Foreign & Domestic: Bringing Comfort in North Austin

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No longer does Foreign & Domestic merely describe the two choices that you would have found in a basic 1980s beer bar. Ned Elliott and his wife Jodi, who met at the Culinary Institute of America, took the phrase to another level last May, when they opened their comforting, market-driven restaurant in a former Austin furniture store and skateboard shop. Better yet: the Elliotts delivered the best non-barbecue meal on my near-yearly trip to the Texas capital.

For intended diners, Foreign & Domestic offers an outdoor patio with bathtub planters and lime chairs.

Cocktail Austin
Since we had time to spare before our table popped free, we did what any reasonable people would do; we turned to the beer and wine menu. My choice was The Cyclist ($6) a tangy, refreshing beer cocktail combining Full Sail Session Lager from Oregon, preserved lemon and ginger beer.

Indoors, after less than a 20-minute wait, we passed stainless steel counter at the open kitchen and sat at a high-top wood banquette. The ledge above our table displayed jars of some preserved house-made ingredients, including pickled carrots, ramps and zucchini.

According to the attentive manager who handled our table, Ned Elliott worked at New York City restaurants like Essex House, the Café at Country (for mentor Doug Psaltsis) and Picholine and spent time as Executive Sous Chef for Special Events at Per Se. He and Jodi, an accomplished pastry chef, moved to Portland and ran Genoa, and once they had a daughter, moved to Austin to be closer to her San Antonio-based family. Portland’s loss is apparently Austin’s gain.

Bread Austin
To start, we received a complimentary bowl of gougeres made with Parmesan instead of traditional Gruyere, savory, and literally steaming.

They offered a three-course menu for $40, with $12 benefiting Doctors Without Borders. Done.

American Food Austin
Even with the tasting menu on the way, it was impossible to resist adding Beef heart tartare ($10). Nobody else was especially interested, but thanks to Peruvian restaurants like Anticucheria Danessi and chefs like Ricardo Zarate, I’ve developed a hunger for heart. Foreign & Domestic’s version was chopped and blended with herbs like tarragon, basil and parsley. It gathered some balancing acidity from capers and cornichons and picked up pop from the ring of garlic pistou and salt-cured egg cap. Brioche croutons added some much needed textural contrast.

American Food Austin
Chefs have already proven that beef isn’t the only protein that works well with pastrami curing, as evidenced by Michael Voltaggio’s experiments with pigeon and Eric Greenspan’s work with duck. Chef Elliott’s original take featured pastrami-cured big eye tuna with dressed with tomato syrup, garlic shavings caraway vin, crispy rye croutons, pickled onions and arugula. This was another example of a fairly rich protein finding balance with other elements.

American Food Austin
The clear-cut first choice when looking at the menu was pork pie, though it turned out a little differently than expected. Chef Elliott drew from the pig’s leg, shoulder, fatback, kidney and live to form a terrine featuring firm, creamy and gelatinous bits. He bracketed the meaty mélange with flaky, browned pastry that incorporated lard. Sweet-tart tamarind chutney joined a pepper-dusted hard-boiled egg, sinus clearing Dijon mustard and a side salad with peanuts, pickled onion and arugula. For a dish that looked relatively simple, there was a lot happening on the plate.

Dessert Austin
Jodi Elliott is the pastry chef, and the consensus favorite among her desserts was the chocolate cream pie with a whipped cream top, toffee sauce and salted caramel ice cream on cookie crumbs.

Dessert Austin
Coconut cake ($7) was another deceptively impactful sweet, featuring moist, buttery cake layered with pastry cream, served on a smear of tart lime curd. Jodi Elliott rounded out the plate with ripe strawberries, strawberry sorbet and coconut shavings.

Dessert Austin
The Bowl of Almond Tart ($7) featured a crisp shell filled with almond pastry cream that Jodi Elliott piled with whipped creme fraiche, tart lemon ice and bits of crisp honeycomb candy. The dessert had seemingly Taiwanese elements and tasted pretty good, but felt disjointed.

Foreign & Domestic certainly fits within the new Austin dining paradigm where restaurants are applying local, seasonal ingredients in interesting ways, but what the Elliotts are doing is more compelling than most.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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