Farm Fresh Foods

The farm-to-table restaurant culture is bursting onto The Woodlands culinary scene with wholesome food and the freshest local products in high demand. 

Food lovers are savoring the inventive fusion of local and seasonal goodness from the abundance of quaint bistros and cafes that are popping up all over The Woodlands area. Whether you’re in the center of town or keen to explore the wider countryside that surrounds us, a healthy, farm fresh bowl of goodness awaits.  

From boutique cafes to the more established culinary names in the area, all of these restaurants embody the belief that healthy food can be delicious and flavorsome. They pride themselves on using only locally sourced ingredients and the freshest seasonal products.

And what’s more, these eateries continue to build on a cause close to our hearts too – community involvement. As well as sourcing as many products from the nearby area as they can, many of these homegrown diners know what it means to give back to the community by using small, local businesses to handcraft much of their décor. These restaurants also aim to be as environmentally conscious as possible by composting and recycling.

Each of the cleverly crafted menus will help you on your way to becoming a seasoned health foodie, while respecting the community and environment that allows us to enjoy the healthiest fare to our hearts desire.  

Here is our list of the top farm-to-table and ranch-to-fork fare in The Woodlands area that will satisfy any palate and keep you coming back for more.

TRIS 

TRIS sits in the heart of The Woodlands and is the definition of fine dining incorporating the ranch-to-fork philosophy. Executive Chef Austin Simmons and his talented team at TRIS treat loyal customers and new guests with the perfect experience through upscale food and drink, artful service and finely tuned hospitality. 

Whether you’re looking for a casual business lunch or a high-end dinner, you can rest assured that you are in good hands at TRIS with an artfully crafted menu featuring some of the finest cuisine in Texas.

TRIS honors its passion for true ranch-to-fork fare by partnering up with Unique Meats, a family-owned business and premier provider of exotic meat from the best ranches across South Texas. The team at Unique Meats pride themselves on the quality of their meat, which starts with free-range ranches where the deer are raised on grass and free of steroids and medications. Unique Meats ensure their meat is delivered humanely from the field direct to the table.

TRIS now has a new exclusive steak program with HeartBrand Ranch,  a beef company specializing in bringing 10-year-old beef to consumers. Heartbrand Ranch, recently featured in Texas Monthly and The Wall Street Journal, is carving out a market for cuts from more mature animals. The ranch, headquartered in Harwood, Texas, is an Akaushi cattle ranch dedicated to breeding superior beef. TRIS was one of only a handful of restaurants nationwide to receive a portion of the first 10-year-old cow and is now proud to be bringing Woodlands consumers an exclusive steak experience.

Try: Chef’s Burger. Two smashed Akaushi Wagyu patties, bacon jam, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, English muffin

The Wheel Kitchen

Serving up farm fresh food since October 2016, this charming eatery is set on a lush area of farmland on the outskirts of The Woodlands and has become a top favorite on the farm-to-table scene.

Serving and catering for both breakfast and lunch, the menu items feature only homemade, organic or farm-raised ingredients. It’s easy to feel right at the heart of the real food movement here with plates that change with the seasons and beautifully crafted dishes bursting with the freshest local products. 

Try: The Wheel Buddha Bowl. Seasonal roasted vegetables, a spinach blend, organic brown rice, quinoa, roasted chicken breast and an herbed chia yogurt sauce.

True Food Kitchen

With a philosophy that food should make you feel better, not worse, True Food Kitchen ‘celebrates a passion for better living’.

Featuring a passionate team of chefs, restaurateurs and a doctor of integrative medicine, the True Food philosophy envisions healthy, fresh food that packs a whole lot of punch without ever sacrificing an ounce of flavor and taste.

The central Woodlands location offers an extensive menu that caters for all lifestyles including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

Try: The Ancient Greens Bowl. Miso sesame glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow pea, grilled Portobello, avocado, hemp seed. With your choice of any protein. 

 

Flower Child

A vision of ‘healthy food for a healthy world’, Flower Child burst onto the fresh food dining scene, opening their Lake Woodlands location in April this year.

Flower Child offers dine in and takeout options, with a promise to nourish mind, body, and soul.

Beautifully crafted plates and organic drinks made from scratch help bring the concept of a happy plate to life. Using only farm fresh ingredients from close to home, the restaurant aims to cater to all tastes from paleo and vegan to kids and just plain hungry!

