Friday, May 27, 2011

Contigo Austin

Oh...uh...hi!

You're still there?

Cool!

Sorry for the lack of posting; I'm not sure exactly what happened there, except that I've just been a little overwhelmed with life. Nothing serious; just enough to keep me from staying as engaged with this process as I'd like. But I'm back!

And, of course, I have lots to share with you.

Last night, I finally got to venture out to try Contigo Austin. I first read about Contigo on Jodi Bart's wonderful blog, Tasty Touring, and as soon as I read her post, I knew I needed to try this place. I have a huge soft spot for places that are casual enough that I can show up in shorts but that still provide a great dining experience, and it's a huge bonus if they are also dog-friendly. Contigo fit all these criteria.

So, my friend Liz and I (and Mindy) spent the lovely summer evening on the patio at Contigo sampling their fare. And by "sampling," I mean that the two of us ordered a boatload of food and then managed to leave with it all in our bellies.

I started with one of Contigo's cocktails, the El Pepino ($7): tequila, cucumber water, lime, and just a whisper of mint. So delicious and refreshing, and quite dangerously easy to drink.


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The first food to arrive was the house pickles ($4) - green tomato, green beans, and cucumber. These were super vinegary and were the only thing we tried that I probably wouldn't order again (although I was sort of glad we had them, as the acidity helped cut through the heaviness of the other stuff we ordered).

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Next up were the "crispy green beans," ($6) which don't necessarily sound like they're deep-fried, but I knew from Jodi's post that they would be. These were really tender and delicious, and the batter had just the right amount of salt in it. I liked the sambal aioli that came with them, as well.

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I was dead-set on trying one of Contigo's house-made charcuterie offerings, so ordered the crepinette ($7), which our server described as a patty of pork sausage meat mixed with reconstituted earl grey currants and crimini mushrooms, and encased in a netting of fat (!!). Uh, yes, please.

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I loved this. The texture of the pork was hearty, and the flavor was rich but still nice and clean, and wasn't muddled with that greasy aftertaste that you sometimes get with low quality sausage. The herb salad made a nice, bright complement to the meat.

Mindy asked Liz several times if she could have some, but fortunately, Liz was not swayed by her hopeful attention.

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We also tried the cauliflower gratin ($7). Cauliflower was lightly cooked (it still had a little crunch to it) and topped with parmesan, toasted almonds, and a balsamic reduction. It's not listed on the menu, but I think I detected a bit of cream in the sauce, as well.

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It wouldn't be patio dining without a mess of fries, right? So we got some of those, as well ($4). Fries + aioli are such a fine combination, and these were nice and crispy and, like the green beans, perfectly salty.

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I really enjoyed my first experience here and hope to be back again soon. I love the restaurant's concept - basically, "We love our South Texas ranch, and since we can't bring everyone down there, we're bringing the ranch to you." I'm so glad they did.

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Contigo Austin
2027 Anchor Lane
Austin, Texas 78723
(512) 614-2260
Their website

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Galveston, Texas (Instagram edition)

We just spent an altogether too short weekend in Galveston, on the Texas coast. We were there for less than 48 hours, but I came away refreshed, relaxed, and recharged. In the future, I'll endeavor not to soon forget the healing power of the salty sea breezes and a long stretch of beach.

Inspired by this post by my friend and photographer idol, Penny de los Santos, I dove headfirst into a fabulous and free iPhone app called Instagram for my shots of the trip. Instagram allows you to apply one of a number of filters to your photo, giving you the potential of turning a decent shot into something much more interesting. There is also a cool social media component that allows you to "follow" users and comment on other users' photos (if you want to find me, my username there is "optimista"). It's a very neat way to create and share your images.

Since I have so many images I want to share here, I'll refrain from my usual barrage of verbosity and let the photos speak for themselves.


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Sunday, May 8, 2011

All in the Family

Today is a very special day. Of course, it's Mother's Day. It is also my dad's birthday. And, as if that weren't enough, it is also my sister-in-law's birthday!

All three of them are awesome people, and I feel so lucky to be related to all of them.

I definitely got my love of food from my parents. If you've read my blog for any length of time, you've probably seen the amaaaazing food my mom makes. Many of my favorites of her dishes are featured on this post. She and I have very similar food taste, and will frequently be eyeing the same things on the menu when we go out to eat.

My dad is a good cook, too, although it was a rare sight to see him standing in front of the stove. But I credit him with my love of dark meat and my sweet tooth (and, more specifically, the feelings of nostalgia I experience whenever I eat soft serve from Dairy Queen).

Here is a photo of them on their wedding day. Aren't they the cutest?


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And here's a photo of them from last Christmas, when my dad surprised my mom with a ring at the end of the gift-giving. I love that my dad was so thoughtful to have surprised my mom with a gift like that after forty-seven (!!!) years.

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They are the best parents I could ever have asked for and I love them so much.

As for my sister-in-law, not only is she a fabulous woman and a wonderful partner for my brother, but she also cooked up the cutest baby in the universe.

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Happy, happy birthday R and Dad, and Happy Mother's Day, R and Mom! Wish I were there to celebrate with you guys! Love you all.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Food Photo Friday - Zax

My pants suggested to me the other day that perhaps it might be nice if I integrated some more salads into my diet. I try to keep my pants happy, but I also know how important it is to keep my taste buds happy, so I offered my pants a compromise: salads from Zax.


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My first salad true love at Zax was the shrimp remoulade. Large, fresh shrimp in a creamy remoulade sauce, over bright greens, tomato, and generous slices of always-perfectly-ripened avocado. Served with a spot of seasoned, crouton-like toast so you don't feel too carb-deprived.

Last time I was there, I got all wild and crazy and tried the steak salad. Again with the crisp greens and tomatoes, only this time they woo you with a nicely seasoned portion of New York strip and sneak in some bleu cheese and crispy fried onions. "Hey Pants," I said, "You didn't specify what kind of salad."

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For the salad-averse, Zax also offers a nice selection of sandwiches (including burgers), pizzas, pastas, and other "appeal to everyone" choices. Everything I've tried there has been made well and delicious. The space is filled with sunlight and always pleasant, and they have a dog-friendly patio for soaking in this fine weather we're experiencing. Oh, and they offer a nice selection of brunch dishes on the weekends (see here to get a gander at their corned beef hash), along with a build-your-own bloody Mary bar. I like to play a little game with myself to see how many olives, pickled okra, and gherkins I can skewer on one cocktail swizzler.

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I could've fit another gherkin on this one.

Zax Restaurant & Bar
312 Barton Springs Road
Austin , TX 78704
(512) 481-0100

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