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MY TABLE FOUNDING EDITOR & PUBLISHER

Teresa Byrne-Dodge teresa.byrnedodge@my-table.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR &

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

& DESIGN

Taylor Byrne Dodge taylor@my-table.com

Becca Wright becca@my-table.com

EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Bill Albright Sarah Bronson Eric Gerber Nicholas L. Hall Dragana Arežina Harris Micki McClelland Ellie Sharp Robin Barr Sussman

Melody Yip

ART

Dragana Arežina Harris Chris Hsu Devyn Park Ellie Sharp Cindy Vattathil

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DETAILS My Table magazine is published by Lazywood Press (lazywoodpress.com). A one-year subscription is $30. Some back issues are available, $12 each. CUSTOMER SERVICE Our website lets you change the address on your

account or order a subscription. If you are missing an issue, receive duplicate issues or need to temporarily suspend your subscription, email info@my-table.com. LETTERS For the quickest response, contact the editor via email at teresa.byrnedodge@my-table.com. My Table: Houston’s Dining Magazine (USPS #011972, ISSN #1076-8076). Issue No. 137 (Spring 2017). Published by Lazywood Press at 1733 Harold, Houston, TX 77098. Established January 11, 1994. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced by any means whatsoever without written permission. The opinions expressed by My Table’s writers do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or Lazywood Press. PERIODICALS Postage paid at Houston, TX. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to My Table, 1733 Harold Houston, TX 77098. 713-529-5500 www.my-table.com

SideDish is an email newsletter published by My Table and is packed with restaurant news, wine reviews, recipes, events, give-aways and everything else that celebrates the Houston food world. Sign up today for your free SideDish subscription at my-table.com.

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SIDEDISH


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CONTENTS

24

42 18 HOUSTON SOMMELIERS AND THEIR

8 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

BARGAIN BOTTLE PICKS A case of $20-and-under wine picks from the pros By Robin Barr Sussman

By Teresa Byrne-Dodge

9 ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Get to know a few of My Table's contributors featured in this issue

24 SOUR HOUR: PUCKER UP & PICKLE Three pickling recipes from Rainbow Lodge chef Mark Schmidt Text and photos by Dragana Arežina Harris

10 NOTEWORTHY OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS

12 TABLE TALK

32 CREATURE COMFORTS

What's going on in the Houston restaurant world?

A Probe into the Digestive Life of Genius By Micki McClelland Illustration by Chris Hsu

14 LET'S TALK BALKAN

A look at Bosnian restaurant Cafe Adel By Sarah Bronson Photography by Becca Wright

42 ROMANCING THE ROUX: GUMBOS ON PARADE The best bowls of gumbo around town, plus three chef recipes By Robin Barr Sussman Illustration by Cindy Vattathil

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CONTENTS

102

84 52 PEELING BACK THE HISTORY OF

76 CHEERS TO 50 YEARS OF

1902 FRANKLIN A consideration of how one house in East Downtown is a microcosm for Houston's immigration and food history By David Leftwich

BRENNAN'S OF HOUSTON Raise a glass to 50 years of one of Houston's favorite restaurants. Here's a look back. By Teresa Byrne-Dodge

84 A FAMILY THAT RANCHES TOGETHER

62 REFUGE IN THE RECIPES When Wafdia Ibrahim and daughter Tahani Alajil fled Syria, they brought with them recipes of home By Ellie Sharp

My Table spent the last few months becoming acquainted with four family-owned ranches that are truly local. Take a look at Black Hill Meats, Katerra Exotics, Jolie Vue Farms and 44 Farms By Becca Wright and Taylor Byrne Dodge Photography by Becca Wright and 44 Farms

68 JULEPS THAT JIVE

And Bourbons That Boogie By Nicholas L. Hall Photography by Becca Wright

102 RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Our reviewers visit Relish Restaurant & Bar, Cafe Azur and Killen's STQ By Teresa Byrne-Dodge, William Albright and Eric Gerber

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

It was a June afternoon in 1994, and the two of us were at the local Kwik Kopy to print the first edition of a 12page newsletter called My Table. You might have smiled at the sight of this editor/publisher and then-graphic designer Constance Michiels – both of us wrangling baby boys – trying to proofread the pages. The following weekend my mother helped me stuff the envelopes and print out address labels. We had 65 paid subscribers. A lot has happened since our inaugural issue (pictured at left) slid out of the photocopier. By Issue No. 3, we had added four more pages, and by our second anniversary we had grown to 44 pages. About that same time and after much soul-searching, we began accepting advertising. In December 1996, we printed our first color cover, shed the newsletter look and started referring to My Table as a magazine. The next summer, we got a newsstand distribution contract, which put My Table on magazine racks all over town. Today that squirming baby boy who went with me to the printer is a tall, bearded 24-year-old. My Table magazine has also changed enormously. Since that debut issue, we have developed the Houston Culinary Awards – it celebrated its 20th anniversary last October – and have published three editions of The Ultimate Food Lover’s Guide to Houston (2008, 2011 and 2013). We’ve taken readers on culinary tours in Italy and Mexico. We’ve sponsored countless tastings, contests, cooking classes, fundraisers, seminars and, for the first time last year, a state-wide food photography competition. The magazine, meanwhile, settled into a comfortable rhythm as we churned out six issues a year.

publication schedule from bimonthly to quarterly. No, you did not receive a February-March issue, as we didn’t produce one. Instead, we present you with the first edition of our new, beefier and prettier quarterly magazine devoted to covering the Houston food and drink world. We’ve done some tinkering with the magazine’s editorial line-up, expanding some regular columns and features. A few things have been left behind or have moved over to our website. Table Talk, which chronicles Houston chefs’ comings and goings and other gossipy stuff, remains one of our best-read features, and you’ll find it on page 12. (And if you want even more of the newsy stuff, there’s more on our website.) And of course we have kept Noteworthy Openings and Closings, on page 10. We’ve increased the number of full-length restaurant reviews from two to three (see page 102), as I’ve been sent back into the review-writing trenches to join my old Houston Post colleagues Bill Albright and Eric Gerber. Micki McClelland’s trivia quiz has moved over to the website. The other major part of the 2017 My Table transformation is online. Surfed our website lately? It is the most beautiful thing on the web – colorful and fun and, best of all, easy to use. You’ll find a calendar of upcoming culinary events, an archive (finally!) of all our online articles, quick “looks” at new restaurants, cafes and bars, even a small store for buying subscriptions and other My Table merchandise. Check it out at my-table.com. Change is always a tricky thing, and we hope that you enjoy reading this issue as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. We love feedback. Let us hear from you.

Of course, we can never leave well enough alone, as you will see in this issue. To begin with, we have changed our 8 Teresa Byrne-Dodge, editor/publisher SPRING 2017

ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS HSU

CHANGE IS IN YOUR HANDS


CONTRIBUTORS

GET TO KNOW A FEW OF MY TABLE'S CONTRIBUTORS FEATURED IN THIS ISSUE

Cindy Vattathil

Cindy, a Bohemian mother of two from Houston, Texas, has been saving scraps of paper her whole life. Little did she know they would serve as a channel for her artistic voice. Like Matisse, she has found a youthful happiness when “painting with scissors,” and prefers the medium of collage to her old acrylic paints. Aside from her art, Cindy enjoys clipping coupons, pruning her shrubs and cutting the tags off of her family's clothing. Needless to say, she also owns stock in the Fiskars Corporation. Check out more of her labors at paintingwith scissors.com. FLIP TO PAGE 42 TO SEE CINDY'S GUMBO ARTWORK

Devyn Park

Devyn was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii and received her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. She currently resides in Bellingham, Washington, where she works as an editorial illustrator, designer and occasional printmaker. You can check out her work at devynpark.com or on just about any social media platform @devyn_park. SEE DEVYN'S WORK ON THE COVER

Chris Hsu

Chris, born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, began his creative journey doodling Ninja Turtles over his middle-school notebooks. He graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design and is currently a background artist on the animated FX series Archer in Atlanta. On the side, he is also illustrating his first picture book with Charlesbridge Publishing in Boston. Called The Boo-Boos That Changed the World and set to release in Spring 2018, it celebrates the invention of the Band-Aid. FIND CHRIS' ILLUSTRATION ON PAGE 32

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Robin Barr Sussman Micki McClelland Robin, a native Houstonian, is a fulltime freelance food writer who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone, Calif. As a chef for several Sonoma wineries, she specialized in wine-and-food pairings. Robin’s writing career started with the “Tasting the Town” column for My Table in 1998. Her work now appears in Texas Monthly, Private Clubs, Houston Modern Luxury, Fodor’s Travel, Prime Living, and Emerils. com. Her culinary mission? Great taste. ROBIN ASKS SOMMS FOR THEIR BARGAIN BOTTLE PICKS ON PAGE 18 READ ROBIN'S ARTICLE ON GUMBOS AROUND TOWN ON PAGE 42

Micki has contributed to My Table for 20 years, writing original essays, romancing food and drink in rhyme and song, and creating puzzles and games for our “Quizine” section. She is also an artist, whose work has appeared often in the magazine. Les Dames d’Escoffier International honored Micki with the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing in 2012 and 2015, and the Houston Press Club made her a recipient of the Lone Star Award in 2013. She recently completed a fantasy novel entitled God’s Mother: A Novel Out of Time. FOR MICKI'S BITES BY THE BOOK COLUMN, TURN TO PAGE 32


NOTEWORTHY OPENINGS BRASSERIE DU PARC

1440 Lamar, 832-879-2802, brasserieduparc.net

Chef Philippe Verpiand and his wife Monica Bui, who have Étoile Cuisine et Bar in Uptown Park, unveiled their new Brasserie du Parc just in time for Super Bowl LI. You may notice that this second concept is notably more urban chic with several dining areas and options, and the menu is a little less expensive. To read more about Brasserie du Parc, visit my-table.com/nowopen. FIELD & TIDES

705 E. 11th St. just west of Studewood, 713-861-6143, fieldandtides.com

Travis Lenig left his position at the Liberty Kitchen restaurants and he and business partner Christopher Ramirez acquired the Craftsman bungalow that was previously the home of Zelko Bistro in The Heights. That bungalow has since become their new Field & Tides Restaurant + Bar. The menu is Southern-inspired with touches of Italian, French and Asian. To read more about Field & Tides, visit my-table.com/nowopen. KITCHEN 713

4601 Washington Avenue, #130 just east of Shepherd Drive, 713-842-7114, kitchen713.com

Sandwiched between Miyako and Les Givral’s Kahve just east of Shepherd on Washington Avenue, the new Kitchen 713 sits in the space that used to house Commonwealth (and before that, TQLA). In contrast to the counter-service operation at their original location that

had chef and owners James Haywood and Ross Coleman tag-teaming in the front and back of the house, the new restaurant is full service. To read more about the new Kitchen 713, visit my-table.com/nowopen. MABA PAN-ASIAN DINER

510 Gray St., 832-834-6157, mabahouston.com

Chef/owner Wayne Nguyen of Maba Pan-Asian Diner in Midtown comes from a culinary background rooted in Vietnamese cuisine, but he excels marvelously at a variety of pan-Asian favorites as well. Expect classic dishes such as General Tso’s chicken and fried rice as well as Vietnamese banh mi and pan-seared lemongrass tilapia. Appetizers range from dim sum to chilled beef shank salad, Szechuan-style. To read more about Maba, visit my-table.com/nowopen. NIGHT MARKET 9630 Clarewood Dr., 713-492-2835

Night Market is restaurateur Mike Tran’s newest concept, a nod to Southeast Asia that he created with former Ambrosia chef/owner Rikesh Patel. Tran is already known for Tiger Den (a Japanese ramen eatery) and Mein (a classic Cantonese diner in an upscale setting). At Night Market he and Patel have crafted a menu focusing on aromatic curries and small bites (such as samosas) as well as larger dishes such as saffron salmon and braised goat. The interior’s dark lighting and neon pink sign create an atmosphere that is meant to suggest an actual outdoor night market.

noteworthy closings BLACK & WHITE 1001 Studewood

NIT NOI 6395 Woodway

BLU 2248 Texas Drive, Sugar Land

OCEAN GRILLE & BEACH BAR 1228 Seawall Blvd., Galveston

CANARD 4721 N. Main FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS 4721 N. Main J. BLACK’S FEEL GOOD KITCHEN & LOUNGE 110 S. Heights. Blvd.

MY FIT FOODS all locations 10

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STOKED TACOS & TEQUILA 2416 Brazos SYLVIA’S ENCHILADA KITCHEN 12637 Westheimer

LUV ME TENDERS 4400 Yale MOCKINGBIRD BISTRO 1985 Welch

OXHEART 1302 Nance

TRINITI 2815 S. Shepherd 10

UP 3995 Westheimer

SPRING 2017


ONE FIFTH

1658 Westheimer at Dunlavy, 713-955-1024, onefifthhouston.com

The space that was Mark’s American Cuisine for nearly 20 years is now the site of a local culinary experiment. Underbelly owner/chef Chris Shepherd and partners took over the location and have opened the first of five one-year iterations, each with its own menu, decor, even waiters’ uniforms. One Fifth Steak is the first concept out of the kitchen door. Fancy steaks come from 44 Farms and Marble Ranch and are cooked in cast iron skillets. There’s also a wood-fired oven for sides and a cold bar that spotlights seafood. RIEL 1927 Fairview, 832-831-9109, rielhtx.com

Canadian cuisine might not inspire images of exotic flavors and creatively-plated entrees, but Ryan Lachaine and his team at Riel have assembled Korean, French,

Texan and Ukrainian influences to create a small, often changing menu for open-minded eaters. The large windows looking into the kitchen allow diners to watch culinary staff prepare meals start to finish, and the small bar is a holding room where reservation-less guests guzzle a pre-dinner drink or two. XOCHI 1777 Walker St., 713-400-3330, xochihouston.com

Just when you thought Houston couldn’t possibly need another Mexican restaurant, Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught opened their long-awaited Oaxacan-based concept, Xochi, just days before the Super Bowl hit town. It’s located in the first floor of the new Marriott Marquis downtown. Meanwhile, Hugo’s Cocina, a quick dining offshoot of the original Hugo’s at 1600 Westheimer, has opened inside of Intercontinental Airport of Houston, Terminal D.

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TABLE TALK

O Effecting Change, Creating Improvement

SERVING HOUSTON’S FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANTS FOR OVER 20 YEARS

Congratulations to our clients for their recent openings. Wishing continued success.

ur cookie hero MICHAEL SAVINO will soon open a third outpost with his name on it. MICHAEL’S COOKIE CAFE is set to open at 1864 Fountainview in May, in the same shopping center as Fountain View Cafe and across from H-E-B. Also in the Tanglewood neighborhood, TONY MASRAFF and his son/ partner RUSSELL of MASRAFF’S have announced that MACLANE CAFE will open at 6395 Woodway and will feature “cravable” comfort menu items like mac ’n’ cheese and fried chicken. If you head south on Fountainview, KRISP BIRD & BATTER, a certifiedhumane chicken sandwich concept has just opened at 5922 Richmond in a former Subway location. It’s from chef BEN McPHERSON (previously at PROHIBITION SUPPER CLUB and BATANGA). A second location of Krisp has already been announced for 2400 North Shepherd. JORDAN ECONOMY (formerly chef at BAR BOHEME) is the new chef at PROHIBITION (1008 Prairie), and

he’s reworked the menu of the 1920s burlesque theater and bar to feature more seafood and small plates, in a program he’s calling THE OYSTER BAR. Curiously, just 230 feet to the west and across the street at 1117 Prairie is the newly opened SAM HOUSTON HOTEL restaurant THE PEARL. CHRIS LOFTIS, who has worked in the kitchens of KILLEN’S STEAKHOUSE and the BARBED ROSE, has created a menu with a Gulf land-and-sea focus. opened on February 4 in the former home of BEAUCOUP BAR & GRILL. Headed by ROBBIE MONTGOMERY, a reality TV star on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Montgomery is also the co-owner of the soul food chain restaurant SWEETIE PIES with her son TIM NORMAN. SWEET TIMES

How May We Help You?

Chris Tripoli 281-293-0077 info@alacarteconsultinggroup.com www.alacarteconsultinggroup.com

Speaking of celebrity chefs and restaurateurs, by mid-2018, the brand-new Levy Park (on Eastside between Highway 59 and Richmond in Upper Kirby) will be home to THE WOODSHED, a concept being developed by Restaurant Startup chef TIM LOVE. Love, who hails from Fort Worth, will oversee the park’s food kiosk and beer garden, which will also feature a double-decker bus attraction. In other park restaurant news, JAMIE and DALIA ZELKO’s new restaurant, IVY & JAMES at Evelyn’s Park (4400 Bellaire, at Newcastle) is set to open on April 22, Earth Day. Items like parmesan fries, fried pickles and shrimp and grits are said to be on the menu. Owners of the auto repair space at 2322 Bissonnet (next door to the former KAY’S LOUNGE) in Rice Village have filed permits and begun construction. Set to open in May, BAILESON BREWING COMPANY

will be a small-batch craft brewery with the “dog friendliest” patio. Just off the popular Heights bike path, SPRING STREET BAR & WINE GARDEN hopes to open by mid-May at 1920 Houston Avenue. COOKING GIRL,

the modest but wildly popular Sichuan spot at 315 Fairview, quietly closed this winter, did some light remodeling and reopened a few days later as PEPPER TWINS. As you may know, Pepper Twins, located at 1915 West Gray, is the name of the newer and larger restaurant owned by LILY LUO, who is also co-owner of Cooking Girl with her sister YUNAN YANG. The menu remains more or less the same. PRELUDE COFFEE & TEA, an espresso and tea bar, is on track to open in May at 609 Main inside the Hines Tower. MORNINGSTAR, a sibling

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TABLE TALK concept from the same owners that is located in The Heights, will supply pastries, donuts and other baked goods.

was announced as dissolved last October. the Houston Mexican staple, has signed on to build out its second restaurant in the first floor of forthcoming luxury apartment building The Catalyst at 1475 Texas (at La Branch). Expect a grand Mexican breakfast and an opening date before the 2017 holidays. IRMA’S SOUTHWEST GRILL,

Houston cocktail outpost cultivator BOBBY HEUGEL recently opened TONGUE-CUT SPARROW, and good luck finding it. Here’s a hint: Access it via a staircase inside sister bar THE PASTRY WAR at 310 Main. It seats just 24 guests, and you can make a reservation. PETER JAHNKE is GM. Side note: ELYSE BLECHMAN, who worked behind the bar at neighboring CAPTAIN FOXHEART’S BAD NEWS BAR, is one of the first bartenders for

the Japanese fable-themed den. She recently competed – and won! – the final round of the Texas Speed Rack competition, beating 18 other women on February 19. She’ll go on to compete nationally later this year. OXHEART owners JUSTIN YU and KAREN MAN announced late last

year that they would close their highly regarded (albeit tiny) restaurant on March 15, 2017. After some remodeling and a change in focus, a new restaurant from Yu will open in its place as early as May. Additionally, Houstonians can expect a “comfortable neighborhood space” from Yu and Heugel to open sometime this year at 544 Yale, in a space that was previously DRY CREEK CAFE. Heugel and KEVIN FLOYD, who previously represented the CLUMSY BUTCHER restaurant-and-bar group together, recently traded interests in several of Houston bars they founded as partners over the last five years. Floyd gave his interest in THE NIGHTINGALE ROOM, THE PASTRY WAR and ANVIL BAR & REFUGE to Heugel while Heugel did the same with his stake in HAY MERCHANT, BLACKSMITH and UNDERBELLY. The Clumsy Butcher group

A second location of VINO & VINYL, the wine-and-record retail and tasting tavern in Missouri City, has opened in the former AURA BRASSERIE space at 15977 City Walk in Sugar Land. TORI BERGERSEN is chef.

