We had the distinct pleasure of sampling Chef Austin Simmon's hand-crafted Valentine's Day menu at the Hubbell & Hudson Bistro. The afternoon was one pleasant surprise after another; with nothing as we expected other than the obvious - that everything would be outstanding.
Though Hubbell & Hudson has been open since November 2008, we learned a bit of the history that came before the grand opening, "strategically planned to take place during the worst recession since the 1930's" as Cary Attar, owner, half-jokingly put it. Despite ill timing, the Waterway Market & Bistro have proven to be quite successful. The initial planning stages, those first notes on the back of the proverbial napkin, were transcribed at a meal with Joe Norton, Cary's father-in-law in Overland Park, Kansas, several years back. A lesser known rumor would have you believe that the business venture was named after his children, Hudson and Veronica. But this love story actually began in 1880, when Cary's great-great-great-grandparents Alida Hubbell and Fielding Hudson were married.
And this is a love story. Anyone who has ever visited any of the Hubbell & Hudson family of businesses - whether it be the Market, the Bistro, the Kitchen or by extension, any of the Black Walnuts, can see, feel, and taste the love that goes into every detail. Everywhere you turn, from the hand-selected produce to the house-made pastas, from the butchers to the bakers to cooks to cashiers, everyone loves what they do and nothing is neglected.
Cary Attar is a very informed and informative individual with some 30 years restaurant and retail food & wine experience, and his passion for delivering a fantastic dining experience comes through in everything he says. After completing his studies at Cornell University (New York) his work history includes Macaroni Grill, Dean & Deluca in Kansas City, Fox & Obel (Chicago, Illinois), and Central Market in Houston Texas. He truly enjoys knowing the intricate attributes along with the regional and historical facets of the food that arrives at your table.
When Austin Simmons graduated from high school, he went directly to the Le Cordon Bleu in Austin Texas and after graduation there, he moved to Dallas to began his training at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. While there, he also spent several weeks at a second job, assisting with the opening of Wolfgang Puck’s Dallas restaurant, Five-Sixty. He later worked for a time managing the Blackfinn in Dallas, before moving to The Woodlands to work at, and later operate, Tesars Modern Steak & Seafood - which is where he first met Cary while on one of his many excursions to the Market for some of their more unique ingredients. At 25 years old, Chef Austin Simmons runs the kitchen as Hubble & Hudson's Executive Chef and has a very bright future ahead of him.
With only 58 seats, the Bistro is casual, intimate and inviting. The unpretentious Waterway Bistro has no dress code and is often filled with diners in anything from formal wear to shorts and flip-flops. Meant to be comfortable, guests regularly stay long after their last course, sipping on coffees, wine or a hand-crafted cocktail. The broad range in pricing allows for an affordable lunch in the middle of the work-day or an extravagant feast for the most special occasion. And don't let that occasional "mp" (market price) designation scare you. On the day we were in, the butcher's weekly selection was a 10 ounce dry-aged, hand-cut strip steak priced at an extremely manageable $19. If you have not sampled a dry aged steak, you owe it to yourself to try one, as Hubbell & Hudson has some of the best; available at the Kitchen as well.
Without further ado, here is our take on this magnanimous prix fixe Valentine's Day Menu: You'll love the romantic Valentine's Day affair that begins with an infatuation that will only increase your desire for the enduring embrace leading to devoted love that can only be wrapped up with an orgasmic explosion of flavor.
The thing about that presupposition that the Bistro is ostentatious made it in my mind a bit intimidating that we would be sampling from their menu. I mean, I've been cooking and baking for longer than I care to admit, but when previewing the menu before our first course, and seeing the sheer number of items and preparations (many I couldn't readily identify), I worried I would manage to insult the Chef by not liking something (or worse - everything!). But here's the thing; everything I tasted today was something I would happily eat again. With just a little explanation (never heard of Sous-vide preparation of a filet? Don't fret, it's not that complicated, and it's so worth it!) all of my fears were assuaged.