Try: The Glow Bowl. Spicy sweet potato noodle, bok choy, zucchini, onion, jalapeno, shiitake mushroom, coconut milk and sunflower butter.

Herb & Beet

Head on over to Herb & Beet’s new Sawdust location for a true taste of Texas. Its handcrafted menu changes seasonally to offer the best of the area’s produce all year round.

This fast-casual restaurant has partnered with dozens of local farms to bring the freshest farm food to The Woodlands area. With a three-tiered focus on food roots, sustainability and staff appreciation, Herb & Beet honors its environmentally friendly approach from the ground up, from its expansive patio garden to its efficient kitchen equipment. 

Try: Hickory Smoked Cobb Salad. Crisp romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, avocado, house smoked bacon, tomato, blue cheese crumbles, deviled egg, and smoked poblano dressing

The Kitchen

Another popular choice in The Woodlands culinary scene is The Kitchen. Formerly known as Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen, the restaurant first began serving meals to Woodlands diners back in November 2010.

Kick back in a relaxed, casual setting as The Kitchen brings its executive chef Austin Simmons’ culinary vision to life. Offering hot and cold sandwiches, live oak wood grilled meats, burgers and farm fresh vegetables, The Kitchen also offers a 65 item salad bar and eight homemade soups daily. 

Try: Oak Grilled Mahi Mahi. Ginger soy glazed, butter whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus, arugula and cilantro.

Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar

A firm fixture in The Woodlands Village of Creekside Park, Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar, is a popular restaurant known for its quality of local-sourced ingredients. Working with 44 Farms in the Houston area, as well as small wineries and craft brewers, the restaurant is the epitome of farm-to-table creativity. 

The impressive, ever-changing menu features steaks that are hand cut and beef that is dry-aged on the property. The kitchen makes its own pasta and bakes all of its breads and pastries daily. 

The restaurant also pays homage to the environment from which it receives its array of succulent ingredients, having been built using as many repurposed and energy efficient materials as possible. Part of its bar is made of reclaimed whitewashed wood and all booths and bar stools are recycled leather. They even have a filtering water system for cooking and drinking water.

Try: 12oz 44 Farms, Texas
Prime Ribeye. Dry-aged 40 days. 

Bellagreen

Hailing itself as ‘the greenest restaurant in Texas’, Bellagreen is an American bistro for the new age. Every item is made from scratch in their kitchen, located on Research Forest. Bellagreen aims to deliver the most flavorsome tastes as possible by using the freshest and finest local ingredients. The kitchen is more than happy to modify items on an individual basis to align with any dietary choice whether it’s gluten or dairy free, to vegetarian, keto and paleo.  

Bellagreen also reinforces its Green Philosophy by focusing on reducing its ecological footprint through water-saving devices and alternate power sources. By practicing exactly what they preach, Bellagreen’s green practices keep them in harmony with the environment. 

Try: Honey-Fried Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad. Baby arugula, fresh jicama, almonds, raisins, shaved carrots & mango, tossed with mango ranch dressing & topped with parmesan cheese & a honey-fried goat cheese medallion.

Holiday Recipes: Festive Accompaniments

Courtesy of Charbonneau Interiors

Looking for the perfect side or cocktail to spice up your festive celebration this year?
Try one of these delectable recipes from local Woodlands establishments to liven up your Holiday.

Spiced Bourbon Manhattan

Courtesy of Robards

• 2 oz Maker’s Mark

• .5 oz Sweet Vermouth

• .5 oz Orange Liquor

• Dash of Ginger Bitters

  Pinch of Cinnamon

1. Stir the bourbon, vermouth, liquor and bitters well with cracked ice.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

Blue Cheese Chips

Courtesy of Jasper’s

• 5 oz Yukon Gold Potato Chips

• 4 oz Danish Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

• 2 oz Danish Blue Cheese Crumbles

• 1 oz  Chives

Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Courtesy of TRIS, Chef Austin Simmons & His Team

• 3 large Sweet Potatoes

• 1.25 oz Lemon Zest

• .5 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• 1 tsp Kosher Salt

• 1 tsp White Pepper

• .5 can Coconut Milk

• Scallions or Mini Marshmallows for garnish

1. Wash & peel sweet potatoes.

2. Cook them in simmering water until a skewer can push through the other side.

3. While hot, use a whisk to smash and add in seasonings and coconut milk.

4. Garnish with toasted mini marshmallows or scallions.

Fairytale Pumpkin Soup

Courtesy of The Kitchen, Chef Austin Simmons & His Team

Available Seasonally at The Kitchen

• 12 oz Butter unsalted 

• 6 oz Shallots sliced.

