Texas French Bread Newsletter

July 18 | 2014

To all those who dine at Texas French Bread,

This week, we added nine new wines to our list.  As you would imagine, we’ve been busy tasting and training our staff on these new offerings.  Rest assured that we are doing our best to “taste” as much of the new wine as we possibly can, for educational purposes of course.  We’re learning a lot about new grape varietals and new regions, but mostly we’re learning that we like these new wines, we like them a lot.

gamay

In particular, we’ve added a handful of red wines produced primarily from Gamay.  Gamay typically produces lighter bodied, fruit driven wines that are perfect for the next couple of months in Austin.  They are meant to be drunk young, slightly chilled, and show a brightness and acidity that we feel works well with almost everything on our menu.

My favorite so far is a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir from Domain du Moulin in Cheverny, a sub region of Loire.  Like many of their fellow winemakers in the region, Herve Villemade and his sister Isabelle produce wine organically and naturally on their family-run estate.  The current vintage of their Cheverny Rouge has an extremely light red hue.   Cloudy and chewy, it strikes a great balance between the two grapes.  We’ll have it on by the glass all weekend.

lamb

Have you had our lamb chops yet?  Chef Mike really nailed this one.  Two chops from Niman Ranch are cooked on our wood fired grill, and then served up with marinated peppers and potatoes.  Pair this with a bottle of our newest Sicilian from Arianna Occhipinti. Arianna has been at the forefront of the natural wine movement in Italy since her first vintage was released in 2006 when she was only 24.  Her SP68, named after the road leading to her vineyard, is a blend of Frappato and Nero D’Avola.  With bold dark fruits, a floral nose, and nice acidity, this wine is both power and finesse.

In other news, Chef Mike Hamley and Mike Bova are celebrating birthdays this week, Ben and William are perfecting their a capella duet routine, Erin accidentally opened a $100 bottle of champagne, we now have sugar caddies for our brunch service, and parts of Hyde Park were literally flooded last night, including my garage.  It’s been a fun week.  Please join us to celebrate this weekend.

Best,
Hall

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murph’s summer vacation

June 20 | 2014

Dear friends,

The rumors are true. Murph Willcott has left the building.

It’s finally sunk in that we are in charge of running the show while Murph is kicking back with The Tessa Marie in the mountains of Colorado and drinking that bottle of Lioco carignan I had my eye on (amongst many others I’m sure). And while everyone has more on their plate while he’s away, I’m confident we are maintaining Texas French Bread’s commitment to excellence.

Unfortunately for Murph, he’s leaving during the time of year when Austin’s produce really shines. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash blossoms, zucchini, corn, treviso…now is the time to come in for dinner at TFB.

Last night, after a long day of toiling away, I sat down to a glorious meal and decided to document it if for no other reason than to make the boss jealous. I’m sure you’re eating well in Colorado old man, but you’re not eating as well as we are.

liver

I started with a dish that hits home for me, the crispy chicken livers. Growing up in Corsicana, TX, fried chicken livers and gravy from Bill’s Fried Chicken was a staple for my family on Sunday afternoons. It was a proud moment to get my dad’s stamp of approval for this dish the last time he was in Austin. Our version uses livers from our friends at Dewberry Hill’s Farm. After coming out of the fryer, they are placed on a generous heaping of aioli and then topped with pickled shallots. If you’re eating this, you really need the Rouletabulle from Eric Texier. It’s a sparkling wine vinified from its grapes alone with no additional sugar or yeast added, a “petillante naturel.” It’s flat out awesome, and somehow we got our hands on a few of the 3,000 bottles that were produced this year.

cuc

Next up, the chilled cucumber soup. Always a staff favorite around this time of year, our cucumber soup is pureed with avocado, jalapeno, and mint. It’s a perfect starter for your meal, and it will pair with any pink wine on our list. I’d recommend the Peyrassol – refined, subtle, and a classic representation of Provence.

image

For the main course I had to go with the flat iron steak. We’re sourcing our beef from Beeman Family Ranch, and it sees no antibiotics or hormones ever. With a little Salsa Verde on top and a cucumber and tomato salad on the side, it’s what you want for dinner. Do yourself a favor and pair this with Matin Calme’s Sans Temps – 100% carignan from 100-year-old vines in Roussillon. It’s a really fun wine to drink, and there’s not a whole lot of this one left in town. We’ll do our best to save some for you.

