Celebrate "Inspired Flavors"
The 13th annual Wine and Food week will take place June 5 - 11, 2017. The city's hottest wine event of the year will showcase culinary masterpieces and sensational wines inspired by flavor. Over 10 different events will place during the six day extravaganza. Can't make them all? No worries, The Big Three (Wine Walk, Sips and Suds, and The Grand Tasting) will give you a well rounded experience. Here are the highlights from some of the week's most popular events.
It's A Guy Thing
Tuesday, June 6, 2016 7 pm - 10 pm Mercedes-Benz of the Woodlands
Get all your bros together and get ready for a night of bold wines, craft beer, and lots of man food. Live music, shoe shines, and cigars help round out this total guy night.
Women, Wine, and All Things Fashionable
Wednesday, June 7, 2016 6 pm - 9 pm The Woodlands Country Club
Spend a girls night out with your besties tasting wine and listening to music. The evening will be filled fun, food, fashion, art, and a few surprises.
HEB Wine Walk at Market Street
Thursday, June 8, 2016 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm Market Street in The Woodlands
Stroll along Market Street with your friends and enjoy wine, food, and live entertainment. A keepsake glass is provided for you to enjoy wines from around the world, as well as a special beer garden. VIP ticket options are available that allow guest to enter the walk 30 minutes early and special access to the VIP Premium Wine Room.
Tickets $35, VIP ticket $75
Ladies of the Vine Luncheon
Friday, June 9, 2016 Noon to 3 pm The Club at Carlton Woods
Women winemakers are becoming more prevalent in what is still a male dominated industry. Join fellow guests at a five course luncheon and panelist discussion led by some of the most knowledgeable women in the wine industry. It's a wonderful afternoon of wine education, fabulous food, and lots of socializing.
Sips, Suds, & Tacos
Friday, June 9, 2016 6 pm - 9 pm The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel
There's a Taco Takedown happening in The Woodlands and you don't want to miss out. Spend the evening chowing down on some of the best tacos in town while you sip on wine or guzzle some brews. Judges will declare the "official" winner, but guest will be able to vote for their favorites too. After you've reached your taco limit, dance the night away to live music. This popular event sells out fast so don't wait!
Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase
Saturday, June 10, 2016 7 pm - 10 pm The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel
Wine week ends with a grand extravaganza of wine and culinary creations. Over 50 chefs will showcase their skills as they battle for the coveted crystal Chef of Chefs Award. Guests will enjoy over 500 wines while noshing on local bites and sensational sweets. Upgrade your ticket to the VIP experience and be one of only a select few with access to a private lounge, special tasting glass, and premium wines.
Tickets $125, VIP Tickets $175
Tickets to all events may be purchased at www.wineandfoodweek.com
I recently attended a gin tasting at the newly opened Tongue-Cut Sparrow. Master distiller, Tom Nichol, was in attendance to speak about his latest venture with J. Rieger & Co. Known for his 40 plus year career with Diageo making Tanqueray gin, Nichol was lured out of retirement to make this very special gin.
Based out of Kansas City, MO, J. Rieger & Co, has been making whiskey and gin for the past two years, but this month marks its first appearance in Texas. J. Rieger & Co. is the brainchild of Kansas City bartender/restauranteur Ryan Maybee and Andy Rieger, relative of pre-Prohibition distiller Jacob Rieger. Together they sought out to resurrect the distillery and produce a London-Style Dry Gin.
Upon arrival at the tasting, Andy and Ryan introduced themselves and then pointed to a gentleman at the bar and said “This is Tom Nichol.” Unbeknownst to me, I was standing in front of a legend. Knowing that many industry folks attend these tastings I naively asked, “Tom, what do you do?” To which he replied, “I make gin – that gin (pointing to the J. Riger bottle on the bar).” Ooops, my bad!
Lucky for me, Tom Nichol is a cool guy. He was very interesting to speak with and even took the time to pose for a selfie. The rest of the evening involved discussion on the J. Riger & Co. products and the art of gin making, which included lots of colorful commentary by Nichol.
Nichol was intrigued by the opportunity to partner with Maybee and Rieger. The ability to make gin in a smaller scale, more relaxed environment was something that peaked his interest. The Midwestern Gin is a classic London-Style Dry Gin. According to Nichol, the key to making good gin is getting the botanicals right. This formula includes the best juniper, coriander, angelica root, licorice root, and orange peel available. Nichol says he can tell just by the nose if the batch is ready or not.
