Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Update your Texas Wine Education

Whatever you thought about Texas wine, let’s update those thoughts. I recently went on a media trip out to Spicewood Vineyards where I got to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones too. Spicewood Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards, Stone House Vineyards, and Inwood Estates Vineyards treated us to a beautiful fall evening of wine, bites, and education with friends.

Welcome to the fine world of Texas Wine. 

After arriving at a beautiful swath of Texas Hill Country, we enjoyed some wine straight from the barrel to bid farewell to the sun. Our wine tasting and education started with and introduction to the history of wine in Texas and the nation. Over the last 20 years, technology in irrigation, advancement in industry knowledge, and the influx of seasoned winemaker in Texas moving Texas wines forward.
Ron Yates gives us a short lesson on growing grapes.

One of the big themes of the evening was quality over quantity. This is not a new concept as this phrase is repeated in many industries that pride themselves on pouring their passion into their products. However, the importance of quality over quantity isn’t pervasive across all parts of the the Texas wine industry yet, particularly in the consumers. The more phenolic concentration in the grapes, the lower the yield, and the higher the price for a great bottle. However, that wine is going to be an exemplar of quality over quantity.

Susan Auler pouring some sips. 

Dan Gatlin feels so strongly about quality over quantity, that he offers an superflight experience at Inwood Estates. During the 2011 drought, Dan sacrificed allowed only 0.29 tons of grapes per acre to develop (9% of typical yield). This produced a harvest that was exceptionally high in concentration and phenolic development which produced a premium quality wine. For just $45 per person, you can taste a flight of these wines against their Spanish counterparts, Numanthia, from  side by side.

A big thank you to Susan Auler and Sergio Cuadra of Fall Creek Vineyards, Dan Gatlin of Inwood Estates Vineyards, Ron Yates of Spicewood Vineyards, and Gina Ross of Stonehouse Vineyard! It was a great way to to further my Texas wine education. 

This is baby Syrah. Oh, you're so young and cute!

Barrels of wine are much more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Sergio pouring some tastes in the cellar. 

And the vineyard mascot.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Treat Oak Ranch: Open for Food, Fun, and Cocktails

Disclaimer: I have enjoyed Treaty Oak products since they were established in a variety of settings. This post is based after an enjoyable media preview of Treaty Oak Ranch.

Pretty in Pink is pretty tasty. Look for some highly inventive cocktails with housemade ingredients. This is the Madagascar Libre made withTreaty Oak rum, Moody’s vanilla bean soda, lime juice, and Angostura bitters.
Treaty Oak has opened their ranch, and everyone in Dripping Springs can rejoice. While there have been several “adult” venues opening up on west of Austin, the ranch is a one stop shop for outdoor games, delicious bites, and inventive cocktails. Did I mention there’s a distillery on the ranch?
My only disappointment was that Matt Moody did not do this shirtless like it is done in Japan. Shaved ice + cocktails +Texas Summer = #winning.

The tacos did not disappoint. Duck confit anyone?
Let’s be Frank, the adjective and not Underwood. you’re reading this and wondering what to eat and drink way out there. During our preview, we were presented with a variety of tacos made on site. These are not your traditional tacos, rather they are thoughtfully created tacos that are still approachable by those who aren’t quite ready to deviate from the norm. In addition to tacos, cocktails, and shaved ice deliciousness, we were also treated to booze infused housemade s'mores. The restaurant isn’t open yet, so we’ll save that for another day.
Roasting boozy marshmallows on a beautiful Texas evening is hard to beat.
Though still in the building process, the Treaty Oak Ranch is going to be a destination for outdoor fun with great food and drinks. They are currently open on weekends. Please check the website as hours may change.

Here's a peak at the appetizers served.

And tacos. More tacos.

And open top fermenters to round it out.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Celebrate 10 Years of Buenos Aires Cafe with a Gran Asado

Here's another look back at an Austin favorite. Buenos Aires Cafe has wined and dined Austinites for the last decade with fervor. Today, there are two locations: at the Galleria in Bee Caves and on East 6th Street. You’ll find the classic dishes of Argentina, and with the cold weather rolling in, I’m going to suggest the shepherds pie, Pastel de papas, on the menu. I had it on many cold nights with great pleasure. However, if you’re going to pop in for a quick lunch, please do try the Lomito beef. It is hands down one of my favorite sandwiches in central Texas. The meat is so perfectly done that all your vegan friends will go home and cry their little eyes out. 
Buenos Aires Gran Asado Grilled Meats: Morcilla, Chorizo, Mollejas, and tenderloin.
A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner to kick off the anniversary celebration. My take aways from that dinner was that the cocktail menu is something that deserves a second, third, and fourth look. I haven’t had many opportunities to enjoy the cocktails as my visits to the Bee Caves location are typically lunches. But make it a point to try the cocktails, even at lunch. Oh my goodness, they are delicious. A big thank you to Buenos Aires Cafe for inviting me out for a great anniversary celebration!

A traditional drink of Fernet and coke. 

