The Pappas have accommodated the gastronomic needs of Texans since they opened The Brisket House in Houston in 1967. Since then, the brothers have realized “the American dream” ten times over with their business-casual establishments including, but not limited to, Pappadeaux’s Seafood Kitchen, Pappasito’s Cantina and Pappas Bar-B-Q.
Within the family of restaurants, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse plays the role of refined monarch. The ambience is similar to most high-end Texan steakhouses: dark and elegant, with tumblers unremittingly pouring bruised gin martinis, fresh cuts of prime beef in the window, and live lobsters in the tank. One notable distinction is the rather active events calendar, which is available via the restaurant’s website. On any given month Pappas Bros. Steakhouse plays host to multiple wine, craft beer and spirit producers, while Executive Chef James Johnson creates thoughtful, off-menu items to highlight each showcase. This past Wednesday, the steakhouse hosted cult winemaker Favia Winery of Napa, California for a five course pre-fixe dinner, which sold out well in advance (even commanding a ticket price of $275 per person). The venue, which boasts one of the most impressive wine collections in the country, is one of the few in Texas that carries wines from Favia’s portfolio. Locals proved eager to sample.
Favia is a small production vintner that has been making wine sourced from strategic blocks of vineyards since 2003. Founded by established winemaker Andy Erickson and his wife, Annie Favia, the viticulturists turned winemakers developed a passion for fashioning wines that were true to their unique terrior. Working with blends that emulate those from the Rhone Valley in France, Andy and Annie utilize various American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in their artistry, ranging from Coombsville, to Napa, all the way east to the Amador Valley. The production for each release is very small. By way of example, the acclaimed 2011 Favia “The Lincoln” Grenache Amador consisted of only 71 cases.
As with almost every one of the restaurant’s special event dinners, the winemaker was on hand to provide insight into each and every one of the (generously poured) selection of nine Favia wines, many of which were produced from varietals that are under-utilized in Northern California, including Grenache, Viognier, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Franc.
Highlights from the evening featured a “dry-farmed” 2013 Favia “Linea” Sauvignon Blanc, a farming method which results in a small crop yield, but provides intense aromas of citrus, pink grapefruit and white pepper. An exceptional example of a familiar varietal, the wine paired very well with warm, crisp crab beignets, complete with rémoulade.
The aforementioned 2011 Favia “The Lincoln” Grenache was served, in addition to a complex 2011 Favia “Rompecabezas” (Spanish for “jig-saw puzzle”) consisting of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. These two distinct wines were accompanied by a wonderfully gamey pheasant paté, which incorporated whole lobes of foie gras, and surrounded by Sauternes aspic, cornichons and pearl onions.
Two variations of a Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were featured with the third course: a 2011 Favia “La Magdalena” and the 2009 Favia “Cerro Sur”. Each was paired with a braised short rib of beef with white corn grits and dressed arugula. The 2011 “La Magdalena”, named after Andy’s daughter, Madeline, haled from Oakville Ranch and displayed notes of blackberries, orange peel and Asian spice. In contrast, the clones comprising the 2009 “Cerro Sur” were grown in a much cooler region with steeper gradients and sun exposure, which produced a much more familiar Cabernet Franc blend. Elements of leather, cedar, lavender and dark chocolate danced on the nose, and gave way to a hint of milk chocolate and cinnamon on the palate. The latter was my preferred choice for the slowly braised short rib, and also proved a universal favorite wine of the evening.
For the final course, chef Johnson presented roasted tenderloin of Buffalo hailing from the plains of South Dakota. The technique was flawless. The exterior was perfectly seared which encapsulated its natural juices, while the interior flesh was light pink in color and soft as velvet. We enjoyed two different vintages of the same Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from two distinct blocks in Coombsville and Oakville. While the exact percentages vary season-to-season, it was quite gratifying to see how these wines soften within just a few short years. The pairing was ideal, as the fat from the tenderloin and acidity from the braised red cabbage brought out contrasting, but complementary, characteristics of the Cabernet.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is still a place for celebrations, corporate cards and third dates, but these intermittent events provide the unique experience of dining in the very polished wine room, and allow for an intimate discussions with experienced winemakers for the most discerning oenophiles.