Trace is the restaurant at the W hotel in downtown Austin, and they just celebrated their first year anniversary. One of the fabulous things about this restaurant is the care that’s taken in sourcing the ingredients used. Their mission is printed at the bottom of the menu, and it reads "Trace is committed to creating an enriching and thoughtful culinary experience by fusing the vibrant, local personality of the Austin area with our dedication to socially responsible food. Our high-quality cuisine is prepared from local and sustainable ingredients or obtained through national partners with well-known sustainable practices." We shared a meal there this weekend so we could enjoy the current seasonal offerings on the menu and so we could test out the new bill splitting and payment service from Serve.
Before we even arrived, I knew I wanted to start with oysters and a glass of something bubbly. Since Gulf oysters aren’t currently available due to the red tide algae bloom, they were serving Sunberry Point oysters from Canada. They were a nice, small size, fresh and briny, and delicious with the mignonette.
Another one of my favorite things on their menu is the chickpea fries. It’s such a simple thing really, but every time I taste them, I have no idea how they get the texture just right. They’re thick sticks of chickpea batter that are just slightly crisped on the surface. Inside, they’re less dense than you’d expect, and with a little lemon squeezed over them, they become a completely addictive snack. They’re also served with a romesco sauce, and I alternate each bite between just lemon and then with some sauce. I think I could happily live on these alone for days. Also on the menu right now is a cauliflower soup made with smoked scallops and house-cured lomo. It’s a rich, smooth soup brightened with lemon and a garnish of chives.
The chestnut and toasted barley risotto was a surprisingly hearty dish. With rutabaga, sunchokes, and sweet potatoes, it was fresh-tasting and very filling. The ricotta salata added a nice saltiness to the fall vegetables and barley. It was exactly the right comfort food dish for this time of year.
A perfectly cooked strip steak from Niman Ranch was served with house-made steak sauce and a braised organic rainbow chard bread pudding. That bread pudding could easily put all other dressings and stuffings out of business. I’m wishing I could find out how they make it so it could become a part of all of my future holiday menus.
Of course, a couple of desserts were shared. The dark chocolate pot de creme is composed of Baileys ice cream, a fried chocolate truffle, roasted bananas, and toasted banana marshmallow that’s displayed on the rim of the bowl. The chocolate and banana combination was divine.
For me, no visit to Trace would be complete without the drunkin’ doughnuts. Perfect, pillowy, sugared doughnuts are served with vodka whipped cream, tequila chile fudge sauce, and bourbon dulce de leche. And, yes, I manage to get a little of all three toppings onto each bite of doughnut. Trust me when I tell you that the whipped cream is barely sweetened if at all, the fudge sauce is made with dark chocolate and is infused with chiles, and the booze in all the toppings works its magic to cut the sweetness. It’s a fun and delicious way to end a meal.
Later, we settled who owed what from the check by using the Serve mobile app. Creating the account online was extremely straightforward, and the mobile app was possibly even easier to use. It includes options for splitting a bill evenly between however many people are involved and for easily sending money to one or more recipients in any amount. You can add money to your Serve account, and you can link back-up sources such as bank accounts and credit cards. It occurred to me how convenient a cash-free existence would be. If you could simply use an app to send money to your babysitter or catsitter or the neighbor boy who mows your lawn, you'd never have to worry about having the right bills on hand. I like this as a hassle-free payment option.
As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a $250 stipend to try Serve from American Express. Sign up for Serve and receive $10 credit towards your first use. Comment below within the next seven days for your chance to win an extra $100 credit to your account! Official sweepstakes rules and regulations may be found here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/4622317-win-serve-dollars-giveaway-official-rules This contest is open only to US residents.