Thursday, February 25, 2010
I wasn't thrilled when Lil' Sis brought it up. I've been to Jasper's only once, and it was good. Great, even. But I like to think of ARW as a time to try places you've never been to, always wanted to try, or can't afford to go to regularly.
I just pulled up the Jasper's ARW menu to see what we'd gotten ourselves into. And all I can say is, HOLY CRAP, LIL' SIS! I can't wait to try this stuff.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Arroz con leche me quiero casar
con una señorita de San Nicolás
Que sepa coser
Que sepa bordar
Que sepa habrir la puerta para ir a jugar
Con ésta sí
con ésta no
con esta señorita me caso yo!
Rice pudding I want to be married
To a young lady from San Nicolas
Who knows how to sew
Who knows how to knit
Who knows how to open the door to go out to play
This one I will
This one I won't
This young lady will I marry (soon).
In retrospect, the lyrics are ridiculous. They just sound better in Spanish. (You'll have to take my word for it.)
Last night I made Arroz con Leche (rice pudding) for the very first time. I followed the recipe I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, using whole organic goat milk instead of cow's milk. I halved the recipe, and therefore I was sure I could shave a few minutes off of the cooking time. Not the case. I sampled it after about 40 minutes, and then kept stirring for another 20. After a full hour, the arroz con leche was perfect. Smooth, creamy, comforting on a cold Tuesday night.
I cannot wait to make it again.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It's snowing in Austin today. My office and at least some schools and state agencies (read = Mike's office) shut down around noon. I immediately emailed Mike to tell him I had the afternoon off, and he suggested we meet for Chinese food. We don't often get together for lunch since we work on opposite ends of town, so this combination of lunch with Mike + snow day + Chinese food made for a very rare triple treat.
Din Ho is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in town. I've celebrated a couple of birthdays there, and it's the restaurant where Mike first met my parents. I love the Peking Duck, the roast BBQ pork, the soups, the noodles. Even their fortune cookies seem to taste better.
Today, we agreed on two main dishes + a vegetable to split between the two of us. Below: Pepper steak and flat noodles in black bean sauce with sauteed Chinese broccoli. Not pictured: the all-too-quickly devoured combination BBQ pork/duck over white rice.
After lunch, there was only one thing to do. Head to Mike's for video games, movies and, of course, that work we were going to do from home!
(Yes. This is enough snow to cause half the city of Austin, Texas to shut down. Suck it, Yankees!)
We got back from a far too short visit to the gym and threw together our farmer's market eggs, leftover cooked spinach, onions, leftover chicken from Mike's lunch, a random zuchinni, and then threw on a few heaping handfuls of more fresh spinach.
Hopefully the pictures are clear enough to spot the difference between the cooked and uncooked versions.
Monday, February 22, 2010
All of that changes next week. I just made a reservation -- $35 for three courses. Here's to celebrating Texas' Indpendence Day with crispy oysters, seared sea scallops and flourless chocolate cake!
We kicked it off slowly with a movie at home Friday night, allowing us to manage a farmer's market appearance at a respectable 10:00am (early enough to get in on some of the goods that tend to disappear first). Armed with $50 worth of greens and proteins (pork belly! eggs!), we headed to Antonelli's, Austin's newest - only? - cheese shop in Hyde Park. I'd say I went a little nuts, because I know Mike will read this, but the truth is, I showed tremendous restraint. We sampled only 4 cheeses and purchased 3 of them. Three very remarkable, very distinct cheeses - a creme fraiche, a Bianco Sardo (parmesan meets gruyere), and a Winnimeire. I walked in and immediately asked for a triple-cream brie; the Winnimeire is a cow's milk cheese, just as gooey and soft as brie but with a tangy bite.
After some tennis and napping, we made dinner before going out to a show. The newly purchased Bianco Sardo offered an opportunity to make pasta -- the pasta I'd been wanting to make since it first appeared here. Our homemade pasta turned out a little too thin to duplicate Smitten's recipe successfully, yet despite some clumping and sticking to the pan, it tasted just fine. Perfectly paired with local spinach, wilted under caramelized onions and generous amounts of garlic. (I was too hungry to remember to take a picture of the plated pasta with spinach. Bad blogger!) While the recipe says the pepper and parmesan are surprisingly sufficient in bringing flavor to the pasta, I believe I improved mine with a squirt of lemon and some red pepper flakes.
A Sunday birthday brunch led to a massive sugar high, tempered by some time in the sun and a couple of glasses of water.
Sunday evening, we ventured into the unknown: The Land of Amberjack Fish.
Taking the fishmonger's advice, we sauteed the fish on medium-low heat in the cast iron skillet with only garlic, butter and oil. The only thing we added was a pinch of salt and fresh lemon once it was on the plate. It was meaty yet tender; substantial yet light. I'm already an Amberjack convert, and I hope to try this fish again soon, perhaps in a marinade and adding a couple of minutes under the broiler. The fish went well with roasted baby brussel sprouts, also procured at the farmer's market. The perfect finish to a perfect weekend.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I'm spending a few days with my parents, going down for work but staying through the weekend to see the rest of my family. Mike's joining me on Friday. And I think I found the perfect winter treat for all of us to enjoy when he gets there.
