What: 12th International Risotto Festival.
Where: Houston Design Center.
The scoop: It was a picture-perfect afternoon as hundreds of Houstonians stopped by outdoor stations on the expansive Houston Design Center property to sample risotto creations by 13 outstanding Houston chefs, along with a wide array of wines and antipasti selections. Guests also admired classic cars, along with the latest Audi models, sprinkled around the property, enjoyed Italian music and entertainment, and stopped into interior designer showrooms that were open for the occasion.
The chef roster included Greg Milo of The Art Institute of Houston, Scotty Campbell of Bertazzoni, Carmelo Mauro of Carmelo’s Ristorante Italiano, Johnny Mandola of Damians Cucina Italiano, Dillon and Denver Kao of Express Italia, Fadi Dimassi of Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill, Manuel Pucha of Maison Pucha Bistro, Tiago Almeida of Quattro/Four Seasons Hotel, Maurizio Ferrarese of Ferrarese Catering, Michael Hoffman of Oxbow 7, Matt Tahaney of Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant, Alberto Gutierrez of Tasting Room CityCentre, and John Buchanan of Third Coast.
The judging team of the Italian Trade Agency's Carlo Bocci, Fox 26 TV personality and CBS radio show host Cleverly Stone, CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler, Edible Houston's Kim Korth, Alquimista Cellars' Greg LaFollette, Modern Luxury's Mellanie Perez, and Recipe for Success chef and former Risotto Festival winner Justin Kouri chose Mauro's Risotto Con Melanzane, a mix of veal ragù, grilled eggplant, ricotta salata, mascarpone and crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano, as "Best Risotto Dish." The winning entry is the newest addition to Carmelo’s menu.
Runners-up were Tasting Room's Gutierrez, who served a risotto with a wide variety of mushrooms including chanterelles and pickled alba varieties, and Oxbow 7's Hoffman, who created a crab and roasted pork broth with pieces of heritage pork belly for his risotto. Express Italia's Dillon and Kao took honorable mention for a braised brisket risotto with a hint of host pepper that gave it a little heat but wasn't super spicy.
Guests also picked their favorite dish by paying $1 per vote, with proceeds to benefit Casa de Esperanza de los Niños and its mission to provide a safe environment and medical care for children in crisis due to abuse, neglect or the effects of HIV. Results are still being tallied. UPDATE: Bertazzoni's Campbell won the popular vote with a risotto with Crustacean broth laced with dry Sherry, fresh uni with butter cream, Keta salmon roe, fennel flowers and crystals.
Who: Seen in the crowd were honorary chairs Janie and Todd Mason, event co-chairs Julie and Stephen Chen, Raine and Alan Falik, and Leslie and Charles Simmons, along with guests Shepard Ross, Ben Berg, Misty and Jeff Lindenberger, Terry and Fred Baca, Sheri and Grant Roane, Gretchen and David Anderson, Catherine Carrigan, Jay Rodgers, Jan and Tom Simmons, Frank Rynd, Ben Brown, Caroline and Will Brown, Bart Barrett, and Ann and Ed Deery.