Osso & Kristalla serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tell them 2 Girls Who Travel sent you!

When the Travel Bug Hits …

For the past few months, we’ve been focusing on some of the great things the city of Houston has to offer – delicious food from a variety of cuisines, a diverse arts scene and home to great musical acts and events – but it’s time to get back to what we were originally known for … TRAVEL!

That’s right. As much as we love Houston, 2 Girls Who Travel have been itching to get away and explore. So within the course of about five days, we booked three trips for 2017. We don’t play any games!

*Travel Tip: Always look for cheap flight deals! It’s far easier to plan a vacation once you’ve secured travel to/from your destination. If you come across a great airfare deal, jump on it! They don’t last long and the rest of the vacation usually falls into place. If you’re in Houston, sign up for email alerts from EscapeHouston.com.

So we’re sure you’re wondering where we’re going. First up, we have Chicago in March. We’re excited to go because the weather should be pleasant and we will be staying in the heart of the city, near all of the famed attractions. Always expect a few bonus surprises from us, too.

Then, this summer we’re going to be beach bumming it in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We haven’t spent a lot of time on Mexico’s Pacific coast, so this will be a nice change of scenery.

In the fall, we have a spectacular international trip planned … and we’re not revealing the destination just yet. But we are veeeerrrry excited. We’re still ironing out the details, but will be giving you more information later.

So what about you all? Got any big travel plans for 2017? We’d love to hear about them. Share in the comment section below.

2 Girls Who Travel Attend “Syncing Ink” at Alley Theatre

syncing-ink-1

It’s true! 2 Girls Who Travel definitely love to travel. We also love to find great restaurants – hidden gems – here in Houston and around the country. But our other love is cultural arts – museums, music and theater. We have spent many, many hours emerged in cultural art finds.

We recently attended the opening night of Syncing Ink, by Nsangou Njikam, which is part of the Alley Theatre’s ‘Alley All New Festival’. We went in not knowing exactly what to expect, but left pleasantly surprised. Syncing Ink brings Hip Hop Theatre to Houston and we love it!

It chronicles the true events of a young man finding his voice, legacy and purpose through hip hop, while set in the present day and his past high school and college years. The talented cast includes Nsangou Njikam (Gordon), McKenzie Frye (Mona Lisa), Nuri Hazzard (Jamal, Professor Brown), Elisha Lawson (Ice Cold, Chance), Adesola A. Osakalumi (Mr. Wright, Gordon’s Dad, Professor Black, The Ruler), Robyn “DJ Reborn” Rodgers (The Mutha), and Kara Young (Sweet Tea,Gordon’s Mom).

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Gordon

We must say the cast is phenomenal. They hit all the right notes! And if you ever vied for a young woman/man’s attention, you can relate. What have you done for love? And in the course of that, what did you discover about yourself? What was revealed?

Now there is some explicit language/adult content in Syncing Ink, so no children. Definitely a great date night, girlfriends night out or just a night at the theater! This must-see production has won 2 Girls Who Travel’s seal of approval.

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Syncing Ink runs from Feb. 3 – March 5, 2017. Shows are Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30pm; Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2:30pm and 8pm and Sunday 2:30pm and 7:30pm.

For more info, visit alleytheatre.org or call 713.220.5700.syncing-ink-flyer_1_17

Love Jones The Musical Hits Houston

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2 Girls Who Travel and friends enjoying Love Jones The Musical

Super Bowl LI weekend in Houston had a bevy of events and activities happening across the city. There were tons of options for Houstonians and out-of-towners alike. Of course 2 Girls Who Travel enjoyed NFL activities and parties, but we decided to take a break from the parties and spend Saturday afternoon in downtown Houston at the Hobby Center enjoying a stage adaptation of the 1997 cult classic, Love Jones.

The national tour stopped in Houston February 2-4, and brought a star studded cast featuring MC Lyte, Coko from SWV, Raheem Devaughn, Gary Jenkins from Silk, Dave Hollister, Tank and Michel’le (El Debarge also performed, but not in our Saturday afternoon show).

We invited some friends to partake in the fun and we must say we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Love Jones The Musical was like a mini concert! We went back – way back – to some of our favorites like Michel’le’s Something In My Heart and SWV’s Weak. We were taken back to the good ole days of R&B.

Now we would be remiss if we didn’t remind our readers that this is an adaptation of the movie for theater, so there is a difference. Die-hard Love Jones fans may be a little upset, but again there are some limitations when you adapt a movie to a stage play. But we enjoyed the music, had lots of laughs and had the opportunity to meet some of the cast.

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Val (half of 2GWT) and Love Jones The Musical Actor Chaz Shepherd

Overall, Love Jones The Musical was a great addition to our Super Bowl LI weekend festivities. The cast and music pushed it over the top! We have to say thanks to our sponsors, d-mars.com and CoBall Entertainment, for the excellent tickets.

