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Clashing Caesars
Once again, local gourmand Guy Stout has put out the call to chefs across Houston, asking them to gather up their romaine lettuce, olive oil, eggs, anchovies and whatever other fixings they may deem appropriate and compete to see who can come up with the city's best Casesar salad. In the past, Stout's annual Consumers Choice Caesar Salad Competition (which raises money for UH's Hilton School scholarship fund) has resulted in some truly curious Caesars, with toppings ranging from spicy crawfish to plantain croutons. Last year, more standard Caesars were the order of the day, which might have pleased Casesar Cardini, the chef who came up with the concoction a hlaf-century ago. But who knows what'll happen this time around? We just hope that the contestants shy away from the ubiquitous grilled chicken strips that seem to weigh down every other pile of greens in town. The doors open to the public at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, October 10, at the Houston Omni Hotel, 4 Riverway (Woodway near 610). Admission is $20, which allows you to taste the competing offerings and turn thumbs up for the one you prefer.

Changing Chefs
There's been some shifting around in area kitchens in recent months, with Benjamin Bailey, onetime executive chef at Redwood Grill, moving over to Ruggles Grill. Bailey brought an intelligently inventive yet restrained touch to the Redwood Grill's offerings, and it'll be interesting to see what he does (or is allowed to do) at Bruce Molzan's popular Montrose eatery, where looks and atmosphere have sometimes been more important than eating.

The more interesting move, though, is at Tony's, where longtime chef Mark Cox is gone, replaced by Anthony's chef Bruce McMillian, who's been a Vallone cook for 15 years. The exit of Cox and elevation of McMillian is the first major change in more than a decade in Tony's top talent; McMillian says he plans to make the Vallone flagship's food "more lively and playful." Not a bad notion. Now if he could only make it a touch cheaper as well...

Closing Doors
We noted in our recent Best of Houston how sad we were to see Mom's Cookin' shut down, and while it was a whole other type of restaurant, we have to admit we shed a small tear when the Woodway Grill have up the ghost recently as well. Luckily, owners John and Tracy Puente don't plan to be out of the cafe business for long, they're looking to open a new place called Urbana in the Montrose area.

--Joanne Harrison

 
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