Just as fall is a busy season for restaurant openings, so too is it for culinary events. Whether they gather a collection of local chefs to support a common cause or feature culinary all-stars from out of state, all of these events offer the opportunity to taste something new and most have a charitable component as well.
They’re roughly ordered by how interesting or unusual they are, but all of these events make for an appealing splurge for those looking for something different than a regular night at a restaurant.
Southern Smoke - November 6
For the second year of his barbecue-themed MS fundraiser, Underbelly chef-owner Chris Shepherd has stepped things up considerably. In addition to returning pitmasters Aaron Franklin and Rodney Scott, Shepherd has recruited four of his fellow James Beard Award winners to serve food at the party — Ashley Christensen (seven acclaimed restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina), Tandy Wilson (City House in Nashville), Ryan Prewitt (Peche in New Orleans), and Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon in New Orleans). With Franklin, Shepherd, and Oxheart chef-owner Justin Yu (who appears as part of HOUBBQ Collective along with Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner (The Pass & Provisions) and Ryan Pera (Coltivare, Revival Market, Eight Row Flint), the lineup includes seven James Beard Award winners. It’s certainly the most out-of-town culinary talent to grace a Houston food event in recent memory.
Beyond that, New Orleans’ acclaimed Rebirth Brass Band will perform, and the silent auction includes such tempting options as a year’s lease on a Lexus IS and tickets to Super Bowl LI. Surely the event will have no trouble shattering the already impressive $184,000 it raised last year for the MS Society. Tickets are $200; VIP is $350 for a one-hour early admission (and a correspondingly much shorter wait for Franklin’s celebrated brisket).
The Butcher’s Ball - October 9
Chefs from Austin, Dallas, and Houston will gather in Brenham to celebrate meat and the ranchers that raise the animals they serve. The 14 participants, highlighted by John Tesar (Knife in Dallas), David Cordua (Churrascos and Americas), and Nathan Lemley (Parkside in Austin), will serve dishes throughout the day at Rockin’ Star Ranch made with meat supplied by 44 Farms.
In addition to food, Black Hill Ranch owner Felix Florez will butcher a whole elk, Grand Prize beverage director Lindsay Burleson will serve cocktails, and Urban Harvest will host a farmers market. Musicians from Houston and Austin will perform throughout the day. A portion of proceeds from the $149 ticket will benefit both Urban Harvest and Foodway Texas. Yes, bus service to Brenham is available for an additional $35, which attendees will surely appreciate after a full day spent outside enjoying food, cocktails, and beer.
Taste of the Nation - September 20
Part of a national series of fundraisers, the Houston edition of Taste of the Nation unites the city's best chefs, bartenders, and pitmasters for a one-of-a-kind tasting event that features dishes from many of the city's best restaurants as well as bites from top barbecue joints and drinks from Houston's best bars. Heading up this year's effort are culinary chairs Ryan Pera and Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar), beverage chair Alba Huerta (Julep), and barbecue chair Daniel Vaughn (Texas Monthly). The lineup includes places like BCN and Southern Goods that don’t typically appear at tasting events, as well as barbecue joints like Louie Mueller Barbecue and The Brisket House. Tickets are $125.
HOUBBQ Collective Fall Tailgate - October 9
Get a preview of Southern Smoke and help raise money for No Kid Hungry at this event that brings together Ryan Pera, Chris Shepherd, and Seth Siegel-Gardner. Pera, a North Carolina native, will smoke a whole hog that he’ll turn into pulled pork with red chili vinegar sauce. Shepherd and Siegel-Gardner will prepare 44 Farms beef (ribs, shoulder, and sausage). Get a plate with pork, beef, and sides at Eight Row Flint from 11 am until 4 pm (or until sold out) for $45 (purchased in advance) or $50 (day-of). The event will also serve as a watch party for the Texans-Vikings game.
Want to see the process from the beginning? Eight Row will host a reverse happy hour October 8 from 9 pm until midnight.
The Woodlands BBQ Festival - September 25
Feeling bereft that the Houston BBQ festival occurs only once a year? Look no further than The Woodlands for an all-you-can-eat meat fix. Of the 15 participants, establishments like CorkScrew BBQ, Tejas Chocolates, and SouthernQ will represent the northern suburbs, while places like The Brisket House and Roegels Barbecue ensure Houston’s best places are also represented. Tickets start at $60 for general admission; VIP costs $120 for a one hour head start and swag.
Iron Sommelier - October 20
Enjoy rare and unusual wines with 13 of Houston’s top sommeliers at this eighth annual event. Participants, including TexSom winner Rachel DelRocco (Camerata), State of Grace general manager Matt Crawford, and Tastemaker Awards Sommelier of the Year Evan Turner (Helen), will each present wines on a theme to a panel of expert judges and attendees. Proceeds benefit the Periwinkle Foundation, which develops and provides programs for children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life threatening illnesses.Tickets start at $200
Ceviche Project - September 25
For one night only, Octavio and Shannon Olivas are bringing their Los Angeles-based pop-up to Galleria-area seafood restaurant Peska. The duo have traveled the world to study ceviche; Peska describes the meal as “unique combo of authentic Mexican and modern-day Japanese cooking techniques” in a lively atmosphere with live music. Seats are $100 for five courses, including tequila cocktails.
Depressed Cake Shop - October 9
Many of Houston’s top bakers will participate in this third-annual event, which raises awareness of depression by selling grey-colored bake goods. Chefs from Pax Americana, Coltivare, Triniti, and others will contribute more elaborate grey cakes that are raffled off at the event. Hosted by local pastry chef Jody Stevens, the event will donate 100% of its proceeds to The Montrose Center, a 501c3 organization and The National Alliance for Mental Illness – Greater Houston Chapter.
Houston Culinary Awards - October 2
A few tickets remain for the 20th annual gathering that celebrates the best of Houston’s dining scene. The nominated chefs, front of house staff, and restaurateurs always turn out for the dinner and party, which ensures a lively atmosphere. This year’s event features dishes created by Addison Lee (Kuu), Bobby Matos (State of Grace), Jackson Hicks (Jackson & Company), Susan Molzan (Petite Sweets), and Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar). Tickets are $185.
Want even more options? Don’t miss Shelby’s guide to the fall social season.