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Food Matters: Be ready to be amused; Bobby Flay releases "Throwdown" cook book

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Josh Watkins, executive chef at the Carillon, hosts the 'Art of the Amuse Bouche' event.

For your amusement, a Carillon tasting

For such a little dish, the restaurant amuse bouche carries a heavy load. Customarily a one-bite dish sent to the table for free at the start of service, the "mouth amuser" is both an anticipation builder and, for executive chef Josh Watkins at the Carillon, a research-and-development moment. "Nine times out of 10, we'll use the amuse as a general platform for new menu development," Watkins said.

"It's something that you give away for free, so guests are going to be a little bit more open. And then ultimately I like to speak with the guests and get their feedback … not just, `How was that?' or `Did you enjoy it?' You might want to even be so forward as to ask, `If that were on the menu, would you order it?'"

You'll have the chance to observe and taste what he's talking about from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the Carillon's "Art of the Amuse Bouche" event, with eight dishes drawing on flavors from tuna, lobster, beef tenderloin, duck, scallops, truffles and more, each paired with wine. Or create your own amuse bouche with Watkins' recipe below.

Does it get competitive among the line cooks to devise the most forward-thinking amuse? "There is a huge competition, because a lot of times four different cooks will come up with four different amuse ," Watkins said. I'll veto two of them and we'll only serve the other two." The chef's approval - without changes - is cause for celebration.

The event is $35 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at UT, 1900 University Ave. 404-3689, www.thecarillonrestaurant.com .

- Mike Sutter

Tuna, Grilled Hearts of Palm, Pineapple

8 oz. No. 1++ (sashimi grade) raw tuna, diced

2 shallots, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/4 oz. ginger, diced

1 green onion, diced

1/2 oz. white soy sauce

1/4 tsp. sambal chile paste

1 pineapple

1/4 lb. unsalted butter

Sea salt to taste

2 oz. hearts of palm, grilled, sliced into coins

Coriander for garnish

6 oz. No. 1++ (sashimi grade) tuna, seared, sliced

For the tuna poke (raw tuna mix): Mix diced raw tuna with shallots, garlic, ginger, green onion, soy and chile paste.

For the pineapple sauce: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Roast for 30 minutes in the oven. Remove, allow to cool and trim off exterior. Place the flesh in a blender with the butter, and season with salt. Puree until smooth, and pass through a fine mesh sieve. Cool until ready to serve.

For the assembly: On a rectangular plate, mold the tuna poke on the left side. On the remainder of the plate, pour sauce in four pools. Garnish with the hearts of palm and coriander. Arrange sliced seared tuna in a line down the plate. Serves 4.

- Executive chef Josh Watkins, the Carillon

Food and wine briefs

• Celebrity chef Claudine Pepin, who with her chef father stars in the show "Jacques Pepin's Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine," will lead a cooking demonstration from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the IKEA store in Round Rock as part of Family Circle magazine's Food University. Free. 1 Ikea Way, Round Rock. 828-4532, www.myfoodu.com .

• Inherit Austin will host a four-course fundraising dinner from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Boggy Creek Farm, with a silent auction, a talk by farm owner Carol Ann Sayle and food from chef Gina Burchenal. $75. Boggy Creek Farm, 3414 Lyons Road. Tickets at www.heritagesocietyaustin.org .

• Central Market chef Christina Lee won the statewide 2010 Chefs Under Fire competition Oct. 25 in Austin, beating chefs Juan Rodriguez (Reata in Fort Worth) and Erica Beneke of Max's Wine Dive with a dish of red Snapper over Israeli couscous.

• Danika Boyle's Petite Peche & Co. will host the first in a series of salon-style dinners at Church House Studios, 1161 Nickols Ave., from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 20. The event includes a four-course dinner by Boyle and music curated by her husband, music producer David Boyle. $70, BYOB. Registration at www.petitepecheandco.com .

- M.S.

Pick up Friday's paper for our 2010 Dining Guide

The online budgeting tool Bundle (www.bundle.com ) tells us that Austinites spend more per person in restaurants and bars than any city in America. In more than 200 restaurant visits in the past year, I think I spent most of it.

Find out what's new (and what's still good) in the Austin restaurant world with the 2010 Austin360 Dining Guide, a special section appearing in the American-Statesman on Friday.

Highlights? Glad you asked.

• Newcomer of the Year awards for upscale and casual categories.

• Twenty great dishes, from chicken wings on a mission to a dessert that tastes like scotch and a cigar.

• Brief reviews and listings for 125 restaurants.

• Bonus: On Thursday in our Austin360 magazine, we'll celebrate food trailers with a Newcomer of the Year, five great dishes (one unites Canada and Mexico) and 25 brief reviews.

- M.S.

Openings, closings and coming soon

• Open: Enzo, an upscale nightclub and restaurant managed by George Gutierrez II, formerly of Pangaea. The menu, overseen by Eric Warshauer, includes steak, lamb, duck, scallops and more, as well as tapas and empanadas. Enzo also features DJs and live music, a specialty cocktail menu from Jamie Block (formerly of Péché) and bottle service. Open 2 p.m. to midnight Mondays-Wednesdays, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Also open during Longhorn football games. 801 W. Fifth St., in the Monarch building. 250-3696, www.enzoaustin.com .

• Open: Blenders, a shop selling fruit and vitamin smoothies, coffees and juices at Highland Mall, 6001 Airport Blvd.

• Open: Italo's, a pizzeria at 1600 E. Sixth St.

• Opening Saturday: Vince Young Steakhouse, 301 San Jacinto Blvd. 457-8325, www.vinceyoungsteakhouse.com .

- M.S.

Park yourself at Auditorium Shores for a trailer cuisine confab

Two of Austin's favorite pastimes - outdoor festivals and food trailers - will unite at Auditorium Shores from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday for the Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival. Dozens of Austin mobile food vendors - from chicken wraps at the Mighty Cone to ice cream at Coolhaus to doughnuts-on-steroids at Gourdough's - will gather for stroll-around tastings and, of course, live music. Organizers are asking each vendor to offer two to three `signature' items, with at least one in a smaller `tasting' portion for no more than $3. Judges will crown winners in five categories, and the public will get to choose a fan favorite and best trailer. Free admission. Details at www.gypsypicnic.com .

- M.S.

Casserole Queens lost 'throwdown,' gained Fans

Before Food Network personality Bobby Flay challenged Sandy Pollock and Crystal Cook, owners of Austin food delivery company Casserole Queens, to a "throwdown," the duo was on the verge of closing.

However, word had gotten around to Flay about the duo's famous chicken pot pie, and so he challenged the ladies and their dish on his show, "Throwdown With Bobby Flay." Though the Queens lost the competition, they found that didn't matter much to viewers. After the episode premiered, their business was reborn.

"Our business grew so much because of that episode," Pollock said. "We haven't stopped moving since then. People kept us going. We were inspired to start cooking again."

Flay's new cookbook, "Bobby Flay's Throwdown!" ($27.50, Clarkson Potter) features his recipe as well as the Casserole Queens' from the chicken pot pie episode and other recipes from the show's history. Both Pollock and Cook say the book offers a unique perspective on experimenting with and riffing on classic recipes. "You get to see two sides to the story," Cook said. In the book, "you see how two people would uniquely create the same dish."

The duo still wear 1950s dresses during their deliveries, but lately they have been busy preparing for the production of their cookbook with Clarkson Potter, slated for release this August. The book is a collection of the duo's recipes and others from family archives, adapted classics and trends.

"Food is a common thread that encourages expression and passion," Pollock said. "We were fortunate enough to be recognized for that."

- Layne Lynch