Charmed by Houston’s Local Food Scene

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I think Houston gets a bad rap.  Yes, it’s hot, humid and sprawling.  No, I do not want to trade my Austin residency for a Houston address.  But, Houston has an incredible restaurant scene that is complemented by a rapidly growing local food community with farmers markets, urban farms and food artisans popping up all over town.  Thanks to my friends David Leftwich and Tara Kelly, leaders in the Houston local food movement, I’ve developed a Saturday morning routine for my increasingly frequent visits that makes my heart sing.

I start at Urban Harvest’s vibrant Eastside market in the shadows of Greenway Plaza.  I love visiting with the folks from Blue Heron Farm and some of my new favorite vendors like Brown Paper Chocolates, Utility Research Garden and Discovery Shrimp.

My second stop is Revival Market.  Oh, how I would love to transport this market to Austin, preferably down the street from my house.  Revival’s draw is the butcher shop featuring the meat from Morgan Weber’s Revival Farm, but you’ll be equally impressed by the robust coffee, the well-curated array of local and artisan food products and the café.   You can shop for dinner ingredients or enjoy a meal from the daily board.  I stopped in recently for an English muffin egg sandwich that was the perfect Saturday morning shopping fuel.

 revival egg mcmuffin 2

One of my favorite things to buy at Revival is the Galveston County salt.  It’s the first Texas salt I’ve found and the texture is perfect for cooking.  It’s become a new staple in my spice rack.  I’m also addicted to the Slow Dough pretzel rolls and can’t resist buying a bag when I’m there.

From Revival, I swing by Houston Dairymaids. The musty aroma of cheese envelops you as you walk in the door and entices you to head straight for the tasting table.  You can nibble on the daily selections and shop from a wide variety of cheeses, including a hefty selection of Texas offerings, as well as artisan products, beer and wine that complement cheese.

I finish my crawl of the Heights at Down House.   I love this place.  I will admit total bias because my friend Chris Cusack, who used to be with Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, is one of the owners.   That friendship may be the reason I visited initially, but now I can’t wait to get there and try their newest creations.  Whether you are looking for a potent cup of coffee, a lovely artisan cocktail or a tasty lunch, Down House has what you need.

And, it’s just fun.  When I popped by for coffee in June, they were roasting a pig on their patio for their anniversary party celebration.  Chef Benjy Mason has all the qualities I admire in a chef – creative, curious, never really satisfied with the status quo – and it shows in his food.  Something as seemingly simple as a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup had me humming with delight, making “yummy” noises as I ate my lunch – a little awkward when you are dining alone.

 down house pig roast 3

Now that I have my ‘usual’ haunts in Houston, I’m looking forward to expanding the list.  I recently wrote a story for Edible Austin about the growing local food scene in Houston with a guide to some of the farmers markets, locally sourcing restaurants and craft cocktail bars.  I have a lot of exploring to do!

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