Randy on Robb on Voice

Two very introspective takes on Voice today, one from Robb Walsh in the Houston Press:

Voice: Tastes Great, Less Filling

…and one from Chef Randy Rucker:

We Are So Lucky To Have Such Dynamic Food Journalists

Both present interesting points of view: Robb on portions and pricing (from a food journalist’s perspective), Randy on the behind-the-scenes aspects that most customers don’t think about when dining (from a chef’s perspective). 

Peruse and discuss, fair readers.

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tenacity: Omakase Style

It’s too late to attend tonight’s tenacity dinner, I’m afraid.  But there’s still good news!

Randy Rucker is teaming up with the wildly talented Plinio Sandalio, pastry chef at Americas in The Woodlands, for an Omakase-style dinner on Monday, July 14th.  Yes, that’s this Monday!  Head over to Randy’s site for more information and to reserve a spot.

Plinio blogs about food in general and desserts in particular at The Shiro Shoyu Diaries.  He was also on Iron Chef America, where his team barely lost to Iron Chef Mario Batali.

Highlights from the Omakase menu include:

  • Pacific northwest geoduck clam, shiro dashi, burdock root, grated daikon and whipped shellfish broth
  • Ceviche of “first of the years” bay scallops from Florida’s Gulf coast, aji amarillo, sour orange and crunchy rice
  • Chilled octopus, foamed kabayaki, egg yolk and shisho
  • Smoked brownies

You know you want to try some smoked brownies.  Don’t kid yourself.

Go RSVP now!

Back For Another Round!

If you enjoyed the review and photos from Randy Rucker’s last dinner, then you don’t want to miss your chance to attend his next dinner.  To be held on July 10th (next Thursday!), the menu features fresh local ingredients with his trademark ingenuity and creativity.  Some dishes which hold particular fascination for me are:

  • Gulf coast brown shrimp tartare, icicle radish, kyuri & baby lemongrass
  • Guinea fowl, petite courgette, white beech mushrooms & foamed béarnaise
  • Smoked & broiled speckled trout, red malabar spinach & creamy brown butter

To see the entire menu and reserve your place at the table, visit Randy’s website.  With only seven days until the dinner, spots are limited!  And, of course, if you’re attending, make sure to bring a bottle of wine or two for yourself and to share with the new friends you’re sure to make.

Hope to see you there!

tenacity

My mother and I headed over to Randy’s house last night to finally experience “tenacity” for ourselves.

I think the evening can be perfectly described with Misha’s statement at the end of the night:

*taking last bite and then a long, contemplative silence*

“I have to go back to eating regular food tomorrow, dammit.”

The evening was perfect, from the come-as-you-are attitude to the endless bottles of wine to the invitation to help yourself to anything in the fridge to the absolutely phenomenal food.  If there’s one thing better than eating great food, it’s eating it with other people who appreciate it as much as you do but in a totally non-judgmental way.  Conversations were varied and amusing, people ate with their hands and no one had a single air of self-consciousness about them.  It was the ideal supper.

We were lucky to have so many fresh, organic ingredients on hand last night.  All of the herbs used came out of Randy’s own garden, and the wild hog that we feasted on for the fifth course was killed by Randy’s brother last week.  The fish were freshly caught, the fruit was from local markets and the vegetables were of the highest quality.

Now, first I have to apologize for the photos.  You all know the sob story by now.  But I’m sure that — at some point — Food In Houston and Tasty Bits will have much, much better photos up, and you can see what the food actually looked like.  Until then…

Tilefish in Ginger and Lemongrass

Canapes: tilefish marinated in ginger and soy sauce with lemongrass and basil.

 

Butter and Thyme

Bread and butter sprinkled with salt and flowering thyme.

 

Randy and Butter

Randy prepping the butter to go out on the table.

 

In Kimchee Consomme

First course:  tilefish tiradito cured in yamabuki miso and lemon verbena in a kimchee consomme with Thai chilis.  Fiery, salty, rich — tasted of the sea, in a very good way.  We ate the fish first and then greedily drank the remaining kimchee consomme from the bowl.

