Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hecho en Mexico

Obviously, living in Texas, we have a lot of Mexican (and Tex-Mex) restaurants to choose from. I met a friend for lunch at Hecho en Mexico (located at William Cannon and Escarpment) last week, and while the food was very fresh, I don't know that there was anything that really distinguishes it from other interior Mexican spots, but this was my only experience there.

Arriving at high noon on a weekday, the place was three-quarters full. But employees were also sparse; during our whole meal, I only saw two servers working the whole floor. Both were very friendly, but at times, service lagged (like refilling water glasses, at our request). Neither of them came off as harried or hassled, but I can't imagine that having only having two wait staff is the norm during lunch rush.

My friend and I split the Taquitos al Pastor from the appetizers menu. Al pastor features pork that's been typically marinated in pineapple juice, herbs and spices, roasted, and then chopped or shaved, so it should be a nice savory and sweet balance. This appeared to be shredded pork (like from the cocinita pibil?) that was mixed with a bit of red chile sauce, and had pieces of pineapple added when served. They were good, though a bit greasy, but to me, not a true al pastor. The red chiles were the same flavor of those in the salsa brought with the complimentary tortilla chips.
I couldn't decide on what I wanted to eat. I asked what the soup of the day was, and when the waiter said "pureed pumpkin with broccoli" I made a face! Neither are favorites, but he did say I could substitute the Caldo Tlalpeno on the Burro Corrido (soup and burrito) luncheon plate; for $5, it's a total deal. The soup was a mild tomato and vegetable based broth, with chicken and notes of the aforementioned red chile in it. More or less like a tortilla soup, but without the tortilla strips. The burrito was quite large, and was well-stuffed with chicken, rice, black beans, and lettuce. The sauce on top though was the same one-note red chile flavor.
Inside the burrito: 
My friend had the chicken spinach salad (pictured in the back), which was also very fresh, and the presentation was nice, but the creamy dressing was cloyingly sweet. It almost tasted like and had the consistency of a poppy seed dressing, but without the poppy seeds.  Had it been me, I would have asked for another dressing, but she persevered.  She had eaten here previously, and felt that her previous meal was good, but also not memorable. And to me, the only spice I tasted in any of the dishes was from roasted red chile peppers, which are pretty much a one-note flavor. Repeated over and over.

So based on that feedback, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. They do have a full bar, and do tequila dinners at the end of every month. That might be something worth checking out!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bits and Bites

-- Uncle Billy's Brew and Cue on Lake Travis will be starting a Sunday gospel brunch series, beginning May 27. Check their website for details, and the buffet brunch doesn't sound bad either!

-- Sagra's Sunday Supper Series is back this Sunday as well, five courses with vino, $55/person, reservations required. Umbrian truffle lasagna, anyone?

-- On May 30th, the Sustainable Food Center breaks ground on a new building and 2.3 acres of community garden plots, all located at the MLK Metro Rail Station, on MLK Blvd., one mile east of IH-35. Ceremony with Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Senator Lloyd Doggett and other dignitaries begins at 10 am.

-- While on the Italian topic, Silver Whisk in Lakeway will begin a month-long "Escape to Italy" cooking series in June.

-- Cannoli Joe's will be hosting a gluten free dinner with their Executive Chef Quirino Silvio on June 8th; $45/person, including wine pairings. 

-- Local tea house/producer Zhi Tea has developed some small plates created from locally sourced ingredients, as they look to create more food and drink memories for their clientele.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bits and Bites

-- Do you miss the old Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival? (Rhetorical question, but yes.....) You can now get a little piece of history, the Austin Food and Wine Alliance will be selling past year's merchandise (t-shirts, wine glasses, etc.) at the Barton Creek Farmer's Market this Saturday, May 19th, from 9 am - 1 pm. Questions on what you might find? Email them directly at
-- Max's Wine Dive celebrates their 3rd birthday with a 4-course farmer's market dinner on Sunday, May 20th at 5:30pm, $75/person. Proceeds will also benefit the Settlement Home for Children.

