Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dupuy Dish MOVES!!!!

Hi All,

I know I just recently started my blog at Blogger.com. But I found a more user-friendly application and have decided to move my blog to WordPress.

I figure I've only been blogging for a such a short time that this would be an ok time to transition.

You can find my new blog at: www.dupuydish.com

Thanks for following!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Memorable Meal: 'Tis the Season?

Thursday night, the Four Seasons Austin broke out the mistletoe and tinsel for a few media friends to preview an upcoming holiday menu for Trio Restaurant, the Four Seasons Bar, and the Four Seasons Spa. Gathered in the elegant Presidential suite overlooking the glimmering Lady Bird Lake, we all tried to pretend that it wasn’t a blazing 100+ degrees outside and that the Holiday Season was but a stone’s throw away—all the while the Hotel air conditioning was cranking away and…

We sampled a few upcoming seasonal cocktails including a festive Mistletoe Mojito accented with cranberry and mistletoe mint, a chocolate-y martini, “S’more the Merrier”, and an aromatic Yule Thyme martini made from thyme and sage-infused vodka.

Next it was downstairs to Trio, where we all sat family-style around a long narrow table. Despite the heat, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… only I had a feeling Chef Todd Duplechan wouldn’t be carving a turkey and serving up Stove Top stuffing. And well, I was right.

The Menu:

Appetizer Choices:

Winter Squash Salad with Pine nut butter, raisins, Farm Goat cheese

(Pairing: Chateau Soucherie, Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, 2008)

Seafood Soufflé with tarragon and saffron sauce

(Pairing: Albert Grivault, Bourgogne Blanc 2005)

Pork Belly with Cranberry, Napa Cabbage, Mustard

(Pairing: Charles & Charles, Syrah Rosé, Columbia Valley, 2008)

Entrée Choices:

Pheasant with mushroom jus

(Pairing: Sangiovese, ‘Sara’, Tuscany, 2007)

Wild Salmon with crim

ini mushroom and lingonberry

(Pairing: Ch. De Puligny Montrachet, Monthelie, Burgandy, 2005)

Prime Ribeye with horseradish potatoes and red wine sauce

(Pairing: Chappallet, Cabernet Blend, Mountain Cuvée, Napa, 2006)

**All entrées served with Maple Roasted Sweet potatoes and Brussels Sprouts**

Dessert Choices:

Gingerbread Cake with Marzipan, Tangerine gel, dried fruit purée, and vanilla bean whipped cream

(Pairing: Chambers Muscat, Rutherglen, Australia)

Chocolate Peppermint Baked Alaska

(Pairing: M. Chapoutier, Banyuls, France, 2006)

Trio of Sorbet – Mango, Raspberry, Lemon

(Pairing: Saracco, Moscato d’Asti, Italy 2007)

Appetizer:

Though I was tempted to order the pork belly, I chose the wild squash. And I am so glad I did. Roasted in thin slices to a glazy and almost crispy finish, the squash had a nice holiday spice taste with some extra heat from garam masala (a popular Indian spice that packs a punch, but not in the same way a chile pepper might do.) The plate was accented with clouds of fresh farmstead goat cheese and beneath the squash was a peculiar sauce made from toasted pine nuts that is really best described as “pine nut butter.”

I was lucky enough to try the pork belly from a neighbor. The best I can say is wow. If you want to pretend it’s Christmas, this is the thing to try. Beautiful spices including a heavy hit of clove and cranberry. And the crispy-outside-tender on the inside taste of rich and fatty pork belly was enough to make me wish for a visit from jolly Old St. Nick!

Entrée:

Since everyone else around me ordered the salmon, I went with the beef. I foolishly thought that since this was a “tasting” that I’d get a modest 4-6 ounce portion… Big mistake. When the entrees arrived, I was shocked to see a wopping 14 ounce-er arrive at my seat complete with a sprig of rosemary and dollop of horseradish mashed potatoes—which turned out to be a tad on the dry side… But in this case, size doesn’t really matter, as I knew I’d get a doggie bag. The taste was sensational. Very well seasoned, a good bit of marbling, but not too fatty, and cooked just the way I like: nice char on the outside, bloody on the inside. Thank you, Todd Duplechan!

Dessert:

For dessert, I went with the gingerbread cake with sweet morsels of marzipan baked right on top. (It was a holiday meal after all!) This spiced mini cake arrived warm and inviting with the aroma of Christmas morning. Spongy, almost gooey texture, and blissful with a dash of the lovely dried fruit puree.





