Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bits and Bites

-- Bullfight is opening up early for soccer (futbol!), 8:30 am on Saturday, February 27th for Real Madrid vs. Athletico Madrid.
-- Scrumptious Chef returns to Tamale House East on Saturday, February 27th for a Creole dinner pop-up, along with a rare St. Arnold's beer tapping.
-- The American Lamb Board's Lamb Jam is Sunday, February 28th at Barr Mansion. Tickets are sold out!
-- Swift's Attic hosts a wild hog dinner on February 28th to benefit Operation Turkey, which provides meals and supplies for the homeless around Thanksgiving. $100/person.
-- Metier hosts a book signing of Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread, March 2nd, 5 - 7pm.
-- Farmgrass presents Farm to Feast fundraising dinner, March 3rd, $120.
-- SPUN Ice Cream is holding a tasting in conjunction with Slow Food Austin on Monday, February 29th and an event at Metier Cooking Supply on March 5th.
-- Celebrate Texas Independence with Jack Allen's Kitchen 6th annual Republic of Jack party, with $6 Republic Tequila specials. March 2nd, 5 - 10 pm.
-- Central Market's bacon extravaganza will run at all locations March 2-15; sorry vegetarians!
Central Market Bacon event
-- Russian House is hosting a smoked meats class, March 7th, $10/person.
-- The Takedowns are back with the Meatball Takedown, March 13th at Shangri-La.
-- Fast casual chain Blaze Pizza will celebrate (pizza) pie day on 3/14 with $3.14 pies.
-- Fado Irish Pub will have a variety of events leading up to St. Patrick's Day, see their calendar for details for the luck of the Irish!
-- The Austin Food and Wine Alliance will host legendary chef Jacques Pepin at the Long Center, June  5th.

-- Sweet Ritual Ice Cream needs your help with their Kickstarter! They have just days left to make their goal.
-- Need an early spot for breakfast? Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe is now offering breakfasts weekdays from 6 - 10:30 am; migas, flapjacks, even chicken fried steak with eggs!
-- All locations of Kerbey Lane now have a spring menu; I got to try some of the items at a media tasting. Banana bread French toast was delicious, as was the lamb kebabs on this Mediterranean plate.
Kerbey Lane Spring menu lamb kebab
-- Oasthouse Gastropub introduces "Lunch Duets" with a choice of two lunch menu items for $10.
-- Greenhouse Craft Foods will be partnering with the Round Rock Express at theDell Diamond to offer more wholesome gameday foods.
-- Ramen Tatsuya (both spots) is now open from 11 am - 10 pm daily, with 2 - 6 pm "slurping hour" specials. Additionally, all broths will be offered.
-- Kettle and Brine launches an e-commerce site.

-- Vinaigrette opened at 2201 College Avenue (South Congress and Live Oak Streets). See my review here.
 -- Growler USA opens at 609 W. 29th Street (at Guadalupe); apparently they will have lots of local beers on tap, which apparently was one of the downfalls of the recently departed World of Beer on South Lamar.
-- Paul Qui's Otoko opens at the South Congress Hotel in early March.
-- Gardner to close on March 11th; a new concept from the same team called Chicon, featuring wood-fired cooking, will open (hopefully) at the end of March.
-- Space 24 Twenty at Urban Outfitters on the Drag will be starting a food truck residency with East Side King, Lucky Lab Coffee and Little Lucy's Donuts.

And.... the Austin Food Blogger Alliance's annual City Guide will officially be published online starting next week! You may already be seeing posts from different bloggers, and I will have guides to the best Mexican in town and restaurants and trailers in South Austin. #ATXBestEats


Saturday, February 20, 2016

First Look at Vinaigrette

The new Vinaigrette opened on Wednesday at 2201 College Avenue (really, it's Live Oak and South Congress, the former Treehouse Grill). A New Mexico import, they have locations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque (which I've been to), and they are so committed to locally sourced items, that they bought a farm in Bastrop to grow their produce for their first Austin location. You might guess by their name, they are salad-centric, so a bounty of produce will be in order!

Their concept is a salad base with your choice or proteins: chicken, pork, steak, duck confit, tofu, tuna, scallops, shrimp, roast veggies, there's something for everyone. There are some other veggie-based bar snacks, soups, and sandwiches available too, plus a nice drinks menu with both alcoholic and virgin concoctions.

