An unforgettable dinner at Robert del Grande’s RDG

Next stop in our celebration of Tracie P’s birthday weekend (which, according to reports from overseas, is now considered a national holiday in the blogosphere), was one of those truly magical rooms, where my true love’s eyes seemed to sparkle from the moment the hostess said, “right this way, your table’s waiting.”

Cousins Joanne and Marty, Tracie P, and I were joined by Tracie P’s childhood friend Talina at Robert del Grande’s newish restaurant RDG in Houston. And de rigueur, we had to start off with what we all agreed is one of the best Margaritas any of us have ever had: equal parts Herradura Silver Tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice (half Persian lime, half Key lime).

Next came Gulf crab…

and beef nachos…

The seared avocado salad was purely brilliant…

Tortilla soup lifted our bright spirits even higher…

The wine list at RDG can be intimidating (and is designed for the high roller) but it also has some wonderful gems and reasonable price points, like this 2004 Deutz Blanc de Blancs. The nose on this wine was so yummy we didn’t even want to drink it! (We also had a bottle of Bobby and Lachlan’s 2008 Scarpetta Friuliano at a great price, btw.)

And the reason why RDG is worth every penny: the attention to detail and the caliber of service (3 staff members on our table) take the ineffably delicious food to yet another level of sensorial reward.

Tracie P and I will be heading out shortly for the last event in her birthday celebration. Aren’t you as glad as I am that she was born? :-)

Best margarita in Texas (and Tex Mex gefilte fish)

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Above: “The best margarita in Texas,” according to my friend, client, and sommelier extraordinaire Julio Hernández, as served at the legendary RDG Bar Annie in Houston.

Last night after pouring and speaking about Italian wines at my client’s tasting in Houston, my friend Julio treated me to what he calls “best margarita” at the legendary RDG Bar Annie, where there may be a recession going on but there is no shortage of bling and great food.

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Above: Many believe that owner and master chef Robert del Grande is the founding father of “Southwest American” cuisine. His signature shrimp meatballs were delicious. Raw shrimp is finely chopped and formed into balls and then poached. Tex Mex gefilte fish!

The margarita recipe? Equal parts Herradura Silver Tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice (half Persian lime, half Key lime). “Silver tequila has that stoney minerality,” said Julio, “that we Chablis drinkers like so much.”

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Above: Fried tortilla strips topped with crab meat and avocado. Soooooo good, especially paired with the cocktail. Also not to be missed, although not as photogenic, are the crab beignets with creamy Tabasco sauce.

I gotta say (and I’m not kidding here, Alfonso!) that this was the best margarita I’ve had since moving to Texas and Julio is right: the dominant minerality balanced the acidity of the lime and the sweetness of the Cointreau, making it more food friendly than any margarita I’ve ever had.

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Above: Julio, left, with Bar Annie wine director José Perez Montufar.

One of the unique things about Bar Annie is that it combines Houston glamor with truly great food AND a world-class wine list. There were many trophy wines on the list, way beyond my reach, but in every section there was a little gem, like the Inama Carmenere Più, that I can afford on a night on the town.

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Above: There is no shortage of bling at Bar Annie, as evidenced by the valet parking lot. The trade-in value on my Hyundai Sonata was a Christmas windfall! ;-)

2009 has been a wonderful, wonderful year for me, despite the recession and my own struggles to make a living in this economy. Sometimes it helps to have friends in high places.

Thanks again, Julio and José, for a truly special treat!

And happy Friday ya’ll! I’ve been on the road all week and “moving boxes,” as we say in the biz, and I can’t wait to get home to my super fine lady!