Gourdough’s, Austin TX

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Gourdough’s

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CHERRY BOMBS – Glazed Cherry Topped Holes, Cinnamon, Sugar & Cake Mix Topping

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GRANNY’S PIE – Caramel, Pecans, Bananas & Graham Cracker

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THE PUDDIN’ – Cream Filled, Cream Cheese Icing, Bananas & Vanilla Wafers

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Having essentially hopped of the plane making a Bee-line to the public house just six days prior, a lack of dessert at East Side King proved a fortunate excuse to take a short walk to the silver Airstream Trailer on 1st for something(s) sweet, a few shops and galleries along the way making the trip all the better. Serving under the slogan of “Big. Fat. Donuts.” and sporting only a three person line on arrival it was to a wide selection of items and friendly service that I’d again find myself greeted and after brief perusal of how best to experience an adequate sampling my $14 plan was hatched – one standard, one filled, and one container of holes to go…the piping hot order bagged and ready to go in ten minutes flat. Planning on a “some for now and the rest for later” approach it was with the puddin’ that I began but with light cream juxtaposing dense banana custard in the leavened pocket my ‘plan’ quickly dissolved…the Styrofoam tray empty as sticky yeasted cherry pie balls were being individually forked into my waiting mouth, the flavor harkening memories of fresh cherries, funfetti cake, and a campfire pie all at once. At this point clearly running on a sugar high it was with blatant disregard for health or later plans for dinner that I delved into my third clamshell – a fortuitous case of accidentally saving the best for last as “Granny’s Pie” proved far better than anything my grandmother – an accomplished savory cook in her own right – had ever prepared for dessert, the warm donut buried beneath sliced fruit, toasted pecans, crumbled cinnamon grahams, and a landslide of salty caramel proving a masterpiece of taste, texture, and Big. Fat. Delicious. Gluttony.

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http://www.gourdoughs.com/

Posted in Austin, Dessert, Food, Gourdough's, Texas, Vacation

East Side King, Austin TX

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East Side King

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Thai Chicken Kara-age – Fried Thigh, Sweet and Spicy Sauce with Thai Herbs and Jalapeno

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Beet Home Fries

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Tako Taco – Butter Poached Octopus, Tobiko, Moo Shu Wrap, Vegetable Ceviche

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Still perplexed by the praise for Qui but hoping to better understand the chef’s roots it was to the South Lamar location of East Side King that I turned, an off-hours visit finding the small space a quarter full with music pumping as staff went about routine tasks while I perused the menu – an eye on signatures, but also on location-specific novelties from the multi-site former food truck. Featuring an eclectic mix of haute-street foods, many a hybrid of philosophies East and West, it was to the tune of three savories that my order eventually settled and delivered all at once a mere fifteen minutes after I took a seat the first question was where to begin – the answer found in the poignant aromatics emitted from fatty Japanese fried chicken rife with heat but tamed by sweet which was immediately more interesting than anything savory I’d experienced for twice the price at Qui just 24 hour prior, a sentiment carried over to the bright and tender octopus in a shell that literally shattered to the tooth if not to the underseasoned and underwhelming fried beets, though a touch of sweet chili tinged fish sauce did help. Perhaps not in tune with Paul Qui’s concept of fusion or perhaps simply expecting too much given his elite status amongst Austin’s best chefs I really can’t say, but left to my own devices I can’t say I’d return to either East Side King or Qui for a full meal – though I’d certainly not turn down a Tako Taco followed by an Aged Cheddar Ice Cream Sandwich provided service was up to snuff.

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http://holeinthewallaustin.wordpress.com/esk/

Posted in Austin, East Side King, Food, Octopus, Texas, Vacation

Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart TX

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Black’s Barbecue

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Jumbo Beef Rib, Pork Ribs

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Brisket, Mac n’ Cheese, Sweet Potato Casserole

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Jalapeno Cornbread, Pecan Cobbler, Banana Pudding

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Located in Lockhart, just under an hour outside of Austin, lies Black’s – the “oldest (and best) major barbecue restaurant continuously owned by the same family” in the Lonestar State. Clearly the pride and joy of owners Norma and Edgar, but also of the entire city with no less than a dozen signs pointing to the smokehouse established in 1932 it was just after 9:45am when I pulled up to the space and after a brief walk around the building whose scent beckoned far more than any signage the clock struck 10:00 – doors opening with warm greeting just as they do “eight days a week.” Undoubtedly the largest of the barbeque Meccas I visited on my tour of Texas and also the one with the most extensive menu it was to a hallway lined with photos of family and local football that I entered and with smoky aromas now in full effect the next thing I saw was the buffet – a collection of rolls, vegetables, sides, starches, and sweets served up fresh and every bit as tempting as the meats; the array procured following some hasty deliberation as more guests arrive tallying a mere $22 after tax. Largely self service with beverages, pickles, and varieties of bread situated alongside (very) necessary napkins it was with a bite of each well crafted side that my meal began and although the cornbread could have been a been a bit more moist it soon found purpose in sopping up the best barbeque sauce of the trip – a thick smoky note adding another dimension to tender, lean brisket and nearly-crisp pork ribs. Trending towards a drier style of ‘cue than that of my other stops but finding its footing in a 13oz beef rib with plenty of fat and char to spare it was here that any semblance of manners went out the window, hands far better than plasticware for picking the substantial bone bare and just as well adapted for running my finger around the empty bowls of creamy banana pudding and toasted pecan cobbler moments later.

