I had a blast in Houston! Seriously!
I received that warm Southern hospitality I have heard so much about. The weekend started strong with a Happy Hour at Hay Merchant, meeting all the chef-testants. Then Saturday started early with a Supermarket Showdown at Central Market against a local food posse of talented amateur chefs. And of course, culminating in the Houston Beer Experiment on Sunday afternoon.
Who knew I would have so much fun and meet so many people?
Before I even got down to H-town, I heard that Hay Merchant was creating excitement with an amazing assortment of Beers. Is beer the favorite drink of Houstonians? I met, and consulted with the wide assortment of characters, known as amateur chefs. From the super-sweet to the super-serious and everyone in between. They all shared one thing in common, a love of craft beer and cooking. Plenty of Brooklyn Beer was on hand to grease the conversation and flame their competitive nature.
Thankfully, my night was not done. My good friend from culinary school is the sous-chef at Stella Sola. Well, I had to stop by and say hello. I did take the opportunity to meet our judge, Adam Dorris. For a chef, he has a good relaxed vibe and makes some amazing food, especially charcuterie. He made sure that I had my appetite, and then proceeded to stuff me like a suckling pig. I promised myself not to gain weight on the tour this year. Well, thanks to Dorris, promise broken immediately. Was it worth it? Hell yeah!
Saturday was a different story. Woke up to the realization that I had put myself in a cook-off. A Brooklyn Beer themed cook-off at Central Market. I had retired from the circuit, but I was dragged back into the ring. I went up against some of Houston’s finest amateur chefs, Jay, Juliette, and the Feng Shui Master herself, Donna. I do like a challenge, but as I soon found out, I picked a very steep hill to climb! To top it off, I made beer chili for the cook-off. Apparently, this is a no-no in Texas. Only people from Texas are allowed to make chili! Jay and Juliette made étouffée with crawfish and andouille sausage. Well, the crowd spoke and I was eating crow for dinner with the dressing on the side. Here are some photos from the Supermarket Showdown.
This was all warm up for the main event: The Houston Beer Experiment!
It was an incredible day. The competitors had the best attitude and wonderful pallets. The judges, Ronnie Crocker, Adam Dorris, Jenny Wang, and Chris Shepherd arrived, and it was game time. The battle raged and the Brooklyn Beer flowed. In the balance was a Grand Prize trip to Brooklyn, provided by Brooklyn Brewery!
The chefs did an incredible job. Some challenged my expectations, like the Charcuterie Board from Gastro Chic or the Cheese Soup with Chocolate Bacon from the Beer Ninjas. Others made me proud, like the Guava lamb Stew on Beer Bread or the Pork n Grits under the influence. But NONE disappointed. I have so much pride in the chefs who decide to compete in our cook-offs. They are all winners!
P.S. I almost forgot to tell you that after the cook-off. My friend took me for Vietnamese Crawfish and it was AWESOME. I have never had anything like it. I plan on eating it again before I die.
Also: Great Local Recaps:
In case you missed it, here’s the Houston Beer Experiment Results and below is a complete list of the competitors:
1 OFF LIMITZ Kickin’ Chicken Parmesan 2 Der Beer Meisters Hot German Potato Salad 3 The Bone-Ins Beer Braised Ribs 4 The Magic Hops Pork & Grits Under the Influence 5 The Beer Ninjas Barely Buzzed Beer Cheese Soup 6 Sorachi Kolache Oxtail Kolache 7 Lalex Cookers Momma’s Chili 8 RPI Chris Beer Braised Beef with Beerisotto 9 The Chellangers On Point Beef Stew 10 Sybarite Pigs Guava Wheat Lamb Stew 11 Beer Belly Fried Pork Beer Belly 12 Beasts of the East Syracuse Ribs / Pittsburgh Polenta 13 The Jelly Queens The Drunken Monkey Quartet 14 The Brittle Bakers Spicy Beer Brittle w/ Ice Cream 15 Gastro Chic Charcuterie 16 Just Somethin’ Sweet Beer Brownie Paradise 17 The Floyds Pork Belly