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Franklin BBQ is Moving to Brick and Mortar Location

7 Mar

Franklin BBQ is officially out of the trailer and into the spot formerly occupied by J Kelly’s BBQ starting Saturday, March 12.

Here it is straight from the pitmaster’s mouth (or keyboard?):

Just wanted to send out a note to let you know this Saturday, March 12th, will be our first day at our new location.
900 E. 11th Street. Our phone number will stay the same. 512-653-1187
We will be open 7 days a week, and for now we will just be open for lunch.
We will have Texas beers on draft, and you can even take growlers of beer to-go.
We will have outdoor picnic tables, indoor seating and plenty of parking.

Franklin BBQ
911 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

(Google Map)

Pork, It’s What’s for Lunch at Noble Pig Sandwiches

12 Oct

The Noble Pig, the tastiest animal of the land, the basis for exquisite cured meats, the source of America’s most cherished bacon, the subject of Bourdain’s ultimate food quest, and now, the name of a new boutique sandwich shop in northwest Austin.

What makes sandwiches rise above brown bag lunch mediocrity into the stratum of greatness?  How about a shop that bakes its own bread, makes its own condiments (pickles, mustard, the whole spread), and smokes its own bacon.  That’s not just a sandwich, that’s pure joy between two slices of bread.

Noble Pig Sandwiches’ signature sandwich, so appropriately named “The Noble Pig,” is a trio of pork perfection and oozy provolone goodness.

Juicy pulled pork, spicy cured ham, and thick smoky slices of bacon all smothered with a sharp house-made mustard created a distinct contrast of flavors.  It vaguely reminded me of a Cuban sandwich, but with more depth.  A side of house pickled veggies made for a nice break between the rich bites of pork.  The bacon lover sitting across the table from me was in heaven.  For me, it’s nearly a masterpiece, but a touch on the salty side.

Sides are not to be missed at The Noble Pig.  The country potato salad with whole grain mustard packed a lovely surprise with a few olives, just enough to make the flavors dance but not overwhelm.

The presence of duck pastrami on the menu means that a return trip is coming soon.  And probably a third trip for the smoked pork belly BLT.

10/25/2010 Update:

A second trip to Noble Pig allowed us to try both the duck pastrami sandwich and the BLT.  The three pork Noble Pig may be the restaurant’s namesake signature sandwich, but the duck pastrami truly lets Noble Pig shine as a food destination.  The duck had great smoke flavor and a defined (but not tough) crust and a melt-in-your-mouth juicy center.  The tangy dressing added some zing, but soaked through the bread making it hard to keep the sandwich intact.  Still, the result is the kind of sandwich you inhale bite by bite without interruption, then licking the duck and dressing juices right off your palms to savor every last bit of flavor.

Duck Pastrami Sandwich:

The smoked pork belly inside the BLT was an impressive, thick slice of pork perfection.  The layers of fat, lean, and crust elevated the sandwich far beyond the typical BLT.  The only complaint?  Sandwich was a touch on the dry side.

BLT:

Noble Pig Sandwiches
11815 Ranch Road 620
Austin, TX 78750

(Google Map)

Brunch at Guero’s

30 Sep

Guero’s Taco Bar is one of those Austin classics that people always take out-of-towners for a crash course on the city’s culture.  Endorsed by everyone from Presidents (Bill Clinton and George Bush) to movie stars (Sandra Bullock and Uma Thurman to name a few), Guero’s has quite the reputation.  It may not be the best Tex-Mex in town, but there’s no denying the draw of the casual, laid-back atmosphere of this bustling little spot on the South Congress strip.

We headed to Guero’s for a casual weekend brunch with old friends.  Though the place was busy, we never felt rushed.  We had a lot of catching up to do while tasting our way through the various salsas Guero’s offers at a self-serve bar.  The refreshing salsa verde was tart and had plenty of heat, while the less fierce but smoky red salsa had flavor that lingered.

I ordered the Buenos Dias Plato, which came with a half order of migas, chorizo, smooth refried beans, and tortillas.  I thought the migas were a touch bland by themselves, but when combined with the chorizo and beans in a tortilla, made for some excellent breakfast tacos.  The better half opted for Tacos Ricardos, which consisted of carnitas style pork chunks, a fried egg, ranchero sauce, and cheese.  It was a tasty combination, but perhaps more suitable for a fork and knife rather than bare hands with the runny texture.

