Thursday, February 27, 2014

South Austin Food Trailers 2014

It's almost March, which of course brings bajillions of people to our fair city for SXSW, the Rodeo, high school basketball playoffs, and some spring break tourists too! While it can create traffic headaches, it's great for our economy, so welcome! The past couple years, I have taken some time to write a post on food trailers/trucks in South Austin, and here's the 2014 edition.
Please note, this is a reference guide, not necessarily an endorsement of each of these trailers, as I have not eaten at all of them. (But now that good weather is back on our horizon, it's time for me to play catch up!) Ones that I have eaten at and liked are noted. I am also probably missing some in this list, and I do apologize; leave a comment below on what else should be included.

Along South Congress (from north to south)
-- A Touch of Fire (Thai) at Riverside, by Howdy Donut
-- Mrs. P's Electric Cock (fried chicken) at 1101 S. Congress; fabulous fried chicken
-- Burro Cheese Kitchen (grilled cheese), at The Circle by Amy's Ice Cream
-- WurstTex (brats/sausages), at Gibson
-- On the west side of Gibson and South Congress, is a trailer park with Crepes Mille (crepes), Fat Cactus (great fry breads, both sweet and savory; last year's food trailer post has a write up of them), Hey You Gonna Eat or What (sandwiches), and Gemma Love (Jamaican)
-- Hey Cupcake at Elizabeth by Home Slice; the cupcake trailer that pretty much started the food trailer revolution along SoCo
-- SoCo Burgers at Oltorf in the HEB parking lot
-- Angry Egg Roll at the 04 Lounge at 3808 S. Congress

Along South First
-- Bouldin Creek Food Park at 1207 S. 1st at Gibson with Big Bad BBQ, Little Thai Food, and Pitalicious
-- South Austin Trailer Park + Eatery at 1311 S. 1st with Torchy's Tacos (fancy tacos!; other brick and mortar locations of Torchy's all around town), Holy Cacao (cake balls), and Conscious Cravings (vegetarian)
-- at Elizabeth Street, Gourdough's Donuts (Big. Fat. Donuts. as the saying goes), Melizzoz Tacos, and the Original New Orleans Po-Boy + Gumbo Shop (Cajun)
 -- at 1906 S. 1st, The Pizza Shop
--  South First Food Court at 603 Live Oak at S. 1st, with Chaat Shop (Indian), the Mighty Beastro (beast food), Bananarchy (banana-based desserts), Global Sandwiches and Mama Mal's Italian (both opening soon), and Try Mai Thai has just moved in.
-- Just east of South First on Oltorf (next to Church's), The Flying Carpet (Moroccan; previous post here) Maria and Abdu have become friends of mine; their food is unique and delicious, and they have hearts of gold. Also Regal Ravioli (Italian; my recent post on RR is here) -- two of my favorite places!!! Note: Regal has moved to 1309 E. 7th for SXSW.
Regal Ravioli's beet ravioli with pecan pesto
Along Barton Springs
-- at 801 Barton Springs, Short Bus Subs, Lucy's European, snow cones
-- at 1003 Barton Springs, Tac-O's and Nuha's Sinful Desserts

Along South Lamar
-- at Gibson by Gibson Bar, Luke's Inside Out
-- at 1311 S. Lamar by Genie's Car Wash, Brown's BBQ
-- at W. Mary by the Corner Bar,  Tommy Want Wingy and Potato.A both on the Mary side. Update: as of March 6th, it looks like Brown's BBQ has moved here as well, on the Lamar side.
-- at Oltorf, just south of the Office Depot under the big oak tree, LuLu B's Vietnamese; you can get a good sized banh mi sandwich and springrolls for $10, and that will make 2 meals for me. Love their bbq pork!
-- at Bluebonnet, the SoLa Food Court with Lone Star BBQ, Taco Baby, Wasota African Cuisine, Kuxtal Coffee, and Com Bun Yew (Asian)

Way, way down south
-- Native South Food Park at 10106 Manchaca
-- Moontowner Saloon at 10212 Manchaca...both of these have an assortment of trailers!

