Dolce Neve


Dolce Neve is one of my favorite gelato spots in town! I saw this post on Facebook and had to share. I will be casting my vote soon!
Dear all, we are representing Texas and the United States and the most prestigious gelato festival in Italy and we need your help!

September 29 – October 2, we are joining other 39 gelato makers at the Sherbeth Festival in Palermo, Sicily. Sherbeth is THE festival of real artisanal gelato and is the only event not sponsored by companies making pre-made gelato mixes. At the festival, the public and a technical jury will choose their favorite gelato flavor.

We have selected three flavors to bring to the event and we need your help pick a winner! The three flavors are:
– Mascarpone, polenta cake and orange liquor
– Brown butter and pecan crumble
– Mascarpone and cocoa nibs infusion

Until September 16, you can stop by the shop, sample the three flavors and vote for your favorite!


In Defense of Food Blogs

city of gold

I recently watched City of Gold which is a documentary about the Pulitzer Prize winning food critic at the Los Angeles Times Jonathan Gold. I loved the movie. Tons of food porn and celebrity chef commentary. Gold is a food poet that highlights the diverse cultures that link the sprawling city of Los Angeles through the cuisine of his neighbors. He is just as interested in the best taco truck Guerrilla Tacos as he is Ludo Lefebvre restaurant Trois Mec. Here is the preview to the film. It is in limited run right now but I hope you have the chance to see it.

Of course the best movies also have elements that make you think and I have not been able to quit ruminating about a scene where the filmmaker basically equates food blogging with Yelpers. To be fair, most of the commentary (not from Gold) seems directed to Yelpers that overly use words like Amazing! But then there are a flood of images from Yelp mixed in with popular blogs like Gluten Free Girl, David Lebovitz and local Austin blog Fed Man Walking.

This is where I take an exception. I have my own issues with Yelp. It has a history of holding up restaurants for suppressing bad reviews and many users have found that they can score a free meal by threatening to or posting a negative review. But Yelp is trying to clean up their act with revised policies and it is as easy to spot a biased review as a clickbait ad. Yelp is still a useful tool for exploring a new town as long as you learn to read between the lines.

Not all “professional” food critics live up to Gold’s standards either. Remember the viral Olive Garden review from Grand Forks? I have family that live in a small town in Texas and know how big of a deal it was when McDonald’s came to town to compete with Dairy Queen. My parents who do not even have email now frequent a local barbecue food truck. Not every city is as diverse as Los Angeles or New York but do not look down on small town America for embracing diversity in whatever form it takes there.

There has been a struggle between mainstream critics and food bloggers since the platform began to change. Bloggers have been looked down upon as being unprofessional but it is really a more complex question of an evolving guideline for a new media. Bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to mark any blog or social media as “sponsored” posts including free media previews. But newspapers routinely accept ads for their restaurant sections that appear on the same page as reviews. I am not saying that a reputable paper would accept an ad for a positive review. But assigning a reviewer to cover a place that results in a positive review surely increases the chances the restaurant will advertise in the publication with no disclaimer required by the FTC.

Gold mentions that reviewing the best food in the city on somebody else’s dime is a dream job. Most bloggers have limited to no financial support for their reviews. Part of the reason I have been silent on my blog for so long is that Austin is booming with high-end restaurants that I would love to review but becoming freelance has severely limited my resources. Sometimes the only opportunity I have is a media preview that I am sometimes blessed to be invited to. I clearly indicate that my experience is not that of a typical diner and if I really love it I try to go back for a more thorough review.  I definitely understand and agree with transparency in blogging. It helps increase the reliability and trust that truly dedicated bloggers strive for. But do not criticize me for not making several “anonymous” visits when I do not have an expense account I can charge it off to.

Instead of insulting all new media I think the topic would be best served by recognizing new forms of expertise just like they honor the cuisine of diverse cultures. Although many have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon, Gluten Free Girl is a leader in recognizing a genuine need for a specific diet for many and is also a James Beard award-winning cookbook author.

David Lebovitz has been a professional chef since the age of 16 including a stint at Chez Panisse, authored several award-winning cookbooks and is one of my pastry icons. His recipes and culinary insight for the dining scene in Paris are undoubtedly that of a consummate expert not to mention a pioneer in the blogging platform.

Fed Man Walking is authored by Mike Sutter who was actually a food critic for the Austin American Statesman for several years. One of my favorite lines from his lyrical reviews refers to a local restaurant that was more flash than substance as “I.M. Pei’s favorite Applebee’s.” Is he less of a critic now that he is not published in print?

