Paul Qui’s Kuneho, newly open, launches weekday happy hour

Feast on discounted food and drink during happy hour at the new Kuneho, Paul Qui's latest project.
Contributed by Kuneho. Feast on discounted food and drink during happy hour at the new Kuneho, Paul Qui’s latest project.

After replacing Paul Qui’s eponymous restaurant on East Sixth Street in early January, Kuneho — also founded by the James Beard Award-winning chef — is launching the best two hours in our work day: “happy happy time.”

That’s what many other Qui projects (including East Side King and Thai-Kun at Rock Rose) call happy hour, and Kuneho’s looks like a good one. The restaurant, which serves sushi and globally inspired bites at 1600 E. Sixth St., will now have happy hour deals on both food and drink from 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Here’s the “happy happy time” menu:

Drinks

  • Asahi Super Dry, $3
  • Super Ape: Smith & Cross rum, Giffard Banane du Bresil Liqueur, lime and turbinado sugar, $8
  • Punch glass: daily concoction, $5
  • Carpe Diem: blanco tequila, London dry gin, rose, coconut water, lemon and grenadine, $20 (serves 2 to 4 people)

Food

  • Perfect Bites: morcilla a la dinuguan, $2; tuna larb tostada, $3; enoki mushroom and tamari, $2; crispy onion, $2; and salmon nigiri with marinated ikura, $2
  • Crudo: saba escabeche with East Coast mackerel, ponzu and tomato, $7; kinilawin with cobia, coconut vinegar, coconut milk, red onion, and cilantro, $8
  • Maki mono: Austin roll with fish cake, pickled salsify, avocado, sweet chili vinegar, $5; fried shrimp roll with green apple and dashi aioli, $6; Mama Mia with big eye tuna, cucumber, avocado, kuro tempura flakes, $6
  • Snacks: seasonal tempura vegetables and tensuyu, $3; root vegetable lumpia with daikon, cilantro and peanut sauce, $6; kimcheese with kimchi, velveeta and an egg roll, $4; and chicken karaage with fish caramel, $4.

Kuneho (which means “rabbit” in Qui’s native Tagalog) has a variety of other cocktails, sake and wine available beyond happy hour as well through the restaurant’s Borough Bar, such as the playful Rockin’ Bird with pisco, Fruity Pebbles, curacao, pistachio orange syrup, lemon, orange and an Aperol float.

For more information, visit kunehoatx.com.

Capital drinks: 7 bars to check out within a mile of the Texas Legislature

Thao Nguyen for American-Statesman. The tiny Small Victory bar is hard to find but worth it once you do.
Thao Nguyen for American-Statesman. The tiny Small Victory bar is a little hard to find but worth it once you do.

It’s been two years since the Capitol was filled with lawmakers and their staffs for the 84th legislative session, and downtown Austin has changed a lot in that time. Wondering where to get a drink nearby if you’re one of the legislators and staff or the lobbyists, civic-minded citizens and journalists who will be at the Capitol through the end of May for the 85th session? Here’s a guide to downtown bars that have opened within the past two years.

Ah Sing Den, 1100 E. Sixth St. ahsingden.com. Replacing the former East Side Showroom, this Asian-inspired bar opened last summer with flavors in both the food and drinks that draw from Asia, South America and beyond. Ah Sing Den was named after the owner of one of East London’s most infamous opium dens, but the only thing you’ll get addicted to here is the menu.

Eureka, 200 E. Sixth St. eurekarestaurantgroup.com. This burger bar is an import from California, but it’s nonetheless found a home in Austin just west of the popular Sixth Street drinking drag by focusing on two of our favorite things: craft beer and whiskey. The chain pleases local palates with boozy offerings from Texas breweries and distilleries.

Irene’s, 506 West Ave., irenesaustin.com. The ELM Restaurant Group’s easygoing newest concept is whatever you want it to be, whether that’s a restaurant with vintage pieces, a bar with a welcoming back patio or a grab-and-go breakfast spot. Irene’s specializes in comfort food, strong cocktails and an Instagram-friendly outdoor area.