Special Treat:

Though each of the courses was paired with wine by Trio sommelier, Mark Sayre, we were all bowled over by a special treat. Sayre gave us each a sample of his latest project, a smooth and fruity Syrah from the Va Piano Vineyards, which he and winemaker Justin Wylie developed in Walla Walla, Washington. Yes, I liked the other wines. But this was special. I was thankful I’d saved a bite of steak to enjoy it with. The 2007 release of this wine will be released exclusively at Trio, thank goodness. At about $60 a bottle, it will be a welcomed treat to any hearty meal here.


One little note: Don’t rush out to taste this menu just yet. Remember, this is a Holiday Preview dinner. So take this little teaser, hold it in your memory, and just after Thanksgiving, head down to Trio for an inspired meal. You won’t regret it.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Table Topic: The Power of Press



Don’t think a tiny mention in a newspaper or magazine can really make much of a difference? Think again. Just ask Doug Young, co-owner of Cover 3 restaurant in Austin. This fledgling North Austin locale with less than a year under its belt was simply humming along with steady business for its upscale sportsbar-that-you-can-still-take-a-date-to concept. But in late July things changed. Texas Monthly
magazine released their August issue featuring the Top 50 Burgers in Texas and guess who landed the #12 spot?

You guessed it—Cover 3. Apparently they had a surprise visit from Texas Monthly Executive Editor, Pat Sharpe one night when she slid into the restaurant after a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse nearby. Little did they know the big ole cheeseburger she was noshing on would bring them an up tick in business. According to Young, when the Texas Monthly burger issue hit newsstands, within two days, the kitchen was scurrying to get a last-minute meat order to cover the increase in burger sales. The restaurant went from serving an average of about 125 burgers a week to between 650 and 700 burgers!

My husband and I made a trip to Cover 3 the other night to sample a few signature dishes. I have to admit, I’d only heard the place described as a sports bar. I was more than pleasantly surprised to see how chic this place really was. Exposed brick walls laced with shiny, sheer fabric, warm lighting from rustic-contemporary fixtures, and ultra comfy half-moon booths outfitted in the softest King Ranch-style leather. Sitting cozy in one of these booths with a couple of house cocktails, including a refreshingly spiked strawberry lemonade, we hardly noticed the large flat screen TVs that were tastefully mounted throughout the room… Well, ok, the Astros were playing… and losing horribly. What else is new?

But let’s talk food… We tried a number of things, but in an effort to keep this brief, I’ll stick to some favorites.

Beef Tenderloin Sliders:

Perfect medium-rare slices of tenderloin tucked in happy little buns and served with an onion-y au jus, a nasal-clearing horseradish sauce (the best kind), and ketchup (which really should never be served with steak if you believe it’s a good steak)… To be fair, I believe the ketchup was intended for the finger-licking-good Parmesan French fries on the side. Thin, crispy, salty, and oh so good.

Shrimp/Crab Tower with Avocado and Pico

This elegant little appetizer could easily serve as a light lunch or dinner. After all, you’re not always in the mood for a burger. Excellent texture, sweet and savory flavors, and the three tangy sauces served with it (one including a spicy hit of sriracha hot sauce) rounded everything out perfectly.

We were also big fans of the North Atlantic Scallops seared to a perfect crisp on both sides and served with applewood smoked bacon. What dish isn’t complete without bacon?

And Finally Dessert...

When it comes to dessert, my husband and I are hardly ever in the mood for the same thing and usually end up getting our own sweet treat. Not a good idea in this case, if only because the desserts here are gargantuan, even by Texas standards. That being said, I think the key lime pie my husband ordered was one of the best I’ve tasted in a very long time. (I’m personally partial to its ¼ inch-thick graham cracker crust.) And I’m not a violent person, but the Chocolate Brownie made me not only want to slap my mamma, but just about everyone else’s mamma in the restaurant. Weighing in at a DENSE ¾ pounds, this brownie is not for the faint of heart. After 3 bites of the thick, fudgy, chocolately bliss, I was ready to wrap that puppy up and savor it for a few days.

And though I didn’t really cover it here. (Texas Monthly beat me to it.) Get the burger… But wait for Sundays… Through the end of August Cover 3 burgers are Buy-1-Get-1-Free! … So double your burger pleasure and hit Cover 3 on Sundays, before time runs out!

