Food for Thought
The best hotel pool in Houston? One with bacon ice cream, wild drinks & swans ishard to beat
Recipe to beat the Houston heat: One, find a pool. Two, grab a chilled cocktail. Three, slurp some ice cream. Four, put your feet up, plop a big straw hat on your head and some cool big sunglasses on your face and get ready to chill out.
And one of the best places to repeat this recipe is at the Omni Houston Hotel where the comfy lounges frame the blue water facing the big red wall. There’s a salt-water pool and a chlorinated one, plus shade umbrellas for day and fire pits for night. Oh, and the swans have their own pool.
Yes, they have four black swans that live in their own pool there. Hence the name of the downstairs bar.
“The pool has been really popular this summer,” says Shane Bruns, food and beverage manager at the hotel. “We’ve seen more local people coming to enjoy it."
“The pool has been really popular this summer,” says Shane Bruns, food and beverage manager at the hotel. “We’ve seen more local people coming to enjoy it.
"It just has that resort feel to it that makes it a nice getaway for an afternoon without leaving town.”
You can even schedule spa treatments in a private cabana poolside. And on Saturday nights they have a DJ spinning tropical tunes. Squint and you’ll think you’re in some tropical paradise, far, far away.
But one of the best reasons to hang poolside here is the new Art of Water menu.
“Mostly we serve burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries out here,” Bruns says. “We don’t serve glass at the pool, so the food is served in bamboo baskets lined with butcher paper.” Which just adds to the whole I’m-in-another-country-on-vacation feel.
But there are some new snacks this summer. In particular the all-natural Coolhaus ice cream sammies. These handheld cooling delights of homemade ice cream smashed between two chewy cookies have been hits from Austin to Miami, where they are sold out of vintage food trucks. But the Omni is the only place in Houston where I’ve found them so far.
“Eating ice cream between two cookies is more conducive for sitting by the pool,” Bruns says. “And they have such great flavors. I’m a fundamentalist so I like the Tahitian vanilla bean with chocolate chip cookies on both sides.”
But there are other ice cream and cookie choices to choose from, including vegan and gluten-free. And one that features a scoop of brown buttered candied bacon ice cream between chocolate chip cookies. Yum.
Cool Drinks Too
Ice cream by the water is one way to go, but let’s not forget the need for cocktails when poolside.
Omni has paired with mixologist Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture to create a list of regional summer cocktails for the hotel chain.
For Texas, Haasarud has whipped up a Stoli Corona, a Watermelon Lime Sangria, a Grilled Pineapple Cocktail, a Skinny Chipotle Margarita and a little something called a Lemon Tea Smash.
“It’s been our best seller here,” Bruns says. “It’s a real refreshing vodka drink with a citrus taste. But you want to be careful out in the sun, too many Lemon Tea Smashes and it can get a little heavy.”
And let’s not forget about water safety: Don’t drink and swim. Much.
Oh, and if it’s just water you want, grab a bottle of Keeper Springs Natural Spring Water. Founded by Robert F Kennedy, Jr. in 1999, 100 percent of the profits go to the nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance for keeping America’s waterways free from pollution. It is a great reason to drink bottled water.
Omni’s Lemon Tea Smash
Can’t make it over to the Omni pool? Well, you are on your own for the Coolhaus ice cream sammies, but here’s Kim Haasarud’s recipe for a delightfully refreshing Lemon Tea Smash.
1.5 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka
Two lemon quarters
1 oz Simple syrup
Eight mint leaves
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz unsweetened tea
One thinly sliced lemon wheel and mint sprig for garnish
In a mixing glass, muddle the lemon quarters with the mint leaves and simple syrup. Add the Belvedere Lemon Tea. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel along the inside of the glass. Top with a mint sprig.
Now, just find your own pool, don’t forget the sunscreen and enjoy your poolside refreshment!
And yes, in this heat even the kiddie pool in the backyard will do.