The Roosevelt Room, 307 W. Fifth St. therooseveltroomatx.com. Step into this darkened den for a veritable history lesson with the knowledgeable bartenders as your educators. They can whip you up any one of the 53 classic cocktails on the menu that represent different eras in America’s boozy past — or one of their original drinks, too.

Sellers, 213 W. Fourth St. sellersaustin.com. The owner of Icenhauer’s on Rainey Street wanted something different for his second bar project and found it with this underground basement lounge in the Warehouse District. Sellers is styled with 1970s design touches and features cocktails named after defining films of that decade.

Small Victory, 108 E. Seventh St. smallvictory.bar. This tiny, dimly lit bar located on the second level of a parking garage keeps to the classics when it comes to cocktails, with menu items like the tropical Singapore Sling and an entire flowchart of choices available for you to craft your preferred martini, whether it’s extra dry or sans olives.

The Townsend, 718 Congress Ave. thetownsendaustin.com. Is there anything this classy joint doesn’t do well? With food worthy of making the Statesman’s top 25 dining guide, the Townsend also offers an intimate room with good acoustics for live music shows and cocktails crafted by one of Austin’s best bartenders, Justin Elliott, formerly of Qui.

For an extensive list of dining spots near the Texas Capitol, visit Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam’s roundup of these places.

Austin Eastciders rolls out limited-release rum barrel-aged cider

Austin Eastciders has made a rum barrel-aged cider available on draft at a little more than a dozen locations in Central Texas.
Austin Eastciders has made a rum barrel-aged cider available on draft at a little more than a dozen locations in Central Texas.

Austin’s largest cidery has made a name for itself with its easy-to-find canned cider, but Austin Eastciders likes to experiment with small-batch draft offerings, too — including with the recent release of a rum barrel-aged cider.

The new cider, available now at bars like B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, Haymaker and both locations of Pinthouse Pizza, was aged in Treaty Oak Distilling rum barrels for six months and has taken on a ruby hue and fun flavors as a result.

Though it’s still an apple-forward cider, you’ll notice it has “prominent notes of oak and vanilla and undertones of molasses,” as well as a mildly tart finish thanks to the barrel-aging, according to an announcement about the cider.

It’s not the first cider that Eastciders decided to age in barrels, or the first time that the cidery collaborated with a locally based spirits company to do it. Austin Eastciders also produced a tequila barrel-aged cider using spirit-soaked wood from Dulce Vida Tequila, whose corporate headquarters are located here, and a Cabernet wine barrel-aged cider as well.

Bourbon barrels are most commonly used in the barrel-aging process — because distillers making bourbon can only use the barrels once — but other boozy liquids can impart their own particular flavors in the resulting barrel-aged product, whether that’s beer, cider, another spirit or even wine.

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In this case, the Austin Eastciders fermentation team acquired barrels that had previously housed Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum, which matures in first-use oak barrels for a minimum of two years. As a result of the first-use run and duration of aging, rum’s sweet character (in particular, notes of dark chocolate and vanilla bean) is going to be present in the cider.

“Both fans of our cider and fans of Treaty Oak Rum will enjoy this release,” Dave Rule, vice president of marketing for Austin Eastciders, said in the announcement.

The aged cider might sound boozy, but it clocks in at a comfortable 6.9 percent ABV. Find it at Black Sheep Loudge, Eureka!, Central Market North, Loop and Lil’s Pizza in Lockhart, Porter Ale House, Red’s Porch, Violet Crown Cinema, Sean Patrick’s and Zelicks Icehouse in San Marcos, as well as the other bars listed above.

For more information about Austin Eastciders, which expanded to a much larger second production facility last year, visit austineastciders.com.

Event: Parkside Projects’ beverage series returns with boozy tastings

Taste different styles of sherry during the return of Parkside Projects' beverage series at Bullfight.
Taste different styles of sherry during the return of Parkside Projects’ beverage series, which starts up again at Bullfight.

The beverage series produced by Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s Parkside Project restaurants returns in February with six boozy installments throughout the year.

Started last year at the restaurateur’s various establishments — such as the Spanish-focused Bullfight and Italian-centric Olive & June — the series highlights a specific spirit from around the world, with each of the classes featuring a tasting, an educational component and small bites. Parkside Project’s beverage director and advanced sommelier Paul Ozbirn will lead each course.

