Boozy bundt cakes, popsicles galore, what more could you ask for at the 16th annual Houston Press Menu of Menus? Well. Maybe a car. But that's a little ridiculous to be giving away cars like they're chicken fingers, even for a sweet 16 celebration...
The crowd wafted up and down the urban garage space of Silver Street Studios, clutching their cardboard trays, filling them up just to empty them again and again. The vast foodscape provided a comfortable area to mingle, with drink stations ideally positioned throughout. Alaskan Brewing Company, who sponsored the event, had several offerings that paired with dishes from featured Houston restaurants. The Husky IPA, a more approachable IPA, paired nicely with the offering from W'kana Xpress.
The Hendricks Gin and tonic suitcase machine attracted a crowd the whole night. I mean who doesn't love to stare at a contraption churning out G and T's complete with cucumber garnish? On that note, chef Richard Knight of Harold's had the most action packed station food-wise. He and his team cooked to order fresh gulf shrimp on salt blocks they then stuffed into Po'boy's. And when I say fresh I mean it smelt like the ocean wind and the delicate texture was cooked perfectly; almost like it had been crawling around the gulf the day before.
Jack Daniels especially had a good showing with tastings from their Rye and Single Barrel Select. It was like seeing the Jack Daniels from frat parties who'd grown up, bought a navy suit, and now works on Wall Street.
Halfway through the night I noticed an awful lot of people walking around with popsicles. Soon after, I stumbled upon the KICPOPs popsicle cart run by aunt-nephew team Elaine Prappas and Clifton Hillock. The frozen treat, titled "raspberries and cream", was tart, creamy and still very frozen and crunchy.
The smoked barbacoa taco from chef Rishi Singh of Boheme really delivered. The warm shredded face meat was super juicy, delicious and piled into a warm flour tortilla.
Outside, Sticky's Chicken "chicken and rice" was a four-biter even though I was trying to keep everything to a two-bite. Crispy chicken bits coated in spicy aioli on top of perfectly steamed rice is a dish worth seeking out in the near future. Just next door, Frenchy's fried chicken represented with lil' chicken fingers tossed in that familiar Frenchy's flour mix. Also outside, The Melt On Wheels had me googling who is The Melt on Wheels after tasting the exceptional "three little pigs" grilled cheese, with bacon, pulled-pork, ham, swiss, and cheddar.
DJ Ceeplus was in and out of the '80s and couldn't have picked a better track than Age of Consent as the sun began to set and guests began to let loose.
While Texas distillery Balcones was stuck in the art halls, upon finding them it presented an oasis type scenario. Balcones imports its barley from the motherland (Scotland), which is evident in the smooth, peaty flavor they have come to master.
The Sichuan peppercorn fish soup from Spicy Girl was a serious wake-up call. Upon seeing my eyeballs electrify the woman ladling the soup smiled and quietly pointed up at the sign that, in full disclosure did say, "Spicy Girl." Sichuan peppercorn, probably one of the least known heat flavors got very up close and personal in the dish.
Chef Stephanie Hoban of Ripe cuisine served up hot and fresh beet falafel with golden hummus. It was by far the most beautifully presented bite with flavor to match.
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The big winner of the night was Ambriza Social Mexican Kitchen for the braised short ribs served on top of polenta. I was able to taste just a little of the rich and spicy sauce before my portion fell on the floor because the sheer weight of it out balanced my cocktail fork 500 to 1... and in that moment of vulnerability the same guy that stole my Jack Daniels hat earlier appeared to try again...
All in all a great Tuesday night for Houston Press food lovers.