Wednesday night I was offered a chance to attend a happy hour/mixer/”event-involving-free food-and-therefore-I-don’t-care-what-it’s-called-as-long-as-I-can-be-there” at Haddington’s, “an American tavern with rustic cusine” on West 6th Street here in Austin.
So I put on my red toggle coat, Wellie’s, and blue hat, packed my camera and a jar of Sunshine Citrus Marmalade in my briefcase, and headed downtown.
My toggle coat is green.
*Actually, if the answer to that last question is “no,” then I’m sorry for you. Please attend my upcoming classes at Book People entitled Childhood Literature 101: What Your Parents Forgot to Read To You.Haddington’s ‘mascot’ is, sadly, not a wobbly teddy bear in Wellingtons, but rather a cute little bird with a serious pompadour. This somehow seems appropriate, although I’m not sure why. Although I’ve never been to England……the whole place just gives me the feeling like I’m in a British pub (rather than the American tavern they proclaim to be)……and that little bird for whatever reason evokes strong connotations to pigeons in the park playing with Mary Poppins.* It’s a jolly holiday….at Haddington’s? *This might sound like a bad thing…but if you know me, you know that the more a place evokes within me nostalgia for classic films, the better. And if those films also involve singing and cartoon penguins? Well now…we have a winner.I was kind of in love with the whole ambiance of the place, in fact, with it’s private little rooms and lounges concealed behind curtains, and a ‘window’ cut into the wall giving a view in to the kitchen.There was also an eight-top round table that was so tall it required stools, and that made me bizarrely happy. So much so that I made the hostess escorting me to the party stop for a second so that I could try to take a picture. Sadly, there were people actually sitting at the table and it can be somewhat awkward taking photographs of people you’ve never met in a public place and not a studio.
We were in the back room, with it’s full bar, cozy booths, wooden tables, and access to patio seating.
The sampler menu included a variety of cheeses (which I somehow missed), pickled vegetables (which I was obsessed with…I mean, really, of all things to be consumed, I was fixated on the pickled green beans? Who am I?)……and two specialty cocktails—a Duck Fat Sazerac, which I had to try because it was made with duck fat-infused whiskey, and how can you pass up a chance to try that?–and a Moscow Mule (vodka in the housemade ginger beer…pretty much the best mixed drink I’ve had in a long time—I haven’t had ginger beer that good since I was in Jamaica five years ago)……which I switched to after the other drink was way too strong for my weak-when-it-comes-to-liquor palate.
I managed to station myself at the door where all the passed trays were being brought out, and would attack the waitresses immediately upon their entrance into the room, wielding my book light and my camera and attempting to prevent them from moving any further until I could take a picture. I had mixed results, as you shall see.
The first items we were invited to try were a sampling of crostini, including this Rabbit Rillette with Whiskey Cherries……that I found delicious. The pairing of the cherry and the rabbit was yum-tastic, and although some said the rillette was a little too mayonnaise-tasting, I found it a perfect little bite.Hey Smarties, did you know that a rillette is a meat-based spread prepared similar to a pate, in which meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily, and cooked until it can be shredded and cooled in fat–yes, fat–and then (often) served as a paste at room temperature on bread or toast. It’s all very Top Chef, really.
While I loved the rillette, I was not as big of a fan of the Duck Liver Mousse, which was much more of a traditional-tasting pate.However the rum-soaked golden raisins it was served with were potentially my favorite thing I ate all evening.Seriously, I actually reached over and grabbed a pile of them that had fallen off onto the tray and ate them with my fingers they were so good. [As you’ll see, Haddington’s really shines in their foodie accoutrements, with a lockdown on the compotes, sauces, and relishes.] The Duck Liver Mousse crostini joined forces with what was generally declared the “favorite bite of the night”……the TLT: Smoked Tomato, Brun-Ostoo Cheese, Lettuce, and Truffle Aioli.Offered as a full-blown sandwich on the regular menu, the TLT was fantastic, but–as was the recurring theme with my desire to need more of the sauces and compotes–it was the smoked tomato paste-like substance that I loved the most.(I did also manage to get some of that truffle aioli on my forehead. We’re not sure why. I thank the waitress who pointed it out to me before I talked to too many people like that.)
Following the crostini, we were offered a trio of “snacks” that included the pickled veggies I mentioned above (those were just set out on the bar), as well as Scotch Eggs–pickled quail eggs in sausage–where again, the sauce was the star. It was some sort of raspberry ketchup that had a little kick from some sort of pepper—chipotle, maybe?
That raspberry sauce ended up being utilized (by me, at least) in topping the other passed protein-rich snack: a Foie Sausage with Pear Relish.While the foie sausage was undeniably my favorite meaty bite of the evening…
…I also wanted to take way more than my share of the pear relish. [I do, perhaps shockingly, have enough class not to just take the whole little cauldron-like vessel and eat out of it with my spoon.]As I mentioned above, once I’d accidentally eaten the relish off of the sausage without actually eating any sausage…I dipped the rest into the raspberry sauce upon which had sat the scotch eggs. Yum. Sausage + raspberry = new thoughts for cookin’ in The Smart Kitchen?The final taste of the night was the featured entree sampling: Grilled Strip Steak with Foie Duxelle and a side of asparagus. Again, the steak was cooked perfectly, but the real star was the duxelles.* WOW was that some scrumptious sauciness…if I could have turned that into a ‘shroom stew and eaten it out of a bowl, I would have…gladly.
The best thing about Haddington’s?