Thursday, May 19, 2011

Noble Pig

I had heard of Noble Pig's existence when they opened last fall, and quietly bemoaned their location on 620, off of 183, as an area I never go to. As in: way, way far northwest Austin. Hence, seven, eight months down the road, I still hadn't been. That's all changed as of last night, and I would now actually make a pilgrimage up there! I was invited to a gathering, along with several other bloggers and food writers for a tasting that has totally raised the bar on local sandwiches.

We began with an offering of their different sausages and pate.
From twelve o'clock, the sweet Italian sausage with a nice sprinkling of fennel; Shiner Bock Bratwurst, a milder flavor, with cream and eggs incorporated into the pork along with allspice; the thinner (in diameter) linguisa, which had a softer texture than other linguisas I've had -- a great smokiness and mild spiciness to it; housemade grainy mustard; quenelle of pork liver pate, with house-cured bacon and roast pork shoulder ground up in it; toast points; and in the middle of the plate, pickled onions and cuke. Their pickled veggies were an accompaniment on almost all the plates, and they really are a great foil for the meats; they also sell them in the case up front, along with some sweet temptations. The linguisa and pate really stood out to me!
And into breakfast. They provided tastes of two offerings: chorizo and fried egg on white bread, and a biscuit pocket-sandwich, with pecan smoked pulled pork and red onions baked inside. The chorizo was tasty, and I did okay with the fried egg, though they are not my favorite thing. The biscuit though, blew me away! (I think ALL of us, really!) What a great concept, a portable breakfast sandwich; I am going to have to steal the idea, and try making something similar for myself. The biscuit was nice and tender, and the meat really had nice flavor. Want. Now.
Then jumped right into the sandwich offerings. And they make all of their own breads too. Starting with duck pastrami (on the left), which was really nice and smokey, on white bread with the pickles and Russian dressing.  
The namesake Noble Pig on wheat (on the right, above), housecured ham, bacon and pulled pork with provolone. I really liked it, but after so much food, I can't seem to tell you much more about it...

Thai Chicken (on left), a stewed chicken in a broth of star anise, lemongrass. Really great flavor, especially from the lemongrass. Not your ordinary chicken sandwich.
Beef tongue (on right, above), that's braised for seven hours, sliced, and seared; dressed with smoked paprika, roasted red peppers, and a horseradishy mustard (apparently it tastes of horseradish because it's so fresh). I have only had tongue a couple of times, but this was amazingly tender. Made with love. Here's the full-sized version.
And I think this was the duck.
Almost stuffed, we headed into the homestretch with the desserts, and we're not talking chocolate chip cookies either (not that there's anything wrong with a good cc cookie!). The buttermilk basil pie was incredible. Nice crust, good custard consistency, and just amazing what some basil can do to it. The French toast had a blueberry compote and Nutella sandwiched inside. And the pecan meringue had five spice chocolate pudding as it's filling. The five spice powder gave the chocolate great flavor, and it's another idea I will steal from them the next time I do pudding.
Noble Pig is owned/chef-ed by John Bates and Brandon Martinez, both of whom are culinary school grads, and have experience at a variety of local restaurants. John said they're looking to expand; they've already outgrown their current spot, and I think would ideally like to knock down a wall if a neighbor tenant were to go out. They're currently in a gas station strip mall on 620 and El Salido Parkway, not the sexiest of locales, and this certainly proves excellent food doesn't have to be sexy. They're considering another location south, so of course I push for South Austin, but even if they get to central Austin, that'd be good for me. (It took me an hour to get there, going up Mopac to 183 in 5 pm rush hour traffic; fortunately, only 20 minutes to get home, but I don't envy people who have to do that every day.) While I doubt I'll be there for 6 am breakfast anytime soon, yes, it is worth the drive.

And if this wasn't well timed: the Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll came out today. Noble Pig was awarded the "Restaurant We Most Wish Was in Central Austin" pick by the critics. Yes, please!