Tue April 1, 2014 1:35 pm By Layne Lynch

Food & Wine magazine revealed its 2014 list of the Best New Chefs in America on Tuesday morning via social media, and Texas chefs clearly came out swinging. Out of the twelve chefs (from ten restaurants) honored, three hailed from the Lone Star State. This is a record for Texas, which has previously had two chefs on the annual list but not three.

Justin Yu of Oxheart (Houston), Paul Qui of qui (Austin), and Matt McCallister of FT33 (Dallas) were singled out by Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin, who dropped a hint before the list came out:

Other chefs honored include Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan (Brunswick, ME), Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Dentonof Ox (Portland, OR), Matthew Accarrino of SPQR (San Francisco), Eli Kulp of Fork (Philadelphia), Ari Taymor of Alma (Los Angeles), Dave Beran of Next (Chicago), and Walker Stern and Joe Ogrodnek of Dover (Brooklyn).

All the chefs will be featured in the magazine’s July issue. 


Thu March 27, 2014 11:01 am By Jessica Dupuy

In February we reported on the Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM Wine Competition, when judging was well under way. This week, the results of the heralded competition were released. Of the more than 2,700 wines entered from from around the world, the total tally of gleaming medals included 227 gold, 629 silver, and 852 bronze—meaning roughly 60 percent of the entries walked away with a "tip of the hat" from a distinguished judging panel made up of Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, wine journalists and wine makers.  

The good news is, Texas wines made a good showing as well with a total of 98 medals awarded to Texas appellation wines from 30 different Texas wineries. (All of these wines were made with a minimum of 75 percent Texas fruit, rather than fruit from other states.) Of the 98, eleven of them took gold (see below for the list of winners). 

Nabbing a medalespecially a goldis no small feat. The panel of judges selected to size up wines from the Texas appellation was made up of two Master Sommeliers and two Masters of Wine. These are people who are regularly tasting wines from around the world, and whose palates can quickly ascertain which wines are hitting the mark, and which ones are not. 

“Texas wines do well when produced in an "Old World" style. Interestingly, most of the great Texas wines are made from European grape varieties that often don't travel outside their home territory,” says Texas panel judge and Master of Wine Christy Canterbury. “I was absolutely blown away by the [Duchman Family Winery] Sangiovese I tasted this year. I don't know if it was the vintage, the vine age or the winemaking confidence, but that was a particularly motivating flight. When the DMN/TEXSOM results for Gold were published, I was tremendously excited to see two Sangiovese wines—both Texan. And nothing from Italy.”

But let’s not forget silver and bronze medal winners. Often people overlook these, but it’s important to note that these wines still fall in the upper tier of more than half the wines submitted to the competition, not to mention the credibility they receive from this particular panel of judges. 

James Tidwell, Master Sommelier and co-founder of TEXSOM contends that there’s not much point in having silver and bronze medals if they don’t actually mean something. 

“Just because someone put effort into making a wine, doesn’t mean it gets a bronze medal,” says Tidwell. “It should have style and depth.” 

As Tidwell explained before judging began: Gold medals represent a classic style that are showing up there with the best in the world for typicity and character; Silver medals represent outstanding wines with superior character; Bronze medal wines exhibit unique character and distinction. Tidwell tasked the competition judges to be mindful of not being too lenient in bestowing bronze medals, or too stingy in awarding gold medals. 

For Canterbury, silver and bronze winners had to have a few key factors, “Gulpability. Complexity. Harmony. And a must-have-more quality.” 

“In my book, Tempranillo is the red variety Texas should hang its hat on. Tannat has been getting more exciting in the last few years as well,” says Canterbury. “For whites, Rhône varieties (Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier) rule. There's also a rock star Pinot Gris this year and some solid Vermentino.” 

Here are the lists Texas winners: 

Gold Medal Winners

Bending Branch Winery, Texas, Tannat 2011
Brennan Vineyards, Texas, Tempranillo 2011
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Martin Vineyard, Sangiovese 2011
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Reddy Vineyard, Sangiovese 2011
Eden Hill Vineyard, Texas, Roussanne 2012
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Semi-Sweet, Blanc du Bois 2012
Lewis Wines, Texas High Plains, Viognier 2012
Messina Hof, Texas, GSM, Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre NV
Spicewood Vineyards, Texas Hill Country, Estate, Tempranillo 2012
Stone House Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, Reserve, Claros, Norton 2012
The Ranch Wines, Texas High Plains, Reserve, The Grey Ghost, Pinot Grigio 2012 

