The Intestinal Pretzel at Feast

When one of my out-of-town friends mildly complained how the recent rise in vegetarianism among her social circle left her with nary a friend with whom to chow down on animal flesh, I promised to take her to Feast during her visit to Houston. She did not object.

On a recent weekend night, almost all the tables in the warmly lit interior dining rooms were occupied. I was heartened to see such activity, considering at one time rumors lurked about Feast's possible closure. Although I count the restaurant among my favorites in Houston, a semester-long sojourn in Washington, D.C. and a rather tight budget meant I hadn't visited in more than a year.

Service and food certainly lived up to my expectations based on past dining memories. Our waitress was relaxed but extremely professional, providing menu recommendations and delivering courses in a timely fashion. We shared a wonderful appetizer of bone marrow with capers and a parsley salad, and, for our main courses, both chose different but equally delectable warm pies filled with lamb and spinach and seafood, respectively. My friend savored the generous chunks of shank and the rich pastry shell (I should have asked for just one more taste), and I very much enjoyed the succulent scallops swimming in a fragrant broth topped with a layer of creamy mash.

But what really tickled my fancy was a side dish that cost me just under four dollars. The intestinal "pretzel" (my quotations) initially attracted me in name and then won me over with its unique taste. From our server's description (a pork intestine twisted in a pretzel shape), I expected something salty, chewy and, um, possibly gross. I mean, not really gross, but certainly not stellar.

Surprise! On multiple counts, actually. First, with regards to texture, for it was not gummy but supple and easily masticated. Second, the interior stuffing was sweet and autumnal, with strong notes of cinnamon and, perhaps, just a dash of nutmeg. I consumed almost the entire pretzel before even digging into my pie, first sampling it plain, then with a dash of the accompanying honey mustard sauce, then with more mustard in between two pieces of Feast's hearty table bread in a sort of 'testinal sandwich.

If Feast were to offer an entrée serving of the intestinal "pretzel," I might even ask for a whole loaf to make a giant hoagie. Yes, I am that vulgar.

But for those of you with more respectable tastes, I urge you to tack on the delightful intestinal pretzel to your next meal at Feast. It's large enough to share with a friend but cheap enough that it's probably just better to order a round for the table.

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