Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bits and Bites

On my radar:

-- Olive and June is now open at 4:30 pm for daily happy hour til 6:30 pm. They're also having one of their family-style dinners, tonight, $35/person.

-- Soul food chef Chef Hoover Alexander's Soular Food Garden trailer is re-opening on August 31st at 12th and Waller Streets, with their veggie-centric offerings. His original goal was to help bring health and wellness back to the east side of Austin, and now with the addition of barbecue, carnivores and vegetarians can co-exist in harmony at his trailer.

-- Local tea company Zhi Tea celebrates their 5-year anniversary next week with lots of specials! Check their website for more info.

-- The Mueller development will be host to their own farmer's market, beginning September 9th! From the same organizers of the Cedar Park Farmers Market, the Browning Hangar will now be home to a Sunday market, from 10 am - 2 pm.

-- There's a new website called Cooking Planit, that's designed to help you plan your meals and be an efficient cook! Their site has chef-tested recipes, along with step by step instructions and shopping lists. You can also search for recipes based on allergy/dietary preferences. iPhone and iPad apps are available...wish they'd make an Android app. (I emailed, and was told "eventually".) Looks like a cool site though!

-- Uncle Billy's Brew and Cue has a new beer brewmeister with Michael Waters now at the helm.

I had the pleasure of volunteering this past week at the Lone Star Paralysis/Pay it Forward for Daniel Curtis fundraiser at the AT+T Conference Center. An incredible collection of local restaurants/chefs came together and prepared some AMAZING food! The live and silent auctions looked to be quite successful too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bits and Bites

Coming up....

-- Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis will be held at the AT&T Conference Center, August 21, 6 - 10 pm. Daniel was the assistant food and beverage director at The Carillon restaurant (located at the AT&T) when he was left quadriplegic after a diving accident. A fundraiser for him last year raised $65,000 to help with medical expenses, and now, he wants to pay it forward to help others. This year, a number of the area's top chefs will prepare dishes to be paired with cocktails from local beverage crafters. Tickets begin at $100, and can be purchased through the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. 
-- J Blacks Feel Good Kitchen and Lounge celebrates their 5th anniversary on August 23rd with some complimentary bubbles, nibbles, and gift bags, while they last! 
-- Con Olio Olive Oil will be hosting Extra Virginity author Tom Mueller at both their stores on Saturday, August 25th for a talk and book signing. That evening, Fonda San Miguel will host him for a special pairing dinner for $85 person, reservations can be made here. From their PR info, the evening "will showcase Fonda's exquisite plates, and how fresh extra virgin olive oils make the difference in each entree." Liquid gold, indeed!
-- August 28 at 24 Diner, there will be a five course beer pairing dinner held with Oskar Blues Brewery libations from Colorado. The menu looks divine! $65/person, please call to make reservations.

And finally:
-- Sugar Mama's Bakery is looking for experienced counter help as well as bakers! Open interviews on Tuesday, August 21 from 9 - 11am; see their Facebook post!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Satellite Bistro

It's only been in the past month or so that I have heard of Satellite Bistro and Bar in Circle C, and then I heard of it a few times by different people in succession. So my curiosity was
piqued, and I was even more surprised to discover it's been open since around 2006.

While in suburbia, Satellite was designed by noted local architect Michael Hsu, and it's very much his aesthetic. Stone work, modern lines, big windows, reminds me of Olivia (which yes, he also designed). We were seated on the patio, which has nice big ceiling fans and just enough landscaping to help you forget you're in a strip mall. However the volume on the speakers was really loud, and the music was reminiscent of your iPod on "shuffle"... when we sat down, it was the Gregorian Monks and that chanting song from the 1990s, and throughout our time there, it ranged from country to contemporary. Not exactly congruous. All the while, a 1950s chanteuse performed live inside.

It's an eclectic menu to say the least, with dishes representing the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean, Tex Mex, pan-Asian, and seafood.... From their website, I learned the owners are a pair of Greek brothers, hence the Med and seafood influences, I would guess. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to, especially because I wasn't starving, having come from another event. It probably didn't help that our college-aged (?) waitress came by twice for orders, though all of us were sitting there pouring over the menu both times. She was nice, and was trying to do her job, but our table of food people made eyes at each other when she mispronounced the day's risotto special (it came out like "reyz-ottow" instead of "rih-soh-toe") and none of us could understand the method of how the daily specials vegetables were cooked. Yeah, we're kinda food snobs.

