Austin: Foreign & Domestic
When I announced I was going to Austin a few months ago, Foreign & Domestic immediately tweeted me to stop by. Well, actually, they told me to NOT go to Barley Swine which I had been researching and to go check them out instead. I was intrigued. They kept up with me and the day I arrived asked when I was going to F&D. Well, how could I not go? I took a bus from Downtown Austin and unfortunately the bus had been rerouted. I missed my stop and the bus driver had to officially “kick me off” so he could make an unannounced stop. I walked about a mile back to the restaurant.
It was still relatively early and I had a choice of seats at either at the bar surrounding the open kitchen or a table. I opted for a table. I wanted to relax a little. I got a beer cocktail, The Cyclist made with Session beer, preserved lemon and ginger beer.
Magically through the power of twitter, F&D knew I was in the house and sent out a couple of things including the cornbread with onion bacon butter. I’m always a fan of corn bread and loved that this was baked in a can. You ever have those moments when you exclaim, “oh my god, this is REAL butter?” And it’s a delicious moment that got even better with onions and bacon.
It’s always hard deciding what to get when dining alone. I was thinking about the pig brains when the dish with huckleberries appeared before me. I had just done pig uterus tacos back in LA about a week before so I’ve been on a porky pig parts quest. I was trying to think back to when I may have had pig brains in the past and other than in tacos, I don’t think I’ve had them just as a dish by themselves. Served with watermelon radish, the “chips” acted as a nice crunch to the smooth creaminess of the brains.
I was sitting next to a couple of women who were obviously food writers or editors. They were talking about the print magazine business in particular and took pictures of what seemed like the entire menu on their phones. On the other side were a group who interested me more. It was funny to hear them discuss the menu. Some were very enthusiastic about the offal and other “nasty bits” while some shrilly vetoed anything “weird.” This one person though was definitely not a good eater or diner for that matter. Within a few minutes, I watched her ask for water from every passing server including interrupting the server talking to me. Oh, the problems with dining alone. I am fairly certain she would have never interrupted if I was eating with someone else. If only she had given the people half a chance to do their job. She would have gotten her water!
I chose the squid and ribs special that night. I was thinking about the squid at Lukshon or the squid at Ray’s & Stark in LA but Foreign & Domestic’s squid was something special. Served on a thick ricotta block, the squid was crispy and garnished with herbs. Ooh, I love new preparations of squid. My nick name in some circles is Baby Squid so I enjoy a dish that’s not too tough.
I never did determine what sort of ribs these were. One server said it was goat. And another thought it was veal. The receipt said goat so I’m going to go with that. I knew Texas was known for dry BBQ but I was still surprised these weren’t served with any sauce. They were plenty flavorful on their own. Still, I couldn’t help but swipe at the chorizo and oil from the squid every now and then.
If I had more room, I would have attempted to get the Roasted Acorn Squash Curry which the two women next to me were raving about. The Semolina Dumplings with pork belly also caught my eye.
I headed out into the night and caught a cab back to Downtown. For people visiting for SXSW and other events, I do recommend driving to the restaurant if you can. While the bus was cheap at only $1 fare, Foreign & Domestic is a bit out of the way. Nearby is Tigress Pub which I hear is a superb bar. I saw they closed at 11 p.m. though. Later I talked to a bartender who lived in this area that there’s some sort of ordinance that made the business closes that early. I highly recommend getting to F&D early or stop in for brunch on the weekends. Also, Drink Well just opened so there’s plenty to eat and drink in the area.