Feel like you made the most of Houston Restaurant Weeks? Meet Cathi Walsh, who ate out at a participating restaurant not once a week but once a day — 33 times total in August. CultureMap chatted with Houston Restaurant Weeks' biggest fan about what makes her so passionate about the event, what her favorite meals were and if she's planning a repeat in 2012.
CultureMap: OK, so what was the final tally of the Houston Restaurant Weeks meals over the 31 days (of August)?
Cathi Walsh: It was 33
CM: Do you consider yourself a foodie? How often do you generally eat out?
CW: I eat out quite a bit but I don't usually eat out every day. I don't know how I got it into my head to eat out every day, but I ended up having quite a bit of time off of work in August and it was a great way to meet up with friends.
CM: Did you have a specific plan, or did you pick and choose the restaurants as you went?
CW: I had a list of places I wanted to try and a list of places I know I like. If I invited people or if I agreed to meet up, I'd let them choose. So it was some going back to places I know but a chance to connect with friends.
CM: What was your favorite meal?
CW: The brunch at RDG was really very good, I really enjoyed that. I also ended up at Philippe 15 times. I do like it there a lot, but I have a group that meets for dinner one Tuesday per month, and during Houston Restaurant Weeks we met every Tuesday at Philippe. It's never the same group twice, and I had a really good time eating there.
I have a couple other friends who really love Philippe and it's convenient for us to eat there — it's just a great place to meet people, I love to go there.
CM: So in 15 times you never felt like you were eating the same foods over and over?
CW: Of course I tried everything on the menu, but there were a couple favorites I was happy to eat multiple times. For example Philippe had skate wings, which are very rare in America but common in France, and it's one of my favorite fish dishes. The coq au vin on the lunch menu is fantastic, and the brochette reminded me of when we lived in northern Africa and Tunisia, the seasoning was really good.
Other places I loved include Haven; Eddie V's with (Restaurant Weeks founder) Cleverley (Stone) at the community dinner, that was fun; Carmelo's; Sorrel several times, that was great; I went to The Glass Wall and got to talk to the chef; and one night it was not as hot as it had been so I went to The Tasting Room with my mother to sit on patio, that was nice. We went to Cinq one night, which was very elegant, and got to meet [executive chef] Jeramie [Robison] and hear about his philosophy on things.
CM: What do you think makes a Houston Restaurant Weeks meal different?
CW: What I like about Houston Restaurant Weeks is that everybody is sort of playing on the same field, so to speak. People doing lunch are all doing it for $20 and all the dinners are $35, and it amazes me how creative the chefs are with that structure, how one place will have one style, and another will have a completely different take on what a $35 meal should be. That so much money goes to the Houston Food Bank is nice but I like to see what the chefs can do.
CM: Were there any parts of HRW that you didn't like?
CW: There were some meals that to my taste were much less successful than others, including some by chefs with reputations around town, but I very much enjoyed myself. I met people I hadn't met, saw friends I hadn't seen in a long time, just lots of meals with friends.
CM: So is there a diet in the future? How did you handle so much food?
CW: A lot of people have asked me if I gained weight! I didn't eat all of the meals. I would order them, pay for them and I would cut them in half and take half to go, sometimes I'd take them home and eat the leftovers later or give them to someone, but if I saw a homeless person I would give it to them with a bottle of water and $5.
CM: Do you think you'll do it again next year?
CW: Yeah, if I do I'll let other people arrange some of the dinners because it was a lot of time tracking people down and making sure they showed up — that was probably a bit much. But I just want to honor Cleverley and the Houston Food Bank by giving a matching donation. I calculated how much the restaurants will give the food bank on meals I had and I'll at least match that.
It just seems kinda obvious to give something to the Houston Food Bank, since the restaurants are so willing. I know they gain from it but they are giving a lot and it's a lot of work and a big amount of money at the end of month, so I want to give something back too as a thanks.