Congratulations, Tyson Cole!

For the first time since 1991, Austin has another James Beard award winner with Tyson Cole, chef/owner of Uchi and Uchiko.  I remember the first time I tasted something of Cole’s.  It was strawberry scented salmon at the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival’s Stars Across Texas several years back.  Cole had recently opened Uchi and was receiving rave reviews so I was anxious to sample from the new Wunderkind. The salmon was so subtlely flavored and fresh, the first thing I tasted was the fatty meaty salmon with just a breeze of strawberry fields on the back end.  So simple and so good. 

Flash forward seven or eight years to the present.  Tyson has a gorgeous new cookbook out, a new sister restaurant, Uchiko, on North Lamar, a James Beard Award for best chef Southwest (tie with Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas), and just recently announced that he will be teaming up with fellow chef Tim Love, C3 events, and Food and Wine magazine to takeover the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Fest and turn it into the Austin Wine and Food Fest.  Think Austin City Limits for foodies. 

I love the irony that the festival I have loved so much, the fest that I first tasted Cole’s food at is now his new project. So congratulations to Tyson on a well deserved win and best of luck with the new venture.  It will be very interesting to see what this new fest turns into.

Congress

The buzz for David Bull’s return to the Austin culinary scene started at least a year ago.  First came the news that there would be three spaces.  Second would be the more casual bar/restaurant, Congress would be the upscale dining destination, and Bar Congress would concentrate on cocktails and connect the two spaces.  Then came the news of his all star cast- Rebecca Meeker  (Driskill, L’Atelieras) as chef de cuisine, Adam Bryan  (Lamberts, East Side Showroom) as bar manager, June Rodil  (Uchi, Texas Best Sommelier 2009) as beverage director, and Plinio Sandalio(Noe, Soma, Textile, James Beard nomination for Best Pastry Chef 2010) as pastry chef.  Expectations were soaring as Bull blogged about the progress of the build at base of the luxury condos the Austonian in the heart of downtown.  An early fall opening for 2010 was not surprisingly pushed back.  Perfection takes time and restaurant perfection takes twice that when you figure in the city of Austin permitting.  The restaurant finally premiered in the waning hours of 2010 for a New Year’s Eve bash. 

Every report I heard was fantastic but I patiently waited a few weeks just to be sure the restaurant had its legs before venturing in.  I could stand it no longer when I read Pat Sharpe’s review in the New York Times and booked a table towards the end of February.  I entered the restaurant through Second, a very modern looking space with a great people watching windows and deck.  No happy hour yet but rumored plans of one will bring me back.  I stopped at Bar Congress, the small almost hall-like area for a brief chat with Adam Bryan and to sip on his delicious take on a gin and tonic, the Congress GT.  Bryan infuses the gin with hops that gives the drink the color and flavor of beer.  With house made quinine, of course.  Great start to the evening.

The dining area at Congress is intimate with high ceilings,  gorgeous lighting, and varying shades of off white.  Service was concerned without hovering and friendly without being overly familiar.  I ordered a glass of a “safe” Spanish red which I knew would be good but when I inquired about a bolder choice, I was promptly brought a sample of my new favorite red, the 2003 Hochar Pere et Fils, Chateau Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. The silky texture was punctuated with spice and big red fruit that settled into a finish of leather and tea leaves. 

The 3 course tasting for $65 gives the diner their choice among some drool inducing options of 2 starters and a main course.  There is also a 7 course chefs tasting which looks to have increased from when I was there to $110.  Add on some “Enhancements” like foie gras mousse for $22,  American Ossetra caviar for $36, or the dessert tasting for $22 and we are venturing into “renegotiating my home loan to be able to afford dinner” territory.  I will say now, it is worth every penny but be warned you may have to eat on the cheap for a month afterwards until your food budget balances out again. 

My first course is the lead picture on this post of the steak tartare with oysters and truffles.  When it first arrived, I delicately tasted each component noting the individual flavors and textures, which were delicious but not mind blowing.  Then I composed the “perfect bite.”  You know the one, a little of each element gathered on the fork in hopeful anticipation.  That bite transformed the notes of each into a harmonious song on my tongue.  Who would have thought oyster and tartare brought together with earthy truffle?  David Bull, that’s who. 

 Next up was the hamachi sashimi with grapefruit and avocado.  I love the combination of the delicate hamachi with the bitter punch of the grapefruit supremes and the creamy fat of the avocado but to be honest, I’ve had it before.  Bull puts his twist on it by adding crunchy cubes of turnips like adding a bass riff to a classic.

 More surf and turf on the next course with 2 huge sea scallops topped with molasses bacon in a bed of sweet corn puree and grilled corn salad.  The scallops were perfectly seared and almost raw in the center, just how I like them.  The sweetness of the scallops was highlighted by the crispy, sticky maple bacon as well as the fresh corn and herbs.

 My final savory course brought a ribeye cap with an espresso rub cooked sous vide to a perfect pink served with a salty sweet smoked caramel sauce and a side of the richest, creamiest pommes puree.  This dish literally brought a tear to my eye.  Meat and potatoes but like none I had ever eaten.  Every bite was the perfect blend of salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, bitter, spice, and umami.  I was so happy to see David during the Stars Across Texas event last month serving a small version of this.  I hope you got to taste it as well.

Oh but children, we are not done yet!  David Bull’s genius is balanced by his playful pastry chef Plinio Sandalio.  I first tasted Chef Sandalio’s work at Textile in Houston last year, sadly on their closing night.  With my background in pastry, I quickly developed a sugary crush.  Chef Sandalio was nice enough to bring out my first dessert course at Congress so I could finally meet him in person.  I think I made him blush when I told him I felt like a 12 year old meeting Justin Bieber.  No need to worry, Chef, I have no intentions of stalking you.  But I may or may not be stalking your desserts, depending on what the court order says. 

First dessert brought a thin strip of star anise pound cake with a quenelle of  “toast sorbet”, mandarin jam, sesame pudding, and candied cashews.  Like with Bulls savory dishes, Sandalio’s desserts bring together a harmonious chord of sweet, savory, crunchy, cold, with a burst of citrusy acid to round it out.

Second dessert consisted of feathery light sweet potato beignets with a sprinkling of chicory on top accompanied with salted butter ice cream and pecan brittle.  I think one of the secrets to a great dessert is the proper use of salt to both enhance and contrast the sweetness and Sandalio is a master.

 My favorite dessert came last with Chef Sandalio’s version of Strawberry Shortcake.  Almond cake topped with strawberry jam, green chartreuse ice cream, and-  wait for it-  Pop Rocks!  Campari flavored Pop Rocks.  The dense cake with the sweet jam turned into a fizzy symphony, kind of like strawberry shortcake champagne.  DEE-LISH-US!

So when your tax check comes in or if you get a lucky scratch off, head to Congress.  It’s worth it.

La Patisserie

Macarons are the new cupcake.  Not the American macaroons made with coconut but the French macaron made with egg whites and ground almonds.  Like cupcakes, the flavor possibilities are endless and they make a beautiful presentation.  These macarons are from the new bakery La Patisserie from the pastry genius behind the Kitchen Space and Luxe Sweets, Soraiya Nagree.

The building is located at 602 W Annie and they are open Tuesday-Friday, 8am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday, 9am-5pm.  Their menu is straight out of Paris with croissants, madelines, palmiers, financier, tarte tatin, opera cake, the list goes on and on.  They are even adding sandwiches on fresh baguettes to the line up including brie and apple, prosciutto and gruyere, and Nicoise.
The true stars of the pastry case are the gorgeously hued macarons.  With flavors like caramel fleur de sel, cardamom honey orange, and strawberry champagne you are sure to find something that will transport you from Bouldin Creek to the Left Bank.

