100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 50, Beef Sweetbreads at Feast
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Every week or so, I tell some wary potential diner the same thing: "Feast has more on its menu than just offal, I promise." It's difficult for me to disguise the exasperation in my tone at this point; Feast has served an incredibly diverse menu for years now and yet the idea persists that there's nothing to eat there aside from pork heart tartare and pickled lamb's tongue.
Who doesn't love roasted pork belly and a potato cake?
"There is always at least one terrific fish on the menu, like a red snapper," I tell pescatarians turned off by what they envision as a meat-heavy palace. "And the fish and scallop pie is absolutely amazing."
"There's always a vegetarian dish," I tell the people who won't touch flesh of any kind. This week, for example, it's a roasted portobello mushroom with braised lentils and goat cheese.
And for the utterly unadventurous -- who picture Feast as a kind of abbatoir where famed nose-to-tail chefs James Silk and Richard Knight frolick amidst entrails and buckets of fresh blood -- I preach the gospel of Feast's beguilingly simple dishes: beef shoulder -- "It's just a brisket!" -- braised in red wine and served with carrots and mashed potatoes. Or a pan-roasted pork chop with Swiss chard and swirls of Duchesse potatoes. Simple. Straightforward. Approachable.
Of course, when I dine there on my own, it's a different story entirely: I dive straight into the pork heart tartare and pickled lamb's tongue (which, of course, are divine). That's the allure of Feast: You can have an exciting, adventurous meal and experience all the bounty and beauty that the often neglected parts of an animal can provide...and your friends can enjoy a tender pork chop or a lovely piece of tuna. Silk and Knight provide something for everyone here.
Pickled lamb's tongue is a cool treat on a hot day.
My personal favorite is the beef sweetbreads, which are served in a mad jumble atop a mound of mashed rutabaga. A side of tangy Swiss chard is softened by the rich, meaty juices from the sweetbreads -- typically the thymus or pancreas of an animal -- and a few fresh mint leaves on top provide a sweet, bright note to the entire dish. It may sound like too much, but the sweetbreads themselves are pillowy and incredibly creamy without being too heavy. And the earthy sweetness of the more roughly textured rutabaga in place of, say, mashed potatoes, keeps the dish light, too.
But no matter what you order at Feast, be sure to save room for sticky toffee pudding. You may need to split it with a friend, but it's a delicious dessert that everyone can agree on.
The list so far:
No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
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