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Soleil. Swoon. I.

Posted Dec 07 2010 7:23am
@thesmartkitchen : you have a direct message from Twitter!

Soleil is rolling out the red carpet for this dinner...Cocktails & Dinner & you can bring a guest! 12/2 @ 6:30pm. Are you coming?


Looking forward to seeing you 2night! Come hungry!
They were right about that. It certainly was a good thing I came hungry.

Because I have never been given so much (FREE) food all at once in my life.

Not kidding. I could hardly eat for two days afterwards.

I was honored and excited to be invited to an opening event for Soleil , a new restaurant at the currently-being-expanded-and-refabulositied* Oasis on Lake Travis.

*refabulositied [adj.]: renovated and revitalized to be made even more fabulous

Having never been to The Oasis, I was a little saddened that dinner was too late to see the oft hyped-up sunset on the Lake.

[I was also saddened to discover that the restaurant was not named after 80s child star, Soleil Moon Frye, or as we all know and love her: Punky Brewster . It is not even pronounced the same, but rather as in Cirque de Soleil, meaning "sun." Although maybe that IS what Soleil's parents were going for, 'Sun' 'Moon'....fry?*]
*In case you were wondering...this is where the post title comes from.
She reappeared on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch in her later years...but you know, she's always Punky Brewster to me.

I did, however, arrive on time to scope out the lounge area on the deck... well as outdoor dining space.
The party started at the Azure Seafood Bar & Cocktail Lounge, where they were ready for the holidays.
And also ready to feed us! The night began with a sampling of the cocktail lounge's bites Gulf Crab Cocktail with Creamy Avocado Sauce
Half Shell Maine Lobster 'Provencal' with Toasted Bread
(The chef described this as a 'deconstructed' lobster roll and I felt slightly like I was on Top Chef since he used the word 'deconstructed.')
Crudo of Ahi Tuna with Black Olive Mousse, Tomato Caviar, and Croutons
(I was pretty much in love with the olive mousse. I wanted a bowl of it.)
Mediterranean Shrimp Cocktail with Croutons & Saffron Rouille
[All I could think was that this tasted like paella. Then I checked the menu and realized there was saffron in it and everything made sense. ;) I was also pretty sure the dish was heavily loaded with something that tasted like radishes. The shrimp-to-radish ratio was sadly less than I would have liked.]
Salmon Crudo with Green Apples & Crisp Fennel with Fresh Dill & Yogurt Sauce
Check out the caramelized fennel. It tasted like candy. ...and looked like a hand!
And just when you thought the fun was over...out came the plate ofRaw Oysters!
I doctored mine up with some cocktail sauce, horseradish, and the mysterious third substance that tasted like some sort of fancy vinegar...
...and shot those babies back!
[My dining companion failed miserably. I schooled him, really...but I am going to save his dignity by not posting the photo of his failed attempts.]

Everything at the Azure Lounge was incredible. I was only taking small bites, since I didn't want to overload, but every bite was equally fantastic. However, being someone who feels like "less is more" and "simple is better" when it comes to seafood (and most food, really), the overly creamy seafood cocktails were nowhere near as satisfying as the raw bar selections and crudos.

Not that I was going to turn any of it away, of course.

So, we were all happily fed and enjoying wine and cocktail samples...and we were thinking, "Wow, this was a fun event. Lovely of them to host a cocktail party for us."

Then, we were invited to dinner at the restaurant. Just when we thought we were full, they sat us down and let us sample between 50 and 70% of the menu (at least that's what it felt like). The food just kept coming...and coming...and coming...

Roasted Sweet Peppers with White Anchovies + Spanish Chorizo & Parmesan Bruschetta of Taleggio & Pears with Proscuitto & Arugula
Dry Aged Copa with Shaved Fennel & Arugula
Stone Oven Gratin of Mussels with Croutons & Saffron Sauce
[These were Cara 's favorite. I may or may not have force fed them to her at one point, saying "No appetizer left behind!" I prefer my mussels simply done in broth, and I thought there was too much breading and sauce on 'em for my taste.]

Pizza with Sausage & Coppa + Artichokes, Sweet Peppers & Provolone Pizza di Mare: Clam Pizza with Ricotta + Provolone & Gremolata
White Cheese Pizza with Gorgonzola & Wild Mushrooms + Proscuitto & Arugula

The Italian sausage pizza was SO good (the peppers on it were amazing), but nothing could top the white pizza with proscuitto...and HONEY. Yes, there was honey on the pizza. I wasn't truly a big fan of the "di mare." Compared to the others it was rather ho-hum. I ate the clams off of it and moved along. I would have love to try another pizza I spotted on their menu, however, called the Pizza di Gulfo with Shrimp & Avocado + Bacon & Fresno Chiles. YUM!

Pappardelle with Old World Bolognese Sauce
[This bolognese was phenomenal. Seriously one of the best things I ate all night.]
Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage & Tomato Sauce + Fresh Mozzarella & Sweet Peppers
I was in love with those peppers. They should have taken out the sausage and just put in more peppers!
Fettucini with Gulf Crab Shrimp + Lobster & Thousand Island Dressing
[At the time, I didn't know there was Thousand Island Dressing on there. I really only ate all of the seafood out of it, so I guess that's not surprising. The cheese on it was sharp and delicious though.]

Osso Bucco with Polenta & Braised Tomato Sauce
[The veal literally melted in my mouth it as so falling-off-the-bone good.]
NY Steak with Gorgonzola & Misson Fig Steak Sauce + Arugula Salad
[Um, steak and figs might be the greatest combination ever. Well, at least as far as meat goes.]
Flattened Chicken Breast with Coppa & Provolone + Fingerlings & Fried Sage [Good, but by no means the '#1 Stunnah'.]
Rainbow Trout with Crab Meat & Golden Raisins + Pine Nut Brown Butter
[Best fish dish of the night.]
Striped Bass with Polenta & Smoked Mussels + Spanish Chorizo & Salsa Verde
[Gosh, though...this one was awesome too. Loved the mussels and chorizo.] Dish I wish I could have tried? The Filet Mignon with Walnut Bacon Pesto. Walnut bacon pesto?? WHAT?!?

In case you thought I was lying about this neverending food situation...
...yeah, it was insane.
I had been doing really well the whole night. A little of this and a little of that...not eating all of the crust and focusing on the sauces in the pasta dishes so as not to be overstuffed...but then, as could be expected if you know me....dessert came, and I lost control.
Key Lime Pie + Tiramisu + Turtle Cheesecake
[Seriously, did they know I was coming? All the desserts on the menu are creamy, and you know I cannot resist a creamy sweet concoction!]
The hot fudge and the caramel on that cheesecake were what made it. And they made it amazing.
The key lime pie was more of a key lime cheesecake, really. It didn't have a very tart lime flavor...very subtle. The tiramisu was mostly fluff...I loved it, but the general consensus was there wasn't enough espresso nor enough ladyfinger cake-y-ness.
Strawberry Sundae
Chocolate Sundae
[There were dried apples or pears or something on this. Not sure really.]
The chef thanked us all for coming...all I have to say is, "Thank YOU!"

[And also, if you go to Soleil ...ask for Danielle. She was the best waitress ever. :) Also the guy with the glasses who kept putting all the food right in front of me. Don't know his name, but I loved him, too.]
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