I love the Houston Zoo. It's always among the top three things I mention to people when I extol the virtues of my adopted hometown. I'm even a fan of the food at the zoo. But tasting events? Not so much.
I can say with complete honesty that I'm very proud of Houstonia's tasting events, partly because our marketing and events manager, Laura Tracy, is an actual genius at her job, and ensures everything runs not only smoothly but beautifully, but also because I have a hand in picking the restaurants that take part. But more often than not, it goes very much in the opposite direction. Like the nationally recognized party that had its first Houston iteration last year, which featured chefs running out of food before the VIP hour was over, one well-known chef unable to boil water for his pasta, and a guest OD-ing at the valet stand.
All this is to say, my first encounter with Feast With the Beasts was not only one of the good ones, but many steps beyond that. The food, like any walk-around tasting, is a mixed bag. For some dishes, like octopus from Izakaya, or lovingly fire-roasted slices of beef from Fogo de Chão, I didn't have the patience to stand in prohibitively long lines. But I enjoyed everything from surprisingly picante pork tacos from Molina's Cantina and chocolate fondue from the Melting Pot right at the entrance, to Turmeric Apple'Ade from Juice Girl and the sausage-and-chicken gumbo from BB's Café, to which I'm already addicted, at the opposite end of the zoo.
The event is so huge that it's possible to walk off the calories in which you indulge just trying to find dishes that you especially crave. In my case, I found myself enticed by fast food places I've never tried but wouldn't be caught dead spending my own money on. Nothing Bundt Cakes: I'm sorry. I'll now spend my own money on your chocolate-chocolate chip cake anytime. Pei-Wei: I threw away your sweet-and-sour chicken before I could finish an entire bite.
But ultimately, the reason you go to the zoo is for the beasts, not the feasting. Around practically every corner, there was a staffer with a snake, but I attained Feast With the Beasts Nirvana when I ventured into the Natural Encounters to see my friend, Succotash. The grande dame was just waking up, but her younger counterpart, Curly, was fulfilling his role as an entertainer, eating a bunch of grapes. Doesn't sound like much? Watch the video and see why you shouldn't miss next year's annual buffet of fun.