• 5 oz Garlic sliced

• 4 sprigs Thyme

• 2 tbs Salt

• 2 tsp White Pepper, finely ground

• 7 grams Sugar

• About 5 lbs cleaned and diced Fairytale Pumpkin

• 2 qts Chicken or Vegetable Stock

1. Melt 4 oz butter in large 1.5 gallon pot, add shallots, garlic, thyme (tied in a sachet), salt, pepper
and sweat out, DO NOT caramelize. Shallots should be clear but still retain a small crunch but
not raw tasting.

2. Add butternut squash and toss with the cooked shallots, add stock and bring up to a simmer and
cook at a simmer until butternut squash is fully cooked.

3. Once butternut squash is cooked, remove the thyme and transfer soup to a blender.
Add the remaining butter to the soup while blending.

4. Garnish with toasted Pumpkins Seeds, Brown Butter and Chervil Pluches.

Holiday Treats to Bake and Give

Courtesy of Bake at 350, Bridget Edwards

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season is to bake up some sweet treats to give to friends and neighbors. Honestly, I’m always hoping to receive some as well!

Baking in large quantities can feel overwhelming, especially when your calendar is full of Christmas concerts, parties, shopping, and travel plans. With a little planning and a few simple recipes, putting together boxes of baked goods can be a joy. 

SONY DSC

Here are a few tips:

1. Plan to gift a variety of baked goods.
Include your family holiday favorites (snowballs, gingerbread, spritz) and a few simple, but delicious treats, such as a Ritz Cracker Toffee or Chocolate Ginger Cookies. 

2. Make ahead and freeze what you can.
Most cookies will freeze beautifully, including those fancy decorated cookies with royal icing.
Make a batch when you have time, then freeze until you’re ready to start packaging.

3. Bake your favorite quick bread for easy giving.
Find mini paper loaf pans at Container Store or Sur La Table.

4. Stock up on treat bags and ribbon.
Treats look nice when they’re in a variety of packaging within a box or basket.
They’ll stay fresher in smaller packaging, and opening them all is more fun!

5. Use gift tags to label each treat.

6. Always make a few extra for unexpected giftgivers who might show up at your door! 

Bridget Edwards and her family have lived in The Woodlands for over a decade. In addition to writing about all things sweet on her blog, Bake at 350 (bakeat350.net), she develops company recipes and contributes to The Pioneer Woman website. Her recipes have been featured by Martha Stewart and Bon Appetit, and she has appeared on the Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda.

Designing the Perfect Holiday Menu 

Article by: Chef Ruben Campos, Jasper’s The Woodlands 

Prime Rib for the Perfect Holiday Menu

Prime Rib is something that is not too traditional, but is a great way to impress, and feed a hungry crowd. Horseradish Sour Cream is a must.  I like to build around that with more traditional sides. Seasonal vegetables are a great start. I like to go with root vegetables in the winter (brown sugar glazed carrots, roasted parsnips, loaded baked potatoes) Getting the kids involved and teaching them family recipes is something to look forward to. We always had tamales in my house. Not so traditional, but a staple in my household, being from Houston, and the kids love to help with those. 

Setting the table with items passed down from generations is something special. Grandma’s placemats, table runners, crystal, were all things that I have seen that were passed down and at the table for the holidays. 

A centerpiece made with Poinsettias, small votive candles and maybe even adding some pinecones (also a staple in most of our yards) are great to use to give the table that traditional Christmas feel.  With the red already there, just adding some gold accents and some of those family heirlooms will make the table come together. 

*Content provided by Jasper’s The Woodlands

How Good Nutrition Slows Cognitive Decline

Your brain needs a variety of nutrients in order to develop and function properly. Almost everything you consume will directly or indirectly affect your brain. There is much evidence to suggest that what we do for the brain now can have a big impact on how it functions in the years, even decades, to come. A healthy diet has the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. Thereby delaying or protecting against age-related cognitive decline. Nutrition gives the brain the tools and building blocks it needs to perform vital actions like thinking, making memories, and repairing cell damage.

