Local Foods in Houston

By Alia Akkam / September 7, 2011

(Above) Chris Shepherd, who will open Underbelly this fall, at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market at Eastside



This sprawling farmers market gets underway on Saturday mornings, featuring a lively mix of producers from Knopp Branch organic farm in Edna, Texas, to Houston’s own Fontana Coffee Roasters. Chris Shepherd, the chef who made a name for himself at Catalan Food and Wine, is a fixture here, stopping every few minutes to sample artisanal Pola Cheese, greet a farmer from Cuts of Color, and peruse Hatterman Poultry Farm’s fresh eggs. Shepherd, who will open his long-awaited restaurant, Underbelly, this fall, chats it up with vendors and fills his truck with Texas-grown produce every week. “My goal is to make farmers into rock stars,” says the Oklahoma native, who passed up play dates as a kid to hang on the porch and shuck corn instead. “If farmers go home with extra product at the end of the day, shame on us.”



Monica Pope is long hailed as a pioneer for embracing the fresh and organic. Her restaurant, t’afia, is a showcase for local ranchers and farmers. Not only does Pope cook solely with what’s in season, but she was also instrumental in launching the Midtown Farmers Market at her restaurant, where over 20 local farms flaunt just-picked vegetables and fruits on Saturday mornings. Here she also leads free weekly Green Plum Kitchen cooking classes. Fans outside of Houston can read Eat Where Your Food Lives, her online interactive cookbook further cementing the importance of eating fresh. tafia.com

(Above) Randy Evans of Haven



Randy Evans, Shepherd’s former classmate and colleague at Brennan’s of Houston, holds the After Market Market, the small Saturday afternoon farmers market alternative for late risers, in the parking lot of his farm-to-table restaurant, Haven. “People out here are now open to not eating asparagus in winter,” he notes. Evans, whose mother grew up on a farm outside of Houston, points out flour and coffee were just about the only two food items his family bought in the local grocery. Everything else, from winter greens to summer peas, were grown. “It was pretty simple in terms of how we ate—sliced tomatoes, fresh bread, lemon meringue pie—but it’s the way our parents and grandparents ate, and it’s why my menu (think shrimp corn dogs, beef loin with butternut pecan hash, fried green tomato croutons) is stripped down to what we enjoy so much.” havenhouston.com

(Above) Snap Kitchen interiors



Food on the run acquires a more wholesome spin thanks to Austin import Snap Kitchen. Founder Martin Berson says, “By offering healthy choices for those on the go, we can help make a difference for Houstonians who are trying to be more health-conscious, but who also want to have the freshest, most delicious food that fits within their budget.” Time-strapped customers find balanced dishes made with local and organic ingredients whenever possible at Snap Kitchen, say chili and eggs, turkey meatloaf, and almond crusted chicken over roasted carrots and garlic sautéed rapini, for quick, nourishing meal fixes. snapkitchen.com

(Above) Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber of Revival



At this new grocery store-butcher shop-eatery, the shelves are lined with the likes of housemade strawberry jam, bread from local baker Slow Dough, and Texas Hill Country olive oils. Most of the items that owners Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera stock have local roots; curious visitors need only peer at the map on display to discover the abundance of highlighted farms and purveyors in the region. The arrival of Revival, where guests come to sip velvety flat whites (sprung from Houston’s own small-batch roasted Katz beans, of course) before buying Galveston sea salt and choice cuts of heritage pig from Weber’s farm attests to how conscious Houstonians are becoming about their food sources and their desire to support local producers. “It was the zeitgeist and the consumer market that told us it was the right time,” says Pera, who thinks his customers have been more appreciative than surprised by Revival’s commitment to local foodstuffs. “There has never been such a focus on food—local food production and consumption not only affects how your food tastes but it also impacts a region’s economy and the larger food supply in this country.” revivalmarket.com

(Above) Buying local at Revival Market

Alia Akkam
Alia Akkam

Latest posts by Alia Akkam (see all)