The taste is exceptional. It’s crisp and clean - perfect for sipping on its own or in a Gin Martini. Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin is currently available exclusively through Victory Wine Group. Ask for it at your local liquor store. You won’t be disappointed.
Le Bistro Houston, located inside the Culinary Institute Le Notre, recently hosted a Charles Krug Wine Dinner featuring guest speaker Dominic Mandola. The dinner included a six-course wine pairing along with commentary from Mandola over the history of Charles Krug Winery and the Mondavi Family. It's always nice to be able to spend time with a fellow wine lover so fortunately The Corkscrew Concierge was able to join me for the evening.
For starters, guests received a trio of bites expertly paired with a variety of Charles Krug wines. The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc with its crisp acidity and hints of citrus held up well with the salmon ceviche. A goat cheese and berry tart was paired with the berry forward 2014 Pinot Noir. Finally, a lamb croquette was served with the 2013 Merlot.
The first entree of the evening was a seared scallop served on top of a vibrant green pea puree. It was an excellent compliment to the 2015 Chardonnay, aged six months sur lie in French oak. Although not super buttery, the aging was enough to give it a creamy richness. Next up was a New York strip with a balsamic reduction paired with the 2013 Family Reserve Generations. Generations is a Bordelaise style blend (88% Cab, 6% Malbec, 4% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot) aged 19 months in new French oak barrels.
Dessert was a beautiful layered blackberry and lemon torte with pistachio sponge cake and blackberry jelly paired with the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet had hints of dried berries and a touch of cocoa on the finish. Overall, it was a wonderful evening and we were even able to meet some of the talented culinary team members that helped prepare our meal.
I love breakfast, but I am not by an means a morning person. This is why I love brunch so much. I get to eat all my favorite breakfast items at 11 a.m. or Noon and my early rising dining companions can enjoy either breakfast or lunch. So when Grand Lux Cafe invited me out to try their brunch and featured dish for International Waffle Day, I was more than thrilled.
Grand Lux Cafe is located in the Centre at Post Oak at 5000 Westheimer. Grand Lux is the sister restaurant to the Cheesecake Factory. You will notice some similarities in the menu layout, but where Cheesecake Factory focuses on their fabulous array of cheesecakes, Grand Lux specializes in baked to order desserts that take up to 30 minutes.
The decor inside is warm and inviting, encouraging you to enjoy the day while sipping on one of their morning cocktails. I chose the Strawberry Bellini with fresh strawberries, Prosecco and Cointreau. I started out with a basket of Breakfast Beignets. These are not the typical square cut beignets found in New Orleans. Instead they were delicate little balls that still had the same light and airy texture of a traditional beignet. They were served with maple butter syrup, raspberry sauce, Jack Daniels cream and brown sugar.
The brunch menu is filled with the usual assortment of egg dishes including omelettes, Benedicts, breakfast sandwiches and even chilaquiles. The pancake choices are buttermilk or red velvet. Then there are the waffles. Thick, fluffy, Belgian waffles topped with either fresh blueberries or strawberries. The Fried Chicken and Waffles make one hearty meal that could easily be shared by two people. The Belgian waffle is topped with tender, crispy chicken and then lightly dusted with powdered sugar. It comes with or without pecans and is served with Maple Butter Syrup. Now, I have long since replaced high fructose corn syrup with pure Maple syrup, but the addition of butter - total...game...changer!
I don't usually need much coaxing to enjoy brunch, but if you've never been, Grand Lux Cafe won't disappoint. Try them out on March 25th for International Waffle Day or on any weekend from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Craft Beer enthusiasts in North Houston have something to look forward to this spring. Tapped Drafthouse & Kitchen is scheduled to open in April at 20444 Kuykendahl in Spring. Owners Andrew and Kelsey Neidert hope to fill a void in the Spring and The Woodlands area by providing a place where locals feels welcome. "Our goal is to create a fun, casual and inviting ambiance, somewhere you want to visit repeatedly", says Andrew Neidert. "We designed Tapped with the needs and character of the neighborhood in mind."
Tapped will feature a dog-friendly patio with table seating for 40 and a 55-inch flat screen TV, as well as outdoor games like corn hole and Jenga. Inside Tapped, the 2,400-square-foot dining space will accommodate up to 84 guests in a relaxing space with modern and industrial elements. The main attraction though is the expansive tap-wall that will display up to 50 different beer and cider taps
Service at Tapped will start with lunch and dinner. Menu highlights include pizzas, wraps, loaded nachos, chicken wings and pretzels with beer cheese and mustard. Guests will be able to fill their own growlers with their favorite beer or take home a make your own six-pack from the refrigerated bottle selection. Look for special events in the future including tap takeovers, beer classes and trivia nights.
