Sunday, July 24, 2016


Went to a dinner tasting at the PhoNatic in Southpark Meadows last week. With five spots around town, there's bound to be one near you with their fresh offerings. (And shhhhhh! Director of Operations Joe Prior told us there's an eastside location in the works!) Owners Pat and Sara Lee first opened Pho Saigon in 2006, and then went on to build the Chinatown complex in North Austin, where they own the MT Market grocery store. PhoNatic came along in 2011, with the "desire to make Vietnamese food more inviting and less intimidating, in a fast casual environment." I think they've succeeded!

Thanks to PhoNatic for the dinner; all views are my own. Here's a look at what we sampled.

PhoNatic spring rolls
Nicely wrapped spring rolls with shrimp and peanut sauce
PhoNatic banh mi sliders
Banh mi sliders, a nice twist on the traditional Vietnamese sandwich
PhoNatic tofu
Salt and pepper tofu with a sweet chile sauce
Phonatic oxtail pho
Oxtail pho; good flavor from the meat, but a bit hard to eat
The 212 Pho (eye round steak, brisket, tripe and tendon); maybe not my most favorite meat combo!
Phonatic chicken and veggie pho
Chicken pho with super-fresh veggies (they do have one pure vegetarian pho on the menu as well)
Phonatic pork vermicelli
Vermicelli (or bun) bowl with lemongrass beef
Pat's Plate, with egg roll, pork, and fried egg over jasmine rice
Phonatic  grilled chicken
Grilled chicken vermicelli bowl at top, and the runny yolk from Pat's Plate on the left.
Check out PhoNatic's website for locations and menu details. Fresh and flavorful!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Garrison Brothers Bourbon

I had friends in town a few weeks ago, and we took a drive out to Hye (just past Johnson City on Hwy 290) and Garrison Brothers Distillery. Billed as the first legal distillery in Texas, bourbon is their craft. I am not a big bourbon drinker, and I couldn't really tell you what Garrison Brothers tastes like, but it was a fun trip to check them out. A word of caution: it's presently hot out, and you will be outside almost the entire time you are there for the tour. They actually close for a couple weeks in July every year for routine maintenance and because of the heat (really? why not in August?!) so if you're planning to go, check their website first. Plus you'll probably want to buy your tickets in advance ($10/person), especially if you're going on the weekend.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon
Named the American Micro Whisky of the Year by the 2014 Whisky Bible.
When you arrive, there's a nice shady area under the trees and the gift store where you check in. Then your group loads up into the back of a flat-bed trailer that's hitched to a Jeep. You go up the hill, maybe half a mile to when the distillery actually lies. Did I mention it's hot? And dusty?

They get their wheat from their farmland across the road, and the corn comes from the Texas panhandle. After they are ground, mixed with barley, and allowed to ferment for a few days, the mash is put into the copper distiller. The out-product is called white dog, which is the bourbon before it's aged. This thimbleful was like tasting pure alcohol! Then it goes into oak barrels, where it's aged for a minimum of three years. Check out their video for more info on the process.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon grainery
The grainery
Garrison Brothers Bourbon grains
The grains
Garrison Brothers Bourbon still house
In the still house
Garrison Brothers Bourbon still house
They've added more copper stills in the past few years.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon oak barrel aging
Aging in oak.
Garrison Brothers Bourbon signed bottles
 Bottles are hand-dipped in wax (they often need volunteers for this!) and then signed and numbered.

Garrison Brothers Bourbon