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http://www.blacksbbq.com/

Posted in Austin, Black's, Black's Barbecue, Black's Barbeque, Black's BBQ, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Lockhart, Pork, Texas, Vacation

Torchy’s Tacos, Austin TX

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Torchy’s Tacos

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Chorizo, Egg, Cheese on Flour Tortilla

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Fried Avocado, Refried Beans, Pico, Lettuce, Cheese, Poblano Sauce on Corn Tortilla

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Crisp Waffle, Fried Egg, Fried Chicken, Bacon on Flour Tortilla with Maple Syrup

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Lil’ Nookies – Deep Fried Chocolate Chip Cookies with Powdered Sugar and Cherries

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A local boy follows his passion story as good as any, Mike Rypka’s ‘Taco Dream’ that became Torchy’s Tacos is proudly displayed on the restaurant’s menus, website, and paraphernalia – the “Damn Good” food having now spawned several locations crossing city and state borders; my visit to the suburban Ranch Rd 620 location based largely on proximity to my hotel but the food and service far exceeding modest expectations – a “chain” outdoing any of the local mom n’ pop shops in serving up the most innovative and delicious tacos I’d experience in Texas. Small and slick in size, certainly commercial but featuring servers that really seem to enjoy their jobs it was just after 8am when I arrived at Torchy’s and greeted by the manager I asked a few questions before deciding on an order, my original plan for two tacos converted to three plus dessert on his recommendation and only one of the choices even remotely authentic but everything served hot, fresh, and bursting with flavor. Starting simple with spicy pork and fluffy eggs with cheese and housemade hot sauce on a warm flour tortilla it was the pillowy bread that struck me first and moving next to the signature fried avocado on toothsome corn I again smiled, the light batter overly creamy morsels finding great balance in the combination of beans and smoky poblano. Rounding out the savories with the most ‘odd’ choice of the group, a newly added special, Torchy’s clever take on Chicken and Waffles would actually prove surprisingly well done and at a mere $4.50 a meal in itself complete with supple golden waffle, runny egg, and crispy chicken plus bacon all on a completely unnecessary but location appropriate tortilla – pure maple syrup gilding the proverbial lily and proving ample transition to dessert, a trio of fried cookie dough balls that were every bit as decadent as they sound.

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http://torchystacos.com

Posted in Austin, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Pork, Texas, Torchy's Tacos, Vacation, Waffles

Angel Donuts & Treats, Austin TX

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Angel Donuts & Treats

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Salted Caramel Old Fashioned

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Apple Fritter

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Blueberry Cake

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Cream Cheese Frosted Red Velvet Cake

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Red Velvet Cake Ball

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Carrot Cake Ball

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Waking early on Friday with plans to be at Lockhart’s fabled Black’s Barbeque by opening it was a two part breakfast near my hotel in North Austin that started the day; highly praised Angel Donuts and Treats offering food for the road in the form of four fried pastries and two cake balls served by a smiling staff. Locally owned and serving ‘heavenly’ pastries from a small storefront it is with a focus on locally sourced ingredients that each item at Angel begins and with old world recipes gussied up by high quality ingredients and a robust cake starter each item shined – whole chunks of blueberries and apples studding their respective creations and a topping of Italian sea salt gracing the sweet old fashioned while tangy cream cheese balanced bold cocoa of the red velvet. With each donut crispy on the surface and supple within it was next that I moved on to a pair of thick cake balls and with each featuring a rich vanilla frosting shell it was in the subtle sweetness that both found success, the red velvet a thicker texture than that of the donut and ribboned with cream cheese while the carrot cake was rich, dense, and spicy – soft and unset like a pudding or Gajar Halwa and all the better for it.

