Over the course of the next few months, I'm counting down 100 of my favorite Houston dishes. I chose some because they are such quintessential Houston creations, others for their cultural or historical significance, and others because they are just so damn tasty. Share your own nominations in the comments.
#24 Pasta with White Truffles at Da Marco
A bowl of tagliatelle and truffles goes for $125 at dinner. But it's a mere $110 at lunch. The flavor is like nothing else on earth. I have heard it described as a combination of earthy mushroom flavors and strong garlic-like aromas, but that doesn't begin to capture it.
You can only get this dish in the winter, and white truffles have nothing to do with Houston. But it's become something of a tradition for Marco Wiles to go to Alba in the fall and gather truffles, then serve them at his restaurant through the holidays.
I have eaten white truffles shaved over pasta once before in my life at a little trattoria in Bologna. I watched my fellow diners stick their faces into the steam rising from the plate as the truffle was shaved over their pasta and greedily inhale the fumes. They looked like they were snorting cocaine. When my turn came, I did the same. It was a rush. Truffles are like that. Whole truffles shaved over a plate of pasta is an otherworldly experience that goes beyond tasting and smelling -- every food lover should experience it at least once.
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The aroma of a truffle is penetrating -- it's much stronger than garlic. I bought a chestnut-size specimen at a black truffle market in rural France once and had to pull the rental car over on the way home because I couldn't take the aroma anymore and it was too cold to drive with the windows down. I put the smelly nugget in the trunk.
There are several less expensive truffled dishes available at Da Marco, but a hint of truffles is not the same. The flavor accumulates on your palate. The first few bites are good, but as you eat a lot of truffle the flavor keeps getting stronger until your mouth and nose are coated with it. That's why Colette wrote, "If I can't have too many truffles, then I'll do without truffles."
The list to date:
#100: Green Chile Chicken Kebabs at Chatkhara Grill #99: The All-Day Burrito at Cherry Top Bakery #98: "You Buy We Fry" Trout Basket at Hank's Fish Market #97: Chicharron de Barriga at La Michoacana Meat Market # 10 #96: Pakistani Breakfast at Kings Chicken #95: Fried Mojarra at Taqueria Jesus Maria #94: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake Ball at Coffee Groundz #93:Cheeseburger at Leonard's Famous Burgers #92: Lasagna at Doyle's #91: Cochinita Pibil at Tacos La Bala #90: Fajita Tacos at Taqueria El Charro #89: Kubideh and Zereshk Polo at Kasra Persian Grill #88: Trentino Gelato's Dulce de Leche at Shisha #87: Deviled Eggs at Nielsen's Deli #86: Italian-Cuban Sandwich at Logan Farms #85: Vegetable Trio in Sichuan Sauce at Spicy Sichuan #84: Salchi-Burger at Brisa Cocina #83: El Ultimo Taco Truck's Breakfast Tacos #82: Kielbasa on a Sizzling Comal at Polonia #81: Shrimp and Grits at Bistro Alex, Hotel Sorella #80: A Bowl of Chili at James Coney Island #79: Lamb Dumplings at Lucky Pot #78: Crazy Irishman Sushi Roll at Soma #77:Tesar's "Magic" Burger #76: Mac n' Cheese at Two Saints #75: Spicy Armenian Kebabs at Café Rita #74: Jalapeño Gefilte Fish at Rustika #73: Greek Burger at the Hubcap Grill #72: The Basil Inferno at Thai Bistro #71: Paella at Rioja on Kirkwood #70: The Big Adrian Burger at Adrian's Local Café #69: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Bar at La Paletera #68: Indonesian Deviled Eggs at Rice Bowl II #67: Al Pastor Quesadillas at Tierra Caliente Meat Market #66: Boudin Kolaches at Shipley's on North Main #65: Banh Cuon at Tay Ho 18 in Hong Kong City Mall #64: Cumin Lamb at Chinese Halal Cuisine on Bellaire #63: Stuffed Artichoke at Mint Café on Sage #62: Italian Sausage Pie at Russo's Coal Oven Pizza #61: Tom Kha Gai at Thai Choice on Wilcrest #60: Torta Cubano Estilo Mexicano at El Amigo Taco Truck #59: Whataburger Triple Meat, Triple Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños #58: The Banana, Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip and Dulce de Leche Empanada at The Original Marini's #57: The Barbecue Brisket and Egg Breakfast Taco at Plantation BBQ Trailer #56: Chicken-Fried Steak at Frank's Chop House #55: Catfish and Grits at the Breakfast Klub #54: Bun Bo Hue at Kim Chau #53: Beef Tips at Davis Meat Market #52: Moules Frites at Jeanine's Bistro #51: The Fajita Taco at the Taconazo Truck #50: Frito Pie at the Rio Verde Taco Truck #49: Ceviche at Yelapa #48: African-American Beef Links at Bar-B-Que Done Right #47: Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ham and Mushrooms at Ciao Bello #46: Ice Cream at Hank's #45: Oysters with Lardons and Leeks at Brocante #44: Steak Tikka at Himalaya #43: Barbacoa Soup at De Buey Y Vaca #42: Banh Mi Xiu Mai at Don Cafe #41: The BBQ Burger at Guy's Meat Market #40: Indian Borsch at Indika #39: Mole Poblano at Hugo's #38: Banh Bot Chien at Tan Tan #37: Soft-boiled Quail Eggs with Asparagus Tips at Chez Roux #36: Surf and Turf Salad at Que Huong #35: Breakfast Tacos at Laredo Taqueria #34: French Fries at Little Big's #33: The Picnic Platter at the Grove #32: Cheese Enchiladas with Fried Eggs at Los Dos Amigos #31: The Sampler Plate at Café Lili #30: Elysian Fields Lamb and Mushy Peas at Tony's #29: The Cheeseburger at Christian's #28 Couchon de Lait at Stella Sola #27: Warm Glazed Donuts at Shipley's on Ella #26: Fried Shrimp at Segari's #25: Special Enchiladas-A-La-Taylor at Spanish Village