Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Was Tasty!

Here's a little wrap up of some of the tasty things I ate this past year!

Top row: burger at Shake Shack soft opening, Indian food from Asiana, my mom's lamb chops at Christmas
Middle row: dim sum from Chinatown, cream puff from Cream Whiskers, LA BBQ
Bottom row: Gus's fried chicken, sandwich at Lucky Puccia's, pastrami plate at Pieous

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and very tasty 2016! Thanks for reading and following me on social media! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Prevention R3 Summit is Returning!

Are you starting to think about some new year resolutions? Do you want to be revived, refreshed, and reinvented? Then consider the Prevention Magazine's R3 Summit  -- the Premier Summit Advancing Women's Health, January 15 - 16, 2016 at the Moody Theater.

I attended last year's (October 2014) event as a guest blogger (here's my recap from last year), and I have been invited back again (all opinions are my own). Here's a look at the upcoming programming, and more details are online.  
  • Keynote speaker Joan Lunden will discuss her breast cancer fight, and her mission to educate and inspire others.
  • Dr. Travis Stork and Dr. Jennifer Ashton of the Emmy-nominated show The Doctors will provide the road map to your healthiest year ever.
  • One of the nation’s most sought-after meditation experts, Dr. Bob Roth, will be on-hand to help you harness your inner power to reach your full potential.
  • Motivational speaker and activist Lizzie Velasquez, author of A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story shares her history.
  • Top Chef Masters alum Monica Pope will create an inventive, multi-course menu for Friday night’s opening reception and dinner. 
  • A leader in the fields of nutrition and fitness, Dr. Wendy Bazilian will take on eating clean in a dirty world. 
  • Chef Chad Sarno, former head Chef of Whole Foods, will demonstrate how to achieve your health goals starting in the kitchen. 
  • Celebrity Personal Trainer Larysa DiDio will lead a Fit in 10 workshop, a groundbreaking workout that maximizes results in only 10 minutes a day.
  • Sex Doctor Lauren Streicher will answer your most intimate questions about sexual health. 

Get $20 off a weekend pass with the code: R3BLOG, and spread the word! Click here for ticket information.  Hope to see you at the Moody Theater!

Prevention R3 Summit
January 15-16, 2016
Moody Theater
310 Willie Nelson Drive (2nd + Lavaca Streets)

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Last Bits and Bites Food News of 2015

Places for Christmas Dinner
-- Goodall's Kitchen, $44/person
-- Prelog's, December 24-26, $49/person
-- Sagra, Dec 22-24, Feast of the Seven Fishes Dinner, $39.95/person + $25 for wine pairings
-- VOX Table (Christmas Eve), $89/person

Places for New Year's Eve Dinner
-- Arro, $50/person
-- The Carillon, $75/person
-- Contigo, $110/person
-- Dai Due, $95/person
-- Gardner, $65-115/person
-- The Hightower
-- Launderette, $65-85/person
-- Parkside, $90/person +$35 for wine pairings
-- Prelog's
-- Sala + Betty, $35/person + $15 for wine pairings
-- Texas French Bread, $50/person + $30 for wine pairings
-- VOX Table, $100/person
-- Weather Up, $145/person

Other Offerings
-- East Tiger has Stollen and Vörtbröd holiday breads.
-- Fresa's has tamales and posole through December 24th.
-- Santa Rita Tex-Mex Cantina has tamales through December 24th.
-- Gourmet By Numbers has a variety of meal kits/holiday gift packages.

-- Sunday, December 20th, coffee and donut pop-up bakery in Lenoir's wine garden with their pastry chef, 10 am - 1 pm.
-- Monday, December 21st, Counter 3.FIVE.VII dinner with Apis and Apiary, $180/person or $300 with wine pairings.
-- Tuesday, December 22nd, Garbo's hosts a five-course dinner, $65/person.
-- Kitchen Underground has a full schedule of classes for December and January, all taught by local bloggers, chefs, home cooks, artisans, and professionals.
-- Oasthouse Gastropub now open for brunch and lunch.
-- SPUN liquid nitrogen ice cream now open.
-- The Prevention R3 Summit is coming January 15-16 at the Moody Theater; keep an eye on this space for ticket details and giveaways! 
-- Bacon + Beer Festival, January 24, 2016 at Fair Market. Tickets on sale. 

-- Central Standard, inside the South Congress Hotel, opened December 17th.
-- Chez Nada, a French brasserie and bakery will open in late 2016 at 110 San Antonio Street in the Northshore building, the latest from the New Waterloo group and Jesse Herman.
-- Amazon Prime now delivering food from participating restaurants to Prime customers.
-- Barley Swine moving to their new home on Burnet Road on January 2nd.

-- Blackbird and Henry
-- Congress (will make way for an expanded 2nd Bar + Kitchen)
-- Fork and Taco
-- Roll On Sushi
-- Short Bus Subs (trailers)

Happy holidays, y'all!!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Driskill Grill

Last month, I attended a media dinner at the newly revamped Driskill Hotel. I hadn't been inside in a couple years, and from the updated lobby to the exquisite food, they've earned their high marks. Walking through the lobby and the bar leading to the restaurant just transports you back in time.
The Driskill Hotel lobby
Our evening at the Driskill Grill started with a cocktail reception in Chef Troy Knapp's private office, nestled under the eaves in the back of the kitchen. The current space is the byproduct of hotel expansion over the years, as what was a brick exterior wall is now interior. In his two years at the helm of the Driskill kitchen, Chef Knapp has been researching past menus and updating the current seasonal one with classic dishes, now locally sourced as much as possible.