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http://www.angeldonuts.com/

Posted in Angel Donuts, Angel Donuts & Treats, Austin, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Texas, Vacation

Qui, Austin TX

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Qui

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Chips with Cheese Foam

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Ode to Michel Bras

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Axis Tartare – Broken Arrow Ranch Venison, Egg Yolk, Sansho Peppercorn, Coffee, Phytoplankton Tempura

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Dinuguan – Pork, Blood, Gnocchi, Chickweed

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Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream – Cookies, Goat Milk Cajeta, Peanut Praline, Aged Cheddar Ice Cream

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Champurrado – Rice Pudding, Chocolate, Ginger

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“First world problem” jokes aside, one of the most difficult parts of traveling to dine is knowing who to trust, a task made all the more difficult when the opinions of long-trusted sources differ dramatically – and so was the case with Qui. The first foray into upscale dining by local restaurateur and East Side King legend Paul Qui, his eponymous restaurant located on trendy East 6th St recently named the best new restaurant in America by GQ, it was just after 9pm on a Thursday when I approached the small hostess podium of the no-reservations space and with music blaring over equally loud conversation I was informed of a “maybe 30 minute wait” that was in fact ten as two seats quickly opened at the chef’s counter overlooking the gleaming open kitchen. Uniquely arranged with clever knick-knacks and blonde woods dominating the lively landscape but clearly understaffed (or untrained) as servers seemed lost on table numbers unless explicitly directed by the culinary team it was fortunate that I found myself seated before a young sous who acted as waiter, server, and conversation partner throughout much of the evening and relying on his word plus my own tastes a five course meal was arranged. Clearly taking skills honed during time at Uchi/Uchiko and pairing them with classical French training plus flavors of his native Philippines to formulate a somewhat slapdash menu it was with Qui’s take on the vegetal medley of Laguiole’s Bras that I began and with sharp focus on texture as well as flavor I was immediately impressed but moving next to plates including raw venison and thick, blood tinged gnocchi I couldn’t help but wonder why so much effort had been taken to rob uncommon ingredients of their unique flavors – the dishes seemingly dumbed down to feed the masses rather than to wow the discerning; high prices and small portions all the more frustrating considering the veritable bargain offered at ESK and similarly priced but vastly superior flavor profiles of Barley Swine, Uchi, or Odd Duck. Moving on to desserts long-delayed by more disorganized service it was a duo of sweets that would fortunately rescue the evening from discontented blasé as the funky cheese-ball-come-ice cream sandwich and texturally masterful Champurrado each proved both innovative and bold – the rest of the kitchen standing to learn something from the young lady resigned to the room’s back corner while the front of house needs to realize Qui is neither a food truck nor a “hole in the wall.”

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http://quiaustin.com

Posted in Austin, Dessert, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, Pork, Qui, Texas, Vacation

Barley Swine, Austin TX

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Barley Swin

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2011 Canals & Munne Cava

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Iced Tea from Republic of Tea

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Uni, Lettuce, Peanut Butter (Puffed rice, Strawberry Vinaigrette)

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Hedgehog Mushroom, Pine Caramel, Trout Roe (Fennel Panna Cotta)

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Red Snapper, Strawberry, Black Truffle (Ponzu)

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Biscuit, Preserved Fruit, Bacon

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Tilefish, Dashi, Turnip (Saffron, Squash)

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Soft Egg, Sweet Potato, Bluefoot Mushroom (Jasmine, Soy, Capers, Mustard Seed)

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Grilled Lamb, Yogurt, Greenbelt Onion, Almond (Rutabaga, Golden Raisins)

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Beet, Tangerine, Kefir (Granita, Carbonation)

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Duck, Broccoli, Barley (Crispy Skin, Duck Jus Sidecar)

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Braised Rabbit, Hay Mousse, Turnips (Pickled Carrots, Bleu Cheese)

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Ham, Pinto Beans, Chard

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Hoe Cakes, Fermented Peas, Hot Sauce (Maple, Foie Gras, Banana)

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Whey Panna Cotta, Citrus, Beet, Coffee

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Barley Cake, Sweet Potato, Whipped Caramel, Brown Butter

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Chocolate, Basil, Melon Caviar, Puffed Rice

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Without a doubt my most highly anticipated meal in Austin, dinner at Beard Award nominated chef Bryce Gilmore’s Barley Swine nearly fell by the wayside twice due to unforeseen circumstance but thanks to the diligent work of General Manager Billy Timms all was saved – a complete tasting menu for one (re)scheduled at 5:00pm on Thursday delivering fifteen plates of inventive cuisine featuring the region’s best farmers. Modern in style but rooted in classic technique a meal at Barley Swine begins with warm greetings and a glass of bubbly but with little fuss or pageantry thereafter the experience that follows can best be compared to dinner served in the home of an old friend – each course a story delivered with a smile, feedback always sought and satisfaction assured. Beginning light and progressing towards heavy in traditional tasting menu format without ever once compromising on quality or complexity suffice it to say that no single dish can hope to capture the nature of Gilmore’s cuisine but in an attempt to do so one would be best served to focus on purity of flavors and seemingly discrepant ingredients serving to enhance rather than alter or distract – the pristine raw snapper taking on new life in the sweetness of strawberries with an aromatic truffled linger for example…or perhaps the funky century egg brought to a head by briny capers and mustard, an aggressive assault on the senses kept in check by tender mushrooms and naturally sweet starch. Every bit a ‘perfect’ meal without a single plate eliciting less than awe of its quality and nuance suffice it to say that Barley Swine was everything I expected and more – a $75 tasting trumping Michelin starred meals 3-to-6 times as expensive both stateside and abroad; a ‘destination’ meal deep in the heart of Texas.

