The Texas peach is equally juicy, velvety and refreshing from the first bite to the last. Come summertime, this pale orange stone fruit is one of the most popular ingredients in our local cuisine, and it's no wonder why. We've discovered an assortment of fine dining and casual menus utilizing the sweet edible in a range of salads, main courses, desserts, cocktails.
Read on to see just how local chefs are making the most of this seasonal produce.
The dish: Tea-brined Pork Tenderloin with Anson Mills Grits, Grilled Peaches and Toasted Pecans
How it came to be: As one of the most respected and creative newcomers in town, laV is all about well-executed, playful experimentation. So when Executive Chef Allison Jenkins was looking for a way to incorporate Texas peaches into her French and Mediterranean menu, she relied on swine.
"The pork and peaches with grits utilizes the seasonal and local ingredients we have available. Grits, peaches and pecans go really well with pork, and even though we are mostly French Mediterranean in our influence, we are still in Texas, so this dish made sense to us as a summer entree," she says. "Fruit seasons are fairly short in Texas, so we use what we have in as many places as we can."
The drink: Local Peach and Ginger Old Fashioned
How it came to be: There is no greater culinary marriage than peaches and bourbon. Don't believe us? Just ask the team at The Bonneville. "We thought peaches would make for a beautiful summer cocktail, so we tried infusing bourbon with local ripe peaches from Lightsey Farms and the result was stunning," says Jennifer Costello, executive chef and co-owner of the Bonneville.
"The peaches brought a brightness to the bourbon and muted some of the heat or burn of the alcohol. We muddled some fresh ginger into the mix to enhance and brighten the spice and created a very smooth peach and ginger old fashioned, which is right in our wheelhouse of classics with a contemporary twist."
The dish: Benton's Country Ham with Chicharrones, Gribiche and Grilled and Pickled Peaches
How it came to be: This flavorful entree packs equal parts salty protein and sensational peaches. "We all have childhood memories of grilled peaches on the barbecue growing up," Shawn Cirkiel says. In fact, it is this very early memory that served as the genesis behind his ham dish.
During the summer peak of peaches, Cirkiel makes an effort to incorporate the fruit directly from local farms into an assortment of dishes on his menu, including salads, specialty appetizers and the raw bar selections.
The dish: White Chocolate Creme Caramel
How it came to be: As the star of countless summer desserts, peaches were a natural ingredient choice for Natalie Gazaui, pastry chef of Jeffrey’s, Clark’s and Perla’s, who grew up eating them in Uruguay. "The idea was to make a very classic yet light dessert, and Texas peaches were the natural go-to to pair with since they're obviously very beautiful and tasty this time of the year, and white chocolate is a great canvas to display fruity and aromatic local peaches," Gazaui says.
"I didn't grow up in Texas, but peaches are used in all sorts or preparation in Uruguay. One of my favorite peach preparations has to be an interpretation of a classic Uruguayan dessert, Chaja, [which is made with] genoise, meringue, cream and peaches."
The dish: Peaches and Goat Feta
How it came to be: Eden East Sous Chef John Smith was originally conceptualizing a summer-inspired bruschetta when he pieced together Eden East's Lightsey Farm peach and Honey Doe Farm goat feta dish. It includes roasted fig jam, crispy prosciutto and basil leaf.
"We were in the mindset of 'peaches are in season, so what pairs well with peaches?' So, we came up with our ingredient list thinking 'sweet, salty and refreshing.' Being an outdoor restaurant in mid-August, we wanted to avoid a savory, heavy appetizer. We turned our attention to the idea of the dish as a wrap rather than a traditional bruschetta with bread, which led us to the idea of a basil leaf wrapped around the peach," he says.
The dish: Texas Peaches
How it came to be: Last summer's peach crop was short-lived and small, which understandably made utilizing the local fruit rather difficult. This year, however, Finney Walter, pastry chef at Olivia, decided to make the most of the produce.
"This year's peaches seem to be a lot more flavorful than last year, so I wanted to do something with them. I wanted to do something incorporating a classic vinegar pie, which is a classic pioneer-style dessert similar to a curd," he says. "The dish is named Texas Peaches and is accompanied by the descriptors of apple cider vinegar, licorice and chamomile." Walter marries ingredients from Engel Farms and Zhi Tea to bring the dessert to life.
The dish: Peaches and Cream
How it came to be: One of House Pizzeria owner Scott Talkington's earliest and fondest culinary memories is devouring pounds of fresh peaches. "They were fuzzy like a cotton ball, and not as soft and squishy as they appeared," he remembers. To create House Pizzeria's sensuous peaches and cream dish, Talkington relies on the quality and consistency of Antonelli's Cheese Shop's La Tur cheese.
"Back in the days when both House Pizzeria and Antonelli's were just opening, the cheese shop started carrying La Tur. John [Antonelli] gave [me and my mom] a taste, and the cheese spoke to us. Thus, the peaches and cream was born. The dish is a marriage of great cheese and great produce."
The dish: Earl Grey Semifreddo
How it came to be: During the summer, diners reach for ice creams, popsicles, snow cones and a myriad of other cool treats. In creating her semifreddo, TRACE Executive Pastry Chef Angel Begaye looked no further than one of Texas' signature fruits. "Peach season is among us, and I wanted the dessert to be fresh, sweet and flavorful. I love tea and normally have it hot, but thinking of the weather right now, I figured what better way to have it but as the exact opposite — frozen and chilly? That’s when making a semifreddo came to mind," she says.
"I decided to go with earl grey because of its fruity qualities, and I wanted to pair it with some fresh fruit that paired well with the tea but that would also shine on its own, thus came the idea of peaches and oranges." The treat features Zhi Organic Earl Grey Choice Tea, Fredericksburg-grown peaches, G and S Grove oranges, apricot gelee, honey foam, crystallized basil and fresh edible flowers.
The dish: Fredericksburg Grilled Peach Salad
How it came to be: Like many talented chefs, John Lichtenberger of Peche turned to Fredericksburg to source the main ingredient for his seasonal special. "We use Fredericksburg peaches that I get from a local roadside stand near my house in Wimberley," he says. The light dish is further enhanced by sweet potato greens from Johnson's Backyard Garden, whipped local goat cheese, heavy cream and Austin Honey.
"I love grilled peaches. The light char with the sweetness of the peaches is just classic. When I found the sweet potato greens, it just was a perfect match. And we are always looking for ways to use [ingredients] from our friends at Austin Honey."
The dish: Bourbon-glazed Lockhart Quail with Grilled Peaches
How it came to be: Quail is one of the most ordered dishes at Arro, so when Executive Chef Andrew Curren was brainstorming an innovative way to incorporate peaches into his menu, he looked to his famous bird.
"I love the latest seasonal interpretation, which incorporates grilled local peaches and bacon marmalade," he says. "Peaches are so versatile; you can highlight them as the main ingredient in a dish or use them to complement one of the components. But, for me, the best thing about peaches is that in the peak of the season you can get five-gallon buckets relatively cheap and preserve them for the rest of the year!"
The dish: Peach Cobbler
How it came to be: We couldn't include a roundup of peach dishes without giving a little love to cobbler. And we knew the soon-to-open Austin outpost of Black's Barbecue was just the team to ask about the Texas dessert. "Many people relate peaches to Georgia, but peaches are a noble crop in Texas. We have always honored them as such, and that is why we take so much pride in serving customers our peach cobbler. It is the star dessert on our menu," Barrett Black, fourth generation pitmaster, says.
"Our very own Norma Jean is the creator of this dish. She knows how to enhance the pie with just the right amount of cinnamon, love and a few secret ingredients. We have been serving it alongside our famous barbecue for over 50 years, and in order to keep up with the times, we did decide to kick it up a notch. Within the last 15 years we have offered Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream alongside our delicious peach cobbler."
The dish: Peaches and Stracciatella
How it came to be: Using charred peaches and creamy Italian stracciatella, Due Forni Executive Chef Sean Zirkle created an Italian take on peaches and cream. "Peaches are great for antipasti and desserts. They add a great savory and sweet aspect to the menu depending on the dish," he says.