Friday, February 26, 2010

Cool Peeps - Perfect Pizza and Cake Pops

If it is true that a person is judged by the company they keep, I must be pretty damn cool.

Take last Tuesday, for instance. I was lucky enough to be invited to a pizza party thrown by Christian and Jamie Bowers, the dynamic duo behind Austin Food Journal. I've had a total blog crush on Austin Food Journal ever since I discovered it - informative writing with just the right amount of snark and just some beautiful, beautiful photography. Love.

Anyway, they throw pizza parties on a regular basis, where Christian breaks out his should-be-patented pizza recipe and goes to town. He starts with a perfect ball of dough - which, by the way, requires a three day process. This man is committed to making great pizza.


Then he gently spreads the crust out:


Adds some topping action:


Does some crazy chant thing:


(or maybe he was just adding some spices)

And cooks it in this oven.


I know, right? The mind boggles.

And yet...this emerges.

The Godfather - Kocurek Italian sausage, caramelized yellow onions and smoked mozzarella

The Polka Dot: parmesan, mozzarella, fried sage and cherry tomatoes

Perfection on a plate.

Christian's pizza photos are much, much, much better. Check 'em out here, here, here, here, and especially here. Luscious.

Oh, and speaking of amazing talent, you should also check out Jamie's gorgeous line of handmade jewelry. I especially enjoy the write-ups on her Brothers Grimm collection. Jewelry that empowers...what's not to love?

Totally unrelated, but further proof of the wonderful company I'm lucky enough to keep, is the amazing Kathy Phan(tastic). Check out these cake pops she sent me for Valentine's Day & Chinese New Year:


(This year is Year of the Tiger.)

She made these. Is that not incredible? She's also made Longhorn football pops, Twitter bird pops, panda pops, and even Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno pops. Also, here are some better photos of her Valentine pops, taken by her talented photographer sister, Tina.

I recently heard somebody say, "You can't cook in the bedroom, but you can make love in the kitchen." I love having friends and family who prove this true over and over again. Thanks, guys.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Return to Chi'Lantro

I've got a slew of posts rattling around in my brain but no time to get them life isn't affording me the opportunity to babble on and on (as I am wont to do) at the moment.

However, I did want to mention that I returned to Chi'Lantro Korean BBQ shortly after my first visit (which I blogged about here) and tried their bulgogi burger with spicy fries ($6), which was their special of the day. Jae recognized me immediately and greeted me by name, then hopped to the task of preparing my dinner.

I love the fact that Chi'Lantro is mobile, but this also means that there aren't any picnic tables or other comfy spots to camp out and eat your meal. So I took this baby on a paper plate and magically managed to get it home without spilling it all over the floorboard. Well, OK...the fries didn't make it home with me, but only because I ate them on the way.


Soooooo delicious. The burger was busting with beefy, greasy, bulgogi flavor. The fries were nicely dusted with spicy seasoning and served with an addictive dipping sauce which I'm guessing was sriracha mixed with mayonnaise - does anyone out there know for sure? Whatever it is, it's delicious.

Good stuff. And just $6! A small price to pay for a hearty, filling meal served with a smile.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Perfect Popcorn

When the weather is all chilly and grey the way it has been here so much lately, I dream of curling up in front of the fireplace with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a big bowl of popcorn. The fly in the ointment as far as making this happen is that I don't have a fireplace...although while searching for a nice fireplace image to drop in here, I discovered the world of ventless fireplaces. Maybe I will have one at some point soon.

I don't have any good photos of hot chocolate, either, but I fancy a beautiful cup with homemade marshmallows in it. This one looks just about perfect.

So how about the popcorn? I personally favor the air-popped variety - pan popped popcorn is admittedly delicious, but has a stronger flavor, so doesn't lend itself quite as well to interesting toppings, in my opinion. Plus? I'm lazy, and air-popped is so ridiculously easy.

Popcorn kind of fascinates me. I find it ever so interesting that the starchy molecules nestled inside the boring-looking exterior explode into these tasty, crunchy little clouds. Here's a slow motion video of popcorn transforming from seed to snack. Pretty neat.

