Local chefs are coming together to support one of their own this weekend.
Bella-Katherine Curtis lost her 22-year-old business, My Dee Dee's Pie Shoppe, to a fire on November 29. The fire happened one day after the business completed one of its busiest times of year -- baking more than 2,000 pies for Thanksgiving.
When they heard the news, Chef Randy Evans of Haven and Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar immediately started organizing. Soon other chefs and industry folks came on board. The result will be a fundraiser at Haven this Saturday Dec. 7 from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Barbecue from Chef Ronnie Killen, other bites, baked goods, music and more will welcome guests who will be asked to donate $50 per person.
"It was heartbreaking to hear of Bella's shop burning down," says Masson, who, along with Evans, led a Southern Comfort Houston Culinary Tour to My Dee Dee's just last month. "She has been baking pies for over 22 years - they are a Houston institution. Bella lights up when she feeds you all the pie you could ever eat. I wanted to do something to help her get back to what makes her so happy."
Other chefs involved in the event include Kevin Naderi of Roost, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly as well as pastry chefs Samantha Mendoza of Triniti, Johnny Wesley of Mr. Peeples and former Houstonian Plinio Sandalio. Sysco is lending support as well and Scott Tycer of Kraftsman Baking has donated a month of kitchen space for My Dee Dee's to be able to continue producing their pies through the holidays.
Finally, there is also an account at Wells Fargo in My Dee Dee's name where donors can contribute to the cause.
Houston continues to climb the culinary ladder, topping national lists left and right and proving what we (and lets be real... our waistlines) have known for years. When it comes to food, Houston chefs are at the top of the game.
The most recent list by Urbanspoon highlights seven Houston restaurants as part of America's Top New Restaurants of 2013 - the most in any Texas city.
Restaurants that made the cut had to be new, opening their doors in 2013, and were picked based on most liked, viewed and reviewed. A noted trend toward casual and affordable shined through, with average meals ranging between $10-$15.
So which new spots had Houstonites talking? Here are the 2013 restaurants that made the list:
- Coppa Osteria
- Renae's Homestyle Restaurant
- Simply Pho
- The Dosa Factory
- The Pass and Provisions
Still hungry? Check out more restaurants to choose from here.
Perhaps the two things Houstonians love to do most are dine out and give back. Sure, it's an arguable premise. But consider this: locals eat out more than residents of any other city in the country--4.1 times a week compared to the national average of 3.1 times--according to Zagat. What's more, an assessment of Houston and its charities by the group Charity Navigator shows that H-Town is the second most philanthropic city in the country.
So we eat and we give--and, when the opportunity presents itself, we like to do both at the same time. Luckily, we've got more than a few options for doing just that. And a couple places to cocktail for charity as well.
August 1 kicks off Houston Restaurant Weeks. The annual event (which now runs 33 days) offers diners specially priced prix-fixe menus at many of the city's best restaurants. For $20 at lunch, $35 or $45 at dinner, you can eat at hotspots like Rainbow Lodge, Triniti and Brennan's. What's more, a portion of the proceeds from each meal goes directly to the Houston Food Bank. A complete listing of participating restaurants and their respective Houston Restaurant Weeks' menus is posted at HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com. Reservations are required for most restaurants.
The monthly Where the Chefs Eat Houston Culinary Tours offer a broad perspective on the local dining scene, allowing participants to experience some of the off-the-beaten-path spots local culinarians love. The tours are one of the best (and sometimes hardest to get) tickets in town-with some selling out in less than two minutes. The reason? Whether it's an exploration of the varying ethnic cuisines available on Long Point Road, the best spots in Chinatown or a study of world barbecue, each of the 16-person, chef-led tours are quite personal, affording a lot of face time with acclaimed chefs such as Monica Pope and Hugo Ortega. A portion of the proceeds from the $180 ticket go to Foodways Texas, the statewide nonprofit dedicated to preserving Lone Star food culture. Looking for a more direct way to give back? Houston Culinary Tours is organizing a volunteer day with the program's chefs at the Houston Food Bank on September 22.
Every Thursday the Montrose-set Boheme Café & Wine Bar teams up with the folks at Fresh Arts for Cultured Cocktails. Not only is this a great happy hour spot in general (we love the patio and the side room with eclectic, vintage furnishings) but on Thursdays you get a chance to get up close and personal with the artists and arts organizations that make Houston a cultural capital. Between the hours of 5 and 7 pm, a portion of the bar proceeds go to a designated arts nonprofit--from performance groups to visual arts studios.
Since its opening late last year, the Original OKRA Charity Saloon has made news both locally and nationally. A novel concept to be sure, patrons at this bar imbibe for a cause. For each drink purchased, a ticket is issued to vote for one of four charities of the month. At the end of the month, the charity with the most votes wins 100% of the bar's proceeds that month (minus operating costs). Houston charities love the idea, which is giving them exposure to new audiences. And they love organizing happy hours in the historic Downtown building that houses OKRA, just off Market Square. So far, the bar has given out more than $75,000 in just seven months.
