NO VA Kitchen + Bar, the white modern home-turned-restaurant on Rainey Street, could not have hosted a more beautiful, celebratory evening in honor of the launch of Caramelized's URL and redesign launch. Surrounded by my closest friends, outstanding photographer Victoria Haas, foodies, and mentors, I was all smiles as we toasted with sangria and sampled the newest Spring menu items by Chef Brad Sorenson, who hit a home run with every single plate. The line-up was flawless.
The first bite of the night was a Hawaiian-style flatbread pizza with house cured ham and grilled pineapple. Roasted jalapeños slices added a bright pop of color and an offset to the sweetness of the fruit. I'd prefer the homemade spicy roasted tomato base on any flatbread in my future.
Pictured above, Chef Sorenson's ABC pizza naturally stood for "avocado, house bacon, and chicken confit." Naturally. The rich flavors melted in my mouth and, not to mention, looked great together on a plate.
The grilled watermelon salad took a twist on an old favorite, this time taking advantage of released natural sugars once watermelon hits the heat. Of course, goat cheese paired wonderfully and pistachios added a buttery crunch. I could eat this salad on a patio every single summer day.
Oh baby; these balls were a winner. The blend of beef and pork in Chef's albondigas mastered the rare description of "pleasantly unexpected." Never would I usually order such hefty-sounding hors d'oeurves, but these bite-sized bursts of flavor blew me away. Toasted almonds on top? Then turned into a cream? Unreal.
Most can't go wrong with mac 'n cheese, but placing "Mom's" in front of the generic American favorite put this bowl on a whole new sentimental level. The pasta is cut and shaped here in Austin. I felt the love behind that hand-stirred traditional cheddar sauce. Now, I'm even more of a sucker for this kind of comfort food.
I've heard from friends that this dish had the best roasted asparagus "ever." Aside from perfectly grilled asparagus, a caper aioli transforms a fried ball into a heavenly, crispy potato croquette.
As if I hadn't been wowed enough, I tried the vegan tamale gnocchi in disbelief. The thought behind this dish is ingenious. Chef Sorenson took half potato flour with half corn masa (the primary ingredient in tamales), created a fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth batch of gnocchi, toasted them in "a butt-ton of butter," and then tossed them in a tangy salsa verde with a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Unthinkable. Impeccable. I could go on and on.
And, last but not least, the dessert was delivered -- in a brown paper bag with an iconic stamped logo. Little packages always win my heart, and this one succeeded to do so, too. Plump blueberries filled tiny donuts holes, rolled in powdered sugar and dunked in a lavender frosting. When you order these, you'll receive them fried to order. I can still taste the messy, delicious frosting!
Cocktail-inspired party favors by AustiNuts and Bad Dog Bar Craft were crowd favorites on the way out. AustiNuts created a unique mix that reflects the NO VA menu -- Chef Sorenson contended that he has, indeed, used every single type of nut in his dishes since the restaurant's opening. Furthermore, cocktail enthusiast and Bad Dog Owner Lara Nixon assured us that the newest Bloody Mary bitters would be a crowd pleaser, which they were...look out for a cocktail recipe with a few dashes of Lara's bitters in an upcoming post!