H-E-B Creekside in The Woodlands got everyone in the mood for Mardi Gras last Friday with a 6-course dinner and wine pairing called "A Night in the Bayou." If you shop at H-E-B then you are familiar with the Cooking Connection set up between the bakery and the meat department. Featured products are used to demonstrate easy meal ideas and samples as well as recipe cards are passed out to interested shoppers. Creekside H-E-B takes its demonstration to a whole new level thanks to Cooking Connection Manager Dominic Dawkins.
Each month, Dawkins designs a five course themed menu with complimentary wine samples. Dinners are typically $25 and can accommodate 16 to 24 guests. The really cool thing about these dinners is that products to make them are all found at H-E-B. Not only do you get a delicious meal, but you come home with new ideas for dinner and wines to pair with them. The wines are very reasonable and ranged in price from $10 - $20.
The evening started out with Oysters Rockefeller paired with Passimento Romeo & Juiet Prosecco, Itlaly. I love drinking sparkling wine with oysters. This light bodied wine had just enough acidity to balance the salinity of the dish. Next up was Shrimp & Grits paired with Fall Creek Headwaters Chenin Blanc, Texas. The shrimp was tossed with Bayou Brothers BBQ Shrimp Mix. The third dish was Tilapia Creole served over wilted kale and paired with Sacha Lichine Rose, France. The fish had a perfectly seared blackened crust and the kale was lightly sauteed with HEB Relish That Corn.
You can't have a night in the bayou without gumbo. Chicken and sausage gumbo was paired with Bending Branch Red Blend, Texas. Now I'm a traditionalist when it comes to gumbo and I like to make my own roux. For gumbo in a pinch, Cookwell & Co. 2 Step Gumbo Starter made a believer out of me. Just add shredded chicken and sausage to the starter and you have a super easy meal! Next up was Boudin Stuffed Pork Terderloin wrapped in bacon served with okra and tomato Ragu, dirty rice, and sweet pepper confit paired with Conn Creek Herrick Red Blend, California.
The final course was a sinfully delicious dessert. Bananas Foster Bread Pudding topped with Bayou Brothers Bananas Foster Sauce and HEB 1905 Vanilla Ice Cream was paired with 19 Crimes 'The Warden', Australia. My crime for the evening....eating every last crumb.
For more information on H-E-B Creekside Cooking Connection or to get on the email list for monthly dinners email Dominic Dawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week members of the Houston Food Blogger Collective were invited to take a sneak peek at Astros owner Jim Crane's newest Italian eatery, Ossa & Kristalla. The casual sister restaurant to Potente opened to the public this past weekend. Both restaurants are overseen by executive chef Michael Parker and feature modern Italian fare.
Ossa & Kristalla is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu focuses on fresh, local ingredients and large portions that encourage sharing. Bread, pastas and pastries are all made in-house. Lunch includes salads, sandwiches, pasta and wood-fired pizzas.
The rustic dining room at Osso & Kristalla features an open kitchen which allows diners to be part of the action. The restaurant has an extensive, yet reasonably priced wine list as well cocktails. The Quattro Formaggi pizza, Rigatoni and Meatball pasta and Arancini were my favorite dishes of the night.
Our final treat for the evening was a quick look at the upscale Potente. A laid back bar is connected to the elegant dining space. The bar features several signature cocktails and a variety of Campari and Gin based drinks. Open for dinner only, the menu at Potente includes daily seafood selections, pastas and steaks.
It's Valentine's Day and you didn't make plans. What to do now?
Here are some last minute dining options:
Buca di Beppo is offering a special dine in only package for $49.99 which includes a heart-shaped lasagna (serves up to 3), small mixed green or Caesar salad, small garlic bread and three chocolate chip cannolis. Don't feel like dining out? Buca also has two Love packages to go for $49.99 that include a free heart-shaped pizza.
Current located in the Westin Woodlands hotel is offering a 4 Course Prix Fixe dinner for $60.
Beginnings: Butternut Squash Soup, Tomato Soup, or Jumbo Lump Crab Cake
2nd Course: Texas Blue Mousse, Caesar Salad, or Baby Green Salad
Entrees: 8 oz. Filet of Beef, Blackened Red Fish, or Seafood Gnocchi
Dessert Trio of Chocolate Hazelnut Torte, Bread Pudding, and Tiramisu Shooter
Pasta e Pesto has a special Valentine's Day menu which includes Pasta e Fagoli, Pork Loin in a mushroom sauce and a red velvet tiramisu.