Individual popcorn kernels are interesting looking, too:


The piece sticking up on the top of this kernel reminds me of Beaker.
No, I am not smoking anything.

Most importantly, though, popcorn tastes good. I love mine with lots of butter, parmesan cheese, and a healthy sprinkling of cayenne.


How do you like your popcorn?


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Win Two Tickets to Viva! Las Vegas!

One of the most rewarding things I've had the opportunity to do in my career is to volunteer for the Capital Area AIDS Legal Project, or CAALP. CAALP, a joint project of AIDS Services of Austin and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, provides free legal services for low income persons affected by HIV/AIDS.

CAALP's biggest fundraiser every year is a really fun event called Viva! Las Vegas. Viva! channels the essence of Las Vegas (or Monte Carlo, which is the theme this year) with faux gambling, an outstanding fashion show (last year, Stephen Moser called it "Austin's best fashion show ever"), a silent auction, great tunes spun by DJ Chicken George, and delicious bites from the likes of East Side Show Room, Max's Wine Dive, Moonshine, Parkside, Garrido's, Mirabelle, Siena, Whole Foods, and Austin Cake Ball.

Viva! is coming up next Saturday, February 20th, from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Austin Music Hall. If you'd like to win a pair of tickets to the event (door price for a pair of tickets is $120), you can enter up to two times by: (1) following me on Twitter and retweeting my tweet about this contest which will go out Monday morning; and/or (2) commenting on this blog post. All entries must be received by 9:00 p.m. on Monday; I'll randomly select a winner on Monday night. If you enter by commenting below, be sure you include your Twitter handle, e-mail address, or another way to contact you in your comment in case you win!

While you're waiting for the contest to end, here are a few shots I took of last year's fashion show. There are also some great little videos here and here.

The Style Mafia

Gotta love the dice earrings

Not sure what this guy is modeling, but I'll take three.

In addition to the fashion show, we held auditions for the Victoria's Secret Angels...

...the Chippendales...

...and for Matrix IV.

Yeah, baby!

If you don't win the contest, you can purchase tickets here. Hope to see you at Viva!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Dat Eating Dem Double Frosted Pecan Bourbon Brownies!

I confess that I've never been much of a sports fan.

I mean, as a student at The University of Michigan, it was kind of hard not to get caught up in it all - particularly when, my freshman year in college, the Wolverines won both the Rose Bowl and the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. But since my college days, I can't recall ever getting very fired up about any sports event.

This year, though, my entire office got Saints fever, and we got it bad. If you don't know me personally, you can probably figure out why if you check out the name of my law firm...Drew Brees' dad is in da house! Needless to say, we were all pretty excited about our second degree of separation from such an incredibly talented and inspiring athlete and person.

Unfortunately, our lobbying for a firm retreat to the Superbowl was unsuccessful, so while two of our partners were in Miami, the rest of us gathered to cheer the Saints on together in Austin. It was a low-key affair, with pizza and queso and king cake and quite a few enthusiastic Saints fans (and one Colts fan...whatever was he thinking?!?).



In honor of the great city of New Orleans, I thought I'd whip up a batch of these double-frosted pecan bourbon brownies to bring along.

I swapped out the walnuts in favor of pecans and tweaked the frosting recipe a little, so I'm reprinting the recipe here for posterity.

Double Frosted Pecan Bourbon Brownies

Brownie Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 2 Tbsp water
• 1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer a high quality bittersweet or dark)
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 2 eggs
• 3/4 cup flour
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1-1/2 cups pecan pieces
• 4 Tbsp bourbon

Vanilla Frosting Ingredients
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 1-1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (note that the original recipe used two cups of powdered sugar; I reduced it significantly as I don't like things super sweet.)
• IF NEEDED: 1-2 Tbsp cream (I did not need this, probably because I used so much less sugar than the recipe called for)

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients
• 1 cup chocolate chips
• 3 Tbsp butter

First, make the brownies -

Pre-heat oven to 325˚F.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the butter, water and sugar from the brownie ingredient list and bring just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the chocolate chips and vanilla and stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with a whisk after each egg.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing thoroughly.

