Monday, June 28, 2010

Where's Waldo?


Walto
Image via larbage on Flickr.
It's been way too long since I last posted; a busier-than-usual travel schedule for work and some whirlwind house cleaning in anticipation for a mini family reunion over the 4th of July have kept me extra busy. However, I haven't been totally remiss on my blogging; I just finished a guest post for the lovely and talented Rachel Naugle over at Republic of Austin while she's vacationing in Europe (which of us do you think got the better deal?).

In all seriousness, though, it was an honor to be asked to post in Rachel's absence, and I had great fun writing over there (and now I can say I've used Wordpress!). Since Rachel is the personal finance blogger for RoA, I wrote about dining out in Austin on a budget. Check it out here.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Antonelli's Cheese Shop

If it's true that passion begets passion, you'll be ready to tear your clothes off after visiting Antonelli's Cheese Shop.


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John and Kendall Antonelli are, without a doubt, incredibly passionate about cheese. And, perhaps equally importantly, they are passionate about providing terrific service to the steady stream of customers that come in seeking a piece of that love.

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It is nearly impossible to get out of their shop without tasting something delicious. From wonderful cheeses to cured meats to nuts to amazing chocolate (the Askinosie chocolates are to die for!), everything you need to throw a fabulous party (in your tummy) is here. And I can pretty much guarantee that you'll leave with a bundle or two and a smile on your face.

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Shop local. Support good people. Be happy.

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Antonelli's Cheese Shop
4220 Duval St.
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 531-9610

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Summer is here. It is HOT. Too hot to be outside in the late afternoon.

But Mindy and I both needed exercise, so I decided to take her to a leash-free park we'd never visited before, right off Far West. It's basically a 1/3-mile (or so) loop around a moderately picturesque, but non-functional (as far as swimming is concerned) body of water that has some purpose related to flood and water quality control. There are several signs around the perimeter asking people not to let their pets swim in the pond.

This is all fine and good in theory, but if you have a pup that loves to cool off in the water and it's 93 degrees out, as it was at the moment, this is basically akin to putting me on a running track that is built around a cupcake shop and telling me, "NO!" every time I start jogging toward the door. I managed to keep Mindy out of the main body of water, but I finally relented and let her cool her paws in about 1/8" of water that was running across a paved area. I looked away for just a minute, then I heard a "ploop, ploop, ploop" that sounded distinctly like it was much more than 1/8" of water. Mindy was nowhere to be seen.

I jogged down to where she had disappeared, and some movement caught my eye. I parted some really tall reeds not far from the pathway, and saw this:


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Somebody explain to me why this dog hates getting a bath?

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

First Tomato

I know I'm light years behind all my crazy-awesome gardener peeps (I'm looking at you, Carla, Marc, and Cynthia), but I was excited to harvest my first tomato on Tuesday. I planted these starters super late in the spring and wasn't sure whether I might have missed my window. Also, I have only two plants, so there's not much room for error.

But thanks to the Earthbox I got from Austin Urban Gardens (thanks again, Carla!), the two plants I do have are literally loaded with promise.

Promises they intend to keep, apparently.


First Tomato

Pretty, isn't it? Few things taste better than a tomato you grew yourself.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sunny Side of the StrEAT

When I heard that Michael Vilim, the restauranteur behind two of my favorite Austin restaurants - Castle Hill Café (may it RIP) and Mirabelle - was opening a new place, I was excited. But my anticipation mounted significantly when I heard the theme - street food from around the world. Uh, yes please!

I first tasted the food from the much-anticipated StrEAT at Big Reds, Big Bubbles back in November, and then again at Viva! Las Vegas in February. So I can honestly say that I've been awaiting their arrival for over half a year, and I was thrilled when they finally opened their doors today. As luck would have it, I had time to slip out of the office for lunch on opening day, and managed to drag my law partner along for the adventure, as well.


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I was so glad I had studied the menu beforehand, because it is extensive - and the wide variety in the offerings - everything from banh mi to baba ganoush and points in between - makes it all the more difficult to alight on a favorite. I settled on the Vietnamese crepe ($5.99), which looks for all the world like it is egg-based, but is actually a mixture of rice flour, coconut milk, and water along with whatever fillings you desire (at least, that's the usual way of making it; I don't know StrEAT's recipe specifically). Bill ordered an Indian curry rice bowl, which, unfortunately, I neglected to photograph. But here's my crepe:

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StrEAT's crepe is made with a variety of seafood - shrimp, squid, and fish - and is super lovely, particularly when bathed in their house-made nước chấm (usually called "fish sauce" in the U.S.). The nước chấm was perfect, with just the right amount of kick, and fully flavored without being too fishy. I piled the greens that were served on the side all over the top and went to town.

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Delving deeper into my crepe

I nabbed a taste of Bill's Indian curry bowl ($5.99) and thought it delicious, as well, but a bit overpriced for the size. His entire "bowl" took up only about 3/4 of what appeared to be a small to-go soup container. I am pretty sure that would not have filled me up, and he commented several times on how small it was.

Since we had room to spare, we decided to fill it with a couple of desserts - a lemon tart and a slice of tres leches. I initially thought the tart also seemed smallish for the price ($2.95), but it was pretty dense and managed to achieve a pretty perfect balance between tart and sweet.

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I was worried as I peered into the case that the tres leches ($2.95) would be dry, since it wasn't sitting in a pool of liquid, but it wasn't at all. Moist and mmmm-inspiring, and probably something that would easily sell at Mirabelle for twice the price.

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Based on the Siskel & Ebert rating scale, I'd definitely give StrEAT "two thumbs up." My only criticism is that I think there is an odd gap between expectations and pricing - street food served from a counter, exclusively in to-go containers with plasticware, seems like it would be cheap and plentiful, particularly given their location in the campus area. Instead, the portions are smallish and the prices, while totally reasonable generally, seem a touch high in light of the overall feel of the experience and the amount of food you get (particularly in the case of the curry bowl). I think the folks at StrEAT would do well to either step up the eating experience a bit (although I'd prefer a more environmentally-friendly solution, even paper plates would be preferable, as it's awkward to eat out of a to-go container), tweak their pricing, or manage expectations by printing on the menu or having employees mention to customers that if they're hungry, two people might opt to split, say, three entrees (which would benefit StrEAT, as well).

That said, the food I tried at StrEAT today was all outstanding, and I think this place is a serious contender in a food scene that can be lacking in the ethnic food department. I'm very much looking forward to working my way through the rest of their menu.

StrEAT
3211 Red River St
Austin, TX 78705
(512) 628-0288
http://eatatStrEAT.com

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