New post up at Greenling blog for a decadent gluten free brownie recipe.
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Austin has a ton of dessert options, from trailers to fine dining to bakeries you are sure to find something to satisfy that sweet tooth.
Two of the best restaurants in town are Uchi and her sister restaurant Uchiko. You may have heard of them, Tyson Cole won a James Beard Award last year for best chef Southwest and if there is any justice in the world, Paul Qui will be crowned Top Chef tomorrow night. As ethereal as their food is, I always save room for dessert. Sometimes two.
Director of Culinary Operations at Uchi and designer of desserts Philip Speer was just nominated for a James Beard Award for the third time. His plates are as beautiful as they are tasty. Speer uses familiar flavors and combines them with bold techniques to make a sophisticated presentation. One of his biggest sellers is the peanut butter semifreddo which came to him one day when he was making a sack lunch for his daughter.
My next post talks about the Social Hour they offer at both restaurants. If you go, make sure to try the desserts as well.
The Carillon is the restaurant located at the AT&T Executive Center on the University of Texas Campus. This is one of the best restaurants in town that nobody seems to know about. It is probably due to the fact that it is located in a hotel/conference center run by UT and is only open to staff for breakfast and lunch but it opens for fine dining to the public in the evening and it is outstanding. I have been a huge fan of the executive chef, Josh Watkins, since his days at the Driskill. As much as I love Watkins’ food, his dessert program did not do justice to his high caliber food. That problem was recently resolved with the addition on Plinio Sandalio to the team.
Sandalio originally comes from Bolivia but spent most of his life growing up in Houston. He is known for his daring desserts that combine savory elements like foie gras or offer surprising twists like flavored pop rocks. I always look forward to his inventive design.
Huge tip- the restaurant validates for its parking garage. It is one of the few places downtown you do not have to worry about parking.
Additional fine dining desserts:
Tons of pastry cases around town including many Mexican bakeries that you should try but that is subject to a whole separate post. Here are a few of my favorite European style bakeries:
Do not forget the trailers! Far more delicious desserts than I can count but here are a few of my favorites:
Trying to list all of the happy hours in Austin would be like trying to list all of the drummers in town. While fun and entertaining, they change constantly and you can’t throw a rock downtown without hitting one. So before you go, call or double check the website to confirm hours and specials. (Also, please do not throw rocks at drummers.) A pretty good resource I use is Austin on the Rocks. I believe they are doing a makeover on the site so hopefully it will be more updated soon but it allows you to sort by area of town and what kind of place you are looking for.
Of course there are hundreds of places that offer drink specials. My focus is more on the places that offer good food as well, not just the nacho car at Chuy’s (which is also delicious, just looking for something a little more substantial.)
First up is my newest discovery, Abel’s on the Lake. Next to the ever popular but overcrowded Hula Hut, Abel’s has a gorgeous deck overlooking Tom Miller Dam and yet it is only a 10 minute drive from downtown Austin. Happy hour is 4-6 Monday through Friday and offers half price appetizers, .50 Gulf oysters, and $3.50 Real Ale beers and Deep Eddy drinks. Much of what they offer is just pretty good bar food but the mussels here are the real stand out. Steamed in a butter white wine broth with shallots, capers, and sprigs of thyme I could drink shots of the broth alone but I recommend dipping the grilled bread in it and topping it with those delicious oysters.
Not too far down the road the atmosphere and the food get more upscale at Fabi and Rosi. Happy hour here goes from 5-6:30 Monday through Friday. $5 starters and $2 off beer and wine featuring wagyu tartare, chicken liver pate, a delicious cheese plate, as well as some damn fine mussels of their own and even classic escargot. Thursdays also include half price bubbly both by the glass and by the bottle. Fair warning, happy hour here easily melts into dinner with such delicious offerings as the classic schnitzel and spatzel made with Richardson’s farm pork or the wagyu steak and frites which is a steal at $19.
Vivo has two locations in Austin, one on the east side off Manor Road and one northwest on Lakecreek Parkway. I am more partial to the north location since one of my favorite chefs, Paul Petersen started working there. The menu at Vivo is classic San Antonio TexMex with brisket enchiladas that are out of this world but if you go to the north location especially Friday through Sunday, ask if chef Paul has any specials. His upscale take on TexMex is going to be subject to a full post very soon but take my word for it, what he does with pork belly, scallops, or whatever has taken his fancy that day is a flavor roller coaster worth the ride.
Happy hour at Vivo runs 5-close on Monday and Tuesdays and 5-7 Wednesday through Friday. You get half priced appetizers that go beyond just the yellow queso (still delicious, even from the nacho car) like shrimp nachos and comal seared queso fresco. Drink specials are $5 house margaritas, $2 Tecate and Lone Star, $3 wells, and $3 house wines. Added draw on any night are the free chips and salsa that I believe are sprinkled with crack because they are so addictive.
