Review: Cafe Malta (Austin, TX)

Posted by johngl

Somewhere along the line, I seem to have missed the opening of a great little spot right in my own (Way) South Austin back yard:

Cafe Malta

Cafe Malta, a very welcome addition to the neighborhood dining scene, is tucked away in the Cannon Oaks mall at the southeast corner of the intersection of William Cannon and Brodie Lane, and may have eluded my view if not for my most glorious spousal unit who rather insisted we visit them for a Friday lunch.

Cafe Malta: A welcoming table setting

The self-described European trattoria serving Mediterranean-inspired food, it is at once simple, yet elegant. I was immediately comfortable when seated at a booth, noting the cloth napkins and the kraft paper covered tablecloths. I even found myself looking around for crayons (some of my best home design work has been done on paper-covered tables in crayon).

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Review: Lenoir (Austin, TX)

Posted by johngl

We weren’t planning on doing anything special for Leap Day, but that all changed when good friend and fellow food & wine enthusiast, BigDMcC, invited us to join him at Lenoir (leh-nwhar), one of the most recent additions to Austin’s smoking-hot food scene. Since its opening right at six weeks ago, I’d heard some really good things about the place. While an 8pm middle-of-the-week reservation isn’t our usual routine, BigD’s enthusiasm was difficult to ignore. With just a little arm-twisting, I even managed to convince most glorious spousal unit that it was the right thing to do.

Situated on a narrow, yet fairly deep lot at 1807 South First Street — on the East side of South First between Mary and Annie Streets — it’s pretty easy to miss in the dark. And we did. Rather than turning around, we found some on-street parking on Annie and walked the 200-300 yards back to the restaurant. As it turned out, the small parking lot was full anyway, so we’d made the right choice. BigD was waiting for us on the wooden porch that lined the South side of the small structure.

Scarpetta Spumanti Rose
Scarpetta Spumante Brut Rosé and a rare look at Most Glorious Spousal Unit‘s toes

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Fine Dining: barley SWINE

Posted by johngl

I had my weekend blog posts planned. Really, I did, but every once in a great while one must set aside even the best laid plans and make room for the unexpected magnificence of a profound dining experience. Such was the case last evening at barley SWINE. Here, it is all about the food.

I walked into barley SWINE completely uninformed. I’d done no research. I didn’t look at Yelp and I didn’t know the chef was one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2011. I didn’t know Chef Bryce Gilmore ran the locally famous Odd Duck Farm to Trailer … umm … trailer. I didn’t know he literally grew up in a restaurant, used to work at Wink, or that his dad owns/runs the locally acclaimed Jack Allen’s Kitchen.  I didn’t know he was a passionate locavore. As a supposed food blogger, I should be ashamed of myself for not knowing any of these things. I definitely need to get out more; I used to be on top of this stuff.

Blackened Redfish, Watermelon, Pistachio, and Crispy Pork
I saw this watermelon on a plate with some fish at barley SWINE; it’s hair was perfect! Actually, this is a wonderfully prepared Blackened Redfish with Pressed Watermelon topped with Crispy Pork. There is also some finely-chopped Pistachio in and amongst this goodness.

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Noble Pig: Seafood Night

Posted by johngl

I’ll be totally honest with you, I look forward to the four course dinners put on by the folks at Noble Pig. A lot.

This month’s theme was seafood. Not just any seafood mind you: this stuff had Chef/Owner John Bates’ Noble Pig touch.

For instance, the opening salvo was called Oysters! Oysters! Oysters!

Oysters! Oysters! Oysters!

The one in the middle is a traditional oyster, broiled and topped with wonderfully crispy bread crumbs.  The “oysters” on either end are what’re called chicken oysters: little oyster shaped pieces of meat from the back of the bird.  Note that this still has the skin on: a very nice crispy-fatty touch.

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Review: Emeril Lagasse’s Table 10 (Las Vegas)

Posted by johngl

Okay, so I have to admit that I had my hopes up on this one.  A vendor offered to take a few of out to dinner at Table 10 whilst we were in Vegas for the Merchant Risk Council Conference last week.

And before you get all “what a cool gig” on me, chatting with people about fraud and its ramifications from 7:30am to 7pm every day…well, it’s no vacation. But that is my line of work these days, so I have to make the best of it.

Anyway, Table 10. Again, I had my hopes up…

Table 10

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Noble Pig: Local Market Dinner

posted by johngl

I’ve been a bit of slouch over the last couple of weekends. Go ahead, beat me up, call me names, whip me into submission with a wet noodle, do all of those things. I haven’t been holding up my end of the bargain on getting posts out at my usual rate of two per week. It makes me sad.

However, what doesn’t make me sad in the least is that Chef John Bates, formerly of Asti fame and now firmly entrenched as Austin’s Sandwich King at his Noble Pig eatery, is offering monthly “Local Market” dinners. Better yet, I managed to score a couple of seats at the first general-public offering held Jan 8, 2011 (day 110) — all thanks to some quick work by my good friend and fellow food snob, BigDMcC.

I realize that this may sound a little odd:  dinner at a sandwich shop. Noble Pig is no ordinary sammich stop. The small, down to earth eatery transforms into a kind of trendy, cool-looking, dinner venue with just a few minor changes.

Ready for dinner guests

Since this is a reserved seating only sort of soiree, tables are bumped together in clusters just large enough to seat the particular parties.  Add in some wine glasses (Noble Pig is BYOB), a few candles and cloth napkins, and they’re good to go.

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Carillon: Art of the Amuse Bouche

Posted by johngl

Regular readers of this illustrious web log know of my great fondness for the preparations of The Carillon’s Executive Chef Josh Watkins who dazzles us with his culinary cunning on every visit to this fine, yet under-appreciated, establishment.

In simpler, and less pretentious terms, let’s just say I really like the place.

And so it came to pass that on the very day I returned from a four day business trip to one of our studios located in sunny Mountain View, CA, I found I had a dinner engagement which I’d completely spaced. If not for the most glorious spousal unit reminding me of said event when I walked in the front door beladen with burdensome travel bags, I’d have 1) been very sad, 2) felt really stupid, and 3) never had heard the end of it from friends Mark and Lacy (not to mention said glorious spousal unit).  You see, Mark and I both were celebrating the end of another incremental year in our eventful lives. Some call this event a birthday. At our age however, we’d like to forget them since, statistically, our lives are down to their last third. It blows. It totally blows.

But I digress.

Sous-Vide Pork Tenderloin

This is Pork Sous-Vide with Fried Green Apple and Sage Cream.

The event was called “Art of the Amuse Bouche” and, in essence, was supposed to be a stand-up munch-a-thon consisting of eight amuse bouche-sized servings wonderfully paired with eight wines. We turned it into a sit-down dining affair (at least for us).

The wine pairings were done by Patrick Jones, a Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) (a certification administered by The Society of Wine Educators), and the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center’s Outlet Manager. Huh?

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