Cover 3

2700 W. Anderson Lane

512-374-1121

www.cover-3.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Table Topic: Cheese, Cheese, and more Cheese

What do 1,327 cheeses in every creamy variety imaginable look like displayed in a large hotel ballroom? In a word: Heaven. Or at least that’s the first word that came to mind when I took a sneak peak of the American Cheese Society’s Festival of Cheese on Saturday. I love cheese. Probably more than I should. Everything from standard cheddars to nutty Parmesans and the stinkiest of Stiltons and Blues, I love it all.

So when I heard that this annual festival had chosen Austin as its host, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Little did I know that 1,300 cheeses in one room stack up to be a rather awe-inspiring wonderland of dairy delight.

You could smell the bounty from the lobby of the Hilton Hotel downtown, which is saying a lot considering the event was hosted on the 4th floor. Just the night before, 314 of these cheeses were awarded as some of the best in North America and despite the aroma in the lobby, which sort of reminded me of a smelly old shoe, I was excited to taste a few of the greats.

I was fortunate enough to snag an early preview of the mountains and cascades of lovely cheeses on display before the public masses descended to pick and nibble their way through it all. Despite my undying love, I knew there was no way I could sample everything in this ocean of washed rinds, triple creams, fetas, spreads, and more. I’m no where near being lactose intolerant, but I’d rather not tempt fate… I did, however, manage to find a handful that won my heart.


Rogue River Blue Takes #1

I loved the “Best In Show” award-winner Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon. As blues go, it was creamy and strong and left just the right punch at the back of the throat after the first bite. I found a tasty raclette, a couple of goodies from the beloved Cowgirl Creamery outside of San Francisco, some delicious camembert, and of course, some excellent local selections…

(Texas winners included selections from Pure Luck Farms in Dripping Springs and Latte Da outside of Dallas.)



The Sheep Stole My Heart

As cheese goes, I’m pretty fickle when it comes to what type I love best… (Although a triple cream can often send me right over the edge of ecstasy.) This time, I found an almost hidden crock of sheep’s milk cheese blended with honey and lavender that took my breath away. That delicate texture in sheep’s milk, the floral lavender, and the hint of sweetness from the honey was, well, special. Something I look forward to savoring again.





Caught With My Hand In the Chocolate Jar

I should also note that the room wasn’t entirely filled with cheese. There were breads, jams, fruit, and other appropriate accoutrement for your average cheese plate. I particularly loved the artisan salamis from Creminelli fine meats. (http://www.creminelli.com/lli.com) They had a wild boar selection that was dreamy and their somewhat fruity salami cacciatore was a definite match for a nearby crumble of Wisconsin cheddar.

I also stumbled on a table of TCHO chocolates. (www.tcho.com) There were lovely dishes spread out with varying samples to taste. The San Francisco-based chocolates are produced from beans that come from farms across the globe so that they'll attain particular flavor profiles. The chocolates are all labeled “chocolatey,” "nutty," "fruity," or "citrus," TCHO chocolates all had a subtle, yet appealing taste that made me want to snatch a bar right from the table… Actually I did snatch a bar. I honestly thought they were for the public as they were displayed in abundance on the table. Turns out I was wrong. One of the owners made sure to point that out as he saw me nab one form the table!!! I was horribly embarrassed… So visibly so that I think he took pity on me and let me keep the coveted bar. I still haven’t brought myself to eat it…

All in all, I maybe tasted 30 out of the 1,300. And though I probably should have indulged, at least I can be proud of having self control???

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Memorable Meals: Fino Friday Cocktails

How do I like to spend a Friday evening? Typically with my husband and a tasty adult beverage—wine, beer, cocktail, or otherwise. Last Friday, we found occasion to unwind from the week perched on the cushy barstools at Fino’s bar. Not exactly in our neighborhood, but we were looking forward to a few creative concoctions from Austin’s local cocktail guru, Bill Norris.

Though cocktails are hardly a new invention, if you get out much, or if you’ve happened to read just about any lifestyle magazine in the past few months, then you’re aware that for some time now, the classic cocktail has been making a comeback in the States from coast to coast. In the past few months, Gourmet, Food and Wine, Living, Texas Monthly, and even Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, Spirit, have all featured different bars and “mixologists” who are tinkering with Manhattans, Daiquiris, Gin Fizz’s, and the Pisco Sours—pretty much anything that was made after the 1887 release of the Bar-Tender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas and before Prohibition ended in the States.

Bill Norris, is just one of those tinkerers and if you’re feeling adventurous, take a seat at the Fino bar and ask him to make you one of his favorites. You won’t be sorry…

Norris was in good form Friday night serving up a few new items on the cocktail menu.


