"The Man Who Shot Liberty
(1962) with Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin, James Stewart, and John Wayne
Dining Out in Houston, Part One
by John Mariani
New York Corner: Lyon Bouchon Moderne
by John Mariani
Man About Town: Beauty and Essex
by Christopher Mariani
GOOD NEWS! Esquire.com now has a new food section called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.
WHERE TO EAT IN DALLAS FOR SUPER BOWL WEEKEND
OUT IN HOUSTON, Part One
perpetuating the beloved notion that Houston is still a place where
into town and order steaks and whiskey, but I just can't resist using
above from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a fine John Ford western
in which bad guy Lee
almost gets into a gunfight with good guy John Wayne about a steak
by lawyer-turned-waiter Jimmy Stewart.
Houston does have a few good local steak houses (and all the national chains), but its excellence as a restaurant city is solid across the board, from Goode Co. Barbeque to Hugo’s Mexican restaurant, from the New Texas Cuisine of Robert Del Grande’s RDG + Bar Annie (see below) to the opulently grand Italian food at Tony’s (see below). Américas pioneered Nuevo Latino cuisine here, and the Vietnamese immigrants, who control the city’s seafood industry, have contributed enormously to Houston’s vitality. Here are a few of my favorites right now.
and better than ever, with
more of an Italian cast and a tremendously impressive wine list.
The desserts are big and gooey,
including a fine dark chocolate flourless mousse cake, and, even
if it's a tad overwrought, the
Tuxedo Cake of devil's food, mascarpone, chocolate mousse, and HeatH
la cucina casalinga.
(above), for you'll
find the same care of preparation by Chef
de cuisine Cesar Toriz, even similar dishes like the fedelini
amatriciana, crudi, and osso
buco with risotto.
There's a bar up front that's
popular after six p.m., backed by a multilevel wine and spirits case
that includes just about anything you could want to drink in this kind
of atmosphere. Wines by the
glass start at $7, while bottles are split fairly evenly between
Italian and California labels.
Photos by Ralph Smith
Local boy Evans (below), who had been chef at Brennan's of Houston for 12 years, calls his food “Modern Texas Cuisine,” which he differentiates from the gospel of “New Texas Cuisine” pioneered by chefs like Stephan Pyles, Dean Fearing, and Robert del Grande (see RDG +Cafe Annie below) in the 1980s. “Theirs was tied more to the Mexican influence on Texas,” says Evans. “I see Texas as unique, not really Mexican or southern or southwestern, but with all these other immigrant influences—cattlemen, Germans, Vietnamese—and I draw on food traditions of the Hill Country, East Texas, and the Gulf.” He is also very committed to going green in every way possible.
sounds way too good—an heirloom tomato “sundae” with lemon olive oil
aged balsamic, and tomato sprinkles; crispy pig’s trotter fritters,
frisée, charred tomato vinaigrette, and
pickled Gibson onions. If you love chicken livers, Haven is your
fried, with an andouille gravy and fantastic buttermilk biscuits.
There's wild boar chili with pepper jack cheese, minced onions and
Haven is open from 11 AM-11Pm Mon.-Fri. for dinner Sat. Dinner appetizers run $4-$15, main courses $18-$32.
those three decades Del Grande has proven himself a master whose ideas
are often copied, and part of his staying power is that he's rarely
strayed far from his original idea that Texas and southwestern grub can
be elevated to the culinary sublime. He closed Café Annie
moved not far away to open the new RDG + Bar Annie, which isn't too
much of a leap in concept but a big one in décor. The
set on two levels, very modern, with big windows, a grand
staircase leading to the main dining room, and a buzz created by people
who know they are in a very stylish setting, one that flatters them and
makes the entry of any new guest coming up those stairs reason to crane
their necks to see
might be. At lunch some of the most beautiful women in Houston
gather at RDG, and at night, they might well be with husbands and
friends at Bar Annie.
courses toe the same Texas line, with hearty
dishes like wood-grilled red fish with Texas oyster cornbread dressing;
a Prime ribeye with smoked Cheddar steak sauce; and wood-roasted rabbit
and enchiladas in a lush red mole sauce. The Colorado lamb
chops with thyme, black pepper and tomato jelly and
giant corona beans are as full flavored as they are mightily
Throughout the day or evening, the amiable service staff keeps up with the crowd, iced tea is rampant and re-poured, and wines are taken seriously. It would be very difficult for anyone dining here not to have a real good time with a little Texas twang thrown in.
