Friday, January 23, 2015

Bits and Bites -- Austin Food News

LOTS of stuff coming up!

Events
-- I Knead That pop up bakery at Metier, January 24th and 31st, 10 am until sold out, cash and credit cards now accepted; Flat Track Cold Brew will also be available.
-- Bacon and Beer Fest  is this Sunday, January 25th, but it's sold out! Hope you got your tickets for this tasty annual event.
-- January 27th, 6 pm, Jack Allen's Kitchen (Oak Hill)  hosts a Gulf seafood cookout benefiting the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation,$150/person, tickets here.
-- Chavez will host a 5-course Folio Fine Wine Dinner on February 3rd; $100/person.
-- Central Market's (all locations) annual chocolate festival will be February 4 - 17. This year's event, A Chocolate Affair, will also include a store wide chocolate tasting on February 6th from 5 - 8 pm.    
-- Leading up to their 5th anniversary, Antonelli's Cheese Shop has a couple different events going on: Feb 9th -- Pig Crawl with La Quercia charcuterie maker Herb Eckhouse; Feb 10th -- pizza party with special pies at ABGB; Feb 11th (their actual anniversary) -- a house party at their shop. Check their events page for more details on all of these!
 -- Sit Stay Day from Emancipet is coming up on February 13th. For $175, you purchase a box of locally curated items donated by area restaurants and food smiths; the various items are gathered in a basket, which can be delivered to your Valentine on the 13th. Some South Austin favorites such as Sugar Mama's, Bouldin Creek Cafe and the Soup Peddler are amongst the donors, and the full list can be found on their website.
--  Lamb Jam will be February 22nd,  at Barr Mansion, brought to you by the American Lamb Board, with 16 local chefs making great use of lamb. $60/person.  From the press release:
Competing for the titles of “Best in Show,” “People’s Choice” and “Best Mediterranean, Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern inspired dishes,” chefs will prepare and serve their most flavorful American lamb fare to be voted on by lamb-loving attendees and judged by Austin’s top food media. 
Austin Lamb Jam
 -- February 26th, is the Official Drink of Austin event, where the local bartending community gets the spotlight, as the Austin Food and Wine Alliance partners with the Tipsy Texan. Tickets $45 before February 1st, $55 after. 
-- The Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest will be February 28 - March 1 at the Austin Convention Center. Attendees will be able to sample hundreds of gluten-free and allergy friendly foods, learn new cooking techniques and sit in on lectures from leading researchers in the field.  
-- The third annual Austin Oyster Festival will be February 28th, 12 - 6 pm at Carson Creek Ranch, $45-75/person, benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank. East and west coast oysters, bloody Mary bar, games, live music and more!
-- Tickets now on sale for the Austin Food and Wine Festival, April 24 - 25; restructured pricing from last year.
Super Bowl specials Austin

Super Bowl -- February 1st 
-- Did you know that chicken wings have surpassed pizza as the "must have food" for Americans watching the Super Bowl? Pluckers will make 5,000 wings an hour for the 4-5 hours surrounding the big game, but you can place your order now!
-- Fresa's will have special offerings for the game, including wood-grilled wings, jalapeno poppers and 7-layer dip.
-- Salty Sow and Roaring Fork present "Dinner On Us" (or, buy one entree get one free) throughout Super Bowl Sunday.
Valentine's specials Austin

Valentine's -- February 14th, duh!
--Three course luncheon at Fall Creek Vineyards, $39/person (includes wines); strawberry and goat cheese salad, choice of chicken, pasta or spinach tart, chocolate raspberry mousse
-- Five course dinner at Olamaie, $80/person with optional $45 wine pairings; Olamaie Biscuit, Venison Heart & Sunchoke Tartare, Day Boat Fish, Rutabega Spoonbread, Biscuit Wellington, and Chocolate Cremeux
-- Four course dinner at Finn + Porter, $75/person, with optional wine parings. Different offerings for each course, which include oysters, smoked duck, sea bass, and hazelnut pot de creme. 
-- Five course dinner at The Carillon, $80/person, with optional $65 wine pairings; beef tartare, grilled romaine, blue prawns, beef tenderloin, and chocolate in black and white. (They're serving on both Feb 13 and 14.)
-- Four courses at Lenoir, $65/person. No further menu info available at this time.
-- Four courses at Sagra, $50/person, with optional $15 wine pairings; different offerings for each course, including saffron bisque, pisachio crusted scallops, and creme brulee; vegan options also available.
-- Odd Duck and Peche will offer plate specials as well. 
-- And a "Love Hangover" brunch at drink.well on February 15th.

