March 28, 2023

Mole Poblano - (Moe' Lay Poe Blah' Noe) - Fonda Santa Rosa on Beechnut is a Houston Treasure

Journalist, Alice Levitt, has written an excellent article for Eater on where to find excellent mole in Houston. She lists several regional styles here in this link to the article:

Alice Levitt Writes About Mole in Houston - Where to Find It

It's always dangerous to come out with a "best in" assessment. But, I will stick my neck out here and say that the house made mole Poblano at the Fonda Santa Rosa on Beechnut is the best I have had in Houston. It is a little on the sweet and the chocolate portion of the mole Poblano spectrum. But this mole would pass muster even in Puebla, in my opinion.

My Fri, Friend Michael Shum, a fellow Mexicanophile first asked me about this place several years back. Regrettably, I never had the opportunity to check it out until now. And. It. Is. Wonderful.

Chef owner, David Reyes's family is from the state of Puebla, though he grew up in CDMX. He is passionate about his food and you will see him moving effortlessly between the front of the room and back of the room, overseeing the preparation and presentation (as can you as it is an open kitchen) but also having time to meet and socialize with the patrons, including me, seen here in my Lucha Libre mask.

In addition to the superb mole enchiladas (technically, tortillas enmoladas, though here in Texas, just about everything is called an enchilada) we tried the tilapia in a mango sauce and also the "molcajete" which was a potpourri of chorizon, nopales (cactus), grilled meats and onions. Delicious!

Here are some photos of ours and others dishes as they came out of the kitchen. This place is a treasure.

Friend Michael Shum writes: "I love Mexican food, not the Tex-Mex variety as much, but authentic Mexican food that’s cooked from the heart, and presented by Mexicans who are proud of their rich and wonderful heritage. Nothing beats being in Mexico and enjoying this colorful cuisine in the actual environment, but oh man, coming to Fonda Santa Rosa is a treat as close to the real thing as possible.
Mole Poblano on Enchiladas, Molcajetes Mixto, and Filete de Mojarra al Mango, even the side of Guacamole are foods that comfort the body and soothe the soul. Each and every dish is “balanced” in the words of owner and chef David Reyes, who has a tremendous background growing up in CDMX with parents from Puebla. If your tastebuds can only respond to heavy seasoning, saltiness, and spiciness, this place might not be for you. If you can detect little nuances and special care that put into making complex food, and you can respect other culture’s special characteristics, then you will have a grand experience. Dining with Jay Francis and Hirotoshi Mugen is always a pleasure, because they both have tremendous sensibility and appreciation for a wide spectrum of culinary varieties.
Have a full experience and get the Aguas Frescas and Cafe de Olla, also,  to accompany a delicious authentic Mexican cuisine. Tex-Mex is also offered, but I doubt I’ll even get to that part of the menu, before exhausting all the fantastic option on the Mexican Specialities section. "

March 22, 2023

Un Caffé on Milam at Elgin

 From Roastery Magazine. A review that is better than I could do myself so, here goes:

"A new roastery and coffee bar in Midtown Houston called Un Caffè is giving guests a taste of Italian-style coffee with a distinct focus on craft and performance. 

Un Caffè Founder, Roaster and Barista Soonkack Kook also embraces the Italian cultural practice of greeting each guest at the bar. 

“They can watch every [drink-making] performance,” Kook recently told Daily Coffee News. “I give them surprise drinks. I ask them how their day is going.”Kook, who initially moved to the United States from Korea for college 20 years ago, spent the past 14 months renovating a 1,900-square-foot space inside Un Caffè’s 90-year-old building. The result is a modern roastery and retail bar awash in shades of red, green and white, reflecting Kook’s reverence for the birthplace of espresso, Italy.

“Espresso is an Italian culture,” said Kook. “I get it, light roasting is the trend now, but I wanted to know Italian roasting, too. When my coffee journey began I wanted to learn trendy light roasting, but at the same time I wanted to offer dark roasting to my customers.”

A certified Q Grader and authorized Specialty Coffee Association trainer (AST), Kook is already an expert in coffee, but he credits 2016 Espresso Italiano Champion Daehoon Park with helping him develop his methods for Italian-style coffee. 

For lighter roasts, Kook said he embraces a technique known as Environmental Temperature Response Roasting (ETeRR), as developed by Joo Sunghyun, winner of the 2017 Korea Coffee Roasting Championship.

“With green beans having 12-14% moisture at the beginning, as you roast, the water in beans will evaporate,” Kook said of the technique. “The amount of the heat should be adjusted depending on how much water is left in the beans, which can be estimated by looking at the environmental ROR [rate of rise].”

At the back of the shop, Kook uses an Ikawa Pro100 sample roaster prior to loading small batches into an Arc 800 roaster or larger production batches in a Probat P12.

Those roast support classic espresso options prepared through a Slayer Steam espresso machine, or drip and cold coffees made with a Ground Control brewing system. The Einspänner, a Viennese drink consisting of espresso topped with a small amount of whipped cream, is another European import by way of Korea.

“Einspänner is a popular drink in Korea, and you don’t see the drink here,” said Kook. “Unfortunately my whipping machine broke on the second day, so I quickly changed that to an affogato, but it is coming back once I receive my brand new whipping machine.”

A one-person operation on most days, Un Caffè is not pursuing wholesale accounts, although the capacity is there. For now, Kook said he wants Un Caffè to be a friendly coffee resource for the community while he continues to develop his own skills.  

“I feel the love from the community and I want to keep this vibe,” said Kook. “I want my shop to be a place for all my present and future friends and community.”