Monday, April 16, 2018

First Look: Lunar Pizza (It's Outta This World!)

Lunar Pizza has landed! While established as a mobile lunar rover, this new food trailer has planted it's pizza flag next to its sister Regal Ravioli at 1502 South First Street, across from Elizabeth Street Cafe. Earthlings rejoice!
Lunar Pizza cheese pie
The Lunar, aka cheese pizza
I was invited to try Lunar by owner Zach, who knows I have loved his ravioli trailer for years; previous post here. (Cheese ravioli with pecan pesto? Yes please! But don't overlook the sweet potato gnocchi with bolognese sauce.) So let's get this part out of the way, I was not monetarily compensated for this blog post and all opinions are purely my own.  I *dragged* two friends along with me, and we enjoyed a pleasant spring evening dining al fresco with our adult beverages we brought with us. And independently, we reached the same conclusion about Lunar Pizza: we loved it.

This is New Jersey-style pizza, which is known for a thinner and crispier crust and a little more sauce than its New York cousin. To me, the crust was the best part of the Lunar pizzas, and like a good apple pie, the crust MAKES a (pizza) pie.  Lunar's dough is thin, but not cracker thin, with a little bit of a chew to it, but not a doughy mouthful. It's unique and I dig it.

The deck oven in the trailer heats to 525 degrees. For a classic cheese pie, Zach spreads cheese over the dough and bakes for about 2 minutes, then adds sauce and more cheese before returning to the oven. This process helps the crust to bake to perfection. He recommends not putting too many toppings on the pizzas as it will overload the thin crust.
Zach of Lunar Pizza
Zach, making pizza
There are a couple pies on the specialty menu, and Zach also brought us the Super Moon, a white pizza with garlic, olive oil, cheese, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and broccolini. A few red pepper flakes added a bit of zip, and this pie was outstanding. I always love a white pie, and as the song goes "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore." And for times when you don't want a whole pizza, you can also order by the slice.
Lunar Pizza -- the Super Moon pie
The Super Moon pie
Lunar Pizza logo
1502 S. 1st Street
Pro tips:
  • Go directly to the Regal Ravioli trailer to order. All the orders and pick up is done from Regal and the Lunar trailer does all the prep and cooking.
  • BYOB
  • Order via Favor if you can't make it in person. (Not sure how well the crispness of the crust holds up.)
  • Reheat your leftovers in the oven or toaster oven, don't make a soggy mess of the crust by putting it in the microwave.
  • Monday - Saturday, noon - 10 pm; Sundays 3 - 10 pm

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

First Look: Loro -- The Offspring of Two Austin Legends

What happens when Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue (both James Beard award-winning chefs) come together? Loro, the Asian/smoked meats eatery that is currently in soft opening stages. Trust me, it's going to be HUUUGE!

Located at 2115 South Lamar Boulevard at Oltorf Street, Loro is a new build-out, just south of the Office Depot. Plenty of parking onsite, and with a huge covered outdoor area, the Michael Hsu designed building is gorgeous inside and out. Starting April 4th, they will operate seven days a week for lunch and dinner. No reservations taken.

I got to attend a soft opening last Friday. You go inside and order at the counter and they bring the food out to you. Local beers on tap, a few cocktails and wines offered too. Here's the rundown of what we sampled (food was 50% off, so we figured we should try a lot!).
Loro Austin -- corn fritters
Corn fritters

Loro Austin -- garlic rice noodle salad
Garlic rice noodles with pineapple, currants + cashews

Loro Austin -- chicken karaage
Chicken karaage with jalapeno aioli *
Loro Austin -- green papaya salad
Green papaya salad

Loro Austin -- oak smoked salmon
Oak smoked salmon in a cucumber yuzu broth
Loro Austin -- smoked brisket with Asian flavors
Smoked brisket with sweet chili sauce and Thai herbs *
Loro Austin -- char siew pork shoulder bowl
Char siew pork shoulder bowl

Loro Austin -- Aaron + Tyson
Aaron + Tyson 
 * = favorites on the evening. We also had the wonton chips with Thai green salsa and a sambal peanut dip that were also outstanding.

Throughout the evening, we saw both Aaron and Tyson running food, chatting with people, and in general looking relaxed. You would have thought they were just regular guys working a shift, as any "big chef egos" were clearly checked at the door. This unique mashup of food styles is sure to be a hit, and I believe Loro will be popular for a very long time.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cannon + Belle: Texas Food for Everyone

Cannon + Belle, the main restaurant at the Hilton Austin downtown invited Michelle of Foodie is the New Forty to a media dinner, and she invited me to accompany her! A big thanks to Cannon + Belle for having us, and to our waitress Lindsay who was fantastic. I was not monetarily compensated for this blog post and all opinions are my own.

Calling their style "Texas fresh: chef-crafted flavors in living room style comfort," Cannon + Belle has an extensive number of local farms and purveyors that they work with. Open daily from 6:30 am - 10 pm, with brunch on Sundays as well. They will be offering an Easter brunch special on April 1st, 11 am - 3 pm. Here's the rundown of what we tried.
Cannon and Belle cocktails
Cocktails to start! The Metabolic Mule and Angelina's Punch are just a few options from their creative bar program.
Cannon and Belle white pizza
The white pizza with fresh oregano leaves. This was SUPER cheesy and also loaded with garlic, yum yum!
Cannon and Belle honey and black garlic chicken wings
The Honey + Black Garlic chicken wings with a white barbecue sauce. These were outstanding!

Cannon and Belle sweet pea cake
The Sweet Pea Cake, their version of a veggie burger. Attractive presentation with a savory yogurt sauce and rainbow veggies, but a bit tough and salty overall.
Cannon and Belle scallops
Beautifully seared scallops in a brown butter sauce, these were cooked to perfection, as were the green beans, which still had a snap to them. And honestly, for $27, not badly priced for a hotel restaurant.

Cannon and Belle peach crisp dessert
Peach and blueberry crisp, with a nice amount of crumble on top.

Cannon and Belle chocolate stack cake
The salted caramel chocolate stack cake, the decadent and amazing finale to our meal! This is a good size piece of cake, and we couldn't finish it. Layers of chocolatey goodness and buttercream frosting with salted caramel on top. Pure bliss for the chocolate lover.

So whether you're a local Austinite looking for a fun place or a visitor staying at the Hilton, Cannon + Belle has plenty of Texas comfort food for everyone.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

First Look: ATX Cocina

I went to ATX Cocina for happy hour/dinner on Friday night, and came out of it very pleasantly surprised. I wasn't so in love with some of the food at sister restaurant Red Ash on my visit in January, but ATX Cocina more than made up for it with outstanding food and service all the way through. Chef Kevin Taylor and modern Mexican food have found a happy home in downtown Austin.

I made a last minute 5:15 pm reservation and my girlfriends and I figured we would try to have happy hour in the bar area if there was room, but otherwise we had the res to fall back on. The hostess didn't miss a beat when we arrived, immediately asking if we'd like to sit in the bar area for happy hour, which we happily did. Throughout the experience, our waiter Norris was polished, informed, available and unobtrusive. Runners seamlessly brought dishes, cleared plates, and filled water glasses.

Many will be happy to know that the restaurant is completely gluten-free. No flour tortillas here! They get an heirloom corn from Mexico, treat it and grind it themselves to create their masa and tortillas. Here is the rundown of our extended happy hour.

ATX Cocina cocktails
Kate del Castillo, Eva Longoria and Penelope Cruz
ATX Cocina papusas
Papusas, with refried beans and cheese; the filling seemed a touch grainy, but the outer shell was nice.

ATX Cocina queso fundido + tortillas
Queso fundido, which definitely is on the greasy side, but the cheese gets really nice and browned while sitting tableside in its own very hot vessel. The the house made corn tortillas are wonderful; soft and pliable and not overly corn-y.
ATX Cocina queso hamachi coconut tigre de leche
Hamachi in coconut leche de tigre (citrus + herb coconut milk) with papaya and crispy leeks. Delicate yet memorable. We should have ordered another of these!

