Saturday, November 12, 2011


Happy hour with my food blogger friends -- epicuriosities, Girl Gone Grits, Tequila Tracker, Austin Gastronomist, and Franish Nonspeaker! And now that the weather is decent enough to sit outside, it was a great opportunity to go to Contigo, an east Austin, all-outdoors spot, that is generating a lot of buzz, and now I know why -- the food and service was great!

Contigo has some covered seating areas, but let's be clear, it's still outdoors. I CAN'T imagine what it was like in the brutal heat of the summertime. They did install fans and I think some water misters, which have now given way to heaters, but when it's 100-and-whatever-degrees outside, no thank you. I will stick to the air conditioner. On a cooler November evening though, it was perfect. And when you put six food people together, everyone wants to share!

Like a dork, I walked out of my house without my camera, and as we know from past experience in low light, the camera on my cell phone is of no use. So a big *thank you* to the lovely Christy from for her willingness to share her photos! :)

Tempura green beans with sambal aioli.
PEI mussels in a kimchi and lemongrass broth.
Pigs in a blanket. French fries with aioli. Olives.

Foie gras with chestnut butter and apple gastrique with brioche toast. OMG!
Two different pates, a country (with apple and Dijon mustard; on right in photo) and a smooth (with tempura eggplant drizzled with honey; top left in photo).

S'mores with sweetened lardo....almost too sweet, but still amazingly good! Chocolate and pig fat! That's right.
Housemade ricotta with almond tuille, sort of a deconstructed cannoli. Light, and not real sweet, almost savory. (Would have been perfect with mini chocolate chips!) The tuille looks huge in this pic, and I guess it was....I could have eaten two bowls of that!
I feel like I am forgetting something, other than the two Moscow Mules that I consumed. They change their menu, because what is currently listed online only has about half the dishes we saw on the menu.

Before last night, I had a hard time wrapping my head around Contigo's location. The best way to describe it is the southern border of the Mueller tract. I took Manor Road east of Airport Blvd, and about another quarter mile down is Anchor Lane, and turn left. Contigo is on the left, and you can see Mueller houses on the right. A great spot for that part of town! And granted it was a Friday night, there were hardly any free tables; I'd say they're not hurting for business. And I'd happily return.

Chez Nous

Chez Nous has been downtown Austin's reigning French bistro since 1982. I've been aware of it (and have wanted to go) practically since I moved here, in late 1994. Success!

The night before Halloween, we were brave enough to venture downtown; Chez Nous lies just off 6th Street on Neches, in the middle of all the hubbub. My dining companion had been there innumerable times over the years, and even knew some of the wait staff by name. The inside is more rustic than I had imagined. Very comfortable and casual, not at all "snooty" like the French and their establishments have a reputation for.

I had attended the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival at the Long Center earlier in the day, and was not starving. Side bar: I now know what all the fuss over the brisket from Snow's BBQ in Lexington is all about. It and Franklin BBQ easily were the best briskets on site. But back to French food. We split the pate for an appetizer, and my friend's salade Lyonnaise with poached egg is in the background of the picture. The pate looks more pink in the picture than I recall it being in person, but it was very nice and smooth, mild flavor.
For a main dish, I had the escargot and salade du marche, in an effort to eat a bit lighter after lots of bbq. The escargot (the middle dish, in the pic below) were a little difficult to find amongst all the mushrooms. The menu description says they are sauteed with traditional garlic and parsley butter, but to me, it had a very strong white wine flavor, and it  hadn't been cooked off all the way. Have to say, I like the escargot at Justine's better, just pure garlic butter that makes you want to lick off the plate. My spinach salad was a nice combo with endive, haricot verts, roquefort, and lardon with a citrus vinaigrette. My friend had their menu du jour, which consists of an app, main course and dessert. Her main course was grilled rib eye steak, which was cooked a perfect medium rare.
For dessert, we had the chocolate mousse, which was underwhelming (gummy and with skin) and the crepe Normande, a slightly thick crepe with undercooked apples, but a really delicious caramel sauce that makes you want more. Overall, I found the service to be odd. The staff was friendly, but sort of aloof, and that's all 4 of the different wait people who took drink, food, and dessert orders, cleared plates, brought new silverware, etc. We couldn't tell if they were a bit short staffed or what the situation was, though my friend did say it wasn't usually like that.
So I can now say I've been to Chez Nous. It's comfortable, a good value, and overall, quite decent food. But I don't now that there was anything about it that makes me want to go back in the near future. Seeing how it took me 17 years (!) to get there in the first place, I can wait a little while before heading back over.