December 1-8 was Edible Austin's sixth annual Eat, Drink Local Week providing a chance to try new dishes and drinks in support of the people who make our city the exciting culinary destination it is. Pop-up happy hours and featured menus appeared at venues all over the city, and I was fortunate enough to experience both. Here is my evening run-down.
The Pop-up: Fabi + Rosi (509 Hearn) hosted a Friday evening happy hour, featuring Paula's Texas Spirits. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a smile and the question, "Would you like a complimentary cocktail?" Uh, yes, please!
With drink in hand, I was taken through an informative profile of their product. Paula Angerstein's products include her Texas Lemon and Texas Orange handmade, premium liqueurs. Comparable to limoncello (and in my opinion, a bit lighter and easier to drink) the liqueur has no artificial components and is meant to bring a crisp flavoring to cocktails. Paula also her own list of recipes and suggestions.
The only problem with complimentary cocktails, though, is they're small, so happy hour at the cozy West Austin cottage was a brief and informative experience.
The Feature: Lenoir (1807 S. First) is a relatively new restaurant and I had been dying to go. Their three-course, prix fixe menu where you could choose any item made my destination non-negotiable. The restaurant is small and so is the menu, but those aspects only add to the ambiance. Rustic meets vintage inside, and the outdoor bar area looks like a scene from an enchanted wedding reception.
But you want to know about the food; the reason you could choose from any menu item is because everything they offer is from Texas purveyors. Field, Sea, Land, and Dream are the whimsical titles for courses (adding further to that enchanted atmosphere I mentioned earlier), and offer unique dishes.
"Antelope?" I ask one of my fellow diners. "How could I not?"
With three of us, we were able to try a multitude of dishes, including every salad and every dessert. With chef/owner Todd Duplechan's courses, the flavor profiles of each dish are so different there isn't much need for other options. Do you prefer light and tangy to start? There’s the Fennel & Radish salad. Maybe sweet and rich is more your style? Try Butternut Mole Tortelli. The same holds true with pastry chef/owner Jessica Maher's creations for the end of your meal - Wateroak Chévre Cheesecake and Chocolate Praline Cake can provide either a tart or rich end. There's also a Shaved Pantaleo Cheese, and since cheese isn't a normal staple on U.S. dessert menus, it made for an interesting experience.
Sea and Land choices include things like Sour Pork Sausage, Gulf Shrimp Cake, and Smoked Catfish Terrine (which was not served cold, as terrines can be). One of the most pleasant parts of our dining experience was the server's explanation of the components of each dish with care and obvious pride. They also displayed a genuine sharing spirit, bringing guests a complimentary taste of classic Chianti at the end of the meals.
"We really love it, so we want you to experience it," our server simply stated.
This desire for guests to experience what they love is why the owners and staff of Lenoir have dedicated themselves to providing quality, crafted dishes at an affordable price; this price-fixed menu is apparently available any week, any night of the year. For $35, I felt like I had just eaten a meal worth $120, and if it had not been for the Eat, Drink Local week promotion, I would have gone on assuming this elegant little spot lived at that higher price point.
So, at the end of the evening, I was thankful. Eat Drink Local introduced me to some true Austin gems. I just can’t wait to see what I’ll learn next year. Could we make this bi-annually (or bi-weekly)?
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