Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Festival of Fennel at Sagra

1610 San Antonio St Austin, TX 78701
(512) 535-5988

A couple of Sundays ago, my friend Rachel and I decided to go on a girly date for dinner! Whilst trying to find a cozy place to catch up on our busy semester, I came across a local event coming up at Sagra (keeping tabs on food and art events happening in Austin is a much enjoyed pastime of mine). To my surprise, although it makes perfect sense, Sagra hosts a food festival twice a year where they offer a free dinner, fixed menu of course, to celebrate some produce of the season.

An excerpt form Wikipedia reads:

"A sagra is often dedicated to some specific local food, and the name of the sagra includes that food; the array of gastronomic specialties covered across Italy is amazing: for example, we find a Sagra della Rana (frog) at Casteldilago near Arrone, a Sagra della Cipolla (onion) at Cannara, a Sagra della Melanzana ripiena (stuffed eggplant) at Savona, a Sagra della Polenta at Perticara di Novafeltria, and so on. Among the most common sagre are those celebrating olive oil, wine, pasta and pastry of various kinds, chestnuts, and cheese."

I found out just in time to take Rachel to Sagra's Fennel Festival. Naturally, the reservations had filled up days in advance, but thankfully Sagra kept their back patio open to first come, first serve. We came about 30 minutes early and secured ourselves a lovely table out back on the covered patio, sheltered from the rain.

Dinner circa 4pm after a glass of wine at the bar...

Mixed green salad
fennel pollen, orange and fennel

Fennel Gratinati
layers of fennel and potato baked with cheese

mussels, shrimp, squid, clams and fish in a “little broth” of fennel, saffron and tomatoes
grilled sourdough bread

Apple Fennel Crostata (not included in the free dinner)

The entire meal was light, colorful, and pleasant. Sagra did not have a vegetarian option for the main dish, but I was able to enjoy the other 3 fennel-filled plates. The salad's citrus dressing complemented the fennel well, and the dessert, not overly sweet, had neat layers of apple and fennel a nice variation on the traditional apple pie. The white cheddar, potato, and fennel made a perfect combination...both were sliced thin and cooked till tender. Rachel especially like the golden crust of hardened cheese on top. Tasty, but I preferred the cream sauce within. Rachel did not care too much for the brodetto, though it smelled delicious and looked appetizing. However, she appeared to be frightened of shellfish in general and mostly used the broth as a dipping sauce for her bread. :)

If you'd like to send yourself on a similar fennel adventure, you can check out these tips from my bff Martha on selecting, preparing, and storing fennel: CLICK HERE
I was excited read some nutritional information on fennel. Fennel has very low glycemic index, which I try to be conscious of when preparing dinner for my mother.

I have since been back for brunch with some other friends and enjoyed Sagra again. We split the Polenta bowl, Rustic French Toast, and Steak Hash. I love ordering family style especially for brunch since I'm always missing Papa's Sunday breakfast when away from home. Andrew and I cherished the polenta bowl and eggs. Karina didn't touch it. She finds the texture of soft polenta unpleasant. I love polenta in all forms, but I think Andrew's spicy cheddar cheese broccoli and grits over poached eggs could rival it!! I feel like so many people settle for terribly ordinary and quite frankly soggy French toast, but I would definitely go back for Sagra's rendition, crisp and sweet!

I can't find any brunch pictures so I'll leave you with the menu. Pictures could very well turn up on my SLR which is currently accompanying my sister to her pedicure. On a brighter note, excitement for Thanksgiving has reached its height. Preparation starts tonight with some gnudi dumpling dough. Stay tuned!


Rachel said...

:) perfect date

traveler's pen said...

Any dinner with you, my dear!