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Rib Cookouts Fit the Bill

TO BE ADDED AT THE END So where do the big guys like to eat when they’re on the road? Butch eats ribs from old friend Ray “Red” Allen Gill’s Razorback, stopping by Red’s place in Arkansas and when they’re at events competing against one another. Peter and Roberta Rathmann of Nevada Barbeque Company: BJ’s--the only Sparks barbeque restaurant at the competition—-try small, family operations when they travel because they want to see what people like themselves are doing. Joe Alexander of Rasta Joe’s likes Corky’s in Memphis, Tennessee for the pulled pork and ribs. But surprisingly, what most cookers recommend isn’t what you’d think. Most agree with Bill Wall who says, “The honest truth is I don’t eat a lot of barbecue. I love to visit and see barbecue places [when he’s traveling]. But when I’m going out to eat, I like Caesar salads and shrimp, a good pasta or a great piece of meat.” Unlike Bill and the other cookers, I rarely get the chance to eat great ribs

Houston Chronicles: The Food Tour

What comes to mind when someone mentions Houston? Don't think about it. Respond emotionally. Probably you said something that included "Texas, oil, Gulf Coast hurricanes, cowboys, barbecue, and Tex-Mex". Maybe you also remembered that Houston is home to an important complex of medical centers and that NASA's Johnson Space Center is nearby. Now add really good food to that list. Houston has come of age. Serving up plenty of hamburgers, barbecue, enchiladas, and carnitas, Houston's food scene stays connected with its Western traditions. But the food landscape now includes a range of restaurants serving the cuisines of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. There are plenty of upscale restaurants and many affordable, neighborhood joints. On a recent trip to Houston I took an eating tour of the town and I have some recommendations to pass along. If you have money to splurge, be sure you stop at Voice (Hotel Icon, 220 Main, Houston, Texas 77002; 832/667-4470

Restaurant Chez Roux, La Torretta del Lago Resort & Spa, Lake Conroy, Texas

When Albert Roux and his brother Michel arrived in London in the early-1960's their future was uncertain. They had a grand ambition to open a world-class restaurant specializing in high-quality, classic French cuisine in a country that famously preferred fish and chips. Le Gavroche was instantly recognized for the quality of its preparation and attention to detail and began a revolution in English cooking. Chef Albert Roux recently turned his attention to America when he opened Chez Roux on the grounds of La Torretta del Lago Res or t and Spa (, 600 La Torretta Blvd., Montgom e ry , T ex as 77356 (936/448-4400), on the edge of Lake Conroe , an hour north of Houston. He chose the location of the renovated La Torretta because o f his long friendship with the ow ner Ronnie Ben- Zur . Chez Roux specializes in a cuisine Chef Roux developed with his son, Michel Jr. , at Le Gavroche . Using sauces made with jus and reduc

Villa Rental 101, the Basics: A Visit to Beautiful Places in the Sonoma Valley

If you're planning a couples' getaway or a family reunion you might think about a rental villa as an alternative to a hotel. The last time I traveled with a group was for a family reunion on the Jersey shore. The resort was lovely, but when we wanted to be together, we had to find space in the lobby with the other guests or break up into small groups to meet in our cramped hotel rooms. We missed having a private space where we could hang out and not deal with other people. Recently my wife and I planned a weekend with four other couples. We were going to meet in the Sonoma Valley where we like its bucolic mix of small towns, cafes, vineyards, dairies, farms, and ranches. For foodies, with hundreds of organic farms, world famous wineries, and access to fresh seafood, the valley is nirvana. We only needed to decide where to stay. At first we considered one of the luxury hotels in the area: Meadowood , Auberege du Soleil , or the Calistoga Ranch . There's no quest

Off Season Bargains in the Sonoma Wine Country

Spring is the perfect time for an off-season, weekend in California 's Sonoma Valle y . Premium rates don't begin until just before the Memorial Day weekend. Off-season extends from the end of harvest in November through mid-May. During December, January, and February there can be a bit of rain, which is good for the grapes. Even for visitors, the inclement weather adds to the valley's charms, especially with so many restaurants serving comfort food and delicious wines. During March and April, day time temperatures hover in the mid 60's to low 70's, with the nights still in fireplace-cozy mid-40s. A few buds are beginning to appear on the grape vines, but brilliantly colored wild flowers are already in full bloom. Fields of bright yellow mustard plants spread as far as the eye can see. Tall green grasses glistening in the morning light surround mile after mile of still dormant, grayish grape vines. The lifeless looking vines mask the vitality that is