valentine’s day <3

January 27 | 2015

vday

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New Year’s Eve Pairings

December 30 | 2014

Dear Friends,

As I’ve mentioned a few times in recent emails, we’ll be offering wine pairings with our New Year’s Eve prix fixe dinner at $45 per person featuring many of the wines we’re most excited about sharing. If you’ve dined with us, you’ve seen that our wine list is composed exclusively of wines from producers who practice “natural”, limited intervention technique. And regardless of geographic provenance, we favor old world style wines with high acidity and lower alcohol levels that are terroir expressive and tend towards the less conventional and predictable.
pet nat
There is so much to say about “natural wine making” – capturing the essence of why we’re geeked about these wines in a single email is clearly a fool’s errand. But let’s start with our sparklers of choice for New Year’s Eve.
We’ve got two Pet Nats, or “petillant naturel” wines paired with first course choices. Pet Nats are the younger, hipper cousins of Champagne – less expensive, and less stuffy, and when you try them, I think you’ll understand why I think natural wine making is so cool.

Now obviously, no one in their right mind would presume criticize Champagne as a category – but I think it’s fair to note that Champagnes are made using a lengthy, expensive method involving dual fermentation that yields wines of consistent and high quality.

(Wine geek note – by contrast, Pet Nats are not “dosed” to create secondary fermentation, and primary fermentation is interrupted before the native yeasts have finished consuming the grapes’ natural sugars. I’m crazy about the results, which tend to be funky and unpredictable in all the right ways.

We’ve got two Pet Nats on the list – a west coast product from the folks at Onward, and a French wine called Rouletabulle from Eric Texier that is downright quirky and wildly good.)

We’ll also feature one a more traditional non-champagne sparkling from France – at $40, the Montagnieu has been our favorite since we began selling wine last March. This bottle simply punches way above it’s weight class – Buy this one even if you don’t choose to go with our wine pairings – you won’t be sorry.
broc zin
One or two other quick notes – a huge favorite of mine will be included in our pairings – the Zinfandel from Broc Cellars in California. Weighing in at (did I mentionI favor sports metaphors?) a svelte 12% alcohol it eschews the oak and alcohol associated with so many California Zins – it’s super restrained, totally delicious and you can have a few glasses without completely embarrassing yourself.
foradori
Then there’s Elizabeta Foradori – one of two rock star Italian women winemakers on our list. The Foradori Teroldego has the elegance and length of one of those crazy high dollar Napa Cabs people are always going on about. But, it’s 13% alcohol with a tartness and moderate acidity that really work for me.

And then there’s this -
fedardo
This dessert wine is so ridiculously good – that’s all I’m going to say. Except try it with our butterscotch budino – ya’ll.

We’ve got one or two openings left for the 6:30pm seating and pretty good availability still at 8:30pm. Click to your left to see the menu, and hit reservation link or shoot us an email (reservations@texasfrenchbread.com) if we can hold a table for you.

bon appetit,

murph

PS – don’t forget about the “Murph Table”, $150 pp – I’ll email specifics tomorrow, but the gist is, 9pm, you get my company, and you get try a wide selection of wines from the very tip top of our list. Focus on the second part – it’s going to be great!

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Half price wine by the glass Mondays

December 8 | 2014

Dear Friends,
wine
As I mentioned in my previous email, we’re open for dinner tonight and all wines by the glass will be half off our regular price. I think we’ve made our intentions clear – we’ll be here. You probably want to be here too. Here’s tonight’s menu – and here’s the wine list.

One quick note – not sure how, but I did something horrible to our website. Half the information including the menus and the reservation tab have disappeared. I’m trying to find somebody with word press expertise to come whip this thing back into shape, but in the meantime, please email us at reservations@texasfrenchbread.com if you’d like us to hold a table for you.

You can also use that same email address if you like to reserve cookie tins, or get in on our holiday cranberry loaf mailing (need your orders for this by 12/15).

