Monday, August 25, 2014

Get to Tony’s before Houston Restaurant Weeks come to a close September 1st!

Beautiful table settings are still de rigueur at Tony's
I had the opportunity to visit Tony’s during Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) and it was one of the best dining decisions I’ve made during the month of August.

The kitchen in full swing on a Wednesday night!
It had been a long time since I’d been to Tony’s and my experience validated every memory I have tucked away from my childhood and adult life. This iconic Houston landmark was the first place my uncle Artie wanted to dine when he’d come visit from New York for good reason. Tony Vallone had the best Houston had to offer and he still does. Vallone has made a very smart decision naming Kate McClean the first female executive chef of Tony’s. Chef Kate keeps the kitchen in good order while turning out amazing plates.

The HRW menu allows diners to have the full Tony’s experience down to your own personal soufflé. It’s worth every penny of the $8 supplement. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

I started with Pansoti, squash filled pasta, with a Parmesan puff, and sage essence. The pasta, sauce, and filling were sublime.

Roasted Hudson Valley Duckling
For my main course I chose the roasted Hudson Valley Duckling with Oregon bing cherries, almonds, and venetian black rice. The duck was well executed, if only slightly overdone for my taste, but the sauce more than made up for any shortcomings as did the inventive venetian black rice.
Speckled Trout
One of my dining companions ordered the seared speckled trout with stone ground Sicilian blood orange emulsion. This entrée was absolutely flawless.
For dessert I had a berry crostata, with a praline ice cream. A different take on a classic crostata, but an absolute success as the tart berries provided a welcomed contrast to the ice cream and sweet crumb topping.
Tuxedo Cake
As luck would have it, there was soufflé at my table as well as Tony’s eponymous chocolate tuxedo cake. Suffice it to say, that there were several good reasons to share around our table.
Chocolate Souffle  
It’s great when HRW reminds you of what is great about our great city of Houston. Mr. Vallone, it won’t be as long before I return and  you can make sure Chef Kate has a lot do with my sentiment.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Houston Restaurant Weeks Brunch at Brennan’s!

If you’re having a hard time choosing a brunch spot as you peruse the Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) web site, you really don’t have to go past the B’s!  I visited Brennan’s last weekend and was blown away by the noteworthy HRW brunch menu which is offered on both Saturday and Sunday.

Brennan's HRW Brunch Menu
It’s hard to believe Chef Danny Trace and staff can manage such a great value and still make a $4.00 contribution to the Houston Food Bank on behalf of every brunch guest.

Shrimp Remoulade
The menu includes Brennan’s famed turtle soup as a first course, as well as a portion of Shrimp Remoulade ($3.00 up charge) large enough to be an entrée on it’s own.
Eggs Benedict

Speaking of entrées, it is hard to pass up the classic Eggs Benedict, however tempting the Texas Pecan Crusted Catfish and Chicken Creole may sound. There is something for everyone, with the Creole Ratatouille Tart rounding out the selections.

Brunch with Friends 

Brennan’s has always been the epitome of fine dining in Houston. The elegant main dining room with its high back chairs makes you feel like you could stay here for a very long time. Attention is paid to even the smallest detail and such commitment does not go unnoticed.

Let's the games begin!

When it came time for dessert, our server Greg, whipped up one of the best Banana’s Fosters I have ever had, all prepared tableside with great finesse. I swore I was only going to eat a couple of bites, but the perfectly caramelized bananas and velvety ice cream got the better of me.

It takes talent

How cinnamon sparks when introduced to flames! 

Banana's Foster

It’s quite impressive how Brennan’s can offer such a complete dining experience for just $25.00 during HRW. On Sunday you get all this and a wandering Jazz band too! And as luck would have it there are five weekends in August 2014, giving us only more opportunity to "dine out and do good"!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

An Evening at Caracol

I had the opportunity to experience the Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) menu at Caracol restaurant last week. While Caracol is clearly a hip, cutting edge, destination eatery, a certain sincerity comes across from the staff that I have to believe emanates from owners Tracy Vaught and acclaimed Chef Hugo Ortega. Each of the couple’s hugely successful restaurants (Prego, Backstreet Café, Hugo’s, and Caracol) are participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks, and I see that as a humble nod towards the city of Houston.

There is no doubt that the staff here takes your dining experience quite seriously. What makes Caracol so endearing during a time that can be considered a dining renaissance in Houston, is how well looked after they make you feel as the kitchen turns out consistent, high quality food.
Campechana Estilo

It is obvious that a lot of thought has gone into the four prix fixe menus created especially for Houston Restaurant Weeks. The menus include “Vegetarian, Ocean Lover, On Dry Land, and Our Style,” options, each designed to be a unique dining experience.
Ceviche de Caracol

I uncharacteristically chose the “Ocean Lover” option. Through a delightful mix up, I was presented with Campechana Estilo instead of Gazpacho Rojo as my “amuse”. This presented no problem for me even though my next course was Cerviche de Caracol. Both of these dishes involve well turned out cold seafood components but the difference really stops there.  
Pescado Alcaparrado a la Plancha

Striped bass took center stage as my main course, in a tomatillo-caper sauce with crispy shallots. The fish was cooked medium with a skin that was perfectly crisp and hard to resist.

Piña Rostizada

Rum roasted pineapple, with coconut ice cream perched atop a pistachio cake followed for dessert. The pistachio cake was a bit lackluster but hardly noticeable as the pineapple and coconut ice cream were superb. 

