Sampling Over 60 Restaurants at the 7th Annual Feast with the Beasts

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Check out our pics from the Houston Zoo in our Feast With The Beasts slideshow.

There were lions, cougars, giraffes, snakes, elephants, a rooster and more. Plenty of animals and plenty of food -- exactly what you'd expect to find at the Houston Zoo's 7th annual Feast with the Beasts.

This past Friday night, the Houston Zoo turned into a food-filled adult playground for three hours as more than 4,000 attendees came out to enjoy the weather and taste some excellent food.

Newcomers may have been overwhelmed by what greeted them, but after attending last year's event, I was on a mission to see how many booths I could actually hit in one night. And I did a good job of it, too.

Right inside the gate, last year's Beastly Battle winner -- Taste of Texas -- greeted us with their scrumptious beef tenderloin. At the adjacent booth, Little Daddy's Gumbo Bar had super-tasty sausage gumbo. And off to the side, Molina's Cantina was grilling up pork tenderloin, which was chopped up and served taco-style on a corn tortilla and drizzled with tomatillo salsa.

Maggiano's Little Italy served lasagna, while Ouisie's Table and The Bird and the Bear were on hand with some shrimp and grits and Spanish paella, respectively. LeMond Catering had my favorite dessert sampling of the night: a Louisiana-style bourbon bread pudding that was so delicious, I came back for seconds. Russo's New York Pizzeria was on hand serving tastings of pizza along with cheese tortellini and shrimp. Capital Grille served large hunks of meat on a stick along with mac 'n' cheese.

At Cyclone Anaya's, chef Jason Gould was on hand with deliciously spicy tamarind-braised beef sliders with tangy purple cabbage slaw and ancho barbecue sauce. My Dee Dee's Pie Shoppe had tastings of everything from strawberry pie to coconut cream and chocolate cream pies. The ladies at Griff's, one of Houston's oldest sports bars, were serving a choice of beef and cheese quesadillas, while at the next booth, RA Sushi did two types of sushi rolls and their yaki soba noodles. Picnic was giving out full gingerbread cupcakes and raspberry brownie cakes.

Porch Swing Desserts had their cute blue truck parked on the grounds, where they served a tasty caramelized banana pudding. Hungry's was serving pita and hummus, along with an excellent Thai chicken curry over rice, one of the surprise highlights of the night. Michael's Cookie Jar had an assortment of Halloween-themed orange pumpkin frosted cookies in an appetizing display. As we walked up to Masraff's booth, you could smell the traditional "pork and beans" smell, except that theirs was the gourmet version of white bean ragout topped with shredded smoked pork.

El Real Tex-Mex Cafe offered one of the more fun tastings of the night with a Frito pie of ground beef, Frito chips, cheese and onions served inside small Frito bags, while sister restaurant Little Bigs went all-American with classic mini-chili-cheese dogs.

We were lucky to get to the Truluck's stand early in the night, because as the evening wore on, the lines could be seen wrapping around the corner with attendees patiently waiting for their full-sized U-10 scallop, seared in butter and served over a miso sauce. It was the most impressive and memorable tasting of the night -- not only because you got a full-sized scallop, but because Chef Danny Kievet was deftly handling six pans and cooking up the scallops à la minute.

Moving on, I found chef Jonathan Jones rockin' out his new executive chef position at Monarch at the Hotel ZaZa with a delicious house-cured salmon gravlax served over celery root puree, and topped with molasses pickled mustard seed and charred leeks. It was one of the standouts of the night. In the same area, Local Foods served small tastings of truffled egg salad on pretzel crostini, Merlion on 4th offered up a lovely Thai shrimp curry over rice, and Black Walnut Cafe offered their signature pistachio gelato (a must-try).

Over in the Bud Light VIP lounge, Woodrow's was catering to the VIP folks with several different tastings, the highlight being the bacon-wrapped shrimp. The Glass Wall served tasty portions of braised beef over gouda mac and cheese. Luby's had three booths, with a very good carne guisada. And ice creamery Blue Bell offered a selection of ice creams -- ice cream cones, chocolate-covered ice cream pops, plain vanilla cups and more.

And still there was more: Blu was offering Saigon-style crispy egg rolls with a sweet and sour sauce; The Melting Pot had a chocolate fondue tower and fresh fruit; Chipotle had the equivalent of a mini-burrito bowl; Palazzo's had crème brûlée. The team at Ooh La La Desserts, all sporting "Go Vote!" T-shirts, had all kinds of fun Rice Krispies treats.

My night ended with the heartwarming sight of Sylvia Casares, owner and chef at Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen, fully recovered after being shot in the stomach earlier this year, smiling gaily while stirring her famous enchilada sauce. By that point, I'd literally eaten a lion's share of food, my feet were starting to hurt from all the zigzagging we did across the zoo, and I couldn't help but suppress a gleeful smile from the night's events. As far as parties go, the Feast with the Beasts is one of the best in town.

Congratulations to the Feast with the Beasts Beastly Battle Winners: 1st Place: Little Daddy's Gumbo Bar, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo 2nd Place: Taste of Texas, Certified Prime Angus Beef Tenderloin and Pecan Pie Squares 3rd Place: Boudreaux's Cajun Kitchen, Shrimp and Grits and Pecan Pie Whipped Cheese Cake

See more photos of the beastly feast at the Houston Zoo in our slideshow.

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