Top 100 Restaurants ‒ Alison Cook 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Houston’s 100 Best Restaurants “Instant Classics”

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JUDY HENRICHSEN, the dynamo previously at BROTHERS PRODUCE

and elsewhere, has joined the HOUSTON FOOD BANK as the agriculture industry manager. If your farm or distribution company wants to offload produce or meat, she’s the person to contact. After eight years of wine service, ANGIE CHANG has parted ways with SONOMA WINE BAR & RESTAURANT. Angie will be traveling, and we hope to see her in Houston dining rooms again soon. Wine bar CAMERATA recently welcomed new GM CHRIS POLDOIAN to its roster of knowledgeable sommeliers. PAX AMERICANA owners DAN ZIMMERMAN and SHEPARD ROSS have promoted chef de cuisine MARTHA DE LEON to executive chef. OMAR PERENEY, the brilliant 22-year-old executive chef at PESKA, has left the restaurant, which also recently revamped its concept. PESKA SEAFOOD CULTURE is now PESKA SEAFOOD & STEAKS.

Dogfriendly patio!

There’s a whole lot more chatter! To keep up with restaurant openings and closings and industry personalities moving and shaking, visit my-table.com/tabletalk. 13

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3215 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77098 713.522.1934 • giacomosciboevino.com


CAFE ADEL'S MEZA PLATE

14 SPRING 2017


MIGRATING TASTE

LET'S TALK BALKAN By Sarah Bronson Photography by Becca Wright

Again I find myself telling you to seek out a certain unassuming eatery to the northwest, not far off Highway 290. I am learning to love the sprawl, you see. It means there’s room for everything. Inside the modest-sized restaurant called Cafe Adel, calm yellow walls contrast with reddish-brown paneling and handsome tile, and upbeat music plays in the background. We are later told the music, like the menu, is Bosnian. “When people come here, I want them to take away a piece of our culture,” says Anel Abdulovic, the owner.

a bright-tasting, mildly sweet dip. Other red peppers are roasted, sliced and brined with herbs. We amuse ourselves juxtaposing different small bites atop pieces of lepinia, a round bread resembling pita but much fluffier. Meza is a must-have at every Bosnian get-together and always includes similar things, says Abdulovic. The Abdulovic family left their hometown of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of the Bosnian War and started over in Houston. Of the war, Abdulovic says, “It’s a sad thing that happened, no matter who it happened to or why it happened, no matter what religion people belong to. What happened back home is something I hope never happens again anywhere in the world. But it brought me here, so in a certain way it gave me a new beginning.”

Dushanka, our server, is also a family friend. She is animated, alternating between languages as she chats with each group of guests. When she suggests we try the meza, a classic Bosnian appetizer, we take her advice without hesitation. She soon brings a wooden slab to make small-plate lovers clap. Charcuterie joins cheeses soft and firm, olives and peppers done different ways. A luscious fat sliver outlines slices of smoked beef. Spreadable, crumbly kajmak (KAI-mahk) mixes feta and ricotta. The ajvar (EYE-var) purees red pepper, eggplant and garlic into

That move was nearly 20 years ago. Here in Houston, Abdulovic attended Lee High School and the University of Houston-Downtown. After several years working in restaurants, a line of work they had begun back home, the family opened their own restaurant for the first time in February 2013. “My mom was always a great cook, so that’s how we decided to go into business. That’s how I guess the adventure started,” Abdulovic says.

15 SPRING 2017


Everything at Cafe Adel is made fresh from scratch every day and hews closely to tradition. Abdulovic says, “My mother makes it the way she learned, the way she used to make it at home, the old Bosnian way that my grandmother used.” The same food, he says, can be hard to find elsewhere.

onion and rice and served with buttery mashed potatoes. Tomato sauce invigorates the whole thing, and the sarma satisfies as its own meal.

Bosnian cuisine resembles Greek, Turkish and other Mediterranean food, “but we add our own flavor,” Abdulovic explains. For example, many of the cooked dishes are seasoned with vegeta, a kind of dry condiment made of salt, spices and dried vegetables. We surmise vegeta had a hand in Cafe Adel's comforting beef stew with mashed potatoes and rich gravy, embodying the home-cooked feel Adbulovic talks about.

Another traditional must-have is Bosnian pita, not to be confused with the flatbread the name may remind you of; it’s actually a pastry wrapped in a spiral around a hearty filling. “My mom stretches the phyllo dough herself on the table here,” Abdulovic says. A bit sturdier than other phyllos, the warm pastry crunches, flakes and blends into a tasty spinach center. We can’t get enough of the beef sausage pita and especially the spinach and cheese pita, best when spread with more of the kajmak. Other kinds, like potato pita, are available if other diners don’t order them all first.

Some dishes are shared between Balkan and other cuisines, marking the footprints of former empires but bearing the imprint of their own region. An example is leafy greens rolled around a flavorful filling, a technique that shows up in many Mediterranean dishes. Grape leaves, collard greens and cabbage take this form at Adel. We try sarma, or cabbage rolls, filled with ground beef,

A classic sandwich here is the ćevapčići, or beef links between pieces of crusty bread, altogether so wide we ended up taking the thing one half at a time. The sausage is less brashly spiced than most, but not to its detriment, and it forgoes any rubbery casing. We’re told all the meats are mixed in house and seasoned simply, with garlic, olive oil and black pepper. The sandwich can

ĆEVAPČIĆI

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CABBAGE ROLLS

ANEL ABDULOVIC, OWNER

be dressed to your liking with lots of kajmak and fresh minced white onions.

long-handled pot that helped us control the thickness of the famously thick liquid.

The crowd at Adel tends toward international, as the restaurant draws a strong following of lunchgoers from the Energy Corridor representing multiple continents. But on the weekends, more Bosnians come. Abdulovic says the community of Bosnians in the Houston area is relatively small, spread out and integrated into the American way of life, but traditions of food have remained. “Years pass, kids grow up, we get older, and we get more Americanized. But one thing that never changes is the food, and that’s what I see with the guests here.”

I ask Abdulovic what the transition from Mostar to Houston was like, and he admits to some culture shock, but he also observes that his time here has changed him. “It takes some getting used to, but you adjust, and now even when I go home and visit, I kind of miss here and kind of want to come back,” he says. “You get used to the fast pace of life, always moving around and working. Back home, life is much more relaxed. “I’ve adjusted myself to the American life, and I’ve married a Colombian wife. But as far as the food, I always want my Bosnian food. That’s the one thing I cannot get away from.”

On another of our visits, Dushanka lets us know there’s a lamb shank today, and we take her up on it. Served on somewhat bland rice, the tender lamb is plentiful yet manageable, giving up its hold on the bone when turned.

CAFE ADEL,

13110 FM 529 at N. Eldridge Pkwy, 713466-1331, cafeadelhouston.com.

Desserts here, too, have their own character. We didn’t get around to trying any but were told about the palačinka, or crepes; the baklava; hurmasica, a kind of cookie; and tufahija, a poached apple stuffed with walnuts and served cold. We did finish a meal with nicely steeped Turkish coffee, which we poured from a gorgeous

*Want to have Bosnian cuisine at your next event? Cafe Adel recently launched a catering menu. Give them a call. Sarah Bronson is an editor of academic manuscripts, essayist on everything, and intrepid folk dancer. Hit her up on @usewordsbetter.

17 SPRING 2017


HOUSTON SOMMELIERS

r d i e n a th

BARGAIN BOTTLE PICKS A case of $20-and-under wine picks from the pros The perfect wine straddles a line between intensity and sumptuousness with evocative aromas that dazzle your senses and layers of complexity. It boasts a lasting finish, enhances your meal and invites you to pour another glass. Sure, we all want this in each and every bottle of wine. But is it possible to get it all for $20 or under? “Absolutely!� say these 10 local wine pros. Here are their recommendations.

By Robin Barr Sussman

18 SPRING 2017


1 WINE PICK 2013

G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso, Nebbiolo/ Barbera/Dolcetto, Piedmont, Italy “I’m always on the hunt for wines that deliver more than I expect for the price. This red blend is a perfect marriage of dark and red fruit with hints of tobacco and baking spice. Its juicy, plush texture is balanced by just the right amount of tannin and acidity. Pair it with grilled duck or lamb, or it would be perfect with hearty rabbit cacciatore. L’chaim!” PRICE $16.99 BUY IT AT Houston Wine Merchant

PHOTO BY DEBORA SMAIL

Shepard Ross

Sommelier/restaurateur at Pax Americana and Brooklyn Athletic Club

2 WINE PICK Naveran

Wine director at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Iron Sommelier 2014

3 WINE PICK Puianello

PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT

Rachel DelRocco

Texsom Best Sommelier 2016, associate at Camerata Wine Bar

Cava Brut Nature sparkling wine,

Spain 2014 “It can be challenging to find quality sparkling wine on a budget, but this over-delivers for the price. This cava bursts with crisp green apple and tropical flavors and a little salinity and biscuity goodness. It’s good on its own, and you don’t feel guilty using it for a high-quality brunch mimosa.” PRICE $15 BUY IT AT Spec’s

PHOTO COURTESY OF PAPPAS

Steven McDonald

19

L’Incontro Lambrusco Barghi, Emilia-Romagna, Italy “I’m a sucker for bubbly, especially when it’s Italian, and this lovely frizzante has a depth of red fruit while still coming across dry and floral with an earthy structure. It’s a perfect way to start getting into rosé season, and I think Lambrusco can be a food-pairing miracle for leftover hibernation food to bright, light dishes of spring.” PRICE $14.50 BUY IT AT Vinology

SPRING 2017


Domaine de Noblaie Chinon Blanc 2015 “In preparation for the LoireFest 2017 festivities, everyone should drink Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. For every reason: to pair with food, to sip as an aperitif or because it’s 4 pm on Friday. This white Chenin Blanc is bone dry, but a rich and beautiful expression of the grape variety.” PRICE $19.99 BUY IT AT Premier Fine Wine & Spirits WINE PICK

PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM

David Keck

4

Master sommelier

5

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCC

Christian Varas

Sommelier at River Oaks Country Club, Houston Iron Sommelier 2016

PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT

David Cook

Sommelier at Prego and Third Coast restaurant

6

WINE PICK Tamarack

Cellars Firehouse Red, Columbia Valley, Washington 2014 “Composed of 10 different grape varieties from several Washington viticulture areas, Firehouse Red still manages to display a sense of place. Medium-bodied and juicy, expect bright flavors of tart cherries, blue fruits and strawberry jam, finishing with smoky vanilla, tobacco and cedar notes. It resembles a modern-style, bolder Bordeaux blend, but with grape varieties associated with wine regions spanning the Old and New Worlds. If barbecue is your thing, here’s your match.” PRICE $20 BUY IT AT Central Market, HEB, Spec’s, Total Wine

2015 Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d’Asti “Vietti winery continues to produce some of the greatest wine in the Piedmont region. And this slightly effervescent, frizzante wine made from 100 percent Moscato grapes shines as an example of undeniable deliciousness. Aromas of juicy white and yellow peaches jump from the glass, and on the palate it shows beautiful complexity with notes of pink flowers, subtle ginger spice and the perfect amount of sweetness. Enjoy with spicy Asian cuisine, a fruit-laden dessert or a decadent blue cheese.” PRICE $17 BUY IT AT Houston Wine Merchant. 20 WINE PICK

SPRING 2017


7

WINE PICK Domaine

de la Fruitière, Muscadet Sèvre & Maine sur Lie, Gneiss de Bel Abord, 2015 “This French white is begging to be enjoyed with cold seafood on a hot day. It’s intensely crisp with mouthwatering acidity and fruity notes of peach and pear. Show up to a pool party with this chilled bottle, and your friends will be impressed.” PRICE $19.99 BUY IT AT Houston Wine Merchant

PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER

Wendi Lambert

Sommelier and GM at SaltAir Seafood Kitchen

8 2014 Onward Skin Fermented Malvasia Bianca, Suisun Valley, California “Made by the lovely Faith Armstrong Foster, this wine is a fantastic white to enjoy with food. The wine spends three weeks on the skins and boasts floral aromas with citrus and melon, with mineral notes and great acidity but very round on the palate.” PRICE $20 BUY IT AT Houston Wine Merchant, Spec’s or Underbelly WINE PICK

PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER

Matthew Pridgen

9 WINE PICK 2014

Wine director at Underbelly and One Fifth

21

Dashe “Les Enfants Terribles” McFadden Farm Zinfandel, Potter Valley, Mendocino, California “This atypical yet terrific Zinfandel is made in the style of Beaujolais with about 10 percent of the grapes undergoing carbonic fermentation, resulting in a fresh, light and vibrant wine full of raspberry and blackberry aromas and flavor along with hints of earth and spice. Great with a little chill and barbecue.” PRICE $20 BUY IT AT Spec’s

SPRING 2017 SPRING 2017

17


10

WINE PICK Kir-Yianni

“Akakies” Sparkling Rosé of Xinomavro 2015 “This Greek wine is sheer delight in a glass. Crisp effervescence, orange peel, hibiscus, cranberry and vibrant red cherries make this the ideal sparkler to sip on a lazy, hazy evening.” PRICE $20 BUY IT retail or taste it at Helen Greek Food & Wine

PHOTO BY JESSICA ATTIE

Evan Turner

Wine director at Helen Greek Food & Wine and Arthur Ave, Houston Iron Sommelier 2015

11 2014 True Myth Chardonnay, Edna Valley, California “Full of pineapple and pear notes, and a mineral wet stone undertone, this Chardonnay demonstrates all the flavors I think of for spring. It has the subtle creaminess that California Chardonnay is known for, but it is balanced by refreshing acidity, making it perfect for lighter dishes like roasted chicken or grilled fish.” PRICE $15.99 BUY IT AT Houston Wine Merchant, Spec’s and Richard’s WINE PICK

PHOTO COURTESY OF HWM

Allison Conner

12

CSW, WSET Advanced, associate at Houston Wine Merchant

2015 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia “Here’s my favorite go-to wine for the summer, since its crispness reminds me of drinking a cold glass of water. Usually Riesling is associated with sweet – and some are – but this Australian wine is completely dry with fragrant aromas of lemons, limes and white flowers. Its refreshing acidity and intensity of flavors pair great with oysters, crawfish and Thai food.” PRICE $17.99 BUY IT AT Houston Wine Merchant. WINE PICK

22

Robin Barr Sussman regularly writes My Table's Tasting the Town column on page 42.

SPRING 2017

22

SPRING 2017


Tapas, Paella & Wine in Rice Village

Chef/Sommelier Pedro Angel Garcia

2425 University Blvd. 713.522.9306 www.elmeson.com

K e v i n M c G owa n Photography print & web commercial photography

23 SPRING 2017

www.kevinmcgowan.com


ac

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Pucker Up & Pickle

It’s almost spring, and no doubt you’re ready to replace your diet of winter roots and squashes with bright and sunny vernal fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes and chile peppers will be abundant soon, while the best short-seasoned blackberries can be found at your farmers’ market or on a roadside bramble.

tangy

While most produce is delicious consumed fresh, adding a little sugar, salt, vinegar and spice – that is, pickling – changes the texture and flavor profiles of many fruits and vegetables. Pickling foods has been a culinary activity for thousands of years, extending the edible life of foods when necessary. Pickled foods also provide the gut with probiotic bacteria, which aids digestion.

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Text and photos by Dragana Arežina Harris


For an update on techniques and his creative spin on pickling, I turned to executive chef Mark Schmidt at the Rainbow Lodge, which occupies a century-old hunting cabin on White Oak Bayou near the North Loop. At the restaurant, Schmidt harvests much of his produce from the surrounding organic gardens planted by the restaurant’s owners Donnette Hansen and Sheila Shell. These gardens always include tomatoes, greens and citrus fruits, as well as honey from the restaurant’s own hives. Schmidt recommends fruits and vegetables at the peak of their ripeness for best pickling results. Since the focus of the restaurant’s menu is wild game and Gulf seafood, pickling adds new twists to Schmidt's famous game burgers, salads, duck, venison, rabbit and other wild offerings. “Pickled foods can heighten cheese trays, oatmeal, yogurt and salads due to their complex sweet, spiced and tart character and varied textures,” says Schmidt. Certain chutneys fall under the pickling umbrella if they contain vinegar, fresh fruit and spices, and that’s

why we have included a chutney recipe here. My grilled cheese sandwich using Schmidt’s cherry tomato chutney and cave-aged cheddar is a brilliant pairing. The acidity in the chutney perfectly complements the rich and earthy cheese. These three recipes were made using a “quick pickling” method. They are very easy to make and exclude traditional canning methods; therefore, they are not suitable for long-term storage. Instead, keep them refrigerated and consume them within the time specified in each recipe. It’s still necessary to sterilize the jars in which the pickles will be stored. To sterilize the jars: Wash jars in soapy water. Rinse well in hot water. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place jars on baking sheet and place in a preheated 250˚F oven for 10 to 15 minutes while you’re preparing the recipe. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven and fill jars immediately. Boil lids for jars in water for one minute. Close lids and rings tightly and allow pickles to cool before refrigerating.

25 SPRING 2017


Chef Mark Schmidt

26 SPRING 2017


Pickled Blackberries Recipe courtesy of Mark Schmidt of Rainbow Lodge

METHOD: Rinse

and dry blackberries and place in a sterilized quart jar.

Toast cinnamon stick, bay leaves, star anise pieces and juniper berries in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until the spices become fragrant, being careful that they do not burn. Add cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt to spices. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and pour the mixture over the blackberries. Cool and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator and consume within three weeks. YIELD: about 1 quart. Excellent with pork or duck dishes.

3 pints fresh blackberries 1 cinnamon stick 3 bay leaves 2 whole star anise, broken into pieces 12 juniper berries 1 cup apple cider vinegar 1 cup water ½ cup sugar Ÿ cup kosher salt

27 SPRING 2017 SPRING 2017

27


Cherry Tomato Chutney Recipes courtesy of Mark Schmidt of Rainbow Lodge

METHOD: Combine

water, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients in a small bowl and allow them to marinate while the liquid is reducing. When the syrup is ready, add the tomato mixture and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, pack into sterilized jar. Cool and refrigerate until ready for use. YIELD: about 1 pint WRITER'S TIP: A

grilled cheese sandwich using Schmidt’s cherry tomato chutney and cave-aged cheddar is a brilliant pairing.

METHOD:

1 cup water ¼ cup rice wine vinegar ½ cup sugar 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced ¼ cup red onion, diced 2 tsp. grated fresh gingerroot 1 Tbsp. cilantro (chopped) 2 tsp. Madras curry powder 1 tsp. garam masala (available in Indian markets or import section of your grocery store) ½ tsp. salt pinch of red pepper flakes

Bread & Butter Pickled Jalapeños

Rinse jalapeño peppers. If you’re sensitive to capsaicin – the compound in chili peppers that can be an irritant to some – proceed wearing food-safe gloves. Trim stem end and discard. Using an apple corer, remove the seeds if you prefer mild pickled jalapeños. For very spicy pickled jalapeños, leave some or all of the seeds intact. Slice jalapeños lengthwise for larger slices, or crosswise for bread and butter style slices. Peel and quarter each onion. Slice thinly. Set jalapeños and onions aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When mixture comes to a boil, add the jalapeños and onions and return to a boil. Cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pack mixture into sterilized jars, cool and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Store jalapeños in refrigerator for up to one month. YIELD: 1 quart 28 SPRING 2017

1 lb. jalapeño peppers ½ lb. yellow onions ½ cup apple cider vinegar ½ cup water ½ cup sugar ½ tsp. celery seed 1 cinnamon stick ¼ tsp. yellow mustard seed 1 tsp. ground turmeric 2 Tbsp. kosher salt


Dragana AreĹžina Harris is a life-long food, wine and travel enthusiast. She blogs about food at draganabakes. blogspot.com and dabbles in chocolate at dragana-bakes.com

29 SPRING 2017


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30 SPRING 2017


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BITES BY THE BOOK

CREATURE COMFORTS At The Lake With

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont & John Polidori

A Probe Into the Digestive Life of Genius Their lives were already as twisted as an alimentary canal. No one involved expected life to become even more convoluted, so of course it did.

