Creativity is never lacking when the Houston Design Center holds its biennial International Risotto Festival. Just consider the winning combinations from Sunday's outdoor competition — first place Maurizio Ferrarese's Milanese Risotto & Bone Marrow served in the hollowed-out bone or the second place Crawfish Risotto served in acorn squash from Arcodoro chef Luigi Shimaj. And the people's favorite — the Dirty Rice Risotto from Triniti's Ryan Hildebrand.
Close to 700 turned out on the picture-perfect afternoon to stroll the sidewalks of the design center, sample risotto dishes from 14 chefs, experiment with various wine tastings, listen to Italian music, shop the stores that opened for the occasion and just generally enjoy the San Diego style weather. And let's not forget the collection of sleek Aston Martins from Star Motor Cars that had guests dreaming of Lotto winnings.
It couldn't have been a better day for honorary chair Fabrizio Nava, Consul General of Italy, or festival chair Lucinda Loya, accompanied by her young daughters, Ana Luca and Elena.
They and the crowd grazed through offerings that included Carmelo's homemade Italian sausage/artichoke/parmigiana risotto, Vic & Anthony's lobster and cheese risotto, Grotto's risotto pomodoro with almond-crusted jumbo shrimp and Prego's rabbit risotto. And then there was Max's Wine Dive's over-the-top lobster risotto topped with grilled ribeye, caviar and grilled shrimp and scallops.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Education Foundation which provides scholarships for the Art Institute of Houston. In addition to Art Institute president Susanne Behrens, a dozen or so students — in culinary, photography and design courses — were on hand as volunteers. In fact, three of the competing chefs are Art Institute grads — Trevisio's Jon Buchanan, The Tasting Room's Jonathan LeBlanc and Zelko Bistro's Jamie Zelko.
Taking in the pleasant afternoon were Sheri and Grant Roane, Alton LaDay and Jonathon Glus, Annie Amante, Lori Farris, Ali Chihani, Lily Jang and Justin Schuetz, Brad Collier, Robert Spiegel, Penny and John Wright, Terry and Fred Baca and Josh Crausby.