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Un-Granola

Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Pig brains, beef heart, pork ribs. What’s a vegetarian like me doing in a joint like this?

Foreign & Domestic really captures the challenge of being a vegetarian foodie in Austin. I can either sample veggie options (which do exist) at Foreign & Domestic or eat the unvarying, earnest fare at Mother’s just down the street. (Will Austin ever see a sophisticated vegetarian restaurant?)

So F&D – with its piggy art and piggy heart – it is.

We split the Carmelized Onion Brioche with Peach Butter. The buttery bread really set off the sweetness of the onions and the butter. I loved seeing the trays of brioche set out in the counter of the open kitchen.

F&D’s setting is fine — simple, open, bustling. It’s no frills, appropriate to the North Loop location, and with the focus firmly on the food.

F&D had two vegetarian entrees on the night we visited, so we got both. My friend’s 3 Cheese Raviolo with poached egg, toasted garlic, spinach, and bread crumbs was gooey comfort food. The poached egg at the bottom oozed out over the pasta, making the dish like Eggs Florentine with pasta instead of bread – rich and delicious.

I had the toasted acorn squash curry with pink lentils, salted grapes, and coconut milk. It was a creative vegetarian entree with protein. The squash, grapes, coconut milk, and raisins made this dish a touch too sweet for me, though the turmeric added a bit of heat.

The yogurt sorbet with dried cherries and dill syrup we ordered for dessert was tart, creamy, sweet, and slightly medicinal. Unusual combination of flavors.

This place is great for adventurous eaters, and I love that they have a couple of dishes for vegetarians. A little note at the bottom of the menu made me smile: “Menu subject to change on a whim.” Love it.

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Fearing’s handsomely bound vegetarian menu leaves you spoiled for choice: three starters, four mains. (No prices on this menu, so let me tell you that the veggie entrees are a few dollars less than their $25 and up meaty counterparts.)

The menu changes with the seasons, and the fall starters were tortilla soup, corn and jack cheese street tacos, farm to Fielding’s salad, and a duo of tomato salad/fried green tomatoes. I picked the tortilla soup, which a friend had told me not to miss.

After an amuse bouche of compressed cucumber (with peppery micro-greens), I picked an entree. I could have had the vegetable kibbeh (a dish made with bulgur), fall spaghetti, or a Tex-Mex sampler. I picked the sampler.

The soup came, and, just like at Samar, it was poured tableside, with garnishes at the bottom of the bowl. The soup was divine: rich, salty, onion-flavored broth. The tortilla strips, cheese, and avocado provided contrast.

This dish makes me sad that so few places have vegetarian tortilla soup.

The sampler came next, a generous serving of food for this price point. No tiny portions of precious plating here. I had before me a spinach enchilada, butternut squash taquito, a slaw, fried avocado, and a smattering of tortilla chips. It was like a deluxe plate at your favorite Mexican plate, only gourmet.

The enchilada was good, and the fried avocado was delicious but too rich for more than a bite. The red onion and mango slaw added a welcome bit of brightness. My favorite — the one thing I had to finish — was the crispy and creamy butternut taquito.

Fearing’s is in the Ritz Carlton, so it’s all wood and marble swank, with a bustling open kitchen. There are also private dining spaces and an elegant outdoor space. Chef Fearing checked n me twice and stopped by all the tables near the open kitchen.

This is haute cuisine comfort food, a great spot for vegetarians with cash and taste.

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Pyramid, in the lobby of the elegant Fairmont, looks like a lot of other upscale hotel restaurants. Understated and elegant, appropriate for celebratory dinners AND business traveler breakfasts.

But Pyramid is really quite radical in offering food that is delicious but not too creamy, fatty, salty.

In addition to the regular menu (risotto as a veggie main, yawn), there is a Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu with selections for a wide variety of diets: heart healthy, diabetic, macrobiotic, gluten-free, vegan, and raw. If you’re planning an upscale dinner with people operating on various eating regimes, Pyramid is your spot.

The restaurant has a rooftop garden, and offers special health elixirs. (Wine is a good enough elixir for me.)

The waiter brought me butternut squash soup as an amuse bouche but whisked it away when he remembered that it was made with chicken stock. Most waiters wouldn’t have thought of that.

So many choices for appetizers. I had the lentil and shiitake mushroom soup because it’s fall. But it was hard to pick that over the avocado and vegetable soup or the cilantro, parsley, and quinoa salad.

The soup’s simple onion broth let the woodsiness of the mushrooms shine. And the Puy lentils were firm, not mushy. I’d have this dish once a week if I could.

Back to the menu for my main course, with these options: vegetarian lentil chili, raw pad thai, portobello and grilled veggie napoleon, and tofu curry with eggplant and garbanzo beans.

I had the last one, though it came with black eyed peas instead of garbanzo beans. The Indian-infused broth (heavy on the turmeric) led to waterlogged tofu with an odd spongy texture. But the broth with just the peas and vegetables was delicious. I’d suggest they skip the tofu, fry it (always the right answer), or add it on top.

For dessert I had the tofu chocolate mousse, because how often can you order a tofu-based dessert at a nice restaurant? It was light and not too sweet.

Pyramid should play up its health-focused offerings. (There are plenty of traditionally indulgent meaty and carby options on the menu, by the way.)

This is one of the best gourmet health-focused meals I’ve ever had.

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