Eating Our Words recently caught up with Chef Michael Kramer at The Tasting Room's Uptown location to get the scoop on the huge new City Centre location, set to open in February 16, and find out what goes into a good wine bar restaurant.
Eating Our Words: Hi Michael. This Uptown Park location is not the first Tasting Room location, correct?
Michael Kramer: It's number three. We would technically be number four, but I would say number three. We had a property in Midtown, but it was very small with a minimal kitchen, so they let that one go before I came on.
EOW: That was before your time. How long have you been with The Tasting Room?
MK: Seven months. So I'm relatively new.
EOW: And where were you before that?
MK: Hotel Icon. I was the executive chef at Voice Restaurant.
EOW: Are you originally from Houston?
MK: Los Angeles. I lived in Los Angeles only about half of my life now. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina. I lived in Dallas. I lived in Chicago. I lived in England for a little while. I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a very brief time. San Francisco.
EOW: You've been around! Which has been your favorite place to live?
MK: Chefs travel. I would say my favorite was San Francisco, not for the weather, but probably for the proximity to the wine country and all the magnificent restaurants. You have the coast there, and the wine country, and all the farms, so I love it for that aspect. Los Angeles for the weather. But I really love Houston also. The people are very friendly here.
EOW: We try our best. You mention the proximity to wine country as part of the cuisine of San Francisco, and now you are at The Tasting Room, where there is clearly a big emphasis on wine. Has wine and food pairing always been a big part of your cooking style?
MK: Well, wine and food always go together, so it's always an important aspect of what we do. And I think coming here and looking at the menus, I was really trying to make sure that we were finding foods and style that were very wine-friendly.
EOW: How does that work? What makes a food wine-friendly?
MK: Typically foods that are not spicy. Not that they can't go with wine, but typically you're going to find your lighter whites and Rieslings, your sweeter wines in a sense. Often people think spicy food and they think more of beer to go along with that, so if it's winter time, like right now, I'll do lots of braised items, like braised short ribs and pork shoulders and a red wine goes really well with that.
EOW: Tell us your current favorite food and wine pairing.
MK: I think I would say, as a lot of people would say, a beautiful piece of turbo with a nice Sancerre.
Want to learn more about Michael Kramer and his plans for the new location? Join us tomorrow for Part 2.