Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bits and Bites

And yes, therefore I've been slacking on the blog, and not paying a whole lot of attention to Twitter lately. (There, I said it....sometimes it's just too darn hard to keep up with Twitter!) So here's what's up in ATX that I am immediately aware of.

--  Going on right now, is the Go Texan Restaurant Round up, where local foods are being cooked up and proceeds donated to area food banks. We <3 local!
-- SugarMama's Bakeshop will be hosting Australian baker Jess Pryles on Sunday, July 31st, and she'll be doing some guest baking!
-- The Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival returns on October 22 to Auditorium Shores. Hopefully it's better organized than the first go around! 
-- Local mixologist extraordinaire Bill Norris will be joining the Alamo Drafthouse to head up their beverage program. Cheers!

-- Cha Thai, a recent addition to the trailer scene, on Jessie St., near South Lamar & Barton Springs. Two Thai sisters serving "modern Thai fare". Excited to go try, but not in this heat! 
-- Also, Mai Thai, a new restaurant downtown at 2nd & San Jacinto. Very nice website!
-- Eater Austin had reported in their email newsletter that the east side new home for John Mueller's BBQ had fallen through, and they would be going for a trailer on S.1st Street. I can't find any further info on that, nor where along S. 1st they're looking, so stay tuned! 

-- Iggi's Texatarian vegan foods trailer

Okay, that's what I got for now!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Weekend

It really was such a lovely weekend, I feel compelled to share, even though I've written about all these eateries before!

Saturday started off with lunch at Hopdoddy. I had the Greek burger, a lovely lamb patty, cooked medium rare, with a nice topping of feta. Their french fries aren't too shabby either. And what really pushed the whole meal over the edge is their caramel + sea salt milk shake. O.M.G.

That evening, was Lobster Fest at Asti, in celebration of their 11th anniversary. Two dear friends are the mother and aunt of Executive Chef Jason Donoho, and along with some other food-loving friends, we ate very well.

It started with stuffed mushroom caps, with a light goat cheese and just a touch of truffle oil.
A roasted ruby and golden beet salad with fresh chevre and pickled onions.
Caprese salad. While it may seem cliche, it really is the perfect summer bounty. And that moz was amazing.
Pizza bianca, with prosciutto and another perfect little amount of truffle oil. I do not like heavy amounts of truffle; both of these applications were sheer perfection.
And NOW, we finally get to the lobster. They prepared it two ways: in a corn risotto (the plate in back) and a fra diavolo (spaghetti with tomato sauce and toasted breadcrumbs). Both were great, but I particularly loved the risotto. 
Dessert --  tiramisu, with an almond brittle sprinkled on top, and a watermelon granita -- so light and refreshing!
Our waitress, Claudia, was fantastic, and she also recommended the La Bambina rose wine we had with dinner, after our prosecco starters. Cin, cin to the food, wine, and company!

I was expecting Sunday to be a quiet day,  and probably just do stuff around the house. Well, friends called a little after 11am, wondering if I wanted a ticket to the Davis Cup tennis match at the Erwin Center that started at 2 pm. Um, YEAH!!! Davis Cup is the tournament of countries, as opposed to individual players, like Wimbledon. This round has been the US versus Spain, and the first team to win three matches advances to the next round. Spain was up 2-1 after Friday and Saturday; this match was David Ferrer (ranked 6th in the world, so not too shabby) and Mardy Fish (ranked 8th).
It was a LONG 4 set match, with Ferrer winning after almost 4 1/2 hours, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-5 (5).  I hadn't been to the Erwin Center in years, and was almost immediately reminded how uncomfortable the seats are because of their narrowness! But it was a fun, raucous crowd, and a great event for Austin to play host to. Former US great Jim Courier was the team coach, and had Fish won, Andy Roddick would have been able to play on his home court, but it was not meant to be.
Both guys played great, but Ferrer was able to capitalize more when it counted.
After the match, we went to Hoover's for dinner. While I somehow missed on their menu that the meatloaf was covered in tomato sauce, it was still very tasty. The gravy on the mashed potatoes was certainly made with bacon fat!
And thus concluded the weekend excitement, and now, yes, Mom, on to some meals with vegetables! :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bits and Bites

-- Contigo hosts a gin tasting on July 11th with Death's Door Spirits, who make gin, vodka and white whisky. $45/person, purchase tickets here.
-- Sagra is having a free food extravaganza, July 13th, until food runs out.
-- The Carillon and the AT&T Conference Center are hosting a benefit for their injured assistant director of food and beverage, Daniel Curtis, also on July 13th, $75/person, with a great local chef line up.
-- Bourbon 101 tasting classes continue on the second Wednesday of the month (yes, July 13th) at tenOak for $25/person.
-- The Austin Museum of Art, Edible Austin, and the Tipsy Texan, David Alan are teaming up for a cocktail tasting and discussion on "Cold War, Cold Cocktails" on July 28th. 
-- If you're in need of some rock 'n roll, and maybe a few bruises, Fado will sponsor a fundraiser for the Texas Rollergirls on August 5th.

