Monday, June 15, 2020

Devils River Coffee Bourbon

Devils River Coffee Bourbon
Devils River Coffee Bourbon Brown Butter Blondies
As a longtime member of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA), we often have really cool events for our bloggers, although we've had to get more creative in recent months. Instead of meeting in person at a favorite watering hole, we had a virtual happy hour sponsored by Devils River Bourbon.  So yes, this is a sponsored post. I was not compensated financially, only in caloric intake. All opinions are my own, as always.
Devils River Coffee Bourbon
Devils River Bourbon varieties
Devils River Bourbon is based in San Antonio, and will soon be opening a new distillery/tasting room to the public. In the meantime, they sent us a lovely sampler box with  50 ml bottles of their different bourbons, and a new special coffee bourbon. Our happy hour was scheduled for the day the coffee bourbon was officially released to the public, so we were some of the first to try it! The actual Devils River is in South Texas and is pure, limestone-filtered water, which makes very smooth bourbon according to their website.
Devils River Coffee Bourbon
Devils River Coffee Bourbon two ways
I am not a huge drinker, so I don't have a lot to go on, but this stuff is good! They use a San Antonio coffee roaster, and prepare the beans to a Vienna roast. They then make a cold brew from them and infuse with the bourbon; these are 80 proof. Their standard bourbon and rye whiskies are 80 proof, while the barrel select is 117 proof, not for the faint of heart!

For our call, I prepared the coffee bourbon two ways: on the rocks and with a little bit of cream, a la White Russian. Smelling and sipping on it straight, you do get the coffee and chocolately notes, and it was VERY tasty with the cream. If you visit their website, they have a wonderful variety of recipes for each of their different bourbons. 

I decided to play around with the bourbon a little bit, and of course I like to bake! I found a recipe for browned butter bourbon blondies from Baker by Nature. Now I love blondies, and make them all the time using the standard Toll House recipe, but the idea of browned butter intrigued me! And why reinvent the wheel?
making browned butter
From golden hued to a roast caramel color, this is brown butter.
When making browned butter (yes, you make it yourself! it's not something you buy), it's best to melt your butter over low to medium heat in a light colored pan so you can see the change in color. If you use a cast iron or dark teflon pan, you won't readily know when the butter is sufficiently browned. Burned butter is bad butter!
Devils River Coffee Bourbon Brown Butter Blondies

I like to use chocolate bars (these were a 70%, so a milder bittersweet) and just rough chop them, but chocolate chips are fine! I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, and I think the result is fantastic! Sprinkling some flaky sea salt on them after baking is optional, but I like the flavor and touch of crunch the salt adds. Make sure it's a FLAKY SALT, not just regular granular sea salt. Maldon is a French one that's extremely well known, and here I have used Murray River Sea Salt from Australia. Many grocery stores that have spices in their bulk foods section often have a nice selection of sea salts, so you can just buy a couple tablespoons. These are what's known as finishing salts, as they are more expensive and delicate than table or kosher salt, but also have much more flavor to them. 
Devils River Coffee Bourbon Brown Butter Blondies

The browned butter flavor on these is wonderful! I might use a tad more bourbon next time, as the taste in these is subtle but overall, I am extremely happy with them. And won't get drunk off them! 😉

Have you had a coffee bourbon before? How do you drink it? Ever made a dish with it? Do tell! 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Two Months of Carry Out, Cooking + Baking

Here's another edition of what I've been eating lately, in case you wondered!😊 Much of this is on my Instagram page too!

As an essential employee, I don't always feel like cooking. I've been getting carry out about once a week, and it usually gives me an extra meal or two of leftovers. (I don't understand people who don't eat leftovers or take their food home from a restaurant!)

Via 313 in Oak Hill had an easy pick up system. I don't discriminate against different styles of pizza, and sometimes just crave the Detroit-style thick squares. I also learned that you can request it "extra crispy" for those nice, almost burnt edges!
Via 313 pizza
I found some chili (with beans!) in the freezer, and had some of Trader Joe's organic corn chips for Frito pie!
Frito pie with Trader Joe's organic corn chips
My Easter project was making lamb osso bucco, which was supposed to braise in the oven for a few hours. This was the day I discovered my oven wasn't working, but at least the stovetop was, so at least I could cook my lamb! This was delicious, and a new oven was ordered.
Lamb osso bucco
Phantasma Kitchen asked me to try out their food, and I was happy to oblige. A total contrast to Via 313's pie, and like I said, I don't discriminate! Loved how thin and crispy Phantasma's pizza is. Also impressed by their Cesar dressing for the salad.  Hopefully this place won't ghost us anytime soon.
Phantasma Kitchen pizza
Phantasma Kitchen pizza, wings + cesar salad
Finally scratched the itch for tacos; love Papalote, but have decided their al pastor is not my personal favorite, as it doesn't seem to be made in the traditional way. The bean and cheese taco was great, as was the sope.
Papalote tacos
New GE oven in the house! Had to test it, and I tried a new focaccia recipe, the no knead one from Bon Appetit. Thumbs up!
GE gas range and no knead focaccia bread
Sichuan River is always a go to favorite of mine, both for dining in and carry out. I almost always get the eggplant in garlic sauce and add pork to it. And I get three meals from it! The dan dan noodles were good and you could definitely taste (or I should say feel the numbing effects) the sichuan peppercorns, but after the first day, the noodles had absorbed much of the liquid their texture wasn't as good. So need to eat these immediately! I was also rather enamored by the crab rangoon, which seemed exceptionally crispy, even after being transported home in a styrofoam container.
Sichuan River eggplant with garlic sauce, crab rangoon, dan dan noodles
Baking project #2 in the new oven, King Arthur Flour's bacon cheddar scones. Good quality thick bacon I think makes a difference! (I used DaBecca bacon, one of Costco's best kept secrets; also I didn't have chives but I didn't really miss them in this recipe.)
King Arthur Flour's bacon cheddar scones
And if you saw my previous blog post, all things apples! Gala apple hand pies.
Gala apple hand pies
The mole enchiladas from Curra's TOTALLY hit the spot! Lightly sweet, savory, with a bit of spiciness. And I took a chance on something I hadn't tried from them before, lamb empanadas, and I will definitely order these again too! Also really liked the chipotle sauce that was with them.
Curra's mole enchiladas and lamb empanadas
I met my friend Mad Betty up at Le Bleu for a socially distant lunch. We both ordered online and coordinated the pick up times, and then we parked our cars and ate and talked from them! And the banh mi and summer spring rolls with sausage were both fantastic! They also have contactless pick-up mastered perfectly.
Le Bleu pork banh mi and summer rolls
And finally, last night I had friends from New Mexico passing through town, so we decided to meet up at Terry Black's BBQ for dinner. This was my first meal inside a restaurant in two months, as restaurants have just re-opened at 25% capacity. The staff was great about keeping people socially distant while in line for food, and tables were appropriately spaced apart. And this Texas trinity did not disappoint -- pork ribs, brisket, and sausage, and yes, I have leftovers!
Terry Black's BBQ Texas Trinity brisket, pork ribs, sausage

I should wrap this up by saying I started intermittent fasting on March 1st (after eating my way through San Francisco!), and I've lost 13 pounds!  What favorite things have you been eating (either making or ordering?!) these past few months?

Bonus! I forgot to add this originally so have come back to include it. My Quarantini -- elderberry juice, tonic water, and gin! Cheers!
Elderberry, gin + tonic

Saturday, May 2, 2020

An Apple A Day....

What do you do when friends give you a bag of small Gala apples? Get creative!
Gala apple hand pies

Apple hand pies, because I love making pie dough, and this small size is easier to share with friends than an actual pie. I used mostly butter (for flavor) in the crust, because I only had about 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening (for tenderness) at home. I chopped the apples up and sauteed in butter with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of ground cloves. After filling and baking the hand pies, I glazed them with a powdered sugar and water mixture. The perfect 2 - 3 bite dessert!

