Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marye's Gourmet Pizza

Marye's Pizza
I have lived in Austin 20 years now, and I had never heard of Marye's Gourmet Pizza. Turns out, they've been in business the entire time I've lived here, although under new ownership for about the past two years. Located in the same shopping center as Breed and Company on Bee Caves Road, the owners are now looking to expand their client base, and I was invited by them to have lunch. Disclosure: food was complimentary and I was not paid for my opinions, which are my own.
Marye's Pizza
Pronounced "Marie's" as opposed to "Mary's", the gray and yellow interior has a nice modern feel that I'd call upscale casual. It didn't feel pretentious like much of Westlake, nor did the clientele I saw while I was there. My dining companion and I had a really nice conversation with owner Stuart Wilsey who (along with his wife) bought Marye's from the original owners and have slowly been making tweaks to make it their own and also to grow the business.  They try to use local and organic foods wherever possible, and also offer a variety of take out options far beyond pizzas: homemade mozzarella, their house salad dressing, a frozen lasagna that feeds 6 - 8 people; catering is also available. Interior photo below is courtesy my blogger friend and eating companion Girl Eats World -- please check her out!
Marye's Pizza
Marye's Pizza
Their menu offers a nice variety, including vegetarian and gluten free; we only tried pizza, but there are plenty of salads, sandwiches, and even appetizers that would please any palate. I would love to go back and try the saganaki, a seared mozzarella appetizer with lemon and ouzo!

Per Stuart's suggestion, we tried the well-named Marye's pizza, which has ground sirloin, spinach, red peppers, onions and jalapenos! With a generous amount of toppings, I can see why this is a favorite of their regulars! I definitely liked the crust on all the pizzas, but not sure how you would categorize it. It's thin and somewhat crisp, but slightly chewy at the edge, but neither crispy nor soggy at the center, and it held up well to the toppings.
Mary's Pizza -- The Marye's
I gravitated towards the Maui, as I always love a sweet and savory flavor combination. Theirs has Canadian bacon, pineapple, and Parmesan, and we added feta cheese for that extra contrast. Thumbs up!
Mary's Pizza -- the Maui
And their special of the day, the pearzola pie, with pears, gorgonzola (blue) cheese, walnuts, spinach, and a drizzle of raspberry balsamic dressing. If you're only accustomed to pepperoni on your pizza, this may not be your thing, but I thought it was delicious! Like a salad, but in pizza form.
Mary's Pizza -- the Pearzola
And dessert, a flourless chocolate torte that's gluten free. Dense, but very tasty!
Marye's is on Facebook and Instagram, so if you're in Westlake, and looking for a place to eat, check them out. (We encouraged Stuart to use their social media tools a bit more! It's free advertising!) :)  I think the food they're offering is solid, and they're just looking to make new customers aware of their presence. Cheers to the next 20 years!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bits and Bites -- Austin Food News

I attended a media tasting at Malaga last week; new Chef Mario Medina (formerly of Parkside and Chavez) has revamped the menu and the restaurant is more focused on local and seasonal products. The staff was wonderful and they outdid themselves with the ambitious number of items we sampled! Two of my favorites on the evening:

Gambas al Ajillo -- Shrimp in a garlic broth had the most wonderful tasting liquid. I could have inhaled a whole bowl of just the broth.
Malaga Austin
Rossejat -- a paella made from fideo rather than rice. Studded with garlic crema and shrimp, this was seemingly simple and delicious.
Malaga Austin
If you haven't been to Malaga in some time, go check them out! They even have valet parking out front, which definitely helps in downtown.

And on to Bits and Bites!

-- Amy's Ice Cream is holding a contest where the lucky winner will receive free ice cream for life! Enter to win at any of their stores, November 19th - December 31st and the winner will be announced in January.
-- Con' Olio Oils and Vinegars celebrates their 5th anniversary with a special happy hour at each store, Thursday, November 20th,  4 - 7 pm. 
-- Trattoria Lisina is holding a 5 course wine pairing dinner with William Chris Vineyards, Friday, November 21st, $75/person.
-- Jack Gilmore will be signing copies of his new book Jack Allen's Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas at BookPeople, Friday, November 21st at 7 pm.
-- The Austin Meatball Festival is Saturday, November 22nd, 12 - 5 pm, at Winflo Osteria. Over 10 area restaurants are competing for top balls! Live music. Tickets $15 in advance, $20 day of event; proceeds benefit Lifeworks.
-- Metier is hosting a release party for the 3rd issue of Sugar and Rice magazine, Sunday, November 23rd, 3 - 5 pm. They are an independent magazine telling the food stories of the Gulf Coast.
-- Wine and Swine is Sunday, November 23rd, 1 - 4pm, at Star Hill Ranch,  $85/person. See their website for the chef lineup! Benefits the Austin Food and Wine Alliance.
 -- Metier will also host a coffee class in conjunction with Casa Brasil, Friday, November 28th, 1 - 2:30 pm where they will teach you to make the perfect cup of coffee using a Chemex coffee maker. Additionally, Metier's neighbor, Dolce Neve Gelato will provide affogatos for participants.
-- Central Market on North Lamar will be offering Gingerbread House workshops, Nov 28th - Dec 6th; reservations required; $65/one adult + one child.
-- A Downtown Abbey Christmas Supper Club will be held December 2nd, 7 pm, at the Camp Lucy event space in Dripping Springs, $149/person. Period clothing is encouraged!

