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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Austin Chef Heritage Tree 2014 Social Graph Edition

Heritage, Pedigree, and Lineage are words can be used to describe any industry that has a culture of apprenticeship. Characteristics of mentor are passed down to mentee in a systematic fashion.  
I experienced this during my graduate studies. Sometime in the early 2000s, I was reading a paper by Mark Snyder, and the writing style was familiar and distinct. It read just like my advisor’s, Jeffry Simpson, work. Mark Snyder was Jeffry Simpson’s advisor. Since Jeff was my advisor, some of that writing style rubbed off on me too - in technical writing. I have different styles for different audiences.

When I interviewed chefs at the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival, many of them said something in a similar vein.  
“A sign of a truly great food city is one where you see the local chefs training others to be chefs and eventually open their own restaurants.” The training here is emphasized. 

*Save the graph to view full size.  *Updated 10:25 pm 8.25.14


It could not be more true of Austin with its blooming food scene. It isn’t difficult to taste the influences that many of the new young chefs carry with them from their mentors. Chef David Bull of Congress Austin and formerly the Driskill makes a very distinct and delicious gnocchi. You can taste that same technique in the style of chefs that have trained under him. The gnocchi are fluffy pockets of carby sunshine.  

I can also pick out plating style out of a line up if the chef has ever trained at Uchi or Uchiko. I’ve done it before looking at Instagram streams. The marriage of juxtapositioned flavors and textures along with vertical garnishes (think the house made cornflakes) are distinct characteristics of their style. That plating style must have been forced into their genes via X-man like mutations.  
I started collecting chef and restaurant data a few years ago, and here it is. *I’m a data nerd during my day job. The hubs of chef training is obvious: Driskill and Uchi/Uchiko. It is also easy to see powerhouses like Sonya Cote and Shawn Cirkiel owning multiple establishments. This graph is to inform readers about the food history in Austin. It is important to document history so that we can someday learn from it.

This is a work in progress. Chefs and restaurant data changes constantly, and I do expect to be updating this social graph on a regular basis. If you would like to submit additions, please do email me at  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Where you Should Eat in Austin - 2014 Edition

Where should I go eat in Austin?  You probably hear this question 1000 times, and if you’re like me, it isn’t an easy answer.  It usually follows with a list of questions like “What kind of food? Which part of town?  How much have you budgeted? Do you have any specific dislikes?”  *Most photos by John M. P. Knox

These questions can make navigating Austin’s food scene more complex than making chocolate caramel sea salt lavender macarons.  Here’s my 2014 handy dandy guide for where you should go eat broken down by category. Some of these fit into many categories - like date.  Just about any of these fine establishments could be a great date night - depending on the stage of the dating process.  I’ll make note of multi-category fittings as we move along.

*Note: I didn't cover BBQ because FedManWalking already covers it in great detail.  

Ramen Tatsu-ya number 2. 

Italian - There is good Italian in Austin, peeps.  You just need to find it.  
Andiamo - This is a cozy place on the north side of Austin.  Sweet, quiet, and a pleasant experience for all.
Bulfaina Pizza - I haven’t been here yet.  But the chatter about it is so great that I just had to add it.*Update: I tried it last weekend. The pizzas were fantastic. There will be a wait, but you can pass the time with their beer and wine menu.
Botticelli’s - Like Andiamo, it has a sweet quiet feel located on SoCo.  No hype.  Just butter and cream in the sauces.
Patrizi’s - I love this place because the owners are so darn cute and friendly.  Also, the dishes are very tasty, and their story about moving from Beaumont beyond heartwarming.  
Josh Loving behind the bar at Fino circa Jan. 2011.

Cocktails - Everyone needs a good cocktail once in a while.  
Tigress - You go here for the drinks.  But what you get is a hug from Pam.  
Drink.Well - Michael, the owner, says that if you don’t get the burger, I’m gonna give you a spanking. I mean I will give the spankings, but him.  
Whisler’s Austin - I haven’t been here yet, but this is the unofficial post whatever you were doing earlier meet up for many of the industry peeps.  I guess it’ll do.  
Half Step - There’s this really cute bartender there, Rob.  This man made a banana creme something, and I cried tears of joy.  

Beer - Because this is nectar of the Gods.  All of them.  
Black Star Coop - Dog friendly, beard friendly.  
Easy Tiger - They have a lovely beer and bread selection.
Draught House - Dog friendly, and it is pretty much the beer connoisseurs hang out.  
Gingerman - I used to come here often, but parking downtown is a pain in my big toe.  

Uchiko.  Isn't it beautiful?  

Indian - I bleed curry. Just FYI.  Indian cuisine has a sweet place in my heart.  
WhipIn - This is also great for beer, and dog friendly too.  
Bombay Grill Austin- This unassuming eatery in Bee Caves is actually quite delightful.  I like to get their butter chicken and naan.
Asiana Indian Cuisine Austin - Two words.  Lentil donuts.  

Dogs - Sometimes you happen to have the pooches with you.  They gotta eat too.
Banger’s - Just don’t let the dogs drink too much beer.  
Midway Trailer Park - I like that this is fenced (not that it is dog proof fencing), but at least you can keep your little ones corralled.  
Pretty much anywhere on South Congress with a patio - For reals, but please keep your dog on a leash.  Cars there be driving crazy.

Odd Duck Pretzels.