Making apple pies also gave me another chance to test out my new oven! (The 22 year old one died on Easter Sunday.) The new one is a GE, and thankfully it was on sale at Lowe's.
GE gas range

Next up, broccoli slaw with apples. This is a nice and healthy dish too. I used half a bag of broccoli slaw, and then julienned (matchstick cut) some of the apples. For the dressing, I used mayo (you could use Greek yogurt or sour cream), apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, grainy Dijon mustard, and roasted, chopped walnuts for extra crunch.
Broccoli slaw with apples

Central Market takes their day old Seedsation bread, and cuts them really thin and bakes them to make crisps or toasts, whatever you want to call them. Either way I love them! Using them as the base, I put a very thin layer of Austin Slow Burn Green Chile Jam on them, and topped with a piece of jamon serrano (you can use prosciutto or speck), aged manchego cheese (sheep's milk cheese from Spain), and thin apple slices. A couple of these and the broccoli slaw were perfect for dinner. And as the weather starts to get hotter, no-cook meals become a necessity.
Apple, manchego and jamon serrano toasts

Austin Slow Burn Green Chile Jam
What are your favorite things to make with apples? Do you eat an apple a day? So far, my efforts to keep the doctor away have worked out! 😄

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Eating In the Time of Coronavirus

That's eating in, as in during this epidemic, and eating IN your own homes.

You would have to be living under a rock to not know that coronavirus/COVID-19 has invaded our world. Literally. You've heard it all, social distancing, stay at home, wash your hands, Every aspect of our daily lives is affected. But we still have to eat.

I've been cooking, and about once a week, I am ordering take out from local restaurants. They need our help! Many businesses are offering online gift cards that you can purchase now and you can either use them at the places that are offering contact-free pick up or delivery, or save them for when it is safe for businesses to reopen. Check the website of your favorite places, and don't forget to tip the restaurant or delivery person when you order food! I fear that the unfortunate reality is many of the smaller businesses will not survive.

Also if you're able, support some of our area non-profits who are also scrambling to serve the community. I've made small donations to Central Texas Food Bank and All Together ATX.

Here's a look at what I've been making and ordering. Thankfully, I've always been one to eat leftovers, so many of these got me at least three meals.
Central Market Westgate produce department
The produce department at Central Market Westgate on March 15th, the day before the official shelter in place order was given for the city of Austin. Not a potato or onion was to be found! Just a couple small acorn squash, and I did buy one.

Lamb shank massaman curry
If you saw my previous post on my trip to San Francisco in February, I've been obsessed with the lamb massaman curry from modern Thai restaurant Nari. Here's my first attempt at re-creating it! Not bad, but not quite the same. 
Bao'd Up Chinese Comfort Food bao and bowls
Bao'd Up has three locations in Austin, and offers Chinese comfort foods such as bao and bowls, which I have really enjoyed. They invited me out to help spread the word they were open for business! I particularly loved the guabo, this one with fried fish. Looking at their online menu right now, it appears they have limited their selections.

Focaccia bread
I've been making this same focaccia recipe since the late 1990s (!). Unfortunately, this batch didn't turn out as well as previous ones, possibly because it was over-kneaded. 

Thai Fresh drunken noodles, fried rice, shrimp
Thai Fresh has long been one of my favorite spots for Thai food in Austin, as I love their pad thai. I opted for something different this time, the drunken noodles, fried rice and shrimp fritters. 

Polkadots Bakery cupcakes
Happy birthday to me! Sweet friends dropped off these cupcakes from Polkadots

Flank steak
Sometimes you just need some medium rare flank steak.

Via 313 Detroit Style Pizza
Detroit-style pizza from Via 313!
Sewing facemasks with Molly and Charlie
And I spent an afternoon making some facemasks. With my very helpful assistants. 

Friends, it is some strange times we are in. Stay safe.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Eating in San Francisco

The last week of February, I spent three-ish days in San Francisco before heading a touch north to the San Rafael area. There are no shortages of outstanding places to eat in San Fran. Need more time, money and frankly stomachs to really do it any justice, but here's a look at where we ate. (If you follow my Stories on Instagram, you may have seen some of these posted there.)