Cedar Fever

First up was the Cedar Fever. A bright and perky gin-based drink served “up” with Hayman’s Old Time, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, a touch of Peychaud’s, and a peculiar liqueur called Zirbenz Stone Pine (as the name suggests, it has a strong pine fragrance and taste, but balances well with the St. Germaine.) Those afraid of gin should try this drink. It will change your opinion. It looks like a pink cosmopolitan but has a much more complex flavor. It’s clean, smooth, not too sweet, and tastes a bit like a fragrant spring rose with a kiss of citrus.


Manzanal

As a native of New Jersey, Norris was happy to pay homage to his home Garden State with a rich and layered drink including New Jersey-made Laird’s Straight. The Manzanal may show up on the summer menu, but would actually be a fantastic winter holiday drink best enjoyed curled up next to a fire, or as winter’s go in Texas, sipped on the back porch in a light parka. Partnered with nutty Nux walnut liqueur, maple syrup, golden raisin tincture, bitters, and a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg, this dark and mysterious beverage is quite a treat.


Palabra Ultima

Strong and smoky are the best words to describe this little number. I like it when a cocktail packs a punch with flavor and this one leaves quite an impression. Norris uses smoky Sombra Mezcal, green chartreuse, Benedectine, and a squeeze of Meyer lemon for this, the “ultimate” in power cocktails. Yum.



Fino

2905 San Gabriel Street

Austin, TX 78705

(512) 474-2905

www.finoaustin.com

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Memorable Meals: Why I Heart Garrido's




















If there were some sort of tool that could measure the amount of “buzz” radiating from Austin restaurants, Garrido’s would surely emit a big, bright, fiery red pulse on a regular basis—particularly on the weekends. After all, who wouldn’t like this sophisticated Spanish-style locale complete with an inviting bar and a shady patio overlooking Shoal Creek? (Ok so the creek is dry, but that’s not the restaurant’s fault.) And the food? Let’s just say this “upscale” taqueria has quickly squeezed its way into becoming one my Top 10 Austin restaurants and it’s not because of all the beautiful people that funnel through the door… and believe me, there are a lot of them.

Garrido’s has won me over because it is real. It may claim to be an “upscale” taqueria, but the upscale part applies more to the quality of ingredients rather than pretentious presentation or inflated prices. The food is simple, but the flavors are layered and balanced—a goal Chef/Owner David Garrido was intent on achieving.

“When we were developing the menu, we wanted everything to be fresh and simply made,” says Garrido. “Every component has its own spice and character. It’s not completely Mexican, Oaxacan, Tex-Mex, or Spanish, but there are hints of all of these regional flavors.”

Long-time Austinites may remember David Garrido as the acclaimed chef of Jeffrey’s. (He was at the helm for 15 years before Alma Alcocer-Thomas took over for a few years and moved on to Fonda San Miguel. Today, Chef Deegan McClung runs the kitchen at the famed Austin landmark.) Garrido’s flare for sophisticated Continental cuisine with Southwestern accents is easily recognizable on his new menu. Yes, this is a taqueria, but you won’t find your average ground beef or shredded chicken tacos here. Instead mahi mahi, Gulf crab, lamb, and sometimes lobster are a few of the showstoppers on the menu.

“We’re not a typical Tex-Mex place. It’s about the quality of ingredients and flavors that bring satisfaction with every plate,” says Garrido. “The flavors are what matter, they give a sensation of enrichment when you’re dining, as opposed to getting full on large amounts of food.”

But despite the upscale ingredients, Garrido’s doesn’t pretend to be something that it’s not. The place is sleek and sexy and the food is great. It has all the perks this burgeoning food city has grown up with in the past few years, yet it still has a relaxed, authentically Austin feel. So much so that it’s not unusual to see a healthy mix of young, hip power couples, families with young children, or long-time Austinites looking for great food from one of their favorite Austin chefs.

Service

I’ve been to Garrido’s quite a few times in its short two-month existence. The soft opening was really a test run for staff to get their bearings. Since then, the service is still a tad slow, but has gotten progressively better. Since it’s only in its second month, I’m willing to cut them some slack to get their timing right.

Favorites

Remember the crisply fried oysters on yucca chips with a perky habanero aioli that once graced the menu at Jeffrey’s? You can find them here, only with a few subtle differences. The roasted pork quesadilla is a certain crowd-pleasing appetizer with asadero cheese and a piquant habanero salsa.

