I’ll be attending the Foro Parallelo Monterrey this week. I’m giving a talk on chili con carne and its role in Tex-Mex to the gastronomic conference. Should be amusing! Come see.
While we were working on the Food Lover’s Guide to Houston at Houstonia Magazine, I fondly recalled my first purchases of Patricia Wells’ Food Lover’s Guide to Paris (1984), and Food Lover’s Guide to France (1987). Those two wildly successful guidebooks created a genre that inspired dozens of “Food Lover’s Guides” to various places [...]
By guest blogger Katie Walsh
I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.
A few weeks ago, I was oblivious to the French-style “tasting menu” trend sweeping the restaurant scene. Riding around Houston with Dad, he broke it down for me (as he does in this month’s Houstonia review of his birthday dinner at Tony’s); its degustation origins, its surge in popularity, its delights, and the outcries it’s inspired. On this night, he’d made reservations for just the two of us at the tasting menu half of Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan’s The Pass & Provisions.
As we walked through Provisions to get to The Pass, I couldn’t help noticing that the former seemed like the place to be. Big groups, lots of laughter, colorful outfits and characters. The hostess pushed all of her weight into the far wall as we followed and it gave, an entire solid section sliding back like a hidden passageway, revealing the entrance to the quieter, dimmer, intimate dining room of The Pass.
The first morsel to hit our table was an off-menu amuse-bouche, a wildly shaped dehydrated shrimp chip served in a rough stone pedestal, like an artwork. Translucent and flecked with bits of Japanese shichimi togarashi spice and black sesame seed, it burst with flavor and then almost melted in the mouth.
Then the tasting officially began. We each went with the full eight-course menu.
Oyster on the half shell, simple and clean with a vibrant mignonette and small sprig of fennel; Old Fashioned cocktail “foie gras” (“It’s like a jello shot!” said Dad) and a Pocky stick coated in white chocolate and dehydrated black olive, which worked way better than I expected, sweet and salty and crunchy.
The standout of this course was a warm, pureed shot of green soup topped with a hearty dose of orange foam, made from nasturtium—all the way from its green leaves to its orange flowers. Herbal, floral, beautifully spiced and a lovely taste of comfort next to all the snacks. I took baby sips of mine, savoring every bit.
The Vietnamese steak and eggs at b-10 are a new take on the classic bo luc lac, the Vietnamese dish better known as “rock n’ roll beef.” At b-10, they use high quality filet mignon marinated with lemongrass instead of the authentic chewy cuts served in Vietnam. The steak and egg combination is an American coffee shop breakfast favorite and the sizzling comal is borrowed from Tex-Mex. I puzzled at the plastic cup half full of pate and half full of mayo. “Stir the pate up with the aioli and spread it on your baguette, that’s what the kids do,” my tablemate Thuy Tran instructed. It was excellent advice.
Thuy Tran and her mom Thu Ho filled me on the complicated saga of their Vietnamese restaurant. b-10 Vietnamese Cafe was called Givral when the banh mi and pho restaurant on Bellaire was first opened in 1988 by a Vietnamese man named Hoang. The most popular order there has long been b-10, the barbecued pork banh mi sandwich. Recently, the restaurant changed its name from Givral to b-10 Vietnamese Cafe and opened a satellite sandwich shop at Westheimer and Hillcroft. The name change ended the confusion among the three Houston Vietnamese restaurants named Givral–the other two are Givral on Milam and Les Givrales Kahve on Washington.
The namesake of the Houston restaurants was the original Le Givral Cafe which was located at the corner of Dong Khoi and Le Loi streets in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. For over 60 years, the historic Le Givral Cafe was the favorite meeting spot for travelers and Saigon-watchers. It closed in April of 2010 when the owners of the building decided to demolish the center for new construction.
It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.Chris Shepherd’s menu at Underbelly is a cultural mash-up: there’s Germanic “Pork Schnitzel and Caraway Braised Red Cabbage,” Southern “Gulf Shrimp and Pimento Grits” a Nawlins via Tokyo “Waygu Beef Debris Po’ Boy,” East Texas “Biscuits and Gravy” served in a black cast iron skillet, and spicy “Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings,” to name a few. Toppings include Creme Fraiche, Buttermilk Dressing, Aioli and Japanese Kewpie Mayo. The top of the menu at Underbelly reads in part: “We hope you will enjoy Chris Shepherd’s refined take on Houston’s New American Creole Cuisine.”
So what exactly is this New Creole Cuisine?