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Love Jones The Musical cast takes a final bow

If Love Jones The Musical tour comes to your town, definitely check it out! It gets the 2 Girls Who Travel seal of approval. For more information, visit www.lovejonesthemusical.com.

Macy’s Culinary Council’s Chef Bryan Caswell Cooks Up Super Bowl Faves

Just in time for the Super Bowl comes Chef Bryan Caswell – you know, owner of Houston’s upscale seafood restaurant REEF. Chef Caswell was on hand for Macy’s Culinary Council’s cooking demonstration, in which he made some of his favorite game day dishes.

 

Grilled snapper, plantains and long beans with pomegranate jus

Grilled snapper, plantains and long beans with pomegranate jus

Red snapper carpaccio, grapefruit agra dolce and garlic bruschetta

Red snapper carpaccio, grapefruit agra dolce and garlic bruschetta

Buck shot gumbo

Buck shot gumbo

Prior to the demo, Chef Caswell, born in Lafayette, Louisiana, but reared in Houston, sat down with the media to discuss a little bit of everything – from cooking, to his family to the best place in Houston to buy fresh fish!

5 Things You Should Know About Chef Bryan Caswell:

  1. His favorite type of fish – to catch, cook and eat – is cobia.
  2. He is unapologetically pro-Houston. Eater’s decision to visit Dallas as their first Texas city rather than Houston prompted Chef Caswell to title his very first blog “Eater Can Suck It.” Soon after, he changed the name 🙂
  3. He’s 6’4”. A commanding presence in the kitchen, no doubt, Chef Caswell is pretty tall (see the pics for yourself).
  4. Chef Bryan and his wife Jennifer started a nonprofit – the Southern Salt Foundation – which has a mission of preserving the habitat of the Gulf Coast. Fundraising efforts include hosted dinners.
  5. According to Chef Caswell, the best place in Houston to buy fresh fish is Blue Horizon Wholesale Seafood and Market (2516 Wroxton Road, Houston, TX 77005). Chef Caswell swears by it and said it’s the only place where the same person catches the fish, cleans it and sells it.
Chef Bryan and wife, Jennifer

Chef Bryan and wife, Jennifer

The Ultimate Super Bowl Foodie Guide

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, everybody who is anybody is gearing up for the big event. And how lucky for us that Super Bowl LI will be hosted in our great city of Houston! Because we’re such great people, we decided to share a blog from the Houston Food Bloggers Collective (of which 2 Girls Who Travel are members) about where to eat, drink and what to cook during Super Bowl weekend.

The HFBC members have literally taken all the guess work out of eating for you! So, without further ado, click the link to see the Ultimate Super Bowl Foodie Guide, brought to you by HFBC. And trust us, these bloggers know their food!

http://www.houstonfoodbloggercollective.com/new-blog/2017/1/11/hfbc-super-bowl-top-picks

REVIEW: Home Chef

Okay, Val again. In this blog, I’ll be reviewing my experience with Home Chef, a meal delivery service, and seeing how it stacks up compared to Blue Apron. If you missed the review I did on Blue Apron, you can read about it here.

Basically, Home Chef is the same as Blue Apron. Except … it’s so much better!

Here’s why:

  • You Can Select Your Meals: Whereas with Blue Apron, you’re limited to just three meals each week and you have to receive all three in a shipment, with Home Chef you can actually select from 10 different meal options each week (some are even meatless). So if you’re not feeling the default delivery options, jump in and switch them out. In addition, there are available add-ons (a la carte style) such as breakfast options and smoothies.
  • Meals are Better: Now this is strictly my opinion, but I have been comparing the meal options for a little over a month now between Blue Apron and Home Chef. And Home Chef has consistently tastier looking meal options. Check out my fave from my first week’s order below!
  • Info about the Chef: For every meal, Home Chef offers up a short bio on the chef who created the meal. This can be helpful once you begin using the service more. If you notice that most the meals you select each week are the creations of a certain chef, it’s fair to say those meals will be good picks for you!
This meal was definitely a winner! Crispy Garlic and Lemon Crusted Salmon with Creamed Kale and Charred Grape Tomatoes

This meal was definitely a winner! Crispy Garlic and Lemon Crusted Salmon with Creamed Kale and Charred Grape Tomatoes

So that’s my take folks! Again, I don’t use the meal delivery service all the time (you can still catch me in the grocery store 80 percent of the time), but when I do, it’s Home Chef. I’m such a fan that I actually just cancelled my subscription to Blue Apron!

If you’ve used a meal delivery service, tell us about it! Which one is your fave? Let us know in the comments below.