Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

They say you can't buy happiness, but you can adopt it. This holiday season, head to Neiman Marcus at the Galleria to coo at adoptable puppies and kittens in the luxury retail brand's magical storefront windows every weekend beginning Friday, November 24.

Now in its 35th year, Home for the Holidays is a partnership between the Houston SPCA and Neiman Marcus, and is one of the city's most cherished holiday traditions.

Beginning at 9 am the day after Thanksgiving, Neiman Marcus will open its doors to the public with this year’s newly designed holiday storefront windows — complete with adoptable puppies and kittens frolicking about inside. Small dogs looking for their forever home with also be walked around for meet-and-greets with shoppers.

You can view the adorable pets each weekend through December 10, and then daily from December 15-23.

Each pet adoption package at the Houston SPCA is valued at around $500 and includes:

  • the pet’s microchip
  • spay or neuter surgery
  • up-to-date vaccinations
  • a free sample-sized bag of Hill’s Science Diet

While the available pets will vary at Neiman Marcus, all available pets at the Houston SPCA can be found here.


Houston H-E-B's Feast of Sharing

H-E-B will celebrate the holiday season by distributing 5,000 holiday meals as part of its annual H-E-B Feast of Sharing celebration. With the help of the H-E-B Mobile Kitchen, H-E-B Partners (employees), and volunteers will pass out a box of fresh and non-perishable holiday items and four hot brisket and all the fixings BBQ meals per car (patrons must be in a vehicle to be served) on a first come, first served basis. No registration is required.

The event takes place in an NRG Park parking lot at 9051 S. Main Street Houston, TX 77054.

Photo courtesy of Reliant

Texas electricity customers can now choose to give to their favorite nonprofit

Kilowatts for a Cause

The season of giving and gratitude is almost here, and electricity customers in Texas now have a new way to support charitable organizations that matter to them — all by doing something as simple as turning on their light switch.

Through Reliant's new Choose to Give program, customers choose a nonprofit to support as part of their electricity plan.

When the customer signs up, Reliant makes an up-front $100 contribution to the nonprofit, plus Reliant will donate an amount equal to 5 percent of the customer’s annual energy charges, making an even bigger impact for the nonprofit.

“Reliant cares deeply about the people and communities we serve, and we’re no stranger to offering electricity plans that support nonprofits doing inspiring work,” says Elizabeth Killinger, president of Reliant. “The Choose to Give program provides customers an opportunity to connect to their communities in a meaningful and impactful way.”

The program launched with two Choose to Give plans, benefiting the following organizations:

The American Heart Association is on a mission to save and improve the lives of those affected by heart disease and stroke, two of the most common causes of death in Texas. When customers sign up for this plan, their energy usage will support lifesaving medical research and resources for heart failure patients to better manage their health.

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Its goal is to end preventable maternal and preterm birth health risks, benefiting communities in Texas. When customers enroll in this plan, they will impact a family’s life with things like essential baby items, newborn screenings, innovative prematurity research, and more.

Reliant already has longstanding relationships with these two organizations, having given more than $2 million previously through legacy programs.

There are plans to expand the list of Choose to Give partner organizations, giving Texans even more opportunities to make a difference by supporting a nonprofit they are passionate about. In 2024, customers will have the opportunity to provide recommendations for organizations they would like to see added to the Choose to Give program.

Customers enrolled in the Choose to Give plan of their choice will also enjoy a fixed energy charge for the length of their term, convenient account management tools, an industry-leading app, and 24/7 customer service and support.

To learn more about the program and how to enroll, visit reliant.com/choosetogive.

Reliant March of Dimes

Photo courtesy of Reliant

March of Dimes is one of the beneficiaries of Reliant Choose to Give.

Photo by Lindsey Lamberth, Chris Bailey Photography

Guests saddle up for record-setting gala and raise half a million for mental health in Houston

Growing the Tree of Life

What:Nick Finnegan Counseling Center's 15th annual Tree of Life Gala

Where: Goode Company Armadillo Palace

The 411: Ideal weather and refreshing Ranch Waters greeted the nearly 400 guests that arrived in their best Western wear for this annual gala, which raises funds to provide high-quality and affordable mental health services to anyone regardless of age, finances, or beliefs.

