I’m cutting to the chase. Next time you are thinking about where to go for an elaborate brunch, think of me. Actually, think of this post. On Saturday, I was privileged to fine dine at Urban, the modern American bar and grill at the new Westin hotel at The Domain. This is an example of somewhere that wouldn’t typically be a destination on my typical weekend map, and thus the reason why I am excited to share my experience with you. (Bloggerista tangent– I try to share less obvious ideas with you in hopes that your paths may shift or extend in new directions).
I was invited to take part in a pre-tasting of Urban’s new weekend Brunch of Soul that happens on Sundays from 11 AM- 3 PM. I jumped at the opportunity (thank you, Alicia, for the invitation!). First, I must point out that the moment I walked into the Westin, I was drawn to the modern, geometrical, and locally-influenced interior design. The bar sat below long, horizontal, wavy glass lights, resembling the horns of a longhorn, and the wall behind the bar was marked with a pattern of multi-sized local words (such as Texas, western, etc.) that seemed to be cut from glass. Earthy colors, clean lines, and open space created an urban-chic ambiance that made me feel like I was on vacation in my very own hometown (yes, I claim Austin as my home now)!
The five lucky brunch guests then entered a long, narrow room that looked like a library and housed one expansive rectangular table awaiting our arrival. Soon, the personal attention and excellent food and beverage service began. The menu has strong Southern and Southwestern influences, which I appreciated since it caters to the local culture. (Don’t be fooled since it’s housed in a national hotel chain!) Here are the highlights, as cooked with love and presented to us personally by Chef Page Pressler:
- Mimosas with a strawberry on the rim
- Shrimp and avocado salad served in martini glasses with cilantro vinaigrette and cumin (added an interesting Mediterranean hint)
- Homemade whole wheat mini (2 inches in diameter!) English muffin with smoked salmon, sauteed spinach, and a quail egg. If a dish can be adorable, this was it! And, I liked the flavor combinations, including the hearty english muffin, the freshness of the spinach, and the smokiness of the salmon.
- Migas baked in a cast iron skillet with eggs, fried tortillas, roasted pablanos, mild Spanish cheddar, and pico de gallo.(Delicious! Crunchy, flavorful, and hearty for a vegetarian dish).
- Roasted Corn Soufflé Pancake which tasted like a lighter version of really fresh corn bread, served with corn and mango salsa on top, with hot agave nectar alongside. (Delicious!) *Sidenote- After tasting this, and experiencing the Sweet Corn Sorbet dessert at Uchiko, I wondered if corn recipes are a current trend. I mentioned this to Chef Page, who noted that “corn is a classic American food staple, it has dimension, and is a great canvas”. I liked the thought of taking an earthy staple and transforming it into a delicacy.
- Beignets with lemon curd. We were served mini beignets, although often a larger one is served solo on the traditional menu (this was a special tasting that was served family-style). These were so fresh, with airy dough on the inside, a perfect crunchy outside dusted with powdered sugar, and combining it with the lemon curd was heavenly!
- Croissants with a chocolate hazelnut dipping sauce. It was refreshing to see the chefs appreciate a classic and master it. The mini croissants were light, fresh, and yes, I’ll say it, buttery, and the sauce was actually light, but drizzled on top, there was no way to go wrong.
- Serve it yourself Bloody Mary’s. If you order the 3-way (3 serving)beverage item on the menu, they’ll bring you every ingredient, complete with a small dish housing green olives and horseradish, to mix your own cocktails at the table to your liking with your brunch crew. So clever!
Overall, I was so thrilled with an exciting, yet simple, traditional, yet untraditional, reliable, yet edgy, classic, yet modern menu and brunch experience. Besides the creative serve-it-yourself beverages you can order for the table that also include Bellinis, Mimosas, and Margaritas, I was really impressed with the concept of a small-bites brunch. Think tapas-style brunch! Brilliant! There is a section on the menu for $2 items, including the mini English muffin smoked salmon and spinach sandwich, a tuna bites dish that looked delicious, but was not sampled, and smaller versions of several of the items I described above. How fun would it be to order several $2 bites, and share with your table while you mix your breakfast beverages to taste in good company?
Rebeccammended for: A food-loving brunch crew, a special family brunch, or a taste of local flavors to show off to out-of-towners. Served every Sunday from 11AM – 3 PM, accompanied by vibrant soulful tunes!