Houston’s Greatest Hits

by Angela on September 11, 2012 · 12 comments

The Hollicks' Top Ten in Houston, TX

After five weeks in Texas, I’ve learned my share of local idioms, so you shall see them respectfully peppered throughout this Best Of post in italics. And when I look back on how fit to be tied I was about the problems in our corporate apartment in Houston, I feel ashamed. I’m not gonna burn daylight by complaining anymore. There’s supposedly a saying in Texas: If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’. So I shut up about our little issues, relaxed, and guess what? Things got better. We had fun. We left Space City with more ebullient memories than you can shake a stick at, and full tummies (of course!). Basically, we were fat and sassy.

**Oh, and a big thanks to friends who put up with my incessant questions about Houston, especially Adam Jacks from Duke! **

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1) Houston Museum of Natural Science. This two-part visit accomplished nose-to-nose encounters of two things that Max is thoroughly obsessed with: butterflies and dinosaurs.

Our first foray into Hermann Park was a dedicated stop into the Cockrell Butterfly Center, which requires a separate admission fee from the rest of the museum. It’s a stunning 3-story glass-enclosed rainforest conservatory, where we were met with a muggy heat (as hot as a two-dollar pistol!) and a 50-foot waterfall. There were exotic plants and hundreds of living butterflies. As we descended down onto the ground level, we sauntered through and literally felt the breeze of wings fluttering around our faces.

But FIRST, you had to walk through the Brown Hall of Entomology, which made Mike’s skin crawl. He may not be a chicken, but he has his henhouse ways. He bravely told me he was willing to take one for the team and walk through if it meant Max’s education and delight. Here is one of the more skeevier arthropods we encountered — the Hissing Cockroach!

Then we got to the Brown Recluse display. Could they make the probability of this spider lying in wait in your shoe any creepier? Mike hates spiders almost as much as zombies — so here, he was scared as a sinner in a cyclone and told me to take a good look at this spider, memorize its features so that Max and I could run away fast if I spotted one, and then in turn tell him, so that he could run too.

As we left the Butterfly Center, there were vending machines that sold real-deal insects snacks. Check out the worms and crickets! I almost bought some, just to try…

On another day, Mike brought Max to the main part of the Science Center to check out the Hall of Paleontology. Mike reported that Max was continuously attempting to touch the dinosaurs and climb on the displays, as seen below. Dem bones, they gonna run from Max…

2) Surf & Turf during Restaurant Month. So here’s an interesting statistic: according to Zagat’s, Houston is number one in the country for meals eaten out per week! A typical Houstonian eats out an average of 4x per week. So, with that kind of demand, it stands to reason that the variation and quality of the food definitely could rival say New York or San Francisco. Couple that fact with August being Houston’s Restaurant Month, we decided to dive headlong into our favorite indulgences at great prices.

First, we satiated our turf fix at Del Frisco’s down the street from us at the Galleria Mall, which has some of the best steak in the city. It surely did not disappoint, and the service was impeccable.

Then we hit Uptown Sushi in our neighborhood for their signature “Zushi” nigiri special. Each piece of fish was divinely paired with a sauce and garnish, and the result was sublime.

However, our favorite overall Japanese joint was Kata Robata in Upper Kirby. I went twice — the first time with Lisa Swift, where we did a leisurely ladies lunch for about 2 hours, complete with vino — and the second with Mike after his Big Yoga class. The quality of their fish is probably the highest I’ve experienced, and even their standard sushi lunch combo scored big points with me because it came with hotate (scallop), which you don’t see often!

Kata Robata is really known for their grill items. We savored a 72-hour Slow-Cooked Kobe Beef Skewer, as well as Shishito Peppers with Yuzu Ponzu sauce. Seriously, so very good…

3.) Full House lifestyle at Chez Hollick/Cordileone. Two families under one roof was an experiment of sorts, because that “roof” was 1500 square feet and housed 5 adults, 2 kids, and 1 cat! Although we were busting at the seams, we all had similar styles in cleanliness, upkeep, and respect of our shared spaces. And plenty of characters abounded: Pam (Hero’s grandmother/Amy’s mother) was the resident Perez Hilton of the Olympics, and she’d keep us abreast of the latest gossip surrounding the games in London (“Did you know… that Call Me Maybe Youtube video that the swim team did also has Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte? How cute!”). We’d have to warn her of revealing spoilers, as she was super zealous with the real-time medal count.