Nick Finnegan Tree of Life Gala 2023

Photo by Lindsey Lamberth, Chris Bailey Photography

Lindsay Amburn, Amy Robinson, Katie Woodroof, Marti Elliott.

After trying their luck at the tequila and wine pulls, hungry guests then made their way to the Goode Co. fajita buffet, which was topped with all the fixin's.

Rustic and whimsical florals courtesy of Bergner & Johnson topped each table, and guests sipped on ice-cold Topo Chicos and beers wrapped in custom koozies from The Essential Market

Event co-chair Scooter Smith then welcomed the crowd, which included former Texas A&M All-American and 2023 SEC football legend Ray Childress, and premiered NFCC’s 15th anniversary celebration video. As one of the organization's former advisory board chairs, Scooter and his wife Clare have been supporters of NFCC since the very beginning, and co-chaired the event with Carla and Cole Dawson.

“When I think of the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center and its achievements, a couple of things come to mind for me," he said. "The unparalleled growth of an organization like this, finding a need in a community and meeting it so well over what is now a long period of time, you know? Just look at where it started and where we are today — it is an amazing story.”

This year’s event honored NFCC’s executive director, Mary Elizabeth Hand, who has been part of the counseling center since 2013 and is a childhood friend of the center’s namesake, Nick Finnegan.

Nick’s parents, Susan and Bill Finnegan, had the honor of bestowing the 2023 Angels Among Us award to Hand, with Susan saying, “She walks around making the counseling center comfy and cozy because she wants it to feel like home for the clients and her staff; not to mention the amazing work she does. We are just so in awe. She was hand-picked by God, no question about it, and to watch her do her thing is amazing.”

The award was a custom watercolor painting created by Bethany Sauer (@besweetink) depicting NFCC’s exterior, which includes part of the building expansion that Hand oversaw in 2018 and her favorite pink rose bushes that frame the courtyard fountain.

“In my role as executive director, outside of spreading awareness about NFCC, cultivating a healthy and positive work environment has always been my number one goal," said Hand. "I want NFCC to be a place where my team feels fulfilled and inspired in the work they are doing. When we as a team feel that dedication to the mission, it touches the lives of every person we interact with. We believe that when one person receives counseling it can positively impact the way they interact with their family, their friends, and have a ripple effect on how they interact with their community.

"Your support of NFCC has that same ripple effect," she continued. "You are making a positive difference in not just our clients' lives, but also the community through your support of NFCC’s counseling services and outreach programs.”

Nurse Becky Helms, a local Houston influencer (@iwanttoquitmydayjob), then shared a heartfelt message with the attendees. Helms chronicles on social media her daily triumphs and challenges with her mental and physical health as she beats cancer.

Two fun games — Heads or Tails and Paddles Up — came next, with emcees Stuart Ford and Randy Helms reminding participants that in lieu of a live auction, donations would be benefitting NFCC directly.

This helped bring the total raised to nearly $500,000, all of which continue to help provide mental health services to individuals, couples, and children at a significantly reduced rate.

Fundraising efforts like the annual Tree of Life Gala in October and Crack ‘em for a Cause Crawfish Boil in April help offset the cost of counseling, allowing NFCC’s counselors to provide more than 8,000 sessions per year to people in more than 127 ZIP codes in the greater Houston area.

Who:Carla and Cole Dawson, Clare and Scooter Smith, Terrell Finnegan Branch, Scotty Finnegan and Maggie Archer, Susan and Bill Finnegan, Stuart Ford, Mary Elizabeth and Robert Hand, Becky Helms, Chuck Helms, Alice and Randy Helms, Caitlin and Jonathan Sanders, Lindsay Amburn, Amy Robinson, Katie Woodroof, Marti Elliott, Matt Harper, Dylan and Courtney Stout, Heather Timmis, Ray Childress, Amber and Cary Gray, Garhett Wagers, Jennifer Bowen, McKenzie Palmer, Courtney Bassett, Lizzy Bowen, and hundreds more patrons and guests.

Photo courtesy of BB's Tex-Orleans

Breakfast, big shrimp, and benefitting a great cause at BB's Tex-Orleans

Dig In, Y'all

If you’re looking to jazz up your next meal, Cajun eatery BB’s Tex-Orleans is kicking up its current Southern Louisiana-meets-Texas menu with new all-day breakfast dishes that are both sweet and savory.

