Saturday, June 23, 2012

El Alma

The corner of Dawson (South 5th) and Barton Springs has been a revolving door for restaurants for a number of years. Most recently, it was an outpost of El Chile, and it appeared to be doing well. Then, it seemed without warning, El Chile closed last June, but rebranded itself with a new executive chef, Alma Alcocer, formerly of Jeffrey's.  I attended a tasting they hosted, but haven't been able to get back for a full meal. This time, happy hour, and their half-price antojitos (appetizers) beckoned, so I still need to go for a main meal!

During daily happy hour, they've got specials on margaritas, sangria, and Lone Star beers. I was more than happy to sip on a sangria while waiting for my friend to arrive! The corn tortilla chips were nice and light, and the green sauce with tomatillo, avocado and lime was particularly tasty!
To snack on, I picked the emapanadas and the queso blanco y rojo. The corn masa empanandas are filled with mushrooms and cheese, and must have achiote paste in the masa to give them their orange color. The salsa was called picosa (different than the one that was with the chips), and it had a nice light, roasted flavor. The queso was really good! Great consistency (no crappy cheese by-products!), and nice bits of rajas (sauteed poblano pepper strips) and onions. It's served with tostados, or, yesterdays flour tortillas that are cut and fried. I love how thick they are, but several were very greasy. 
My friend had the ceviche clasico, prepared with black drum. She offered me a bite, which for some reason I turned down at the time. She loved it, and I missed out!

I have heard the duck rellenos are delicious, but they will have to wait until another time! Hopefully, El Alma has the right recipe for success at this corner spot.

Bits and Bites

It's been an interesting few days in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood! I literally awoke with a bang, on Thursday morning, around 6 am. I heard two loud noises -- akin to a sonic boom or transformer popping, followed by a third, about 20 - 30 seconds later. My power was still on, but I had no idea what the noises were from. When I got to work around 9 am, I saw a co-worker who told me: the FBI raided Jovita's and the two houses on Milton to the east, behind the restaurant, on suspicion of operating a large heroin ring, and ties to the Texas Syndicate gang, being run by the bar's owner. The noises I heard were most likely from flash grenades that the FBI used when entering the premises; I live about three blocks away, so I can only imagine what it was like for the next door neighbors on Milton!

You can read the Austin American-Statesman's article on the raid here. At last count 17 or 18 people were arrested, $40,000 cash was seized from the houses, as were some drugs and firearms. My co-worker's wife has worked at Jovita's off and on for 13+ years (she's not implicated); he had left his bicycle there the previous night, and went down Thursday afternoon to retrieve it. He said the restaurant was trashed -- dishes thrown everywhere, but after a bit of haggling, he was able to get his bike. Many bands have played there over the years, and  it is a shame that a dive music spot with mediocre food has to go out this way, but such is the case. No wonder I never cared for the food there!

And in other news...

-- Hillside Farmacy has a new happy hour menu (M - F, 3 - 6 pm), as well as Oyster Mondays, featuring half price oysters from  6 - 10 pm on, yes, Mondays.

-- Texas Tiki Week kicks off on Sunday! Brought to us by the Austin chapter of the US Bartender's Guild, several area bars will be featuring tiki specials, including tiki barware and "tiki tchochkes" at drink.well. (That one made me laugh!) The president of the Austin group is Tipsy Texan David Alan, who conceived of the idea to coincide with the Texas visit of rum expert Ed Hamilton.

-- Slow Food Austin is collaborating with the Central Market cooking school to teach a series of summer classes that introduce kids to preparing tasty and nutritious meals. Tickets can be purchased here.

-- Coming very soon on Rainey Street, Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden. (Can Rainey take on yet another establishment?)