Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gram's Empanadas

1410 N. Gessner

Several of our South American restaurants have Uruguayan dishes on their menus but so far as I know this is our only eatery identifying solely as Uruguayan.  There is an image of the Uruguayan flag on the menu board.

My obsession with sausages led me to try the Choripan on my first visit but I also had a beef empanada.  The Choripan - chorizo plus bread (pan) - is a sandwich found in several South American cuisines and I've read that Chorimobiles are the most popular kind of food carts in Argentina.  I have uniformly found South American chorizos to be pretty good sausages and this was no exception but it was different. Like andouille, it seemed to be made of chunks of meat rather than ground; it was split and grilled, a little over-grilled in this instance, and was tasty but the sausage was dwarfed by the bun and all that lettuce.  I have to admit I have yet to discover why these sandwiches are so popular.  None of them have been very impressive.

The beef and cheese empanada was a real winner, however.  Ground beef, minced red, yellow and green bell peppers and onion plus a gooey, stringy cheese, all in a flaky pastry crust with a creamy green sauce on the side that was just a little spicy.

On a second visit I stuck to the empanadas, going for a Leek and Cheese and a Shrimp.

The leek really wowed me.  I didn't really know what to expect but I sure didn't expect to see all that dark green part of the leek.  This one too had the minced peppers and onion and stringy cheese.  It was a bit on the salty side but I was tempted to go back up to the window and order another one and save the shrimp empanada for later.  That wouldn't have been such a bad choice, actually.  Compared to the leek, the shrimp empanada was blah; as I expected for the price point, frozen shrimp were used and they were pretty tasteless.  I understand the crab empanada uses imitation crab, a shame but understandable at the price point.

There are 14 empanadas on the menu board including several breakfast options and 2 sweets - Dulce de Leche and Sweet Potato.  There are also ten 'Meals' on another menu board, including the Choripan and a Chivito Burger and a Chivito Sandwich.  That last one is considered the national dish of Uruguay and it's on the menu of several South American restaurants around town, usually occupying a prominent place on the menu.  Gram's online menu describes theirs as flat iron steak, ham, bacon and cheese plus a fried egg.  I'm pretty sure I saw one on one of my visits and it's a very good looking sandwich.  The Chivito Burger substitutes a hamburger patty for the flat iron steak.

There are several tables on a covered porch on the south side of the little stand and a drive thru window on the opposite side.  Despite the drive-thru, Gram's is not fast food - empanadas are cooked when ordered, not sitting under a heat lamp, and it takes about 10 minutes.

A couple of real winners and more to explore sums it up.  Gram's Empanadas should definitely be on anybody's list for an Empanada Crawl.

Gram's Empanadas on GrubHub

Friday, March 13, 2015

Señor Juan

Currently, 10560 Westheimer

I've been eating a lot of fried food lately and I haven't even been to the Rodeo once.  To be specific, I've been eating fried pies - Uruguyan Empanadas, Trinidadian Patties, and these Puerto Rican Empanadillas de Carne from Señor Juan.

Pretty basic but tasty.  Ground beef and seasonings (recaito?) plus a thin, fiery green sauce.  A little on the greasy side but not too bad.  Empanadilla would seem to mean 'small empanada' but these were a hefty 5 oz. each.

The menu is small.  They were out of Alcapurrias and Pasteles the day I was there, so I got two of these but one would have been sufficient as I just wanted a snack.  Mofongo was listed on the reverse side of the menu card but I missed it when I briefly flipped the card over.   Cue Homer Simpson.

Señor Juan

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Arny's Bakery

9601 S. Gessner @ Bissonnet

This little Filipino bakery has opened, tucked back behind other businesses at the corner of S. Gessner and Bissonnet.

I picked up, from the left, an ensaymada, bibingka, and mamon.

The bibingka is a super-moist, dense rice cake made with coconut milk, a cross in texture with a dense rice pudding and a cake, traditionally baked in a terra cotta pot, wrapped in banana leaves.

The ensaymada, culinary descendant of the ensaimada of Mallorca, is a bun topped with finely shredded cheese and sugar.  The Mallorcan pastry was made with saim, a type of pork lard, but the Filipino version is made with butter.

The mamon is a sponge cake, a Filipino version of Angel Food cake; the name comes from Spanish slang for breast.

Both the ensaymada and bibingka were about 5" across and the bibingka weighed just over half a pound.

Not all of the items pictured were available the day I visited and there was at least one pastry and one type of bread I saw not pictured. A sign in the window also advertises kolaches which would probably make Arny's the first ever Tex-Czech-Filipino bakery, but there weren't any on display the day I was there. I plan to go back to try the Pan de Ube (purple yam) and Hopia (mung bean paste, I think), which were not available.

There were beverages available from a cooler and a coffee maker on a counter top.

EDIT TO ADD:  I HAVE SEEN BAKED GOODS FROM ARNY'S AT THE HONG KONG MARKET ON BELLAIRE IN THE READY TO EAT DEPARTMENT.