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.
Quilting reigned over Downtown Houston earlier this month as the International Quilt Festival pulled in nearly 61,000 total attendees over a four-day period, show officials say.
Quilters, instructors and observers of all ages turned out to explore the unique art form, proving its limits far exceed its grandmotherly image. More than 4,700 people enrolled for the Festival's Quiltmaking Academy, which provided more than 415 classes, lectures, and events taught.
"I am once again thrilled and amazed at the size and scope of not only the show which we produce, but the quilters who come from as near as a mile down the road and as far as across the world to be in Houston," says Festival Founder Karey Bresenhan. "And I am consistently invigorated after each show about quilting as an industry, and quilters as people."
On the exhibition side, there were nearly 1,200 booths and 530 exhibitors.
Plans are already underway for the 2014 International Quilt Festival/Houston, which will celebrate the show's 40th anniversary. Special plans will be revealed in the coming months. The show will run October 30-November 2 (with Preview Night on October 29).
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.
Towering 567 feet high, the San Jacinto monument is the
world's tallest monumental column and stands as a tribute to the 1836 military
victory that won Texas' independence. While this awe-inspiring structure draws
225,000 visitors a year, its museum meant to showcase the historical event
leaves much to be desired.
Since the San Jacinto Museum opened in 1939, relics like the 14-foot-long battle scene painted by Sam Houston's son, Andrew Jackson Houston, and the sword Santa Anna jettisoned while fleeing the battle, have been stored in the museum basement and left unseen. In total, less than one percent of the museum's 18,000 artifacts have seen the light of day - mostly due to inadequate space.
But planning is now underway to remedy that. Funds are being raised to purchase land where the 40,000-square-foot exhibition hall/visitors center is set to open in 2017, just one-mile away from the museum's current location. Though the Texas architect has yet to be selected, one thing is certain: the new annex will provide infrastructure needed by a modern museum, including interactive technology to educate visitors with the site's history and geography.
The 13-acre prospective site, adjacent to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife battlefield historic site, is envisioned to be "a new Herman Park". The hope is to provide a destination, landscaped and equipped with picnic tables and walking trails, to draw not only visitors but also residents of Houston Ship Channel-area communities.
Fans of The Menil Collection have plenty to look forward to in the coming year, as the internationally-acclaimed art museum recently unveiled plans for a new gateway design on the 30-acre campus.
New York-based Michael Van Valkenbaugh Associates has been tapped to spearhead the design, which will, according to the Menil's press release, include "shaded walkways and lush beds of indigenous plants leading past a new cafe toward the renowned main museum building."
Other additions include the addition of a cafe, designed by Houston's Stern and Bucek Architects, which will make use of one of the bungalows that already exist on the Menil campus. Restaurateur and chef Greg Martin—formerly of Cafe Annie, Taco Milagro and Cafe Express—will operate the new eatery.
The Menil Collection expects to release additional details on the campus redesign in the coming months.
When it comes to dance, particularly ballet, I'm an admitted classicist. I prefer the tradition, pageantry and movement of ballets such as Cinderella and Giselle over more modern compositions. So while I had never before experienced The Merry Widow, the setup intrigued me. Paris. The turn of the 20th Century. A ball. Political intrigue. Unrequited love. Ladies in gowns and girls in can-can garb. This is good stuff.
At the outset of the Houston Ballet's production of The Merry Widow, we are transported to the ornate Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris (in case you are as clueless as I in European geography, Pontevedra is a city on the north-west side of the Iberian peninsula that held significant cultural wealth in the early 1900s). The French Attache, Camille de Rosillion, and his undersecretaries are lamenting the precarious state of their nation's economy just as they prepare for a ball that evening. A telegram arrives notifying the group that a recently widowed, wealth Pontevedrian named Hanna will attend the evening's festivities. We also learn in this first act that Valencienne, the young wife of the ailing French Ambassador Baron Zeta, is secretly in love with Camille.
With this set up, we are taken through three more scenes, including the elaborate ball, intrigue in a villa garden and a raucous interlude in an upscale French café. Lovers are won and lost and drama is at every turn. But it's the fantastic steps of the main dancers in this tale that carry the story. Houston Ballet Principal Sara Webb as Valencienne is endearing from the start and her fluid movement is mesmerizing. Show-stealer Amy Fote, who retired as a principal from the Houston Ballet in 2012, returns to play Hanna in the title role (note: casting may not be consistent for the duration of the production).
But again, I go back to staging and costumes. The over-the-top nature of this production is absorbing-from the ball scene with its giant candelabra-carrying statues grand staircase to the high-brow Chez Maxim complete with dapper waiters and those cheeky can-can girls.
The Merry Widow is certainly worth seeing, if you enjoy classical ballet and spectacle. Houston Ballet's production runs through Sept. 29 at the Wortham Center.
In September 2013, the Memorial Park Conservancy committee announced the selection of landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz to help lead the redesign and restoration of Houston's 89-year-old park.
The improvements—which aim to combat overgrowth, erosion and a historic drought—could cost as much as $100 million and take two decades to complete, but will take into account the park's natural habitat and needs of the pedestrians and cyclists that frequent the 1,466-acre expanse.
The initiative is a joint venture between the Conservancy, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and the Uptown Houston Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. Most of the funding will come from the Conservancy's own fund-raising efforts, as well as the Uptown tax zone.
There's little surprise for Houstonians in Forbes' latest accolade for the Bayou City.
The business magazine predicts that, within a decade, Houston will be the nation's "next great global city." Of course, locals already know this to be true. H-Town is the most diverse metro in the country and a leader in everything from arts and culture to aerospace and medical technology.
The prognostication from Forbes came as part of its Reinventing America series. In the series' latest article titled A Map of America's Future: Where Growth Will Be Over the next Decade, the writer breaks the nation down into seven major regions. Houston is named as the capital of the "Third Coast", which the magazine designates as the entire Gulf Coast stretching from Texas to Florida.
"Once a sleepy, semitropical backwater, the Third Coast... has come out of the recession stronger than virtually any other region," Forbes writes. "Since 2001, its job base has expanded 7 percent, and it is projected to grow another 18 percent in the coming decade."
Last year Forbes named Houston the coolest city in the nation to live, a title locals wholeheartedly embraced.
Theatre Under the Stars is about to get a little naughty.
Houston's resident musical theater company is known for staging classics like Annie, Guys & Dolls and Hairspray as well as more modern productions such as Bring it On the Musical, 9 to 5 and Jekyll & Hyde. But now TUTS is reaching into new, more risqué territory, with a concept called TUTS Underground.
Think of TUTS Underground as the bawdy, cigarette and booze sneaking cousin of the more straight-laced main stage theater. You're going to be exposed to some things you wouldn't expect--and you're going to love it.
Set in the Hobby Center's intimate, 500-seat Zilkha Hall, TUTS Underground will debut next season with four shows mixed among TUTS' regular productions.
Kicking off the inaugural season will be Lizzie, based on the notoriously acquitted Lizzie Borden (who took up an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks). Whacks of a different nature will continue in the comedic spoof 50 Shades! Audiences will appreciate the true test of endurance with Hands on a Hardbody, which chronicles the hard-fought contest to win a brand-new truck. The fourth title has not yet been determined.
"I want to bring important theatre to Houston - shows that make people think and view the world around them differently and from a new and exciting angle, says TUTS Artistic Director Bruce Lumpkin. "TUTS Underground will showcase just how dynamic musical theatre can be. Houston is ready for this. TUTS is ready for this."
The TUTS Underground experience won't end when the curtain closes. Audiences can relax and relive the experience at a wine and beer garden found right outside the Zilkha doors. Tickets to Underground productions range from $24 to $49. Get more details at TUTSUnderground.com
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.