Week of 1000 Cocktails Part 2

Next stop on the cocktail train was a mixology class sponsored by Hendricks gin. It was all very mysterious. I saw an add online for a Hendricks class at a secret location. I submitted my info and within 24 hours, I got the invite and the location was revealed to be Kenichi on 4th and Colorado. I had heard about the great happy hour at Kenichi, so I headed straight over from work to try some of the offerings before class began. There is a huge assortment of rolls, appetizers, and even main courses discounted from 5-7.  The crowd of trendy downtowners and better than average sushi are definitely a draw.  The place was packed by 7pm.  I tried the wild boar potstickers as well as a couple of the rolls. If you do not mind crowds or parking hassles, it really is a good deal on the happy hour.

After we sampled some drinks made with Hendricks gin at the bar, we convened in a backroom outfitted with a full bartenders set up at each of our seats.  The entertaining presentation included details of how Hendricks is made in small batches in two different kinds of stills for a gin that has a pleasant hint of cucumber and roses.  We also learned to make 3 kinds of gimmlets.  As you can imagine, we were a pretty rowdy bunch by the end.  I stuck around afterwards to try some of the passed appetizers including a lovely little lamb chop.

Final cocktail party was at the Wine and Food Foundation’s Big Reds and Bubbles at the Driskill.  I received an invitation to pour a couple of days prior.  I think my blood was probably about 60 proof after the week long festivities I had been indulging in but I knew I had to attend this and I was so glad I did.  I ended up pouring for the distributor that carries Penfolds and they brought out the big dogs.  The RWT shiraz received the following review from Wine Spectator-  93 points  “Rich, ripe and focused, with a lovely purity to the blackberry, dark plum and sweet spice flavors, playing against bittersweet chocolate notes on the long, expressive finish. Best from 2010 through 2020.” And the fabled Grange, also from Wine Spectator-   98 points Wine Spectator: “Smooth and seductive, this delivers a full-throated chorus of currant, plum, blackberry and spice flavors, hinting at coffee and cardamom as the finish floats and sails easily over a bed of polished, refined tannins. A touch of black olive balances nicely against it all. Beautifully structured, expressive and very long. Best from 2012 through 2025.”  The RWT retails around $100 a bottle and the Grange goes for $500.

This is officially the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever had.  It was at the same time complex and smooth.  Peppery, like you would expect from a shiraz but with a beautiful background of dark fruit and a finish that I am still tasting.  I ended the evening with a gorgeous plate of petit fours from Tony Sansalone, pastry chef at the Driskill, and a small glass of the Grange sitting on the balcony overlooking 6th street.  What a magical Austin moment.

So dive into cocktail season in Austin.  You will not regret it!

Week of 1000 Cocktails Part 1

As the weather gets colder, Austin turns from the outdoor festival mecca to the indoor cocktail soiree.  I kicked the season off with a bang last week doing 4 parties in 1 week.  That may seem like a long weekend to some but it was a wonderfully exhausting tour of some of the best in town for me.

First up was the Amuse Bouche party at the Carillon.  Josh Watkins and his team came up with 8 delicious bites paired with matching wines.  The  guests were free to nibble and socialize between the stations and revisit their favorites as often as they liked.  My favorite was the lobster rillette with caviar and curry aioli but other bites included duck confit ravioli with duck consomme, grilled bronzino with chorizo, charred tomato and corn, and hamachi with foie gras mousse, citrus riesling chutney, and currant reduction.  

The service was impeccable with each station attendant giving not only great descriptions of the food but also the wines and why they were chosen to pair.  Unsightly dirty plates were quickly whisked away and fresh real silver readied for the next bite.  The best and the brightest stars in the Austin food scene were there as well making for a delightful evening of food related chatter.  The regular tables were all full as well as a private party going on upstairs but the kitchen cranked out small batches continually ensuring a fresh taste.  I hope they put on another show like this soon!

