If you work around Memorial City or pass by on the way home, stop and check out the "Live at the Gateway" patio parties scheduled between 5:30 and 8 p.m. on May 4 and May 20. It's a lot more fun than slogging home in rush-hour traffic.
Gateway Memorial City and its tenants have been hosting free parties in the courtyard encased on one side by KUU and the other by Churrascos and forthcoming Pour Society. They're taking advantage of the temperate weather while it lasts. Last Wednesday's event included a jammin' band called The Nitebeat who played lively '80s tunes. Revelers danced until the last song ended around 8:30 p.m.
All five of the restaurants in the center--Vallone's, KUU, Churrascos, Pour Society and the newly opened Garbanzo--offer free light bites at the event and there's a live band, too.
KUU's table last night served nibbles of chicken karaage, tempura almond cake and kanpaccio--rich slices of amberjack laced through with fresh orange and red grapes.
Pour Society isn't open for another four to six weeks, but they manned a table full of samples despite the rain that let off sometime after the first hour of the shindig. There were spiced peanuts, Crab Seven-Layer Dip and a remarkable Six Flag Cake by pastry chef Kelsey Hawkins (formerly of Paul's Kitchen and Osteria Mazzantini). There were six layers: one for each flag over Texas, including a Mexican chocolate layer, a cajeta-puff pastry layer for Spain and an inspired choice of a crepe layer to represent France. The middle layer was carrot cake, which Hawkins said is one of the most popular cakes in the United States.
Vallone's top-notch array of small bites during the gatherings rotate and include items like Mini Kobe Meatballs, Broken Arrow Ranch Quail, Five Spice Honey, Corn Raviolini, Texas Charred Corn and Sage Essence; Sangiovese Braised Short Rib Tortellini with Cognac and Walnut Sauce, Mini BBQ Cheeseburgers and Crab Croquettes with Old Bay Aioli. It's a selection fit for Texas royalty.
Karbach was out yesterday providing free samples of their Barn Burner saison, but visitors who wanted a seat and a glass of wine or a cocktail meandered inside the restaurants and took advantage of their happy hour specials. Vallone's, for example, has a happy hour menu from 4 to 6:30 p.m. that includes a variety of $5 wines by the glass. KUU's happy hour menu that runs during the same time features small bites ranging from $4 to $7, a selection of $4 beers, $5 wines and cocktails that are $6 or $7.
"Live At The Gateway" gives Houston diners a little taste of what the restaurants offer and and is a fine excuse to stay off of I-10 until rush hour eases off. Take advantage of the last two of these before the summer heat hits.