Decisions, decisions, decisions. That is exactly what we were faced with when we joined four great chefs for one amazing lunch last Saturday. It was Felice's birthday and what better way to celebrate another year than to do it over a special meal with some of Houston's top chefs. This lunch was also special in that it served as a dry run for the "Taste of Texas" event for the Austin Food & Wine Festival, which is scheduled for the weekend of April 26th.
Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, Chef Jamie Zelko of Zelko Bistro, and Chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner & Terrence Gallivan of Pass and Provisions joined forces to collaborate on a three course lunch menu. Calling on the initial day of the announcement, we were met with sad news - the lunch had already sold out. Our dreams came true a few days prior to the event when we received notice of a cancellation. They didn't even have to ask - we would have been happy with a seat near the bathroom door! We jumped on the opening with zero hesitation.
Now here is where it gets tricky. Each chef prepared three courses and for your lunch you were to choose a single option from each of the three courses; created by each restaurant. All three restaurants (Provisions, Underbelly, and Zelko Bistro) are similar in the fact that they all support local and sustainable foods. In addition, their menus change based on what is available seasonally. Although they are similar is some ways, they are each unparalleled in what they bring to Houston's culinary scene. Provisions is a casual yet seriously creative neighborhood restaurant, Underbelly describes its food as the "New American Creole" and Zelko Bistro focuses on New American cuisine with Mediterranean influences. With that said, you can see the dilemma. Luckily there were two us so we approached our selection with intent, purpose and careful consideration.
We were seated at a community table which was awesome especially when you get to sit by the cool Sarah Johnston of the Fat Cat Creamery. After deciding who got first dibs on certain dishes, we landed on a clean sweep choosing all three courses from Provisions and Underbelly. For the most part, I took the Underbelly route and Felice went with Provisions. Although Jamie's selections were great, like her Harvest Lox Salad (with cherries, pecans, and citrus), something about the Potato Pizza (with Taleggio and Roasted Garlic) and the Butter Biscuits with Chicken Gravy won us over. The straw that broke the camel's back had to be the Cresta de Gallo (with Hen of The Woods, Roasted Yeast, and Parmesan). We felt a little deceived as our taste buds would have sworn this vegetarian dish was laced with chicken stock. It crossed our minds several times to use the Underbelly butter biscuits to sop us the remaining liquid from the mushroom pasta. Hey - now that's a collaboration!
We sampled a few cocktails during our lunch as well. Luckily it was passed noon and we felt free to consume freely without the fear of the "you shouldn't drink before noon" faux pas. The Tequila Ricky was as straight up as you can get and we got our fill of the housemade and "boozy" Rum Punch over and over again. There is no shame in our game. Of course we ended our meal with dessert and the creativity continued here. The lemon in my pie was switched out for vinegar creating a wonderfully and mildly sweet variation of a lemon pie. The Pumpkin Seed Soft Serve, atop graham cracker, and hidden inside a layer of hardened balsamic chocolate "magic shell", took us right back to our childhood. Truth be told, even though it was Felice's birthday, I really felt like it was my own. :-)
The service was exceptional and everyone seemed to be very excited about the lunch. The chefs were working the room and we even got a chance to catch Chef Zelko, AKA the Beekeeper, as she was transporting her raw honey to the kitchen. Chef Terrence Gallivan could be seen checking each plate as it went out for service and personally cutting the thinly sliced ham for their "Ham O'Day" first course option. If you want to see more of these guys and gals in action, make sure you grab tickets to Austin Food & Wine Festival or if you don't make it that far, remember, they are literally just around the corner. And since we didn't get a chance to indulge in any of Chef Zelko's creations, we have already made plans to visit her really soon. Bon Appetit!
The Pass & Provisions
Houston, TX 77019
- Shanna "Urban Girl" Jones, Urban Swank