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Food and Wine Pairing with Chef Troy Knapp of The Driskill Grill

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Howdy! It’s your disappearing writer here. Sorry for the extended absence, but it has been a busy few months. Among other things, I spent the spring and summer studying for my Certified Specialist of Wine exam and I passed. Yay! You can expect there will be more wine posts in the future.

I’ve also helped launch a new series of classes with the Wine and Food Foundation highlighting food and wine pairing at area restaurants. It has been so fun to work with local sommeliers and chefs to explore both classic and unusual pairings. Executive Chef Troy Knapp of Austin’s Driskill Grill recently led a group of twenty Wine & Food Foundation supporters through a phenomenal three course tasting at one of our Perfect Pair classes.

Incredible food and wine pairings are usually a collaborative effort between a chef and sommelier as they each own a specific half of the equation, sharing some knowledge in the middle. Chef Knapp has an edge up on the pairing formula as not only is he an experienced chef, but he is a Certified Sommelier. He introduced our group not only to his wine acumen, as well as the new approach to the Driskill Grill menu which they unveiled that week.

butternut squash and vouvray

All the pairings were spectacular, showing off two different wines with each plating, I was wowed by an amuse bouche of butternut squash soup paired with 2008 Domaine Huet, Le Haut – Lieu, Vouvray Demi Sec from Loire, France. While a sweeter wine is not usually my first choice, the Demi Sec harmonized beautifully with the butternut squash and made me long for fall.

The crowd favorite of the night was Chef Knapp’s second course pairing of dry-aged Wagyu flatiron steak with a blind pairing of Temprañillo. Curious if the group could discern the Spanish Rioja (2006 López de Heredia Viña Cubillo Crianza) from a Texas Temprañillo (2012 Bending Branch), Chef Knapp had the group taste the two without giving a clue as to their origin.

rioja pairing2

About half the group placed the wines correctly, but everyone was a winner because the perfectly grilled beef and Bending Branch Temprañillo were a match made in heaven. The dry cherry flavors married well with the steak served atop a carrot puree, roasted beets, summer squash and huckleberry bordelaise.

Ending the night with a 2008 Royal Tokaji paired with a hazelnut torte guaranteed that everyone left full, satisfied and as devoted fans of Chef Knapp and his team at the Driskill Grill.

To learn more about wine and food pairing, join us for the Wine & Food Foundation’s next Perfect Pair class class on Tuesday, October 20th at Arro or at one of Driskill Grill’s pairing dinners, the next one on Tuesday, October 13th is with Master Sommelier Guy Stout. You can learn more about Guy Stout and his journey in the wine world in his interview with Levi Dalton of the I’ll Drink to That podcast.

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Wowing with Outstanding Restaurant Service

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When I moved to Austin many moons ago, the food wasn’t fancy and restaurant service was typically adequate at best. Over the last couple of decades, our food scene has transformed and we have an almost overwhelming number of great places to eat. How do you choose? For me, the deciding factor is usually the service.

The places that win my heart are the restaurants that value their front of house standards as much as those for the kitchen, making me feel welcome and comfortable without overdoing it. It’s service that lifts a good restaurant to a great restaurant, and it is the achilles heal for many places in Austin.

I was thrilled when Edible Austin let me profile a few exceptional folks who are putting their customers first every day. Cheers to the Forces at the Front of the House!

Do you have a favorite server? Where do they work and how did they wow you?

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AFBA 2015 City Guide: Locally Sourcing Restaurants

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AFBACityGuideLogo612altWhen I started making a list of restaurants that sourced from local farms and ranches several years ago, the roll call was pretty short. Now so many restaurants understand the joy of working with fresh local produce and meat that I almost don’t need to make the list anymore. But just for kicks, I did it anyway.

Dai Due Cold Meat Board

Dai Due Cold Meat Board

One of the most exciting culinary developments for me in the last year was to see Chef Jesse Griffiths and his team at Dai Due open their brick-and-mortar restaurant. After eight years of supper clubs and farmers markets, it is amazing to see them in action at their Manor Road restaurant. It is everything I wanted for them and everything I wanted it to be.

And Dai Due is in great company, they were joined over the last two years by stand outs like the divine pizza at Bufalina, the lovely Rosedale neighborhood spot Epicerie and the reimagining of Cafe Josie.

Lunch at The Hightower

Lunch at The Hightower

I was thrilled that Chef Chad Dolezal made a cozy new home at The Hightower and have been wowed by my first two meals at Fixe, a mix of tasty Southern bites, hospitality and whimsy that I find delightful.