Now Open/New Offerings
-- Barley Swine's Hour of Snacks and Drinks (aka Happy Hour) is now a thing, every Monday through Friday from 5:30 - 6:30 pm.
-- Eastside Cafe is now offering their homemade soups ($3.95/12 oz and $4.95/16 oz) to go next door at Elaine's Pork and Pie. Check their Facebook page for daily varieties.
-- Chi'lantro, a 1509 South Lamar -- Korean/Mexican fusion food.  I attended the media preview last week, and found the k-pop chicken wings to be particularly tasty! Excited to have them in South Austin!
Chi'lantro brick and mortar k-pops
-- Lucky's Puccias at 1611 W. 5th Street
-- Delysia Chocolatier and Tito's Vodka have paired up for three new limited edition truffles.
-- Ramen Tatsu-ya is holding soft openings at their new south location (1234 South Lamar) through January 24th, with their official grand opening on the 25th.

In Progress...
-- The old Fran's at Mary and South Congress was demolished this week to make room for the new flagship Torchy's Tacos.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bits and Bites -- Austin Food News

Greetings food lovers! Hope you all survived the holidays and are keeping up with at least some of your new year's resolutions. Here's my first Bits and Bites of 2015.

The year has started out on a very good note for yours truly: South Austin Foodie has been named one of the top 10 best food blogs by the Austin Chronicle for the second year running. THANK YOU, Kate Thornberry and AusChron for the distinction; I am honored to be mentioned with this group of excellent bloggers, and will point out that my blog is really the only one of the bunch that posts regular restaurant reviews.

Events
-- Indie Chefs Week has started at Foreign + Domestic with up and coming chefs from across the country coming together to cook in pop-up dinners. Check their website, but I believe they are already sold out.
-- Casa Brasil Coffee and South Austin Brewery are holding their Up + Down tours of their respective facilities, where you can get an in depth look at their raw materials, production, and tastings. Two upcoming dates: January 10th and February 7th, 10 am - 2 pm, $35/person; to register go here.
-- The Hightower will be hosting a bloody mary brunch on January 11th; for $5, diners can create their own drink with Dickel Corn Whiskey, and proceeds benefit the Flatwater Foundation, which provides support for families with cancer.
-- Lenoir and Jester King Brewery are holding a 5 course dinner on January 15th, $95/person. 
-- The second annual Bacon and Beer Fest, hosted by Edible Austin will be Sunday, January 25th at Fair Market (1100 E. 5th St.) from 2:30 - 5 pm. Tickets are $45, and serves as a fundraiser for the Capital Area Food Bank.  Thirty area restaurants (including Barley Swine, Cafe Josie, Frank, Jack Allen's, Noble Sandwich and Snack Bar to name a few) and 12 local craft breweries (Austin Beerworks, Pedernales, St. Arnold.....) will be on hand. I don't know much about this new venue, Fair Market, but it looks gorgeous. Get your tickets, this one is sure to sell out fast!
Bacon and Beer Fest 2015
-- The 9th Annual Jo's Chili Cook-off will be February 1st at their South Congress location. $20 to try all the chili contest submissions! The event benefits the 100 Club, which raises money for the families of fallen firefighters and law enforcement officers.

Openings + Updates
-- Irene's, the latest from the ELM Restaurant Group (Easy Tiger, Arro, 24 Diner) will open at 506 West Avenue in April.
-- In the job openings department, Dinner Lab is searching for a local Brand Ambassador.
-- Kebabalicious has new menu offerings as well as a new catering truck. Check out the full menu at the brick and mortar at 7th and Navasota; the two trucks will offer some of the new items.
-- The humongous new JW Marriott hotel downtown (on Congress between 2nd & 3rd) will be the largest Marriott in the US with over 1,000 rooms across 34 floors when it opens February 13th. Three new restaurants will be a part of the hotel: Osteria Pronto (regional Italian), Corner (Texas food and tequila bar), and Burger Bar, a walk-up window.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite South Austin Bites of 2014

Here's a look back at some of my favorite South Austin foods on the year!