That summer it rained enough at Villa Diodati to raise suspicions that God might have gone back on his promise to abstain from drowning the whole silly world a second time. The fact that genius was wandering around inside the château allowed them to ignore God for the present. That their view of Lake Geneva was impeded by the downpour did not sour their moods, as a challenge of the most creative nature had just been suggested by Lord Byron.

By Micki McClelland Illustration by Chris Hsu 33 SPRING 2017


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, née Godwin, was just 11 days old when her firebrand feminist mother died from childbirth complications. Subsequently given a “boy’s education,” she was schooled at home by her father, a combustive man of radical socialist leanings who took pride in the condemnation of nosy neighbors who said his London house on Skinner Street was a wasp’s nest of godless anarchists, subversive agitators, children’s book writers, poets, fans of Napoleon and people who knew how to make bombs. At his table William Godwin entertained guests of liberal sensibilities, all sitting glued to the philosopher’s reactionary viewpoint, and none paying the least bit attention to the food.

“In my father’s house we might eat, but were never allowed to talk of eating.”

At one dinner party that ended with all guests being treated to William Godwin’s favorite beverage – a smoky green tea he called “gunpowder” – 16-year-old Mary came into the dining room to say goodnight to her father. Immediately struck by a lightning bolt of passion, it was Mary’s first encounter with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. That Shelley was seated next to his wife Harriet, a lady dressed in purple satin whose complexion reminded Mary of peach fuzz, was of minor importance. The teenager was smitten beyond redemption, and the 22-year-old married Shelley seemed to be of the same emotional state. Shelley’s lifelong friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, made note of the meeting with an explanation of the attraction.

“Bysshe looked as he always looked, wild, intellectual, unearthly, like a spirit just descended from the sky, like a demon risen at that moment from the ground.”

But there were also a couple of serpents seated at the dining table who witnessed the sparks flying between young Mary and the handsome poet. Years earlier, when William Godwin married his second wife, the widow Mary Jane Clairmont and she became Mary Godwin’s stepmother, it didn’t take long for “wicked” to be tacked on to “stepmother” – the two females loathed one another.

With wicked stepmother’s daughter Claire Clairmont also installed at Skinner Street in the role of stepsister – “the bane of my existence since age three,” Mary once noted – a love-hate cocktail, flavored with jealousy, became the sisters’ shared cup of poison. Once Claire figured out that Mary was in love with a poet, Claire pouted, demanding that she, too, deserved to have a poet of her own. Thus, Lord Byron got stirred into the mix. George Gordon Byron was a difficult man to love, although many women had tried to win his sustained ardor. Byron’s love affair with himself rendered him a fickle paramour, one who would take and toss, treating lovers like so many used hankies. An arrogant man of self-confirmed opinion, belly fat was detestable to him. Fearing a susceptibility to blubbering up should he overeat, while a student at Cambridge Lord Byron made the decision to thenceforth dine like a sparrow, to no longer indulge his cravings, to eat only potatoes drenched in vinegar and butter-less biscuits and drink only soda water. Since his resolution for abstinence lapsed with startling frequency, he neutralized binges of food and drink with large doses of magnesia. Able to forgive himself whenever he went off the austere diet wagon, Lord Byron held no such generosity toward the eating habits of the opposite sex.

“A woman should never be seen eating or drinking unless it be lobster salad and Champagne – the only true and feminine viands.”

Convinced that obesity led to slovenly behavior and dullness of mind, Lord Byron declared that people of excessive girth were “criminals against refinement and aesthetic taste.” An instant friendship had blossomed when he met Percy Shelley, based mostly on the fact that Shelley’s slim physique doubtlessly meant the poet had an agile mind. Lord Byron’s assessment received a boost of confidence when he learned Shelley was a devout vegetarian. The iconoclastic Romantics of the day believed killing animals for food to be murder most foul. Limiting the diet to nuts, dry toast, dandelions, a pear, gave the eater a place at the table with Ovid, Plutarch, Milton, Rousseau and, perhaps, even a Muse or two. 34

SPRING 2017


In Shelley’s judgment, the French Revolution had occurred simply to end the carnivorous appetites of the French nobility. “Think about it,” said the poet to the poet, “it is only the wealthy that can indulge in the unnatural craving for dead flesh.” And Shelley lugged his allegiance to vegetarianism to a venue even loftier than France when he declared that in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve had tried their darndest to stick to eating only fruits and vegetables. “Come now Byron, surely you can see that meat-eating was the cause of the Fall.” Whereas Shelley was delicate in disposition, “frail and boyish” in form, and stayed true to his stated dietary proscriptions, the swaggering, narcissist Byron often strayed, allowing himself brief strolls through the clovered fields of sin, mainly for a change of scene: “Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter/ Sermons and soda water the day after.” And because what Byron adored most in the world was to attend a party where gaiety danced with the ridiculous – a wild bash where to be raped by liquor was the only fate possible for trembling, effeminate sobriety – Byron, like John Belushi, was a world-class party animal.

“Yesterday I dined out with a large-ish party … like other parties of the kind it was first silent, then talky, then argumentative, then disputatious, then unintelligible, then altogethery, then inarticulate, then drunk … but I carried away much wine, and the wine had previously carried away my memory; so that all was hiccup and happiness for the last hour or so, and I am not impregnated with any of the conversation.”

Shelley had a different viewpoint concerning the ills awaiting those who ingested demon spirits. In a speaking voice that unfortunately resembled a fishwife’s shrillish scold he proclaimed: “How many thousands have become murderers and robbers, bigots and domestic tyrants, dissolute and abandoned adventurers, from the use of fermented liquors?”

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“It had a silver rim and the naked inner bone receives the wine. A man must be either very drunk or very thirsty before he would taste wine out of such a goblet.”

Though a teetotaler, that his illicit affair with young Mary Godwin cast him in the role of dissolute adventurer did not occur to Shelley. Not even when his 21-year-old wife Harriet committed suicide by drowning herself in London’s Lake Serpentine did the poet regret his cruel abandonment of the poor lady. Shelly had found another 16-year-old to run off with. (Indeed, poor Harriet, too, had been just 16 when he’d run off with her.) When Mary sneaked out of her father’s house to travel with Shelley and stepsister Claire to Switzerland, her reputation in English society was irrevocably trashed. Upon reaching Villa Diodati, Lord Byron’s rented retreat near Lake Geneva, their host offered a Byronic bromide to assuage despair: “Cheer up, Mary, we prefer hating our fellow Englishmen from a distance.” Why had Claire come along with the lovers? Crossing the Alps together on their way to visit Byron, the threesome presented “an irregular ménage,” in Mary’s estimation, one that moved her to lambast her stepsister: “You dragged us across Europe chasing a man who doesn’t want you anymore.” And there was truth in the assessment, as Lord Byron, after a brief dalliance with her in England, had quickly tired of Claire. In a note to his own sister, Byron explained why he might consider a second round of dallying now that Claire insisted upon hanging around the villa.

“I could not exactly play stoic with a woman who had scrambled 800 miles to unphilosophize me. Besides I had been regaled of late with so many – two courses and a dessert of aversion, nice to take a little love by way of novelty.”

The rascal had no shame. But he did have ideas. Drinking Vin de Graves from a human skull he'd crafted into a goblet, Byron flaunted his Bohemian indulgences with an eye on the lookout for anyone who would dare reproach his eccentricities. During a visit years later, the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne had something to say about the skull. Twirling his walrus mustache, Hawthorne made no attempt to hide the sneer:

But prior to Hawthorne’s scorn, those present at Villa Diodati during the “wet and ungenial summer” of 1816 – it later became known as the Year Without a Summer and was caused by the massive 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies – did not consider their host an oddball. Rather, they gathered round him like supplicants, adoring each melodious word that climbed up from what they all agreed were vocal chords formed of a most masculine tremor. Mary, in fact, developed a bit of a crush on Byron: “His voice roused the deep-seated emotion of my mind.” But she did not act upon the attraction, as she had to keep an eye on Shelley who was sniffing around Claire, actively pursuing his stated proclivity for “sexual freedom, and a life filled with many lovers.” Still, it was Byron who demanded and succeeded at being the center of attention. Claire, like a dog grown tiresome from too much begging, obediently waited for a pat on the head from the great man. Mild-mannered Shelley would sit up late with his flamboyant poet-inkind host trying to get a word in edgewise, all the while knowing that Byron was “as mad as the winds.” Mary sat, too, but was smart enough to keep her mouth shut, for Byron claimed to loathe women who “put on a show of learning.” Rounding out the company was John Polidori, a young writer and physician Byron had saved from committing suicide earlier in the year, but one who Byron now demeaned as “Polly-Dolly,” since the fawning young man couldn’t be rid of. The viper of jealousy wriggling in Polidori’s breast bared its fangs at Shelley, for the beautiful poet had become the apple of Byron’s eye, replacing Polly-Dolly whose apple apparently was cooked. For revenge Polidori tried to make love to Mary, who laughed him off. He flirted with Claire, who also rebuffed him. He challenged Shelley to a duel, and in the throes of manic frustration, kicked Byron in the pants

37 SPRING 2017


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when the poet bent over to retrieve a renegade pocket square. When in days to come the party really got going, Polidori would turn his anger and jealousy into creating a monster equally as horrific as the monster contrived by Mary. But before the game began that gave the literary world two of its most admired evildoers, the group entertained themselves by gathering round the fireplace to retell old German ghost stories. Although distracted for a time by recitations of the well-worn tales, they soon grew bored. As everyone knows, boredom often leads to thoughts of food. Eating, like heavy drinking, often offers an escape from debilitating ennui. At rainsoaked Villa Diodati Byron would chew tobacco and chain-smoke cigars so as not to give in to raiding the kitchen larder. Shelley chain-drank sugarless tea, for both he and Mary had given up drinking “blood-sweetened” tea in protest against slave labor used on sugar plantations. Claire fiddled and nibbled bacon. But for Mary – and, strangely enough, for strange Polidori – boredom never entered their minds. Instead they patiently waited for Byron to explode with some brilliant new idea. He did not fail them:

“We will each write a ghost story.”

Enthusiastic to make a try at it, Mary elaborated on the assignment: “A story that speaks to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awakens thrilling horror – one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.” Even at the tender age of 19 Mary embraced the notion that creation is a tempest and imagination a storm. She set upon the task with the zeal of a dervish.

M “ y novel commenced partly as a source of amusement, partly for exercising the untried resources of the mind. While in England I would read books sitting at my mother’s grave – not an act of horror, but to declare war on stuffy conventions. My Creature too is different, is separated from mankind in general, is shunned and violently rejected from admittance into humanity’s private circle. I have railed against the petty prejudices of the world, and to that purpose I HAVE MADE MY MONSTER A VEGETARIAN.”

In the early 19th century normal, everyday people thought vegetarianism to be against God, against the normal, natural order. Disapproval went so far as to suggest vegetarianism was an attack on motherhood, as it booted Mother out of the traditional kitchen where she was expected to be roasting meat all the day long. Historian James Turner tried to explain

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the Romantic viewpoint by pointing out that “Radical politics and other unorthodox notions went hand-in-glove with their vegetarianism.” In her novel Frankenstein Mary allows the re-animated Creature – the pariah, the outcast – to explain why he can’t play nice with others: “My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” With a wry smile Lord Byron watched as Mary Shelley and John Polidori scribbled non-stop, filling pages with images conjured in the dark wells of their imagination. Refusing to give up his wine that summer – “It’s so wet out of doors, what’s a man to do” – Byron continued to wear thick wool sweaters to force perspiration, to lose the liquid of dissipation. In fairness he did try to stick to a diet of vinegar and rice to achieve the “fashionably thin and pale look” of the Romantics, but wine he refused to give up. However, what he did toss away was creative story-writing. And not just Byron’s effort at writing horror was abandoned, but Shelley also dropped the pen and crumbled up his paper. Claire did not even try.

“The illustrious poets, annoyed by the platitude of prose, speedily relinquished their uncongenial task.”

At game’s end, Mary – in no way annoyed by the platitude of prose – presented her Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus, and John Polidori read aloud his effort, a work entitled The Vampyre, which is regarded as the first modern vampire story and deals with blood as food fit for a monster. Yes, believe it: Two of the world’s classic horror stories were born on the same rainy weekend.

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Byron’s assessment of Mary’s story was generous: “An amazing work by a girl of 19.” But the poet threw no garlands at Polidori. Some said the vampyre-writer’s suicide at age 25 can be traced to Byron’s snub, but malnourishment was the more likely cause. Polidori lost his appetite at Villa Diodati. In October 1816 Shelley wrote in his journal: “On this day Mary put her head through the door and said ‘Come look, here’s a cat eating roses – now the beast will turn into a woman.’” Fanciful maybe; but the notion of a metamorphosis that changes human to beast or beast to human – the idea that transformation can be a startling, even punishing, process – influenced the writing of Frankenstein. That and the horror imposed on the brain when it is fed only acorns, dry biscuits and unsweetened green tea. Micki McClelland has contributed to My Table for 20 years, writing original essays, romancing food and drink in rhyme and song, and creating puzzles and games for our “Quizine” section, now published online at my-table.com.

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THE FUN STARTS HERE! LOCATIONS ALL ACROSS HOUSTON (713) 526-8787 SPECSONLINE.COM


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ole cre

ons • soulful • a • oni n d o u i 42 SPRING 2017

pepper • flour • z e • red s t y

ILLUSTRATIONS BY CINDY VATTATHIL

• b r a o r u c x • • y c oyste i p s • r• ell

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e c i r • • s h n r imp u j a c • • c a u r ko


ROMANCING THE ROUX

s o b m u G On

e d a r Pa

Houston chefs are stirring the pot with terrific gumbo creations boasting deep flavors and oodles of spice. Prefer dark oil-based Cajun style with fragrant filé powder and spicy meat, or a lighter and more refined tomato-tinged Creole roux? Is okra a must, or perhaps you crave straight seafood? Pick your style and dig in – it’s all here in the Bayou City.

By Robin Barr Sussman

43 SPRING 2017


TASTING THE TOWN

GUSTY GUMBOS BRENNAN’S OF HOUSTON

KITCHEN 713

4601 Washington Ave., 713-842-7114

3300 Smith, 712-522-9711

The whole kitchen sink. The signature gumbo at this recently transplanted foodie haven is a little pricey and only available by the bowl (and they could sell out by the time you get there). But it’s packed with andouille sausage, chicken, turkey, plump shrimp, rice and lump crabmeat. The deep brown and glossy roux is made with a seafood base and seasoned properly with pepper and spices but, alas, a little too much salt. PRICE: $16/bowl SCORE: 8

Holy Grail gumbo. For his addicting Hunter’s Duck and Collard Green gumbo, chef Danny Trace starts with the holy trinity: onions, celery and bell peppers. A smoky dark roux, lots of fresh garlic, Creole seasoning and tons of other ingredients, including duck stock and spicy venison sausage, result in a thick, soulful stew. It's crowned with cornbread croutons. PRICE: $16/bowl SCORE: 10 BB’S CAFE

6154 Westheimer (new Briargrove store), 713-339-2566, and other locations

TONY MANDOLA’S

Heirloom quality. Maw Maw’s Gumbo – an old family Cajun recipe from owner Brooks Bassler – comes in seafood or andouille sausage-chicken. Seafood gumbo is composed of cooked-down onions, celery and okra, plus cayenne to create a silky, very spicy stock. Served piping hot, it’s loaded with tender shrimp and topped with rice and scallions. Add lump crabmeat for $4. PRICE: Shrimp gumbo $12.95/bowl SCORE: 8

Creole style. A tomato-butter base anchors Mama’s golden brown seafood gumbo slightly thickened with filé powder and floating with shrimp, crawfish, crab claw fingers, celery, onion, roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs and spices. It’s always topped with rice and scallions and, on special days, fried crawfish or fried okra. PRICE: $12.99/bowl, $5.99 at happy hour SCORE: 8

GOODE CO. SEAFOOD

1200 McKinney, 713-400-9595, & other locations

1212 Waugh, 713-528-3474

TREEBEARD’S

10211 Katy Freeway, 713-464-7933, & other location

Buttery. Die-hard dark roux fans might not be into Goode’s velvety, golden-colored roux, medium thick with buttery flavor and a whiff of caramelized flour. The seafood gumbo is generous with fresh Gulf shrimp, sweet crabmeat and plump oysters and topped with white rice and scallions. PRICE: $14.50/bowl SCORE: 8.5

Good bones. These downtown cafeterias have been the solid choice for genuine, affordable Southern food since 1978. The recipe for success in the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo comes from carefully prepared dark roux and the holy trinity of vegetables and spices. And be sure not to miss the thick, moist jalapeño cornbread. PRICE: $7.75/bowl SCORE: 9

FOR MORE BOWLS WITH BIG FLAVOR, VISIT MY-TABLE.COM 44 SPRING 2017


BRENNAN'S GUMBO

BB'S GUMBO

45 SPRING 2017

PHOTOS BY BECCA WRIGHT


Roux That Rox RECIPES FOR

Gumbo, Louisiana’s famous mainstay, and now the South’s go-to bowl, has as many versions as Houston’s cultural melting pot of cuisines. Teeming with smoked chicken, spicy andouille sausage, chorizo, okra, collard greens or fresh Gulf seafood – and the frequent whiff of filé powder – it’s comfort food that can be made your own. Tear into these coveted Houston restaurant recipes and get your gumbo on.

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Mia's Seafood Gumbo

If you plan on feeding an army of family and friends – like many Italians do regularly – you’ll be prepared with this full-flavored heirloom recipe passed down from Johnny Carrabba’s Sicilian grandmother, who spent plenty of time in Louisiana. This spicy gumbo is served at Grace’s on Kirby. METHOD: Add

canola oil to a large heavy pot over medium high heat. Slowly sprinkle in half the flour while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk and add all the flour until the roux becomes a light brown color. Slowly stir in 1 gallon of water to the roux and whisk until it blends. A little at a time, add the gumbo filé, shrimp base and crab base and mix well until dissolved. Set aside. In a food processor, add onion, bell peppers, celery and garlic. Pulse until veggies reach a fine chop consistency. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil, add the vegetable mixture and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the Creole seasoning, cayenne pepper, oregano, pepper, bay leaves, Worcestershire, hot sauce, tomatoes and the roux mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the chopped tomatoes and lower the heat to medium. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add green onions, Italian parsley and okra and heat enough to thaw and warm the okra. Remove the bay leaves. Serve immediately and generously garnish with your favorite cooked seafood. YIELD: 8 to 10 servings

1 cup canola oil 2 cups flour 1 gallon water ½ cup gumbo filé 2 Tbsp. powdered shrimp base 2 Tbsp. crab base (recipe below) 4 Tbsp. olive oil 1 large yellow onion, rough chop 2 medium green bell peppers, rough chop 2 medium red bell peppers, rough chop 4 stalks celery, rough chop 8 large (2 Tbsp.) garlic cloves 3 Tbsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning 1 tsp. cayenne pepper 1 tsp. dried oregano 2 tsp. black pepper 3 bay leaves 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 3 Tbsp. Louisiana hot sauce 1 (28-oz.) can chopped tomatoes, crushed a little more by hand 1 cup green onions, chopped 1 loose cup Italian parsley, chopped 1 (2-lb.) bag frozen okra, sliced your favorite cooked seafood, such as shrimp, crabmeat and/or fish

CRAB BASE METHOD: In

a large pot, heat the olive oil and other ingredients, except for the water and wine, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and heat for 1 minute. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes until the liquid starts to reduce. Strain the mixture and discard the large pieces. Set aside.