APPEAR NEXT WEEK IN THE FEB. 6TH ISSUE
When you walk in, to your left
the cheery bar, to the right the equally gregarious dining room,
especially cozy at this time of
year, when the wind whips in off Greenwich Avenue. The antiques
and artwork on the walls have been collected for years by Mr. Latapie,
and the Michelin road maps, the bentwood chairs, the old wooden walls
and floors, and
the blackboard specials of the day all conjure thoughts of romantic
scenes from 1950s French cinema.
As in all good bistros, the bread and butter are excellent, all the better to eat with the charcuterie platter of country pâté, smoked beef sausages, pig's trotter roulade and pickles. For $18, it's a very good starter for two people.
Main courses are every bit as savory, from a good-sized lamb shank stew with white beans (below) to guinea fowl with wintry root vegetables. There is the obligatory strip steak au poivre with a peppercorn sauce, and silky skate wing--a bistro classic--with butternut squash, sage and classic caper-butter sauce. The menu is kept small so that everything can be rendered à la minuit, except of course luscious dishes like the lamb that takes hours and hours of cooking. I can't say too much about the golden frites because they were devoured at my table with such dispatch. The two or three I popped in my mouth were hot, crisp and marvelously meaty.
There is only one cheese, St. Marcelin; desserts, so far, need some work, and I'm told that they are indeed working on them.
Lyon Bouchon Moderne's wine list is all you could hope for in a place like this, with dozens of very fairly priced regional bottlings, many good ones well under $40 a bottle. Or you could order a pot lyonnais, a wine carafe used in bouchons whose colored rubber band indicates what wine is inside, like Côtes-Du-Rhône, Beaujolais, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Lyon Bouchon Moderne seems so charmingly at home here on Greenwich Avenue, which cuts a diagonal through the West Village, and its bonhomie, led by Mr. Latapie and a very amiable staff guarantees you will become an old friend after one visit. Drop into the bar some evening and smell the food aromas; I know you'll want to stay for dinner.
Lyon is open daily for dinner and brunch Sat. & Sun. Appetizers run $10-$14, main courses $21-$29.
Beauty & Essex
(between Stanton &
Social, Rich Wolf, Peter Kane and Executive Chef Chris
their newest restaurant, Beauty &
Essex, just last
month on the Lower
East side, with four unique dining rooms spread out
upstairs and downstairs levels, with two separate bars, both seating
guests each, and a posh low-lit lounge (below) filled with giant leather
and tufted sofas occupied
by trendy guests, most covered by tattoos, all sipping champagne and/or
made winter sangria. The space is huge and the
definitely set to attract a younger, hip audience.
Thai, and all dishes are served in small tapas-style
for sharing. Chef Santos has put
together a menu of bold flavors and combinations, but some dishes
just one final
ingredient, a little extra spice, or simply an extra pinch of salt. The
restaurant is new and producing food for a lot of people, maybe too
once, and everyone is ordering multiple courses and dishes, so it’s
kitchen is going through some growing pains. But once things are
I predict the food will really click.
de crème with coconut Chantilly cream, rich and velvety.
Also worth a try,
the soft, molten
chocolate bread pudding topped with a hazelnut ice cream.
they should be in terms of food and
the potential is evident in chef Santos' dishes, and I will definitely
to dine here, rather than nosh, in the near future.
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A college student who goes only by the
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is controlled by his iPhone. Watch the video display here:
✉ Guidelines for submissions: QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below. Thanks. John Mariani
♥ VALENTINE'S DAY ANNOUNCEMENT: Because of the overwhelming number of events and announcements for Valentine's Day, Virtual Gourmet is unable to include any at this time.