Other Austin trailer resources:
Austin Food Carts
Austin Food Trucks
Food Trailers Austin
Food Trucks TX

Monday, February 17, 2014

Recent Eats

I spent Saturday, January 25th at Travaasa for Edible Austin's Jam and Jive, benefiting the Sustainable Food Center which featured local presenters discussing ways to use seasonal foods.  Thank you to Giant Noise PR for the media pass!
The first session I attended was with Travaasa's own executive chef, Ben Baker, who talked about fermenting and sprouting grains for breads, as they breakdown the cellular structure and make them easier for digesting. He gave us pieces of three different sourdough breads, a traditional, one with red wine and thyme, and one with rye, all outstanding in their crust, crumb, and most importantly, flavor.
The second session was from Hip Girl author Kate Payne who gave us four different ways to use grapefruit, apart from eating it! You can make a shrub (or drinking vinegar) from the peel, an infused salt from the zest, cleaning solutions from the pith and peel, and a natural thickener from the seeds. No waste!
After a happy hour a featuring some of the items made in the classes, we had dinner prepared by Chef Baker and his team. Pickled cauliflowers with hydroponic watercress, preserved trout and deviled egg. Pork tenderloin wrapped in ancho-cured pork belly. Pickled strawberries, chocolate bacon, and zabaglione. All delicious, and much of it grown there on the Travaasa property.

Other recent eats....if you follow me (and of course you should!) on Instagram, you may have seen some of these before.

-- A pleasant brunch at the Steeping Room (the one at 45th & Lamar). A quaint modern tea house that happens to serve an array of food. This was "the Morning Tea Service," one of the brunch options and quite a lot of food, and included tea, coffee, or chai. The ginger scone was outstanding (as was the crispy bacon, duh!), and yes those are miniature cookies on top of the fruit salad, along with a generous serving of clotted cream.
-- Barbeque from the Lone Star BBQ trailer, located at South Lamar and Bluebonnet. While I drive past this practically every day, a recent sunny Sunday during the farmer's market was the first time I had stopped, and the whole place was packed. The service was super-friendly, and I got my food to go. As you can tell, it's a bit on the greasy side. The brisket had a decent smoke ring, but was a bit bland in flavor; the sausage was good, nice medium-coarse texture and if I had to guess, I'd say the potato salad was pre-made from a grocery store. Not bad barbeque, but not outstanding.
-- Quite a number of people attended the soft opening/media preview for Chavez, Shawn Cirkiel's latest project, which replaces the TGI Friday's at the Radisson Hotel at Congress and Cesar Chavez. The food is a spin on modern south western cuisine, and the new interior is stunning! The evening featured very hard-working staff members cranking out drinks and passing trays of a number of appetizers which were miniature versions of menu items, including these lovely smoked cherry margaritas.
 -- The impeccable staff at Uchi and Uchiko should be the gold standard for which all other restaurants strive to achieve. The food and service is always flawless. One of my good friends and I went early on a Monday night to celebrate her birthday; we had a 5 pm reservation, and the place was essentially full by 5:30. The bacon steakie with the watermelon radish was pork belly perfection (so good, we ordered a second one, right before the end of social hour), and we were treated to the jizake creme caramel -- browned butter sorbet with a gingery flan and light simple syrup poured on top. I generally don't care as much for their desserts (a little too "modern" for me!), but this was a winner in my book.
-- I had lunch plans with a friend who is the parent of a toddler, so she doesn't get out much. She said "I want ramen! I've never had ramen and I hear you guys all talking about." So I opted for Kome (I really want to get back to Ramen Tatsuya, but I wasn't willing to stand in line, as this was on one of our recent "wintery" days.) Well, needless to say, she loved it (as did I)! She ordered the tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen bowl with pork belly and soft-boiled egg, and I had the chicken kara-age, their take on fried chicken, with an ultra-light batter. While the chicken looks a little washed out in the picture, it was piping hot, devoid of any grease, and very juicy! We also got the tsukemono (pickled veggies) and a longhorn roll (with steak) that were also perfectly prepared. Kome has different menus for lunch and dinner, and now having been twice for lunch, I think dinner there is in my near future.
 -- Yes, I've been on an Asian kick (though I almost always am!), and just days after ramen at Kome, I had dinner with a friend at Michi Ramen, which was better than I remember it from last summer -- maybe because it was colder outside now and hot broth just warms you up! We split the tempura which had a perfect batter on them and the gyoza, which were some of the best-seared dumplings I've ever had at a restaurant. I had the michi ramen bowl (pork broth) with the stout (or heavier) broth, with an extra topping of veggies. The broth has a nice porky flavor and the noodles had just the right firmness; because we had ordered appetizers, I ate about half my bowl, and took the rest home for lunch the next day. My friend ordered the Texas BBQ bowl with a tomato-based broth, which comes complete with pork ribs in it!
-- And finally, I was very excited to receive this in the mail the other day! It's CHOCOLATE! It's my "thank you" from local business Piq Chocolates for donating to their recent Kickstarter campaign, which allowed them to purchase a 3D printer that makes personalized designs on chocolate! I got to custom design my bar, and while just putting a logo on it is pretty basic, I think it's genius for many businesses out there! See their website for more details. Oh, and the dark chocolate tastes good too! After shooting this picture, I took a bite, and it's a nice bittersweet chocolate with some light fruity undertones, and good texture! Not chalky or dry.

What have YOU been eating lately?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bits and Bites

Valentine's Eats -- make a reservation!
-- The Carillon is offering 3 or 5 course meals with or without wine pairings on Feb 13, 14, and 15, featuring Hawaiian blue prawns, wagyu ribeyes, and chocolate terrine.
-- Due Forni is offering a 4 course meal for $60, featuring buffalo mozzarella, lobster ravioli, pizza with prawns, and cannoli. 
-- Andiamo is offering a 4 course meal for $65 or $80 with wine pairings, with main course offerings such as porcini risotto and beef tenderloin, with many of the recipes coming from the owner's Italian family.
-- Peche Austin is offering a la carte choices, including roast bone marrow, and branzino with fennel and artichokes.
-- Liberty Tavern at the Hilton Downtown presents the Hater's Club, an evening for heart breakers and singles with a slow-roasted double bone pork chop and drink specials.

-- Chavez, the latest from Shawn Cirkiel, at the Radisson Hotel at Cesar Chavez and Congress. Modern Southwestern.
-- Porter Ale House and Gastropub, at 3715 South First (new apartment building just south of Ben White); owned by a trio who come from the Hyatt Lost Pines... menu looks fantastic!
-- The Hightower, at 1209 E. 7th Street in the former Karibu Ethiopian spot. Full bar. They will also hold monthly charity nights, the first Wednesday of the month. On February 5th, 20% of food proceeds will go to Austin Pets Alive.
-- Half Step Bar, at 75 1/2 Rainey Street, hand-crafted cocktails, petanque court and live music.
-- Diesel Foods is opening a brick and mortar shop at 2210 South First Street, where customers can pick up prepared meals, either just on a walk-in basis, or work with their staff to develop a nutritional program. They will also carry local produce and products like cold-pressed juices and protein bars.
-- Crave Restaurant, a national chain with about 10 locations, is opening at 340 E. 2nd Street.
-- Local burger favorite P. Terry's is unveiling a food truck for events later this month.
-- Titaya's....someday!
-- Phonatic, the locally owned casual Vietnamese chain has opened in Cedar Park at 1468 E. Whitestone Blvd.
-- Bar 79 in Perry's Steakhouse at 114 W. 7th Street is being redesigned and will reopen later this month.
-- New food trailer park called The Picnic at 1720 Barton Springs Road coming soon.
-- Later this spring, aRoma, an Italian spot at 3401 South Lamar (new apartment building next to the Broken Spoke)

