Monday, October 7, 2019

Bao'd Up is Open in Sunset Valley!

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley pork belly guabao
Pork belly guabao, one of my favorite items at Bao'd Up
BIG THANKS to Bao'd Up for 1) opening in South Austin ­čśŐ and 2) having me out for lunch. This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own. I was not monetarily compensated for this post, nor was one requested from me. I am here to spread the good gospel of Bao'd Up!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley logo tables
Tables
I met my friend Rebecca of The Honest Foodist (check out her blog and especially her Instagram Stories!) for lunch at Bao'd Up on Friday, where we sampled a number of items on the menu.  They are located at 5207 Brodie Lane, right next door to Tarka and down from Petsmart.
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley ordering system
When you walk in to Bao'd Up, there are four self-serve terminals on your right.  You do your own ordering, and it gives you options to customize like rice instead of noodles on the bowls. 
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley ordering system
There are even options with the boba or bubble teas, from different flavors, to bases, to sweetness options. You can also place a to go order online. Once you pay, your receipt will have a bar code, or if ordering online, you'll receive a confirmation code. Don't throw your receipt out!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley lockers food pick up
There are a couple screens inside the restaurant that show your name and order status. Once your order is ready, it is placed inside one of these lockers and it shows "completed" by your name on the screen. You either scan your receipt or enter your code on the keypad, and a locker door pops open.

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley lockers food pick up
Ta dah! There's your food! (And so if you're ordering online, you may never have to interact with staff at Bao'd but that doesn't mean you should forgo a tip.)
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley bao guabao bowls boba
Yum yum! More explanation on what everything is, coming up!

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley pork brisket bao egg custard
Alex the manager admitted sometimes it's even hard for him to tell the pork bao apart! ­čśë 

Dang, I can't make this video larger. Here's Rebecca breaking bao (BBQ pork).

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley brisket bao
Brisket bao, a tasty Texas twist!

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley pork belly guabao
My favorite of the baos was the pork belly guabao (taco style) that's pictured at the very top of this post. The pork belly was so tender, it fell apart like pulled pork. And the flavors were phenomenal, though messy to eat!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley spicy pork bowl with rice
This was my other favorite of everything we had, the spicy pork bowl with soft boiled egg and veggies. We got this with rice, but I will SO be getting this again with noodles! The pork had such a wonderful flavor and a nice medium spice level.  I am kind of drooling thinking about it right now! I loved this. 
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley braised chicken bowl with glass noodles
I think this was Rebecca's favorite, the braised chicken bowl, which we got with gluten free glass noodles (I think they were Korean sweet potato noodles). The chicken must have cooked for ages because the meat fell off the bone and had a light Chinese five spice seasoning to it. She said it reminded her of her family's home style Vietnamese food.

Top left is the crispy fish guabao, where they use barramundi, a Pacific ocean fish, also known as Asian sea bass. It was nicely fried, meaty, and really good. Top right is the pork belly guabao, and at the bottom is chicken katsu (fried chicken cutlet). 

Not pictured is the egg cream bao, which I remember from their Mueller location, because it made me a fan of  them! And this one did not disappoint. Sunset Valley is now the third location for Bao'd Up, with Mueller as the original, and they opened on Rio Grande + 22nd Street earlier this summer. I am so thankful Bao'd Up has come to South Austin, as I honestly don't know a place down here that serves bao. A wonderful new spot for us Southies to enjoy! More Asian food, please!

Thanks again to Alex and the Bao'd Up team for having us for lunch!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley mural
Mural, part of the fun vibe at Bao'd Up. There's a similar one at the Mueller location too.
Blogger Widgets

Monday, September 30, 2019

First Look: Salt Traders in Zilker is Open!

I generally shy away from new restaurants the first couple of months they are open for obvious reasons. But Mad Betty strongly suggested the just-opened Salt Traders next to Zilker Park for our Friday night happy hour, as she has loved their original location in Round Rock. Yet another brainchild of owner/chef Jack Allen, Salt Traders is all about coastal life. And proves to be very sea worthy.

