Friday, May 29, 2015

Bits and Bites -- Austin Food News

Here's what's coming up on the Austin food scene:

-- The Texas Olive Festival, slated for May 28 - 31 has been postponed due to the recent floods in the Hill Country.
-- The Flying Carpet hosts Austin2India, a fundraising dinner May 30th, 7 pm, $25/person to help raise money to build a library in India. Pie Plante, Patika Coffee and Deep Eddy Vodka will also provide food and drink. 
-- Alcomar hosts a brunch benefiting the Austin Food and Wine Alliance, Sunday, May 31st, 11 am - 3 pm, reservations recommended.
-- Sunday May 31st, in.gredients is hosting Farming, Foraging, and Homesteading with workshops, vendors, samples, and more. 10 am - 2 pm
-- The Scarlet Rabbit hosts a McPherson Wine dinner, May 31st, 6 pm, $45/person.
-- Swift's Attic is celebrating their third birthaversary, May 31st, 8 pm.
-- Natural Epicurean hosts vegan chef Ayinde Howell, June 1st, 6 - 9 pm, $89/person.
-- June 1 - 7 is Negroni Week, where restaurants + bars around the world donate a portion of their Negroni cocktail sales to a charity of their choice; check the Austin participants here, including The Hightower, who will donate proceeds to ColorCancer.
-- Cafe Josie hosts Wine Me Dine Me, a five course farm to table event with Lewis Wines, June 2nd, 6:30 pm, $85/person
-- Olive + June hosts a Buglioni Wine dinner on June 3rd at 7 pm, $150/person.
-- Kick off the summer with family day at The Midway Food Park, Friday, June 5th from 2 - 7 pm, sponsored by Do512 Family.
-- Slow Food Austin celebrates the tomato with a Tomato Dinner at Springdale Farm, June 9th, $100/person.
-- Central Market's Beers Across America, will be two week event at all CM's, June 10 - 23. Both Austin locations will feature a beer stroll (lots of samples!) on Thursday, June 18th from 5 - 8 pm, $10/person. Register here for North Lamar and here for Westgate.
-- A Taste of North Austin will be held at the Domain on June 13th, 11 am - 4 pm, $20/person; get tastes from over 15 restaurants!
-- A Pinor Noir and cheese pairing class will be held at Epicerie, June 14th, 5:30 pm, $40/person
-- The 54th Stonewall Peach JAMboree will be June 19-20 in Stonewall, TX; who will be crowned this year's Peach Queen?!
-- Isla holds a First Day of Summer Pig Roast, June 21st, 5 pm; tiki apparel encouraged.
-- Father's Day fried chicken picnic at Lenoir, June 21st, 11 am - 3 pm, $30/person.

-- It's my favorite time of the year, as Texas peaches (this link shows the Hill Country growers and what's available) have come into season, and picking them is in full swing! If you drive out Hwy 290, you can find many stands along the way in Stonewall and Fredericksburg.
-- Opal Divine's is moving towards a locally-sourced, seasonal ingredient menu. From the press release:
"All of Opal’s egg dishes are made with organic eggs sourced by Austin-based Farm to Table, LLC. Their beef comes from Creekstone Farms Natural Black Angus Beef, and Opal’s is now sourcing natural pork from Sterling Silver."
-- Blackbird + Henry is now offering a Community-Supported Restaurant program, where patrons make a one-time donation of $1000 to the restaurant and receive house credit of $1250 towards all food, beverages and events.
-- At this writing, Austin Bakes has raised nearly $8500 for AmeriCares relief efforts in Nepal!  Online donations are still being taken through May 31st.

-- The Ommelettry has reopened at 4621 Airport Blvd.
-- Galaxy Cafe will open its fourth location at 8127 Mesa Drive on June 1st.
-- Medici  coffee house also opens their fourth location at Lamar Union, 1100 South Lamar, on June 3rd.

Monday, May 18, 2015

First Look at Alcomar

Alcomar logo
Last week, I was invited by Alcomar to come try their menu; I was not paid for a blog post and opinions are purely my own. Fortunately, it's all good things to report!

I live in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, so I was surprised earlier this year to hear that the El Chile at South First and Mary Streets was going to change its concept to become at Latin seafood spot, as El Chile always seemed popular. Chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas of sister restaurant El Alma, and Chef Jeff Martinez of El Chile teamed up to form Alcomar, and barely a month in they're making waves (bada bing!) in the Austin culinary scene.

My friend and I each started with some sangria roja, and they brought fresh tostadas, a habanero-pumpkin seed salsa called siklipak and some pickled veggies (yes it was habanero, but no, it wasn't that hot). Beautiful color and flavor on the sangria, and that was just a preview, as everything we had looked and tasted fresh and vibrant.
Alcomar sangria and chips
We started with the snapper ceviche, which has mint, olives, serrano and jicama in it, and is served with yucca chips. Loved just the hint of mint!
Alcomar snapper ceviche
My friend had the scallops Veracruzana; and if the scallops themselves aren't fabulous enough, it comes with a cauliflower flan, which was as decadent as the name flan implies.
Alcomar scallops veracruzana
I opted for the crab cake from the appetizer menu as my main dish, and also ordered the cauliflower a la carte. The tortilla crusted crab cake was loaded with crab, and the plate had tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and a grilled lemon aioli which popped with flavor.
Alcomar crab cake
For dessert, there was the dark chocolate tart with Bolivian sea salt and what I think was cajeta (goat's milk caramel). Love the star burst presentation, and this was over the top delicious!
Alcomar chocolate tart
And bunuelos, fried flour tortillas (I think) dusted with sugar, and a highly edible coconut tequila crema alongside.
Alcomar bunuelos
The interior was completely revamped to give it an upscale Mexican beach feel, and my friend who lived on the Mexican coast for several months was immediately transported.  Each window has a different rope curtain and the simple light fixtures are covered with huge open-weave baskets. And the ever-present octopus graces the north wall, both on the interior and exterior.
Alcomar rope curtains
Alcomar octopus
Alcomar is a great addition to the Austin food scene, as I don't know of another Latin place like this in town. Catch the wave and go try it for yourself! Mariscos y mas, con sabores fabulosos! Gracias a todos, Alcomar!

