Two cuisines tempted our palates recently, though in very different ways. At Jean-Francois Poujol’s new Le Midi, downtown, we sampled dishes from the Provenςal region of France, and popped the cork on an excellent Côte de Beaune Burgundy. My favorites were a country paté made in house and served with the requisite cornichons, a sleek consummé and perfectly roasted chicken.
While companions enjoyed their bacon-wrapped monkfish, good steaks and more, we also were anticipating a look at the Provenςal-accented lunch menu. We’ll have our chance this weekend, as the restaurant celebrates its grand opening from 6-9 p.m. Sunday. Le Midi is at 301 E. Houston St. The restaurant will begin serving lunches on Monday.
Things turned to the wild side on Friday. A wine dinner served at Westin’s Palmer Course Club House, way up north on Babcock Road at Camp Bullis, was purely Texas. We tasted wines from Jim Johnson’s Alamosa Wine Cellars, including three sturdy reds paired with executive chef John Armstrong’s entrées: The winery’s renowned tempranillo, El Guapo, Texacaia (a blend of syrah, sangiovese and tempranillo) and its Palette, a blend of Rhone varietals. Johnson’s winery has distinguished itself as the only winery in Texas “dedicated exclusively to warm climate varietals.” (www.alamosawinecellars)
Axis chops, robust and well seasoned, came out stacked on large platters for passing. Buffalo brisket was dished atop a very spicy jalapeño crouton, and baked whitefish came topped with creamy kernels of corn drizzled over freshly popped popcorn. Popcorn? Yes, and it worked. The creamed corn enhanced the slightly different taste of its cousin, popcorn. The texture of this game-snack food held up surprisingly well as a different and enjoyable garnish.
In addition to the food, wine, and company, we also applaud the different way that the dinner, hosted by Westin La Cantera’s sommelier, Steven Krueger, was served. All of the wines were poured at the place settings, and food delivered on dishes, family style. These stayed on the table. This made it easy to mix and match — try one dish with all three wines instead of the usual way, “held hostage,” as one of my companions described it, to one wine and one dish.
We hope this style of service, which seemed to go easier for servers and diners alike, will catch on at some of our other venues.