This fascinating video from 2008, sponsored by Burger King, chronicles people around the world who are tasting their first hamburger.

The Tet FESTival Houston 2014 is a fun, free, family-friendly event on January 25th from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Discovery Green that will showcase the Vietnamese culture’s food, dance and fashion in a Lunar New Year celebration.
Tet FEStival Houston 2014’s celebrity Pho Eating Contest will be held on Jones Lawn at 2 p.m.  This speed event will require participants to slurp NAM Noodles and More’s traditional pho with beef, brisket, meatballs, bean sprouts, rice noodles, beef broth, and all of the delicious garnishes including thai basil, bean sprouts, coriander, lime, jalapenos, hoisin sauce and sriracha faster than the competition. The contest will test celebrity contestants from the East vs. West to see who will be the “NAM Noodles and More Pho Eating Champion.”
After Ice Skating at the ICE at Discovery Green, attendees will be able to warm up with Pho variations at the NAM Noodles and More booth, as well as and a cup of the Vietnamese signature coffee, Cà Phê Sữa.  Traditional Vietnamese food presentations and fruit carving will be available throughout the festival grounds as well.
For more information, browse the festival website.

Today we're exited to bring you a pre-opening preview from Kim, the woman behind the terrific Chewandreview instagram account.   Kim checks out the new Black Walnut Cafe, located atop the Galaxy FBO facility at the Lone Star Executive airport in Conroe. Official opening to the public is today.

I was so excited to attend a preview service for the new Black Walnut location at the Lone Star Executive Airport in the new GalaxyFBO hangar. I know what most of y'all are thinking. You're full of preconceived notions about the Conroe Airport (and Conroe in general). I've heard things like, "That Black Walnut won't be as good," "The menu is going to be very limited…all they will have is sandwiches and they'll just focus on catering." Well, I'd like to proudly tell you that you all are wrong. Sure, you have to drive by the old dump that closed in 1996 to get to this little gem, but just pretend those big piles of grass covered trash are rolling hills. The location is on the 3rd floor of the new hangar. I was really impressed when I first walked in. There are a ton of windows, so there's a lot of natural lighting, but it still has that "Black Walnut" feel with the belt-driven fans and dark wood accents. It's much more roomy and open than The Woodlands location, and I really like that. They retained the traditional Black Walnut counter-service style, but thankfully, the layout is so much better. Oh, and the outdoor seating. I was so excited to see that. Once again, not many places in Conroe where you can sit outside and enjoy a meal (I don't go west to the lake very often). Anyway…

For this preview, we were each given menus, each of which had different choices. I decided on the Cordon Bleu Benedict, coffee, and fresh squeezed orange juice. We got our drinks and chose a table by one of the window. I loved the view. Aside from the lake, this place has the best view in Conroe. It faces one of the runways, so as you eat, you can watch planes take off and land. Pretty fun. And I don't care for planes. I can't tell a Cessna from spaceship.

My benedict was excellent. The egg was cooked perfectly and had a rich yellow yolk. The hollandaise had a hint of cayenne which I liked. The chicken was flavorful, a little greasy, but still very good. The asparagus was cooked nicely. Nothing needed salt (it seems everywhere I've gone lately the food has needed salt), and I enjoyed every bite. I had a bite of the hubs pancake, and it was good, too. It was thin and kind of eggy, so if you like the thick fluffy pancakes, you'll be disappointed. This one was perfect for me, and they serve it with real maple syrup.

I spoke with someone whom I assume was the manager and he told me they will have a full menu at the Conroe location (take that, doubters). They removed a couple of menu items and will use mahi mahi instead of tuna and will also use mahi in the fish tacos instead of tilapia. And to satisfy the country palate, they added fried chicken and chicken fried steak. Personally, I can't wait to try it and see how it stacks up to other places. Dollars to donuts the gravy will be homemade. Right now, Black Walnut will be open from 7am (or was it 7:30)-3pm starting on January 22 with intentions of opening in the evenings a little later. They will also be adding beer and wine, so I'm looking forward to sitting on the patio, enjoying a nice glass of wine, and watching planes take off.

Overall, the quality of the Conroe location was above what I have come to expect when I visit Black Walnut. I hope they maintain this standard. I can see myself dividing my time between there and The Red Brick Tavern. I'm so glad Conroe has another locally-owned place to have a nice meal. Should you drive from The Bubble to go there? Probably not since there's a Black Walnut IN the bubble, but it would be worth driving down to check it out at least once. If you live in Conroe or the immediate area, it should be added to your list of go-to places. You won't be disappointed.


About The Author

Kim is a self-proclaimed foodie, and has lived in Montgomery County for the majority of her life. After a multi-year hiatus from writing restaurant reviews, she's recently begun combining her love of food photography with the written word. Right now, you can follow Chewandreview on Instagram, but look for her new blog to launch in February 2014.

