Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bona fide food snob when it comes to Chinese food. I spent the first 18 years of my life eating my mom's outstanding Chinese food nearly every day, so the Chinese food I encounter has to live up to very high standards.
So I'll confess that when I saw some of the early press about Old Thousand describing it as "classic American-Chinese food," I was a little skeptical. The phrase "American-Chinese food" conjured up images of sickly-sweet pineapple sauces and General Tso's chicken. But then I noticed that the chefs were Uchi alumni, and then the Old Thousand folks very graciously extended an invitation to their soft opening, and I could not resist a peek.
I'm so glad I didn't let my preconceived notions talk me out of going, because WE LOVED IT. The food and service were excellent, and as we left, we repeatedly gushed to our server that we'd be back again soon. Here's a little look at what we tried.
I kicked off my meal with Old Thousand's signature cocktail (also called the Old Thousand), which is their take on an old fashioned. It was smooth and easy to drink and relaxed us into our meal.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bona fide food snob when it comes to Chinese food. I spent the first 18 years of my life eating my mom's outstanding Chinese food nearly every day, so the Chinese food I encounter has to live up to very high standards.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Some of the bloggers I know are very organized about blogging. They have editorial calendars where they actually think through what they'll be posting and write about particular things when they'll be most relevant. Me, I blog by the seat of my pants. I pretty much write whenever I feel like it and have time (which, unfortunately, is not nearly often enough) - and when I write, it's often about things that have just happened, which means the topics are not always appropriately timed.
Friday, November 25, 2016
Usually when I make pies, I like to add little pie crust cutouts on top to fancy it up a little - leaves for Thanksgiving, stars for the Fourth of July, and so on. This works well with my lazy pie-maker crust-making method, which is to buy Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts. I frequently get compliments on this crust, and it is better than any pie crust I've made myself - and no, I'm not getting paid for this endorsement! Anyway, since the crusts come two to a box, it typically leaves me with an extra crust to use for cut-outs. But whenever I do this, I end up with a whole lot of extra crust. What to do with it?
I've tried several different things over the years - sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar, parmesan cheese, garlic salt, all manner of toppings - but none of them were ever really compelling. This Thanksgiving, I happened to have some pungent blue cheese lying around. I cut the crust with cookie cutters, sprinkled a bit of the blue cheese on top, and popped them in the oven on a cookie tray along with my pie. Voila, super tasty blue cheese crackers!
My pie was baking at 350F, so I baked my crackers at the same temperature for about 15 minutes, until they were golden brown. However, if you're doing crackers alone, you might try using this recipe from Pillsbury, which suggests baking at 450F for 6-7 minutes.
These are so addictive and ridiculously easy - they remind me of those delicious cheese straws, but so much easier to make! Enjoy!
What do you do with your leftover pie crusts?
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
That's the phrase that graces the top of Picnik's menu and website. It captures a mood that we felt in full force during our first visit there, particularly in our interactions with the owner, Naomi, who is radiantly gorgeous, humbly sweet, and very clearly passionate about the food they are serving at her brand new brick and mortar on Burnet Road. They are committed to using locally-sourced, high quality ingredients, and everything on the menu is gluten-free, soy-free, and corn-free. And they make it clear on their menu that they are happy to assist with modifications for special dietary needs or restrictions - a promise that grew out of Naomi's own personal history of combatting food allergies since childhood.
Picnik is famous for its butter coffee, and while I really wanted to try this, drinking caffeine at night makes me sad. Instead, I opted for their caffeine-free marshmallow chai. I loved the very clean sweetness of it. My husband ordered a cup of butter broth, which is chicken bone broth with grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and himalayan sea salt (he also added tumeric to his). Having drank a lot of obviously inferior broth in my life, I was skeptical of the idea of just sipping a cup of broth - but after having tried this, I am a believer. It was luscious and amazing and pretty much made every broth I've ever had taste like bath water by comparison. If you take nothing at all away from this review, it should be that you should try the butter broth at Picnik.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Recently, the management of our office complex has been arranging for various food trucks to visit us at lunch time. Our office has very few food options nearby, so this development is quite exciting. I love trying new food trucks but I hate eating outside when the temperature is in the 90s, so being able to take the food back to my delightfully climate-controlled office is pretty happy-making.
