Austin Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes From the Texas Capital
Reviewed by Jessi Cape, Fri., June 14, 2013
Austin Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes From the Texas Capitalby Crystal Esquivel, photos by Aimee Wenske
Lyons Press, 224 pp., $24.95
The plentiful flavors of Austin's exploding food scene are hard to encapsulate, but Crystal Esquivel, of the Poco Cocoa blog, has done a fine job in her second book, Austin Chef's Table. Covering an impressive 53 of the very best brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trailers, the book beautifully describes the capital city's roundtable of foodie excellence. Divided by course, the book features a biography for each food spot, highlighting its story and edible mission statement. Conveniently, two indexes make searching by restaurant name or by dish a breeze. Recipes from each hot spot provide not only a mouthwatering example of each chef's cuisine, but also an accurate picture of the city's dedication to sustainability and creativity. Surprisingly, the vast majority of the book's recipes are feasible for the home cook – though acquisition of some specialty ingredients is necessary – and the recipes seem to retain the original intent and flavor profiles. The idea of preparing desserts such as Peanut Butter Semifreddo with Miso-Apple Sorbet designed by Uchi pastry chef Philip Speer seems relatively plausible thanks to Esquivel's writing, though some of the more complicated dishes might be more fun left to professionals such as Chef Tyson Cole. Favorites include Rockfish with Mini Heirloom-Tomato Ragout, White Wine & Potato Nest by Chef Wolfgang Murber of Fabi + Rosi, pastel de papas (shepherd's pie) by Chef Reina Morris of Buenos Aires Cafe, lemon lavender tea cake from the Steeping Room, and the autumnal butternut squash lasagna from Chef Gabriel Pellegrini of Sagra Trattoria and Bar. Perfect pairings accompany several of the profiles, and for some, that may be reason enough to curl up and simply read the book as a treasure map of Austin's most delicious adventures. Esquivel certainly did her homework, and Aimee Wenske's photography depicts the delectable dishes beautifully. Austin Chef's Table would make a thoughtful gift for anyone interested in home dinner parties, impressing a date, or just sitting in awe of our lovely city, but it'd be an equally excellent addition to a time capsule of Austin eats.