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First Look at Dish Society: Casual Farm-to-Table Dining

Texas (especially the Houston region) is blessed with a multitude of produce farms, breweries, meat producers and dairy farms. While it is common for Houston restaurants to showcase a few local producers' products in menu items, there aren't many restaurants that are solely farm-to-table. And that's why restaurateur Aaron Lyons decided to create Dish Society.

Dish Society was a concept Lyons developed while attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. He originally planned to open Dish Society in Austin, but decided to bring his concept to Houston after finding "greater demand and opportunity" here for his farm-to-table restaurant, according to Dish Society's website.

Each item on the menu features ingredients sourced from local producers throughout the state, including Atkinson Farms in Spring, Houston Dairymaids, Slow Dough Bread Co., and Texas Hill Country Olive Company in Dripping Springs. Most of the menu items list the source of the ingredients in the dish's description, and at the bottom of each menu you will find a complete list of sources.

After driving by this casual Galleria-area restaurant multiple times, I finally decided to see what it was all about (especially because there seemed to be a lot of people inside the restaurant and outside on the patio at all hours of the day).

Dish Society is located underneath Gables Tanglewood, a new apartment complex on San Felipe. It's a contemporary-style restaurant with tall windows, modern tables, bright lights, vibrant-yellow seat cushions and wood-paneled walls. If you don't want to sit at a dining table (inside or outside), you can order your food to go, sit at the bar and enjoy a beer from Karbach, Saint Arnold or Buffalo Bayou, or a coffee from Greenway Coffee & Tea.

The drink menu includes a variety of juices, house elixirs, coffees and craft beer sourced from Texas, but the wine menu features red, white and sparkling wines by the glass or bottle from around the world, rather than solely Texas wineries. I have enjoyed craft beers from Karbach and Saint Arnold, and lattes from Greenway Coffee, so in search of something different, I decided to try an organic cane soda from Austin's Maine Root, which, by the way, is served with Sonic ice -- yes, the tiny ice cube balls we all adore. The soda is sweet, smooth and refreshing, and it comes in a variety of flavors, including lemon-lime, root beer, orange and diet Mexican cola.

Each week executive chef Johnny Romo prepares a signature dish and a surprise farm-to-salad, in addition to the seasonally changing menus. During my visit, the surprise salad included a mixture of red and green butter lettuce, walnuts, beets and red onions, and the signature dish was Gulf redfish topped with ancho butter sauce, served with butternut squash risotto and fried Brussels chips.

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My fiancé and I began our meal with a house-favorite appetizer, the pretzels and queso, a twist on classic chips and queso. Romo makes a queso from smoked Gouda and pairs it with pretzel sticks from Slow Dough Bread Co. The combination of salty, buttery-soft pretzel sticks and sharp melted Gouda is simply out of this world. It's a giant step up from the concession-stand pretzels covered in melted cheese -- I now know why it's a "house favorite."

Next, we moved on to our main courses; I ordered the Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad and my fiancé had another house favorite, the pork tenderloin.

The salad, complete with mixed greens, thin slices of avocado, three grilled Gulf shrimp (with tails intact), finely chopped tomatoes and bell peppers, is light and fresh when tossed in the tangy lime dressing mixed with shredded cilantro.

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Chef Romo crusts the pork tenderloin sourced from Black Hill Ranch in coffee, then tops the medallions with a reduction of whole cherries and port, all served atop whipped sweet potatoes and shredded collard greens. As my fiancé said, "It's like Thanksgiving dinner." The pork is tender, juicy and enhanced by the slightly strong flavors from the coffee grounds. Shredding the kale, instead of keeping the leaves intact, mutes the sharp flavor many people don't enjoy. You'll be tempted to dunk each pork tenderloin medallion into the buttery sweet potatoes, port cherry reduction and kale -- it's the ultimate bite.

We also ordered a side of roasted balsamic bacon Brussels sprouts for two reasons: 1) We are addicted to Brussels sprouts and 2) Any vegetable cooked with bacon and balsamic is out-of-this-world good. The combination of salty bacon and sweet balsamic vinegar make the Brussels sprouts addictive. In fact, I would have ordered a whole plate of them.

As tempting as the dessert menu sounded (bananas Foster, vanilla bean or salted caramel Cloud 10 Creamery ice cream, chocolate pretzel bread pudding and chocolate lava cake), we were stuffed. Next time, I will save room for dessert, because the bananas Foster at the table next to me looked absolutely divine.

There's so much more at Dish Society, and I intend to try something new during each visit. How does Nutella-stuffed French toast sound for breakfast? Or how about a steak sandwich with caramelized onions, garlic aioli and Gruyère on toasted Slow Dough ciabatta for lunch? Enticing and delicious, that's what they sound like.

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