Living in Texas, where there is generally a warmer and more moderate climate throughout the state, affords us the luxury of enjoying many fruits and vegetables on a year-round basis. However, there are still those delicacies with a very short season, which makes it all the more exciting when their season comes into full bloom.
Star Ingredient of the Season: Blackberries
Berry season—a.k.a. spring—is one of the tastiest times for Texans. Vibrant, colorful and at their peak of freshness, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries arrive by the truckload to local farmer's markets and grocers across town. Blackberries have one of the shortest seasons, available in their prime for less than two months from late April to June. With the time of year finally upon us, local farm-to-table restaurants are taking advantage and featuring blackberries in a variety of sweet dishes and cocktails. Not only do blackberries offer a bold flavor to any dish, but the dark berry itself makes a fabulous garnish for a dessert or drink.
Grown wild for thousands of years, humans have been enjoying blackberries long before we understood the excellent nutritional value they contain. Blackberries are high in fiber, Vitamin C and are considered the fruit with the highest level of antioxidants. With their sweet flavor and rich color, they make a great addition to smoothies and shakes and are a popular choice for homemade jellies and jams. In a city like Houston, where temperatures can get into the 90s as early as April, a bowl of cool blackberries make for a refreshing snack just on their own!
In a Starring Role at: Bistro Menil
1513 West Alabama St.
Bistro Menil stands adjacent to the Menil Collection in a quiet Montrose neighborhood. Newer to the neighborhood scene, this restaurant boasts an artsy, contemporary dining room and a serene patio with views of the surrounding park. Featuring a daily lunch and dinner menu and a weekend brunch, Bistro Menil has become a popular eatery among locals and museum-goers alike.
On days when Houston isn't flooded or tracking possible tornadoes, the area surrounding Bistro Menil is filled with Houstonians enjoying the park. Nearby Rothko Chapel and the Menil Collection are free exhibits open to the public and are walking distance from the restaurant. The large Montrose park is shaded with trees and is a dog-friendly environment. Home to unique weekend activities like acro-yoga (couples combining yoga and acrobatics), it is a great area to spend a day dining and exploring.
Chef Greg Martin at Bistro Menil offers a casual but carefully curated menu with a strong focus on the wine list. The menu includes salads, flatbreads and light and shareable entrees, all encouraged to be paired with one of his fabulous wine choices. With over 10 desserts to choose from, it was no surprise that I found a blackberry dish to top all others at Bistro Menil.
The Buttermilk Blackberry Cake, as rich as it sounds and worth every bite! You do have to like blackberries, because the fruit truly takes center stage in this dessert. The striking contrast of the color of the fruit with the fair shade of the cake is as much fun to enjoy as the taste itself. The lighter fare options at Bistro Menil make it a great place to truly appreciate the desserts, but the generous portion of this cake in particular may leave you overstuffed. I am a self-proclaimed dessert fiend, but I would still recommend sharing the buttermilk blackberry cake with a dining companion.
Berry season will come and go but Bistro Menil is here to stay. While blackberries are at their peak, you will want to experience them in a starring role at this Montrose gem. Stay tuned every week to hear more about what's fresh right now and the best places to enjoy the bounty of the season.