Indie Chef’s Week has become one of my favorite food events in Austin. Created last year by Ned Elliott, and Jodi Elliott, chef/owners of Foreign & Domestic, (Jodi has since left and will open Bribery to highlight her amazing pastries) as a showcase of indie chefs from around the US and Canada, Indie Chefs Week is five nights of dinners, where each chef creates a dish.
The first night showcases local chefs. I attended local chefs night last year, and wrote about it here. This year, I decided to forego the local night, and try some food from the visiting chefs.
Here are some of my favorite dishes from the nights I attended this year:
A surprise dish from David Barzelay, of Lazy Bear, in San Francisco, was a delicious amuse, that wasn’t on the menu – Abalone Chowder. I had never eaten abalone, and it was amazing. David was fun to watch and interact with. I would love to visit his Lazy Bear and try more dishes from him.
This was a replacement dish for a chef whose flight was late. Aguachile of Snapper, Serrano, Guava Jam, Cress, from Carlos Salgado, chef at Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, California. It is difficult to describe how something seemingly so simple, could be so delicious. It was spicy with heat from chiles, and packed a memorable punch. The guava puree cooled it off and added sweetness. It was so good, I was excited to have it again at the finale.
Also from Carlos, another amazing dish that I won’t soon forget. Winter Squash Tamal, with Queso Fresco, Lime Honey, Pipian Verde.
Ok, so I make tamales at least once a year. Mine have absolutely no relation to this amazing creation. The masa was light and fluffy, almost cake like, and just lightly treated with lime and honey, just enough to make it really interesting and flavorful, with the Pepian Verde, a spicy side, and the cool creamy queso fresco. I’m not a food critic, but this was one of the best bites I’ve ever eaten. I want to go to California, just to visit Taco Maria.
Another really wonderful dish that night was from Ryan Lachaine, of Houston, Texas. Flat Iron Steak, Charred Carolina Gold Rice, Kimchi, Pickles, Yolk, Gochujang, and Benne. (sesame seeds) Ryan is currently not associated with a restaurant, but based on this dish, I will look for him on any future trips to Houston. This was delicious, interesting, and the plating is stunning.
I tried to wave off dessert that night, because I was very full, but our server assured us, that it was light and beautiful. It was gorgeous!
This dessert included Shaved White Truffles, Truffle Sage Cheesecake, Lemon Curd and Egg Ice Cream, by the Foreign & Domestic Chefs and David Barzelay, of Lazy Bear. This was so gorgeous, especially plated on the Keith Kreeger dishes loaned to F&D for this event, and it was equally delicious.
I loved the Octopus and Pear Salad, with Pear Butter, Cress and Toasted Almonds, from chef Michael Serpa, of Neptune Oyster, in Boston. I’ve never had octopus so tender, ever and it was delicious.
The Chestnut Stuffed Quail, Winter Panzanella, Mandarin and Horeseradish, from Jason French, of Ned Ludd in Portland, Oregon, was another favorite. A chef after my own heart, everything on this plate was uber locally sourced in Portland. Another interesting bit, is that the entire menu of his restaurant, is cooked in a wood burning oven. How cool! Somehow, I didn’t make it home with a photo of this one.
Anthony Fusco, former CDC of Foreign & Domestic was back, and it was lovely to see him. His dish, a pork and beef meatball, made me actually like meatballs. Very yummy.
One of my favorite take-aways from this event, is the camaraderie between the chef attendees. It would be impossible to pull off such a night of dinner service, without a collaborative effort from these chefs. It is really fun watching them help one another plate their dishes, and seeing, what I can only imagine to be, lasting friendships forming. By the finale night, it was clear that these chefs had formed bonds with each other, evident in their heckling, joking, and laughter as the end of the 24- course dinner service wound down to the last dish. So much fun!
I can’t wait to experience Indie Chef’s Week again next year.