The arrival of Dolce Neve gelato on South First Street. Gelato, "ice cream" sandwiches, popsicles, and really nice Italians.
Dolce Neve gelato
Regal Ravioli's beet ravioli with pecan pesto. It was hard to tear myself away from the sweet potato gnocchi with bolognese, but I am glad I did!
Regal Ravioli beet ravioli
Odd Duck's tender Parker House rolls with pig head meat. They need to make these larger!
Odd Duck Parker house rolls
An old standby, spaghetti carbonara from Enoteca (except I ask for it with linguine, as I like a wider noodle), and the garlic bread isn't shabby either.
Enoteca carbonara
Snack Bar's mahi mahi with mango salsa and coconut rice. Healthy and tasty!
Snack Bar mahi
Chen Z Noodle House expanded to a second location in Oak Hill -- yay! Here we have green onion pancakes, spicy cold noodles, dumplings, and hand cut noodles in black bean sauce.
Chen Z -- green onion pancake, hand cut noodles, dumplings
Everything we had at Porter Ale House's happy hour was delicious, but this twist on peanut butter s'mores really takes the cake.
Porterhouse s'mores
Sichuan River took over Tien Jin, and in the process has created some amazing dishes, here the spicy sizzling Sichuan lamb, and a wonderfully crisp egg foo young.
Sichuan River -- sizzling Sichuan lamb & egg foo young
Thai Taste's pad see ew; wish this place was closer to me than Oak Hill, but it's a hidden gem.
Thai Taste pad see ew
Good food comes from good people, my friends Abdu and Maria of The Flying Carpet trailer, and the Moroccan beef kefta wrap.
The Flying Carpet -- The Moroccan beef kefta
Pie Plante's coconut cream pie; there's no skimping on coconut flavor here!
Pie Plante coconut cream pie
Not only does Patika Coffee make a great cup of joe (or in this case, chai), but their sweet and savory baked goods are stellar.
Patika Coffee
And from my own kitchen, homemade pasta with fava beans, pecorino, bacon, and mint.
South Austin Foodie's handmade pasta
So those are my favorites on the year; what are your memorable South Austin bites this year? Happy New Year and happy eating!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bits and Bites -- Holiday Meal Edition

My last post of the year, most likely! Happy Holidays, eat well, and be safe!
bacontees.com 
Christmas Eve
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
-- Malaga Tapas + Bar, $39/person

Christmas Day
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
-- Trio at the Four Seasons, $85/adults, $27/kids

New Year's Eve
-- Apothecary, 7 courses, $75/person
-- Bess Bistro, $125/person + $50 for wine pairings
-- The Carillon, 7 courses, $125/person + $85 for wine pairings
-- Dai Due, $85/person
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
-- Finn + Porter, 4 courses, $85/person
-- Hopfield, Gatsby-themed dinner, $75 + up
-- Lenoir, 4 courses, $65/person
-- Odd Duck, 5 courses for $65 or 7 courses for $90
-- Olive + June, 5 course menu, $90/person
-- Parkside, 4 course menu, $72/person
-- Sagra, 4 courses, $49 + $25 for wine parings

New Year's Day
-- Banger's Big Band Brunch with live music, 10 am - 3 pm
-- Epicerie, 10 am - 3 pm
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
 

Check out the Austin American-Statesman for additional holiday meals, as well as a list of Chinese restaurants open on Christmas Day.