Silver Medal Winners

Arche, Texas High Plains, Yellow Rose 2012
Becker Vineyards, Texas, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Becker Vineyards, Texas, Viognier 2012
Bending Branch Winery, Texas, Tannat 2010
Blue Ostrich Winery Vineyard, Texas, Rosato Moscato NV
Brennan Vineyards, Texas, Lily, (Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache) 2012
Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas, Oswald Vineyard, Roussanne 2010
Driftwood Estate Winery, Texas, Longhorn Red, Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2011
Driftwood Estate Winery, Texas, Sangiovese 2011
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Bayer Family Vineyard, Tempranillo 2011
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Bingham Family Vineyard, Vermentino 2012
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Limestone Terrace Vineyard, Sangiovese 2011
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Montepulciano 2011
Fall Creek Vineyards, Texas Hill Country, Meritus, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010
Fall Creek Vineyards, Texas Hill Country, Salt Lick Vineyard, Tempranillo 2011
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Malbec 2012
Kiepersol Estates Vineyards, Texas, Bridge, Sweet Mengsel NV
Legato, Texas, GCP Mirtillo, Blueberry NV
Lewis Wines, Texas High Plains, 52% Viognier-48% Chenin Blanc 2012
Llano Estacado, Texas High Plains, Reddy Vineyards, Cinsault Rose 2013
Lost Oak Winery, Texas, Blanc du Bois 2012
Lost Oak Winery, Texas, Viognier 2012
McPherson Cellars, Texas, La Herencia 2012
Messina Hof, Texas, Barrel Reserve, Cabernet Franc 2012
Messina Hof, Texas, Double Barrel, Private Reserve, Cabernet Franc 2012
Messina Hof, Texas, Double Barrel, Private Reserve, Merlot 2011
Messina Hof, Texas, Double Barrel, Private Reserve, Reflections of Love 2011
Messina Hof, Texas, DRZ, Dolcetto-Zinfandel NV
Messina Hof, Texas, Private Reserve, Blanc Du Bois 2013
Pedernales Cellars, Texas High Plains, Tempranillo 2010
Pedernales Cellars, Texas, Kuhlken Vineyards, Reserve, Red 2011
Pedernales Cellars, Texas, Reserve, Tempranillo 2012
Red Caboose Winery & Vineyards, Texas, Range Rider, Tempranillo Blend 2011
Red Caboose Winery & Vineyards, Texas, Some of that Red NV
Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Viognier 2012
Sweet Dreams Winery, Texas, 60% Honey, 40% Pear NV
Sweet Dreams Winery, Texas, Sweet Heat, Jalapeno NV
William Chris Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Mary Ruth 2012 

Bronze Medal Winners

Arche, Texas High Plains, Oswald Vineyard, Roussanne 2012
Becker Vineyards, Texas, Les Trois Dames, Claret 2012
Becker Vineyards, Texas, Reserve, Chardonnay 2012
Bending Branch Winery, Texas High Plains, Newsom Vineyard, Tempranillo 2011
Blue Ostrich Winery Vineyard, Texas, Orange Muscat 2012
Blue Ostrich Winery Vineyard, Texas, Viognier NV
Brennan Vineyards, Comanche County, Newburg Vineyard, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Brennan Vineyards, Texas, Viognier 2012
Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas, Sangiovese 2012
Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas, Tempranillo 2012
Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas, Texas Rose NV
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Bingham Family Vineyard, Viognier 2012
Duchman Family Winery, Texas, Kinsey, Canto Felice NV
Eden Hill Vineyard, Texas, Sweet Dessert, Roussanne 2012
Enoch's Stomp, Texas, Off Dry, Blanc du Bois 2011
Enoch's Stomp, Texas, Off Dry, Blanc du Bois 2012
Flat Creek Estate, Texas High Plains, Newsom Vineyard, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Flat Creek Estate, Texas Hill Country, Reserve, Estate Bottled, Syrah 2010
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Blanc du Bois, Port 2011
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Dry, Blanc du Bois 2013
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Jacquez Port 2009
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Madeira, Blanc Du Bois Dessert 2011
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Madeira, Jacquez 2009
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Reddy Vineyards, Tempranillo 2012
Haak Vineyards & Winery, Texas, Reserve, Blanc du Bois 2012
Kiepersol Estates, Texas, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Kiepersol Estates, Texas, Merlot 2009
Kiepersol Estates, Texas, Port 2005
Kiepersol Estates, Texas, Syrah 2010
Kiepersol Estates, Texas, Vit 201
Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Moscato 2012
Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Texican 2012
Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, Texas, Blanc du Bois NV
Lost Oak Winery, Texas High Plains, Bingham Family Vineyards, Texas Trio 2012
Messina Hof, Texas, Barrel Reserve, Merlot 2012
Messina Hof, Texas, Father & Son Cuvee, Limited Edition, Paulo, Zinfandel 2011
Messina Hof, Texas, Late Harvest, Angel, Heavenly Sweet Riesling NV
Pedernales Cellars, Texas, George Bush 25th Anniversary, Reserve, Tempranillo 2012
Pedernales Cellars, Texas, GSM 2012
Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Tempranillo 2012
Sweet Dreams Winery, Texas, Pawpaw's Mayhaw NV
Sweet Dreams Winery, Texas, Summer T, Watermelon NV
Tara Vineyard & Winery, Texas, Dolcetto NV
Tara Vineyard & Winery, Texas, Tempranillo NV
Texas Hills Vineyard, Texas High Plains, Newsom Vineyards, Toro de Tejas, Tempranillo 2010
Texas Sake Co., Texas, Whooping Crane, Yamahai Tokubetsu Junmai NV
Valley Mills Vineyards, Texas, Vermentino 2012
William Chris Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Hunter 2012
William Chris Vineyards, Texas Hill Country, Block 500, Estate, Merlot 2012