-- Eater Austin lists their top 38 current restaurants around town. Nice to see the Noble Pig at the top.... now I just need to go back up there....

-- Trace and it's home, the W Hotel, reopened today, after almost 2 weeks of being closed due to falling glass from the high rise. Reportedly, the hotel was paying the salaries of all employees during the interim period, let's hope that was the case.
-- Hopfields, a gastro pub, is coming to 3110 Guadalupe, with lots of beer and French-inspired street foods.
-- Restaurant Jezebel, which was closed due to fire last year, will rise through the ashes at a new location, in the being built building of Cirrus Logic, at 800 West 6th. Look for it next summer.

-- The Fried Green Tomato trailer in the South First food court (at Live Oak) apparently has morphed into Azafran, a Mediterranean/tapas trailer by the same chef/owner. Need to check it out, but I'll miss the fried green toms!

Hut's Hamburgers

Hut's Hamburgers is one of the first places I remember eating when I moved to Austin in 1994. My friends and I would go on Wednesday nights, when the burgers are buy one get one, provided both burgers are the same variety. So then you'd have to figure out a burger that two people would agree upon, AND there's 20 different ones to choose from. It's probably been at least 10 years since I was last there, and it doesn't look like it has changed a whole lot.

After attending a tasting at Haddingtons (see previous post), just two blocks east, we were still a little hungry, so we wandered over to Hut's.  I was quite tempted by the blue plate special of the evening, which was meatloaf. But after studying all 20 of those burger descriptions, I decided on #7 Hut's Favorite -- lettuce, tomato, mayo, American cheese, and bacon.
It was a decent burger; the bacon could have been a touch crisper, and unfortunately, the fries seemed off. Not stale, but just not crisp either. But it was fun.... a little touch of nostalgia for me, and it's an Austin institution.  I can only imagine what it's like for people who remember it way back in 1939 when they opened!


In a few short months, Haddingtons has generated a buzz in the local foodie community. Located on West 6th and Nueces, in the home of the former Thai Tara, the building has been transformed into a tavern with different dining rooms. It's been on my short list of places to go and have a meal, but I haven't quite made it yet. But with thanks to the PR/marketing firm of Crave Communications, who specialize in the local food service industry, I was invited to a tasting from their new chef, James Corwell. 

The event was set up in the Fox Tavern room, a dining space complete with it's own bar, where the bartenders worked furiously throughout the event, and the waitstaff were gracious to hold plates as some of us jumped in (yes, somewhat frantically) for pictures. It was a crowded room, and fortunately, I ran into Miss Smart and a friend of hers who was visiting from out of town, along with Aimee Wenske, a local food photographer.  We pretty quickly realized we were on the wrong side of the room, and needed to be closer to the entrance if we had hopes of getting some of the bites of food, much less decent pictures! And while I was able to succeed in the former, the latter was much more difficult (for me at least!). Because we were standing, it was hard to juggle my Moscow Mule and take a picture while other people were grabbing the bites of food that were being passed.

It all began with Miss Smart running back over to the bar with a couple of gougere -- think savory cream puffs, these with parmesan and pepper. From there, we had the corn fritters that had just a tiny sliver of cured salmon and the heirloom melon balls with duck prosciutto and a jellied duck consomme. The fritters were very light, and great by themselves, but that salmon really pushed it to a new level! And a nice twist on a typical melon and pork prosciutto.
Along came peach, melon, and ginger aqua frescas. I didn't really get much ginger essence in mine, and while I liked it, it would be a great summertime refresher had it been really chilled.
Next was a crostini with duck liver mousse and an apple salad. I liked this flavor and texture combo. Then the duck and fois gras meatball, with a dried (or fresh, but poached?) cherry on top. My first one didn't have the cherry, but the second piece did, and the cherry gave it a nice pop. (And a photographic failure, unless you'd like to see the dark, blurry image.)
The plate in the back had the fantastic lamb merquez sausage bites on a little savory cream puff; I don't think these were the same as the gougere. Loved these, but I do love lamb! The plate in front are chunks of fried green tomatoes, done with a wonderfully light breading (panko?) and a chili soy dipping sauce. These two dishes I'd say were the stars of the evening, along with the corn fritter and melon ball.
There was also a tuna tartar, done in little cucumber cups; the menu for the event said it had a meyer lemon creme fraiche on it. It was a small little bite, and something texturally didn't work for me, nor did I get a lemony flavor. (Sorry, no decent picture.) And the strawberries with a honey gelee, which were interesting, but consensus in our little group was the gelee was too thick.
Finally, the milk punch capped off the tastings, a combo of brandy, nutmeg, and frothy milk, not unlike eggnog, except milk, not egg. I think of milk punch as a very southern drink, so I am not totally sure if I'd call it a tavern drink. Ahhh, but the chef is most recently from New Orleans, so there's the connection!
I briefly met the chef, though didn't get a chance to talk with him, but nice he was out of his chef whites and milling about the packed room. So I still need to get to Haddingtons for a real meal, though I now have a much better sense as to what all the fuss is about. Thank you to Haddingtons and Crave for a tasty evening!