We were seated in one of the private areas in the main dining room, sectioned off by heavy curtains.  Elegant white china plates with silver accents graced the tables, along with hearty pieces of a creamy blue cheese called Cambozola Black, which was drizzled with saba (made from grape must, similar to balsamic) and an onion jam. An excellent start!
The Driskill dining room
The next appetizer was soft shell crawfish, which I had never heard of! I love soft shell crab, and these crispy fritters were equally delicious, and served with a black eyed pea and corn side.
The Driskill -- crawfish
Wild boar chops were next, followed by a delicate acorn squash bisque that has pumpkin seeds and a tiny drizzle of sage oil that really brought it all together. The bisque might have been my favorite on the evening. We also had a pear and pecan salad with pomegranate seeds.
The Driskill -- acorn squash bisque
For entrees, we had a choice between cornmeal crusted snapper with collards and winter squash...
The Driskill -- cornmeal crusted snapper
....or dry aged filet mignon, with bacon and balsamic Brussels sprouts, blue corn grits and bordelaise (red wine) sauce. I got the steak, and loved it. The dry-aged filet was a perfect medium rare, and the creaminess from the grits and the lush sauce were the perfect accompaniments.
The Driskill -- filet mignon
The steak was paired with Bending Brand Winery Tannat. I was not previously familiar with the vineyard or varietal before this dinner. I LOVED this nice big red, which is out of Comfort, Texas (due south of Fredericksburg on Interstate 10). Must make a field trip!
The Driskill -- Bending Branch Winery Tannat
For dessert, you had your choice between a chocolate terrine with butterscotch tapioca or an apple pie semi-freddo. The wine also went fabulously with this lusciously smooth mousse made from Valrhona chocolates. The desserts and the breads are the work of Pastry Chef Tony Sansalone, and from what we tasted tonight, his work is divine.
The Driskill -- chocolate terrine
I would call this a highly successful fall menu. Diners can order a la carte, or Chef also prepares five and seven-course meals which at $79 and $89 per person, sounds like a steal. The Driskill Grill is also hosting dinner on Christmas Day from 3 - 7:30 pm, $125/person and on New Year's Eve, 5:30 - 10 pm, $125/person; reservations required. So go treat yourself to a meal in one of the most iconic spots in Austin!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Lost Pines Yaupon Tea

Lost Pines Yaupon Tea
Generally when we think of tea, we think of of green or black tea (or possibly even oolong or the rarer white tea) from the camellia sinensis plants that grow at higher elevations in places like China, India, and Japan. You may even think of herbal teas or tisanes, which don't have actual tea leaves in them, but other flavorful plants and herbs like peppermint or chamomile. Then there's rooibos or red tea, also not technically tea, as rooibos is a plant native to South Africa.  But just when I thought I was familiar with all the tea varietals, along comes the locally produced yaupon tea from Lost Pines. In Texas? Yaupon? 

The folks at Lost Pines Yaupon Tea reached out to me and asked if I would like to try their tea. Intrigued, I said yes! This is a sponsored post, I have not been monetarily compensated, and all opinions are my own.
Lost Pines Yaupon Tea dark and light roasts
Owner Jason Ellis gave me the skinny on yaupon. "Yaupon is the only plant native to the US with appreciable levels of caffeine. It's a relative of the other two South American caffeinated hollies, yerba mate and guayusa. It has a long history of being imbibed by the original inhabitants of this continent and they passed the knowledge down to the Europeans when they arrived. In addition to being caffeinated yaupon also contains theobromine, the "pleasure molecule" familiar to lovers of dark chocolate. It's also rich in antioxidants on levels comparable to superfoods like blueberries and green tea. It's also been studied for it's anti-inflammatory properties."

Whoa! I had no idea!

Furthermore, Jason says "We wild harvest all our yaupon from the Lost Pines forest of Bastrop, just 30 miles from Austin. We chop it, cure it and roast it all ourselves....I'm sure you've heard of the Bastrop Complex Fire from 2011 that burned down HUGE areas of the forest. Well, now the yaupon is growing back faster than the pine trees and putting this unique ecosystem at risk. Harvesting yaupon here actually helps the forest. Instead of buying tea from the other side of the planet from plantations that are chopping down ancient forests we could all be supporting the restoration of our own ancient local forests. Besides helping the pine trees, thinning yaupon helps the restoration of habitat for all sorts of critters, like the endangered Houston Toad." Which if you notice, the little toad is their logo. And I asked if this last round of fires at the end of October had an affect on them, and he said fortunately not.
Lost Pines Yaupon Tea steeped dark roast
So how do they taste??! They're good! The dark is more like a black tea and the light like a green tea. The lighter roast is a bit more vegetal; it wasn't bad, but I prefer the nuttiness and deeper notes of the dark roast. I also appreciate the lack of tannins which can make a traditional black tea bitter. Yaupon is high in antioxidants and can help fight inflammation in the body. The tea you see in the picture was brewed for about three minutes. You can use a traditional tea infuser method, a French press, or even in a pod coffee system. It can also be brewed into ice tea, but now that the Central Texas weather has finally gotten cooler, I've been enjoying it hot. Check out their website for different brewing suggestions. 

Prices start at $10.95 for 2 ounces, available online from Lost Pines. So if you're up for something different, want good antioxidants, are into supporting local business and helping our regional ecosystems, go pick up some Lost Pines Yaupon Tea!