Noteworthy dishes from the "Our Style" menu included mussels and a crispy roasted duck leg. 
Mejilones en Verde
Pato en Pipian Rojo

Take the opportunity to dine at Caracol during HRW. The restaurant donates $7 for every dinner ordered from the HRW menu which means The Houston Food Bank can provide 21 meals to Houston's hungry population. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Table on Post Oak does HRW proud!

If you’ve been reading my new blog, you know how passionate I am about Houston Restaurant Weeks and what a great organization it benefits! With over 200 restaurants to choose from, it makes it hard to decide where to dine. This week I lunched at the recently opened Table on Post Oak.
Table on Post Oak Menu
Executive Chef Manuel Pucha has managed to put together a great menu all the way around, but his THREE course lunch stands out amongst the crowd.

Becky Eckerman, aka Princess Kate (as in Middleton)
My former Deloitte colleague, Becky Eckerman, aka Princess Kate (as in Middleton) and I had a hard time deviating from the same menu choices until it came to dessert.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
We both started with a beautifully plated Beet and Goat Cheese Salad. The balance of flavors and textures was interesting and very pleasing all the way around. The creaminess of the herb crusted goat cheese along with the crunch of the pistachios and sweetness of the golden beets was blissful.
Short Rib Tortellini
Neither of us could resist the Short Rib Tortellini. While the pasta was a bit on the lesser done side of al dente, the dish was reminiscent of the best of fall and summer rolled into one. A textural triumph, the hearty beef flavors successfully came together with the bright fresh summer vegetables.

Berry Frangipane

It’s not often you can use the word whimsical to describe food, but the Berry Frangipane was just that. The artful presentation made this dessert a feast for the eyes. The small pastry squares packed a delightful almond flavor while the tiny meringues, and small pools of raspberry sauce and lemon thyme anglaise floated on the plate emulating a Salvador Dali painting. 

Alas, I could not get a picture of the Peach Parfait, due to circumstances beyond by control. The glass vessel it was served in came smeared with the luscious ice cream within, making it impossible to photograph. Such are the hazards of blogging about food, the kitchen doesn't always know to have each dish photo ready.  HOWEVER, this was one of the best deserts I've had during HRW. (It's going to be hard to beat Del Frisco's Double Eagle's Lemon Doberge cake.) The poached peach, melba sauce and crunchy almond streusel married quite well with the vanilla ice cream. 

Drop me a comment if you are able to experience Table during HRW, I'd enjoy comparing notes! 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House does Houston Restaurant Weeks Right!

I had the pleasure of dining at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House with several Houston Foodie Friends last night as Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) kicked off.

While the setting may be considered grand, the staff at Del Frisco’s made our dining experience quite personal because of their close attention to detail. Executive chef Steve Haug did an outstanding job and the kitchen rose to the occasion as the restaurant heaved with people.
VIP Martini 

I started with a VIP martini made with house infused pineapple Vodka. This drink is delicious, deceivingly smooth, and easy to drink. It’s also specially priced in honor of HRW.

Del Frisco’s has put together a solid HRW menu with a good range of choices. Fresh veggies and crisp tortilla strips gave the roasted poblano bisque a nice crunch. I’d love to see this soup added to the regular menu. 

Tempura Fried Lobster Tail

The lobster tempura was beautifully presented fried with the shell, unfortunately my picture does not do it justice. The lobster was tender and the batter was infused with flavor, thus making both dipping sauces superfluous. If I had to pick a favorite sauce, it would have to be the sweet chili. The accompanying Asian slaw had great taste and packed a spicy punch. I only wished that it could have been served a bit colder. A possible fix might be placing it in a chilled shallow bowl on it’s own then nestling it onto the artistic rectangular serving plate with the lobster.

The lemon Doberge cake is NOT to be missed. This little slice of heaven was baked fresh and was as light as feather. My apologies for not providing a picture, but it went that fast!

To those that dismiss Del Frisco’s out of hand as just another chain steak house located in a mall – I can understand your concern, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try this restaurant. The quality food and personalized service make for a very satisfying and intimate dining experience.

Remember to “dine out and do good” if you’re in Houston during the month of August. HRW gives the public a chance to try Houston’s top restaurants at a great price point, while benefiting The Houston Food Bank. So get out there and eat for charity! 

Houston Restaurant Weeks is in full swing!

It’s the time of year in Houston, when everyone from professed foodies to those who have a casual interest in expanding their restaurant repertoire have the opportunity to “eat out and do good”! Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) 2014 kicked off yesterday and runs through September 1st.

Visit to choose from over 200 participating restaurants. Make sure to let the restaurant know you would like to order from the HRW menu when you make your reservations and again when you arrive to dine.

HRW is the largest annual fundraiser benefitting the largest food bank in America. Volunteers do all the work so 100% of the funds go directly to the Houston Food Bank. Each dollar raised creates THREE meals that go towards feeding those in need. Learn all the details about how the program works in the “about us" section of the website.   

HRW was established in 2003 by Cleverly Stone, host of “the Cleverley Show,” a food talk radio program on CBS Sports Radio 650/KIKK-AM Houston, and a 6 ½ year food segment contributor to Houston’s Fox 26 Morning News. Thank you Cleverley for all that you do to help feed hungry families in Houston!