What a treat for urban dwellers to take a break from the asphalt jungle and pass an evening in the forested setting of the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Doing just that were more than 250 "Tapas on the Trails" partygoers, who strolled the recently-restored Willow Oak Trail that meanders through the preserve's 155 acres, adjacent to Memorial Park.
The chilly temps Saturday night did little to dampen the spirits of those meandering at their leisure through the wooded setting where they paused at the four food stations for gourmet sustenance and wine pairings.
Chef Randy Rucker, working on his soon-to-open conāt in the Museum District, tempted the taste buds with dishes such as brisket with wild onions, chickweed and sassafras glaze, cooked over hay, and a smoky porridge of steel-cut oats and sorghum with locally-foraged mushrooms and lichen.
The first food station featured raw oysters and pickled shrimp and smoked fish from the Gulf. At the second, guests could fill their plates with seasonal vegetables and greens topped with creamy egg and cracklings.
The culinary walk on the wild side concluded at the Meadow Deck where famed pastry chef Dan Budd offered grilled cheesecake sandwiches with drunken berries. Since Tapas on the Trails inaugural event three years ago, Budd has been flying in from his post at Taste Budd's Chocolate and Coffee Cafe in Red Hook, N.Y. to prepare the desserts.