A day spent with the Texas Beer Bus crew not only results in plenty of beer tastings, but in bragging rights, too. That's because the bus?s resident beer expert walks guests through the proper steps for smelling, sipping, and bathing in each beer style, whether at a local bar before the trip or at any of the stops on it. The air-conditioned bus takes the group to brewpubs and breweries, such as Fort Bend Brewing Co. in addition to other craft breweries. Everyone gets brew samples, such as light lagers or imperial stouts, but visits also grant everyone behind-the-scenes peeks at the brewing process. The bus, meanwhile, keeps everyone entertained with plenty of snacks and home-brewed beer.
In Houston, September beats out July and August for the hottest month of the year—it has nothing to do with the weather, however. The culprit behind the elevated heat level is the Houston Hot Sauce Festival. This annual event brings together exhibitors from across the country to sell and hand out samples of their signature hot sauces, salsas, jams, dips, and other spicy foods. Luckily, vendors also supply plenty of cool beverages, thus eliminating the need for bite-size fire extinguishers.
Live entertainment complements the spicy goods. Blues artists, jazz bands, and other musician play throughout the festival, and each day brings special events, such as salsa eating competitions or fire eating performances.
Beneath a basil-green awning, Cellar Door Market fills with the universal clatter of a happy kitchen as chef Paul LaLone brings 26 years in the culinary industry to bear on heaps of regional ingredients. Guest chefs lead hands-on classes in specific cuisines and techniques, which may introduce pupils to the art of baking bread, preparing healthy food, rolling sushi, and remembering that sushi is the one food that should not be roasted on a campfire. Each session is rated according to the knife skills required to complete the meal, and pupils bustle past the kitchen, laden with completed dishes for their friends and families.
Beyond the kitchen doors at Cellar Door Market, chefs create meals from scratch, quick-cooling them to preserve integrity. Whenever possible, meals are made with local products including meats and produce from nearby sustainable farms. The rotating menu has included dishes such as red beans and rice with Zenner’s sausage, smoked pork loin with a peach and bourbon sauce, and zucchini manicotti, and each item comes with instructions for easily reheating it or taking it to a dragon’s surprise party.
Ray?s Gourmet Country?s culinary team is so dedicated to building a seasonal menu from the produce and meats raised near the Fulshear restaurant that Inside Rose-Rich Magazine noted, ?There are no can openers at Ray?s, with everything being delivered fresh from the local markets.? If the hunt for dinner leads you here, you'll be rewarded with crispy buttermilk calamari, seared foie gras, and main courses such as chicken-fried ostrich, rosemary grilled pork chop, and crispy juniper duck confit. Desserts include pumpkin cheesecake with house blackberry marmalade and light cinnamon beignets with baked apples and Calvados ice cream. Ray's rolls out a brunch buffet every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and schedules live jazz and complimentary wine tastings on Thursday nights.
Pinot's Palette combines wine and art to create an enjoyable night out with friends or a date. The painting sessions encourage adults' inner artists whether they have any painting experience or not, encouraging light-hearted conversation, fun, and good cheer while painting and sipping BYOB beverages. Each session's painting of the night may feature anything from landscapes and wine-inspired art to known classics such as Van Gogh's Starry Night, and each painter tackles from their own artistic angle under the guidance of an experienced instructor. At the end of the night, painters can take their painting home with them and ring a "Gong of Awesomeness" on their way out to signify a good time.
Inside the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, executive chef Maurizio Ferrarese draws on his Italian upbringing to create an ingredient-driven menu of locally sourced Italian fare. Ferrarese always puts his guests first, leaving the kitchen to visit tables as much as he can and even inviting guests to make special requests if they want to test his creativity with original dishes. He doesn't mean to downplay the regular items on his menu, saying, "I designed it so that I have a menu full of dishes that I would recommend blindfolded."
Inside the dining room, servers deliver orders of veal and seared tuna with puffed pantelleria capers or house farm greens with Texas Lone Star goat cheese in small-plate form to share with friends or purposely hide from mortal enemies. Main-course options include seasonal risottos, veal osso buco with glazed root vegetables, and the chef's signature housemade braised-beef ravioli with black truffle and corn purée. During Sunday brunch, cooks mix together eggs and fresh vegetables behind omelet stations and replenish the seafood bar's platters of roasted salmon and striped-bass broccolini.
The modern decor contrasts the rustic recipes with its vivid color, red leather accents, and tabletop holograms. Four private dining areas offer different experiences for small gatherings, from the chef's table with views of the kitchen to the cozy wine cellar with a corked floor and a display of 1,250 bottles.