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Food Matters: Cooking with Uchi, annual plant sale, host interviews food celebs for KOOP show

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Savor the history of Uchi with chef's new cookbook

Chef Tyson Cole has cultivated the mystique of Uchi by layering the simplest elements of traditional Japanese cuisine into complex and surprising combinations. With clear instructions, disciplined ingredient lists and vivid photography, "Uchi: The Cookbook" ($39.95, University of Texas Press) lays bare those building blocks with surprising intimacy and humanity. Working with writer Jessica Dupuy, Cole conveys his evolution from sushi-averse dishwasher at Kyoto to terrified apprentice at Musashino to a chef who opened his own place, in part, because he wanted to earn the respect of his old master, Smokey Fuse. And it's brutally frank.

Take the "Sushi 101" section, with wisdom on how not to use chopsticks, wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger and hot sake ("it's disgusting"). Also, Cole lets his self-described control freak flag fly: "Don't order all your sushi at once. It makes you look like an (expletive)." Most of these dishes you wouldn't try at home, unless you have miso paste, a vacuum sealer or bonito flakes at hand, and the book has its share of boilerplate sloganeering and earnest philosophies. But I'd make the effort for Machi Cure, with smoked hamachi and fried yuca chips, or even sushi rice topped with foie gras, candied pork belly and fish caramel, one of the best restaurant dishes I've ever eaten.

Because Uchi has made its name in part with yakumi — the flourishes of flavor that compliment and amplify sushi — you might translate the Uchi experience to your kitchen with Garlic Candy (recipe below) on creamy chevre or roasted chicken. Coffee Soil (recipe below) is the fertile ground for pastry chef Philip Speer's coffee panna cotta dessert. Add it to a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Uchi (801 S. Lamar Blvd.) will host a book sale and signing with Cole today from 5 to 7 p.m., and Uchiko (4200 N. Lamar Blvd.) will do the same from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday. At 6:30 p.m. March 10, BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd.) and Edible Austin will host a panel discussion with Cole, Dupuy, Speer and Uchiko chef Paul Qui.

— Mike Sutter

Garlic Candy

2 heads garlic

2 pots of boiling water

24 oz. sugar

8 oz. water

24 oz. canola oil

Peel whole cloves of garlic. Slice garlic paper-thin on a mandolin or with a very sharp knife. Quickly blanch sliced garlic in a pot of boiling water for no more than 30 seconds. Remove garlic from boiling water and repeat step in the second pot of boiling water.

Bring sugar and water to a boil in separate medium saucepan. Remove garlic from blanching water and place into boiling sugar and water mixture. Reduce heat and let garlic chips cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes or until translucent in color.

In a high-sided sauté pan, heat canola oil to 325 degrees. Remove garlic from syrup and rinse in a strainer to remove excess syrup. Shake off excess water and place in heated oil. Fry until light golden brown. Reserve in an airtight container.

Coffee soil

4 1/2 oz. sugar

4 1/2 oz. macadamia nuts

1 oz. cocoa powder

1 tsp. salt

2 1/3 oz. flour

1 oz. ground coffee beans

3 1/2 oz. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In food processor, grind together all ingredients except butter. Grind into fine crumbs. Add melted butter to ground mixture. Mix well with hands. Spread mixture onto parchment-lined full sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Once cooled, crush soil and store in an airtight container.

— From ‘Uchi: The Cookbook'

Signs of spring pop up around town

We might not have seen the last frost of the year, but it's time to start thinking about getting your spring vegetable garden going, and one of the biggest transplant sales of the year is Sunshine Community Garden's annual Plant Sale and Garden Festival, which is taking place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the gardens, near the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and 45th Street. Arrive early; many vegetable and ornamental transplants will sell out before noon.

Another sign that spring is near? The Sustainable Food Center is shifting the start and end times of the farmers' market at the Triangle. Starting today through September, the market will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and, as the days grow longer, the grassy area in the middle of the mixed-use complex starts to fill up with families setting up picnics to enjoy food from the vendors and live music on the market stage.

— Addie Broyles

Three local restaurants named to national list

Three Austin-area places have made the national food website TheDailyMeal.com's list of the 101 best restaurants in America: Fonda San Miguel (29), Kreuz Market in Lockhart (38) and Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (54).

Of Fonda San Miguel, judges wrote: "In a town full of great Tex-Mex places, Fonda San Miguel stands out for its superbly made ‘interior Mexican' food." On Kreuz's: "Definitive Hill Country barbecue — meat on butcher paper — in a big barn of a place perfumed with woodsmoke." On Lamberts: "Texas barbecue gets a new look at this friendly, casual, but gastronomically serious establishment. ... This is not your father's 'cue."

Other Texas restaurants on the list include Fearings in Dallas (57), Reef in Houston (62) and Forth Worth's Lonesome Dove (95). Nationally, the top five were: 5. Alinea (Chicago). 4. Daniel (New York). 3. Le Bernardin (New York). 2. Per Se (New York). 1. French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.).

— M.S.

Openings, closings and coming soon

Open: The Upper Decks, a three-tiered sports bar and grill at 301 Barton Springs Road, the former home of Fiddler's Hearth and Bennigan's. Open for lunch and dinner daily, bar open until 2 a.m.

Open: Ology, the new student-run restaurant at the Art Institute of Austin, 101 W. Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock. Open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ology will be staffed by cooks and waiters from the institute's International Culinary School. The menu includes tomato-basil and French onion soups ($5-$8), salads ($5-$11), a burger with herbed frites or salad ($9) and entrées such as pasta pomodoro, Thai noodle curry and chicken chardonnay ($9-$15). The restaurant keeps a schedule corresponding with class sessions and will be open through March 23. The next session runs April 4-June 18. 691-4941, www.aii.edu/austin .

Closed: Mama Roux, the Cajun restaurant at 13000 N. Interstate 35 run by the late Michael and Yoli Amr.

Closed: M Two Food and Drink, the nightlife bar and grill at 208 W. Fourth St.

Closed: Hot Slice, the pizzeria at 2530 Guadalupe St.

— M.S.

Host interviews food celebs for KOOP show

During the Texas Book Festival in October, Susan Gayle snagged interviews with New York Times columnists and cookbook authors Amanda Hesser and Melissa Clark for her KOOP radio food show "Food Love Austin." Not too bad for her first episode. In the months since, Gayle has interviewed national and local notables including Claire Robinson of the Food Network show "5 Ingredient Fix" and songwriter/personal chef Michael Fracasso. Gayle is using the show to explore food topics as varied as farming and fine dining, and in coming weeks, she'll have an interview with Gabrielle Hamilton, author of "Blood, Bones and Butter." You can catch "Food Love Austin" on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. either on 91.7 FM or streaming at www.koop.org . Want a peek inside Gayle's fridge? Go to austin360.com/relishaustin .

— A.B.

Food and wine briefs

The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo will hold its annual Cowboy Breakfastat 6 a.m. Friday at Auditorium Shores, with biscuits and gravy, pancakes, breakfast tacos, fried catfish, sausage, doughnuts, coffee and live music. Free parking at the Palmer Events Center. The rodeo runs March 11-26. Details at www.rodeoaustin.com .

Austin chef Brad Sorenson, who cooks at Asti Trattoria and was a contestant on "The Next Food Network Star," will compete on the season premiere of the Food Network competition show "Chopped All-Stars" at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Chick-fil-A restaurants will be handing out free medium orders of waffle fries from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday to promote its new Heinz Dip & Squeeze ketchup packets.

— M.S.