Wednesday, February 12, 2020

First Look: The Meteor

The Meteor on South Congress Austin
The Meteor on South Congress Avenue

New on South Congress, just a few blocks past the hip and trendy stuff is a new spot called The Meteor. But what would you call it? Is it:
  •  a) a coffee shop
  •  b) an eating establishment
  •  c) a wine bar
  •  d) a bicycle repair spot
  •  e) all of the above
If you guessed "e" you are correct and win a chain lube along with your morning coffee!  (Just kidding, no prizes being offered, but thanks for playing!) The Meteor's beautiful outdoor sign says "Espresso Champagne and Chain Lube" to which I might update to say "Breakfast Booze Bikes". It's not an identity crisis, but to me, a kind of an odd pairing of food/drink with bike services, and yet it appears to be working.

When I arrived for a solo late lunch on a recent weekday, the place was at least half full, mostly with people on their laptops or reading. There were a couple people in the bike area, (the far back in the photo below) but I didn't really pay attention to what was going on in there. I love the big windows and sunlight pouring in.
The Meteor on South Congress Austin

I initially was going to get a grains bowl, but I saw a freshly made quiche cooling on the counter, and opted for a piece, plus a piece of their za'atar focaccia which I intended to save for later.
The Meteor quiche
Quiche of the day
The Meteor focaccia
Za'atar focaccia
Both were amazing. Hats off to whomever the chef or pastry chef is, because they know what they are doing! The crust on the quiche was actually crisp on the bottom, which tells me they are probably blind baking the crust before adding the egg filling to it. Plus it's a super-tall piece. This had a couple of cherry tomatoes in it but an almost entirely egg filling, and perfectly cooked at that.

If you're not familiar with za'atar, it's a Middle Eastern spice blend (like a curry powder, every grandma has a different recipe) usually consisting of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, sumac powder, and salt. I've always loved the flavor, and have used it with meats before, but also it's just good in olive oil for dipping. You can buy some from the spice jars in the Bulk Department at Central Market. Anyhow, this focaccia was dense but still had that airness and holes you expect in a well-risen focaccia. I ate more of this than I intended with the quiche, but did save the rest to go with a salad I had for dinner.
The Meteor pastries
Pastry offerings
The Meteor pizza
Pizza offerings 
There was also a nice selection of pastries on the counter, and they sell their pizza by weight rather than by slice.  While I am trying to watch my carbs, I am coveting all the baked goods I saw at Meteor! Unfortunately, not a place that's gluten-friendly at least for the baked items. Also the service at the counter was super friendly!

Other than being very pleasantly surprised about the quality of the items I had, The Meteor is not far from me, on the edge of the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, so I look forward to future visits. I should think about buying a bicycle so I can work off the carbs and get the bike serviced while I eat more of them!
The Meteor logo

Friday, February 7, 2020

Comedor: Modern Mexican Food in Downtown Austin

Comedor bone marrow
Comedor's fantastic bone marrow 
It turns out that Super Bowl Sunday is an outstanding time to go out and eat at some of Austin's finest establishments. I had friends in from out of town over the weekend, and we did a TON of stuff around town! (See my Instagram post if you missed my Stories as they were happening.) I made a online reservation for Comedor about 3 pm on Sunday for 5:30 that same night, and they had tons of openings. If you're not familiar, Comedor is a modern Mexican restaurant in downtown Austin at 501 Colorado that opened in April 2019. The local food critics have been raving about it, and it was high time for me to check it out. Plus my out of towners were more than willing participants!

Comedor exterior
The entrance.... kind of like a speakeasy.
Comedor interior
A light-filled, modern (but not cold), clean interior.


Comedor courtyard
The restaurant was built on the site of a parking lot, and is built around this central courtyard that also helps bring light into the space. The wood and steel give it a very masculine look, but all the light really balances it out.
The bar

Comedor mango cocktail
Ancho-guajillo vodka with mango juice and lime. Sublime.