-- Olive and June will be hosting two gluten-free dinners in honor of Celiac Awareness Month (May), on May 23 and 24 at 7:30 pm; click here to purchase ticket, 5 courses, $80/person.

-- For the last pairing event of the season, Jack Allen's is hosting a dinner with 4.0 Cellars, June 4, $65/person. Reservations:

-- Paggi House has updated their menu to encourage diners to try more smaller plates (prices also adjusted) of their New American cuisine, and are shifting to a bit of a more casual setting.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Say Cheese!

I had the pleasure of joining a fine group of fellow food bloggers last weekend as Farmstress Maggie, of From Maggie's Farm, taught us how to make ricotta cheese. It's actually quite easy, with no fancy equipment or ingredients needed. And the end product is delicious!

Joining Maggie and myself were Girl Gone Grits, Field and Feast, Stetted, and Seasonal Palate; Epicuriosities was with us in spirit though a migraine kept her home bound.

For the ricotta, start with raw milk, which Maggie picked up for us from a local farm.
Heat the milk slowly (medium heat) until it reaches 170 degrees, and hold it there for 10 minutes (try not to let it go over 180). 
Add half a cup of plain white vinegar, and stir. Immediately, you see magic before your eyes!
The curds and whey separate like *that!* Stir a little, and then pour contents into a strainer lined with a fine cheese cloth or butter muslin.
Once they whey has drained out (you can save it for other uses, like adding to your smoothie; Maggie actually just did a great post explaining about whey and what you can do with it), put your curds back into your pot (or a bowl), and season to your liking. It will certainly need at least a little salt! Dried herbs are preferable, as the fresh ones can go moldy if not eaten quick enough. We had a nice lemon zest and dried rosemary blend. 
You're now pretty much ready to eat it! One gallon of milk yielded just over 11 ounces of ricotta for me. Maggie says the fresh ricotta will last about a week in the fridge. Here's what I made with mine:

Maggie used us a guinea pigs, as she's hoping to make this into a fee-based class series. And you know what? She's a great teacher, and we had a lot of fun! I can't wait for our chevre class! :) Thank you Maggie!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bits and Bites

-- The Austin Chef Showdown is Saturday, May 12 at the Mexican American Cultural Center from 11:30am - 2:30 pm. Hosted by the Mayor’s Fitness Council, guests can sample the tastiest healthy entrees from 15 restaurant finalists and vote on their favorite.

-- For a nice full list of places to go for Mother's Day brunch, check the Statesman. (And really, if you've waited this long to make reservations, you better get on it!) Ruth's Chris Steak House is also doing dinner on Sunday, from 5:30 pm onward.

-- Slow Food Austin is hosting a happy hour at Boggy Creek Farms, May 17 @ 6 pm, suggested $15 donation. Food will be from the farm's resources, and drinks will be warm-weather friendly!

-- Ski Shores Cafe on Lake Travis is offering summer movie nights, live music, and new dockside pick up of to go orders. See their website for more info.

-- Eater Austin shares their list of favorite pizza joints in town. I am still wondering what's happened to Mercury Pizza at South Lamar and Oltorf..... are they really going to reopen? Anyone know?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bits and Bites

-- More Derby Day (May 5) happenings at drink.well and  J. Blacks Feel Good Kitchen and Lounge.

-- Sustainable Food Center's Farm to Plate dinner, May 10th, featuring Eastside Showroom/Hillside Farmacy chef Sonya Cote.

-- Peche has a new summer menu, featuring local, seasonal ingredients.

-- Elizabeth Street Cafe now doing happy hour with $2 off select drinks, and $2 off appetizer plates. They're also doing take out food too!

-- Trophy's Bar and Grill on South Congress will close, and be taken over by Larry McGuire (of Lambert's, Perla's, Elizabeth St., La Fresas), reopening in a few months. 

-- Mexia peaches were at Central Market Westgate yesterday! They're small overall, and smell good, though the two I bought need another day or so to ripen!
-- Central Market also held a media preview at the French Legation of their upcoming Passport France event, May 9 - 22. Glorious cheeses and baked goods! Crepes. Wines and champagnes. All CM's will have French products, wine tastings, and events at their stores.