All in all, we had plenty of post-show TV watching and family-style dinners, along with special celebrations, like this one for Max’s 2nd birthday. Mike made meatloaf and I helped Max blow out candles on a red velvet cake. Photo by Nick Cordileone, below.

We often hosted playdates with other kids, including Zavion Hill (Young Simba). Below, he snacks with Hero and Max in the dining room while the adults flit around.

Who, us? Those faces! You’d think they were fixin’ to start some mischief… but no. These kids are good. Sigh.

Luckily, Max and Hero are akin to brother and sister — they take to each other like a buzzard to guts.

Often, they have tickling/wrestling matches, which usually results in Max sitting on Hero’s head and letting one fly.

While it seems like we didn’t go out socially as much as we would have done in another city, we really didn’t have to (and when we did, we often went out with each other!). Spending a lot of time with another family as fun as the Cordileones made it almost too easy to just veg at home with a six-pack, homemade salsa and Project Runway.

4) Montierra Pool. The Texas summer is hotter than a preacher’s knee, and so the outdoor pools at the Montierra were essential for relief. Honestly, we were daggone lucky, as most other colleagues we talked to didn’t have that refuge included in the housing they found. Max and Hero got to swim everyday, and had their pick of two pristine pools that were rarely crowded. Yes, we were riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels. Don’t hate! We shared the love and invited others to enjoy! Below, Hero and three of the Lion King Cubs (Kailah, Sade and Zavion) prepare to jump in.

Zavion’s got some spring in his step! And that’s Pam in the hot tub, probably asking a neighbor at the table to check her phone for the Olympic medal count.

5) Max’s Agonizingly Dramatic Haircut. I had to include these photos of my son’s pouty face at a kids’ haircut place that had the unfortunate name of Snip-Its. To quote from his favorite Thomas the Train shows, “Oh, the indignity!”

Let the legato tears roll…

Taaaa-daaaa! The finished product even makes Max cry!

6) Niko Niko’s. Although we love it, we don’t often eat Greek because it’s hard to find a place we truly like, after being spoiled by our time in Athens and Santorini five years ago. Well, we found Niko Niko’s in Montrose and may never look at baklava the same way again.

The restaurant is midway between a fast-food and sit-down place, which suited the food perfectly. It was gourmet yet unpretentious. You order at the counter, and then pick up your food when your number is called. Although Mike’s chicken pita was solidly tasty, my papoutsakia (stuffed eggplant, literally “little shoes”) accompanied with a fresh, simple Greek salad topped with a large square of feta cheese, left us pining for the Mediterranean Sea.

7) Mama’s Night at Boheme. Back in New Orleans, I tried to start a “Mama’s Night Out” group that was made up of tour moms and “mom commiseraters,” like everyone’s go-to babysitter Lisa and backstage cub wrangler Anna. In Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, we ended up at a wine bar with a charming outdoor garden called Boheme. Now here’s a testament to how far outta pace I am with drinking: below, I imbibed in ONE can of local brewery Karbach’s Sympathy For The Lager, and when we went out to the garden, the heat and the mugginess did something crazy to my tolerance level and I felt as if I had been roofied. I couldn’t tell if I was a-washin’ or a-hangin’. It took me a few glasses of water, some deep lamaze breaths and an hour to sober up. I blame my Asian genes.

All the other ladies held their liquor fine though! Clockwise, from top left: Kristen Yardley (makeup artist), Benitta McFadden (mom to Young Nala, Kailah), Shanda Hill (mom to Young Simba, Zavion), Lisa Swift (everyone’s babysitter and substitute wrangler), and Kristine Willis (wife to Reu Weizberg, percussionist).

8) Prohibition. Hmmm. I know I said earlier in this post that we didn’t go out very much, but my list is making me a liar. There was a speakeasy-themed bar called Prohibition in the Galleria Mall one block away that we actually hit twice. They had classic, fun cocktails like I used to make back in my bartending days at Brooklyn’s The Vanderbilt, as well as a pretty killer food menu (Mac and Cheese with Truffles, anyone?). The kitchen stayed open until 1 am. It was a perfect double date night for the Hollicks and Cordileones plus Rob Parks, after the guys got back from the show.

The waitresses and bartenders really dress the part. Can you see what ours is wearing?