In order to be sure your brain has all the nutrients it needs to work properly, eat a wide variety of whole foods. This includes good sources of protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, and other sources of healthy fats. A healthy diet that is low in fat and high in essential nutrients reduces the risk of memory loss, helps prevent strokes and boosts alertness.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
The healthy fats, omega-3s and omega-6s, found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit, provide many benefits. This includes improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such cognitive disorders such as dementia. Omega fatty acids are essential building blocks for the cell membrane of brain cells. They seem to reduce inflammation in the brain, as well as warding off the cognitive decline that often comes with age.


B VITAMINS
The B vitamins, particularly B12, B6, and Folate (B9), are critical for the cellular energy metabolism in the brain. B12 is important for a cell process called methylation, a basic chemical process that all cells, including brain cells, require to thrive. B12 also protects against age-related atrophy of brain cells and against damage to the brain’s white matter, which allows brain cells to communicate with each other. Without enough B12 in the brain, memory impairment sets in and gradually gets worse, leading to dementia. You can find Vitamin B6 in the highest quantities in potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, and oatmeal. You can find Folate in leafy greens, citrus fruits, peas, and beans.


PHYTOCHEMICALS/FLAVONOIDS
Phytochemicals are chemicals derived from plant sources that may help your memory. There are a number of types of phytochemicals. However, a key group that often acts as antioxidants is the flavonoids. You can find it in plant-derived foods like blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, and black and green tea. These compounds provide a multitude of health benefits to the body and brain. In addition, they play important roles in repairing damage in the brain by increasing levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce damage to cells in the brain.

ANTIOXIDANTS
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Antioxidants and essential fatty acids help to protect your brain cells from everyday damage and age-related decline. Some studies have found that extracts from blueberries, strawberries, spinach, and blackberries have a strong antioxidant capacity. They may reverse the normal cognitive changes and memory problems that accompany the aging process.

CURCUMIN
Another type of flavonoid is a compound you may not have heard of, curcumin. You can find it in a common Indian spice and offers protection to the aging brain. Curcumin, nicknamed “The Spice of Mental Life”, is from the root of the tumeric plant. It benefits the brain by providing protection against neurological disorders. As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloidal agent, curcumin can improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.


VITAMIN D
In addition to supporting bone health, vitamin D serves important functions in brain health. It is thought to protect the brain against cognitive deficits that come with age. Vitamin D also influences certain proteins that help in neuron growth and development and is involved in many other important aspects of brain function like synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory.

The best way to preserve our mental health in the future is to nourish our brains in the present. How we eat now can dramatically affect our brains. More and more evidence shows that people who maintain good nutrition throughout life have less risk for cognitive decline and other brain diseases as they age. It’s never too late to reverse some of the effects of poor nutrition. Also, the choices you make today will influence your body and brain in years to come. This shows that changes in diet can enhance cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging.

At Avanti Senior Living, the Avanti Green Kitchen offers meals with no grease or oil and no fried food. Meals include the freshest ingredients, no pre-made foods, taking into account the requests of the community. Find out more on the Avanti blog at: https://www.avanti-sl.com/

Content provided by Avanti Senior Living

Coffee Lovers Rejoice as New Coffeehouse Set to Open in Creekside

An equal love of coffee and spending time with friends and neighbors is the inspiration behind the new venture, Lovebeans Coffeehouse and Café, coming soon to Creekside Park.

Owned and operated by Beth Ferester & Company, one of the Woodlands most successful real estate firms, Lovebeans will give Woodlands residents a unique twist on their morning cup of joe.

Beth, along with her son Ryan at the helm, will bring their very own brand of coffee from Costa Rica to the Woodlands, when the coffeehouse opens early next month in the Crossroads Square shopping center, located just off Creekside Forest Drive.

“We were running our new Creekside office when we realized that the space next door had become available,” explains Beth, who has lived in the Woodlands for over 30 years and has seen first-hand the area’s exponential development over the last three decades.

“We love living and working in these beautiful surroundings and we treasure the sense of community here so we decided this would be the perfect opportunity to bring a coffee shop to the area.”

With the vision of creating a gathering place where friends and neighbors can meet in a casual, friendly setting, Lovebeans Coffeehouse was born.

“Lovebeans is coffeehouse eclectic with a splash of homegrown charm,” says Beth.

With a large indoor seating area as well as dedicated outdoor seating, the café will offer Woodlands residents a modern, yet warm and welcoming place to catch up, all while giving back to the local community.