Come join us tonight – bon appetit,

murph
wine menu 78

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Cookie Tins

December 6 | 2014

Dear Friends, 

Cookie Tins
This year’s cookie tins have dropped (Oh wait, that’s Hall’s mix tape I was thinking of.) Sorry, I meant to say this year’s tins have “arrived” and are currently plentiful on the TFB counter.
open tin
trays
tins
They make great gifts, but please keep in mind that we usually hit a point at which demand exceeds supply and we can’t keep up. Contact us today to place a special order for one or a bunch. Small tins hold approximately 3 dozen ($35) while large hold approximately 5 dozen cookies ($45).Monday Nights

Also wanted to let you know that for a number of months we’ve been planning to open for an additional night each week. We know there are a lot of folks in our industry who we’d love to invite to come try our dinner service that can’t come on Tuesday through Saturdays. Out initial thought was that Sunday evening was an obvious choice, so few places being open on Sunday evenings. But our brunch has been so well attended on Sundays that the turn around to get the kitchen prepped and ready for service Sunday evenings is almost impossible.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we floated a trial balloon and opened on a Monday evening, putting wine by the glass (BTG) on at half price to see if we could draw a crowd. Let’s just say we were pleasantly surprised by the turnout and we’re going to make a habit of it. Join us on Monday evenings beginning day after tomorrow (December 8) when we’ll be open for dinner and all wines by the glass will be half price. It’s a win/win. You don’t have to cook Monday dinner – and you can work your way through our list without breaking the bank.

bon appetit,
murph

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It’s that time of the year

November 14 | 2014

Dear Friends,

It’s that time of year again. It’s cold. Come get a latte or a hot chocolate. Plus, Thanksgiving is coming up in a week or so, and it’s baking season at Texas French Bread.

tartscallen

I had fun with our pastry chef this morning working on this year’s version of our rustic apple and cranberry tarts which will be available this weekend. On Monday we’ll have a holiday flyer available detailing pricing and availability for most of our holiday baked goods. (We’ve got pecan and pumpkin pies in the counter now and we’ll be adding to them on a daily basis through thanksgiving, followed shortly by cookie tins, buche de noel, and stollen in December).

As far as the dinner menu goes, Mike made a warm and wonderful butternut squash soup last night. It’s got a hint of nutmeg and squashes so sweet I found myself analogizing it to liquid pumpkin pie (ok, not quite that sweet, but try it, you’ll see what I mean). That’ll be on the menu this weekend. The lamb osso buco is worth the price of admission as well. And, we should have Pot au Feu next week.

Finally, many of you have inquired about what’s up with the garden. The short answer is (like my relationship status), it’s complicated. We are planning a dry run on brunch service one weekend soon, provided we get through this cold snap and still have a warm weekend or two. Unfortunately it’s looking like dinner service will have to wait a bit regardless of the weather as we’ve faced unexpected regulatory hurdles in getting legal to serve wine outdoors. With luck, we’ll have the issues cleared up in the next month or two and we’ll be ready for full garden service in the early spring. In the meantime, the fences are coming down today, so feel free to go out there and take a look – it’s a beautiful space.

For what it’s worth, I’m also super excited about the new furniture we’ve designed for the garden – should begin to arrive on Monday, so feel free to come check it out.

bar tablespicnic

Hope to see all of you in the bakery soon.

bon appetit,

murph

 

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Management is hard…

October 3 | 2014

polentamikeh
Dear Friends,

One of the toughest things that I’ve had to learn over the past year and a half, especially in the wake of Ben Willcott’s departure, has been how to balance my obsessive desire to micro-manage in the context of my creative vision and personal values (especially with regard to local, sustainable food) versus the need to encourage and vest creativity and responsibility with the folks who do the heavy lifting at our company, trusting them to produce results.

A couple weeks ago, it occurred to me that I have fallen short (especially with regard to the encouragement part) with our chef Mike Hamley. I’ve tried to push him hard to come to the table with dishes and interpretations that I would push for if I were at the stove. In the process, I think I’ve failed to encourage him to bring his own creative impulses into play, especially as to some extent, he and I feel a certain responsibility to care take the legacy and culinary style that my brother emphasized.

