Thanks to Hank’s

by Sarah on July 18, 2011 · 11 comments

Last week, I was honored to be invited to a “Belgian brews and bites” tasting at a newly opened bar and restaurant in Downtown Austin: Hank’s Garage.Upon arrival, I was whisked through the open dining area……and passed the rather thinly populated bar. [I should probably mention it was a Tuesday. ;)]I was immediately welcomed into our private dining room with one of the bar’s signature cocktails: the Orange Blossom.Made from a blend of lemonade, orange and grapefruit juices, spiked with Tito’s vodka and a dash of beer for good measure, this drink was incredibly refreshing. [So good, in fact, that I wished I had a designated driver with me and good order another.]No need to worry–or maybe, reason TO worry?–as Mike, the best bartender I have ever met,* kept us tasting beers throughout the dinner.

*I know you have dibs on him, Jennie. It’s cool.They were all pretty good (a small pour is about all I can handle), but I did find myself loudly proclaiming “Oooh! I like this!” when served the Duchess Du Bourgonne. [It’s $12.00 a glass normally. Of course I WOULD like the expensive beer.]

But of course, let’s get down to the food.
When you think of Belgian food, do you think about frites?
You should.
Especially when they are fried in duck fat.

And consequently dipped into one of four delicious dipping sauces: smoked paprika mayo (my personal favorite), Sriracha mayo (the community favorite), French ranch (milder and lacking in the brashness of your common Ranch…would be delicious served with pizza I presume), and wasabi mayo (it is what it sounds like).

[This is called an “action shot.”]

Now, y’all know I’m not a huge fry fiend. I like a good French fry as much as the next girl* but I’m not a raving lunatic when they are set before me. All that being said, I know what a good fry taste like, and these frites are delicious. They are the perfect balance of crisp and soft and had a nice, delicately salted flavor.
*Fine…a lot less.
I especially enjoyed them when covered with Chicken Tikka Masala. Although I could have used a little more…ooomph?…in my masala, I did truly enjoy this dish. But yes, I mostly just ate the masala and veered away from the fries. [I would like to note that the chef smartly under-salted the masala to be paired with the salty fries, which, as I didn’t eat them together, might be the cause of my slight need for more seasoning.]Mike, our faithful bartender, warned us to pace ourselves. He was a wise man indeed, as you shall see. Next up? Fried calamari!As you have either gathered from reading my blog, or in my comments regarding the frites above, I’m not a huge fried food afficianado. I prefer my calamari cooked any other way (and especially in paella)…but after one bite of this, I might have become a believer. Very lightly breaded and clearly quick-fried, the Calamari were actually quite airy…and the heavy hand on the pepper mill was a spicy surprise! [I did, in fact, pick out all the extra peppery ones.]
Next up? A Lobster Club, featuring a fresh tomato and a lobster salad made with the smoked paprika mayo, served on buttery brioche. The pairing of the brioche with the meaty, buttery lobster was delicious, but I did eat the salad and leave most of the bread behind.

To quote Mike the bartender: “[I] know what bread tastes like.” [AMEN!]

Since I keep talking about Mike the bartender, I should probably note that the owner and executive chef, Jeffrey, was there too. [See above] OK, back to the food.Moules! Mussels! Whatever you call them, this was my favorite part of the meal, without a doubt. I just wanted twelve more servings of these. Perfectly seasoned tomato broth to spoon out at the end, tasty mussels just eager to get out of their shells and into my mouth…[sigh]And from the sea….to the shore. [Well, OK, probably a lot farther inland than the shore, per se. But please, go with my alliteration.]Beef Carbonnade, a thick stew traditionally made with beef simmered with onions and Belgian ale. In keeping with tradition, Hank’s Garage also makes their Beef Carbonnade with onions and ale.*
*The ale they use is St. Bernardus 12, a trapist beer, which I learned is a beer brewed at a monastary and sold, with money being given back to the monks. It’s like buying local and feeling really good about giving money directly back to the farmer. But in this case…it’s monks.Did I mention there were mashed potatoes? [You’re welcome, Lindsay, I was happy to share.]And then–of course–dessert! There was a tasty flan that did not photograph well, but tasted lovely. [To be honest, I almost picked up the plate and licked up the caramel sauce, leaving the custard behind.]
The chocolate mousse, though? Oh, the Chocolate Cointreau Mousse…how delicious you were! I do not know what more to say than that the exultation in such a perfectly sized treat of thick chocolate goodness paired with the raspberry framboise was a treat.

And that after that meal, I was actually happy to have quite a walk to get back to my car.And also happy that I was given a patch. So that I can make a mechanic’s shirt and wear it around. Then I can fulfill the sports commercials of my childhood and literally, “Be like Mike.”

A cheer for….beer?
[Although I’d settle for some more of those mussels…]


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