Jack and I have been going to the Dai Due dinners (prounced die do-aay) for a few years now and it’s something we really look forward to. I usually try to snag tickets once a year in the summertime for one of the seafood-themed dinners. (There are some obvious themes I can’t go to as a non-meat-eater — ie. “The Whole Hog” dinner).
The husband and wife team, Jesse Griffiths and Tamara Mayfield, take “local” to a crazy-person level (the good kind of crazy). While they set the dinner themes ahead of time, individual menu items aren’t decided until the last minute due to what’s immediately available. And every ingredient – down to the olive oil and the flour – are local. Seafood is from the Texas gulf “with a focus on “bycatch”, or overlooked and underutilized fish caught by fisherman seeking more well known and marketable fish.”
But really, these dinners are just fun. It’s fun to sit at a big table and eat family style with total strangers who all have a common love of good food. Of course, if you get stuck next to someone uninteresting, you are stuck with them for 4 hours (and this is why I’ll never go on a cruise), but this particular night, we lucked out. On our right was an oddly fascinating couple who raises their own bees. On our left was a couple that brought extra bottles of wine and poured us theirs when we ran out of ours. Ah, community…
*top left image: Jody Horton, from Dai Due’s website
(other photos via our instagram feed)
On the far end of east Austin is Contigo, a farm-to-table restaurant with arguably the best outdoor setting in town. Maybe it’s the long drive in the opposite direction of civilization, or the layout of the large communal tables, but the sky just looks bigger here… especially on this particular night when some moody purple & grey storm clouds were just beginning to loom overhead.
I love it here in the summertime because the menu is lighter and includes more veggie-friendly options. (In other seasons it can be a pretty meaty-pork-heavy place). But this time the highlights for me were: Shishito Peppers with Peanut Sauce (not pictured – we must have eaten those too quickly), Grilled Zucchini & Fennel with Smoked Tomatoes, and my top favorite, the Beet and Potato salad with Arugula and Caraway Seeds.
The cocktail highlights are the El Pepino (tequila, cucumber, mint, lime), and the Smokin’ Gypsy (vodka, benedictine, balcones brimstone, angostura bitters). I was way too full for dessert but I’m still kind of kicking myself for not trying the Smoked Peaches with white chocolate and oatmeal crisp.
Oh, and one last tip… probably don’t show up here without cowboy boots.
I’ll be back with a recipe tomorrow, but I wanted to share some snaps I took at Hillside Farmacy, a new restaurant I went to last week while Jack was out of town. Few things excite me more than a good restaurant design. I’ll even go as far to say that I think food tastes better while eaten in a cute space.
I didn’t catch on while I was there but the name is a play on words not just a funny way to spell “pharmacy”. The building, at the turn of the century was The Hillside Drug store – that’s where the vintage pharmacy theme comes from… (I want those drawers for my house, by the way). The “farm” part… because the produce and eggs all come from urban farms that are about a mile down the road.
My friend Grace and I shared a bunch of small plates, my favorite being a panzanella salad topped with a poached egg (i’ll be stealing that idea). All in all, a nice spot for breakfast, a casual dinner, or late night snack.