March 27th, 2017

Food Trend Series: Free the Fire

Posted in Consumer Trends, Fire, Food Trends, Smoke

Research chefs

The Flavors of Fire Reign Supreme

It would seem that the love of smoke and fire have finally been accepted by the mainstream. Need proof? Check out Little Caesars latest release of the Smokehouse Pizza, topped with brisket, pulled pork, and smoked bacon along with a smokehouse seasoned crust.  Arby’s serves a similar Smokehouse sandwich made with brisket and smoked Gouda cheese. Even Applebee’s has jumped into the mix with the roll out of their wood fired grills in select locations.

Menu development

Image courtesy of Restaurant Facility Business

Tracking menu insights from 3rd quarter 2015 and 2016 the market research firm Mintel placed smoked flavors atop their list of rising flavor trends(1).

Empirical evidence backs up these statements as well. Think of how common smoked salts, fire roasted tomatoes or chilies, and charred citrus have become. Menus show items like smoked butterscotch coffee, fire roasted vegetables, and charred artichokes. Heck, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever drunk was served to me last weekend and included freshly burnt rosemary and mescal.

We can also see these fiery flavors showing up in condiments. Chipotle ketchup, pecan wood smoked maple syrup, smoked onion marmalade, and smoked black pepper pickles to name a few. I have no doubt a simple Google query would bring up a slew of other products I haven’t thought of. 

Fine dining restaurants nationwide have long been pushing the flaming trend forward with the use of wood burning stoves. Local to Austin you can enjoy foods slow roasted over wood fires at the likes of Odd Duck or Dai Due, the latter using beautiful customized elevator grills. Nationally, you can find wood fire kitchens from coast to coast, but for our New York friends a stand out would be Lilia in Brooklyn.

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

As chefs we are stoked (get it?) by the fired and smoked food trend, as it hearkens back to the origins of cooking food with only wood and a spark. I feel a beard growing just thinking about it.

We would love to hear what you’re seeing out there in your culinary travels. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

 

Cheers!

-Chris

1. Weisberg, Karen. "Flavor Advances: Top Trends for 2017." Culinology. December 2016: 10-17. 6 Mar., 2017.
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March 13th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Kebabalicious

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Austin Food Truck Consultants

Kebabalicious

Modeled after the European stlye Doner Kebab carts, common street food through the U.K. and greater Europe, Kebabalicious successfully brings that savory flavor to Austin.

Listed on Eater as a one of the “20 Essential Food Trucks in Austin,” Kebabalicious maintains similar accolades on Do512 also. For this reason, and the fact that I ate kebab at least twice a week while I lived in London, I knew I had to give this truck a try. 

Food

Restaurant consultants

With a smart, concise menu, ordering was made easy for me. With the “Spoiled Brat” plate, the K-Fries, and a side order of the Ka-baam sauce I was able to taste almost all of the menu items.

Commercial food consultants

The Spoiled Brat plate consists of beef and lamb shawarma, seasoned chicken, crispy falafel, humus, feta, tzatziki, and red sauce on a bed of greens with tomatoes and onion.

The chicken was delicious. Moist and tender with and excellent seasoning. The beef and lamb was underwhelming. The flavor was fairly standard with nothing to denote fine quality or uniqueness. It was also cut so small it was closer to ground sausage than traditional flanks of shawarma. The falafel, however, made up for that fully. Perfect balance of crispy exterior with a soft, rustic center. Great color, aromatics, and seasoning.

Corporate chefs

The K-Fries were a fun addition, but also let me down. While the sauce was excellent and the salty feta worked very well with the fries, the fact that they were soft undercut the dish. I will say though, the zatar spice is the perfect compliment to fries. With hot, crisp potatoes this would likely have been a real winner.

Sauces

Let’s focus on sauce for a minute, particularly the chile sauces. The Ka-baam sauce is a smoky blend of jalapeno and poblano peppers in cool cream cheese with lots of aromatics. Delightful against the strong seasonings and charred meats.

Their spicy red sauce, on the other hand, is closer to a harissa chile blended with red curry sauce. Balance this with some powerful aromatics like coriander and cumin, ramp up with coarsely crushed black pepper, and then tone back down with creamy mayonnaise and you may have something close to this delicious sauce.

Other

To finish out the humus was wonderful, rustic, and delicate. The tzatziki was overly sweet and missed the crucial cucumber flavor, but the pita was wonderfully thin and chewy, a refreshing change from the usually puffy, dense pitas served at many kebab shops.

