Thursday, December 30, 2010


The new, swank W Hotel, just opened the beginning of December. Their fine dining restaurant is Trace, and a basic website has just made it up in the past couple days. If you enter through the main lobby of the hotel, it's a little bit of a maze to get to the restaurant -- narrow passageways and dark curtains. The bar/hostess area also had a darkish feel to it, and then walking into the main dining room, you're met by a pop of neutral colors (silver and white) and mirrored walls. There's a combo of comfy looking booths, a long deep bench with tables up against it, and tables also by the windows. I can see how breakfast in there could be a light-filled experience with the window facing east, and the sun reflecting off the mirrors and white chairs.

Trace has someone on staff whose job is to locate local foods.  And I finally get it, the name *Trace,* as they can trace the origins of all of their foods. They have trained their staff extremely well, as our waiter, Scott, was extremely good at describing dishes and answering off the cuff questions. Like, yes, that is Texas Olive Ranch olive oil at the table with the bread.

The occasion was actually dinner on Christmas night. My family was in town, and I wanted to go to a place that wasn't $65/person for a buffet (Four Seasons, Driskill). Fortunately, my family are adventurous eaters, and we all studied the menu for quite some time. I should have kept a copy of the menu, as now, five days after the meal, my brain is slightly sketchy on some of the dishes, and what's posted online at present differs wildly from what we had. (Sorry!)

We started with the charcuterie plate, which featured prosciutto, sopressata, chorizo, two pates, pork rilettes (lightly breaded and fried; not pictured), pickled daikon and cabbage, and three mustards. I believe the sopressata and chorizo were from local salumi maker Salt and Time, who I have posted about before; not sure if the prosciutto was theirs too. Overall, an incredibly tasty assortment of meats, particularly the country pate and rilettes. The pickled veggies and particularly the molasses mustard were great accompaniments. 
I opted for a couple smaller sized plates, starting with the winter greens salad with hazelnut vinaigrette and baby roasted beets; for a salad, it was fine. Could have used a bit more hazelnut input. I chose the braised pork belly and a side dish of mashed potatoes. The pork was outstanding. The piece was a great combo of caramelized meatiness and melting, rendering squishy fat. The dish was also made interesting by the addition of caramelized bananas and pineapple pieces, and the pork was served on a lemongrass spear. I could have eaten a lot more of that pork! (It was a small serving!) The mashed taters were slightly chunky, which to me, is a good thing.
Also at the table was a plate of creamy grits with wild mushroom ragu and a two-hour sous vide poached egg; a grilled sea trout dish, skin on, with root veggies and I believe sumac; poached octopus  and chorizo....too salty on the octopus (though tender), and the texture of the chorizo links seemed a bit off -- not firm enough, and I am forgetting a dish.... a soup? Apart from the octopus dish, everything else was well-consumed. We weren't stuffed to the gills, but not still hungry either. We split one dessert amongst the four of us; I was rather tempted by the chocolate covered peppermint ice cream (described as their take on a Klondike bar), but we settled for the apple cobbler with huckleberries and lemon and thyme (?). It was an extremely deep bowl; the cobbler topping seemed a bit underdone. I think from the description, we thought the lemon and herbs would be mixed in with the apples, but it was actually a sorbetto or ice cream on the side.

Overall, it was a very nice experience with all of the staff very friendly and welcoming, and solid plates of food. So, solid, but I am not sure how memorable in the long run.

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