One of my favorites of the parade of trucks that has come by is the Melted Grilled Cheese Truck. Their menu piqued my interest immediately - almost every single one of their offerings sounded like something I wanted to eat. After much internal debate, I settled on a Farmer's Market BLT ($10). There were a bunch of us ordering from our office, so we also got a couple sides of tater tots ($2) and a side of Asian crunch salad ($3).
The Asian salad was pretty well portioned for $3, but it could have used a little more oomph, maybe a bit of salt or acid to zing it up a bit. This would be an easy fix, though, and it was nice to have something relatively healthy to help justify the tater tots.
While I'd be hard pressed to recall a tater tot I didn't like, these tots were excellent specimens - nice potato flavor with a satisfyingly crunchy exterior.
The Farmer's Market BLT was excellent. The flavors and textures played perfectly off one another. Tangy goat cheese, juicy fried green tomatoes, crispy bacon, spicy arugula, garlic aioli - the ingredients are a virtual greatest hits of "things I like on sandwiches." And the locally-made sourdough bread was just the right texture - awesomely buttery-toasty, but soft enough to avoid feeling like I was scratching up the roof of my mouth. Full disclosure: approximately ten napkins were harmed during the "research" for this blog post.
Best of all, 100% (yes, you read that correctly) of the truck's profits are donated to the International Justice Mission, an organization that works to protect people in developing countries from violence.
Melted Food Truck
Mobile locations - check here to find out where they'll be
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I love a good tasting menu. It takes all the decision-making out of the equation and gives a chef the opportunity to serve you dishes that will really show off his or her skills. So I was really excited when our friends Laura & Shane invited us to the soft opening of De La Terre, a new supper club that's held every Monday in the space at Foreign & Domestic (which is closed on Mondays). The brainchild of chefs Lori Bergeron & Anthony Nicaj, De La Terre serves 10-12 course tasting menus focusing on local produce (including many foraged ingredients). The results are beautiful and delicious.
Here's a peek at what we ate:
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
I have a friend in the food business who rolls her eyes at truffle oil. She thinks the whole truffle oil trend is restaurants' cheap way of tricking uneducated diners into thinking dishes are better and fancier than they really are.
I am one of those diners. I LOVE truffle oil. I don't care how foolish it makes me; if you add truffle oil to my food, I will likely gobble it up, all the while making "yummy sounds" a la Young Frankenstein.
So when I needed a super-easy dish for a neighborhood party, I picked up a couple dozen already-boiled-and-peeled eggs at Costco (yes, this is the ultimate in laziness, but not having to pick the shells off two dozen eggs saved me a ton of time) and Googled a few recipes for truffled deviled eggs. I used this recipe by Anne Burrell as a base, sort of, but her mayo-to-egg ratio seemed awfully high, so I cut back on that significantly. Also, I didn't have any chives on hand, so I just sprinkled a little porcini salt on top, mostly for color. Basically, I used:
• 2 dozen hard boiled eggs
• 1 cup mayo (NOTE: this is the kind of recipe where you really should taste as you go. Depending on the size of your eggs, you may not need this much. Start with 1/2 cup, taste it, and add as needed to taste.)
• 1 T truffle oil
• Garnish of choice (chives, dill, paprika, interesting finishing salts, whatever you've got)
I didn't even bother to pipe them to make them pretty; like I said, I was short on time, so I just plopped the mixed yolks back into the whites, sprinkled the salt, and called it a day.
At $6.50 for a 6 oz bag, they aren't cheap, but considering the price of marcona almonds, the price of truffle oil, and the fact that these are so insanely delicious, I'd say they're worth every penny.