Josh and I will be up front all weekend, and Mike and Dan will be making sure the food is coming out just right. We look forward to seeing you.

Cheers,
Hall

P.S. The burger is coming.

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La Paulee no 4 – and I Explain SLAP THE BAG

May 3 | 2014

pinks
Dear Friends,

La Paulée no 4 is set for tomorrow evening, Sunday May 4th about 6:30pm. We’ve had a couple of last minute cancellations, and I fear I have not done the greatest job promoting this event. The upside is, it’s looking to be a fairly intimate affair even if a couple more folks jump in at the last minute. As such, I thought I’d send out one more email and see if I could round up a few more of you to join us.

We’re serving 4 courses. $50 and it’s corkage inclusive. We’ll get together at a long harvest table – you bring a favorite bottle or two and we will pour tastes from some of the more interesting bottles on our list (spoiler alert: we have 2 magnums of Olivier Cousin Pur Breton cab franc and a new Bandol that is, I mean LEGIT). We plan to mix it up for the evening with fine wines and great company.

As I said in my previous email – hopefully the weather stays perfect so we can open the windows and let the lovely spring breeze drift through. I believe I also previously suggested everyone bring an inappropriate joke and we can do our best to get up to no good.

(Some of the kids – who will remain nameless but they work here or might as well work here – keep talking about a game they call “Slap the Bag”. Apparently Slap the Bag involves removing the wine filled bladder from a box of wine (that’s right gentle reader, though it pains me greatly to say it – A BOX OF WINE) and uhm… “spanking” it. Now I’m not completely clear on this, but the spanking of the wine may actually occur while someone else is trying to drink wine from the spout of said bladder??? OK – none of this is happening tomorrow. Ah to be young… I admit it. I like their style. It has a certain youthful and inspiring quality – a joie de vivre – a je ne sais quoi…)

We’re going to have fun – you should come. Shoot us an email if you’d like to attend – reservations@texasfrenchbread.com – or feel free to text me at 512.563.9048. We’ll be eating:

fried chicken livers , pickled onion scapes, remoulade
market lettuces, roasted carrots, sorrel dressing
pork shoulder braised in milk, stewed collard greens
strawberries, shortbread cookies, poached rhubarb

bon appetit,

murph

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2013 Rosé

April 3 | 2014

Dear Friends,

We’ve been watching the calendar and counting the days until we could put our hands on some 2013 pink wines that fit our profile – biodynamic/organic, handmade, old world character (oh – and I have to be wildly excited by it).

By the way, I’m calling them “pink wines” not to be super hip and trendy but because I can’t figure out how to make my computer do an accent over the “e”.  Without the accent, I believe what you have is a rose – the thorny, literate flower of love and lore – as opposed to my favorite spring treats, the finest of which are produced in and around Provence. Yes, I’m referring to the young and lovely blush colored wines that show up about this time each year and are one of the finest pleasures to be had anywhere on God’s green earth as the weather warms up each spring - Rosé (ok I cheated – I cut and pasted that from Wikipedia).

This afternoon as you can see, we received two quite fine examples of the form:

 

Chateau Saint-Pierre de Mejans, 2013

From Luberon, this wine is half Cinsault & half Grenache. It’s got a very light color with a beautiful lively and a nice round finish – I’ve yet to try this years’ vintage, but I’m pretty sure I more than made up for that over the previous two summers. For those of you who are interested in such trivia, this wine was purportedly Peter Mayle’s (author of A Year in Provence) favorite, as he is neighbors with the producer from the village of Puyvert, about an hour southeast of Avignon.

$11/35

Commanderie de Peyrassol, 2013

This Cote de Provence wine is made with 40% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, and 20% Syrah.  It’s a pale rose color, fresh and lively on the palate – nicely dry with a minerally finish. The property it’s made produces predominantly (approximantely 80% Rosé. The winery founded by the Knights Templar and is located in the hills just north of St. Tropez along the old Crusader route – some pedigree huh? We put our hands on 2 cases, but that’s likely all we’ll see this year so grab it while we have it. At $50, it’s a little more than the Mejan, but totally worth it. (We’re happy open and sell by the glass if you buy two – but the bottle is a better deal. If you have some left, cork it and drink it with lunch tomorrow.)

