New York City, 1995. I had arrived a few months earlier to begin a new job with a newspaper, and was visiting restaurants and bars that had been on my list for a long while. Sign of the Dove. La Grenouille. Elaine’s. Le Veau d’Or. McSorley’s. So many more, some long gone, others still thriving, pleasing guests night after night, attracting people from around the world to the streets and avenues of New York. That summer, I participated in NYC Restaurant Week; we made a few reservations at select places, and had (mostly) good experiences. It was a pleasure to sit and watch out-of-towners eat — I had already become a New Yorker, at least in my heart and mentality — and it felt good. The tables were ours. The latest version of NYC Restaurant Week runs through August 18, giving you 12 more days to pay $29 for lunch or $42 for dinner at places including Porsena, Hearth, Lupa, and ABC Kitchen. If you can, go.
Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) is also upon us, and it features 277 establishments giving a portion of their proceeds from special menus ($45 dinner, $20 lunch, with some exceptions) to the Houston Food Bank to help feed the hungry. I’ve tasted from some of the offerings, and will surely get to more, and encourage everyone to make some reservations. Go to a place you might not otherwise. Hunger is no laughing matter, and Houston is full of people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Do some good, have some fun, and tip well.
Want some suggestions for HRW? Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar and Sud Italia are home to some good pasta and proteins, and a visit to Ginger & Fork will introduce you to mushrooms and rice noodles that are not to be missed.
When you’re out and about during HRW, you’ll be wanting some wine to pair with your meals. Why not make it a full evening and have a glass of Rosé as an apéritif? Stoller Family Estate has produced one that I like (click here to read about it), but the Pink Universe is large, so you’ll have no difficulties choosing a good bottle. In addition, many of the restaurants participating in HRW have selected wines they think pair well with their menus, an easy opportunity for you to taste something new.
Speaking of new, a dish was added to the menu at Tony’s last week, and it’s something you’ll want. The Carpaccio di Pomodoro is tomato and Wagyu heaven, and I featured it in a piece for PaperCity on my (current) Dream Team of dishes in Houston. You can read about it here. (There’s also some great tacos and pasta on my team.)
For those of you wanting a hearty meal at home, I offer Chicken Paprikash. I cooked it on Sunday, and based it on the recipe featured by Sam Sifton in The Times. Use a combination of sweet and hot smoked paprika, and make sure to go with bone-in chicken. Cooking it is simple — you’ll have to brown the chicken in a Dutch oven for a few minutes — and when the smokiness of the paprika meets the sour cream, your evening will be set. Pair your Paprikash with a bottle of this Pinot Noir and a salad of mixed greens, and the picture is complete.