The 4th Annual Kiss My Grits Throwdown: Shrimp 'n Grits and Crafted Cocktails
Photo by Mai Pham New Orleans shrimp and grits over white cheddar and andouille sausage by chef Travis Lenig of Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette.
Travis Lenig of Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette also offered shrimp and grits too, but his came with a twist. He served New Orleans barbecue shrimp over white cheddar and andouille grits alongside the only dessert offering of the night, a scrumptious vanilla grits pudding topped with bourbon caramel sauce and smoked raisins. Sort of like a grits version of bread pudding, the one-two punch of shrimp 'n grits and dessert scored high among attendees, earning him the People's Choice title. It pleased the judges as well, who awarded him third place overall.
Photo by Mai Pham Shannen Tune of the Hotel Derek's curried lamb frito pie.
One of the most creative dishes of the night came from Shannen Tune of the Hotel Derek. He took the idea of frito pie to another level by serving curried lamb over smoked grits, and topping it with corn, queso fresco and Frito chips. The chips gave the dish great texture, and I really enjoyed how the smokiness of the grits came through.
Tyler Mason of Line & Lariat at the Hotel Icon had hands-down the most visually arresting dish of the night. His dish of "Grits two ways" included another version of shrimp 'n grits that also came with sausage a large fried potato ring, and a watermelon jicama salad. It was served on the same plate with a mini pancake grits with lavender syrup.
Photo by Mai Pham These grillades 'n grits by Justin Turner of Bernie's Burger Bus stole the throw down with hearty, deep flavors.
In the end, the dish that scored highest on taste won the night. The grillades 'n white cheddar grits by Justin Turner of Bernie's Burger Bus had this deep, earthy flavor, reminding me of a really well done boeuf bourgignon. For the grillades portion of the dish, he grilled the beef before braising it in a peanut butter roux with sherry, red onions and a blend of five mushrooms that had been roasted to a golden brown. The white cheddar grits were creamy, cheesy, and well seasoned, and together, it made a winning dish. I liked it so much, I even went back for seconds.
Although the grits portion of the throwdown was fairly tame competition-wise, one of the cool things about this year's event was the addition of a bartender throwdown, which meant that attendees didn't just move from one table of grits to the next. The room was setup in an alternating chef and bartender pattern, so that you could do a tasting of grits followed by a creative cocktail.
And the bartenders really threw down. Though I didn't taste all the cocktails (I'm a weak drinker), each of the ones I did taste were thoughtfully created, masterly craft and memorable, like the Dulce Fuego, or "sweet fire" drink by Art de Hoyos of The Hotel Derek. The bright pink drink, made with a base of Dripping Springs vodka and quickly shaken, was topped with fresh slice of jalapeno and tasted just like its name -- sweet and spicy.
Cadillac Bar's Cesar Bracamontes came in third place with a Titanium Vodka-based peach margarita, which came complete with a wedge of salt-dusted peach. The Alley Kat Bar & Lounge's Erica Mota came in second with a citrusy ginger-beer topped cocktail infused with hints of sage.
The big bartender winner of the night, who also won People's Choice, was Luis Villegas of El Big Bad. His carefully crafted Bombay Sapphire cocktail included lime, lemon juice, agave nectar, and gin that was shaken, poured, and topped with ginger beer and cucumber foam. It tasted of cucumber and brought to mind the crisp freshness of a cool spring morning.
In the end, the spirit of the event was all that mattered. Thanks to the participating chefs, bartenders, spirit companies and silent auction donors for a great evening benefitting the Young Texans Against Cancer.
419 Travis St, Houston, TX
3600 Kirby, Houston, TX
904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX
4720 Washington Ave., Houston, TX
2800 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX
5212 Morningside, Houston, TX
1802 Shepherd, Houston, TX
3718 Main St., Houston, TX
4224 San Felipe St., Houston, TX
2525 W. Loop S., Houston, TX
220 Main St., Houston, TX
, Houston, TX