For last week's cafe review I visited Caracol, the new Mexican seafood restaurant from Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught, and noted that while there are some truly stellar plates on the menu, the sheer number of items being prepared in the kitchen is perhaps resulting in some dishes being less than they ... More >>
Eclipsed by the street construction taking place on the stretch of Westheimer Road directly in front of it, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, the restaurant by master chef Fritz Gitschner, opened this past November to little fanfare. Since then, however, the roads have cleared, and a new patio has been fini ... More >>
"Thirty years ago, I took one huge leap of faith that completely changed the course of my life forever, and with it the course of many other lives. Thirty years ago, I opened Backstreet Cafe." Thus begins restaurateur Tracy Vaught's introduction to Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neig ... More >>
Top 10 drive-throughs in Houston.
"I could come here just for this," I thought to myself as I sampled the unbelievably tasty ostiones asados, or wood grilled oysters, topped with chipotle butter at Caracol. The first of several dishes I tried during my first visit to Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught's new coastal Mexican seafood restaur ... More >>
For those who speak Spanish, the word caracol is instantly evocative of seafood. It translates to conch, or shell, and in addition to rolling off the tongue, the word has special meaning for Hugo Ortega and his wife,Tracy Vaught, of Hugo's and Backstreet Cafe. "Hugo's brother used to be the chef a ... More >>
Even though the week began with a devastating fire-forced closure of a Houston pie shop landmark, the rest of the week has been filled with openings and announcements of future openings. But, let's begin with the sad news, shall we? Just two days after Thanksgiving, another pie shop caught on fire, ... More >>
It can be complicated and difficult to properly pair wines with the Thanksgiving dinner. You have so many different types of dishes -- spicy, sweet, savory -- and with so many different types of wines to choose from, which ones should make it to the Thanksgiving table? We spoke with two of Houston' ... More >>
For decades, the Houston wine scene has been dominated by the California powerhouse: "California Chardonnay," "Napa Cab," and "Merlot" (in quotes because it denotes Merlot from California) have long been been Houston's go-to wines. And in many circles, they still are the most frequently ordered wine ... More >>
Apparently California, more specifically Los Angeles, is ahead of the culinary curve. Ray's & Stark Bar recently created the most extensive (and probably the only) water menu with the first water sommelier, Martin Riese. Riese is a self-proclaimed water sommelier and the general manager at Ray's & S ... More >>
What they're up to for Restaurant Weeks: Backstreet Café is taking a beverage-driven approach to Houston Restaurant Weeks and there's something for everyone. They have developed specific, three-course dinner menus for red wine, white wine, beer and cocktails. Pairings are an additional cost, but y ... More >>
On Sunday, July 14, chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo's will join Kata Robata chef Manabu Horiuchi during the Umami Dinner event at Kata Robata. Both chefs have teamed up to create a nine-course menu paired with wine and beverages from Kata Robata's beverage director, Steven Salazar, and Backstreet Cafe's so ... More >>
"Anything but Italian!" I exclaim as I find a seat at the bar at Backstreet Café, where Sean Beck curates one of the best by-the-glass wine programs in Houston. I have nothing against Italian wines. In fact, I'm a big fan of Sean's Italian selections. But because Italian wines are my main vinous ... More >>
What she does: Tracy Vaught is the owner of Hugo's and Backstreet Cafe and a partner at Prego and Trevisio. ""I do all the planning, train managers, set all the standards for the restaurants, design menus," says Vaught. "Investments and charitable giving. I am the one who has political involvement ... More >>
Houston, is that a frico dropping? By my count, there were roughly forty of our city's top wine professionals in the room, all listening with rapt attention and relishing savory nuggets of wine wisdom imparted by Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (above). And I'm not talking benchwarmers. This was an ... More >>
A beginner's guide to Korean cuisine.
After the third out-of-towner in a week asked me why Saturday brunch wasn't a "thing" in Houston, I got curious. Once is a blip, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend. The problem is that -- as far as I know -- Saturday isn't the traditional brunching day of choice in Houston. Saturdays ar ... More >>
The top 10 restaurants in Westchase.
It's exciting to run across a well-priced favorite on a restaurant's wine list, or to discover something new as you dig through its pages. But there's more to making a world-class wine list than just stocking a cellar with Cakebreads and Chardonnays. To spotlight the best wine lists in Houston, we ... More >>
Who he is: Sommelier and wine consultant to a number of Houston establishments, Sean Beck started working as a waiter at Backstreet Cafe 15 years ago while he was pursuing a history degree at the University of Houston. "At the time, Backstreet had about a 55-bottle wine list," Beck recalls. Backst ... More >>
The 13 restaurants that nearly made our 30 essential Texas restaurants list.
The last time we tackled the Top 10 restaurants in River Oaks, Tony Mandola's was still open in what is now Brasserie 19's spot in the River Oaks Shopping Center. Needless to say, things have changed a bit in three years. And in spite of its ritzy exterior, River Oaks still has plenty of inexpensive ... More >>
The Houston Chronicle reported this morning that a bartender at the popular Baker Street Pub location at The Woodlands Waterway has been arrested for allegedly over-serving a patron. Chelsea Marie Willburn, 24, was arrested early Sunday morning after a patron whom she'd served at Baker Street was fo ... More >>
El Gran Malo is hosting a big, bad Dia de los Muertos party on Saturday, November 3 -- all day long. In addition to a giant Dia de los Muertos shrine on the patio, the gastrocantina will have crafts to make your own veladoras (Mexican saint candles), papel picado and more. In the early evening, mar ... More >>
Last week's blog post on the dangers of over-serving at restaurants was a broad topic to touch on in a single article -- perhaps too broad, as Carolyn Beck, director of communications for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, contacted us to clear up a few items about the TABC's role in combating ... More >>
A few weeks ago, I endured a rather unpleasant dinner at The Rouxpour -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- which had nothing to do with the food itself and everything to do with two very drunk patrons. After being harassed by the two men throughout the evening, I finally retrieved a manager ... More >>
It's been a while since we tackled neighborhood lists on Eating Our Words, yet posts such as "Top 10 Restaurants in the Heights" continue to be perennial favorites with our readers each month. The last time we compiled a Top 10 Restaurants in Montrose list was well over two years ago, at which time ... More >>
"In ten minutes, they're gonna be in the room," said sommelier Antonio Gianola with a tone of urgency. To his right, fellow sommelier Jonathan Honefenger encouraged his fellow somms along with cries of: "Hustle! Hustle!" The two men moved swiftly from one seat to the next, pouring a deliberate ounc ... More >>
5 food-related reasons to drive to Alvin.
