PaperCity Magazine

December 2015 - Houston

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DECEMBER | PAGE 84 | 2015 by Laurann Claridge STATE OF GRACE ALL STATE OF GRACE PHOTOS BY JULIE SOFER CRAFT CUISINE W ith their neighborhood quickly gentrifying, the powers that be at Woodrow's Heights in the Rice Military area decided it was time to dress up their circa-1900 house (formerly home to Mardi Gras Grill and Floyd's Cajun Kitchen as well) at the edge of Washington Avenue to suit an increasingly affluent clientele. The result is The Durham House. Chef Don Schoenburg stayed on to carry the Cajun menu to daring new heights with what he calls "craft cuisine for the conscious eater." This philosophy relies on locally grown food, humanely raised meats, the best ingredients they can procure and even a swarm of bees kept in an apiary on the rooftop. Proprietor Raj Natarajan not only oversaw the white-washed renovation with a beach-house vibe but also meticulously selects bottles for the wine list and oversees the impressive artisan cocktail program with such chic tinctures New Spots H ouston foodies are abuzz about the homecoming of Ford Fry — the Houston-reared chef who's made quite a name for himself in Georgia with such critically adored eateries as The Optimist, JCT Kitchen and St. Cecilia. When rumor spread that Fry had secured a space just across the street from his alma mater, Lamar High School, curiosity hit a fever pitch. In late October, he finally unveiled State of Grace — his first restaurant outside the Atlanta metro area. He and chef Bobby Matos have developed a menu as diverse as the cultures that flourish in Houston, from its Southern roots to its proximity to the Gulf and the Hill Country, not to mention the profound effect immigrants from Mexico and Asia have had on our food and drink scene. The interiors, care of Ford's in-house designer Elizabeth Ingram and architects Square Feet Studio, remind us of a mod hunting lodge with loden velvet draperies, custom blackened-iron doors and windows, a marble-topped oyster bar and dozens of Lilliputian antlers. Must-have offerings include lobster hushpuppies (warm orbs of fried cornmeal studded State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer Road, 832.942.5080, The Durham House, 1200 Durham Dr., 713.864.5600, as Gil's Big Break (an effervescent mix of celery bitters, gin and lemon grass; $14), and One Foot Off the Merry- Go-Round (crushed ice blended with bourbon, apple brandy and strawberry cordial accented with cracked black pepper; $12). Small plates range from complex, crispy sweetbreads ($13) to fried beer-battered onion rings with spicy remoulade sauce ($5) and even smoked pig tails, meant to be eaten like chicken wings ($8). Entrees head to the sea and into the woods with beer-crusted grouper ($36), bayou jumbo (a holdover from Woodrow's; $15) braised rabbit ($32), pork porterhouse ($28) and Muscovy duck ($32). On Saturdays, the smoker hits full throttle when this Cordon Bleu- educated chef upturns the menu to offer bayou barbecue with pulled pork, gator andouille, grilled oysters, boiled Lake Tahoe crawfish in season and charcuterie plates from 11 am to 5 pm. Culinary STATE of GRACE and with lobster and powdered sugar, accompanied by a soft cane-syrup butter; $9) and hearth-grilled Spanish octopus, served with roasted potatoes and mustard-dressed salad greens ($18). Sharing is the best way to work your way through generous entrees such as roast chicken with a lemon-tinged velouté over creamy smashed potatoes ($24) or sticky, smoky beef rib that falls off its mighty bone even before you can roll it in the bright herb salad served alongside in a warm Malaysian roti ($52). Pastas abound, from tender agnolotti stuffed with pear and pecorino ($16) to a house-made textured chitarra noodle that cradles shrimp, breadcrumbs and a roasted tomato soffrito ($20). Sides include crab-fried rice ($11) and spaghetti squash with a crunch of toasted pistachio ($7). Pastry chef Chrysta Poulos woos us with her boozy smoked chocolate sundae ($9) and sticky toffee pudding served with house-made malted-milk ice cream ($9). AT THE DURHAM HOUSE CRAFT CUISINE THE DURHAM at HOUSE Frisée salad Bayou gumbo Charred octopus State of Grace Oyster Bar The Durham House Ford Fry at home with his dogs, Shiloh and Boomer State of Grace Executive chef Bobby Matos State of Grace Chilled Seafood Tower with oysters, shrimp, lobster, crabs, clams and scallops Roast duck carnitas for two with mole, cilantro, radish and tortillas ALL DURHAM HOUSE PHOTOS BY MAX BURKHALTER

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