Shrimp & Grits from Fixe

Shrimp & Grits from Fixe

One thing is for certain. Locally sourcing restaurants now abound in Austin and you don’t have to sacrifice taste or type of cuisine – you have plenty of delicious bites waiting for you.


The Backspace, 507 San Jacinto. Antipasto and Neopolitan style pizza cooked in a brick oven imported from Italy. Average pizza price $12.

Chez Nous, 510 Neches. French bistro that has been an Austin favorite for years and is still one of my favorite spots. Lunch and dinner. 3 course prix fixe menu $28.50, average dinner entree $25. Austin Woman profile

Congress, 200 Congress Ave. New American fine dining with near perfect execution. Dinner only with 3 courses ($75) or chef tasting menu ($125.) Austin Woman profile

Easy Tiger, 709 E. Sixth St. Bakery and beer garden with artisan breads and meats available to go or in the beer garden. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (coffee, not beer at breakfast). Average entree $12.

La Condesa, 400 W. 2nd St. Interior Mexican and Mexican street fare. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $26.  Austin Woman profile

Lambert’s, 401 West 2nd Street. Fancy barbecue, game and Southern dishes in a historic building across from city hall, average dinner entree $25. The Sunday brunch is a meat-lover’s paradise.

Parkside, 301 E. 6th. New American with an emphasis on oysters and seafood crudo, dinner, average dinner entree $23.  Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Second Bar and Kitchen , 200 Congress Ave. New American.  Lunch, dinner and late night, average dinner entree $22.

SFC Downtown Austin Farmers Market, 4th and Guadalupe at Republic Square. Various vendors with prepared food, fresh produce, meats, cheeses and artisan food products. Great place to discover new hot food vendors who are focused on local food. Saturdays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Swift’s Attic, 315 Congress Ave. New American small plates with a playful, sometimes irreverent style. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dish $15. Austin Woman profile

Trio, at the Four Seasons, 98 San Jacinto. New American. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and one of the best Happy Hour deals in town. Average dinner entree $25.   Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Trace at the W Hotel, 200 Lavaca St.. New American, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Prices vary widely between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Austin Woman profile

6th & Lamar/Clarksville

24 Diner, 600 N. Lamar. American diner. 24 hours. Average dish $11.

Arro, 601 W 6th St. French bistro standards with one of the best curated wine lists in town. Average entree $30.

Cafe Josie, 1200 W 6th. Neighborhood bistro featuring fresh, local ingredients. Lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $22.

Cipollina, 1213 West Lynn. Bistro menu, specializing in pizza. Lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $15. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Clark’s Oyster Bar, 1200 W 6th St. Seafood. Lunch, dinner and brunch. Average dinner entree $25.

Counter Cafe, 626 N. Lamar (also with an East Austin location:1914 E 6th St.) American. Breakfast and lunch. Average entree $10. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Fabi & Rosi, 509 Hearn St. Dishes influenced from Chef Wolfgang Murber’s German heritage, but with a light, modern touch. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average entree $20. Austin Woman Profile

Fixe, 500 West 5th Street. Chef James Robert serves modern Southern fare including a divine menu section dedicated to grits. Dinner. Entrees average $21.

Jeffrey’s, 1204 W Lynn St. New American fine dining in a cozy neighborhood space – an Austin classic. Dinner. Entrees average $42.

Josephine House, 1601 Waterston Ave. The sister restaurant to Jeffrey’s, Josephine house offers casual dining without sacrificing on any of the quality. Sitting on the front lawn or in to back patio is the perfect way to enjoy a sunny day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch entrees average $17, dinner entrees $20, 3 course prix fixe menu $40.

Wink, 1014 N. Lamar. New American. Dinner. Average entree $25 with a separate, less expensive menu in the wine bar.  Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

South Austin

Barley Swine, 2024 S. Lamar Blvd. One of Austin’s leaders in the farm-to-table movement, Chef Bryce Gilmore has won national acclaim for good reason. Enjoy a New American nightly chef’s menu for $75/person.

