[HOU] Reviews of Chowdown @ FEAST
On Sunday, 6/1/2008, 16 members of Houston Chowhounds (HoustonCH) attended an 9+ course dinner at Feast, a new restaurant in the Montrose area of Houston which serves "rustic european fare." This was our first official HoustonCH event. We contacted the restaurant in advance and they agreed to serve us the 8 course tasting menu that they offer every Wednesday night for $40pp. We made plans directly with one of Feast's two chefs, Richard Knight, and also told him that we were a group of foodies and he had carte blanche to go 'crazy' with the menu which he was very excited about.
Chef Knight greeted our huge table which was setup in their back room. He explained each course in great detail including preparation techniques and set the stage for the impressive dishes that followed.
On our menu:
(please feel free to correct me or add additional details i left out)
1. salmon bisque w/ fennel pollen & fennel blossoms
2. cured pork liver with mandarin orange sections and blackberries (off-menu)
3. date and fresh peach salad with roasted carrots and walnuts
4. pork cheeks over dandelion salad w/ toasted bread & caperberries
5. housemade sweetbreads, fois gras, and pork confit terrine (off-menu)
6. ruby trout stuffed with saffron rice over buttered leeks
7. roasted pork leg w/crispy skin served w/applesauce and bubble & squeak (off-menu)
8. lemon sorbet
9. chocolate mousse cake
10. spotted dick
we were a happy and stuffed group leaving the restaurant. kudos to the chef and staff! the chef came back around for a Q&A with the table. it's just priceless being able to have open dialogue with the chef. the hospitality was warm and friendly, the service was smooth and efficient which is a hard thing to accomplish with a group this large.
i know a few people took photos. anonymouseater's photos are already up on his blog: http://foodinhouston.blogspot.com/2008/06/feast-photos.html. i'm hoping misha's will pop up on his blog soon: http://www.tasty-bits.com/. for anyone else who took photos, please attach them to this thread.
now let the reviews begin!
My husband Mark and I missed the gathering last week being Sunday evenings do not often work for us, but we were glad to hear that everyone enjoyed themselves.
We did manage to go to Feast for lunch on a Saturday and it was wonderful from start to finish. Mark had been dying to try the blood pudding ever since I had him read Alison Cook's review. He is from Scotland and misses the unique gustatory delights of Britain.
We each ordered the three course lunch for $22.00 and found for future reference that each course was enough to share. Mark had the blood pudding and minted peas and I had the pate. Both were delicious and Mark concluded that the blood pudding was wonderful. He devoured his Braised Boar and was compassionate enough to help me with my pork confit tart with celery despite being full. The tart's pastry was perfect and tasted just like Mum's as the use of suet was evident.
Desert for me was the bread pudding and Mark had a "gotsa know" for the custard accompanying the Spotted Dick - okay, so he ONLY ordered it for the custard! Since I was not driving, I indulged in two glasses of the Macon Villages Chardonnay - perfect on a hot summer's day.
Both Richard Knight and James Silk were in the kitchen that afternoon and so we stuck our heads in to say cheers and let them know how much we enjoyed the meal. They told us that the blood pudding was practically the only thing on the menu they didn't make. The health department is funny about the "ingredients" in it and are hard to come by. As soon as they can find some local lung, they promised that haggis would be on the menu. A Burn's Dinner anyone? I'm thinking kilts, Burn's poetry, Scotch, etc...
The service was perfect - helpful and unobtrousive, attentive without hovering. We are so fortunate to have a restaurant of this caliber in Houston.
Mark & I are hoping we can meet up with our fellow Houston CHers in the near future. Until then, keep on posting!
First off my overall reaction to Feast was certainly a positive one. The food and service was quite good and I very much enjoyed the experience of dining with 14 new "foodie" friends. A course by course deconstruction analysis will illuminate that Feast's whole is certainly greater than it's individual parts.
1. The salmon bisque sans dairy was distinctive, but a bit oversalted which made the fennel pollen more of a visual addendum (the blossoms were a welcome contrast in flavor and texture).
2. The cured pork liver was interesting and thankfully the fruit addition was included. It was good, but I should add that I am not a liver lover : )
3. The date and peach salad was so simple and a perfect harmony of flavor and texture. The slow cooked carrot had sufficient sugar extracted to hold up well to it's fruit conpanions and the walnuts balanced nicely with the dates.
