Friday, June 15, 2012

Trader Joe's Opens in the Woodlands

Trader Joe's opened its doors in Texas this morning, and the residents of the Woodlands showed up in droves to welcome this newest import from the West Coast.  This fabled grocer is known for quality food, an interesting, well curated selection, and affordable prices.  We joined the crowd to see what all the fuss was about.

Walking through the door, we were greeted by the sound of a Jamaican steel drum, and hundreds of Woodlands residents checking out their new neighbor.  Navigation around the store was tricky; the word had clearly gotten out, and intrepid foodies packed the aisles.

Working our way through the smiling crowd, we were pleasantly surprised by both the interesting selection of unusual food items, and the amazing prices.  A few items that caught our attention:

A deli case with some very aggressively priced trays of Italian meats and assorted cheeses.

Over a pound of Belgian chocolate for under $5.

Amazingly delicious "Cookie Butter" - creamy gingerbread spread.  I'm anxious to try this on waffles, bagels, plywood...

A sample of TJ's Mandarin Orange Chicken - one of the best frozen Chinese entrees we've tried.

And last but not least, one of the Charles Shaw wines, aka "Two Buck Chuck".  (Now $3, thanks to inflation.)

The assembled masses were scooping up items left and right, and the lines for checkout were easily 30 shoppers deep.  But Trader Joe's friendly staff was doing a great job of keeping the line moving, and doing so with a smile.

If opening day was any indication, Texas has a great new addition to the grocery store scene.  Trader Joe's combines an interesting product selection with great prices, and that's a winning combination that will draw in foodies for years to come.

We'll be back.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hubbell & Hudson to host Third Annual Beer & Cheese Festival - Saturday, June 30

The Beer & Cheese festival is a great way for Houstonians to become acquainted with new and unique pairings of different styled beers and cheeses. Throughout the event, beer and cheese experts will be available to answer questions. Featured local Texas Breweries include Rhar & Sons (Fort Worth, Texas), St. Arnold (Houston, Texas), Karbach (Houston, Texas), Independence (Austin, Texas) and Southern Star (Conroe, Texas).

The event will take place at Hubbell & Hudson Market, located at 24 Waterway Avenue in The Woodlands, on Saturday June 30th from Noon to 5PM.

Admission to the event is granted with any cash donation to Montgomery County Youth Services. Participants are required to verify age to sample products.

Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen will continue offering an oasis for beer and cheese lovers throughout the summer with their own weekly Beer & Cheese sampling event starting, Monday July 2nd and every Monday thereafter.

For more information, check out the Event Website.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Tasting Room - Serious Wines, Serious Food

Wine bars are a big deal in the Houston area.  It seems like every week we hear about a new one popping up somewhere.  And there's a reason for this - Houstonians can't get enough of the laid-back, upscale atmosphere that is de rigueur at most wine bars.  They're a notable alternative to more common adult venues, especially if you're in the mood to explore some new and interesting wines, since with that focus comes trained and helpful staff and a great selection.

But man does not live by wine alone.  Most wine bars offer some sort of menu, and here's where most of them stumble.  The menu exists as a necessary evil to keep patrons inside and drinking wine, and it shows.  Typical tired bar food is offered, perhaps with some sort of upscale twist designed to mesh with the upscale atmosphere.  But it's generous to say that it often falls short.  If you're a foodie, precious few wine bars will hold your attention.

Enter The Tasting Room.  Run by the same group that brings us the popular Washington Avenue hangout, Max's Wine Dive, The Tasting Room operates several locations around town, each with its own feel and neighborhood-specific personality.  

It's not a brand new establishment.  We'd heard good rumblings about The Tasting Room, but we'd swung by to check it out.  Recently, the persistant efforts of their social media team tempted us to check out this venue for a recent lunch.  (Note to other restaurants:  Their approach to social media is outstanding, and one you should strive to emulate.)  We accepted their generous offer to host us for lunch, and to sample their offerings.

We zipped down to Uptown Park on a recent sunny spring day, and quickly located the cozy, shaded entrance.  The Tasting Room is considerably bigger than we imagined, their success has driven them to expand into adjacent spaces as they've become available.

And succeed they have.  From this original Uptown location they've expanded east to River Oaks and west to CityCentre, covering a good part of the geography that upscale Houston calls home.  We went inside to discover why.