Young Gourmands in Training (You’re teaching your kids to have a sophisticated palate and table manners)
Roll on Sushi  - This is a great experience for kids as they have menu items more approachable by kids.  
Quality Seafood - Fish tacos for the kids.  Fish tacos for you.
Whole Foods - This is a great place to the little ones to try new foods in a fun environment.  Let’s just make sure they keep their hands out of the food bars and samples.  

First Dates - If you want date numero dos, ditch Trudy’s and the Olive Garden.  
Lenoir - This place will show him or her that you are classy, thoughtful, and have impeccable taste.
Green Pastures - Peacocks.  Whatever Chef makes with that brioche.  Your hearts will swell with love and lust.  
Asti - If one of ya eats garlic, the other needs to as well.  
Arro - The feel here should set the mood - modern French with an Austin flair.  Get the lobster bisque and move onto the date two.  

Happy Hour - Getting your nibbles and sips on.
Perry’s - This is also known as Pork Chop Sundays
Little Barrel and Brown - The cocktails here did not disappoint.
Hightower Austin - Fried chickpeas and cocktails should be on everyone’s order.
Peche - More cocktails and small bites.
Salty Sow - I brought my sister here for happy hour on her birthday, and we got one of everything on the menu.  I am not opposed to doing that again.


Sushi Date - It is becoming an institution now.
Uchi - No words necessarily.
Uchiko - Get dessert.
Soto - This is a hidden gem in Cedar Park.  Get the flaming salmon.
Musashino - This is where Tyson Cole started.  In 50 years, this might be a food museum of where Japanese food in Austin gained traction.  

Celebratory Dates - Did you just graduate?  Let’s go celebrate!  
Odd Duck - Hola, delicious pretzel sticks of yumminess. Also, cocktails.
Fino - Cocktails, and some of the best deep fried olives you can imagine.  
Hudson’s on the Bend - This is an Austin classic. Very old Austin.
Congress Austin - New Austin.  New and James Bond-ish. Get cocktails.
Swift's Attic - If there’s some with meat here, you should get it.  I’m just saying.  
Qui - The cocktail program here is amazing.  It is as inventive as the food.  Also, try the ice cream sandwich.  

Crowd Pleasers - These restaurants can please an array of palates and without sacrificing the integrity of a beautifully executed dish.
Jack Allen’s - Almost everything on this menu is approachable from all angles, and they donate a proceed of queso sales to the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.
Sway - I really like Sway for being interesting and inventive while being familiar enough for everyone.  It is also fancy enough to take business clients.  
Moonshine Cafe and Grill - Comfort food with an upscale feel that make your dinner feel fancy.
Trace - Tell Chef Lawrence I sent you and ask for foie gras pancakes.

Here's one of everything on the menu of Kin and Comfort.

New to Asian Food - While the Asian food scene in Austin grows, here’s some places to take the not yet indoctrinated.  
Ramen Tatsu-ya - If I have to explain to you that this to you, you need to get on the Internet and watch them on tv.  I won’t even waste my time trying to explain to you why this is one of the catalyst for Asian food in Austin.  
Kin and Comfort - Located in Hana World Market on Parmer, who would have thought they could be churning out food that made even my traditional mother nod her head in approval?
Snow Monster - This is a fun shaved ice join that reminds me of my childhood.  Taro rules.  
Haiky - This is a great Vietnamese restaurant that is very approachable, but it still maintains integrity of the traditional dishes.  

Now that you know where the go for that occasion or cuisine, cheers!

Monday, August 11, 2014

I found my Dimple Twin at the 2014 Pay is Forward with Daniel Curtis

Another great Lone Star Paralysis Foundation Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis has delighted us, touched our hearts, and invigorated our dancing moves.  
This year for me was a pretty exciting.  I finally met my dimple twin via a conversation prompted by my Google Glass.  You’re thinking “what on Earth is a dimple twin?”  I’ll take a step back.  I have an unusual dimple on my cheekbone - on just one side.  It is a distinctive trait that garners attention.  It was just another trait that made me a statistical outlier.  
Attendees danced the night away to the Spazmatics.
Being a statistical outlier is pretty fun. You stick out like sore thumb (which I like to use to my advantage), but you also get a yearning for someone who might share your same feelings.  Well, I met my dimple twin.  He doesn’t look much like me, but darn, if it I didn’t feel like we had a small community of two.
So I got to chatting with AJ - that’s my twin’s name.  He suffered an injury about 3.5 years ago and was told that he would never walk again.  While I can’t understand what he felt to be told that your entire way of living would be turned upside down just when your life is getting started, I do know that he’s standing and walking because of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.  
My dimple twin! 
AJ is still active in physical therapy and lives with chronic pain.  But he’s working, happy, and full of life.  Stories like his carve an even deeper place in my heart for the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.  I’d like to say that you’ll come to Lone Star Paralysis Foundation events for the great food, great entertainment, and the great auction prizes.
The truth is that you should really come for the great people - the people who have formed an amazing community around recovery and the people who have triumphed past those difficult recovery stages of their lives.  Cheers to AJ and all the others on the road to recovery!

I would be remiss if I didn’t show off at least photo of food porn and thank our generous supporters.  Fabulous bites and sips courtesy of:  
Chef Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck
Chef Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Chef Ben Nathan of Café Blue
Chef Philip Speer of Uchi & Uchiko & St. Philip
Chef John Bates of The Noble Sandwich Co.
Chefs Jenn Costello and Chris Hurley of The Bonneville
Thank you so much to everyone for your support and making it a great evening!
Brown butter bruleed shepherd’s from Jack Allen’s.  Don’t forget that both Jack Allen’s and HopDoddy’s donates regularly to Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.