 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake

Nothing says the holidays like a fruitcake! And we're talking REAL Texas fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, made with Texas pecans, local honey (from cotton blossoms), and in production for over 115 years. Pictured here is the DeLuxe Fruitcake, which weighs in just under two pounds, for $27.95 (larger sizes available)!
Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake
The original recipe came from Wiesbaden, Germany and the family of the bakery's founder. Fruitcakes originated as a method to preserve fruits and nuts over the cold months. Collin Street's fruitcakes continue to be about 80% fruits and nuts. Do you see how big these pecans are?! They're huge, and they still have crunch to them!
Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake
I learned (and loved this hand-written letter from one of the owners, Will McNutt, and they are still family-owned) that Collin Street owns an organic farm in Costa Rica, where they grow pineapples and papaya. And Will shares that he loves his fruitcake warmed up with a touch of whipped cream. Their website also has suggestions on how to "booze" up your fruitcake! But even in it's natural state, you can't beat it! This is not Aunt Bertha's fruitcake, I guarantee you.
Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake
Check out their website to order a fruitcake for the holidays! Order by December 19th or risk the rath of extra postal fees. You'll also discover a trove of other sweet treasures on their site, such as pecan pies, cakes, cheesecakes and much more. Spread the love of Texas products this holiday season!

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary fruitcake, in exchange for a blog post; all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop

About a month ago, I met a group of friends for dinner at the new St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop in Sunset Valley. St. Philip was the patron saint of bakers, and perhaps coincidentally (or not), the project has been helmed by Phillip Speer, longtime pastry chef extraordinaire of Uchi. And while St. Philip is owned by the Uchi Restaurant group, this is clearly not a Japanese restaurant.
They took the old Cannoli Joe's (nee Wolfe's Nursery) on Highway 290 next to the Toney Burger Center, and converted it into a very modern, streamlined building. In addition to St. P, there's Stouthouse Coffee Pub and a new branch of local spa Milk + Honey. So you can go have a meal (they do B, L + D) at St. P, get all relaxed with a facial or massage at Milk + Honey, and then get caffeinated again at Stouthouse. Good plan! St. P is on the east side of the complex (closest to the Burger Center) and has a lovely shaded patio area as well as some outdoor dining spots. The inside isn't as large as I expected, but at 6ish on a Friday night, they were already packed to the gills with families, couples, small groups, you name it. I didn't get too much of a chance to gawk at the interior given the hustle and bustle, but it's got a warm farmhouse modern appeal to it.

Service was very friendly and once we ordered, dishes came at a pretty good pace. I should also add we had to wait about 15-20 minutes for a table, and they had servers outside taking drink orders and also coming around with warm pretzel bites and mustard for nibbling. Once seated, we started with the house meatballs (beef and pork, I believe) and paired them with the brodo sauce (you can pick from three different types of meatballs and three different sauces); these were served with potatoes. They were tasty, but not the most tender, and fairly small (not quite golf-ball sized) for the price. {Looking at their menu online now, they may have cut back on meatball options, as I am now only seeing two choices of each meatball and sauce.}
St Philip meatballs
These ricotta dumplings with corn, Serrano ham, mushrooms were delicious, but the housemade umami sauce was a bit overpowering for the light and tenderness of the dumplings (I'd call them more like gnocchi or gnudi). It was a flavorful sauce, but both dark in color and in taste, and to me it took control of the dish. Maybe a lighter hand with the sauce or just lightening the sauce altogether would have made this one more of a winner for me.
St Philip ricotta dumplings
Everyone who I knew who had been to St. P before me said "get the cauliflower." So we did, and yes, it's quite tasty. The cauliflower is lightly fried to a golden brown and served with a Greek yogurt sauce, pine nuts, and golden raisins, which I could have done without. You can now make this at home, as the Austin American-Statesman obtained the recipe for it!
St Philip cauliflower
We picked the roasted veggie pizza with its almond Romesco sauce. I liked the chewiness (but not too chewy) of the crust, but felt the Romesco needed more acid (sherry vinegar?) to bring out the contrast. I have heard the clam pizza is quite good.
St Philip veggie romesco pizza
From the daily dessert board, we went with the brownie a la mode with a salted caramel sauce. Definitely tasty, though certainly a small portion.
St Philip brownie dessert
Overall, I felt the food was decent, but could use some little tweaks. Yes, I am being a bit picky, but I am comfortable with my palate to know when something needs a little more acid or a little less umami. But I really felt the portion sizes are small for what you are paying, especially the meatballs and brownie. I would like to go for breakfast one day; they have a separate pastry counter for eat in or take out and some beautiful items in there. Given the buzz and hype of St. Philip even before they were open, I am sure this place will do well.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bits and Bites

Really, it's December ALREADY??! Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and now on to the next food holiday!