Next up was a fundraiser for the Sustainable Food Center which is a marvelous organization that promotes eating locally and runs one of the biggest farmers markets in the area.  When I saw the chefs list for the dinner, I immediately bought a ticket.  Seven of the best in town in one meal!  The dinner was held at La Condesa with a pre-dinner cocktail party upstairs at Malverde.  We even had mixologist rock stars including local legend Bill Norris.

Hors d’oeuvres from Zack Northcutt at Mulberry included Richardson’s farm pork sausage wrapped around quail eggs for a delicious scotch egg and foie gras hot dogs with chutney.   The spices used for the hot dog masked any of the delicate flavor of the foie but I appreciated the creative effort.

After munchies and cocktails upstairs, we were seated downstairs in a family style setting.  I was seated at a booth with a couple of very interesting ladies that I enjoyed getting to know as the best in local produce and meats were showcased for us by the finest chefs in town.  First up was Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due Supper Club.  Get on Griffiths’ mailing list for dinners as well as charcuterie offerings at the farmers market.  The catfish terrine he made for the dinner that night came from fish so local that they probably had relatives swimming just blocks from us.  The fish was neither muddy tasting nor overpowering in this creamy concoction.  Fresh herbs and crunchy flatbread dressed up the common catfish.

Todd Duplechan from Trio was up next with gulf shrimp served on top of bear boudin.  Cajun boudin is basically a sausage casing stuffed with a rice dressing similar to dirty rice.  Crawfish, alligator, and pork are more traditionally used as the protein in a boudin, so the bear meat was a nice riff on the classic.  The taste of bear meat depends on age, size, and even what his diet consisted of but most closely tastes to me like a cross between venison and pork.

Rene Ortiz, our host at La Condesa, did not disappoint with one of the best bites in a stellar night with caramelized pork hock and belly, beetroot and chili marmelade, and watermelon radish and basil salad.  The pork was a meltingly tender blend of meat and fat encased in the thinnest crackle of a perfectly caramelized shell.  A spicy marmelade on top played off the sweet sauce beneath to strike a harmonic chord on the tongue.

James Holmes from Olivia served an absolute work of art with crispy braised lamb topped with bison bresaola with mustard tuile.  Bresaola is an air dried salty meat, so gourmet jerky bits on top of chicken fried lamb.  Delicious!  Somehow I have not found my way to Olivia yet.  But I will very, very soon.  Holmes even joined us at our table after his course and we chatted about his use of offal and other cuts of meat not commonly used like his famous lamb’s tongue.

Paul Qui from Uchiko has to be the hottest thing in town with the very successful launch of Uchiko in July as well as his wildly popular trailer East Side Kings located behind Liberty Bar.  He is kind of Austin’s version of David Chang taking Asian flavors and street food to a new level.  Tonight we had quail with fuyu persimmons, fried cashew miso, and marigold.  The delicate quail was cooked to perfection, only a shade past pink so it was still moist and tender.  Sweet persimmon on top with the crunchy fried cashew miso beneath blend to create contrast of taste and texture.

Shawn Cirkiel from parkside served a salad course with the best produce he could find at the farmers market.  There were ribbons of roots, veggie chips, table pickles, relishes, as well as fresh herbs and greens all arranged in an abstract canvas.  So much more than a simple salad, this veggie plate was an absolute showcase of produce all grown within fifty miles of Austin.


Dessert came from La Condesa’s Laura Sawicki with goat’s milk cremeux, apple and quince confit, and sherry gastrique.  Cremeux translates literally as “creamy”.  It is a cross between a mousse and a custard, very light.  The tart quince contrasted nicely with the apples giving a taste of fall to the barely set cream beneath.

Whew!  I’m worn out just reliving the festivities.  Next up is part two with a mixology class and a $500 bottle of wine.

Guide to Austin Restaurant Week Part 2

Kona Grill  Chain in the Domain.  That is not always a bad thing.  I like Jasper’s which is a chain in the Domain.  This is not Jasper’s.