And even though you have to pay for chips and salsa, the extra crispy homemade chips, and the smoky salsa puree are worth the paltry $1.50. (NOTE: I’m a chips-and-salsa-aholic myself, but those that complain about paying for chips need to get over it. You shouldn’t be stuffing your mouth with baskets of chips before a meal anyway, and if uber Tex-Mex chain Chipotle can get away with charging for chips, Garrido’s certainly can too.)

Favorite tacos… hmmm. This one’s tough. The skirt steak with radish and lime is good and I’m always a fan of pork carnitas. The mahi mahi has all the health perks of eating a fish taco, with just a little bit of the crispy bacon guilt. (Anyone who thinks bacon is a sin probably isn’t someone I’d likely be having margaritas and tacos with anyway.) My favorite is probably the coffee-marinated ribeye taco. This taco’s got some kick with a horseradish aioli that seems to bite right back after the first little nibble—just the way I like it.

Dessert

I’m rarely a dessert person, but if you’re like me and like only a hint of sweet after a meal rather than the full-tilt jolt of chocolate decadence, then you should try the pastel de calabaza. It’s essentially a very light zucchini cake, a Garrido family recipe that delivers with just a touch of sweetness and a refreshing balanced flavor.

Cocktails

As for specialty cocktails, the list obviously includes a house margarita and a Mexican martini, both of which are better than your average Tex-Mex lime and tequila cocktail. They also have a refreshing kiwi-cucumber martini. But the kid in me is hooked on the raspberry mojito. This mint-berry blast takes me back to teenage road trips with Sonic tater-tots and Route 44 Cherry Limeades… Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

Bottom line, there’s a reason this place draws a steady crowd. Word to the wise, come often and try it all.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Memorable Meals: Taking Tea

When I was a junior in college, I spent a semester interning in the parliament in Dublin, Ireland. Before I left, my parents helped equip me with the best backpacking-across-Europe luggage we could find for my petite frame, while I devoured travel and history books beefing up on my knowledge of the Irish culture. And I was sure to layer every U2, Pogues, and Van Morrison album into my music collection. But it was my grandmother who equipped me with one of the most valuable lessons of all: taking tea.

A self-proclaimed Anglophile, my grandmother had spent countless afternoon hours over many years sipping the deep amber, slightly astringent beverage with her dear friend, Doris Wright from Oxford, England. Before I left, she wanted to be sure I understood the importance of tea in the average Irish day.

Every time I visited her, she’d greet me at the door and announce that she was going to “put the kettle on.” She’d steep a strong pot of loose-leaf black tea, usually English Breakfast, or the bergamot-infused Earl Grey. Then she would set out a couple of rose-patterned tea cups, a bowl of sugar, a small creamer of milk, and a plate of assorted cookies.

At first, I wasn’t a fan of the bitter beverage. But I soon learned to take my "cuppa" as the British and Irish do, with a little sugar and a dash of milk. Suddenly the afternoon treat took on a smooth, silky texture that partnered nicely with crumbly shortbread or an assortment of sugar cookies.

For the next hour or so we’d engage in conversation on just about everything: family, politics, travel, religion. Nothing was sacred when we shared a cup of tea. Before long I realized I was not only learning the finer points of taking tea, but also deepening a relationship with an invaluable influence in my life.

In Ireland, I quickly learned that tea wasn’t only a leisurely afternoon pastime, but a short, abrupt break to the morning as well. You’ve heard of “elevens-ies?” It’s for real. If you’re in class, in a meeting, working on a test or writing a formal Parliamentary Question, if it’s mid-morning and the people around you are breaking for tea, you do too. (If only for a brief 15 minutes) This ritual reminded people that work was important, but life was more important—something you didn’t see much back in the States...and still don’t.

While on the Emerald Isle I’d take tea with colleagues, strangers, and new-found friends. I tried all sorts of black teas, green teas, and flavored teas. And I loved pairing it with thick cuts of Irish brown bread for breakfast or a couple of digestives-- a semi-sweet cookie made with course brown wheat (sometimes dipped in chocolate). It became a regular way of life; something I wished I’d be able to take back home with me. As if I could somehow re-introduce this tradition to the States. Unfortunately, I think the appreciation for taking tea went overboard with the large crates of it at the Boston Tea Party.

Still, it’s something I know I can count on when I visit my grandmother. I lived in Ireland more than 10 years ago. But to this day, when I visit my grandmother, she still puts the kettle on, breaks out the China, and serves up a rich pot of tea. Perhaps that’s all that really matters.