With the number of breweries in Austin growing almost as fast as the number of food trailers, a tour was sure to come. I have not been on one of these yet but plan to soon and I will update with a review. It is such a good idea, though, I had to spread the word. For $50 you get to visit 4-5 breweries and taste 12-18 beers. There is a lunch offered for $10 or you can bring your own. Bus size varies depending on the size of the group. Pick up and drop off is at 7th and Trinity for conveniently expanding your tasting experience to some of Austin’s downtown watering holes.
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.
AUSTIN BAKES FOR JAPAN ON SATURDAY, APRIL 2, 2011.
Several Austin Locations to Hold Bake Sales with All Proceeds Going to Japan Aid Charity.
Austin, TX (March 24, 2011) — On Saturday, April 2 from 10 a.m. until at least 2 p.m., hundreds of bakers, bloggers, businesses, and consumers will unite for “Austin Bakes for Japan,” a bake sale fundraising event to help survivors of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Over 70 home cooks and dozens of local bakeries will be contributing baked goods at locations throughout Austin with proceeds going to AmeriCares work in Japan.
Austin Bakes for Japan locations:
Downtown: Woof Gang Bakery Austin, 1204 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78703 (10am-2pm)
North Central: Foreign & Domestic, 306 E. 53rd Street, Austin, TX 78751 (10am-2pm)
South: Hotel San Jose, 1316 South Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704 (10am-2pm)
East: Nomad Bar, 1213 Corona Drive, Austin, TX 78723 (10am-2pm)
Austin Bakes for Japan location open later as part of a Community Block Party:
Baked goods will include Japanese-themed cake pops, homemade pop tarts, classic chocolate brownies, cookies of all kinds, and more. Among the homemade offerings will be locally sourced, organic, vegan and gluten-free items. In addition, customers may purchase gourmet pastries that have been donated by some of Austin’s finest professional bakers.
All funds raised at the bake sale will go to AmeriCares, a non-profit organization committed to providing emergency relief to survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. All baked goods will be sold by donation, so buyers can pay as much as they like.
A team of food enthusiasts and bloggers is organizing Austin Bakes for Japan, and those interested in providing baked goods and/or volunteering to help with the bake sales should contact Kathryn Hutchison at email@example.com.
We encourage everyone to visit the bake sale locations to support this effort through donations and to spread the word through e-mail, liking Austin Bakes on Facebook, following us on Twitter (@austinbakes), or whatever medium they prefer.
Austin Bakes for Japan is part of a national movement of bake sales for Japan on April 2. Our goal is to raise $10,000 or more to help the people of Japan in their time of need. Twenty-three cities across the U.S. are hosting fundraisers for Japan that day, including Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.
AmeriCares is non-profit organization committed to providing emergency relief to survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. AmeriCares has been bringing essential medicines and relief supplies to the region since the early 1980s, and they have consistently received high rankings for their work from Charity Navigator, Forbes, and The NonProfit Times. For more information about AmeriCares, visit http://www.americares.org/.
*****UPDATE***** Thanks to the team of folks but especially organizer Kathryn Hutchison, more that $11, ooo was raised during the bake sale.
For more information about the sale or to make a gift online, visit www.AustinBakes.wordpress.com
I got this press release from the organizer Kathryn and wanted to post that I will be participating. Not 100% sure what I will make yet but I have caramel/bacon marshmallow trimmings left from Bacon S’mores, so I am thinking Caramel Bacon Marshmallow fudge would not suck. I will probably have my stuff at Foreign and Domestic but I will update if that changes. Hope to see you there!
Recipe: Bacon S’mores
Summary: Winner of the 2011 Bacon Takedown Best Sweet at SXSW in Austin, TX. These candies start with a layer of graham cracker caramel, topped with bacon marshmallows, dipped in dark chocolate, and finished with a sprinkling of bacon powder.
**** Hint **** Cook the bacon for the marshmallow layer BEFORE you start the caramel layer.
- Quick Notes
You can use 2 smaller pans but it is hard to pour liquid caramel evenly in 2 separate pans. One layer may be thicker than the other. Also if you use foil instead of parchment paper, you must grease it with butter or cooking spray. this causes the caramel to pool in spots and hard to spread evenly. Spring for the parchment paper. It will change how you cook and clean!
I found that using all dark corn syrup was a little too molasses like in taste. You could easily use all dark if you prefer or all light corn syrup for a lighter caramel.
Summary: The caramel layer can cool slightly while you prepare the marshmallow layer. If the caramel is too hot, it will melt the marshmallow but if it is too cool, they will not stick together. It should be warm to the touch but firm and not runny.