I recently received a Batch box to try; these are gift boxes of locally curated foods available from a couple southern US cities, and now Austin. For $29.99/month, you can give a box subscription to your favorite foodie! (Or yourself!) My box had House Granola, Great San Saba River Pecan Company Praline Popcorn, Royito's Salsa, and Luscious Pastry Chai Tea. Disclaimer: I received the box for free; opinions are my own. And hey, it's a pretty neat and very convenient idea, so check them out! Batch boxes are also available from Nashville, Charleston, and Memphis.
Batch Austin
Events
-- Odd Duck is throwing a trailer throwback party, Tuesday, December 9th, 5 pm onward; suggested minimum donation is $25, and proceeds go towards Zilker Elementary's Edible Schoolyard program.

-- Homeslice's Pizza's Carnival o' Pizza was rescheduled to December 13th.

-- Also on the 13th, drive-thru burger chain P. Terry's will donate all of their day's profits from all 9 of their locations to the Austin American-Statesman's annual Season of Caring campaign; last year P. Terry's donated over $21,000 to this cause. Eat a burger on Saturday!

-- Texas Land and Cattle is offering holiday drink specials as well as some limited time menu offerings, Crab and Shrimp Stuffed Mushrooms and a smoked meat board for two people with sirloin, quail, and pork offerings.

-- Celebrate Christmas Eve Italian style with Sagra's Feast of the Seven Fishes, December 22-24, $39.99/person, reservations required and space is limited; additional $25 for suggested wine pairings. Dishes include salt cod, squid ink pasta, shrimp and mussel stew; full menu is here. 

-- The next round of Indie Chefs Week will be January 6-10; tickets begin at $195, and dinners will be held at  Foreign and Domestic, the "home" of the event's founder, Ned Elliot. The event gives up and coming chefs from across the country to showcase their talents in a pop-up restaurant setting.

Misc
-- Delysia Chocolatier won gold at the recent International Chocolate Salon Awards, for their carrot cake truffles in the "Most Unique" category, and white peach balsamic truffle in the "Top Truffle Artistry" category. Delysia's new Chocolate Culinary Center is at 2000 Windy Terrace in Cedar Park.

-- Fresa's will be offering tamales through December, created by Chef Rene Ortiz; varieties include chicken adobado, queso Oaxaca, and hoja santa, and run 3 for $7. 6 for $13 and 12 for $24.

-- Austin Monthly magazine's new food critique is Jolène M. Bouchon, who has previously served as the deputy digital editor for Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.

-- The Statesman came out with a great listing of area gluten free restaurants/dishes.  Keep this list handy!

Open/Opening
-- Peached Tortilla just opened at 5520 Burnet Road.

-- Juniper, a northern-Italian restaurant will open at 2400 E. Cesar Chavez in the spring.

-- Spun Ice Cream is coming to 1912 E. 7th Street with liquid nitrogen-made treats.

Closed
-- A-OK Chinese at 1509 South Lamar... I was sad to see this one go, as I felt they never really hit their stride. On the flip side, Mexican/Korean fusion food trailer Chi'lantro will be taking over the spot in their first foray into the land of brick and mortar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marye's Gourmet Pizza