Mother and Daughter Chef Reina Morris and Paola MG Smith share their passion with us.
Over the next few months, there will be some fun events to keep the celebration going.

Tour del Vino Argentino, Nov.2, 2015, at Cafe Este with Amy Stowers, their amazing beverage director. She knows her way around wine and cocktails. You won’t be disappointed.

Empanada Class, Nov. 3 at Cafe Galleria with Chef Reina Morris and Nov. 10 at Cafe Este with Paola MG Smith. We got a sneak peek at this during our Gran Asado afternoon, and it is something you’ll want to catch if you’re a empanada fan.
Fernets & Amaros, Nov. 4th, 2015 at Cafe Este with Ryan Smith. Relax and unwind with Ryan Smith as he explains and samples you on Argentina’s most beloved fernets & amaros.
Its Gnocchi Time, Nov. 5th, 2015 with Chef Reina Morris. Learn how to make our traditional potato gnocchi. To be enjoyed with our traditional marinara sauce and wine.
Gran Asado, Dec. 6th, 2015. This is the grand daddy of all events, and because there is limited seating, you might want to jump on it. I’ll have some photos of my experience of a traditional outdoor asado at Chef Reina’s property.

A big thanks again to Buenos Aires Cafe for inviting me to celebrate your 10th Anniversary!

Our Gran Asado started with olives and cheese.
And then we had a hands on empanada class. You get to see the lovely @FromMaggiesFarm, @BroylesA, @CuriousNotions, @WindAddict, @SFCLocal, and Chef Reina Morris

That's just enough empanadas for me. All for me. 

One can never get enough photos of meat. 

The grilled onion was perfect with the meats. It was smoky and sweet. 

Who can say no to this Gran Asado? On Dec. 6th, this could be all yours!

And lastly, alfajor de maicena: corn starch cookie filled with dulce de leche & rolled in coconut flakes. I only ate about four of these. About four, which could have been about fourteen. These delicate cookies are heavenly.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Emmer and Rye Brings Passion and Freshly Milled Flours to Rainey Street

Nested in the Sky House building on Rainey Street, Emmer and Rye is poised to be a new restaurant darling. "How can you say that before they open?" you might ask. I'll respond with a several qualitative data points gathered from a preview tasting.

These guys are going to rock it.

  1. They boast an all-star team. With Kevin Fink, Page Pressley, and Tavel Bristol-Joseph, impressive culinary pedigree, you better believe these chefs are going to bring something beautiful to the table.
  2. The team's passion is incredible. One of my favorite quotes from Chef Kevin is, "If I ever lost the ability to learn everyday, it would be the greatest travesty." Those are words you want every leader to be saying.
  3. Grinding grains from scratch. Not with bare hands, but with a fancy marvel of German engineering. I can't do justice on describing the different grains, techniques, and nuances of making your own flours. That task is best served by the Chefs themselves, but I have tasted the fruits of their labor. A restaurant that goes back to the basic, and I mean that far basic, is building a foundation on quality ingredients.
  4. Kevin Fink's Wife, Alicynn. Holy Cow. This woman's resume reads like a Michelin Star, and the way Chef Kevin introduced his wife makes you shed a tear. It couldn't be more blatantly obvious that their hearts and souls are in this endeavor.
  5. Somehow, after the tasting, I had a strong urge ride a bike along country roads in Denmark and tickle the flower blossoms as I go by. You probably won't get that same feel simply by enjoying the food at Emmer and Rye. But if you get a moment to chat with any of the staff, get ready to be inspired to do something crazy, like visit another country to taste their cuisine.
  6. Two words: preview tasting. I'll leave you with some appetite stimulating photos. Now put on your boots and run over as soon as they open at the end of October.

This is the marvel of German engineering, otherwise known as the miller. My favorite freshly milled grain was the fire thrust emmer. Freshly milled grain has a nuttiness and earthiness that is unforgettably aromatic. 

Our first course was Puffed Fire Threshed Emmer Cracker - Raw gulf shrimp, buttermilk, Springdale Thai chilies, fennel, amaranth blossoms, and puffed Sonoran white wheat berries.

And the second course was Fire Threshed Emmer Arrepa - Eggplant chow chow, toasted habanero, Malabar spinach blossom, sunflower, fermented peppers, and fermented apple cider vinegar. Did you know that the malabar comes from Hausbar Farm?

This toast was really tasty. I could survive on this quite well. Red Fife Sourdough Toast - Nixtamilized black eyed peas, golden eye creamer peas, garlic chive, mustard frill, and garlic blossoms.

Fourth up was Rye Garganelli -Windy hills goat, sweet and fermented peppers, hoja santa, papollo, and cultured butter.

Homemade goat cheese.

Dessert was Tres Leches Cheesecake -Three-layer cake with traditional Tres Leches cake topped with New York style cheesecake and a Malabar spinach berry glaze. This eye catching dessert was so beautiful, it was hard to stop looking at it.

Everything about this cake is just perfect, including the flavor.

This cake was on so delicious with the different textures and pop of color. I thoroughly enjoyed it with my eyes and tastebuds!