I find the easiest and cleanest way to cook bacon is in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet tray. About 1 pound should fit per pan. In order to get the bacon crispy enough to contrast with the fluffy marshmallow, cook it about 275 degrees for approximately 1-1 1/2 hours. After 45 minutes, check it every 15 minutes until it is done. ***Remember to cook the bacon BEFORE you start the caramel***
Summary: Here is were the molecular gastronomy part comes in. This is my take on Grant Achatz recipe in the Alinea cookbook. The point of his powder is to be a total powder in contrast to actual bacon. I found I liked the contrast of the ground up bacon mixed with the powder for this application.
I found the tapioca maltodextrin in a 1 pound tub on Amazon.com. This is more than enough to share with your adventurous chef friends. I want to try a foie powder next! Word of warning, this stuff is very light and fluffy like powdered sugar and it gets everywhere. Salt is also very important to bring out the right flavor. Too little and it tastes like powdered fat. Achatz’ recipe calls for pepper as well but that did not work so well for this.
I used a small cookie cutter to make my candies into heart shapes. My caramel was initially too hard to cut into shapes, so I used a heating pad on medium set underneath the pan to warm the caramel but not melt the marshmallow. Melt at least 2 pounds of chocolate in a double boiler to dip candies in. I used 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Ideally, you should use a couverture chocolate and properly temper it to acheive a sheen and snap to the chocolate. If the weather is not too warm out you can get away with good quality melted chocolate chips like the Ghirardelli which will not temper but hold their shape fairly well. The better your chocolate, the better your results. I would not use generic chocolate chips, even the Nestles do not melt well. They have additives to keep their shape when you bake them. Please do not ever use dipping chocolate. That stuff is just gross.
I used a fondue fork and a long wooden skewer to dip the candies. First use the fondue fork to pierce the side of the candy. It should be secure enough to stay on while dipping but keep in mind you need to get it off the fork once dipped. The wooden skewer helps with removal from the fork. Dip far enough up the sides so just the top of the marshmallow is exposed. Let the chocolate set up for several hours or overnight.
The funnest part of all! You must have a blowtorch to properly brulee the tops. The oven broiler will get the chocolate too melty. The blowtorch will soften the chocolate along the sides but after a few minutes, they should be stable enough to handle. You can use one of those cute little creme brulee torches but a full size torch is about the same price and WAY more efficient. Get one with a trigger and it is super simple to start and control your flame. You want the kind that comes wth a blue container for the gas. The yellow container is not for human consumption.
Sprinkle the bacon powder over the top and serve! Yes, I know these are way more complicated than marshmallow on a stick but I truly enjoyed the whole process and I hope you do too!
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.
Reserve your copy now and attend a VIP launch party on March 1 at 7:30pm at Uchiko 4200 N. Lamar Blvd.
We’re proud to announce that Edible Austin won two Eddy Awards, and were finalists in two other categories this year, bestowed at the Edible Communities Publishers meeting in January. Judged by a panel of outside experts from the food and publishing worlds, the awards recognize outstanding writing, photography and marketing campaigns.
Best Website: edibleaustin.com (2nd year in a row)
Best Editorial—Special Issue for Edible Austin COOKS! (digital edition click here)
and finalists for….
Best Editorial Spread or Layout for Setting the Season, Edible Austin COOKS!
Best Electronic Feature for our e-newsletter
Congratulations to Marla and her talented team! Check out the special Cooks edition for party throwing tips, essential kitchen tools, family recipes from local chefs and farmers, a Texas wine guide, and more!
Last year I made Bacon Pecan Toffee. This year, the TECHmunch conference has been extended for 3 full days, so I am not sure if I will have the time/energy to participate but I am experimenting with a new porky dessert. I made bacon sticky buns last weekend but they were not up to the high standards of last years competition. I will update with more information as I get it.
Spring is coming! How do I know? The schedule is up for the THCW&FF! (I love a long acronym.) Lots of great events, my favorite is always the grand Stars Across at the Long Center. The Sunday Fair wasat the beautiful grounds at the Salt Lick in Spicewood but has also been plagued with mud the last couple of years. This year should be interesting at the stunning new Mexican American Cultural Center in downtown Austin.
The schedule is up! What a coup for Austin snagging the 2011 IACP conference. Culinary luminaries include Diana Kennedy, Jacques Pepin, Amanda Hesser, Dorie Greenspan, John Besh, Stephen Pyles, Tom Perini, as well as plenty of our own stars from central Texas like Tyson Cole. I cannot wait!