Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bits and Bites

Okay, what things have we come across lately?

-- The Alamo Drafthouse and Parkside restaurant are hosting a screening of Ferris Bueller's Day Off on September 11th at 7:30 pm, at 6th and San Jacinto. Admission is free, but a $5/person donation is suggested, and it benefits the 6th Street Austin Association. For more info, go here 
-- Beginning September 13th, you can learn the secrets of mixology with the guys from Tipsy Texan! For more info and to register....
-- The Blanton Museum of Art and the Capital Area Food Bank are hosting a panel discussion and screening of Dive! Living Off America's Waste, at the Blanton on September 15th at 6:30 pm. The documentary looks at the paradox between wasted food and record-levels of hunger in America. To RSVP and for more info.
-- On September 24th, the Texas Craft Brewers Festival will be held at Fiesta Gardens. This non-profit event benefits the Austin Sunshine Camps.
-- A new non-profit supper club, A Torrid Affair, will host their inaugural dinner on September 26th at 7:30 pm at Springdale Farms; proceeds benefit the Dell Children's Medical Center Tickets for the 5 course meal are $175/person, and can be purchased here. {The PR company forwarded me a press release with menu info; email me if you want me to forward it. I don't see a weblink to it, or else I'd post it.....I will say the menu looks divine!}

-- Dock and Roll Diner, a trailer just past 360 on Bee Caves, at 6416 Bee Caves. They will feature "globally inspired sandwiches." Nicely done website, especially for a trailer!
-- Austin Java and Austin Chill (a frozen yogurt shop) have opened next to each other at 6550 Comanche Trail, in the Oasis, Texas Village.
-- Estancia Churrascaria, the Brazilian-style meat house, is opening a second location at the Arboretum in September. Mmmmeat!
-- Cazamance, Austin's only Senegalese food that I am aware of, has expanded to a new place at 1102 E. Cesar Chavez. So while's it's not far from their original trailer on Rainey, this brick and mortar spot is open 10 am - 5pm daily. {Update on 9/1 -- I emailed them for clarification, and the word back is: "(it's) a trailer attached to an event center, in a beautiful garden." I stand corrected!}

Waitress/SafePlace/Alamo Followup

Thanks to those of you who either donated pies or came out to the Alamo's screening of Waitress on August 21st.  I am a member of the Philanthropy committee for the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, and I am excited to share that we raised over $2000 for SafePlace! The follow-up post I wrote for the AFBA blog can be seen here.

Thank you! If only life COULD be as easy as pie!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bits and Bites

I know I've mentioned it before, but it's right around the corner! The Austin Food Blogger's Alliance is holding a screening of the movie Waitress at the Alamo South Lamar on Sunday, August 21st at 1pm. We've (yes, WE, I've been helping put together this event) got donations of pies from several local bakeries, which we will sell on a donation basis at the end of the movie. All the movie ticket and pie sales go to SafePlace. We've already gotten word that we sold out the smaller 80-something person theater at the Alamo, and they're moving us into a larger theater! We'd really like to sell out!!! And we'd really like for you to come and buy a pie! Get your tix here!

With many thanks, we have donations from: Bluebonnet Cafe, Cake & Spoon, Dagar's Catering, Flemings, Pie Fixes Everything, Royer's Round Top Cafe, Silver Whisk, Sugar Mama's, SugaPlump, Texas Pie Kitchen, The Pie Society, Tiny Pies, Upper Crust, the Wine & Food Foundation.

Newsy things:
-- Vodka Fest, on Wednesday, August 31st from 7 - 10 pm (really,  in the middle of the week?), will be held at Cool River Cafe. Locally produced Dripping Springs Vodka will be the only local vodka out of thirty participants. 
-- Estancia Churrascaria will celebrate Brazilian Independence Day on September 7th. Caipirhinas will of course be featured, as well as a fruity cocktail version thereof, called the caipifruta. 
-- Fonda San Miguel will hold a wine pairing dinner featuring wines from Copain, a vineyard in California's Russian River Valley, on Wednesday, September 14th. Tickets are $85/person for the five-course pairing, and can be purchased by calling the restaurant. The menu and wine pairings can be viewed here.
-- Faraday's Kitchen Store in Lakeway will hold a gadget extravaganza on September 24th, from 10 am - 4 pm. Your chance to oooh and aahhh over lots of COOL toys!!!