Add the pecans to the dry mix and stir to coat them.

Add the flour/nut mixture to the chocolate mixture in the saucepan and stir just until the flour is mixed in.

Pour the batter into a 9" X 13" pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Immediately after removing the brownies from the oven, gently poke holes all over the sheet of brownies with a fork. Don't try to push the fork all the way down to the bottom of the pan; it will catch on the pecans and pull up chunks of brownie. Just gently pierce the top crust every couple of inches or so.

This is the fun part...then drizzle the bourbon all over the brownies.

Be sure to test the bourbon first to make sure it's still good.

The scent that comes out of these hot brownies as the bourbon is evaporating is yummmm.

Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature.

Then, make the vanilla frosting layer:

Put all the vanilla frosting ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. If the mixture is too thick to be spreadable, you can add small amounts of cream or milk until it is the right consistency (I significantly reduced the amount of sugar in mine, so didn't need any cream).

I like the patterns electric beaters make in frosting.

The cake is a little sensitive and some crumbs will probably break off as you're spreading the frosting. Don't worry about it; the chocolate glaze will cover this right up.


If you want the two frosting layers to be very distinct from one another, you need to chill this layer until it is pretty firm before adding the glaze. I was pressed for time, so I didn't chill the first layer very long - you can see the results of this in the finished brownie photo below.

To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate chips and butter in a double-boiler or heat them in a microwave until they are melted. Mix thoroughly.

Then pour over the top and spread.


Allow the glaze to set before cutting. A very sharp knife is best unless you don't mind lots of crumbly bits.

And...voilà! A super moist, super rich, bourbon-y brownie that's almost as good as being on Bourbon Street tonight.




Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chi'Lantro Korean BBQ

Korean taco trucks have come to Austin!

At least, one has. I was downtown last night with my dear friend Kimberly when we spotted a shiny new food truck we had never seen before parked at the corner of 5th and Colorado. After consulting Yelp and determing that nobody had reviewed it yet, we decided that we had to try it out even though we were on our way to dinner elsewhere. A girl's gotta have her priorities.

The name of the truck, Chi'Lantro BBQ, is a hybrid between the popular Korean dish kim chi and the herb so omnipresent in Mexican food, cilantro (which, by the way, I never realized until now is the leaves from a coriander plant). The ever-gregarious Kimberly engaged the owner, Jae, in conversation about his food background, which originated in L.A. where his family owns a Korean restaurant.


Kimberly chatting up Jae and showing off her Matrix-esque moves.

Le Menu (easier to read on Chi'Lantro's website.)

Since we were on our way to dinner, it didn't feel quite right to indulge in a burrito, a burger, a quesadilla, or a bowl - all of which Chi'Lantro offers. Instead, we split a spicy pork taco. The marinated Korean pork was served in a couple of corn tortillas, piled high with their homemade salsa, shredded lettuce dressed with Korean chili soy vinaigrette, kim chi (upon request), cilantro, onions, roasted sesame seeds, and a lime. For a mere $2, this thing was huge.


It was a chilly evening, which gave a chilly edge to the already-chilly lettuce and kim chi and robbed the freshly-cooked pork of some of the warm-your-insides feeling I was hoping for. However, 9 or 10 months out of the year in Austin, this could be a good thing. It's also very possible that some of their more meat-heavy offerings might stick to your ribs a bit more; I'm looking forward to exploring that part of the menu sometime soon.

If you've read any of my other reviews, you'll know that I'm a bit of an Asian-food purist and cast a wary eye upon any attempt to ruin it by mixing it with any other food genre (although I do make exceptions; Crepes Mille and Sushi Samba being among them). You may also know that Mexican food (particularly Tex Mex) is probably my least favorite food genre. I don't know if either of these factors explain the reason I wasn't falling all over myself after eating this taco, but there you have it. I was, however, falling all over myself wanting Jae's business to succeed; it was hard not to be enamored with Jae's friendly, fresh approach to a business he is clearly passionate about.

