I guess I'm glad I didn't name my blog "Austin Food Dilettante" as I will be leaving Austin and relocating to the DC Metro area very soon. Last year around the same time, I went through rounds of dinners to send my grad school pals off into the professional world. It's finally my turn now!
I shared a relaxing farewell meal at Fino with a dear friend whose courses I've had the pleasure of taking in undergrad and in grad school.
We wanted to check out tapas in Austin and found out that Fino had a nice tapas selection.
I enjoyed every dish, but nothing in particular stood out. I remember feeling this way when I tried Fino for the first time during Austin Restaurant Week spring 2010.
We started with a complimentary amuse bouche of beet gazpacho. This was funny because I've recently began a fruit and veggie smoothie breakfast regimen, and red beets are required in every kind of fruit and veggie combination. I felt a major liquid beet overload, but Fino shouldn't be faulted for my own high consumption of beets.
Beet Gazpacho with Coriander Seeds
The piquillo pepper tasted like a regular red bell pepper. Stuffing it with crab definitely made it an exciting treat.
Piquillo Pepper with Gulf Crab and Basil
The grilled pork pinchitos was a heavy and smoky contrast to the crisp and summery taste of the stuffed piquillo pepper.
Pork Pinchitos with sea salt
During my last semester of grad school, I discovered that I love hummus, all kinds of Mediterranean spreads, and pita bread. Fino offers quite a few different spreads that are served with grilled pita. The walnut, red pepper, and pomegranate spread was awesome! I wish they would sell their spreads in tubs at grocery stores!
Walnut, red pepper, and pomegranate spread with grilled pita
The grilled octopus was cooked just right. It was chewy but not rubbery. Pairing it with fennel and grapefruit salad lightened up the smokiness and meatiness of the seafood.
Grilled octopus with fennel, grapefruit, parsley vinaigrette, and pimenton
The garlicky Gulf prawns were super flavorful. It was my favorite tapas dish of the evening. You can tell that the prawns are really fresh by the snap from each bite.
Gulf Prawns Ajillo with olive oil, lemon, and garlic
The salmon crudo was a bit dull, perhaps because I felt like the flavors in this dish seemed like a variation of the other dishes. The piquillo peppers, coriander, and orange were present throughout the course of the meal.
Salmon Crudo with piquillo peppers, orange, yogurt, and coriander
The highlight of the mussels is the fragrant broth. Because I didn't have French bread to scoop up the broth, I dipped my fries in it to get as much of the broth as possible.
PEI Mussels with harissa, fries and lemon aioli
I couldn't wait to get to the desserts because I wanted to try the olive oil ice cream that came with the donuts and the pistachio-polenta crust of the Meyer lemon tart. The subtlety of the olive oil got lost in the sherry and golden raisins. It was delicious nonetheless. The pistachio-polenta crust was definitely different in that it was really loose and nutty. The sandy texture worked nicely with the creamy, eggy filling.
Cinnamon Sugar Donuts with olive oil ice cream, sherry, and golden raisins
Meyer Lemon Tart with pistachio-polenta crust, blueberry compote, and lemon sorbet
Even though we had fun tasting the different tapas offerings at Fino, we were too focused on conversing about the past, present, and future to give the food the attention it deserves for a food blog post.
I'm going to miss our long talks Prof. H.!