It’s been a week of change – good change. My sphere of personal freedom has grown and I’m basking in the newness of it all. First, I took the final for my ISG sommelier class on Monday night. I’m confident that I passed and while I’ll continue tasting, reading and learning, I’ll have 15+ additional hours in my week from now until my diploma level class begins in the fall.
Second, William, the youngest of our three children drove himself to school for the very first time on Tuesday. As I sipped my coffee and reflected that morning, I realized that, with the exception of a few days here and there, I’ve driven children to school five days a week for just shy of twenty years. Sadly for me, the pension plan for retired carpool drivers is in direct proportion to my paycheck – zero. So my sole reward for transcending the hurdle of the carpool line is my newfound freedom to blog in my pajamas, a luxury I’ve already begun to cherish…..
While he may not have anted for a full-time mom retirement plan, Jay, my husband, is a gem and took me out to celebrate the milestones in my life. We went to a restaurant that was new to us both – the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen in central Houston. We’ve spent a good amount of time traveling in rural England, Ireland and Wales, which means we’ve enjoyed many a pub, many of which boasted a menu of only three items: fish & chips, shrimp & chips and bangers & mash: not what a foodie’s looking for when she’s in a mood to celebrate. The place was crowded and does not accept reservations. At first blush, I thought it might be a long evening.
But as soon as we found a pair of stools at the bar, the stars aligned and a nigh perfect evening began. I ordered a pint of 512 IPA. And while I’m in no way a beer aficionado (although I was on the beer chugging team in college, another story for another day), it was lovely and my trepidations began to melt away. (512) Brewing Company is located in the heart of Austin, TX and describes its India Pale Ale as:
A big, aggressively dry-hopped American IPA with smooth bitterness (~65 IBU) balanced by medium maltiness. Organic 2-row malted barley, loads of hops, and great Austin water create an ale with apricot and vanilla aromatics that lure you in for more. (Approx. 7% ABV)
When our table was ready, we were seated and perused the menu. To my delight, there were numerous options, many with an Indian twist. I chose the Prawn and Fish Tomatillo Masala and it was simply out of this world delicious. The menu describes the dish as “Jumbo prawns and fish tikka stewed in a fresh tomatillo masala with roasted cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, butternut squash and avocado”. The seasoning was absolutely perfect, spicy but not enough to induce a sweat, and the coolness and creamy texture of the avocado balanced the spiciness beautifully. I paired it with a bottle of 2008 Sebach-Oster Reisling from the Mosel Valley. It’s a Kabinett wine, off-dry, with a touch of spritz and aromas and flavors of nectarine, green herbs and lemon peel and it was a lovely contrast to the spiciness of the Masala.
The atmosphere was casual and relaxed, and though it was a bit loud, it seemed to encourage our conversation and a desire to linger, long after the meal. We a grand time and I am eager to go back.
I did a bit of reading on the Queen Vic and discovered that it’s owned by the same group that owns Oporto, a wine bar that we enjoy very much. The Queen Vic is a “gastro-pub”, a term coined in the 1990’s in England for establishments that combine a pub atmosphere and fine food. The owners and executive chefs, Richard Di Virgilio (Rick) and his wife Shiva, aim to provide Houston with their interpretation of “modern post-colonial British cuisine focusing on Indian flavors, emphasizing quality chef- driven food, artisanal cocktails, and local and imported beer”. Based on this foodie’s experience, they’re doing exactly that, and doing it very, very well. So here’s to East meets West in a pub worthy of a Michelin star – Oxymoron? Perhaps. But to me, the Queen Vic is one of the most interesting dining experiences that Houston has yet to offer.