Final Thoughts

Recipe commercialization

Overall I was pleased with my visit to Kebabalicious. The chicken is well prepared and hearkens directly to the doner kebab shops of Europe. I’d like to see a stronger cut of the beef and lamb, a more balanced tzatziki, and crispy fries, but these I’ll chalk up to a simple miss. I’ll have to eat there 3 or 4 more times before I’m sure of anything. Next time though, I know to start with the falafel.

Until next time, good eating Austin!

 

Cheers!

-Chris

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February 13th, 2017

Good Eggs: More Than A Name

Posted in Consumer Trends, food tours, Food Trends, Grocery, Locally Grown, Organic, Recipes, Retail, Trends

Research Chefs

Good Eggs: More Than A Name

Founded in the summer of 2011, Good Eggs is an online market that delivers local, organic, sustainable foods and groceries to the San Francisco Bay area. With same day and next day delivery options, Good Eggs aims to connect people who love food directly with the people who make it.

One mission of Good Eggs, as my guide Angelica described during my site tour, is “to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide in order to change the supply chain from the ground up, making it better for everyone.” This noble and ambitious mission shines throughout the operation.

Chef Consultants

Unlike its online competitors (think Instacart, Amazon Fresh), Good Eggs receives their products straight from farmers and suppliers, rather than tapping into an existing market chain. They have established direct relationships with their producers and in turn have created a very efficient, mutually beneficial system of operation.

This direct relationship between producers and customers also puts Good Eggs in a unique position to see culinary trends develop in real-time. Angelica noted the popularity of local foods, especially produce, Korean ribs, ramen, the return of pasta, and bone broths in 2016 and sees no slowing down going into 2017.

Additionally, they’ve seen a push for easy weeknight meal solutions for busy families, especially those with young children. Dinners that can be prepared relatively quickly and without much fuss that still maintain healthful, natural, and craveable qualities are ideal. You can even get inspiration from unique, easy to follow chef developed recipes that are found on their website.

Restaurant Consultants

Good Eggs is working hard to drive away the misconception that natural markets are only within reach of those of a higher socioeconomic class by offering competitively priced groceries and a spectrum of comparable products. They’re also aiming to ensure that EBT and WIC benefits will eventually be allowed for use in their market.

In asking what one thing Angelica wished shoppers recognized about Good Eggs, she replied “We want customers to understand that Good Eggs is the simplest way to get groceries every week. That we’re priced the same as major markets, but we source directly so it’s as fresh as if you were getting them from a farmer’s market.”

Seem too good to be true? You be the judge.

Corporate chefs

If you’re in the San Francisco area give Good Eggs a try to see for yourself if they stack up. I can tell you first hand that after visiting their facility, I’m impressed not only with their food, but with their people. They truly believe in what they do and are determined to change the world.

Plus, where else are you going to find a whole pig’s head?

I can’t wait to see what they do next…

Culinary Consultants

 

Cheers!

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January 30th, 2017

Food Trends: Winter Fancy Food Show 2017

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Shows, Food Trends, Healthy, Japanese, New Foods and Flavors

2017 Winter Fancy Food Show Trends

Well the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show (FFS) in San Francisco is a wrap. With 3 showrooms full of great food, ingenious concepts, and wild fusions, picking just a few to highlight will be difficult, but I think I’m up to the challenge.

So let’s look at the 4 items that popped up the most and were used diversely at the FFS.

1. Harissa

img_6462

The heat is on, and you’d know this is true if you were anywhere near the FFS last week. Chile peppers, hot sauces, and spicy rubs were prevalent, but none shone quite as bright as the humble harissa. This complex North African chile paste made the rounds with applications in cheeses, simmer sauces, dry rubs, hummus, and even butter! So, it looks like harissa is here to stay and I say bring the heat!

2. Yuzu

Research Chefs

Photo Credit: thesweetartlab.com

A yuzu is a small, wrinkled citrus fruit that looks similar to a lemon used popularly in Japanese cuisine. The fruit itself hails from China originally and has become quite popular in Korean dishes as well. Yuzu creatively made its way into powdered seasonings, teas, infused shoyu sauces, and candies. With a complicated sweet, citrus, and sour flavor profile, and the proliferation of Eastern cuisine in the U.S., I imagine we’ll be seeing yuzu flavored items a lot more on menus and grocery shelves.

