Sweets ruled the day at Houston's fifth annual The Truffle Masters food competition. Kata Robata and Yauatcha took home first and second place from the judges for their truffle-infused desserts.
A sold out crowd packed the Reverie events space to feast on bites from over 25 Houston-area restaurants. Sponsored by luxury foods purveyor DR Delicacy, the event benefits Second Servings of Houston, a non-profit that collects leftover prepared food and delivers it to charitable meal sites such as soup kitchens and shelters.
Kata Robata's win — its third in the competition's five-year history — makes the Upper Kirby Japanese restaurant the New England Patriots of the Truffle Masters. Served in a glass the emphasized the truffle's aroma, the Japanese-style, green tea soufflé cheesecake with truffle ice cream packed the signature musky flavor into every bite. Similarly, Yauatcha's chocolate choux pastry impressed the panel of judges, courtesy of its deep truffle flavor and crunchy texture.
Third place went to Wooster's Garden for chef Brandon Silva's innovative mussel dish that featured a potato chip shaped like a mussel shell. That's a bit of a surprise considering Wooster's is a cocktail bar in Midtown instead of a fine dining restaurant, but Silva's creative plating and surprising flavors allowed it to make a strong impression. Eunice earned the people's choice for its blue crab ragu with gnocchi.
Other favorites included State of Grace's honey truffle butter chicken biscuit, Emmaline's foie gras torchon with black truffle, and "Pac-Man" brioche with roasted pork from MAD, the upcoming tapas concept from BCN chef Luis Roger. The Original Ninfa's on Navigation, led by bother executive chef Alex Padilla and newly-hired chef Jason Gould, surprised the crowd by serving a handmade duck confit ravioli instead of a Tex-Mex dish.
Organized tasked a panel of food industry and media judges, including sommelier Antonio Gianola (Houston Wine Merchant), Kate McLean (Houston Press), Adrian Perez (Complete Eats), Marcy de Luna (Houston Chronicle), Megha Tejpal (Houston Citybook), Phaedra Cook (Houston Food Finder), TV and radio host Cleverley Stone, and this author, had the difficult task of eating all the delicious bites and picking winners. No one feels sorry for them.
The event always draws a who's who of culinary professionals, influences, and food enthusiasts. Spotted in the crowd were Ianne and Brian Fasthoff (Batanga), Mechelle Tran (Riel), Robert Del Grande (Cafe Annie), Terry Wong (Blood Bros BBQ), Danielle Dubois, Araz Garakanian, Victoria Ma, Matt Harris, Tyler Horne (Urban Harvest), Urban Swank bloggers Shanna Jones and Felice Sloan, Grace Gibson and Nick Scurfield, Lisa Gochman, and Jailyn Marcel. Michael Garfield, the high-tech Texan, served as the evening's emcee.