Now – I know what you’re asking yourself. “Self?”, you’re asking. “Now that we know what’s we’re drinking, what should we eat?” Never fear – we’ve got you covered there too. The new calamari salad that I’ve been stuffing myself on these past few days is a perfect pairing. We grill calamari over oak, slice, chill, and then toss it with juilienned carrots, black radishes, etc. To that we add a big handful of cilantro, and then toss with a lemon vinaigrette that uses roasted pureed onions as its secret sweet.

Finally, if that doesn’t grab your attention, we’re also making a green salad with beets and buttermilk dressing that sports a marinated, battered and deep fried quail. Come join us.

bon appetit

murph

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Happy Birthday to Jessica & Hall

March 25 | 2014

Ok – so there was TFB team building trip to Dart Bowl last night in celebration of Jessica’s 20th (and Hall’s 33rd?) birthday. I thought I’d take a minute and post a few of the less incriminating shots from our outing.

For any of you who don’t know Jessica, let me just take a moment to say that she is the heartbeat of Texas French Bread.  She’s the hardest working woman in showbiz, bringing it every single day and night, and always from a place of such dearness and humility. I have no idea what we did to deserve her, but I’ll just say she’s one of our gifts.  A shout out as well to Hall, today’s birthday boy.  Though it was Jessica’s night, we love you both and we sincerely hope you were able to get out of bed w/o too much pain this morning Jaeger boy.

Here’s the beautiful and amazing birthday girl now.

dart bowl - jess & candlesAnd the always effervescent (Why) Betty?
dart bowl - betty

Ben’s still mad Pacifico  took high score for the night.
dart bowl - pac, ben

Young William, aka Billy D, managed to find plastic bags to sub for the socks he failed to wear… ah the young.
dart bowl - billy d

And here we have the young and the pretty,  er.. I mean Josh & Betsy.dart bowl - josh, bets

Dennis Day, aka DDAY, entertained us with his reverse spin underhand twirl shot.dart bowl - dennis

Chef Dan – contemplating the zen of his buddha-ness. dart bowl - chef dan

The Loganator – his moves are too quick to be caught clearly on film…dart bowl - logan

Christa is not saying a word about this to anybody.
dart bowl - christa

Even the lovely Erin – late of TFB’s dinner shift – put in a guest appearance…dart bowl - erin

dart bowl - chris, betty erin

Chris “OMG, I didn’t know there were going to be girls at this party” Wootang. dart bowl - chris betty erin

And finally – I have no idea what was going on here, but clearly I failed miserably as a chaperone for this outing. (No, seriously Ben D – what on earth were you doing?dart bowl - group hug

 

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wine list no. 2

March 11 | 2014

white

moulin de gassac 2012 vin de pays d’herault “guilhem” – 7/23

luneau-papin 2012 muscadet “perries de la grange” – 1/30

jean-paul brun 2012 beaujolais – 12/35

francois pinon 2009 vouvray “silex noir” – 15/47

elisabetta foradori 2010 manzoni bianco – 56

 

red

moulin de gassac 2012 vin de pays d’herault “guilhem” – 7/23

jean-paul brun 2012 beaujolais “l’ancien” – 12/37

bernabelva 2012 grenarcha “camino de navaherroros” – 7/23

eric texier 2011cote du rhone brezeme – 17/49

clos ouvert (louis-antoine luyt) 2011 el pais de quenehuao – 15/46

elisabetta foradori 2010 teroldego – 50

 

sparkling

franck peillot nv montagnieu brut – 14/40

domaine huet 2009 vouvray petillant brut – 59

 

corkage – 9

We serve wines made by people – people who use traditional old world methods like hand harvesting the grapes – preferably certified in biodynamic or organic agricultural techniques. In short, we want to bring in wines that are alive with the spirit of the values that we strive to promote throughout our company – sustainability, quality, authenticity, and love.  Enjoy.

texas French Bread    wines at 2900 Rio Grande

 

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Baby it’s Cold Outside (AGAIN)

February 26 | 2014

Dear Friends,

It seems that the weather (the kind I left the Northeast many years ago to escape) continues to – how shall I put this? Bite? I’m trying to think of something nice to say here, but my teeth are chattering too much for any nice stuff to come out.

