Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mansion on Turtle Creek Executive Chef John Tesar comes to the Woodlands

Texas may not have been the most likely place for an east coast kid who grew up in the Hamptons to settle but that’s exactly what he’s doing. Chef John Tesar announced today he would open Tesar’s Modern Steak & Sustainable Seafood this August in the Woodlands.

The chef says his roots are submerged deeply in the ocean he grew up near and always will be: "I identify with the sea there so completely and it’s companionship with our modern steak concept though I look forward to opening my first eponymous restaurant in Texas. Texas and Texans have been kind to me. I lived in Dallas for three years and loved it. Came back to New York for less than three months and found I missed it," said Tesar.

Tesar, a 2009 James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef: Southwest has seen crowds gather for his fare and his commitment to sustainable food sources when he revamped the menu and restaurant into three distinct dining areas at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

Nationally lauded restaurant critic, John Mariani wrote Chef Tesar brought "New York edge to Texas swagger," when he named the Mansion Restaurant one of Esquire’s Ten Best New Restaurants of 2008.

Since his early 20's Chef Tesar has created his own restaurants and reinvented others for some of the best chefs, hotels and resorts from New York, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and Dallas. "I’ve been asked many times to brand my name, but timing is everything, and this is the time. Tesar's will be a special place," Tesar commented.

Fresh from his success in Dallas, Tesar looked to investors who believed in modern gastronomy for his next adventure. "Planning this concept has been intense," Tesar says. "Plenty of investors showed interest, but I needed to find the dedicated 'sustainable' backers. We take from flora and fauna without regard to maintenance; even poisoning it with the chemicals we use to make 'earth-foods' grow. But, people care more about what they eat now and my customers are desirous of the locavore and sustainable movement," states Chef Tesar.

Tesar’s Modern Steak & Sustainable Seafood will parlay the chef’s talents with a varied menu loaded with organically grown, "green" selections using side-by-side comparisons of grass and grain-fed beef and earth-easy seafood.

"Modern Steak is not only tastier it’s healthier." opines Tesar. "I’m currently engaging ranchers who practice these newer, cleaner modern ways of raising and aging cattle. My entire menu will be 100 percent sustainable created with a zero-waste food ethics in mind. This will also include our hamburgers served at our outside burger bar."

Tesar’s will have multiple options and price points for diners including a bar lounge menu, raw bar, chef’s room and main dining room with whole fish choices. "Whole fish will be a principal part of our menu. It’s an amazing way to taste the true flavor of the sea and the quality of finfish," informs Tesar.

McCarble and Tesar say they hope this to be the first of many restaurants. "Diners are searching for modern thoughtful cuisine everywhere, and the demand is high," states Tesar.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

La Baraonda - Excellent Italian on 1960

There's a notable new Italian place on the dining scene, and it's in an area of town that really needs more great restaurants.

La Baraonda is a great example of what a small restaurant can be when the front of the house and the back of the house are in sync. It's the antithesis of the soulless chain restaurant, a wonderful, family-owned establishment that's infused with the skill and attention of the proprietors.

Located in a strip center behind a Whataburger, the location is not one that says fine dining. But step inside, and your opinion changes instantly.

The lovely, jewel-like interior is divided into small areas for a more intimate feeling. The design is tasteful and restrained, beautiful fabrics, nice quality tableware, and an eye for detail complete a very good first impression. It's a great spot for a romantic dinner, or a quick lunch in a lovely setting.

And it lasts. Gus (one of the owners) took care of us on our recent visit, and was both professional and warm. A veteran of the Houston restaurant business, his expertise shows in thoughtful recommendations and an eye that anticipates a customer's needs.

And the food is outstanding. At Gus's recommendation, I tried the Chicken Marsala. The Marsala reduction was superb; clearly a very good quality wine was used, and the thyme and other flavors complemented the wine. Plenty of crimini mushrooms topped this delicious dish.

Everything is made in-house, from all the sauces to the excellent Italian sausage, rich with fennel. Notable is the delicious garlicky pesto that is served with the bread. It's even better with the superb garlic bread, made from pannini bread, fresh crushed garlic, and toasted in the pannini press.

Prices are very reasonable, and considering the quality of the cuisine, it's a genuine bargain.

The FM 1960 area has a new star for fine dining. If you've not tried La Baraonda, you're missing out. Make sure to tell Gus hello when you stop by.

Hot Burrito Spot from Gringo's Founder

Russell Ybarra, the founder and owner of Gringo's, the successful local group of Tex-Mex restaurants, has opened his new fast casual concept. Bullritos. The menu features custom-made burritos, bowls, and tacos. Margaritas and beer are available as well.

The first store is located in LaPorte, a bit off the beaten path for many Houston foodies, but our sources say it's worth a visit. More locations in the Houston area are planned.



Bullritos.com

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Pizzaria Coming to Market Street This Summer

Pizza by Marco, based out of Dallas, will open its first Houston location at Market Street this July. Market Street is the outdoor shopping and entertainment district in the Woodlands.

Pizza by Marco is one of the oldest pizzerias in Dallas, and was honored by D Magazine as the best pizzaria in Dallas.

Founded by the Nuccio family of Dallas in 1955, Pizza by Marco is known for to its secret family sauce and flatbread crust. The new restaurant will serve lunch and dinner with delivery available. The menu will feature pizza, pasta and a wide selection of vegan toppings and preservative-free cheese.

Pizza by Marco at Market Street will be led by owner Frank Barnard, a longtime resident of the Dallas area and successful restaurateur.

Peli Peli - Unique new concept in Vintage Park


There's a new spot opening up in Vintage Park (Hwy 249 at Louetta) that we're looking forward to checking out. Called Peli Peli, it's an upscale casual restaurant with cuisine that looks very interesting.

Peli Peli (also known as Piri Piri or Peri Peri), which means Bird’s-Eye Chili, is a spice found by the Portuguese in the 15th Century on the plains of Southern Africa. The spice rapidly became popular when used to prepare sauces and marinades for Portuguese and African foods. The Bird's-Eye Chili is the cornerstone spice for the cuisine at Peli Peli.

The chef behind this new spot is Paul Friedman, the man who create Paul's Pizza, the popular local pizza chain with some very interesting recipes. Chef Paul has had over 35 years of experience in the restaurant industry, having owned and operated successful restaurant concepts in South Africa and Germany as well as Paul's Pizza.

They're planning a grand opening event with a Live Jazz Brunch on Mother's Day (May 10) from 11 to 3.

For more information, browse their Web Site