Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bits and Bites -- ATX food news!

Let's Celebrate!
 -- Celebrity chef Mario Batali has a new web series called Batali Cooks 4, where people Tweet him four different ingredients and he comes up with a recipe. For his fourth installment, he picked cauliflower, anchovies, walnuts, and Parmesan submitted by my friend and foodie mentor, Elaine DiRico! Click the link above to see what he created.

-- Congrats to Les Dames d'Escoffier of Austin for raising over $12,500 in their recent Food Fight online auction, for culinary scholarships and farm to table initiatives. 

Events + Happenings
-- Hops and Grain is having a Halloween party on October 31st; $5 at the door, which includes a beer glass.  Costumes encouraged!

-- The second annual Austin Oyster Festival will be November 3rd at Shoal Crossing Event Center, tickets are $50-75, and will get you various raw, grilled, and fried oysters as well as a bloody mary bar!

-- Epicerie and Jester King Brewery are teaming up for a cheese and beer pairing class as part of Austin Beer Week, November 3rd at 6:30 pm at Epicerie. Tickets are $35. 

-- Jack Allen's Kitchen (Oak Hill location) will host a bourbon pairing dinner with with Buffalo Trace Distillery, November 5th at 7 pm. Tickets are $75

-- A new concept restaurant,  Vox Table will debut next spring, and until then, they will host a series of pop-up dinners. The first will be November 6th, at 7 pm, on the 55th floor of the Austonian Building (the view of the city from up there is stunning!), tickets are $60, and benefit No Kid Hungry, a non-profit striving to end child hunger.

-- The Austin Food and Wine Alliance's annual Wine + Swine, a celebration of all things pig, is November 10th from 11am - 4 pm at Ceres Park. Tickets $75 - 95.  Check their link for the awesome list of local chefs participating. (And yours truly will be out there volunteering!) 

-- The first Austin Meatball Festival will be held at Winflo Osteria on November 23rd; several area restaurants will be competing for the best meatball title. {Have to say, the best meatball I have had in town has been from Patrizi's, who is sadly not on the list of participants.}

-- From the press release:  "The Rattle Inn (at 610 Nueces St.) will soon unveil three murals on the exterior walls of the bar inspired by vintage Topo Chico ads....Kevin Williamson, who owns Ranch 616, Star Bar and Rattle Inn, has long been a fan of Topo Chico and commissioned this project to pay homage to Topo Chico’s rich history...Williamson hired Show Goat Mural Works for this project to showcase the history of Topo Chico, which has been sold in Mexico since 1895 with an important presence in Austin and sold across the United States."

Openings + Menu Updates
 -- Italian gelateria Dolce Neve will be opening in Bouldin Creek along South First Street between Mary and Annie Streets in December. They are Italians who have come to Austin to make their handmade gelatos, using locally-sourced ingredients like Mill-king milk. I live in the neighborhood, and CANNOT WAIT!!!

-- Local chef Shawn Cirkiel (Parkside, the Backspace, Olive + June) will transform the TGI Friday's at the Radisson Hotel on Cesar Chavez into a contemporary southwestern restaurant, opening in early 2014. 

-- TacoDeli will debut two new spots in 2014, one in Crestview at 7301 Burnet Road and the other in the Village at Westlake at 701 South Capital of Texas Hwy.  

-- New York-based Shake Shack will open their first Texas location alongside the rebuilt Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. Look for it in late 2014. (I've never been to one, but it sounds like Hopdoddy to me. Yes/No?)

-- Also late next year, the team behind Stubbs BBQ will open a new bar/restaurant at 615 S. Lamar, in the old Ridgeway Reprographics building.

-- NoVa on Rainey Street is now doing Sunday brunch.

-- Kenichi Austin has debuted their fall menu, with items such as lamb chops and sea bass with grapefruit truffle miso.

-- Finn + Porter also has a new menu with seasonal items beef cheek ravioli and signature sushi dishes such as Tuna + Chocolate.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Here in South Austin, the South First/Oltorf/South Lamar food corridors have gotten a lot more interesting  in the past couple months. First Barlata on South Lamar, a Spanish tapas bar (see my post here), and now Winebelly at South First and Oltorf, also a tapas bar, but serving a wider range of cuisine. (And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Austin Beer Garden Brewery, just east of Lamar on Oltorf with their various beers brewed on site and delicious pizzas.) I tracked the openings of both Barlata and Winebelly and waited a good six weeks for things to shake down before trying either one. Verdict: worth the waits.

Winebelly took over the Green Muse Coffee Bar; it's on the south side of Oltorf, just east of South First, with sort of a disparate grouping of businesses (the gas station/convenience store on the corner, Pizza Patron, two financial services, Austin Rebuilders and Habanero). Fortunately, once inside, you don't feel like you're in a (quasi) strip center. The bar is directly in front when you walk in, with table seating around to the right and back, including what looked to be a nice patio area outside.