Tue March 25, 2014 4:52 pm By Patricia Sharpe

Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber opened Coltivare, an Italian restaurant in Houston’s Heights neighborhood, in January of this year. Three years ago, they founded an artisan meat market and café named Revival Market, which sold, among other things, cuts of meat and bacon from pigs raised at Weber’s farm in Yoakum. We talked with them by phone in late February.

Patricia Sharpe: I understand you’ve been doing demonstration hog butcherings at Revival Market. 

Ryan Pera, executive chef at Coltivare: We do hog butchering every few months. They are pretty fun. We try to limit it to around 24 participants. I’d say we’ve done around ten now. The response has been incredible. We get a lot of good questions.

PS: Why did you go with Italian cuisine at Coltivare rather than a Texas or regional menu? 

RP: I love Italian food and have an Italian heritage. But I think people in general love Italian. Pizza and pasta are something that people crave multiple times a week. I know I do. I would eat pizza 7 days a week—I can now, which is dangerous. [Laughs.]

PS: Are you trying to supply a lot of the menu from your own ranch and garden?

RP: We do what we can, but there is no way. Take something as simple as onions—I would need an onion farm. Maybe one day. On the other hand, every animal that is slaughtered on Morgan’s farm is brought in and used to its fullest, and every piece of lettuce that we pick from the garden outside gets used. We hope to grow things that we can highlight, like heirloom varietals, and focus dishes around them. 

PS: Tell me about that oven in the corner of the kitchen. It’s used for more than pizzas, right?

RP: It’s called a Josper. It is Spanish-designed but produced here. It uses only charcoal, the same type of equipment that steakhouses use in their high-temperature broilers. I am a firm believer in wood; I don’t like the flavor of gas in a grill. You can close the box and it can get up to 700 or close to1000 degrees. It gives a nice smoky wood flavor on the meats and doesn’t lose the juices. The heat source is on the bottom but when we close it, it can create its own convection inside. We cook a lot of meats in it.

PS: Where are the pizzas cooked?

RP: In the hearth oven. It’s an Italian style domed hearth oven.

PS: Your pizza dough is the same as the focaccia, right? It’s fantastic, by the way.

RP: I feel like I worked on our pizza dough for a good year, with our chef de cuisine, when we were planning and I was doing a good deal of baking at home. We wanted to get the long fermentation and create a high flavor and a crispy exterior but with a very light texture on the inside.

PS: Has anybody griped that it’s not technically pizza dough?

RP: I think it’s a great product whether it’s what somebody is expecting. As long as we can maintain quality, we’ll avoid those arguments.  Also, there are enough styles of pizza, whether it’s New York or Chicago or Neapolitan, that people can accept variety and differences. 

PS: Your n’duja [a type of soft, spreadable salami that they make in-house] reminded me of pimiento cheese! It’s bright red-orange and very smooth.

RP: Believe me, there is no cheese in it. Its’ a fermented product [as all Italian salami is]. We ferment it quickly at almost a poaching temperature. And we add a Texas chile called a Harlingen chile. The n’duja is smooth because of the amount of chiles that we use and the pork fat. That fat is from the animals raised on Morgan’s farm, and it is not like any other pork fat that we’ve ever found. It’s firmer and much more luscious on the tongue.

PS: There was a word—“garum”—that I’ve not seen on a Texas menu before. It’s in the broth used with the mussels.

RP: Right. It’s a fermented fish sauce that dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. I learned about it when I was an anthropology major in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I actually did my thesis for that class on Apicius [which is a collection of Roman recipes and kitchen instruction compiled in the late fourth or early fifth century AD]. To make money, I was cooking at an Italian restaurant at the same time. I was fascinated with garum, and I finally did try it in Italy a couple of years later. I have always wanted to bring it to a restaurant setting, and now I can. You can get garum on the internet! 

PS: So, Morgan, you did the decor and design? 

