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?

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