Monday, March 16, 2020

Eating in San Francisco

The last week of February, I spent three-ish days in San Francisco before heading a touch north to the San Rafael area. There are no shortages of outstanding places to eat in San Fran. Need more time, money and frankly stomachs to really do it any justice, but here's a look at where we ate. (If you follow my Stories on Instagram, you may have seen some of these posted there.)

Thank goodness we had a reservation for State Bird Provisions because when we got there at 5:30 pm when they opened, the line was halfway down the block. They have menu items that can be ordered, and they also come around with trays or carts like dim sum service. Here are a few of the highlights.
State Bird Provisions hearts of palm
Hearts of palm spring roll with Buddha's hand and chile yuzu aioli. I never have liked hearts of palm much until now!
State Bird Provisions ohitashi
Farm green ohitashi (spinach soaked in soy + dashi) with cashew cream and meyer lemon ponzu.
State Bird Provisions oysters
Hog Island (north of San Francisco) oysters, housemade potato chips, and an amazing smoked trout dip on the second shelf.
State Bird Provisions beef tongue
The most tender beef tongue on poppyseed buckwheat pancakes. One of my favorites on the evening.
Lunch in Japantown at Nande-ya, one of the small spots in the Japan Center mall, which really did remind me of actually being in Japan.
Nande-ya Japantown soba unagi
Soba with tofu pockets (inari) and grilled eel (unagi); this was a great value! The lunch menu gave you about twelve different items, and you picked two for about $14.

Chapeau! Bistro had outstanding service and food from start to finish.
Chapeau Bistro kabocha soup
Roasted kabocha squash soup with pumpkin seeds; velvety smooth and delicious.
Chapeau Bistro duck salad
My father's Salade Landaise, with duck three ways: confit, liver mousse, and cured duck breast.
Chapeau Bistro mussels
Mussels in a white wine sauce, and there were pomme frites on the side.
Chapeau Bistro bouillabaisse
My mother's bouillabaisse with a ton of seafood in it, scallops, mussels, shrimp, and fish.

Chapeau Bistro french toast
French toast with salted caramel, hazelnuts, and vanilla ice cream.
Sunday morning at Yank Sing, one of the classic dim sum restaurants in the city. Afterwards, we walked over to peek at the Ferry Building, a food-lovers wonderland.
Yank Sing dim sum dumplings
Spinach dumplings, snow pea leaf dumplings, and shrimp shumai.
Yank Sing Peking duck
Peking duck with amazingly crispy skin. And while you can't see it, these were very meaty pieces of duck with no extra grease.
Just open since last August is Nari, sister restaurant to Kin Khao. Modern Thai that is already getting rave reviews. My father had read about them in the New York Times and was able to get us a reservation. Loved every bite!
Nari miang
Miang, or little leaf-wrapped savory bites. This version was sorrel leaves with apple, trout roe, lemongrass, lime, coconut and fish caramel sauce. The perfect bite of all the flavors.
Nari yum sum-o
Yum som-o: hearts of palm (again!), pomelo, crispy dried shrimp, chili jam dressing. 
Nari Massaman gae lamb curry
And one of the best things I have ever eaten, massaman gae, lamb shank in curry sauce. The meat just fell off the bone and the sauce was filled with rich flavors. I need to figure out how to make this sauce.
Breakfast one morning at Jane on Fillmore. Would have liked to gone to the actual bakery, but next time!
Jane Nutty Bird Toast
The Nutty Bird Toast, a gluten free bread with nuts and seeds, served with almond butter and jam. Loved this bread.
A shout out to the Panama Hotel in San Rafael! This quirky, historic hotel has rooms of different sizes and themes. I was in the Captain's Room, complete with kitchenette, and it was perfect for one person.
Panama Hotel
Panama Hotel
Panama Hotel Captain's Room
The Captain's Room had a nautical theme, though you can't tell from the photo.
Panama Hotel mushroom ravioli
Their on-site restaurant was quite nice too, with a complimentary breakfast spread for guests, and a popular dinner spot, some nights with live music. This is wild mushroom + ricotta ravioli with a lemon beurre blanc sauce.
I also enjoyed the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, where they rescue and rehab seals and otters.
Marine Mammal Center
Marine Mammal Center
Elephant seal statue.
And just a few minutes away from the MMC was this beautiful overlook! Thanks for a delicious time, San Francisco! What are your favorite places to eat in San Francisco?
San Francisco from Marin

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Best New Restaurants in South Austin: The 2020 Edition

AFBA #Cityguide 2020
Click here to see the full City Guide!

Hello hungry readers! In the past I have written/updated a huge comprehensive guide to all the fantastic foods that can be found throughout South Austin. I would be THRILLED if you took at look at that post, so click right here, as there is lots of juicy, mouthwatering info and pictures over there. 😃

This time, I am giving you a post of the best new places in South Austin that have opened in the past year. So I invite you to sit back and try not to gnaw through the screen. In no particular order, here are my faves.

Click on the restaurant's name to get to their website; links to my blog posts also included.

Salt Traders (my post here), 1101 South Mopac
Located at Mopac and Bee Caves, this sibling establishment to Jack Allen's hits all the coastal notes.

Salt Traders Zilker Chowda Fries
Chowda fries. I need more of this in my life!
Velouria (my post here), 3801 South Congress Avenue
Lovely cocktail bar with lush green velvet chairs and frozen espresso martinis on tap!
Velouria frozen espresso martini
El Naranjo (my post here), 2717 South Lamar Boulevard
They moved from Rainey Street this winter, and I am glad they did! So not a "new" restaurant, but new to South Austin! This interior Mexican spot specializes in moles, fresh salsas, and traditional dishes like cochinita pibil and masa empanadas with huitlacoche.
El Naranjo mole with duck
Mole with duck breast
Shore Raw Bar + Grill (my post here), 8665 Highway 71 
A little ways out on Highway 71 (past Jack Allen's), but a welcome addition to the area with their seafood-centric dishes.
Shore Raw Bar and Grill snapper crudo
Exquisite snapper crudo
The Meteor (my post here), 2110 South Congress Avenue
Who would have thought a coffee/wine/snack bar and bicycle repair shop could happily co-exist?
The Meteor quiche

Artipasta (my post here), 7800 South First Street in the Thicket Food Park
I only wish they weren't so far from me! Delicious pastas, all housemade.
Artipasta carbonara pasta
The Git Out (my post here), 4930 South Congress Avenue
Very well-prepared pub grub.
The Git Out potato puffs
Potato Puffs
Bao'd Up (my post here), 5207 Brodie Lane 
Fast casual, sibling to the original spot in Mueller and another new one on the Drag. This one is in Sunset Valley next door to Tarka (my favorite fast-casual Indian spot), and their gua bao can't be beat for price or taste!
Bao'd Up pork belly gua bao
Pork belly gua bao
Other new South Austin spots on my radar:
-- Carpenter Hall (my post here), didn't love it or hate it
-- Carve, but I haven't been yet
-- Tuk Tuk, this Thai spot closed for a while, renovated, and are now reopened, but alas, I haven't been

What have you been eating in South Austin? Tell me your favorite places and dishes!

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!