Once a month, Chef Anita Jaisinghani's Pondicheri does breakfast for a cause at her West Ave restaurant Pondicheri. The Indian eatery offers an assortment of delightful breakfast items, from the masala eggs plate to the vanilla bean crepe. Jaisinghani designates one Saturday early in the month for a Community Breakfast, with 50% of the proceeds going to a specific charity. Beneficiary organizations have ranged from the Houston Area Women's Center to Casa de Esperanza. Follow Pondicheri on Facebook for details.
Are you swept up in the royal baby frenzy? Now that the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to the future king of England, we can all rest easy. But if you want to celebrate with a little bit of Britain in your backyard, Houston's got some great British-themed spots.
Premium cocktails, craft beer and small British-inspired plates are served to an enthusiastic crowd at the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen. Here post-colonial British and Indian flavors are married for a unique gastropub menu. Try the short rib samosas, bullet naan, sausage and mash and flavor-packed chicken tikka masala.
The Black Labrador is an English pub perfect for enjoying a pint of ale, a game of darts and a bite. The kitchen isn't strictly English--burgers and Tex-Mex dishes turn up among the shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash. On the patio, a human-size chessboard is designed into the paving and even occasionally used. As the evening winds down, try the Scotch apple pie and a Samuel Smith Taddy porter.
Seeking the royal treatment? Head to the St. Regis Hotel where you'll enjoy a traditional English tea service. The hotel's legendary afternoon tea features petits fours, tea sandwiches, scones and Devonshire cream. A harpist performs daily while guests savor St. Regis' special blend and other premium loose-leaf teas.
A funky British pub downstairs, Rudyard's also features live music upstairs. The spot is a great place to see local and touring indie-rock bands and Rudyard's Comedy Workshops are on Tuesdays.
Those looking for authentic, UK-style Indian fare should head southwest to London Sizzler Indian Bar & Grill. The family-owned spot-just off Hillcroft and I-59-is popular with in-the-know foodies thanks to its bold flavors, spice and charcoal-oven Tandoori. Before you even step through the door, the aroma of cardamom and curry drift through the air-a sure signal of the good things to come.
Red Lion Pub owner Craig Mallinson makes it a point to give locals an authentic British experience with more than 20 English ales and imported beers on tap, as well as a serious menu filled with time-honored pub favorites. Enjoy popular items like shepherds' pie and English curry from the comfort of a red-leather covered banquette or at a table near the brick fireplace in back.
For a completely laid-back experience, Firkin & Phoenix offers Nintendo Wii, darts, billiards, MegaTouch, and GoldenTee in a pub meets sports bar setting. Sample some of the home country's famous dishes including bangers, beans and mash and scrumptious pot pies and catch a soccer game on one of their big screens.
The food truck craze has been growing in Houston for years, even spawning an annual festival. But H-Town hasn't had its own dedicated place for food on wheels--until now.
The Houston Food Park is set to open June 22 in East Downtown. The location at 1504 St. Emmanuel can easily accommodate up to nine trucks, but there is already a plan to expand the footprint. Within the first week, the park will be open for both lunch and dinner until 8 pm.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the first trucks to participate in the new park will include Yummyz Kitchen, Coreanos, POCKet to Me and Betton's Comfort Food.
The new park is the work of partners Jack Gillett, Ponce Tirzo and Miguel Villegas. The long-term plan calls for creating a space that will be able to cater to festivals and other big events.
"We want to bring an urban festival scene to the city," Tirzo told the Chronicle. "We want to celebrate arts, food and music in a setting that reflects Houston as the melting pot it is."
For more on the park, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.
We don't envy Houston food critics. It can't be easy dissecting the best (and sometimes the worst) restaurants in this dish-diverse culinary capital. You're bound to get a lot of criticism from chefs and diners for your take on things and, let's face it, with all the eating out involved you kinda need to run a marathon each week to avoid a coronary.
So kudos to the Houston Press' Katharine Shilcutt for stepping out on a limb to call out the top 10 restaurants in Downtown Houston. It's a varied list of newbies (Goro & Gun) and old favorites (Irma's) that highlight much of what makes Houston a hot dining scene. And most of these places are easily accessible to visitors and convention-attendees staying in Downtown hotels.
1. Oxheart "three different chef's tasting menus are available at night"
2. Quattro at the Four Seasons simple, streamlined Italian dishes and house-made pastas
3. Line & Lariat modern Texas fare inside Hotel Icon
4. Irma's "enormously comforting Mexican mom-food"
5. Hubcap Grill "famous for fusion burgers"
6. Vic & Anthony's "Downtown's premier steakhouse is all glitz, all glam, all the time"
7. The Burger Guys/Bombay Pizza independly owned lunchtime favorites
8. The Grove/Lake House two distinct spots inside Discovery Green
9. MKT Bar @ Phoenicia "urban European feel to the scene that's unusual and appealing"
10. Goro & Gun/Batanga newest spots offering ramen and tapas respectively
Shilcutt also called out a handful of honorable mentions for various characteristics-"badass red beans and rice" for more than three decades goes to Treebeard's, best view in the city goes to Spindletop at the Hyatt.