-- R.D.'s BBQ (Fri & Sat only) is in the Bouldin Creek Trailer Park on S. 1st.
-- Bennigan's will resurface... but I can't remember where I heard it was to be located.
-- The Driskill Grill will be closed for remodeling.
-- Sadly Aquarelle will be closing, but the owner will be reopening it as a Latin-influenced place, called Chonita's.
-- In the same location with the same chef (and other teammates?) that was The Good Knight on East 6th, will become Sputnik, a Russian burger and hot dog place, opening in the not too distant future. 
-- An ice cream shop called Lick, is apparently coming to the building next to Barley Swine (as I spotted the sign after dinner at BS the other night). I like the logo! 

-- Somnio's on South 1st decided not to renew their lease; sad that a quality placed, dedicated to locally-sourced foods couldn't survive in this economy. I am feeling slightly guilty for only having eaten there once, as they are located pretty close to me.
-- Dog Almighty on South Lamar; the doors are apparently locked by the landlord. Man their hand-dipped jalapeno corn dog was killer! And the tater tots too. Bummer.

And finally, please take a second to visit my new Facebook page! Thanks! You can see the pictures of my Barley Swine meal!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Flying Carpet, a guest post for MarocMama

I traveled to Morocco in fall 2008, and spent two and a half weeks with a tour group exploring this beautiful, culture-rich country. This trip was one of the primary reasons that I started this blog, so I could keep my friends and family up to date with what we were seeing, doing, and of course eating.  When I got into Twitter about a year later, one of the users I came across was @MarocMama, who blogs under the same name. She is an American married to a Moroccan, and they live with their children in Wisconsin. She's a prolific social media user and blogger (great Moroccan resources on her blog!), and we've had occasional Twitter conversations, but have never met in person.

MarocMama became aware of The Flying Carpet, a Moroccan-inspired food trailer that had opened here in Austin by Moroccan-born Abdu and his American wife, Maria. MarocMama asked me many moons ago if I would be willing to write a guest post for her blog on them. (I have written about them before for my blog, which you can see here.) Of course! And with apologizes to her, it's taken me forever to get back to TFC. One of my coworker friends is a cousin to Maria, so I've gotten to know her and Abdu a little bit, and they are great people. We've been trying to juggle the schedules of four of us from work who wanted to go, with TFC's schedule. We've had several dates picked, going back to June (maybe even May...), but something would come up and we'd reschedule, and then Abdu was called back to Morocco when his grandmother passed, and now with the Texas heat, they've limited the days they are open. It's almost been a comedy of errors, but we have persevered, and went this past week. Ahhhhh.

The Flying Carpet, a Moroccan foods trailer, has been open a little more than a year, and in a crowded food trailer scene in Austin, they stand out. They've been about the only constant presence at the food court on South Congress and Gibson Streets, in the heart of the trendy SoCo area. Fortunately, TFC has been able to move under the canopy of a live oak tree, for at 7:45 pm when we arrived, it was still in the low to mid 90s. Abdu was flying solo that night, and he had one customer sitting on the "patio".
The trailer has it's homey touches, from the plants to the Moroccan lanterns to the painted sign with images of the Moroccan skyline above the trailer. (I was able to recognize the Hassan mosque, in Casablanca, one of the top five largest mosques in the world, as the image on the far right!) Their menu satisfies meat eaters and vegetarians, and they can even do some vegan dishes. Austin is a town with a LOT of vegetarian diners, so I don't think a food establishment could survive if it didn't at least try to cater to that population.
I was set on having The Moroccan again, their version of a burger. They take fresh ground beef, and form it kefta-style (think: small fat cigars), and grill it on the flat top, served with a fried egg that's really more of a scrambled egg (fine by me, I have issues with runny yolks!).
But after looking more closely at some newer menu items, I asked Abdu about the La Dajaj Maghrebi, a marinated chicken dish wrapped in flat bread, and he easily convinced me to try it. My friend, and cousin-in-law to Abdu, had the Sleek Vegetarian, an eggplant and falafel wrap. We also got an order of fries, just so we could have a device to get their yummy L'afrique sauce into our mouths! It's a tangy, slightly spicy (from harissa, I presume) concoction that is good on just about everything! They should bottle and sell that stuff!

