BUTTONS BURSTING: DINNER AT UNCLE BILLY’S

Let’s talk about Uncle Billy’s, y’all.

A couple of weeks ago, I (Megan Renart) attended a “Wild Game Brewer’s Dinner” there, and I had all sorts of things stored up in the writing section of my brain to tell you about it. The food, how it was so good; the views from the room, and how they dazzled before the sun went down. But really, this post needs to be about Spencer Tielkemeier and Mike Ludlow: the food and drink wizards/heart-and-soul combo behind Uncle Billy’s On the Lake.

Spencer (on the right in this bottom pic) is the brewer. He is 25.

TWENTY FIVE.

He’s been with UB for only three months, and in that time, garnered gold at the Great American Brew Festival for the Bottle Rocket lager, along with Brian “Swifty” Peters. Uncle Billy’s is pretty proud of that.

Spencer majored in English at UT, and worked for 512 Brewing in delivery before joining UB as their brew master. If anything, Spencer’s astonishing timeline is a testament to how grassroots the Austin brew scene is, and how no formal training is needed. (But talent is paramount.)

Mike is the Executive Chef, and makes it a priority to create only locally sourced dishes, and frequents the Cedar Park farmers market as often as possible.

“We have so many good ingredients from 10 minutes away around here that there’s no need to go anywhere else,” he says, which explains why the goat cheese in our salad was the freshest, tastiest I’ve ever had. This means I’ll never again be able to purchase it in the grocery store and will now have to commit part of my life to raising baby goats in my apartment. Why, Mike?

Look at this little beauty. I’m not even a salad person and I loved it! Cheese from Pure Luck Farms; fruit from Heaven.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning:

Ciabatta bread with goat cheese, pickled peppers and capers. Crunchy, creamy, tasty.

So there we were, primed for culinary greatness with this teasingly good morsel: Ciabatta bread with goat cheese, pickled peppers and capers. Crunchy, creamy and tasty, we had it with this drink:

This is blood orange juice mixed with Uncle Billy’s Agave Wit, and was gulped down by everybody quicker than any other drink during the course of the evening. It’s not just for nighttime, either — I think the mimosa now has some competition in the brunch beverage department.

First course: Texas quail locally sourced from Broken Arrow Ranch, stuffed with blueberries, fresh sage, and orange rind. Paired with Uncle Billy’s Agave Wit.

Would you guys think poorly of me if I told you that for the first five minutes upon receiving this, all I wanted to do was pick the quail up by its little arms and make it dance on the plate? Please be my friend.

Second: Rabbit Consomme made with rabbits from Countryside Farm in Cedar Creek, TX. The delicate broth was cooked over several hours with fresh tarragon, thyme and rosemary, and smelled like wood burning when it’s cold outside. Paired with Uncle Billy’s Axe Handle Pale Ale.

Third: Salad from heaven, served with Wit vinaigrette and paired with the award-winning Rocket Lager.

Fourth: Boar loin chops from Black Hill Ranch grilled with a sweet and spicy prickly pear glaze. Served with pine nut polenta (oh mah Lord, good) and fresh local-greens. Paired with Uncle Billy’s Vienna Lager.

Did you all know we are in the middle of a boar epidemic? We can solve this by eating them, or sending them to Xenu to live with L. Ron Hubbard.

Polenta tip from Mike: soak the polenta in a hoppy beer for 10-15 minutes; add cream, salt, pepper, and toasted pine nuts. Then, be quite pleased with yourself.

Last, but not least: Vanilla bean ice cream made with local duck eggs from Countryside Farm, paired with CASK Uncle Billy’s Lake Monster Imperial Stout. This pairing was met with a round of approving murmurs across the tables.

The ice cream was curiously gritty — I’ve never had to chew my ice cream before — but it was fantastic.

This was the first appearance of the brand new CASK Stout, which was chocolatey and deep.

“Darker beers are my wheelhouse,” said Spencer, after we complimented him a million times.

About the restaurant: Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que now has a second location next to the Oasis, and offers some pretty spectacular views, if you’re into beauty.

And if you are into beauty, here’s a final image for you—Nicki, photographer extraordinaire, enjoyed her meal so much that this happened:

HER BUTTON BURST!

(This is why I don’t wear clothes that have buttons when I eat. Just kidding, I do. But usually there’s food or drink distracting the viewer’s eye from any ‘straining’ on behalf of my garments.)

UPDATE 11.12.2012: Right after this post was published, we received some sad news that Uncle Billy’s on the Lake is closing. We wish the company the very best in all their future endeavors.