Comedor tostada
Avocado tostadas with cauliflower and salsa verde.



Comedor quesadilla
The quesadilla with local mushrooms and huitlacoche.  Comedor has a masa program, and the menu states the region and name of the farmer from where the corn came. This was a thick tortilla that just tasted like amazing, fresh corn.
Comedor spaeztle
Masa spaetzle with esquites (larger corn kernels) and ash from corn husks. Normal spaetzle is made from wheat flour, but this used all corn, and was one of my favorite dishes. Loved the tender chewiness of the spaeztle, without any grittiness.
Comedor carrots
Sotol-grilled carrots with pea puree; these were good but less memorable to me.
Comedor bone marrow
Comedor has become known for their bone marrow dish (see top photo), and it was easy to see why. It was incredible. Our waiter said they first roast the bones, and then broil or torch them with a bit of brown sugar on top to give it a slight caramelization. They're served on top of wilted greens with a basket of fresh tortillas. The suggestion was to build the tortilla with greens, marrow, and a squeeze of lime; they were creamy, tender, juicy....but not the most photogenic.

Comedor bone marrow bones
No bones about it, we really didn't like the bone marrow at all! 😉

Comedor tres leches dessert
We had a great waiter, Michael, who was attentive and very informative. Don't know if it was because it was a slow night or if he just liked us, but they comped us a dessert and we felt compelled to try another one too! This is the tres leches, with Tejate ice cream, corn milk and merengue. 

Comedor semifreddo
The simple appearance is misleading! Chocolate semifreddo, avocado mousse and lime sherbet. A bite with all the elements was strangely fabulous! Pastry chef Philip Speer is behind these creations.
Comedor glass bricks
Our waiter had told us that the glass brick wall at the front of the restaurant and around the bar were a fairly rare creation. From the exterior, they look black, but from the inside, you can see how crystal clear they are. This photo was taken as we were leaving (after sunset) from the interior corner where the front wall meets the bar wall, looking out.

If the picked-clean marrow bones are any indication, we licked our plates clean. Comedor was a fantastic experience, and highlights new takes on modern Mexican cuisine. We all loved it. It's also a good spot for those with food allergies, as virtually the entire menu was gluten free, and much of it was dairy free as well. Salud to the staff and food of Comedor! Wishing you years of success, as I look forward to returning!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Old Thousand Dim Sum

These photos of dim sum brunch at Old Thousand came out well, so thought I'd share! Oh, and the food was every bit as good as it looks!

Old Thousand Potstickers
Potstickers

Old Thousand Trout Rangoon
Trout Rangoon
Old Thousand Brisket Fried Rice
Brisket and Chinese Sausage Fried Rice
Old Thousand General Tso's Chicken
General Tso's Chicken 
Old Thousand Chicken + Waffle
Chicken + (Bubble) Waffles
Old Thousand Churro with Pandan Cream
Churro with Pandan Cream

Friday, January 24, 2020

El Naranjo Now in South Austin



Originally published 1/24/2020, updated 2/16/2020 (scroll down)

El Naranjo began as a food trailer during the opening era of what's now the hip and trendy Rainey Street, and soon opened a brick and mortar restaurant there. And searching my past blog posts, I first visited in June 2010! This past fall, they moved into the old El Chipiron spot on South Lamar at Manchaca, where there's plenty of parking! I recently visited for dinner with some friends.
We all loved this Queso Oaxaca Fundido with chorizo. Crispy around the edges, and gooey in the middle, with flavorful chorizo that wasn't super greasy. Served with housemade blue corn tortillas and  a verde salsa.
Their complimentary bread service, including butter with orange zest, chile oil (or salsa macha), and escabeche (pickled veggies).

Cochinita Pibil, the classic Mexican pork dish, traditionally cooked in banana leaves until it falls apart, with refried black beans and pickled onions.
Pesacado al Cilantro, or redfish with cilantro and ginger butter. This was fresh and light with bursts of flavor.