Click here for Shilcutt's full take on these Downtown hotspots.
The Houston Pavilions is getting a makeover and a new name.
Construction begins in April on the Downtown retail development in the heart of the Convention District, which will be renamed GreenStreet.
The primary change at the half-million-square-foot complex is the creation of a new linear park featuring benches, planters, lawns and water features designed to make the space more attractive to pedestrians. The Pavilions has experienced some trouble attracting and keeping tenants, but the property's new owners hope to change that with the renovation and re-imaging effort.
The facility now includes restaurants, retail and entertainment concepts such as House of Blues, Forever XXI, III Forks, McCormick & Schmick's and Lucky Strike bowling. Soft goods retailers have had a tougher time at the center.
Last year, the Pavilions was purchased out of receivership by a partnership that included Midway Companies and California-based Canyon Johnson Urban Funds.
The renovations are slated for completion by the end of the year.
Houston's culinary clout just keeps growing.
On Tuesday, several local restaurants learned they were included among this year's James Beard Award semi-finalists--the Oscars of the nation's dining industry.
Justin Yu's Oxheart on the north end of Downtown and Chris Shepherd's Underbelly in Montrose are up for Best New Restaurant. Yu was also nominated for the Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Shepherd, Uchi's Tyson Cole and Hugo Ortega of Hugo's are semi-finalists for Best Chef in the Southwest. Anvil Bar & Refuge is also being considered for the Outstanding Bar Program award and Goode Company Restaurants' Levi Good is a semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.
The semi-finalists will be whittled down to a short list of finalists next month. The James Beard Awards will be held May 6 in New York.
Two of those restaurateurs got a double dose of praise Tuesday--both Uchi Houston and Oxheart were named among the 12 Outstanding Restaurants of 2013 by GQ magazine. Only one other city, Brooklyn, garnered two places on the much-lauded list.
Not that locals needed a survey to prove H-Town's romance quotient, but OpenTable is delivering one anyway. Just in time for Valentine's day, the online restaurant reservations company is releasing its list of the 25 Most Romantic Dining Cities in the United States and Houston comes in at #10.
Three variables were used to calculate the results—the percentage of restaurants rated "romantic" according to OpenTable diner reviews, the percentage of tables for two and the percentage of people who dined out for Valentine's Day in 2012.
The following cities make up the Top 25 Most Romantic Dining Cities in the U.S.:
1. San Antonio, Texas
2. Austin, Texas
3. Providence, Rhode Island
4. La Jolla, California
5. Columbus, Ohio
6. Salt Lake City, Utah
7. Nashville, Tennessee
8. Louisville, Kentucky
9. St. Louis, Missouri
10. Houston, Texas
11. Dallas, Texas
12. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
13. Richmond, Virginia
14. Raleigh, North Carolina
15. Tampa, Florida
16. San Diego, California
17. Baltimore, Maryland
18. Honolulu, Hawaii
19. Indianapolis, Indiana
20. Brooklyn, New York
21. Pasadena, California
22. Las Vegas, Nevada
23. Phoenix, Arizona
24. Santa Monica, California
25. Portland, Oregon
For more information, visit OpenTable.
(Image: Brenner's Steakhouse on the Bayou)
Is Houston on your radar in 2013?
The New York Times thinks it should be. The newspaper of record ranked Houston No. 7 on its list of the 46 places to go this year. Houston was the only U.S. city in the top 10. NYT writer Ingrid K. Williams had this to say about the city:
Houston is probably best known as the Texan center for energy and industry, but it's making a bid to be the state's cultural and culinary capital as well. The Houston Museum District is a formidable coterie of institutions that includes the Rothko Chapel, the Museum of African American Culture, which made its debut last February; and the Asia Society Texas Center, which opened in a stunning Yoshio Taniguchi-designed building in April. And last summer, the Houston Museum of Natural Science opened a 30,000-square-foot hall of paleontology in a new $85 million wing. Meanwhile, the city's dining scene is also heating up, with three of the city's newest restaurants - Oxheart, Underbelly and Uchi - placing on national best-new-restaurant lists.
That Houston is being called out for its restaurants and cultural institutions is no surprise to us. The latest research compiled for the GHCVB shows most visitors come to Houston for the city's cosmopolitian offerings--including chef-driven dining and performing and visual arts. That's why our 2013 ad campaign will draw upon those strengths, profiling the trendsetters in these industries.
Rio de Janeiro ranked No. 1 on the list.