I rarely go to new restaurants in the first month or two of operation, but a friend had heard me talk about Vinaigrette and wanted to go for our dinner date on Friday night.  When I arrived, I found her at the bar, drinking a Kale Mary, a potent and spicy kale, celery and vodka cocktail that she was thrilled with. When we moved to a table, I ordered a virgin ginger turmeric tonic, requesting strong on the ginger. After tasting mine, my friend ordered one too, though hers seemed to have more a more gingery punch than mine. Hopefully, consistency will reign once they get into their groove.
Vinaigrette Austin -- ginger turmeric tonic
My friend ordered the mushroom soup, which seemed very wintry, and almost beefy in flavor, but apparently it's got miso in it adding to the umami punch, along with a blend of mushrooms.
Vinaigrette Austin -- mushroom soup
I ordered the Asian chopped salad with duck confit. At first glance there didn't seem to be a lot of confit, but as I kept eating, I discovered more and more. Unfortunately, they skipped the dressing -- the actual VINAIGRETTE! -- when the salad was brought over. No wonder it was fairly bland. Once I pointed this out to the waitress, the peanutty miso dressing changed everything, and I really enjoyed it. You sort have to fight your way through the crispy rice noodles, but they do add a nice textural crunch to the salad.
Vinaigrette Austin  -- Asian chopped salad
We split a piece of carrot cake for dessert; all desserts are made in house, and this was one of the best pieces of carrot cake I've had in a long time! The frosting was not overly sweet, which I think made it for me.
Vinaigrette Austin  -- carrot cake
Vinaigrette is a large space, with a high vaulted ceiling, walls of windows, and a beautiful looking patio under the huge live oak tree. Green tile accents the bar and one wall inside, and they are not without their sense of humor, as evidenced by the restroom markers. Clearly my pictures don't do it justice, but I had to use the flash a little on my camera. I've seen some daylight shots of both the interior and exterior, and it was really nice.
Vinaigrette Austin  -- bar
Vinaigrette Austin  --restroom signage
It seems to be a comfortable and unpretentious spot, and I look forward to Vinaigrette as a South Austin addition. Hopefully the small glitches will even out over the coming weeks.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Crepe Crazy

I walked into Crepe Crazy on South Lamar at 6 pm on a Thursday evening. My friend Linda of Girl Eats World was stuck in traffic, so I sat down to wait. As I was checking my phone, I realized the restaurant was busy, but silent. Then I actually looked around me and took in my surroundings. The staff and what appeared to be all of the patrons were deaf, and were speaking in sign language. And then I noticed the sign above the counter:
Crepe Crazy South Lamar -- point
"Point, And Ye Shall Receive"
A few minutes later when Linda arrived, I felt like we should be whispering. It seemed weird to be using our "normal" speaking voices, as there was something so peaceful and serene in just hearing the sounds of food cooking and other kitchen noises, as opposed to the cacophony of voices or Muzak. So we sort of quietly poured over the menu board, which is nicely divided into savory and sweet options.
Crepe Crazy South Lamar -- menu
Linda got one of the chicken crepes which was tasty, and a good-sized portion, especially for $8.99. All the savory crepes come with a side salad. We liked this one (the Southwest?), but both felt it was lacking a little something special, especially compared to the next.
Crepe Crazy South Lamar -- savory crepes
Crepe Crazy South Lamar -- chicken crepe
I ordered the prosciutto and apricot jam, which we both loved! I am sucker for all things sweet and savory together, and this combo was perfect. The jam is not too sweet, and has enough contrast to go well with the lightly salty pork. The savory crepes also come with a small side salad
Crepe Crazy South Lamar -- prosciutto and apricot jam crepe
For dessert, we got the brown butter and sugar crepe, which is quite delicious. It was hard picking just one (Nutella? peanut butter? s'mores? dulce de leche?) for dessert, but perfect for splitting!
Crepe Crazy South Lamar -- brown butter and sugar crepe
There were a couple of groups of teenagers sitting in different areas, but I concluded they were all together, as a teacher/adult who had come in with the second group was also talking with the other group; probably students from the nearby School for the Deaf. They were definitely teens: having animated conversations, checking their phones, laughing. I noticed a man Skyping on his phone, all in sign language. I can only imagine how advances in technology have made the lives of  so many people easier. For the second time in the past few months, I've gotten to experience just a little bit of what the world of someone who is visually or hearing impaired is like. Back in November, I attended a dinner by The Blind Cafe; you can read about my experience here. (Serendipitously, Linda and I have been together for both of these.)
Crepe Crazy lights
I liked these reflective ball-shaped lights!
I also noticed at least four food delivery service pickups during our hour there. I just think crepes would get soggy if not eaten right away when they are filled, but apparently Crepe Crazy is a popular choice. Also, at this writing, the restaurant is a little hard to find, especially when it's dark out. They have a banner above the doorway, but no neon sign to draw the eye. Located at 3103 South Lamar, they are in the ground floor of the 704 apartment building; it's the building due north of the Broken Spoke, and if you turn into the driveway by the Spoke, it leads to retail parking underneath the apartments. Crepe Crazy is at the north end of the building, bordering the Torchy's parking lot to their north.

