I Can Eat 50 Eggs: A preview of Hillside Farmacy

UPDATE: HIllside Farmacy opened Monday, March 5.
In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 50: A preview of Hillside Farmacy
1209 E. 11th St. 628-0168, www.hillsidefarmacy.com.
Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 02.19.12
By the time he got to egg No. 50 in “Cool Hand Luke,” Paul Newman was a wreck. George Kennedy was moving Luke’s jaws with his hands, getting those last few boiled eggs “down to the tummy” in the greatest competitive-eating sequence ever filmed.
Me, I’m just getting warmed up. This series has been a revelation on the egg’s role across global cuisines. Ethiopian, Colombian, Brazilian, French. And that was just one day. And I learned where eggs come from, graphically. There was the rooster who initiated the miracle of life not once but twice while Glenn Foore showed me the chicken yard at Springdale Farm. And there was the horror and beauty of a chicken slaughter at Dorsey Barger and Susan Hausmann’s HausBar Farms, where they harvested unlaid eggs for Také Asazu’s tama himo stew at Komé.
Today this 50 Eggs series ends with a beginning, the rush to get the new Hillside Farmacy open in time for South by Southwest. Chef Sonya Coté agreed to make a sandwich from the developing menu that incorporates an egg from Springdale, something she calls the Cook’s Sandwich. “It’s everything I love to eat,” she said. And I got to realize the restaurant critic’s secret hope of reviewing a place before it opens.
It’s not a review, of course. More like an excuse to get a preview of the new project from the team behind East Side Show Room. My first look inside Hillside Farmacy was a wire display rack being fitted with cabinetry and an age-worn ceramic space heater by co-owner Mickie Spencer and her mother, Trudy Spencer, to form a hostess stand. It reminded me of something by Austin artist Steve Brudniak, a blend of Industrial Age steel and tinkerer’s fancy that would be right at home in a Tim Burton film or a game of Mouse Trap.
In a white bandanna do-rag, red-and-white ring-striped jersey top and paint-splattered overalls, Mickie Spencer is the most stylish operator of a tile saw I’ve ever seen. She designed the look of Hillside Farmacy, taking the bones of the building that recently held Gene’s po’ boy shop but started as Hillside Drug Store early last century. Spencer harvested cabinetry from the old Jones Drug Store in Elgin, laid down six-sided white tile on the floors, welded cooking pots to form light fixtures and armored a new bakery display case with pieces of an old one to give the shop a reliquary patina.
That case will hold a cross-section of pastries from Elizabeth Street Cafe’s Alex Manley and Soraiya Nagree of La Patisserie to go with the Stumptown Coffee the staff was training to make this past week. When it opens — sometime before SXSW in early March is the closest estimate — Hillside Farmacy will run from 7 in the morning to midnight. Coté’s menu will fill those hours with croissants, plates of cheese and housemade paté, a raw oyster and shrimp bar, plus salads and small plates that draw from her farm and ranch suppliers. The shop will also carry beer, wine and cocktails.
Sandwiches get top billing in an early draft of the scratched-over menu, including corned pork with house slaw and pickled onions, grass-fed ribeye with mushroom-shallot tapenade, one with smoked mozzarella and roasted red pepper and the Cook’s Sandwich, today’s last dish in the 50 Eggs series. It starts with white Pullman-loaf bread from Moonlight bakery, toasted in a Le Creuset pan. Coté dresses it with whole-seed mustard, goat cheese and a generous slice of campagne-style pork paté she makes herself. By itself, that’s a solid sandwich. The interplay of the paté’s soft and firm textures blends well with the toasted bread and cream-style cheese, and the mustard amplifies the pork’s earthy spice profile.
But this is a Cook’s Sandwich, built from what’s on hand and what tastes good, and so the finished sandwich is topped with field greens, house-pickled daikon radish, bacon and the simple elegance of a Springdale Farm egg poached in a sous vide bath. All it’s waiting on is a fork — and an opening date.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking. Top: The Cook's Sandwich. Inset photos: Hillside Farmacy and East Side Show Room chef Sonya Coté; Glenn Foore holds an egg from Springdale Farm; an early draft of the Hillside menu. Below: Hillside Farmacy occupies the former home of Gene's po' boy shop and the Hillside Drug Store; co-owner Mickie Spencer built much of the decor, including cooking-pot lights and a communal table for 10. Bottom: Sign painter Joe Swec works on a "Dry Goods" marquee at Hillside.)
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