Tastemakers :: La V

By Elizabeth Winslow

Chef Allison Jenkins and Sommelier Vilma Mazaite are a force of nature. The two met during culinary stints in Aspen, connecting over a shared exuberance for wine and food, and decided to bring their talents to Chef Allison’s native Texas. Get ready, because Austin’s dining scene is about to change in a big way. Last week I fell head over heels for laV’s blend of French sophistication and robust embrace of big flavors and lusty appetites as I dressed up and shared bites, sips, tasting notes and recipes at Wine in Heels. Vilma regaled us with tales of her travels through the wine regions of Europe and Chef Allison served up gorgeous and easy-to-assemble fig toasts with burrata, basil, and balsamic; summery eggplant crostada; sophisticated scallop ceviche with fennel and orange; Spanish almond gazpacho; and a crunchy veal schnitzel with warm potato salad. The best part? Leaving with recipes and wine pairings to recreate this lovely evening in our own homes. laV is slated to open in East Austin by year’s end; until then, get a taste of what’s to come at Say laV, a trailer cooked up by the pair to give us lucky foodies a preview of laV’s take on classic French food.

*photography by Thomas Winslow

What do you do?

A: I am the executive chef for laV restaurant & wine bar, which is still under construction. Currently, I run say laV food trailer.

V: I am managing partner at laV, which means I wear many hats these days, from choosing the wines we’ll carry to dealing with construction of the restaurant, and everything in between.

Say La V’s brand story in five words:

A: Seasonal, local, ever-changing bar menu.

What is your earliest food memory?

A: My maternal grandmother’s sister made wonderful rackling cornbread and turnip greens. We usually ate that with black eyed peas and homemade pepper vinegar. It’s a meal I still crave today.

What would we be surprised to hear you eat on a regular basis?

A: I don’t eat much red meat any more, but I have a thing for P Terry’s chicken burgers. I’m guilty of eating there once or twice a week, usually after a big workout.

What does the table look like when you host a dinner party?

A: I love family-style dinners. If you can’t share food with someone, you shouldn’t be at the same table together.  There’s never a shortage of adult beverages to go with all the food.

V: I hardly host these days since my apartment still looks like I just moved in, but when I do, flowers and candles are always central. I like to serve meals family style in big platters, and of course, garnish everything.

Favorite food and drink pairing:

A: Island Creek oysters with Petrossian caviar, some homemade potato chips, and Champagne.

V: Allison mentioned champagne and oysters with caviar… hello! How could someone argue with that? All I would add to that combo is french fries… and there you have my last supper.

Your favorite summer cocktail:

A: I did my culinary externship at Coyote Café in Santa Fe, they made an incredible Brazilian daiquiri there. The bartenders would quarter whole pineapples and macerate them with light, dark and spiced rum and vanilla beans for a week. The rum was strained and served over ice with a squeeze of lime.

V: I love classic cocktails, and during summer I prefer something light and refreshing. One of my old favorites is simple Aperol Spritz. It’s perfect on hot summer afternoon.

What makes a meal romantic?

A: The intentions of the person preparing the food.  Anything prepared with love is romantic.

V: I think the most romantic meal is always the one that’s prepared from scratch and with passion. How could you resist a guy who makes his own pasta and tomato sauce just for you? I never could…

Your favorite cookbook:

A: The Zuni Café Cookbook. Judy Rodgers has a lot of techniques at her fingertips to make her food appear simple, and the ingredients are always the stars.

Your favorite summer recipe:

A: Before the weather gets scorching hot, I love to grill.  Any type of whole fish with lemon & salsa verde and some sliced heirloom tomatoes

*click here for Allison’s Eggplant Crostada recipe

If you could pass on one trick or technique to a newbie cook, what would it be?

A: The most important thing is to taste everything. Learn how flavors go together and develop a sense of how you season things. The palate takes time to develop, and use of salt and acid come a little later in the game.  Taste, taste, taste.

The one cooking tool you can’t live without:

A: Just one?  It would have to be my cherry wood Boos Block.

*click here for Allison’s Scallop Ceviche recipe

Favorite quick appetizer:

A: Grilled ciabatta with fresh figs, buratta, basil and aged balsamic.

What is ‘comfort food’ to you?

A: Any and all noodles. My top choices would be ramen or spaghetti carbonara.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

A: My career aspirations before culinary school were to be a cardiac surgeon or a forensic pathologist. I lived in Aspen for almost seven years, so I could easily be a ski bum.

See more of Elizabeth’s work on Haymakers

Comments (4)

  1. Molly {Dreams in HD} says:

    absolutely fascinating article chanel!
    Say laV sounds like it is going to be amazing.

    Molly {Dreams in HD}

  2. Southland Avenue says:

    Love this! I love all of the interesting ways foodies are making a living these days! Wish we had some

    one doing this in Charlotte!
    ~Mary Keller

  3. Tess says:

    Thank you, Elizabeth, for yet another look at fascinating people doing delicious things in Austin. I predict major success for laV, especially if they put black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and homemade pepper vinegar on the menu!

  4. Southern Spoon Belle @ Southern Spoon Blog says:

    This looks fabulous, I would love to try la V next time I’m in Texas– thanks for the lovely stories, pics, and recipes.

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