WINE AND DINE WEDNESDAYS
What happens when the Driskill Grill opens its kitchen to an all-star cast ofAustin chefs and Gourmet's Sara Moulton
Wednesday night may have been an average evening for most people in ATX, but instead of having an ad hoc meal from my kitchen while weeding through my DVR list, I found myself at the Driskill Grill. I was in great company with a room full of diners out to enjoy a special treat: a five course meal served by an all-star cast of chefs including Rob Snow from the Mansion at Judges’ Hill, Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside and Backspace, Philippe Schmitt of Philippe Restaurant + Lounge in Houston, Jonathan Gelman of the Driskill and celebrity chef and cookbook author Sara Moulton.
The occasion? Nothing in particular, other than the fact that Sara Moulton happened to be in town, so it seemed like a great idea to get a bunch of Austin chefs together to show off their skills (and hers). The night also proved a good time to showcase the subtle new design of the famed Driskill bar, which now features more group couch seating, a few long community tables for bar diners and a more pronounced stage for regular evening gigs by local musicians. Having visited the bar more than a time or two in years past—full disclosure, it’s where my husband and I got engaged—the new facelift reflects a more modern Austin restaurant scene where people tend to dine out more casually, and often at the bar. Under the ownership of Destination Hotels, a hotel and resort company with a portfolio of exclusive and boutique hotels across the country, the historic Austin icon is adding just the right amount of updates to blend with its celebrated heritage.
“I was really excited to be asked to do the event,” says acclaimed Parkside chef Cirkiel. “It’s a lot of fun to work with these guys and do something different. The wine was great, the food was great, and personally, we were probably having a lot more fun back in the kitchen than everyone in the dining room. We don’t get to do that very often.”
The evening was orchestrated by chef host Jonathan Gelman who was eager to share the stage with well-known Gourmet magazine chef and food television celebrity Sara Moulton. He also included Bill Elsey, local Texas wine distributor for Duchman Family Winery and recent winner of the distinguished Best Texas Sommelier award, to join and pair the entire dinner with wines from the restaurant’s select menu.
“For the menu, I really worked to expose guests to some new wines,” says Elsey. “Having studied the service portion of my sommelier’s exam at the Driskill on the days when it was closed, it was fantastic to get to execute the dinner in a more official setting.”
Elsey detailed the wines with each course, introducing a number of sparkling, white and red selections, with my personal favorites including a refreshing Andrew Clouet Champagne, a medium-bodied Brunello rich with hints of cherry, a minerally Mersault White Burgundy, and a beautiful dry Riesling from Austria.
“Austrian dry Rieslings are some of the most underrated wines in the world. I love to drink them in Texas in the summer. They’re light and refreshing.”
And the food? What else do you expect from such a strong culinary cast? An amuse bouche from Rob Snow arrived as a simple Medjool date stuffed with goat cheese, jalapeño and caramelized onion and wrapped with a thin strip of Serrano ham—an absolute showstopper, before the first course even arrived. I loved Cirkiel’s loup de mer sashimi-style with pineapple, cilantro gastrique and a hint of mescal, but my favorite may have been Gelman’s Wagyu sirloin served sous vide with black-eyed peas, bacon-cornbread puree and, just for grins, a side of bone marrow. Why thehellnot?
It’s not often you get to step out for a special treat in the middle of the week—at least not for me—and last night’s chef’s dinner certainly delivered. Although I usually enjoy a martini with friends in the low-lit, Texified bar, I’m now interested in giving the restaurant another try.
Reservations were made through the Driskill for $199.