In an effort to kick Christmas's ass, I have been doing a lot of shopping during the past two weeks; before that, we spent about three weeks shopping for furniture for our new house. My point? I've been spending a lot of time in the Galleria lately, and have discovered some delicious ways to escape the growing frenzy.
There used to be a time when a bottle of water and a couple of power bars could get me through a pre-Christmas Saturday at the mall, but not anymore. I need to sit down, I need to have a glass of wine and a snack, and at least 30 minutes to re-evaluate my entire life after I:
• Almost get run over in a parking lot by an octogenarian doing about 50 mph. • Go to the Container Store five times over the course of three days. • Second-guess five gifts in a row for my Secret Santa, to the tune of about $175 (our limit is $25).
(That was just this week.)
We've all had that moment when suddenly we go from "just browsing the racks at Macy's" to "I might faint from hunger at Macy's." (Right?) When I am in the Galleria, and there is no way in hell I am going to give up my parking spot, my first thought is to head to Gigi's Asian Bistro. It's a little dark in there, and it feels cozy to sit underneath the giant cherry blossoms that drape the dining room ceiling. I find their edamame dumplings to be among the most comforting of comfort foods, and their calamari salad is to die for, with plenty of crunchy, gnarly tentacles.
When I've taken one too many elbows to the head (I'm short), I treat myself to oysters and a glass or three of bubbly at the Oceanaire, and then I call a cab.
Maybe you're shopping just down Westheimer at Highland Village. Now, I'm not opposed to stopping into a steakhouse for a quick bite from a bar menu, but if I need to keep shopping that can get a little heavy. There are lots of good options along that stretch, but I have a fondness for the burgers at Sullivan's and the classic vibe at Truluck's.
This past month my husband and I were agonizing over dining room tables at Crate & Barrel when we decided we needed some air. A small café behind the store caught my eye, and we took our breather over wine and light bites at what turned out to be the soft opening of Drexel House. The opening seemed impromptu--our waiter said holiday shoppers were curious, so they just started seating them--but you wouldn't know it from where we sat. Sharing a kale salad dotted with sweet dried cranberries and a bright ceviche, it wasn't long before we picked out a dining table and moved on to fighting about armchairs. The service was fast, the food good (and beautifully plated)--not bad for a possibly-unplanned soft opening.
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During a recent last-minute trip to Kiehl's for stocking stuffers, we ducked into our go-to restaurant, Giacomo's, to reward ourselves with small plates and glasses of Nebbiolo. I would have been satisfied with my usual Ratatouille Marti, but life got even better when we tried the grilled chicken wings that were recently added to the menu. The flavors are more Middle Eastern than Italian, and the wings are served with a vinaigrette dipping sauce that my husband immediately went home and attempted to duplicate. Honestly, I usually turn my nose up at non-Buffalo chicken wings, but these are amazing. (Ask for an extra napkin, though.)
The closer we get to Christmas, the more tempted you should be to call in to work sick and shop on a weekday. There is nothing fun about shopping during the weekends before Christmas, and we're starting to cut it close for online shopping that requires shipping. If you can sneak away from school, or your kids, or your work-release program, Philippe's $20, three-course Gourmet Lunch (formerly Master Chef Prix Fixe Lunch) is a totally affordable luxury; and it's justifiable when you are blowing all of your hard-earned cash on others. A glass of wine might double the price, but you earned it. Just do it.
My last recommendation for refuge from the holiday Galleria mob scene is just around the corner, on Richmond Ave. Café Pita + is BYOB, so you may need to grab a sixer at the gas station (BOSS!) if you don't carry a stocked cooler in your car. Large portions of rich Bosnian foods are the norm here, so I send you to the café to nourish your body and soul after a crushing day of combat shopping. I recommend the mezze plate, stocked with all kinds of salty treats like olives, cured meats, and cheese, and the ajvar dip, a mix of sweet red peppers and creamy, earthy eggplant to be slathered on bread.
I really hope you picked up that sixer.