Festivals

Best Bites from the Houston Zoo's Feast with the Beasts 2017

Grilled tenderloin by Fogo de Chao.
Grilled tenderloin by Fogo de Chao. Photo by Mai Pham
















Just a few hours after a euphoric Astros parade through downtown Houston last Friday, more than 3,000 critter and food-loving fans headed to the Houston Zoo for the park’s popular culinary fundraiser, Feast with the Beasts.

As in years past, this year’s 12th annual production gave attendees the chance to feast among more than 50 food stands while taking in the zoo’s most popular exhibits. Capping off the festivities was a performance by musical guest Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Though more than 3,000 people attended the event, the size of the zoo and the way in which the vendor stands are spread out throughout the park meant that although lines could run 20 deep at some of the food stalls, it never actually seemed that crowded.
click to enlarge Delicious tacos by Molina's Cantina. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Delicious tacos by Molina's Cantina.
Photo by Mai Pham

The air was warm and muggy as we leisurely made our way from stand to stand, noting the standout bites along the way. Just inside the main entrance, we were off to a great start at Molina’s Cantina, which was serving pulled pork tacos. At the adjacent stall, Chef Jesse Fields and Earlis Thompson had people lined up waiting for a bite of their big format paella. 
click to enlarge The team at Little Daddy's Gumbo Bar. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
The team at Little Daddy's Gumbo Bar.
Photo by Mai Pham
Moving along, Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar were serving up some mighty delicious gumbo. And there was so much more: Maggiano’s had servings of tasty lasagna; Mi Pueblito Columbian Restaurant had a choice of meat or vegetarian empanadas; Fogo de Chao offered up bites of Brazilian grilled beef; Benihana offered samples of fried rice and California rolls.

For sweets lovers, Sprinkles Cupcakes had trays of mini cupcakes in chocolate, red velvet and vanilla sprinkle flavors. Catering to Your Taste Buds, which not only served up shots of creamy crawfish bisque, but also wowed with a delicious version of tres leches. Chef Adison Lee of KUU Restaurant also had trays of brownies topped with black sesame, tiny bites that totally hit the spot.
click to enlarge Oustanding salmon ceviche by Adison Lee of Kuu Restaurant. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Oustanding salmon ceviche by Adison Lee of Kuu Restaurant.
Photo by Mai Pham
Speaking of Lee and KUU Restaurant, if it had been a competition, their salmon ceviche — made with yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, mango and orange in an olive oil-ponzu-akadashi miso sauce — would have easily won top honors. Other standouts of the night included Jonathan’s The Rub smoked turkey, cranberry mayo and sourdough sandwiches; beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce and mashed potatoes by Texas de Brazil; som tum Thai papaya salad by Nam Khao in the Energy Corridor; and a seafood salad on fluffy brioche bun by The Grove downtown.

Tying everything together, of course, and the best part of Feast with the Beasts were definitely all the animal exhibits. We missed out on the giraffe feeding (which cut off at 9 p.m.) station, but we were charmed by sea lions, delighted by elephants, and stood in awe before a komodo dragon.

Scroll through below for scenes from this year's animal-filled festival: 
click to enlarge Proprietor Jonathan Levine of Jonathan's The Rub had one of the night's tastiest bites: A smoked turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwich. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Proprietor Jonathan Levine of Jonathan's The Rub had one of the night's tastiest bites: A smoked turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwich.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Papaya salad by Naam Khao. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Papaya salad by Naam Khao.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge The team at Texas de Brazil. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
The team at Texas de Brazil.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Red velvet minis by Sprinkles Cupcakes. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Red velvet minis by Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Ooh-ing and aah-ing over the komodo dragon. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Ooh-ing and aah-ing over the komodo dragon.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Mi Pueblito served Columbian empanadas. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Mi Pueblito served Columbian empanadas.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Black sesame brownies by Adison Lee of Kuu Restaurant. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Black sesame brownies by Adison Lee of Kuu Restaurant.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Chef Jesse Fields and Earlis Thompson of Batanga, serving paella. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Chef Jesse Fields and Earlis Thompson of Batanga, serving paella.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Smoked turkey, sourdough stuffing and cranberry mayo sandwiches by Jonathan's the Rub. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Smoked turkey, sourdough stuffing and cranberry mayo sandwiches by Jonathan's the Rub.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Taking a break to watch the sea lions. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Taking a break to watch the sea lions.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Vanilla sprinkles minis by Sprinkles Cupcakes. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Vanilla sprinkles minis by Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Chef Javier of Benihana put on a hibachi show. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Chef Javier of Benihana put on a hibachi show.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge The team at Thai restaurant, Naam Khao. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
The team at Thai restaurant, Naam Khao.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge Team Truluck's served scallop ceviche. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Team Truluck's served scallop ceviche.
Photo by Mai Pham
click to enlarge The Houston Zoo. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
The Houston Zoo.
Photo by Mai Pham

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham