This week, Dylan Murray of Local Foods and Benjy's has been talking about how he wants to help Houstonians eat better. We found out about his trips to the farmer's market, about how he touches and tastes the produce before packing his truck up with goods to distribute to the executive chefs at Benjy's for them to whip up something special.
For our tasting, we decided to select a few dishes that exemplified his mission of eating wholesome and healthy, delicious food, so we started with a baby kale salad with fresh pickled peaches, created by Beny's in the Village executive chef, Joseph Stayshich.
The baby kale salad was simply plated in a big green mound, with just a few slices of peaches peeping from underneath. Crumbles of pistachio dukka, a type of Middle Eastern spice crumble had been dusted on top, which had this sort of pasty dry texture, like a dry cookie batter with spiced flavor. Combined with bits of blue cheese for creaminess and a fantastic ginger-molasses vinaigrette, it was one of the best kale salads I'd ever had. Baby kale is a lot less tough than adult variety, so it had a milder, less grassy flavor overall. I loved it.
To combat the hot summer heat, we continued with a refreshing cucumber salad, also by Stayshich. The visually appealing, low cal dish was made of thinly sliced cucumber arranged in pretty round flower pattern. An apricot-miso vinaigrette gave the dish a slightly Asian feel, while quinoa, local tomatoes and mint gave the dish texture as well as providing vitamins and fiber.
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I'd never tasted the falafel sandwich from Local Foods, and was blown away by the combination of toasted whole wheat against flavorful chick pea falafel. The falafel itself reminded me of a thick potato salad in consistency, but the flavors, which included olive crumble, yogurt, sambal and pickles, were much more savory and pronounced than I would have imagined for vegetarian sandwich. To be quite honest, I'd kind of dreaded it when I heard about it, thinking it was going to have that "too healthy I'm not going to like it taste," but once I took one bite, I wanted to polish off the whole thing.
We finished the tasting with a grilled blacked salmon, served on a pole bean and tomato salad, with a thick sumac yogurt bed, bagel chips, and crispy whole chick peas. This dish embodied what I think Murray was getting at when he said he wanted to promote better, more healthful eating through his menu.
The salmon, full of omega-3's, was crisped and blackened, revealing a moist yet flaky fish. Yogurt provided probiotics, but also a creamy acidity to help break up the fattiness of the fish, and the bagel chips and crisp chickpeas in alternating bites gave a nice contrasting crunch. Pole beans were al dente and tomatoes were ripe and sweet. Just the colors in the dish spoke volumes in terms of vitamins and nutrients -- red tomatoes, green pole beans, salmon orange, yellow chickpeas -- all combined together to make a great tasting dish.
Benjy's and Local Foods are both fun restaurants, with cool decor and some of the best music in the city. But at the heart of it is the food -- farm fresh, wholesome, organic, and still delicious. It's something we should all strive for, and thanks to Murray's vision and his team's ability to create dishes that people love, it's something you can get at Benjy's and Local Foods every day.