33 Variations of WINK

So, in my dreams I get to dine at WINK 33 times, and as those who understand WINK know, each visit is a unique experience – always delightful to the palette, but never the same.  Oh well, a girl can dream.

Marc and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day early since he will be half way around the world in Africa on this day of love.  We already had tickets to see 33 Variations at ZACH Scott Theatre, so a pre-show dinner at WINK was destined to be a part of our special night out.

There is not much more I can say about WINK that I have not written about in the past.  Wink presents the “gold standard” dining experience in Austin, Texas.  Once again, we enjoyed innovative and delicious food, paired with exquisite wines.  The service is impeccable – from the presentation of the amuse bouche to the delivery of the check.  Here are a few pictures of our “eats” and “sips”.  Unfortunately, some of the pictures do not do these amazing dishes justice.

IMG_1538Buttercup Squash Soup – my favorite taste of the evening, and oh, so beautifully presented.  After I took my first spoonful I noticed that the crème created the image of a heart.

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Marc’s Salad- Bib lettuce with roasted tomatoes

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IMG_1541His Entree- Rabbit Loin with lima beans, baby potatoes, and romanesco.  What is romanesco you asked?  It was a new veggie to us.  Here is a definition:

IMG_1544Romanesco broccoli, or Roman cauliflower, is an edible flower of the species Brassica oleracea, and a variant form of cauliflower. First documented in Italy, it is light green in color and is a natural approximation of a fractal.

Lamb Chops with sweet potatoes, chanterelles and chicory

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IMG_1540Our waiter batted a homerun (now that the Super Bowl is over, I know that baseball season is not far away!) with the wine pairings.  We both enjoyed a spot-on Cava paired with our first course.  I sipped a red blend from France with my lamb, and Marc smiled through his dinner with a Pinot.

WINK

If a perfectly orchestrated meal was not enough, I have to mention that we thoroughly enjoyed the play 33 Variations.  Esteemed pianist Anton Nel played some of Beethoven’s greatest keyboard literature throughout the play.  The script, staging and actors were are first rate.  We highly recommend this show to all of our friends.  Some of the best theatre we have viewed in a long time.

33 Variations at ZACH

Oh… and one more surprise.  We were driving out of the ZACH parking lot when a colleague texted me a picture of a bottle of wine.  Wouldn’t you know that he and his wife were enjoying a drink at House Wine – just blocks away!  We could not resist crashing their date to say “hey” and enjoy yet another great glass of wine.  What an evening!

HOUSE WINE

Wink on Urbanspoon

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THE ADULT HAPPY MEAL

Wink Wine Bar

Fortune struck last night as our son’s soccer game location was changed to House Park.  Marc and I took that at as sign – it had been far too long since we had visited the Wink Wine Bar.  You can park at the stadium and walk to Wink in minutes.  It simple is a no-brainer.

This little spot of sophistication is truly what got us hooked on the wine bar scene in Austin.  Tucked away behind Whole Earth Provisions on Lamar and across from WINK, the gold standard of dining in Austin, the Wink Wine Bar is a perfect place to spoil your palette.  We like to sit at the bar – a great place for conversation with experts.  You can not go wrong with the large selection of wines by the taste or glass.  I was delighted to see an Arneis as an offering.  One sip and I knew that was the liquid gold I would be sipping with my dinner at the this evening. Marc took his time sampling several of the reds on the list.  I’ll let him share…

IMG_1525Food is available as bar bites, bar apps OR you can order off of the WINK restaurant menu.  All bar apps are ½ off between 5-7pm.  A sweet deal!  Since this visit was serving as our dinner, we picked the mini brie burgers and the mac-n-cheese.  Our friend behind the bar quickly replied “Oh, you want the happy meal.”  If you can rate “happy”, this meal would be off the charts.  The burgers are excellent, but the mac-n-cheese with black truffles is beyond explanation.  Just go and get yourself some.  You will be glad you did.

IMG_1526Since the varsity games don’t start until 7:45pm, we had time to share a dessert.  Marc is a big fan of the El Rey Chocolate Cake, which we enjoyed with a Petite Syrah from California (2010 Seven Sinners).  It is a pretty decadent dessert, but my favorite part is the cherries that come with the cake.  I am still waiting for WINK to “wow” me with a sweet offering that celebrates fruit.

