With the next Paris reconnaissance trip a long few months away - in April 2014 - and with budget constraints limiting shipments of Poilâne bread straight to me, I anxiously sought out the sur place resulting from the in-house bread program overseen by Mark at Odd Duck. Ever since the Outstanding in the Field event with Bryce Gilmore at the helm and Mark at the bread oven, I've been anxiously awaiting Odd Duck's opening for a ready source of crusty, exquisitely textured homemade bread.
Dinner there last night on December 30 - at the embarrassingly early time of 17h30 - met this longfelt need. As I had dreamed it, bread was on the menu. For $5, and I did not mind that at all--though a Poilâne miche -- 4 times the size of these sweet little loaves of carbohydrates -- is 9.05 euros last I checked (just now), which is about $12.30, making Mark's bread fairly pricey compared to the humongous size of a Poilâne miche. No matter. Eating just the crust of this bread, with this butter, is a meal in itself. With red wine of course.
Do I mind paying $5 for this bread, served alongside a huge gloppy delicious mass of homemade butter? Non. Though at Arro I was highly offended by the idea of having to pay for bread, I am getting used to the idea now.
For Mark's bread, this bread made in those cozy warm bread ovens -- where we were seated last night, with views out through the glass out into the West, looking back over my left shoulder, as the sun was setting and the sky all orange and hot pink -- I will gladly pay $5.
On a scale of 1 to 10...the scorecard.
Vibe/Decor : 9.3
I arrived at 5 pm - so excited about feeling better, finally - and being out and about. I looked forward to having a glass of wine at the bar. This was not to be. No open seating there. This is a dommage because the combination of glass, rich wood tables, the burlap on those oversized light fixtures -- it all cries out for hanging out and chilling.
The cheery hostess helped mitigate my bitter disappointment at this: she promptly brought me a glass of wine. And she was not troubled, as she had a healthy attitude to constructive criticism, by my pointing out the typos on the Deux (spelled Duex) Anges Côtes (spelled with no "s" and no circonflexe) du Rhône Villages (spelled with no circonflexe) on the wine menu.
Love the iconic 1950s dishware that reminds of CorningWare.
Business Model - 9.8
I love the reservations scheme. It's my French alter ego thing. Reservations are de rigueur, mostly, in France, as I hope I am getting across -- see the articles on this -- to anyone thinking about going to France. Though just as this is changing in the US (Austin, i.e., Odd Duck), France (Paris) is changing on this front as well. I'd give it a 10, but for wanting to hang at the bar and that not being available. Even at 5pm.
Food - 9.6
- Field pea fritters, almond, cumin
- Kohlrabi soup, bacon, romaine, cheddar
- Goat rolled in pasta, mole sauce, butternut squash, mesquite
The Field Pea Fritters.
Folks are raving about the chicken fried egg; I couldn't go for it. That goat though. A pleasure. Austin's French friends, in our sister city of Angers, already won over by Barley Swine in their past visits, will no doubt love this place as well.
- Chocolate pudding, verjus, malted barley
I wanted that carrot panna cotta so badly, but with France nostalgia setting in, I went for the chocolate pudding. It did include in its ingredient list "verjus" after all, one of my super fav restaurants in Paris (Verjus), a restaurant whose food is quite reminiscent of what Bryce Gilmore is doing. See such national reviews of Verjus as this one in Saveur last year. This choice was nothing special for me. Just chocolate. A shell, some foam. I didn't get it. But with expectations so high for all things coming out of the kitchen here, a single miss is not a horrible thing.
South Lamar used to seem way so very far away. Mild crankiness set in anytime I had to venture south of Town Lake. But with South Lamar bubbling over with gastronomic goodies these days, and Austin growing by leaps and bounds, south of Town Lake no longer seems like a trek.
And reserving a bar seat at Odd Duck for a casual solo session of crusty bread and Côtes du Rhône may well become a new much-loved routine for me in 2014.