We started off with the calamari, which had a nice thick crust on them, but a few rings were a touch greasy; the marinara with it was bland, but the red pepper remoulade had a nice punch. 
The eater who ordered this Mediterranean Shrimp Linguine ate too many calamari and could only eat half her main dish!
This is the Champagne Gorgonzola Salad with shrimp, which well-liked by the eater.
And the Gourmet Bistro Burger with a delicious smoked tomato jam; I tried the jam, but not the burger, and the jam was great. The yuca chips were decent, though you have to be a fan of the starchy tuber to appreciate them.  Didn't hear any complaints about the burger.
And for me, crab cakes. Oh but wait. Where were they? It was another waiter/runner who brought the food to the table, not our initial waitress. He said "they're coming," and disappeared. I urged my table mates to start eating....and waited. So a couple minutes later, our waitress comes by and apologizes, by saying the crab cakes were being made again, because they were "too dark." Okay...
So they did arrive a few minutes later, a lovely golden brown color. And while they were very crispy, coated with Panko breadcrumbs, and I think deep fried given their evenness of color, they really didn't have much flavor to them. Yes, it's mostly crab inside, not filler, but bland. Salt? Pepper? Garlic? Chives? Something, please!! The dish's saving grace, apart from the presentation? The jalapeno aioli.

We considered dessert, but when a dessert and corresponding drinks menu doesn't contain any prices, I am concerned! So we passed. Overall, the food was fine, though certainly not exceptional. And this correlates (unfortunately) with what I had heard from others about Satellite -- it's a mixed bag. Glad I had great company to make the meal more enjoyable!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

South Lamar Trailer Bazaar + Bits and Bites

-- The South Lamar Trailer Bazaar sponsored a media tasting this week. It was a great way to check out all five of the trailers that sit on the lot just south of Red's Porch.  
     -- Collie's Burgers -- 1/2 pound hamburgers with very freshly ground meat! The apple fries were unique and really amazing! Nice burger variety on the menu.
    -- La Guera's Tacos -- inexpensive breakfast tacos, with a ton of possible combinations. We had two samples, a beef fajita meat with egg, and an al pastor with a red sauce. Their creamy green salsa was fresh and had a big kick to it!
   -- Boxcar Bistro -- a REALLY nice, almost light, chicken salad with tarragon, green apple, and walnuts. You can get it as a salad or sandwich. Also had a croque monsieur one of their signature dishes.....what's not to like about fancy grilled cheese?
  -- Tri Mai Thai made an incredible tom kha soup, one of the best things I tasted all night! I have always been a fan of this coconut milk soup from Madam Mam's/Sap's, but the broth on this one was less coconut milk-y, but still tons of interesting flavors -- kaffir lime, galangal, straw mushrooms, chicken, shrimp....Also on the plate, from left to right are a crab rangoon and pork dumpling, pad thai noodles, and pineapple fried rice. To me it's sort of curious that a Thai trailer is making Chinese-style apps with the rangoon and dumpling, but the rangoon (made with real crab), particularly was delish.  Also offering free beer!
  -- Honky Tonk Hot Dog uses nice all beef Vienna dogs, and they toast their buns! This was the Scott Dog, their take on a Chicago dog, and named after trailer owner and local musician Scott Angle. It's a fun looking menu with the various dogs named after honky tonk musicians. Scott and others will play music from time to time, which increases the South Austin vibe.
So go check these fine trailers out! They've done a real nice job fixin' up the area, enclosing it with a fence, adding a play area for the kids, a small stage, covered seating, and most importantly, good food and real friendly people! 

 Other upcoming events:

-- Roll On Sushi Diner celebrates their first anniversary next week with drink specials and promos. On August 16, there will be happy hour specials all day, and for each item sold containing produce from the Grow Together Community Gardens, Roll On will donate $1 to the Gardens. August 17th has $1 drink specials and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Flatwater Foundation. On August 18th, more drink specials and proceeds will benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).

-- Olivia's next special dinner from Chef de Cuisine Andrew Francisco will be August 22, $110/person, with 11 courses and wine pairings.

-- Con Olio will be hosting Tom Mueller who wrote Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil for a book signing on August 25th. Arboretum location, 11a - 1pm, Lavaca location 2:30 - 4:30 pm.

-- Zhi Tea will celebrate their fifth anniversary in early September with some special classes and events. For more info, check them out here. 

-- Tickets for the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, to be held on October 6 at Fiesta Gardens, have gone on sale.

-- Very excited to see that LuLu B's has (finally!) extended their hours! The Vietnamese trailer at Lamar and Oltorf is now open  on Saturday evenings from 6 - 9 pm, and they appear to be offering some specials then as well. Hope this dinner thing will work out for them!

-- And finally, congrats to both Lenoir and Elizabeth Street Cafe, two hot spots that both opened right around Christmas, have both been recognized by Bon Appetit magazine as top 50 new restaurants.

Also excited to be going to a tasting for a possible new kabob trailer tonight! Stay tuned!!