What are your favorite truffly dishes or products?
Friday, March 4, 2016
My second post for this year's Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide is an update of my Chinese food guide for 2015. I spent the better part of the first eighteen years of my life eating Chinese food pretty much every day. My mom is a formidable cook, so this background led to me being a bit...picky...about Chinese food. And while Austin isn't exactly a Chinese food mecca, there are some wonderful spots in town to find excellent Chinese cuisine.
|Salt & Pepper Squid at Din Ho = "the usual"|
If you need a spot to host a large banquet or wedding, the very spacious New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (10901 North Lamar Blvd., Ste A-1, Austin TX 78753) is the place you're seeking. An Asian organization to which I belong hosted their Lunar New Year banquet at New Fortune this year, and the food was fantastic. Looking for something a bit fancier? The more well-appointed Chinatown Restaurant (three locations: North, 3407 Greystone Dr., Austin TX 78731; Downtown, 107 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701; and Westlake, 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746) would appeal to those turned off by the austere atmospheres of most Chinese restaurants. Chinatown's food tilts away from the traditional, but traditional Chinese food lovers will enjoy the flavors here, too (my favorite dish here is their sizzling honey pepper steak).
Great Cantonese food can also be found at First Chinese BBQ (10901 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78753) and Ho Ho Chinese BBQ (13000 N. IH-35, Austin, TX 78753). If you find yourself out in Lakeway, I've also had some truly outstanding meals at Pao's Mandarin House (2300 Lohman's Spur, Austin TX 78734). Hot tip: Pao's has a secret menu with some of the more traditional dishes on it that I've found you have to ask for unless your party is predominantly Asian.
|Sichuan Spicy Sizzling Lamb at Sichuan River|
Rice Bowl Café (11220 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78753) serves up a GIGANTIC bowl of handmade noodles with beef and veggies for just $9.50; they also have my favorite scallion pancakes in town.
Chen's Noodle House (8650 Spicewood Springs Rd., Austin TX 78759) and Chen Z (6705 Hwy 290, Austin TX 78735) both offer a variety of wonderful handmade noodle dishes in delightfully divey surroundings.
Xian Sushi & Noodle (Two locations: Mueller - 1801 E. 51st St., Bldg C 370, Austin TX 78723 and Northwest - 13201 RR 620 N. Ste U208, Austin TX 78717) is the only place in town where you can watch a chef hand pull your noodles before serving them. You can choose the thickness of your noodles; I think the texture of the thicker ones like the pappardelle adds a bit of oomph that makes the noodles taste more homemade.
|Dan Ta (custard tarts) from Wu Chow|
Other dim sum spots in town include Shanghai (6718 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin TX 78752) and Chinatown Restaurant (dim sum only offered at two of their three locations: North, 3407 Greystone Dr., Austin TX 78731 and Westlake, 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746). Chinatown recently acquired a dim sum chef from San Francisco and significantly upped their dim sum game. Full blog post about Chinatown's dim sum can be found here.
If you're in the know about great Chinese food that I missed, please let me know in the comments!
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
and from Ladybird Lake to MLK):
Austin Land & Cattle, 1205 North Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703. According to their website, ALC is the only independent, family-owned steakhouse in Austin. They've been around for 20 years, which is quite an accomplishment in Austin's ever-changing restaurant landscape.
|Scallops at Café Josie|
Clark's Oyster Bar, 1200 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - The prices here are on the steep side for what you get, but everything I've tried has been excellent, and I am glad for a spot to add to the short list of locally-owned seafood restaurants.
Cippolina, 1213 West Lynn, Austin, TX 78703 - Charming bistro with a more casual feel.
Counter 3. Five. VII., 315 Congress, Ste 100, Austin TX 78701 - This all prix-fixe restaurant guarantees you a front row seat to the show of creating your meal.
Driskill Grill, 604 Brazos, Austin TX 78701 - Fine dining in a beautiful historic hotel. They have their own dry aging room.
