It’s 7:30 a.m. as wisps of fog hover above the trees that blanket Hermann Park. The orange glow from the street lights peek out from beneath them. I sip coffee from the umpteenth floor of the decadent Hotel Zaza, willing the caffeine to work its magic and motivate me to pack up strewn clothes and swag acquired from a whirlwind three days in Houston*.

I had been to Houston a few times several years ago and can still remember devouring coastal Mexican seafood dishes at Chef Aquiles Chavez’s La Fisheria and sipping refreshing Kentucky Mules at Okra Charity Saloon. Little did I know that my initial taste of Houston was just the tip of globally-inspired menus reflective of one of the most ethnically diverse metropolitan cities in the country.

“Whatever you want, you can find it here,” enthused one Uber driver on the way to Cypress Trails, where I would mount a horse for the first time since some friend’s single-digit birthday. It was a humbling experience to brace myself upright for two hours while Cytron, a mellow Arabian horse ambled through the peaceful trail.

Finding whatever you want in Houston is certainly the case when indulging your inner glutton.

Post-horseback ride, I sipped a local IPA and popped grilled okra dressed in what tasted like a soy-based sauce at Underbelly, helmed by James Beard award winner Chef Chris Shepherd.

“Where are the dumplings?” I asked my tour hostess, sinking my teeth into a delicately battered catfish BLT.

“These are the dumplings,” she said, pointing her chopsticks at the spicy dish of goat and doughy bits we’d been picking at. Oh. I was expecting the Korean braised goat to serve as filler for the dumpling, though that was a non-issue. The dilemma at hand for the afternoon was this: to dessert or not to dessert?

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Korean braised goat and dumplings at Chef Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly

 

Over the next four days, I’d also learn that Houston has begun to carve out a name for itself among cities boasting beautifully restored public green spaces, waterways and deliberately placed trails.

At Buffalo Bayou Park alone, you can rent bikes, boats and kayaks; take in the downtown skyline atop The Brown Foundation Lawn; scope out the bat colony in the Waugh Drive Bridge at sunset, among other recreational activities. My favorite part of all of the park touring we did was zipping along the moss-colored bayou in a bright orange Electra Townie (I’ve always wanted one of those) one pleasantly warm afternoon.

If I ever find myself back in Houston on my own itinerary, I’m not sure it would look much different. I’d likely begin the day with a good cup of coffee and a filling breakfast, spend most of the day outside and find a good spot to sip a refreshing cocktail and watch the sunset. Dessert; definitely included.

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Pausing for a snap of Buffalo Bayou during a bike tour with Bayou City Bike Tours

 

*Thanks to Visit Houston for hosting me in October!

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