-- Mockingbird Domestics is hosting a chocolate and coffee pairing class with Houndstooth Coffee, Thursday, February 6th, 6 pm, $20/person.
-- RL Reeves of Scumptious Chef is hosting a pop-up dinner at Tamale House East on Saturday, February 8th, featuring exotic meats -- goose, alligator, yak and antelope.
-- Austin Food and Wine Alliance and David Alan of the Tipsy Texan collaborate on the Official Drink of Austin event, Thursday, February 20th, 7 - 10pm at the AT+T Conference Center, $65/person. 
-- Food truck throwdown between Chilantro and the Peached Tortilla, Saturday, February 22nd, 2 - 5 pm, at the Draught House, 4112 Medical Parkway, $20. 
-- The Edible Austin Bacon and Beer Festival will also be February 22nd, 2:30 - 5 pm, at the Marchesa Event Center.
-- Banger's will host a St. Arnold beer and chocolate pairing, with beers from the personal collection of St. Arnold's owner. Wednesday, February 26th, $50/person, ticket info here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Regal Ravioli

Pasta is quite possibly the ultimate comfort food for me. And while I can make a pretty decent carbonara, homemade ravioli is something I rarely (okay, never) attempt to make. Fortunately, my neighborhood is home to Regal Ravioli, where I have become quite acquainted with the food. Owner Zach Adams has his trailer parked in a lot behind a blue house at 504 W. Oltorf (next to Church's Fried Chicken, just east of the intersection of Oltorf and South First). The house is the indoor seating for Regal Ravioli and my good friends at The Flying Carpet. Order food at either trailer, and they'll happily bring it to you inside the house, or you can dine outside at one of the picnic tables. Credit cards are accepted, and you're welcome to bring your own wine or beer.
I have visited Regal Ravioli a number of times in the past two years, and there is always a nice variety on the menu that would please vegetarians and carnivores alike, not to mention adults and children. Basically, you pick your ideal ravioli and the type of sauce you want to go with it.                      
Zach starts everything out though with homemade pasta, which I happened to catch him making on my most recent visit. One batch of pasta dough will make about eight servings of ravioli, I believe he said, so he makes multiple batches throughout the day. He also makes different doughs for different dishes. It's a very well stocked and organized trailer, and he makes everything right there in the trailer.
Regal Ravioli's logo proclaims they are the king of ravioli in Austin, to which I would add king of gnocchi as well! Their sweet potato gnocchi with bolognese sauce is something I crave and it's hard for me not to order it every time I am there! The individual gnocchi are consistently light and pillowy, and rival any gnocchi I've had at Enoteca or Buenos Aries Cafe, two area brick and mortar restaurants with generally outstanding gnocchi.  (And even if you're not a sweet potato fan, you wouldn't know you're eating sweet potatoes!) The meat sauce is hearty without being heavy, and accompanies the gnocchi nicely. I'd love to see what other kinds of gnocchi dishes they could make!
This is the sausage ravioli with a gouda veloute sauce; simple and clean presentation with outstanding body and flavor.
This is one of their recent specials, a roasted beet ravioli with caramelized onions and a touch of orange zest. Zach's suggestion was to pair it with the pecan pesto sauce, and it was terrific. Earthiness from the beets, a little bit of zip from the pesto, it was a great combination. One special that I've had in the past that's not pictured was a cheese and spinach ravioli with a blue cheese sauce that also had great flavor. They also have a few salads on the menu, including a pear and lentil, which I've tasted and really liked.
As with many trailers, Regal Ravioli is a one-man operation. Zach owns it, does all the cooking, etc. Occasionally I have seen a helper in the trailer, but Zach's the main guy. If he can't go, then the trailer won't open that day; check their Facebook or Twitter accounts for status updates and specials. Zach and his business partner have recently purchased a second trailer that they will use for mobile operations at events, festivals, and the like. He also told me they're working on some new dishes, like roast pork, and they do catering too!

So if you're looking for a great food trailer experience, go check out Regal Ravioli for a big bowl of freshly made pasta and sauce that are as good, if not better (and certainly a better value) than some of the well-known Italian restaurants in town. The ravioli truly is regal!