El Naranjo, 85 Rainey Street, Austin TX 78701 - Quite possibly the best interior Mexican food in town.
Emmer & Rye, 51 Rainey Street, Ste 110, Austin TX 78701 - My first experience at Emmer & Rye could have been better, but the large majority of the people I know who have been really love it, so perhaps we were there on an off day.
Fixe, 500 W. 5th Street, Austin TX 78701 - My favorite spot for upscale Southern food, serving amazingly fluffy biscuits and some of the best fried chicken I've ever tasted.
Geraldine's, 605 Davis Street, Austin TX 78701 - New spot in Austin's first Kimpton hotel property that offers live music every night.
The Grove, Three locations: Downtown, 800 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701; West - 6317 Bee Caves Rd, Austin TX 78746 and Lakeway - 3001 RR 620, Austin TX 78734 - A solid offering by experienced Austin restauranteur Reed Clemons.
Jeffrey's, 1204 West Lynn, Austin TX 78703 - On the spendy side as far as Austin fine dining goes, but you can enjoy their excellent food for much less during happy hour - 4:30-6:30 Tues-Sun and all night on Monday.
Josephine House, 1601 Waterston, Austin TX 78703 - A very sweet restaurant in an old house. I'm partial to their Monday night steak frites night.
|Aguachile at La Condesa|
Lambert's, 401 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701 - Not your father's barbecue. Think pork ribs with a fennel-coriander rub, brisket with a brown sugar and coffee rub, and brussels sprouts with bacon and brown butter.
La Traviata, 314 N. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78701 - Their carbonara will make you cry tears of joy. Blog post dedicated to this thing of beauty here.
Parkside, 301 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - New American fare. If you're dining with someone who wants a more casual meal, send them back to the Parkside's sister restaurant, a pizza joint adjacent to the Parkside and aptly called Backspace (while you eat at Parkside, of course).
Olamaie, 1610 San Antonio St., Austin TX 78701 - another new upscale Southern restaurant with phenomenal biscuits (off the menu) and simply gorgeous surroundings (I so coveted their dining chairs that I asked our server to find out where they were from). Word to the wise, though; they will firmly refuse any changes to their recipes (this includes removing ingredients), so study the menu beforehand to make sure it will work for diners with dietary restrictions.
Péché, 208 W. 4th St., Austin TX 78701 - Absinthe bar that also happens to have excellent food and service.
Ranch 616, 616 Nueces St., Austin TX 78701 - Quirky...like Austin. I'm partial to the jalapeno-maize trout, but I don't really think you can go wrong here. Strong cocktails and a nice patio round out the deal.
Swift's Attic, 315 N. Congress, Austin TX 78701 - Inventive small plates (for example, edamame served with pop rock salt) in a wonderfully steampunkish space.
TRIO, 98 San Jacinto, Austin TX 78701 - The Four Seasons Hotel is all about exceeding expectations, and its restaurant, TRIO, does just that.
|Market Snacks at TRACE|
Wink, 1014 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78701 - Another great spot offering New American fare with a focus on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and an emphasis on personal attention. If you're celebrating a special occasion, let them know; they'll print up special celebratory menus just for you.
Al Fico, 1700 E. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78702 - Comforting Italian fare from the folks who own Vino Vino (see North of Downtown section). Full blog post about Al Fico can be found here.
Buenos Aires Café, Two locations: East - 1201 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702; Lakeway - 13500 Galleria Circle, Bee Cave, TX 78738 - Lovely spot serving up - you guessed it! - Argentinian fare. If you have room for dessert, they've upped the ante with their quatro leches cake. Extra leches is always a win in my book.
Dai Due, 2406 Manor Road, Austin TX 78722 - I struggled with whether to include Dai Due here; after two visits, it has yet to impress, and on one of these visits we suffered through a painfully chewy $90+ steak. This place gets a ton of love from other food writers, though, so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.
