New restaurant with major chef cred is heading into Lower Westheimer row
Brande (pronounced "brand") is set to be a more casual concept with a rustic yet contemporary aesthetic, serving "casual, rustic, farmhouse kind of fare" with dry-aged meats offered a la carte along with more traditional composed dishes as well as a large bakery program.
"Our original intent was to peel back the layers that had been added to the original over time, but — I'm trying to say this as nicely as I can — it's just not been maintained well."
Hildebrand is again partnering with MC2 Architects to design a new building, although he says tearing down the Ruggles structure wasn't his plan.
"Our original intent was to peel back the layers that had been added to the original over time, but — I'm trying to say this as nicely as I can — it's just not been maintained well. The structure is unsound and it's really unusable", Hildebrand tells CultureMap. "I know it has some nostalgia. I remember clearly having dinner there in 1995 — it was my first date with my wife.
"When I was in New York [at the Culinary Institute of America] people were talking about Ruggles and Cafe Annie. It's crazy that it's in our hands now."
In lieu of saving the original structure, Hildebrand has donated it to Habitat for Humanity.
"It's really an amazing process," Hildebrand says. "I didn't realize how extensive it was. They take everything and what they can't use they sell, and the proceeds go back to support their programs. It's an amazing way to utilize the building in a way that we can't."
A new structure also offers Hildebrand freedom to utilize the growing Lower Westheimer corridor.
"We want to be very conscientious and aware of the neighborhood, the way it's trending. We're going to widen the sidewalk and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment, be more conducive to parking and walking. There are definitely plans to enhance that, to do a patio that fronts Westheimer with pedestrian access."
"It's more masculine, kind of a richer, darker feel than Triniti. Triniti to me has a very feminine feel. MC2 has a very modern aesthetic but he softens that by mixing materials like wood and concrete, and that kind of thing. He definitely has a style, it's all very balanced. Landscaping is going to be a big part of it.
"We're exploring options to do a vertical garden or living wall. I haven't seen one in Houston but it's very cool, all kinds of plants and stuff growing on the wall, and it fits the neighborhood with the trees, the great canopy."
Brande is also an opportunity for Hildebrand to reunite with Dax McAnear, his former chef de cuisine at Textile. After a stint at San Francisco's Hog and Rocks, McAnear is back in Houston and will be joining the kitchen at Triniti during Brande's construction phase.
Despite the chef overlap, Hildebrand stresses that Brande will be its own separate concept, though the bakery program at Brande will also produce the bread and pastries served at Triniti.
"Other than that it's a completely different menu, different style of food, bigger, more rustic," says Hildebrand, who is also designing and building a massive wood-burning grill for the space. Brandt will also serve breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends.
The new concept is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. Are you excited?