Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Quintessential Austin Experience

I'm lucky enough to be married to a very, very good cook. Back in the dark ages, when pasta meant only spaghetti she learned to make many kinds of pasta (we still have the pasta roller which has not been used for rolling out clay). And when anything other than white bread was hard to find, she made bread. She took cooking classes, bought, read (of course) and used cookbooks, and subscribed to numerous cooking magazines.

All of this was great and it made for some fantastic meals. We used to have a big hot tub in our back yard and we'd throw big dinner parties on Sunday night that were called "Smoke and Soak". This was the 70's. Enough said. But after about 10 of years of doing them Susan got tired of spending all day Saturday shopping and prepping food and then all day Sunday getting ready, She didn't "smoke" so she was the only one with enough logical brain cells to clean up (and pass out the kazoos to the idiots in the hot tub). So we quit doing that and focused on working 80 hours a week instead.

Fast forward a number of years -- Austin has developed Central Market and is the World Headquarters of Whole Foods. Gourmet food is easy to find and both stores offer many different take-out options so we do a lot of take-out, which Susan can't resist ramping up the quality on (see previous post).

But we very, very rarely eat out. Hardly ever. Two reasons:

Reason #1 - Susan can cook me a meal better than most restaurants.
She doesn't do things like "Oyster Gonads Napped with a Pomegranate Suspension of Fuzzy Wahoo Cheeks" or like "Fresh Bermuda Grass Marinated in Moose Cheese Reduction Goosebuds and Adorned with Blueberry Oatmeal Chaff" but I don't eat stuff like that anyway.

Reason #2 - I hate the pomp and circumstance.
That encompasses the tedium of be waited on (and I have been a waiter myself), of waiting for someone to pay attention to me, of waiting for it to be my turn for the server to bring the too hot-too cold dinner, of listening to a menu being recited and trying to remember each Special, of waiting for a check, of having to do the math for a tip, of having to tip for mediocre service, of having to pick an overpriced wine I know nothing about, and having to yell over the din of the other people because the room is loud and echo-y because they know that will move people out faster, or having to whisper because the place is as quiet as a tomb and you can hear the people at the next table chewing. Oh, and valet parking. I HATE valet parking.

So when Susan told me we were going out to dinner I was a little dubious. It was a 30-minute drive away from town, it was a fixed menu and a fixed time, and a small room. Maybe even we'd have to sit at a table with Other People! I splurged and bought a $15 bottle of wine and off we went.

The result? The best meal and best evening we've had in years and years. A small quiet room with only a few people gathered, casual but attentive service, and a gracious host. There is always an alternative vegetarian offering (Tempeh with Chimichurri the night we were there). If you ever come to Austin, go to Ronnie's. You might see us there because we'll be going back.

The picture at the top of this post shows how happy I was with my meal. The picture at the bottom shows the two main dishes (we had Ronnie split them for us) and obviously we were too busy eating to bother with the pictures until halfway through the meal.

Ronnie's Real Food Bistro at Elysium,
Menu for July 2009
Mediterranean Dip with Flat Bread
Watermelon Gazpacho
This is a savory soup with a subtle, teasing flavor and great color. It makes a terrific opening summertime dinner course. Served cool.
Roasted Port Tenderloin with Chimichurri
Mahimahi with Cranberry-Ginger Sauce
The pork tenderloin is rubbed with sea salt, ground cumin, ground coriander and fresh ground black pepper and then roasted. It is served with chimichurri, a thick herb sauce of Argentina, and organic couscous. Mahimahi fillets are grilled and topped with a cranberry, ginger and mirin sauce and served with organic couscous.
Seasonal Salad of Green Beans and Tomato with Pumpkin Seed Dressing
Green beans, tomatoes, and salad greens are enlivened by a thickened dressing that's almost like a Mexican pesto. Its body and creaminess come from ground toasted pumpkin seeds.
Espresso-Rum Creme Custard
Satisfying and creamy, this espresso-rum creme custard is a divine way to finish a summertime meal.

Complimentary Coffee
BCYOB (bring chilled your own bottle, no corkage fee)

Seating is at 7:00 p.m.
Cost of the four-course dinner is $25 and includes all taxes and gratuities.


ArtPropelled said...

Waiting for the bill kills me....but some times the waiters are on the ball. Then you don't mind tipping.
The Expresso-Rum Creme is just what I would like right now!

3rdEyeMuse said...

I am sooooo drooling over the menu (and the experience) you just shared ... if I were a gazillionaire, I'd plan a trip to the area JUST for that meal & would have some fun figuring out the other fun stuff to take in while there. :)

Lost Aussie said...

I'm so glad you had a wonderful dinner out. It makes a nice change as I am pretty much with you on all points for #1 and #2!

Anonymous said...

isn't that an Austin group - The Wahoo Cheeks?


ooo, EXcellent word verif: