Thursday, September 26, 2013

Peached Tortilla Pops Up in Driftwood

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Chef Eric Silverstein’s Peached Tortilla big food truck (they have a second smaller truck now also) held their first ever pop-up dinner a few weeks back out at Stonehouse Villa, smack in the middle of downtown Driftwood. Peached Tortilla is hosting this ongoing series of pop-ups to begin to publicize the opening of their brick and mortar restaurant in 2014 and to test dishes while building clientele. Having eaten at the truck, and knowing Eric’s multicultural culinary influences range from Asian to Soul, I knew the food would be great. Beer was going to be matched for each course by Real Ale brewmaster Erik Overshok; no question the beer would be good. I have driven by the event space daily for the last 32 years, and was curious to see how the 1923 masonry structure had been morphed into a venue by owners The Beach’s: George, and designers Beth and son 
Chris (Decorum Home + Design). Stonehouse Villa is a warm, gorgeous space, with a huge deck sitting on the edge of a verdant, rolling hill country meadow, with views for miles, towering live oaks, and the charming 1884-era Driftwood United Methodist Church right next door. The d├ęcor and table settings were over the top, and the flower arrangements creatively appealing.

The space....

Savory treat

Sweet treat

The brews

I had a Real Ale Oktoberfest while noshing on several passed treats: crostini with savory caramelized tomato jam and mascarpone, and a sweet version topped with mascarpone, honey drizzle, mint, and blueberries. Once the herd got seated and introductions were made, servers dispensed the Devil’s Backbone: sweet maltyness with a hoppy spine; a pleasing tripel. The amuse was a spoon serving of rich, unctuous pork belly with a balanced sweet sour glaze of caramelized pineapple and Chinese BBQ sauce. A complex, enjoyable bite.

Pork belly....

Real Ale’s Oktoberfest came next, a tasty, malty marzen, perfect for the fall. It was accompanied by Eric’s shrimp toast: shrimp mousse schmeared on toast before a golden brown dip in the fryer. It was studded with sesame and cilantro, and served with a zesty Thai chile dipping sauce. A little thicker than most, the crunch added to the enjoyment. Course two was matched with Hans Pils; slightly bitter with earthy hops, this will give Pearl Snap a good run for its money. It was paired with the Thai papaya salad, my least favorite of the dishes. I thought the dressing needed complexity and more interplay twixt sour and sweet, and more assertive salty fish sauce. The heat level was nice and zippy, but the sesame oil didn’t fit the profile.

Shrimp toast....

Papaya salad....

That little hiccup was more than negated by the main course. The beer was Real Ale’s juggernaut, Fireman’s 4 blonde ale; a huge success in ATX. The main dish was superb: meltingly tender and succulent braised shortribs in a rich, reduced Korean-tinged braising liquid that had turned into a savory glaze of syrupy demi. The ribs were resting on a mound of cheesy, kimchee-laced grits, and garnished with fried shallots and scallion and a pile of cucumber sunomono pickle. I could have eaten my weight in these bovine delights.

Short rib on kimchee-cheesy grits with cucumber sunomono garnish...

Clean plate club....I laid waste to that shit

Dessert was a different taste for most of the attendees, but not for me. I’ve enjoyed similar treats in Thailand, as the herd enjoyed it once they took their first bite. The gula melaka was based on a traditional Malaysian/Southeast Asian sweet snack, made from sago pearls turned into a thick pudding. Eric’s version used chia seeds in place of the sago pearls, and a mix of coconut and almond milk for the custard, sweetened with palm sugar, and seasoned with a Thai basil reduction. The tapioca-like texture was like miniature sago pearls like you find in bubble tea, resting in rich custard. It was matched with Brewhouse Brown, one of the original three beers brewed at Real Ale. The deep amber-brown color and rich chocolaty, malty flavor went well with the palm sugar.

Chia seed gula melaka, with berries and mint

Eric the chef could have been a little more effusive in explaining his food, and Erik the brewmaster less effusive with his beers, but they matched fine flavor-wise. Peached Tortilla did a great job with the dinner; you should definitely attend their next pop-up. All of the players involved did a splendid job (servers, flowers, table settings, etc.); with Christina Good riding herd for Stonehouse and Hope Furst for Peached Tortilla, the event ran seamlessly. If the brick and mortar is this good, there will be lines nightly, and if you need a spectacular event space in a tranquil spot, Stonehouse Villa fits the bill. Good event, great stuff! 

Mick Vann ©

Stonehouse Villa
15110 FM 150 @ Elder Hill Rd.
Driftwood, TX 78619 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No problem?...It's a Problem

Limbo on the beach, Jamaica!

This past Sunday morning I'm sitting at home watching what my friend Princess Di of Rancho Winslow refers to as The Happy News, The CBS Sunday Morning News Show. She calls it that because the show presents human interest pieces, devoid of the normal angst associated with network national and international news. One of their slots is always an opinion piece, and yesterday's opinion was voiced by contributor Bill Flanagan.

He was pissed off about something that  I also find unbelievably annoying: restaurant servers that reply "no problem" when I request something or thank them for some task they performed. Flanagan hits the nail on the head with his opinion piece, and I couldn't have said it better myself (although I see it less as a generational issue than an overall breakdown in the rules of American society; a degeneration, if you will).

Saying "No problem" implies that under a different circumstance whatever I had requested of my server could have been a problem; maybe even a big problem or major inconvenience. It tells me that I'm fortunate that my server happens to be in a magnanimous mood, and will concede to perform the task they are being paid for, providing service.

It is the most used response to a thank you after complying to a customer's request. The proper response to "Thank you" is simply, "You're welcome", which doesn't imply that the server went above and beyond. I politely thanked the server and they politely responded in-kind.  "Certainly", or "Pish tosh", or "You betcha darlin'" works just as well.

I made reference to hearing "You're welcome" from The Best Waitress in Austin in a recent gustidude blogpost (see previous gustidude

post). She understands the social contract and the rules of basic etiquette, and I was shocked simply because it is so rarely heard these days.  "No problem" doesn't work at all. It's a bad reflection not only on the server, their floor manager, the server's peers, their teachers, and even the parents that improperly raised that server.  From now on, whenever I hear "No problem" from a restaurant server, it will result in an automatic 5% reduction in the generous tip that I normally leave. I suggest you do likewise.

Mick Vann ©

Bill Flanagan on CBS Sunday Morning: