Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back From Houston!

I'm back from my weeklong trip to Houston, where the weather was lovely (sunny, high 70s), the family was doing well, and the Tex-Mex and barbecue were AWESOME. Some highlights:

During an uncharacteristic late-spring downpour (Alex, who's lived in Seattle off and on for a decade: "Houston is the rainiest city EVER"), we made a stop at Pizzitola's Barbecue on Shepherd, where we had dry-smoked ribs (I prefer 'em wetter, but the gravy boats of sweet-hot sauce on the table did the trick) and incredible, perfectly smoke-ringed, fork-tender brisket. The owner (Jerry Pizzitola) was a little overbearing (as in, he wouldn't leave our table for ten minutes at a time), but the 'cue was authentic, the coleslaw and potato salad were cold, and everything came with plenty of white bread to soak it all up.

On the fancier end of the scale, my parents took us out for dinner at Shade, a restaurant in the Heights area of far North Houston. Unfortunately, I didn't write everything down and the menu on their web site is out of date, but the two best things we ordered were: A trio of perfectly seared, sweet scallops served on top of a creamy pasta with sweet peas and shitaake mushrooms (mine) and a beautiful grilled double pork chop topped with a square of seared pork belly and a savory tomato jam (my dad's). Both were incredible, but I have to confess a tiny bit of disappointment--not in the food at Shade, but at the fact that I was the only one lobbying to go to Feast, a place on Westheimer specializing in nose-to-tail dining. Alas, a recent glowing write-up in the New York Times couldn't convince my squeamish companions that they wouldn't end up dining on pickled kidneys and severed fish heads, so the more conventional (though also very, VERY good--and paid for by my wonderful, generous parents) Shade it was.

Of course--as is, strangely, typical for me on trips away from home--my favorite meal might have been one that was utterly unplanned: Tacos picked up from El Rey, a busy lunch spot up the street from our hotel, and eaten on the hotel bed before a long, well-deserved midafternoon nap. (We'd left the hotel for a conference a few minutes past 7 in the morning). The "Cuban tacos," shredded beef cooked carnitas-style on two corn tortillas, were to die for, and the rice and beans (white rice, black beans) were healthy (-seeming) without being bland. But the best part was eating in the freshly made bed, red and green sauces on the bedside table, then drifting off to sleep while Shattered Glass (AKA the Best Movie Ever) played in the background.

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