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http://barleyswine.com/

Posted in Austin, Barley Swine, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Pork, Tasting Menu, Texas, Truffle, Vacation

Lick, Austin TX

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Lick

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Goat Cheese, Thyme, Honey + Pecans and Cream

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Mole, Texas Au Lait, Roasted Beets and Fresh Mint, Texas Sheet Cake, Curried Squash and Coconut, Coconut and Avocado Curd

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Located on South Lamar, surprisingly close to dinner at Barley Swine, a pre-meal snack at Lick was not something I’d planned on until the fine folks at Easy Tiger suggested their ‘honest ice creams’ as the best in town “by far.” Rarely one to ignore recommendations from one artisan of another and quickly doing a bit of research only to find a familiar business model focused on all things local and seasonal including 100% whole milk organic dairy from a single purveyor it was not until I read the flavor list that I became truly intrigued, a variety of herbal and vegetal variants evoking images of Jeni’s or Salt and Straw…and results no less impressive. Small in size and friendly in service with endless smiles and samples to each customer entering the shop it was with a total of more than a dozen and a half flavors that I found myself tempted and sampling no less than eight I was impressed at each turn – the creamy pecan sheet cake and smoky curried squash particularly impressive – but settling on the two that wowed most I exchanged $5 for two scoops and a fresh waffle cone, the creamy goat cheese amalgam subtly sweet with great aromatics and the toasted Texas pecans and cream reinventing the concept of classic Butter Pecan with a rich base of sweet cream delicately punctuated by ground nuts instead of chunks – a veritable ball of pecan butter on a cone.

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http://ilikelick.com

Posted in Austin, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Lick, Texas, Vacation

Easy Tiger, Austin TX

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Easy Tiger

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Bengal Spice Cookie

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Hot Pretzel

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Tiger Claw

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Almond Croissant

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Featuring outdoor ping pong, a beer garden, house crafted sausage, an artisan bakery/coffee shop, plus more skinny jeans and facial hair than a Delta Spirit show suffice it to say that Easy Tiger is a trendy gathering space on the edge of fashionable East Austin, but featuring several unique takes on traditional pastry under the direction of Chefs David Norman the space is more than just a hipster hangout…as a matter of fact, it may just be the best bakery in ATX. Intentionally off-hand in service but friendly enough to sell me on a quartet of options along with a double shot of Texas Coffee Traders’ rich espresso on ice it was much to my surprise that two of my choices were warm to touch at 1:00pm but beginning with a golden pretzel procured fresh from the kitchen as opposed to those cooled on the rack the extra effort (and freshness) was appreciated – the stretchy, soft chew like that of a toasted buttered bagel graced with crunchy kosher salt and amongst the best I’ve ever tasted, praise I’d equally apply to the shattering layers of the lightly spiced pecan ‘Tiger Claw’ also delivered warm. Moving next to a personal favorite, a very respectable almond croissant prepared bien cuit with a crackling shell but just a bit too much sweetness and almond filling it was with a large cookie recommended by the barista that I finished and ever fond of the snickerdoodle the “Bengal Spice” was superb – the crispy ring and soft center both expectedly sweet and buttery but taken up a notch by the smoky aromatics of cardamom – a simple twist reinventing a classic and a veritable bargain at a mere $2.50.

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http://www.easytigeraustin.com/

Posted in Austin, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Easy Tiger, Food, Texas, Texas Coffee Traders

Franklin Barbeque, Austin TX

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Franklin Barbeque

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Brisket, Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork

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Bourbon Banana Pudding Pie from Cake and Spoon

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Texas Pecan Pie from Cake and Spoon

