The 13th Annual Menu of Menus at Silver Street Station was a fun, food-filled extravaganza with dozens of offerings from Houston restaurants, wineries, dessert makers and more. Participating Houston restaurants included critical favorites Songkran Thai, Andes Café, Fat Cat Creamery, DGN Factory, Garson, Latin Bites, Mala Sichuan and many, many more.
In the Iron Fork competition, chef Kevin Naderi, chef-owner of Roost and Lillo & Ella, again managed to hang onto his title for a fourth time. After his win, Houston Press publisher Stuart Folb declared that after winning four times in a row, Naderi is retired and invited to be an Iron Fork judge next year.
As he has in previous years, chef Randy Evans of Southern Son Consulting acted as master of ceremonies during the competition. The secret ingredient this year was a variety of fresh, dried and ground peppers. A twist was thrown in after 20 minutes of the competition: the competitors also had to use sponsor Stella Artois' beer in one dish.
Chef Randy Rucker of forthcoming restaurant Bramble did an admirable job, despite cutting the tip of his thumb on a mandolin slicer. He gamely wrapped up the injury and slipped on a plastic glove to help protect it for the rest of the competition.
Judges Eric Sandler, contributing writer with Culturemap Houston, Kelly Nelson, Whole Foods Market Bellaire team leader and me in my role as lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press all felt that while Rucker's dishes, including a snapper tartare and a quick-marinated shrimp, were inventive, Naderi's did a better job of highlighting the secret ingredient of peppers.
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Naderi's entries were a cheese-pepper soup (to which he added the Stella Artois beer), scallops with peppers, greens and apple cider vinegar and a tender beef tartare with a deep red sauce made with fire-roasted, red bell peppers, honey, gochujang, garlic and shallot. It was deemed the best dish of the night by the judges.
In the meantime, out on the floor, Radio Milano was earning attendees' voting tokens right and left for its stewed veal cheeks and mushrooms risotto. Chef Jose Hernandez collected the restaurants' trophy for the best bite of the night.
Thanks to all of the participants and attendees! We hope to see you next year!