What happens when two of Austin’s best chefs apply their culinary talents to the art of queso? Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue and Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye discuss the secrets to their cheesy success at the Hot Luck pop-up event Quesoff, sponsored by Washington State Wine during South by Southwest.
The James Beard award for the Best Chef Southwest category has two big Austin names competing for the crown. Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie) and Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine) were both named finalists today for the prestigious culinary award. The other nominees for the category include Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio, Martín Rios, of Restaurant Martín in Santa Fe and Alex Seidel of Mercantile in Denver. The Michael Hsu Office of Architecture was also named a finalist for best restaurant design for Otoko at the South Congress Hotel.
Gilmore was Austin’s only semifinalist last year, and the chef went on to earn his fifth consecutive finalist nod, but the city has done well in recent years. Aaron Franklin won the award in 2015, and former Austin winners include Paul Qui (2012) and Tyson Cole of Uchi (2011), Austin’s first-ever winner.
Chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, the owners of popular ramen shops Ramen Tatsu-ya and James Beard award Best New Restaurant semifinalist have confirmed they have signed a lease for the restaurant at 1600 E. Sixth St. that previously housed Paul Qui restaurants Qui and Kuneho.
They have not said what the concept will be or when it will be open, but given that the space is fully built out already, I wouldn’t expect the wait to be terribly long.
The chefs recently announced they have also signed a lease at 7301 Burnet Road for another unannounced concept.
What if I told you there was a place where the cheese was always replenished, where the crackers were plentiful, where the fruit preserves were sticky and the almonds seasoned? Yeah, you’d be pretty into it.
We stumbled upon this non-vegan paradise on Tuesday during South by Southwest on the third floor of the J.W. Marriott, as Wisconsin set up a barn party featuring the (alleged) largest cheeseboard in the world, more than 70 feet long and serving up a few dozen of the more than 600 varietals of cheese from Wisconsin. The cheese lounge, which also features sodas and a bloody mary bar, is open to SXSW badgeholders 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 13-14.
Below are a few of our favorites from the tasting.
Steven Dilley and his crew at Bufalina will welcome their friends from Roberta’s in Brooklyn back to Austin March 23-25. The famed pizza makers from New York will serve from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m over those three days at the 1519 E. Cesar Chavez St. location.
Dilley hasn’t released the menu yet, but expect some of the best pizza you can find just about anywhere (and if the food gods are smiling on us, maybe some of Roberta’s pasta or Italian grinder). Also, expect crowds. Roberta’s brought their crew down here a couple of years ago and the response was incredible. Pro tip: Try and go around 3 p.m. Check out the menu from the 2016 pop-up here.
Restaurant empire builder and humanitarian chef José Andrés arrived directly from the airport to appear in conversation at Vox Media’s Deep End.
The Spanish-born chef, who led a humanitarian effort in Puerto Rico that included 20,000 volunteers running 23 kitchens and delivering more than one million meals, talked with Recode’s Kara Swisher and talked about the situation in Puerto Rico, his frustrations with Capitol Hill and the future of food. Below are a few of the major quotes and takeaways from the hour-long talk:
Andrés is working on two books. “We Fed an Island” is about his exploits in Puerto Rico and should publish in September. He is also writing a vegetable-focused cookbook that should come out next year. Andrés believes vegetables will continue to be one of the next great food trends and says women are already eating more vegetables than men, affirmation that “women are always smarter than men,” according to the chef. Speaking to our natural inclination to eat fruits and vegetables, Andrés quipped, “Forks and knives were invented for protection.”
Speaking about his frustration with the politicians in Washington and their response to the tragedy in Puerto Rico, Andrés said, “This is beyond politics. It is American people taking care of Americans in a time of need.”
Andrés, jokingly, on his attempts to get the administration to respond to him: “I tried to go to the White House to the meeting room where they make decisions but they did not let me in.”
Andrés made it clear that he appreciated the people in the federal government (well, probably not all of them, but at least the foot soldiers): “The people of FEMA and Federal government … everyone is a hero in their own way butthe truth is the system does not allow them to be successful.” Andrés is frustrated with the bureaucracy, saying that the government shouldn’t be coming up with plans after disasters happen, but before they happen. His team worked with ICE to distribute thousands of sandwiches, and it was an idea that was born after a few rum sours at the hotel bar at 11:30 p.m. People make things happen, bureaucracies lead to inaction, seemed to be the chef’s point: “Not planning, just cooking and sending the food to the people in need.”
Best backhanded compliment of Trump: “The potential for improvement is huge and we should celebrate.”
In discussing the broken immigration system, Andrés said, “The real American way should be giving these people who are part of our DNA the opportunity to stay.” We need those 11 million undocumented to be part of the American dream, Andrés said. “Immigration reform is something that should have happened yesterday but especially for Dreamers,” he said, adding that it was “Insane” we are not giving them an opportunity to contribute.
Andrés said he also wants to build walls: walls for new hospitals, schools and other social services. He also stressed that investing in other countries will lead to more prosperity in those countries, which in turn will benefit the United States.
“Since my mother first fed me I have been in the food business.”
“One of the most fascinating business you can be in. Food touches everything that we are …Food is the DNA of who we are.”
Around 15 percent of the American economy relies on food business. “Exciting moment full of challenges and opportunities.”
Andrés on OpenTable: “I believe they charge way too much and are taking advantage.” He says competition is coming, however, in the form of Tock and Resy, among others.
In the end, restaurants are very basic: good food, good service, and good alignment with perception of a restaurant’s values are the key. Combined with location, location, location; and today location doesn’t just mean where a restaurant is located on a street but also how they are positioned in the digital spheres and marketplaces.
Robots will be replacing cooks, and it’s already happening with major systems of production.
One of Andrés’ main frustrations with Congress is how they always want to leverage one thing against another and tie legislation and agendas together instead of just doing what is right.
Maybe the most touching moment of the day, Andrés confessed that he sometimes has nightmares about not volunteering to help at the Superdome in New Orleans following Katrina. He made the accurate point that sports stadiums are just massive kitchens and he believes they could have helped stabilize the essential food needs faster, allowing the other areas of need to get the attention they need.
The last audience question in the Q&A touched on the MeToo movement. Andrés admitted that the problem with inequity and harassment is not just in restaurants but in society. “This is about community and about who we are.” In addition to instituting corporate safety nets and avenues for reporting improper conduct, Andrés stressed that it was equally important to approach things from a personal, human perspective. “If you see something, say something.”
South by Southwest is known for brand activations and pop-ups from big name chefs, but this year, the festival may have outdone itself. Chef Mads Refslund, co-founder of Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant ranked #1 in the world four times, is cooking at a pop-up in Austin during SXSW. The pop-up, a collaboration with Tigerspring Agency, will be held today through Wednesday from 8 p.m. to midnight. The meals will be served at the House of Scandinavia (340 E. Second St.) and hosted by Scandinavian Airlines. The menu is based on local Austin cuisine, as seen through the lens of Nordic cooking and sourced with organic wines and cocktails made with Nordic spirits. The two prix fixe menus range from $75 to $100 and reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.