Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recent Eats

Finding a good neighborhood restaurant, the kind that can be a go-to place, when you live in Midtown is a tougher task than it seems like it should be. Artisanal is in a perfect location, not too far away, but I've always found that it's just a little too expensive and is often hit or miss. It's most suitable for a cheese and wine occasion. And if you like cheesecake, they make a darn good one.

Vegetable quiche with wild mushroom, spinach, taleggio cheese and a side salad. It's a large portion and because it's so rich, half of it was enough to fill me for lunch. There are lots of mushrooms in it so you don't feel like you're just eating eggs and cheese.

Artisanal cheesecake with pecan praline and caramel sauce. This is the only place where I've eaten cheesecake and not forgotten about it. It's light and not too heavy or sweet; the nuts and caramel pump up the sweetness. The cheesecake also has a bed of crumbs for a crust that provide just the right texture contrast to the cake.


Hill Country, though a little farther away, is a great place to go for barbecue of the dry, Texas-style variety (you can add barbecue sauce and hot sauce at the table). It's casual and fun — when you arrive, you're given a card with all the food options and you walk up to the meat or sides counters to order. When you do, your card gets stamped and you pay at the end. The place is mostly self service, though there are servers to bring you drinks and clear your table. 

You order the meat by the pound and the sides a la carte, which always raises the question of "How much do I order?"  The people behind the meat counter have always been friendly and offered suggestions. On this visit I discovered that Hill Country has simplified ordering with some pre-set combos.

My dining companion and I shared a combo for one ($25) that included one-quarter pound of lean brisket, one pork rib and one beef rib (both ribs are large and meaty), a quarter of a chicken and two sides of our choice. We went with corn pudding, hearty and flavorful, and baked beans, slightly sweet and mixed with chunks of meat. We also sampled the sweet tea, which had a touch of peachiness to it.  If you come raveneously hungry, the combo is a good option for one, but there's also plenty for two people to share and it's a good way to try a little bit of everything.

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