PaperCity Magazine

July 2015 - Houston

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JULY | PAGE 12 | 2015 Fluff Bake Bar, 314 Gray, 713.522.1900, Sud Italia, 2347 University Blvd., 713.664.7571, A DIFFERENT KIND OF AT SUD ITALIA, FLUFFERNUTTERS AT FLUFF BAKE BAR, AT B&B BUTCHERS & RESTAURANT. HOT, HUMID JULY DRIVES US AN OLD-SCHOOL BUTCHERY AND A DATE WITH DRY-AGED BEEF For the past two decades, Shanon Scott has diligently worked the front of house, toiling his way up the restaurant management ladder in Houston, with a résumé that includes stints at Da Marco, Arcodoro, Simposio and Arturo's Uptown, to name but a few. While work-related trips frequently took him to Italy, it wasn't until he and his wife, Wende, ventured through the southernmost reaches of this fabled country last summer (Sicily, Calabria and Campagna) that inspiration struck. For years, Scott had pondered opening his own restaurant focused on Italian food and wine, but now he had a hook — and, as luck would have it, a space: the former Bistro Des Amis eatery at the edge of Rice Village. His new concept, Sud Italia, specializes in an area of Italian cuisine he feels hasn't been adequately covered in Houston, with a menu packed with dishes devoid of butter and cream. The small, sparsely decorated dining room adjoins a gracious patio and tiny bar where loyalists who've befriended the affable host, dine lunch, dinner and weekend brunches on approachable uncomplicated fare. Enjoy what's sure to be their signature: arancini di riso (rice balls, $10), as well as a fritto misto platter, a combination of lightly fried vegetables, lobster, shrimp and calamari served with a duo of dipping sauces ($14). Pastas include rigatoni tossed in a tomato "stew" of eggplant with ricotta salata shavings, each bite a concentrated tomato taste ($14). For a hearty entrée, try New York strip steak with a balsamic reduction ($32) or bone-in veal chops ($39). Fish options range from a salmon filet brushed with blood orange vinaigrette ($21) to freshwater trout stuffed with fingerling potatoes and breadcrumbs ($22). Laurann Claridge A BIT OF FLUFF MAXIMILIAN BURKHALTER FELIX SANCHEZ FULTON DAVENPORT, PWL STUDIO FELIX SANCHEZ FELIX SANCHEZ Above: B&B "Steak" House Salad with filet mignon, three-onion jam, tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette Below: Dry-aged USDA prime porterhouse for two with fingerling potatoes and carrots T here are "chefy" stylized desserts — overwrought towers of sweetness held up by sugar-sculpted supports and spears of hardened chocolate — and then there are the homespun, crave-worthy baked goods crafted by pastry chef Rebecca Masson. The owner of Fluff Bake Bar has all the credentials to rub elbows with the best: schooling chez Le Cordon Bleu Paris, tenures in the New York kitchens of Daniel Boulud, Gary Robins and Jimmy Bradley, and a stage with Eric Frechon at Le Bristol Hotel, Paris. But her strength is recreating childhood favorites — Oreo-like confections (SHOs), cinnamon-scented snickerdoodles, Valrhona brownies, warm gingersnaps and the cookie that lends Masson's midtown bakery its name: Fluffernutters. Her loyal following includes Kickstarter donors who contributed more than $50,000 to see her sugar-fairy dreams of a retail bakery come true. The much-awaited bite-sized 1,200-square-foot, 24-seat midtown space was designed with the help of architect Joe Milton. Stop in for a latte and leave with a Couch Potato cookie (don't ask, just try it) and a cult- worthy classic: Veruca salt cake made with layers of devil's food cake, salted caramel buttercream, pretzel crunch and chocolate pearls in 6-and 8-inch sizes ($36 to $46, respectively). Five varieties of cakes and at least a dozen types of cookies and other pastry offerings fill the cases here by day, while by night Fluff Bake Bar transforms into a dessert bar serving up plated concoctions and flights of beer and wine (curated by Anthony Gianola). The menu after dark includes a rotating list of 15 seasonal dessert assemblages, including Bakewell tart (Masson's version of this English