Jonathan Gold’s insight to modern cuisine and melodic prose help the reader connect to the culture as well as the taste of the food in Los Angeles. I think his views are a guide to the future of professional critics. But don’t discount the rise of the new media. The views of the blogger should not be considered as competition to the singular voice that has ruled the restaurant scene but a complement to a wider view of the culinary world.

Live Fire 2016

life fire

It is that time of year again! Live Fire benefitting the grant program for the Austin Food and Wine Alliance. Tons of great chefs and wine vendors. And Eve Monsees and the Exiles?? They are taking a break from touring with Gary Clark, Jr. to appear for your listening pleasure. I will be checking you in at the front desk as usual. Click here or image above to buy tickets. See you there!!

Bam! Emeril and the Austin Food and Wine Alliance

Always wanted to have drinks and dinner with Emeril? Bam! Now’s your chance!

Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse will share his New Orleans’ flare and flavor in Austin benefitting the Austin Food & Wine Alliance on Wednesday, Oct. 7 with his just-released cookbook, Essential Emeril.


Buy Tickets Now
Buy Tickets Now

Essential Emeril Cocktail Party & Book Signing

Hotel Ella, 5 – 7 pm, $35
Enjoy cocktails, appetizers at the festive Hotel Ella with Emeril. Buy the book and get it signed!

Buy a book and get it signed!

Tickets still available for Cocktail party and book signing this Wednesday!!

Cochon 555 Austin 2015


UPDATE  Special discount link for VIP and general admission

Cochon 555 was one of my favorite events last year. Tons of pork, drinkypoos and fabulous foodies. Come join the revelry!


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Josh Jones
Salt & Time
Andrew Wiseheart
Thai Changthong
East Side King Thai-Kun
Quealy Watson
Hot Joy
Daniel Olivella
Andrew Curren
Shane Stiles
Stiles Switch BBQ
Bryan Butler
Salt & Time


The Driskill – Official Host Hotel
Sunday, October 18th


Notable chefs and farmers will spotlight their passion for global BBQ grilling traditions and old world cooking techniques and at a hyper-local five-city culinary tour across North America.

Cochon555’s Heritage BBQ announces the chef lineup at the fourth annual North American tour promoting heritage breed pigs and global grilling cultures. The culinary competition challenges [5] chefs to cook one whole heritage pig from a family farm for a group of 20 notable judges. Chefs have seven days to prepare one whole pig and present a “Judge’s Plate” consisting of 6 dishes scored on utilization, global influences, cooking techniques and overall flavor. The winner in Austin will be crowned the “BBQ King or Queen” and takes homes over $3000 in prizes. In addition to sampling the competitor’s dishes, the all-inclusive ticket includes “BBQ Traditions”, another tasting inside the event where 10 notable chefs prepare one dish from their favorite BBQ culture in non-competitive spirit. If you love global flavors and star-studded culinary events, this educational event is like a top chef classroom including grilling-styles like Hibachi, Korean BBQ, Asador, Braai from Africa, Char Siu, Caja China, Churrasco, Barbacoa, as well as regional American BBQ styles from Texas to Kansas City.

Hosted at The Driskill, this year’s competing chefs include Sarah McIntosh of Épicerie Café & Grocery, Josh Jones of Salt & Time, Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo, Thai Changthong of East Side King Thai-Kun, and Quealy Watson of Hot Joy. Each chef will be given a 180 pound heritage breed pig to create six dishes for a crowd of pork-loving enthusiasts. Non-competing chefs cooking BBQ Traditions include Daniel Olivella of Barlata, Andrew Curren of Italic, Shane Stiles of Stiles Switch BBQ, and Bryan Butler of Salt & Time.



As North America’s only “World’s Fair of Global BBQ”, guests will have the chance to pair spectacular wines, brews, and spirits with globally inspired BBQ dishes. The tour motivates grilling communities worldwide to support responsibly raised animals from local farmers. Participation of chefs, partners, consumers and media help create motivation for the BBQ restaurants to support the hyper-local movement and give us something we can sink our teeth into, honest food from real farmers.

The all-inclusive stand up tasting event features 1,400+ pounds of heritage pig, “pop-up” culinary experiences, premium wines, artisan cheeses, sustainable seafood, hand-crafted spirits, fine cocktails, and a very impressive selection of whiskies, ryes and bourbon. The stunning lineup of sponsors behind this celebration of heritage species include Williams-Sonoma’s local butcher demo, Wilsonart’s “Perfect Manhattan” featuring Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Breckenridge Bourbon, Hirsch and Luxardo and Creekstone Farms. A portion of the proceeds always benefit the local culinary school while building opportunities for local food producers. All tickets include endless drink and tons of food and are limited to only 250 tickets per event.