My chicken wrap was delicious! Everything was so fresh, and even in the horrible heat we're experiencing, not a piece of lettuce was wilting (they have refrigeration in the trailer, but no AC). The chicken is marinated in a combination of onions, cilantro, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, ginger, and lemon juice, and was cooked perfectly in the trailer -- still juicy, not dried out. The thin fries are always perfect, not a bit greasy. My friend also loved her vegetarian wrap.
For dessert, we had the dates stuffed with almond butter, and sprinkled with sea salt. Totally divine! And while dates are something you see in multitudes (and multiple varieties) all over Morocco, this little dessert is not a typical Moroccan dish -- but it works extremely well. The sweetness from the dates, the savory (with some sweetness) from the almond butter, and the salty all play very nicely together.
After a small flurry of customers, Abdu came and sat with us. He puts it best when he says "If it's not made well, I don't want to eat it". The Flying Carpet doesn't take shortcuts; they work hard to present outstanding food. Everything is made fresh to order. Abdu and I have both experienced trailers that cheat a little bit, like using canned ingredients instead of fresh. I am sure that makes it easier, especially for working in a trailer, but it doesn't translate to a quality product. The Flying Carpet was also recently featured on a Cooking Channel episode of Eden Eats, which has brought in some new business for them since the show's airing in July. (Reruns in September, so look for it!)
If you're here in Austin, please stop by and check out my friends at The Flying Carpet! MarocMama, maybe you should start a Moroccan trailer in Wisconsin -- The Flying Carpet has set a great precedent!

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Facebook Page!

I had been thinking about it, but on Sunday, I finally did it. I created a page on Facebook for this here blog. You can click here to go directly to the South Austin Foodie page, and please "like" it! When I have a few minutes, I'll attempt to figure out how to put a widget or gadget or something on my homepage that links directly to Facebook. But for now, this will do!

Thanks for your support! And happy eating!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Las Palomas

Tucked away in a strip mall corner in Westlake is Las Palomas, a Mexican establishment that's been around for years. It's been at least 12 or 13 years since I last dined there (and before I was "really" into food), so it was a little bit of a blast from the past when I met a friend there for lunch recently.

They still had a decent crowd at 1 pm on a Tuesday; the restaurant is very large, though it doesn't feel like it, until you start looking around for the restroom, located towards the rear. You pass some smaller dining areas that would be good for private events. It's a little dark in the main room dining though, and that's during the daytime.