¼ cup olive oil 5 blue crabs, body opened, rough chop 1 small yellow onion, rough chop 1 large carrot, peeled, rough chop 1 celery stalk, rough chop 1 piece lemongrass, rough chop 2 large tomatoes, rough chop 4 large garlic cloves, peeled, rough chop 2 bay leaves 6 stems thyme, rough chop 1 lemon, large slice 47 1 Tbsp. Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic 1 gal. water SPRING 2017 1 cup white wine


Sabine Gumbo Pass

Here’s an impressive seafood- and meat-packed gumbo from executive chef Jim Mills of State Fare Kitchen & Bar, who based the recipe on his experiences in Sabine Pass, Texas. Tip: Chef Mills says you can make and chill the gumbo overnight, which greatly improves the flavor. METHOD: To

make the stock, place the water in a large deep pot. Add the chicken base, all the reserved vegetable peelings and the reserved shrimp and crab shells. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and set aside. Heat the canola oil in a large heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the first measure of flour, stirring well. Stir continuously as the flour cooks and watch as the color changes. It will turn light brown and then deepen into a darker brown. Continue to stir until the flour is the color of a cup of strong black coffee – there will be small wisps of white smoke coming from the roux at this point. Quickly add the second measure of flour and stir, and then immediately add the onion. Stir well so that the water the onion releases will cool the roux to prevent overcooking. After a minute, add the garlic. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the roux looks shiny, and then add the sausage. Lower the heat and stir in the white wine a bit at a time, mixing well so the gumbo will be lump-free. Increase the heat to medium and let it cook, stirring often until the liquid boils. Add the stock prepared from the seafood shells and vegetable trimmings (above) and return to a boil. Add the celery and bell pepper, along with the tomato, black pepper, bay leaf and thyme. Let the gumbo return to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Add the chicken breast and the cleaned crabmeat. Simmer on medium-low heat for an hour or so. To serve, reheat the gumbo to boiling and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the shrimp, Worcestershire and hot sauce. When the shrimp are cooked through, ladle the gumbo into serving bowls, ensuring that each serving contains some crab. Serve with cooked rice and pass a bowl of filé powder for guests to use as they wish. YIELD: 6 to 8 servings 48 SPRING 2017

1 gallon water, cool 1 Tbsp. chicken base 2/3 cup canola oil 1 cup flour 1 Tbsp. flour 2 cups onion, medium dice (reserve peels and trimmings) 10 cloves garlic, fine dice 2 lb. spicy andouille sausage, cut into large dice ½ cup white wine 2½ stalks celery, medium dice (reserve leaves and trimmings) 3 green bell pepper, medium dice (reserve trimmings) 1 14-oz. can diced peeled tomatoes (reserve liquid) 1 Tbsp. black pepper, ground 1 bay leaf 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves 1½ lb. boneless chicken breast, skin off, cut into 2-inch pieces 6 whole blue crabs, cleaned, in half (reserve top shell and liquid) 2 lb. medium Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shell and liquid) 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp. Louisiana hot sauce salt to taste 1 quart white rice, cooked gumbo filé powder to taste


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PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER

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State of Grace Smoked Chicken & Chorizo Gumbo Chef Bobby Matos has created a velvety, spicy gumbo starring tender smoked chicken, lots of garlic, the holy trinity and hearty homemade chicken stock. At State of Grace, he finishes the dish with fancy scallion curls and Parmesan garlic toast. METHOD: First

make the roux in a large heavy skillet over medium heat with the 2 cups of blended oil. Bring the oil to a smoking point and then slowly add half the flour while constantly whisking. Do not burn the flour. Add the remaining flour while whisking until all is incorporated into the oil. Cook until desired color (light brown to dark brown) and then cool to room temperature. For the soup base, in another large skillet over medium heat, sweat the chorizo in 1 cup of canola oil. Add the garlic and vegetables (except green onions) and cook until translucent. Slowly stir in the chicken stock and reduce by one-third over medium heat. Whisk in the cooled roux and combine all until the desired thickness is achieved. Add the smoked chicken and bay leaves. Season the gumbo with salt, pepper, Worcestershire and hot sauce. Cook covered on low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves. Serve with cooked white rice and garnish with chopped green onions. YIELD: 8 servings PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT

Robin Barr Sussman also wrote the article on sommeliers' bargain bottle picks on page 18.

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2 cups blended oil (canola and olive oil) 2 cups flour 1 lb. Chistorra Spanish chorizo, diced 1 cup canola oil 6 oz. garlic, microplaned 2 lb. celery, diced 1 lb. red bell peppers, diced 1 lb. green bell peppers, diced 2 lb. yellow onions, diced 4 qt. chicken stock 3 lb. smoked chicken, shredded 5 bay leaves salt & fresh-ground pepper to taste ½ cup Worcestershire ½ cup Louisiana-style hot sauce 3 cups cooked white rice 1 cup green onions, chopped


Catering Whether you join us in our dining room or we bring the fiesta to you, Arnaldo Richards Picos celebrates and honors the authentic flavors of the seven regions of Mexican cuisine! Call today and our catering consultants will help you to make your next event the best ever! 51 3601 Kirby Dr. (at Richmond) Houston, TX 77098 Phone: (832) 831 - 9940 Catering: (713) 662 - 8383

PICOS NET SPRING 2017


Peeling Back the History of

1902 FRANKLIN

“Before any one of dozens of open sidewalk vegetable markets, modishly dressed matrons shop for produce that graces these stands – including, in season, yellow pumpkins, purple grapes, striped watermelons, and lemon-colored honeydew melons, all raised on Harris County soil.” - Houston: A History and Guide, Work Projects Administration, 1942

By David Leftwich

52 SPRING 2017


Downtown, a parking lot sprawls in the shadow of an elevated highway. Most days the yellow-lined concrete at the southeast corner of Franklin and Hamilton sits empty, but 81 days a year the lot bustles with cars and orange-clad Astros fans heading to Houston’s Minute Maid Park. On the surface, this parking lot at 1902 Franklin Street looks like thousands of others scattered across Houston’s urban landscape. But its history – the moment frozen in the photo to the left taken in 1943 by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration – captures Houston’s food systems on the brink of dramatic change.

1920s. Though Houston was generally a segregated city, the Second Ward was an exception. The neighborhood was a vibrant mix of recent international and domestic migrants: African-Americans who had moved here from Louisiana; Russian Jews fleeing the pogroms; Mexicans escaping the struggles of the Mexican revolution; and job-seeking folks from states like Mississippi, Alabama and Missouri and countries like Norway and Ireland.

In 1873, Illinois-born Gus Fredericks, like many Midwesterners then and later – Midwesterners like my dad in 1970 and myself in 2003 – moved to Houston seeking opportunity. Fredericks, the son of German immigrants, initially found a job with the railroads, one of Houston’s most important industries between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of War World II.

These families lived side-by-side with longtime Texans in a community bordering downtown and the Houston Ship Channel, which had been completed in 1914. They were close to jobs in rail yards, cotton compressors and oil refineries. This diversity continued into the 1940s.

At some point in the late 1920s, the single-family Victorian house at 1902 Franklin became a boarding house run by William Knorba. During the tough economic times of the Great Depression such group living arrangements were fairly common, as people like Jose Lopez A few years later, he took a job with Sweeney and (a busboy at Four Sevens Cafe) and Manuel Cortes (a Coombs, a jewelry store at 310 Main Street. After Mr. waiter) – both residents of 1902 Franklin during the late Coombs retired in 1887, Fredericks became a named 1920s and early 1930s – sought inexpensive housing to partner in the firm. That same year, construction was fin- help weather the Depression and owners sought to offset ished on the George Dickey-designed Sweeney, Coombs the costs of owning and maintaining larges houses they & Fredericks Building at 301 Main Street, one of the could no longer afford alone. few buildings from that era still standing in Houston. By 1940, six families were living at 1902 Franklin. According to the census of 1900, the well-to-do Two were Mexican-American and four were headed by Fredericks had already been living at 1902 Franklin, Mexican immigrants. Following patterns of typical imthe house shown in the photo to the left, for several migrant settlement and offering a cross-section of Housyears. However, Fredericks died in 1903, and by 1920 ton’s food-industry at that time, five of the six heads the house was occupied by two families of immigrants. of household worked in food-industry jobs: Rudolph J. and Sophia Kapner were Polish speakers who had Martinez, born in Mexico in 1910, was a chef at a nightemigrated from Austria in 1879; he was a 63-year-old club; Willie Calacious, who was also born in Mexico, retired merchant, and she was 60-year-old housewife. worked as a cook at a lunchroom; born in Seguin, Texas, The other family was D. and Minnie Ratman (or Rotin 1897, Henry Rodriquez worked as a truck driver for man), who had emigrated from Poland in 1882. Living a brewery; Boncanio Cantu, who was born in Mexico in with them were their 15-year old daughter Estelle, who 1883, worked as a baker at a retail bakery; and 20-yearwas born in Texas, and their nephew Able Himmel, a old Joe Rodriguez, a native Texan, worked as a cook at a bank clerk who moved from Poland in 1906. Ratman, drugstore. The one outlier was Mexican-born Salvador like the previous home owner Fredericks, managed a Martinez who drove a truck for a cotton compressor, a jewelry store. non-food job that was nevertheless related to agriculture. As immigrants, these two families would not have been out of place in Houston’s Second Ward in the

Dining out as entertainment was still a rare thing in Houston in 1940, but that was starting to change.

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Martinez’s job at a nightclub – an entertainment destination – foreshadowed changes to come. But for most people at the time, eating out was a utilitarian affair, often reserved for men at lunchtime, which is reflected in Calacious’s and Rodriguez’s jobs as cooks at, respectively, a lunchroom and a drugstore, businesses that often served working men meals.

1932 and Leon Dow Fruits just two blocks away at 1702 Franklin.

Over the years, those living at 1902 Franklin didn’t represent just a slice of Houston’s food business, they also represented a cross section of Houston’s immigration patterns. From its earliest days, Houston has been a city of immigrants, from the early Anglos from other parts of the United States, who often brought along enslaved African-Americans, to the many Germans, Italians and Eastern Europeans who arrived in the 1800s to the Mexicans who started arriving after 1900. In 1900, the son of German immigrants lived in the Victorian house at 1902 Franklin; in 1920, Austrian and Polish immigrants resided there; and in 1940, Mexican and Mexican-Americans made that house their home. In 1900, an estimated 500 people of Mexican heritage lived in Houston. By 1940, the Mexican and Mexican-American population had increased to 20,000. Many of these new residents settled in the Second Ward. In 1932, Hazel Jones operated a business called Valley Fruit Stand at 2005 Polk Street. In 1934, a business with that name was located at 2414 1/2 N. Main Street. By 1936, Valley Fruit was finally located at 1902 Franklin, its home until at least 1955. (Note: Though the house and fruit stand shared the same lot, the house was sometimes listed at 1902 Franklin and the fruit stand was sometimes listed at 1900 Franklin; for clarity’s sake I’m using 1902 Franklin for both.) It’s unclear if there is any relationship between the three businesses that shared the Valley Fruit name or exactly when the name was first used at the corner of Franklin and Hamilton. Records indicate that in 1935 Leon Dow, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, was working at or owned an unnamed fruit stand at 1902 Franklin. Dow arrived in the United States in 1920 and set up shop as a fruit “peddler,” working different stands, including the Buffalo Drive Fruit and Vegetable Stand in

In 1942, Abraham (Abe) Cweren, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, listed himself on his World War II draft registration as a self-employed fruit dealer working at Franklin and Hamilton. Based on Houston city directories, Cweren was the likely owner and operator of Valley Fruit Stand from 1942 to 1955, and he may well be the man in the photo standing behind the banana wagon. Born in Rejowiec, Poland, in 1895, Cweren boarded the romantically named ship Paris in Le Havre, France, on December 2, 1922, and arrived in New York City a week later. According to his marriage license, he was living in Houston by December 1923. It’s not clear what he was doing between 1923 and 1942, but based on his work as a produce merchant from 1942 until his death in 1973, it’s likely he held similar jobs prior to 1942. As Dow and others demonstrated, this was a common pattern for many immigrants, since not much capital was required to enter the produce business at its lower levels. (An interesting aside: Cweren lived for many years on Saltus Street, cattycorner from the site of the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. He was living there in 1949 when Ninfa and Domenic Laurenzo opened the Rio Grande Tortilla Factory at that location and moved into a small house next to their tortilleria. The Cwerens and the Laurenzos would continue to be neighbors for several years.) Though the Valley Fruit stand is attached to the house, available records don’t show that anyone living there was officially involved in the business. But with one wagon and bushels of produce in the front yard and the tarp connected to the porch, it’s hard to imagine that over the years someone living at the house didn’t occasionally work at least part-time at the stand. No matter who Cweren employed, the rather humblelooking Valley Fruit stand stood at the intersection of Houston’s produce distribution channels. From its beginnings, Houston has had three major supply chains for produce: international imports, domestic imports and locally grown. Houston’s role as a port city, however, set it slightly apart and provided Houstonians with greater access to international food and produce.

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BUSINESSES AND LANDMARKS AROUND 1902 FRANKLIN STREET, 1942-1943

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Valley Fruit Stand, 1902 Franklin Street Union Station, Houston’s main passenger rail station from 1911 to 1974, 501 Crawford St. Blondy’s Cafe, 1420 Franklin St. Indian Motorcycle Sales Company, 1422 Franklin St. Seaport Coffee Shop, 1510 Franklin St. Ray’s Oil Company (filling station), 1517 Franklin St. Leon Dow Fruits, 1702 Franklin St. Oberholz Bakery, 1708 Franklin St. Steve’s Place, restaurant, 1717 Franklin St. Rio Grande Hotel, 1801 Franklin St. Edwards Hotel, 1818 Franklin St. Houston Paper Company Inc., 1921 Franklin St. George’s Sandwich Shop, 2001 Franklin St. Red Star Cafe, 2010 Franklin St. Big State Cafe, 1501 Texas Ave. Milam Ben Cafe, 1515 Texas Ave. Grace’s Cafe, 206 Hamilton St. Sam’s Shoe Shop, 212 Hamilton St. Gardner & Company (furniture store), 218 Hamilton St. Industrial Welding & Testing Laboratory, 224 Hamilton St. Reina’s Cash Grocery, 701 Hamilton St.

22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38.

Weil Apartments, 604 Hamilton St. Hamilton Cafe, 620 Hamilton St. Fire Station No. 10, 205 Chartres St. Hamilton Cleaners, 213 Chartres St. Alamo Hotel, 218 Chartres St. Two Star Cafe, 1701 Congress Ave. Azteca Cafe, 1800 Congress Ave. El Comercio Mexicano Curios, 1803 Congress Ave. Axteca Theater, 1809 Congress Ave. Tampico Cafe, 1810 Congress Ave. Alamo Grocery and Market, 1811 Congress Ave. Macey’s Tavern, 1927 Congress Ave. Indian Cafe, 2005 Congress Ave. E & C Bakery & Grocery, 2002 Congress Ave. Mrs. Mary Bautista’s Restaurant, 2004 Congress Ave. Mexican Chili Parlor, 2012 Congress Ave. Grocers Supply Company (wholesale grocery), 1601 Commerce St. 39. National Biscuit Company, 1701 Commerce St. 40. Reid Murdoch & Company (wholesale grocer), 1901 Commerce Ave. 41. Michoacan Grocery, 2013 Commerce Ave.

BUSINESSES AND LANDMARKS AROUND 1902 FRANKLIN STREET, 2017

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Parking lots at 1902 Franklin St., 1901 Franklin St., 1801 Franklin St. Irma’s Original, 22 N. Chenevert St. Jackson Street BBQ, 209 Jackson St. 55 Joystix Classic Games and Pinball, 1820 Franklin St. S P R I N G 2 0 1 7 Loaves and Fishes, 2009 Congress

6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Lola Savannah Coffee Company, 1701 Commerce St. Minute Maid Park, 501 Crawford St. Tout Suite, 2001 Commerce St. Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, 1510 Texas Ave. Potente and Osso & Kristalla, 1515 Texas Ave.


Produce Row in the Early 20th Century

COMMERCE STREET WEST FROM THE CORNER OF MAIN STREET SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LIBRARIES. UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON DIGITAL LIBRARY

Businesses on Houston’s Produce Row in 1942

• Archie Frucht (wholesale produce), 106 Travis St. • Clark-Ehre Produce Company (wholesale produce), 816 Commerce Ave. • Edward Blackman (wholesale produce), 108 Travis St. • Fischer Produce Company (wholesale produce), 808 Commerce Ave. • Frederick Produce Company Inc. (wholesale produce), 209 Travis St. • Gordon Sewall & Company Inc. (wholesale grocer), 102-112 San Jacinto St. • Jacob M. Goldberg (wholesale produce dealer), 102 Travis St. • John McDonald (wholesale produce), 900 Commerce Ave. • Kagan-Ruby Produce Company (wholesale produce), 819 Commerce Ave. • Krakower Brothers (wholesale produce), 904 Commerce Ave. • Laviage Produce Company (wholesale produce), 911 Commerce Ave. • Lieberman Produce Company (wholesale produce), 814 Commerce Ave. • M. Morales & Sons (wholesale fruit dealer), 810 Commerce Ave. • Mabry Produce Company (wholesale produce), 56 809 Commerce Ave.

• Merchants Co-Operative Grocery & Produce Company (wholesale grocer), 102 San Jacinto St. • Paul Lang Company (wholesale produce), 906 Commerce Ave. • Pizzitola Produce Company (wholesale produce), 901 Commerce Ave. • Port City Grocery Company (wholesale grocer), 907 Commerce Ave. • Pro-Row Cafe (restaurant), 904 Commerce Ave. • Produce Buffet (restaurant), 810 Commerce Ave. • R. M. Gordon & Co., Inc. (wholesale grocer), 116 Travis St. • Schepps Wholesale Grocery (wholesale grocer), 110 Travis St. • Schoenmann Produce Company (wholesale produce), 910 Commerce Ave. • Speed-Clemens Company (wholesale produce), 102 Main St. • Topek Produce Company (wholesale produce), 815 Commerce Ave. • While House Produce Company (wholesale produce), 908 Commerce Ave. • Wholesale Specialty Company (wholesale grocer), 807 Commerce Ave. • William D. Cleveland & Sons (wholesale grocer), 1019 Commerce Ave.

PRING 2017 Note: Many maps and records,Sincluding the 1942 Houston City Directory, used Commerce Avenue to refer to what is now Commerce Street.


Houston was also unique because it relied on imported food since its earliest days. When Augustus Chapman Allen and his younger brother John Kirby Allen founded Houston in 1836, it was in an unpopulated swamp thick with sweet gums, magnolias and bald cypress; there was little agriculture or infrastructure to support the early settlement. War-damaged Harrisburg, a small but important trading post, was a few miles east, and there were some feral cattle left by the Spanish and the Mexicans. The San Felipe Trail, which connected Harrisburg to San Felipe, Stephen F. Austin’s head-quarters on the Brazos River, also ran near the settlement. So, early on, Houston had to bring in most of its food by boat. In fact, in 1837, the first steamship to reach Houston, the Laura, was loaded with much-needed groceries for Houston’s early residents, many of whom were still living, eating and drinking in tents. For decades, bananas grown in the Caribbean, South America and Central America have been imported through the Port of Houston. In the early half the 20th century, many of those bananas would have passed through Houston’s first produce row – the center of the city’s wholesale produce business – which was then located in downtown Houston just north of Market Square and south of Buffalo Bayou.

One might imagine that the two wagonloads of bananas parked in front of 1902 Franklin in the photo were bought from one of the wholesale vendors who operated in the heart of produce row along Commerce Street, perhaps from a vendor like M. Morales & Sons, a wholesaler founded by Martin (Matteo) Morales, an immigrant from Mezzojuso, Sicily, specializing in bananas. Morales was listed on Cweren’s draft registration as a contact, so he was likely Cweren’s friend and a supplier to the Valley Fruit stand. Morales was a longtime produce vendor who operated out of a warehouse at 812 Commerce from the late 1800s until sometime in the 1950s, importing and distributing bananas and other fruits to Houston’s retail food shops. [See sidebar to the left for a list of businesses in Houston’s produce row in 1942.] Before 1900, grapefruits were a novelty in Texas. But by 1904, grapefruits from Florida had been introduced to Houston consumers. Though grapefruits were probably first grown in Texas in the late 1880s, they didn’t become one of Texas’ major commercial crops until around 1920. The grapefruits piled in Valley Fruit’s bushel baskets could have been shipped in from Florida, California, even Cuba. Or they could have been grown in one of Houston’s neighboring counties. (In 1940, Chambers County produced nine tons of grapefruit, and Wharton County five tons.)