Oh, I know. Tonight’s menu has lots of cold weather love. Mike’s running his winter squash soup which has been a huge hit. Rumor has it that the Salad Lyonnaise will be making a special guest appearance (featuring warm poached egg from Milagro and our very own in-house cured super thick cut BACON). And then we’ve got Mark S on Ravioli, spinach pasta, and backing vocals…

mark makes rav

 

Hope ya’ll can join us this week.

bon appetit,

murph

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Valentine’s

February 5 | 2014

OMG! Valetine’s Day is NEXT FRIDAY – REALLY?!? I need to make plans and fast.
Betty Shock
I know – I’ll book a table at TFB.  They’re offering a delightful 4 course Prix Fixe menu, I can bring my own wine, and I can even reserve my table on-line.  What could be possibly easier?  Thanks Texas French Bread – You saved my Valentine’s Day.
betty smile
Click the tabs to your left for Menu and/or reservations.  And by the way – Ben says “this espresso is the incredible!”  (Mr. Hall will be drawing hearts on your macchiato all week…)
Ben coffee
Bon appetit,

Murph

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Mr Hall Wants to make YOU a tasty espresso drink…

February 1 | 2014

Hi Kids,

This is Mr. Hall.

mr hall
Mr. Hall is going to make you a fabulous cappuccino on the very fancy new La Marzocco GB5 Itallian espresso machine we recently installed at Texas French Bread. This machine spent about 6 months at the downtown Frost Bank location of Houndstooth Coffee until they acquired a newer larger unit. It’s pristine, gorgeous, and it looks great in its new home here at 2900 Rio. And we’ve practically doubled coffee sales overnight.

la marzzoco

Mr. Hall is getting pretty good at this – check out his burgeoning skill as a latte artiste.

cap

Here’s another shot of Mr. Hall with his friend Josh freezing me out of the barista area.  (Mr. Hall and Josh don’t want me to actually use the new machine – they say I’m too messy. Going to have to sneak back there and make one for myself when they’re not looking.)

hall & josh

In all seriousness.  We’re stepping our game up when it comes to coffee. In addition to the state of the art brewing equipment, we’re now using top notch roasts from Tweed (the roasting wing of Houndstooth Coffee) for our espresso drinks. Currently we’re using Finca Mirador – a single origin coffee from a farm in Guatemala. Jonathon Aldridge, Tweed’s head roaster, consistently hits an almost perfect roast point with a lot of what he calls “caramelly, nugatty” flavors, while stopping short of even a hint of smoke – this is really good coffee.

Anyway – we may not compete against the Houndstooth kids in the barista championships anytime soon, but Daniel Read from their shop has been diligently training us, and we’re getting pretty good. If you come for brunch this weekend, order an espresso drink and check it out.  Mr. Hall will be on the La Marzocco all weekend.

We also continue to offer our special TFB Blend from Anderson’s Coffees for drip brew, only now we’re using a top notch Fetco brewer and a very high end German MAHLKÖNIG grinder. Your Anderson’s drip cup has never tasted this good.

And finally – Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  We’ll have heart cookies galore on the front counter for your sweetie, and we’re starting to take dinner reservations.

Much like New Years Eve, we’ll be using this special occasion to stretch out and make some dishes that we don’t normally have a chance to bring to our menu – Broken Arrow Venison loin wrapped with capicola is one of the planned entrees. We’ll have the menu posted on-line shortly – 4 courses, $65 per person, corkage inclusive.

The new kitchen should be open that week (we’re still one hold for city inspections and a new gas meter from the gas company) and with any luck, we’ll be able to use the Friday Valentine’s dinner as a chance to really put the new kitchen through it’s paces.

In the meantime, we’re open this weekend.  The calves liver with white beans has been getting rave reviews at dinner this week. Last night I had short ribs that continue to impress – roasted new, potatoes, broccoli, wilted kale – went really well with a young beaujolais. Hope to see you in the shop soon.

bon appetit,

murph

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Tales from the Remodel

January 24 | 2014

Dear Friends,

We’ve knocked out some of the biggest pieces of our planned improvements while we were closed over the past couple of weeks and we all want to thank you for your patience. A number of people have asked me about the nature and scope of those improvements – what we’re seeking to accomplish – how are we looking to change, etc.
dining 1
Well – as some of you will know, 2900 Rio Grande was never built to be a restaurant. My mother, against a heap of professional advice (“rents are cheap, why would you ever BUY real estate?  You’re not in the real estate business.) elected in 1986 to purchase the property.

