Friday, May 30, 2014

Recent Eats

A few of the places I have been this past month. I was extremely fortunate to have been the plus one to a media tasting dinner at laV, the newly opened French restaurant at 1501 East 7th. It was fabulous all around!

Best sparkling rose I've had because it wasn't too dry for my tastes, Cremant de Limoux, Cuvee Rose, Domaine Collin NV, and it paired wonderfully with the chicken liver pate. As managing partner and lead sommelier Vilma Mazaite said, the pate is filled with butter and cream, so what's not to like? Accompanying it was brioche toast points, berry preserves, cornichons, and mustard. LaV and Winebelly probably have two of the best pates in town.
The next course was a sweet pea agnolotti, filled with ricotta, with a pea puree on the bottom, and pressed strawberries and pea shoots on top. It was as beautiful and tasty as it looks.
Roast chicken isn't something I would normally order at a restaurant, but this one is special. Executive Chef Allison Jenkins said they salt the chickens the night before, and then roast at 600 degrees, breast-side down, for an hour. Served with perfectly-roasted fingerling potatoes, on the regular menu, this dish serves two and runs $48. And worth every penny.
The bouillabaisse was chock full of head-on blue shrimp, clams, squid, and had a distinct orange flavoring to it's broth. And no, that's not French's mustard on the rustic bread, but rather rouille, a saffron and garlic sauce, similar in texture to an aioli (I was unfamiliar with rouille before this!).
Dessert was lemon and mascarpone budino with local Poteet strawberries, and brioche doughnuts. I could have licked the lovely blue ceramic bowl clean of its velvety contents!
LaV has it all going for themselves -- beautiful decor, superb service, and most importantly, outstanding food. They also have a very extensive wine list (several thousand bottles are housed in the private tasting room we were in) and highly knowledgeable staff. Surely this place will be ranking high on the top places to eat in Austin. Make a reservation and experience for yourselves.

And a few other meals of note. Dinner with a friend at my neighborhood Elizabeth Street Cafe. This is the #20, house specialty banh mi, which they gracefully let me substitute the roast pork for the marinated. They make their baguettes in-house, and it's the perfect consistency for this sandwich.
A media tasting for the new summer menu at NoVa. This was the Parmesan risotto, which several of us shared, and it was hard not to eat it all myself!
We then moved a few doors down to Bangers. It was a rainy evening on Rainey Street, so we sat inside. Extremely loud! And as this was my first visit to Bangers, I was a bit overwhelmed by both the food and drink menus. Ended up with the bockwurst (they make all their own sausages, and even have fresh ones available to take home) and Crispin pear cider.
The movie Chef (see previous blog post) made me extremely hungry for a Cuban sandwich. This one from the Texas Cuban trailer on South Lamar hit the spot!
And finally, after watching a friend make pasta, I decided to dust off my pasta maker, and give it another try. The dough recipe couldn't be simpler: 1 cup of all purpose or double zero flour to 2 eggs. That's it. No salt in the dough, but salt your pasta water liberally. It all came together easily, and after repeated passes through the pasta machine, I had dough, which I cut (imprecisely) into pappardelle.
Which then became dinner with fresh fava beans, pecorino romano cheese, fresh mint, and just a little bit of bacon. I am pretty proud of this dish!
So, just a little peek into my food world. Some of these pictures I previously posted on Instagram. Where have you been lately that's good?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bits and Bites

-- I had the pleasure of seeing a preview of the new movie Chef, written and directed by Jon Favreau, and includes and all star cast. Overall, it's a feel-good movie which will leave you very hungry for a Cuban sandwich. I'd say the story line is a bit predictable, and I am not sure that I feel a lot of chemistry between the characters, but it works. Additionally, our fair city plays a nice cameo in the film with nice shots from around town -- the 360 Bridge, Franklin Barbecue (complete with an Aaron Franklin appearance), Homeslice Pizza, and the Guerro's outdoor stage with Gary Clark Junior. Alamo Drafthouse (Slaughter) will be doing a dinner on June 4th for $40 -- the menu looks spot on!
-- Andiamo is hosting an Italian winemaker dinner on Tuesday, May 27th with the Cosimo Maria Masini Winery, $50/person.
-- Les Dames d'Escoffier of Austin is holding a kitchen sale at the Mueller Farmer's Market, on Sunday, June 1st from 10 am - 2 pm, with items donated from local culinary professionals and Les Dames members. All proceeds benefit their culinary scholarship programs.
-- Greenhouse Craft Foods is hosting a winemaker dinner with Becker Vineyards on June 1st,  four courses for $40.
-- Swift's Attic turns two on June 1st, and from 8 pm onward, they're celebrating with a party!
-- Foreign and Domestic will host Executive Pastry Chef Bill Corbett from the Absinthe Group in San Francisco for Indie Chefs Week on June 16th, $100-$125.
-- Both locations of Central Market will have Beerfest from June 11-24. 
-- In partnership with Citygram magazine, Pleasant Storage Room presents their "Summer of Rum" cocktail series, where a new "how to" video will be released each week, leading up to National Rum Day on August 15th.  The first video installment is here (love the music!).
-- The June issue of Southern Living magazine features all things food related, and includes the  "A to Z's" of southern favorites, including local standouts Jester King Brewery ("B"), Aaron Franklin/Franklin Barbecue ("Q"), and Yeti Coolers ("Y").
-- Dripping Springs own Argus Cidery has debuted Tepache Especial, a wild fermented sparkling pineapple wine. I had a taste of it at Central Market Westgate -- great aroma, dry and minerally, lightly oaked. Additionally their tasting room reopens on May 31st by reservation only.
-- Dishcrawl Austin held their first 2014 event last week. This progressive/secretive dining experience (where guests don't know where they're going when they sign up) made stops at Scholtz Garden, Goodall's, and Teji's Indian.

-- One of my favorite spots in Austin (shhhh, it's my secret!), Travaasa Resort and Spa, has opened a bar adjacent to their main dining hall, complete with a new bar program. What a better way than to relax than with a delicious cocktail and a stunning hillside view!
-- Odd Duck is now open for Sunday brunch. 
-- Punch Bowl Social has opened at the Domain, now making three operations nationwide (Denver and Portland). From their press release, "they are centered on culinary integrity, 'old school' entertainment and a craft beverage program."
-- The Scarlett Rabbit, a Texas bistro which promises "an immersive trip down a culinary rabbit hole", will open in Round Rock from the chef behind Greenhouse Craft Foods.
-- Jo's on SoCo has happy hour Monday - Thursday,  4 - 9 pm, and the downtown location, Monday - Friday, 4 - 7 pm with food and drink specials.

-- Your Mom's Burgers, Paggi House and Garrido's closed this past week. Your Mom's sold their contract to the folks behind Pho Thaison. Paggi unfortunately will become surrounded by new condos (booooo), and Garrido's sold to an Austrian restaurant group; more details from the Chronicle.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bits and Bites

Mother's Day Brunches -- Sunday, May 11th
-- No Va, 4 course brunch $35/person, 87 Rainey Street
-- Sagra, $29.95/person, 1050 E. 11th Street
-- Finn and Porter, 11 am - 3 pm, $55/person at the Downtown Hilton Hotel, 500 E. 4th Street
-- All three Mandola's and Trattoria Lisina will be offering brunch
-- Chavez, 10:30 am - 2:30 pm, $19/kids + $49/adults, at the Radisson Hotel, 111 E. Cesar Chavez
-- Olive + June, 11 am - 2 pm, $37/adults (under 12 years old, free), 3411 Glenview
-- The Carillon at the AT + T Center on the UT Campus, 4 seatings, $65/adults, $19.95/kids ages 6 - 12
-- Swift's Attic, 11am - 3 pm is offering free mimosas for moms!

-- Pleasant Storage Room will be bringing the culture of Cuba and lots of rum to their new spot at 208 W. 4th Street
-- Red Mango frozen yogurt and smoothie bar is coming to  3401 South Lamar late this spring
-- P. Terry's (multiple locations) has a new website and a delicious coffee milkshake (limited time on the milkshake!)
-- Pelon's Tex-Mex at 802 Red River has an updated menu, and have announced that with every purchase of the shrimp and lobster enchiladas, $2 will be given to the St. Baldrick Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding research to curing childhood cancers.
-- Jack Allen's Kitchen will take over the old Trento space at 3600-D Capital of Texas Highway, in Davenport Center
-- Hopdoddy has announced some new menu items, including new cocktails, a quinoa side dish, and a chicken burger with a lot of spiciness to it! 
-- GoodLife Food Park, a new food truck park, will open at the northeast corner of IH-35 and Cesar Chavez later this month.

-- A new food truck competitive reality TV series on Food Network will be filming in Austin the next two weeks; they need extras to be food truck customers! If interested, please send an email to with your name, phone, email and preferred date of attendance; the first 60 people to each taping receives $10 towards food.
     -- Wednesday, May 7th @ 1pm on South Congress (gravel lot next to Vespaio
          -- Thursday, May 8th @ 1pm at Midway Food Park
          -- Wednesday, May 14th @1pm at Republic Square
      -- Thursday, May 15th @ 8pm at South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery
-- Culture Map's Tastemaker Awards, May 7th at  Brazos Hall, 204 E. 4th, $45
-- Jazz brunches at Hotel San Jose, May 10th and 24th,10 am - 2 pm, $24/person
-- Austin Restaurant Week, May 11 - 14 and 18 - 21, two course prix-fixe lunches for $12-17, and three course dinners for $27-37 at participating restaurants, with $2 from every meal supporting Meals on Wheels.
-- Celebrate American Craft Beer Week with various events in town. Hopefully Craft Taste will be covering some of these! 
-- The Great Austin Food Race, benefiting the Austin Food and Wine Alliance's Culinary Grant Program will be Wed., May 14th. Teams of foodies will race around East Austin in search of clues in this unique scavenger hunt.
-- Dishcrawl will bring their foodie tours to the UT campus and State Capitol areas, on May 21st. Join in for a progressive dinner to three area restaurants; tickets are $45/person, and the secret meeting spot will be revealed 48 hours before the event.
-- MAIFEST, on May 31st, the German seasonal celebration, will take place at Saengerrunde Hall, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd; $25/person, proceeds benefit Foodways Texas.
-- Sipping Social, June 21st, 7 - 10 pm, $45/person for early bird tickets, benefiting Edible Austin.
-- I had a fun time last weekend at the Austin Food and Wine Fest! Favorites were this massive scallop from the Irish tourism people, cooked by famed chef Kevin Dundon (in grey jacket). Other faves -- the buttermint ice cream from Jeni's, fried Brussels from Tapas Bravas, and the pork and escabeche taco from Jack Allen's; more pictures on my Instagram page.
-- Tamale House #3 at 5003 Airport Blvd., has shuttered after the recent passing of the owner.