This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.
Full disclosure: I did not take that photo. I don't even have a photo of this dish. I'm often fairly bad at remembering to photograph my food, especially when it's really good. I'll get excited and take a bite, and then I'll take another bite, and by the time I remember to take a picture of something, it's usually nearly gone. Even my friends who aren't food writers (just avid Instagrammers) are better at remembering to capture moments than I am.
So yes, this photo came from the Facebook page of Just Dinner, a charming little restaurant tucked away in a 1920s bungalow on Dunlavy. When I saw "foie gras crème caramel" on the fall/winter menu (still available!), I instantly knew I had to have it. Crème caramel and foie gras are two of my favorite things, and the combination of sweet and meaty sounded too good to pass up.
Oh, and it was. I don't know why it took me half a year after moving to Houston to finally eat at this little gem of a restaurant (thanks to a suggestion from my editor), but I'm glad I did, if for no other reason than I now know foie gras crème caramel is a thing.
I've had other foie gras sweets like macarons and truffles, but never have I had such a beautiful blend of sweet and savory foie gras as in this dish. True to its name, the crème caramel has a wonderful caramel flavor like brown butter and burnt sugar, and combined with the rich, almost marrow-like flavor of foie gras, it's incredibly decadent.
If that were all that the dish was comprised of, it might have been too much of a good thing, but fortunately, the chef knows how to temper the fatty custard with some genius accompaniments. The round of custard is served in a pool of chile oil and chive oil dotted with pickled sweet potatoes, pickled rhubarb and fresh pomegranate seeds.
The spicy and herbed oils add more dimension to the dish, while the pickled roots and stalks add an acidic brightness that cuts the fat of the foie and cream, making it infinitely more palatable. I can't recall ever having had pickled sweet potatoes before, but now I'm ready to make some of my own.
As an added bonus, the dish is served with toasted slices of slightly sweet brioche, on which I spread generous portions of the custard before dipping the whole thing in the oil. I would have gladly eaten the round and its accompanying condiments with a fork or spoon, but the brioche was a nice touch.
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So, I'm sorry I don't have a better photo for you. The lighting was low and my hunger got the better of me. But you really don't need a photo to entice you to eat this. Just take my word for it. You want this food on your table.
I don't know when the chef at Just Dinner will be making the switch from the fall/winter menu to the spring/summer one, but I sincerely hope that when he does, that crème caramel will stay. After all, if it's still freezing here in March, I think it's safe to serve "winter" dishes year-round.
See the full list of favorites on the next page.
The list so far: No. 22: Roasted Pear Salad at Backstreet Cafe No. 23: Fluffernutters at Fluff Bake Bar No. 24: Som Tam at Vieng Thai No. 25: Chips and Queso at Fusion Taco No. 26: Spicy Miso Ramen at Soma Sushi No. 27: Kim Cheese Fries at Coreanos No. 28: Fried Cauliflower at Roost No. 29: Caesar Wedge Salad at Provisions No. 30: Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone at Fat Cat Creamery No. 31: Cochito con Mole Xico at Hugo's No. 32: Carnitas at Molina's Cantina No. 33: Taleggio Pizza at Dolce Vita No. 34: Chiles de Padron Asados at Caracol No. 35: Morning Thali at Pondicheri No. 36: Fried Mini Fish at House of Bowls No. 37: Trompo Tacos at Taqueria La Macro No. 38: Spicy Tamale Plate at La Mexicana No. 39: Mum's Chicken Curry At The Queen Vic Pub No. 40: Canestri alla Funghi at Paulie's No. 41: Biscuit with Marmalade and Crème Fraîche at Blacksmith No. 42: Fried Oyster Po'Boy at Goode Company Seafood No. 43: Roasted Duck Red Curry at Morningside Thai No. 44: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sandwich at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 45: Guanciale Burger at Plonk No. 46: Parma 600 Pizza at Pizzeria Solario No. 47: CFC Deviled Eggs at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar No. 48: The El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme