Sunday, August 15, 2010

Green Eats at Ruggles Green

Last night, after an early evening showing of Eat Pray Love, my friend Katie and I were hungry -- probably because of all the amazing pasta footage in the movie. The two of us love a delicious salad, so Katie suggested we head over to Ruggles Green for some dinner.

Ruggles restaurants -the Montrose Grill and Rice Village Bakery Cafe -- are a Houston tradition -- places where the tres leches are five-inch-high pieces of poetry on a plate. Recently, however, Ruggles has opened two new outlets dedicated to green eating -- certified by the Green Restaurant Association and advertising "organic, all-natural, hormone-free, preservative-free products" as well as a host of other green practices.

You might think that I would have visited Ruggles Green the day it opened, but my prior attempts to eat there were thwarted by a full parking lot and friends who were impatient with attempts to street park (in Houston, we're very lazy parkers).

Needless to say, I was game to try out Ruggles Green on Alabama when Katie suggested it. Although the cafe, like many a hidden Houston gem, is situated in a strip mall, it boasts a cozy interior mixing light and dark woods. I was instantly charmed by the atmosphere, the clientele (a mix of families, ca. 1967 hippies, and their hip-ster offspring), and the menu. The very first entry, "Hi-Protein Hempanadas" caught my eye, but since I'm not a red-meat eater, I let my eye drift down to the salads.

Now, in making menu decisions, I have a few deal makers - one of which is goat cheese. So when I spotted the Texas Goat Cheese Salad, I was sold. Katie chose the Atlantic Salmon Salad. Both of us chose pinot grigio.

Ruggles Green embodies one of Houston's restaurant peculiarities -- a mixture of counter and table service. You order at the counter but a server brings your food to the table. While we waited, we discussed where we would eat pray love if we were to take a year off (Me: Ireland, Southeast Utah, either Egypt or the Holy Land; Katie: Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa).

My salad arrived with a great big lump of soft goat cheese decorated with almond slivers. I'd ordered a grilled chicken breast to accompany the salad, and this was some of the most tender, flavorful bird I've tasted. The goat cheese, Granny Smith apples, almonds, and greens combined to make a light, healthful meal that seemed as transcendent as anything Liz Gilbert ate in Italy.

I was fully satisfied by my amazing meal, the atmosphere, the wine, and the eco-friendly hand dryers in the restroom. However, the menu had so many more intriguing entries that I predict visits to Ruggles Green will be a regular happening in the future.

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