One of the best things about Austin is its dynamic and sprawling food scene. Many recognize Austin as the live music capital of the world, but when it comes right down to it, the food is what really keeps people coming back! If you’re planning a trip to Austin, there are dozens of boutique hotels and B&B’s to explore that offer way more than the typical eggs and bacon continental breakfast. One such place is the gorgeous Westin hotel at the Domain in north Austin. Not only do they offer five-star amenities in a swanky setting, they’ve also got a new Executive Chef at their on-site restaurant Urban: An American Grill. And this chef is dishing out some seriously fresh and inventive fare!
With 10 years of experience working in Austin’s cuisine scene at popular spots like Corner Bar, Chef Howard Porter is passionate about his edible creations and is revolutionizing the way we consume fresh fruits and veggies with his vegetable-forward masterpieces.
Fresh coastal fish and locally grown produce are what inspire chef Howard to make something outside the box and unlike anything else in the city. Instead of relying on salt and pepper to season his dishes, Chef Howard infuses each dish with the savory and zesty flavors of green olives and pickled cantaloupe and red onions to create a perfectly balanced palate that plays on the tongue.
On Urban’s menu you’ll find craft beers, wines, expertly mixed craft cocktails and everything from crispy gulf oysters and Italian sausage meatballs to craft pizzas, venison meatloaf and seared salmon. This particular evening began with a tasty house-specialty cocktail called The Urban Legend. This deliciously dangerous craft cocktail is made with pineapples that have been infused with clementine vodka and fermented to potent perfection for 15 days. Garnished with a sweet orange wedge, this cocktail is light, sweet and fruity with a marvelously fizzy finish. But don’t let the buzz sneak up on you!
For dinner, Chef Howard took the reins and prepared an exquisite four-course meal that featured fresh produce from the local farmers at Super Foods. Flawlessly executed from start to finish, each vegetable-focused dish shows Chef Howard’s passion for produce. The first course was a delicate asian-inspired plate of fresh diver scallops accented with avocado, sesame seeds, sesame oil, ginger, soy and Banyuls vinegar. The surprise twist to the dish were the small cubes of pickled cantaloupe sprinkled with chile flakes and oregano that makes for a sublimely sweet and tangy finish. As the aperitif started to kick in, the second course made its way to the table in the form of crispy charred brussel sprouts mixed with farm-fresh Andouille sausage. Served in a piping hot mini skillet, this sweet and savory appetizer is flavored with local honey, shallots and banyuls vinegar. While the andouille sausage adds a sublimely sweet and spicy after-taste, the flaky charred edges and soft warm hearts of the otherwise underrated brussel sprout are the star of this dish! Then it was onto the main course: a melt-in-your-mouth local hangar steak served on a bed of tangy quinoa.
Served medium rare, the tender hangar steak was immaculately paired with green olives, fresh dill, pickled red onions, asparagus and Kitchen Pride mushrooms. A far cry from the average steak-and-potatoes, this entree proves that a few well-placed fresh vegetables and herbs can turn a dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Chef Howard recommended a rich and bold California petit sirah to complement the steak and it did just that.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, you’ll love Chef Howard’s playful take on childhood classics like the chocolate peanut butter pudding topped with fluffy banana cream. Garnished with vanilla wafers and finished with a sprinkling of crushed nutter butter cookies, this small sweet splurge is hard to pass up! When it comes to serving good food, the talented cuisine curators at Urban aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel. But what they do offer is an elevated take on all our classic favorites that changes the way we think about American cuisine.
Chef Howard is constantly trying new techniques and flavors to create unique menus for every season. This May, guests can look forward to a light, vegetable forward menu with lots of fresh coastal fish like snapper and, of course, plenty of flavorful greens from Super Foods. Book a reservation and see what Chef Howard and his team are bringing to the table at Urban this summer!