“We’re incredibly excited to bring Heritage BBQ to Austin again this year and pay tribute to global cultures by consuming local food the way BBQ was intended to be. Today’s BBQ restaurant doesn’t give us a choice to buy local, safe food with our hard-earned money and we’re on a mission to change that by hosting incredible events that honor the greatest social traditions on the planet, cooking over fire. This event returns the BBQ conversation to the original context of local meats, cooked with native spices, over fires and shared with a community. Therefore, the event will tilt the scales back towards creating long-term relationships for family farms and big protein buyers like BBQ restaurants. It’s only a matter of time until people demand better food choices when standing at the counter.” explains Brady Lowe. “We are standing right there with them, promoting honest food and a choice to buy safe food.”







Visit the 2015 Sponsor Website


Whiskies of the World in Austin 2015

whiskies of the world


Tickets are still available for Whiskies of the World. Get yours now!


World-Class Event to Feature Tastings, Educational Seminars & more than
200 Whisky Expressions from 
Around the Globe

WHO:                     Whiskies of the World, an IWSC North America event.

WHAT:                   A whisky tasting event showcasing hundreds of whiskies from around
the world while promoting whisky knowledge and appreciation.

WHERE:                Four Seasons Hotel Austin
98 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX 78701

WHEN:                  Thursday, September 17, 2015
6:00-7:00pm Bon Vivant Hour & 7:00-10:00pm General Admission

TICKETS:             On Sale Now | General Admission $120
Bon Vivant Hour an additional $85

AUSTIN, TX:  Discover The Art of Whisky Thursday, September 17 at the highly acclaimed Whiskies of the World Austin expo, an evening of education and enjoyment of all things whisky. With hundreds of whiskies to taste, whisky masterclasses and food and cigar pairings, this event will satiate the savviest connoisseur. Whiskies of the World Austin will lead whisky lovers on the ultimate journey, showcasing the most unique whiskies while providing them the opportunity to converse with the personalities that comprise the whisky world.

“We are thrilled to bring Whiskies of the World to Austin for a fourth time,” says Douglas Smith, Event Director. “With the city developing into a major destination for food and beverage connoisseurs, it is time for us to expand our Austin expo offerings. This year, in addition to the hundreds of tastings in the main experience, we will debut the Bon Vivant Hour which will feature ten to twelve “VIP” whiskies paired with a delectable food sample. We are eager to add an additional level of tasting, while continuing to serve whisky lovers in the region. ”

The Austin expo is set to showcase hundreds of the world’s finest and most unique whiskies of different styles and origins: Scotch, Irish, bourbon, Canadian, Japanese, Indian, and others. In addition to the diverse golden spirits, sought-after products of American Craft distilleries will be presented as well, to demonstrate the growing popularity of the innovative, local distilled spirits, and craft distilling in general.

Alongside the knowledgeable ambassadors pouring their whiskies, the Expo will feature educational seminars conducted by master distillers, blenders, and brand representatives. These distinguished members of the whisky community will engage guests in the process of appreciation and celebration of fine distilled spirits in an intimate setting, all while sampling whisky expressions. Whiskies of the World is an annual opportunity for Austin attendees to discover just how complex and fascinating whiskies are with their distinct flavors and aromas, as well as with distillation and maturation processes. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Follow Whiskies of the World on Facebook andTwitter.  #WOWATX

The Whiskies of the World Expo launches in Houston, TX debut on Saturday, September 19 and returns to Atlanta, GA for a third time on Friday, October 23.

About Whiskies of the World LLC: Whiskies of the World LLC, an IWSC Group North America event, began in San Francisco, CA in 1998.  Under the direction of whisky enthusiast and event director, Douglas Smith, the event has expanded into Texas and Georgia. The IWSC Group is a global leader of alcoholic beverage events, including the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition.  IWSC Group North America was launched in 2015 and currently includes the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Spirits of the Americas, Spirits of Mexico and Whiskies of the World.


Best Austin Desserts 2015

Gluten-free Flourless Chocolate Cake from Noble Sandwich Co.
Gluten-free Flourless Chocolate Cake from Noble Sandwich Co.

