photo by Julie Soefer
In a luminous space in Houston’s new Marriott Marquis, Xochi is chef Hugo Ortega’s homage to Oaxaca. Ortega, who won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Southwest Chef, puts the wood-burning horno to good use, turning out succulent roasted meat and seafood, but it’s worth exploring the more “traditional” preparations as well: Among the seven moles Ortega puts out is one made with ants (chicatana); the appetizer queso de rancho is made with three types of insects. The wine selection is equally fascinating: beverage director Sean Beck offers 170 labels, from a debina from Greece to an old-vine, dry-farmed carignan from Chile, and showcases 20 from Mexico, including Santo Tomás Uva Blanca, made from the mission grape. Of course no Oaxacan homage would be complete without mezcal: Beck’s selection runs 28 pages.