Nancy and I had three great purposes in going to Texas: to see Anne Rain and Hunter’s daughter, Isabelle (and, of course, Anne Rain and Hunter), to do one of our 10k state capital “Volksmarches,” and to see Henry Berry, Nancy’s grand-nephew, a senior at UT-Austin. Those are the goals that “we” had. I had a not-so-secret agenda of eating a lot of Texas barbecue. As you’ll be reading in the next posts, we succeeded in meeting all of our common goals. And I scored big time.
By way of background, Anne Rain, I should say Dr. Anne Rain Tanner Brown, is the critical care pharmacist at MD Anderson Cancer Center. You met her at Sally’s Smokin’ Butt BBQ some years back. Hunter is a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney office, specializing in murder and other violent crimes. Isabelle is now two years old, and preternaturally charming, a characteristic often missing at two. She is, in a word, a sweetie. Here they all are at a subsequent meal when I was able to get a picture with everyone’s eyes open. (Always take at least three shots.)
Our first meal, however, was not barbecue. We flew to Houston, picked up a rental car, and then experienced one of the Wonders of the World: Houston rush hour traffic during a monsoon. We’d hope to meet at their house and get acquainted with Isabelle. Instead, we ended up meeting at The Rainbow Lodge, not far from Anne Rain and Hunter’s home. It was a great choice, especially in an endless downpour. The Rainbow Lodge is blessed with a porte-cochère, so that you’re under a roof when you exit your car at the valet station, and again when you re-enter it at the end of the meal.
I did not get a shot of the exterior what with the heavy rain, but the Rainbow Lodge is a beautiful place. It’s centered on a log hunting lodge that was built out in the wilderness outside Houston over a century ago. Houston has grown a bit since then, and that wilderness is now just inside the I-610 loop. Correction: It was moved from a site even closer to downtown, the Brenner’s on theBayou site. The original log cabin has been maintained and expanded into a warren of dining rooms, large and small. It’s a charming setting, great for date nights, and beautifully decorated.
There’s a bar area, and the bar itself features a glass-covered wood carving, made from a single piece of wood, of a trout stream that curves all around the bar, a good 20 feet.
I would have taken more pictures, but there were a couple of rehearsal dinners that night and many couples out on dates, and even I have limits.
The Rainbow Lodge menu features numerous game dishes, and my first impulse was to order the Wild Game Mixed Grill, a combination of venison, elk, quail, and wild boar. I started with a splurge of a fantastic glass of Seven Hill cabernet from Walla Walla. The mixed grill sounded, however, like a whole lot of food at a time when a Texas barbecue binge loomed. As I dithered, Anne Rain suggested the Taste of the Wild appetizer, servings of venison, buffalo, and quail. Here it is —
Wonderful. That’s the venison over a delicious sweet potato puree, cooked medium rare and as tender and flavorful as can be. The buffalo, also medium rare, had more flavor than I expect of buffalo, and that herb sauce went with it nicely. That leaves the quail over grits with bacon crumbles. The flavor of the quail had to fight to stand up to the bacon, as do almost all other foods, but it was another hit both in texture and in taste.
The Taste of the Wild order prompted the better part of valor in my order, which was a swordfish special.
That was a beautiful piece of fish, thin enough that the meatiness of the swordfish didn’t get in the way, and with a lovely lemon butter herb sauce that tied together the swordfish with the grits, rapini, and onions with which it came. This was a well conceived and delicately executed dish. I paired it with a very good chardonnay, a Parmeson by Joseph Hill Vineyards.
Nancy and Anne Rain both ordered the rainbow trout topped with crabmeat.
It came in a pecan brown butter sauce, and those are sweet potato curls, of all things, and the spinach was sautéed with garlic, as spinach should be. Both seemed very pleased with it, and a small taste for me fully confirmed their judgment.
Hunter ordered another special, the buffalo tenderloin, medium rare.
That picture is worth well short of 1,000 words, I’m afraid. You can see the broccolini, and if you look carefully you’ll note some potato and onion underneath. And I confess to not have bothered to record the sauce atop the meat, but Hunter shared a taste and it was very flavorful, and very tender. Again, my respect for buffalo moved up several notches.
Isabelle didn’t order anything. She thoroughly enjoyed the bread service, as did I, and she helped Anne Rain with her food. Mainly, though, she was happy, vivacious and remarkably well behaved throughout the evening — the belle of the ball.
A word about the service. Superb. Our waiter, Russ, was completely professional and pleasant. Hunter asked him if many people told Russ that he looked like Kurt Loder, the legendary Rolling Stone editor during its glory days, and MTV host. Russ admitted that some people do, and others say Harry Connick, Jr. He added that one customer kept telling him that he looked familiar, but couldn’t quite place it. After the third or fourth drink, she exclaimed, “I know! Stephen Hawking!” I presume she’d noted the light of intelligence in Russ’s eyes.
It was a grand dinner, from entrance to exit. Hunter insisted on paying, which made me feel bad about ordering pricey wines. That lasted for a good 30 seconds. The Rainbow Lodge is a beautiful, relaxing place, and I can see why it’s so popular, even if it isn’t a date night or a rehearsal dinner. It’s that rare sort of place that puts everyone in a good mood and maintains that good mood throughout with delicious food and faultless service. If you’re in Houston, give it a try. You’ll be more than happy.
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