The Quest for a Star:

Part 1- Moody Gardens in Galveston

How good is the food in Galveston? Well, in a traditional buffet style conference, you get strange, tasteless, rubbery chicken. At a lunch at the Moody Gardens Herb Fair on Galveston Island this April, you get unctuous, herb infused chicken in a rich cream sauce.

I will share the entire “herbalicious” menu later but let’s take a look at a comparison chicken from the Ritz London Cookbook – a Michelin Star Restaurant.

The Moody Gardens Menu for Annual Gulf Coast Herb Fair and Luncheon –hosted by the Friends of Moody Gardens doesn’t exactly disclose its secrets. The menu simply states Rotisserie Chicken with Garlic and Herbs. In comparison, the Michelin Star Chicken Dish – Poached Chicken Campenoise a la Servitte features poached Chicken with Garlic Herbs. Here’s the big difference, Moody Gardens has a history of taking those calorie and fat heavy dishes into rich versions of French cooking that amplify the taste while reducing your risk of a heart attack.

The menu also included Pan Seared Salmon with Citrus Butter. As a Baby Boomer deeply attached to my A1C, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol numbers – living on an Island surrounded by fish is a big benefit toward my efforts to stay vertical. The salmon, rich in Omega 3’s, was so flavorful, I was tempted to embarrass myself by going back through the buffet line.

The Roasted Beef Medallions with Cremini Mushroom Sauce were certainly the equal to the Fillet of Beef, Braised Morels, Smoked Bone Marrow and Red Wine Sauce in the Ritz London Cookbook. As you can tell from the photos, I created a gravy lake in my plate. The gravy was rich, herb infused and as the commercial states “I put that “stuff” on everything.”

Other delicious sides included perfectly warm sesame seeded rolls and an incredibly complex fresh Spinach salad, with Roasted Pears, Goat Cheese, Dried Cranberries and Candied Walnuts. I tend to overdress salads. This one had me moving the dressing aside. Last, but not least, was the Mini Strawberry Shortcake Cups. The presentation was certainly one worthy of any upscale eatery, and the taste was heavenly.

You might ask, what are my Boomer credentials to make these judgements. The answer is: The sheer grace of God. I was fortunate to have had a father who was both a Dental Surgeon and a big foodie. He blessed me with trips to Michelin Star Restaurants, like the Four Seasons in several cities. Simply put, I know good food when I smell, see and eat it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that the Guest Speaker at the event was Dr. Justin Scheiner, PhD who presented a fascinating presentation on” The Grape State of Texas”. Did you know our state, despite our reputation for Beer and BBQ, is one of the largest wine producers in the U.S.?  That is certainly worthy of a follow-up column.

Moody Gardens has been featuring herb infused cooking since it expanded in 1999 with the construction of the   Moody Gardens Hotel and Spa.  I know because I was literally standing there and writing about it when Bobby Moody, Doug McLeod and Gavin were showing off hard hats and shovels. I used to wonder how their buffet themed restaurant could afford such low prices with such flavorful herb infused food.

In short, any eatery that can produce food that can equal the recipes of Michelin starred Chefs, while providing food the average family or Baby Boomer Foodie can afford deserves a visit from Michelin, James Beard Foundation or their counterparts in the Culinary World.