Open for Thanksgiving
-- Fresas is offering Thanksgivings to go, order by Friday, November 21st for pick up after 10 am on November 26th. Thanksgiving menu here.
-- Travaasa's Preserve Kitchen + Bar is offering family-style Thanksgiving, 3 - 9 pm, $55/person, reservations required.
-- Texas Land and Cattle locations will be open, offering an $18.99 meal, reservations suggested.
-- The Statesman also has an extensive list of open places!

-- Salvation Pizza is opening a second location at 51 Rainey Street in December. 
-- Gourdough's Public House has a new fall cocktail menu and new $5 happy hour offerings.
-- Waterloo Ice House has a new menu and is now offering cocktails along with beer and wine, and they continue to source their ingredients from farms across Texas.
-- Easy Tiger has announced plans to expand to The Linc (the old Lincoln Village, across from Highland Mall of IH-35) in 2015.
-- Lulu B's Vietnamese trailer will go brick and mortar next year, at the old El Flaco at 3632 South Congress.
-- Taste of Ethiopia will open a second location at 3801 South Congress. 
-- The former T + S Seafood will reopen at the Chinatown complex with a new name -- New Fortune.
-- El Chile on South First Street is going to rebrand as Alcomar and focus on Latin seafood.
-- New food invention show holding a casting call Dec 3rd - 4th -- could this be you?!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thai Taste

My Thai friend Bee has become friends with the owners of Thai Taste in Oak Hill. There's a Thai restaurant in Oak Hill, you say? Yeah, that was my initial reaction too, especially after learning they've been there for over 4 years! (They're in the same shopping center as the HEB.) Bee stops by Thai Taste when she doesn't feel like cooking certain Thai dishes, and began noticing there were never that many customers in the restaurant. So she mentioned to the owners that she has a food blogger friend (me!), and would they be interested in having me come out, try the food, and provide my honest feedback. And that's how we ended up at Thai Taste for dinner on a recent Saturday night. Disclosure: the food was comped by Thai Taste, but I was not compensated for my opinions which are my own.
 Thai Taste
The short version: Thai Taste is quite good, and deserves your attention.
The long version: keep reading!

We chatted with manager Som, and discussed some dishes to try. I think because we were there specifically for a tasting/sampling of the dishes, the portion size was not always representative of what's typically served.

Mixed appetizer plate, the pu pu platter of Thai food. Not a trace of grease on the egg roll or crab rangoon; spring roll nice and fresh; good flavor to the peanut sauce (and I am picky about peanut sauce because I make my own and I think it's the best of course); the chicken satay had nice grilled flavor and wasn't over-cooked; chicken wing was standard. The dumpling was the pleasant surprise on this plate as it had a bit of cumin in the ground pork, and it was very moist.
Thai Taste
Fish cakes. Bee really likes these and I can see why! These tasted fresh, had a good firm (but not rubbery) consistency, and were especially nice with the sweetish cucumber sauce.
Thai Taste
Moo ping with pork and tamarind sauce. I've had moo ping before at Sap's and always enjoyed it. This one I thought the meat was too tough, and I told them so. Like the satay, it had nice grill flavor, but had probably been left on the grill for too long. The twangy tamarind sauce had some heat to it, and was good also with the fish cakes and the other appetizers.
Thai Taste
Som tum (green papaya salad). Surprisingly decent, though the addition of a bit of their house-made fish sauce mixture (fish sauce, lime juice, bit of chile, maybe a bit of palm sugar or other sweetener) really brought the flavors out and tampered the sweetness. I know this dish isn't for everyone, but I love the juxtaposition of the cooling papaya shreds with a spicy fish sauce dressing, along with a bit of crunch from the peanuts. A bit sweet up front, but then a late heat hits you.
Thai Taste
Pad Thai. A bit sweet, but had nice flavor to it; good sized pieces of chicken. I found out talking to Bee and Som that this dish can take on many regionalisms, depending on where the chef is from. {Som is from Bangkok, Gib the chef, is from south Thailand; they have both worked at a number of Thai restaurants in different parts of Austin.} A little bit of the fish sauce balanced the sweetness out; I also liked this dish because it wasn't too dry. Certainly one of the better pad Thai dishes I've had in Austin. But can they be consistent with it? I have loved the pad Thai at Thai Fresh, but they are very inconsistent.
Thai Taste
Green curry with beef. Whenever you see curries on a Thai menu, green curry is always going to be the hottest because it uses fresh green chiles. This was spicy, but had very good flavor, although the beef was on the tough side.
Thai Taste
Pad see you. (Can also be spelled pad see ew.) This is typically one of my favorite Thai noodle dishes because of the wide rice noodles and the lightly sweet sauce made from black soy sauce (fermented and sweetened, so it's a different flavor that your typical soy). This was very very good, but that little bit of fish sauce really elevated it. I would SO eat this again! Bee says this is how the dish would be if you ate it in Thailand.
Thai Taste
Larb, made with ground pork. A bit salty, but did the chef over-compensate a bit because we had already discussed the sweetness of the som tum and pad Thai? Still quite good though, and larb is always a dish I enjoy. Reasonably spicy too, and the leftovers I ate the next day for lunch seemed even spicier.
Thai Taste
As I wrote this post up, I've realized that some of the things Thai Taste does exceptionally well are their sauces: the fish sauce mixture, the tamarind, the peanut, the fish cake dipping sauce. All were very well balanced. What disappointed me though was seeing a bottle of soy sauce on every table. Soy is not a typical Thai ingredient, or I should say it's not a mainstay like in Chinese or Japanese food. When I asked Som about it, she said, well, that's what customers want. I told her then and I say it again now, she's not giving her customers enough credit. Why isn't the fish sauce and chile condiments on every table? She says they, the servers, ask every table if they like their food spicy, and if so, they bring the tray.
Thai Taste
My point to them was that not all customers will speak up or speak truthfully when asked. If it's there on the the table, they can be left to their own devices in enhancing their dishes with some umami (fish sauce) or spice. One of the places Som used to work was Thai Passion downtown (though they are now relocating to NW Austin); she said the clients downtown wanted their food much spicier than the clients she sees in the southwest Austin suburban area they're now in. But don't discount that because they aren't asking for it spicy doesn't mean they're not willing to dabble with the condiment tray.

