Mother Nature, the Original Foodie

Mother Nature proved she is the original foodie last week at a sumptuous banquet overlooking Buffalo Bayou to celebrate ten years of Recipe for Success. As dark clouds rolled in and thunder shook the glass of the building where I perched on the 27th floor  just across the street from The Dunlavy, I was sure what promised to be an incredible feast prepared by 10 renowned chefs was a goner — or at the very least postponed. As flash flood warnings popped up on my phone, so did an e-mail from Recipe for Success Founder Gracie Cavnar,

Don’t worry about this rain! We are on for tonight no matter what and The Dunlavy is high and dry and we are weathered in for the evening. So, don’t let a little water deter you—besides it supposed to be all over by 3.”- Gracie

The Dunlavy overlooks Buffalo Bayou, just off Allen Parkway at Waugh, in Houston. Photo by The Dunlavy

As if she had met with Mother Nature herself — which, knowing what Gracie can accomplish is not completely outside the realm of possibility — the skies parted, the sun came out, and the previously balmy weather turned to a lovely, yet uncharacteristically cool and breezy Houston evening in May.

Joe gave up his league bowling night (during placement round!) and braved the torrents still lashing the Clear Lake area, to drive north to join me as Gracie’s guest at The Kitchen at The Dunlavy. The beautiful deep wood patio set among the trees was filled with mingling guests and media treated to the flavors and aromas of Delicious Alchemy created and presented by ten Founding Chef Advisory Board members in honor of the Seed-to-Plate program that started with a single class room, and has now spread across the country, with help from the White House.

To Begin

Passed hors d’oeuvres included Chef John Sheely‘s Snapper Ceviche with Avocado Mousse; Chef Monica Pope‘s “Date with a Pig;” a hog-lovers’ morsel of chorizo stuffed in a bacon-wrapped date; and Chef Lance Fegen‘s Pupukea-style Tuna Poke, ginger, Macadamia, Mango and Chiles on the most delightful wasabi-sesame spoon — perfect with the Signature Cocktail of Peach Vodka Collins featuring Belvedere Peach Vodka, which tasted of fresh peach blossoms. Sparkling wines to toast the evening included Chandon Sparkling Wine from California, and Codorniu Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut from Spain.

Delicious Alchemy table
White roses, polished silver and calligraphy place cards under multi-faceted chandeliers for Delicious Alchemy: The Banquet

At the Table

Guests then moved into the beautifully appointed dining room, replete with multiple glittering chandeliers white roses and polished silver, to find their places at one of two long banquet tables. What followed was a food-lovers’ paradise befitting the occasion:

Ibiza’s Executive Chef Charles Clark prepared Skate Wing in Meyer Lemon Brodetto with Taylor Bay Scallops. Wine for Pairings included

2013 EnRoute Chardonnay Russian River Valley, “Brumaire” – Named for the fog that gently envelops the vineyard, the Brumaire from EnRoute is glistening green-gold in color with bright notes of peach blossom, lemon zest and wet stones, highlighted with star jasmine and crunchy English Toast.

2015 Long Meadow Ranch Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – A crisp and clean white with notes of fresh kiwi, honeydew melon and white mulberry with a hint of fresh peaches on the nose, leading to white florals, Meyer lemon zest, refreshing sea spray and fresh-cut Granny Smith apples with a zesty finish.

Skate on a Shell

Who knew soup could be so sumptuous? Our next course was a Lentil Soup with shaved Black Truffles from Pedro Garcia. Executive Chef at El Meson.

Lentil soup with shaved Truffles

The fowl dish was Joe’s favorite. Chef Bryan Caswell prepared each guest a duck leg with Jordan Almonds, Brik & Brown Butter. Both the soup and the duck leg paired well with

2014 Central Coast Pinot Noir from DeLoach Vineyards – A family-owned winery and part of the Boisset Collection, DeLoach Vineyards approaches the land with eco-friendly viticulture and minimally intrusive winemaking. This earthy Pinot Noir is firm and rich on the palate with notes of dark cherry, lavender and graphite.

Duck Leg by Bryan Caswell

For the beef course, Chef Randy Rucker presented a lightly smoked short rib of wagyu beef with mushroom and chickweed. This was specifically paired with 8th Wonder Brewery’s Alternate Universe, brewed in the style of a Düsseldorf Altbier which was tasty, but after so many courses I preferred it with this Argentine wine:

Septima Malbec – This 100% Malbec from Bodegas Septima in Argentina is produced from grapes in Valle de Uco and Agrelo regions and aged six months in third-use American oak barrels. Fresh Ranier cherries, notes of black pepper and vanilla notes on the nose, with a dark cherry chocolate mélange settling among softer tannins.

wagyu short rib

My hands down favorite came next. Always the cheese gal, I was thrilled at the festively plated Cremeux de Chevre aux Printemps, which favored Bubbles for the pairing.

Party Chevre

Following dinner came the Live Auction: Dinner at Eight: Art on a Napkin. Pieces included a 21 x 21 needle and thread on a hemmed cotton napkin from Houston artist Joseph H. Havel entitled “There’s No Such Thing as Leftovers” and a Triptych of 6″ x 6″ pieces of Graphite, paint and thread on linen by Rene Garza of Houston, Texas and New York City entitled “The Couture Cognac.” After the lively bidding, guests returned to the porch for “Sweet endings” including former Haven Chef Randy Evans‘ Vanilla Bean Pound Cake and Bourbon Macerated Strawberries topped with Lemon Curd and Chocolate Pot de Creme from Elouise Jones of Ouisie’s Table. Although it was truly heavenly, I could only manage a couple small bites.

Delicious Alchemy: The Banquet was truly a fantastic evening raising $150,000 to support Recipe for Success Foundation, and their latest urban garden venture Hope Farms.

Delicious Alchemy: The Art of Food: New Date, New Art!

As you may have heard our Delicious Alchemy: The Art of Food originally planned for May 20th was postponed due to unexpected production issues beyond our control. The event is rescheduled for Tuesday, September 27th in a new venue and will be featured as a VIP Preview event for the 2016 Texas Contemporary Art Fair! Texas Contemporary, is one of Houston’s leading contemporary and modern art fairs, bringing some of the country’s best galleries and featuring a range of works and mediums.

As a VIP Premier Event, ticket prices have changed and will start around $350 per person.

“We will honor anyone who has already bought their tickets, but the price point on new tickets will be different,” says Gracie Cavnar.

The new event will include reserved seating at tables of ten or tables for four, as well as individual tickets, and promises to be fabulous! Stay tuned for more details as they become available.


The WineWonkette