3755 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77046
Tony's has always been synonymous with fine dining. The decor is elegant and the service is impeccable. So when an opportunity presented itself to dine at Tony's along with members of the Houston Food Blogger Collective, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be a memorable evening and it was indeed.
The meal started with glasses of Prosecco while we chatted amongst ourselves. Fellow HFBC member and our host for the evening, Jeremy Parzen, provided us with some background information about the restaurant and its previous locations prior to settling in its current home in Greenway Plaza. Although, unable to join us for the evening, Mr. Vallone picked out a special tasting menu and wine for us to enjoy.
The first course was Gnocchi al Forno with Cerignola Olives and Pecorino. The dish was simple, yet delightful. The sauce was creamy and the gnocchi were light and fluffy. Next was a Baby Romaine salad topped with spicy walnuts and roasted butternut squash drizzled with a white anchovie vinaigrette. For our entrees we were given a choice of Branzino or Elk. Being the carnivore that I am, I could not resist the Elk.
The seared Wyoming Elk chop arrived medium rare atop roasted eggplant and it paired excellently with the full bodied Massolino Barolo. Roasted rustic potatoes and truffled mac & cheese sides were served family style.
Just when we thought the evening couldn't get any better a magnificent cannoli souffle was brought to the table along with cotton candy and a mini dessert tray. It was truly a wonderful evening of food, wine, and fellowship. I enjoyed meeting new bloggers and catching up with old friends.
On November 19th, MsIndependent held a special dine around culinary crawl in the popular CityCentre. Included in the tour were stops at five fabulous places. MsIndependent was started in 2010 by Erin Creeks as way for women to bond together in a casual and social environment. Whether you are single, looking for a girl's night out, or wanting a little "me time", MsIndependent has got an event for you.
The first stop on the tour was Bowl and Barrel. This upscale bowling alley was the perfect spot to mix and mingle. Comfortable lounge seating is speckled throughout the venue if you need to just hang out and have a drink while waiting for a lane to open up. We were treated to mimosas, mini burgers, handcut fries, empanadas, and meatballs.
Stop number two was the quaint Olive and Vine. This is your one stop shop for the best infused olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, and specialty products. In addition to oils and vinegars, we go to sample some delicious hummus made with chili pepper oil. Each participant was given their own mini bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to take home.
The next stop was the fabulous Seasons 52. They pulled out all the stops and treated us like royalty! Seated in one their many gorgeous private rooms, we were served several courses of fresh, seasonal dishes along with cocktails and wine. The dishes that really stood out were the Carmelized Pear Burrata salad and the Duck Lollipops. It was the perfect mid tour stop to relax and nosh on some amazing bites.
The next stop was Straits, a popular eatery/nightclub that features shareable Pan Asian style small plates. Chef Sean wowed us with a trio of Beef Satay, Crispy Chicken, and Honey Walnut Prawns.
The last stop of the day was at Milano Bar. Located below Radio Milano, Milano Bar is home to some of the city's best bartenders. Their handcrafted cocktail menu changes seasonally and showcases the flavors of the season. Brandon, bartender extraordinaire, didn't flinch one bit when our group of 18 took over the bar. He quickly spun into action mixing up some fabulous vodka and whiskey based cocktails.
I'm so glad I got to be a part of this wonderful event. Everything was well planned and on scheudule. CityCentre is such a phenomenal place and this was the perfect way to get a taste of some their culinary delights. Thank you MsIndependent!
I was recently invited to visit The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. I have to admit it had been years since my last visit. It was a beautiful sunny day and although The Woodlands locations has such a great patio, I chose to sit inside. The menu was quite large just as I remembered it. They have over 250 items on their menu that are made fresh every day. My server informed that the prep area in the kitchen is HUGE and that all dishes are made to order.
I scanned over the list of appetizers and my eyes were instantly drawn to the Fried Macaroni and Cheese. The mac n cheese is crumb coated, fried crispy, and then served over a creamy marinara sauce. Fried mac has a tendency to be dry on the inside, but these were perfectly creamy and quite delicious.
Speaking of portions, the servings at The Cheesecake Factory are very generous, even the ones on the lunch menu. For just a second, I contemplated ordering from the Skinny Menu which features over 50 items with 590 calories or less.