“Each class is designed to offer an in-depth understanding of the complexities of each spirit, from its origins to subtleties in flavors,” Ozbirn said in a press release.

The first one launches on Feb. 6 at Bullfight, where attendees will learn about the Spanish fortified wine known as sherry and “the rich history of the region of Jerez,” where it’s produced. People will get to taste the range of sherry styles, from dry to sweet. Spots are limited with only 36 tickets at $32.50 per person, so don’t delay in reserving your seat.

Buy your tickets to the sherry class on ticketbud.

Another coming class will be at Olive & June on March 27 and features the “brandy-based Italian after-dinner drink, amari,” which you’ll get to sip on while “discussing its history, tradition and its exciting revival on the American cocktail scene,” according to the release. That one will also be $32.50, but tickets don’t go on sale until Feb. 28.

Future classes will focus on gin, rum and mezcal. For more information about the series or the restaurants where the classes are being held, visit parksideprojects.com.

Texas wineries dominate at prestigious California wine competition

Brennan Vineyards' 2015 Reserve Viognier won a best of class award at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Brennan Vineyards’ 2015 Reserve Viognier won a Best of Class award at the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

At the largest competition of American wines in the world, Texas wineries proved they can hold their own against some of the top wine producers in the country — taking home seven best-of-class awards for their wine and a total of 158 medals.

The only state that topped Texas’ unprecedented wins at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition was California. Texas taking second place overall, beating out lauded wine regions like Oregon, Washington and New York, is a well-earned victory for winemakers who have fought derisive perceptions of Texas wine since the 1970s.

“Texas wine may have reached a tipping point, in its development and national reputation, with the recently released results” of the wine competition, Pat Brennan, owner of Brennan Vineyards in the Hill Country, said.

One of his wines, Brennan Vineyards’ 2015 Reserve Viognier, won a Best of Class award, while two others, the 2015 Roussanne and the 2014 Tempranillo, got gold medals. (Best of Class tops gold as the highest honor to receive.) Brennan’s and other Texas wines were up against more than 7,000 wines from 28 states, all tasted blind by a panel of 60 wine experts. There were more than 100 categories for the wines to be entered into.

Brennan noted that California winemakers earned accolades in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for their chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines — two French varietals that the Pacific Coast state typically dominates at making.

Texas winemakers, however, have discovered their niche elsewhere: in more warm-weather varietals such as tempranillo from Spain, which has a climate similar to ours. These often lesser-known grapes, coupled with Texas terroir, are helping to cement Texas’ status as a wine region that can compete with the best. For winemakers like Brennan, that’s been a long time coming.

“Unfortunately, many Texans do not realize the some of the best wine in the United States is made right here in the Lone Star State,” he said. “We hope more and more people will ask for Texas wine at their favorite restaurants, visit Texas wineries and pick up a bottle at local retailers.”

Here are the seven Best of Class winners:

  • Brennan Vineyards 2015 Reserve Viognier
  • Haak Vineyards & Winery Tempranillo 2015
  • Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards Sweet Blush Colibri
  • Messina Hof Winery Merlot 2015
  • Perissos Vineyards & Winery Dolcetto 2015
  • Trilogy Cellars Malbec 2015
  • Wedding Oak Winery Sweet Alyssum 2015 (white blend)

Oregon’s Willamette Valley, top producer of pinot noir, showcases wine at Austin tasting

Photo by Serge Chapuis. Domaine Drouhin Oregon is one of the Willamette Valley wineries showcasing its wines at the Pinot in the City event on Jan. 26.
Photo by Serge Chapuis. Domaine Drouhin Oregon is one of the Willamette Valley wineries showcasing its wines at the Pinot in the City event on Jan. 26.

Texas isn’t the only state with a burgeoning wine region. In Oregon, the Willamette Valley makes arguably some of America’s best pinot noir — as well as other wines that have the world’s wine experts excited about the Pacific Northwest.

On Thursday, more than 60 of the Willamette Valley’s winemakers will be at Pinot in the City, a 6 p.m. tasting that will showcase their pinot noir, as well as other top grapes like pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot blanc. The winemakers, along with winery owners and other notable people in the industry, will pour their wines to introduce local oenophiles to a place that Wine Enthusiast recently named as the Wine Region of the Year.