We started with some cocktails, I had the John Lee Hooker, a very tasty concoction of Gewurstraminer, Cava, agave nectar, ginger, and a dash of hot sauce. Winebelly presently offers only beer and wines, no liquor.
My friend started with the panzanella salad, which was beautiful and delicious! Lacinato kale dressed in a light sherry vinaigrette with watermelon radishes, idiazabal cheese (an aged Spanish sheep's milk cheese), and crisp bread cubes, which I much prefer over soggy ones often found in a panzanella.
I had the cauliflower soup, which was creamy and velvety beyond belief. It's topped with smoked trout and trout roe, and what you can't see but was an amazing addition was little bits of lightly tart apple at the bottom of the bowl. All the flavors were extremely well-balanced.
This is the specials board, which I didn't see when we walked in; it's on the wall to the left of the door when you walk in, but the hostess stand was to the right, so I missed it. We had a great waitress who was knowledgeable about the menu, and didn't hesitate to name her favorite dishes when I asked. Her only miscue was when describing the pork belly special, she said "summer squash puree" which sounded odd to me, and I even repeated it back to her. Clearly it didn't stop me from ordering the pork belly, and fortunately, it was with a sweet potato puree, whose sweetness countered the savory nature of the pork belly. The belly was nicely crisp on top, but still fatty -- without seeming fatty -- in the middle, you know what I mean? The Brussels were good, though I am having a hard time remembering how they were seasoned.
The meat balls was the one dish that neither of us were real impressed with. It's a decent enough serving of five not quite golf-ball sized  pieces, and they are a combo of pork, veal and beef. The flavor was okay,  however something was off with the texture. They held together, but were too....loose? Squishy? Undercooked, but not raw? Can't quite put my finger on it, but we didn't finish them.
We both wanted dessert, but presently Winebelly is only offering sorbets and gelatos. Something toothsome like cake or a brownie is what we both were craving.....hopefully in the future, they will offer more of a selection. The place has a great vibe, shabby chic decor, though a little dark even in the daylight hours (had to use the flash on the food pictures). I look forward to sitting out back and sipping on some wine for my next visit. Or perhaps some bubbly! The Mark Twain quote was inside one of the bathroom stalls.... might have to sneak a peak inside the men's room to see what inspiration is in there. Cheers to a great new addition to the neighborhood!
I believe Winebelly does a seasonal menu, so all items I described might not be on the menu when you go! Another side note, the owners are the Tran family that owns Hai Ky on East Oltorf.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bits and Bites -- Austin Food News

Lot's of dinners and events coming up in Austin!
 -- Five course tequila-pairing dinner at Jack Allen's Kitchen (Oak Hill) with local tequila legend Lucinda Hutson, October 8th, $75/person.

-- Tuscan wine dinner at Olive + June, October 8th, $85/person.

-- Art Bites, an evening of art-inspired culinary creations by top local chefs is October 10th at Russell Collection Fine Art (1137 W. 6th), $25/person.

-- El Monumento in Georgetown is hosting a cocktail class on October 12th, followed by a seasonal dinner with drink pairings on October 22nd; both $65/person.

-- Russia House is having a 1st Anniversary celebration on October 19th.

-- Dames Across Texas on October 24th celebrates the wineries, restaurants, and artisan food products of over 20 local members of Les Dames d'Escoffier at the AT+T conference center; proceeds benefit their culinary scholarships. $55/person.

-- La Dolce Vita, the annual food event at Laguna Gloria is also October 24th.

-- The Hotel San Jose is now offering brunch on select Saturdays, October 26 and November 24 coming up.

-- Eden East, the pop-up locavore eatery at Springdale Farm, will be expanding their hours beginning October 24th to include a Thursday night 4-course service for $45; Friday and Saturdays still $65 for 6- courses, reservations required.

 -- Truck by Truck West, a food trailer truck event, is coming up at the end of October. If you buy a badge, you get a tasting from about 60 different trucks; proceeds benefit Austin Food for Life, and you can help pick the truck most deserving of a $10,000 bonus.

-- La Condesa is debuting a taco truck, El Cubico, which will primarily work events/festivals and is available for hire.

-- Finn + Porter, in the Hilton Hotel downtown, unveils a new fall menu with many locally sourced items, such as Lockhart quail.

-- The Gateway Guesthouse, a B & B at 1001 E. Riverside Drive is now offering cooking classes, including some designed to ease the stress of holiday meal planning.

-- Dan's Hamburgers on Ben White at Manchaca is undergoing a renovation. I haven't driven past recently, but was told the old building is totally gone. Website says it's reopening in late November.

-- Suggestions for holiday parties, either for available space or catering (hint: book NOW!): Contigo, Epicerie, Lucy's Fried Chicken, Argus Cidery, Jack Allen's Kitchen, The Bonneville, Houndstooth Coffee, drink.well, Hops and Grain.

-- In case you missed it, both Wheatsville Co-op on South Lamar and Trader Joe's on Bee Caves are now open.

-- A really unique Kickstarter campaign has come to my attention. Piq Chocolates, based here in Austin, is trying to get funding for their own 3D printer to expand production, which allows them to make custom-shaped chocolates.  Take a look at their website & their Kickstarter!