"The sommelier is there to 'translate' the wine" for the patron, says sommelier Sean Beck. Beck runs one of the city's most respected wine programs at Backstreet Café. "You're there to make the guests feel confident about their choice" of wine, he explains. In a city like petrochemical-based Houst ... More >>
Back at the end of 2011, when we were writing a lot about Champagne and other sparkling wines for the holidays, reader John wrote us asking for advice on what sparkling wines to use for sparkling wine cocktails. "Since spirits and lemon juice and bitters mess with the subtleties of Champagne," he ... More >>
A few weeks ago, in the wake of a controversial post and a contentious comment thread on cork, reader Jay posed the following conundrum: We have some very old Port[o] that still has a few years left before it meets the 21-22 year optimum time frame. What is your opinion on removing the corks and re ... More >>
Wine Enthusiast: The talented Sean Beck, beverage director at Backstreet Cafe, Trevisio and Hugo's (and our own Best of Houston® winner this year for Best Sommelier), has been recognized for more than just his wine skills by Wine Enthusiast. The magazine paid tribute to his notable bartending chops ... More >>
A few years ago, I tried being vegan. Then, I swapped to a vegetarian diet, and finally, pescetarian. I found it extremely educational. (For example, I learned that I don't want to live the rest of my life without cheeseburgers.) It also sent me on a quest to find restaurants that could accommodate ... More >>
Photo by Troy FieldsScallops and grits at our No. 1 pick.For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had heft ... More >>
The more I read about Texas Hill Country winemaker and San Antonio endocrinologist Richard Becker, the more I am intrigued. Any doctor-cum-vintner who quotes readily from one of my favorite 20th-century American poets, Wallace Stevens, sounds like someone who puts more thought into the art an ... More >>
Above: Blanc du Bois grapes from the 2010 harvest at the Cruz de Comal Winery in the Texas Hill Country. To tell the story of winemaking in Texas today, we need to start with what happened in California back in the 1970s and the way wine has been marketed historically in the U.S. When I was ... More >>
There have been a few significant changes to this year's Houston Restaurant Week, the annual fundraising-through-dining event that benefits the Houston Food Bank. Most noticeably, the event will run throughout the entire month of August (making it "Houston Restaurant Month," technically, but ... More >>
Today, we typically associate zucchini and zucchini blossoms with Italy and Southern France. I've just returned from Italy, where summer months find fiori di zucca (literally, squash flowers) at the height of their glory. We often forget that zucchini and zucchini blossoms, despite their Ital ... More >>
Our picks for the best patios in Houston.
At $11 by the glass, the Truchard 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir is a great value from one of California's most famous winemakers.
Photos by GroovehouseChef Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro plates his lamb ravioli."We didn't know what we were going to find in Houston," said Antoinette Bruno last night at the Four Seasons Hotel. Bruno, the CEO and editor-in-chief of Star Chefs admitted to being "really ignorant of the Housto ... More >>
Photo by Eric HesterThe winter spiced margarita at Ninfa's on Navigation.Tomorrow is National Margarita Day. (Yes, much like International Hot & Spicy Food Day, it's a thing.) And although it'll be cloudy most of the day tomorrow, the sun should come out right around happy hour time, and wit ... More >>
Photo by Troy FieldsHave you ever wanted to play chef for a day in the vast kitchen at Brennan's? Your chance to man the stoves (seen above) is coming up, as Alex Brennan Martin has now revived the Creole restaurant's beloved "Chef For A Day" program. Available only to one person per day (and ... More >>
Photo courtesy of My TableThe steel awards themselves (no more glass!) weren't the only new things this year."You can't help but feel great when you're honored and respected by your peers and Houston diners," said Sean Beck today, after bringing home a stunning two awards at the annual My Tab ... More >>
Yes, they even have GF chocolate chip cookies.No big surprise here, but a welcome announcement nonetheless: Houston Restaurant Week has officially been extended until Labor Day, making it -- in effect -- Houston Restaurant Month. HRW was expected to end on August 21, tomorrow, but will now ru ... More >>
Garden-fresh doesn't always have to refer to the food you're eating. In some cases, as with Backstreet Cafe's Garden to Glass event, it can refer to the beverages you're sipping as well. The restaurant is holding what it hopes will be the first of a series of Garden to Glass events on Wednes ... More >>
The champagne cocktail is among the simplest and most enjoyable cocktails around. Those who have never had a champagne cocktail might scoff at the thought of ruining precious champagne with bitters and sugar, but this drink, which has existed for more than 200 years, has plenty to offer. The ... More >>
Photo by Sarah RufkaAsk Linda Salinas how she became such a wine guru (or wine nerd, to use her expression), and her answer is, "Actually, a few years ago I fell in love with a piece of mold." Um.... Then she explains: "I used to work for Backstreet Café just as a waiter, and Sean Beck, the ... More >>