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From the monthly archives: December 2016
Toast to the New Year: Sparkling Rose
For those that prefer a fruitier cocktail, the Sparkling Rose is perfect! A beautiful combination of simple syrup, watermelon juice, Rosé sparkling wine, featuring Milagro Silver, made from the finest blue agave from the Jalisco highlands, this sparkling cocktail is…
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Cooked Cabbage with Sausage

On December 30, 2016 By

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

I’m not sure about teaching an old DOG a new trick but I certainly can learn to do things a new way. I’m almost embarrassed that I have never cooked cabbage this way. I’m sure everyone will be making (or made) some type of cabbage dish for New Years day. We always have pork belly (fried, or hog jowl), black eyed peas and some kind of cabbage. The green cabbage is for “money” in the new year and good luck.

There are so many ways to eat cabbage, ie. in slaws/coleslaws, […]

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Fleming’s Steakhouse New Year’s Eve Celebration + Giveaway
Fleming’s Steakhouse has been giving the people what they want this entire holiday season. It started with their inaugural Thanksgiving offering, which featured a four-course meal that included their mixed herb roasted turkey breast and all the fixin’s. Then when…
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The Joyful Life With Joy Sewing and Todd Ramos
We had such a fun time talking food with Joy Sewing and Todd Ramos on their Saturday morning radio talk show, The Joyful Life With Joy Sewing and Todd Ramos! In addition to sharing how Urban Swank got started those…
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Toast to the New Year: Bees Knees Royale
Toast to the New Year with this sparkling cocktail that is sure to please any palate as you join together with friends and family to ring in the New Year. This cocktail truly has it all with the combination of…
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Dulce Vida Spirits Introduces Natural-Flavored Tequilas (Plus a Cocktail Recipe!)
This past summer, Austin-based brand Dulce Vida Tequilas, announced the introduction of 70-proof Dulce Vida Lime Tequila and Dulce Vida Grapefruit Tequila. Along with these two naturally flavored tequilas, Dulce Vida also added a new 80-proof portfolio (Blanco, Reposado and…
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Sheet Pan Dinner

On December 24, 2016 By

How much easier can a recipe get?

Isn’t everyone looking for easy, fast recipes that give them a little more time with their families; and it’s Christmas eve and who has time to cook now or even wants to cook days after Christmas. All we want to do is still down and relax and enjoy the holidays with our families and friends.

Merry Christmas to everyone and have the merriest times with your love ones.

Whether it’s a nice piece of fish and some vegetables or potatoes or all vegetables. You will love how quick this is to throw […]

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SMIRNOFF Spiked Peppermint Hot Chocolate
There is nothing better than waking up on Christmas morning and enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate. And because we here at Urban Swank always love to put a twist on a classic, we have the perfect recipe for…
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Ranma, Rah-Rah, Rommel, Ran King, RAMEN!!!  Oh yeah, Ramen!  Not just the Cup O Noodles or the plastic bag with a spice pack, but the good stuff, the proper stuff, the house made stuff that can be skinny like capellini from Italy.  Oh yeah.  Ramen houses have been opening up around Houston outside of the typcial SW Chinatown/Little Saigon areas for the past couple of years.  Some have become real Foodster Darlings where it’s hard to get in for a bowl, while others have had mixed reviews.  Noodles are one of those very flexible items that can be combined with broth or sauce, meat and/or veggies and/or Tofu and provide a hearty, filling meal.  When done well, the eating experience can be awesome.  When done poorly, they come out more meh.  Based on the preview, Nao Ramen House in Rice Village (which opened on Dec 1st) leans towards the awesome end of the spectrum.  But first a little background aboutm Nao:

Chef Rob and Crew

NAO Rice Village is a Japanese Ramen Noodle, Bao and Yakitori Brasserie in the heart of West University, from Owner Piran Esfahani and Head Chef Rob Frias, both formerly of Tarakaan. The Clean Casual Eatery features an eclectic mix of traditional ramen dishes as well as inspired fusion variations on them. They also feature a good selection of cocktails, yakitori and other high end Asian fusion dishes. Piran Esfahani was a well known bartender in the Montrose area, having recently graduated from University of St. Thomas at the time, after having lived in Vienna, Austria. His time at Zimm’s Martini and Wine Bar gave him a love for the industry which later rolled into becoming a Restaurateur. Chef Rob Frias is a graduate of Alief Hastings High, educated at Colegio San Augustin in the Philippines, U of H business, and the Art Institute of Houston. He’s worked with Nara Sushi, been executive Chef at Tarakaan (also working with Esfahani) and is now executive chef at Nao. Esfahani and Frias bring a litany of Houston restaurant experience to create a great Ramen and Asian fusion eatery for the benefit of West U, Rice University and the Medical Centre, as well as all of Houston.