Now that is what I call the perfect beginning to a lovely evening.

The weather was perfect – not wet, not too cold – kind of a surprise for this time of year.  The boys played well and won 3-0.  After three goals I almost have our new German victory song down.  I’m almost memorized Henrike!

 
Wink on Urbanspoon
 

Spreading Joy

Spontaneous gatherings with friends have to be some of my favorite moments.  Especially when they are willing to be my “guinea pigs” for some new recipes. vWe are in the thick of soccer season, so my time at home today was limited.  Therefore, a simpler meal was the goal.  Enter Joy the Baker.

Let me take one step backwards.  One of my favorite food blogs is Brown Eyed Baker.

Everything she bakes sounds incredible, and every recipe I have tried from her blog has been fabulous!  She also has great recommendations for other blogs to check out.  This week, she mentioned a recipe for scones from Joy the Baker.  When I went to check it out, I spotted a picture of a tomato basil polenta dish.

I have made polenta before, with mixed results.  This recipe called for baking the polenta, instead of cooking it on the stovetop.  I was intrigued.  When trying to decide on a protein, I was reminded of some chicken jalapeno sausage I had in the freezer.  Those quickly went into the fridge to defrost.  Now all I needed was a veggie side.  I decided on a salad from the same blog.

This dinner turned out AMAZING!  Comfort cuisine at its finest.

The Salad:photo copy 2

Slightly altered from the recipe to use up ingredients I already had on hand – a combo of fresh spinach and arugula, roasted cauliflower (sub for the broccoli), sliced Fuji apple and pumpkin seeds (sub for sunflower seeds).  The honey mustard dressing was extremely flavorful.

Honey Mustard Salad

The entrée – Baked Polenta with Tomato-Basil Sauce and Sausage:

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Marc started the polenta while I was at the soccer game.  The tomato sauce was easy to make ahead of time.  The chicken sausage came from Sprouts.  It is delicious, but packs some heat.  The creamy polenta was a perfect partner.  Don’t skimp on the cheese and fresh basil.  The entire dish felt so clean and fresh – a definite winner!

Baked Polenta

 

I am really excited about the success of the baked polenta.  I can see it as an accompaniment for several other entrees, including stew, sautéed shrimp, and chili.

Now to find time to try out some of Joy the Baker’s sweets – these cupcakes are at the top of the list:

Dulce de leche Cupcakes

Speaking of dessert, I have to mention the cheesecake our guests brought for dessert.  photo copy 3The chocolate cheesecake from Upper Crust Bakery

( http://www.theuppercrustbakery.com/index.cfm  ) provided a perfect ending to our fabulous dinner.  Unbelievable texture and rich chocolate flavor.  Of course, our friend had to mention the cinnamon rolls… now I won’t be able to drive by the Upper Crust without stopping the next time I am in the neighborhood J.

 

Crockpot Creations

Cold weather and the first weeks back to school call for a change in the weekly menu.  Out comes the crockpot from its perch on the 2nd fridge out in the garage.  Here are two easy recipes (new to me).
Crockpot Italian

Crockpot Italian Turkey Meatballs

from the blog skinnytaste.com

I was skeptical about the potential texture of the meatballs (since I chose to go the quick route and not brown them before adding them to the crockpot – why bother with the crockpot then?).  The meatballs were fine.  The sauce was nothing exciting; some additional seasonings might do the trick.  The ricotta is a must!  It added that little touch of elegance to the dish.  It was really nice to come home, boil the pasta, toss some salad, and have dinner ready.

carnitasSlow Cooker Pork Carnitas

from the blog skinnytaste.com

Talk about EASY – check this recipe out!  I used a 3lb chunk of pork loin, a pretty lean cut of meat.  All I had to prepare when I got home were the fixin’s for tacos – sautéed onions, sliced avacado, salsa, tomatoes, cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, cheese and sour cream.

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Oh yes – I also defrosted a small stash of our New Year’s Mole Sauce.  It provided the perfect punch of flavor to take these tacos to the next level.


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And for a wine- In a pinch, I walked into Spec’s, find a wine person, told him:


1.  Type of dinner- pork tacos
2. Sauces- mole, traditional Spanish/Mexican
3.  Preferred Red
4.  Price point- $15-20
5.  Thinking Italian, since it is a great “food wine”
(I let him to the work in making a great pairing selections, then I approved)

Result:

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