Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why I Am On the Fence with Mattie's at Green Pastures

I've been curious about the recently renovated Green Pastures for the past couple of months. I live in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood where the historic property's fanciful peacocks roam freely and are often seen in lawns near the Live Oak Street homestead. The Austin American-Statesman published an extensive history of the property earlier this year, which used to be known for it's hospitality. The restaurant Mattie's has just begun a happy hour program, and it turns out we were there on the first day of it though we didn't know it at the time.

When we first arrived, we skirted the patio area and went inside; there is a room with a bar inside to the left, but were informed by the hostess that happy hour was only outdoors. We told her we'd go check it out but would most likely return in a bit for dinner. Given that it was late June, it was a hot day, though thankfully one with cloud-cover and a warm breeze. At our visit, there was no tent, sun shade or fans to keep patrons cool; I hope this changes.
Mattie's Green Pastures
We started with cocktails and a couple of appetizers. The Oak Garden Ginger Buck  was very tasty and easily drinkable on a hot day; your choice of vodka, gin or tequila, and I went with vodka. Loved the thick cut potato chips, and it was a very generous portion. {Since we decided to go inside to eat, I had the remaining chips boxed up to take with me. After putting them in a zip-top bag and into my pantry at home, I promptly forgot about them. I found them two weeks later, and am happy to report they were still perfectly good!}
Mattie's Green Pastures happy hour potato chips pimento cheese
The pimento cheese sandwich was tasty, but the bread was rather on the greasy side. Now knowing this was "opening night" of happy hour, I'll chalk it up to opening jitters, because there's really no excuse for the greasiness on something so simple. But wait....it's listed a starter on the regular dinner menu..... I was a bit surprised by the plastic silverware and water cup; I do somewhat get it as it is an outdoors setting, but for a place with the pedigree that Green Pastures has, the plastic seemed like a dumbing down. And I hope that plastic ware is being recycled by the staff, not just tossed in the trash can.  Speaking of staff, one tried to take my friend's wine glass before she was completely finished.

It was a pleasure to see the peacocks, as they clearly own the place. And there are two albinos!
Mattie's Green Pastures peacocks
Mattie's Green Pastures peacocks
Having enough of the heat, we retreated indoors. For a spacious lobby area, the entry is cramped, as the exterior door opens inward, practically hitting people who are waiting by the hostess stand. I saw this happen a few times while we were there. The same hostess did not seem to remember us from less than an hour previously, and she seemed slightly chilly when we said we didn't have a reservation, but she was able to seat us.

We were seated in the rear of the first floor dining room; we were the first patrons in the room that evening, but it quickly filled up.  Green Pastures was always known for its milk punch, and my friend who is a lover of such declared theirs to be quite fine.
Mattie's Green Pastures milk punch
As neither of us were starving, we opted for a couple more items from the starters list, the pate and french fries, followed by the spinach salad with goat cheese.
Mattie's Green Pastures pate
The pate was wonderful, definitely up there with Winebelly, my local favorite.  The fries were nice and crisp and the aioli was as it should be, creamy and garlicky; to my tastes the ketchup was too sweet and clovey.  The salad was nicely plated, but I quickly discovered that the pieces of goat cheese were frozen. Was this done to shave them into thin bits? When I mentioned it to the waiter, he said that he had heard that before, but swore that's how the kitchen intended for it to be.  I find this extremely odd as it's really not pleasing on the palate. Also, I can't even remember what the dressing was because I couldn't taste it. If the goat cheese is intended to be frozen, I would not order this again.
Being full, we passed on dessert and opted to pay out. Our waiter was taking quite a while to get back to us while another staffer cleared the water glasses off the table, and then a third brought fresh napkins and spoons which seemed odd. I kind of thought it was a cardinal rule of restaurants NOT to clear the water glasses until the patrons were gone. When I finally flagged our waiter down, he said that we were being sent a dessert by an acquaintance of mine I had run into who works there. The Chocolate Avocado Cremeaux was incredible. {Thank you!!}  Loved the puffed buckwheat for that little crunch, and passion fruit is always a favorite flavor of mine. The creaminess from the chocolate concoction combined with the buckwheat, cocoa dust, and sea salt flakes was perfection in taste and texture. Hats off to the pastry chef!
Overall, I have mixed feelings about Mattie's. For the most part the wait staff is very young (college-aged) and not what I would call professional waiters, more like a summer job. An outdoor happy hour does not appeal to me in the Texas summer. For the high points in the food (potato chips, pate, aioli, chocolate cremeaux) there were the lower points of greasy pimento and frozen goat cheese. Love that they are sourcing locally and using hormone, antibiotic free meats. But different aspects need polishing, especially with the plans for a boutique hotel on the property coming in the next year. For a place of Mattie's stature, I expect more.

While not listed on the website at this posting, Mattie's happy hour is 4 - 9 pm nightly.