 

Jenny and David 

Some of last night’s guests: Jenny and David, to the right.  Jared Estes and Justin Bayse, both formerly of the ill-fated VIN, in the rear.

 

Gulf Crab and Foamed Dashi

Second course:  gulf crab, foamed dashi and garlic flowers.

 

With Smoked Vichyssoise

With the addition of smoked vichyssoise, of which Randy left an entire pitcher on the table.  A fight nearly broke out to get seconds from the pitcher…  Okay, not really.  The vichyssoise (potatoes and leeks) was so delicate and flavorful, completely unlike traditional vichyssoises which are bland and uninspired.  The smoking process completely transformed this dish.  The gulf crab and the heady dashi all blended perfectly.  This was perhaps my second favorite dish of the night.

 

Smelling the Dashi

Witness me inhaling the scent of the dashi and smoked vichyssoise.  I smelled it for a full two minutes before I finally ate it.

 

Roasted Peaches

Third course:  Roasted Gundermann’s Farm peach, red Komatsuma lettuce and a eucalyptus-lime meringue.  The liquid on the plate is a fenugreek-peach puree, with tiny fenugreek seeds scattered throughout among the cinnamon basil leaves.  Robert brought a fantastic bottle of sweet and spicy Selbach-Oster riesling that went perfectly with this sweet and spicy dish.

 

Randy Prepping

Randy prepping the next course while Megan supervises.

 

Toasted Gnocchi

Fourth course:  My favorite dish of the night.  Toasted bacalao gnocchi, trumpet royal mushrooms, pea shoots and parmesan cheese.  Technically, trout was used in place of cod in the bacalao gnocchi.  It had been salted for five days and infused the gnocchi with an altogether different flavor.  The dish was earthy, salty, savory, and deeply powerful.  The pea shoots were an ideal accompaniment to such strong flavors, with just an essence of baby pea and a light, fresh taste.

 

Randy and Sous Justin

Justin helping Randy; once a sous, always a sous?

 

Compressed Pork

Compressed pork, from the wild hog that Ronny (Randy’s brother) killed last week.  The pork was braised in Coca-Cola and Indonesian spices over several days, then put into a terrine with some added pork fat since the hog was so lean.  Although I don’t have a picture, it was our Fifth Course, toasted and served with preserved Japanese cucumber in the Aquavit style.

 

Lemon Balm Gaspacho

Sixth Course:  Frozen lemon balm gazpacho with opal basil.  The gazpacho was an infusion of sixteen different ingredients, ranging from grapes and cucumber skin to basil and vinegar.  It tasted almost buttery, and highly fragrant yet refreshing.

At this point in the night, we had a final aperitif: a moonshine-style beverage that Randy had made almost three months ago and forgotten about in a jar in a cupboard.  He called it a parfum.  Like the gazpacho, it was composed of many different ingredients, such as Meyer lemon flowers, lavender, cardamom, peppercorns, star anise and vodka.  Unlike the gazpacho, one sip could have powered a small city.  It was fiercely strong, highly herbal-smelling, cloudy and completely different from anything I’ve ever tasted.  That could have been the mantra of the night, in fact: Unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

 

Confluence of Chefs

Randy prepping, Justin making an escape, and Jonathan Jones of Americas in The Woodlands.

 

Strawberries

Seventh course:  Strawberries in yogurt with chocolate mint and espresso grounds.  A perfectly sweet and simple way to end the night, after a tornado of other courses, all of which completely expanded your views on how ingredients interact with each other and how seemingly-opposite flavors can truly work wonders together.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; we are lucky as a city to have the likes of Randy Rucker and his merry band of renegade chefs.  They are changing the way that Houston views food, one artfully-crafted plate and one astonished person at at time.

Green Drinks and Ham

Wait…no.  No ham.  But there will be green drinks!