3. Umami Pastes

Culinary Consultant

This is a product that really excites me. Umami pastes activate our 5th taste by masterfully combining umami flavors like porcini mushroom, tomato, anchovy, and tomato and concentrating them into a rich paste that can be used in sauces, gravies, and pastas, or as rubs for meats. The pastes add a rich savory flavor that really takes you where you want to go. There are also miso based Asian versions with varieties such as ginger or togarashi pepper.

4. Hummus

Chef Consultants

The mighty chickpea continues to drive forward. There were more than a few new hummus flavors popping up at the Food Show, including some using the other trends we talked about above, but I was pleased to find black garlic among the troves. With its tangy richness and bold aroma, black garlic marries perfectly with a bright, smooth hummus. Another supremely unique product was the shelf-stable hummus developed by Hummustir. This clean label product comes with the ingredients in pre-portioned pouches that are shelf stable for up to 18 months. You simply stir the ingredients together and presto hummus. It’s darn good too!

For the sake of accuracy, coconut was also widely popular this year being found everywhere from water, paste, and ice cream to crisps, simmer and hot sauces. I only don’t mention it above because coconut has proved itself widely popular in the past. It’s a trend that’s not fading anytime soon.

That’s it for this week. I certainly hope you enjoyed reading about the FFS because I certainly enjoyed visiting it.

 

Cheers!

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January 9th, 2017

Chef Tips: Garlic

Posted in Healthy, Locally Grown, Tips

Garlic

Let’s Talk Garlic

Garlic is a cook’s close friend and longtime companion. It can be chopped, minced, sliced, pasted, fermented, blackened, pickled, roasted, etc.

Not only does garlic provide flavor and aroma to food, it is also thought to provide a myriad of health benefits including the ability to “reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases, have anti-tumor and antimicrobial effects, and show benefit on high blood glucose concentration.”(source).

Picking Garlic

In U.S. markets, there are 2 major sources of garlic, California and China. Chinese garlic tends to be much less flavorful with a lower brix level and can have a metallic taste. California grown garlic is sweet, plump, and aromatic. The easiest way to spot California grown garlic is by flipping it over. If the root is still present, it’s more than likely CA grown. If the root has been removed, leaving a concave smooth spot, it’s likely Chinese. This method is not 100% accurate mind you. Some U.S. growers do remove the root for aesthetic purposes, but it’s less common.

Peeling Garlic

There’s certainly more than one way to peel garlic, and each cook has their own favorite method. I’ll share with you the basics.

To peel a single clove of garlic, remove the clove and place it flatly on a cutting board. With a chef’s knife, slice off the blunt (root) end (1). Now lay your blade flat on the clove and press down with your palm to break (2). You should now be able to pull the garlic clove away from the husk (3).

To peel a whole garlic bulb, start by setting the bulb top side down (root facing up) on a cutting board. Using your palm press straight down into the root, breaking the cloves away from each other (1). Discard the root stem and separate any remaining joined cloves (2). Place the garlic cloves in a steel bowl, cover with a second steel bowl rim to rim, and shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds. The cloves should now be separated from their husks (3).

Cutting Garlic

For beautiful thinly sliced garlic, ensure you either use the second peeling method listed above, or go the more laborious route by cutting the end of the garlic clove and manually removing the husk with your fingers (1). Smashing the clove will result in a broken clove that does not slice nicely. Once peeled, use a chef’s or paring knife to thinly slice (almost translucent) the garlic from the root to the tip (2), leaving delicate wheels of garlic (3). This type of garlic is best used for dishes like oil based pastas or stir-fry where the garlic will be highlighted, or toasted for garnish.

For chopped garlic break the clove with the flat end of a chef’s knife (1) then chop roughly to the desired size (2). This type of non-uniform product is best for use in slow, wet cooking, and when further processing will be involved, as in a tomato sauce that will be made uniform with an immersion or table top blender.

Minced Garlic

The process for minced garlic is similar like of chopped garlic, however, the goal is to create small, uniform pieces by chopping thoroughly with your knife. This allows the garlic to be cooked at precisely the same rate and is best for when the garlic must be sautéed at high heat momentarily, as in a braised meat dish or Indian curry.