Rustika Bakery will be supplying a variety of these lovely pastries for Lovebeans

By hosting regular events to support local charities, Lovebeans will serve as so much more than a coffeehouse; it is a venture that will benefit many people in the area.

“With a strong sense of community comes a strong desire to give something back,” continues Beth.

“We will be linking up with a number of local charities to host monthly events, as well as providing job and training opportunities for young adults in the Angel Reach program who may not otherwise be given the opportunity to work.”

How The Lovebeans Story Began

The initial concept for Lovebeans goes as far back as the late nineties when Beth’s son, Ryan Ferester, ran a small Zen Café in Costa Rica. During his time there, Ryan created an organic vegan chocolate spread. The spread became so popular that he decided to bring it to the American market under the name Love Bean Fudge Spread. The product can be found on the shelves of many natural food retailers, including Whole Foods.

The raw chocolate spread will be the flagship product on the shelves of Lovebeans Coffeehouse, with profits also going to local charities.

As well as a daily caffeine fix, Lovebeans will sell a wide choice of sandwiches and a range of delicious pastries from the renowned Rustika’s Café & Bakery in downtown Houston. The menu will also feature a selection of wine and beer.

And not to worry tea lovers – Lovebeans will be selling loose leaf TEEMA Teas from Thailand, with profits from each cup going back to the women who helped create the tea.

Catering to all tastes and food preferences, the café will have kid-friendly options with healthy breakfast choices, from overnight oats to nutrient-packed drinks, to kick start your family’s day.

“The Lovebeans menu will be constantly evolving and we will be doing our utmost to serve up seasonal, fresh, healthy food daily with plates to please every palate,” says Beth.

“We want Lovebeans to be a place where people love to gather with their friends and families and where they want to keep on coming back.”

Lovebeans Coffeehouse and Café will be ready to welcome its first customers in September 2019.

Web links:

lovebeanscoffeehouse.com

ferester.com

rustikacafe.com

teemateas.com

angelreach.org

 

Author: Jennifer Taylor

Jennifer Taylor joins the writing team at Interfaith following a career in journalism and public relations. Originally from Scotland, Jennifer moved to the Woodlands in 2012 having lived and worked in Asia for 5 years. She enjoys running, traveling and spending time with her husband and their two boys.

 

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are culinary adventures that offer shoppers a chance to see, touch, taste, and learn about the variety of local, farm-fresh foods and goods produced around their region. Not limited to produce, the markets around The Woodlands and its surrounding areas also offer specialty foods and handmade crafts—perfect for gift buying season. Stop by one of the weekly markets in our area for the opportunity to mingle with the farmers who love to give tips on how to prepare their products. They all have a simple mantra: “Food tastes better when you see who grows it.” With samples galore, you can eat, drink and shop your way through the markets alongside families and other local community members.

The farmers market on Tamina Road was founded in 2016 and boasts 25–40 high-quality vendors consisting of local farmers and artisans. Located in the Magnolia area, in front of a 15-acre tree farm, all items sold at the market are handmade, handcrafted or homegrown within local boundaries. Owner and operator Jennifer Lobel founded the market to help drive business to the adjacent Culinary Courtyard, which is home to several brick-and-mortar, food-centric businesses. The market has far exceeded her expectations and has quickly grown to become a foodie destination, often acting as a catalyst for small businesses to expand right next door into the adjacent Culinary Courtyard.

The Courtyard is home to businesses like Victory Pie Co., a sweet and savory pie café that supports veterans—as well as the widows and orphans of veterans—with a portion of all profits from their fresh, handmade artisan pies. You can order online as well as pre-order holiday pies. While you are there, stop by The Toffee Cellar for some hostess gifts like cupcakes or beautifully wrapped toffee. Next door you will find a large variety of English specialty culinary in The British Depot. You can also check out the Chipper, a dine-in picnic table whose fish and chips are not to be missed. Top off your avocado toast with a bag of microgreens from Texas Eco Farms’ USDA-certified, naturally grown produce. If you’re craving more sweets, swing by Bamagirls and enjoy some lemon sugar cookies made with ingredients from other market shops including Red Chicken Ranch eggs, which also sells at Victory Pie Company during the week. Finally, not far away is the newest crowd-pleasing addition, Brick & Brews pizza, serves craft beer and wood-oven pizza using local ingredients.

You can find out who will be at the market each week by connecting on social media. To top it off, each week the market offers a signature, complimentary adult beverage, themed gift basket drawings and live music.

