"This is confusing the hell out of my palate, and I'm loving it!" joked Eater Houston editor Amber Ambrose to my right on Sunday night.
We were polishing off pastry chef Chris Leung's dessert course of smoked paprika chips, popcorn sherbet, coconut panna cotta and candied lychee at the annual Sweet & Savory dinner, a dinner and dessert event orchestrated by pastry chef -- and recent Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant -- Rebecca Masson.
Far from just a playground for Masson and her chef friends to experiment on willing diners, the Sweet & Savory dinner -- held this year at 5226 Elm -- raises money to benefit Lucky Dog Rescue, an organization that Masson has long supported. This year's dinner sold out quickly, its 75 guests eagerly filling out 5226 Elm's lush gardens and contemporary dining rooms as they ate their way through seven exotic courses and bid on silent auction items throughout the night.
The chefs that Masson corralled for this year's dinner ranged from food truck impresarios H-Town StrEATs to avant garde pastry chef Philip Speer of Uchi. Ryan Pera of Revival Market made a brilliant autumnal oxtail terrine for one course, while Jason Gould of Cyclone Anaya followed it up with a two-fer of smoked udon noodles and duck confit eggrolls.
Unlike many charity dinners that cost as much money to produce as they raise, Sweet & Savory benefits from having almost all of its food and labor costs donated. Ingredients were provided by Whole Foods as well as the chefs themselves, and both chefs and food lovers were on hand to help out.
Chefs Randy Rucker and Ben Rabbani expedited and served food to support friend and colleague Chris Leung, while head Dairymaid Lindsey Schechter provided the Point Reyes for Chef David Coffman's inventive cheese course that powdered the blue cheese and tossed it over a brown paper bag of popcorn.
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By dinner's end, over $12,500 was raised via Sweet & Savory tickets and silent auction items to benefit Lucky Dog Rescue. A sweet sum indeed, and one that will help some very lucky pups.
To see more from the dinner (and each course in detail), check out our slideshow.