They took an old steak house on the east frontage road of Mopac at Bee Caves in that tree-lined office park with the IHOP and transformed it. (The southwest side of Zilker, past the Botanical Gardens.) Lots of windows, full of light, lots of light-colored wood accents. The bar at the front is three-sided, and the television was mounted on the interior header so as not to be a distraction to those in the dining area (genius!).
Salt Traders Zilker interior
You can sort of see the bottom edge of the television from where were sitting but I was thrilled it wasn't mounted on the outside of that header piece.
Salt Traders sources sustainable seafood from around the American coastlines, with a keen eye on the Gulf Coast. For the non-seafood eaters, there are burger, steak, and chicken offerings, but clearly the stars of the menu are the fruits of the sea.

We got there just before 5 pm on Friday, which might have been their second official full day of business, and we were lucky to snag a table when we did.  Fortunately were were seated on the far wall, opposite the door but we could soon see people starting to pile up around the entrance.  We took advantage of their lovely happy hour specials.
Salt Traders Zilker cocktails
The Grapefruit Rita and Dripping Springs Vodka Lemonade.
Salt Traders Zilker chowda fries
Chowda Fries. OH MY! Basically clam chowder poured over fries. YES, more please! 
Salt Traders Zilker snapper collar
Snapper collar with slaw and tartar sauce. You do have to pick at it a little, but the flesh falls right off and was very tasty. 
Salt Traders Zilker mussels
These mussels were done with fennel and tomato and had a luxurious broth that we wanted to drink.
Salt Traders Zilker hush puppies
Hush puppies were dense but not at all greasy.
Salt Traders Zilker key lime tartlet
This key lime tartlet was the one miss for me. Very little key lime flavor, the crust was over-toasted and completely fell apart as a fork got near it. I did provide constructive feedback to our waitress who said she would notify the kitchen. A friend of mine went the night before we did and had the coconut cheesecake mousse, which she said was excellent. But for this to be the only miss at a restaurant during opening week, I'll take it!
Given Jack Allen's experience in the restaurant world (aka Captain of the Ship), it's no real surprise that Salt Traders has started out on the top of their game from the get go. Service from the wait staff was excellent and apart from the key lime tart, all of the food was great and are items I will order again. They are open daily from 11 am - 10 pm, and won't even need the excess traffic from Austin City Limits music festival the next two weekends, as I think they'll be packed as it is.

A very welcome addition to the area, and I imagine Salt Traders will stay afloat for a long time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fabulous Faraday's

Wustof Nakiri Knife
My new W├╝stof Nakiri knife. This is a sponsored post.
Faraday's? New restaurant? What kind of food? The short answers are sort of and every type imaginable. The long answer, Faraday's is a kitchen supply store where you can find every knife, gadget or piece of cookware needed for YOU to cook up the best food possible in your own restaurant, aka your home kitchen!

Speaking of knives, Faraday's partnered with W├╝sthof and hosted a knife skills/cooking class for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, of which I am a member. A HUGE thank you to both of them for organizing the class and the amazing giveaways -- more on those in a second!

Faraday's is located on Hwy 71 at the Shops at the Galleria in Bee Cave. From my house in South Central Austin, it only took 20 minutes on a Saturday morning to get there with no traffic. I've been in the past, but it has been a few years. Y'all need to go! They are locally owned, and have over 5500 items in the store from cutlery, cookware, bake ware, gadgets and grills. Their staff is extremely friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, and they hold cooking classes in the back of the store. They are absolutely a hidden gem in the Austin area.
Faradays Kitchen Store
AFBA provides educational, social, and volunteer opportunities for its members. This was one of the educational classes that members could sign up for, and Faraday's and W├╝sthof literally rolled out the red carpet for us! We got to choose between a 6" or 8" chef's knife, 5" or 7" Santoku knife, or a 7" Nakiri knife. To KEEP! I won't disclose the normal retail price of the Nakiri knife, but it's not inexpensive. And like the other W├╝sthof and Henckels knives I already own, this will last me a lifetime.

What's a Nakiri, you ask? Well I certainly asked because I wasn't familiar with it (plus I already owned chef and Santoku knives). Characterized by its rectangular blade, it has the feel of a chef's knife but makes more precision cuts, and lends itself as an excellent produce knife, as its hollow-edge blade creates air pockets so food doesn't stick to the blade. This is a particularly good knife for Japanese cooking, as presentation is extremely important. It can also handle some light meat cleaver duties as well.  We got to practice cutting vegetables with our new knives.
Practicing chopping vegetables with Wustof Nakiri knife  at Faradays