Anyway, we spend a lot of time behind closed doors talking about how to evolve as a company, what parts of our menu are sacrosanct, and how much creative change is healthy. As I sat in a somewhat tense meeting with Mike Hamley and Hall Sheriff last week, it occurred to me – just push the change, don’t try so hard to control the outcome. Mike Hamley loves cooking Asian influenced food at home. “Hey Mike” I suggested (this was my eureka moment), “why don’t we put an Asian influence dish on the menu – maybe a fish soup?”

Well – this week this week Mike did me one better. To go with this beautiful (if only marginally cooler) fall weather we’re seeing today, Mike has brought two new soups to the menu. The first is a riff on a Thai coconut soup that features a touch of chili, cilantro, lime, local oyster mushrooms, and even kaffir lime leaves from a tree at Mike’s house – I had it last weekend, and it seriously blew me away.
cio-bowlcio-fire
The second soup is a lovely cioppino featuring gulf black drum, PEI mussels, gulf shrimp, clams, and calamari, not to mention earthy purple hull peas, green beans, a touch of smoked tomato from Boggy Creek and a toasted crouton with aioli. When I first tasted it, I thought it might be just a touch salty – but the more I had, the more I realized that Mike really hit it with this dish. This saltiness is just enough to make you think of the sea – while allowing the individual flavors to emerge from each of the other ingredients.

What I’m really trying to say here is that I’m an amazing manager and I should get all the credit for these great new dishes that are starting to show up – NO, NO, NOT. What I’m really trying to say, is that I think Mike has been working with one hand tied behind his back, and that while I’ve loved what we’ve done over the past year, our goal this fall is to cut Mike loose and get his brightest and most creative ideas on the menu.

In closing, there are a couple of other things I’d throw out for your consideration. Our cheese plate, featuring cheeses from Antonelli’s, is working – Fontina Val d’Aosta, Brie de Nangis, Sapore del Piave and Texas figs.
cheese
All you oenophiles out there take note – we’re bringing in 6-8 new wines from Ian at Rootstock this weekend. We try never to bring in that many wines at once, but Hall and I were in agreement – this stuff is all killer and we couldn’t justify leaving any of them off the list. Check the wine list on-line later today for an update.

And finally, check the rest of the menu here. There are a couple of home runs I didn’t even get to (new pasta, new risotto, a mustardy potato/brussels sprouts combination that garnishes our roast chicken, and a killer polenta dish with arugula and prosciutto).

Hope to see many of you this weekend.

bon appetit,

murph

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September 12 | 2014

Dear Friends,

Quite a number of you have asked about our progress in bringing the garden space back on-line and what exactly was going on out there, anyway. Well – we’re starting to get close, and I wanted to let you know, that while I don’t have a date specific for a re-opening, a number of plants began arriving today and I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple of shots of our progress.

sun tree

Seriously – check out these tress – yes, the really are that large. Feels like Christmas came early. Below is a view from the balcony of the adjacent house, also currently under construction.

balcony

Seriously – I’ve been trying to picture what it might be like out there for years now. But nothing that I’ve imagined has come close to the reality that is taking shape. Can’t wait to invite everyone to come join us for happy hour. We’re working on details for furniture, lighting, etc., but we hope to re-open the space sometime next month, possibly about the time we begin to see some consistently cooler weather.

Meanwhile, I hope you can join us this weekend. We’ll be offering several new items on the menu including a late summer vegetable fritto misto, and a fattoush salad along with a rabbit gumbo (Boggy okra and rabbits from Countryside) pictured below.

fattoushrabbit

bon appétit,

murph

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The Texas French Bread Newsletter

July 30 | 2014

Will with veggies

To all those who dine at Texas French Bread,

As many of you know, Will Person passed away last weekend after a decade long battle with cancer. Will and his wife Julie have been some of our biggest supporters over the years, and our dining room will just not be the same without his frequent visits.   Will was more than just a diner at TFB.  He was our friend, and he will be missed dearly.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 1, 2014, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Upper School Chapel, 5901 Southwest Parkway.  Please join Josh, Murph, and others on our staff to celebrate Will’s life.

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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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