A trip to the UnderBelly via Chef Chris Shepard


When looking for restaurants to enjoy in the random cities I get to visit, I always check a couple of sources to make sure my palette gets pleasured.  Luckily, being in the industry I get the luxury of referencing my DineAround publications from Datassential, they never steer me wrong.  

I also tend to scour endless websites that break down each city by culinary districts and flavor neighborhoods as I seek out the shadey locations that only the local foodies talk about.  Like many, I also enjoy some good food porn from time to time as well as I try to determine where to dine.  

Ironically or not, these amazing places fall in the typically “transitioning areas”.  These areas are always the up and coming and trendy sections of town that tend to scream good food, dancing, shopping and style.  Gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor these areas always lead the big cities and the rest of the country with their openness, creativity, edgeiness and general flamboyance.  

The call last week was Chef Chris Shepard’s UnderBelly.  This is his journey through the food scene of Houston, where in the underbelly of the city “lies an endless array of ingredients and cultures” that shapes his cultural influence.


He provides a great hipster vibe from when you walk in the door until you leave.  From the display of canned and preserved ingredients used in his dishes to the recycled book menu’s and daily changing dishes built from what he finds that morning in the markets, the overall look and feel is exciting, flavorful and fun.  Being known for his nose to tail approach, cured meats and interesting flavor combinations I dove right into the charcuterie plate.  

The charcuterie plate featured an array of traditional favorites and a salami with an interesting flavor twist.  While they were all delicious, his adventurous efforts didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  The mustard and pickled veggies are always a nice compliment to the fatty goodness, but while the meat was delicious, it was nothing above average.  

Here are the featured meats:

Vietnamese Salami – looking for the Vietnamese part of this one was a struggle.  As it was delicious, just tasted like salami. 

Mortadella – typical, like fancy bologna but has a nice spicy, peppery finish

Cured Pork Belly – melts away in your mouth like butter.

Coppa – melts with slight smokiness and sweetness

Molenzino – coppa type with nice salty finish

For my main course I tried to once again embrace his southern heritage and creative flavor spirit and went with the grilled chuck flap, braised greens and beet salad.  All three of these were nicely done, the beef was well marbled and cooked prefectly with a solid char and bloody center.  The greens were a prefect mix of bitter and sour and the beets, while slightly bland, complemented the dish solidly.  Overall, the main course was delicious and lived up to his underbelly theme.  

For dessert, I went with his staple and crowd favorite, the vinegar pie.  This was probably the most interesting part of the meal.  It was kind of like a key lime pie, but made with sugar cane vinegar.  While it had the awesome vinegar bite you would expect, the overall product was disappointing.  The crust was extremely thick and didn’t quite meld well with the sweet acid filling.  

The peanut brittle on top was a great idea, but the overall texture was extremely hard and sticking to your teeth, so while it was a good thought, I probably would have left it off.  

Overall, the hipster appeal was definitely there as the ambiance was Southernly inviting and elegant.  The food was creative and while I appreciated his story, vision and overall flavor combinations, the bill was a bit excessive for the flavor delivery and culinary impact.  In the end, while I would consider coming back the next time I am in Houston, it may fall back to the end of the list with so many other choices.

Starbucks found themselves a Unicorn this week 


In the hunt for the ultimate drink, Starbucks has struck gold this week with its introduction of the Unicorn Frappuccino.      In the words of the Barista at our local Oconomowoc Starbucks yesterday, “sorry, but the whole country is out”.   This is one day earlier than advertised, making the craze for this unique creation, even that much more successful.  

The drink takes a break from the normal hum drum latte and transforms the drinker to a magical world of pink and purple.  The sour and sweet combination makes the tongue sing with fantastical excitement.  This magical mixture of sour mango and sweet blue raspberry provide a perfect melody of deliciousness.  Like my favorite candy, Sour Patch Kids, it gives you a quick hit of sour, but finishes sweet,  like the naughty little creatures they are.  

When you look at the hysteria and happiness that this drink has created over the past five days, I would say that Starbucks has again successfully made many people happy and hyper.  With a mere 59 grams of sugar, it may not be the healthiest of treats, but it may be the most fun!

Kiss me, I’m Irish.   At least for today

It’s amazing how many people suddenly become Irish on March 17th.  Even if your great, great, great Grandma knew an Irish guy in her town, you are magically transformed into a leprechaun and have green Irish blood running through your veins.  Actually, according to the US Census, only 32.7 million US residents claimed Irish ancestry in 2015. This is more than seven times the population of Ireland (4.6 million), but less than 10% of the US population, so why is it that we all want to be Irish for the day.  

I thinks it’s the Guinness.   In fact, according to USA Today over 13 million pints of this lovely, black gold will be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day.  

Since I am, at least 1/6th Irish, I find it appropriate and a ancestral necessity to support the other 56% of Americans who plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but do we really know why?  Do you know who St. Patrick was and why we plan to fork out over $5.3B in 2017in his holy name?  

Like over 30% of US households who plan to cook a special meal for St. Patty’s Day, my daughter Cate and I figured it appropriate to showcase our favorite Irish dish, Shepard’s pie, with you today from our favorite crazy chef and useles vat of food knowledge Alton Brown.  His recipe, while is traditional in spirit, always has an Alton flare that adds that tasty amount of yum that Cate and I both enjoy. 

http://altonbrown.com/shepherds-pie-recipe/

I also figured it appropriate to attach yet another set of useless St. Pattys Day knowledge for the reading enjoyment.    


Enjoy this recipe, a room temperature pint of Guinness and top of the morning to you.

Lingo Lunch

A Canteen of World Travellers Baking Stories

Sunny Sleevez

Sun Protection & Green Info

theimaginationmuscle

Birthplace to all ideas:please, let me share a few of my own.

poet on earth

my yoga-inspired life

NuVote Reach

Political Co-Dependency Intervention

Living with Intent

Liberate from convention and live with extraordinary intention

This Way Up

Seven Tools for Unleashing Your Creative Self and Transforming Your Life

%d bloggers like this: