January 26th, 2015

The Peached Tortilla: Austin Restaurant of the Month

Posted in About Allison, Celebrity Chefs, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trends

Eric Silverstein is a man in demand and 2014 was his big year: in September, Plate magazine named him one of 30 chefs to watch. He also recently inked a deal for a book with Penumbra Literary, in which he plans to detail his leap from litigator to food truck entrepreneur. And most importantly (to me), he just opened his brick and mortar here in Austin, TX.

I have eaten at his truck Yume Burger in the past, so I knew what to expect, but for those of you unfamiliar with his cuisine, it is best described as Southern-Asian Fusion. Born in Tokyo, he was exposed to Japanese, Malaysian, and Chinese cuisine at an early age. He was then introduced to traditional Southern cuisine at the age of 10. These divergent cuisines come together to tell his personal food story, and it’s a colorful one.

On Burnet Road in the Allandale residential area, the modest storefront gives way to a modern “picnic” décor featuring white wooden slat benches and retro accents in yellow and orange. Overall the space is cozy and the service was very efficient. We arrived right when the restaurant opened and were greeted promptly by our server, Thuy, who was very friendly and approachable.

We perused the menu and made our selections rather quickly, which you can view here: http://www.thepeachedtortilla.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/peached-dinner-menu.pdf

For our starter, we selected the kimchi arancini. Made with rice and pureed kimchi and coated in panko, they were served with Sriracha and wasabi aiolis with a sprinkle of minced nori. The sauces were spicy but balanced and complemented the arancini very nicely. A rather tasty little morsel, I must say!

KimchiArancini

Next up were the bacon jam fries with green onions, sharp Cheddar, a fried egg and chili aioli. I am a huge bacon fan, and while I did like the flavor, I craved more bacon flavor. Overall, the dish was well executed with a beautifully cooked fried egg and crispy fries.

BaconJamFries

 

For our next course, we decided on the Tres Cauliflower, featuring cauliflower done 3 ways, hence the name. While cauliflower is typically cast in a supporting role, this dish was the absolute shining star of the evening. The nori cauliflower puree was very silky and packed a big hit of umami. Nestled atop the puree, grilled cauliflower was slightly charred and finished with nori butter and caramelized onions. The perfect counterpoint in the peach pickled cauliflower was a surprising sweet addition. Curiosity confirmed that the pickled cauliflower was brined in peach tea and rice wine vinegar. The hands down favorite of the night, this is the dish I would recommend to friends as a must not miss.

TresCauliflower

Since I had lived in Japan for several years, I had to try the blistered catfish bowl.  I absolutely love unagi (eel) sushi, so the fact that the catfish was prepared in the same style sold me on this dish. Unagi sushi is typically served with a Japanese style BBQ sauce, which is typically made with soy sauce, sugar and mirin, giving it a salty-sweet flavor profile.  Again, the presentation was beautiful. It was served over rice with charred wasabi Napa, Japanese pickles (even the pickle-hater at the table loved them), and a beautiful 45 minute egg, all finished with sesame seeds and crumbled nori. The fish was cooked perfectly, and this dish was as healthy as it was tasty.

BlisteredCatfishBowl

 

Our last dish was Silverstein’s nod to delicious meat synonymous with Texas: smoked brisket. Playfully titled “Brisket Fun”, it is a stir-fried dish with wide rice noodles, bean sprouts and kale. Slightly spicy and well-balanced,  it was the most outright fusion dish of the evening. And yes it was fun.

BrisketFun

 

Chalk up another score for Austin, TX with the creative, delicious, and beautiful food at the Peached Tortilla. And watch closely this year to see what Mr. Silverstein is up to next!

 

438

January 15th, 2015

Environmental Sustainability

Posted in Packaging, Restaurants, Trends

One of the top trends for 2015, according to NRA’s Culinary Forecast, is environmental sustainability. With increasing concerns for our food supply in an ever shrinking world, restaurants are employing some rather creative methods for reducing food waste, improving recycling practices, and increasing resource efficiency.

Packaging

For Larkburger, a fresh burger concept based in Vail, Colorado, the foundation of their business is sustainability. With 100% biodegradable containers and utensils made from potato and corn starch that they compost on-site, unbleached paper packaging, and the reuse of used cooking oil in their vehicles, they have managed a certified green status for all 4 of their Denver locations.

Snappy Salads, a Texas-based chain with 7 Dallas-area locations recently switched from plastic to premium paper straws as part of their goal to become more sustainable. The chain features tables and counters made from recycled or reclaimed materials. All of their containers are sustainable and compostable. A biannual electronics recycling roundup is also hosted by the chain. So why paper straws? For one, while they are slightly more expensive, they are 100% degradable. The average straw is estimated to be used for 30 seconds. A plastic straw that we use for 30 seconds takes anywhere from 75-450 years by various estimates to decompose, so paper straws just seem to make sense.

Boloco, the home of globally inspired burritos, uses corn fiber cups and bamboo bowls in their 22 locations. (They also use low-flow water heads and Paperstone table tops.) While they do this quietly, they are setting a great example with their efforts.

Other Packaging Trends, in addition to restaurants looking for food container and takeout alternatives that promote sustainability efforts, they are also looking back-of-the- house. One big trend that has been growing is the use of #10 pouches vs. #10 cans for sauces. Pouches offer environmentally friendly benefits in many ways – to get an idea, check out this link: http://www.paradisetomato.com/environmental-impact-calculator.html

 

Building Certifications

Dunkin’ Donuts recently launched a green building certification program with the purpose of assisting their franchisees in building energy-conscious and sustainable restaurants. The goal is to open 100 “DD Green” restaurants before the end of 2016. With two levels of certification including “DD Green” (the restaurants meet the minimum requirements) and “DD Elite” (restaurants exceed the minimum requirements).
Read more: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/12/10/dunkin-donuts-launches-green-building-certification-for-restaurants/#ixzz3MktNXuR7

Many chains are taking similar steps.

 

Other Efforts

For interesting non-profit business models look to Food Recovery Network. Founded in 2011, the company launched a program in April 2014 it deemed “Food Recovery Certified”. The company’s primary desire is to reduce food waste by donation of surplus food to local charities and non-profits. Restaurants that donate at least once a month get a sticker in their window designating them with the certification. Since the program is relatively new, it is just starting to gain traction.

 

And if you are looking for a green destination, Asheville, NC may just be the place. With 15 restaurants across the city, including one at the Biltmore Estate, the Green Restaurant Association has dubbed Asheville as “America’s First Green Dining Destination”.