Monday, September 20, 2010

The Woodland

Though not posted on their website, The Woodland does do Sunday brunch! It's a place I've always wanted to go, and while I still need to go back for dinner, brunch was a great introduction.
It was a tough choice between French toast or biscuits & gravy. Ultimately the biscuits won out, and I was pleased! I think they use a combo of butter and shortening in the dough, as it was a very nicely layered biscuit with a faint hint of butter taste. The gravy is nice and peppery, not at all glue-like, and it's a nice touch that they add large pieces of sausage into the gravy, rather than smaller crumbles. I also had a side of grits, which was a huge bowl, and also very tasty! Lots of pepper in them too.

Both my friends had variations on the well-named The Morning Wood breakfast, where you get 2 eggs any style, and 4 sides with it. Then the pregnant friend was still hungry, so we had the coconut cream pie and chocolate pecan pie (she ate most of both of them!). I especially liked the coconut cream one.... good coconut flavor, and not overly rich. I liked the method on how they did the edges of their pie crust, kind of a double layer along the sides, but didn't care as much for the flavor or texture of it.

I really liked the atmosphere of the place, and really need to get back for dinner. Soon.

Sourdough Ableskivers


What's an ableskiver, you say? They're delicious! (Do you really need to know more?) Ableskivers (or ebleskiver....or "puff pancake") are a Danish pancake, though not flat like the pancakes most of us know, but rather about the size and shape of a golf ball. The pans are traditionally cast iron or non-stick, and have seven deep indentations in them. While typically served with a Scandinavian treat like lingonberry jam, they can be made sweet or savory. I was first introduced to ableskivers by my friends in Denver over Easter weekend (you can see my previous post here), and when I was at the Williams Sonoma/Pottery Barn/Restoration Hardware store at the outlet mall recently, I picked up a pan and some mix. 
 Then I started checking the internet for other recipes. And a few more months down the road, I thought, surely there must be a sourdough version. Surprisingly, there's not much out there! I only came across one sourdough ableskiver recipe, and with a few tweaks, here's mine.

Sourdough Ableskivers
yield: 18 golf balls

1/2 cup sourdough starter (mine is from a somewhat anemic starter, and was mostly the stuff you scoop out before feeding it)
1/2 cup half and half
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup AP flour
1 tsp. baking powder 
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Chocolate disks for filling (about the size of a quarter)...or jam/peanut butter/whathaveyou of your choice... I'd say for beginners, the chocolate disk is the easiest
butter for cooking

-- Combine the starter, half & half, egg, vanilla, sugar, & butter in a medium bowl.
-- Combine the flour, powder, soda, salt in small bowl.
-- Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, and gently incorporate it all.
-- In a hot ableskiver pan, put a dot of butter in each well.
-- Fill each well to almost the top of the pan.
-- When they become bubbly on the top, place a chocolate disk in the center & flip.*
-- Once fully cooked on both sides, remove to a cooling rack. Can dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. 

*There are different methods to flipping them over, as well as how what to use. Some people like a chopstick or knitting needle; I found a small paring knife was easier than the chopstick. The original recipe from which I based mine from likes to rotate the balls 90 degrees, and then a final 90; I found they didn't really stay standing up at the first 90 degree turn (they look like Pac-man), so it was just easier to put the chocolate in, and slowly flip them a full 180 to finish cooking. Just see what works best for you!

Mine had a nice slightly sour taste to them. One chocolate disk fills it perfectly, two might be good, but I didn't try it. Actually, I bet 1 1/2 would be perfect! Doing jam or pb takes a bit of quickness to get the filling in before overcooking them. Can't wait to make some savory ones, like with some herbed goat cheese & pork bits!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Uchiko, the new "little sister" to Uchi, did not disappoint. For those not familiar with Uchi, it's fusion-Japanese cuisine creates lengthy waits, even at typical non-peak times, and they are continually at the top of Austin's restaurant lists. I think it has some new competition!

My parents were in town for a visit, and having enjoyed Uchi in the past, we were eager to try the new progeny. We had a 7:30 reservation on Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, and another friend joined us. We were warmly greeted, and told by the host that it would be just a couple minutes, as the current occupants of our table had paid out, but had not yet vacated. It gave us the opportunity to survey the front room/bar space. The designer used a variety of old drawers, post office box doors, and shelving to create a wall partition, separating the bar from the main dining room. The front room has table seating as well as bar seating. The main dining room has tables as you first walk in, booths along one wall, the kitchen and sushi bar along the opposite wall, and a large private room at the rear. We were seated at a booth with a good view of the kitchen's hustle and bustle. 

Our server was Ashley, who proved to be very well spoken on the dishes and the wine. She made sure to encourage the "family-style" method of serving they prefer, which was totally fine with us. She could provide a time frame for some of the dishes that required fried components as they took longer to prepare, and easily suggested an item or two to tide us over while we waited for them, but wasn't pushy about it at all.  My father asked about the Treana Viognier, and she was able to provide a good description, and assure us it was not too dry or oaky. It proved to be a good pairing with the food, and really became more full-bodied and a hint spicy as it opened up. I should add the food runners were also very well-versed in the dishes they brought to the table. All the staff seems exceptionally trained.

They started us off with a cucumber amuse bouche to cleanse the palate; simple and clean. And with that began the parade of foods.

Bacon sen: Berkshire pork belly, with a great caramelization, served with an apple puree and apple "kimchi". Loved the contrast of the sweet char and the savoriness of the pork with the sweet, lightly spicy apples. One of the most incredible pieces of pork belly I have ever had. 
Toledo Roll: big eye tuna with chorizo, fried almonds & garlic. Incredibly tasty, though might be nice to have the almonds inside the roll for more textural contrast. 
Wagyu beef hot rock: very thin slices of wagyu, drizzed with oil, shallots (?), kaffir leaves, and salt, you place a piece over an incredibly hot stone and cook to your desired likeness. I just do it for a few seconds on each side for a nice rare beef bite. Wonderfully tender, melt in your mouth beef, and the kaffir added a really nice and somewhat unexpected depth. You can see the marbling in the picture of the beef -- fat equals flavor! (Rock at 12 o'clock, beef at 3 o'clock.)
Kai Jiru: Atlantic mussels,with cherry tomatoes & tomato water, celery and basil. This was the one dish, that while tasty, I thought something was lacking. It needed some bit of acid to really make it pop. (At 9 o'clock.)

Tempura onion rings: some of the lightest, crispiest and most delicious, ever! I had two small ones.... I wanted more! (At 6 o'clock.) 

Uchi Salad: baby romaine lettuce leaves that are topped with a bit of spice (I can't remember what Ashley said they were dusted with) and you can dip them in a edamame and jalapeno puree. Very unique and fun! (And addicting!)
Chicken karaage: fried chicken that's tossed with a bit of sansho pepper (also known in Chinese cuisine as Szechuan peppercorn), and had a great lemony dipping sauce with it. The combo of chicken, lemon sauce, and fresh mint leaves was a terrific savory/lightly tart/fresh bite. Side note: Executive Chef Paul Qui also runs the East Side King trailer, where they do Asian fusion; they do a karaage dish with thigh meat & sriracha mayo that's incredible; my previous post on it here.)
Avofry roll: a lightly-fried vegetarian roll with avocado, romaine & gobo, and a light lemon miso sauce. Great crunchiness to it, without it feeling like a "fried" dish.
If you're willing to try fantastic -- in both taste and preparation -- but not traditional, Japanese foods, Uchi and Uchiko are great places to try. Make a reservation and go. Neither place is inexpensive, and though you may not leave feeling full, you will be satisfied.