It's Saturday evening at the elegant Lancaster Hotel (701 Texas Ave., 713-228-9500), and the dining room is all set for the theater crowd. With diamonds of sunlight filtering through the venetian blinds and each table a still-life of flowers and silverware, the setting is positively magnificent. "The stars love it because it's small enough where they are given the royal treatment and big enough where they can walk around unnoticed," my date whispers breathlessly. She's clearly digging the place. I have done so well this evening. When I return from buying the tickets for our show, she's sitting at the bar sipping what looks like a watered-down Coke. "It's called a cream soda," she explains. "The bartender said it was not too sweet and perfect for the summer." I put the glass up to my lips and take a small swig. He's right. I'm still marveling at the lushness of the room when I notice a group of guys in disheveled tuxedos clearly on their way to a wedding reception. Just then the biggest of the bunch lets out a long, drawn-out burp, like some sort of spring-break Neanderthal mating call. Perfection never lasts.

Lancaster Hotel's Cream Soda:
1 1/2 ounces Stoli Vanil
1/2 ounce Kahlúa
3 ounces soda water

Fill a highball or midsize glass with ice. Add the Stoli first, followed by the Kahlúa. Top off with soda water.


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