Also coming in hot this month is the Big Shrimpin’ Platter, which now raises money for a good cause with every order.

Breakfast of champions — and saints
If you don’t qualify breakfast as the most important meal of the day, BB’s Tex-Orleans might just change your mind. There’s a newly expanded Breakfast of Saints menu at the Montrose outpost, and it’s everything you could ever want.

While you’ll still find all the old faves — the Morning Glory Po’boy, the Wake and Bake Burger with chipotle remoulade, and Chicken and Waffles — there’s a whole lot of newness to try, too.

Two musts? Look for the Cajun Eggs Benedict with blackened shrimp and andouille cream sauce and The Southern Man, which dishes up fried catfish with eggs, a buttermilk biscuit, and cheese grits.

Also, BB’s breakfast aficionados will fondly remember the Elvis Waffle, a decadent meal that’s stuffed and loaded with bacon, peanut butter, and banana with a Nutella chocolate sauce. Well, it’s back and more indulgent than ever.

Don’t sleep on these breakfast items, now served all day every day at the Montrose location.

Big Shrimpin’ for a good cause
This month, you also won’t want to miss ordering the Big Shrimpin' Platter. Beginning October 1 and available at each of BB’s Tex-Orleans' 12 Houston locations, this special dish benefits Susan G. Komen.

The platter lives up to its name, with a half-pound of boiled shrimp, six fried shrimp, six grilled Creole lemon shrimp, shrimp and grits, shrimp cocktail, and corn and potatoes.

It’s the most delicious way you can do your part to raise money for breast cancer research.

Hungry yet? To learn more about BB’s Tex-Orleans Montrose happenings, click here. Discover your nearest restaurant location here.

Photo courtesy of Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott and Houston influencer craft milestone breast cancer awareness collab

Wear for a cure

Always one for giving back, Texas jewelry superstar Kendra Scott is on a good-hearted mission. For the first time ever, an entire Kendra Scott collection will give back — and give back to an indisputably important cause: breast cancer research.

Kendra Scott — who loves a Texas connection — is joining Houston fashion influencer Nasreen Shahifor a limited-edition jewelry collection. It will include two necklaces, two pairs of earrings, and a bracelet, all named after Shahi's mother.

Although Shahi's mother is the muse, it is her own experience with breast cancer that ties the collection to the cause. The fashion maven was diagnosed in 2021, and it's the outpouring of community support that the collection celebrates.

"This is a difficult month for most survivors because you reflect on so much of your own journey," wrote Shahi on Instagram on October 1, commemorating the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The pieces are gold (with some silver options) and very simple, setting stones in abstract patterns meant to be layered. The centerpiece is an emerald eye of protection, a classic Middle Eastern motif. A release states that avoiding pink was intentional, but does not share why. From a wearer's perspective, it may feel refreshing to wear a breast cancer collection that isn't so literal, and doesn't invite questions about the wearer's intent or connection.

Kendra Scott x Nasreen Shahi from @heynasreen collection necklacePhoto courtesy of Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott and Shahi have been "close partners" in previous years (the influencer has been featured on the Kendra Scott blog), but this is the first collaborative collection. All pieces will result in a 20 percent donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

The Kendra Scott x Nasreen Shahi from @heynasreen collection ($55-85) is available at kendrascott.com and in Kendra Scott retail stores.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Retro Montrose pizzeria scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America list

Esquire best new restaurants

Two Texas restaurants are basking in the national spotlight. Both are recognized on Esquire magazine’s new list of The Best New Restaurants in America, 2023.

They are Este, a Mexican seafood restaurant in Austin, and Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, a pizzeria in Houston that’s not on the main list but earns a shoutout for being the Pizza Joint of the Year. The 50 restaurant list is led by Ilis, a New Nordic-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn whose name is adapted from the Danish words for “fire” and “ice” (ild and is, according to the magazine).

Este, the only Texas restaurant on the main list (down from three in 2022), earns recognition for its ceviche, oysters with salsa negra and chiltepin mignonette, fried fish tacos, and more. The Austin restaurant is no stranger to these kind of lists, having earned similar shoutouts from the New York Times, Bon Appetit, and Texas Monthly.