Morgan Weber: Yes. We went with old materials because we didn’t want to feel like a new restaurant. We wanted it to feel used and comfortable. I’m always popping into antique shores and getting on eBay looking for things. 

PS: Tell me about the tables. They look well-worn.

MW: The wood on the tables came from an antebellum sugar plantation in Brazoria County. We found it about four years ago. I was told that a lieutenant in the Civil War set up shop there and the wood we used in the tables came from the floor in his office. It was lovingly taken apart. That is the oldest wood in there. 

PS: What else?

MW: The windows that are now mirrors on the east wall of the restaurant are also from the 1860s and 1870s and came out of an old warehouse in Boston, I believe. The wood on the walls came from a house on Houston Avenue here in the city that was torn down, and all of the shiplap that we used to build the banquettes came from houses here in the Heights that were demolished.

PS: The bar front looks like it’s been chewed on, or burrowed into.

MW: It’s pecky cypress, a wood that used to be found in swamps in East Texas and Louisiana, until it was logged out. The texture looks like it has wormholes, but it’s [caused by a fungus]. We had just enough to do the front of the drink bar and front of the kitchen bar; it’s about 130 years old.

PS: There’s something in the restrooms that has a link to your past? 

MW: I grew up in Yoakum, where there was a little Mexican food restaurant. You had to go through the kitchen and an alley to get to the restrooms, where they had a powdered soap dispenser. I was in an antique store last year and saw an old porcelain one that probably came out of a school bathroom, so I started hunting them down. The one in our restroom has become conversation piece.

PS: So you’re doing American cocktails in an Italian restaurant? 

MW: Italy doesn’t have much of a cocktail culture. Yes, there are Italian cocktails like negronis and bellinis, but it has much more depth in its spirits products. The booze they produce lends itself nicely to our American cocktails.

PS: What’s the style here?

MW: I like simple ones that build on classic drinks. I’m not an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cocktail guy. I feel like in the last five or six years people threw the rules out and started making up their own drinks and mixing whatever they wanted to. You saw farmers’ market cocktails coming in with crazy ingredients. And then people were even making their own gins.

I feel that a company like Lillet has been around for, oh, 150 years and they are incredibly good at making Lillet [a French aperitif]. I leave the booze making to the experts. We have our take on cocktails like the French 75, on the manhattan, on a crusta.  We are trying to use what’s around us but give it an Italian mindset.

Mon March 24, 2014 5:00 pm By Layne Lynch

Food & Wine magazine released their annual The People’s Best New Chef ballots this morning, and an impressive number of Texas chefs are featured in the virtual competition.

Justin Yu of Oxheart (Houston), Terrence Gallivan & Seth Siegel-Gardner of The Pass & Provisions (Houston), Matt Clouser of Swift’s Attic (Austin), Omar Flores of Driftwood and Casa Rubia (Dallas), Matt McCallister of FT33 (Dallas), Paul Qui of qui (Austin), Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo (Austin), and Brian Zenner of Belly & Trumpet (Dallas) are the nine Texas chefs up for The People’s Best New Chef award in the Southwest region. Yu was also recently named a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards’ Best Chef Southwest.

This year’s online awards honors 100 up-and-coming chefs from 10 regions across the U.S. who’ve managed their own kitchens for five years or less. Instead of leaving it up to seasoned magazine editors and celebrated food critics to choose the winners, The People’s Best New Chef relies on consumers to vote online for their personal favorites. Following the preliminary voting stage, the ten regional winners will then move on to the final round where they will compete for the honor of The People’s Best New Chef.

Starting today through Monday, March 31, individuals can vote on the Food & Wine website for their favorite regional chefs. The People’s Best New Chef ten finalists and overall champion will be unveiled on Wednesday, April 2.

Cast your ballot here

Tue March 18, 2014 12:33 pm By Layne Lynch

The James Beard Foundation Award announced its list of finalists this morning, and a handful of Texas chefs and culinary journalists made it through to the final reaping.

As Texas Monthly reported last month, fourteen chefs and restaurants from across the state were dubbed James Beard Award semifinalists. Today, the nominees for Best Chef Southwest were announced and four of the five are from Texas: three chefs from Houston (Justin Yu of Oxheart, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s), and one from Austin (Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine). Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap was also honored with a nomination in the James Beard Foundation America’s Classics category.

In the journalism awards, Lisa Fain’s blog, Homesick Texan, was nominated for best Individual Food Blog, and the Houston Chronicle’s Alison Cook received a second consecutive nomination for the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award for three selected features: “Corkscrew BBQ: a New Houston Classic,” “The Cosmic Soup of Pho Hung,” and “The Pass Unleashes Plates of Playfulness.” The journalism winners will be announced on May 2, three days earlier than the culinary awards, which take place on May 5 at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Stay tuned for more news.