Marye's Pizza
I have lived in Austin 20 years now, and I had never heard of Marye's Gourmet Pizza. Turns out, they've been in business the entire time I've lived here, although under new ownership for about the past two years. Located in the same shopping center as Breed and Company on Bee Caves Road, the owners are now looking to expand their client base, and I was invited by them to have lunch. Disclosure: food was complimentary and I was not paid for my opinions, which are my own.
Marye's Pizza
Pronounced "Marie's" as opposed to "Mary's", the gray and yellow interior has a nice modern feel that I'd call upscale casual. It didn't feel pretentious like much of Westlake, nor did the clientele I saw while I was there. My dining companion and I had a really nice conversation with owner Stuart Wilsey who (along with his wife) bought Marye's from the original owners and have slowly been making tweaks to make it their own and also to grow the business.  They try to use local and organic foods wherever possible, and also offer a variety of take out options far beyond pizzas: homemade mozzarella, their house salad dressing, a frozen lasagna that feeds 6 - 8 people; catering is also available. Interior photo below is courtesy my blogger friend and eating companion Girl Eats World -- please check her out!
Marye's Pizza
Marye's Pizza
Their menu offers a nice variety, including vegetarian and gluten free; we only tried pizza, but there are plenty of salads, sandwiches, and even appetizers that would please any palate. I would love to go back and try the saganaki, a seared mozzarella appetizer with lemon and ouzo!

Per Stuart's suggestion, we tried the well-named Marye's pizza, which has ground sirloin, spinach, red peppers, onions and jalapenos! With a generous amount of toppings, I can see why this is a favorite of their regulars! I definitely liked the crust on all the pizzas, but not sure how you would categorize it. It's thin and somewhat crisp, but slightly chewy at the edge, but neither crispy nor soggy at the center, and it held up well to the toppings.
Mary's Pizza -- The Marye's
I gravitated towards the Maui, as I always love a sweet and savory flavor combination. Theirs has Canadian bacon, pineapple, and Parmesan, and we added feta cheese for that extra contrast. Thumbs up!
Mary's Pizza -- the Maui
And their special of the day, the pearzola pie, with pears, gorgonzola (blue) cheese, walnuts, spinach, and a drizzle of raspberry balsamic dressing. If you're only accustomed to pepperoni on your pizza, this may not be your thing, but I thought it was delicious! Like a salad, but in pizza form.
Mary's Pizza -- the Pearzola
And dessert, a flourless chocolate torte that's gluten free. Dense, but very tasty!
Marye's is on Facebook and Instagram, so if you're in Westlake, and looking for a place to eat, check them out. (We encouraged Stuart to use their social media tools a bit more! It's free advertising!) :)  I think the food they're offering is solid, and they're just looking to make new customers aware of their presence. Cheers to the next 20 years!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bits and Bites -- Austin Food News

I attended a media tasting at Malaga last week; new Chef Mario Medina (formerly of Parkside and Chavez) has revamped the menu and the restaurant is more focused on local and seasonal products. The staff was wonderful and they outdid themselves with the ambitious number of items we sampled! Two of my favorites on the evening:

Gambas al Ajillo -- Shrimp in a garlic broth had the most wonderful tasting liquid. I could have inhaled a whole bowl of just the broth.
Malaga Austin
Rossejat -- a paella made from fideo rather than rice. Studded with garlic crema and shrimp, this was seemingly simple and delicious.
Malaga Austin
If you haven't been to Malaga in some time, go check them out! They even have valet parking out front, which definitely helps in downtown.

And on to Bits and Bites!

Events
-- Amy's Ice Cream is holding a contest where the lucky winner will receive free ice cream for life! Enter to win at any of their stores, November 19th - December 31st and the winner will be announced in January.
-- Con' Olio Oils and Vinegars celebrates their 5th anniversary with a special happy hour at each store, Thursday, November 20th,  4 - 7 pm. 
-- Trattoria Lisina is holding a 5 course wine pairing dinner with William Chris Vineyards, Friday, November 21st, $75/person.
-- Jack Gilmore will be signing copies of his new book Jack Allen's Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas at BookPeople, Friday, November 21st at 7 pm.
-- The Austin Meatball Festival is Saturday, November 22nd, 12 - 5 pm, at Winflo Osteria. Over 10 area restaurants are competing for top balls! Live music. Tickets $15 in advance, $20 day of event; proceeds benefit Lifeworks.
-- Metier is hosting a release party for the 3rd issue of Sugar and Rice magazine, Sunday, November 23rd, 3 - 5 pm. They are an independent magazine telling the food stories of the Gulf Coast.
-- Wine and Swine is Sunday, November 23rd, 1 - 4pm, at Star Hill Ranch,  $85/person. See their website for the chef lineup! Benefits the Austin Food and Wine Alliance.
 -- Metier will also host a coffee class in conjunction with Casa Brasil, Friday, November 28th, 1 - 2:30 pm where they will teach you to make the perfect cup of coffee using a Chemex coffee maker. Additionally, Metier's neighbor, Dolce Neve Gelato will provide affogatos for participants.
-- Central Market on North Lamar will be offering Gingerbread House workshops, Nov 28th - Dec 6th; reservations required; $65/one adult + one child.
-- A Downtown Abbey Christmas Supper Club will be held December 2nd, 7 pm, at the Camp Lucy event space in Dripping Springs, $149/person. Period clothing is encouraged!

