Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite South Austin Bites of 2014

Here's a look back at some of my favorite South Austin foods on the year!

The arrival of Dolce Neve gelato on South First Street. Gelato, "ice cream" sandwiches, popsicles, and really nice Italians.
Dolce Neve gelato
Regal Ravioli's beet ravioli with pecan pesto. It was hard to tear myself away from the sweet potato gnocchi with bolognese, but I am glad I did!
Regal Ravioli beet ravioli
Odd Duck's tender Parker House rolls with pig head meat. They need to make these larger!
Odd Duck Parker house rolls
An old standby, spaghetti carbonara from Enoteca (except I ask for it with linguine, as I like a wider noodle), and the garlic bread isn't shabby either.
Enoteca carbonara
Snack Bar's mahi mahi with mango salsa and coconut rice. Healthy and tasty!
Snack Bar mahi
Chen Z Noodle House expanded to a second location in Oak Hill -- yay! Here we have green onion pancakes, spicy cold noodles, dumplings, and hand cut noodles in black bean sauce.
Chen Z -- green onion pancake, hand cut noodles, dumplings
Everything we had at Porter Ale House's happy hour was delicious, but this twist on peanut butter s'mores really takes the cake.
Porterhouse s'mores
Sichuan River took over Tien Jin, and in the process has created some amazing dishes, here the spicy sizzling Sichuan lamb, and a wonderfully crisp egg foo young.
Sichuan River -- sizzling Sichuan lamb & egg foo young
Thai Taste's pad see ew; wish this place was closer to me than Oak Hill, but it's a hidden gem.
Thai Taste pad see ew
Good food comes from good people, my friends Abdu and Maria of The Flying Carpet trailer, and the Moroccan beef kefta wrap.
The Flying Carpet -- The Moroccan beef kefta
Pie Plante's coconut cream pie; there's no skimping on coconut flavor here!
Pie Plante coconut cream pie
Not only does Patika Coffee make a great cup of joe (or in this case, chai), but their sweet and savory baked goods are stellar.
Patika Coffee
And from my own kitchen, homemade pasta with fava beans, pecorino, bacon, and mint.
South Austin Foodie's handmade pasta
So those are my favorites on the year; what are your memorable South Austin bites this year? Happy New Year and happy eating!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bits and Bites -- Holiday Meal Edition

My last post of the year, most likely! Happy Holidays, eat well, and be safe! 
Christmas Eve
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
-- Malaga Tapas + Bar, $39/person

Christmas Day
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
-- Trio at the Four Seasons, $85/adults, $27/kids

New Year's Eve
-- Apothecary, 7 courses, $75/person
-- Bess Bistro, $125/person + $50 for wine pairings
-- The Carillon, 7 courses, $125/person + $85 for wine pairings
-- Dai Due, $85/person
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day
-- Finn + Porter, 4 courses, $85/person
-- Hopfield, Gatsby-themed dinner, $75 + up
-- Lenoir, 4 courses, $65/person
-- Odd Duck, 5 courses for $65 or 7 courses for $90
-- Olive + June, 5 course menu, $90/person
-- Parkside, 4 course menu, $72/person
-- Sagra, 4 courses, $49 + $25 for wine parings

New Year's Day
-- Banger's Big Band Brunch with live music, 10 am - 3 pm
-- Epicerie, 10 am - 3 pm
-- Estancia Churrascuria, open all day

Check out the Austin American-Statesman for additional holiday meals, as well as a list of Chinese restaurants open on Christmas Day.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake

Nothing says the holidays like a fruitcake! And we're talking REAL Texas fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, made with Texas pecans, local honey (from cotton blossoms), and in production for over 115 years. Pictured here is the DeLuxe Fruitcake, which weighs in just under two pounds, for $27.95 (larger sizes available)!
Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake
The original recipe came from Wiesbaden, Germany and the family of the bakery's founder. Fruitcakes originated as a method to preserve fruits and nuts over the cold months. Collin Street's fruitcakes continue to be about 80% fruits and nuts. Do you see how big these pecans are?! They're huge, and they still have crunch to them!
Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake
I learned (and loved this hand-written letter from one of the owners, Will McNutt, and they are still family-owned) that Collin Street owns an organic farm in Costa Rica, where they grow pineapples and papaya. And Will shares that he loves his fruitcake warmed up with a touch of whipped cream. Their website also has suggestions on how to "booze" up your fruitcake! But even in it's natural state, you can't beat it! This is not Aunt Bertha's fruitcake, I guarantee you.
Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake
Check out their website to order a fruitcake for the holidays! Order by December 19th or risk the rath of extra postal fees. You'll also discover a trove of other sweet treasures on their site, such as pecan pies, cakes, cheesecakes and much more. Spread the love of Texas products this holiday season!

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary fruitcake, in exchange for a blog post; all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop

About a month ago, I met a group of friends for dinner at the new St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop in Sunset Valley. St. Philip was the patron saint of bakers, and perhaps coincidentally (or not), the project has been helmed by Phillip Speer, longtime pastry chef extraordinaire of Uchi. And while St. Philip is owned by the Uchi Restaurant group, this is clearly not a Japanese restaurant.
They took the old Cannoli Joe's (nee Wolfe's Nursery) on Highway 290 next to the Toney Burger Center, and converted it into a very modern, streamlined building. In addition to St. P, there's Stouthouse Coffee Pub and a new branch of local spa Milk + Honey. So you can go have a meal (they do B, L + D) at St. P, get all relaxed with a facial or massage at Milk + Honey, and then get caffeinated again at Stouthouse. Good plan! St. P is on the east side of the complex (closest to the Burger Center) and has a lovely shaded patio area as well as some outdoor dining spots. The inside isn't as large as I expected, but at 6ish on a Friday night, they were already packed to the gills with families, couples, small groups, you name it. I didn't get too much of a chance to gawk at the interior given the hustle and bustle, but it's got a warm farmhouse modern appeal to it.

