One of my favorite restaurants in Austin is Wink. Mark Paul and Stewart Scruggs do upscale with a certain casualness that is required in Austin. The restaurant is small and can feel a little cramped but the service is adept at making you feel comfortable.
The menu changes daily to highlight the best available ingredients. They feature many artisan products and local farms like Pure Luck Dairy and Boggy Creek Farm. Portions are on the small side to encourage multiple courses. They also have a wine bar next door which has a fantastic happy hour.
I dined at Wink recently with a couple of ladies I had met at a Gonzo dinner. One of my dinner companions was a foie “virgin” and I told her we must go to Wink for your first time! They serve it as an appetizer AND as a dessert. Unfortunately on the evening we were there they had run out of the foie dessert but it is spectacular and I highly recommend it.
We started off with the foie gras appetizer portion served on cubes of brioche with a marvelously tart-sweet balsamic gastrique. The liver was perfectly seared, giving a slight crunch to the buttery velvet texture.
Next came the scallops. They were large U10’s with a carmelized sear that gave way to a meltingly tender interior. I wish I had kept better notes because I remember this being served with a rather unusual mushroom that lent an interesting textural contrast.
Since we couldn’t have the foie dessert, we went for another culinary adventurous course with the sweetbreads. Wink is the first place I ever tried this delicacy of thymus and pancreas glands. I am not an eater of all things disgusting nor do I enjoy the Fear Factor type shows where contestants have to eat pig testicles. But I do love some offal when it is cooked right and Wink does it RIGHT. A crisp exterior with a creamy interior perfectly seasoned. Almost as good as the foie. Almost.
Then my favorite course at Wink, dessert! Mark Paul is a freaking dessert genius. My all time favorite dessert anywhere is his Chocolate Soup. A bittersweet chocolate soup is paired with quenelles of milk chocolate ginger mousse and garnished with candied bits of ginger and orange rinds. We also had the sampler plate of some of his other greatest hits which has a simple creme brulee, a flourless cake made with El Rey chocolate, and the divine lemon curd served in a crisp meringue shell with candied lemon zest.
I floated home on a cloud of foodie contentment, occasionally giggling as I recalled such a decadent dream. (Yes, I realize this sounds like pretentious crap but an evening at Wink allows for a little self indulgence.)