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue  Upscale barbecue by Austin darling Lou Lambert and his protegee Larry McGuire.  I actually worked for Lou at his very popular coffee house Jo’s for a bit.  Lou is a great chef and a great guy.   And his food is very, very tasty.

Max’s Wine Dive  Their slogan is “Champagne and fried chicken, why not?”  This place started in Houston but has that dressy casual vibe that is popular in Austin.  Food is pretty good, too.

McCormick & Schmick’s Domain  And yet another chain in the Domain.  Packed with pretty people at all times.  Food is so so.

McCormick & Schmick’s Downtown  Ditto.  Except it is downtown.

NoRTH  Chain.  Domain.  At $25 for dinner menu, this is a bargain at least.

Olivia  Foie Gras Brulee.  Yes, yes, yes!!!!!!

 Paggi House  Definitely in the top 10 in Austin.  I really like the short ribs and bread pudding which are both on the restaurant week menu.

Parkside  I <3 Shawn Cirkiel.  With bone marrow and a raw bar, this is the place I would take Anthony Bourdain on our imaginary foodie date.  Tony, Shawn, and me trading shots at the bar at 2am.  If you have not been, please go now.

Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar  Headed by Larry McGuire, this place has gotten tons of good press.  Personally, I have not been that impressed. 

Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille  Downtown pretty people bar scene with a pretty good happy hour.  They are most famous for their huge pork chops.

Roaring Fork Downtown  Southwestern cuisine.  The green chili pork is delicious.

Roaring Fork Stonelake  The newer and bigger Roaring Fork is in north Austin with a great view of Quarry Lake.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse  Please go to Austin Land and Cattle instead if you want a steak.

Shoreline Grill  Great view of Town Lake.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse  They also do a seasonal prix fixe menu which is around the same price.

Sushi Zushi of 5th Street  Good sushi but $35 for pot stickers, roll, and dessert seems a little steep to me.

Sushi Zushi of Domain  They have a location at the Domain.  Shocker.

The Belmont  Great bar with adequate food.

The Carillon  Josh Watkins is a freaking genius.  Why this place is not packed every night is a mystery.  There is even a parking garage and the restaurant validates, so no parking issues even though it is on campus.  Since they are closed on Sunday and Monday, they are even extending the restaurant week menu to Thursday and Friday.  The pork belly is the best in town.  If you have not been, here is your chance!

The Melting Pot  Fondue is fun.  More kitschy fun than good food fun, though. 

The Ranch 616  Not easily summed up with a type but closest would be Southwestern.  Most famous for their oysters.

The Tavern  Bar food for $25?  Really??????

TNT – Tacos and Tequila  I am not wild about the name but the food served by former Jeffrey’s chef Alma Alcocer Thomas is spot on.  Great Sunday brunch also.

TRIO at Four Seasons Hotel Austin  A couple of years back, they revamped the Cafe to become Trio, an upscale steakhouse.  I will do a full review after another visit but I was very disappointed in my first restaurant week choice.  Service was top notch and the wine choices are excellent.  But the kitchen did not perform well on Sunday night.  Too bad.

Truluck’s Arboretum  Chain but really top notch seafood.  Get the crab claws.

Truluck’s Downtown  Right at 4th and Colorado, this is in the heart of the warehouse district.  Again, crab claws.

Uchiko  Hottest restaurant in town, hands down.  I booked reservations for my birthday which is during restaurant week this year.  I plan to go early for their “Social Hour” also.    Tyson Cole and Paul Qui are geniuses but I think they may be eclipsed by the pastry king Philip Speer.   I will probably have 2 desserts.  It is my birthday, after all.

Guide to Austin Restaurant Week Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Houston for their Restaurant Week.  Not being from Houston, I was only familiar with a few of the restaurants there and I had a hard time choosing just based on menus.  For those of you unfamiliar to the Austin Restaurant scene, here are my impressions of some of the restaurants participating.  Since I only publish reviews of restaurants I have been to several times, I will leave out restaurants I am unfamiliar with.