Dessert in Austin used to be a boys club. There used to be very few pastry chefs. Many restaurants got their desserts off the Sysco truck and the few that did make desserts in house were led by men. But the times they are a-changin’.  As more and more restaurants open and expand to new locations, women are becoming the new face of pastry in town.

Pastry case at Noble Sandwich Co.
Pastry case at Noble Sandwich Co.


Noble Sandwich Co. has grown from a tiny location in far north Austin to two much larger shops now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. As much as I love their fabulous sandwiches, I have always been a fan of the eclectic pastry case. In addition to the standard bacon caramel corn and rotating cookie varieties, there is always something interesting like chocolate pate or dried fruit and nut-studded nougat. These creations are the brainchild of Lindsay O’Rourke.

Desserts from Noble Sandwich Co.
Desserts from Noble Sandwich Co.

O’Rourke graduated from culinary school here in Austin and went to post-Katrina New Orleans to hone her skills. After returning to Austin she worked at a few different places until an all-too-familiar chef story happened to her. She knew a chef who knew the chefs at Noble. Like many places, Austin has an incestuous yet friendly and supportive culinary community.

Brioche buns, bacon bread, white and rye. All made in-house at Noble Sandwich Co.
Brioche buns, bacon bread, white and rye. All made in-house at Noble Sandwich Co.

Noble was looking for someone to take over making the bread for their tasty sandwiches as well as make some cookies and other desserts. When O’Rourke got tired of making the same old chocolate chip, a batch of her triple chocolate marshmallow convinced the guys to expand their offerings. Now every trip finds something new and exciting in the pastry case.

Chocolate turtle delice macaron, huckleberry from la V
Chocolate turtle delice
macaron, huckleberry from La V

One of the hottest new restaurants in town is la V. Ladies rule the roost from management to sommelier to chef. Their highly pedigreed pastry chef is Janina O’Leary. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute she worked in New York with such legendary chefs as Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Pichet Ong. She came to Austin to be closer to family and soon became the Executive Pastry Chef at Trace at the W. O’Leary was lured away by a longing to work more with local ingredients including those grown in La V’s own gardens.

Beautiful brioche at La V.
Beautiful brioche at La V.

O’Leary’s other joy is the bread program. As restaurants are going back to having in-house pastry chef’s they are discovering one of the perks is better quality bread. Instead of the same one or two bakeries supplying all of the restaurants in town with mediocre bread, pastry teams are coming up with supple brioche, crusty rolls and hearty wheat breads to fill the bread baskets. In addition, O’Leary also offers an assortment of doughnuts, scones and hand-rolled croissants for brunch.

Goat Cheese and Red Velvet Cheesecake in a Pistachio Crust from olive and june
Goat Cheese and Red Velvet Cheesecake in a Pistachio Crust from olive and june

Erica Waksmunski has worked literally from coast to coast. From Tennessee to Chicago to San Francisco. She came to Austin via the chef’s network- she met someone who used to work for David Bull. Before she knew it she was relocating once again to be the pastry chef at Congress. Like many pastry chefs, survival means versatility and Waksmunski does savory as well as sweet. She opened a food trailer Red Star Southern famous for its hot chicken and social media personality Ol’ Shitter Jim.

Rustic loaves at olive and june.
Rustic loaves at olive and june.

But sweet came knocking on the door once again. This time as Executive Pastry Chef for parkside projects, Shawn Cirkiel’s family of restaurants that include parkside, olive and june, and coming soon- Bullfight, a tapas restaurant slated to open in the Spring. Waksmunski spends her days bouncing between restaurants supervising a team that helps her execute desserts, breads as well as handmade pastas. Evenings are back to the trailer to relieve her partner at Red Star Southern. And she could not be happier.

Handmade ravioli at olive and june.
Handmade ravioli at olive and june.

As the culinary scene changes and expands here in Austin it has been fascinating to watch the pastry scene grow. I am so glad for the fresh faces and innovative desserts. Do not forget to save room next time you go out. You will not be disappointed. And check out my fellow food bloggers posts in our 2015 AFBA City Guide.

2015 AFBA City Guide
2015 AFBA City Guide

St. Philip

DSCN2301Philip Speer, Culinary Director of the Uchi group heads up one of the hottest new ventures in town at St. Philip. I need to go back to do a more thorough review as my 1 trip so far was pre-opening. But I thought I should post my highlights as it is topping many best of lists for the year.