Finally, pasted garlic begins with minced garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of course Kosher salt over the garlic for added grit (1) and using the flat side of your knife, scrape the garlic back and forth on the cutting board (2). With one hand, hold the handle to the knife, and with the other hand, apply pressure with your fingertips to the top of the blade. Use controlled motions and be methodical to prevent slippage. Pasted garlic (3) can be used unilaterally, but is best suited for finished dressings or for uses that don’t require cooking.

Cooking with Garlic

Cooks commonly believe that garlic must be heavily cooked or browned for dishes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for certain dishes like Indian bhindi, garlic is cooked and ready the moment it becomes fragrant. This normally happens around 30 seconds, depending on the temperature of the pot or pan.

Garlic can safely be cooked much longer in foods that contain high levels of moisture, as in tomato sauces or soups, because the liquid can only reach a maximum temperature 212 degrees Fahrenheit, protecting the garlic from burning. This protection does not exist in a dry cooking where the temperature can easily exceed over 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s it for this week. We hope you learned something useful and until next time, keep cooking!

Cheers!

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December 26th, 2016

Food Trends: Izakayas

Posted in Food Trends, Gastro-Pub, Japanese, Trends

Izakayas: The Japanese Gastropub

Izakayas

Takoyaki – Kome

Don’t know what izakayas are? You’re about to.

Japanese cuisine provides us with a large variety of foods that continue to engage our imaginations and our palates. The prevalence of sushi and ramen has paved the way for more unfamiliar Japanese fare to make inroads into the American diet.

Such fare often comes by way of izakayas, the Japanese Gastropub. These diners focus on small plates served in a casual atmosphere, usually paired with sake or beer. A commonplace for an after work drink and a bite to eat in Japan, izakayas can be likened to an Irish pub. As Susan Malovany writes in the June edition of Culinology Magazine, izakayas are all about “small plates and portion control, healthy options, global foods, umami and variety.”

Over the last decade, izakayas have begun to flourish in the United States. As with most Asian food trends, they began showing up on the west coast and in New York, but have spread inward and can now be found in most major cities. Izakayas run the gamut from fine to casual dining and mirror the trend of taking simple comfort foods and elevating them to new heights with influences of different cultures. This can be seen in the utilization of continental ingredients such as beets and Brussels sprouts.

Austin Izakayas

Oyster – Otoko

You can find staples such as edamame and seaweed salad mixed in with less familiar dishes like takoyaki (octopus dumplings), uni, and chicken hearts. Varieties of sushi, sashimi, and noodle soups are also served at izakayas, offering options to even the pickiest of food adventurers. This variety displays the true beauty of the izakaya.

Izakaya Austin

Courtesy of Gallivant.com

Izakaya Den in Denver, for instance, is a local favorite and sister restaurant to Sushi Den. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan for sushi and specials, and their menu is diversified with a range of foods from steamed duck buns to roasted beet salad.

Chef Consultants

Jellyfish – Otoko

Austin also proves a great city for izakaya dining. Tyson Cole has given us the likes of Uchi, Uchiko, and Paul Qui gives us the more highbrow Otoko. Chef Kazu Fukumoto chose to go more casual with Fukumoto just east of downtown. Komé offers those on the north side of the city a fantastic menu of small plates along with a great ambiance.

There are plenty of great izakayas across the country, all worth a visit. From Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya in New York to Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya in San Francisco, there is always great food and innovation to experience. Whenever visiting a new city, I recommend looking at the local izakayas and always asking what the house special is and trying that, regardless of how strange it might seem. You never know where you might find your next favorite dish.

So, explore and eat my friends, and let us know what you find!

 

Cheers!

 

Izakayas to Try:

Izakaya Den
1487-A South Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80210
Website

Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya
187 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
Website

Shizen Vegan Sushi & Izakaya
370 14th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Website

Fukumoto
514 Medina St.
Austin, TX 78702
Website

Uchi / Uchiko
801 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
4200 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78756
Uchi Website
Uchiko Website

Komé
4917 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
Website

Update:

Since the initial writing of this blog Austin got news of a new izakaya concept from the co-owners and executive chefs of Ramen Tatsu-ya. Opening in what was the location of Live Oak BBQ, the new restaurant called Kemuri Tatsu-ya, will feature Texas inspired izakaya dishes intended to be shared.

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December 12th, 2016

Food Trends Series: Hawaiian Cuisine

Posted in Food Trends, Hawaii, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Hawaiian Food Trends

Hawaiian food trends

When you think of Hawaiian cuisine, images of roasted pork and, most importantly, Spam are likely what your brain conjures. Though these two staples are indeed important, they are not the end all be all of a culture rich in food tradition. Though more prominent on the West coast of the US, dishes and flavor profiles from Hawaiian cuisine are making their way across the mainland.

Poke, a dish that until recently was widely unknown throughout the continental United States, has seen a surge in popularity over the past year. A simple dish, traditionally made of white rice topped with diced raw tuna, green onions, chili, sesame, soy sauce and furikake, poke is a massive reason for the interest in Hawaiian flavors. Poke is simply part of living in Hawaii. Available in every grocery store and with entire restaurants dedicated to making it, poke is a staple. With poke eateries popping up heavily in both New York and Los Angeles, it is no surprise that we are seeing Hawaiian restaurants appear in major cities across the US.

Certified Research Chef

Liholiho Picture Courtesy of Eater San Francisco

Hawaiian and Hawaiian-inspired restaurants run the gamut from fast casual to fine dining. Concepts such as Pokeworks on the west coast utilize a similar setup as Chipotle, allowing customers to choose the toppings and sauces to accent their fresh fish. Higher end restaurants such as Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco take Hawaiian cuisine to a new level.

Like most major cities, Denver has seen a growth in Hawaiian restaurants in the past year. Though there has been a L&L BBQ (a Hawaiian based fast casual restaurant) located in Aurora since 2004, there has been little competition until recently. Most notably, the newly renovated Adrift Tiki Bar off Broadway St. and Ohana Island Kitchen in the Highlands.

Adrift Tiki Bar

Research chef Denver

Picture Courtesy of Westword

Adrift has taken on an enhanced menu of traditional island flavors blended with American fare whilst still producing delicious tiki drinks and bowls.

Kilauea Poke – Ahi, Albacore, Mango, Wakami, Taro Chips

Chef consultants Denver

A beautiful take on a simple dish, this poke is slightly sweet and spicy with a good depth of fresh fish flavor from the different tunas. The taro chips were very crunchy and a great addition to the tuna.

Green Papaya Salad – Jicama, Asian Pear, Peanuts, Lotus, Tamarind, Sriracha, Chicken

Chef consultants Colorado

A wonderfully balanced salad. Slightly acidic green papaya paired with sweet Asian pear and rounded out with spicy sriracha. This salad shows island flavors with the plenty of Asian flair.

Pupu Platter – Pele Wings (gochujang glazed), Guava BBQ Ribs, Onion Rings, Kalua Pork Sliders, Mofongo Chips, Edamame

Chef consultants Texas

A Hawaiian take on an Asian classic, this pupu platter allows you to try the majority of the menu offered at Adrift:

  • Pele wings are glazed with Adrift’s take on the now extremely popular gochujang sauce, slightly spicy and sweet with the addicting flavor of fermented chilies.
  • Kalua pork, no Hawaiian restaurant would be respected without it. The sliders were good but felt unnecessary, the pork could stand on its own without the addition of the bread and excess lettuce.
  • Guava BBQ ribs added another variety of pork to the platter; very tender with a fruity and sweet glaze.

Ohana Island Kitchen

Hawaiian food trends

Once literally a hole in a wall, but now a full restaurant across the street from their original location, Ohana keeps their menu wonderfully simple and true to Hawaii. With only 4-5 main menu items, Ohana is able to serve exemplary food at a reasonable cost.

Spam Musubi

Chef consultant services

Seared spam with a sweet soy glaze, wrapped in sushi rice and nori; probably the simplest Hawaiian dish and one of the most delicious. Though not seemingly exciting, especially for those adverse to the Spam name, Spam musubi is a must at Ohana.

Poke

Culinary consultants

 

THIS IS POKE! Large chunks of fresh tuna lightly seasoned with soy, sesame, and chilies is all you need. Ohana does poke as it should be and being in a land locked state, it’s not easy to make it this good.

Kalua Pork Bento

Product development

As much as I love pork, I will admit that kalua pork is not my favorite. If made incorrectly, it can come out lacking flavor and tasting steamed. Ohana does a fantastic job of avoiding this by seasoning well with a light sauce and scallions. Served with seasoned white rice and house made pickles, this pork is hard to pass up.

Final Thoughts

Both Adrift and Ohana are great places to dine, each with their own charm. If you are looking for a few classic tiki drinks and some delicious bites, Adrift is the place for you. However, for the best Hawaiian food in town the answer is Ohana.

