Getting Some Ink

Not that kind of ink.

If you’re here in Houston, make sure to pick up a copy of the latest Houston Press on newstands today.  Flip over to the dining section and there I be!  In ink!  With my real name and everything!

If you’re not local, here’s a link to the article:  The Tastes of Textile.  (And if you’re intent on leaving a comment on the article, you can do so here.)

This is my first “real” restaurant review, in that someone paid me to do this and then actually used valuable ink and paper to publish it.  I’m still a bit stunned by that.  Moreover, I’m still happily befuddled about being allowed to review such a high-profile restaurant and I know that — undoubtedly — people will question why a bottom-rung, low-man-on-the-totem-pole food writer like me was chosen to review Textile.  I can’t answer that.  But I can say that I’m extremely appreciative for the opportunity.  Working with the folks over at the Houston Press — both on this review and on the food blog (Eating Our Words) has been one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Okay, that was me being sappy.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Now go read the review!

EDIT:  There’s been some feedback on the review this morning, from two different sources.  Plinio Sandalio, the pastry chef at Textile, wrote a short blog about the review.  And H Town Chow Down, one of my favorite local food blogs, has a write-up concentrating on one of the aspects of Textile that bothered me the most.

A Weekend at the Lake

Chef Albert Roux, photos by Jeff Balke.
Chef Albert Roux in the kitchen; photos by Jeff Balke.

After attending a very, very, very soft opening in October 2008, I was invited to the grand opening of Chez Roux — the principal restaurant at the newly redeveloped La Torretta del Lago resort on Lake Conroe — this past weekend.  You can read an in-depth review of the resort itself and its many restaurants over at the Houston Press, where Margaret Downing — our editor-in-chief — hashes out the details.

For my part, I wasn’t overly impressed with either the resort or Chez Roux.  I enjoyed meeting Chef Albert Roux once again; he is an impish, charming little man who doesn’t take himself too seriously, a refreshing quality in a chef of his [extremely high] caliber.  A lot of the dishes were very good — braised short ribs paired with a stunning Cotes du Rhone, octpus cooked in its own ink (a personal favorite of mine), a terrine of foie gras and a mish-mash of other ingredients that was too fatty but had a lot of potential — but so many more of them were downright pedestrian.  Teriyaki quail was a low point, as was a smoked salmon wrapped around salmon mousse — far too much salmon in one bite.  Other dishes were decidedly old school, such as puff pastries in a morel cream sauce.  Delicious?  Yes.  A bit banquety and stuffy?  Yes.

kitchen
Serving straight from the kitchen. Busy, hot, crowded, but wonderful fun.

The resort?  In a nutshell, I was one of the very few people there without an entire matching set of Louis Vuitton luggage and I don’t have a deep yet vapid interest in The Hills, so I was bit out of my element.  La Torretta del Lago caters to a very specific demographic:  Bill and Muffy Wasp, who are going up for the weekend to golf and “spa,” respectively.  They will also inevitably dine in one of La Torretta’s several on-site restaurants — perhaps even Chez Roux — and not understand or care about what they’re eating, but they’ll be sure to pay lots of money for it because they’re being seen in “the right place.”  So, really, it’s a win-win for everyone!

As you may imagine, I clawed my way out of the resort as quickly as possible on Sunday morning.  Choosing not to stick around for breakfast, I instead ended up at a charming little place next to Conroe High School called Egg Cetera.  The owners previously operated restaurants in Maui and San Francisco, so I’m a bit confused as to how they ended up in Montgomery County, but glad.

The restaurant serves an entirely fresh, all-organic menu.  Everything is made from scratch at Egg Cetera: sauces, dips, salsas, etc.  The seafood is freshly caught.  The eggs are hand-gathered yard eggs.  The one single item that’s not organic is the milk, but the high quality of the ingredients shows in the amazing food.  What’s even more impressive is the unpretentious nature of the place and the extraordinarily low prices.  Talking to the owner afterwards, I suggested she needs to open one of these in Houston, like, yesterday.  I’m planning a more extensive write-up — with pictures — of Egg Cetera (and a few other spots we hit while up in Conroe) in the Houston Press next week, so keep your little eyes peeled.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures that my good friend Jeff Balke took at Chez Roux.  If anything, at least their presentation was stunning.

Previously mentioned terrine.
Previously mentioned terrine.
Salmon mousse wrapped in smoked salmon.
Salmon mousse wrapped in smoked salmon.
Busily plating food in the kitchen.
Busily plating food in the kitchen.
The wine vault at Chez Roux.
The wine vault at Chez Roux.
Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes.
Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes.
Sinfully good.
Sinfully good.