Late July. I borrow the beat up brown Suburban from Laurence, load up The Tessa and her friend Dottie the Labradoodle (instagram's dottielange), and Ilana and I head northeast. Ilana and Dottie are bound for Northampton, MA, where they grew up. Tess and I are making for the coast of Maine where Laurence and Judy have summered in recent years.
Two weeks in, the bright colors, daily venue changes, and fresh experiences of the trip begin to seem almost normal - not the break from routine realities of daily life that they actually are. And a host of fresh, sensory memories try to arrange themselves into something of a pattern...
Long hours on the road. Tessa snores away, wedged between my bicycle, the two cases of wine Betty chose for my trip, the galvanized garbage pail filled...more
photograph above from Domaine de la Tournelle website
If you came by to see us last week you may have noticed that someone's missing - that's right y'all, Murph Willcott actually took a vacation.
The day before he left, as I packed up a box (okay, two boxes) of wine for him to bring along, Murph reminded me that his last proper vacation was over three years ago, when he went to France for a writer's retreat. He was sort of wide-eyed, disbelieving, as if the notion that he could actually leave town again for a while was a surreal proposition. I reminded him, it's only a few weeks. He's on the road now, headed up to meet his family on the East coast with Tessa in tow, stopping off at adorable farm-to-table restaurants with interesting wine lists and dog friendly patios (... sounds familiar) along the way.
To ease our current woe in missing the big guy, we're eagerly anticipating the return of our beloved manager/handyman/barista/grill cook Josh, who's been wining and dining in Jura and cycling through the forests of Alsace...more
photograph above by Chelsea Laine Francis
As I mentioned in my previous email, I recently had the great pleasure of once again speaking with Mark Rashap on his wine focused radio show, Another Bottle Down, which airs on KOOP radio (91.7 FM) at 1pm on Tuesday afternoons. If you missed it and you're interested in listening to our conversation, you can access a podcast of the show here.
Mark and I had what for me was a fascinating exchange regarding the overlap between wine making, bread baking and cooking. We began by focusing on sourcing pristine ingredients as the prerequisite for pretty much everything that follows. We then moved into a discussion regarding the degree of...more
The heat of summer is upon us. It's July again. And you know what that means -Bastille Day is coming.
OH DEAR GOD, that has a sort of Stark-like "Winter is coming" ring to it, I fear. I know I've written about last summer's Bastille Day festivities a couple of times already, but seriously - that particular evening's service seemed, at the time, almost as traumatic for your faithful scribe (me) as I imagine the original Bastille Day might have been for those who suffered through it.
Around this time last year, Whitney had recently signed on as our in-house media director and dutifully set up a Facebook event page a few days prior announcing that we would feature $7 rosé, $7 mussels, and $7 frites on the big night.
Seemed like a safe enough plan,...more
Graduation weekend is behind us, but I've been meaning to give a shout out to one of our most interesting new wholesale partners.
This spring we had an opportunity to make hot dog buns as a pilot program for Austin ISD schools. We started a couple of months ago, delivering what I think are some pretty tasty (and nutritious) whole wheat buns to AISD's high schools. They serve them with a nitrite/anitbiotic free turkey dog.
Sounds better than anything we had back in my days at Austin High. In fairness, I was only there a semester and I don't really remember that much about it. I may not have ever set foot in the cafeteria (I was kind of a food snob, who'd have thought).
I definitely remember my years as a border at St. Stephens though - the awfulness of the food served there in the 1970s is the stuff of legend - definitely no nitrite free turkey dogs on freshly, locally baked whole wheat buns.
I mention this because it's been great work. Making real, healthy food for the kids in our public school system strikes all of us over...more
I'm interrupting your regular broadcast of TFB news as told by our owner, Murph Willcott. You see, today is Murph's birthday, so it seemed only fitting to turn the tables on his narration and contemplate on our own daily interactions with him as fearless leader of the restaurant - and Tessa as princess of the realm. Sorry, Murph, it has to be done. Please don't fire me.
I moved to Austin about six years ago and got my first job in town at TFB, waiting tables for the then-BYOB dinner service. Everyone was figuring the whole dinner thing out - Hall Sheriff was still a server buying golf clubs on eBay mid-service; Josh Williams made sandwiches during the day when he wasn't traveling; Ben Decherd helped me reach all the high shelves and kept the jokes comin'; Jess was a shy, behind-the-scenes backwaiter; Dan Freeman was just starting as a line cook; and Betty, well she was being exactly as charming as she is today. Eventually I moved onto other things, but after a few years I returned to Texas French Bread, much like Hall, Josh, Ben and Betty did...more
As anybody who knows me will attest, I love memes. The dumber (and/or generally more offensive) they are, the harder I laugh. Recently I saw a great one about "raw" food. It showed a half-eaten roll of cookie dough with a caption that said, "who knew the raw food diet could be so delicious?" I loved this.
Anyway - this got me thinking about raw food. You know, I can't say I'm particularly a fan of the idea. I mean, there's a reason cooking and human civilization evolved hand in hand, right? I'm no nutritionist, but I do question whether you can actually eat kale if it's not sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with a big handful of coarse chopped garlic - just saying.
Now, one of the first things I learned how to "cook" was technically a raw food... wait - actually, now that I think about it, the very first thing I learned to cook was macaroni and cheese - Kraft macaroni & cheese in the blue box to be precise. It had that silver foil pouch full of a really sharp, grainy, cheese powder (seriously, cheese powder? I could totally...more
Occasionally I have the great pleasure of sending out one these weekly emails on a subject that is truly dear to my heart. I'm a single middle-aged man who is less likely every year to unexpectedly get hitched and start having kids. I don't know why that is, but arguably it's because I'm kind of married already to the restaurant (I mean it's got to be that, because I'm really super easy to get along with, right?). Anyway, it's always a special moment to me when one of my surrogate kids takes a meaningful step forward in their lives and embarks on a new stage in their journey.
This week, Betty Cole, who many of you know by her easy charm and lovely visage about the TFB dining room most evenings, has earned a promotion and is joining our management team. I couldn't be happier or more excited for both of us. Betty's new role will make her the primary leader for our service team in the evenings and in addition she will assume the all-important care of our seemingly ever-expanding wine list under her new title - Beverage Director. Woo Hoo - GO...more
Well - I guess spring is here early this year. In light of these beautiful days I've been spending my lunch hours lap-swimming at Deep Eddy Pool (also because that's what you do when you're a boss - did I mention I love my job?). Anyway - spring weather is patio weather, and I wanted to take a second to remind y'all that we've got a pretty nifty patio.
We introduced the stunning remodel of our garden/patio (v2.0?) last spring, and it was quickly named one of the Best Patios in Austin by Eater and praised as a great spot for...more
Last week I sent out a note about our holiday party at Conan's - how much I was enjoying everyone at the company these days and how fortunate if feels to be me as a result. This week seemed a fine time to note that it's not all about me and Texas French Bread. It seems some of our wonderful crew actually lead exciting lives and do stuff in their spare time that is impactful and has a life of it's own.
This week one of our crew, Matt Puckett, won a Grammy award - you know, the little statue with the horn that's like an Oscar, but for music... just let that sink in for a moment.
Matt came to work at Texas French Bread last year. He attended LBJ High School in south Austin with our very own Betty Cole. He moved to New York City for college to attend Fordham University, where he studied sociology and theology.
When I learned Matt was up for a Grammy, I assumed it was for his work as a driving force behind the critically acclaimed Austin band, Mother Falcon. I saw Mother Falcon play a "secret show" over at Spider house last summer and...more