St Philips occupies part of the space that used to be Cannoli Joe’s which was an all-you-can-eat Italianish food. Although better than many buffet places, the pizza there was flabby and greasy. So the beautiful pies that Speer’s crew are turning out are truly tasty. We had the Wild Mushroom with Ricotta, Baby Kale, and Umami Sauce ($14) Not sure what was in the umami sauce but it is my new favorite condiment. I think it would easily make catsup its bitch.

DSCN2305Forget Chicken and Waffles and try the Churros and Chicken. I don’t think this is still on the menu but I really liked the spicy and creamy dipping sauces with the boneless chicken breast and mini churros. The menu updates often with seasonal items and the creative whims of the chef. Had to mention this one though with churros coming up as a new hot item, I really liked the creativity of the savory sweet pairing.

DSCN2294The restaurant seems small but that is most likely due to the eager anticipation that still packs the place on a nightly basis. Tables are close but great for people watching. There is also a huge bar with a long list of Texas beers and wines on tap. Yes, even many of the wines are on tap. There is also a nice porch area outside for the inevitable wait if you try to pop in. Service is friendly and attentive, even bringing us cold ice water outside on a warm day while we had a brief wait on our table.

DSCN2311Speer is still one of my favorite pastry chefs in town. Although he may not be baking on a day to day basis, you can bet he is training and guiding the crew filling the huge pastry case that has its own dedicated area. One of the main reasons I need to return is because there were only slim pickings left on our visit but we did enjoy a rootbeer snickerdoodle, a soft oatmeal cookie, and a puckery sweet lemon chess pie.

So for Uchi dining standards but with wholly new flavors check out St. Philips and see what’s new.



DSCN2399I was pleased to be offered an opportunity to try the new lunch menu at the Hightower on East 7th. I always get anxious about finding parking downtown but things were off to a great start to pull up to a reasonably sized parking lot. The inside is full of warm wood and soft lighting. There is a huge, gorgeous bar and a tiny postage stamp sized kitchen. But the chef is working his magic despite the petite work area.

The chicken liver pate is rich and complex. It comes with quince jam and candied peanuts for salty sweet fix that ain’t your mama’s pb&j. ($7)

DSCN2388The gnocchi with house made ricotta, Brussels sprouts greens, butternut squash puree, turnip confit, almonds and sorghum was my favorite dish of the day. The pillow soft gnocchi on the warm winter puree with bitter greens and slightly sour turnips would be especially comforting on a chilly winter day. ($12)


The fried oysters with sriracha aioli, flying fish roe, sunflower sprouts and avocado oil was interesting. It is served as an open face sandwich with practically a full salad on top as well as on the side. The thin crispy bread gave a needed textural contrast to the plump oysters and pop of the fish roe but made for an extremely messy sandwich. Forge ahead as best you can with a knife and fork. It’s worth it. Owner said they were looking for a new bread source, so it might change to more traditional looking. ($12)

DSCN2414As a pastry chef, I always have to try dessert and appreciate ones that are made in house and not your typical pie-cake-ice cream. And the tiny kitchen did not disappoint with a twist on the classic buttermilk pie. A thin layer of custard is baked sans shell in a wide bowl which gave an especially chewy/crunchy texture to the edge of the “filling”. The bits sprinkled on top are toasted meringue with a pretzel crust crumble for the crunchy, salty bits you usually get from a crust. It also has a chiffonade of mint which took me a bit to decide if I liked. A personal pastry prejudice is mint on top of desserts. Less often now but frequently in the past, desserts were topped with a sprig of mint more for a pop of color than for the flavor profile. But in this case, I decided I liked the fresh green mint with the sour-sweet custard. ($5)

DSCN2393So if you are looking for a reasonably priced lunch downtown with parking (and maybe a tasty beverage or 2) check out the Hightower. They also do brunch both Saturday and Sunday with similar offerings. And thanks to the Hightower for having me in. I’ll be back with friends soon!





Snow Monster

DSCN2221Since this is Texas, we go from sweaters to shorts on a weekly basis. So frozen treats are good on warmer days or even on cold ones to reinforce the short chill. Snow Monster near Braker and North Lamar specializes in bubble teas and snow ice topped with fresh fruits, tapioca pearls, and custards.

DSCN2228Choose your ice flavor, toppings, and syrup for a unique treat that is unlike any ice cream sundae. The texture is more like fluffy snow and the flavors have an Asian twist with interesting textures. My favorite is the taro which is kind of like a purple tuber similar to sweet potato.

DSCN2218DSCN2222The shop is clean and bright with free wifi and both high and low tables for comfortable seating. A single is big enough to share but delicious enough to not.

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