This past Friday, handsome men and beautiful women strolled along the aisles of the chic Sugar Land Marriott Town Square’s ballroom, sipping on fine wines and tasting bites created by chefs from all over the city of Houston. The Grand Tasting, a part of the Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair, was the occasion.

Unquestionably, The Grand Tasting is the largest and most exciting event at the yearly festival that includes four days of fun centered on dining and imbibing. A dizzying array of countless wines of every style imaginable competed for my attention alongside the delectable dishes being served by the creating chefs themselves. While I tried more wines and dishes that I could list, I had some definitive favorites that I keep savoring in my imagination.

Chef Ronnie Killen’s smoked brisket, topped with delicate bonito flakes and shiitake mushroom powder, was served with a small dropper of mushroom consommé that was meant to be released into your mouth right after taking a bite of the meaty main component. The one-bite delight pleased with its unique flavor combination and decidedly deep flavor.

Finishing off the Killen’s experience at their booth, which almost seemed like satellite location of Killen’s Steakhouse’s Pop-Up BBQ joint, was peach cobbler, re-formatted. Peach gelée topped a streusel crumble, which was then topped with “dragon kisses,” or liquid nitrogen meringue. The one-bite dessert was exciting, delicious, and fun – a cloud of smoke came out of mine and everyone that tried it’s nose.

Renato de Pirro of Ristorante Cavour’s hand-made pasta with sausage; fresh octopus in olive oil and herbs from Cove Raw Bar; a pesto-crusted scallop from the Royal Sonesta; and Peruvian-style ceviche and Cordua’s legendary tres leches cake form Churrasco’s Sugar Land were some of the additional dishes that made my “top list.”

Wine-wise, I was enchanted not by a fancy schmancy wine, but rather a simple, affordably priced wine called Pepe Nero — an Italian Rosso, which is a blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Malvasia Nera grapes. The wine was nice and light and fruit-forward, a perfect red for enjoying on a patio in Houston’s hot summer months.

My only regret after attending the Grand Tasting? Not booking a hotel room at the swanky Sugar Land Marriott Town Square, which felt more like a boutique-y than commercial chain hotel. I would have loved to trek up to a room, take a nap after the event, and then finished enjoying the night at the bustling Sugar Land Town Square. Next year, I’ll be prepared to wine down and wind down at the same spot.


Urban Swank did receive complimentary passes, but the opinions expressed are our own.

Carla Gomez


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