We talked also about their website and social media presence. They do have a website, and I think just a few tweaks to it would really improve its look and functionality. (And website designers out there??) At least their menu IS online. As for social media presence, they have none. They have a Facebook page, which hasn't been updated since 2011. Ask any food blogger, and we'd say that having a decent social media presence is crucial for driving your business, particularly for mom + pop places, food trailers, etc. It would take just a little bit of work, and some good photographs of their dishes to get it up to modern-day standards, but it's free marketing. Som said she's hesitant with Facebook because she feels her English isn't strong enough, but I say go for it!

The exterior sign was on the building facade was not lit up when we left at dark-thirty. Hopefully this is just a very temporary thing, but the very first comment on my Instagram post on my food there was "oh, I thought this place was closed". They got to look open to expect customers to come in. I will say for the roughly two hours we were there, there were very few other customers dining at the restaurant, but there was a VERY steady stream of people picking up their to-go orders, so people do know about the place. And to the trolls on Yelp who complained about their floor: get over it. While it may not look ideal, did it occur to you that this might be a landlord issue and something that a small business can't afford to fix themselves? Otherwise, it was very clean and comfortable.
Thai Taste
I hope this post/critique/feedback with help Thai Taste, and I hope it will encourage some of YOU reading this to go and try them. And to my knowledge, they are the only Thai place in that part of town for quite a ways. Their food is really as good as any Thai food I've had in Austin.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Terry Black's Barbecue

Terry Black's Barbecue opened on Barton Springs Road earlier this summer, across from Palmer Auditorium. They are related to the Black's Barbecue in Lockhart, but are not "THE" Black's, although a Black's outlet has just opened at 3110 Guadalupe in the past week or so. I am still lamenting the lack of really good and accessible pork ribs in South Austin with the closing of Artz Ribhouse a couple of years ago, so I was curious to see how Terry's were.
Terry Black's Barbecue
So I went for lunch one day this fall; parking is easy, and at around 1 pm they weren't busy. It's a large physical space with both indoor and outdoor seating, and when you walk in the door, the food line starts on the far right where they have their sides buffet. I was greeted by a very friendly female employee who was asking patrons if they had been there before and knew how the system worked. I hadn't, so she explained that all sides were $1.98 each (self-serve); I got pintos and cole slaw, and moved on to the meat line.
Terry Black's Barbecue
Terry Black's Barbecue
I quickly scanned the menu board and decided on the lunch special: 1/4 pound of meat, two sides and a drink for $11. Well, I needed to try more than just one meat, so I got a 1/4 pound of brisket (asked for the fatty), one full sausage link, and 2 pork ribs. And it was $22! (And I ate about half for lunch and took the rest home for dinner.)
Terry Black's Barbecue
The burnt ends were really tasty, and I KNOW I asked for the fatty not lean brisket, but this is about the fattiest brisket I have ever seen. You can see the fat cap directly above there. So I scraped most of it off to get to the meat, which was decent. A bit of a smoke ring and moistness to the meat. The pork ribs were ok; fairly tender, but not really a lot of flavor to them. The sausage was extremely finely ground; I like a little more texture to mine. Had some black pepper to it, but also a fairly tough casing. The cole slaw was good and the beans ok too... there's a particular flavoring to them that I couldn't quite place, something besides cumin.

Overall, I'd say that Terry Black's was decent, but nothing exceptional. The two employees at the sides and meat were very outgoing.  As I sat there and ate, there was a slow but steady stream of customers coming in and out, and many seemed to have been there before, so that's always good for business.

Now I am hearing really good things about the Brown's Bar-B-Que trailer on South Lamar by the Corner Bar, so that will have to be my next BBQ stop!