Service was very friendly and once we ordered, dishes came at a pretty good pace. I should also add we had to wait about 15-20 minutes for a table, and they had servers outside taking drink orders and also coming around with warm pretzel bites and mustard for nibbling. Once seated, we started with the house meatballs (beef and pork, I believe) and paired them with the brodo sauce (you can pick from three different types of meatballs and three different sauces); these were served with potatoes. They were tasty, but not the most tender, and fairly small (not quite golf-ball sized) for the price. {Looking at their menu online now, they may have cut back on meatball options, as I am now only seeing two choices of each meatball and sauce.}
St Philip meatballs
These ricotta dumplings with corn, Serrano ham, mushrooms were delicious, but the housemade umami sauce was a bit overpowering for the light and tenderness of the dumplings (I'd call them more like gnocchi or gnudi). It was a flavorful sauce, but both dark in color and in taste, and to me it took control of the dish. Maybe a lighter hand with the sauce or just lightening the sauce altogether would have made this one more of a winner for me.
St Philip ricotta dumplings
Everyone who I knew who had been to St. P before me said "get the cauliflower." So we did, and yes, it's quite tasty. The cauliflower is lightly fried to a golden brown and served with a Greek yogurt sauce, pine nuts, and golden raisins, which I could have done without. You can now make this at home, as the Austin American-Statesman obtained the recipe for it!
St Philip cauliflower
We picked the roasted veggie pizza with its almond Romesco sauce. I liked the chewiness (but not too chewy) of the crust, but felt the Romesco needed more acid (sherry vinegar?) to bring out the contrast. I have heard the clam pizza is quite good.
St Philip veggie romesco pizza
From the daily dessert board, we went with the brownie a la mode with a salted caramel sauce. Definitely tasty, though certainly a small portion.
St Philip brownie dessert
Overall, I felt the food was decent, but could use some little tweaks. Yes, I am being a bit picky, but I am comfortable with my palate to know when something needs a little more acid or a little less umami. But I really felt the portion sizes are small for what you are paying, especially the meatballs and brownie. I would like to go for breakfast one day; they have a separate pastry counter for eat in or take out and some beautiful items in there. Given the buzz and hype of St. Philip even before they were open, I am sure this place will do well.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bits and Bites

Really, it's December ALREADY??! Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and now on to the next food holiday!

I recently received a Batch box to try; these are gift boxes of locally curated foods available from a couple southern US cities, and now Austin. For $29.99/month, you can give a box subscription to your favorite foodie! (Or yourself!) My box had House Granola, Great San Saba River Pecan Company Praline Popcorn, Royito's Salsa, and Luscious Pastry Chai Tea. Disclaimer: I received the box for free; opinions are my own. And hey, it's a pretty neat and very convenient idea, so check them out! Batch boxes are also available from Nashville, Charleston, and Memphis.
Batch Austin
-- Odd Duck is throwing a trailer throwback party, Tuesday, December 9th, 5 pm onward; suggested minimum donation is $25, and proceeds go towards Zilker Elementary's Edible Schoolyard program.

-- Homeslice's Pizza's Carnival o' Pizza was rescheduled to December 13th.

-- Also on the 13th, drive-thru burger chain P. Terry's will donate all of their day's profits from all 9 of their locations to the Austin American-Statesman's annual Season of Caring campaign; last year P. Terry's donated over $21,000 to this cause. Eat a burger on Saturday!

-- Texas Land and Cattle is offering holiday drink specials as well as some limited time menu offerings, Crab and Shrimp Stuffed Mushrooms and a smoked meat board for two people with sirloin, quail, and pork offerings.

-- Celebrate Christmas Eve Italian style with Sagra's Feast of the Seven Fishes, December 22-24, $39.99/person, reservations required and space is limited; additional $25 for suggested wine pairings. Dishes include salt cod, squid ink pasta, shrimp and mussel stew; full menu is here. 

-- The next round of Indie Chefs Week will be January 6-10; tickets begin at $195, and dinners will be held at  Foreign and Domestic, the "home" of the event's founder, Ned Elliot. The event gives up and coming chefs from across the country to showcase their talents in a pop-up restaurant setting.

-- Delysia Chocolatier won gold at the recent International Chocolate Salon Awards, for their carrot cake truffles in the "Most Unique" category, and white peach balsamic truffle in the "Top Truffle Artistry" category. Delysia's new Chocolate Culinary Center is at 2000 Windy Terrace in Cedar Park.

-- Fresa's will be offering tamales through December, created by Chef Rene Ortiz; varieties include chicken adobado, queso Oaxaca, and hoja santa, and run 3 for $7. 6 for $13 and 12 for $24.

-- Austin Monthly magazine's new food critique is Jolène M. Bouchon, who has previously served as the deputy digital editor for Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.

-- The Statesman came out with a great listing of area gluten free restaurants/dishes.  Keep this list handy!

-- Peached Tortilla just opened at 5520 Burnet Road.

-- Juniper, a northern-Italian restaurant will open at 2400 E. Cesar Chavez in the spring.

-- Spun Ice Cream is coming to 1912 E. 7th Street with liquid nitrogen-made treats.

-- A-OK Chinese at 1509 South Lamar... I was sad to see this one go, as I felt they never really hit their stride. On the flip side, Mexican/Korean fusion food trailer Chi'lantro will be taking over the spot in their first foray into the land of brick and mortar.