Friday, March 31, 2017

Colossal Curry Cookoff 2017!

Curry fans, rejoice!! The Austin Food Blogger Alliance is hosting its second Curry Cookoff on April 22, 2017, at Shangri-La, from 2-4 p.m. This event was a ton of fun last year and the contestants all brought their A-games and created some seriously outstanding curry concoctions. Last year's three celebrity judges - CK Chin, Brandon Watson, and Kelly Stocker - had the very difficult task of selecting the Curry Champion of Austin (as well as 1st and 2nd runners-up), and attendees cast their votes for the coveted People's Choice prize. DJ Dolomike spun the hottest tunes to get the sold-out crowd moving.

Colossal Curry Cookoff 2016

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We are working to make this year's event even bigger and better, so be sure to get your tickets while they're still available! Or, if you think you've got the cooking chops to grab the coveted Curry Champion crown, interested contestants should email us at cookoff@austinfoodbloggers.org. It's FREE to enter and there will be fabulous prizes for the winners - not to mention bragging rights!


Hope to see you there!!!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Fleming's Southern Hemisphere Event - and a GIVEAWAY!

The folks at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar invited me out recently to check out their Southern Hemisphere Wine Harvest event. This fun event celebrates the flavors of the Southern Hemisphere during the region's annual wine harvest. We've been lucky enough to dine at Fleming's several times in the past, so I knew we would be in for a treat, and eagerly took them up on their offer. As always, the food was delicious and the service was truly unbeatable. From the second we hit the front door until the moment we left, we were treated like kings (and no, they didn't know I was a blogger when I was there).


The meal was wonderful, as well. We started with Fleming's wonderful complimentary bread, which was served fresh from the oven. It came with chardonnay cheddar and champagne brie spreads - a fun diversion from the usual butter.

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My husband is a fan of the wedge salad. We split one of these, and thank goodness - pictured is my half of the salad, and I think the photo makes it look quite a bit smaller than it really was. The slab of bacon served with it was divine (sorry for the lighting on this pic - I'm experimenting with a flash trick that Linda Nguyen taught me - still learning!)

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For my entrée, I chose the New Zealand Rack of Lamb from the Southern Hemisphere menu. It was served over a generous bed of truffle-parsley mashed potatoes and crispy leeks, a melt-in-your-mouth concoction that totally made me swoon. The lamb was super tender with excellent flavor.

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My husband ordered the Double-Thick Pork Rib Chop with a julienne of apples, jicama, apple cider, and a creole mustard glaze (this was from their regular menu). This caveman-esque slab of meat was very impressive!

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Sadly, both of us took home a substantial amount of leftovers and did not have room for dessert. It was a bit crushing, as I had my eye on their walnut turtle pie!

Not only did Fleming's make us feel like royalty, they want to make YOU feel the same way! So they've given me a $100 credit to give away to a lucky reader! (It basically works like a gift card, except that it has to be used in a single visit and can't be used for alcoholic beverages, gratuity, or taxes). 

Would you like to win it and enjoy a totally splurge-y meal? To enter, leave me a comment telling me what you'll order off Fleming's menu if you win.  I'll pick a winner at random on Monday, March 27th (because we all need a little something to make Mondays better). You can get up to two additional entries by following me on Instagram and/or following me on Twitter - just please leave me comments here letting me know you've done so (if you already follow me, that counts too!)  NOTE: this can be used at any Fleming's location in the U.S., so you don't have to live in Austin to take advantage of this giveaway.  Good luck!

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Best Chinese Food in Austin, 2017 Edition


Once again for 2017, I've updated my guide to the best Chinese food in Austin for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide. Eating my mom's awesome Chinese food nearly every day while I was growing up means that I have very high standards when it comes to this category. Austin doesn't offer nearly the quantity or quality of Chinese restaurants as in other cities, but there are still many places here where you can find great Chinese cuisine.

CANTONESE

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Salt & Pepper Squid at Din Ho = "the usual"
If you live in or near Central Austin, Din Ho Chinese BBQ (8557 Research Blvd., Austin, TX 78758) is probably your go-to for Cantonese food. Over the twenty plus years I've been going there, the food and service has varied a bit in quality; even so, I've yet to be unhappy about a meal I've eaten here. Our standard order here always includes salt & pepper squid (called "fresh and dried squid in special salt" on their menu) and sauteed snow pea leaves; other favorites are their flavorful won ton soup, Peking duck (served with steamed buns rather than the traditional pancakes), orange beef, and Singapore style rice noodles.

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 has hosted their Lunar New Year banquet at New Fortune the last two years, and the food was great both times.

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.


SZECHUANESE

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Sichuan Spicy Sizzling Lamb at Sichuan River
When you start talking Szechuanese food, most people are familiar with the popular Asia Cafe (8650 Spicewood Springs, Austin TX 78759), known for their spicy fish. Ditto A+A Sichuan (13376 Research Blvd., Austin TX 78750), a little ways further west of Asia Cafe. But few people seem to have heard of my favorite Szechuanese restaurant, Sichuan River (4534 Westgate Blvd, Austin TX 78745) down south. I'm also fond of the little-known Szechuan House (11005 Burnet Rd, Austin TX 78758) up north (ignore the terrible Americanized-looking food on their website - this is not representative!). Both Sichuan River and Szechuan House offer several dishes in common that are outstanding: a version of sizzling lamb; dry fried green beans; and ma po tofu. Szechuan House also has a mushroom dish called "Stir Fried Three Kind (sic) of Mushroom" that I would order pretty much every day if I were a vegetarian.


UPSCALE

In the last couple of years, hipper, younger restauranteurs have brought more modern versions of Chinese food to Austin. One such hot spot, Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701), from C.K. Chin of Swift's Attic, offers dishes from all eight styles of Chinese cuisine. You pay a premium for the beautiful surroundings and the downtown location, but there are certainly circumstances that justify the extra expense.

Pork rib appetizer at Old Thousand
New to Austin this year is Old Thousand (1000 E. 11th Street, #150, Austin TX 78702), with the
slogan "Dope Chinese Food." Their menu offers a little something for everyone, and their flavors will please both traditionalists and those who seek something a little more contemporary. Full review here.

The old guard favorite in this category is 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). The first Chinatown restaurant opened in 1983, which I suspect makes it one of the longest-running restaurants in a dynamic and very competitive Austin restaurant scene. Like the others in this category, Chinatown's food tilts away from the traditional in many respects, but perhaps owner Ronald Cheng's penchant for keeping things fresh is what has kept his regulars coming back all these years.


NOODLES

Chinese handmade noodles are a beautiful thing. Here are my favorite spots in town to find them.

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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.

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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.

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Xian Noodles at Xian Sushi & Noodle

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.



Julie's Handmade Noodles,
8557 Research Blvd., Ste. 110, Austin TX 78758 - this longtime fixture near UT campus, formerly housed in a food truck, transformed into a brick & mortar north of 183 this year. Expect generous portions made with love.


DIM SUM

Dim Sum at Wu Chow
Unfortunately, the field for dim sum in Austin is pretty small. For traditional dim sum, my favorite is New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (10901 North Lamar Blvd., Ste A-1, Austin TX 78753). For a more upscale dim sum experience, check out Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701). They don't have the traditional dim sum push carts, but that just means that everything arrives at your table freshly cooked. They have hands-down the best xiao long bao in town and are obviously using quality ingredients.

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). Full blog post about Chinatown's dim sum can be found here.

What's your favorite place in town for great Chinese food?




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Monday, February 20, 2017

Best Fine Dining in Austin, 2017 Edition

Welcome to the eighth year that this blog has featured an upscale dining guide! This post is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide, the best way to find all the outstanding food this fair city has to offer.
To qualify for this fine dining guide, restaurants must be locally-owned and offer at least one entrée that cost more than $25. Because I am so frequently trying to think of a restaurant in a particular part of town, this list is divided according to restaurant location. Hope you enjoy this year's guide!


DOWNTOWN (broadly defined here as spanning from I-35 to MoPac,
and from Ladybird Lake to MLK):

Austin Land & Cattle1205 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 over 20 years, which is quite an accomplishment in Austin's ever-changing restaurant landscape.

Café Josie1200 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - One of the few establishments left near downtown where you can have a conversation without shouting over a din. I've found the food to be delicious and consistent. If you're dining with extra-hungry people, they offer a $45 all-you-can-eat option at dinner time in addition to their a la carte menu.

Clark's Oyster Bar1200 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.

Cippolina1213 West Lynn, Austin, TX 78703 - Charming bistro with a more casual feel.
Every seat is on the front row at Counter 3. Five. VII.

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 Grill604 Brazos, Austin TX 78701 - Fine dining in a beautiful historic hotel. They have their own dry aging room.

El Naranjo85 Rainey Street, Austin TX 78701 - Quite possibly the best interior Mexican food in town.

Emmer & Rye51 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.

Fixe500 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's605 Davis Street, Austin TX 78701 - Housed in Austin's first Kimpton hotel property, Geraldine's offers live music every night.

The GroveThree 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.

Italic, 123 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - upscale Italian fare by the ELM Group (which also owns Easy Tiger and Irene's).

Jeffrey's1204 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 House1601 Waterston, Austin TX 78703 - A very sweet restaurant in an old house. I'm partial to their Monday night steak frites night.

La Condesa400 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701 - It took me a couple visits to hit my sweet spot here, but now I'm a fan. Flavorful, interesting Mexican fare in a gorgeous and interesting space. The small plates are the star of the show.

Lambert's401 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 Traviata314 N. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78701 - Their carbonara will make you cry tears of joy. Blog post dedicated to this thing of beauty here.

Parkside301 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).

Monkfish Sandwich at Olamaie
Olamaie1610 San Antonio St., Austin TX 78701 - another 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.




Péché208 W. 4th St., Austin TX 78701 - Absinthe bar that also happens to have excellent food and service.

Ranch 616616 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.

Red Ash Italia, 303 Colorado #200, Austin TX 78701 - A newer spot that I haven't yet had occasion to visit, but I have it on good authority that their octopus is not to be missed.

Swift's Attic315 N. Congress, Austin TX 78701 - Inventive small plates (for example, edamame served with pop rock salt) in a wonderfully steampunkish space.

TRIO98 San Jacinto, Austin TX 78701 - The Four Seasons Hotel is all about exceeding expectations, and its restaurant, TRIO, does just that.

TRACE200 Lavaca St., Austin TX 78701 - In the super-cool W Hotel Austin, which makes it a great choice for a meal before hitting a show at ACL Live,

Wink1014 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.

Winflo Osteria, 1315 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - cozy Italian spot with an ample patio. If you get an opportunity, their Listen at Winflo live music series is a lovely experience.

Wu Chow, 500 W. 5th Street #168, Austin TX 78701 - The restaurant that proved to Austin that Chinese food doesn't have to be eaten in a dive - also, the home of the best soup dumplings in town.


WEST OF DOWNTOWN:

Fabi & Rosi, 509 Hearn, Austin TX 78703 - Cozy spot in an old house with a European menu.
68 Degrees, 2401 Lake Austin Blvd., Austin TX 78703 - Co-owned by the owner of one of my favorite Italian restaurants in town, La Traviata. I personally prefer the menu at La Traviata, but 68 Degrees is still very good and a lot more convenient (no fighting for parking downtown).

EAST:

Buenos Aires CaféTwo 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.

Chicon, 1914 E. 6th Street, Ste C, Austin TX 78702 - From the folks who brought you Contigo, Chicon has a similar "upscale ranch food" feel, with a few surprises like black rice with oyster mushrooms, root vegetables, and saffron aioli.

Dai Due2406 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 Cafe2113 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.

Hillside Farmacy1209 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's3235 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.
Seafood Pasta at Juniper

Juniper, 2400 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - Our first (and only, so far) meal at this Northern Italian spot was wonderful. The pasta was especially lovely, but there wasn't a single thing we tried that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.

Kyoten, 4600 Mueller Blvd, Ste 1035, Austin TX 78723 - I'm so disappointed in myself for not having made it here, yet, as Japanese food is one of my favorite genres. At dinner, it is all-omakase, though they have an a la carte menu at lunch time.

Launderette2115 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 is one of my favorite spots in town. It's one of the few places where I actually get excited about ordering chicken; their brick chicken is outstanding.

Licha's Cantina, 1306 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - I have yet to visit Licha's, but one of the best home cooks I know (who also happens to hail from Mexico) raves about this place.

L'Oca d'Oro, 1900 Simond Ave., Austin TX 78723 - I still remember how delicious the porchetta at L'Oca d'Oro was from our only visit there seven months ago. However, the service was painfully slow; it took nearly an hour just to get appetizers.

Monger's Market + Kitchen, 2401 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - Before opening Monger's, owner Roberto San Miguel was a longtime fixture at the farmer's markets, offering fresh Gulf coast seafood. The market is now a brick & mortar with a restaurant for those who prefer to have a chef cook their treasures from the sea.

Old Thousand, 1000 E. 11th Street $150, Austin TX 78702 - a hip Chinese spot with sufficiently traditional flavors to keep most Chinese food purists happy. Don't miss the chongqing chicken or the brisket fried rice (blog post about my first visit here).

Salt & Time1912 E. 7th St., Austin TX 78702 - It's a butcher shop! It's a restaurant! It's both, in one tasty package.

The happiest of happy hours at Salty Sow
Salty Sow1917 Manor Rd., Austin TX 78722 - On the casual end of upscale dining, which is one of the things I like about it. I'm a sucker for their triple fried duck fat fries, the brussel sprout caesar salad, the truffled deviled eggs, the crispy chicken thighs, and the butterscotch boudino. Also, I love the fact that an entire section of their menu is dedicated to "Things in a Jar."

Kuneho1600 E. 6th St., Austin TX 78702 - I have yet to visit the latest iteration of Paul Qui's signature restaurant, but hope to do so soon.



SOUTH OF THE RIVER (CLOSE TO DOWNTOWN):

Cantine1100 South Lamar Blvd, Ste 2115, Austin TX 78704 - 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.

Central Standard, 1603 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Located in the fabulous South Congress hotel, Central Standard offers a varied menu, including one of the 50 greatest burgers in Texas according to Texas Monthly magazine.

Eberly, 615 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - The emphasis at Eberly is on the atmosphere. It's a beautiful and lively space and the service is attentive. The food feels a little like a pricey afterthought; it's good, but probably won't surprise you.

Juliet Ristorante1500 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.

June's All Day, 1722 South Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - June's is named after the force of nature that is June Rodil, a fabulous Master Sommelier who has been a light in the Austin wine scene for quite some time. If the food is as good as the wine program undoubtedly is, this place is a winner.

Crispy Wild Boar at Lenoir
Crispy Wild Boar at Lenoir
Lenoir1807 S. 1st St., Austin TX 78704 - Like eating at the home of owners Todd and Jessica Duplechan. The concept is simple: any three courses for $45; extra courses are $10. The food is wonderful and the service is exemplary. Don't miss it (and be sure to make a reservation).

Odd Duck1201 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.

Otoko1603 South Congress, Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Paul Qui is behind this 12-seat, all-omakase experience, though I've yet to hear anyone say they actually saw him behind the counter. Honestly, I was a little disappointed by my only visit here - the food was wonderful and it was one of the most beautiful meals I can ever remember enjoying, but I was hungry shortly after I left, which is kind of a downer at this price point.

Perla's, 1400 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - One of very few locally-owned seafood restaurants in town. One of Perla's best assets is the expansive patio right on South Congress, perfect for people-watching.

South Congress Cafe1600 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.

Sway1417 S. 1st, Austin TX 78704 - Modern Thai dishes that pack a serious flavor punch. Full blog post about it here.

Walu Walu (grilled escolar) at Uchi
Uchi801 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - Sushi/Japanese fusion. It's a scene, and usually requires a wait, but it's worth it. Don't miss the hamachi nabe.

Vespaio1610 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Italian. Its sister restaurant next door, Enoteca Vespaio, also offers delicious food in a more casual atmosphere.

VOX Table, 1100 South Lamar Blvd, Ste 2140, Austin TX 78704 - Beautifully-presented plates that are perfect for sharing.

Zax312 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:

Asti408C E. 43rd St., Austin TX 78751 - Solid Italian fare from experienced restauranteurs Lisa & Emmett Fox.

Barley Swine6555 Burnet Road, Ste 400, Austin TX 78757 - Interesting, innovative fare from a chef with a nose-to-tail philosophy.

The Carillon1900 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.

ChinatownThree 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 - My experiences here have been a little hit-or-miss, though my friends know to take my extreme Chinese food pickiness with a grain of salt. I usually end up with a sushi sampler at their Westlake location.

Fonda San Miguel2330 W. North Loop, Austin TX 78756 - Interior Mexican in a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Foreign & Domestic306 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 Bowl at Hanabi

Hanabi, 9503 Research Blvd, Ste 500, Austin TX 78759 - A lovely neighborhood sushi restaurant with consistently very fresh fish and some of the most earnest service I've ever encountered. I probably eat here more often than any other restaurant. Full blog post about it here. (they also have another location that serves ramen and kushiyaki).

Komê, 4917 Airport Blvd, Austin TX 78751 - 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, 2905 San Gabriel, Austin TX 78705 - Consistently fresh sushi with some interesting offerings in the maki (sushi roll) department.

North by NorthwestTwo 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.

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 $36 (children 12 and under are free!), A blog post about my first meal at Olive & June can be found here.

Mussels at Texas French Bread
Mussels at Texas French Bread
Texas French Bread2900 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.

Uchiko4200 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 Vino4119 Guadalupe Street, Austin TX 78751 - Wine bar that also serves excellent food.


BIT OF A HIKE:

Andiamo Ristorante2521 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!)

Apis23526 Highway 71 West, Spicewood, Texas 78669 - One of my very favorite restaurants in Austin. They offer a couple of prix fixe options, along with a blowout signature tasting that will truly make you feel like a king or queen. Very much worth the drive.

Café Malta3421 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.

Trout Salad at Jack Allen's Kitchen
Jack Allen's KitchenThree locations: South - 7720 Highway 71 West, Austin TX 78735; West- 3600 N Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78746;  and Round Rock - 2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX 78681 - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Soto11066 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.

What's your favorite spot to enjoy fancy fare?

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Soursop Asian Trailer

Despite the fact that my friend Jennie blogged about Soursop's soft opening back in early November, word seems to be trickling out slowly about this outstanding trailer serving Asian fusion goodness (only four reviews on Yelp at the time of this post). I promise you that it is not because Soursop is in any way lacking in the quality department - everything I tried there last week was unique and exceptionally delicious.

I got to try them recently thanks to a little gathering of friends we attended at St. Elmo's Brewing. We were hungry, so we wandered over to Soursop (which is nestled on St. Elmo's patio) and ordered a few things to try. Word to the wise: if you're there on a busy night, it might take a reallllllllllllllllllly long time to get your food. I didn't look at the clock when we ordered, but I am quite sure it took over an hour before our meals came out. Others who ordered much earlier and much later than we did got their food quite a bit more quickly, though, so we must have just hit it at a particularly busy time.

It was worth the wait, though. I ordered the panang curry ($10) with a side of jasmine rice ($3). The curry was vegetarian - loaded with eggplant bathing in an impossibly creamy panang curry sauce and garnished with Thai basil and peanuts. The curry was so luscious that it almost felt like eating dessert, only it was appropriately savory with just enough kick to remind you that no, this was most decidedly not dessert.

Soursop Panang Curry

I also stole a bite (or two) of my husband's fried chicken sandwich ($8.50), which eschewed banality by incorporating green curry, fermented green tomato, and burnt scallion aioli.

Soursop Fried Chicken Sandwich

Our meals were plentiful even despite our hunger level by the time we arrived, so our order of fries ($8) was sort of superfluous. They got eaten anyway, though (oops)! I thought these were nicely seasoned, but a teeny bit less crispy than I prefer. Again, however, they kicked up the interesting factor by serving these with a side of banana ketchup.

Soursop Fries

My favorite carb of the evening had to be the roti, though. This flaky fried bread reminded me of really good scallion pancakes from a texture perspective. They serve this with curry dipping sauce, but it's flavorful enough to be eaten plain, too.

Soursop Roti

No need to go thirsty - St. Elmo's has you covered with a nice selection of beer. I washed down my food with a wonderful hefe-barley called Dampf that paired beautifully with the Asian flavors at Soursop.

Given the relative dearth of interesting Asian food down in south Austin, Soursop has every reason to take off. Add in the fact that you can enjoy a great brew with your meal, and it's worth going out of your way for a visit.

Soursop Trailer

440 E. St. Elmo Rd, Bldg G-2 (patio of St. Elmo's Brewing)
Austin, TX 78745



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Monday, January 16, 2017

Bad Seed Chili Granola

One reason I write this blog is that when I get excited about something, I want to tell everyyyyybody about it. I become a broken record, enthusiastically extolling the virtues of such-and-such product or such-and-such restaurant and repeatedly suggesting it to everyone within earshot.

So, just in case you're not planning to be within earshot of me in the next couple of weeks, here's my latest mantra: you have to buy yourself some Chili Granola.

Full disclosure: my friend Penny is involved with this company. She brought me a jar of it to sample. It sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of weeks, because I wasn't quite sure what to do with it - then finally yesterday I opened it up and plopped a generous dollop of it on top of a bowl of Bulgarian yogurt. And my mind. was. blown.

Chili Granola

Imagine the most flavorful Asian chili oil you've ever tasted (and trust me, I've tasted a lot of Asian chili oil) mixed up with some yummy, crunchy, slightly-sweet-and-spicy bits - that's the best I can come to describing it. I loved it on yogurt. For lunch the day I opened the jar, I fixed myself a bowl of rice with broccoli and a fried egg on top and added a spoonful of Chili Granola - DIVINE. I texted Penny excitedly, and she told me that it's amazing in fried rice, on popcorn, and on breakfast tacos. The folks over at Mouth added it to brussels sprouts. I truly think the question should be, how shouldn't I use it? It's really that good. Like, "where has this been my whole life?" good.

Chili Granola

Apparently, they make this stuff all by hand, so you can't mosey on over to your local grocery store and get it (unless you live in Brooklyn, in which case, no fair!). It's also available at MouthFarm to People, and Uncommon Goods. Hot tip: Farm to People offers free shipping over $100; just 8 bottles will get you there. Get your friends together and go in on a joint order...or, if you're like me, just buy 8 bottles and tell your spouse you're going to give them away and then end up secretly hoarding them because you really do not want to run out.

For real, though, try it. If you don't love it, I'll buy it from you and add it to my stash.

More info and pretty pictures on the Bad Seed Chili Granola website.

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