Open for Thanksgiving
-- Fresas is offering Thanksgivings to go, order by Friday, November 21st for pick up after 10 am on November 26th. Thanksgiving menu here.
-- Travaasa's Preserve Kitchen + Bar is offering family-style Thanksgiving, 3 - 9 pm, $55/person, reservations required.
-- Texas Land and Cattle locations will be open, offering an $18.99 meal, reservations suggested.
-- The Statesman also has an extensive list of open places!

 Misc.
-- Salvation Pizza is opening a second location at 51 Rainey Street in December. 
-- Gourdough's Public House has a new fall cocktail menu and new $5 happy hour offerings.
-- Waterloo Ice House has a new menu and is now offering cocktails along with beer and wine, and they continue to source their ingredients from farms across Texas.
-- Easy Tiger has announced plans to expand to The Linc (the old Lincoln Village, across from Highland Mall of IH-35) in 2015.
-- Lulu B's Vietnamese trailer will go brick and mortar next year, at the old El Flaco at 3632 South Congress.
-- Taste of Ethiopia will open a second location at 3801 South Congress. 
-- The former T + S Seafood will reopen at the Chinatown complex with a new name -- New Fortune.
-- El Chile on South First Street is going to rebrand as Alcomar and focus on Latin seafood.
-- New food invention show holding a casting call Dec 3rd - 4th -- could this be you?!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thai Taste

My Thai friend Bee has become friends with the owners of Thai Taste in Oak Hill. There's a Thai restaurant in Oak Hill, you say? Yeah, that was my initial reaction too, especially after learning they've been there for over 4 years! (They're in the same shopping center as the HEB.) Bee stops by Thai Taste when she doesn't feel like cooking certain Thai dishes, and began noticing there were never that many customers in the restaurant. So she mentioned to the owners that she has a food blogger friend (me!), and would they be interested in having me come out, try the food, and provide my honest feedback. And that's how we ended up at Thai Taste for dinner on a recent Saturday night. Disclosure: the food was comped by Thai Taste, but I was not compensated for my opinions which are my own.
 Thai Taste
The short version: Thai Taste is quite good, and deserves your attention.
The long version: keep reading!

We chatted with manager Som, and discussed some dishes to try. I think because we were there specifically for a tasting/sampling of the dishes, the portion size was not always representative of what's typically served.