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Generally the sort to over-plan and over-research my dining agenda I have to admit that the line at Franklin Barbeque surprised even me, the first folks in line having arrived at 6:45am…over four hours before Aaron Franklin’s shrine to smoked meats would open its doors. Having sparked a fan frenzy no less than Ansel’s Cronut and even a cottage industry of vendors selling sodas and renting chairs to the line it was just after 9:00am when I arrived at 900 East 11th and taking a seat with my laptop on the cracked pavement I waited with perhaps 200 others – the “sold out” sign hung just after 10:00am, well before a customer had even walked through the door. Clearly an ‘event’ as much as a restaurant it must be said that both the pitmaster and his team have done a remarkable job with their success as quantities are estimated prior to opening and orders are streamlined as best as possible by the smiling staff, but as with anything prepped to order the line of the shabby-wooden shack moves slow – my $25 tray of food finally procured just after noon, the turkey unfortunately gone by 11:35. At this point facing not only the expectations of its name but that of such a wait it was with the fabled brisket that I began and with a thick smoke ring plus ample juice beneath just salt and pepper I must say the flavor was immense, but so was the fat – a thick layer rendering part of the slice nearly inedible and a damned shame compared to the melting ribbons at Pecan Lodge and La Barbeque. Moving next to two pork selections, the pulled version underspiced and forgettable compared to the good stuff in KC but the ribs proving excellent as meat slipped off the bone unaltered by sweetness allowing the smoky pork sapor to shine, it was with dessert that I concluded and saving my thoughts on the outsourced options from Cake and Spoon to another review I’ll simply suggest you not skip the Banana Pudding, available only at Franklin – itself perhaps worth at least an hour-long wait, but not three…much like the ‘cue.

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http://franklinbarbecue.com/

Posted in Austin, Cake and Spoon, Dessert, Food, Franklin Barbeque, Franklin BBQ, Pork, Texas

Mi Madre’s Restaurant, Austin TX

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Mi Madre’s

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Coffee

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Barbacoa and Pico de Gallo

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Pork Carnitas, Avocado, Cilantro

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Chorizo, Egg, Potato, Cheese

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Churros

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Suggested by a friend as the best sitdown spot for breakfast tacos in Austin and apparently equally well regarded by local cops as a veritable convention seemed to be taking place on my arrival to the homey wood and concrete room adorned with plates and dolls celebrating its Hispanic roots. Open early seven days a week and featuring two rooms, curt but efficient service, and an all-day menu almost daunting in its variety it would not be long before a cup of truly awful luke-warm slog feigning as ‘coffee’ was poured and after a few moments perusing the menu an order was placed, the trio delivered ten minutes later along with a check that falsely presumed dessert would not be part of an 8am meal. No expert on tacos but certainly discerning when it comes to ingredient quality and prep it was with the spicy beef that I began and with warm pillowy tortillas serving up each selection each taco proved better than the last – the poignant citrus and aromatics of the carnitas truly impressive in its interplay with fresh avocado. Clearly busy with the large group seated in the nextdoor room it was to a second server that I turned for something sweet and although I’m sure better coffee would have helped, the golden churros were merely okay, a bit too oily and not particularly helped by Ready-Whip though the cocoa laced cajeta caramel was divine – as was the sub-$15 tab.

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http://mimadresrestaurant.com/

Posted in Austin, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Mi Madre's, Mi Madre's Restaurant, Pork, Texas, Vacation

Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery, Austin TX

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Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery

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Coffee Glaze

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Apple Fritter

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Austin Cream Pie – Chocolate Ganache filled Vanilla Glazed

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Vanilla Lavender Glaze

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Having heard the name at Austin Java in City Hall early that morning during a conversation with the barista about Austin’s best bakeries a subsequent trip to Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery proved an inspired choice, the excellent iced double espresso from the coffee shop gone and refilled at no cost with a cup of their vibrant Texas Pecan blend guiding my drive to the small vegan food trailer. Worked owned, managed, and staffed by a small team of friendly young men and women – two of whom I’d meet during my brief visit to the cute food cart – and featuring yeast raised classics and novelties focused on both vegan and all-natural, anti-GMO principles it was with nearly a dozen donuts and a trio of muffins that I found myself greeted and instantly keying on the fritter I allowed the staff to round out a quartet, my choice the only selection less than excellent and only because it lacked crispy edges as the flavor was excellent. Moving on to what was better, a first taste of Vanilla Lavender proved shockingly nuanced with vanilla forward and the lavender a light accent while similar pure vanilla tones found a stronger counterpart in the “Austin Cream Pie’s” ample dark chocolate filling. Rounding out the pre-breakfast with a coffee glazed selection featuring Toddy-quality richness with just enough sugar to make it work suffice it to say that there is no reason a vegan donut should be any better or worse than one which is not and Red Rabbit is happy to prove that point.

http://www.redrabbitbakery.com

Posted in Austin, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Red Rabbit Co-op, Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery, Texas, Vacation

Lucia, Dallas TX

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Lucia

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Warm Olives

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Crusty Bread with Salted Butter

