Body shot off of Bobby Heugel, anyone?
Okay, we didn’t resort to such debauchery. But with Highland Park Whisky flowing freely among the guests of the 2011 Houston Rising Stars Honorees Dinner, it was at one point suggested, ahem, rather boisterously. On the night before the big gala, Houston’s first generation of Rising Stars took the opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
The weather could not have been better. Mild and warm, we opened all the doors so guests could congregate on the balcony, nestled amid the branches of oak trees. Candlelight flickered as a breeze brushed through “The Tree House,” the elegant space above The Grove, where Chef Robert Del Grande invited Rising Stars and their guests for an evening of mentor chef tastings, atop Rene Ozorio plateware by Steelite International. Chef Claire Smith, of Canopy and Shade, and Chef Mark Cox of Mark’s American Cuisine worked alongside Del Grande to create the night’s menu. Smith served Braised Australian Lamb, Orange, Sage, Spinach, Almond Piccata, and Crispy Polenta. And a pairing of Highland Park whisky coaxed out the dish’s subtle flavors of orange and sage. Cox prepared an Roasted Australian Wagyu Rib-eye, Sweet Peppers, and Mushroom Flan; it was savory and seductively light. And Del Grande's Cervena Venison Loin with “Texas Gin”, featuring the highly acclaimed Cervena Venison, was a favorite among the chefs. It was almost as if the mentors had said to our Rising Stars, “let us show you how it’s done.”
"The Tree House" was alive with chatter. We sipped Highland Park cocktails, nibbled on cheeses provided by Emmi Roth USA, and inhaled the gossip. Bobby Heugel and Chris Shepherd told us about their upcoming restaurant, Underbelly, which will partner the two Rising Stars as owners. Coincidentally, both Rising Star Pastry Chefs (separately) expressed their desire to come to New York; Chris Leung of Bootsie's hopes to compete in the StarChefs.com 2nd Annual International Pastry Competition and Vanarin Kuch wants to eventually make the city his permanent home. Unfortunately, Rising Star Chef Bryan Caswell wasn’t able to make the dinner, but rumors buzzed about the concurrent soft opening of his new restaurant, El Real. The beautiful restaurant—housed in a restored 1950s movie theater—is sure to evolve into an iconic restaurant, once the team figures out how to stop the plates from exploding (so the rumors say).
As the evening drew to a close, guests began to trickle out, many in search of a digestif at Heugel’s Anvil Bar & Refuge. It was at that moment, as we watched the Rising Stars piling into each other’s cars, that it struck us why we like these chefs so much: they’re all friends, mentors, and drinking buddies—and it’s been such a thrill to come along for the ride.
Serving In The Vista Room
Robert Del Grande
RDG+Bar Annie and The Grove
Cold-grilled Australian Wagyu Beef with Mission Fig and Bone Marrow Mousse
Cervena Venison Loin with “Texas Gin”
Poached Pear, Buttermilk Blue Cheese, and Smoked Almonds
Tarte Tatin with Caramel Sauce
Mark’s American Cuisine
Roasted Australian Wagyu Rib-eye, Sweet Peppers, and Mushroom Flan
Canopy and Shade
Braised Australian Lamb, Orange, Sage, Spinach, Almond Piccata, and Crispy Polenta
Spirit Pairing: Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Domestic & International Cheese Selection
Presented by Emmi Roth USA
Buttermilk Blue from Wisconsin
Buttermilk Blue Affinée from Wisconsin
Moody Blue from Wisconsin
Ostenborg Horseradish and Chive Havarti from Wisconsin
Grand Cru Gruyère Reserve from Wisconsin
Emmi Le Gruyère Reserve from Switzerland
Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyère from Switzerland
From the Bar
“Park in the Spring”
Featuring Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Cervena Venison, Emmi Roth USA, Fresh Origins, Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky,
Meat & Livestock Australia, Nordaq Fresh, and Steelite International