Things To Do

Upcoming Events: Getting in the Carnival Spirit Before Lent

It's not too late to get your Greek on this weekend at Memorial Wine Cellar as sommelier Evan Turner celebrates Apokries -- Greek carnival -- with an enormous Greek food and wine tasting. The festivities will run from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, February 12, and feature far more Greek wines than just ouzo and retsina. Greek winemaker Stelios Boutari will be in attendance with vintages of his wines direct from Greece, and Turner has guaranteed a unique mezze sourced from regional Greek cuisine. Tickets are only $45 a person -- a bargain for this type of event -- and can be reserved by calling 713-680-9772.

A decade has gone by since Piatto Ristorante Galleria opened its doors in 2002, and now the Italian restaurant is celebrating by giving back: Its 10th anniversary celebration on Sunday, February 26, will benefit the Pink Ribbons Project and its mission to fund breast cancer research. The party will take place from 2 to 4 p.m., with appetizers and wine as well as a chance to bid on a classic oil painting by beloved Houston artist Kermit Eisenhut. Eisenhut's art has hung in Piatto for years, and the artist is probably most well-known for his giant, Texas-themed, painted cows. Tickets to the anniversary party are $40 per person in advance and $50 per person at the door.

That same day, chefs Randy Rucker and Chris Leung of the upcoming restaurant conāt will be hosting an old-school pop-up dinner of the type that Rucker once held with his feeding curiosity and tenacity dinners. As with previous tenacity dinners, this "3rd coast" dinner will be held at 13 Celsius and will feature wine pairings from Mike Sammons. Dinner will kick off at 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 26, and costs $75 a person (including wine pairings, but not tip). Tickets must be purchased in advance through Paypal.

So now you know that Greek carnival is called Apokries, it's time to learn another fun fact: In Germany, it's called Karneval and it's kicked off by Weiberfastnacht, or women's karneval night. In Germany, this is the original girls' night out: Women enjoy an evening out with their friends in bars and pubs of the old town centers while their husbands stay home with the kids.

Here in Houston, Charivari is hosting its own Weiberfastnacht on Thursday, February 16. The dinner is open to men and women, of course, and features a spread of food that appeals to either gender with deeply traditional German dishes like potato pancakes, sour beef roast, Haemchen with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, apple strudel and Rodde Gruetz with vanilla pudding. Dinner is only $45 a person (excluding drinks, tax and tip) and starts at 7 p.m. Reservations can be made at 713-521-7231.

The following Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, which traditionally marks the end of carnival season and the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Various places around town are hosting their own Mardi Gras celebrations, not the least of which is taking place on Galveston Island from February 10 to 21, culminating with a full retinue of Mardi Gras parades this weekend and the next.

Here in Houston, restaurants like Bistro Provence are celebrating Mardi Gras in more understated ways: The west Houston bistro will be offering crepe specials all day long on Fat Tuesday, including chicken and mushroom crepes, smoked salmon and raifort crepes, banana-Nutella crepes or simply crepes and red berries.

In Rice Village and the Heights, the two D'Amico's Italian Market locations are celebrating Fat Tuesday by giving away free cannoli decorated with sugar in Mardi Gras colors to each table of diners who order lunch or dinner. And in King Cake-style tradition, the cannoli also have plastic babies hidden inside, so be careful!

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Katharine Shilcutt