I am always a sucker for mole, and this mole negro with duck breast was plated beautifully. However for my tastes, I felt the sauce was on the thin side, and while they use 30 ingredients in it, I was unable to detect the nuances that I love in a mole like sweetness from raisins or prunes.
A delicious chocolate torte for dessert!
El Naranjo has kept some of the decor of the previous restaurant like the web of ropes. 

The bar
Bowls on the way to the restrooms
From the street
All in all it was an enjoyable meal, and we had a great server, Amanda. Unfortunately they were out of the Negro Modelo beer I initially ordered, so I chose a glass of Tempranillo. I would definitely go back, but I think I would try things other than what is normally my go-to mole dish at an interior Mexican restaurant. Neither of my dinner companions wanted to try the huitlachoche (corn fungus!), but I have had it before and liked it, so I'll have to back to try El Naranjo's.

Have you been to the new South Lamar location? What have you eaten?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE

After my initial post above, Chef Iliana de la Vega reached out to me and invited me back to El Naranjo to try their mole again. I went with a friend this past week, who was also excited to try the huitlacoche! Disclaimer: this meal was complimentary, no money exchanged hands, nor was I asked to revise my original blog post. All opinions are my own.

Amanda was our server again, and after explaining who I was and the circumstances as to why I was there, she brought me tastes of both the original mole negro that I hadn't been in love with and their mole amarillo. While you can't tell from the photo, I could immediately tell that this mole negro was thicker than what I had been served before. The previous one I believe, had just been thinned out a bit too much which also diluted out the suble flavors. This one was wonderful in taste and texture! I liked the amarillo (yellow mole) too but not as much as the negro. 😃 
Tasting the mole negro and amarillo
We also had the huitlacoche empanandas, which I loved. Again, it's a corn fungus that was first used by the Aztecs, and is considered prized with some of the indigenous cultures. I particularly loved the crisp masa dough with the earthy flavors inside, and served with a great roasted salsa. 
Huitlacoche empanadas
We then shared the queso fundido, with mushrooms, and this night's selection were trumpet, shitake, and lion's mane, which surprised me. Lion's mane supplements are great for brain and memory power, but seen less frequently in food preparations. The queso was served with fresh tortillas and a green salsa, that my friend loved as it instantly reminded her of what her father's family from the San Luis Potosi region makes. 
Queso fundido with mushrooms
She had the cochinita pibil, and I had the carne asada, which was a perfect medium rare. And served with dreamy goat cheese mashed potatoes. I drizzled a little of the chile oil (salsa macha) on the steak just to give it a little extra kick.
Cochinita pibil
Carne asada with goat cheese mashed potatoes
And for dessert, the tres leches with a drizzle of a bit of raspberry reduction on top, which was the perfect end to the meal.
Tres leches cake
Many thanks to Chef Iliana for having me back to El Naranjo. Their mole negro is quite wonderful, as was all of our food! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Top Photos of 2019

Well, January's not quite over but I am slightly behind the times! Here's my Top Nine photos from Instagram in 2019! Are you following me on IG?! I post more over there than I do on the blog.


Going clockwise from the top:

  1. My one non-food picture, my main man #CharlieWhiskers
  2. Chicken tinga tacos at ATX Cocina
  3. New product from Upriver Cacao, cold brewed cacao, being demoed at Central Market Westgate
  4. Hong Kong Noodles with char siu pork at Me Cong Bistro
  5. Carbonara at the Artipasta trailer
  6. Chicken liver mousse from Winebelly
  7. Setting up for a Kamayan dinner at Be More Pacific
  8. H-Mart's food court, including the Korean fried chicken and onion rings at Donkey Mo's and udon + tonkotsu from Roba Katsu
  9. My homemade miso soup
Happy eating, y'all and here's to another year of delicious eats (and fuzzy cats!).