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Lavish Your Special Someone with Treats on Valentine's Day
By Robin Barr Sussman

Love is in the air because Cupid’s favorite holiday is right around the corner. Whether you’re looking for a simple date-night out, a full evening of Champagne and romance or artisan desserts to enjoy at home, we’re sharing the city’s sweetest spots for Valentine’s Day.

Step out for a dessert-only date or bring it home to savor at your leisure.

Pastry chef Samantha Mendoza has whipped up some beautiful new creations for the season, including Pear Four Ways composed of cinnamon pear cake with mascarpone cream and sugar cookie crumbs and Banana & Passion Fruit Chocolate Mousse with banana, pecan cake and passion fruit toffee.
Killen’s Steakhouse, 6425 W. Broadway St., Pearland, 281-485-0844, ; Killen’s STQ, 2231 S. Voss Road, 713-586-0223,

One of the newest hotel dining games downtown has a dessert menu worth celebrating. Talented chef Jose Hernandez crafts elaborate finales like the Gianduja, a silky chocolate bomb with nougaitine, macaron and passion fruit. If planning a special dinner, the four- or six-course tasting menus are exquisite.
Hotel Alessandra, 1017 Dallas St., 713-242-8555,

Treat him or her like royalty with the creative dessert menu at Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District. Choose the decadent Peanut Butter Overload with dark chocolate mousse and chocolate gelato or the Dulce de Leche tart with white chocolate mousse and candied pecans, plus dessert specials of the night.
Hotel ZaZa, 5701 S. Main St., 713-527-1800,

Hey cupcake! No one wants a rocky relationship, so sweeten up your chocolate fan with a luscious rocky road cupcake from this dessert boutique. Also, find pies, dessert bars and myriad scratch-made cakes, including an elegant Amaretto cake with buttercream frosting.
Town & Country Village, 770 W. Sam Houston Parkway North, Suite 500, 713-465-6338, and other locations,

Reserve ahead for a Valentine’s dinner, afternoon tea or a multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings.

Break for an exotic afternoon tea at this modern Asian dim sum house near The Galleria. The Teahouse Room with a starlit ceiling is stylishly appointed with cozy booths, and the three-course yum cha menu ($30) is sure to please for a daytime tête-á-tête. A diverse dim sum selection comes with a pot of tea and patisserie-crafted dessert from the bakery.
5045 Westheimer Road, 713-357-7588,

Schedule a date in the Oyster Room and indulge in the coveted selection of raw oysters and a towering seafood appetizer. For a full Valentine’s dinner, reserve a table in the velvet curtained-off room for privacy and a Texas feast of grilled meats, Gulf seafood and other bold Southern specialties.
3258 Westheimer Road, 832-942-5080,

If it has to be the very best in steak, wine and service, choose Pappas Bros. Fine dining sans trendy gimmicks, the menu features dry-aged prime beef, live Maine lobster and fresh Gulf seafood. Don’t pass up the dramatic beef carpaccio served on a salt ice block with aioli and epic Parmesan toast.
1200 McKinney St., 713-658-1995, and other locations,   

For a taste of Italy, this charming hideaway in Hotel Granduca may be the quietest restaurant in Houston. Highlights include the pan-seared lamb loin with raspberry-red wine sauce, braised veal osso bucco and short rib ravioli with Barolo sauce. The Tuscan menu features Italian regional courses with wine pairings.
Hotel Granduca, 1080 Uptown Park Blvd., 713-418-1000,


Lemon Tart with Fresh Raspberries

Pucker up for this lovely lemon tart inspired by the seasonal dessert served at Killen’s STQ in Houston. Presentation tip: Use only the freshest, most pristine berries to crown the top.

Graham Cracker Crust
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup ground almonds, slightly toasted
½ cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter, melted

Lemon Filling
½ cup sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
½ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
6 ounces fresh whole raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and almonds with the sugar and butter. Mix with a wooden spoon.

Set a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom on a sheet pan. Place the crumbs in the tart pan and press them into the bottom and mold to the edges of the pan using your fingertips. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside until cool.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sour cream and sugar. Whisk in the eggs, and then add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the filling in the cooled tart shell. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate the tart. Top it with berries a few hours before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

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