The Buzz About Apis

Spicewood-area eatery makes a bee line for early 2015 debut

Photo by Ashton Leon

How do you make your country restaurant a dining destination before it even opens? Pop-up a series of preview dinners featuring items from you opening menu and encourage local food and wine lovers to try it out, that's how. The owners of the forthcoming Apis Restaurant & Apiary west of Austin are doing just that this week.

The local restaurant preview via pop-up dinner phenomenon continued this week when soon-to-be restaurateurs Taylor and Casie Hall welcomed potential investors, catering clients, newcomers, and media guests to dinner. The young couple purchased property along Hwy 71 West near Briarcliff in 2009 with the intention of creating an eatery named in honor of the petite but mighty pollinators that are so crucial to the food chain. They've installed 20 bee hives and a large kitchen garden on their country acreage and had their first 500 pound honey harvest just last month.

An existing office building on the Apis property is currently being transformed into a two-story restaurant while an old limestone structure will become a facility for private events. We've been fascinated by the developments out at Apis for a while now and were more than happy to check out the actual food.

The Halls and their able crew transformed a large, empty room at the Oasis Brewing Company into an inviting dining area using white table cloths, floral arrangements, and candlelight. Printed menus and name cards stuck in wine corks graced each place setting.

photo by Ashton Leon

Casie Hall and general manager Bill Donnelly greeted guests and worked the room while chef Hall and his team plated up the five course meal. Guests had been encouraged to bring their own wine for dinner and received pairing suggestions from the restaurant's consulting sommelier, Rae Wilson, of Wine for the People. During dinner, Wilson made the rounds of tables, pouring wines and sharing her voluminous knowledge with guests. The Halls definitely put their best foot forward in choosing this capable team of professionals to create a good first impression.

In keeping with the farm-to-table aesthetic, chef Hall's winter menu featured Apis honey in both the complementary sparkling cava cocktail and the glaze on a duck breast. He also offered a young feral hog ragu over torn chestnut pasta utilizing meat harvested on a family ranch. The meal opened sweet and light with Dungeness crab in a dainty mushroom broth, then progressed through pork with pasta, trout with sunchokes and fennel, and the rich, honey-glazed duck breast on a bed of farro, before finishing sweet and light again with a delicate Valrhona chocolate creameux paired with quenelles of exquisite popcorn ice cream.

photo by Ashton Leon

Based on the well-balanced menu sampling, I'd have to say that Taylor Hall, a longtime catering chef, will be one to watch as he makes the transition to chef/restaurateur. Apis is a wonderful idea taking shape on an attractive property high on a bluff over the Pedernales River. The Halls are optimistic enough about their target opening date of late January 2015 that they're now taking reservations for a Valentine's Day prix-fixe dinner. It could be the sweet spot for romantic dining.

Apis Restaurant & Apiary
23526 Hwy 71 West in Spicewood, 512/436-8918

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Apis Restaurant & Apiary, Taylor Hall, Casie Hall, Bill Donnelley, Rae Wilson, Wine for the People, Oasis Brewing Company

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