We started with a couple of appetizers - the infatuation, a Humboldt fog goat cheese and emilia parmigiano reggiano chilled cheese soufflé, marinated tomato and basil oil, served with toasted multi-grain bread and a sprinkling of cracked black sea salt. This amazingly fresh, delicately flavored soufflé softly melted away in my mouth. The blend of flavors - the sharpness of the cheeses, the tang of the tomato and basil oil, and the heartiness of the grains in the bread - all came together beautifully. The second appetizer, desire, was a black Angus beef carpaccio (a razor-thin shaving of beef) that was lightly seared and served with a rose peppercorn crust, Kalamata olive tapenade, crostini crumble and mustard oil. Once again, this blending of flavors was unbelievable. Alone, the carpaccio was extremely mild in flavor, but when tasted with it's accompaniments, a symphony of textures and flavors blending in beautiful harmony.
Next was our salad. I could literally write an entire review of just this salad. No, seriously, hear me out. The endearing embrace, a square wedge from the very heart of iceburg, was at once similar to any wedge salad you've ever had before yet deceptively different from all of them. This wedge came complete with crumbled warm Applewood smoked bacon, spiced pecans, chives, on top of an in-house made citrus Roquefort blue cheese dressing, balanced by marinated plum tomatoes. Now you may recall I have a love affair with cheese, but a recent experience with Roquefort left me a little gun-shy of the typically pungent taste in the blue cheese. Once again my fears were unfounded. The sweetness of the citrus so perfectly balances the sharpness of the cheese - I had to stop myself from embarrassingly licking the fork with each bite. The overall flavor sensation begins slightly mild, then waxes sweet, then smoky, and fades to a salty finish. And did I mention the bacon? Aptly named, I wanted to endearingly embrace my salad plate and finish every last bite all the while knowing that the best was yet to come. All this to say the Roquefort Blue Cheese Dressing at the Bistro is the best I have ever had, bar none.
Oh, she'll let me talk now? Well, let me tell you, the main course, devoted love, an incredibly tender, six-ounce prime beef filet mignon, was served under an herb shallot confit (mild shallots which had been prepared in an immersion circulator to preserve the natural sugars and flavors), pepperonata (simply put - carmelized peppers) & fingerling potato ragout (slow-cooked), and a classic béarnaise sauce (a sauce made of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks and flavored with herbs) nearly melted in my mouth. The dry-aged filet had been prepared sous-vide, meaning they season and poach the steak in a bag for about 48 hours, and then sear it to perfection. A good steak is moist and tender but it needs something more to make it a great steak. Sure you can cover it up with the tomato based sauce of your choosing but those things do more to cover up the flavor of the meat rather than enhance it. The shallot confit, the pepperonata, and the potato béarnaise are the perfect trio to accompany this steak. These smaller, yet significant players to the steak symphony create a beautiful melody that almost demands a standing ovation - but do remain seated, will you? Because dessert is the next act.
Katrina, the pastry chef, hadn't yet put the finishing touches on her dessert selection for the Valentine's menu, however we were treated to her delicate Chocolate Merlot cupcake topped with a dark chocolate ganache along with some sea salt caramel, and hazelnut gelato with nutella croquant (a cream- and butter-free combination of caramelized sugar and almonds), along with a taste of lemon custard. And while we can't imagine anything could surpass this delightful trio of sweetness, in a hint of what will be offered for dessert come Valentine's Day, we can tell you it will be called La petite mort - it literally translates to "the little death," a French phrase that is an idiom and metaphor for orgasm.
The Bottom Line
We are meeting Restaurateurs and Restaurant Managers all over The Woodlands, and to this date, none have impressed us as significantly as Cary Attar. He truly has a passion for what he does and it really shows. Another of his favorite phrases, one he picked up from his daughter is "BOOM, There it is!" complete with physical gesture. His commitment to the community extends through the multitude of charities and non-profits Hubbell & Hudson supports in South Montgomery County, including The Breast Cancer Charities of America (i go Pink), The Montgomery County Food Bank, The American Heart Association, and The Woodlands Waterway Art Show - just to name a few.
With the wide variety of choices for Valentine's Day, you will be hard-pressed to do better than the Hubbell & Hudson Bistro for your annual romantic dinner this February. The attention to detail is everywhere in the menu, ensuring you will feel the love before, during and after your meal. This wonderful prix fix starts at $79 per person, and does not include tax, tip or beverages. Carefully and thoughtfully chosen wine pairings are available with each course in three and six ounce selections ranging from $4 to $17 per glass. Keep in mind there is limited seating at the Bistro - so be sure to make your reservations as early as possible. Call 281 203-5641 or visit their website to make reservations online. Do it soon or you might miss out.