Last night, a sold-out crowd of about 6,000 packed the NRG Center for the 14th annual Uncorked! Best Bites Competition, the tasty lead-in to Rodeo Houston’s impending food onslaught, landing at NRG Park pretty much all month long in March.

While folks noshed on dishes from 110 restaurants and sampled from some 400 wines, media and celebrity judges (including yours truly) gathered to rank 100+ entries in various categories on taste, texture, appearance and creativity. The highest-ranked bites from the first round of judging were then scored by a “super panel” of judges, who decided the winners.

Hands off, it's mine now.

Hands off, it’s mine now.
Photo by Francisco Montes

As for those winners, it was a little bit of a departure from 2016, in which Grazia Italian Kitchen swept top honors in the Lone Star Entrée category, the Rookie Award, as well as runner-up in People’s Choice. This year, Mostly Chocolate took top honors in the Two Steppin’ Dessert Award and the Tasty Tradition Award, while Killen’s STQ, which won the popular vote, and Hearsay, which took Rookie of the Year, both had strong showings for the Lone Star Entree Award, though Merlion on 4th took the big win in that category.

A happy camper at the Rodeo's Uncorked! Best Bites.

A happy camper at the Rodeo’s Uncorked! Best Bites.
Photo by Francisco Montes

Here are the winners.

Trail Blazin’ Appetizer/Cheese/Bread Award
1.Revolve Kitchen and Bar — Achiote-braised pork sliders, jalapeño cabbage slaw, sriracha-honey glaze
2. Snooze, a. Eatery — OMG French Toast Bites
3. Cotton Culinary — Duck roulade

Lone Star Entrée Award
1.Merlion on 4th — Shrimp Raad Prik
2.Killen’s STQ — Pork belly burnt ends with cherry habanero sauce and creamed corn
3. Hearsay Gastro Lounge at Market Square — Southern-fried Texas quail with sharp cheddar grits and a Thai chile/bacon/bourbon butter honey

Two Steppin’ Dessert Award
1. Mostly Chocolate — Hazelnut crunch and Pop Rocks chocolate
2. Crave cupcakes — Red velvet cupcakes

Tasty Tradition Awards
1. Mostly Chocolate — Hazelnut crunch chocolate with Pop Rocks
2. Merlion on 4th — Shrimp Raad Prik

Rookie Award
Hearsay — Southern-fried Texas quail

Outstanding Showmanship
Overall: Cupcake Kitchen
Most Creative: Brother’s Produce

People’s Choice Award
1. Killen’s — Pork belly burnt ends
2. Royer’s — “Not My Mom’s” apple pie

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