For my entree, I decided on the lunch portion of the Crusted Chicken Romano with a side of Penne Alfredo. I also sampled the Almond Crusted Salmon Salad served over kale, shaved brussel sprouts, avocado, quinoa, cranberries, radishes, and tossed in a vinaigrette. Both dishes were fresh and flavorful. The lunch menu is available daily until 5 p.m. and is a great value.
Of course no trip to The Cheesecake Factory is complete without cheesecake. I couldn't decide between the Pumpkin Cheesecake and the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake so I got one of each. The Pumpkin Cheesecake was light and fluffy. The Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake was rich and sweet and combined two of Fall's favorite desserts into one delightful bite. Both cheesecakes are available to purchase whole or by the slice. For every slice purchased, 25 cents goes to help feed America by supporting local food banks.
Eureka Heights Brewing Company celebrated their grand opening on October 15th with a Firkin Jorts Party! Guests were encouraged to wear jorts (jean shorts) and as much denim as possible. Tickets even included your very own denim koozie to slip your custom logo glass into. In addition to their usual line up of beers, ten unique casks were available for guests to sample. Wokker Texas Ranger was parked out front to make sure there was plenty for people to munch on. The large open warehouse was the perfect space to have a huge celebration and people came in droves to partake in the celebration. This was definitely one of the funniest grand openings I've been to!
My favorite beers of the day were the Buckle Bunny and the Moo Caliente Milk Stout. The Buckle Bunny is a light cream ale (4.2% ABV) that was crisp and refreshing. Great with food and the perfect beer for a warm day. I'm a huge fan of stouts and Moo Caliente (6% ABV) did not disappoint. Moo Caliente has hints of cinnamon and cayenne. For the grand opening, they played around with the flavors adding coconut, cocoa nibs, coffee, and vanilla. For me, vanilla was the best!
Eureka Heights is open Friday 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday Noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday Noon to 4 p.m. Tours are available during tap room hours. Their beer can be found around town and 32 oz. crowlers can be purchased at the brewery to take home.
Texas Monthly hosted their first ever Whiskey Affair on October 12th at Silver Street Studios. The venue was transformed into an intimate and glamorous setting for over 50 brown spirits including whiskeys, bourbons, and scotches. Texas was well represented with 9 Banded, Balcones, Silver Star, Rebecca Creek, and Garrison Brothers.
Bites were available throughout the evening from Bosscat Kitchen, Kiran's, Café Annie, Eight Row Flint, and Fluff Bake Bar. Infiniti provided a lounge area for guests as well as a fun photo booth. VIP guests were able to enter one hour early and received a cool swag bag that included stickers, bandanas, a round ice mold, and lots more.
A special part of the Whiskey Affair was guest mixologists Alba Huerta of Julep and Mike Raymond of Reserve 101. Huerta made a delicious hand-crafted Fig Julep. Raymond made a Peach Blossom with Toki Whiskey and a house made peach syrup with cloves and cracked peppers. He also made the best Old Fashioned I have ever tasted using Maker's 46, Honey Syrup, and Hell-fire Bitters.
The Second Annual Arts & Drafts Houston was held October 1 at the Silo on Clinton Street. Sponsored by Grandma's Boys Lemonade, this event was a celebration of art, music, and fun. The Silo provided the perfect venue for the collection of graffiti art and eclectic vendors. Over thirty craft beers were available to sample in addition to craft cocktails made with Blue Chair Bay Rum and Ciroc. Of course Grandma's Boys had their fresh fruit lemonades on hand to quench the thirst of attendees.
A graffiti art contest was held during the event. The winner, Jesus Sanchez, won a cool trophy, $150 cash prize and a graffiti kit from Ava Graphics. The People's Choice award for best brewery went to Saint Arnold's. The festival ended up raising $1,000 for La Rosa Family Services. La Rosa provides services to victims of domestic violence and their families.
The Second Annual Whiskies of the World Houston took place Saturday, October 1 at the Hyatt Regency Houston Hotel. Forty-three booths were set up with tastings from over 200 whiskies. The event also included a lavish buffet with items designed to stand up to such hardy spirits. VIP ticket holders were able to enter the venue one hour early and taste special vintages not available to the general admission.
