In the 65 year old Victory Grill, Austin’s newest entry in the charcuterie niche: Salt and Time, put on quite the display on a gorgeous June evening in East Austin.
I never send a plate of food back to the kitchen. Especially when its as delicious looking as the lovely mountain of pork I’m presented with by the earnest cooks from Salt and Time.
But something’s missing. Any serious eater knows that the charred and fatty bits of a roasted hog are where the action is. The melting fat covered with salted crispy hide can be a revelation of flavor when dealt by a cook with a serious pedigree.
So where’s my action? Yes, the plate is nicely presented with a pound or so of delicious looking pork from a locally raised Red Wattle hog, but the char is nowhere to be seen. I collar my waiter, who’s perhaps 13 years old. ” Can I get a plate of the charred, fatty bits?”. He smiles like he’s looking at a deranged person and walks away. I collar another lady who turns out to be the owner of Salt and Time, inquire again and my second plate is brought out.
It’s epic. A glorious pile of black, brown and white hog meat. I snap into a hunk of hide and all fears are assuaged. It’s wonderful. Hunkering down in a monastic silence, jaws working furiously, I mow into my food like a starving man. My table mates [2 beefy Basque hoss cats and a dainty Italian lass] are also furiously chewing on the feast. We occasionally glance at each other but no words are spoken for several minutes as we each lay waste to our plates.
While the main course of a big pile of hog meat clearly stars the shows we find ourselves fluffed thoroughly by an appetizer platter of grilled eggplant from Finca Pura, wherein a young eggplant is sawed in half, grilled, then topped with feta cheese from Dripping Spring’s Pure Luck Dairy.
The Salt and Time crew doesn’t stop there though. On the same platter they also throw down a starchy gauntlet of crostini with zucchini from Springdale Farm and a few roasted peppers. Perhaps the best non-flesh bite of the night comes on this platter in the form of a tiny, perfectly ripened grape tomato.
Yes, a Mexican love apple steals the show.
Pretty amazing considering we also have a few shavings of lomo [billed as lonzino] and chorizo, the Salt and Time part of the courses.
Good meats one and all.
The highest compliment a Southerner can accord a pastry effort is “this tastes like a Maida Heatter recipe”. This is the first thing I think when I bite into the lemon cake dessert course. Yes, it’s been fancified a bit with a peach compote but this really reminds me of the doyenne’s Deep South classic “Best Damn Lemon Bread”.
That’s the highest accolade I can give a dessert.
Post repast we retire to the back room where local band Soul Kitchen have decided to put on a soul clinic. A stroll through Westbound Records archive later we make our way into the Summer night. Bellies full, ears satisfied and just 7 days into our newest season.