One of the most well-known farmers markets in The Woodlands is located in Grogan’s Mill shopping center and run by the Grogan’s Mill Village Association. This friendly market is open every Saturday from 8 to noon, and it was established in 2008 as a way to connect and give profits back to the community through college scholarships, the CISD school system, Good Citizen Awards and more. This market has more than 50 vendors ranging from artisan items to local produce. It also offers community involvement opportunities including learning CPR or hosting food drives for the Interfaith Food Pantry. Shopping for unique gifts is easy at The Woodlands Farmers market because you can find items like handmade children’s dresses at Petunia’s Bubbles or homemade pet treats at K9 Café. Mudworks Studio has you covered with hand-thrown pottery and A.S. Is Designs has handmade and portable wooden cornhole sets.

Enjoy a refreshing, all-natural iced KicPOP while learning about Houston Winery, a micro-winery downtown primarily featuring Texas grapes in its wine. Stop by and sample some cold-pressed Just Made juice while picking up seasonal local produce for your holiday meal from Atkinson Farms or Houston Organic Farms. If tasting your way through the market samples isn’t enough, there are rotating food trucks and live entertainment. Luckily, this market has a weekly newsletter sent out Fridays so you can map out your visit ahead of time.

The Woodlands is an excellent place to discover new experiences and foods without straying too far from home. Make an effort to stop in at one or both of these farmers markets, and you’ll be richly rewarded with sights, sounds, smells and tastes from near and far. Spice up your life—literally.

 

TRIS: Chef Austin Simmons, Cureight-or of Experiences

Gone are the days of having to drive into Houston for your foodie fix. If you are looking for an amazing dining experience, look no further than TRIS (formerly Hubbell & Hudson) on The Waterway. The experience at TRIS is so outstanding, in fact, that it should not be reserved for special occasions, but rather become part of your regular restaurant rotation.

Chef Austin Simmons, born and raised in Texas, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. He was trained under Dean Fearing, James Beard Award winner, and later John Tesar at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. At a mere 24 years old, he was named the head chef at Hubbell & Hudson. Now, with the transition to TRIS, Chef Simmons has clearly established his culinary voice and is working on his legacy.

The restaurant, named after his daughter, is profoundly personal. Chef Simmons beams when he talks about his wife and young daughter, Tris, and his priority to carve out time for them in spite of his very demanding, chaotic schedule. Chef Simmons’ passion and purpose are driven by every personal interaction he has with a guest. “The best food comes from what you are passionate about,” stated Chef Simmons.

Food from the Soul

It is the busiest time of year in the restaurant business, and Chef Simmons is elevating the expectations of not only his food but of himself and his staff. Chef Simmons stated, “I try every day to come in 1% better than the day before.”

Reimagining favorite dishes and creating extraordinary cuisine out of ordinary ingredients are Chef Simmons’ trademarks. The food at TRIS highlights global, modern flavor, but stays true to the cuisine. Chef Simmons is not about chasing trends, but rather about the seasonality and diversity of the menu. Featuring local ingredients whenever possible, Chef Simmons has created an elevated dining experience that is approachable—not pretentious.

Clearly, his vision is working. TRIS, which opened in September, is always busy; Chef Simmons’ collaborative dinner series, CollaborEIGHT, sold out before TRIS even had a chance to advertise. What’s more, in this year’s Truffle Master competition, Chef Simmons’ grilled cheese beat out those of over 20 other chefs (including from teams headed by Michelin Star-winning chefs). Of course, Chef Simmons’ truffled grilled cheese is anything but ordinary.

It is evident by watching his attention to detail that he cooks from the soul and from the heart, and that feeling comes across on every plate. That same intention is put into every dish, from appetizer to entrée—proven by the fact that the delectable crab appetizer outsells everything on the menu 5 to 1.

The People Business

The food at TRIS is outstanding, but what really makes the experience unforgettable is the amazing service. “We are in the people business—food is merely the vehicle,” remarked Chef Simmons. In an industry where turnover is the norm, Chef Simmons is focused on recruiting and retaining top talent. He hires the right people and then invests in them.

Both the front and back of the house are highly skilled, expertly trained and put the customer first in every aspect. A key component is Chris Perry, the general manager who is constantly striving for perfection. TRIS is the only restaurant of its caliber on Open Table where the service is consistently rated as high as, or higher than, the food.