1886 Cafe & Bakery The casual bistro at the Driskill Hotel.  Both the lunch and dinner offerings are $25.  I would rather dine at the main restaurant at the Driskill if I had to choose but the menu choices do sound delicious.

Aquarelle A beautiful and romantic French restaurant.  This is the place to whip out the ring when the champagne is poured.  I am still chasing the dragon of the perfect scallop that I had here, which is offered on the Restaurant Week menu.

Austin Land and Cattle Company Forget Ruth’s Chris, this is the best steak in Austin.  And my favorite cut, the fatty ribeye, is on the menu.

Chez Zee American Bistro A popular place most famous for their desserts and creme brulee french toast.  While the food is good, I am saving my restaurant week picks for something a little fancier.

Ciola’s Italian American Delicious Italian food.  I would go more often but they are all the way out in Lakeway.  Maybe I will venture out for their popular “Big Night Out” Feast, a tribute to the movie of the same name, coming October 21.

Cipollina West Austin Bistro This is the sister restaurant to the very popular and very expensive Jeffrey’s.  After a recent glowing review of the new chef, I will have to revisit soon.  At $25 for the dinner menu and $35 with wine pairings, I may have to add this to my list this week.

Driskill Grill Classic Austin and one of the best in town.  The Driskill’s reputation has slipped a bit since the David Bull/ Josh Watkins era but still a solid offering.  The leather clad room will take you back to a time when cattle barons brokered deals with Texas politicians, a cigar in one hand and a whiskey in the other.

Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille Arboretum With a beautiful view of the hills, this is the Eddie V’s I frequent most.  Their happy hour is a great value and the food is wonderful.  In addition to the seafood they specialize in, they also have a reputation for cooking a mean steak which is also on the restaurant week menu for $40.

Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille Downtown The downtown location in the heart of Austin.  Solid with a slightly different menu offering for restaurant week, also includes the steak option for $40.

Estancia Churrascaria A locally owned Brazillian steakhouse similar to Fogo de Chao.  If you are unfamiliar, there is a huge lavish salad bar to start and waiters in gauchos parading cuts of meats on swords for all you can eat steak.  I am addicted to the Pao de Quiejo or cheese bread.

Fabi & Rosi I actually have not been to this one yet but I will be finally trying this one next week.  Austin is surrounded by small communities with strong German ties but sadly lacking in any German restaurants.  This one is run by a German chef and his Austin native wife.  At $25 for the dinner menu, this is a value as well.

Fleming’s Domain A new location for the popular chain.  They actually have a $35 prix fixe menu that changes seasonally, so kind of a waste during the limited time of restaurant week.

Fogo de Chao Same description as Estancia, lavish salad bar and meat on swords but this is the fancy chain version located right next to the convention center downtown.

Frank Fancy hot dogs.  This really does not do justice to Frank’s, so I will reprint the description of my favorite, the Jackelope- Antelope and Rabbit sausage,  huckleberry compote, sriracha aioli, smoked cheddar.  They are also one of the few places in town to serve poutine which is the heart attack on a plate popularized in Canada of fries and cheese curds covered in gravy.  Call my cardiologists now.  And it is $25 per couple for the special menu.

Garrido’s Restaurant The former executive chef from Jeffrey’s does authentic Mexican in delicious new ways.  A tostada with pork and watermelon was one of my favorite bites last year.

Green Pastures The beautiful grounds are a favorite among Austin brides and the Sunday brunch with the boozy southern milk punch is classic Austin.  The menu for restaurant week includes steak and lobster and is among the best values for sure.

III Forks The Austin location of this chain is helmed by Jaime Gutierrez who elevates it above the typical chain food.  Too bad his delicious duck is not on the menu this week.