Nao does not serve Turtle Soup!

This particular day was devoted to Media Previews and a Friends and Family event that led to very full house. I was fortunate enough to snag a seat by the Ramen Bar area and got to see Chef Rob and the crew in action whilst enjoying the fruits of their labor of love.  Chef Rob seems a kindred spirit when I saw his corner which included some Funko Pop figures, some Loot Crate Swag and I noticed his Facebook Bio indicates he speaks Klingon!

Samurai Smash and
Blue Blushing Dragon Cocktai;s

Of course no great meal will start off without a good Craft Cocktail.  And considering Pirhan Esfahani’s pedigree having been a former Celb Mixologist, I had to partake of a couple of libations.  The two that caught my eye most were the Samurai Smash (Rye Whiskey, Lime juice, bitters, St. Germain) which was a fine Rye Cocktail which evoked hints of an Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour; and the Blue Blushing Dragon (Bluberries, Lemon, Vodka, Cintrongo Mango, Lavender Syrup, Soda Water) which was less sweet than I anticipated and was quite refreshing.  Great starters or a great complement to the forthcoming meal!
Grades: A+ and A

Next up was a chance to try some of their Yakitori.  Though Yakitori is typically grilled skewered chicken, it can be done all kinds of ways and is a popular form of Japanese street food.  Nao was serving up more than a few different kinds this evening.  I chose the two that appealed to me most:  the pork belly and the mushroom yakitori.  Both of these had a great mix of veggies and seasonings, in sauces that had sweet and savoury leanings.  A nicepair of appetizers to set the stage for the upcoming main courses or a nice snack to enjoy with a cocktail.  Grades: A+ and A

Nao has a good selection of five different kinds of ramen on their menu.  All of them looked good.  However, this evening I tried the Red Curry Ramen (with chicken broth, red curry, toasted garlic, spicy bean sprouts, chicken, coconut milk and bamboo shoots, garnished with a soft boiled egg) and the Tonkatsu Ramen (pork broth, pork loin, pickled shiitake, bamboo shoots, chicarron, pickled cucumber and a soft boiled egg).  As  a nice touch, the egg looks to have been in soy sauce and a visible brand in Kanji is on the egg!  Both of these Ramens were hearty–the broth full of great spices and slurpable noodles.  The Curry had those great elements of coconut milk and warm spiciness that put a fire in the belly, while the tonkatsu was more the warm comfort of home cooking.  Grades: A++ and A.

The folks at Nao also would not let me get out without trying their two desserts:  Mochi Ice Cream and Tokyo Bread Pudding.  They have these wonderful sticky rice covered ice cream balls in green tea, chocolate, raspberry, mint, mango and strawberry.  I enjoyed some of the Green Tea and it was authentic, cool and not too sweet.  The Tokyo Bread pudding isn’t the usual bread pudding as it’s made with a sweet bean and fruit compote, has maple butter melted into it and though usually is served with green tea ice cream, I elected to get raspberry instead.  This Bread Pudding was hearty and sweet, satisfying and was a fine end to a great meal!  Grades: A and A+

As first impressions go, Chef Rob and Pirhan made great ones.  I intend to be back soon to try the Spicy Miso Ramen, as well as their Gyoza Dumplings and one of their hot stone rice bowls.  There aren’t a lot of Asian restaurants in Rice Village at present, and given the clientele, it makes a great fit for the neighborhood!

Nao Rmen House is located at:
5510 Morningside drive suite 120
Houston, TX 77005


Eat Happy, Y’all!!!

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A beautiful Christmas salad to go with just about anything.

A few weekends ago I was looking for a side dish to go with some burgers we were doing one night when my daughter came for the weekend. What started off as a sautéed Brussels with cranberries and pumpkin seeds and parmesan cheese turned into a crunchy salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

At first this salad was going to have pistachios in it because I had a bag full in my freezer then I thought pumpkin seeds sounds so much fitting for this time of the year and go […]

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