Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring 2010 Austin Restaurant Week: Bess Bistro for Lunch

Graduate studies have certainly taken a toll on my social life.  And for some reason, the fewer classes I take, the heavier workload I get in return.  Sara and I are both studying at UT-Austin, but we only managed to wean ourselves away from our work and studies for lunch and catch up with one another after four months of not seeing each the same city...on the same campus.  Yeah, I'm a lousy friend.

Bess Bistro

We chose Bess Bistro for lunch because, well, it's Austin Restaurant Week!  We want to take advantage of food that we can not otherwise afford! Bess Bistro is an American Southern and French-inspired establishment opened by Sandra Bullock.  We were stoked to lunch on a $15 prix-fixe lunch at a restaurant owned by a likeable Oscar-nominee! 

I was hungry from a morning of writing a paper on assessing presidential tools for effective policymaking and dug right into the basket of bread and butter.  Although I admired my friend's amazing restraint and reason (the lunch promises more bread to come in the form of croutons and sandwiches), but I enjoyed the comfort of delicious carbs though I was caught off-guard by the extremely sweet butter.  This foreshadows the extreme flavors that were to come in Sara's dishes.

Bread with surprisingly sweet butter

I wanted to order the spinach salad with warm ranch dressing and fried egg for my first course, but I decided to pick the herb salad with strawberries and toasted walnuts so we can try different dishes.  I immediately regretted my pick when I saw the egg on top of Sara's salad.  My salad on the other hand was light, crisp, and a perfect starter to build appetite.  But screw my healthier salad!  I was completely envious when Sara exclaimed the intense garlickyness of her croutons.  I tried one, and it was like a firecracker in my mouth.  It was a total Emeril "BAM!" moment.

Organic Baby Spinach with smoked bacon, oven roasted tomatoes, over easy egg, and parmesan brioche croutons

Organic Spring Mix with herbs, toasted walnuts, parmesan, strawberry, and raspberry basil vinaigrette

Next came my friend's panini and my croque monsieur.  Again, Sara's dish had an overdose of flavors and ingredients-super strong basil pesto and copious amounts of mozzarella cheese.  My croque monsieur was well-balanced but is a rich dish to start with.  The bread was generously buttered and perfectly crusty to withstand the heavy bechamel.

Panini with roasted bell peppers, mozzarella, and basil pesto

Croque Monsieur-rye toast with shaved ham, mustard, bechamel, and gruyere cheese

By the time we got to dessert, we were the only people left in the restaurant and they ran out of the trio of bite-size cupcakes we had ordered.  Our waitress was very thoughtful and detected that we did not want sorbet for dessert.  She offered us desserts from the regular menu.  When she mentioned rosemary goat cheese cake, I immediately took to it.  I can't help getting excited over unique dishes!  I was pleasantly surprised at the lightness of the cheesecake.  After all the strong flavors of our previous two courses, dessert was decadent, but not overwhelmingly so. 

Lemon Tart

Rosemary Goat Cheese Cake

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