Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moroccan Clementines

A little trip down memory lane! Central Market has gotten in little crates of clementines... these were DELICIOUS when we were there! There's about 20 to a box, so I hope I can eat them all before they go bad! And at $5.99 right now, they're a steal! These come from the Souss Valley, in the southwest part of the country, near Taroudant, where we stayed. It's a really rich agricultural valley.

The pictures above.... I think the one of the tree I took when we were in Rabat, our hotel, the Villa Mandarin, had fabulous gardens. And the other is the crate in my kitchen! Yum!


Enoteca is the appetizing little sister of Vespaio, a distinguished Italian mainstay on South Congress for several years now. Vespaio was hip before the rest of SoCo caught up with it. Enoteca is it's bistro side; the two share the same kitchen, and much of the same flavors you can get at Vespaio can be had at Enoteca for less money. Trust me though, if I could afford Vespaio on a regular basis, I'd be there. I think its chef's have revolved over the years, I've never had a bad experience. It's a great date place, though it can be a bit loud.

When you walk into Enoteca, there is a deli counter in the front of the store, where the daily antipasti is waiting either to be served to diners or packed up in to go containers. A bar curves around to the left, and several small 3-top tables occupy the middle of the floor, and 4 and 6-toppers to the right. The kitchen is straight back, and Vespaio to the right...just to the side of the hostess stand, is a roll-up door that leads to Vespaio. It's often open for lunch as there's a small room in the front of Vespaio that Enoteca uses for lunch diners. It is one of my favorite places to go, as it's casual, affordable, and above all, good.

In the past 4 days, I've been twice, last Thursday for dinner, and last night for a happy hour gathering. I ADORE the spaghetti carbonara, with it's lovely cream sauce and pancetta. I always ask for it with pappardelle or tagliatelli, some sort of pasta that's a bit wider than spaghetti, and they're always happy to oblige. (Actually, it's the bartender Rob, who's been there forever it seems who first suggested that to me, AND they make their own pasta.) The carbonara is my go-to dish. Love it. And now I am suffering from withdrawal, because I didn't order it either of these two last times.

On Thursday, we got some of the antipasti insalate -- beets, pepper shooters, and mixed olives. Since I had eaten a late lunch, I opted for the spinach salad, with gorgonzola, roasted red peppers and candied walnuts. Very tasty, and healthy! My friend had the avocado panini, which comes with little fried garbanzo beans on the side. He said the whole thing was delicious. For happy hour, six women had 2 bottle of the Valpolicella Classico, the fried calamari, the suppli, and the salsiccia pizza. The calimari are very consistent there -- tender and not greasy. The do a combo of the tube rings and the baby tentacles, and served it with garlic aioli and a marinara. The suppli are risotto balls, stuffed with fontina, lightly breaded and fried. It's a great light, crispy coating, and an ooze of rice and cheese, served in a tomato sauce; also a very consistent dish. Our attentive waiter Josh recommended the salsiccia pizza, with homemade fennel-pork sausage; they've got a wood-fired oven, so the thin crust comes out very nice. The sweet tooth then hit, and we split the chocolate caramel peanut tart (heaven! kinda a grown up Reese's) and the lemon olive oil cake (tasty, but not stellar, it really needed some more zip to it).

Two lovely evenings. Great company both times. An always reliable (though admittedly a bit short of spectacular) place. And now, I need my carbonara!

The Salt Lick


One of the well-known barbeque meccas around these parts is The Salt Lick. Located in Driftwood, about 25 minutes from downtown Austin, it's still out on a sleepy country road, but as I noticed on my drive out there last Friday, it's not going to be that sleepy for much longer. Civilization is creeping closer and closer, with new housing communities popping up. Fortunately, these folks have been doing BBQ right for years, and it doesn't look like anything is going to interfere with that anytime soon.

A friend of mine is getting married at Thurman's Mansion, just up the hill from the actual restaurant, and where the corporate offices are located. As our 10 am appointment finished just before 11 am, we cruised on over to the restaurant, which opens for lunch at 11. You walk in, and there's a big round smoke pit that looks a bit like a water well. Or maybe a wishing well, 'cause you're just wishing you could eat EVERYTHING on there! It smells gooooood! Smokey meats, all just ready for the taking. The wait staff all seem to be well-mannered local college kids, and they said to seat ourselves, so we grabbed a picnic bench past the food prep area. We both ordered ice tea (if you do ever go, it's a BYOB place.. no liquor license) and the combo plate. Our waitress brought us some nice soft white bread.... really the only time I'll eat squishy white bread like that, but this IS a BBQ joint! And within 5 minutes of taking our order, there were big ole plates of 'que in front of us. Tender brisket, with a really nice dark pink smoke ring, one pork rib (they weren't baby backs, my most favorite.... St. Louis cut?), and some incredibly juicy, tasty pork sausage. The sausage with its medium grind was certainly my favorite. As I love baby backs, this one didn't quite cut it for me... just wasn't tender or tasty enough. And the brisket, while never my first choice in a BBQ place, was quite good. Their's isn't totally falling apart at the appearance of a fork, but it was smokey, lean, and moist.

Accompanying the plates were pinto beans (which needed some kick), a good simple cole slaw, and a really good warm potato salad, with perhaps nutmeg in there. And what's a good BBQ meal without cobbler? We got the peach/blackberry combo cobbler, warmed, with a scoop of ice cream. Yum. So what if it's canned fruit. A bit of sugar and a bready topping make anything good!

It's worth the semi-scenic drive out to The Salt Lick. If you go in the evening, apparently they often have live music, so you can take a beer or two, eat some grub, and relax. Oh yeah, and take cash... no plastic accepted here. (There is an ATM at the door, but if it's down, you may be outta luck!)

Lucky me, though, I'll be back there on Saturday for a BBQ buffet after my friend's wedding!