4.The pork cheeks, though tasty were a bit dissapointing in that the toasted crouton attatched to it texturally overwhelmed the cheek. The caperberry and dandellion salad worked well for me.
5. Like some others have commented my expectaions of the sweetbread terrine were not met. Like most other dishes at Feast the portion was huge. I liked it, but I had higher hopes for it.
6. The trout stuffed w/ safron rice was outstanding. Well executed and an appropriate sized portion for a tasting menu. The buttered leeks beautifully accentuated the trout's flavor and the safron rice stuffing was soft and flavorful.
7. The roasted pork leg! This had great "wow" factor as it was prepared perfectly and as we carved it ourselves, it added a nice interactive feature that was never problematic and made the meal more playful. The meat was easily cut from the bone and the crisp skin was never greasy (this is pork we are talking about). The apple sauce was not too sweet, yet still distinctive and a seamless textural segue with the bubble and squeak. I was bursting at this point, but I foraged ahead to....
8. The lemon sorbet which was yet again a large portion, paticularly for a pallete cleanser or intermezzo (well it was at the end). I found it almost too light. I would have preferred a more pronounced lemon and sugar flavor (for which the lemon zest did not make up for).
9. The chocolate mousse cake (w/ creme anglaise?) was fine if not the best choice for a denouement to such a prodidgous tasting menu. A little too heavy for me (bring on the elastic waist band!)
10. The chef graciously provided us with the spotted dick (yes jokes were flying across the table) and it was magnificent. A classic dessert that is not the easiest to execute and the contrast of raisins to the suet was heavenly!
Having the chef come out and explain the menu with several digressions made the meal a real treat. The seamless service and relaxed aire was truely an experience in hospitality that begs for me to revisit. The critical plaudits Feast is now enjoying are well deserved and I can't wait to try it out for lunch. Furthemore the philosphy of Feast to provide an enjoyable meal ( without utilizing superfluous ingredients or postmodern plating) while embracing organic and local ingredient ethos made the experience truely memorable.
wonderful review fulmer! you do realize fois gras is liver, right? i, like you, prefer liver when it is pronounced FWA-GRA too.
the cured pork liver, although not my favorite course of the meal, was actually one that i appreciated the most. as the chef described how the liver was cured, it was apparent that a whole lot of love and time that went into getting that dish onto our plates. i was genuinely impressed with what he did with 'carte blanche' and i loved being able to try something new. i agree that addition of fruit made the gummy textured liver more palatable. i did notice that 4 or 5 of us finished the whole plate.
the pork cheek salad croutons looked deceivingly like chunks of pork cheek. unfortunately, my plate arrived with only had one small piece of pork and 10 croutons. i was one of the last people served at my table, i think i got the end of the salad too, b/c my greens were overly dressed in balsamic vinegar.
i agree. the terrine tasting was huge. i also understand that the terrine dish he used was traditional size (wide). a normal portion of terrine off the menu would have been sliced slightly thicker and easily serves 2-3 people. he sliced the terrine very thin for us, but in order of us to get a good cross-section of all the elements, we need a complete piece. btw, there was a lot of fois gras in my piece of terrine. very generous!
As a veteran of a number of Los Angeles-area CH events, I thought
last evening's event at Feast was a rousing success. I think the
number of people (for that venue) was about right.
I will point out to folks one thing: Jenny made the event look
effortless but this sort of thing does require some work. So we're
lucky that Jenny is willing and able to take the lead, but let's not
let her get burned out. If you have a favorite place or a place
you've been yearning to try -- jump in! Whether it's one of our first-
Sunday meals, or an in-between event, don't wait for someone
to "authorize you" to organinze an excursion!
I really enjoyed Feast. I thought it was a trifle pork-heavy. A salad
with no meat would have been enjoyable for me. But both as a total
experience and taking most of the dishes individually, it was a great
meal. I'm not sure cured liver is destined to be my new comfort food,
but the pork leg and the trout -- yum!
