Recently in Dinner Conversations Category

"Pie", a poem by Rich Levy

Recipe for Success
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Dinner Convo2 post #1.jpgHow mollifying, late afternoon, when one is alone
and lunch is long over, to stop at the cafeteria

for a slice of key lime pie. You take a table
by the window and turn your back to the room

as if you have much to think about, when in reality
you are staring blankly at an almost rainy blank

sky and the windblown gestures of trees. You don't
linger, eating deliberately, carving each forkful

into equal parts topping and filling, which
together create tiny bifurcated hillocks of cloud

and meadow with a sandy crust below,
the topping the color of fine creamery butter,

the filling a green so pale, so diluted, its hue
is almost invisible. The ice water you sip

with your pie lends an appropriate austerity
to the occasion. There are others here:

the tall bleached blonde and her mother stirring
their coffee, the khakied group from an office

overearnestly eating a late lunch, the cashier
leafing through her newspaper. When you rise,

brush off your lap, and pause to take stock
of the one untouched dollop of cream

on your plate (obeisance to the pie gods),
your crumpled napkin, fork, and the old

airport parking tag you fished out of your
wallet when you paid the cashier, it is as if

you were never here, you never ate this slice
of pie, you never sat in this chair, chewing

and watching nothing out the window, thinking
of nothing except how finite pie is.

Patrick Summers of the Houston Grand Opera

Shannon Smith
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Patrick HS.jpgMy greatest culinary experience was made all the more so by being in a completely unexpected time and place. 

In 1991 I was conducting a production of Bizet's Carmen that was touring from San Francisco Opera touring to three different Japanese cities, Nagaoka, Sendai, and Tokyo. I was in Japan in advance of the rest of the cast rehearsing an amateur chorus in lovely Nagaoka, and near the end of my few days there I was told by my hosts that they would be taking me to lunch from 11am until around 4. Since 5 hours had been allotted, I assumed we were traveling some distance but actually we traveled only to nearby Niigata, on the northwest coast of Japan, where I was taken up the hill on a snowy morning to a restaurant called The Three Cranes. 

It feels perfunctory to call it is restaurant, for it was aesthetically unlike anything one might associate with the word. The large property sloped up quite a steep hill and was an immaculate Japanese garden interspersed with small shoji-screen and glass houses, each of which was a 'table'. We climbed to a distant part of the hill and entered our little house, removed our shoes and were each escorted to a changing room where we exchanged our clothes for warm and comfortable robes. Inside the dining area, we all sat together on the floor around the table, and I was surprised to find an open area below, unseen, where my legs could dangle as though we were seated on chairs. The area below the table was warmed by a small underground fireplace, and as we sipped the first course of the lunch, a ginseng tea, it began to snow. There surely can have been no more peaceful and delicate place. 

Then the food courses began: each of them quite small and exquisitely prepared and fresh. The courses alternated between cold and hot. Each, mostly fish and vegetables, was accompanied by a different tea or small amount of sake. A great deal of time stretched between the courses so that one never felt either rushed or hungry. I cannot imagine the depth of the preparation required for a meal that was over 30 courses, each on its own set of perfectly-chosen porcelain. Never has the experience of a meal been so perfectly balanced and understated. 

That gorgeous hillside is no longer a restaurant, the land having been developed for real estate. But I treasure the pristine perfection of each of those dishes, sitting in what felt like another world and time, blanketed by the silently falling snow. 

For the Love of Brazilian Cake

Shannon Smith
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Alex Blair: Dinner Conversations
Alex Blair shares her love of a chocolate Brazilian Cake that she can only eat when she is home in Brazil. 

Can you wax poetic about your favorite food or the memory of a meal? Then, we want to hear about it! Join our Dinner Conversation and tell us your story or write a poem. We are spending the year capturing Houstonian's culinary remembrances, treasured food traditions and life-changing meals; stories of family, friends, travel and community; threads of food memories that bind our cultures, weave communities and create generational customs. Email us:


Shannon Smith
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DeliciousAlchemySaveTheDateDelicious Alchemy is the ultimate expression of our vision: A world where healthy eating is the norm and a culture where nutritious food is shared, appreciated, and celebrated. A fête in four partsDinner Conversations, The Banquet, The Art of Food and The Community Supper. Join us as we celebrate our 10th anniversary and spread our vision and culture of healthy eating.  

The Banquet, Thursday, May 19. One hundred guests will gather 'round one long exquisitely set table under the sparkling chandeliers of The Dunlavy to dine on a sumptuous ten-course Banquet prepared by ten of Houston's iconic chefs and founding members of the Recipe For Success Foundation's Chef's Advisory Board. $2,500 per person, space is limited. 

