Alison Cook’s 4 Best Holiday Meals at Houston Restaurants This Season

As the holidays roll in and I’ve completed another year, I feel like indulging myself. Especially this year.

So I took a trip here and there recently in search of the stars of my holidays, and the dishes I dream of during this season. I’ve found some in old favorites, and some in newer ones. Some were spending more than others. But they all sent me to 2022 feeling more satisfied. Perhaps they will do the same for you.

Oysters on a half-shell at the Golfstrommen in the Post Houston food court

Alison Cook / Staff

Oyster on a half-shell in Golfstrommen

As I eat the bivalves of the Gulf Coast with gusto, it is the cold-water varieties I grew up in, near the watershed of the St. Lawrence River, that warrant special treatment for me. It’s a wonderful December ritual, and is best savored with a glass of muskadet.

Step into the Post Houston’s Golfstrommen Restaurant and Seafood Market, the gorgeous new food court inside the renovated downtown post office. It’s the first American project of Norwegian chef Christopher Hatoft, whose restaurant Lysverket in Bergen has won much acclaim. Here in Houston, oysters from New England and Canadian waters are assembled on ice in immaculate battalions, cleaned to polished.

They open just right, without seeing a speck of grit or crust, with the adductor muscle cut cleanly and oyster liquor kept in the shells, so I can turn them over and taste the liquid.

I ordered half a dozen Chef’s Choice, which gave two East Dennis oysters from Cape Cod, all soft and creamy salty; Two Cadillacs outside Maine, giving off a brilliant explosion followed by seaweed tones; And two Chebooktooks from New Brunswick, which were all about refreshing salt.

On the side was a very low dill/apple mignonette, graceful enough to sip straight on; And a cup of the red chili oil that Haatuft uses at his Bergen pizzeria, with a surprising tinge of coriander seeds.

This is Bulgari’s serving of oysters, and it’s not cheap, at $21 per half dozen, or $38 per dozen. But it aligns with East Coast oysters in first-class half-shell locations like Eunice or State of Grace. In my opinion, perfection is worth it.

Post Houston , 401 Franklin, Suite A, 713-999-2550

Frites at A'Bouzy, upper Kirby champagne headquarters

Frites at A’Bouzy, upper Kirby champagne headquarters

Alison Cook / Staff

Champagne frites at a’Bouzy

There’s just something about the devil-may-Care combination of French fries and champagne saying, “Hey, we’re having fun right now!”

Of course, champagne should be a good thing and the fries are impeccable. A’Bouzy, a bubble-centric hangout on the edge of the River Oaks, offers both – in a simple, festive patio setting that feels right now.

The iPad wine list always produces good farmhouse champagne that hovers around my self-imposed “ouch” of $70. It could be anything from an imitation of Gaston Chiqui brut, to a champagne aubrey brut, to a Legras & Haas Choelly blanc de blanc. Served in flutes or wine glasses (your choice) from silver ice buckets.

And those fried potatoes! Well, frites, as they’re styled here, are on the menu for French enough. They’re skinny, twice fried, with scraps of skin and glazed spots, and have the all-important texture of unfrozen potatoes. It’s a sprawling arrangement that comes with garlic aioli for dipping. Peak experience all around.

A’Bouzy 2300 Westheimer, 713-722-6899

Beef Wellington in Bludoorn (pictured above)

Yuletide is a great excuse to eat fancy retro classics like Beef Wellington, this extravagant of beef drenched in chopped mushroom duxelles and encased in a pastry crust.

Really, anything “en cruti” seems appropriate in the winter months, and it gets even worse when the crust has something warm and cheerful in it. In December, Chef Aaron Bloodorn used to serve his version of Beef Wellington at Café Boulud in New York City when Executive Chef Daniel Boulud was there. That’s what he does at the Houston restaurant he opened last year with his Houston wife, Victoria Pappas.

It’s an unforgettable version, offered for $58 a plate during New Year’s Eve. Beautiful rare beef meets an umami batch of wild mushrooms under a sturdy pastry crust, lit with Perigourdine sauce, a truffle concentration of paan juices that glows agate red. It comes with salsaic sticks, earthy root vegetables, and extra-thick mashed spinach. You can add scallops from foie gras if you want to go over the top, and you really probably do.

One of Bludorn’s pleasures is smart wine service. So I ended up with a glass of JL Chave Cotes-du-Rhone “Mon Coeur” which made me feel, along with Wellington, as if I was living the best life of the holiday season, the fantasy-lit Norfolk pines and all.

Blodoorn , 807 Taft, 713-999-0146

Royal Red Shrimp in Eunice

Royal Red Shrimp in Eunice

Alison Cook / Staff

Royal Red Shrimp in Eunice

There’s the Gulf shrimp, and then there’s the Royal Red Gulf shrimp, those huge deep-water specimens that are celebrated along the Flora-Bama stretch of the bay. They have the sweetness and texture of lobster meat. Boiled or steamed in their shells, they turn into a distinct pearly pink shade that gives them an unnatural beauty.

Eunice is the first restaurant in Houston to serve me Royal Reds, and they still list it at $21 for a half dozen. They’re so big and luxurious that six of them are plenty, pop right out of their husks and dipped in a bit of remoulade or cocktail sauce – the kind with thin chunks of shredded horseradish on top.

The Royal Reds smell like the ocean, in the best way. If you’re enjoying it on Eunice’s big patio, with a glass of Crémant and chanting from loudspeakers hidden in loud Live Oaks, well…this one says “Houston Christmas.”

Eunice , 3737 Buffalo Speedway, 832-491-1717

alison.cook@chron.com

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