In order to keep innovating and to continue the development of his team, Chef Simmons designed a collaborative dinner series called CollaborEIGHT, which as was mentioned earlier, sold out before TRIS even began advertising. This collaborative series brings in locally and nationally acclaimed culinary talent and offers an eight-course dining experience for the guests—while also keeping things new and fresh for the chefs. The most recent CollaborEIGHT dinner featured Chef Manabu “Hori” of Kata Robata and an ingredient with which Chef Simmons has already demonstrated significant expertise: the truffle.

The diversity of the new menu at TRIS and the reasonable prices allow for a wider appeal, but the key lies in the quality and consistency of each plate. In spite of the remodel and new menu, TRIS has not raised their prices and remains remarkably affordable. The happy hour menu is composed of many lunch and dinner favorites, available for a steal.

A Truly Memorable Experience

For a truly spectacular experience, don’t miss Cureight, open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants by Texas Monthly, Cureight is the only chef-tasting concept in North Houston. A restaurant within a restaurant, the concept features an eight-course meal, paired with wine, crafted by Chef Simmons. Cureight is even beginning to draw foodies from Houston to—wait for it—The Woodlands. The food is designed and prepared right in front of the guest, and it is Chef Simmons’ creative playground.

With TRIS and Cureight achieving consistent results, Chef Simmons is expanding to create superior culinary experiences on a larger scale. Simmons recently served over 650 individuals for a corporate event, while elevating favorite dishes and remaining true to the vision of food with soul. He hopes to be known as the leading provider of curated events and experiences.

“This is a performance-based business, and we are only as good as the last guest we waited on or meal we served,” stated Chef Simmons. It is no wonder then that many of the guests are recognized and treated as family by the team at TRIS. As Chris Perry remarked, “People come back because they know, regardless of when they come or what they order, [that] it is going to be good.”

Whether you visit TRIS for lunch, happy hour or unadvisedly wait for a special occasion, Chef Simmons and TRIS will definitely create a memorable experience that you will treasure.

Fairytale Pumpkin Pasta & Quail

  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup shallots, sliced
  • ½ tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs 
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 3 lb Fairytale pumpkin, peeled, seeded, diced
  • 3 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ lbs Pappardelle or Tagliatelle Pasta 
  • 8-16 small semi-boned quail (if desired) 
  • Brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger for garnish

Yield: 8 servings

Cook the Quail 4 minutes on each side under a press on a flat-top with rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and white pepper. 

Melt 3 ounces of butter in a large 1 ½ gallon pot, over medium-low heat.

Add the shallots, garlic, thyme (tied in a cheesecloth sachet), salt and pepper.

Sweat the vegetables for 10 to 15 minutes, do not caramelize.

Shallots should be translucent but still, have a little crunch.

Add the pumpkin, and mix well. Add the stock, and bring up to a simmer.

Simmer until the pumpkin is fully cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes,

Remove the thyme, transfer the mixture to a blender, and process, in batches.

Add the remaining butter, in portions, to the soup, while blending.

Cook pasta at al dente, add to the sauce in a saucepan and reduce the sauce into the pasta until thickens. 

Garnish with brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger.

 

Photography Courtesy:  Derrick Bryant Photography.

Holiday Tables

Entertaining over the holidays is a wonderful opportunity to get your creative groove on. Creating a thoughtful, unique and festive environment helps your guests get into the holiday spirit. We went with Darcy Bass, Interior Designer and owner of Bass Interiors, to get some tips and tricks on making your table reflect that magical seasonal ambiance. The perfect place for curating that holiday charm is Picket Fences, a local home decor store based in The Woodlands that sells beautifully curated home items with endless inspiration. The store is notorious for its holiday-themed home décor and has been favorite of The Woodlands since 2001. From place settings to place cards, simple touches ensure your holiday table looks as inviting as the food on it. We’ve created a selection of perfect holiday looks for you to choose from to match your home’s unique atmosphere this upcoming holiday season.

Naturally Chic

Inspired by the natural beauty of The Woodlands, this nontraditional look can be easily put together using ideas right from your own backyard. For a rustic yet refined table setting, start by layering neutral textures as a backdrop. Tablecloths, runners, napkins and plates layered in diverse but neutral tones will add depth and interest to the table. We also found large woodgrain chargers to add warmth and fall fun, contrasting them with gold-dotted, stemless wine glasses and jewel-toned water glasses.