Though just a few examples, Hawaiian food influence can be seen across the country and is only continuing to grow. Island flavors are making their way into different culinary segments every day. With coconut milk added into the cheese process in KoKos gouda and passionfruit in a sour wit beer with Lilikoi Kepolo by Avery brewing, the possibilities are plenty. 2016 was definitely the breakout year for Hawaiian food and flavors and I doubt we will see them disappear anytime soon. With consumers continually seeking out new experiences trends like Hawaiian are going to continue to flourish in the future.

 

-Patrick

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November 28th, 2016

Eberly Restaurant Review

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Gastro-Pub, Restaurants, Reviews

Eberly Restaurant Review

Dined 11/01/16

For months, I have been walking up and down South Lamar Blvd. wondering what was to become of the empty print shop holding prominent real estate between Paul Qui’s ever-bustling Uchi and the eventful Barton Springs cross street. With the Long Center and Zilker Park nearby whatever would come to the location was ripe with organic exposure.

You could imagine my excitement to find out a new restaurant helmed by John Scott and Eddy Patterson of Stubb’s Bar-B-Q fame would be filling the vacancy.

With a kitchen advertised as serving upscale American fare under the guidance of executive chef Jim Tripi (Spanish Oaks Golf Club) and executive pastry chef Natalie Gazaui (McGuire Moorman Hospitality), it seemed a new high-roller was looking to up the ante in South Austin.

Named after Austin’s famous heroine Angelina Eberly, the restaurant would also house the Cedar Tavern, a collection of drinking and contemplation spaces complete with a rooftop patio designed to mirror the famous New York tavern of the same name. In this space, Kelon Bryant, formerly of Justine’s Brasserie and the Continental Club, would be designing clever libations and pouring local drafts. The original Eberly served as the hub for many famous artists, including Bob Dylan and Jackson Pollock, and Austin’s Eberly hopes to serve as the hub for a new wave artists and free-thinkers.

The Interior

The interior proved to be elegant, spacious, and thoughtfully designed. A vast dining room with individual tables connected by large velvet lined bench seats fills the front dining area. The décor is a conscious juxtaposition of lavish furniture and ornamentation reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance and the sharp edges and reflective surfaces equated with modern architecture.

A central atrium, lined with rows of high steampunk style support braces encased with clear glass walls transects the floor connecting the dining room to the Cedar Tavern. A rectangular glass ceiling holds the steel arms at bay while allowing a flood of natural light to fill the atrium, much to the pleasure of the many plants that adorn the walls and floors.

To the right of this room runs additional table seating and to the left a walkway parallel to the mouth of the open kitchen, allowing guests to see the action as they wander to and from the tavern or dining room. The additional traffic along this threshold provides an added obstacle for the front of house staff, but they seemed to navigate with ease.

Eberly Austin

Source: Icon Design+Build

The Cedar Tavern maintained a palpable energy with busy chatter, pulsing music, and the collision of ice, glass, and steel typical of a full-service bar. The centerpiece of the Cedar Tavern is the wooden bar itself. The fifty-foot-long mahogany marvel, complete with extensive hand-carved filigree, was purchased from the original Cedar Tavern when it closed in 2006. After being shipped to its new Austin location in pieces, it has been restored to its glory and remains a sight to be seen.

Dispersed throughout the mahogany scented tavern are plush couches, over-sized leather armchairs, and poufs inviting prolonged conversation and welcomed intermingling. This intellectual lounge atmosphere is a refreshing addition in South Austin.

The Drinks

The drink menu is a smart, concise collection of local beers and select wines. Draft beers include popular selections such as Live Oak Hefeweizen and Austin Eastciders Dry Cider, along with more adventurous selections such as the Founder’s Breakfast Stout and Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA out of Bend, OR. Bottled options offer a larger variety including Sours, Tripels, and Ales.

A selective wine list displays the right amount of options without creating the exhausting paradox of choice. The menu includes personal favorites such as the 2013 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay out of Napa as well as the Italian 2012 Giodo Rosso, “IGT” Sangiovese. A selection of sparkling and fortified wines, scotches, and whiskeys are also available upon request.

The craft cocktails, however limited, are meticulously constructed. The list includes subtly playful gems such as the Lady Bond, which balances the floral notes of a sweet Lillet against a complex gin and the brightness Ketel One Citroen, along with bolder statement drinks like the Final Ward, a fascinating blend of Bulleit Rye and Green Chatreuse balanced with maraschino and lemon.