Dinner Conversations is our year-long multi-media project of collecting personal essays, written, recorded and video interviews and photography capturing Houstonians sharing their most powerful food memories, life changing meals and fondest family food traditions, which will be published throughout the year and honored for posterity in an online archive of Houstonians at the Table. 

The Art of Food, Friday, May 20. An evening that tickles all your senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, featuring a juried art exhibit and silent auction, "We're Cooking Now! The Cookbook" signing, music, poetry, performance art and delectable nosh prepared by our town's most creative chefs offered in a free flowing party that promises to last until the wee hours.   VIP Salon   with table service $250, or General Admission $150 per person.  

The Community Supper, Sunday, May 22 4-7 pm. A Sunday afternoon of music, food and friends at Leonel Castillo Community Center, on where we will pay homage to the kind of shared community meals--pancake breakfasts, spaghetti suppers, chicken dinners, church picnics and block parties, upon which the towns and cities across America were built. $25 per adult; $10 for kids. 

Steak (R)evolution Panel Discussion at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Shannon Smith
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Community_Steak at MFAH-Panel.pngIn mid-October, Recipe for Success Foundation collaborated with MFAH Films, the film department at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for the screening of the documentary film Steak (R)Evolution. Directed by Franck Ribière, the film takes viewers around the world with farmers, chefs, butchers, and food journalists to uncover the art and culture of red meat.  

Following the film, Recipe for Success Foundation's Founder & CEO Gracie Cavnar led a panel discussion on the topics featured in the film. Panelists Glen & Honi Boudreaux, owners of Jolie Vue Farms and Chef Kris Jakob, of Kris Bistro at Culinary Institute LeNôtre, offered their perspectives of farming and beef production. Here are a few comments from the discussion: 

"Small-scale farming is bringing young people back into farming," said Glen Boudreaux. "I see that as a good thing, considering most farmers are over the age of 60. I'm glad to see that small-scale farming has grown exponentially over the years, and that's good for producers as well as consumers." 

Community_Steak at MFAH-Marian Luntz.png"As a chef, I am pleased that quality beef and other meats are accessible to restaurants and that more restaurants are serving cuts from nose to tail," said Chef Kris Jakob. "As restaurants, we have to do some marketing of the lesser-known cuts, but that's easy because many customers are asking about the products and wanting to know more about the food they're ordering."   

 As a small-scale farmer, Honi Boudreaux explained that she appreciates building relationships with customers. "We get to do direct sales, which connects the customer to the farms," said Honi. "Now the big meat industry is looking to farmers like us to learn how to go about that. I feel we must connect people to the land. That's what Recipe for Success gardens at schools do - they connect kids to the land. We have the capacity to grow all year, so no one should have to go hungry."  

Beefing Up the Big Screen

Emily Paul
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MFAH_Steak (R)evolution; Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.jpg

There's no satisfaction quite like cutting into a perfectly succulent, marbled piece of steak.  But how does that cut of deliciousness get from farm to plate?  In his critically acclaimed documentary Steak (R)Evolution, director Franck Ribière takes viewers around the world with farmers, chefs, butchers, and food journalists to uncover the art of red meat. 

Ribière's goal is not only to find the best steak out there, but also to decipher what differentiates the best steaks and makes them notable, and how the shift to smaller-scale farming organizations is affecting the beef industry.  Highlights of his scrumptious steak odyssey include the Angus country of Scotland, the Kobe beef ranches in Japan, and some of New York City's most revered butcher shops and steakhouses.

Recipe for Success is co-sponsoring a screening of Steak (R)Evolution at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on Friday, October 9th, at 7pm, and a panel and Q&A with Glen Boudreaux from Jolie Vue Farms will immediately follow the screening.  We will also be collecting stories for our Dinner Conversations project.  If you cannot make the Friday night screening and panel, there will be one additional screening of the film on Saturday, October 10th, at 7pm.  Watch the trailer here!

Steak Revolution 2.jpg


Take a Seat at Our Table

Recipe for Success
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The Dinner Conversation is a new dialogue that we are starting Houston to honor our tenth anniversary, designed to celebrate our vision of a world where healthy eating is the norm and a culture where nutritious food is shared, appreciated, and celebrated.  It will be a multi-media project of personal essays, written, recorded and video interviews and photography that we will collect throughout the year.
Dinner Convo2 post #1.jpg
We have plans to capture Houstonians from every neighborhood and walk of life sharing their most powerful food memories, life changing meals and fondest family food traditions, which will be honored for posterity in an electronic book.  There will be some special sections including, A Taste of Home, where we ask immigrants to divulge where in Houston they find that special ingredient, and Food of Our Grandmothers--multiple generations remembering their family food traditions creating an oral and written history of life around their dinner table.  And on one special night, we will ask all Houstonians to take a group photo at dinner, capturing a moment in time in our diverse city for social media.  Pull up to our table and dig in!