Monday, September 30, 2013

Recent Austin Eats

When I used to work downtown, we would frequent Manuel's for lunch or happy hour. Their interior Mexican food has always been consistently good. I hadn't been in a couple of years, and a friend held a birthday celebration there on a Saturday night in August. We had a reservation for about 12 people, and while the food was overall fairly good, the service was not. Clearly the waiter knew that with a party that size, he was guaranteed an 18% tip, and our consensus was, because of that he didn't try very hard at all. Drinks took 30 minutes to come, lemon that was asked for when the fish dish was ordered took an extra 10 - 15 minutes to appear after the dishes were served, and he was in general absent for long periods of time. Yes it was busy, and there were other large tables, but the place was not a zoo, nor did they appear to be short handed. Anyhow, no surprise that I ordered the mole chicken enchiladas. I've always liked their mole in the past, and while I do still find it good, it didn't wow me. Not a lot of depth to it. Still on the quest to find the best mole in town, and sorely disappointed I missed Scumptious Chef's Oaxacan pop-up dinner in September.
Hadn't been to Hopdoddy in a long time either, and met a friend for an early dinner. I had the Greek burger, which is made with lamb, and my friend and I split the parmesan truffle fries and a milkshake. Delicious. Have to give props to the staff, as when we arrived at about 5:45 pm, there was a  line to order food, but their credit card machines had just gone down. They had someone working the line with a big tray of fries, and letting people know there was an ATM around the corner. Fortunately for them, they got the machine back up and running pretty quickly.
I was invited by Citygram Magazine to participate in their Twitter chat at the Bonneville. We had a great evening of various cocktails, and a couple complimentary appetizers, the salt cod fritters, and this arugula and banana pepper pizza, which was surprisingly really good with the peppers.
After the event, a few of us stuck around and ordered dinner. I had the bacon and egg ravioli in brown butter. I could have used more bacon (duh), and probably even more brown butter flavor, but the pasta looked freshly made and was nice and light. Throughout the evening the staff was welcoming, and I really want to return for their Sunday brunch.
My Fit Foods
On a recent weekend, I was running errands on Bee Caves Road, and realized I was starving since I hadn't eaten lunch. Not totally knowing what I was getting myself into, I decided to try My Fit Foods, hoping to get a quick bite. I was given the whole explanation of their meal program by one of their staff; in short, when you sign up, you meet with their nutritionist to design a healthy eating program. They make pre-packaged meals in two sizes (basically for men or women, depending on what your calorie intake should be), and they really did have quite a variety. I picked the Chargrilled Crazy Chicken, with green beans and sweet potato puree. They have microwaves to heat the meals up, and you can eat on site (which I did), but everyone else I observed during my time there was buying a few meals to take home. I would have called this poached chicken, as I didn't see any indication that this chicken ever sat on a grill, and it was pretty bland. I could tell even before we popped it in the microwave that the green beans were overcooked, and sure enough, soggy, tasteless green beans. The sweet potatoes were tasty, though definitely sweet. This whole meal was 240 calories, 21 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fat. And completely lacking in flavor, which could be easily remedied by the use of spices, which wouldn't add calories! I've also kept their menu for inspiration for some good healthy home cooked meals.
The Flying Carpet
One of my all-time favorite trailers, The Flying Carpet, recently did an evening of pastilla, a traditional Moroccan dish of chicken with ground nuts, a touch of sugar,  and some egg, wrapped in phyllo dough.  They took a while to arrive, because they had to switch commisary kitchens as the oven in their regular kitchen broke, but it was worth the wait.  I had a salad and fries with their famous L'Afrique sauce in the interim -- make sure you try some when you go, and tell Abdu and Maria I sent you. :)
Austin Beer Garden Brewery
I was invited to the media preview of the new ABGB, located on Oltorf, just east of Lamar Blvd., next to the railroad tracks. Their brew masters come with a lot of industry experience (Live Oak and Uncle Billy's, amongst others), and they will always have 6 regular beers on tap, and another 5 or 6 taps of seasonal or special brews. Plus, they've got a kitchen producing good salads (you could take the anchovy in the Caesar salad dressing), and nice pizzas (good crisp crusts). I've driven past a couple times and the parking lot has been packed, and surely once the weather cools down, their outside areas will be extremely popular. If you build it, they will come -- and they are!
LA Barbeque
A friend bought it, and I only took a bite, but OMG! This is LA Barbeque's El Sancho, with pulled pork, sausage, and onions. Must go and get one of my own.
I met a friend at Olivia for brunch, and realized I hadn't been there in over two years, which is a crying shame, especially since they're in my neighborhood. I had the MacDaddy, the upscale take on an egg breakfast sandwich, this with crispy pork belly, scrambled eggs, and mustard glaze. The glaze was a bit sweet, but otherwise, a very tasty dish. My friend had the bison burger, which was huge!
What does one eat when one visits Ikea? The Swedish meatballs of course! This was my first time trying their famous meatballs, and I have to say, I am sort of on the fence about them. Something was a bit strange about their texture, but I can't put my finger on it.... not dense, not gummy....over-processed? I liked the lingonberry sauce a lot, and the little flag is a great touch. And I would guess a Texas Ikea store is one of a very few worldwide that offers hot sauce as a condiment.

Local Yokel
Over at the Moontower Saloon, there are three trailers in residence, but on a recent Tuesday, the Local Yokel was the only one open. There were three items on the menu: bratwurst, quesadilla, and cheesesteak. I had the beef fajita quesadilla with caramelized onions and their housemade jalapeno sauce. I think they're pressing them, rather than grilling, because this was one of the best, crispest quesadillas I've ever had! Great flavor, and again, super-crispy, and perfect with beer. Thankful the weather is starting to cool down -- time to visit more trailers!
So this will give you something to chew on for awhile! What have you eaten lately?