Back to the classics: Chef Scott Gottlich revives some favorites for a limited time

A reimagined version of steak Diane

A reimagined version of steak Diane

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes treat us to a delicacy called baked Alaska. The way mom made it, it was little more than a thin brownie with deep-frozen ice cream on top, covered in meringue and caramelized with flambeed creme de menthe, but to me, it was the height of foodie elegance.

But baked Alaska fell out of favor for a long stretch, even in nice restaurants. That’s the way culinary traditions are — something groundbreaking (molten lava cake!) becomes cliche and even evidence of stodginess.

But classics can always make comebacks, which is what chef Scott Gottlich is doing at his Second Floor concept in the Galleria. Gottlich first captured my attention when he opened Cafe Toulouse, complete with savory French bistro fare, and then at his phenomenal Bijoux in the Inwood Village, which turned high-end French-style cuisine into a local event. He enjoys playing with classics for new audiences — which he’s doing, with his new chef de cuisine Ryan Barnett, just through the weekend at The Second Floor.

Not my mom's baked Alaska — better

Not my mom’s baked Alaska — better

The very-reasonable three-course prix fixe ($55) tasting there includes his take on baked Alaska (honestly, way better than my mom’s), as well as familiar items like French onion soup in traditional preparation (rich, with a hearty beef-and-sherry broth, baguette crostini and drippy Swiss cheese), but also modern takes on old standbys. The oysters Rockefeller aren’t overgrow with thick dollops of spinach, but are instead vibrantly finished with a kelly-green puree and aromatic parmesan. Like baked Alaska, steak Diane is one of those dishes everyone ordered in the 1950s and no one has since the 1980s. Gottlich’s vision, though, is a thick-cut filet tip ensconced in a country mustard peppercorn sauce; my dining companion, an experienced foodie, declared it one of the best-cooked steaks he’s ever had. I’m already a big fan of lamb, and the delicate rack here has an intoxicating gaminess (get it medium rare; the medium cook was a little too much).

In addition to the baked Alaska, the cambanzola en croute is a savory baked cheese in phyllo pastry.  And there is, of course, creme brulee  — one of those over-seen classics of the aughts that we can’t get away from. But why would you want to get away from any of this? Good ideas endure, especially when the execution is as thoughtful as here.

(At The Second Floor, through Oct. 23. Also available with optional wine pairings, or enjoy one of the signature cocktails like a grilled margarita or Kentucky mule.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What’s Shakin’ – Siriano at Galleria, Voter turnout continues to lag

Christian Siriano

Christian Siriano

1. As previously reported by Houstini, Project Runway Season 5 winner Christian Siriano’s coming to the Houston Galleria Payless Shoe store today to show off his expanded Payless collection, including an assortment of shoes and handbags. Siriano will be available for photos with his “fierce” -ly loyal fans. The posing and pouting kick off at 5 pm at the Galleria, 5061 Westheimer Road.

2. Voter turnout continues to be paltry. So far 40,189 people have voted, only 71% of the 55,152 who had voted by this point during the 2009 municipal elections.  Early voting continues through November 4.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at

3. Yesterday Rep. Todd Akin, R – MO, who successfully introduced an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this year which would prohibit same-sex marriages from being performed on U.S. military bases, delivered a letter to the Senate calling on them to pass similar legislation.  The letter was signed by 86 members of the 435 member House, including 7 Texans, all Republicans: Mike Conaway, Francisco Canseco, Louie Gohmert, Ralph Hall, Sam Johnson, Michael McCaul and Randy Nuegebauer.

—  admin

Fierce photo-op, Christian Siriano at the Galleria

Christian SirianoReality TV is full of shows promising to produce the next top model, hot new designer, or big deal arborist (OK, I made that one up), but rare is the reality show winner who actually sticks around to have a high profile career once the cameras power down. Project runway season 5 winner, Christian Siriano, is that rare talent that makes for good TV and real world success.

Siriano’s coming to the Galleria Payless Shoe store this Thursday, Nov 3,  to show off his expanded Payless collection, including an assortment of shoes and handbags.  Siriano will be available for photos with his “fierce” -ly loyal fans. The posing and pouting kick off at 5 pm at the Galleria, 5061 Westheimer Road.

—  admin

Phew!!! Old Navy gay Pride T-shirts will be available at Galleria, Park Lane stores in Dallas

Old Navy plans to sell gay Pride T-shirts (above and below) at 26 stores nationwide from Wednesday through June 30 — or until they sell out — and 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit Dan Savage’s Its Gets Better Project.

But some LGBT advocates aren’t satisfied and have launched a petition calling for the retailer to make the T-shirts available in all 50 states.

According to the company’s Facebook page, stores where the T-shirts will be available include two in Dallas — the Galleria and Park Lane. Barton Creek in Austin is the only other location in Texas where the T-shirts will be available. Dallas is one of only three cities, along with Chicago and New York, where the T-Shirts will be available in more than one store.

—  John Wright