Saturday, August 28, 2010


Two words: Osso Buco.

OK, not real osso buco; Braise's version is made with Niman Ranch beef rather than the traditional veal, but the fact remains that Braise's osso buco is one of the best pieces of meat I've had in my mouth in recent memory.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Located in a rather unlikely building in a rather unlikely spot on East Sixth Street, Braise is the middle child in the Parind Vora trilogy. Simplicity Wine Bar occupies the lower tier, and Restaurant Jezebel, which was recently destroyed in a fire and whose fate is - at least to me - unknown, occupies the upper end. For this Goldilocks (or would that be Ebonylocks?), Braise was the porridge that was juuuust right. Comfortable, casual, and reasonably priced, but the food is high quality, interesting, and unapologetically holds its own on the deliciousness scale.



I convened here recently with a couple of girlfriends for a long overdue catching up. We started with an appetizer of chopped sea bass tartare, which was served over garlic croutons and accompanied by a beautifully-dressed mixed green salad that was tossed with slivers of purple onion and some kind of heavier mushroom - creminis, maybe? This was absolutely divine; I gobbled up my portion and kept nonchalantly checking the plate, hoping that more would magically appear there. Sadly, none did.


EXXXtreme closeup

All was not lost, though. For my entrée, I ordered a half portion of Braise's version of osso buco ($12.95; or $17.95 for a full portion) which, as mentioned previously, is made with beef and served over a bed of garlic mashed potatoes. The combination might sound a bit pedestrian, but the execution was anything but; the meat was so tender as to practically dissolve at the slightest touch of the teeth, and the garlic mashers made for a comforting accompaniment. I was so entranced by its fabulousness that I barely even heard my own repeated sighs of pleasure.


For dessert, the three of us split an order of Braise's chocolate chip bread pudding a la mode. I found this to be a touch on the dense side, but it was certainly not objectionable, and despite its substantial size, we handily polished it off.


Braise's website bills its menu as "food for the soul as well as the belly." I think this tagline suits Braise just fine. Every component of my evening came together just perfectly - relaxed surroundings; wonderful food; excellent company. Having the option of ordering a half portion meant that I was pleasantly sated without being uncomfortable (despite having shared an appetizer and a dessert in addition to my entrée), and the fact that Braise doesn't yet have its liquor license meant that the bill verged on being ridiculously cheap - our total averaged $20 per person before gratuity, and that included the free glasses of wine that each of us received with our meals.

I have a feeling that I'll be smiling over a plate of osso buco at Braise on a regular basis.

2121 East Sixth Street
Austin, Texas 78702
(512) 478-8700


Monday, August 16, 2010

Tomato Tarte Tartin

A week ago, Stephanie McClenny, a/k/a the Cosmic Cowgirl, brought a tomato tarte tartin to a book club potluck at my house. It totally blew my mind; everything I had grown to believe about how tomatoes tasted flew right out the window after my first bite. I've always thought it strange that tomatoes are technically a fruit, but after being caramelized in butter and sugar, they actually taste the way I expect fruit to taste. They're a bit reminiscent of plums, only the flavor is cleaner and less, well, plummy.

Thankfully, Stephanie was willing to share the recipe, which originally appeared in bon appétit. After reading it, I was intimidated and not at all confident in my ability to pull it off; after all, Stephanie is a cooking/baking/canning/preserving rock star, and by comparison, I'm pretty much a garage band. But I could not stop thinking about how delicious it was, so I decided to risk it for a brunch I was attending this weekend at the home of our friends/neighbors, Diana and Don. Although I don't think mine turned out quite as well as Stephanie's (I think I cooked the tomato brew a smidge too long, and the caramel was pretty sticky), I thought it was still damn tasty.

Getting the tomatoes going

Right before I pulled them off the heat. I'd probably pull them a little earlier next time.

I neglected to take photos of the process of placing the crust, but it was a lot easier than it sounds. I was not very precise about placing it and it folded over on itself a bit, but it shrank up while baking, so was not at all difficult to get out of the pan. Also, I panicked a little when I first took it out, because it appeared that the pastry was way too puffed up, but it settled down nicely after it was flipped.

The finished product, up close and personal.



Best sliced with a pizza cutter. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream (trust me on this one).


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nom nom Nam Sod

My neighbor Jackie has a knack for putting together fun gatherings that prove that making delicious food doesn't have to stress anybody out. I'll never forget the time earlier this summer when our refrigerator decided to take its own vacation over a holiday weekend. Jackie decided that rather than letting all the food go to waste, we should cook it all and have a giant feast. And we did.

A couple of weekends ago, Jackie suggested that a small group of us gather to cook - and then eat - nam sod, a Thai dish similar to larb (from what little I can gather online, it appears that nam sod is always made with pork, whereas larb is typically made with beef or chicken...if anyone knows differently, please let me know!). Jackie and I headed to the grocery store to pick up ingredients, then we recruited the help of two other people and a mandoline (now on my wishlist) to assist with the task of preparing the dish.

We started out with this recipe, but like most recipes of this ilk, it is pretty much infinitely tweakable. Short on peppers? No worries. Got a little extra green onion? Throw it in. We were low on mint and instead substituted in some Thai basil, which was a lovely addition. The flavors are strong and get stronger over time (particularly the lime and ginger), so I definitely recommend a mellow accompaniment of some kind. We served ours with cooked rice stick noodles, but you could also do rice or even shredded cabbage. It makes for a wonderfully fragrant and fresh-tasting meal.

Fun with our food

Colorful peppers

This dish requires serious amounts of chopping. Enlist help.

Putting it all together. I wish you could smell this!

Add pork and rice stick noodles - it's summer on a plate.


Friday, August 6, 2010

New Duck in Town?

On Wednesday, I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a few beers with Rich - an old friend whom I hadn't seen in over ten years - and his brother, Mark. As tends to happen around me, the conversation frequently turned to food, and at one point, I was waxing philosophical about the unctuous pork belly slider I'd had the week before at Odd Duck Farm to Trailer (which I previously blogged about here).

Also common in my world: talking about delicious food makes me crave said delicious food. So the following day, I found myself at Odd Duck, peering at the menu hopefully (it changes frequently, so there's no telling what you're going to find). Fortunately, the pork belly slider graced the menu that day, so I was soon sidled up to the bar by the grill window with a massive slider and a tomato & melon salad with goat cheese.

I swear to you that I did not skew this image of the slider in any way. They are really that tall (fortunately, they have not proven to be this tall).

The slider of my dreams. Six dolla, no holla.

Swoonworthy salad - vine-ripe tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, and some kind of very light dressing that had a bit of a kick to it, garnished with goat cheese. $4, and really quite perfect. Truly.

Anyway, I'd been hearing rumors that Bryce Gilmore, the mastermind behind Odd Duck, might be opening a new restaurant. Since I was consuming a meal within five feet of where he was working, I asked. And I'm glad to report that the rumors are true! Bryce will be taking over the space where Pie Slice Bakery used to reside and opening a gastropub called Barley Swine. There will be beer. There will be pig. Opening date still in the air, but they are shooting for mid-October.

I plan to be the first in line.

P.S. Never fear - Odd Duck will remain open. Phew!


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