2900 served first as the Shipwash grocery store – the first supermarket style grocer with attached parking, grocery carts, etc. in the Austin area. Then in the 1960′s it became the home of the infamous Italian food restaurant, the Rome Inn – later to serve (1970s) as the venue where Stevie Ray, Miss Lou Ann, the Thunderbirds, etc. honed their skills, and where in 1975 I’m reliably told that both Joni and Bob Dylan shared the stage when the Rolling Thunder came through town and were looking for a suitable bywater where they might spend the evening.

I think this bootleg of Stevie captures something of the relaxed flavor of the time and place http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfVym2SYdPY). What strikes me about this recording is the relaxed quality of Stevie’s phrasing. He had room to stretch out, experiment, try things out – what a luxury.

When the Rome Inn closed, the building briefly became home to a semi-licensed punk/new wave outpost called Studio 29. There are numerous pictures of the space sandwiched among the band shots in this archive of photos and memorabilia from the late Dixon Coulbourn’s fanzine, Idle Time http://www.wedigdixon.com/idle_time/ .

After that brief run, 2900 became a bookstore called Paperbacks Plus owned and operated by writer and professor Chuck Taylor – father of Will Taylor (of Strings Attached) – who I enjoyed meeting last weekend.

But I digress. The point is, my mother secured SBA financing to borrow the money to buy the building. But the buildout budget was not robust. The building was retrofitted in a fairly basic manner to become the dessert bakery and commissary for the company. No provisions regarding its Operating Certicate, layout, kitchen infrastructure, etc., contemplated becoming a full service restaurant.

When we began operating supper club in 2007, and made the jump to evening bistro service in 2008, we did so using a single beat up stove (which began its life down the street at the old  the Granite Cafe) that sits directly between our bakers and their ovens – not egonomic. And we’ve been using a vent hood of dubious legal status that was never designed to support the kind of cooking we now do.

And so – with the Fire Marshall unhappy, and our business fundamentals leaning toward more restaurant activity rather than less, we had no choice. We needed a new kitchen. And for those of you versed in the art of CoA building and use issues – we also needed a change of “use” with a new Certificate of Occupancy defining us as “general restaurant” (rather than “limited”) in order that we might apply for license to sell beer and wine.

Over the 2 weeks we were closed, we were able to build that new kitchen.
kitchen
And although it’s not quite up and running yet (we still need a few more inspections and a new gas meter), you can be on the lookout for the promised burger. We’ve also managed over the closure period to do a fairly nice update of dining room (not to mention our bathrooms – talk about overdue), with an exterior paint job and a major renovation of the garden in the wings.

As for me, I’m both excited and terrified. The resources we’ve tapped in order to take this road are an order of magnitude beyond anything we’ve been able to muster in recent years.

And while we were very fortunate to have raised the necessary funds, I’m rather uniquely aware of the challenges repayment – not to mention change for the company generally – will bring. For us to succeed – we must grow beyond our current base of incredibly loyal and wonderful customers.

I’ve been telling people for the last week or so that I feel like a kid on Christmas morning after all the presents have been opened and there’s wadded up wrapping paper strewn as far as the eye can see. Is this it? We’ve planned and double planned and re-planned this remodel for so long. Now that it’s here, it doesn’t feel like much change – probably because I’ve been dreaming into those pictures for so long. In truth, it all feels very right – but also subtle and gentle. And I wonder – will it will be enough?

In the coming year, we will need to break through and generate interest among folks whose radar we’re not currently on. Not to imply that the things Texas French Bread has traditionally stood for are no longer valid or worthy – I grew up loving the company my family built. But the time when TFB “made its name” has passed, and it can be hard for folks who’ve not been in to believe that we might be doing things that are novel and interesting. And it does seem that for all the lip service we pay to Austin’s past, we are a city in love with the new.

The challenge for TFB as we complete this work and head into a new phase with new products and ways of serving you, will be to convince people who are not already customers to give us a chance.

Over the next few months, I will be trying to get the word out and I’m hoping you can help. Is there anyone you know who hasn’t tried us recently and might be interested? Let us know and we’ll be sure to do something special for them when they come in.

As we bring our new kitchen on-line, expand our menus, and begin serving food and wine in our soon to be renovated garden, we could really use any help you could offer in getting the word out and convincing folks that there is something fresh, new, and worth their time happening at TFB.

with gratitude and love to all of you – bon appetit,

murph

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