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Dear friends,

It’s been a bit since I reached out to you with news from your friendly neighborhood TFB. This is partly because we’ve been ridiculously busy this summer and we’ve kept one foot on the brakes in an effort to assure that everyone who comes to Texas French Bread will (hopefully) receive the kind of quality experience that we strive to provide.

But I’ve also been hesitant to do much outreach recently because things have just been so darn weird and disrupted. We spent much of 2020 open only for walk-up/takeout business at our front doors on the corner of 29th St. When we began serving folks on a sit down basis again, it was in the great outdoors in our garden. Then by June the vaccine tipping point arrived and we scrambled to reopened the doors of our dining room and invite folks back inside. It seems that just about the time we get into a groove, we find that we need to reinvent our approach.

Well - a couple of more changes are in the works. First, we’ve staffed up and beginning next week on Labor Day, we’ll be...

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Dear Friends,

It has been such a pleasure to serve all of you over the past couple of weeks in our newly reopened dining room. Not only is indoor service a dramatically easier proposition than serving in the garden, but it’s given us all a huge lift powered by the idea that the pandemic conditions of the past year and a half may really be behind us soon.

All that said, beginning today, we will be closed for a few additional days for remodeling work necessary to keep our old building in good running condition. This round of work is mostly directed at refinishing the floors in the dining room - a task we were unable to complete earlier in June because rainy weather left the ancient concrete in our dining room so damp that sealant could not dry. Now we’ve got sunshine in the forecast and our contractor is available. So we’re going to jump on this window and get the job done.

We plan to reopen next week on Thursday July 1st.

As always, we appreciate your support and look forward to serving you again in a few short days.

see you...

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Dear Friends,

After that deep freeze a few weeks ago, we’ve finally started to have some consistently warmer weather, and I know a lot of you have been getting back out into the great outdoors, getting your hands in the dirt, and planting spring gardens.

We want to support your gardening and love for fresh food, so tomorrow morning we are hosting a pop-up plant sale with La Huerta Nursery, a local plant nursery that specializes in native plants and wildlife habitat. Sierra Norman, with La Huerta Nursery is a master naturalist, garden designer and plant enthusiast. She will have TONS of veggies, herbs, wildflowers and native pollinator plants ready for spring gardening.

We hope you’ll come out and buy some plants from Sierra. And if you’d like to enjoy brunch in our garden while you are here, we recommend reserving a table, we've been filling up quickly these days....

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Dear Friends,

Carissa and I are just back from a lazy few days at the farm. Mostly we sat out on the long stone patio above the swimming hole at Rocky Creek, the two littles, Gus and Lula lounging near our feet - the borzoi sleeping off the day somewhere cooler. She was still smarting from her encounter with the skunk (don't ask - it was as bad as it sounds).

The days were warm, but surprisingly pleasant for August in Texas. Out there away from the concrete and the traffic, we were tucked under the shade of large oak trees. The sun dappled and danced between branches, shimmering on the swimming hole below us. It was blessedly quiet and every so often a breath of air from down the creek pushed up the breezeway where we sat, ceiling fans turning lazy circles above us. In the evenings we took walks with the dogs and cooked leisurely dinners while meaningless August baseball games droned in the background.

Laurence, Mom, and Ms B beat it out of town a few weeks ago - set their compass for Maine leaving the farm empty. That being the case we elected to...

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Dear Friends,

About a year ago, on a tip from a friend, I took the borzoi and Carissa's two little dogs over to a large tract of open land not far from my central Austin home that for many years has served as an annex for Tex-DoT (Department of Transportation). It didn't take much, and soon I was hooked, returning repeatedly to drink in the magic offered by this largely hidden space.

Sadly, it seems the dictates of commerce and capitalism will soon see the tract leveled to make way for a large, mixed-use development to be called "The Grove." For the moment, though, it remains rough and wild - shielded from frenetic nearby traffic despite its proximity to major thoroughfares. The eastern side slopes down through groves of majestic, mature live oaks to a stretch of Shoal Creek that is largely inaccessible. Wide-open meadows sport patches of wildflowers in distinct colors depending on the season. At present, there is an extended swath of tall grass on the backside with tops in a furious bloom of gorgeous lavender - salvias maybe? And there are extensive areas of dense,...

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Dear Friends,

Carissa and I traveled to Montreal a couple of weeks ago. We were totally blown away by what a wonderful city it is, so gorgeous and French. Like Paris, except with really friendly people (JUST KIDDING PARIS - jeez, you can be so touchy).

