Two of 2014's best new restaurants are serving special, limited time dishes that are sure to make a splash at any holiday gathering.
Montrose bakery/cafe Common Bond began selling a freshly made chocolate panettone on Tuesday morning. In Pearland, Killen's Barbecue will begin serving tamales filled with their signature slow-smoked brisket on Thursday.
Chef/owner Ronnie Killen says he began working with his cooks to develop the tamales as part of his preparations for February's Cochon 555 chef competition. Learning to make the masa was the biggest challenge. "We take a piece of masa and put it into water. If it floats, it's light enough," Killen explains. After a post on Facebook garnered almost 900 likes, Killen decided to perfect the recipe and serve them through Christmas.
That's a lot of money for tamales, but Killen promises they'll be worth it. "If we can't put them out right, I wouldn't do it," he says.
The tamales are stuffed with the same brisket trimmings that Killen's currently supplies to Pena's Donut Heaven for their weekend "Killache" special. At four-and-a-half to five ounces each, Killen says they dwarf conventional tamales. While the barbecue restaurant isn't set up to serve them as a plate with melted cheese, a dozen tamales do come with a Salvadoran-style salsa and pickled vegetables.
Beginning Thursday at 11 a.m., Killen's will have 60 dozen tamales available for $20 per dozen. Yes, that's a lot of money for tamales, but Killen promises they'll be worth it. "If we can't put them out right, I wouldn't do it," he says.
Pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel had to travel considerably farther to learn to make panettone. After a season at the now closed, world famous Spanish restaurant elBulli, Shvartzapel spent time in Italy learning from Iginio Massari, who he describes as "the godfather of exceptional, artisanal panettone." His Italian colleagues scoffed at the notion that Massari would teach him anything, but Shvartzapel's previous work in Paris for Pierre Herme helped open the door. Turns out Herme had also studied panettone from Massari.
Shvartzapel says that the difficulty in making panettone well appealed to him. "It's an involved process," he says. "None of which can be omitted, assuming the goal is to make a wonderful product." That includes allowing the finished loaves to cool while hanging upside down. "It's an immense luxury to be able to learn to make this product at an exceptional level," he adds.
That includes allowing the finished loaves to cool while hanging upside down. "It's an immense luxury to be able to learn to make this product at an exceptional level," Shvartzapel adds.
As with Killen's tamales, Common Bond's panettone comes at a premium price, $40 for a one kilo (2.2lbs) loaf. "It can easily feed eight people . . . or maybe two or three people like me," he says. The product's natural fermentation ensures it will last two weeks or more in its packaging and, as Shvartzapel notes, Williams Sonoma charges $42 for a product that hasn't been made that morning (but it does come in a festive tin).
Despite only being available for two days, Common Bond's panettone is already winning fans. The Pass & Provisions chef Seth Siegel-Gardner tweeted, "Stop everything you're doing and go get a Panettone from @wearecommonbond , holiday baking game is strong as f&ck." Triniti pastry chef Samantha Mendoza wrote on Instagram that it's the "best panettone I've ever had."
Needless to say, the 50 loaves sold out the first day they were available, and Shvartzapel says he noticed some customers coming back Wednesday for another.
Want to be a real hero at any holiday gathering? Bring both.