My friend and I started with the rajas from the appetizer menu. Strips of poblano peppers are sauteed with onions and served with a nice melty cheese and tortillas. Their version was quite good, others I've had in town end up being rubbery, but Las Palomas has picked a good cheese to use. (I swear it wasn't as greasy as it looks in the picture.)
I picked the chicken mole enchiladas from the lunch menu, which came with a choice of soup or salad; I chose the corn soup over the tortilla, and wasn't disappointed. It had a nice velvety texture, and good corn flavor. I don't know if it was fresh corn or not, but it at least didn't taste like canned corn. Maybe a touch of heat (spice, not temperature) would be a nice addition.
The enchiladas were a disappointment. I often pick mole when I go to an interior-style Mexican restaurant (as opposed to a Tex-Mex spot), because I love a good mole for what should be it's flavor nuances. This one was flat, very little notes of chocolate, nuts, or much else for that matter. It had a little bit of sweetness to it, but was pretty much a one-note dish. The refried beans weren't much better. My friend had the fish tacos, which were deemed okay, but certainly nothing spectacular either.
To give Las Palomas a shot at redemption, we ordered flan for dessert. And we were very happy we did, because it was terrific! It was served in a wedge, like pie, rather than unmolded from a custard cup, which is more typical. It was smooth and dense, but not heavy. Now the online menu says it is prepared with Gran Marnier, and while I don't recall tasting that at all, I didn't miss it. Good choice!
Looking at their website, they do have info on facility rentals and catering, and extensive information on the family that founded and still runs it. The website seems fairly modern, with Open Table reservations added, whereas their printed menus seemed a bit dated. They had praise from an Austin American-Statesman food critic who I have never heard of (and I've been in ATX awhile....). Maybe the lunch specials are just meant to be quick in-and-out meals for the business diners, which could be why they both seemed to fall short. I'd be real curious about some of the other traditional Mexican plates like the cochinita pibil or Veracruzana. They do also have a menu with gluten free offerings, which is nice to see. And in this day and age of Facebook and Twitter, Las Palomas doesn't appear to have either accounts, but after more than 25 years in business, it looks like they don't need to.


If you hadn't noticed, lots of frozen yogurt shops have been popping up all over town. For ages, all we had was TCBY near the Drag, but now it looks like every area of town has at least one. And there's at least one franchise that is trying (and I think succeeding!) in setting themselves apart: Froyoyo on Bee Caves in the Westwood Shopping center. 
I chatted with owner Joan over multiple samples of their different yogurts. They offer three distinct varieties: 1) uber-creamy, 2) a low calorie/carb, fat free, no gluten version called Only 8, and 3) a tart one (and here's where they are leading the pack) produced with locally made White Mountain yogurt. I love tart yogurts, such as the White Mountain (which is made with a lot of probiotics in it) and Greek yogurt, so it was no surprise to me that I found the original tart and pomegranate tart flavors to be absolutely delicious. Pomegranate actually tasted like the fruit, and Joan said they do other fruit flavors like mango and passion fruit. Many other yogurt shops have a tart yogurt, but it's made from a pre-made mix, rather than from real yogurt.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Only 8, in that it didn't taste like something made with artificial sugar (which I am very taste-sensitive too).... because it's not! It's named Only 8 because there are only 8 calories per ounce of it, and usually they have 3 flavors available. It's certainly not as rich as the creamy yogurts, but really, if you didn't have the regular in front of you to compare it to, you wouldn't really know the difference. All of their flavor selections vary -- they've got a huge range they can choose from, but typically, they'll have vanilla and chocolate in the Only 8, and the original tart flavor.
At Froyoyo, you pay by the ounce, rather than by a standard cup size. So you can get a little bit of yogurt with a ton of toppings on it (and, yes, there ARE a ton of toppings!) or you can get a lot of yogurt with just one topping, and still pay the same price per ounce. And in this hot weather, we can all use a little extra something to help cool us down without weighing us down! 
Ooops, I forgot to actually take a picture of the yogurt! That's ok, you can use your imagination. Or better yet, go try some yourself!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Mexico Green Chiles

 Okay, time to vent, people. 

There is no such thing as a "Hatch chile" -- let's just get that straight RIGHT NOW, as we're getting into the chile season. They are all variations on New Mexico green chiles, and in New Mexico, they are known as GREEN CHILES. They are predominantly grown in the Mesilla Valley, which stretches about 40ish miles from Las Cruces to the northwest on Interstate 25, to the little town of Hatch. It's a fertile agricultural region, that also sees pecans, lettuce, cotton, onions, all within Dona Ana county.

This whole "Hatch" thing is something that's become trendy here in Austin from the fine marketing people at places like Central Market and Whole Foods -- places where you can buy large quantities of them, and who will dedicate a week or more-long festival to them. Also, the town of Hatch is known for it's Hatch Chile Festival every Labor Day weekend. But they can call it "Hatch" because they're IN Hatch!

