Goat Cheese and Red Velvet Cheesecake in a Pistachio Crust from Olive and June

Best Austin Desserts 2015

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

http://austinfoodbloggers.org/2015-city-guide-best-places-to-eat-in-austin/

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
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christyluv

My name is Christy and I was born, raised, and still live in Austin, TX. I love to travel. I have been all over the US, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, etc. My second favorite place in the world is Negril, Jamaica where I have been 10 times and counting. I am a trained pastry chef but I am not currently working in "the industry" right now. I became a pastry chef in part to complement the fabulous dinners conjured up by my best friends Ethan and Michelle, who hopefully will be contributing to this blog as well. We went through a 2 year period of "Tuesday Night" dinner parties which were a smorgasbord of bloody meat and red, red wine. Friendships and laughter. The men did all the cooking while the women got tipsy, as all dinner parties should be. If I wanted to participate with food, I had to bring something and I became Dessert Girl. Eventually I attended the Le Cordon Bleu program at the Texas Culinary Academy and received a certificate in Pastry and Baking. I have had several baking jobs but found it hard to make ends meet, so I earn my living elsewhere for now. I have had the pleasure of working with several celebrity chefs including Rebecca Rather, Bronwen Weber, and David Lebovitz. I have also cultivated some amazing friends and resources in the Central Texas area and would like to share my knowledge with all who care to join me. My most recent honor was winning Best Sweet at the Bacon Takedown during SXSW 2011. As the culinary icon Ms. Childs' says, "Bon Appetit!" ***CONTACT ME at christy111luv@yahoo.com or twitter @christy111luv***

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