The menu had been set for a few weeks, and the wines had arrived, shipped overnight from California. The Brockhaus was cooking at Tony’s.

My mind was, partially, in Berlin and Roanne while planning the dinner’s menu. Berlin because of two meals experienced on consecutive days in 2016 at Restaurant Tim Raue, and Roanne thanks to a documentary about Maison Troisgros and that great family of food. Dishes featuring langoustine and salmon, the former created by Raue, the latter by the famed French family. Austin Waiter, Tony’s chef de cuisine, and I had tweaked the methods and ingredients, and all was a go.

We cured Norwegian sea trout, covered the langoustine in corn starch, prepped the brioche and figs and hamachi. The kitchen at Tony’s was full of activity, as it always is. The pastry station was abuzz, the waiters were polishing cutlery and plates, and deliveries were arriving. Austin was working on the wasabi cream, and I was prepping the langoustine. All was on schedule. It was Monday, the 25th of September.

Hamachi awaits its sorrel

Hamachi awaits its sorrel

Norwegian trout cures

Norwegian trout cures

Twelve guests, nine wines. Kennady Cosby, the bar manager, had created a lavender-based cocktail that would begin the evening at 6:30 in the bar. Russ and Judy would be at the table, as would Jared and Cheryl, all regular Brockhaus patrons. New guests were on the list as well. It would, as always, be an eclectic and vibrant table.

Tony Vallone, the owner of Tony’s, had asked me several times if I wanted to hold a Brockhaus evening at his restaurant, and I finally accepted the generous (and somewhat intimidating) offer. Vallone, who also owns Ciao Bello and Vallone’s, has been the force behind Tony’s for more than 50 years, and he and his wife, Donna, have created something special in Houston. Tony’s is my favorite restaurant in Houston, is among my favorite places in the world, and it was an honor to cook in the kitchen there. A great honor.

The table is set …

The Wine Library at Tony’s (Nick de la Torre)

The venue was the Wine Library, an intimate space lined with walls of great vintages and anchored by a round table with seats for 12. Angela, one of The Brockhaus’ creators, had been relieved of her duties that evening, and would for the first time be a guest at the table.

At 6:30 sharp, I checked on the bar, and a few of our guests were mingling and sipping their cocktails. Angela was hosting, and, prep over, Austin and I finalized the plating. Wines were chilling, and the table was set.

Green tomato soup, Norwegian trout, and dill oil

Green tomato soup, Norwegian trout, and dill oil

Wasabi Langoustine

Wasabi Langoustine

Austin Waiter and James Brock

Austin Waiter and James Brock

A little after 7 p.m. we ushered the group to the Wine Library. Carlos poured the first wine, a Crémant from Alsace, and the meal began. The conversation at the table flowed, along with the wine. Jared, Russ, Judy, and Cheryl spoke of their past Brockhaus experiences, and the first-time guests added their personalities and contributions.

Austin and I greeted the diners, and the courses progressed. Burrata and prosciutto, cold tomato soup and trout, foie in a hole, hamachi and sorrel, pork belly and duck breast with chanterelle and maitake.

I had partnered with Dierberg and Star Lane vineyards — if you are not acquainted with their wines, make it a point to buy a few bottles — and the pairings were inspired.

Around 11 or so, dessert finished, the guests rose to leave, smiling, talking, and hugging. The Brockhaus Cooks at Tony’s was done.

Stay tuned for news about the next event …