Accents inspired by The Woodlands, like pinecones and locally sourced miniature cacti, come together to create artfully arranged centerpieces that won’t break the bank. In this case we clipped some olive branches to top off a creative burlap name card. Darcy Bass says that using found objects like wooden beads can help personalize the table and set the mood. She also likes to pull in simple yet impactful pieces such as the Thankful sign, which presents a sweet gesture to the guests.

Classically Formal

You don’t necessarily have to own holiday china to create a formal place setting. Pairing versatile white china with monochromatic textures provides the perfect canvas for a classic table. “Pull out the formal crystal glassware and family heirlooms. You can mix and match vintage items with new ones, creating a sense of character and history,” says Bass. According to Darcy, mixing metals is perfectly okay and part of the fun; using metallic accessories as accents will elevate the setting to a more formal look and feel. Here we paired gold-beaded chargers with silver candles and brought our own antique silverware.

Create a more modern, approachable look by using fringed pom pom placemats and napkins rather than a formal tablecloth. You can also elevate your tablescape in a minimal yet elegant way by making up your centerpiece from monochromatic flowers and seasonal greenery; we bought white roses and placed them in an antique crystal vase, setting them beside a winter pine garland. Lastly, top off the look by accessorizing with a favorite ornament or miniature wreath that can also double as a party favor.

Blue Whimsy

Picket Fences has a delightful abundance of whimsical, holiday-themed placemats, napkins, place cards and accessories, and adding these to any tablescape immediately elevates the look into holiday territory. If you have vintage china or everyday dishes that you love, but that are not necessarily traditional holiday colors, don’t hesitate to use them; they become unexpectedly seasonal when combined with fall fruit and seasonal greenery. Adding fresh seasonal fruit to the table is a simple addition to the look while staying within budget. When styling for her clients, Bass often ties the look together by pulling in holiday motifs through ribbon and ornamental accessories. Multicolored miniature velvet pumpkins added a seasonal touch while adding texture and whimsy. We also found whimsical notepads and paper placemats and decided that the paper goods would be a great addition to the blue plates. And with that, the table immediately became whimsical and seasonally appropriate.

Children’s Fun

Help your little ones get in on the festivities by creating a playful and stimulating children’s table. Encourage their creativity and imagination with brown paper kraft rolls, available at most big box stores, topped with mini buckets of crayons and art supplies. At Picket Fences, we found disposable plates embossed with thankful words of encouragement, and we paired them with beautiful—and disposable—wood cutlery. Sprinkle the table with delightful holiday treats and sweets, and it’s simply a wonderful table for the little ones.

The Perfect Summer Menu: Tuna Tatakai

In the heat of the summer, we are always on the quest for lighter fare. Known for tantalizing beef and grilled meat, Churrasco’s may not be top of mind when thinking of light cuisine. However, the South American–themed restaurant on the Waterway also offers superb light dishes.

Today we are highlighting Churrasco’s mouth-watering tuna tataki. Refreshing is the perfect description for their fantastic, Asian-inspired tuna tataki! It is no surprise that this brilliant dish ended up on The Book The Woodlands’ Perfect Summer Menu list. In fact, it is so light and refreshing, you may even have room for their famous Tres Leches dessert!

Tuna Tataki

Ingredients:

  • Ahi tuna ceviche, ¾” cubes 5 oz
  • Citrus ponzu 2 Tbs
  • Guacamole 1 oz
  • Jalapeno mayonnaise 1 oz
  • Anguila sauce 1 oz
  • Sliced green onions 1 tsp
  • Fried onions 1 Tbs
  • Tostadas 1 ea

Steps:

  1. In a bowl, add ahi tuna cubes and citrus ponzu.
  2. Place tostada in the center of a round plate.
  3. Spoon jalapeno mayo on to the tostada and spread, leaving ½ inch border.
  4. Spoon guacamole over jalapeno mayo and spread.
  5. Pile tuna cubes in center of tostada.
  6. Garnish tuna with crispy onions and drizzle anguila sauce over tostada (as in picture).
  7. Top with green onions.

Enjoy your tuna tataki, part of our Perfect Summer Menu.

Janelle Romano joined the Interfaith team in 2018. She is originally from the Midwest, but has lived on the East Coast and in Mexico. Janelle relocated to The Woodlands four years ago with her husband and three children and they now consider Texas home. She is a graduate of both Purdue and Southern Methodist University and enjoys spending time traveling with her family and giving back to the community.
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