Houston Food Blogger Collective: The Del

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

AND I'm going to an awesome Halloween wedding, AND I get to cheer my mom on in the NYC Marathon! AND you bet i'll visit my favorite New York restaurants with all the awesome food AND give hugs to my friends that I love and miss so much! It's going to be one crazy fun, amazing weekend. I may try to squeeze one more restaurant post in before I say my brief farewell to Houston, but this may be the last one before next week, pending life craziness.

Last week, The Houston Food Blogger Collective had it's first official Executive Board Meeting, which was hosted by the newly opened restaurant, The Del, located just outside of Houston's West Loop. The lovely and talented people in attendance were Claire (The Petite Professional), Erika (Black Girls who Brunch), Dalida (Brunch and Conversation), Megha (Hot Pink Houston), Erin (Tidbits), Morgan (The Foodie Chef), Sarah (Sarah in the South), Renee (Guaca-Scuse Me?), Jay (The Fried Chicken Blog), Jenna (The Starving Foodist), Julie (JulieJulez), and Madeleine (The Sizzle Houtson). These are a great group of foodies, and their sites are definitely worth a visit!

(Speaking of the Houston Food Blogger Collective, we posted our second video (filmed by yours truly) of our visit to Songkran Thai Kitchen, which can be viewed here! If you are a Houston food blogger or social media sharer, I really cannot recommend joining this fun group enough!)

Upon first glance, The Del appears to be a regular bar. Upon walking in however, you are greeted with a beautiful, open, laid-back "country club casual" interior, which is attached to an expansive patio and game area (complete with giant jenga pieces and corn hole setup).

It was a beautiful night, hinting the arrival of Houston's delayed but welcome fall, and our group was seated out on the patio. The generous folks at The Del provided us with "light appetizers" on the house (which as you'll see, ended up resulting in nothing short of a feast), as well as happy hour priced drinks for the time we were there.

Chef Albert Vasquez - who is quite the jokester - introduced himself and discussed the recently opened restaurant with us. He described his vision of The Del as a Houston neighborhood restaurant where people could "enjoy good food without focusing on the food."

The first round included a crab cake, yellowfin tuna tartar, and gnocchi tots.

I only tried the gnocchi tots since this was the only vegetarian plate in the first round, and it was my absolute favorite dish of the evening. The potato gnocchi was presented to us, swimming in a bath of cheddar and ale fondue. The gnocchi tots themselves were ever-so-slightly crisped on the outside, and full of soft, hearty, potato-y goodness on the inside. The fondue was rich and velvety, and went perfectly with the subtle-tasting gnocchi. The crispy, sweet, fried onions on top added an outstanding contrast to the savory symphony underneath. I absolutely loved these tots!

Next up were french fries, steak (I believe it was their steak frite), and mussels.

Again, I only tried the vegetarian option from this group, which in this case was the French fry plate. The toasted hot dog bun served alongside them was a little perplexing (but amusing), and this was a darn good offering of fries. Crispy, yet full, it seemed that these fries were lightly battered. The inclusion of the potato skins (as opposed to peeling them) was a welcoming change of fry pace as well.

By this point, I figured there was no way there would be more food (since there had already been so much). Since I still hadn't had a whole lot to eat (and since, let's just say it, I'm a pain in the ass), I went ahead and ordered myself their mac & cheese appetizer. But the kind folks at The Del went ahead and brought several plates of it for the whole table!

As far as Houston restaurant macs go, this particular one was a fine contender. Much like how the facade of the restaurant appeared to be a regular bar, at first glance this dish appeared to be your basic mac & cheese. It was, however, hardly regular or basic. The use of large rigatoni noodles gave the mac and cheese a bouncier fullness. The cheddar and ale sauce was vibrant and sharp in flavor, yet surprisingly light in feel. What really elevated this dish though, was the generous inclusion of toasted bread crumbs mixed in, which give it a playful, pleasing texture. I was so glad I was able to try the restaurant's mac & cheese, and I had no regrets in ordering it.

Much to our surprise, a third round of food came out! Ribeyes, accompanied by a cucumber tomato salad and risotto, were brought to us.

The cucumber tomato salad was a simple, light, refreshing palate cleanser. And the risotto? my. goodness. Cooked in a vegetable broth base, the risotto was incredibly rich and creamy, with just the right amount of pepper mixed within. It was the fettuccine alfredo of risottos, and it was quite the breathtaking indulgence.

And while I did not try the ribeye myself, it seemed to receive praises around the table!

The final round of food was the dessert round! We were greeted with oatmeal raisin cookies and a s'more parfait of some sort.

I did not try the s'more dessert since I was unsure if it was vegetarian (marshmallows, who knew?), but I enjoyed the oatmeal raisin cookies. They had a sticky, dense texture, and were not overly sweet - always a bonus with me!

It's certainly worth making the venture outside the loop (and let's be real, this restaurant is barely outside the loop) to check out The Del. The clean, welcoming, pretty neighborhood restaurant and bar is great on it's own, AND it has a stellar patio that is worth experiencing during these beautiful Houston autumn days and nights. It was the perfect spot to host the Houston Food Blogger Collective Board Meeting. To top it off, the service was great, and the food was thoughtfully prepared and incredibly enjoyable!

Gnocchi tots and wine. Dreams do come true.


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