I have since learned that Crepe Crazy started out as a food truck, and also has a brick and mortar location in Dripping Springs; the owners of the business are deaf. The location on South Lamar is open 9 am - 9 pm daily, except Sundays when they close at 4 pm. That means crepes are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which "sounds" like heaven!

Friday, February 5, 2016

VOX Table at Lamar Union

I've been hearing the positive accolades for VOX Table since it opened last year. I was finally able to go for a recent Sunday brunch, which turned out to be a bread-lovers dream come true!
VOX Table
Located in the new Lamar Union complex, VOX Table sits just across from the entrance to the Highball and the Alamo Drafthouse. There's free parking in the garage, and free valet parking in the evenings. The restaurant's interior is light-filled, thanks to big windows, and the decor is a very uniform monochromatic gray and white. While that can come across as boring, here it is not; a huge painted wall above the bar keeps it interesting and tied together (not sure if this is considered a mural or just free-form design but it also mirrors the white and gray marble tabletops). Even the restroom and two private dining areas (one open alcove for maybe eight people, and a larger room that could be closed off entirely) are devoid of bright color, but all the neutral decor lends to making the food *pop* even more. There are seats at the bar, and also a few at the counter overlooking the open kitchen; it would be fun to sit here and watch the action!
VOX Table bar

VOX Table kitchen
My friend and I started with the potato churro appetizer, which comes with "VOX Sauce" that turned out to be a nice smoked paprika aioli. The churros were nicely crisp and squishy (the technical term!) at the same time. I can think of a ton of different uses for that sauce!
VOX Table potato churro
The appetizer section of the menu features a "bread of the day" with cultured butter. I am never one to refuse good bread, so when my friend suggested getting it, I was thrilled. This was some sort of whole wheat bread, and possibly sourdough... can't remember, but it was delicious!
VOX Table bread of the day + cultured butter
My friend ordered the French toast, which isn't your ordinary French toast. Ricotta stuffed brioche bread with roasted strawberries and a balsamic drizzle. All it needs is some bacon. Oh my!
VOX Table brioche french toast w balsamic strawberries
I opted for their version of "biscuits and gravy" which had a chicken roulade baked inside this delicious bread, with mushrooms and chicken gravy. I loved every aspect of this dish except the chicken. And the chicken wasn't bad, but I think I wanted it to be more like fried chicken and it wasn't. Texturally it just seemed a bit soft, but not undercooked. But the bread with the silky smooth gravy was divine.
VOX Table biscuit and gravy chicken roulade
Unfortunately, we did overload on bread, so we didn't leave room for dessert. Which means a return trip is in order! We had a reservation for 11 am, right when they opened, and by the time we left, the place was packed, so I would certainly recommend making one. I would love to go for dinner, and see how different the vibe and lighting is, as we were blessed with a bright sunny day.  VOX has the feel of both a causal and fine dining establishment; there were families with kids, but it was mostly adults of different ages and different styles of dress. As in very Austin. Good service and delicious food, and whoever is in charge of their different breads is amazing! Dinner and a movie anyone?