Chef Patrick Russell at Max’s Wine Dive is really cool. The dude is crazy passionate about his food and daring in his creativity. The staff exudes his same excitement, giving the place a nice electricity to its atmosphere and menu. Because the chef is unleashing his new fall menu, he invited some of us from the media for a preview dinner, and—I’ve got to say— some of the items are pretty awesome. Here’s an overview of what’s coming at you this fall.
Frisee & Pear Salad: served with vanilla poached pears, blue cheese, and candied barbeque Texas pecans. The dish is a tangy, sweet mix that shines. The pears were firm little juicy bits that exemplified the chef’s creativity and went well with the refreshing frisee. With the additional crunch of the candied pecans, the dish was light and delicious.
Chicken Fried Brussels Sprouts: You can get the original served with lemon confit, port-glazed onions and ham vinegar, or the new addition served with romesco sauce and Parmesan. They were well-fried, crunchy little poppers, and the richness of the sprouts came off well against the fried batter. The ham vinegar was somewhat underwhelming, and required a major dipping to get its flavor going. Including the lemon in the bite really creates a nice contrast with the sprouts, though. The romesco sauce was made with almonds, tomatoes and sweet red peppers. There was a mild lingering spice and a nice, thick texture to it.
Never-Smoked Smoked Salmon: salmon confit in Benton’s bacon fat with beets, Caprino’s feta, and candied walnuts. The perfectly cooked salmon had a terrific smoky flavor. When combined with the beets, feta and walnuts, the collective flavors and textures really sang. The beets were cooked down to a wonderful consistency and everything created a display that outweighed the individual components. It wasn’t the most attractive dish, but the salmon was fantastic.
Pumpkin & Squash Mezzaluna: folded raviolis with sautéed pumpkin, pepitas, and ham in sage butter sauce. The dish was mild, sensual and perfect for fall. The crunchy, but subtle ham didn’t overwhelm the dish, and the squash stood out nicely in the firmly textured ravioli. It’s a sumptuous and soothing fall dish that I wanted to not leave my mouth.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Eggrolls: veal sweetbreads and peanut butter stuffed eggrolls, served with local grape jelly, sweet and sour sauce, and Korean-style hot sauce. While it sounded somewhat terrifying in concept, this was one of my favorite dishes. The chef’s boldness found a happy home in these crunchy rolls with so many varying degrees of richness, spice, and sweet jelly. The sweetness and gooey texture of the grape jelly balanced out the savory sweetbreads and creamy peanut butter, and so much of it felt exquisitely wrong. It was a messy dish, and best if you only eat one. These bad boys are rich.
Diver Scallops & Texas Caviar: seared diver scallops with hull peas, tomato syrup, jalapenos and pickled red onions. While the scallops didn’t have as much sear as I would have liked, they were tender enough. The Texas Caviar really carried the dish with the savory tomato syrup, crispy red onions, and peas. It was another warming dish that felt right for fall.
Beef Short Ribs: served with roasted baby carrots and garlic mashed potatoes. This is the classic cold weather, man meal. While I’m sure the carrots and mashed potatoes were great, it was hard to notice beneath the perfectly cooked short ribs. The meat pulled apart with beautiful tenderness and the seasoning held the richness of the beef with tremendous regard. It wasn’t too salty, but definitely worked best alongside a nice Cabernet, as the delightful Kevin Usher provided.
I don’t have much else to say because I feel fat. I blame you.