W├╝sthof rep Andrew Wellings gave us some history on the company. They are a 7th generation family owned business, based in Solingen, Germany since their start in 1814. Knives are the only thing they make, and they should be professionally sharpened once a year, which removes the micro-particles of metal. Honing with a steel should be done frequently, as this will realign those micro-particles but won't actually remove them. Andrew's demo of how to hone a knife:
He also talked about how a knife is the most important tool in the kitchen, and there is an art to selecting the right knife for the job. In the photo below, the three knives at the top are all different cheese knives, the third from the bottom is a butcher's knife, followed by a brisket slicing knife and very heavy cleaver. Apart from regular sharpening, do NOT put these babies in the dishwasher!
Wustof knives
Following Andy's talk, Faraday's Chef Scarleth Aguilar sauteed our chopped vegetables for the base of a stuffed tomato recipe. She made us a salad with edible flowers, roast asparagus and halibut with a sundried tomato pesto over a bed of saffron rice, and stuffed heirloom tomatoes. It was quite the feast, on top of the massive cheese board they prepared for us! She will soon be leaving Faraday's to be the corporate chef at Siete Foods.
Chef Scarleth Aguilar of Faradays
Chef Scarleth Aguilar, on Instagram @cookingatx
Stuffed tomatoes, sundried tomato pesto, halibut, asparagus, saffron rice

Not only did Faraday's give us W├╝sthof knives, they gave us swag bags that had even more stuff! A big thanks also to Siete for providing the items. AFBA is extremely grateful for everything that Faraday's and W├╝sthof provided for us! Thank you!
Swag from Faraday's

Lookin' sharp on the red carpet!


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

First Look: The Git Out (But you should git in!)


The Git Out Austin, TX
A trio of tasty treats!
New spot at 4930 South Congress, between Ben White and Stassney called The Git Out. Beers, cocktails, burgers, and some nice variety of tasty food stuffs. While in a new strip center, there's outdoor seating and plenty of parking. Staff was friendly and the food we had was great!
Vodka watermelon lemonade The Git Out
Vodka lemonade on tap, this month's flavor is watermelon which went down REAL easy!

Potato Puffs, basically mashed potato balls coated with something akin to cornflakes, and fried to perfection, not a lick of grease. Crispy on the outside and nice and squishy in the middle. Nice chipotle ranch dipping sauce too. 

Pork Popcorn -- hello pork belly nuggets! Lightly fried, well-rendered, bit of a smokey flavor.

Brussels + Bacon, great flavor with a little sriracha, balsamic and cotija cheese, but the Brussels
 could have been crispier, which is my only critique of the food we had. 

Fun and random wall art.  From their website: "Our truly #Austin decor is inspired by our owning partners passion for American made motorcycles, hot rods and various unique #petroliana…" Makes sense!

Liked the wood paneling and again the random objects d'art. Nice tall ceilings with a bunch of
old chandeliers that have been painted and given that shabby chic look.
 Very light-filled too (at 5 pm), which their photos online portray a darker bar so don't be fooled.

Props to my friend @cooperandclaire who tipped me off about the Git Out. He said the Phatty Melt was pretty much other worldly, so that's on my list for next time. Yes, there will be a next time!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

First Look: Carpenters Hall

Oh computer. I had written an entire blog post on Carpenters Hall at Carpenter Hotel (400 Josephine Street) and the computer ate it. So here's the abbreviated version.

I liked the lunch I had, but I didn't love it; I think the brunch menu interests me more. For a weekday lunch, clientele didn't seem all that diverse. Lots of millennial ladies who lunch, including lifestyle blogger Camille Styles. Loved the decor. Had a great waiter.
Carpenters Hall decor
Restaurant interior. Love the bench seating and they kept the old union hall banner.

Carpenters Hall kitchen
The kitchen

Carpenters Hall corn nuts and salami
Corn nuts and what they call mole salami. Which when I asked the waiter about it when ordering, I understood it to be salami with a mole sauce. No, it's salami with a chile oil with some mole-like flavors. Hmmmm.
Carpenters Hall grain bowl
Beautiful grains bowl, but honestly, not all that interesting.

Carpenters Hall burger and french fries
Double burger with some of the most amazing fries I have had anywhere. I would go back just for these. 

Carpenter Hotel coffee shop
Coffee shop in lobby area.

Carpenter Hotel cookie
Large and delicious salted chocolate chip cookie. 
What's been your experience at Carpenter's Hall? What dishes did you have? Would you go back? Anyone stayed at the hotel? What are the rooms like?