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So Delicious, a Caveman Could Eat It

Paleo-friendly restaurant menus abound in Houston.

Partners in Paleo

This is a relatively new restaurant in League City that specializes in — you guessed it — paleo food only. Although it's only open for lunch right now, Partners in Paleo has already garnered praise for what fans are calling delicious, inexpensive food in a cute, cozy cafe environment.
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Wine Time

A California Chardonnay with Restraint
Does your choice of wine describe you?

Jeremy Parzen

A few years ago, a holiday weekend drive to Palm Springs from my native San Diego delivered me to the doorstep of Chardonnay Hills, an upscale homeowners association in Temecula.

In this day and age, it's not surprising that a community would name itself after a grape. After all, ampelonyms (that's Greek for grape names) evoke much more than just the humble berry of the vine. In today's popular culture, grapes are widely (and wildly) associated with lifestyle, fashion, tastes and personal expression.

No one would be surprised if a power lawyer described her/himself as a "Napa Cab kinda gal/guy." Nor would anyone be taken aback by a person who described her/his wine tastes by saying, "I'm a California Chardonnay drinker."

That's because grape names and their affiliated winemaking styles have transcended their purely descriptive and technical functions in contemporary discourse.

A "Napa Cab" person is likely to be aggressive, forceful, decisive and muscular. A "California Chardonnay" person is likely to be soft, a little bit oaky and maybe even buttery.

When I sat down with wine blogger extraordinaire Lisa Mattson the other day to taste the Jordan 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, I was impressed by how little it resembled the "California Chardonnay" paradigm.

Where others can be flabby, this wine had healthy acidity. Where others can be overly oaky, I found the wood to be well balanced in the wine. And where many expressions of California Chardonnay (not in quotes) can attain a creamy mouthfeel and buttery flavor (due mostly to extended and/or chemically induced malolactic fermentation, whereby tart acidity — malic acid — is trumped by softer-tasting acid — lactic acid), this wine showed genuine fruit and minerality. It's an elegant and earnest wine that will pair well with unctuous fish like salmon or grouper or even fresh goat cheese.

Honestly, Jordan isn't a wine that I regularly reach for at the wine shop or while out for dinner. But I was geeked to sit down with my blogging colleague Mattson and talk to her about the cutting-edge social media program she's developed for the Jordan winery (the estate's blog won "Best Winery Blog" in the 2012 Wine Blogger Awards competition).

"We're always looking at Google trends, and we create an editorial calendar around what we see," she told me, revealing a trade secret.

She pointed me to her "Gangnam Style parody video" that she posted late last year, now with more than 20,000 views. Not too shabby.

Anyone who's ever worked in or around the wine trade will tell you that "it's all about relationships." And in my view of the world, Mattson has done more to create relationships for her brand through social media than anyone else in the field (she's also writing a book about her "ex-relationships," Exes in My iPod).

I think Mattson would agree that I'm not exactly what you would call a "California Chardonnay" person. But our connection through social media prompted me to sit down and taste her brand's wine with her. And to my surprise, it wasn't half bad.

You can find Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay at Spec's and Richard's for around $30.
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Top 10

Peeling Is for Suckers
Ten crawfish dishes to try this season.

Katharine Shilcutt

One of the best crawfish dishes I ate last year didn't involve a boil, peeling or shucking of any kind. It was a very simple, very extraordinary plate of crawfish tails poached in butter over al dente Texas-grown rice with green coriander and fermented carrot at Oxheart.

While that particular dish is no longer on the menu — this was last June, and the Warehouse District restaurant is famous for changing up its menu with regularity — the fact remains that there are plenty of enjoyable crawfish dishes to be found in Houston that don't involve burning cuticles or lips. Because for every person who enjoys barreling face-first into five pounds of boiled crawfish, there's another for whom the process simply isn't that enjoyable.

For those folks — and for everyone who enjoys a creative twist on our precious mudbugs — here are ten crawfish dishes to try in Houston in which the focus is solely on that sweet tail meat.

Crawfish pho at LA Crawfish

LA Crawfish — the food stand inside 99 Ranch Market — is rightly proud of its crawfish pho. It's the only pho of its kind in the city, and it's damned delicious for something that could be gimmicky and underwhelming. LA Crawfish gets the balance of the broth just right for the sweet crawfish by spiking it with cinnamon and andouille sausage. It's not your typical pho, but it's a downright magical pairing of two insanely popular Houston Vietnamese specialties. Consider it the best and most natural celebrity marriage in the world, as if Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams finally got back together.

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