City Hall & Market House in 1904

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But it’s more likely the grapefruits were shipped by rail from the Rio Grande Valley where, in 1940, two counties accounted for the vast majority of Texas’ grapefruit crop: Hidalgo County produced 390,829 tons of grapefruit, and Cameron County grew 108,761 tons. During the 19-plus years that Valley Fruit stand operated on Franklin Street, there is a good chance that Valley Fruit acquired grapefruit from the Sig Frucht Company, though not when this photo was taken. Frucht had temporarily shut down operations from August 1942 to March 1944 while he voluntarily served in the United States Army. Frucht, the son of Austrian immigrants, was born in Galveston in 1899. After his first stint in the army in 1918, where he served in a produce distribution center in Australia, he returned to Houston and partnered with Joe Cohen and Louis Goldberg to open a “wholesale fruit and produce concern” at 820 Commerce, just a couple of doors down from M. Morales and Sons. In 1922, Frucht became the sole proprietor of the business, and the warehouse moved to 908 Commerce. He was an early champion of Rio Grande Valley grapefruits and imported them by the train-car load, which earned him the nickname “The Grapefruit Kid of Houston.” Later, Frucht would be instrumental in establishing the current Houston Produce Terminal, which replaced downtown’s produce row and opened in 1954 just southeast of the University of Houston between Old Spanish Trail and Wayside Drive. During the first half of the 20th century, Texas was one of the United States’ major onion-growing regions, some years producing more onions than any other state. Though onions were grown throughout Texas, the Rio Grande Valley – primarily Webb County – was the main source for Texas onions. Many of those onions were shipped through Houston to the Sig Frucht Company, which placed ads in both the Harlingen and Brownsville newspapers seeking South Texas farmers growing onions, as well as other produce such as beans, peppers, cucumbers, okra, squash, limas, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, new potatoes, peas, corn, limes, lemons, butterbeans, papaya, avocados and tangerines.

And the owners of the Valley Fruit stand likely purchased some of their onions from Frucht or one the other jobbers on produce row, especially early in the season. Later in the season, they may have purchased onions grown at one of the truck farms in north Harris County or western Harris County (where The Galleria now stands), maybe purchasing them directly from the farmers at the city’s big farmers’ market at Prairie and Buffalo Bayou where farmers sold to consumers, wholesalers and retail operators – the last two often arriving at 4 or 5 am. The oranges that Valley Fruit sold followed a similar pattern. Early in the season, they would have been shipped up from the Valley, by far Texas’ largest orange-producing region, with Hidalgo County producing 79,657 tons and Cameron County producing 28,180 tons in 1940. Later in the season, the oranges would have come from one of Houston’s surrounding counties, maybe shipped in from Galveston County, which produced 55 tons in 1940. The area’s supply would have also been supplemented with oranges from Florida, California and Arizona. The signs on Valley Fruit’s roof represent yet another aspect of Houston’s food systems in the first half of the 20th century – that is, processed foods and beverages, some shipped from afar, some made locally. The Coke and Pepsi signs hint at the multinational food companies that would characterize U.S. food in the second half of the century and that had already laid the groundwork for market domination by the time World War II started. The Golden Age Beverage sign and the distinctive font of Southern Select Beer barely visible on the sign tacked to the front porch railing – possibly by Mr. Rodriquez who drove a truck for a brewery – represent Houston’s numerous local food manufacturers, something that was common not just in Houston but throughout the United States in the first half of the 20th century. In 1922, Houston had three potato chip manufacturers, seven rice mills, 16 bottlers, three vinegar distilleries and one fish cannery, as well as many other food manufactures, all to serve a population of just 140,000 people. [See sidebar to the right for a sample of Houston-based food manufacturers in 1922.]

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Some of Houston’s Food Manufacturers in 1922

• Browne Commission Company (importers and packers of salt fish, canned fish, sardines, olives, pickles, sauerkraut and catsup), 1401 Sterret St. • Daisy Ice Cream Company, 2909 McKinney St. • Furman Company (vinegar manufacturer), 7 N.E. Shepherd Dr. • George H. Dentler (manufacturer of Magnolia Brand Saratoga Chips, Home Brand Grated Horse Radish and Mother’s Homemade Sugar Cookies), 1809 Summer St. • Hiller Vinegar Company (vinegar manufacturer), 520 Pine St. • Houston Co-Operative Dairy Association (producers of milk, cream, buttermilk, cream cheese and Mayflower butter), 1120 North Main St. • Houston Ice Cream Company (maker of Sullivan’s Purity Ice Cream), 1701 Washington Ave. • Houston Macaroni Company (manufacturers of Eagle Brand macaroni, spaghetti and vermicelli and importer of Italian produce and olive oil), 114 Preston Ave. • Magnolia Dairy Products (manufactures of Magno-

• •

• • •

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lia Brand Butter and Honey Boy Ice Cream), 717 Franklin Street. Magnolia Provision Company (manufacturer of shortenings, salad oils and cooking oils), offices and mill were 2 blocks west of Clark St. Merchants and Planters Oil Company (manufacturer of M. & P. Butter Oil, Polar White and Diamond Shortening and M. & P. Salad Oil), two locations: one on the north bank of Buffalo Bayou and one on Roanoke St. Illustration above Perfection Products Company (maker of salted nuts and potato chips), 4701 Harrisburg Blvd. Purity Creamery Company (produced and delivered milk, cream, whipped cream, cream cheese, butter and buttermilk), 1918 Gray Ave. Star Bottling Works (manufacturer of soda water, bottler of iron beer, ginger ale, Tokay Crush, Orange Squeeze, Gayolo, sassafras beer, mineral water and seltzer), 1010 N. San Jacinto St. Union Bottling Works (bottler of soda water, iron brew, ginger ale and sassafras beer), 1010 McKinney St.


AERIAL VIEW OF UNION STATION 1925 SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LIBRARIES. UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON DIGITAL LIBRARY

By 1954, the Houston City Directory listed only 15 fruit stands, compared to 66 in 1936 when Valley Fruit was first listed on Franklin. This 77 percent decrease reflected the major changes and consolidation in U.S. farming and food distribution that began prior to World War II, but accelerated after the war. American farmers and food manufacturers rushed to meet the demands from both a growing domestic population and European and Asian countries struggling to feed their people after the war damaged their agricultural infrastructure. I’m not sure when, exactly, the Valley Fruit stand closed. However, its fate was sealed in 1953 when the Texas Transportation Commission finalized plans to build the US 59 Freeway along the east side of downtown. This section of US 59, often called the Eastex Freeway by locals, was opened in 1966. Twenty-three years after a horse-drawn wagon loaded with bananas stood at 1902 Franklin Street, a modern elevated freeway now carried commuters into downtown Houston. But these changes didn’t come without a cost. The Eastex cut a swath through once-vibrant sections of the Second Ward and Houston’s original Chinatown, separating neighborhoods and contributing to the demise and eventual migration of Houston’s downtown Asian community to the western end of Bellaire Boulevard.

business district, replacing the site of several oncethriving businesses with concrete and overpasses. By the time I moved back to Houston in 2003 and into a faux loft apartment just three blocks from 1902 Franklin, the Astros’ new stadium, Minute Maid Park, dominated the neighborhood, and city developers were trying to revitalize the area that had been in the path of US 59’s construction. The area had two dying Asian grocery stores – a vestige of the old Chinatown – both with surprisingly limited produce sections. I moved out of the area the following year, and one of those Asian grocery stores, Kim Hung Market, eventually closed, while Long Sing Supermarket is still hanging on, albeit known today more for its barbecued pork and roast duck than its groceries or produce. Thirteen years later, that immediate area still has no good place to buy produce. Though if you want to cross under US 59 and hop on the light rail, you can buy Persian cucumbers, fava beans, Texas peaches, Bulgarian feta and Egyptian canned meat at Phoenicia Specialty Foods, an international grocery founded, not surprisingly, by immigrants. Which proves once again that Houston would likely starve without immigrants. David Leftwich is the executive editor of Sugar & Rice, a Gulf Coast food and culture publication based in Houston. He is also the author of the chapbook The City, which was published by Little Red Leaves Textile Series. Besides loving to cook locally grown vegetables like kohlrabi, he likes to hang out with his wife, daughter, two dogs, one kitten and stacks of books. This essay is part of a larger project exploring the history of food in Houston.

Houston’s African-American communities suffered similar fates when Interstate 45 cut through Independence Heights, destroying a section of Houston Avenue that was once home to many black-owned businesses and cut through Freedman’s Town’s West Dallas Street

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PHOTO COURTESY OF VALERIE CRAMER

For centuries, food has been a conduit to human interconnection through which nourishment is merely a bonus. Social gatherings, celebrations and even times of mourning all conjure excuses to bring forth food for comfort, enlightenment or communion.

PHOTO BY ELLIE SHARP

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHLOE KRANE

PHOTO BY ELLIE SHARP

PHOTO BY ELLIE SHARP

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REFUGE

in the

RECIPES

PHOTOS BY ELLIE SHARP

By Ellie Sharp When Wafdia Ibrahim and her daughter Tahani Alajil, now 26, fled Syria, they left behind a life to which they could never truly return – but they brought their family’s collection of recipes and with it an unbreakable bond to the life they loved. The book traveled with them from their former home in Homs, Syria, to a three-year stay in Jordan and then to Houston where they arrived on June 6, 2015.

The women returned Krane’s kindness with hospitality. They invited her to their family’s modest two-bedroom apartment in Sharpstown to dine with them during her regular visits. “I used to be a TV producer and spent many years living in the Middle East,” says Krane, “so I’ve eaten a lot of Arabic food in my time. But I quickly realized that Wafdia and her daughter’s cooking is exceptional.”

In a beautiful effort to connect with others they began to teach cooking classes to local women, proving that a language barrier is no match for the conversation of a shared meal and an evening of making memories.

It was after one of these visits that Krane put two and two together: Why not encourage the women to share their talents in cooking lessons, thereby providing an outlet for social engagement and also educating Houstonians to the world of Syrian cooking? The idea was instantly embraced by Wafdia and Tahani, and several months later they taught their first class in the home of one of Krane’s friends. Two more classes soon followed.

As with many good things, the fruition of such an endeavor began with a friendship, this time with Chloe Krane, an advocate from Refugee Services of Texas (RST). The family was paired with Krane after their placement in Houston, a city chosen for its ability to house and support refugees. Krane felt an immediate bond with the women and over time developed a close friendship with them as she guided their adjustment to life in Houston.

While Wafdia has no background in professional cooking, she did run a family produce market in Syria for 10 years. She cut her culinary teeth as a child cooking for her mother and sisters; her father died when she

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MOTHER & DAUGHTER WAFDIA & TAHANI PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHLOE KRANE

was young, and Wafdia took on the role of homemaker to allow her mother to work outside the home. Her knowledge of cooking came from her mother and other women relatives, in addition to her own personal discoveries. When she left home to marry at age 15 she was well equipped to support a houseful of hungry eaters that would grow to a family of eight, including her husband Khalaf and six children, who today range in age from 2 to 31. Daughter Tahani worked as a chef in a small Syrian restaurant in Homs, supervising several others, and retains that level of proficiency and passion in the classes. She says teaching taught her to be more patient than she had been in her work kitchen, and it also gave her a chance to practice her English in a safe place. “I felt like I was with my family and cooking with my family because they were just really nice people,” Tahani says of the women in the Houston classes. “You don’t feel like you are not in your home, you don’t feel loneliness.” She adds that it was fun to watch the women’s interest in the cooking and their excitement with successful completion of the dishes, and she hopes to continue the classes in her new home in Pennsylvania where she recently relocated. Might a cookbook be in her future? “Why not?” she replies with a smile, referencing the family compilation she brought with her from Syria. Her sunny personality lights up the room, even from our video call, and it’s easy to see why she’s such a good teacher.

Initially, the class was intended to be a demonstration-style event with a somewhat formal experience of watching, cooking and taking food home. Over time, however, the evenings morphed into gatherings that began at the stove and ended at the table, with everyone visiting and talking and eating the fruits of their labors. The first class was held at the home of Wendy McKay, followed by the homes of Helen Read and Sophy Ashworth – all expats from the U.K. It’s clear from talking with the women that their participation provided a plethora of benefits, starting with getting out of one’s kitchen comfort zone. “We cooked a banquet and it was absolutely fantastic,” says Ashworth, describing how Wafdia showed herself to be an ambitious leader, moving her students along at a remarkable pace that resulted in an impressive output of dishes in just a couple hours. With her warm demeanor and demonstrative gestures, Wafdia efficiently guided the women as they prepared tabouli, stuffed vine leaves (“I never would have attempted those on my own,” says McKay with a laugh), lentils and babaganoush from freshly grilled eggplant. Her gracious personality and ready laughter put everyone at ease – don’t be fooled by her austere look in the photos – while her competence at the cutting board provided education at every turn. One of the lessons that impressed all of the women was the introduction to cooking familiar ingredients in new combinations and from scratch. Take, for example, the “bunches of parsley” gathered for one class – seven

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Babaganoush

Cut the eggplant into slices. Arrange on an aluminum foil-covered broiler pan, drizzle with olive oil and broil until soft, slightly charred and smoky, turning once or twice. (You may also broil the eggplant on a grill.) When cool enough to handle, remove the eggplant pulp from its skin and place the pulp into a bowl. If you get a bit of charred eggplant skin in the mix, that’s fine. METHOD:

Add the tomato, garlic, chili, parsley, salt, pomegranate molasses and olive oil to taste and combine well, using a wooden spoon to mash any large chunks of eggplant. (Editor’s note: Some people use a food processor, which will make a smoother, creamier babaganoush.) Taste and correct seasoning. Serve in a bowl with triangles of pita bread or crudités for dipping.

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PHOTO BY ELLIE SHARP

1 medium eggplant 1 tomato, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely minced 1 chile, de-seeded and finely minced parsley, chopped and stems discarded salt pomegranate molasses (available at Middle Eastern grocery stores) olive oil


GRINDING CHICKPEAS IN A MEAT GRINDER PT

and textures of the new dishes when the women made them later at home. In their recipes, Wafdia and Tahani focus on the flavors of Homs, where they say fresh fruits and vegetables form the basis for their cooking along with herbs, garlic, safflower and olive oils, bulgur, dried beans and lentils. “I try to teach them the Eastern way,” says Wafdia, speaking through a translator. “I am very happy to share what I have learned in my home country and to transfer it to women here.”

PHOTOS COURTESY OF HELEN READ

Tahani explains that Syrian cooking is very easy, very simple and uses light, delicate herbs. She prefers to use three ingredients or less when possible, and both she and Wafdia avoid processed food, opting for homemade versions of whatever is available in stores or at restaurants. Locally, she shops in two Middle Eastern grocery stores, Jerusalem Halal Meats and Mecca Halal Meat & Supermarket, both on Hillcroft.

bunches to be precise – and the therapeutic aroma of fresh herbs and citrus mingling together. “It’s all very, very fresh. When you’re chopping the herbs and squeezing the lemons everywhere, it’s a lovely way to cook,” says Ashworth.

Back home they would dry or can the produce during peak season to save through the winter. “One of the things I love,” says Krane, “is that even though they have a limited budget the food is always homemade, really fresh. It’s impressive how healthy food can be when you have a little bit of knowledge and the ability to put food together.” That’s something any cook can appreciate, large family or not.

Learning how to grind chickpeas in a meat grinder, stuffing the seasoned mixture into a specialized “falafel maker scoop” and dropping the batter into bubbling safflower oil, which itself was reused later for frying homemade chips was another revelation. (Find your own falafel maker locally at Phoenicia Specialty Foods or online.) “You know, you can buy falafel and you can buy falafel packets,” says Ashworth. “But doing it from scratch is a major difference.” She added that part of the learning is in educating your palate to better understand the food. Students learned about the marvelous ingredient of pomegranate molasses, adding it to just about everything – “we sloshed it around everywhere,” someone commented – and appreciated the nuances of cooking together with other women.

Though the primary purpose of a kitchen is to provide a space for preparing sustenance, it so often happens that nourishment goes beyond the literal transfer of nutrition to instead fulfill a greater purpose of tempering one’s soul while offering a connection to people, places and memories. Perhaps this is too lofty an expectation for these cooking classes, and perhaps not. Regardless, it’s hard to go wrong with a hot meal shared among friends – and sometimes, that’s really all you need. Those interested in hosting a cooking class can contact Chloe Krane at groupforwomen@gmail.com.

Another realization was that despite coming from very different backgrounds, their similarities outweighed their differences. They could empathize with the challenge of feeding children with selective palates, for example, or preparing healthful food for large families. All of the students remarked that their children embraced the flavors

Ellie Sharp is a freelance food and lifestyle writer and photographer for various print and online publications. She has bylines with Eater Houston, Edible Houston, Houstonia, and Houston Press, among others, and is the Zagat Houston editor. When she's not writing you can find her camping, hiking, crocheting and traveling.

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JULEPS THAT JIVE & Bourbons That Boogie By Nicholas L. Hall Photography by Becca Wright

"Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep – the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings." So begins 19th-century Kentuckian Joshua Soule Smith’s ode to the mint julep. Florid language for a perfumed drink. Famed New Orleans barman Chris McMillian has been known to recite Smith’s words as he prepares the namesake tipple, waxing poetic about bourbon, mint and the conviviality of Southern drinking culture as he fills a Lewis bag with ice, crushing it to order with a large wooden mallet, heaping the stuff into a frozen cap atop a gleaming mount. It’s as much performance art as it is mixology, but that’s only appropriate for a drink served in a ceremonial silver cup. “I think the cup is actually quite important,” says CHRIS MORRIS, who, until recently, was at Preamble Lounge & Craft House in Webster. Before Preamble, Morris managed one of the city’s finest whiskey bars at Hunky Dory, and he knows his way around a julep. “One of the most appealing parts of a julep,” Morris continues, “is having a cup completely frosted over with ice crystals. A julep in a double old fashioned glass will still taste like a julep, but it’ll just feel flat.”

That frosted cup is about more than just looks, though. As with all cocktails, proper temperature is a critical component. The sparkling metal cup serves as a conductor, effectively pulling latent heat from its boozy contents and forming condensation on the outside, accounting for that shimmering layer of frost. Lovely and functional, scientific and delicious. As for the contents of the cup, the julep is a pretty simple affair, though the details matter a great deal. The drink itself actually has an ancient lineage, as far as most cocktail scholars agree, transforming both in name and in character over the ages before arriving at the Derbyperfect version we know today. It started out as gulab, which should be familiar to anyone who’s ever eaten the sticky-sweet Indian/South Asian dessert gulab jamun. It’s all about the perfumed syrup, the original non-alcoholic formulation fortified with rosewater, slowly giving way to a headier version in the American South.

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IN JERRY THOMAS' COCKTAIL MANUAL HOW TO MIX DRINKS OR THE BON-VIVANT'S COMPANION (1862), HIS FOUNDATIONAL JULEP RECIPE CALLS FOR BERRIES AS GARNISH

69 MINT ILLUSTRATIONS FROM BIGSTOCK.COM/URSULAMEA

SPRING 2017


PASHA MORSHEDI, owner of ROSEWATER

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As with many cocktails in our modern cannon, the julep was originally a category of drinks more so than one specific quaff, the liquor swapped out based on what was available and preferred in a given time and place in the early Americas. As with much of American drinking history, the mint julep follows the rough trajectory of brandy and rum falling out of favor, supplanted by our native bourbon.

our entrepreneurial American forebears,” Morshedi says. Adding to its all-American appeal, Le notes the particulars of its barreling, also fixed in some sense to the land. “The use of a new, charred American oak barrel really sets it apart from other forms of whiskey and creates a pretty bold spirit compared to other aged liquors.” Which gets us to a common misconception about bourbon. While it is a uniquely American spirit, with the only true bourbons originating from within the country by definition, real bourbon can come from anywhere in the country. “I’ve heard countless times over the years that it must come from Bourbon County, Kentucky (or Kentucky in general), when in fact there were no distilleries for almost 100 years, as they were all shut down with Prohibition,” Chris Morris points out. “It’s just misinformation, one of those facts you hear so many times over the years, and it makes sense. I mean, it says 'Bourbon' right there on the label.” Misinformation or clever marketing, the idea that true bourbon can only come from Kentucky is one of the spirit’s most enduring points of confusion.

