Monday, November 16, 2020

An Austin Food Lover's Holiday Gift Guide 2020

2020 has been a challenge to say the least! Many...Most regular events as we know it have unfortunately been canceled outright or pivoted to online, and dining at a restaurant looks a whole lot different than it used to. I have certainly taken advantage of several restaurants that now offer take out options, and hope that will continue to be offered when life as we know it returns to "normal." 

If you're looking for holiday gifts/experiences or a place to hold a private gathering, here are some suggestions. And if you're feeling generous and have some cash to spare, remember that a few of these are non-profit organizations who could definitely use some support!

Time sensitive, online auctions!

One of my past Austin Empty Bowl purchases.

1) The Austin Empty Bowl Project is near and dear to my heart, as I have volunteered for them the past several years. Normally held the Sunday before Thanksgiving at the Central Texas Food Bank, you purchase one (or more!) locally made (some by students, others by professional ceramists) for $25, get to eat a bowl of soup prepared by an area restaurant, and then bowls are rinsed and you get to take it home. This year, their silent auction of various ceramic pieces is of course online, bidding now through November 22nd (monetary donations welcome beyond that!). Last year they raised over $100,000 which benefited CTFB and Meals on Wheels.

2) Texas Food + Wine Alliance Holiday Auction has many experiences, classes, and products available for bidding though November 22nd as well. 

3) Local restaurant Tso Chinese has formed #TsoGiving, which has already raised $100,000 in a few short months to help with meal assistance to those facing hunger in Austin due to the pandemic.  Donations are accepted via Venmo or Go Fund Me, and this holiday season they are working with area social service agencies such as Asian Family Support Services, People's Community Clinic and SAFE.

Foodie gifts

Foodie Passport from JettSet Local

1) Perhaps your favorite Austin-area food-obsessed person would like the gift of a 2021 Foodie Passport from JettSet Local? You get $10 off a $25 purchase at 25 different eateries around the Austin area. Use it three times, and it pays for itself!  And pssst! I'll soon be doing an Instagram giveaway for a passport in the next couple weeks, so keep an eye on my page! {Don't have Insta, but are interested in entering? Leave a note in the comments below, and I'll enter you in.}

2) I recently stumbled across the site Goldbelly, which has actually been around since like 2013, but they're new to me! You can order food from some of your favorite places nationwide! Arthur Bryant BBQ in Kansas City? Sweets from the Cake Boss? Heck, I was just excited to see the neighborhood deli that I grew up with in Washington, DC on there. Definitely something for everyone.

3) Last year, Eater Austin published their holiday gift guide. Here's the 2019 version, and when the 2020 comes out, I'll post it here.  Update: here's the 2020 version.

4) Online classes. I can vouch for ones from Antonelli's Cheese, and have heard that Air B + B has some which are also fun. Learn something new in your stretchy pants at home!

5) Update: Local (to Austin!) food subscription boxes + more suggestions from Austin American-Statesman food writer Addie Broyles.

6) Food + Wine Magazine's best mail-order food gifts from each state

Comfort foods

1) Liquids. Central Texas has tons of wine, beer + spirit makers. But  there's also Fond Bone Broth, which is healthy and delicious! 

Photo courtesy Cocoa Puro's Instagram page

2) Chocolate. Delysia and Cocoa Puro are two local specialists. Delysia has truffles with very unique flavor combos, and I've known the excellent folks at Cocoa Puro for a long time, and they make a unique thing called kakawa beans. It's a cacao nib enrobed in white, milk, and dark chocolate then dusted with cocoa powder. Trust me, they're addictive and incredible!

Chocolate croissant from Vivian's

3) Carbs.  Check out Blue Door Sweets for locally made cinnamon buns, Confituras for biscuits, Vivian's Boulangerie for French-style pastries, and Pasta  + Company for fresh made pasta.

Location, location, location...

The McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group sent an email reminder that many of their restaurants have private dining spaces for your holiday gatherings. Contact your favorite restaurant of theirs for details, including: Lambert's, Elizabeth Street Cafe, Josephine, Jeffrey's, Joann's, Lou's, Neighborhood Sushi. Catering is also available through several of these, as well as Clark's and Sweetish Hill. Book now!

Have additional holiday gift ideas? Drop a note below! Let's kick 2020 to the curb on a high note!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Mini Coffee Cakes with Spicy Streusel

Mini Coffee Cakes with Spicy Streusel

Last month, I bought a box of Wackym's Spicy Pecan Cookies from Central Market. I have always loved Wackym's varieties, as they are a Texan company, the cookies are made with real butter, and they have great flavors. Salted caramel? Margarita? Even savory Cheese Nibbles. Check their website for all their flavors; I do believe Spicy Pecan is a seasonal one.

Wackym's Spicy Pecan Cookies

A conversation with a friend about them gave me the inspiration to make a coffee cake with lots of yummy spiced streusel topping (because, hello, the streusel is the best part!), which lead to making these mini coffee cakes. The perfect bite-sized snack or treat! I found a recipe online for mini coffee cakes, but given that I changed a variety of things about it, I just decided to go ahead a write a new recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Mini Coffee Cakes with Spicy Streusel

Sorry (not sorry!), no fancy recipe plug in!

Mini Coffee Cakes with Spicy Streusel

Yield: 12 mini muffin-sized cakes

Coffee Cake

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted, cooled and divided

1 cup AP flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt (I use Redmond Real Salt)

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 egg

1/3 cup milk (I added an extra splash)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Streusel Topping

3 Wackym's Spicy Pecan Cookies, pulverized into crumbs, about 1/4 cup total

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp. melted butter from above

-- Start with melting the butter; set aside 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) for the cakes, and 2 tablespoons for the topping. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

-- Prepare your mini muffin tins; this recipe yielded 12 minis for me. Brush tin (yes, even if your pan is "non-stick" with a thin layer of melted butter.

-- In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt + cinnamon and whisk to combine. 

-- Add in egg, milk, vanilla and the 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Stir just enough to combine everything; too much stirring can make your batter tough.

-- Portion into muffin tins; I used a tablespoon scoop for fairly even distribution

-- In a smaller bowl make the streusel by combining the cookie crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon.

-- Once mixed, add the 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with a fork until evenly moistened. 

-- Using a teaspoon, top the coffee cakes with streusel.

-- Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

-- Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Coffee cakes should pop right out of your muffin pan!

-- Vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream or mascarpone cream would be an added luxury!

Mini Coffee Cakes with Spicy Streusel

I also think these would make a fabulous pie or tart crust! Something sweet with a bit of a spicy kick, especially now that the weather has gotten cooler. What should my next baking project be? Leave me a suggestion!