Hop On Board: Houston Culinary Tours Embarking Soon
Have you ever wanted to cruise around with one of your favorite chefs, picking their brains as you hit his favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the city? Your chance to do just that is coming soon.
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Whole Foods Market and the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau have put together an intimate series of Houston Culinary Tours, featuring some of the city's best -- and perhaps least well-known -- restaurants. And guiding these tours? Monica Pope of t'afia, Bryan Caswell of Reef, Randy Evans of Haven and Chris Shepherd of Catalan. Beginning in March 2010, each tour will see two of the four chefs showing 15 passengers around the city on a luxury bus, hitting at least four different restaurants and noshing at each stop throughout the afternoon.
Eating Our Words went on a media preview of the Houston Culinary Tour on Wednesday afternoon and found out firsthand just how excited the chefs and the restaurants are to show off for hungry guests.
The idea behind the Houston Culinary Tours is to get Houstonians more interested in the amazing local restaurants that have influenced some of our city's top chefs. People who dine at upscale restaurants may not realize that their food has been inspired by small, ethnic eateries or homey dives. And others simply may have not had a chance to experience the vast culinary tapestry that Houston possesses.
Pies and cakes at My Dee Dee's Pie Shoppe
The four stops that we hit on our tour were representative of the four tours that are scheduled for 2010: Les Givral's Khave, London Sizzler, Polonia and My Dee Dee's Pie Shop & Deli. At each stop, the chef who had chosen the restaurant explained his choice and why it was important or influential to him. Afterwards, each restaurant's owner came out and told the crowd a little about his history before launching directly into the best part: the food.
At Les Givral's (801 Congress), we munched happily on various spring rolls and bahn mi while Bryan Caswell explained that the original Les Givral's on Milam -- which is now under different ownership -- was an old stomping ground for him growing up near what is now Midtown. Southeast Asian food and Vietnamese cuisine in particular was the first truly "ethnic" food that Caswell ate growing up, and influenced him far more than the typical Tex-Mex or BBQ that one would associate with Houston.
Pork banh mi
At our next stop, the cheerful London Sizzler (6690 Southwest Freeway), a vast spread of Indian food and snacks greeted us as we walked in the door. Chris Shepherd introduced the London-born Indian chef as his "brother from another mother," before we embarked upon a journey through savory samosas, buttery chicken korma, fruity mango chutney, spicy Indian peppers and a sizzling platter of masala fish that tasted utterly dreamlike.
Paratha and sauces