Papa John's Pizza
If you're looking to spend a romantic evening at home, Papa John's has a deal for you. A medium one topping thin crust heart-shaped pizza and a brownie is just $15. Or you can get two medium heart-shaped pizzas for $18. Just add wine!
Super Bowl LI is less than three weeks away and Houston is preparing for one heck of a party. If you plan on heading downtown to join in the revelry, then these five bars should be on your list of stops.
Bovine and Barley 416 Main
Bovine and Barley is a great first stop on your Main Street bar crawl. It has a lively atmosphere perfect for socializing and the beef-centric menu will give your the nourishment needed to get through the night. They have a great variety of rotating beers on tap and an impressive selection of cocktails.
Moving Sidewalk 306 Main
Moving Sidewalk is the ultimate cocktail bar. The innovative seasonal menu makes use of fresh ingredients to produce some of Houston's best cocktails. Not only do the drinks taste fabulous, but their hand-cut crystal clear ice makes them extra special. As an added bonus, the bartenders are super friendly.
The Pastry War 310 Main
You won't find any pastries at The Pastry War, but what you will find is Houston's best selection of tequilas and mezcals. Along with your agave spirits, be sure to enjoy an assortment of delicious accoutrement that include orange slices with worm salt, deliciously spicy dried grasshoppers, and pineapples sprinkled with tajin. If you're looking for something a little heartier, The Pastry War has fantastic tamales.
When you're tired of all the crowds and want to sneak away to a chill spot with great booze, then Capt. Foxheart's is the place for you. It may be a little difficult to find, but those with a sharp eye will find it unusual that a doorman is posted outside a law office. Anyway, once you're inside relax and enjoy the view from the great patio or just hang out at the bar and sip on some exceptional spirits.
El Big Bad 419 Travis
Okay so not technically on Main St., but it's just a block away and no bar crawl would be complete without a trip to El Big Bad. The Big Bad Mother of infused tequilas, El Big Bad has EVERY flavor of tequila imaginable, all infused in-house. Want a Durian infused tequila? They have it. Like it spicy and want to try Ghost Pepper? They have it. In addition to great cocktails, El Big Bad has killer Mexican food and a lively atmosphere.
So wherever your Super Bowl celebrations take place, remember to drink responsibly. Have a designated driver or UBER. Stay safe!
I was recently invited to attend a Chinatown Food Crawl by Yelper extraordinaire Lou C. in Bellaire. About 15 people showed up to taste the street food style tapas available at the Metropole Center Night Market. Our first stop was Jing 5 where we munched on spicy duck wings and necks while waiting for everyone to arrive. Our host had nametags and info sheets for all guests. Lou gave us a bit of history on the cuisine and some background info on the owners. The duck wings and necks are first boiled and then placed in a spicy brine. I found very interesting that the dishes were served cold.
The second stop was 75 Yummy Kitchen. The owners were waiting for us to arrive and as soon as we sat down a variety of intriguing dishes began arriving at the table. Dishes were served family style and our table had a huge lazy Susan in the center making it easy for the large group to access all the food. We had an assortment of spicy dishes thanks to the chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns as well as some non-spicy dishes to cool the palate. Sichuan peppercorns produce an introducing numbing effect (mala) - ma meaning numbing and la meaning hot.
The dishes at Yummy Kitchen seemed never ending. Over ten entrees were brought to the table including won ton, dumplings, Dan Dan Noodles, spicy chicken, kung pao, tofu skins, and sliced beef and ox tongue. The two stand out dishes for me were the Malatang and the Sichuan Grilled Fish. The Malatang was a spicy hot soup that is made to order. You fill your bowl with items from the buffet and deliver it to your server with a pack of noodles. In a few minutes your hot bowl of soup is brought to the table. The Grilled Fish was placed in the center of the table in a bubbling tray of chili garlic sauce. It was delicious! The Iced Mung Bean Jelly was the perfect beverage for cooling off after all the spicy dishes.
The next stop was Olympic Bakery. Normally not open this late in the evening, the owner stayed open just for us. We were welcomed with the aroma of sweet pastries and samples of wife cake, crispy wontons, and jerky. Moon Cakes were available in several flavors.
The final stop of the evening was Star Snow Ice. Smoothies, Snow Ice, hot tofu soup, and warm jelly were among the many items on the menu. I choose mango snow ice with fresh fruit. It was the perfect ending to a fun and informative event.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.