We found an amazing bistro called L'Express (ok, we didn't "find" it exactly - our friend Carenn Jackson, chenin blanc queen, told us to go there). L'Express serves stunningly good and exactingly traditional French fare and has the wine list of my dreams. The city was flooded with people wearing their light summer clothing that spends most of the year stored in a trunk, awaiting the end of a long, frigid winter. Surrounded by the joyful energy of those who couldn't wait to leave the house every day, it was easy to forget that the weather isn't 70 degrees all summer everywhere you go.

That fantasy world evaporated more or less immediately when we stepped off the plane at Bergstrom. Dang. Central Texas summer has arrived, y'all. It is fried-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot out there.

But even though the sun is...

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Dear Friends,

A couple of Thursdays ago, I awoke early to a thudding sound just outside my window - which was odd, because I generally sleep on the second floor. I cracked one eye enough to see dim grey light - the kind that comes just before sunrise. Some part of me remembered it was my 56th birthday, but for a moment, further details were foggy.

Then I remembered. I was in Santa Fe - attending a writers' workshop led by my longtime writing mentor Natalie Goldberg and my dear friend, recent James Beard award winner for food writing, Bill Addison. That thudding sound? Well - that was snow sliding wet and heavy off the roof onto the veranda where it plopped in a pile and slowly melted in the 35 degree morning air. No wonder I couldn't quite place my surroundings.

The theme for the workshop was food writing. It was conducted in the manner of all of Natalie's workshops, which are grounded in her long practice of Zen Buddhism, and utilize meditation as a way to quiet the mind, allowing space for a deepened experience of writing practice.

Our group of...

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Dear Friends,

Some summers, in the dead heat of July, my dad and I would load up the station wagon and drive seven long hours to East Texas. As the trip would drag on, I'd pull the fold-out map from its place behind the visor and check off towns as they went by - Huntsville, Jasper - markers to measure our progress. Despite the 70mph speed limit, the ride seemed endless. Bored, I would clamor over the seat and into the back to forage the styrofoam ice chest for snacks, before climbing back over to sit (unbelted) in the passenger seat, where I'd try not to fidget.

Late in the day we would arrive on the shores of Toledo Bend, the enormous reservoir that delineates the southern half of the Texas/Louisiana border. We would pitch our canvas army surplus tent, fold out cots, and unroll cotton sleeping bags. Dad would sit out under the towering pines with my godfather (better known to me as "Uncle Juggy") who had driven up from Beaumont. On folding lawn chairs, with their legs stretched out in front of them, they would drink cans of Schlitz or Falstaff and reminisce...

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Dear Friends,

Wednesday mornings, you can usually find me huddled with Whitney at Table 20 (the 2-top closest to the parking lot door) going over our promotional efforts, including what I might write for the week's email. This week, Whitney had a pretty good suggestion - chronicling the journey of a single croissant all the way through the production process. In truth, I have been pleased with their quality lately, so the idea stuck.

This set me thinking about the old days, when I first learned to make croissants from scratch back in late 1981 or early 1982. I have vague memories of sidling up to the butcher block counter and slicing up whole sticks of butter; of mom showing me how to lay the sliced butter flat on a piece of hand mixed dough, then how to fold it in on top of itself, roll it back out and repeat the motion three to four times.

We used these very small French rolling pins (solid pieces of wood that tapered a bit at the ends) and worked with very small batches of dough that only made about a dozen croissants each. Once the dough was...

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Dear Friends,

Like I mentioned in my last email, our restaurant usually has a relatively quiet SXSW experience as we're situated away from the festival's primary tourist corridors. The bakery, on the other hand, catches a full-on dose of SXSW insanity, sending out pastries, breads, muffins, buns, you name it, not only to our regular wholesale accounts, but to caterers and out of town operations to feed the industry and convention hoards that flood downtown this time each year.

As such, it seems like an ideal moment to pull back the curtain and introduce one of the folks who is largely unseen at TFB but whose critical work keeps our wheels on, so to speak: Dennis Day, referred to around the shop as Fleet Commander of Texas French Bread.

Dennis has been known to wear driving gloves, crocodile leather boots, and vintage Star Wars tees. His superhero-like stealth allows him to dart around the bakery between the hours of midnight and nine am, organizing and packing bread products. In the very early hours of the morning, with recognizable style and sharp wits...

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