Pizza Fino's dough spends its entire existence under the watchful eye of its creators—from the moment it blooms from scratch in the restaurant's kitchen until it's time to leave for the plate of a hungry diner. During the in-between times, the dough is dressed in sauces crafted from Pizza Fino's own recipes, adorned with precisely aged Wisconsin cheeses, and—to ensure that it lives up to Pizza Fino's "Like No Other" motto—stone-baked to a golden brown. Similar attention goes into Pizza Fino's nonpizza dishes, such as the gourmet salads and crunchy calzones made at various locations across Houston.:m]]
The staff at Fruulala Frozen Yogurt Cafe encourages what they call “swirly artistry” by giving customers free reign to build their own desserts. With a cup in hand, visitors can pump any combination of on-tap flavors, which rotate through a list that includes non-fat dark chocolate, birthday cake, sea-salt pretzel, pistachio, and cookies and cream. More than 50 cold and dry toppings––including lychee, fudge brownies, Kit Kat, raisins, and granola––sprinkle over the frosty peaks to finish the design process, and a staff member weighs the final product to determine its price. Some flavors are low-fat, non-fat, gluten-free, or dairy-free, and all of Fruulala’s yogurts are chockfull of live and active probiotic cultures, which boost immune-system function and digestive health, and all yogurts are also guaranteed free of artificial growth hormones and steak.
Launching a dessert bakery at age 26 might be intimidating for some, but not for Vanessa O'Donnell. "Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, it was the natural next step," she recalls. "I knew that if I followed my passion, I would have a good shot at success.” Passion is an understatement. She engineered her first memorable dessert at just 9 years old––a dewberry cobbler made with fruit picked fresh from the fence. Vanessa has come along way from precocious experiments; she's since attended the Art Institute of Houston’s baking and pastry program, where she learned such techniques as fondant construction, icing mixing, and how to teach an oven to roll over and play fetch. All of these skills and her innate talents have been whipped and sculpted into the sumptuous sweets bastion that is Ooh La La Dessert Boutique. Natural light pours through enormous windows onto glass cases full of truffles, pastries, crumbly cookies, and some of the best cupcakes in Houston, according to the Houston Press. Guests may also request a steaming espresso drink to go or solicit a baker to craft a specialty cake for an upcoming birthday or jailbreak.
Though the chefs at Babaloo International Cafe & Bar were inspired by the sharable small plates of Spain, they didn't limit themselves to just Spanish dishes. Instead, they craft appetizers and down-sized entrees of cuisines from around the world. This creates a varied menu, with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus appearing beside miniature beef wellingtons and Cuban crab cakes made with plantains. These dishes pair well with wines selected from the vineyards of Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Australia, to create meals that are both light and filling, much like four courses of flavored heliums. When evening turns to night, the restaurant becomes a hotspot for dancing, with theme parties, hip-hop nights, and salsa dancing.
Bistro 829's chefs create modern variations of familiar, homestyle staples by incorporating an assortment of regional and international flavors. Corn grits lend a distinctive Southern twist to the sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna entree, and the signature chicken-fried prime rib comes coated with cream gravy with a uniquely Southwestern-style blend of bacon and poblano peppers. Bartenders spend their evenings mixing specialty cocktails and uncorking bottles of wine to complement entrees and make sure they're prepared in case their crush wants to play spin the bottle.
Beyond the eclectically inspired menu, the dining room embraces a more casual elegance with its décor. Crisp cloths cover the tables, animal-print fabrics adorn the seats, and the walls remain blank to accentuate abstract paintings of jazz ensembles that circle the room.
The staff at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt rejects the oft-touted claim that Americans don’t care about nutrition. The problem, they say, has more to do with selection than anything else; most low-calorie sweets don’t hold a candle to a fudge brownie or a warm slice of apple pie. They kept this in mind when crafting their frozen-yogurt recipes, working tireless to develop a healthy—and equally delicious—alternative to the dessert status quo by turning to decadent confections and just-picked fruits for inspiration.
Their experiments thus far have yielded more than 60 frozen yogurt flavors, which take turns pumping through the self-serve machines that line their colorful shop’s wall. Before taking a seat in a bright orange chair, guests fill their dishes with cool, low-fat swirls of chocolate cheesecake, strawberry banana, and a classic tart that bites as pleasantly as a teething kitten. Juicy pears, crunchy granola, and gooey chocolate sauce headline a smorgasbord of at least 30 toppings ready to scooped or poured into cups before their final weigh-in.