All summer long, Monica Pope and Beaver’s Icehouse will be hosting Green Drinks every Wednesday from 5pm to 10pm.  What exactly is Green Drinks, you ask?

Green Drinks is a happy hour that beckons you to nosh on some seriously yummy appetizers along with beer and cocktails from the inventive Beaver’s menu, such as a Pecan Old Fashioned (pecan-Infused Wellers Bourbon, Angostura bitters, sugar), a Forecast (habanero-infused Monopolowa vodka, cucumber, kaffir lime, lemon) or a Train Wreck (Remy Martin cognac, vanilla-cardamom gastrique, Angostura mist, flamed orange zest).  Beers include old favorites like St. Arnold and Shiner (or Miller Lite, if you’ve just completely given up on life) and exciting microbrews like Left Hand Sawtooth Ale and North Coast Old Rasputin.

Non-alcoholic offerings include mocktails like tamarind soda, coffee-cello (espresso mixed with lemonade) and St. Arnold’s root beer.  And, of course, the appetizers themselves include such drool-worthy offerings as sweet potato home fries, corn puppies and Texas beer and cheese dip.

But the coolest thing about Green Drinks isn’t the food or the drinks; it’s the fact that 25% of the profits go to support the Caroline Collective.  Appetizers are $4, cocktails are $5 and beer is a reasonable $3.50, which means that just a couple of appetizers and a cocktail will put $3.25 into the coffers of the Caroline Collective to help keep the lights on, the water running and the rent paid.  $3.25 might not sound like a lot, but if 100 people came to each Green Drinks happy hour over the course of four weeks, you’d be looking at $1,300 raised in just one month!  And you didn’t have to do anything except eat.  Check you out!

If you’re interested in supporting local community initiatives and start-ups while noshing and networking, then Green Drinks is for you.  Check out the flyer below for more info and hope to see you out there!

Allow Me To Present…An Interview!

I know, little coconuts. I’ve been very bad this week and haven’t posted anything, not even a Tuesday Trivia. I’ve been doing day job stuff all week and while it isn’t fun, it — and not this, obviously — pays the bills.

But to make up for my dearth of posting, I have a special treat for y’all: my first interview with an actual chef! Randy Rucker (previously of laidback manor and now of tenacity) was kind enough to let me interview him for Houstonist. You can read the entire article here:

Interview: Randy Rucker

Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Au Revoir, Chef Schmit? J’espère Pas…

Cleverley’s blog greets us with sad news this morning:  Philippe Schmit is no longer with Legacy Restaurants.

Most of you will remember the equally sad revelation this past November that bistro moderne was closing, as the Hotel Derek’s new management clearly had no idea of the quality and talent that they had under their own roof with Schmit and and no ability to appreciate that fact that bistro moderne had succeeded — triumphantly succeeded, at that — where so many other restaurants had failed in the past.

Houston foodies waited with baited breath to see where Schmit would land and when he took the rather unusual step of partnering up with Legacy Resturants (the company which operates Tex-Mex haven Ninfa’s and sandwhich chain Antone’s, among others), we cocked our heads but still sighed with relief: “He’s staying here!”

Cleverley made a rather prescient observation in her blog about the move back in January:

In culinary terms, this is a rather unconventional relationship move for Schmit. I am reminded of another top-level, high profile, fine dining, celebrity Houston chef who formed a relationship with a mostly non-fine dining group with promises of his own signature restaurant in the future. When he found himself cooking Tex-Mex in a trailer, he hit the road – quickly. This happened a few years ago and it all turned out OK for this chef. He is doing superbly now. Now I’m not drawing any comparisons, I was just reminded of this story.

I think she could start a psychic business on the side if this whole restaurant guru thing didn’t work out for some reason.

So here we are, back to November again, waiting and hoping that Schmit will remain here, in the city that loves him, despite the way it’s treated him in the past year.  Stay with us, Philippe!  We promise we won’t hit you no more, baby!  We’ll change!  And, hopefully, give you that signature restaurant you’ve long deserved.

Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.