100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 77, Spaghetti Carbonara at Coppa Osteria

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Photo by Mai Pham
Coppa's carbonara is a unique take on the classic dish.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

For a long time, I would argue with people about carbonara. I would tell anyone who would listen that there is only one way to do carbonara is with guanciale, a whole egg, Parmesan and black pepper. That's it. Only those four things, mixed together in perfect harmony with slightly al dente spaghetti.

Keep your peas, your mushrooms, your cream and your bacon out of it.

But then...well...then I had the spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Osteria and I started to change my tune.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 78, The Outdoorsman at Pi Pizza Truck

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Photo by Barbra Riley
Venison and cherries together make for the perfect bite.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

While I am, in many ways, a burger purist, that attitude in no way applies to my pizza. With pizza, I consider the dough and cheese my canvas, and the more outrageous ingredients I can pile on top, the better.

That's why I'm always excited to see what Anthony Calleo at Pi Pizza Truck is dreaming up. There's the 420 slice (yes, that 420) topped with Frito pie and barbecue sauce. There's the Drunken Peach with peaches and blueberries soaked in whiskey as well as habañeros and goat cheese. There's the Herbivoracias with arugala, almonds, lemon zest, roasted garlic and a drizzle of chili oil.

And then there's my favorite: The Outdoorsman.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 79, Campechana de Mariscos at Goode Co. Seafood

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
It's not the most visually appealing, but it's addictive.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Say what you will about the local chain of Goode Company restaurants--the reason they've lasted so long and seen so much success is the quality and consistency of their food.

I know many people who love to hate on good ol' Goode Co., because even though it started as a small barbecue joint, Houstonians now equate it with "the man." It's true, some barbecue quality does seem to have been lost over the years (or maybe nothing quite stacks up against Killen's), but I still swear by the simple, fresh dishes at Goode Co. Seafood.

And I love eating in a railcar.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 80, Whole Fried Fish at Churrascos

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Photo courtesy Churrascos
Order the whole market fish deep fried in a cornmeal batter for a taste of Nicaragua.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

The first time I wrote about this dish, a friend told me it sounded good, but looked really unappetizing. In the photo I used (taken by another friend at dinner), the fish is flayed open so the batter coats as much meat as possible before the whole thing is deef fried. Batter covers the eyes of the fish, but they're still slightly visible beneath the crunchy crust, and small teeth jut out of the open mouth. It somewhat resembles the fossilized remains of an ancient sea monster.

I thought it looked delicious because I love all things plucked out of the ocean and fried, but I could see my friend's point. It's a little scary. I implore you, though: Look past the gnarly fish face, and you'll likely fall in love with Michael and David Cordúa's whole fried fish, a recent addition to the menu at all Churrascos locations.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 81, Daughter-in-Law Burger at Natachee's Supper 'n Punch

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Even carnivores will dig this hearty burger.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Whenever you order a veggie burger at a restaurant for the first time, there's always the risk that the patty will be a dry, dense hockey puck of a thing, devoid of flavor save for a sort of grainy cardboard essence.

This is not the case at Natachee's Supper 'n Punch, where the Daughter-in-Law burger features a meat-free patty made with black beans, corn, bell peppers and oats. It's all that a veggie burger could ever aspire to be--rich, flavorful and just as satisfying (if not more so) than a traditional beef burger.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 82, Chiles en Nogada Tradicionales at Pico's Mex-Mex

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Photo courtesy Marcy de Luna
Celebrate Mexico's independence day a little early with this classic patriotic dish.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

If there's one dish that best exemplifies Mexican pride, it's probably chiles en nogada. The dish was invented in Puebla to celebrate Mexico's independence day on September 16, and since then it's become a popular dish in the United States as well, in part because it's so unique.

It contains three primary elements representative of the colors of the Mexican flag: Green poblano peppers, red pomegranate seeds and a white walnut sauce. The peppers are traditionally stuffed with picadillo, a mixture of shredded pork with spices and fruit, and the walnut sauce is thickened with heavy cream and queso anejo. It's alternately soothing and decadent and brimming with historical significance.

At Pico's Mex-Mex, the interior Mexican restaurant that recently moved from Bellaire just outside the Loop to Upper Kirby, chef Arnaldo Richards does chiles en nogada tradicionales the right way--with a little spice and a lot of soul.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 83: Porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club

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Photo by Troy Fields
It's more than enough food for one person, but you won't want to share.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

"The porkobuco arrived juicy and steaming, earthy notes of mushrooms and bacon wafting across the room in its wake."

That was my first encounter with the porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club in my first-ever review for the Houston Press. Now, a year after I initially wrote about it, it's still one of my favorite dishes.

I'm a sucker for anything pork--bacon, ham, chicarrones, pork belly, etc.--but a pork shank rarely fails to wow me. I'm always impressed by the giant bone-in cut of meat, far more than I could ever eat on my own, but so decadent that I'm willing to try. At Brooklyn Athletic Club, the riff on a pork shank cooked in the style of ossobuco is truly a masterpiece.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 84, Chai Pie at Pondicheri

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Decadent chai pie at Pondicheri.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Every morning, without fail, I have a cup of chai tea. Sometimes I have more than a cup. Sometimes it's a veritable pot's worth of tea, but always hot and always chai.

As a child, I was enamored with the chai latte at Starbucks before I worked a brief stint at the coffee shop and found the tea isn't made with tea at all, but sugary syrup mixed with steamed milk. Since then, I've enjoyed my chai tea black, strong and bitter. I can't start a day without it.

I was intrigued, then, the first time I saw the "Chai Pie" on the menu at Pondicheri. Could it be my favorite morning pick-me-up has been transformed into an evening treat?

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 85, Tacos at Taqueria Maya Quiché

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
You can't go wrong with any of that tacos at this Latin American taco truck.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Well, friends, I have a problem. A taco problem. More specifically, a taco truck problem.

You see, I can't stop eating at taco trucks. I pull over any time I see a new one I haven't tried. I seek them out in the far corners of Houston. I compare barbacoa from one truck to the next and rejoice at the prospect of ridiculously hot homemade salsa. I'm sort of obsessed.

I recently discovered a taco truck that pulls out outside of the Midtown rooftop bar Proof several nights a week (Never mind what I was doing at Proof. It was a social experiment. I was forced. Someone dragged me.), and judging by the crowd at the bar, I expected the tacos to be the culinary equivalent of a well vodka soda with a splash of cranberry.


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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 86, S'mores at 13 Celsius

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Just like camping, only much classier. Glamping.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Nothing like camping to make you long for a marshmallow roasting over an open flame and a few graham crackers and pieces of chocolate to go along with it.

Strangely, I also get that craving while downing a glass of bubbly rosé at 13 Celsius. The wine bar is one of a handful of places in town (along with Brooklyn Athletic Club, Amazon Grill and the Four Seasons) that offers roast-your-own-s'mores right at the bar. While BAC and the Four Seasons only bust out the marshmallows during the winter, Amazon Grill and 13 Celsius offer the dish all year round.

But what sets 13 Celsius's s'mores apart isn't the great wine that goes with it (though that certainly helps). It's the array of ingredients included on the festive tray.

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