“You might think you’re on the Mexican coast, but alas, you’re in good ol’ landlocked central Texas. East Austin, to be exact,” Omar Mamoon writes. “While the fish has a bit of a journey, many of the vegetables and floral garnishes are plucked from the garden behind the restaurant.”

Mamoon heaps similar praise on Nonno’s, citing its retro design, comprehensive wine and cocktail lists, and Chicago-style cracker-thin pizzas. “Nonno’s in Houston evokes the retro pizza parlors of my youth, Pac-Man and all, but the pizza is much, much better,” he writes.

Published Tuesday, November 28, Esquire writers Jeff Gordinier, Joshua David Stein, Omar Mamoon, and Kevin Sintumuang compiled the 50 restaurant list by visiting more than 200 establishments across the country, according to the magazine. In addition to Ilis, New York City claims eight more spots on the list, including Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi’s Caribbean restaurant Tatiana and Torrisi, an homage to New York City’s food culture from the restaurant group behind acclaimed Italian restaurant Carbone.

“Honest innovation doesn’t always work in the kitchen, but when it does, it’s like rocket fuel for the soul,” Sintumuang writes in the article’s introduction. “You leave not just full, not just filled with delight, but with a spark. It’s a rare thing, but it’s worth chasing. Consider this your map.”

Iconic rapper Busta Rhymes brings all the lyrics to Houston's ears on new tour

rhymes in ya ear

Effortlessly clever and a born performer, iconic rapper-actor-performer Busta Rhymes is a living link to the early days of NYC/East Coast hip-hop's origins and modern entertainment. Next year, Houston fans can catch all his lyrics inside their ears when he hits town.

Busta Rhymes will bring his energetic brand of showmanship and raspy-voiced rhymes to 713 Music Hall on March 28, 2024 as part of his just-announced Blockbusta North American tour. Supporting his acclaimed new album of the same name, the Blockbusta tour will also head to Dallas' South Side Ballroom on March 24 and Austin's Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater on March 26.

Tickets are available via Citi presale now, with more presale promotions running the week ahead of the general on-sale, beginning at 10 am Friday, December 1at LiveNation.com. Fans can look forward to VIP packages and experiences, including general admission tickets, individual Meet & Greet, photo op, and Q&A with Busta Rhymes, autographed item, early entry with priority access to the floor & more. Those interested should check out more at vipnation.com.

Fresh off supporting 50 Cent on the historic, global Final Lap Tour, Busta will drop a feast of new Blockbusta material from the Busta co-produced with A-listers Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, and Swizz Beatz. Check out new tracks — including the latest single “OK” featuring Young Thug — here.

The NYC native boasts 12 Grammy Award nominations, more than 10 million albums worldwide, seven Top-10 debuts on the Billboard 200, and a "greatest performer of all time" title glossed by none other than one JAY-Z. He has also starred in notable roles in films such as Higher Learning and Finding Forrester and has even rubbed elbows with Former President Barack Obama.

But he still keeps it real from his East Flatbush Brooklyn early days, with cred such as BET Jams crowning his "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" as the "Greatest Hip-Hop Video of All-Time." Busta also recently scored the 2023 BET Icon/Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Here is the full list of Blockbusta 2024 tour dates.

3/13 San Francisco, CA The Masonic

3/15 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Palladium

3/16 Anaheim, CA House of Blues

3/17 San Diego, CA SOMA

3/19 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues

3/20 Phoenix, AZ The Van Buren

3/22 Denver, CO Fillmore Auditorium

3/24 Dallas, TX South Side Ballroom

3/26 Austin, TX Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater

3/28 Houston, 713 Music Hall

3/30 Atlanta, GA Coca Cola Roxy

4/1 Orlando, FL House of Blues

4/2 Miami Beach, FL Fillmore Miami Beach At Jackie Gleason Theatre

4/4 Raleigh, NC The Ritz

4/5 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore Charlotte

4/7 Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore Philadelphia

4/8 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore Silver Spring

4/9 Boston, MA House of Blues

4/11 Detroit, MI The Fillmore Detroit

4/12 Toronto, ON HISTORY

4/14 Chicago, IL Radius Chicago

4/17 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works

4/18 Cincinnati, OH Andrew J. Brady Music Center

4/21 Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Paramount

Inside the new La Griglia: Murals are out, tableside touches are in, and more

First look at La Griglia

The name may be the same, but the new La Griglia is a very different place from the restaurant it replaced. Moving about a mile east to a new location at 2817 West Dallas St. has brought a fresh perspective to both the look and menu of the River Oaks staple.