In addition to tastings, this luxurious event provided guests with the opportunity to attend 45 minute master classes from Glenmorangie, High West, Balvenie, and Tullamore DEW, which included discussions and samples. There was even a Cigar Patio sponsored by Serious Cigars that covered topics such as how to properly pair a cigar with your whiskey in order to highlight the marriage of flavors.
Whiskies from all over the world and the United States were represented at the event. Texas spirits made a strong showing with representatives from Balcones, Red River, Republic, Ironroot, and Ranger Creek. Some of my favorite unique varieties were from Utah's High West and Clyde May's Alabama style whiskey.
The inaugural Woodlands BBQ Festival took place on Sunday, September 25 in Town Green Park in the Woodlands. The event was a partnership between the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce and Stibbs & Co. Attorneys. The festival benefited the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. Over 15 area pitmasters attended the event.
Barbecue lovers were able to get unlimited samples of the classic Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage with a few surprises. Frito pies, pork belly, boudin, and stuffed jalapenos were some of the bonus items featured by pitmasters that went outside the box. Standouts definitely included Corkscrew, Pinkerton's, Tejas Chocolate Craftory, and Midtown BBQ.
MainStreet America, 18750 I-45 (between FM 1960 and Cypresswood Dr.), has launched a new restaurant concept called MC Barbecue & Southern Kitchen. You don't typically think of a designer showcase home center as a dining destination, but diners will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of food coming out of the kitchen.
Chef Lawrence Fogarty and MainStreet CEO Mike Feigin have long shared a love of tailgating and barbecue. They decided to partner together in this new venture that focuses on BBQ and Southern classics. Many of MC's dishes feature Fogarty's signature sauce, Texas Sweet Heat. Like the name suggest, Texas Sweet Heat has a nice balanced sweetness with just a touch of heat on the finish that's perfect for brisket or ribs.
The menu is a mix of classic BBQ and elevated Southern specialties. The Dueling Ribs are an East vs West fusion featuring sticky Asian fried ribs and house smoked ribs topped with Texas Sweet Heat. The Shrimp and Grits are kicked up a notch by the addition of chorizo cream and tomato-tarragon jam. The Southern Cubano replaces the typical roasted pork with BBQ pulled pork giving it a unique Texas twist. Save room for dessert because the Rustic Bacon Apple Pie topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is the best way to end your meal.
MC Barbecue & Southern Kitchen is open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A food trailer in the front parking lot will sell BBQ by the pound Wednesday thru Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. Be sure to check out the onsite cooking school. The cooking school seats up to 24 guests and offers a variety of rotating classes throughout the year.
Free Lunch for Law Enforcement
In recognition and appreciation of the men and women who put their lives on the line on a daily basis, MC Barbecue will offer free lunch September 5 - 7 to any law enforcement officer in uniform. A BBQ lunch will be provided on those days from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Officers may dine in or take advantage of the drive thru service that will be set up for to go meals.
Current, located in the Westin Hotel on the Woodlands Waterway, has brought a breath of fresh air to the Woodlands dining scene. Creative and complex entrees are served in an elegant dining room with lots of natural light.
The seasonal menu at Current changes four times a year and focuses on local ingredients. The summer menu includes Texas peaches, figs, corn, as well as Gulf shrimp. Sustainability is an important part of Current's philosophy. You will never find seafood that is over-fished or not available locally on their menu. The result is amazing dishes that are fresh and beautifully executed. Current is also participating in Houston Restaurant Week this year, offering a three course dinner for $35.
Current boasts a strong working relationship with local farmers and recently started offering tasting classes to showcase several vendors. The first class took place on July 21st and featured Fernando Moreno with Pachi Pachi Valley Cheese. Fernando's cheeses are served on Current's cheese flight. For the class, four cheeses were paired with wines and bites. The next class will take place on August 25th and feature sustainable greens.
Current will also host beverage classes once a month. Their first class, held on August 4th, featured Mount Gay Rum. Guests were able to taste Eclipse, Black Barrel and Extra Aged rum along with appetizers and a specially crafted cocktail. Be sure to sign up on their email list or follow Current on Facebook for information on upcoming classes.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.