Last night after the mildly successful attempt at glass noodles, I found I had all of the ingredients for a dessert that we could also have for breakfast: blueberry crumb bars. (In all fairness, I'd been eyeing these for a while, so I only happened to have the ingredients because I happened to pick up a few pints of blueberries at Whole Foods late last week -- just in case.)
Since I'm leaving town today, last night was my only real opportunity to make these little beauties. I forgot to capture both the noodles and the crumb bars last night on camera. Fortunately, I brought leftovers of both to work today.
I remembered to take a picture before I completely devoured my crumb bar. Hope I do better at lunchtime.
For the holidays, Mike and I agreed on a no-gifts policy. The only exception would be taking Jam's cooking class together. (We were inspired after sampling some leftovers Huebscher was kind enough to share after her own cooking class with Jam.)
We chose an all-noodle class and finally went a couple of weeks ago. We were taught how to make four types of noodles, each one better than the previous, and decided we needed to make the dishes we loved before we forgot everything we learned in class. So this weekend, after lunch at Asia Cafe, we walked next door to the Asian market to stock up on fish sauce, soy sauce (dark and light), Thai chilies and various types of noodles.
Last night's first attempt at Yum Woon Sen was pretty good, but there are a few things I need to remember for next time.
First, boil the noodles for longer. And drain them a bit better. (They were slightly al dente, and they needed a lot more time to drain after being shocked in a big, icy bowl of water.)
Second, use shrimp and pork. I didn't want to spend a small fortune since I was cooking for four, so I only used pork, and the pork on hand wasn't as finely ground as Jam's (I blame the quality on Mike's neighborhood grocery store and its lack of options). Ideally, I'd use meat from the farmer's market or at least a pricier organic meat next time.
Third, don't forget the cilantro!
*Photos courtesy of Mike. Top photo: our noodles, plated. Just above, from left, Pad See Ew, Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles.
Monday, February 8, 2010
This Sunday, a group of 9 met up for lunch. Huebscher and B were there, too. This was my third or fourth time to Asia Cafe (each time I've gone with a group of 6 or more), and I've finally nailed down a few of my favorites.
Pork fried rice. Sounds simple enough, and theirs is just that. Not too browned from soy sauce, their rice is almost crispy, salty, oily and just about the best I've ever had. You won't find peas and carrots here; just a bit of green onion and some tender pork.
Eggplant in brown sauce. I don't know what it's actually called, but it's also about the best eggplant I've ever had. The brown sauce is about the best brown sauce I've ever had. That's all you need to know.
Beef noodle soup. This is a must-have for Elise's significant other, Matty, and I finally learned why. You'll find a lovely broth - not too salty, a little hot and tangy - with a generous heaping bowlful of noodles, tender beef and some greens to make you feel good about eating it. A new favorite.
Dumplings! This past trip was my first time to sample the dumplings. I'm a dumpling lover, and these are now among my favorite in town.
Elise loves Asia Cafe, saying it's the closest she can get to her mom's Chinese cooking here in Austin. I'm no expert, but this place definitely rivals my previous favorite, Din Ho, where I've spent more than one Christmas surrounded by some of Austin's finest Jews, and where my dad likes to go for Peking Duck when he's in town.
I'm looking forward to the traditional Chinese dinner we'll have in Amsterdam this May. Mike and I are going for Elise and Matt's wedding, and we were told this past Sunday that the 11-course rehearsal dinner just got adjusted to include 14 courses! You can bet I'll be blogging about that.
Back then, it was a true hole in the wall, and the only food to be found was a jar of pickled eggs on the counter. They looked like something out of a science laboratory. The Hole in the Wall was many things, but never a place for fine dining.
Fast forward more than a dozen years, and the Hole has expanded to include a rather spacious outdoor seating area and a kitchen. Last night after a documentary screening, we headed over for a drink, and when Emily asked for the menu, I wanted to squeal with delight. I'd forgotten they had food!
I didn't get to sample much. My own order of al pastor 'mini tacos' was a good deal at 5 for $7, well seasoned and with all the traditional fixin's of onion, cilantro and something sweet that I hope was pineapple (it's dark in there), served with a green salsa that, for me, is imperative with al pastor tacos. I also tried a fried pickle off someone else's place. Mike and I agreed there was too much pickle for the breading but it was still very flavorful.
Because the Hole is dark, I couldn't inspect my food as I'm wont to do (it was certainly too dark to take photos of my mini tacos), but I'm pretty sure I spotted sesame seeds in the pickle coating. On the menu, you'll find a la carte tacos at $3.25 apiece; Mike said his chorizo taco was simple but good. I also spied a chips-and-queso plate being served to a nearby table, and some guy at the bar suggested trying their baked potato.
There seems to be a good little mix of offerings, and since I'll be back to the Hole time and again, it's good to know I can get a decent snack while I'm there.
I know, I know. It's February 2010. There are now dozens (hundreds?) of food bloggers in Austin. So what's one more?