Chris Shepherd, Kevin Floyd, and the rest of the Underbelly crew are giving Houstonians a chance to support the fight against multiple sclerosis in two different ways — one for fans of smoked meat and one for fans of craft beer.
For those who love barbecue (and have more disposable income), consider purchasing a ticket to Southern Smoke, which takes place October 22. Now in its third year, the barbecue-themed affair will once again see top chefs from out of town join forces with some of Houston’s most accomplished chefs for an ultra-meaty tasting event.
Pitmasters Aaron Franklin and Rodney Scott — essentially the kings of Texas brisket and Carolina whole hog barbecue, respectively — headline the event.
Judging by the lines for their signature dishes at the two previous Southern Smokes, their presence might be enough to draw Houstonians to the party, but Shepherd stacks the deck by inviting a few of his fellow James Beard Award winners to participate: This year’s roster sees the return of Ashley Christensen, who owns six concepts in Raleigh, North Carolina, along with three newcomers: New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh, who will open a restaurant in Houston called Eunice later this year, and Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope, the chef-owner and executive-chef of FIG in Charleston. Attendees will also enjoy dishes from the HOUBBQ Collective, a group of chefs that includes Shepherd, Justin Yu (Better Luck Tomorrow, Theodore Rex), Seth Siegel Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions, and Ryan Pera (Agricole Hospitality).
Southern Smoke has also enhanced its VIP experience. Hay Merchant and Blacksmith will serve as VIP lounges with premium wines and cocktails from sponsor Knob Creek. In addition, 20 super-VIPs will get to take a culinary tour of Houston with the participating chefs in luxury SUVs provided by event sponsor Lexus.
Tickets for the event go on sale Monday, August 7. Prices are $200 for general admission, $350 for VIP, and $1,000 for Super VIP. Not cheap, but the event aims to raise at least $300,000 for the National MS Society.
For people on more of a beer budget buy want to give back, well, Shepherd and Floyd have just the solution: you can purchase a brew they developed with Saint Arnold called Gordon’s TerraForm. Based on Saint Arnold’s seasonal Oktoberfest, the beer has been transformed thanks to being aged for 10 months in red wine barrels and given secondary fermentation with brettanomyces, a type of wild yeast.
“The beer no longer has its malt forward backbone,” Saint Arnold brewer Aaron Inkrott told CultureMap in an email. “The brett has dried the beer out further, allowing rich, dried fruit, with some funk, and the red wine barrel carrying the finish.”
As for the other part of the beer’s name, “Gordon” refers to Grant Gordon, the former Tony’s executive chef who passed away suddenly shortly after his MS diagnosis; 100-percent of proceeds from Gordon’s TerraForm will benefit the Grant Gordon Foundation, which educates patients and their families on the chemical effects of MS on the brain that alter one’s mental health. Currently, the foundation is supporting a study at Harvard University that seeks to identify suicide risk factors in MS patients.
Hay Merchant will debut Gordon’s TerraForm on August 9 at event that features food specials from Shepherd and Saint Arnold chef Ryan Savoie. Saint Arnold will debut the beer on August 11 as part of its weekly pint night. A companion beer called Gordon’s TerroirForm, which is undergoing fruit refermentation with Texas Mustang grapes, will debut in November.
“In Houston’s food and beverage scene, we step up for each other, especially when it matters most,” said Floyd in a statement. “Grant was a friend and a culinary master. If we can do anything to make sure another person doesn’t go through what he did, then we’ve done our job.”