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Salumi Misti – Speck, Fennel-Orange Salame, Coppa, Boar Ventricina, Duck Salame Cotto, Chicken Liver Crostini, Lardo Crostini, 3 Foie Gras Stuffed Prunes

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Smoked Sweetbread Mezzalune with Hedgehog Mushroom and Green Garlic

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Pasta al Sangue with Spicy Red Wattle Pork Ragu, Broccoli Raab, Pecorino Romano

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Cocoa Tagliatelle with Braised Duck and Foie Gras

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Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate, Prunes, Quince, Hazelnut Gelato

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Candy Cap Bombolini with Walnuts and Pears

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French Press Coffee

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Likely Dallas’ toughest ticket, the sort of place where a phone call at a designated date and time over a month in advance still cannot guarantee a seat, dinner at Lucia came with lofty expectations; the promise of perfect pastas and stellar house charcuterie in an intimate setting delivered upon from the moment I walked in the door until I hit the road bound for Austin two hours later. Located in Bishop Arts and seating perhaps 40 Lucia is the pride and joy of Chef/Owner David Uygur and focused on cooking what is “fresh and exciting” his enthusiasm is clearly contagious – servers smiling and diners glowing amidst the long room with each plate, pour, and interaction…all the more so as the night progressed. Beginning first with warm olives and hot, crusty bread it was with much debate that I perused a menu with perhaps two dozen options that all sounded divine but thankful to find half portions of pastas available the decision became less daunting, my request for four savory courses and two sweets marched out in procession. Beginning first with a mountain of salumi plus three $1 prunes stuffed with creamy duck liver mousse each of the meats proved Chef Uygur’s passion for the art and moving next to a trio of pastas it was here that ‘good’ transitioned to ‘great’ – the mezzalune nearly transparent pockets of creamy offal softened by garlic, the gamey blood tinged noodles perfectly al dente finding balance in spice plus acid, and the light chocolate notes of the tagliatelle proving a deft base note to the richness of duck and foie – the later an early contender for best thing I’ve eaten this year and a perfect transition into a pair of innovative desserts, both lighter than one would expect and impressive in their restrained sweetness allowing fruits, nuts, and mushrooms to shine – a remarkable end to a memorable meal served by people that seem to want little more than to make guests happy while doing what they love.

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http://luciadallas.com/

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dallas, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Lucia, Pork, Sweetbreads, Texas, Vacation

Dude, Sweet, Dallas TX

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Dude, Sweet

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Holiday in Cambodia – 100% Damari Chocolate, Black Sesame, Balsamic, Palm Sugar

Loco for Coco – 65% Damari Chocolate, Coconut, Coconut Milk, Honey

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Chocolate Salami

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Close to both Emporium Pies and dinner at Lucia the cleverly named “Dude, Sweet” chocolates proved a convenient stop to procure gifts for friends, but unfortunately held back by ‘bro’ service channeling the film from which its name presumably derives my experience was mixed. One part single origin bars and the other half prepared goods and truffles unable, or perhaps unwilling, to be sold as separates the items I sampled were admittedly of high quality but with questions brushed aside as the clerk tended to Facebook via Smartphone my purchases were few – two well manicured bars with great texture and depth of flavor plus soft chocolate salami teaming with dates and figs purchased while the intriguing Hanoi Fudge was left behind, brushed aside with a “its alright” from the ‘dude’ whose only other responses seemed to be ‘good’ or ‘awesome.’ Seemingly a space focused on both quality and innovation it seems a shame that options such as the Blue Cheese ‘Albatross’ or Porcini and Pumpkin Seed ‘Fungus Amongus’ went without a taste due to policy, but then again who am I to interrupt social networking and question such things?

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http://dudesweetchocolate.com/

Posted in Dallas, Dessert, Dude Sweet, Food, Texas, Vacation

Emporium Pies, Dallas TX

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Emporium Pies

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Lord of the Pies – Deep Dish Apple

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Drunken Nut – Bourbon Pecan

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Cultivar Coffee

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Some of my zeal sapped by Zoli’s it was in a different type of pie that I sought solace, the young ladies at Bishop Arts’ Emporium Pies turning my frown upside down literally the moment I walked in the door and prompting me to stay for nearly an hour sipping coffee, browsing the free WiFi, listening to them happily talk shop, and of course eat a couple perfect slices of pie. Cute in design and high quality in ingredients with no preservatives, corn syrup, or dye in the anything-but-standard “standards” or seasonal specialties it was with noted difficulty that I perused eight options and allowing the service to guide me I was happy that two old-favorites came most highly recommended. Beginning with bold coffee with figgy undertones as both slices were warmed by oven it was in the spirits-forward caramel and crunch Texas Pecans over buttery shortbread that I began and while admittedly good, it paled in comparison to the thick wedge that arrived next, the soft apples saturated in hot caramel beneath a mountain of crispy cinnamon streusel in buttery pastry – a slice refining the American classic and the best I’ve had to date.