* On Feb. 1, in Brooklyn, NY, The Vanderbilt and Sixpoint Brewery will hold a four course nose-to-tail pig dinner byExecutive Chef Saul Bolton and complete with beer pairings. Free growler of Sixpoint beer is incl. $50 pp; call 718-623-0571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
in Chicago will host an
exclusive wine dinner featuring
Colterenzio Winery featuring 4-course dinner. Letizia Pasini, from
Colterenzio Wine will be on hand to discuss the
wines and menu. $60 pp. Call
312.222.0101 or visit philstefanis437rush.com.
* On Feb 5, Quartino Ristorante in Chicago will celebrate the National Football League Championship Game with flat screen televisions, an open bar and a menu of small bites by Executive Chef John Coletta incl. football favorites like signature pizzas, Italian subs, wings and house-made meatballs. Raffle prizes include a case of wine, Quartino gift certificates and a party worth $200. $50 pp. Call 312-698-5000 or visit quartinochicago.com.
* On Feb. 9, Mimosa Grill in Charlotte, NC, will host a Torii Mor Wine Dinner. Margie Olson will be in attendance to lead guests through the selections and Executive Chef Jon Fortes will present five-course menu. Portions of the proceeds will benefit Johnson & Wales University Student Co-op. $85 pp. 704-343-0700 or visit www.mimosagrill.com.
Restaurant in Beachwood,
OH will host a Delectus wine dinner hosted by winemaker
Gerhard Reisacher with 5 courses prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan
* On Feb. 11, in Chicago, it’s “A Perfect Ten” at Petterino’s 10th Anniv. with an evening of cocktails, dining, song and dance in a supper club setting, situated in the lower level private dining area. Complimentary cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres followed by a four-course menu. Entertainment by Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael, Jimmy Damon, and Nan Mason and Terry Higgins. $95 pp; Call 312-422-0150 or visit petterinos.com.
* On Feb. 11-13, in New Paltz, N.Y., Mohonk Mountain House will host the Art of Chocolate that offers guests the opportunity to learn about chocolate from a team of award-winning pastry chefs, and sample some of the best varieties, in cooking demos with Executive Chef Jim Palmeri and Executive Pastry Chef Eric Smith. Then, enjoy a wine and chocolate pairing and tasting with Oliver Kita, a Paris-trained chocolatier; and a design-your-own-chocolate bar workshop led by best-selling cookbook author Lora Brody. Rates start at $217 pp, per night. Call 800-772.6646 or visit mohonk.com.
Independents, a group of northeast OH-based, locally owned
restaurants, will feature comfort food in each of its 90+ member
* On Feb. 17 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto hosts an Anchor Brewing Co. beer paired dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Devon Boisen. $40 pp. Call 510-845-7771; spengers.com .
* On Feb. 17 in Chicago, Cityscape Bar will host their February "Vino with a View" wine sampling. Guests will enjoy samples of several varietals by Palm Bay International in addition to antipasto trays, cheese and dried fruit. Complimentary. Call 312-836-5000 or visit cityscapebar.com
* On Feb. 18, award-winning cookbook author, Terry Walters, will do a chef demo and book signing at Chicago French Market. Walters will demonstrate 3 recipes from her newest cookbook, Clean Start. On Feb. 19, the Chicago French Market hosts an 8-course tasting brunch with Alpana Singh. The wine-paired brunch features food offerings from the market’s artisan vendors. Attendees receive an autographed copy of Alpana Pours. $40 pp chicagofrenchmarket.com.
```````````````````````````````````````FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up with four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: 25 Best Ski Resorts; Letter from Hawaii.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
The Family Travel Forum - A community for those who "Have Kids, Still Travel" and want to make family vacations more fun, less work and better value. FTF's travel and parenting features, including reviews of tropical and ski resorts, reunion destinations, attractions, holiday weekends, family festivals, cruises, and all kinds of vacation ideas should be the first port of call for family vacation planners. http://www.familytravelforum.com/index.html
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
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