Thank goodness we had a reservation for State Bird Provisions because when we got there at 5:30 pm when they opened, the line was halfway down the block. They have menu items that can be ordered, and they also come around with trays or carts like dim sum service. Here are a few of the highlights.
State Bird Provisions hearts of palm
Hearts of palm spring roll with Buddha's hand and chile yuzu aioli. I never have liked hearts of palm much until now!
State Bird Provisions ohitashi
Farm green ohitashi (spinach soaked in soy + dashi) with cashew cream and meyer lemon ponzu.
State Bird Provisions oysters
Hog Island (north of San Francisco) oysters, housemade potato chips, and an amazing smoked trout dip on the second shelf.
State Bird Provisions beef tongue
The most tender beef tongue on poppyseed buckwheat pancakes. One of my favorites on the evening.
Lunch in Japantown at Nande-ya, one of the small spots in the Japan Center mall, which really did remind me of actually being in Japan.
Nande-ya Japantown soba unagi
Soba with tofu pockets (inari) and grilled eel (unagi); this was a great value! The lunch menu gave you about twelve different items, and you picked two for about $14.

Chapeau! Bistro had outstanding service and food from start to finish.
Chapeau Bistro kabocha soup
Roasted kabocha squash soup with pumpkin seeds; velvety smooth and delicious.
Chapeau Bistro duck salad
My father's Salade Landaise, with duck three ways: confit, liver mousse, and cured duck breast.
Chapeau Bistro mussels
Mussels in a white wine sauce, and there were pomme frites on the side.
Chapeau Bistro bouillabaisse
My mother's bouillabaisse with a ton of seafood in it, scallops, mussels, shrimp, and fish.

Chapeau Bistro french toast
French toast with salted caramel, hazelnuts, and vanilla ice cream.
Sunday morning at Yank Sing, one of the classic dim sum restaurants in the city. Afterwards, we walked over to peek at the Ferry Building, a food-lovers wonderland.
Yank Sing dim sum dumplings
Spinach dumplings, snow pea leaf dumplings, and shrimp shumai.
Yank Sing Peking duck
Peking duck with amazingly crispy skin. And while you can't see it, these were very meaty pieces of duck with no extra grease.
Just open since last August is Nari, sister restaurant to Kin Khao. Modern Thai that is already getting rave reviews. My father had read about them in the New York Times and was able to get us a reservation. Loved every bite!
Nari miang
Miang, or little leaf-wrapped savory bites. This version was sorrel leaves with apple, trout roe, lemongrass, lime, coconut and fish caramel sauce. The perfect bite of all the flavors.
Nari yum sum-o
Yum som-o: hearts of palm (again!), pomelo, crispy dried shrimp, chili jam dressing. 
Nari Massaman gae lamb curry
And one of the best things I have ever eaten, massaman gae, lamb shank in curry sauce. The meat just fell off the bone and the sauce was filled with rich flavors. I need to figure out how to make this sauce.
Breakfast one morning at Jane on Fillmore. Would have liked to gone to the actual bakery, but next time!
Jane Nutty Bird Toast
The Nutty Bird Toast, a gluten free bread with nuts and seeds, served with almond butter and jam. Loved this bread.
A shout out to the Panama Hotel in San Rafael! This quirky, historic hotel has rooms of different sizes and themes. I was in the Captain's Room, complete with kitchenette, and it was perfect for one person.
Panama Hotel
Panama Hotel
Panama Hotel Captain's Room
The Captain's Room had a nautical theme, though you can't tell from the photo.
Panama Hotel mushroom ravioli
Their on-site restaurant was quite nice too, with a complimentary breakfast spread for guests, and a popular dinner spot, some nights with live music. This is wild mushroom + ricotta ravioli with a lemon beurre blanc sauce.
I also enjoyed the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, where they rescue and rehab seals and otters.
Marine Mammal Center
Marine Mammal Center
Elephant seal statue.
And just a few minutes away from the MMC was this beautiful overlook! Thanks for a delicious time, San Francisco! What are your favorite places to eat in San Francisco?
San Francisco from Marin