So go check out Jae's friendly Kor'exican taco truck* and see for yourself whether this marriage of two strong food cultures might work for you.

*Taking a page from the playbook of Korean taco trucks in L.A., Chi'lantro moves around depending on the time of day. Follow their Twitter feed for up-to-date info on their whereabouts.

Chi'Lantro BBQ
Location: All Over Austin
(512) 568-0256
4/5 stars on Yelp


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Food Blogger Event at the Carillon

I'm often so excited after a food blogger event that I get all impatient teenager on things and throw up a blog post immediately after I get home.

But alas, my day job has been extra busy lately, and I'm suddenly realizing that it has been over a week since the fabulous food blogger event at The Carillon. Unacceptable!

I'd been to the Carillon once before, at lunch time. The Carillon is actually only open to faculty & staff of the University of Texas at lunch time, but if you're lucky enough to know somebody in those categories, you can garner yourself a guest invitation. The restaurant is sort of a different place over the noon hour, though; it's all buffet, with the cold buffet being one price (although "cold buffet" includes soup and pizza) with an upcharge for hot entreés and dessert. Certainly above average, as buffets go, but honestly? I'm not really a buffet kind of girl.

The Carillon by day.

Half of the Carillon cold lunch buffet.

Pizza - included in the cold lunch buffet price, but fortunately, not cold.

As dusk falls, however, the Carillon morphs into a fine dining establishment so delightful that all the food bloggers are aflutter. And can you blame them? I mean, Clark Kent is pretty good looking by day, but as Superman...well, that's a whole different story (or so says Lois Lane; I personally am not into the blue spandex thing).

And the Carillon's Executive Chef, Josh Watkins, is doing a great job generating this buzz. He was a chef at the Driskill Grill by the tender age of 23, took over as Executive Chef there in 2007, then took over the reins at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (where the Carillon is located) in 2008. Plus, he's doing super-cool things like the Chemistry Kitchen event. Chef Watkins, if you're reading this, please do this again. I didn't make it the last time.

Wait...he's not still 23?

The Carillon threw a lovely party for food bloggery types last week, which I was lucky enough to attend. This was one of the better food blogger events I've been to - not surprisingly, with Paula Biehler and Cat Caroom behind the scenes.

First of all, my glass of cava was pretty much never empty from the moment I walked in the door. Put some bubbly in my hand and I'm happy.

Mood enhancer!

Then there were several yummy snacks on the bar to nibble on while I waited for the passed trays to make their way to where I was standing.

This was good...

This was even better - spicy homemade potato chips!

The first thing I got to try was the white bean soup with smoked scallop and oven-dried grapes. The flavor was good, but this was probably my least favorite dish all night; the soup was really, really thick.

White bean soup with smoked scallop and oven-dried grapes.

Then these came around...fried eggplant caprese. Tiny balls of eggplant and mozzarella were deep fried and garnished with a fresh tomato relish. The acidity of the tomato was a good foil to the fried bits; a nice bite, overall, although I wish I knew how they created those tiny balls of eggplant and fried them without them being greasy!


Then came two things I love but would never have thought to pair together - beef tartare and white truffle. Hello, lover.


These were perfectly balanced so that neither overpowered the other - no small feat considering how understated tartare can be and how strong truffle is. Wonderful.

Oh, but it gets better. Chef Watkins can cook a piece of meat.


These braised beef short ribs were served with apricot glaze, asparagus, celery root puree, and black pepper gastrique. Melt. In. Your. Mouth. Good. I can barely type, just thinking about those ribs.

And then, and then...the crowning glory - pork belllyyyyyyy.

Crisp pork belly with diablo glaze, Asian pear salad, and fried mint.

Simply glorious. I won't disclose how many of these I ate, but let's just say that my self-restraint went out the window after my first taste of this succulent, juicy goodness (or maybe it was the cava?).

The Carillon is open to the public for dinner Tues-Sat from 5:30-10:00 p.m. They're also open daily to the public for a breakfast buffet from 7:00-10:00 a.m.

If you go, look for me; I'll be the one in the corner, huddled over my pork belly.


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