A brussels sprouts blog
I think brussels sprouts get a bad rep. They’re the stereotypical punishment vegetable. If you don’t behave, you’re going to have to eat bland, unseasoned, boiled brussels sprouts. The kind of vegetable that somehow tastes like bitter nothingness, that has the consistency of crunchy mush and makes you rethink your life plan just so you can avoid this specific green misery.
However, when I was a kid, my mom started cooking brussels sprouts. Now I should note here that my mom is an excellent cook, able to make creative additions to traditional recipes, but moreover: when I was a kid, what got made was what you ate. If you didn’t want it, you were free to be hungry. My mom always said it’s a kitchen, not a restaurant. Her mentality on food is what brought me to my own mantra: I’ll try anything once.
But as a kid my mentality was just “eat what’s on the plate or don’t eat.” With that mindset I ate the brussels sprouts, mindful of every stupid cliche, and what I got was surprising: brussels sprouts are tasty! They soak up flavor, becoming service devices for creative sauces, and if you cook them properly they get crispy edges, creating an engaging fusion of texture and flavor.
Now, over a decade later, brussels sprouts remain one of my favorite vegetables. And I’ve found that they’ve hit a boom in the restaurant industry as a trendy snack to offer. For the first time in my life I’m actually finding my favorites in a restaurant and the diversity of options is staggering. It’s forcing me to analyze if the dish is well-prepared, or if I’m just excited by the very idea of brussels sprouts as an appetizer. And what better way to do that than with a blog?
And so, you’re all cordially invited to chat the BS with me. I’ll taste the BS, I’ll scrutinize the BS, I’ll engage with the BS and ultimately I’ll come to a conclusion: how worthy of my time is this particular BS? Join me on this quest for the perfect BS – my mom’s don’t count – and hopefully along the way, I’ll make some of you BS believers. To the sprouts!
Bazille (Austin, TX)
When I first made my way into Bazille, a small cafe built into a Nordstrom in north Austin, I admit I was skeptical. I had come to Nordstrom for an overcoat, not for a drink and a snack, but the rainy weather drastically changed my plans and I was left to rely on a department store’s restaurant for my happy hour. And I was pleasantly surprised!
The brussels sprouts on Bazille’s menu are listed under “share plates,” which are a step above “starters,” though I can’t really tell the difference between the two. An appetizer is an appetizer if you ask me.
I ordered the brussels sprouts and a salad (and a cocktail of course, because that’s truly my brand) and found it was plenty of food, enough for two! Especially if snacking is the goal, which it almost always is for me. The portion size is easily shareable, though it could be a light meal for one if that’s your thing.
These brussels sprouts were “kung pao” sprouts, so they had a medley of toppings and flavors added on during and after cooking – specifically the dish added roasted chilies, peanuts and chicken sausage to create a depth of flavor. The additions do add interesting notes to the flavor profile – I think the sausage created extra caramelization in the cooking process for the sprouts, and ultimately both the sausage and the peanuts added a pleasant dimension to the overall texture of the dish – but on the whole the sprouts felt muddled. They were incredibly robust in flavor and maintained an excellent crispity but the proportions seemed off. If I order brussels sprouts I expect them to be the star of the dish. What I found was that every bite had more sausage than sprouts.
While the sausage was lovely, it wasn’t what I wanted. It was overpowering, and the sprouts weren’t quite crispy enough to offset the chewy texture. The peanuts did have the desired crunch, but they were too dense and seemed to be added after cooking, so they were infused with less of the spicy flavor the sprouts had.
Speaking to the sprouts specifically, they were fantastically well done. The edges got crispy in cooking while the middles remained soft, and the sauce covered everything evenly. The crispness up as well; even after sitting for a while on my table they maintained their bite.
Any dish with a sauce should be crave-worthy. More specifically, a sauce should enhance a dish in a way that makes your mouth water. That sauce should be something you regret leaving on the plate. In that regard, I present to you all the OG Test. This is a sauce test based around a popular Italian chain of restaurants that provide customers with limitless sticks of bread, perfect for sopping up any and all sauces that may find themselves stranded on plates. The OG Test asks the question: would I eat this brussels sprouts sauce on bread? Or would I leave it behind, bereft and abandoned once the sprouts themselves are gone?
OG test: Not a bread sauce, it’s too sweet. While it matches the dish really well, on its own the sauce gets cloying and sticky, not fitting for a breadstick.
And of course, any review series worth its salt has a kitschy rating system. I was describing this idea to a friend, and he asked me what the review system would be. I responded with the first stupid thing that came to mind and to my surprise, he thought it was funny! Stupid as all hell, to be sure, but he laughed. So out of five, where do these brussels sprouts land on my scale?
Brussels Prouts (4 out of 5 S’s) ((Because “brussels sprouts” has 5 of the letter s))