First Look: Juniper Austin

Long awaited Italian restaurant Juniper officially opens its East Austin doors this week. Originally slated to open this past summer, permitting headaches and construction delays kept our mouths watering for the highly anticipated restaurant. Despite this red tape, the Juniper team, led by longtime Austin chef Nicholas Yanes, turned lemons into lemoncello by hosting a series of pop up dinners throughout the spring and summer. During one such dinner at Barley Swine, the former Uchi chef gave a preview of Juniper’s northern Italy meets Texas cuisine over six delicious courses.

Our dinner started with Juniper’s take on one of my favorite Italian summer dishes, crispy zucchini blossoms stuffed with fontina and ricotta. Served with a flavorful sweet pepper sauce, it made for a fortuitous start to our preview dinner.

Juniper Austin Preview Course 1

Juniper Austin Preview Course 1

Arriving next was a beautifully composed plate of figs, San Daniele ham, and Brunet goat cheese drizzled with local honey vinegar. The rustic, classic dish was designed to let the ingredients shine, which was a consistent theme throughout the meal.

Juniper Austin Preview Course 2

Juniper Austin Preview Course 2

Next came one of the most surprising dishes of the evening featuring squid with grapes and smoked tomato served on top of a celery root puree. In lesser hands, this combination of ingredients could have easily been a bit of a mess, but instead the dish represented a subtle, harmonious balance of smoky and sweet flavors that married well the textures of the meaty squid and creamy celery root. Continue reading First Look: Juniper Austin

Nov. 22-24 Weekend Happenings: Meatball Festival, EAST Studio Tour, and More

Weekend Forecast: Cloudy w/a side of Meatballs

Weekend Forecast: Cloudy w/a side of Meatballs

 

Friday, November 22

The North Door is teaming up with Micklethwait Craft Meats for a Dinner & Movie Supper Club event celebrating everyone’s favorite charmingly dysfunctional family, The Royal Tenenbaums. In addition to a screening of the Wes Anderson classic, there will be a Thanksgiving-themed menu featuring a choice of turducken or vegetarian-friendly field roast. Tickets for the event are $20/pp and available – along with more details – here. The Supper Club kicks off at the North Door (502 Brushy, Austin TX 78702) at 7pm.

Join Chef Paul Qui for the 2nd annual Qui to the Cure event on Friday evening. The event, benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Central Texas, features bites created by the James Beard Award winning chef as well as live music, a silent auction and more. VIP tickets are sold out, but General Admission tickets ($110/pp) are still available for purchase here. Qui for the Cure takes place from 7:30-11pm November 22 at Brazos Hall (204 E 4th Street). More details can be found here.

Saturday, November 23

If this weekend’s cold weather triggers cravings for comfort food, stop by Saturday’s Austin Meatball Festival to enjoy Italian Grandmother-approved bites from over a dozen local restaurants. Tickets to the event are $15 for General Admission or $35 for access to live music in the Listening Room. VIP packages are available as well. Proceeds from the event will benefit Fresh Chefs Society and Citizen Generation. The Austin Meatball Festival will be held from 11am-4pm at Winflo Osteria, located at 1315 West 6th Street. For more details and tickets, visit the event webpage here. Continue reading Nov. 22-24 Weekend Happenings: Meatball Festival, EAST Studio Tour, and More

First Look: Winflo Osteria

Mentioned here, Winflo Osteria opened its doors in Clarksville last week. Judging by the packed house on Tuesday evening, Winflo is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and at first glance, it is easy to see why. Housed in a renovated bungalow dating back from the 20s, Winflo Osteria’s preopening facelift created a space that is warm yet modern. When visiting, make a point to take advantage of the expansive outdoor seating on the Prosecco-perfect front patio and catwalk.

Winflo Osteria

Winflo Osteria

The classic Italian menu focuses on pastas, pizzas, and traditional dishes such as porchetta and pesce puttanesca. Pizzas, cooked Neapolitan style in a wood-fire oven, feature a crust that is both tender and crisp. Continue reading First Look: Winflo Osteria

Enoteca Vespaio

This weekend’s brisk temperatures marked the first true feeling of fall, inspiring me to unearth my stash of sweaters and cozy up to warm comfort dishes. As luck would have it, a previously planned lunch engagement at Enoteca Vespaio gave me the perfect opportunity to welcome fall’s cooler days while enjoying decadent classic Italian food.

Enoteca Vespaio is the casual, less expensive little sister restaurant to neighboring longtime local favorite Vespaio. Both South Congress spots are regularly busting at the seams with folks attracted to their comforting renditions of classic Italian favorites such as risotto and housemade pastas.

Gnocchi – $13

Previous to this visit, my most recent trips to Enoteca were marred by a few missteps. Continue reading Enoteca Vespaio

Olive & June

As detailed in a piece contributed to the Austinist, Olive & June is officially open in Central Austin. Shawn Cirkiel, chef/owner of the much-lauded Parkside and Backspace restaurants, announced he was expanding his operations last fall after purchasing the exquisite former home of the now closed El Arbol. Named for grandmothers on each he and his wife sides of the family, Cirkiel drew inspiration from his roots in creating Olive & June’s concept. In developing the restaurant, Cirkiel tapped into memories of family-style Italian dinners from childhood and culinary expeditions abroad. These inspirations combined with Chef Cirkiel’s rustic and refined style of cooking manifest beautifully at Olive & June. A visit during the restaurant’s soft opening showcased dishes that were comforting and homey yet unexpected and sophisticated.

Since only one dining room was open during this initial visit, I didn’t tour the space in its entirety. However, it appears the core beauty of the space is still intact with a few adjustments to reflect the Italian theme. Additionally, Olive & June addressed its predecessor’s issue of an overreliance on outdoor space by adding in more coverage and shade outdoors and focusing indoor seating towards large windows to capitalize on the outer splendor.

Olive & June’s menu consists of “piccoli piatti” small plates, antipasti, handmade pastas, and grilled meats and fish entrées. Price points begin around $5 for small plates to $15-low $20s for pastas and entrées.

Cobia Crudo at Olive & June

Our meal began with a few orders of small plates. Arriving first was a Cobia Crudo and White Bean and Prosciutto Grissini. The cobia paired with grapefruit and a mint chili puree was excellent. The simple, clean, crisp cobia against the bright fruit and mint started dinner on a high note. The creamy, rich white bean dip was addictively delicious. While beautifully presented, a Tuna Crudo was slightly fishy and needed just a splash of acid. The Suppli infused with saffron, however, was perfection. A crisp fried crust encased creamy risotto layered in flavor from the earthy saffron against the sweet mozzarella.

Grissini-at-Olive-June

An order of pork meatball antipasto followed the small plates. The meatballs were moist, tender, and good enough to make any Italian grandmother proud. The savory meatballs were paired with a sweet fig mortada and tomato sauce which was rustic, creative, and a highlight of the evening.

Continue reading Olive & June