Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bits and Bites

-- Contigo hosts a gin tasting on July 11th with Death's Door Spirits, who make gin, vodka and white whisky. $45/person, purchase tickets here.
-- Sagra is having a free food extravaganza, July 13th, until food runs out.
-- The Carillon and the AT&T Conference Center are hosting a benefit for their injured assistant director of food and beverage, Daniel Curtis, also on July 13th, $75/person, with a great local chef line up.
-- Bourbon 101 tasting classes continue on the second Wednesday of the month (yes, July 13th) at tenOak for $25/person.
-- The Austin Museum of Art, Edible Austin, and the Tipsy Texan, David Alan are teaming up for a cocktail tasting and discussion on "Cold War, Cold Cocktails" on July 28th. 
-- If you're in need of some rock 'n roll, and maybe a few bruises, Fado will sponsor a fundraiser for the Texas Rollergirls on August 5th.

-- Eater Austin lists their top 38 current restaurants around town. Nice to see the Noble Pig at the top.... now I just need to go back up there....

-- Trace and it's home, the W Hotel, reopened today, after almost 2 weeks of being closed due to falling glass from the high rise. Reportedly, the hotel was paying the salaries of all employees during the interim period, let's hope that was the case.
-- Hopfields, a gastro pub, is coming to 3110 Guadalupe, with lots of beer and French-inspired street foods.
-- Restaurant Jezebel, which was closed due to fire last year, will rise through the ashes at a new location, in the being built building of Cirrus Logic, at 800 West 6th. Look for it next summer.

-- The Fried Green Tomato trailer in the South First food court (at Live Oak) apparently has morphed into Azafran, a Mediterranean/tapas trailer by the same chef/owner. Need to check it out, but I'll miss the fried green toms!

Hut's Hamburgers

Hut's Hamburgers is one of the first places I remember eating when I moved to Austin in 1994. My friends and I would go on Wednesday nights, when the burgers are buy one get one, provided both burgers are the same variety. So then you'd have to figure out a burger that two people would agree upon, AND there's 20 different ones to choose from. It's probably been at least 10 years since I was last there, and it doesn't look like it has changed a whole lot.

After attending a tasting at Haddingtons (see previous post), just two blocks east, we were still a little hungry, so we wandered over to Hut's.  I was quite tempted by the blue plate special of the evening, which was meatloaf. But after studying all 20 of those burger descriptions, I decided on #7 Hut's Favorite -- lettuce, tomato, mayo, American cheese, and bacon.
It was a decent burger; the bacon could have been a touch crisper, and unfortunately, the fries seemed off. Not stale, but just not crisp either. But it was fun.... a little touch of nostalgia for me, and it's an Austin institution.  I can only imagine what it's like for people who remember it way back in 1939 when they opened!


In a few short months, Haddingtons has generated a buzz in the local foodie community. Located on West 6th and Nueces, in the home of the former Thai Tara, the building has been transformed into a tavern with different dining rooms. It's been on my short list of places to go and have a meal, but I haven't quite made it yet. But with thanks to the PR/marketing firm of Crave Communications, who specialize in the local food service industry, I was invited to a tasting from their new chef, James Corwell. 

The event was set up in the Fox Tavern room, a dining space complete with it's own bar, where the bartenders worked furiously throughout the event, and the waitstaff were gracious to hold plates as some of us jumped in (yes, somewhat frantically) for pictures. It was a crowded room, and fortunately, I ran into Miss Smart and a friend of hers who was visiting from out of town, along with Aimee Wenske, a local food photographer.  We pretty quickly realized we were on the wrong side of the room, and needed to be closer to the entrance if we had hopes of getting some of the bites of food, much less decent pictures! And while I was able to succeed in the former, the latter was much more difficult (for me at least!). Because we were standing, it was hard to juggle my Moscow Mule and take a picture while other people were grabbing the bites of food that were being passed.

It all began with Miss Smart running back over to the bar with a couple of gougere -- think savory cream puffs, these with parmesan and pepper. From there, we had the corn fritters that had just a tiny sliver of cured salmon and the heirloom melon balls with duck prosciutto and a jellied duck consomme. The fritters were very light, and great by themselves, but that salmon really pushed it to a new level! And a nice twist on a typical melon and pork prosciutto.
Along came peach, melon, and ginger aqua frescas. I didn't really get much ginger essence in mine, and while I liked it, it would be a great summertime refresher had it been really chilled.
Next was a crostini with duck liver mousse and an apple salad. I liked this flavor and texture combo. Then the duck and fois gras meatball, with a dried (or fresh, but poached?) cherry on top. My first one didn't have the cherry, but the second piece did, and the cherry gave it a nice pop. (And a photographic failure, unless you'd like to see the dark, blurry image.)
The plate in the back had the fantastic lamb merquez sausage bites on a little savory cream puff; I don't think these were the same as the gougere. Loved these, but I do love lamb! The plate in front are chunks of fried green tomatoes, done with a wonderfully light breading (panko?) and a chili soy dipping sauce. These two dishes I'd say were the stars of the evening, along with the corn fritter and melon ball.
There was also a tuna tartar, done in little cucumber cups; the menu for the event said it had a meyer lemon creme fraiche on it. It was a small little bite, and something texturally didn't work for me, nor did I get a lemony flavor. (Sorry, no decent picture.) And the strawberries with a honey gelee, which were interesting, but consensus in our little group was the gelee was too thick.
Finally, the milk punch capped off the tastings, a combo of brandy, nutmeg, and frothy milk, not unlike eggnog, except milk, not egg. I think of milk punch as a very southern drink, so I am not totally sure if I'd call it a tavern drink. Ahhh, but the chef is most recently from New Orleans, so there's the connection!
I briefly met the chef, though didn't get a chance to talk with him, but nice he was out of his chef whites and milling about the packed room. So I still need to get to Haddingtons for a real meal, though I now have a much better sense as to what all the fuss is about. Thank you to Haddingtons and Crave for a tasty evening!