Thank you. I wish we could have made it. Hopefully there'll be a next one. I have signed up for the group. I don't know if of interest but my recent UK visitors told me about a curry house group they had in the UK. It seemed like a similar and neat concept. Once a month contact an Indian place and say "there's 20 of us, we want to spend a max of x dollars a head, wow us with your best stuff that's not just same-old same-old off the menu." Effectively the same m.o. as at Feast. Also with 16 could do justice to a real Chinese feast although I suspect some would not like chopsticks-in-the-communal grub approach which is the only way it works really. Anyway, nice reports. Was the bubble&squeak suitably browned and larded I wonder? Not an easy dish to pull off to get the crust right without burning.
The bubbles and squeak wasn't brown at all, if I recall correctly. Tasty, though. The homemade applesauce was really good, too.
You need to make suggestions on the Yahoo group, because I don't think CH wants us discussing those things here. So post away and we will all join in! Welcome!
the bubble & squeak was a little browned, hard to tell b/c it was dark outside by the time that course arrived. it was made from cabbage and mashed potatoes. is it supposed to have crusty fried bits? the portion served with our crispy pork leg (we had 4 legs at the table) was most mushy. i actually thought the cabbage was cauliflower until the chef corrected me. there is a photo on anonymouseater's blog:
oh and please check your email. yahoo! groups sent you a small file that you need to read and respond to before i can approve your membership.
Yes, The secret to good bubble & squeak is the browning. I think nubbins of lard embedded in it helps there, along with the right pan and the critical withholding of temptation to "peek." Ideally it should have a true crust of fried potato and be served almost like a little crusted entity in and of itself. But yes, essentially cabbage (onion I liek to add) and potato. Often the mash and assorted vegetable detritus and gravy left over from a "traditional British Sunday Dinner" is fried up as well and considered a variant of B&S served with something the next day.
Thanks for the report. My wife and I were going to try to attend, especially us both being English by birth and therefore no strangers to spotted dick.
It sounds like a fun time and thanks for the description. I think we'll try the place sometime before long ourselves. If there are further meetings I hope you'll keep the CH board posted.
How many were there actually there out of curiosity?
First let me ask you, jenny, what was the condiment that was served with the terrine? It was a sweet flavor to balance the saltiness of the terrine, I believe. Also it was served with toast. We also had some good dense whit bread on the table to start off with.
As for my personal tastes, I will say that I liked most of the food, but do have an aversion to seafood (which I am hoping to cure!) Having said that the salmon bisque was fine, but not something I would deliberately order. I ate about half of it. I did find out that I don't like trout, or that particular kind of trout. To me, it had a somewhat fishy flavor, but everyone else raved about it! The cured pork liver was not my cup of tea, but I tried it anyway! Everything else was good and I enjoyed myself. I felt so unsophisticated listening to some of the comments about food in other cities/countries, but hey, you have to start somewhere . . . right?
It was a very lively group and it was a treat to meet some of the CHer's that post on a regular basis. Some of the folk there I couldn't figure out if they were part of CH or not, but it didn't matter, because everyone was lovely. I was going to duck out early but was convinced by neverfull and fulmer not too. I'm glad I stayed. The presentation, by the chef, of the spotted dick was delightful!
I also commend the staff and chefs. It was outstanding service, very professional and ran as smooth glass.
hi dani, i'm not surprised to see you are the first poster! so happy you made it out last night and stayed for dessert. the terrine was served with some sort of chutney. i thought it was tomato and onion based (i didn't taste fruit) but i'm not sure. i would have preferred something sweeter (like a quince jam) or something with bite (like a french country mustard) to balance all the fat in the terrine. that dish disappointed me the most as it sounded so fabulous. i am a big fan of all the components (sweetbreads, fois gras, & pork confit), but i didn't like what happened when it was all put together. it was just too fatty (words that rarely come out of my mouth) and the fois gras tasted like liver, which in my experience, never does unless you overcook it.
the ruby trout was fishy tasting b/c it is an oily fish like salmon, so it was no wonder you didn't enjoy it. i thought it was executed perfectly! the saffron rice and the leeks sauteed in butter danced beautifully with the fish.
i thought the salmon bisque was oversalted, but the texture and color were amazing. i couldn't believe there was no dairy in it.
i'm attaching photos of the terrine, trout, and bisque that anonymouseater sent to me.