Ideally we will see this menu grow to ten or twelve options as the restaurant matures, but for now the choices are confident and invocative.

The Food

Now we discuss the most important part. No matter how radiant the interior nor mesmerizing the libations, if the food falls flat the restaurant will decay.

Starters

We began the meal with the house sourdough bread served with citrus fennel butter. The bread arrived warm with a distinctly sweet aroma finished with the tell-tale sourness of wild yeast. The interior showed a broad, albeit uneven, crumb with a chewy golden crust. The compound butter delivered its flavors accurately without proving overwhelming.

From there we were graced with a half dozen expertly shucked New Brunswick oysters. The flavor was fresh and texture clean, without a hint of grittiness. The mignonette was well balanced and nicely complemented the bivalve while the overall presentation was authentic.

I was surprised by the overall rustic nature of the cheese and crudité plate presentation. Not that it displeased me, more that I found it uncommon to the current norm of hyper-fashioned visages commonly seen in upscale eateries. Truthfully I found it refreshing. The choice of fennel and baby carrots acted as excellent palate cleansers after a generous bite of smoked jalapeno pimento cheese atop crispy flatbread. I especially enjoyed the latent note of coriander found in the pimento.

Entrees

As a lover of foods from the ocean I could not help but order the whole red snapper. There are few things that compare to the exquisite texture of a whole fish gently pan-fried to encrust the tender flesh in a crispy skin with a slight charring for added depth. Unfortunately, I was not presented with such a dish. Instead, I received a fish so exceedingly fried that the skin was more akin to a sarcophagus than a crust. The flesh was dry and had taken on a mealy, inconsistent flavor. I did, however, appreciate the balacing act between the smoked tomato and gremolata.

The short rib buoyed the experience with a delicate texture and bold flavor profile highlighted by a playful celeriac apple fondue. The presentation was classical and utilitarian.

The third and final selection was the venison and quail. While the flavors of this dish were, again, well thought out and pleasant, the execution disappointed. The venison was surprisingly tough and lacking in moisture, while the quail was arranged haphazardly on the plate.

Additionally, we shared orders of the asparagus and squash, Brussels and cauliflower, as well as shells and cheese which all proved to be well-prepared, nicely seasoned, and delicious.

Dessert

Eberly fancies itself a dining space serving contemporary American cuisine. Generally, the dinner menu reflects this with classic dishes prepared with flavor twists fashioned rustically without pretense.

I make that statement because the dessert menu stands in contrast of that. While providing takes on classics like PB&J and Donuts, they are more elitist than Americana.

While I hold no ill will towards the creativity that science has allowed us with cuisine, I fail to see how the dessert and dinner menus coexist. Perhaps it reflects Eberly’s romance with “risk takers, creative types, and liberated thinkers” as stated on the “About” page of their website, but as a diner it feels disjointed.

That being said, the Basque cake with poached pears was delightful. The honeycomb and marcona almonds provided a wonderful flavor and texture contrast, however the Manchego cheese ice cream was too earthy and drew away from the balance.

The sweet potato cake donuts were another solid standout. With bourbon ganache, marshmallow, and pomegranate interplay, each bite was delightful. Top marks for creativity and textural variety.

Final Thoughts

They say the devil is in the details. Eberly proves this is true. The components are in place but the execution is hindering the potential excellence of the restaurant. The contrast between the upscale, yet rustic American dinner fare and the avant-garde nature of the dessert menu creates a discernable chasm in the cuisine. Conceptually I am excited by what Eberly is undertaking. The veneer is beautiful, the menu is thoughtful and thorough, but the performance is uneven. I can confidently say the missteps seen in this meal feel more of youthful exhuberance than reckless ignorance. I hope with time and experience they will overcome these obstacles to live up to their potential, but until then, I remain skeptical.

Rating: 8/10

Location

Eberly & The Cedar Tavern
615 S Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
Website

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November 14th, 2016

Food Trends Series: Ancient Grains

Posted in Food Trends, Gluten Free, Grains, Healthy, Trends
Food Trends Research Chef
Picture courtesy of Restaurant Girl

Food Trends – Ancient Grains

With the increased public interest in food trends such as farm to table and eco-friendly food service, it should come as no surprise that ancient grains are breaking into the spotlight.