East Side Cafe, 2113 Manor Rd, Austin TX 78722 - A glimpse into the good old days when Austin was more hippie-funky, with a large garden on the premises that sources many of their herbs, decorative garnishes, and some of their veggies.
East Side Show Room, 1100 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - Good, locally-sourced eats in a sumptuously steampunky setting. My blog post about it is here.
Hillside Farmacy, 1209 E. 11th Street, Austin TX 78702 - This sweet little place is housed in a building that once was home to a pharmacy, and they've kept many of the accoutrements of the previous occupant intact. Their menu covers everything from raw oysters to shepherd's pie, and they've got you covered for every meal - opening at 9a daily and closing at 10 or 11 at night.
Jacoby's, 3235 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - This family-operated restaurant sources all of its beef from the family's ranch, and there's a really cool little mercantile on the premises so you can get a little shopping fix after your meal.
Launderette, 2115 Holly St., Austin TX 78702 - I'm a huge fan of Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki (both formerly of Sway and La Condesa), and their latest venture did not disappoint. It's one of the few places where I actually get excited about ordering chicken; their brick chicken is outstanding.
Salt & Time, 1912 E. 7th St., Austin TX 78702 - It's a butcher shop! It's a restaurant! It's both, in one tasty package.
|Triple Fried Duck Fat Fries with 110 Minute Eggs at Salty Sow|
qui, 1600 E. 6th St., Austin TX 78702 - I have long been a fan of Paul Qui. Many years ago, back in his Uchiko days, he prepared what may very well be my favorite meal of all time - a blowout, multi-course wine dinner that I feel sure I will never forget. So I'm sad to report that my first meal at his signature restaurant fell so far short of my (admittedly very high) expectations that I have not been back. That said, many, many people rave about this place, so it seems like I should include it on this list. YMMV.
SOUTH OF THE RIVER (CLOSE TO DOWNTOWN):
Cantine, 1100 South Lamar Blvd, Ste 2115, Austin TX 78704 - Newish venture from Austin restaurant veterans Emmett & Lisa Fox. Be sure to try the anchovy-stuffed fried olives, a holdover from the Foxes' now-closed favorite, FINO.
Juliet Ristorante, 1500 Barton Springs Rd, Austin TX 78704 - Italian fare in a lovely space reminiscent of my parents' home in the 70s (but modernized to be beautiful in this decade). My food experiences here have been a little inconsistent, but it's worth a visit.
|Crispy Wild Boar at Lenoir|
Odd Duck, 1201 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - A food trailer that grew up to be a brick & mortar, by the same chef-owner as Barley Swine (below). Full blog post here.
Olivia, 2043 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - New American with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients. The open and well-lit space, designed by Austin architect Michael Hsu, is part of its charm.
Otoko, 1603 South Congress, Ave., Austin TX 78704 - A brand new, 12-seat sushi and kaiseki counter by Austin superstar chef Paul Qui.
South Congress Cafe, 1600 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - New American in a casual-yet-upscale setting. They don't take reservations, and there can be a long wait at peak hours. Consider yourself warned.
Sway, 1417 S. 1st, Austin TX 78704 - Modern Thai dishes that pack a serious flavor punch. Full blog post about it here.
|Pitchfork Roll at Uchi|
Vespaio, 1610 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Italian. Its sister restaurant next door, Enoteca Vespaio, also offers delicious food in a more casual atmosphere.
Zax, 312 Barton Springs Rd, Austin TX 78704 - A bright, laid back spot with a dog-friendly patio that I always enjoy. I have trouble veering away from the shrimp remoulade salad, but whenever I have, it's always been tasty. For those of you with refined bloody Mary palates, be sure to check out their build-your-own bloody Mary bar during brunch.
NORTH OF DOWNTOWN:
Asti, 408C E. 43rd St., Austin TX 78751 - Solid Italian fare from experienced restauranteurs Lisa & Emmett Fox.
Barley Swine, 6555 Burnet Road, Ste 400, Austin TX 78757 - Interesting, innovative fare from a chef with a nose-to-tail philosophy.
The Carillon, 1900 University Ave., Austin TX 78705 - Located in the AT&T Conference Center & Hotel on campus, The Carillon could easily be a buffet restaurant in a large, well-funded university. And, in fact, during the day, it is. But at night, it transforms into a fine dining establishment with very good food.
Chinatown, Three locations: North - 3407 Greystone Drive, Austin TX 78731; Downtown - 107 W. 5th Street, Austin, TX 78701; West - 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746 - I recently attended a media tasting at the Westlake location and loved many of the dishes served, especially the sizzling honey pepper steak.
Fonda San Miguel, 2330 W. North Loop, Austin TX 78756 - Interior Mexican in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
Foreign & Domestic, 306 E. 53rd St., Austin TX 78751 - A tiny place with a completely open (and similarly tiny) kitchen surrounded by bar seating so you can watch the action while you swoon over your food. The food here can be a little adventurous (in a good way) - I once tried venison heart tartare here.
|Chirashi at Hanabi|
Komê - One of the few sushi places in town where my non-raw-fish-eating husband gets excited about ordering sushi. Both the raw and the cooked offerings here are excellent - and surprisingly affordable (for sushi). I just wish they took reservations, as there is usually a wait, and their waiting area is cramped and uncomfortable.
Musashino - Consistently good old-school sushi. If you're dining with non-sushi-eaters who don't feel like eating tempura or teriyaki, they'll let you order Chinese food from Chinatown upstairs.
Olive & June - This Italian restaurant from established Austin chef Shawn Cirkiel is a favorite of mine. I love their Sunday dinners, when they offer a very generous multi-course meal for $29 (children 12 and under are free!), A blog post about my first meal at Olive & June can be found here.
Texas French Bread, 2900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705 - This little bakery and café offers a wonderful dinner service. It's one of my favorites for a casual but delicious meal. Much of the food is locally sourced, and everything I have tried has been beautifully prepared.
Uchiko, 4200 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 78756 - The sister restaurant to Uchi. I've heard their food described as more "masculine" while Uchi's is more "feminine" - I guess my taste buds are hermaphrodites, because I love both spots.
Vino Vino, 4119 Guadalupe Street, Austin TX 78751 - Wine bar that also serves excellent food.
Andiamo Ristorante, 2521 Rutland Drive, Austin TX 78758 - This out-of-the-way Italian restaurant has a devoted following for a reason. Addictive bread, wonderful pasta, photo art that will make you want to get on the next plane to Italy. Their monthly wine dinners are not to be missed (reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to get on their mailing list!)
Apis, 23526 Highway 71 West, Spicewood, Texas 78669 - One of my very favorite restaurants in Austin. Their 23-course tasting menu is my current favorite way to celebrate a big event.
Café Malta, 3421 W. William Cannon Dr., Austin TX 78745 - Tucked away in a strip mall that also contains a tobacco shop and a Taco Bell, Café Malta definitely qualifies as a hidden gem. To my surprise and delight, they make most everything from scratch, from their pastas to their preserves.
Eleven Plates, 3801 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Ste C-200, Austin TX 78746 - A solid offering on the west side of town with a nice patio overlooking the hill country and a solid menu (and truffle fries!).
Hudson's on the Bend, 3509 RR 620, Austin TX 78734 - Specializing in wild game.
|Trout Salad at Jack Allen's Kitchen|
North by Northwest, Two locations: Northwest - 10010 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin TX 78759; and South - 5701 W. Slaughter Ln, Ste D, Austin TX 78749 - Consistently decent, and they brew their own beer. 'nuff said.
Soto, 11066 Pecan Park Blvd, Cedar Park, TX 78613 - Well worth the drive to Cedar Park. If you want to be really wowed by a meal, go find Chef Andy and tell him to surprise you. He will. Full blog post here.
Did I miss your favorite spot for fancy fare? Leave me a comment!