Imperia Fancy Asian food.  This is a tough one.  I went here when they first opened and was impressed.  Especially the lobster mashed potatoes.  Not very Asian, I know but delicious none the less.  They have lost the mashed potatoes as well as a revolving staff of chefs here.  I hope they find their groove again soon.  If you do go, sticky banana cake for dessert.  Trust me.

Jasper’s Restaurant A link in Kent Rathburn’s chain.  This is the first restaurant I went to during the first restaurant week and I have been back several times since.  Go early and grab a couple of cocktails in the bar at continuous happy hour prices before dinner.

Jeffrey’s George Bush loved this place so much they opened one in the Watergate hotel during his presidency.  But I try not to hold that against them.  Deegan McClung has tried to breathe new life into this stalwart of Austin dining, sometimes with great success, sometimes not.  The Chocolate Intemperance alone is worth the trip, though.

Judges’ Hill Restaurant The beautiful old home has been converted into a boutique hotel full of southern charm.  This is another place I have not been to in a while that has changed chefs a couple of times since.  They are offering both a $25 and $35 menu for the week that sound interesting.

Uchiko Menu for Austin Restaurant Week

As the red hot Texas summer finally  begins to show mercy, it is that time of year again, Austin Restaurant Week, when many of Austin’s finest do a prix fixe menu ($10 – $15 for lunch and $25 – $35 for dinner) with a portion going to the Sustainable Food Center.  This is your chance to try places you have never been and places you have wished you could all in the name of charity.  This year the “week” runs Sunday through Wednesday for two weeks in a row September 19-22 and 26-29.  My birthday happens to fall towards the end on the 28th, so I immediately put in for reservations at the hottest new restaurant in Austin Uchiko, the beautiful little sister to Tyson Cole’s Uchi, where I had my best and most expensive meal ever. Uchi has limited seating and is perpetually full, so it has never participated in restaurant week.  The much bigger Uchiko has room for the hordes that are sure to descend.  Here is the menu for restaurant week.

Uchiko

He’s Back! David Bull Returns to the Austin Dining Scene

One of my biggest culinary crushes is David Bull.  James Beard Best Chef Southwest nominee, Food and Wine Best New Chef, Iron Chef competitor, and a genuinely nice guy, former Driskill executive chef David Bull will be returning to Austin in Fall 2010 with a trio of restaurants at the Austonian on 2nd and Congress.  Congress will be the name of the formal dining room, 2nd will be a more casual bistro, and Bar Congress will round things out with the cocktail crowd. 

Chef Bull recently conducted a vegetarian cooking class at Central Market.  Do not worry, he has not gone vegetarian on us.  Just showing off his creativity in a healthy way. 

Black garlic is a hot ticket item right now.  It becomes black through a fermentation process and the flavor mellows and becomes sweet.  You can find it at gourmet and Asian markets.

Black Garlic Miso Dressing 

  • 1/2 cup black garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup yellow miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons green onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients into a high speed blender and puree until smooth.  Store covered in refrigerator until ready for use. 

First course was a lovely little bite of avocado mousse with sunflower sprouts, jicama, jalapeno, and grapefruit.
Second was white gazpacho with red grapes, soy milk, and toasted almonds. White gazpacho is the lesser known cousin to the red version both of which are served cold and an excellent summer soup. Those are red grapes in the soup but chef Bull serves them peeled. Glad I was not working the kitchen during this class!

 

The next dish brought a surprising combination in tomato and watermelon tartatare. Before you scrunch up your nose, imagine how similar the texture is between the two. The sweetness of a garden fresh heirloom tomato is enhanced by the juicy watermelon. Speaking of gazpachos, the two would make a wonderful red version as well.

 

A bumper crop of Texas peaches this year inspired this watercress salad with Texas peaches on buttered brioche.
Daikon "noodles" with green beans and coriander were good but the dressing, Black Garlic Miso, was a flavor bomb of deliciousness.
Gnocchi with oven roasted tomatoes and black olive oil brought a delicious conclusion to the all veggie feast.
 
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