The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips infant leaf into the same stream that makes The Bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, and the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. Like a woman’s heart it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside gurgling brooks that make music in the fields, it lives and thrives. When the bluegrass begins to shoot its gentle sprays towards the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to old As the mint julep began to take hold in the hearts, Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, minds and cups of Southern American drinkers, it too and that affinity which no one understands, demands the changed with the times. Originally taken neat, with wedding. no ice, the drink really came into its own as ice began to march south. Aromatic mint and the bracing chill Now, in our minds and in our glasses, the two are inti- of a well-frosted cup make for a particularly refreshing mately conjoined. Part of this, certainly, is the particular cocktail, perfect for beating the dusty heat of a Louisand reciprocal affinity of bourbon and mint. After all, ville August. Given the aristocratic overtones of ice in its mixed drinks often have their own sort of Occam’s Razor early days – a symbol of wealth and status – it’s no great logic, the most delicious version often being the most surprise that the drink should find its way into a fancy well known as lesser riffs fall out of favor via time and cup, to be served at fancy parties reveling in the tradition temperament. Then, there’s the American element, the of Southern aristocracy. two combining as kindred spirits of a particular breed of early American ingenuity. “I think bourbon has always Despite its aristocratic trappings, the mint julep is been considered in the mind of consumers as America’s a pretty democratic drink. A few simple, easy-to-find indigenous spirit,” notes ALEX LE, manager of NASA components. No fancy or elaborate processes. Most specs Liquor, a Clear Lake-area liquor store known as somedon’t even specify stirring. That said, there are some defithing of a hotspot for rare bourbon aficionados. nite do’s and don’ts for proper julep making. PASHA MORSHEDI,

owner of nearby craft cocktail haunt Rosewater, agrees, the two noting the particularities of place that make bourbon what it is. “It’s a completely unique style of whiskey, based on corn, a grain indigenous to this continent and first created by

“Abusing your mint will get you into trouble really quickly,” warns Morshedi. “It’ll turn bitter and you may, God forbid, end up sucking up chunks of mint in your straw. Terrible. And I think ice freshly crushed in a Lewis bag, as opposed to pebble ice from a machine, really

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makes the best julep – it’s just the way it melts into a velvety, rich drink, to me.”

sacrifice. Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to cool, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed; no stirring allowed – just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find the taste and odor at one draft.

“A proper julep takes time,” Chris Morris admonishes, perhaps partially explaining the practice of poetic recitation as the drink is made, giving the bartender something to talk about while painstakingly mounding freshly crushed ice. “You have to add the ice slowly (and it has to be crushed), and make sure to get the drink as cold as Of course, any lover of the mint julep should also be humanly possible.” a true and genuine lover of its boozy base. Most seem to agree that a high-proof, high-rye bourbon is best for The classic technique I learned aligns with Morshedi, the julep and, in fact, for most cocktail applications. Rye who presses mint and a spoonful of turbinado syrup in adds spice and reduces perceived sweetness, helping it the cup before topping with freshly crushed ice, pouring stand up to the additional flavors, chilling and dilution a healthy two to three ounces of high-rye bourbon (law that come along with the cocktail territory. requires at least 51% corn in the mash bill for bourbon, the remainder of the grain most often filled out by wheat On its own, bourbon finds many different styles and or rye) and half an ounce of syrup directly over the top, many different preferences. “What I tend to be drawn to allowing the spirit and sugar to flow down through the are flavor profiles with sweet corn, vanilla, caramel and frozen bed. Additional ice is mounded on top. tobacco,” says BRYAN (HUTCH) WAYNE, bar manager at Poison Girl. Poison Girl is something of an open secret Morshedi infuses his syrup with mint, for an extra rein the world of Houston whiskey bars, maintaining one freshing jolt, and likes to garnish with a large bouquet of of the city’s finest selections of bourbon in a divey-hip mint on top, and a short straw. “It forces you to put your setting. “I also look for a non-filtered bourbon. I prefer face in the mint when you sip. If I have them I’ll dress a higher proof, like a cask strength. That’s how I take my it with a couple blackberries, because, why not? They’re bourbon when I am drinking it neat or over ice.” pretty.” When you’re making a cocktail in a special silver cup, why not seems a fairly apt view. That high-proof preference is something of a common theme among bartenders and whiskey aficionados. The Chris Morris follows a similar vein, adding a step spirit is closer to what it was in barrel (or exactly what designed for an extra-frosty julep (though many absolute it was, in the case of “cask strength” spirits), giving the purists may balk at the agitation): drinker a more intimate feel for the product of grain, water, yeast, time and wood. Higher proof also lets you CHRIS MORRIS’ MINT JULEP tease out nuance, in a way. For some, such as Ninja Take 8 to 10 fresh mint leaves and place them in the Ramen bartender SARAH IP, this comes in the vapors bottom of a julep cup. Gently press on the mint to rethat might send others reeling. “Higher proof whiskies lease the oils, being careful not to break the stems. Add 2 are fun to sip because the evaporation and finish emphaoz. of preferred bourbon, and ¼ oz. of turbinado syrup. size any baking spice or wood waiting to be noticed at the end.” Fill the cup halfway with crushed ice and stir until the cup begins to frost. Continue adding crushed ice and For others, the higher proof means the spirit can take a stirring until the entire cup is frosted over. Garnish with bit of chilling and dilution, which can serve to highlight a large sprig of mint, slapped on the back of the hand. nuance but might threaten to wash out a less assertive spirit. Try sampling a high-proof spirit neat first, then How shall it be? Take from the cold spring some water, add a splash of water or an ice cube or two, and see how pure as angels are; mix it with sugar till it seems like oil. the experience shifts and changes. “Adding a couple Then take a glass and crush your mint within it with a drops of water to see how higher proof bourbon reacts spoon – crush it around the borders of the glass and leave can truly be an eye-opening experience,” says Alex Le, no place untouched. Then throw the mint away – it is the although he suggests avoiding less aggressive, less spicy 72 SPRING 2017


ALEX LE - NASA Liquor

ALEX LE'S PERSONAL FAVORITE

PERSONAL FAVORITE BOURBON Booker’s FAVORITE READILY AVAILABLE BOURBON

“I’d also answer Booker’s, but unfortunately that won’t be readily available in the near future. So I’d say regular Buffalo Trace.” FAVORITE “ASPIRATIONAL BOURBON”

“William Larue Weller. But if we’re talking obscurity, any of the Stitzel-Weller distilled Old Fitzgeralds.” UNSUNG HERO “Although they don’t distill it (Smooth Ambler buys distilled spirits from MGP, a major producer of base-spirits, before aging and bottling), I’d say any Smooth Ambler Single Barrel Cask Strengths are such a good value. Getting nine- to 11-year-old bourbon, depending on the barrel, and bottled straight from the barrel, all for under $60 is pretty amazing.”

CHRIS MORRIS

PERSONAL FAVORITE BOURBON “I’ve

A Few of the Pros' Favorite Bourbons

always been a huge fan of Baker’s. Seven-year age stated, 107 proof bourbon that just explodes with baking spice flavor. Neat, ice or cocktails, it’s always a solid pour.”

CHRIS MORRIS' PERSONAL FAVORITE

FAVORITE READILY AVAILABLE BOURBON

“Woodford Reserve. I’m always partial to whiskey that’s seen a pot still.”

FAVORITE “ASPIRATIONAL BOURBON”

“I’ve always liked William Larue Weller bottles from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. I’ve always been fascinated by the original bottles of A.H. Hirsch, but that’s one that’s sadly evaded me over the years.” UNSUNG HERO “Not necessarily a particular bourbon, but people should really not be scared of the bottom shelf. There are some pretty solid every-day drinkers to be had for under $15.” 73 SPRING 2017


PASHA MORSHEDI - Rosewater PERSONAL FAVORITE BOURBON “I love Four Roses, particular the always-good, often-great, private, barrel-proof selections. But really everything in their line is great. I even named my dog Rosie after them.”

PASHA MORSHEDI'S PERSONAL FAVORITE

FAVORITE READILY AVAILABLE BOURBON

“Can’t name just one. But Four Roses Single Barrel and Booker's always hit the spot for me.” FAVORITE “ASPIRATIONAL BOURBON” “It makes me depressed that nowadays any of us have to aspire to purchase any bourbon at all. But I love me some George T. Stagg, even though I haven’t been able to buy one at retail for several years.” UNSUNG HERO “Henry McKenna 10-year-old bonded bourbon is delicious and only 30 bucks. I’ve never understood why it’s not more popular. But I’m glad it’s not.”

SARAH IP - Ninja Ramen PERSONAL FAVORITE BOURBON

Eagle Rare

FAVORITE READILY AVAILABLE BOURBON

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

A Few of the Pros' Favorite Bourbons

FAVORITE “ASPIRATIONAL BOURBON”

George T. Stagg 2015 BRYAN WAYNE - Poison Girl PERSONAL FAVORITE BOURBON “Willett Family Reserve 17-year private barrel, personally selected by the owners of Poison Girl a few years back. It’s out of this world.” FAVORITE READILY AVAILABLE BOURBON “Johnny Drum 86 proof. This Kentucky straight bourbon goes to show that quality doesn’t always come with a huge price.” FAVORITE “ASPIRATIONAL BOURBON” “Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash. I want to have at least tasted this bourbon in my lifetime. The last release came in at approximately 250 bottles for the entire U.S. with a retail price tag around $4,000 to $5,000. I would like to taste the hype.” UNSUNG HERO “1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon probably doesn’t get the appreciation that it deserves. As a ‘high rye’ bourbon, the flavor profile is very smooth.”

SARAH IP'S PERSONAL FAVORITE

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(read: wheated) bourbons, lest the chill and dilution flatten the profile of the spirit. When selecting a bourbon, the range of choices can be a bit staggering. A few things to keep in mind: Neither price nor age offer inherent quality. All of the professionals interviewed for this story agree that terrific bourbon can be had across the price spectrum and among a wide sweep of age-ranges. In fact, several respondents prefer moderately aged bourbons (law requires two years in charred new American oak).

the summer sun is at its most insistent, gently caress a bit of mint, sweeten it with a hint of sugar, and mound enough ice on top that you might stop the sun dead in its tracks. Inhale the mint. Let its perfume wash over you. Revel in the poetry that is the mint julep.

Bryan Wayne sets his sweet spot at seven to 12 years. “If a bourbon hangs out in that new charred oak barrel for too long, it will get too woody and loose its delicate flavor profile, the taste will have a really spicy, overcharred wood flavor, and the majority of the bourbon would have been lost to the angel’s share.” Whether you prefer soft or spicy, old and oaky or young and sweet, America’s native spirit has a lot to offer. Pour it in a glass. Add a bit of ice if you want. When

Then when it is made, sip it slowly. August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant cold and sweet – it is seductive. No maiden’s kiss is tenderer or more refreshing, no maiden’s touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream – it is a dream itself. No other land can give you so much sweet solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey. – J. Soule Smith Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he’s not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.

75 SPRING 2017


Cheers to 50 Years of BRENNAN'S OF HOUSTON

Brennan’s of Houston – the Texanized sibling of New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace – has been Houston’s Creole destination for 50 years. The brick courtyard, elegant dining rooms and polished service practically ooze gracious Southern atmosphere, while the kitchen – now under the direction of chef Danny Trace – has a portfolio of dishes virtually unknown elsewhere in this city. Milk punch, Ramos gin fizz, sherry-finished turtle soup, Eggs Sardou, duck-and-rabbit enchiladas and bananas Foster – well, if not technically copyrighted by Brennan’s, these dishes and drinks are certainly theirs by tradition. Not to mention the big tray of pralines near the front door. (Go ahead, take a couple.) Brennan family scion Alex Brennan-Martin grew up in the business; he was topping strawberries in his family’s New Orleans restaurant kitchen by age seven. Since 1983 he has guided the Houston restaurant that bears his name. I asked about Brennan’s longevity, and he quotes his mother, Ella Brennan,

one of the country’s best-loved restaurateurs. “First you make a friend.” “We can control everything that happens within these four walls,” says Brennan-Martin, “but nothing that happens outside. So don’t waste your energy on worrying about things that you can’t control. You got 15 people in the dining room? You need to make 15 customers into 15 friends and make sure they walk out talking about their experience.” There’s one more element about Brennan’s that I must mention. Brennan-Martin and the restaurant always give back to the Houston community that has nurtured them. Not a week goes by that he doesn’t donate to a worthy cause, underwrite a project or host a fundraiser. Brennan’s, of course, is located at 3300 Smith Street at the far south end of downtown. Congratulations, Brennan’s! — Teresa Byrne-Dodge

1967 The Brennan family of New Orleans comes to Houston to find a location for a new restaurant. Researching the history of the Junior League Building, they discover it was inspired by a New Orleans building in the French Quarter once occupied by a Brennan family restaurant. They recognize the serendipity, and Brennan’s of Houston opens. Noel Henneberry is manager.

1929 Architect John Staub designs the Vieux Carré-style Junior League Building in Houston on Smith Street.

1975 Brennan’s introduces the jazz

brunch here in Houston – the same 76 year it begins at Commander’s Palace New Orleans. S P R I N Gin2 0 17

PHOTO BY VICTOR P. HELM OF THE JUNIOR LEAGUE'S COURTYARD, SOON TO BECOME BRENNAN'S

1982 Chef Mark Cox moves to Houston and becomes executive chef at Brennan’s.


ALEX BRENNAN-MARTIN WITH JACK NICHOLSON AND SHIRLEY MACLAINE, WHO FILMED A SCENE OF

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT AT BRENNAN'S in 1983

brennan's original courtyard before hurricane ike

holiday jingle 10,000 Number of Christmas bells, strung on Brennan’s ribbon, given to guests every holiday season

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5 NOSY QUESTIONS FOR JOSE AREVALO Sous chef Jose Arevalo has been in Brennan’s kitchen longer than any other single employee – 35 years. He arrived in the United States from El Salvador and was an electrician by training. Yet he applied for a dishwasher position at Brennan’s “not knowing the effect this amazing restaurant was going to have on my life.” Today Arevalo opens and oversees the operations at Brennan’s. “I help out where needed to make sure everything runs smoothly during the shift. Part of my job is checking everything on the line for quality and freshness along with making sure everyone on my team works efficiently.” We asked Arevalo a few nosy questions. WHAT WAS YOUR EARLIEST AMBITION? CHRIS SHEPHERD CARL WALKER

As a kid, my dream was to become a farmer. Now, I work with a lot of farmers to secure the best ingredient for Brennan’s. WHO HAS BEEN YOUR MENTOR?

Former executive chefs Mark Cox and Carl Walker along with owner Alex BrennanMartin. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR COOL

JOSE AREVALO

RANDY EVANS

WHEN THE KITCHEN IS SLAMMED?

Sometimes you just have to take a step back, think about things, then get back in and lead my team through it. You really just have to remind yourself that people are looking up to you for guidance and you cannot let them down. FAVORITE LATE-NIGHT MEAL AFTER A LONG SHIFT?

Egg tacos with red beans and rice. SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW:

I am a huge fan of the Houston Symphony, but I also love listening to music from Woodstock.

houston

1983 Terms of Endearment, the film starring Jack Nicholson

and Shirley MacLaine and based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, is released. The scene between astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Nicholson) and Aurora Greenway (MacLaine), shot on location in Brennan’s, inspires hundreds of reservations in the years to come for “the Terms of Endearment Room.”

1983 Alex Brennan-Martin, who had been work-

ing at the Four Seasons in NYC and then as assistant manager at Maxwell’s Plum, is asked by his family to take over management at Brennan’s of Houston.

1987 Chef Carl Walker moves over from the Brennan family’s Commander’s Palace in New Orleans to become executive chef at Brennan’s of Houston.

new orleans

1991 A piece of kitchen equipment becomes obsolete, and Alex Brennan-Martin and

78ponder what to do with the windfall of space. Pastry counter? New ovens? Carl Walker Walk-in S P R freezer? I N G 2 0 1 7Instead, they create the glassed-in “kitchen table” where once a night six lucky guests can have a seat in the middle of the kitchen and a special chef ’s menu.


Creole Bread Pudding

Then chef and now GM, Carl Walker included this recipe in his cookbook, Brennan’s of Houston in Your Kitchen (2001). Both the bread pudding and whiskey sauce can be made up to two days in advance. When reheating the sauce, take care to use a very low flame so as not to curdle the egg yolks. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, blend sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk in eggs, milk, cream and vanilla. Tear bread slices into big, bite-size pieces and place in a lightly buttered 9x13x2-inch pan. Pour milk mixture over bread and allow to soak until soft, about 1 hour. Stir raisins into pudding; top with nuts. Bake uncovered 1½ hours. METHOD:

Prepare rye whiskey sauce (recipe below), keeping warm until needed. At serving time, scoop bread pudding into individual bowls and top with reserved whiskey sauce. Serves 8 to 12.

3 cups packed light brown sugar 2 tsp. ground cinnamon ½ tsp. ground nutmeg 5 eggs, slightly beaten 1 quart milk 2 cups whipping cream 5 tsp. vanilla extract 14 1-inch-thick slices day-old French bread 1 cup raisins 1½ cups pecan pieces

Houston’s Speciality Wine Store Since 1984

ORDERS DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR

RYE WHISKEY SAUCE METHOD: Stirring

occasionally, heat cream and sugar in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture begins to boil. Mix cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl until smooth; slowly whisk into simmering cream. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

2 cups whipping cream 9 Tbsp. sugar 1½ Tbsp. cornstarch 2 Tbsp. cold water 2 egg yolks ¼ cup whiskey

SHOP ONLINE AT HOUSTONWINES.COM

Put yolks into a stainless steel bowl and whisk well. Temper yolks by slowly whisking 1 cup hot, thickened cream mixture into yolks. Return yolk mixture to hot cream mixture, whisking in slowly. After mixture is whisked together, cook over medium-low heat until mixture reaches 140 degrees. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer. Add whiskey, adjusting to taste, and keep warm until ready to use. Store sauce in a covered container in refrigerator up to three days. Yields 2½ cups.

2646 S. Shepherd one block south of Westheimer

79 SPRING 2017

79 SPRING 2017

713-524-3397

www.houstonwines.com


a handful of BRENNAN'S ALUMNI Chris Shepherd, Randy Evans,

owner/chef (Underbelly, One Fifth)

RANDY EVANS & CHRIS SHEPHERD

culinary director (HEB)

Mark Holley,

chef/owner (Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar) Felix Florez,

Hill Meats)

Mark Cox,

now closed)

owner/butcher (Ritual Restaurant, Black

chef/owner (Mark’s American Restaurant,

Patrick Feges, Bobby Matos,

sous chef (Southern Goods)

executive chef (State of Grace)

Joe Cervantez, Kevin Naderi,

chef de cuisine (Killen’s Steakhouse)

chef/owner (Roost)

Lance Fegen,

culinary director (Liberty Kitchen)

Jon Herbert,

executive chef (Houston City Club)

Jamie Zelko,

in Evelyn’s Park)

chef/owner (soon-to-open Ivy & James

Sarah Grueneberg, Matt Marcus,

Brewery)

chef/owner (Monteverde)

chef/owner (Eatsie Boys, 8th Wonder

Daniela Soto-Innes, Roland Soza,

Houstonian)

“Brennan’s is like being invited into someone’s home. One time I asked Alex BrennanMartin to make a dish I had had in New Orleans with crawfish, andouille sausage and angel hair pasta. Over the years the dish became more popular and eventually made it onto the menu. Alex and his mother Ella called it ‘Crawfish Kacal’ in honor of our long-standing friendship.” – Bill Kacal

chef de cuisine (Cosme)

chef (Manor House at The

Jeff Weinstock,

chef (Cake & Bacon) for more brennan's alumni, visit my-table.com

1993 A tornado rips off part

of the roof on November 16, and rain soaks the Garden Room. Nevertheless, the restaurant is fully repaired and ready for a Christmas party on December 14.

