Food for Thought
Overheard at the Throwdown: Houston's version of Iron Chef is where food secretscome out
Houston Chowhounds’ throwdowns are becoming the stuff of foodie legends. Our own little Iron Chefcontests with cool ingredients like bourbon and raw fish. Not together, of course. And the people that attend these foodie fests are as much fun as the food. You never know who you’ll run across, or into, at one of these.
The most recent one, last week’s ceviche throwdown at Soma, was also a fundraiser that netted more than $30,000 to benefit Gulf Coast fishermen, so the crowd was even bigger, everyone wanting to help those hurting from the oil spill. Practically every foodie in town was hanging out there. Which made for some pretty interesting conversations, some of which I was not even a party to but simply overheard.
Here’s some of the skinny from the event.
El Meson owner Peter Garcia was one of the judges who picked Alex Padilla’s of Ninfa's on Navigation, salt-cured barramundi and live sea scallop ceviche with fresh-squeezed citrus, passion fruit and truffle sea salt as the winner. But between tastings Garcia was chatting about El Mason’s upcoming 30th (can you believe it?) anniversary next March. But he isn’t just planning one big event.
“I’m thinking of a rolling celebration,” he said. “We want to hold events to support things we like.” Of which there are many. “Biking, parks, children, we’re still working out all the details,” he said. So stay tuned.
Bubbly blonde cookbook author Erin Hicks Miller was also in attendance, talking up her new project, a Mexican cookbook.
“I’m up to my knees in enchiladas!’ she said. “I’ve got a lot more recipes so I have to start cooking pretty quick.” Judging by her slender frame I doubt she’s eating all those enchiladas.
Waiters started passing trays of tasty tidbits, some sushi samples and tiny crab cakes. The cash bar was packed but there was a wine table I gyrated towards.
At the Fleischer International Trading table, where they were pouring free glasses of 2009 Yarden Mount Hermon kosher wine from Israel, a man said: “I’m Jewish, I’ll have a glass.” I’m not Jewish and I had a glass.
Wandering away from the wine table, I bumped into Don Smith. He’s got a new business called Fusion Taco, which has, believe it or not, gourmet Asian fusion taco trucks. Say again?
“We were bored with our catering business,” Smith said. “So we went into the food truck business. We want gourmet food trucks like they have in L.A.”
Notebook and pen in hand (and glass of Israeli wine in the other) I ran into some amusing food distributors hanging at the bar.
“You can’t quote me, get away!” laughed Judy Henrichsen of Brothers Produce. “I talk like a sailor with Tourette syndrome!” Sam Ray with Republic National Distributing Company just nodded and laughed.
There were just so many folks crammed into Soma last week, chefs and foodies and PR peeps, oh my.
The dashing French cowboy Philippe Schmidt was there talking about his new PHILIPPE Restaurant & Lounge (coming this fall!). And the delightful Tracy Lee Vaught of Backstreet Café was in attendance to cheer on her hubby Hugo Ortega as he competed in the ceviche throwdown (he was robbed, robbed I say!) and of course Jim Gossen of Louisiana Foods whose supplies some of the best Gulf Coast seafood to Houston and all parts non-Texas was on hand.
Over all it was one of the best throwdowns yet and kudos to Jenny Wang and her Chowhounds for throwing a fun event that also aided the fisherman in the gulf.
And best thing overheard at the throwdown?
“I like ceviche but no, I’m not a chowhound. I’m just a chow puppy.”
Keep on eating, you’ll grow into a chowhound one day.