Not Hollywood, Houston
A romantic's guide to Houston Restaurant Weeks: Where to rekindle the flame withany foodie
Let's face it. Americans are not great at marriage though we like to pretend we hold it as an omnipresent pillar of societal values. It's an institution, we claim.
Hollywood doesn't set the best example for us, morphing divorce from a catastrophic tragedy into something that resembles a routine root canal — happy gas included. Actress Melissa Gilbert — best known for her work in Little House on the Prairie, filed papers to end her 16-year marriage to actor Bruce Boxleitner. Did anyone see the Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony split coming? What about Will Smith and Jada Pinkett's alleged "marriage crisis"?
At least Daniel Baldwin is trying to fix up things — even though his wife threatened to kill him after one too many cocktails.
Everyone deserves a second chance.
According to new census data, people are more likely to divorce and remarry in Texas and across the South than any other part of the United States. Those second marriages seem to last longer in the South than anywhere else. It's part of what Diana Elliott, a family demography expert for the U.S. Census Bureau, calls "regional marriage culture."
And part of Houston culture is also eating out. We do that more than in any other comparable urban center.
As Houston Restaurant Weeks — an initiative founded by radio personality Cleverley Stone to benefit the Houston Food Bank — moves towards a close (Aug. 31 marks the end), we think it's a good idea to merge both traditions and give relationship-challenged Houstonians a chance to begin or rekindle affection. Think about it ladies and gents, your better half will be so impressed about your philanthropic side ($3 of every lunch and $5 of every dinner goes to Houston Food Bank) that by the meal's end, there just may be some "smush smush" action in the future.
Where to go? Here are CultureMap's suggestions. Remember to make a reservation.
1. A quaint, romantic and French rendezvous: Brasserie Max & Julie
Romance always blossoms over anything French. At this Montrose area bistro — mantled with scarlet fabrics and dotted with gold brass railings — it's not uncommon to suspend reality and pretend you've been whisked away to sentimental Paris. And Paris is always a good idea.
You may be tempted to start with the pâté masion, made from duck and pork, but if you opt for the lighter soupe vichyssoise — a cold potato and leek soup —you can indulge in the short ribs façon bourguignonne and finish with the cognac crème brûlée and not end up needing a post-dinner snooze.
2. A comfortable, swanky brunch: RDG + Bar Annie
To impress without appearing like you are trying too hard, a leisurely brunch at the chic and plush RDG + Bar Annie is perfect. The place to see and be seen midweek shifts into a genteel pace on weekends letting lovebirds enjoy the restaurant's decor and ambiance. You can chat comfortably and get to know each other a little better.
Try the chilled grapefruit soup dotted with shrimp, avocado and jicama, followed by Texas-style poached eggs, with a healthy helping of red chile beef and tortilla hash. Dessert is a toss up between buttermilk drop doughs, old school beignets and cinnamon pastry rolls.
3. Eco-chic en vogue lunch meal: Haven
A meal with an eco-conscience will surely earn you green points for your concern for all things local — all without having to resort to a hippie raw vegan dive. Haven's modern, clean-line LEED-certified design is just like chef Randy Evan's approach to cuisine.
Restaurant Weeks options include a veggie-friendly menu — baby arugula salad with peaches, peach vinaigrette, candied pecans and goat cheese crostini for starters — and carnivore options, like the Hill Country wild boar chili with pepper jack cheese, minced onions, crema and corn sticks. And those are just samples of Haven's first course.
This is a restaurant where quinoa can coexist with chateau loin of beef and shrimp boudin.
4. A dress to impress formal soiree: Mark's American Cuisine
It's fitting that Mark's is housed in a 1920s-era church as tasting its cuisine can be a religious — yet seductive and naughty— experience. And isn't that what you want? Tease with food, followed by, well, unmentionable activities.
You and your better half can personalize your menu during Restaurant Weeks. May we suggest the seared Hudson Valley foie gras? The silky texture is as sensual as the mascarpone flan. The entree offers many protein choices including house-made chicken sausage, seared beef tenderloin, fire roasted Muscovy duck breast and duck confit, and a trio seafood sampler.
It's a hard choice on the desserts — Mark's seven-layer chocolate cake, crème brûlée or raspberry shortbread tart. Make it a threesome?
5. Exotic, yet elegant date: Kiran's
Who said Indian couldn't be sexy and elegant? Yes, perhaps around Houston most Indian restaurants focus on the informal home cooked experience. But Kiran's brings exotic tantalizing spice mixtures made famous by the cuisine of the subcontinent, that are also sophisticated and refined.
Owner/chef Kiran Verma offers a soup flight, a pistachio-crusted goat cheese salad or tandoori portobello with paneer, peppers and onions as a first course. Opt for the tandoori Scottish salmon and wind down with the mango mousse or saffron crème brûlée.