Starchefs.com managing editor Will Blunt had plenty of nice things to say about the vibrant Houston restaurant scene after the foodie insider website visited in February to anoint a dozen local chefs to their Rising Star list.
But does Houston really stand out, considering the globetrotting duo of Blunt and editor-in-chief Antoinette Bruno find Rising Stars in four cities every year? According to their year-end best list, the answer is yes.
Among the StarChefs.com's top 10 dishes of the year is an entry from Randy Rucker's former incarnation of Bootsie's Heritage Café in Tomball. Rucker's stand-out dish was steel-cut oat and maple porridge with preserved green lichen, smoked mascarpone, spring creek mushrooms, meyer lemon powder and young swiss chard leaves. Bootsie's phenomenal locavore porridge may be gone — Rucker closed Bootsie's in July, it was reopened soon after by his mother with a much more casual menu — but the reminder just makes us all the more anxious to see what he does at the forthcoming conāt in the Museum District.
Rucker wasn't the only Houstonian whose creation was singled out. Bobby Heugel's butternut squash flip (butternut squash-infused rum, oat syrup, Live Oak hefeweizen and egg) at Anvil was one of the top five cocktails chosen.
Surprisingly, Austin chefs fared better on the lists than Houston chefs, despite the fact that there hasn't been a StarChefs.com Rising Star Gala in Austin — yet. David Bull of Congress made the list of savory dishes with his pan-roasted sea scallop with jicama-mint salad, coconut cream, cocoa nib and chocolate mint.
On the top 10 desserts list, former Houstonian Plinio Sandalio, also of Congress, was singled out for his grapefruit sorbet with angostura mousse and Campari pop rocks. (Of course, anyone who tasted Sandalio's Campari pop rocks when he was at Textile shouldn't be surprised — it's an unforgettable flavor.)
Philip Speer of Austin's Uchi made the dessert list with his peanut butter semifreddo, miso-apple sorbet, peanut brittle, micro wasabi, rehydrated raisins and golden raisin puree. While we can only hope for equal gastronomic brilliance when Houston's Uchi opens in January, a few lucky locals got to taste Speer's thorouhgly unconventional (and impressive) approach to pastry when he made an appearance at the Beyond Sweet dinner organized by Rebecca Masson in 2010.
What was your favorite dish of 2011?