Mixed appetizer plate, the pu pu platter of Thai food. Not a trace of grease on the egg roll or crab rangoon; spring roll nice and fresh; good flavor to the peanut sauce (and I am picky about peanut sauce because I make my own and I think it's the best of course); the chicken satay had nice grilled flavor and wasn't over-cooked; chicken wing was standard. The dumpling was the pleasant surprise on this plate as it had a bit of cumin in the ground pork, and it was very moist.
Thai Taste
Fish cakes. Bee really likes these and I can see why! These tasted fresh, had a good firm (but not rubbery) consistency, and were especially nice with the sweetish cucumber sauce.
Thai Taste
Moo ping with pork and tamarind sauce. I've had moo ping before at Sap's and always enjoyed it. This one I thought the meat was too tough, and I told them so. Like the satay, it had nice grill flavor, but had probably been left on the grill for too long. The twangy tamarind sauce had some heat to it, and was good also with the fish cakes and the other appetizers.
Thai Taste
Som tum (green papaya salad). Surprisingly decent, though the addition of a bit of their house-made fish sauce mixture (fish sauce, lime juice, bit of chile, maybe a bit of palm sugar or other sweetener) really brought the flavors out and tampered the sweetness. I know this dish isn't for everyone, but I love the juxtaposition of the cooling papaya shreds with a spicy fish sauce dressing, along with a bit of crunch from the peanuts. A bit sweet up front, but then a late heat hits you.
Thai Taste
Pad Thai. A bit sweet, but had nice flavor to it; good sized pieces of chicken. I found out talking to Bee and Som that this dish can take on many regionalisms, depending on where the chef is from. {Som is from Bangkok, Gib the chef, is from south Thailand; they have both worked at a number of Thai restaurants in different parts of Austin.} A little bit of the fish sauce balanced the sweetness out; I also liked this dish because it wasn't too dry. Certainly one of the better pad Thai dishes I've had in Austin. But can they be consistent with it? I have loved the pad Thai at Thai Fresh, but they are very inconsistent.
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Green curry with beef. Whenever you see curries on a Thai menu, green curry is always going to be the hottest because it uses fresh green chiles. This was spicy, but had very good flavor, although the beef was on the tough side.
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Pad see you. (Can also be spelled pad see ew.) This is typically one of my favorite Thai noodle dishes because of the wide rice noodles and the lightly sweet sauce made from black soy sauce (fermented and sweetened, so it's a different flavor that your typical soy). This was very very good, but that little bit of fish sauce really elevated it. I would SO eat this again! Bee says this is how the dish would be if you ate it in Thailand.
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Larb, made with ground pork. A bit salty, but did the chef over-compensate a bit because we had already discussed the sweetness of the som tum and pad Thai? Still quite good though, and larb is always a dish I enjoy. Reasonably spicy too, and the leftovers I ate the next day for lunch seemed even spicier.
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As I wrote this post up, I've realized that some of the things Thai Taste does exceptionally well are their sauces: the fish sauce mixture, the tamarind, the peanut, the fish cake dipping sauce. All were very well balanced. What disappointed me though was seeing a bottle of soy sauce on every table. Soy is not a typical Thai ingredient, or I should say it's not a mainstay like in Chinese or Japanese food. When I asked Som about it, she said, well, that's what customers want. I told her then and I say it again now, she's not giving her customers enough credit. Why isn't the fish sauce and chile condiments on every table? She says they, the servers, ask every table if they like their food spicy, and if so, they bring the tray.
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My point to them was that not all customers will speak up or speak truthfully when asked. If it's there on the the table, they can be left to their own devices in enhancing their dishes with some umami (fish sauce) or spice. One of the places Som used to work was Thai Passion downtown (though they are now relocating to NW Austin); she said the clients downtown wanted their food much spicier than the clients she sees in the southwest Austin suburban area they're now in. But don't discount that because they aren't asking for it spicy doesn't mean they're not willing to dabble with the condiment tray.

We talked also about their website and social media presence. They do have a website, and I think just a few tweaks to it would really improve its look and functionality. (And website designers out there??) At least their menu IS online. As for social media presence, they have none. They have a Facebook page, which hasn't been updated since 2011. Ask any food blogger, and we'd say that having a decent social media presence is crucial for driving your business, particularly for mom + pop places, food trailers, etc. It would take just a little bit of work, and some good photographs of their dishes to get it up to modern-day standards, but it's free marketing. Som said she's hesitant with Facebook because she feels her English isn't strong enough, but I say go for it!

The exterior sign was on the building facade was not lit up when we left at dark-thirty. Hopefully this is just a very temporary thing, but the very first comment on my Instagram post on my food there was "oh, I thought this place was closed". They got to look open to expect customers to come in. I will say for the roughly two hours we were there, there were very few other customers dining at the restaurant, but there was a VERY steady stream of people picking up their to-go orders, so people do know about the place. And to the trolls on Yelp who complained about their floor: get over it. While it may not look ideal, did it occur to you that this might be a landlord issue and something that a small business can't afford to fix themselves? Otherwise, it was very clean and comfortable.
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I hope this post/critique/feedback with help Thai Taste, and I hope it will encourage some of YOU reading this to go and try them. And to my knowledge, they are the only Thai place in that part of town for quite a ways. Their food is really as good as any Thai food I've had in Austin.