The Woodlands is surrounded by small towns and somewhat rural areas, and the influx of people to the area is causing the entire region to develop. A case in point is Umami, a newish Korean restaurant located in Magnolia, which is the town to the immediate northwest of the Woodlands.

Located in a nondescript strip center on Highway 1488, from the street Umami looks like a generically disappointing Chinese buffet. But a tip from a trusted friend (Thanks, Michael) sent us to check out the Korean cuisine offered by this family-run place.
Pulling into the center, we were greeted by a behemoth of a sign, which we later found out was left over from a previous incarnation of the restaurant. It's big, it's brash, and it doesn't bode well for what's inside.
One thing the sign accurately coveys is the size of the restaurant. It's big, taking up the entire building. Heading inside, we walked through a small foyer into the restaurant proper, and were surprised by what we found.

The decidedly upscale interior is warm and inviting, and a total surprise based on the exterior of the restaurant. We were looking forward to see if the food followed this trend. We asked the server what he recommended, and he immediately suggested the bulgogi bento box, a cross-cultural combination of the Korean beef dish juxtaposed into a typical Japanese lunch combination.
What quickly appeared was a nice portion of flavorful, thinly sliced beef, marinated and seasoned gently in the traditional style. The beef was very tender and fresh; this is one of the better versions of bulgogi we've found away from Long Point road. The fried rice had a nice savory bite to it, and the de rigueur California roll was a bit better than expected.
All in all, we were pleasantly surprised by Umami. The ambiance far exceeds the low expectations set by the outside of the establishment, and the very good Korean food will earn it a regular spot on our Asian food rotation.
Umami | 6960 Fm 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 | (832) 934-2649 |

Umami Grill and Sushi on Urbanspoon

Growing up in Houston, Bennigan's was one of those restaurants that I felt was always going to be around. They were a better version of Chili's or TGI Friday's, with all the expected casual dining standards, plus a few signature items. The bar was also a hoppin' happy hour scene, with groups of coworkers unwinding after a hard day at the office.

Over the years, as other restaurants in their segment updated their concepts, Bennigan's stayed pretty much the same. That turned out to be their undoing, because the chain declared bankruptcy in 2008, with most of the stores (including all of the ones in greater Houston) closing shortly thereafter.
I was surprised to hear that Bennigan's was returning to the Woodlands - it would be the second first location to return to the Houston area. They selected a location that has housed several short-lived establishments, most recently Aldo's. The building is on I-45, and was somewhat dark and uninviting.
The new Bennigan's opened their doors last week, and we decided to check them out recently for lunch. Our first impression was a good one; Bennigan's has gutted the building, and the result is much brighter and far more modern.

The Bennigan's dining room
We like how the space was visually divided into different areas - the design is open, but not too open, avoiding the barn-like ambiance that seems to plague many new establishments.
When we've mentioned to friends that we tried the new Bennigan's, we keep getting asked one question, over and over again: "How's the Monte Cristo?" This sweet and savory deep fried sandwich was Bennigan's signature dish, and we couldn't wait to see if it was still as delicious as we remembered.

Monte Cristo at Bennigan's

We're happy to report that the Monte Cristo may be even better than we remembered. Layers of thinly-sliced ham and turkey and American cheese are batter-dipped and deep fried, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with a side of raspberry preserves. The coating was golden brown, delightfully crisp on the outside and tender within, without a hint of greasiness. We approve, although our doctor might not.

But man does not live (long) by Monte Cristo alone, so we sampled some of the other items on the menu. We couldn't resist the Guiness Glazed Bacon burger, a half-pound patty cooked to order (although medium rare was more like medium well, a common problem) and glazed with a Guiness Stout-based sauce, topped with cheddar, thick-cut bacon, and fried onion strings.

Guiness-Glazed Bacon Burger at Bennigan's

Biting into the burger we were first hit by the tangy-sweet flavor of the Guiness glaze; the mild cheddar flavor and the smokiness of the bacon were good counterpoints. The onions added more texture than flavor, but the large patty's juicy beefy flavor came through the melange of toppings. This is a solid burger, and one we'd order again.

A dining companion chose the Irish pot roast, which turned out to be a credible though not memorable version of the classic comfort food. Along with the pot-roasted beef were potatoes, carrots, onions, and a bit of garlic.

Irish Pot Roast at Bennigan's
We were excited to learn of Bennigan's rebirth, and were pleased to see the Woodlands chosen for a  Houston area location. The comfortable atmosphere, friendly and competent service, and well prepared food should pack in the guests looking for a hearty, comfortable meal. The classics are all represented, and they've stood the test of time. We're happy to declare Bennigan's relaunch a successful one, and look forward to returning for another Monte Cristo soon.

Bennigan's | 18450 I-45 South | Shenandoah, TX 77384 |

Bennigan's on Urbanspoon

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