Emmett and Lisa Fox

By Shannon Oelrich
Photography by Marc Brown

Emmett and Lisa Fox, owners of Austin restaurants ASTI Trattoria and FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar, share a passion for travel and food. They go to Europe every year, and to New York and California when new restaurants beckon. “We love to see what other chefs are doing,” says Lisa, who chronicles their travel and food adventures in her blog, foodisforsharing.com.

When at home, the Foxes opt for more modest fare. “Our go-to is roast chicken with mashed potatoes and greens. It’s simple and comforting,” says Lisa. She and Emmett juice fruits and vegetables in the morning for breakfast, then usually have lunch while working at one of their restaurants. There aren’t many nights of the week they’re home together for dinner. “We keep cheese and salami, fruits and vegetables in the fridge to grab when we’re not going to cook,” she says. “Or, for a quick meal, I keep guanciale [unsmoked Italian bacon] in the freezer to throw together with canned tomatoes and pasta.”

The home cooking really starts when the Foxes have friends over. “Paella is fun to cook,” says Emmett. “I have a twenty-two-inch paella pan that I put over a wood fire out back.” They make tapas ahead of time to enjoy while the paella is cooking. Their favorite thing, though, is when a bunch of friends come into their kitchen and cook together. “The cooking can get rather competitive,” says Lisa, “but it’s fun.”

At Thanksgiving and Christmas, cooking kicks into high gear. “Lisa’s dad comes from Florida every year for Thanksgiving, so we make a big family meal,” says Emmett. For Christmas Eve, they invite several friends over and “pull out all the stops,” he says with a gleam in his eye. “Champagne, caviar, squab, truffles . . . whatever we want.”

On Saturday mornings, the Foxes might be found at Boggy Creek Farm, perusing the fresh offerings. Lisa is especially grateful for farmer Carol Ann’s gardening advice. “She taught me to plant a patch of fennel for myself, and a smaller one for the caterpillars,” she says. “That way, I can move all the caterpillars to their fennel and keep mine intact.

“Fresh fennel is wonderful,” Lisa continues. “I used some of the bulbs shaved into salads, then let it flower. Emmett made a side of salmon on the grill with leeks and fennel, wrapped in foil. We served it at room temperature with fennel flowers sprinkled over it—their flavor is so intense and delicious. Then, I let the fennel go to seed and gathered those to use in cooking.”

Two of Emmett’s favorite foods are hearty greens and lamb, especially when the lamb is paired with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Greens are often on the menu at home, not only because Emmett loves them, but because Lisa loves to grow them. “In my fall garden, I’m growing kale, Swiss chard, escarole, and might add spinach,” she says.

Fall also brings the Foxes’ annual trip to Europe. This year, they headed to the Basque region of Spain to rent a villa with several friends. Always looking forward to eating new dishes and seeing new sights, the greater pleasure is returning home to
tend their garden and their restaurants.