In the July/August issue of Departures magazine (
not online (yet?)Update: now online here), author/ultimate Southern gentleman John T. Edge pays another visit to Houston, where he spends a few days eating with the likes of Underbelly's Chris Shepherd and Hugo's chef/owner Hugo Ortega at the restaurants that inspire them. After meals at Pondicheri, Himalaya, Vieng Thai, Asia Market, Blacksmith and Crawfish & Noodles (among others), he decides that "Houston boasts the most dynamic and diverse food and drink scene in the nation." It's strong praise from the national writer who seems to understand better than anyone else what makes the city's dining scene so special and an appropriate follow up to his coinage last year of the term "Mutt City" to describe Houston's dining scene.
Asked about what he thinks makes Houston so special, Edge tells Eater that "There's a connectivity between what people call ethnic restaurants, although I don't like that term, and what people call white table cloth restaurants. There's connectivity between the two worlds in ways that's respectful and consultative."
As to whether Underbelly is the best example of this trend, Edge replies that "Underbelly is a great example of it, but I don't think Chris is singular. He's one of many chefs and writers. Underbelly's 'Hollywood Squares' assemblage of pictures telegraphs a message that a lot of Houstonians seemed to have adopted." Edge said the most interesting part of his trip occurred when Ortega took him to Himalaya for lunch. "Lunch at a Pakistani restaurant with a Mexican-born chef. That's a regular, workaday lunch. That everyday diversity of Houston is what I dig."
Edge seems so intrigued by Houston, has he ever thought about living here? "I told my wife that if I can figure out a project that might earn me a residency to write and think about food culture in Houston for six months or a year, I'd jump at it." Certainly with so many academic institutions someone can find a little grant money to bring Edge here, right?
Edge concludes his piece with this thought: "Twenty years from now, the rest of the nation will know the pleasures of Vietnamese steak-and-egg breakfasts, slick-sausage salads and Indian nacho dinners. For now, if you want to taste the future of American cookery, you have to make a Hajj to Houston." In the meantime, the city's diners can enjoy living in the future.