Why is this such a pet peeve of mine, you ask? Because, my grandparents were farmers in Las Cruces, and one of the things they raised were green chiles. Furthermore, my great-uncle, was a researcher at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Known as "Mr. Chile," he developed several varieties of green chiles, including Big Jim.

Sandias are bred for their heat -- they're long and pointy. Big Jims were bred to be meaty -- a mild to medium flavor, and good for stuffing, like for chile rellenos. Other popular ones are the NuMex 6-4, Rio Grande, even the ordinary Anaheim. A good history of green chiles can be found here.
There's also a movement to preserve the heritage of the green chiles grown in New Mexico, as much of the green chile that's on the market now comes from Mexico, where it's cheaper. NPR even ran a story on the local growers and the NM Chile Association.

The pictures here are ones I took in 2005; the top one is of chile fields, with Picacho Peak in the background. To the east, are the beautiful Organ Mountains, this taken from outside my aunt's house.
Enough on this soapbox (or rather, sack of chile) for the time being. Now, ask me what "Christmas" means in New Mexico.

Bits and Bites

Yours truly is a member of the Austin Food Blogger's Alliance, and one of the organization's missions is philanthropy. I've been sitting on that committee, and am excited to share an upcoming event, open to the public! The Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar is holding a screening of the movie Waitress, on Sunday, August 21st at 1 pm. The movie centers around Jenna, a diner waitress, trapped in a bad marriage, who dreams about having her own pie shop. We'll have a table outside the theater with pies donated from local businesses that will be available for sale (on a donation basis) after the movie.  Proceeds from the ticket and pie sales will benefit Safeplace. Advance tickets can be bought here. Come down and see us!!

The food bloggers will also have representation at the first Slow Food Quiz Bowl, this Sunday at the Highball. Local food peeps will compete for the title of foodie geek, in a food-based trivia challenge, hosted by Statesman food writer Addie Broyles.

From a recent Twitter conversation between @BarleySwine and @tomcolicchio, it appears Tom dined at Food & Wine Magazine's  Best New Chef Bryce Gilmore's place at the end of July, with Tom saying he'll most likely be back in town for September's ACL fest. But this lends more proof to the pudding that Top Chef has been filming in the area. Another rumor recently seen somewhere online was that Uchiko Chef and East Side King King, Paul Qui is apparently doing quite well in the competition....

Local food blogger Austin Gastronomist compiled a fantastic list of some of the top movers and shakers in Austin's food circles who are under the age of 35. The 35 Under 35 list is a great reference and resource, and a lot of hard work was spent compiling it!


-- GoodPops All Natural Frozen Pops is launching a pop-up location (pun intended?) near South Congress and Riverside Drive through October. The locally sourced pops are also available at Whole Foods and Royal Blue Grocery. No high fructose, refined sugars or artificial junk!

-- The now defunct Screaming Goat at Lamar and 10th is about to become a restaurant called Bacon. Drool. Seriously, this has the potential to be amazing!!!!

-- Kerbey Lane moving a hair south, for bigger location, more parking. The Statesman reports they are moving to 3001 S. Lamar, where Torchy's and Half Price Books are located. Since Baker Street Pub took over the Old Aligator Grill spot, I think this is the old Blockbuster video locale. 

-- Guess I am behind the times, because I wasn't even aware that Vivo had a second location; I haven't been to their original spot on Manor Road in a number of years, but I never felt their food was extraordinary. Now, there may be reason to check out the newer spot up at 620 and 183 --  Paul Peterson is now the executive chef. After time at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, and a stint on The Learning Channel's Pittmaster BBQ road show, he's back in Central Texas, where he belongs!

-- A new upscale pizza wine bar (yes....) is expanding from Dallas to the trendy 2nd Street District; Coal Vines is scheduled to open on August 29th, at 314 W. 2nd, right across from City Hall.

-- The only Austin location (Burnet and 183) of Benihana's has closed.