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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Austin Restaurant Week 2009: Hudson's, Fogo, and Green Pastures

Austin Restaurant Week is a food lover's dream.  During off-peak days, many restaurants offered a prix fix menu for $25 - $35, featuring an appetizer, entree, and dessert.  Not only is Austin Restaurant Week a great opportunity to try out new restaurants, 5% of the proceeds go towards the Sustainable Food Center and Aids Services of Austin.  It's a win-win situation for all of us.  For this installment of Austin Restaurant Week, I chose three restaurants that were new to me: Hudson's on the Bend, Fogo de Chao, and Green Pastures.  Though I attended a wedding about 4 years ago at Green Pastures, I've never dined there.  Needless to say, each restaurant offered a unique specialty and did not fail to please. Photos by John M.P. Knox.

Hudson's on the Bend - This cozy little restaurant on 620 specializes in exotic meats and game.  I visited on a Sunday night with @windaddict, my friends Bobby, and Gordon. Since there were four of us, we each got to sample a little bit of everything.

First up was a wild boar and barbecue chorizo tart, white chocolate tomatillo sauce, and cotilla cheese.  I found the puffy pastry to be delightful, and a great compliment to the tomatillo sauce.

I had the lobster bisque, which was good, but I think the duck diabolo's truly stole the show.  Duck Diablos were duck breast, jicama, jalapeno, figs in balsamic all wrapped in apple wood bacon with a red chili glaze dipping sauce.  Yep. I think that was a clear winner.  I ordered the Pecan Smoked Veal with Chipolte Beer Blanc, and @windaddict ordered the Shiner Bock ribeye.  What a surprise, Make it with Moonshine orders two entrees made with beer. Who would have thought? :o)  I found the smoked veal to be very flavorful, slightly sweet and juicy, and with just a hint of smoke.  The Shiner Bock ribeye has just a subtle hint of beer, and I found the meat to be incredibly tender. Also, the mashed potatoes tasted like butter. That's always a good thing.

Last but not least, brownie sundae and chocolate mousse were the two desserts we sampled. 
Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian steakhouse that serves up meat gaucho style.  I've been wanting to try this place for a very long time, and I fasted for 18 hours prior in preparation.  Fogo de Chao offered lunch with dessert for a modest $25 during Austin Restaurant Week. 
Your first course is a trip to the salad bar, but no, this is not your ordinary salad bar.  No tuna salad here. No box croutons or bacos.  What you will find is a variety of tasty cheeses, fresh vegetables, sun dried tomatoes, cured meats, hearts of palm, and even artichoke hearts.  While the salad bar is tantalizing, you really should be skimpy with it and save room for the meat.  
Fogo de Chao does not exaggerate when they say things happen fast.  The moment your "feed me/stop feeding me" card is turned over to show green, the meats come quickly.  There is scarcely a moment to snap a photo before the meat is on your plate and the server leaped over to the next table in a single bound.  I felt like I was a shark in one of those shark week feeding frenzies.  You must be warned though that if the meat does get cold, it can get tough.  The trick is to eat the meat quickly.  No playing around with your camera here.  My favorites from the meat offerings was the garlic rubbed Pichana (top sirlion) and the Cordeiro (lamb ribs).
Along with the meat, we also had desserts that were included in the meal.  Chocolate Mousse Cake (alternating layers of white and dark chocolate mousse and chocolate cake) & Key Lime Pie (Real Florida key lime pie with a graham cracker crust) were our choices for dessert.  Both desserts were wonderfully prepared and without flaws.  The chocolate cake had great texture and depth of chocolate flavor.  The key lime pie was tart, sweet, and it had the perfect consistency.

Green Pastures's building is rich with character and history.  For a building that was 114 years old (built in 1895), it was well-maintained over the years.  In fact, post-meal, our waiter Chance took us on a tour of the building.  We were told that the staircase and banister was ordered from Sears Roebuck. 
It is also just now that I realized that the inspiration of my Kahlua chocolate almond cake was from Green Pastures.  The wedding I attended here 4 years ago served a sinfully delicious and moist chocolate cake with the rich texture and aroma of almonds. It is simply one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had.  To have a cake that impressed me for 4 years is quite a feat, as I've been known to eat and bake many cakes.  

One reason I looked into Green Pastures was because @caraferguson had it pegged as a "to eat" restaurant. I was intrigued by the tempura lobster tail at first glance, but after a careful look, I noticed that the chef likes to cook with alcohol. The decision to try Green Pastures was easy.

We wound up ordering the Upland Game plate (A quail eating adventure), Tempura Lobster, Garbanzo Bean Dumplings, Grilled Flat Iron Steak, Cheesecake, and Green Pastures Bread pudding.  I have to highlight a few things about Green Pastures that impressed me. 

1. The character of the building was charming and warm.  It had a soul, and one could feel the rich history in the walls.  Or it could just be haunted by ghosts, friendly ghosts though.  Don't quote me on the ghosts.

2. Service at Green Pastures was well-polished like a Ferrari (a well-cared for Ferrari anyways).  Service was warm, welcoming, attentive, yet not intrusive.  The staff was so well trained that it only took a glance for him to notice that our table setting was slightly off.  Our bread plates were on the lower left side instead of on the upper left side.  Remember: bread on the upper left, drinks on the upper right.  It is debatable whether or not the bread can be on the lower side, but formal settings call for upperside. Green Pasture service is on my list of places that will spoil you like Veruca Salt.  Other places on that said list are Trio and Paggi House.

3. Southern and French cooking seems like an odd combination, but the foundation for both is butter and cream, in my opinion anyways. Do I need to say more?
4. The Jack Daniels sauce served on the bread pudding tasted like booze. It was not like those other restaurants that claim to put alcohol in their foods, but just a hint so that they could print it on the menu.  This Jack Daniels was bold, like the chef intended it to be there.
5. The use of "non-traditional" ingredients in their dishes left me baffled.  I've eaten many strange and exotic vegetables, but I had never heard of chayote.  I almost mistook it for a green apple, but the flavor was mellow and subtle instead of tart and crunchy.  I like it when I learn about new foods.  The grilled flat iron steak not only had brandy, but also grains of paradise, a spice that is used in beer brewing.  Sam Adam's Summer ale uses it.  :o)

6. Tempura Lobster.  You only live once. Get it on your next visit.
7. The liberal use of wine and spirits in the dishes.  Lobster-brandy mashed potatoes. Shiraz-Spiced apple ring. Jack Daniels Sauce. The chef, Charles Bloemsma, also chatted with us about a Guinness Punch (Guinness, condensed milk, and liquor over ice) as well as a Guinness Creme Brulee.  He should probably be writing this blog.


  1. I wish my schedule and my budget this month had had a place for Austin Restaurant Week in it. I've dined at Hudson's several times and have never been disappointed. But I must try the others on your list. Thanks for the post.

  2. I only read the part about Green Pastures, because it has been my family's favorite Sunday dinner for decades. I love the chef and the food and service is always outstanding. They even have lots of vegan friendly foods, including tofu!

  3. aww i am glad you liked green pastures! I think Hudsons might have served the best meal I have ever eaten (did not go during restuarant week though) but I guess it doesn't help that I also got engaged there. haha. But really glad you liked it!