I’ll be headed to The Woodlands next weekend to help judge the final event of 10th annual Houston Wine & Food Week (June 2-8 )—the elaborate Chef’s Showcase—where dozens of chefs compete for a $5,000 cash prize, Waterford crystal, and bragging rights. Not only does this event offer participants the opportunity to learn about wine-and-food pairings and get to know some of the state’s most influential chefs, but an associated auction has funneled more than $675,00 to local charities.
On May 5 at the Koch Theater in New York City, Food Network star Ted Allen presided over a black-tie-clad crowd of chefs, bartenders, food writers, and culinary superstars to announce the winners of the 2014 James Beard Awards for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and education in the United States.
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to attend one of the inaugural “Where the Chefs Eat” culinary tours of Houston (www.houstonculinarytours.com) , which introduced participants to a bevy of eateries that aren’t on the radar of most visitors. We ate cabrito accompanied by live mariachi at El Hidalguense, an unassuming restaurant on Long Point Road; compared barbecue at three sites known for their different styles; explored the foods of Thailand and India until we thought we might burst; then wrapped up with an exploration of the vast ethnic-food aisles at 99 Ranch Market—all accompanied by such nationally regarded chefs as Monica Pope, Hugo Ortega, Randy Evans, and Chris Shepherd, who observed, “I think a lot of people are afraid to get out of their comfort zones. When they do, though, it becomes more than just going out to eat; it becomes an education into another culture.”
Looking ahead to spring, the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which will take place April 25-27 in Austin’s Butler Park, is gearing up for a full slate of cooking demonstrations, interactive fire pits, live music, and wine-and-cocktail tastings featuring internationally known chefs, sommeliers, and culinary personalities.
The news couldn’t be any timelier. As we’re planning our April issue’s coverage of the red-hot Fredericksburg Wine Road 290, a string of 13 wineries near the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, we received word that the Texas Hill Country was named among the top 10 wine destinations for 2014 in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine, which boasts a readership of more than 800,000. (That’s a lot of wine enthusiasts!) Texas is in very, very, very good company—the other destinations include Greece’s Aegean Islands; Languedoc, France; Sonoma, California; Baden, Germany; and Mendoza, Argentina. In fact, only one other U.S. destination—Walla Walla Washington—made the cut. (You can read the whole story at www.winemag.com.)
Stay tuned for our take of the Hill Country’s grape ways in the April issue. Until then, cheers!
Yes, according to the calendar, it has been â€œofficiallyâ€ fall since September 22, but it sure hasnâ€™t felt like it yet. But somehow, cooler temperatures have arrived just in time to set our clocks back this weekend, meaning thatâ€”among other advantagesâ€”thereâ€™s one extra hour of enjoy evening happy hours! Hereâ€™s a suggestion for those of you in the Bastrop area: Make tracks to the Bastrop Brewhouse, whose multi-level deck overlooks the Colorado River. (Weather reports indicate a low temperature of 52 on Saturday night; thatâ€™s a practically perfect condition for al fresco dining.)
By Lois M. Rodriguez
For the past few years, I've enjoyed the opportunity to be part of Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest's Cooking School. It's hard to explain how much I enjoy sharing a few baking tricks to let others discover their own baking skills, but I do enjoy it." It's fun to open up the inner-chef in people who think they cannot bake.
In the December 2013 issue, weâ€™re running a story on San Antonioâ€™s annual Tamales! Festival, which takes place this year on December 7 at the former Pearl Brewery complex, a 22-acre site that now boasts restaurants, shops, apartments, andâ€”soon!â€”a boutique hotel. With free admission, free parking, and more than 40 vendors offering treats ranging from tamales to kettle corn, Tamales! is a great kick-off to the December holidays. I attended the event last year in preparation for this yearâ€™s story, but firstâ€”to get an idea of the hard work involved in making tamalesâ€”I attended a tamales-making workshop at the Witte Museum hosted by longtime tamales queen Gloria Solis.
Iâ€™m not sure I understand the competition to come up with the next best fried thing, and Iâ€™m not here to judge, but every year, when the State Fair of Texas (Sept. 27â€“Oct. 20) announces its list of fried food offerings, my ears perk up. I am excited to know whatâ€™s being tossed into the vat next.
Recipes:Â Corn dogs, fried coke, funnel cakes and more. Try these fair faves at home.
I know it sounds crazy to drink hot chocolate when the temperature is still regularly above 90 degrees. But on a recent trip to Houston, I couldn't resist the chocolate confection with chocolate made in-house from cocoa beans imported from Oaxaca at Hugo's, which serves its frothy cup with fresh, hot Mexican churros. Look for our story on Hugo's and its terrific hot chocolate in the Drink section of the December issue. Until then, do you know of any other spots in Texas that serve amazing hot chocolate?
Hot Chocolate at Hugo's, with ice cream and churros; Photo by Lori Moffatt
I recently made the short drive from Austin to Elgin, a town about 25 miles east of the city via US 290. Iâ€™d heard about a new wine bar and home dÃ©cor shop on the townâ€™s historic downtown strip, and I realized: While I frequently pass through Elgin on my way to Houston, Iâ€™d never really explored the town except to stop for barbecue at Southside Market or Meyerâ€™s.
For the August 2013 print issue of Texas Highways, I wrote about a Madeira tasting, held at Austin's Red Room speakeasy, which featured the wines of Haak Vineyards in Galveston County. Haak is the only Texas winery that makes Madeira a richly flavored fortified wine that is usually produced on the Portuguese islands of Madeira.