It's National Coffee Day on Saturday, September 29, which means that there will be many spots around Houston giving people sweet deals on java. The Grove will offer half-off, French press pots, served with homemade biscotti, while McDonald's will hook you up with a free breakfast sandwich with the purchase of a medium McCafe drink.
But the real buzz this weekend is all the food events, especially Sunday's Southern Smoke — the hottest Houston food and barbecue festival of the fall. Read on to find out about this one-of-a-kind event that brings the best food talent from around the country to H-Town. As CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler notes, this event promises "a pure appreciation of the best chefs and pitmasters. It's a damn good time." Sold.
That's one way to heat up your weekend. But here are other things happening that'll hopefully get you amped.
Thursday, September 27
Chow down at the 34th Annual Caesar Salad Competition
Caesar salad gets a bad rap. Sure, it's just Romaine lettuce, croutons, shredded Parmesan, and that all-important Caesar dressing. But if you mix that stuff just right (and maybe throw in some chicken strips), you'll have a delicious, healthy meal. Twenty of the area's top chefs will compete to see who can toss the perfect Caesar salad. Be on the lookout for celebrity judge and CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler. 5:30 pm.
David and Michael Cordua's new YUM DMC pop-up dinner series
As of August, David and Michael Cordua, the father-and-son chefs of the Cordua Restaurants group, are no longer part of that company. They are starting fresh with their latest venture, a pop-up dinner series called YUM DMC. Their first one is a five-course dinner that will consist of doughnut holes made with chicken liver mousse and smoked paprika, baklava lamb ribs, sugar cane-filled shrimp, and other goodies. 6:30 pm.
Friday, September 28
Get wowed by master magician/illusionist Eric Jones
Award-winning magician/illusionist Eric Jones will be doing a three-day stint at iPic Houston. This man has traveled far and wide to blow people's minds. He's done TV appearances in 19 countries, has performed for celebs, and was a semifinalist on America's Got Talent. But, try, try, try, to understand, he's a magic man. 6 pm (6 pm and 9 pm Saturday and 1 pm Sunday).
An intimate performance with Zo! and Carmen Rodgers
His name is Lorenzo Ferguson, but Zo! is what they call him. The ever-versatile multi-instrumentalist is a longtime member of the Grammy-nominated, alt-R&B group The Foreign Exchange, but he's also done some wonderful solo joints. This weekend, he and vocalist/longtime collaborator Carmen Rodgers (Dallas's own) will be doing a "Piano and a Microphone" performance. 7-11:30 pm.
Saturday, September 29
Let your dog run amok at Bark in the Park
If you have a dog, you know those darling doggos crave the outdoors. (Evidenced by how when you open up the door to the backyard, they fly out like a dart.) If you're a parent to one of those extroverted critters, Washington on the Brazos will be opening up its state park for a day of free, pet-related activities — but they still gotta be on a leash. 8 am-5 pm.
It's game on at the GTEX 2018 Tabletop Gaming Convention
Tabletop gaming is still a thing, and all those old-school gamers here in H-Town will have a chance to indulge in their favorite pastime by attending this inaugural convention, held on the grounds of the Johnson Space Center. All the proceeds from the Star Wars: Destiny and X-Wing tournaments will go the Peter Mayhew Foundation. (Yes, the man who occupies the Chewbacca suit has his own charity.) 9 am-11 pm.
Sunday, September 30
Try your hand at a cool Mah Jong tournament
Considering how big of a box-office hit Crazy Rich Asians has become, we're shocked Mah Jongg, the ancient, Chinese tile game that several characters play during the movie, hasn't turned into a craze that's sweeping the nation. Nevertheless, if you're interested in playing the game, the Houston Gulf Coast chapter of the JDRF will be hosting a benefit tournament. 8:45 am-3:30 pm.
Wine and dine at this festive wine-pairing event
Camerata at Paulie's continues to be our favorite place to go, sip on a nice glass of wine and get a taste of another culture in the process. This weekend, the spot is teaming up with Cuchara Restaurant for a wine-pairing event. At this one, you can get wine with the Chiles en Nogada, which consists of the colors of the Mexican flag and is considered to be Mexico's national dish. 4-8 pm.
America's food superstars gather to heat up Southern Smoke
No other Houston food event brings this kind of culinary talent from around the nation. Local food star Chris Shepherd's fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis will feature white-hot names such as James Beard Award-winning chefs Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin and Ryan Prewitt of Peche Seafood Grill in New Orleans. Other stars include Daniela Soto-Innes, a New York James Beard Award winner (who got her start in Houston), and Phoenix's Chris Bianco, who's hailed as one of the world's best pizza makers. Simply put, if there's one food event to hit this season, this is it. Line up early for the barbecue and cuisine, and come hungry. 4 pm-8pm.