1998 Alex Brennan-Martin is voted Restaurateur of the Year by voters in the Houston Culinary Awards.

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2001 Tropical Storm Allison sweeps into Houston on June 8, drenching the city with 29plus inches of water. High water in downtown prevents many Brennan’s guests from leaving that Friday night. The restaurant provides about a dozen unexpected overnight guests with white tablecloths as sheets, and cooks prepare breakfast for all the stranded guests.

2001 The cookbook Brennan’s of Houston In Your Kitchen by chef Carl Walker is published.

1999 Alex Brennan-Martin and My Table host the Third Annual Houston Culinary Awards 80 on November 18 at Brennan’s. It is the first time the HCAs are presented at a gala dinner. SPRING 2017


Brandy Milk Punch

What’s brunch without a milk punch to start? This is the milk punch served by Brennan’s bartender Richard Middleton. METHOD: Combine

all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

2 oz. VS brandy, such as Paul Beau VS cognac 1½ oz. milk (not skim milk) 1 oz. simple syrup ¼ oz. Amaretto Disaronno ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Hosting 10 guests or feeding 3,500? WE BRING THE PARTY TO YOU!

FRESH LOUISIANA CRAWFISH and

GULF COAST SHRIMP BOILS 2003 Randy Evans is appointed executive chef in November.

2006 The Kitchen Table, a cookbook by chef Randy Evans, is published.

2005 Alex Brennan-Martin is named Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year by 81 the Texas Restaurant Association during its June 26-28 convention in Dallas. SPRING 2017

(713) 621-3474 www.ragincatering.com


a sweet goodbye 6,000 Number of pralines the Brennan’s kitchen makes every week – about 500,000 a year.

“Brennan’s makes everyone feel like they’re the only customer. The staff always knows who’s coming, and they know your name. Why not go somewhere that makes you feel special, whether you’re celebrating something or not? So I’ve been to Brennan’s for every occasion – I’ve sent my son there on his first date, I’ve gone there to celebrate joining my church and for birthdays. Dining there feels like going back to visit family.” – Carolyn Faulk BRENNAN'S GUMBO

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Turtle Soup

Turtle soup is the most popular dish at Brennan’s, says Alex Brennan-Martin. The restaurant uses only freshwater turtles, such as snapping turtles, not the environmentally threatened sea turtles. For a mock turtle soup, substitute ground beef or a combination of half ground beef and half ground veal in a coarse chili grind. METHOD: Heat

2 Tbsp. oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Brown meat along with Creole seafood and Creole meat seasonings. Cook about 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic while stirring constantly. Add thyme and bay leaves; reduce heat to medium and sauté (stirring frequently) 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and start to caramelize. Add stock and tomato puree; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that rises to the top. While stock is simmering, make roux. Heat ½ cup oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add flour, a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon – being careful not to burn the roux. After flour is added, cook about 3 minutes, until roux smells nutty, is pale in color and the consistency of wet sand. Using a whisk, vigorously stir roux into soup, a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer uncovered about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. Add sherry and bring to a boil. Add hot sauce and Worcestershire; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until starchy flavor is gone, skimming any fat or foam that rises to the top. Add lemon juice, return to a simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1½ lb. turtle meat, chili or large grind 1½ Tbsp. Creole seafood seasoning 1½ Tbsp. Creole meat seasoning 1 cup finely chopped onion 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper ½ cup finely chopped celery 1 Tbsp. minced garlic ½ tsp. crushed dried thyme 2 bay leaves 8 cups veal stock or canned no-salt beef broth ¾ cup tomato puree ½ cup vegetable oil ½ cup all-purpose flour 1 cup dry sherry 2 Tbsp. Louisiana hot pepper sauce 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce juice of 1 lemon 5 oz. fresh spinach, stems removed, washed, patted dry, coarsely chopped 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped dry sherry for garnish (optional)

Add spinach and chopped egg, bring to a simmer and adjust seasoning with seafood seasoning or salt, if needed. Remove bay leaves before ladling into bowls. When serving, add a splash of sherry to each bowl, if desired.

2008 During Hurricane Ike on the night of September 13, an

electrical transformer explodes and the fire quickly spreads to Brennan’s. The winds are too fierce for the Houston Fire Department to contain the blaze, and they turn their attention to protecting nearby buildings. Brennan’s is all but destroyed. Only a partial brick shell and an awning bearing the Brennan’s of Houston logo survives.

2011 Preservation Houston recognizes the restaurant’s post-Ike recovery with a special Good Brick Award.

2011 Brennan’s of Houston is inducted into the Fine Dining Hall of Fame by Nation’s Restaurant News.

2010 After 16 months of repairs, Brennan’s re-opens on Mardi Gras on February 16. Danny Trace bows in as the new executive chef.83

2017 Brennan’s of Houston celebrates 50 years.

SPRING 2017 SPRING 2017

83


FAMILIES THAT RANCH TOGETHER By Becca Wright & Taylor Byrne Dodge

84 84 SPRING 2017 SPRING 2017

PHOTO COURTESY OF 44 FARMS


Semantic saturation is a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated meaningless sounds. In the last decade certain menu descriptors have become so overused, threadbare and grossly diluted as to become meaningless. Two that jump to mind are farm to table and local. We don’t know about you, but we have developed farm to table fatigue. In an effort to reignite our faith My Table spent the past few months trekking out past the suburbs to become acquainted with four family-owned ranches that provide meat to Houston restaurants. These are local businesses that really do practice farm to table. We petted their animals, stepped in cow patties, climbed inside a chicken coop and were followed by a donkey. Discussing the fruit of their labor and frustrations while working as a family was not always a comfortable conversation, but it opened the door for more questions and consideration when it comes to the meaning of small businesses, family-run ranches and buying truly local, natural products.

85 SPRING 2017


BLACK HILL MEATS blackhillmeats.com

Felix Flores, the founder of Black Hill Meats, will tell you that if you want to be a rancher, get used to death and never name your animals. But at Black Hill Ranch in Northwest Houston, one of his original hogs does have a name. Oprah has particular significance for Flores, perhaps because she has been around since Flores launched Black Hill Meats in 2009. Ranching has been in the Flores family since 1850, and Flores – who used to be the wine guy at Brennan’s of Houston – is doing his part to provide fellow Texans with naturally raised Texas meats. It’s likely you’ve eaten Black Hill meat at restaurants around town, even if it’s not identified as such on the menu. Flores is also a partner at Ritual, The Heights restaurant known for in-house butchered meats and a Texas-centric menu.

86 86 BLACK HILL MEATS PHOTOS BY BECCA WRIGHT

SPRING 2017 SPRING 2017


GET TO KNOW FELIX FLORES OF BLACK HILL MEATS WHAT IS A BENEFIT OF WORKING WITH FAMILY?

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A YOUNG PERSON WHO

Family tends to care more than those only collecting a paycheck.

WANTS TO BECOME A RANCHER?

DRAWBACK?

Family tends to speak to each other less professionally than a typical workplace, and arguments carry over to the house. SOMEONE WANTS TO GO INTO BUSINESS WITH HIS OR HER FAMILY. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE?

Speak to each other professionally and leave work at work. WHAT LEGACY DO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND?

We want America using quality Texas products.

You better be prepared to work ridiculously hard and watch every penny that goes out. Because margins are super thin, especially when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. And be prepared to deal with poop – lots of it. WHAT DO YOU WISH THE PUBLIC KNEW ABOUT FAMILIES WHO RANCH?

There are way easier ways to make money. You do it because it should be done, and you do it because it belongs on pastures, not in factories. Dealing with naturally raised livestock also means dealing with death. If you want to eat drug-free meat, it comes with a cost. Only the strongest survive.

FELIX FLORES

Throughout Texas there are more than 100 families growing livestock for Black Hill Ranch.

87 SPRING 2017


DO YOUR CHILDREN SHOW AN INTEREST IN CARRYING

“EVERY DAY I READ …”

ON THE FAMILY BUSINESS?

My Table, Eater, CultureMap, etc.

Sometimes they do, but I want them to make a living with their minds not their backs, if possible. Who knows, maybe they’ll be as stubborn as I am when someone says something can’t be done. Each of my sons is very different.

WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

The fear of failure. WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

Working outdoors and taking care of my customers.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?

A personal trainer until I could open a restaurant.

WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE?

WHEN WAS YOUR LAST VACATION?

Personally I want to be the dad that my father is. Professionally I want to raise the capital to open our own slaughterhouse.

I took a bunch of chefs hunting for two days a couple weeks ago. Vacation doesn’t get much longer than that.

HERITAGE HOG BREEDS AT BLACK HILL RANCH INCLUDE BERKSHIRE, OSSABAW, MEISHAN, LARGE BLACK AND OTHERS

88 SPRING 2017


black hill ranch usuallY has around 250 pigs

89 S S PP RR II N NG G 2 20 01 17 7


JOLIE VUE FARMS jolievuefarms.com

Up in Independence, about 85 miles northwest of Houston, Glen Boudreaux and his wife Honi chop up apples and lettuce and head out to feed the pigs. Chicory, a young black lab, lopes along next to the golf cart in that happy goofy way that labs do everything. She’s a city dog and needs the exercise, explains Honi. The Boudreauxs live in Houston, and with the help of their ranch manager, handle the 107-acre farm in Independence plus 100 acres of leased land at Mayfair Ranch in Brenham. Glen and Honi Boudreaux acquired Jolie Vue in 1989, and today they specialize in producing pasture-raised organic beef and pork. What makes this family-owned ranch unique is its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. For $269 a month, customers receive a 25-quart cooler filled with Jolie Vue beef and pork, as well as chicken from Jolly Farms in Alvin and eggs from Coyote Creek Farm in Elgin.

90 90 JOLIE VUE PHOTOS BY BECCA WRIGHT

SPRING 2017 SPRING 2017


GET TO KNOW GLEN & HONI BOUDREAUX OF JOLIE VUE WHAT IS A BENEFIT OF WORKING WITH FAMILY?

SOMEONE WANTS TO GO INTO BUSINESS WITH HIS

Glen: We all bring different talents to the farm business and that is a great benefit. For any given solution needed, we always know the one, two or three family members to look to. Honi: Not only do we build stronger family bonds and have such fun together, but we learn to problem solve, share information, recognize individual talents, bring prosperity to the farm, eat healthily together and just spend more time together. I am positive that the farm and the chores helped mold my children (and their friends) into solid citizens. Animals, gardens and crops don’t wait; chores must be done. Life happens, death happens, and we pull together and deal with it.

OR HER FAMILY. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE?

WHAT LEGACY DO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND?

Glen: The overriding mission of the farm is to raise animals with dignity and respect while providing clean, healthy and tasty food to the Houston metro community, all the while enhancing our soil, water and air.

Honi: Make sure you have definite ideas as to what your purpose is, what you expect of each other and to take breaks to keep your enthusiasm growing. WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A YOUNG PERSON WHO WANTS TO BECOME A RANCHER?

Glen: It’s a wonderful life. Your pasture, your field or your tractor is your office, and you live in the natural world. Honi: You’ll be your own boss, but there are no days off. You must be self-motivated and you must love the outdoors and hard work. But it is so worth it. Your family can be with you, your children can learn by your side. You don’t have to join a gym. WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE?

Honi: I’d like to travel more and see other farms and land use.

GLEN & HONI BOUDREAUX

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Between the two ranches, the couple has 36 BREEDING cows and two bulls.

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Jolie Vue hosted Outstanding in The Field – a national dining series set on various farms and ranches across the country – in 2008 and 2016.

DO YOUR CHILDREN SHOW AN INTEREST IN CARRYING ON THE FAMILY BUSINESS?

Honi: My children and their spouses love this farm, and now our grandchildren are loving it, too. Right now, the kids are pursuing other professions. Yet they come for harvest days, farm field days, work days and events when they can. We also have family hunts each year, and we spend holidays together here. I think one of my grandsons will likely be the next serious farmer in charge. WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

Honi: Nothing keeps me awake, literally. But I do worry about our food chain and how the government continues to interfere with natural food-raising methods. WHAT WOULD OUTSIDERS BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT RANCHING IN THE 21ST CENTURY?

Honi: How precariously close we are to not having enough clean water and food. We must keep family farms in the hands of individual families, not corporations. Read Silent Spring again. And I think folks will be surprised to know two things: 1) How much record-

keeping farming entails: email, Excel charts, animal husbandry, rain and water records, types of grasses and use of land, and 2) How important the care of the land is so that future generations will have plenty of food. And that we still use horses. Many things don’t change. “EVERY DAY I READ …”

Glen: History and biographies, the newspapers and sports. Honi: The Houston Chronicle. I like holding my newspaper. And I read lots of books – historical events, novels and a fun novel to fall asleep to. WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

Honi: Best thing about my job is that I get to watch the sun rise and set in a quiet, gorgeous setting. I can hear the natural world around me, watch the flowers grow and fade and get closer to our Creator. In this frantic world, it’s good to know there’s calm and quiet and peace.

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KATERRA EXOTICS katerraexotics.com

His grandfather’s hobby of raising bison in Leakey, Texas, is today rancher Patrick Bierschwale’s business. The former mixed martial arts fighter – he competed professionally for seven years – was inspired to go into the business when his friends kept asking to buy bison meat from him and his father, who had taken over his grandfather’s ranch. So in 2013, Patrick retired from professional fighting and filed for his LLC. Katerra Exotics now consists of a 100-acre ranch in Katy, the 2,700-acre ranch in Leakey, 500 acres of leased land in Chappell Hill and 300 acres in College Station with trapping rights to wild boar. The Bierschwale family lives together on the Katy ranch: Patrick, his wife and their four children (with another on the way) live in one house, Patrick’s father and mother in another, and Patrick’s sister – she’s the ranch veterinarian – and her family are in a third house. It’s a Bierschwale family village.

94 94 KATERRA EXOTICS PHOTOS BY BECCA WRIGHT

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GET TO KNOW PATRICK BIERSCHWALE OF KATERRA EXOTICS I work closest with my dad now. My dad is always there when I need him and he wants me to succeed.

good so we eat them. I give them the best life possible from beginning to end. I take my animals to an animal welfare-approved slaughtering facility. There is no stress.

DRAWBACK?

WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE?

It’s family – sometimes it too close for comfort. It’s always trying to live up to what you think your family’s expectations are. You always want to make your dad proud. It puts more pressure on you.

I want to be a good parent and I want my kids to succeed. My professional goal is that I want my business to grow, especially my store, which has been open for four months. I would like to be able to focus on that. Working farmers’ markets every Saturday, it takes me away from my family. In my store, it’s my meat and different products from farmers’ market vendors. Everything is locally grown or produced. I would like to be able to supply more restaurants, too.

WHAT IS A BENEFIT OF WORKING WITH FAMILY?

SOMEONE WANTS TO GO INTO BUSINESS WITH HIS OR HER FAMILY. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE?

Get ready to work harder than you’ve worked before, make less money then you’ve made before, but you’ll enjoy it. It’s worth it. WHAT DO YOU WANT THE PUBLIC TO KNOW ABOUT RANCH FAMILIES?

I wish everyone knew how much we love and care for these animals. My animals are my pets, but they taste

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?

We had career day at school, and I wanted to be a pro wrestler because I thought that was real fighting. So I actually kind of did that.

PATRICK BIERSCHWALE

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At Katerra Exotics' Leakey ranch, there are 150 bison.

WHAT LEGACY DO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND?

WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

My idea was if our family’s ranches weren’t being used for a purpose, we shouldn’t have them. I wanted to make sure I kept the ranching legacy in my family alive. “EVERY DAY I READ …”

The weather. That’s the most important thing. I read it to know whether my day is going to be good or bad.

Oh, dear. The health of my animals; my kids’ grades at school; wondering if this month is going to be as good as last month; being able to pay the bills; the construction around my store, which is my biggest worry right now. WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

I work for me, and I’m doing something I love.

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Bison are harvested at the prime meatproducing age of two to three years.

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44 FARMS 44farms.com

This fourth-generation family-owned ranch is considered one of the premiere Black Angus producers in the country. Bob McClaren – the former president of the Houston Astros and a prominent sports agent – is the president and CEO of 44 Farms, and he has spent more than a decade bringing several smaller parcels of his family’s land together under a single 44 Farms umbrella. It was his great-grandfather S.W. McClaren, who emblazoned his cattle with “44” in 1909, and thus the 44 Farms brand was born. This past February, 44 Farms landed a $2 million deal on the CNBC show Billion Dollar Buyer with Tilman Fertitta, the owner of Landry’s Inc. Fertitta travels the country sampling hospitality products, and, as of press time, the deal with 44 Farms was the biggest in the show’s history.

98 98 PHOTOS COURTESY OF 44 FARMS

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GET TO KNOW BOB McCLAREN OF 44 FARMS WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A YOUNG PERSON WHO

WHAT DO YOU WISH THE PUBLIC KNEW ABOUT RANCH

WANTS TO BECOME A RANCHER OR FARMER?

FAMILIES?

Production agriculture of any kind is hard work. It is usually seven days a week and 12-plus hours a day. So, you must love the work. It really is a calling. It’s not for everyone. Most successful ranchers and farmers understand that we depend on the land and its resources for our livelihood. From that dependency comes a unique connection with the land, the cattle and experiencing God’s creation up close everyday. It is a life of great responsibility, risk and challenge, but fulfillment beyond measure.

I think most people would be surprised by the pride and satisfaction that ranchers experience knowing they have provided a wholesome, healthy and delicious product for the public. There is a strong emotional connection in the hearts and minds of ranchers with the consumer. WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE?

One thing I hope I can do is provide people with opportunities to follow their dreams. Another is to continue to grow the 44 Farms brand and maybe expand our reach by providing new products and services. Third, is to WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT? help tell the great story of American agriculture and the Thinking of the men and women that have invested their men and women who work so hard to provide healthy lives and families in the hope and mission of 44 Farms. and delicious food for America and the world. Finally, I The weight of that keeps me awake, but it is so exciting. always want to share what God has done for me through His amazing grace. BOB McCLAREN

In 2016, 44 farms sold over 1,600 bulls

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“EVERYDAY I READ …?

The Bible and a letter from my dad that I keep in my Bible. He sent me the letter two weeks after I started law school in 1981. He told how proud he was of me, he refreshed my memory to wake up early, he reminded me that work is a blessing, he encouraged me to never let others pull me down, he told me to never give up, and he said he loved me no matter what and that God has a plan for my life. WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED FROM RANCHERS IN YOUR FAMILY?

It is funny that several family members and others have shared with me that this [large-scale breeding] business

would never work. They feel like the “cattle industry” is not one that lends itself to success and that agriculture is under attack. We just believe in our mission of helping ranchers be successful by producing a premium product through the use of our Angus genetics rather than just producing a commodity. WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

The men and women of 44 Farms. I love them all. They have come here from around the U.S. with different backgrounds and experiences, yet it really works. There is great respect within the team, and we all share the desire to serve our customers.

over 2,000 calves were born at the farm in 2016

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REVIEWS

relish restaurant & bar COUNTER REVOLUTION 2810 Westheimer just west of Kirby 713-599-1960 WEBSITE relishhouston.com CUISINE American bistro CREDIT CARDS All major HOURS Open 11 am-10 pm Mon.-Fri., 5:30-10 pm Sat. Closed Sun. RESERVATIONS Recommended at dinner NOISE LEVEL Noisy at peak times

ADDRESS

TELEPHONE

By Teresa Byrne-Dodge The permanent shuttering of chef John Sheely’s Mockingbird Bistro in December rocked our world, but not in a good way. For years, Mockingbird was the place we fell into when the world whupped our butts and we needed a friendly refuge for cocktails and steak frites. It’s where we went to refresh ourselves after challenging days and to celebrate life’s highlights. Heck, it’s even the place where we were married five years ago. Mockingbird offered just the right combination of fancy and comfort. We didn’t realize we have been looking for a Mockingbird replacement, but of course we were. And, maybe, we’ve found a contender in Relish, the newish spot on Westheimer that shares a parking lot with Chuy’s. (When I say “share,” I mean that the parking lots are contiguous. There seems to be some strict divvying-up of parking here. You may have to resort to valet for Relish.) Relish began life in 2011 as Relish Fine Foods, a little gourmet grocery/grab-n-go spot on San Felipe. Owner Addie D’Agostino and her chef Dustin Teague found a happy niche supplying salads, sandwiches and desserts to River Oaksians and others who passed by daily. Relish managed to do what similar outfits (e.g. Heights General Store, the original Revival Market, EatZi’s) did not: Thrive.