comfort food is layered with homemade blackberry jam and topped with lemon verbena ice cream and marcona almonds seasoned like beer nuts) and risotto zeppoli (Italian doughnuts with al dente cooked risotto folded in the batter, served with a side of fresh blueberries and honey semifreddo), all priced around $12 each. Craving more than a bite? Put yourself in the kitchen's hands and try the tasting menu, made up of three preselected small desserts and a savory something ($21, paired with a wine flight, $32). Laurann Claridge Left: The Long Bone (Dry-aged USDA prime) from The Butcher Shop B&B Butchers & Restaurant, 1814 Washington Ave., 713.862.1814, MEAT MARKETS H ead down Washington Avenue to the changing neighborhood of Washington Heights in the shadow of downtown, and hang a left at the once abandoned Dittman Bakery building. Inside, you'll find an old- school butcher shop; next door, through a walk-in refrigerator door separating one space from another, stands a classic steak house, reimagined. B&B Butchers & Restaurant was conceptualized by owner Benjamin Berg, a New York transplant with a master's in hospitality from Cornell University. His career in service started at The Point and The Lake Placid Lodge resorts in Upstate New York, and culminated at the Smith & Wollensky group before he ventured out on his own in Houston. Berg, talented chef Tom Elbashary (who mans the back of the house) and Ken Laszlo (who runs the butchery) have created something new and exciting in a town rife with steak houses but lacking great butcher shops. Issac Preminger has refreshed the historic but dilapidated brick building into a stunning two-story restaurant and bar with a timeless aesthetic, from the marble-topped tables tucked into semicircular banquettes to the pressed-tin-adorned bars (upstairs and down), custom metal windows and doors. The large, varied menus feature Texas- raised Wagyu style beef from the Gearhart Ranch and USDA-grade prime steaks dry aged on the premises. Like oysters? For lunch, we suggest you start with the carpetbagger on the half shell: four mighty Cajun fried oysters layered with thick cut bacon, blue cheese and filet tips ($18). At dinner, this mélange of assertive flavors is served as an entrée ($51). Berg says he's inspired by steak joints that offer a diverse menu, rather than just the old-school meat-and-potato standbys. It's no surprise, then, to find pizzas ($10-$14), a meatball app ($13), burgers ($16 to $18), brisket ravioli ($24), veal chop ($57), rack of lamb ($39) and seafood, from stuffed trout ($34) to pan-seared salmon ($29) and South African lobster tail ($54 to $72) on his carte. Don't-miss beef dishes include the flavor- packed Wagyu skirt steak served with frites ($29) at lunch, a dish that gets even better with a side of rich creamed spinach ($11). At either service, the tender filet au poivre is perfectly cooked, napped with a demi-glace pan sauce. I loved seeing worldly classics such as beef Wellington and Chateaubriand on the menu (not to mention prime rib). Witness the clever preparation of the beef Wellington, a dish often fraught with culinary downfalls, deconstructed here so that every element from the duxelles to the paté to the puff pastry is prepared then layered separately. Next door, the butcher shop invites carnivores to take the raw goods home, from pork to lamb to beef dry-aged 21 to 28 days. Or, you can have those able meat cutters build you a mighty sandwich with all the requisite go-withs to enjoy at one of the handful of tables in the butcher shop. Both ventures are open seven days a week, lunch through dinner service. Laurann Claridge Mediterranean sea bass roasted and carved table-side Shell pasta southern fare INDOORS TO THREE NEW EATERIES TO TEST OUT FRESHWATER TROUT MAXIMILIAN BURKHALTER Owner Benjamin Berg Carpet Bagger on the Half Shell with Cajun fried oysters, thick- cut bacon and blue cheese Rebecca Masson JULIE SOFER JULIE SOFER Fluff Bake Bar B&B Butchers & Restaurant The once abandoned Dittman Bakery building

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