Chris Frankel Shakes it up with Local Chefs
Few people in Houston can boast about having dined at as many non Western establishments as Chris Frankel. A self proclaimed ethnic food junkie, the guy has dined at nearly every obscure, ethnic hole in the wall food counter from the reaches of Stafford to Pearland, Bellaire Boulevard (of course!) and into the reaches 45 north, well past the comfort zone of many “inner loopers” who rarely venture west of Buffalo Speedway or south of the “Village.” Frankel is even arguably, solely responsible for the recent adoration by Houston food lovers and chefs alike of Mala Sichuan Bistro, a place he discovered while on one of his Chinatown exploration missions where he starts at one end of a strip center, works his way to the other, while stopping at every eatery along the way. His weekly dining companions often read like a who’s who of local food journalism.
Frankel’s passion for Haleem isn’t the only thing that has gotten him noticed in local media circles; that, would have to be his creativity behind the bar. An original member of Anvil’s opening staff, Frankel quickly developed a quirky style focused on fortified wines like Sherry, Madeira, Quinquina and Vermouth while often incorporating uncommon ingredients such as raisins or apple vinegar into his cocktails (evidenced by his ‘Bitter Roots’ being featured in Imbibe.) After Anvil, Frankel went over to Underbelly, where he developed the city’s first “in house” fortified wine program, which was critically acclaimed by esteemed food critic and James Beard Nominee, Allison Cook of the Houston Chronicle.
Since his departure from Anvil and Underbelly, local bartenders, chefs, cooks and food enthusiasts (for the record I hate the term “Foodie”) are fond of asking “what’s Frankel up to?, Any Idea what Chris (Frankel) is going to do next?” While no one may be exactly sure, he is putting himself back in the public eye, at least for the month of September, with an inventive promotion at Double Trouble. “Drink with the Chefs,” Frankel’s current project, is a month long event taking place Monday nights in September where he teams up with leaders in the H-Town culinary circuit, with a singular goal in mind, to put a tasty cocktail down your gullet.
This past Monday, he collaborated with Grant Gordon of Houston institution, Tony’s on an all Scotch Whisky themed menu, and I was fortunate enough to find time to make it over for a few libations. Highlights included “Grant’s Sherried Scotch,” a straightforward, yet complex and classic marriage of blended Scotch, cream Sherry, honey and orange Bitters; “The Jacobite,” a nuanced and refreshing cocktail geek’s haven with blended Scotch, Dubonnet Rouge, Yellow Chartreuse and lemon juice; the rich, bold and intensely smoky “Peat Bog”- Islay Scotch, Blackstrap Rum, Iced Coffee and Orgeat; and the crowd favorite, “Speyside Summer,” a pink refresher comprised of Blended Scotch, Sauvignon Blanc, Aperol, lime juice, agave nectar, and Angostura.
If you missed Frankel and Gordon this past Monday, slap yourself in the face, but not too hard, because there are still three weeks left in this unique series. Next Monday will feature Justin Bayse of Pappas Restaurant Group, former host of last years successful pop up Les Sauvages, who is sure to bring inventive flavors and an obsessive attention to detail to the shaker tins. After that, you can catch Erin Smith of Plonk! on September 17, followed by Brandi Key, exec. at Coppa alongside Amanda Mcgraw of Brasserie 19 on September 24. This type of collaboration between one of our city’s best cocktail minds and most discerning diners, with some of the city’s most advanced palates and technique driven chefs is definitely something I wish we would see more of, yet certainly a thing that makes our community so unique. So get over there, what else are you gonna do on a Monday night?
Post and Photos: Alex Gregg