1816 South First Street
open 7 days a week, 11 am - 9 pm (til 10 pm on T/W/Th and til 11 pm on F/Sa)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bits and Bites -- the Mother's Day Edition

South Austin Foodie
Where to eat on Mother's Day (It's this Sunday, May 10th! Hurry up and make a reservation!)
-- Finn and Porter, 11 am - 3 pm, $55/4 courses
-- Due Forni, a la carte, 11 am - 3 pm
-- The Carillon, 4 seatings: 10:30 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 1:30 pm, $65/buffet, under 12 years old, $19.95
-- Sagra, $28.99/buffet
-- Daily Grill, a la carte
-- Gardener, 10:30 am - 1:30 pm, $30/set menu
-- Bribery Bakery has baskets for breakfast in bed available, from $45
-- La Patisserie has baskets starting at $36, place orders by May 8th

-- Central Market's Passport Greece event continues through May 12th (both locations)
-- La Condesa's 7th Annual Cinco de Mayo block party celebration, May 5th,  5 - 9 pm; live music and Mexican Street foods
-- MexicArte's Taste of Mexico, May 5th, 6 - 9 pm, $50 - 7, various chefs/restaurants 
-- Teachers eat for free at CiCi's Pizza for National Teacher Appreciation Day.
-- Forrest Wine dinner at Olive + June, Wednesday, May 6th, $100
-- Salvation Pizza's Rainey Street Grand Opening Celebrations, May 7 - 10; proceeds benefit the Glimmer of Hope Foundation
-- Metier is hosting "Ice Cream and Cocktails" in conjunction with Lick Ice Cream and Genius Gin, May 9th, 1 - 3 pm 
-- Wheatsville Co-op on South Lamar is holding a chocolate truffle workshop (great for Mother's Day!), May 9th, 10 am  - 1 pm, $35
-- Sustainable Food Center's Farm to Plate Dinner, May 14th at Barr Mansion, various prices; a sip and stroll event with bites from over 30 of Austin's top chefs
-- The Texas Olive Festival runs May 28 - 31, with various tastings, tours, vendors, chef demos and vineyards represented at different times.
-- Trailer Food Tuesdays return to the Long Center: June 9, July 7, and August 4
-- Cooking Light and Health magazine's Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend will be June 12 - 14, with tastings, cooking and fitness demonstrations, a yoga/Pure Barre class, 5K, and more. Benefits the American Diabetes Association.
-- Early bird tickets for the Austin Food Blogger's Alliance (of which I am a member) conference Byte of Texas (October 10 - 11 at Saengerrunde Hall) have just gone on sale through May 31st, $40 - 120.

-- VOX Table at Lamar Union
-- Shake Shack at Lamar Union
-- Jack Allen's Kitchen on 360
-- Via 313 Pizza in Oak Hill 

Friday, May 1, 2015

La Patisserie -- Sweet AND Savory!

Just a few yards from the hustle and bustle of South First and Annie Streets lies a charming little house,  La Patisserie. This French bakery opened their renovated bungalow in the fall of 2010 at 602 W. Annie Street  (just a few yards west of South First), and has been going strong ever since. I was invited to come try some of their new lunch items, and had a wonderful chat with owner Soraiya Nagree.
La Patisserie Austin
La Patisserie Austin -- Soraiya Nagree
Regular offerings include the always-popular (and colorful!) macarons. I am partial to the toasted almond variety, as it was my winning suggestion for a "new flavor" contest they had back in 2011!
La Patisserie Austin -- macarons
There is always a case full of sweet breads for breakfast, such as croissants and morning buns, which is like a cinnamon roll, but without the goo. They have a new flavor, orange almond, which is one of the items Soraiya sent me home with. See the little burned spot on top? Yeah, that's from my toaster oven -- this this was so tall, it hit the heating element! I know you can't gauge the size of it here, but this was about baseball-sized. I've always loved the contrast between it's crusty and slightly caramelized exterior and the wonderfully soft buttery crumb inside.
La Patisserie Austin -- morning bun
Speaking of butter, La Patisserie uses Plugra, which is a European-style butter, meaning it has a higher butterfat content than your standard American butters. And while 2% difference may not seem like a lot, it is! Everything just tastes a little bit richer. That was evidenced in the mushroom savory tart I took home. When I heated it in the toaster oven my kitchen just smelled of butter. They're making a great crust on the tarts, as it puffed lightly and was nice and flaky, and of course buttery. (And I am picky about my pie crusts!) They were also the perfect size for one person; add a salad and you've got a nice meal. Right now, they have mushroom, turkey swiss and tomato ricotta tarts.
La Patisserie Austin -- savory tarts
Other new lunch options include chicken salad and rosemary cream cheese "croissant-wiches". And of course, there's always a great selection of desserts, such as eclairs and the Paris brest, which my friends and I were dying to try after seeing La P's Instagram picture earlier this spring, and it did not disappoint!
La Patisserie Austin
La Patisserie is also available for private rentals -- a great place for a shower or tea party. More information about rentals and special orders is available on their website. So whether you need something for breakfast, lunch, dessert or just a pick me up snack like these strawberry pop tarts, there is something for everyone over at La Patisserie!
La Patisserie -- strawberry pop tart