Food fads have their ups and downs. Today’s trend is tall, as chefs vie to see who can construct the most architectonic appetizers and elevated entrées. Houston’s Backstreet Cafe (1103 S. Shepherd) has its own entry in the culinary sweepstakes: the aptly named Meatloaf Tower. In designing the dish, chefs Hugo Ortega and John Watt have taken the humble staple of home cooking to new heights. They combine ground beef with veal for a lighter, more delicate texture and prepare an earthy wild-mushroom gravy to lend robust flavor. A bed of fresh, barely wilted spinach undergirds the creation and a vertiginous crown of garlic mashed potatoes tops it off.


4 eggs, beaten
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground sirloin
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 six-ounce can tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix ingredients with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Cover meatloaf with rest of paste; bake in greased loaf pan for 45 minutes or until loaf pulls away from pan.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

6 Idaho potatoes, peeled and boiled
2 tablespoons roasted chopped garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly mash potatoes and then mix together with other ingredients. If planning to pipe potatoes with a pastry bag, whip until smooth.

Wild Mushroom Gravy

3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups sliced assorted mushrooms
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 cups demiglace, homemade or packaged
3 tablespoons cold butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon chives, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped

Sauté garlic and mushrooms in olive oil until golden. Add next 4 ingredients, bring to low boil, and reduce volume by half. Add butter and herbs and simmer until butter melts.

Wilted Spinach

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds spinach, rinsed and trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste

In large pan, sauté garlic in olive oil until golden. Add spinach and cook just until it wilts. Season and drain.