In 2016, D’Agostino and Teague – now married – began to move on up, as they say, by taking over The Bird & the Bear location. Their new Relish Restaurant & Bar was going to be much bigger and offered an opportunity to be all grown up with thoughtful wine and cocktail programs. So this is where we have found ourselves on three recent occasions, once for lunch and twice for dinner. Lunch still echoes the old concept in that you order at the counter, then find a table. The server will bring your food to you, as well as refill ice tea glasses and fetch a fresh napkin, should you need one. In the evening, the restaurant changes service models and becomes a full-service restaurant. The first thing we liked is the look of the place. A 20-seat bar anchors the dining room. Shiny wine glasses, carafes, white subway tile and a few touches of silvery stainless steel make the area sparkle. On the floor around the bar is a “carpet” of white and black penny tiles, so the bar area has the feel of a New Orleans oyster bar. The rest of the restaurant floor is dark wood, as are the naked tabletops. Mirrors and simple brass sconces line two walls, while the front wall is composed of windows that open up the view of the patio seating. If the space feels just a little familiar – like Brasserie 19, perhaps? – that’s

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because Julie McGarr of McGarr Design Interiors did both restaurants. In the evening, the lights are low and flattering. The menu at lunch consists simply of soups, salads and sandwiches. Some will argue that the prices are high: crispy chicken sandwich ($14), BLT ($13) and pimiento cheese ($12), for example. But all of the sandwiches come with your choice of a vegetable side dish – I recommend the unusual and delicious roasted cauliflower – which makes the pricing easier to swallow. And I’ll just say that the hotdog made with a 44 Farms all-beef frank on a toasted bun with housemade relish ($14) was the single best hotdog I’ve ever eaten. I think of it often. Lunch salads are mostly entrée style, as with the hugely popular kale salad that includes toasted walnuts, pecorino, grilled chicken and dried cranberries ($13), while the apple salad ($13) has Granny Smith apples, candied pecans, grilled chicken and goat cheese. Butternut squash soup ($5 for a cup, $7 for a bowl) is a glorious puree that is both sweet and slightly herbal and comes with a pretty pumpkin seed garnish.

There is some carry-over of the lunch menu items to dinner, but original night-time items include New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp ($26) that are tail-on but otherwise peeled, served with polenta; grilled pork chops ($34) with fingerling potatoes, peas and fresh mint; bucatini all’Amatriciana ($15) with pancetta and sweet tomatoes; and a ribeye with herbed butter and hand-cut fries ($38). Many will be tempted to begin with a round of deviled eggs ($3 for one, $8 for three). Topped with nubbins of fried chicken, they are very good, classic in style. Another time we ordered the duck liver mousse that is served on a wood board with triangles of grilled bread and a relish of pickled cauliflower and cucumbers. The mousse is deliciously delicate, so fine it practically melts into the warm bread. Several weeks ago on one of the online community bulletin boards I subscribe to, someone asked where to get great fried chicken – the real thing, not chicken tenders. You can add Relish to the resulting crowd-sourced list, which included Frank’s Americana Revival’s Friday-only special and the illustrious Barbecue Inn, among

RELISH PHOTOS BY JULIE SOEFER

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others. Three pieces of fried chicken are served with a little cup of hot spicy honey for dipping and a mound of Brussels sprouts just slightly blackened and dressed with a touch of maple. The other highlight – so good we ordered it on both of our dinner visits – is the pair of crabcakes ($32) seasoned with Old Bay and served in a puddle of remoulade with salady greens. This city serves many crabcakes, but I truly can’t recommend any over those that come out of Relish’s kitchen. Just big pieces of lump meat, perfectly cleaned and patted together. The 23 wines-by-the-glass are an eclectic collection that includes bottles from Oregon, California, France, New Zealand and elsewhere, and most are offered as a

three-ounce ($5 to $9) or six-ounce ($10 to $18) pour. There are even four sparkling wines offered by the glass ($13 to $19). House cocktails ($12 each) include French 75, boulevardier, negroni and old fashioned among the 10 listed on their own menu. The only clunker at Relish was the St. George gin used in a barely dirty martini. I enjoy trying new gins, but I have to say that St. George, made in California, was very medicinal and unappealing. I can’t blame our charming server, who had compared it to Tanqueray 10. My guess is that he was repeating the booze rep’s words. Don’t repeat my mistake with the gin, but do go to Relish. They are open for lunch and dinner and plan to soon add weekend brunch.

FRIED CHICKEN

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REVIEWS

cafe azur THE FRENCH KISS OF MONTROSE 4315 Montrose near Richmond 713-524-0070 WEBSITE cafeazurhouston.com CUISINE Southern France with some nods to Italy CREDIT CARDS All major HOURS Open 5-10 pm Tue.-Thu., 5-11 pm Fri.-Sat., 5-9 pm Sun. RESERVATIONS Recommended NOISE LEVEL Stout when crowded ADDRESS

TELEPHONE

By William Albright When it comes to Franco-American relations, a lot of Perrier has flowed under the bridge since the happy days when General Lafayette fought on our side in the American Revolution and palled around with Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson. Due to France’s disapproval of the Iraq War, the era of Freedom Fries and “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” was born. French wines were boycotted, and a couple of French restaurants in the Houston area were the victims of some patriotic vandalism. Fortunately, French food has never gone out of fashion here, and I don’t mean just French fries. Many fine Gallic restaurants have flourished in these parts, and a most enjoyable example of the genre joined the ranks last September. The roster didn’t swell by one, however, because Brasserie Max & Julie closed in July and just two months later was succeeded in its Montrose-atRichmond space by Cafe Azur, making the count a wash. It’s as though the lease is restricted to a place specializing in French cuisine. Owner/chef Sidney Degaine and his wife/operating partner Maria, who works front of the house and often schmoozes with diners, had three restaurants in her native Brazil before pulling up stakes and moving here. They have definitely made the former Max & Julie space their own. Gone are the dark woods that lent dignity to

the former tenant’s atmosphere. Also gone is the previous proprietors’ all-in-French menu. The Degaines’ creation takes its name, its ambience and much of its lively culinary identity from the Côte d’Azur, aka the French Riviera, where Nice, Sidney’s hometown, nestles close to the Italian border. Azur means blue in French, and a light shade of that color seriously brightens Cafe Azur’s dining room. The banquettes are upholstered in big blue and white stripes, and the water glasses are of a similarly cheery hue. A big poster touting Le Carnaval à Nice, a gauzily Impressionistic harbor scene and other bits of locally evocative décor proclaim chef Degaine’s roots. But many of his dishes also boast some Italian pedigrees. I sampled items where both influences were on display and was almost never disappointed. I have loved fried artichokes for ages and ordered them every time I dined at the long-gone Ballatori Italian Restaurant, which transformed a former bank into an eatery and repurposed the vault as a banquet room. So, when I saw crispy artichokes on the menu ($11) I didn’t even need to know that they came with lemon ricotta on the side to make them the first thing I ate at Cafe Azur. They were nice and crispy all right, and the creamy lemon ricotta, just one example of Italy’s imprint on the fare

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here, was the perfect complement. The wedges of choke were a little fibrous, however, and thus didn’t replace Ballatori’s version in my affections. But the lemon ricotta was as good as you’d expect in a place that reportedly stocks its welcoming, L-shaped, rosé-loving bar with house-made limoncello. The other appetizers I sampled were both innovative and unfailingly enjoyable. Octopus is starred on the menu as a signature dish, but the creature must be a real favorite of the proprietors. The whitewashed walls are decorated with several sculptures that look like octopi stuck on the surface, and some disembodied tentacles peek out from the bottom edge of the printed menu like something in an Edward Gorey book. The actual $16 dish – a rope-thick hunk of roasted tentacle perched atop sliced potatoes, luscious sautéed onion threads and lots of capers – was a bit daunting to look at, but the meat itself was wonderfully tender and

by no means as offputtingly chewy as that creature can be sometimes. Less startling visually but equally rewarding was another signature dish, the Perfect Egg ($12). Here, an egg cooked for 45 minutes at 65 degrees Celsius (149 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below water’s boiling point of 100/212) floats in a spherical clear-glass bowl of potato foam spiked with tiny beech mushrooms. I expected the potato foam to be a bubbly froth, but it’s really more like aerated mashed potatoes or vichyssoise without the leeks. The menu item perhaps most closely tied to chef Degaine’s coastal birthplace is bouillabaisse, another signature dish. My serving of the classic fish stew ($32) was made with a couple of tail-on shrimp, a clutch of mussels, a big plump scallop, a couple ribbons of fennel and some succulent morsels of what the menu description called Mediterranean fish. And of course there CAFE AZUR PHOTOS BY DAVID TONG

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DUCK BREAST

were some thin slices of toasted bread with a tiny cup of garlicky rouille alongside (apparently there’s a saying that bouillabaisse without rouille is like Marseille without sunshine). The tomato-based broth brimmed with maritime flavor, and there was more of it than I could finish, thanks no doubt to my failure to go easy on the complimentary starter here, thick-cut slabs of crusty bread served with a shallow dish of olive oil.

the best pot roast I ever ate. Also superb was the robust black cherry sauce enhancing the duck breast paired with creamy polenta ($32). It could just as easily have adorned a bowl of ice cream.

Bouillabaisse is French through and through. Ditto the other fish dish I tried, a terrific filet of branzino ($29) accompanied by ratatouille and roasted panisses, chickpea-flour cakes cut into logs (another food from the south of France I don’t recall seeing on many menus here). But the other dishes I ate at Cafe Azur often allowed Italy and the south of France to coexist on the plate at least a little. The bowl of lobster ravioli with foie gras and white truffle oil is designated a signature dish, but the $24 plate of ox cheek fettucine (probably inspired by Mario Batali’s famed beef cheek ravioli) is unflagged. It makes a great hearty meal, however. The fettuccine had gone past the al dente stage, but the sauce, a takeoff on the Provençal daube or slow-braised beef stew, tasted like

But no matter the topping, a dish of plain vanilla couldn’t hold a candle to the ice cream Cafe Azur makes tableside with liquid nitrogen. The super-cold stuff is poured into a stainless-steel basin of custard and the server whisks it until the contents are soft-frozen. The fog billowing out of the bowl turns heads at neighboring tables and is the best show this side of bananas Foster and cherries jubilee. I tried the pistachio version ($17) and it eclipsed all other examples of that confection I’ve had. I even preferred it to the $14 ball of chocolate mousse with a bourbon cream center and a glaze of ganache ever so slightly and tantalizingly tweaked with curry and crunchy flecks of fleur de sel. In my book it takes a lot for a meal-ender to score higher than something made with chocolate, but this excellent new purveyor of Mediterranean cuisine seems to be good at outdoing itself.

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REVIEWS

killen's STQ STQ TAKES HOME THE "W" 2231 S. Voss just south of Del Monte TELEPHONE 713-586-0223 CUISINE Wood-fired meat CREDIT CARDS All major HOURS Open 5-9 pm Mon.-Thu., 5-10 pm Fri.-Sat. Closed Sun. RESERVATIONS Recommended NOISE LEVEL Can be loud

ADDRESS

By Eric Gerber At STQ, smoke hangs indistinctly in the air, more a delicious, room-filling aroma than a visible haze. If you didn’t know better, you might assume that’s what the “S” stands for in the three-initialed name of this admirable addition to the Houston’s dining scene. But no. The “S” and the “T,” for that matter, refer to steak. And the concluding “Q,” we’re told, is a tip of the hat to “BBQ.” But if you were hoping to order brisket or spare ribs with potato salad and slaw on the side, I’m afraid you’d be SOL at STQ. This is certainly not a barbecue restaurant or even a steakhouse, though STQ’s proprietor and culinary master Ronnie Killen does operate commendable versions of each in Pearland. Instead, this Tanglewood outpost incorporates elements of both – high-end steaks do anchor the menu, and barbecue techniques influence many of the dishes – yet provides Killen an opportunity to stretch his arms a bit and perform outside the conventions of his genre-based establishments (which also includes a burger joint). In a way, STQ is Ronnie Killen’s Playhouse. And, oh, what fun he – and we fortunate diners – are having! Not too surprisingly, the most impressive examples of this unfettered approach show up at the top of the menu, appetizers that are as innovative as they are

delectable. A single, savory tamal ($12) filled with minced short rib then smothered in brisket-chunked chili and sprinkled with creamy cotija cheese was almost too good, running the risk of making whatever followed it pale considerably by comparison. It’s served on a traditional corn shuck and, after the tamal itself had been devoured, I found myself pondering ways to slurp up what remained on that fibrous covering in a semicivilized manner. None came to mind, alas. (Mind you, I’m not saying I didn’t do it – it just wasn’t civilized, semi- or otherwise.) That tamal (the menu seems to prefer the Tex-Mexy spelling “tamale,” by the way) is one of a half dozen or so must-try dishes at STQ – and that’s not including any of the eight state-of-the-art steaks, the excellence of which almost goes without saying. Those luscious steaks, corn-fed American and Japanese Wagyu, range from $40 to $85, with some specials peaking at $20 an ounce. Along with that memorable tamal, the jumbo lump crabcake ($18) is terrific, taking an old-school approach with a denser and more “deviled” version than what’s generally around these days. An order of grilled octopus ($14), balancing its smoky-salty base taste against the sweet-sour of citrus and fennel, is splendid and probably my favorite dish on the menu. It’s a petite serving, but the flavors are so focused and intense that small is all you can handle.

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CRABCAKE

KILLEN'S STQ PHOTOS BY KIMBERLY PARK

ad directory 44 Farms (back cover) À La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group (page 12) Arnaldo Richards’ Picos (page 51) Berkel (page 11) Brennan's of Houston (pages 30-31) Cherry Pie Hospitality (page 61) El Meson (page 23) Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino (page 13)

Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (pages 40-41) Houston Wine Merchant (page 79) Kevin McGowan Photography (page 23) Landry’s Signature Group (page 2) Louisiana Foods (page 82) My Table subscriptions (page 38) Potente/Osso & Kristalla (page 69)

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Ragin' Cajun (page 35) Ragin' Cajun Catering (page 81) Reliant, an NRG company (inside back cover) River Oaks Houston (page 36) Spec’s (page 39) Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair (page 1) Sysco Foods (page 3) Truluck’s (inside front cover) Uptown Sushi (page 5)


There’s also a grilled red snapper ($30) that is a tribute to simple but superb cooking skills, coming off the heat at just the right moment and dressed in a modest lemon butter sauce with a few crawfish to keep it company.

For pure, you-won’t-believe-this culinary chutzpah, the winner at STQ has to be an order of … bread pudding. Only this bread pudding is so far over the top it makes Chocolate Decadence blush.

While I didn’t have a chance to try to the intriguing pork belly and black-eyed pea gumbo ($10) myself, it deserves to go on the list based on what I observed. At a rollicking table next to ours, one diner asked to meet the cook who’d prepared the bowl of gumbo he’d just finished. When a kitchen staffer was brought forth, the diner stood up, gave him a hug and declared, “That was the best thing I have ever eaten!” (If this was staged and is recreated nightly, please don’t tell me; my battle with cynicism is already faring poorly.)

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Bacon Tres Leches Bread Pudding ($9). Basic bread pudding is already a pretty rich undertaking, what with eggs and butter and sugar and, well, bread. But then you’re adding candied bacon to it? And drizzling high-octane tres leches sauce over it? If I’m not mistaken, there are even bits of pecan pralines mixed in. Well, of course it’s delicious, but is

BREAD PUDDING

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that even legal? Doesn’t it have to come with a warning from the U.S. Surgeon General? Shouldn’t the server be required to stand by with a defibrillator while it’s being eaten? Lest anyone be too surprised by this outré concoction, I note that chef Killen also offers a crème brûlée bread pudding at his steakhouse. Apparently, no bread pudding is inviolate when he gets into the kitchen. STQ is serving this dazzling array of sizzling steaks and clever appetizers in a fairly smallish dining room with raw wood walls and subdued lighting as the principal decorating motif, a carryover from its previous incarnation as Randy Rucker’s ambitious but short-lived Bramble. The rustic tone has been dialed down somewhat. Bramble even had a few stuffed animals lurking about the premises, and they have been banished.

Softening and upscaling that bare bones décor, STQ opts for fancy Italian Frette linens and showy French Laguiole steak knives with their distinctive switchblade look. It’s an effective mix of the high and low aesthetic, evoking an appealing cross between a country roadhouse and a Continental chalet. Technically speaking, there is an “open kitchen,” though it may be too open for its own good, offering a view not only of the impressive culinary preparation but also the storage shelves and cleaning supplies in the rear. That’s a quibble and one that’s more than offset by STQ’s decision to space its tables at a comfortable distance from each other. Given the relatively undersized dimensions of the dining room, the temptation to squeeze in a few more two-tops for

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additional revenue must have been considerable. Kudos for not giving in to it. Clearly, Ronnie Killen has not cut any corners at STQ and takes the high road whenever possible. The serving staff seems well-trained – accommodating and knowledgeable without being overbearing – and the kitchen properly staffed to meet the considerable demands being placed on it. (STQ has been abundantly booked almost every night since its opening in late December.) So, is everything A-OK at STQ? Not quite. A chickenfried ribeye ($28) shed its crusty shell too readily – a flaw shared with the colossal onion rings ($8). A doublethick, long-boned pork chop ($42) was beautiful to behold though fairly dry to eat, crying out for sauce or preserves on the side. Side orders – which include jalapeño cheese grits, asparagus and creamed corn – can be problematic in their “family style” portions that are good for table-sharing but just too much for a single diner.

And, as you would expect, STQ is costly. Figure $100 a person, maybe $150 with prime steaks, although that’s not a fault as much as an inevitability for an undertaking like this. STQ has staked out an interesting niche, perched between the high-powered steakhouses that abound in this city and the more intimate, foodie-oriented establishments like Underbelly, Roost and Pax Americana. And its success is the real deal, not just smoke and mirrors. Well, maybe smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. Teresa Byrne-Dodge is My Table's editor and publisher. William Albright has reviewed local restaurants for more than 20 years for The Houston Post, Inside Houston, Houston Business Journal and others. Eric Gerber is the director of communications at the University of Houston.

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Giving energy a whole new feeling. We teamed up with McGonigel’s Mucky Duck for our small business Ambassador Program because of their dedication to quality and open-arm approach to people. Owners Rusty and Teresa Andrews selected the Reliant Business Power Plus plan to help maintain their budget and keep things cool for the busy supper club that puts live music in the limelight.

Reliant helps us set the stage with wow factor — whether it’s powering our kitchen, setting the mood in the dining area or lighting up the stage.

Rusty Andrews co-owner, Mucky Duck

Together we’re powerful. 1.866.660.4900 | reliant.com/business 113

Reliant is a registered service mark of Reliant Energy Retail Holdings, LLC. Reliant Energy Retail Services, LLC (PUCT Certificate #10007). © 2016 Reliant Energy Retail Holdings, LLC. SPRING 2017 All rights reserved. 506650


44 FARMS

where good times and great meals

bring people together We deliver the finest All Natural Angus Steaks from our Farm to your home. Quality is bred into everything we do and you’ll be able to taste the difference. 114 SPRING 2017

44farms.com

My Table Spring 2017  
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