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http://emporiumpies.com

Posted in Coffee, Cultivar, Dallas, Dessert, Emporium Pies, Food, Texas, Vacation

Zoli’s NY Pizza, Dallas TX

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Zoli’s

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Sicilian Slice

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NY Slice with Pepperoni

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Happy with every aspect of my visit to Cane Rosso from food to service to setting and music it was with a spring in my step that I approached Zoli’s, a New York themed pizzeria from the same team, looking for that elusive “slice” to change my mind about the whole genre…a mission that continues still today as inferior ingredients and insipid service paired to provide an experience only memorable in how bad it truly was. Seemingly a great idea, using sourcing and skills honed at the Deep Ellum Neapolitan staple to produce a superior slice or Sicilian square the problems at Zoli’s started the moment I entered as the only clerk available somehow botched a two-item order twice and somehow still managed to overcharge me before getting the manager as “my” FOUR selections visited an oven manned by a condescending middle-aged man who acted as the botched ticket was somehow my fault. At this point unamused but appropriately charged and starring at two hot pieces of pie it was at first taste that I knew my preconception of quality was misplaced, the crust nicely charred and well constructed but the sauce overly sweet and the cheese questionably Kraft, though perhaps more greasy – two tastes of each satisfying my curiosity and the rest left to the trash at $2.25 per bite, steep for even New York standards.

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http://zolispizza.com/

Posted in Dallas, Food, Pizza, Pork, Texas, Vacation, Zoli's, Zoli's NY Pizza

Pecan Lodge, Dallas TX

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Pecan Lodge

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Brisket, Pork Ribs

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Pulled Pork

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Banana Pudding

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Bacon Mac n’ Cheese

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Inconspicuously located in Dallas Farmer’s Market- Shed 2 I’d heard rumor of a culinary diamond in the rough – Pitmaster Justin Fourton’s Pecan Lodge, a former catering company sparking hour-plus lines five days a week for their signature barbeque. Located at the back of the market and featuring little more than a walk-up counter and some chairs and tables scattered about the a wood façade a visit to Pecan Lodge requires only following the crowd and one’s nose, the later honing in on mesquite burning low in a pit smoker, and opting to arrive early my wait was a mere ten minutes listening to pop-tunes from nearby “Boom Juice,” my reward a three-meat plate with one side and dessert for a mere $20. Beginning first with a side of stick-a-spoon-up-straight macaroni and cheese topped with crisp bacon it should be noted that this is just as much a ‘must order’ as the ‘cue, and moving on to the trio of meats I’d be hard pressed to say which was best as each was a standard bearer for its genre. Beginning first with pulled pork, something Texas seemingly neglects, suffice it to say that this was nearly on par with that in Kansas City, and moving on to the ribs and brisket one need only close their eyes and sigh as the former featured a caramelized layer of fat over meat that slipped off the bone while the later was so moist and rife with smoke that it melted on the tongue leaving behind a lingering richness that only something acidic or sweet can wash away – the pickles a fine palate cleanser between bites, but the thick banana pudding more my style and much like everything else I tried a reference standard leaving me to wonder until next time about the fried chicken and ‘hot mess.’

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http://www.pecanlodge.com

Posted in Dallas, Dessert, Food, Pecan Lodge, Pork, Texas, Vacation

Smoke, Dallas TX

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Smoke

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Heavy Handed Blueberry Pancakes with Vanilla Poached Apricots and Cream

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Baked Cheddar Cheese Grits-Hominy Casserole, Thick Cut Pork Belly Bacon – smoked and fried, Poached Eggs

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Buttermilk Biscuit with House Cranberry Compote

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Coffee

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Said by some to feature barbeque amongst the best in Dallas and open at 8am I had high hopes for Smoke…hopes soon to be dashed by a breakfast menu only willing to serve up the smoky protein as a chopped and mixed ‘hash,’ – the server claiming the meat used was fresh that morning but “not served as a plate” until 11:00 due to ‘kitchen policy.’ Disappointed but already seated and admittedly impressed by the cozy confines and smoke in the air it was with a brief moments pause that I debated going elsewhere but able to make do with the limited menu an order was placed – the food mostly competent save for rubbery eggs and a dry biscuit, but the service a veritable disaster despite only three other patrons in the large space… one of them clearly an owner or investor strutting about making profane proclamations about first quarter gains. Beginning first with coffee service – refills requiring me to wave down a busser at nearly 20ft – and moving next to my plate visibly languishing under a heat lamp until my pancakes were prepared despite my specific request to receive the later as dessert it can only be assumed that the VIP was commanding too much a presence of staff for them to be bothered with the ‘small things’ like providing a good customer experience…either that or they were all hung over from Mardi Gras parties the night before…or perhaps some ‘policy’ simply prevented them from being efficient. Oh well, at least the grits and pancakes were good – and if the smoky bacon was any indication so might be the barbeque, though after such an experience I’d not venture back to find out.