All of Guero’s breakfast options are around $5 (in fact most are under $5), an easy price to match the easy going atmosphere.  I didn’t get a chance to try their famous extra limey and strong margaritas at this brunch, but will definitely be back for a round in the future.

Guero’s Taco Bar
1412 South Congress
Austin, TX 78704

(Google Map)

Aquarelle for Austin Restaurant Week

23 Sep

Austin Restaurant Week is a semi-annual event which serves as a fundraiser for the Sustainable Food Center.  It is a great opportunity for diners to enjoy prix fixe menus at participating restaurants while helping to improve community’s access to nutritious food.  For this pair of Austin newcomers, it was a chance to try out an Austin classic in French cuisine, Aquarelle in the Warehouse District.  Housed in a charming yellow historic cottage complete with vintage decor accents, Aquarelle’s dimly-lit, cozy, and romantic ambiance set the right mood for date night.

The Restaurant Week menu stayed conservative with entree choices between salmon, beef, and pasta.  The rabbit terrine option for the first course was the most adventurous dish, so naturally we had to try it.  But first, an amuse bouche in true Austin fashion, quinoa.

The flavorful bite exploded in the mouth, almost literally with the slight crunch of the quinoa bursting like tiny bubbles.

Still tasting the refreshing quinoa on our tongues, our first courses of Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Strudel and Rabbit Terrine arrived.

The golden flaky pastry encased perfectly roasted pieces of chicken full of herb flavor and diced zucchini and squash cooked just enough to be flavorful but still maintain a refreshing textural contrast to the soft chicken.  Warm buffalo mozzarrella topped a thick slice of tomato, and the spicy arugula gave a lovely edge to this otherwise mild dish.

The rabbit terrine, though on the rough side texturally, had a great mild flavor enhanced by the drizzle of chili oil.  The olive puree on the bottom of the terrine, however, overpowered the delicate flavors of the terrine.  The same went for the inexplicable streak of whole grain mustard on the plate, which paired neither with the terrine nor the arugula salad and simply overpowered everything.  Whether intentional or not, we did find the centered piece of carrot inside the terrine amusing, even if the humor seems a tad cruel.

Next up, entree plates of Beef Tenderloin and Roasted Butternut Squash.

The foie demiglace covered beef tenderloin was cooked to medium perfection, juicy and tender.  There was a hint of earthiness (mushrooms?) in the sauce that helped balance the richness of the foie gras.  Aside from the perfectly executed tenderloin and sauce, the rest of the plate caused confusion.  The chicken liver mousse, when eaten together with the tenderloin, created an unpleasant sharp, minerally contrast with the otherwise luxuriously rich piece of beef.  Thin zucchini slices were fried in a thick cornmeal batter that overwhelmed the delicate crunch of the vegetable slices.  Perhaps a tempura batter would have been more successful in this application.

Though the various components of the roasted butternut squash entree were individually well executed, the combination of the flavors was not successful.  First, when a dish is described on the menu as “Roasted Butternut Squash,” a diner would expect the squash to play a more substantial role on the plate instead of being merely a part of the topping.  And while the rosemary cream sauce and al dente fettuccine noodles together created the most divine comfort food, when eaten with the sweeter butternut squash, brought out bitterness in the rosemary and created an unpleasant medicinal after taste.  Underneath the butternut squash was sauteed spinach that had a slightly sour flavor which didn’t seem to belong on the plate at all, introducing more flavor confusion to an already muddled plate.

The Mixed Berry Timbale and Chocolate Milkshake desserts were, thankfully, more straightforward in their approach.

The timbale consisted of a custard-like mixed berry filling inside a thick crusted that reminded me of a dense angel food cake.  The light chocolate milkshake wasn’t too sweet, but had unexpected small chunks of ice.  The accompanying vanilla cookie sandwich filled with dark chocolate was fantastically springy and spongy at the same time.

I left Aquarelle confused.  The kitchen is clearly capable of executing some great dishes (and components of those dishes), but is also failing at combining those components into a successful plate.  I also felt that the plating was bit rustic for a fine dining restaurant, and at times there were simply things on my plate that didn’t belong (and the dish more enjoyable without them).  But having been to restaurant week events in various cities across the country, I know that restaurant week meals are not the best representation of what an establishment is truly about.  I sincerely hope that this Restaurant Week experience is an exception, and not the rule, for Aquarelle.

Aquarelle
606 Rio Grande
Austin, TX 78707
(Google Map)

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