ATX Cocina cochinita pibil tamal
Cochinita pibil tamal with pickled onions, radish and salsa verde. More meat than masa, which was nice, and excellent flavor in the pork.

ATX Cocina pork carnitas tacos
These pork carnitas tacos may have been my favorite dish along with the hamachi. Very tender and well-rendered pork had great texture and taste, and the entire combination with the salsas was messy but delicious. Served four per order.

ATX Cocina esquites
Esquites, or street corn, with smoked aioli (crema Mexicana), queso fresco, lime and cilantro. Nice big kernels with a good pop to them.
ATX Cocina bunuelos + butter rum sauce
Bunuelos with a butter rum sauce and a extra scoop of flan ice cream. The bunuelos were good, though a bit grainy because they are using corn meal. To me the sauce had almost an herbaceous quality to it that I couldn't quite place. I had to ask our server again what it was and he said it was buttered rum with traditional cinnamon and clove, which I didn't taste. Ice cream more than made up for it though.

ATX Cocina choco flan + ice cream
Choco flan with Mexican hot chocolate sauce and flan ice cream. Okay, the best thing about these two desserts was the ice cream. I don't know if they are using crema Mexicana or what, but it was WAY more than just a vanilla ice cream. So good, as was this sauce. I don't think flan isn't the right name for this very dense concoction. "Flan" implies a custard that can be cut with a spoon, and while this tasted good, nothing about it was flan-like.
Very beautiful modern interior, and while this photo doesn't reflect it, the entire restaurant was bathed in natural light when we arrived, making everything that much more attractive. The interior with its curved ceiling was designed by local architect of note, Michael Hsu.
ATX Cocina interior

Favorite new place I have been to in a while, and I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January's Best Bites: From the Tried + True to Brand New

If you've been following my Instagram account (hint, hint!) you may have seen some of the places I have eaten this month. Here's a recap of a few of the stellar things I have had; maybe I'll make this a monthly feature!

The Flying Carpet lamb + prune tajine Austin TX
This is a special order lamb and prune tajine is from my favorite trailer, The Flying Carpet.  The lamb was incredibly tender and just melted in your mouth. Check their website for items that can be ordered 24 hours in advance; they also have an indoor eating space that will transport you to Morocco!
Red Ash Hot Chocolate Gianduja Cake
Here's the Hot Chocolate Gianduja Cake from Red Ash, a chocolate lover's dream! The crunchy bits added a nice textural contrast, along with the ice cream. We also loved the hot bread with garlic, but the burrata and gorgonzola gnocchi left me underwhelmed. But I would certainly go back for this and a nice glass of Italian red wine.

Confitruas Community Kitchen biscuit
Award-winning Confituras, long a staple at area farmer's markets with their seasonal jams and canned goods, has finally opened their forever-home on Goodrich, off South Lamar.  Get fresh hot biscuits with butter or a rotating jam selection, along with coffee or tea. As a community kitchen, they will soon be offering classes and an expanded menu, stay tuned!

Dai Due Taqueria at Fareground, Wild Boar Taco al Pastor
I was invited to the media preview at Fareground (at 111 Congress Avenue) the first urban food hall in Austin, and their opening is a reason for rejoicing. Six purveyors (Easy Tiger, Antonelli's Cheese, Henbit, Contigo, Ni-Kome, and Dai Due) plus a bar all operate seven days a week. Pictured is the wild boar taco al pastor from Dai Due Taqueria  that had amazing flavors and a housemade blue corn tortilla.
Henbit cookies at Fareground
Also at Fareground, these chocolate chunk cookies from Henbit (offshoot of Emmer + Rye) were warm and delicious.
The Enlightenment vegetarian sandwich TLC Austin
Recently opened in Lamar Union, TLC Austin seeks to bring Texas comfort food with a coastal influence to the masses. This vegetarian sandwich called The Enlightenment was just that! Stuffed with watermelon radish, cheddar, carrots, cukes, avocado and pesto, it was held together by a sturdy grainy bread. And only $8. Raw oysters and boils also available.
What have YOU eaten recently that you loved? What do I need to check out? Share in the comments! Happy eating!