Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Austin Bakes for West

The seemingly-tireless and undisputedly-amazing woman behind Austin BakesKathryn Hutchison, is at it again, this time organizing a city-wide bake sale to benefit Americares' efforts in West, Texas. If you've been looking for an easy and fun way to help the citizens of West, all you have to do is visit one of the eight locations below on Saturday, May 4th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and purchase some of the delicious baked goods that will be donated by both professional and home bakers all over the city. Or, you can give directly to AmeriCares at the Austin Bakes giving page, here.


Want to do more? You can also volunteer to bake or help out with setup, sales, and cleanup on Saturday by signing up here.

I'll be at the Stiles Switch location all day Saturday - hope to see you there!

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Getting Lucky at Lucky Robot

Austin restaurant chain Zen became a sibling a few months ago, when founder Adam Weisberg opened Lucky Robot in the space that formerly housed the South Congress incarnation of Zen. It took me a few months to make it there, but my first meal there was so delightful that I was back again the next day.

Like Zen, Lucky Robot offers Japanese-inspired fare, but the dishes at Lucky Robot feel significantly more special to me than Zen's offerings. The flavors and presentation are much more refined, and the entire experience feels less "fast food-ish" than Zen, without too much of a markup (entrées run from about $8-$13, and the portions are very generous). Ordering is done via iPads on the tables, which is kind of fun, especially since the iPad version of the menu features photos of every dish. Also, the digital menu makes it easy to spot gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and low-calorie items, a feature that those on special diets will appreciate. One minor irritation with the iPad ordering system, though: it does not make it easy to split the ticket amongst multiple parties. Only one credit card can be used per transaction, and you don't get an itemized bill (the former issue is fixable if you ask your server to run the cards).

Wondering what to get? Here's what I've tried:

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Brussel sprouts ($4.75). My favorites in town - and I have eaten a lot of brussel sprouts in this town. Tossed in a lemongrass soy. These are on my must-order list for every visit to Lucky Robot.

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Karaage Chicken ($8.00). Loads of chicken that's been marinated for 24 hours, then fried. Well-prepared, although I think I'll ask for the sauce on the side next time; as you can see in the photo, it pooled in the bottom of the bowl and made my rice more saucy than I like it.

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Bo Ssam ($8.50). Brown sugar-crusted pork belly...need I say more? Just in case the answer is yes, it's served with rice, red leaf lettuce, kim chee, ginger scallions and ssamjang (an amazing, spicy, bean-paste-based sauce that I am determined to recreate at home so I can put it on everything). Snuggle some pork belly up in a lettuce leaf, dress it with whatever of the other ingredients you like (in my case, all of them), roll it up, and go to town. Probably not recommended for a first date. Highly recommended for a tenth date (if s/he minds you eating delicious, messy food, you might as well kick them to the curb).


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Rising Sun ($11.00). Probably my favorite of the dishes I've tried here, this cholesterol-bomb features four generous slabs of pork belly, served with a rectangle of grilled rice, crispy shallots & garlic, charred scallion vinaigrette and cilantro, all topped with a gorgeously-runny fried egg. This one is definitely not on the 500 calories or less menu, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't like fatty meat - the pork belly on this dish is much fattier than the belly served with the Bo Ssam. But if you don't mind giving your arteries a little workout, order this with a side of the ssamjang (from the Bo Ssam dish) and go to town.

Lucky Robot is open 11a-10p Monday through Friday, and 10a-10p Saturday and Sunday. They offer a "Tokyo Brunch" both weekend days that features more typical brunch-ish entrées like eggs and pancakes, but with Asian riffs, like soft-shell crab, sriracha, and matcha green tea whipped cream. Much of their regular menu is available during brunch time, too, so if you'd rather start your day with a pile of pork belly, no one is going to stop you.

More craveworthy, moderately-priced, Asian-inspired fare in Austin? Lucky us.

Lucky Robot
1303 South Congress
Austin, TX 78704

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Monday, April 15, 2013

A Blog Birthday and a Smoothie for Allen

April 13th marked the four-year anniversary of this blog. Writing here has been a wonderful thing for me for so many reasons: it's a fun creative outlet; it's given me tons of photography practice; and it's been the conduit and inspiration for many, many, many wonderful meals. Best of all, though, it's helped me connect with a community of amazing, talented people who share a passion for food and a recognition that few things are as good at bringing people together.

Unfortunately, one member of the Austin food community, Allen Stern of Let's Talk Fitness, passed away earlier this month. I regret that I never met Allen personally, but he was a frequent participant in the private Facebook group for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, and by all accounts he was energetic, generous, and kind. Allen, who had lost over 125 pounds thanks to improved diet and exercise, was a big proponent of drinking green smoothies for weight loss. As a tribute to Allen, some of his family and friends suggested that folks make a smoothie in his honor and post about it online. So it seemed fitting that to celebrate my blog's birthday, I should toast a green smoothie to a fellow food blogger who left us too soon. Allen, this one is for you.

I learned about this smoothie recipe from my awesome sister-in-law, who posted about it on her blog last month. The original recipe is here. Mine was slightly modified from both, so I'll post my ingredient list here - but the beauty of smoothies is that the recipe is really just to provide inspiration. You can fiddle with it however you like until you've got the perfect blender concoction.

Green Smoothie for Allen
1 frozen banana
1 T peanut butter (I used The Bee's Knees peanut butter, which has some honey added to it - a gift from Peanut Butter & Co. If you don't have any Bee's Knees, you could use regular peanut butter and add honey separately, to taste.)
1/2 c Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1/4 c milk
Enough spinach to fill the blender to the top (most green smoothie recipes call for baby spinach; I used heirloom spinach from our Tecolote Farm CSA, and it worked great)

Blend and enjoy!

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Austin Songkran Festival at Wat Buddhananachat

Every year, the Thai Buddhist temple in Del Valle, Wat Buddhananachat, throws a big Songkran festival celebrating the Thai New Year. We went a couple of years ago, and it was a super fun and very culturally-interesting experience. Dozens of vendors were making and selling all kinds of Thai food - from Thai fried rice to intestine soup to curries galore, as well as tons of other offerings that were unfamiliar to me, and all of which I wanted to try. I sorely wished I had a spare stomach that day! There's also live music, dancing, and a Miss Songkran beauty pageant. Here are a few photos from when we went:

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This year, the festival is on Saturday, April 20th. The festivites go from 10:00 a.m. until midnight. It's family-friendly, entrance is free, and you just have to pay for whatever food you buy. I highly recommend this event for all you Thai food lovers, and for anyone else interested in experiencing a Thai cultural celebration.

Here's the link to the event Facebook page.


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