October 3 | 2014
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.
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.
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.
September 12 | 2014
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.
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.
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.
July 30 | 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
June 20 | 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
P.S. The burger is coming.
May 3 | 2014
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org – 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
April 3 | 2014
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.
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.
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.
Ben’s still mad Pacifico took high score for the night.
Young William, aka Billy D, managed to find plastic bags to sub for the socks he failed to wear… ah the young.
And here we have the young and the pretty, er.. I mean Josh & Betsy.
Dennis Day, aka DDAY, entertained us with his reverse spin underhand twirl shot.
Chef Dan – contemplating the zen of his buddha-ness.
The Loganator – his moves are too quick to be caught clearly on film…
Christa is not saying a word about this to anybody.
Even the lovely Erin – late of TFB’s dinner shift – put in a guest appearance…
Chris “OMG, I didn’t know there were going to be girls at this party” Wootang.
March 11 | 2014
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
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
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
February 26 | 2014
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…
Hope ya’ll can join us this week.