Elizabeth St. Cafe, 1501 South First St. Bakery and Vietnamese cafe, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average entree $15.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen, 7720 W. Hwy 71 (this place is a jaunt from downtown, but worth the drive). Casual Texas cuisine. Lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch. Average entree $13. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Lenoir, 1807 South First St. One of my favorite places in town, Lenoir serves what they’ve dubbed “hot weather food.” Call it what you want; it’s consistently delicious. Dinner. Prix fixe only with 3 dishes for $40, extra dish for $10. Enjoy a selection of small plates in the wine garden out back. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Odd Duck, 1201 S Lamar Blvd. Originally started in a food trailer, Odd Duck has returned with a gorgeous home on South Lamar. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Small dinner plates average $10. Culturemap Austin profile

Olivia, 2043 S. Lamar. New American. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $30. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Perla’s, 1400 S. Congress. Seafood. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $25.

Snack Bar, 1224 S. Congress Ave. Diner and lounge. Daily brunch, lunch, dinner and late night. Average dish price $9. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Sway,1417 S. First St. Thai cuisine elevated to divine heights by Executive Chef Alexis Chong. Lunch and dinner. Average entree $16. Austin Woman profile

Taco Deli, 1500 Spyglass (and other locations around town). Tex Mex – don’t skip the ceviche if you are there on Friday. It’s one of the best bargains in town. Breakfast and lunch. Average taco price is $3.

Thai Fresh, 909 W. Mary. Fresh, tasty Thai. The spicy glass noodle salad is one of my favorites. Lunch and dinner. Average entree $10. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Uchi, 801 S. Lamar. James Beard Award winning contemporary Japanese cuisine and sushi. Dinner. Average small plate $15, average roll price $12. If you are on a budget, go during Social Hour. Austin Woman Profile

Whip-In Parlour Cafe & Market, 1950 S. IH-35. Indian with a shockingly comprehensive collection of outstanding beer and wine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $11.

Central Austin

ASTI Trattoria, 408-C E. 43rd St. Italian. Lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $20.

Black Star Coop, 7020 Easy Wind Dr. Brewpub with “Texas Pub Fare” featuring beer-friendly sandwiches and entrees. Lunch and dinner. Average item $8.

Blackbird & Henry, 3016 Guadalupe St. New American with a touch of gastropub influence from Chef Mark Schmidt, formerly of Cafe 909 in Marble Falls. Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Dinner entrees average $20.

Epicerie, 2307 Hancock Dr. Neighborhood cafe and bistro. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Austin Woman profile

Foreign+Domestic, 306 E. 53rd St. New American. Dinner. Average entree $19.  Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Kome, 4917 Airport Blvd. Japanese. Lunch and dinner. Average dish $9.

Noble Sandwich Company, 4805 Burnet Rd. (also at 12233 Ranch Road 620 N). Calling this a sandwich shop is beyond an understatement. These are life-changing sandwiches. No, really. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average sandwich price $8. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Olamaie, 1610 San Antonio St. Modern Southern. Dinner. Average entree $27.

Olive & June, 3411 Glenview Ave. Italian under a gorgeous oak. Dinner. Average pasta dish $16, average entree $27. Bargains at happy hour. Austin Woman profile

Texas French Bread, 2900 Rio Grande St. Standard bakery and deli menu by day, transforming in to bistro in the evening. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $19.

Uchiko, 4200 N. Lamar. Japanese farmhouse dishes and sushi. Dinner. Average small plate $15, average roll $13. Splurge with the chef’s menu or watch your budget with Social Hour. Kristi’s Farm to Table profileVino Vino, 4119 Guadalupe. New American with a fabulous wine list. Dinner. Average entree $18.

East Austin

Blue Dahlia Bistro, 1115 E. 11th St. French Bistro. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $11. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Bufalina, 1519 E Cesar Chavez St. Pizza worth the wait (and there will be a wait unless you go when they open). Dinner. Average pie $16.

Contigo, 2027 Anchor Ln. New American. One of the best places to be in Austin when it’s gorgeous outside. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average entree $15. Austin Woman profile

Dai Due, 2406 Manor Rd. Chef Jesse Griffiths has moved his popular farmers market stand and supper club indoors at his new restaurant and butcher shop. It may be the most Austin/Texas of all our restaurants as everything, even the salt is local. Needless to say, it is my happy place. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average breakfast or lunch dish $12; a dinner entree $25; 3 course prix fixe menu $30.  Culturemap Austin profile

Eastside Pies, 1401B Rosewood Ave (as well as other locations). Pizza, lunch and dinner. Large pizza averages $20.

Eden East755 Springdale Rd. Chef Sonya Cote’s outdoor restaurant at Springdale Farm offers a new prix fixe menu every weekend. Dinner, weekends only. Average dinner $70.