While all grains are, technically, ancient, this term refers to those oldest varieties that haven’t been transformed by humans over the thousands of years we’ve been growing them. Examples include:

While not an exhaustive list, this does illustrate the diversity of ancient grains. Each of these provides different flavors, textures, and dense nutritional profiles to assist in the maintenance of a healthful diet.

Food Trends Recipe development
Picture courtesy of NY Times Cooking

Ancient grains also gain attention for their hypoallergenic nature. Most are inherently gluten-free and when used in place of standard wheat flours, remove one of the top allergens from a recipe.

Diners love the authenticity and excitement that the use of ancient grains provides and chefs love the versatility of using them. From components in simple sides or salads, coatings for other foods either whole or in the form of flours, or as a reliable main dish, ancient grains are becoming staples of the professional chef and home cook’s kitchen.

Research on Food Trends
Savory Oatmeal Picture courtesy of Daily Burn

For more great information about ancient grains read the June edition of the Culinology Magazine provided by our friends at the Research Chefs Association.

Also, check out these unique recipes using ancient grains:

Thanks for reading along! If you’ve seen any awesome or unique uses of ancient grains, or want to talk food trends, leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Cheers!

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November 1st, 2016

Food Truck Series: Cazamance

Posted in About Allison, About Christopher, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Healthy, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

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Ubuntu: I am because we are. This is the sign that welcomes you to Cazamance, a West African inspired food truck in South Austin. The word “Ubuntu” literally translates into “human-ness,” which is the African philosophy of universal human connection. It’s this philosophy that inspires the unique and approachable food produced here.

Owned and operated by Chef Iba Thiam, who brings culinary experience from West Africa, France, New York, and, of Course, Austin, Cazamance operates by the ethos that delicious beverages and great-tasting food are the secret to making life better. I certainly can’t argue with that!

So let’s dive in to the 2nd installment of the Dish Bliss Austin food truck series and talk food…

Dakar Lamb Wrap

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The fatty earthiness of the lamb is balanced well with a sweet acidic tomato relish to give the wrap a surprisingly light flavor. The melted brie adds a pungent, creaminess that, while unexpected, works well within this scheme. The creamy Sriracha sauce served on the side really took this dish to the next level. The lamb itself could, however, have benefited from additional seasoning and a pinch of salt. Overall quite nice.

Vegan Curry

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I truly appreciate when a vegan dish offers bold flavors and heartiness, which are characteristically lacking in this category. That’s exactly what the vegan curry brought. Offered in either a wrap or on a bed of fresh spinach, as many of Chef Iba’s dishes are, the curry was well-rounded with good spiciness. It, like the lamb though, simply lacked that dash of salt to fully bring out all of those complex flavors.

Mafe Vegetables

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I went off menu to get this dish, and luckily for me, the Chef had some leftover from a catering event from the night before. A nice medley of vegetables and white beans stewed in a peanut butter sauce made the mafe hearty and satisfying. I would have preferred a little more heat along with, yet again, a pinch of salt, but overall flavorful and filling.

Yassa Chicken

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This was by far my favorite item. Tangy and tender pulled chicken with smoky poblano peppers came together ceremoniously under a generous sprinkling of salty feta cheese. I could’ve easily eaten three helpings of this gem. I chose to have this served on a bed of spinach, which was crisp and wonderfully fresh.

Piri Piri

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What a treat the Piri Piri was. Aromas of cinnamon and clove emit from the juicy smoked pulled pork. Flavorful and well-seasoned with a slight heat from the serrano sauce and a great textural contrast between the crispy pieces of pork and the soft starchiness of the plantain. This is the type of dish that keeps you coming back for more.

Fresh Young coconut

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Just consider this the cherry on top. A fresh, butcher cut coconut served with a straw. The fresh, sweet milk was the perfect palate cleanser for the complex seasonings. And, as an added touch of hospitality, April and Iba will happily split the coconut open for you after you finish the milk so you can eat the meat for dessert. Delightful!

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Thoughts

Aside from the under-seasoning of a few of the dishes I found Cazamance innovative, well executed, and crave-worthy. I appreciate the essence of their food and love its healthful qualities. In a landscape of tacos and chicken wings, Cazamance offers a deliciously unique alternative.

Location

4204 Manchaca Rd.
Austin, TX 78704

Located behind Radio Coffee and Beer.

512-769-9560

www.cazamance.com