Todo con Queso

Houston's 10 best Tex-Mex restaurants.

"It's amazing to come back [to Houston] if you grew up here in the 1970s," said Ray. "Today it's one of the best food scenes in the country. The level of ambition and the level of new stuff popping up is fantastic. And there's an awareness of food of all kinds that wasn't here when I was a kid."

"I think that one of the reasons why Houston has captured the attention of the national media is that the chefs here are pulling from multiple cultures. It's a melting pot that's really interesting."

"Like Chris Shepherd's signature dish" at Underbelly, Korean braised goat and dumplings: "It's a goat ragù with Italian gnocchi that's been filtered through a Korean sensibility."

A huge lunch spread at Don Carlos comes cheap.
Katharine Shilcutt
A huge lunch spread at Don Carlos comes cheap.
Parts one and two of the three-part Mexico City plate at Molina's.
Katharine Shilcutt
Parts one and two of the three-part Mexico City plate at Molina's.

"And the fact that he's able to source so much of his menu locally is really impressive. It's deeply local while still cosmopolitan."

On the subject of local, Ray also talked about the Texas wine seminar that he led last weekend at the Austin Food & Wine Festival.

"I was really impressed by the Texas Tannat by the Bending Branch winery" in Comfort, Texas, Isle said.

"Like California," he noted, "Texas is still trying to figure out what grapes will work best here. Tannat is a relatively rare grape, essentially grown only in a few places in the world" (notably southwest France and Uruguay). "But this thick-skinned, sturdy variety really seems to do well here in Texas."

As our server at The Pass and Provisions offered Sriracha to spice up our eggplant parmigiana pizza, I asked Ray what the next stop was on his dining agenda.

"I'm dying to get down to Pearland to visit Ronnie Killen's new barbecue," he told me.

It may be Houston's new "deeply local but cosmopolitan" food scene that has captured the attention of the national media. But it's the barbecue that keeps calling Ray back. You can take the boy out of Texas but you can't take the Texas out of the boy.

Grocery Guide

Bug Off
The five fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides.

Molly Dunn

We all know that we should thoroughly wash our fruits and vegetables after buying them from the grocery store or farmers market. That doesn't mean there isn't still pesticide residue left on the produce items, however. According to nonprofit advocacy agency Environmental Working Group, a lot of the most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables still contain a large amount of pesticide residue. If you want to avoid most of these pesticides, buying organic is the way to go, especially for the ones ranked highest on the list.

Here are the top five fruits and vegetables that made the EWG's Dirty Dozen list and Clean 15 List found in their Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce.

Dirty Produce

5. Peaches

Peaches have a fuzzy skin that allows mold to grow easily, causing peaches to need and contain pesticides. Pregnant women are ­advised to avoid peaches because of the amount of pesticides found in the fuzzy skin. Stick to organic if you want to enjoy peaches free of pesticides.

4. Celery

Celery is the only vegetable to make the top five list on EWG's Dirty Dozen list. In the samples tested by EWG, 13 different pesticides were identified. In years past, EWG has identified more than 60 different pesticides on non-organic celery. Be careful when making ants-on-a-log for your kids.

3. Grapes

Grapes came in at number three on the Dirty Dozen list and results from the test found that one grape alone contained 15 pesticides. Think about that the next time you decide to eat an unwashed grape.

2. Strawberries

If you thought that 15 pesticides on one grape were scary, the EWG found about 60 different types of pesticides on strawberries. Strawberries are not strangers to the Dirty Dozen list, however. Because strawberries develop fungus on the skin, they must be sprayed with toxins and chemicals to eliminate the fungus and other microorganisms, causing them to retain the pesticides even after they are harvested and sent to the supermarkets for retail.

1. Apples

Be wary of the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Apples came in at number one on this year's Dirty Dozen list out of all fruits and vegetables. The apples used in EWG's tests came back positive for at least one pesticide 99 percent of the time.

The other fruits and vegetables to make the Dirty Dozen List include spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.

Clean Produce

Out of the 15 fruits and vegetables to make the Clean 15 List, all fruits had no more than four types of pesticides and only 7 percent of the fruit samples contained one pesticide.

The top five produce items in descending order are: cabbage, avocado, pineapple, onions and corn. If you don't want to have to buy all of your fruits and vegetables from the organic section of the grocery store, no need to worry, because you have plenty of choices that don't feature an alarming amount of pesticides.

Other fruits and vegetables on the clean list include frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

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My Voice Nation Help

I have two questions: How did El Real make this list? I only went there once, not long after it opened. Perhaps things have changed for the better since then, but when I went, the food was bland and unmemorable. Maybe I should give El Real another shot, but there are too many other good places. Why bother?And speaking of better places, why didn't Spanish Flowers make the list? It's walking distance from Teotihuacan. How could you miss it, let alone not even mention it?