Gardner, 1914 E 6th Street Suite C. The Contigo crew shifts their focus at this new venue to a menu inspired by seasonal vegetables. Dinner. Average entrees $27.

The Hightower, 1209 E 7th St. Chef Chad Dolezal is one of my favorite chefs in town and I renamed his pork jowl bowl the “big bowl of yummy.” Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Average dinner entree, $16.

Hillside Farmacy, 1209 E 11th St. Cafe/Bistro in a renovated pharmacy building. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $15.

Jacoby’s, 3235 E Cesar Chavez St. Ranch to table menu that features meat from the Jacoby’s ranch with a gorgeous outdoor space. Dinner. Average entree $21.

laV, 1501 E 7th St. French fine dining with inspiration straight from Provence. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $42.  Culturemap Austin preview

Qui, 1600 E 6th St. Chef Paul Qui won Top Chef and a James Beard Award. It only takes a few bites at his eponymous restaurant to understand why. Go all in with the nightly chef’s menu or nibble snacks in the bar or patio. Dinner. Chef’s menu is $65 per person or $55 for vegetarian.

Salt & Time Butcher Shop, 1912 E 7th St, Butcher shop serving daily selection of sandwiches and/or hot food that can be enjoyed at their bar, lunch and early dinner (closes at 7:00 pm), average price $8.

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Our Favorite Things: Grapefruit, Toast & Roast, Fixe, Cooking Classes & Meridian Hive Meadery

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John Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things is one of my favorite songs – a tune I seek out to soothe my soul and center me on hectic days. As I listen, I make a mental list of things that make me happy. Anyone who knows me would tell you that raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens wouldn’t make my list, but a lovely grapefruit sorbet or fun new restaurant is very likely to appear.

Lillian and I decided it was high time to start sharing the culinary side of that list. Each month, we’ll share some of our favorite recipes, bites and finds from the previous month. And without further ado, here are a few of our favorite things from February.


I love grapefruit and am thrilled when Sweet Scarlets, Ruby Reds and Rio Stars appear in Austin markets. While you may not want ice cream on this chilly day, this Grapefruit and Mint Sorbet recipe is a perfect way to save the last of the season grapefruit for the hot days to come. Enjoy!


Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Toast & Roast

toast and roast

I was lucky enough to spend last Friday afternoon visiting a few Hill Country wineries and was reminded of how outstanding some of our Texas vintages are. You can sample some of Texas’ best next Sunday, March 1st, at the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas’ Toast & Roast event. Sip Texas Monthly’s Best Wines of Texas and nosh on food from Chef John Bates of Noble Sandwich Co. I’m expecting an epic Texas afternoon.


It’s not often that I’m completely surprised by a restaurant. When I was invited to a media dinner at Fixe, I accepted, but wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew Chef James Robert has Southern roots and that the early word was positive, but not much more than that.

Then, Chef Robert and crew wowed me. Everything from the food to the service to the atmosphere was fantastic, and not just because I was at a media dinner. I watched other tables who were clearly enjoying their evening and every bite. I can’t wait to go back and encourage you to put it high on your list.


Cooking Classes

Several folks have asked me where they could learn to cook and I’m delighted that I can direct them to a growing number of outstanding classes, many with a seasonal focus. The Sustainable Food Center has increased their offerings and added a knife skills class, something every home cook can benefit from.

If you prefer spicier flare, Chef Jam Sanitchat offers classes at her South Austin restaurant Thai Fresh. I learned so much from her in my class that I was inspired to buy her cookbook.

And, of course, I’m a huge fan of the Central Market classes, offered across the state. Not a day goes by that I don’t use some trick or technique that I learned in one of their classes. I’m particularly looking forward to the upcoming class with Chef Virginia Willis, no relation, but a friend and great Southern chef. She’ll be offering classes in all 5 Central Market cities.


Image courtesy of SFC

Meridian Hive Meadery

One of my favorite things to do on Friday evening is to pop by East End Wines for their free wine tastings to meet a new wine maker or learn about an unusual varietal. On a recent Friday night, Meridian Hive Meadery was sampling their mead wines.

To be honest I was scared to try it, not being a lover of sweet wine, but I was delighted I did. Meridian Hive has the most balanced mead wine I’ve ever tried and even the “sweet” Haven had a spicy bite of ginger to counteract the sugary peach. It was delightful and refreshing, and I look forward to trying it again.


Image courtesy of Meridian Hive Meadery

What have you nibbled or sipped that you loved this month? We’d love to hear about your favorite things.


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