Since opening in 2003, The Tasting Room has morphed from a wine bar to a full-service restaurant with four locations—all while retaining its wine-bar charm and racking up numerous awards and accolades. Diners can select libations from a list that boasts more than 200 wines, pairing them with contemporary dishes whipped up by executive chef Jonathan LeBlanc. TTR offerings run the gamut from small plates of mini grilled sandwiches and classic bruschetta to entrees including creole-spiced quail and Jamaican jerk chicken breast, which diners can savor at windowside tables or on the plant-ensconced patio and garden area.
The eatery doesn't just sate hunger for eclectic classics and thirst for fermented grapes. It also hosts live music, meetings, and events such as 2011's Grapes vs. Grains, which pitted beer against wine in a liquid wrestling match. The owners have their hands in other culinary enterprises, too. There's the Houston Cellar Classic, for example, an annual celebration of food and wine. Also popular is MAX's Wine Dive, a destination for gourmet comfort food best defined by its slogan—"Fried chicken and champagne? ... Why the hell not?"
Vine Wine Room tickles tummies with a selection of comestibles, served in an atmosphere ripe with Old-World touches and romantic, chandeliered lighting. Begin the elegant nosh fest with the tarama, a classic Greek spread with hints of pink caviar, garlic, and herbs ($6). Or sink fromage-loving fangs into a cheese plate, a mouth-caressing mélange of Texas-made paragon (a blend of cheddar and parmesan) cheese, feta, blanched almonds, and mixed olives ($16, $21 with prosciutto and pepperoni). A white or whole-wheat pita tastily traps thinly sliced prosciutto and paragon in the A Kid Again sandwich ($5), and the margherita pizza's fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato sauce rest atop a pillowy crust as snuggly as a fresh lasagna swaddled in a sleeping bag ($13). The antique furnishings and hanging art create a cozy atmosphere in which to linger longer with the classic chocolate cake ($6), and the friendly, attentive serving staff will try to meet any request, except for those beginning with "I dare you to…"
Since 2006, La Fuente Winery has brought the flavors of Chilean wines to Texas, winning recognition at the Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition for their varietals. Most notably, they produce a spicy carménère red wine, a grape very similar to merlot that was wiped out by disease in France. The vines survived on the shores of Chile and worked their way into bottles of uniquely Chilean vintages.
Surrounded by Winetopia's brick-laden walls, visitors sample a succinct selection of tapas, absorb the notes of live music and karaoke, and explore the flavors of rare wines gathered from around the world. In the dining room, the arched tops of built-in wine cabinets fit snugly into exposed-brick walls, and the chatter of guests clustered around intimate tables syncs with the clinks of wineglasses alighting on a granite-top bar. A menu of small plates romances appetites with everything from light snacks, such as marcona almonds and indian popcorn, to more substantial morsels, including veggie samosas. Plates strewn with various cheeses find companionship in chatty napkins and the sweet notes of fresh fruit or the deep flavor of assorted cold cuts. The rotating selection of more than 200 small-production wines overrides the need for a formal list, so instead sommeliers pilot patrons through vinos imported from New Zealand, South Africa, Oregon, and Argentina. The less traveled can charter entire flights of wine or sign up for a tasting class, or eschew grapey spirits altogether for one of the bar’s 59 domestic or imported beers.
Twenty seconds of laughter gives the heart the same workout as three minutes of hard rowing. Today’s Groupon gets you all the benefits of a bumps race without pelting you with verbal harassment through the Cox Box. For $10, you’ll get two tickets to a Friday Night Family Improv show at Third Coast Theater, a $20 value. (Note: Value applies to regular adult tickets only; student and child tickets are regularly $5.)To avoid this common improv pitfall, print out this handy list of suggestions by clicking Print, located under the File menu in most browsers.
When The Tasting Room's founders Jerry and Laura Lasco organized the first Houston Cellar Classic in 2003, they imagined a handful of local chefs and vintners showcasing their finest creations. Their humble gathering grew quickly, expanding from a one-day affair to a multiple-week series of events. In recent years, individual events have hosted nearly 1,000 people, all eager to sip and sample the finest libations and culinary treats the city has to offer.
The 10th-annual event lasts from September 25 to October 12, organized around six wine and food events taking place at various Tasting Room locations. Oenophiles from all over the state descend upon Houston ready to sample up to 100 wines from the restaurant's ample bottle collection and extend long-dormant pinkies. Guests also have ample opportunity to satisfy their palates with delectable creations whipped up by chefs representing restaurants throughout the city.