Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Old Thousand

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.

Old Thousand Cocktail

The three of us ordered three smaller plates to share: the pork ribs, the Chongqing chicken, and the gai lan (Chinese broccoli). The pork ribs ($8.88) arrived first. They were tender and so flavorful; we all wished for more.
Old Thousand Ribs

The Chongqing Chicken ($7) was one of my favorite dishes of our meal. The spices made my taste buds sing and there was nary a hint of grease on these perfectly fried specimens.

Old Thousand Chong Qing Chicken

The gai lan ($8.25) was nice and crisp, and the oyster sauce - which I don't usually like - tasted housemade. Also, roasted garlic makes everything better!

<Old Thousand Gai Lan

We enjoyed the first of our entrees, the honey prawns ($16), but thought the portion was a little on the small side for the price.

Old Thousand Shrimp

The brisket fried rice also rang in at $16, but I would gladly pay that again for this plate of luscious, unctuous goodness. Chinese sausage is an underutilized ingredient in Chinese restaurants in the United States, in my opinion, and I was thrilled to see it alongside local brisket in this delightful melding of old and new flavors.

Old Thousand Brisket Fried Rice

The Dan Dan noodles ($10) were maybe our least favorite dish of the evening; they seemed a little on the bland side. However, our server and another food writer we saw that evening both raved about them, so perhaps we got a less flavorful batch?

]Old Thousand Dan Dan Noodles

Our last entree was the char siu pork ($26). The dish was plentiful, and I loved that it was served with steamed buns (which my mom also makes). A person could definitely make a couple of meals out of this plate!

Old Thousand Char Siu

Of course we were unable to resist dessert. Old Thousand's desserts leaned away from the traditional, and for me that meant missed expectations. But they were undeniably delicious, and if I hadn't had it in my head that they were going to taste a certain way, I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more. In short, I think you'll like them.

This delicate custard tart (dan ta)($3) was my favorite of the two we tried. It wasn't as eggy as most Chinese custard, and the twist of Meyer lemon kept it light - my dining companions actually preferred it to the traditional version.

Old Thousand Custard Tart

Our server likened the 5 Spice Churro ($5.50) to a Chinese doughnut - another thing I grew up eating, as my dad loves them. I found this version a little on the dry side, though nothing a dip in the pandan cream accompanying it couldn't solve.

Old Thousand Chinese Doughnut

Many years of Asian food cravings have taught me that it's a rare day when you get to enjoy really good Asian food while ensconced in surroundings with any atmosphere to speak of. Old Thousand delivers on this front in spades: it's cool enough that your hipster friends will approve, but then so will your decidedly un-hip Chinese food snob friends (like me). And when you can please both of those camps, you know you've found yourself a winner.  

Old Thousand Marquis

1000 E. 11th Street #150
Austin, TX 78702


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Your Cardiologist Hates This Pumpkin Pie (But You'll Love It)

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.

This is an example of one such post. Thanksgiving has just passed, we're officially into the Christmas season, and it's a little late to be writing about pumpkin pie. But I just made this one for the third year in a row, which means it's worthy of a blog post. And I have time and energy now, so that's when you're getting it. :)  

This pumpkin pie is not too sweet, a little less pumpkin forward than most, and maybe even toying with the idea of tasting like a buttery pumpkin cheesecake. I'm usually sort of ambivalent about pumpkin pie, but I can't get enough of this one.

Pumpkin Pie

Your Cardiologist Hates This Pumpkin Pie (based on a Paula Deen recipe)

1    8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
2    c canned pumpkin
1    c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1    egg + 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 c half and half
1/4 c (1/2 stick) melted butter
1    tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1   piece pre-made pie crust (or two if you'd like to add cut-outs to the top) - I love Pillsbury's refrigerated dough, which comes 2/box
Whipped cream, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put one piece of pre-made dough into a 9", deep dish pie pan and gently press it to the bottom and sides. Crimp the edges of the crust. Poke holes all over the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Cover the inside and the edges of the crust with aluminum foil and cover the bottom with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the pie weights and the foil from the bottom (but not the edges!), and bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust dries out and is beginning to color.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the following ingredients in the order listed and beat until combined after each ingredient:
• pumpkin
• sugar & salt
• eggs
• half and half
• melted butter
• vanilla
• cinnamon
• ginger

Pour the filling into the pie crust, Re-cover the edges of the crust with foil and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set (a toothpick will come out clean). If you want to add cut-outs to the top, I usually add them about 25 minutes in - if you do this, you will probably need to bake 5-10 minutes longer since the pie will cool slightly while you're adding the cutouts. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

P.S. If you do cutouts on the top using the second crust, you'll have a lot of crust left over for these Blue Cheese Pie Crust Crackers!


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