I'm often so excited after a food blogger event that I get all impatient teenager on things and throw up a blog post immediately after I get home.
But alas, my day job has been extra busy lately, and I'm suddenly realizing that it has been over a week since the fabulous food blogger event at The Carillon. Unacceptable!
I'd been to the Carillon once before, at lunch time. The Carillon is actually only open to faculty & staff of the University of Texas at lunch time, but if you're lucky enough to know somebody in those categories, you can garner yourself a guest invitation. The restaurant is sort of a different place over the noon hour, though; it's all buffet, with the cold buffet being one price (although "cold buffet" includes soup and pizza) with an upcharge for hot entreés and dessert. Certainly above average, as buffets go, but honestly? I'm not really a buffet kind of girl.
The Carillon by day.
Half of the Carillon cold lunch buffet.
Pizza - included in the cold lunch buffet price, but fortunately, not cold.
As dusk falls, however, the Carillon morphs into a fine dining establishment so delightful that all the food bloggers are aflutter. And can you blame them? I mean, Clark Kent is pretty good looking by day, but as Superman...well, that's a whole different story (or so says Lois Lane; I personally am not into the blue spandex thing).
And the Carillon's Executive Chef, Josh Watkins, is doing a great job generating this buzz. He was a chef at the Driskill Grill by the tender age of 23, took over as Executive Chef there in 2007, then took over the reins at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (where the Carillon is located) in 2008. Plus, he's doing super-cool things like the Chemistry Kitchen event. Chef Watkins, if you're reading this, please do this again. I didn't make it the last time.
Wait...he's not still 23?
The Carillon threw a lovely party for food bloggery types last week, which I was lucky enough to attend. This was one of the better food blogger events I've been to - not surprisingly, with Paula Biehler and Cat Caroom behind the scenes.
First of all, my glass of cava was pretty much never empty from the moment I walked in the door. Put some bubbly in my hand and I'm happy.
Then there were several yummy snacks on the bar to nibble on while I waited for the passed trays to make their way to where I was standing.
This was good...
This was even better - spicy homemade potato chips!
The first thing I got to try was the white bean soup with smoked scallop and oven-dried grapes. The flavor was good, but this was probably my least favorite dish all night; the soup was really, really thick.
White bean soup with smoked scallop and oven-dried grapes.
Then these came around...fried eggplant caprese. Tiny balls of eggplant and mozzarella were deep fried and garnished with a fresh tomato relish. The acidity of the tomato was a good foil to the fried bits; a nice bite, overall, although I wish I knew how they created those tiny balls of eggplant and fried them without them being greasy!
Then came two things I love but would never have thought to pair together - beef tartare and white truffle. Hello, lover.
These were perfectly balanced so that neither overpowered the other - no small feat considering how understated tartare can be and how strong truffle is. Wonderful.
Oh, but it gets better. Chef Watkins can cook a piece of meat.
These braised beef short ribs were served with apricot glaze, asparagus, celery root puree, and black pepper gastrique. Melt. In. Your. Mouth. Good. I can barely type, just thinking about those ribs.
And then, and then...the crowning glory - pork belllyyyyyyy.
Crisp pork belly with diablo glaze, Asian pear salad, and fried mint.
Simply glorious. I won't disclose how many of these I ate, but let's just say that my self-restraint went out the window after my first taste of this succulent, juicy goodness (or maybe it was the cava?).
The Carillon is open to the public for dinner Tues-Sat from 5:30-10:00 p.m. They're also open daily to the public for a breakfast buffet from 7:00-10:00 a.m.
If you go, look for me; I'll be the one in the corner, huddled over my pork belly.