Wink is one of those places in Austin that has been around forever and sometimes I forget about this little gem tucked away near a dry cleaners off 11th and Lamar. Shame on me for that. Next to the formal dining area, Wink opened a wine bar years ago that boasts a very broad winelist that even offers tastings and flights. From 5-7 daily in the wine bar area you can also get half price appetizers like the brie burgers served slider style, creamy chicken liver pate, house cured salmon, and decadent mac and cheese with truffles. Note that you can substitute the brie on the sliders with foie gras. That makes me giggle. Foie for happy hour.
Another old favorite I revisited for this post was Moonshine near the convention center. Moonshine was at the forefront of the upscale comfort food movement. I am happy to report that although owner Larry Perdido is busy with his newest venture over at Hopdoddy’s, Moonshine is as delicious as ever. These gorgeous days we have been enjoying sure are nice sitting in the carriage house or on the porch of this Austin landmark while sipping on one of the patio cocktails.
The menu changes roughly with the seasons and the latest list of appetizers are below. The calamari were crisp and perfectly cooked, no chewy rubber bands. The baked brie came served with sliced apples, grapes, and a bed of arugula that made the plate seem like a nice cross between cheese plate and fresh salad. The biggest seller on the menu are the corn dog shrimp. Just like they sound, shrimp are dipped in a corn dog batter, fried and served with a honey mustard sauce with a blueberry swirl. They are worth trying but I have had them so many times I usually go for something new.
With Tyson Cole winning the James Beard award last year for best chef Southwest, Paul Qui about to be crowned Top Chef tonight (knock on wood so I don’t jinx it), Philip Speer nominated for a James Beard award for best pastry chef for a third time, a new Uchi open in Houston and a brand new Food and Wine Fest in April led by chef Cole, Uchi on South Lamar and her sister Uchiko on North Lamar have got to be the hottest ticket in town. And yes, my friends, I am happy to report they have a “Sake Social Hour” daily from 5-6:30. Word of advice, get there as close to 5 as you can as this place fills up quickly. There is also a bit more room at the North Lamar location. The menu here changes daily with the freshest fish and produce available. Always on the menu is the classic shag roll but daily specials are varied as they are delicious. Note my previous dessert post, it would be a huge mistake to fill up on dinner and skip desserts here. Make your girlfriend get her own so you can taste more than one. Now I must share my Uchi porn with you.
Right in the heart of dirty 6th as we like to call it around here, you will find parkside. I have been here more times than I can count for happy hour as well as long multi course dinner with friends. With so many inventive seasonal offerings, I made the mistake of skipping the burger for years. Only recently did I finally give in to a craving for “just” a burger and order this hidden gem on the menu. The burgers should come with a warning. They are so juicy that you are likely to get a good dribble down the front of your shirt if you are not careful. And the fries, oh the heavenly fries. Fries are calories I usually skip even at good old Mickey D’s. Fortunately for me they come with the $5 burger plate. They are perfectly crisp on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside, and are tossed with herbs and garlic for a flavor blast. Bring friends with you, though because there is so much more here to try. $14 for a gourmet assortment of oysters, $5 for the blond pate with strawberries. Really anything you get will be good. Happy hour runs 5-7 daily with 1/2 price bar menu and 1/2 price beer and cocktails.
The last place on my list I am sorry to say will not be having a happy hour during SXSW. Trio at the Four Seasons recently got a new chef who is revamping the menu including a new happy hour that will launch post SXSW. The property and the restaurant are gorgeous and worth a visit, especially if your new record label is footing the bill. If you are not that lucky, keep an eye out and I will post the specials once I get word.
So many more great places not listed here in Austin to enjoy discounted sips and nibbles. Please list your favorites in the comments. I am always on the cruise for a new happy hour!
Check out the menu for the upcoming gala at the Driskill on February 21. General admission is $85 and VIP is $125. Buy tickets here.