About an hour south of Portland, the hilly region is relatively young, having gotten officially approved as an American Viticultural Area in 1983, but already, “Willamette Valley Pinot Noir can challenge Burgundy in its ability to capture the nuance and power of the grape,” according to Wine Enthusiast’s article about the honor.

That’s no surprise for people like David Millman. He’s the general manager of winery Domaine Drouhin, which has made a name for itself with a philosophy of “French soul, Oregon soil” and specializes in — you guessed it — pinot noir.

Having lived in Oregon for 12 and a half years, he’s noticed that many wine lovers are still learning about Willamette Valley wines but love them once they do.

“There is still this sense of discovery about Oregon wine,” he said. “Oregon feels like this exciting place because it is, and there’s a lot of energy reflected in the wines and the range of wines that we make. For people raised on certain styles of wines, they suddenly have a huge diversity of often elegant, earthy, place-driven wines to dive into that are beautiful, that they can connect with, and they do.”

Like Texas, a majority of Willamette Valley wineries (total, there are about 530 of them) are family-owned to this day and making 5,000 cases or less, Millman said. The goal for them in making wine is to celebrate the lush, fertile land and cool climate that has rewarded grape growers there with a flourishing crop. Oregon winemakers are collaborative, “just alive with curiosity and passion, and there’s still a pioneering spirit,” he said.

The pinot noir, you’ll find, is the best of both Burgundy and California: balancing the minerality and higher acidity of Burgundy pinot with the brighter, more fruit-forward profile of California pinot.

“Pinot noir is almost synonymous with Oregon,” Millman said.

Become enchanted with Willamette Valley wines — from wineries including Erath Winery, King Estate Winery and Moffett Vineyards — starting at 6 p.m. Thursday with $75 general admission. Pinot in the City will take place at the J.W. Marriott at 110 E. Second St. and will have pinot-friendly appetizers and hors d’oeuvres to pair with the wines.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Austin Food & Wine Alliance.

Adelbert’s launches line of fruited sours, available only from the brewery

Having become specialized in Belgian-style and barrel-aged brews, Adelbert’s is expanding its beer-soaked horizons by debuting a line of bottled fruited sours.

First up is the Passion Fruit Sour, which releases on Feb. 10 — just in time for any romantic Valentine’s Day dates you might be planning.

To craft this ale, Adelbert’s blended passion fruit (a sweet, slightly tart tropical berry with an enticing aroma) with house yeast strains during the beer’s 18 months of aging in oak barrels, with the result that the Passion Fruit Sour tastes like a tropical sour ale with oak notes, according to a press release.

Adelbert's is unveiling a new line of beers starting with the Passion Fruit Sour.
Adelbert’s is unveiling a new line of beers starting with the Passion Fruit Sour.

The North Austin brewery already has a couple of other beers in the fruited sour series in the works: one a raspberry sour, the other a blueberry sour. Adelbert’s founder, Scott Hovey, said in the release that each one will be “unique” because of the barrel-aging process Adelbert’s implemented.

That process starts when the brewery carefully selects several barrels for each of the sours — some of which have been inoculated naturally with microorganisms, others of which are introduced to yeast strains of Adelbert’s choosing.

It doesn’t get any more precise from there: Adelbert’s is so intent on keeping the resulting beer funky that the brewery doesn’t rely on a “standard house yeast strain or base beer recipe,” Hovey said in the release. “We change what we put into the barrels each time to give more complexity to the blends.”

Because many of the variables in this aging process are beyond the brewers’ control, there are several other beers in the fruited sour series still in testing phase.

The Passion Fruit Sour, however, will be ready to go in a few weeks. The bottle is going to be sold only at Adelbert’s, which switched to a brewpub license early last year so that it could start selling beers to go from the taproom, some exclusively so.

If smaller-batch brews like the Passion Fruit Sour and the Blackberry Barrel of Love, released at the end of last year, have a strong response from taproom visitors, Adelbert’s might consider releasing them more widely.

For more information, visit adelbertsbeer.com.