100 Favorite Dishes: No. 5, Tagliarini with Black Truffles at Da Marco
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
I like the wounded look that a waiter at Da Marco gets on his face any time you ask if the pasta is made in-house. At a place like Da Marco, it's a foregone conclusion -- nearly every shred of food here is either made in-house or painstakingly sourced by Marco Wiles himself from the far corners of the earth -- but I like to tease them anyway.
The tagliarini is one of those housemade pastas, a smaller and narrower version of the more popular tagliatelle, a ribbon pasta. It has a thick, toothsome bite to it, while wrapping easily around your fork like linguine. But as good as the pasta is, every piece of pasta here at Da Marco is just as good, cooked to a pleasant al dente. What makes this dish magical is the black truffles.
Wiles is maniacal in his sourcing of truffles, both black and white, and has been known to go truffle-hunting himself (with actual truffle hunters, of course) to bring the pungent fungus back home to Houston. Here at the restaurant, the truffles are served elegantly, simply and without fuss, just as they should be.
You know that godawful truffle oil that shows up on every single restaurant menu these days? There are no actual truffles in that wretched cocktail of sin and misery. And that synthetic truffle oil doesn't even come close to capturing the deep, dark, funky, earthy, musky aroma of real truffles. There's a reason truffles are referred to as black gold, after all.
Right now, Da Marco is serving summer truffles, which are distinguished from "regular" winter truffles by the chamois color of their interior as well as a softer, more cocoa-like flavor and aroma. The pasta is tossed tableside by a gentleman in white gloves, who adds just a bit of butter and thick shreds of Parmesan cheese before plating. The soft summer truffles are then shaved onto the nest of pasta and float down onto it like fine, fat snowflakes.
As you contemplate the way that the chewy, buttery pasta melds together with sweet, musky truffles, it's easy to see why this simple harmony of flavors will never, ever get old or passé, truffle oils of the world be damned. It's a classic in every sense of the word, and an experience every bit as restorative as going to the spa (at least for a girl like me). And it costs about the same: $39.
Life's little luxuries.
The list so far:
No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19 No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar No. 73: Chu chee eggplant from Nidda Thai No. 72: Sausage sampler from King's Biergarten No. 71: Shawarma from Abdallah's No. 70: Moules-frite at the Broken Spoke No. 69: Hong Kong-style French toast at House of Bowls No. 68: Sashimi sampler at Sushi Miyagi No. 67: Baleadas from Honduras Mayan No. 66: Snow ice from Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki No. 65: Boudin balls from MerCheri's No. 64: Miso ramen at Umai No. 63: Grim burger at Lankford Grocery No. 62: Dabeli at Bansuri Indian Food Corner No. 61: Wine and cupcakes at 13 Celsius No. 60: Pâté de France from Spec's No. 59: Steak and eggs from Ninfa's on Navigation No. 58: Breakfast pita at Niko Niko's No. 57: Vegan curry at Cafe TH No. 56: Samosas at Shiv Sagar No. 55: Ceviche at Latin Bites Cafe No. 54: Wicked Philly at Pappa Geno's No. 53: Pork chop at Perry's Steakhouse No. 52: Soft-shell crab at Pico's Mex-Mex No. 51: Sno-balls at MAM's House of Ice No. 50: Whole catfish at Saigon Pagolac No. 49: Nova fish box at New York Bagel & Coffee Shop No. 48: Sojok mana'eesh at Cedars Bakery No. 47: Pho ga at Pho Ga Dakao No. 46: Sicilia salad at Trevisio No. 45: Dahi puri at Sweet 'n' Namkin No. 44: Hot dogs at Moon Tower Inn No. 43: Real guacamole at Yelapa Playa Mexicana No. 42: Akaushi short ribs at Soma Sushi No. 41: Country-fried chicken livers at Haven No. 40: Seafood gumbo at Cajun Town Cafe No. 39: Tacos at Karanchos No. 38: Crepes at Melange Creperie No. 37: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 36: Guanciale burger at Plonk No. 35: Snapper al cilantro at Teotihuacan No. 34: The Houstonian at James Coney Island No. 33: The Montrose at Amy's Ice Cream No. 32: Lobster bisque at Philippe No. 31: Tacos de cabeza y orejas at El Ultimo No. 30: Oyster stew at Danton's No. 29: Fried oysters at TQLA No. 28: Banh mi at Cali Sandwich No. 27: Captin's fried chicken at Zelko Bistro No. 26: The Brisket House Special at The Brisket House No. 25: Menudo at La Mexicana No. 24: Chargrilled oysters at Wild Cajun No. 23: Breakfast tacos at Revival Market No. 22: Sticky toffee pudding at Branch Water Tavern No. 21: Tex-Mex burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 20: Lasagna at Capri Pasta Pizza & More No. 19: Pork rillette at Feast No. 18: Chicken fried steak at Triple A No. 17: Crème brûlée bread pudding at Killen's No. 16: Migas at La Guadalupana No. 15: Snapper with grapefruit at Kata Robata No. 14: Venison carpaccio at Thanh Phuong No. 13: Mesquite-grilled shrimp poboy at Goode Co. Seafood No. 12: Tamarind-glazed salmon at Samba Grille No. 11: Bone marrow service at Stella Sola No. 10: Ribs at Gatlin's No. 9: Shrimp and grits at Brennan's No. 8: Barbacoa at Hugo's No. 7: Texas shrimp chaat at Pondicheri No. 6: Saigon burger at The Burger Guys
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