Austin-San Antonio Gala Tasting Menu
David Bull, Congress Austin
Pan-roasted Sea Scallop, Jicama-Mint Salad, Coconut Cream, Cocoa Nib, and Chocolate Mint
Ned Elliott, Foreign & Domestic
Australian Wagyu Flank Steak, Red Pepper Sauce, Fried Orzo, Poached Egg, Bacon, Togarashi, and Ham Broth
Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue
Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine
Grilled Rabbit Terrine, Bacon-Liver Mousse, French Breakfast Radishes, and Texas Onions
Rene Ortiz, La Condesa
Cervena Venison Tacos, Chipotle Harissa, Fennel Pollen Yogurt, and Bacon Fat Tortilla
Paul Qui, Uchiko
Sunchoke-Dashi Soup, Uni, Bottarga, Baby Carrots, and Zucchini Blossoms
Quealy Watson, The Monterey
Fried Chicken, Thyme, and Pickled Jalapeño
Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo
Cauliflower Gratin, Currants, Capers, Almonds, Garlic Cream, Parmesan, and Balsamic Reduction
Plinio Sandalio, Carillon
Grapefruit Sorbet, Grapefruit Supremes, Campari Pop Rocks, and Angostura Bitters Ice Cream
Philip Speer, Uchiko
Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Miso-Apple Sorbet, Peanut Brittle, Micro Wasabi, and Raisins
Michael Sohocki, Restaurant Gwendolyn
Pig’s Foot Terrine, Rooster Mousse and Deviled Eggs
Josh Watkins, Carillon
Cured Niragi, Beet Ceviche, Goat Cheese, and Citrus Vinaigrette
John Bates and Brandon Martinez, The Noble Pig
Italian Sausage Sandwich with Roasted Red Onions, Tomatoes, Provolone, and Basil Pesto-Aïoli
Tyson Cole, Uchi, Uchi Houston, and Uchiko
Hama Nabe: Baby Yellowtail, Koshihikari Rice, Farm Egg, and Soy Broth
Jason Dady, Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, and Two Bros. BBQ Market
Smoked Cabrito Ribs, Polenta, and Natural Jus
Jeret Peña, The Esquire
Cabin Fever: Highland Park 12-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Pecan Syrup, Fernet Branca, and Habañero Pepper
The Sacrilege: Chamomile-infused Pisco, Green Chartreuse, Lime, Honey, Egg White, and Cracked Pepper
June Rodil, Congress Austin
Beverage pairings with chefs’ dishes
Jonathan Gelmann, Driskill Grill
Purple Potato, Truffled Crème Fraîche , Petrossian Caviar, and Lemon (VIP Reception)
Herb-crusted Australian Lamb Lollipop with Spicy Apple Kimchee (Gala)
Reuben Sandwich: Organic Australian Brisket Pastrami, Sauerkraut, Tomato-Caper Dressing, Swiss Fondue, and Pumpernickel Bun (Gala)
James Holmes has taken the wildly popular chicken offered at brunch at Olivia and also sold at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and turned it into a new casual concept Lucy’s Fried Chicken. They are located at 2218 College Avenue near the corner of Congress and Oltorf. I grew up in Travis Heights very near here and can definitely see this place turning into a neighborhood favorite. Yet another reason to miss my old hood.
The place offers a full bar with craft cocktails and all Texas beers, a covered porch area with heaters and fans for whatever Texas weather might hold, and a music selection that is fine blend of classic Country and Honky Tonk.
Of course, the most important question is, “How’s the chicken?” Best. Damn. Chicken. In. Austin. They use locally sourced farm raised birds that they obviously butcher themselves. My three piece basket actually had four pieces in it because the breast was so large they split it in two. I love breast meat but sometimes with larger pieces you have to sacrifice the perfect crust to meat ratio you get with smaller pieces. Not at Lucy’s. Oh, and that crust. Crispy, crunchy, salty, and slightly spicy. At $9 for 3 pieces of chicken with no sides, it is a little pricey compared to chain places but the quality is well worth it.
I got the black eyed peas and cornbread stuffing as sides. They were good versions of country classics but not as outstanding as the chicken. I will have to try some more of their offerings like collard greens or Mexican Coke sweet potatoes to find a better match. I did really enjoy the starter I had of fried chicken livers with an extremely spicy dipping sauce. Again that crunchy crust won me over especially against the creamy interior of the livers. The menu offers many diverse options like oysters both raw and grilled, chicken boudin, deep fried deviled eggs, and even calf fries. Reasons for many more visits.
I ended my first visit to Lucy’s with a piece of Sweet Tea Pie from Olivia pastry chef Taff Mayberry. I was intrigued when I first heard about it and despite being stuffed to the gills, I had to give it a try. It was a custardy filling and the tea gave it a caramel flavor. Loved it! Loved it even more when I got the recipe in an email from Tasting Table. Try it at Lucy’s and if you like it give the recipe a whirl.
I noticed on the chalkboard wall where the special were written that Lucy’s was offering their first steak night the following Tuesday. At $19 for a 13 oz. strip steak with 2 sides of potato gratin and spicy green beans along with bone marrow and a roll, I had to check it out. I was going to a book club meeting on later in the evening so I found myself back at Lucy’s right at 5pm and I was honored to be the first customer on the first steak night and it was indeed worth the trip. My steak was charred on the outside and a perfect rare in the middle. The gratin was slightly underdone but I chalked that up to being so early in the evening. The green beans had a nice crunch to them without being undercooked and a nice punch of tomatoey spice. I used the marrow as meat butter on my roll. Mmmmm, meat butter. So check out Lucy’s and let me know when you are going because I will probably meet you there.
The beloved Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival has now become the Austin Wine and Food Festival. April 27-29, 2012 marks the beginning of a new era for the Austin food scene. Food and Wine Magazine is teaming up with C3 Entertainment to showcase big name national chef stars like Masaharu Morimoto, Marcus Samuelsson, and Andrew Zimmern alongside Austin luminaries like Tyson Cole, Paul Qui, Bryce Gilmore, and Aaron Franklin. The idea is to make a destination festival along the lines of the South Beach or Aspen festivals. How will the Austin chefs stack up? Will the Austin foodie community support a fest that comes with a $250 minimum price tag? How will the festival organizers deal with unforeseen issues that are bound to come up with a new huge event? I cannot wait to find out.