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http://smokerestaurant.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dallas, Dessert, Food, Pancakes, Pork, Smoke, Texas, Vacation

Glazed Donut Works, Dallas TX

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Glazed Donut Works

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Sour Cream Old Fashioned

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Pineapple Rum Fritter

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Cinnamon Roll

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Glazed

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Cold Brew Coffee Cake

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A late start after a long outdoor run and bad traffic, Wednesday morning finally found Deep Ellum’s purveyor of fried pastry open for business; owners/bakers Jeff and Corey slinging smiles and still warm sweets as I arrived to a short line just after eight – the daily menu enticing me via Facebook even before I walked through the door. A relative newcomer to the Artisan Donut scene featuring a number of brilliant concoctions that even my well-traveled eyes had not yet seen it was with a focus on classics and novelties that I set my sight and with five selections, four still warm, and a tally under $12 I made my way outside to indulge. Beginning first with two yeasted choices, the simple ring featuring subdued glaze and delicate texture while the heavily iced cinnamon roll was messy but delicious with plenty of butter and great stretch beneath a golden exterior, it was in the thicker cake donuts that GDW wowed; a pudding-cake creamy starter forming the base to an Old Fashioned that melted on the tongue whie a similarly supple “Cold Brew Coffee” ring hit like La Colombe Pure Black with a sweet finish. Admittedly impressed and saving what I assumed to be the best for last, suffice it to say that the fritter lived up to expectations – a ‘boozy breakfast’ I can sink my teeth into, the crackling glaze and crispy edges producing a sort of portable punched-up pineapple upside down cake that ranks amongst the best fritters I’ve tasted to date.

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http://glazeddonutworks.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Dallas, Dessert, Food, Glazed Donut Works, Texas, Vacation

Fearing’s, Dallas TX

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Fearing’s

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Butter, Jalapeno Cornbread, Lavash, Baguette

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Salmon Mousse Spoon with Plantain, Peppers, Onions

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Dean’s Tortilla Soup with South of the Border Flavorings

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Flash Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras on Pistachio Butter with Quince Jam and Nantucket Bay Scallops with Shaved Heirloom Carrots, Baby Kale and White Balsamic/Foie Gras Vinaigrette

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Apricot Barbecue Glazed Lockhart Texas Quail on Iceberg Wedge Salad with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and House Made Cider Braised Bacon

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Apple Horchata Intermezzo

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Chocolate Fluffer Nutter with Vanilla Malt Shake and Peanut Butter Brittle

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Banana Pudding with Homemade Vanilla Wafers, Toasted Meringue, Bananas Foster Sauce and Warm Beignets

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Located in The Ritz-Carlton and perhaps Dallas’ most celebrated dining experience, Dean Fearing’s eponymous restaurant was my original Tuesday dining destination, but opting to squeeze in a visit to FT33 prior to sitting down in the historic hotel I can only assume I did the cuisine no favors while the staff and service did the same for themselves. Seated just after 8:30, my reserved time, after an extended wait at the bar for my “table to be prepared” despite a dining room only 2/3 full I shall only assume this was an attempt to convince me to try a cocktail – offered thrice – and eventually led to a table too far from the open kitchen to offer much of a vantage I was presented a menu and water before another long wait. Eventually greeted by one of a handful of servers, again forced to decline a drink, the question of a tasting menu was met with a roundabout explanation indicating lack of knowledge (or desire to serve such) and taking the hint an a la carte order was placed to focus on signatures – dishes the staff must presume to be so well known that they are left on the table without more than two-word descriptions such as “the quail.” Speaking to the quality of the fare, the ancillary items like breads, amuses, and intermezzos were mostly forgettable while a trio of appetizers all proved well prepared if not particularly memorable – the soup no better than any mom n’ pop spot, the foie well prepared but the tiny scallops rendered rubbery, and the quail a classic with great bacon and blue wasted on a mundane wedge. At this point mostly bored and regretting having not ordered more at FT33 it was in the sweets that Fearing’s found some salvation as both the gussied up Fluffer Nutter and Banana Pudding were amongst the best I’ve ever tasted, and at $10 each the best values, textures, and flavors of the night leaving me to ponder whether drinks and dessert in the lounge would have been the better choice.

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http://www.fearingsrestaurant.com/

Posted in Bread Basket, Cornbread, Dallas, Dessert, Fearing's, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Pork, Texas, Vacation