Amy is a professor at NYU, and joins the tour to be with her family when she can. Houston was during her summer break, so she was able to come and spend an extended period with her family, making Nick happy as a hog in slops.

We all split a huge bread pudding at the end of the evening. It was monstrous and delicious.

9) The Galleria Mall.  One thing that this Jersey girl knows is the benefit of a good mall close by! In Houston, we were literally one block from arguably the best mall in Texas. Arguably. There were definitely parts that looked rundown, and the signage (or lack thereof) was frustrating, as was the illogical and inconvenient placement of elevators. But it gave me something to do with Max, for sure. There was an ice rink on the ground level, underneath a huge glass atrium. Below, Lisa and Genesis train to be the next Dorothy Hamill.

On the second level, there was this hard/soft plastic epoxy play structure that was made into a mini-replica of the Galleria. Kids of all ages loved climbing all over it, and at its peak time, the scene reminded me of armies of ants on anthills (shudder). It clearly was not to scale, as evidenced by Hero and Max sitting on the cars in the parking lot like a couple of Godzillas.

10) Downtown Aquarium.  This aquarium, located just a few blocks from the Hobby Center, was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon with Max and the girls to beat the heat while the parents were at the show. It was small but still adequately freaked Hero and Genesis out.

Both Hero and Gen are very attentive to Max wherever we go. They will both be great moms one day!

This is Max in an old-school deep-sea diving suit…

So, the weirdest, most random part of this aquarium is the WHITE BENGAL TIGER at the end of the building.

Its habitat was like an absurb Buddhist hall of worship out of an Austin Powers script.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Games and Rides at the Downtown Aquarium. The Houston skyline backlit this kids’ outdoor amusement area right outside the aquarium, making it a sweet little haven in the middle of the sweltering city. We hit this place after the first few days of pouring rain.

Hero and Gen had a caricature done.

Good buddies immortalized!

There was also a water spray park there too, which cooled Max down considerably…

And Gen likes checking in with Max periodically, to give him hugs and such. It’s so super sweet.

Barnes & Noble. I know it’s banal to point out how fun a large, chain book retailer is, but when you have a toddler and a hot Texas summer, plus you feel super wore out, there really aren’t too many “free” places to go except for an option with a Thomas the Train track table and Legos. It’s a great option, in fact. This place saved me — and Max loves it here, to the point where he whines for the bookstore by name.

There’s no place associated with this photo below. I just think it’s hysterical. Max is holding a Thomas the Train promotional ad that features all the models available to buy. It seems like he’s reading the newspaper on the can. Here, he sat on the couch for a good 10 minutes just studying it intently.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Aimee McPherson September 11, 2012 at 6:30 am

We saw The Lion King on Sunday and it was marvelous! This is a tremendous blog and I look forward to reading about what you have to say about Wichita. Thanks again for such a wonderful show.

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Angela September 12, 2012 at 10:43 am

Hi Aimee! We are enjoying Wichita immensely so far. The weather’s been great and this early morning I went running along the river to the Keeper of the Plains and back again… the gusty wind helps me along :) We are glad you enjoyed the show and we’ll be posting fun things about Wichita soon! Take care!

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Stanley Loprete September 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

It is so much fun reading along with your travels. Houston looks like a grand ole time and my family is looking forward to the next entry.

Sincerely yours,
The Lopretes

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Angela September 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

Hi Stanley and the Lopretes, thank you for your kind words and we look forward to more comments in the future!

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ANGELIQUE September 11, 2012 at 11:41 am

OH MY GOD!!! THE BUGS ARE CREEPY!!! BUT IT LOOKS LIKE FUN!!!!

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Angela September 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

It was fun, Angelique! And the creepy bugs were all contained so no worries :)

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Ron September 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Hollick’s and fam (whole crew), you are all lovely!

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Angela September 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

Thanks Ron! We think the same of yours!

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Jay Atwood September 12, 2012 at 1:38 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJAVfu9q81s&feature=plcp
Here’s my little video from the Butterfly Center. Loved it!

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Angela September 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

What a great video Jay! It really gives you the sense of the butterflies flitting around — something my photography could not capture. Thanks for sharing!!

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David Miceli September 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

When you say “burn daylight,” you’re quoting Shakespeare!!

What’s up, Mike? Good lookin’ family.

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Paige September 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Looks like fun!

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