Meet chefs Alexandra Manley and Libbey Goldberg, two women helping to usher in a new era in Clarksville restaurant history. With the McGuire-Moorman takeover of historic Austin fine dining spot Jeffrey's, and the opening of the adjacent Josephine House, Manley's breads and desserts and Goldberg's lunch and afternoon snacks menu at Josephine are stepping into the spotlight.
"It's sort of an honor," Manley told Eater Austin on a sunny Friday afternoon at Josephine House, where the atmosphere is very old-school garden party—servers in crisp white uniforms, well-heeled patrons sipping light cocktails in groups of twos and threes.
"I think there's a lot of expectation, but I think it's exciting," said Manley.
She came to Austin via Maiya's in Marfa, and worked on the east side for Carlos Rivero before joining Larry McGuire and his ever-growing stable of restaurants, developing the pastry and bread program at Elizabeth Street Cafe. Now, she'll be getting her own dedicated kitchen at Jeffrey's.
Goldberg, a native Texan, just relocated back to the Lone Star State after spending time in Northern California, where she worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was "fortuitous," she said, that McGuire happened to be looking for a chef with experience cooking Northern California-style cuisine for Josephine House.
"It was a really good fit," said Goldberg, who is thrilled to return to Texas and find an ever-increasing supply of Texas-grown produce and Texas-raised and -fished meats and seafood for her ever-changing menu. It's inspired largely by Italian and French classics, mostly served at room temperature from Josephine House's marble counter.
"I like to make food that mixes things that wouldn't classically be mixed in a region," said Goldberg, "but aren't too far from the recipes people have been making for years."
Together, Manley and Goldberg said they're working on keeping the Clarksville duo of restaurants focused on locally sourced menus.
"A lot of people throw around that term farm-to-table these days, and you're not really sure what that means any more," conceded Goldberg, but she said that after the California climate "spoiled" her to year-round local offerings, "it's like a no-brainer for me now."
For her part, Manley said she's currently trying to stretch some "lovely" Texas tangerines and Meyer lemons as far as they'll go for her work at Josephine's, and in the future at Jeffrey's, she'll develop "rustic, simple, grandmotherly" desserts. She's aiming to partner with a local Austin chocolatier to make that happen.
"The Jeffrey's dessert menu will be heavily focused on soufflés," said Manley, of which they'll have three on offer each night, in addition to three plated desserts and some bon-bons or truffles. It'll still be "a little fancier," said Manley, but "really old-fashioned."
Goldberg said that it makes her feel "really good" that Jeffrey's longtime owner Ron Weiss is continuing his involvement in the restaurant's revamp. "I really respect the ways in which Larry [McGuire] and Tommy [Moorman] and the folks developing the project have been adhering to keeping it the same."