La Griglia exterior

Courtesy of La Griglia

La Griglia is now open on West Dallas.

La Griglia senior executive Brandon Busch, who has been involved with the restaurant throughout its history, tells CultureMap that he worked directly with CEO Tilman Fertitta to take La Griglia in a more upscale direction. That includes a design inspired by the Italian Riviera and hiring a high profile chef consultant to rethink the menu.

“When Tilman started talking to me about this, we talked about the fact that over the past 15, 20 years that everybody has tried to make everything a little more casual. Nobody wants to get dressed up anymore,” Busch says. “We thought it was time to reverse that. We took this restaurant a little more upscale. We’re white tablecloth throughout, and that includes the outside courtyard.”

White tablecloths aren’t the only change to La Griglia’s interior. The original location’s colorful murals are gone. Instead, the interior features framed black and white photographs, Art Deco-inspired lighting fixtures, and marble floors. Banquettes make the expanded bar area an option for dining as well as drinking.

“People can’t believe how gorgeous it is. People say it reminds them of New York or LA,” Busch says. “I’ve seen the looks on faces of customers I’ve known for 30 years. They’re blown away.”

Three private dining rooms are located upstairs that can host separate events or be combined into one large room. La Griglia’s covered patio is climate controlled and features a retractable roof. Overall costs for the patio, including its posh landscaping, exceeded $1 million, according to a release.

Even the staff uniforms have gone upscale. Managers wear suits. Captains are in white tuxedo jackets, and support staff are in black tuxedo vests. They’ve adopted old school touches like serving from the left and bringing a cold fork for salads.

To transform the menu, Landry’s recruited chef Mark Ladner. Best known for winning a James Beard Award at New York City’s acclaimed Del Posto restaurant, Ladner introduced a number of new dishes, including Burrata di Puglia with heirloom tomato and Castelvetrano and Taggiasca olives; beef carpaccio with arugula, parmesan, mascarpone cream, and sweet peppers; pasta bolognese; veal piccatine; and frutti di mare that’s made with clams, mussels, and shrimp topped with red clam sauce.

Most of the entrees are served a la carte and can be paired with vegetable sides such as broccolini, sweet corn polenta, and a latke-style seared potato cake. Day to day execution is overseen by chef de cuisine Pat Sommers, who had a well-regarded stint as a sous chef at Houston fine dining restaurant Triniti.

“[Ladner] was a pleasure to work with. He’s very pragmatic,” Busch says. “He’s a great Italian chef. He’s more about the ingredients than to make sure you’ve got flowers all over your food. It’s simple and wholesome.”

Thankfully, some La Griglia classics remain, including the shrimp and crab cheesecake, Snapper La Griglia, and autumn salad. Regulars will be pleased to learn that the signature pizza bread remains, although it has a new crust based on a dough recipe Ladner created.

Along with the new dishes, Busch has brought some theater to the dining room with a few items that are finished tableside. Pasta alla ruota gets tossed in a cheese wheel before getting a generous shaving of black or white truffles. “Hanging Hen” is a whole chicken that’s carved tableside and served with roasted potatoes and chicken jus. Even dessert has a tableside ice cream option.

“[On] our opening night, I must have carved six chickens and served six pasta wheels. I haven’t worked on the floor like that in awhile,” Busch says. “It was fun to watch when I was doing that wheel in the middle of the dining room. Everyone turned their heads to see what I was doing.”

Currently, the restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner nightly. If a full house on a recent weeknight is any indication, the regulars are stopping by to check out the new location.

“La Griglia patrons will discover an elevated dining experience with great attention to detail,” Fertitta added in a statement. “No expense was spared for the restaurant’s design and the creation of the new menus. La Griglia is special to Houston, and it required and deserved a great deal of consideration.”