Max’s Wine Dive-Part Deux

It has been a while since my last post as I spent all of April finishing up a business plan for a cookie business in Chile. But a busy girl has to eat!  I was able to get out to Max’s Wine Dive twice over the last month and OMG. We have even decided to host a pre-wedding dinner in one of the private rooms downstairs.

Food-eat it.

Wine-drink it.

Service-friendly and informative.

Go get the fried chicken, mac-n-chz, buttermilk pie, and a bottle of the Wire Ridge or Guard Shack cab. You won’t be disappointed!

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Trento-Casual Italian in West Austin

Trento is a relatively new Italian restaurant in Westlake off 360.  I have been there several times, but this is the first time I’ve gotten around to a review. It is a great choice for those that do not want to drive to downtown Austin to get good food. Trento is casual dining, but serves hearty, rustic Italian dishes. The first time I dined at Trento I enjoyed the wonderful butternut squash ravioli. However, Trento has a seasonal menu and the offerings were completely different this time around. I enjoy being surprised when I visit a restaurant!

We started the evening with the 2009 Brancaia “Tre” from Bolgheri. The wine is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Sangiovese.  This was my second bottle of “Tre” as it is affectionately called by the staff. I thought the blend was smooth, fruit forward, but still subtle enough that you could enjoy a glass without food. I ordered a heavy meal and “Tre” was a great accompaniment. I found that it brought out the aromatics in the food.

After careful consideration, I ordered the caprese salad to start and the lamb sausage ravioli with sage, brown butter, and a poached egg. My fiancé also had caprese salad and the rigatoni bolognese. In between we snacked on an amazing salted flatbread with Con’Olio’s olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Trento needs to put the flatbread on the menu!! If that was a staple in the restaurant you would probably find me eating bread and drinking wine there every day!

The entrees were great. I loved the poached egg on top of the sausage ravioli. Very creative and rich. I practically licked my bowl. My fiance’s rigatoni bolognese was good, but we both thought it needed more salt. Minor detail. After dinner we ordered the cherry zeppoles with hot cocoa and vanilla gelato. They are basically fried donut holes with melted chocolate. I never met a donut I didn’t like. In fact, my wedding cake is a Round Rock donut :).

Trento is a great neighborhood spot for me and I plan to keep going back! Others are also picking up on Trento’s creative menu as Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko and Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon selected the burrata and chicken liver pate as “Best Things to Eat in Austin”. I would advise everyone to go before the place gets too popular to get in the door!

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Botticelli’s—Don’t change a thing!

Botticelli’s has been on my list of restaurants to try for a while. We found ourselves on South Congress for engagement photos last weekend and decided to walk in and check it out. Botticelli’s is a small establishment with a beer garden in the back. We chose to sit in the restaurant, but the beer garden looked very cozy.

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I was in the mood for white wine and chose the 2010 Santome Chardonnay from Marca Trevigiana, Italy. It was a nice, refreshing wine to have after walking around South Congress all afternoon. It was smooth, well rounded, with hints of hazelnuts and a buttery finish. I like any wine that tastes like butter!  I randomly chose the 2007 Fattoria Montelori Moro, a Tuscan wine, for my fiancé. It was great–very nice Italian selections!

As for the food, I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu. We both started with a mixed green salad with apples, pecans, and gouda. The dressing was nice and light. I hate dressings that are so overwhelming that you can’t taste the greenery. I ordered the butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and grilled chicken. My fiancé ordered the special lasagna of the day—sausage and chicken with squash. It was amazing.

This is by far my new favorite Italian hangout. LOVE the food, LOVE the wine, LOVE the space. You know you have a good place when they keep big chunks of parmesan cheese on the counter and cook with butter 🙂

Olive and June—Creative food and great patio!

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Last weekend was a busy food weekend for us. We popped into Olive and June on Saturday afternoon to have a drink at the bar, but decided to stay for dinner when we learned that the outside patio was opening seating. The restaurant is located in the old “El Arbol” restaurant space on 38th Street near Seton Medical Center. They have free valet parking right now so take advantage of it!

The patio at Olive and June is one of the best in Austin. With a huge tree in the middle of the patio and a wall that blocks some of the traffic from 38th St, it is very peaceful. We ordered the Poggio Basso Chianti, a 2009 Tuscan wine. I have to say it was not a favorite. Although a decent price at $34 a bottle the wine was boring. It didn’t have any real depth and didn’t pair well with the food. There were other nice Italian and Californian wines on the menu that I will try the next time I go.

The food was outstanding. I don’t have anything to add. The menu is composed of small plate options, salads, and entrees. I started with the zucchini involtini which was zucchini wrapped mushrooms in a tomato sauce with pine nuts and golden raisins. It was divine! Next was the mushroom and red wine risotto topped with capers, radishes, and parsley. The risotto was cooked perfectly, mushrooms were earthy but not overwhelming, and the radishes added a fresh element to a heavy dish. My fiancé ordered the rigatone and meat ragu with dried cherries and topped with mint. Perfect.

I only have a few suggestions for Olive and June and I am sure these are basic “opening” issues that will smooth out. First, we were given dirty menus. Because the menus are paper and absorb everything they need to be checked every day. Second, it was difficult to find the door to the restaurant as there are several doors that looked to be the entrance. Perhaps a decorative sign could be placed on the correct door.

Other than that, I cannot wait to go back and try more small plates and new wines at Olive and June!

A rainy evening at Driskill Grill

A last minute change of plans left us hunting for our annual Not-Valentines-Day dinner last weekend. We were scheduled to try Da Marco in Houston, but alas had to take one of the last reservations available at Driskill Grill.  In the almost 14 years that I have lived in Austin I have not been to the restaurant. Why did I wait so long?!

We took an early reservation of 6:30pm. We were seated very promptly next to a chatty gentleman drinking too much whiskey and a woman complaining she needed more vegetables with her meal despite the fact she ordered a steak. The dining room is very small so moving to another table was not an option. So, I proceeded to drown them out with some wine.

The 2009 Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon was recommended by our great waiter, Kevin (I hope that was his name!). We wanted a medium bodied wine that would go with our entire meal for a decent price (meaning under $60). Terra Valentine is a Napa Valley wine and California grapes are generally a safe bet. The 2009 Cab was a deep ruby red color with currant, fig, and boysenberry flavors. I especially liked the spicy undertones of tobacco and baking spice. I would definitely buy this wine in a restaurant or Terra Valentine’s winery. It was soft, interesting, but didn’t push you over with a complex flavor. It was great by itself or with food.

The food at Driskill is well worth the money. We chose not to do the chef’s tasting menu this time, but it looked amazing. I started with the lobster bisque and had the filet mignon with cheddar grits and pearl onions. My fiancé tried the ribeye with blue cheese farro, mushrooms, and asparagus. The entrees were perfect. I have nothing bad to say about the food or the presentation. The best presentation of the evening was the dessert. We ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé with macerated strawberries and chocolate sauce as well as the PB&J. It was the highlight of the meal in my opinion.

My advice–Get thee to the Driskill Grill and try the Terra Valentine! Or if you like Italian and French wines they had plenty on the menu. Overall, the experience was great and we will go back again!