Pho and Tom Kha had a lovechild, and it’s delicious.

I’ve waxed poetic before about my deep and undying love for two soups hailing from the culinary wonderland that is southeast Asia; pho, with its rich spiced broth and tangles of rice noodles, and tom kha, the milky coconut soup exploding with complex flavors of chili and lemongrass.  Imagine my giddiness when I discovered that the two, at some point in time, got together and made sweet spoon-slurping love, producing a hybrid soup!  I discovered this treasure at a tiny hole-in-the-wall  restaurant called Thai Express, stealthily located next to an abandoned liquor store on Inwood Road just east of Harry Hines.

It’s called Coconut Noodle Soup on the menu, and it’s basically a giant bowl of tom kha ga (its flavorful broth punctuated as usual with tiny and adorable straw mushrooms, moist, tender chunks of chicken breast, scallions and cilantro) poured over a heap of chewy rice noodles.  If you order it spicy, as I did, bright red-orange splotches of chili oil adorn the surface like fat raindrops of sinus-clearing goodness.

I typically order tom kha as an appetizer, since its lack of starch means it’s not very filling, but the addition of rice noodles turns it into a satisfying main course for under eight bucks.  Also, Thai Express is BYOB, so grab some beer or wine on your way in; besides the abandoned liquor store, there’s also one in the shopping center that’s still open.  You’re welcome.

Thai Express, 1715 Inwood Rd

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Sometimes you gotta break your own rules

There is a short list of things I Just Don’t Eat, due to moral or other objections. That list includes Funyuns (they make your breath smell like shit), goat cheese (tastes like a mouthful of dirty sock-flavored toothpaste), fast food tacos (for the same reason I don’t eat dog food), and until recently, cheese fries (because in theory, I like not being obese more than I like the taste of fried potatoes smothered in cheese).

A recent late-night trip to Cafe Brazil ended that ridiculous moratorium, though. I ordered my usual Brazilian Breakfast (yeah, their empanada dough kind of sucks but it’s still pretty good when drowned in egg yolk) and stifled my slight horror when my boyfriend ordered the “Pound of Loaded Cheese Fries”–he has the metabolism of a hummingbird and regularly consumes 2,000 calorie “snacks”. When they arrived to the table looking like this, though, my journalistic sense of curiosity meant I was obligated to at least sample them:

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Holy shit, these things are good. I realize Snuffer’s is famous for their massive plates of greasy cheese-laden potato sticks, but they’ve got nothing on Cafe Brazil’s. The French fries are ultra-crispy, as if dusted with some sort of starch before being tossed in the fryer, and the perfectly melted Cheddar and assorted toppings (chunks of crispy bacon, pickled jalapenos, and green onions) are evenly distributed, so you’re not left with a sad mound of naked fries after devouring the top layer. The sprinkling of green stuff on top provides a fresh, spicy element that acts as a necessary contrast to the intense richness of the cheese and bacon.

I even indulged my inner Texan by dipping a couple of them in the included side of Ranch dressing (another item on my “Things I Don’t Eat” list). I’m going to venture a guess that this is not the most ideal post-P90X meal. Sorry, Tony Horton.

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Nothing like the smell of alcoholism in the morning

Dear Gabe Sanchez,

Thanks a lot.  I’ve now officially become a morning drinker, thanks to the evil genius invention that is Black Swan Saloon’s coffee bourbon.  I stuck my nose in the shot that you poured for me and inhaled deeply, finding only the rich aroma of freshly brewed espresso.  What alcohol?  This was a shot to be savored and coddled (much like my morning cup of joe), not pounded and chased.  You just had to share with me the simple process by which it’s made; cold-brewed with bourbon instead of water, then mixed with the slightest bit of simple syrup and a tiny splash of cream.  I’ll be making a large batch to keep in my fridge ASAP, as I suspect it will be most refreshing on those fast-approaching balmy summer mornings. I thoroughly look forward to my new-found sloppy morning routine, but my liver disagrees.

Love,

Me

P.S.  Don’t fret.  I may have stolen the coffee bourbon recipe, but I’ll still be back for the Berry Balsamic and other assorted deliciousness.

I'm no pessimist, but this glass is definitely half empty