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"With the espresso one," he points to the darker of the two quenelles, "we wanted to have a slight smokiness to go with the espresso. So when we started adding in the sugar, we actually rendered the lard, got it really super hot, added the sugar and let it caramelize a bit. When we whipped it back into the blood with the cocoa powder, you got a really intense, cool flavor."

He and Vaserfirer are planning additional experiments with the sanguinaccio — perhaps a twist on an affogato with the espresso flavor — and they plan to keep it on the menu for as long as customers purchase it. Even if they don't know what it is right off the bat.

"People are kind of skeptical at first when I bring it out," says Dorris. But they're hooked after just one taste. And for Dorris, the decision to make this rare, blood-based item was as much a business decision as it was a chance to explore and showcase an often-ignored ingredient that's finally getting a well-deserved spotlight.

"The fact of the matter is, in order for this place to survive, we have to constantly find out ways to use everything. It has to sell. And it has to sell daily. So I'm having a blast, because we get to explore all these different flavors and textures and cuts that you don't see anywhere else." Katharine Shilcutt
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Burger Break

How Do You Improve a Big Mac?
Let Chef Randy Evans make you a Big-H Burger.

How do you improve upon a Big Mac? That isn't a sarcastic question; I'm a sucker for a McDonald's hamburger.

Blame it on nostalgia or perhaps my family history of diabetes. But it's rare that I feel an upscale restaurant can tackle a fast-food dish and improve significantly upon the original. Liberty Kitchen — with its McDonald's-esque, special sauce-topped Liberty Burger — is one of the rare restaurants that can, and now so is Haven.

Chef Randy Evans recently added the $20 Big-H burger to his lunch menu at Haven, which is his deliciously over-the-top reinterpretation of a Big Mac.

In true McDonald's style, the burger is even described on the menu as two Akaushi beef patties with "secret sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on sesame seed bun" (remember the old jingle, fellow oldsters?). It can also come topped with a fried egg on request, because what would modern dining be without the option to yolk up your burger?

And if $20 seems like a lot to pay for a burger, that's because you haven't seen the full size of the thing in person.

I also admire the use of his housemade pickles, the pitch-perfect shreds of iceberg lettuce and the slightly sweet, eggy buns that hold it all together. It's the all-natural Big Mac that, well, a top-notch chef would make if he were making one for himself at home. And price aside, it's a complete and total improvement on the original.

Oh, and did I mention that it comes with something McDonald's doesn't offer at all? (Besides the fried egg, that is.) Housemade tater tots. Watch your back, Sonic: Haven is gunning for you next. Katharine Shilcutt
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Restaurant News

Openings & Closings
Cuchara slices up a soft opening, and the Gift Horse Lounge opens its mouth.

Cuchara, the Montrose restaurant at the corner of Taft and Fairview that's been under construction since February, had its soft opening this coming Sunday. I peeked in one afternoon last week and saw an open, semi-industrial dining room with a fantastic street art-style mural on one wall, as well as a big sign out front letting passersby know that Cuchara will be serving "Mexico City food." You know what that means, guys: Don't get all pissy if the place doesn't automatically serve chips and salsa.

Nearby, the two-story building at 607 West Gray that recently housed both Bibas and Kitbar in short succession is undergoing a serious facelift. A renovation appears to be gutting the entire space, while a sign draped across the construction zone indicates that a new restaurant will be coming soon.

Also coming soon: Not one, but two new ventures from the Moon Tower Inn guys — who are finally reopening Moon Tower itself next month.

Along with the reopening of the hot-dogs-and-beer joint — which should happen in September if all goes well — owners Evan Shannon and Brandon Young are seriously investing in their East End neighborhood. The first of the new spots from the guys to open will be The Gift Horse Lounge, of which Young excitedly said on his Facebook page: "WE'VE GOT A PROPER BAR COMING TO EASTWOOD SOON MOFO'S!!!!"

"The lounge will be a small neighborhood bar with good drinks and great prices," says Young of The Gift Horse, "as well as the best jukebox in H-town." Young and Shannon will also be opening a pizza place nearby — The Slice and Foam Co. — where the pies will come in two sizes only.

"The Slice and Foam Co. will be big New York-style slices as well as extra-large pies only," says Young. "Carry out or dine in (for now). We'll also have some taps and a shit pile of cans — all, of course, good beer — as well as a stage for some local shows and maybe even some surprise guests passing through."

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