Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dutch baby

Ever since I tore into my first Dutch baby at a north Austin strip mall eatery, it soared to the top of my Favorite Brunch Foods Of All Time list. That was a few months ago, when Mike and I were half-moved into our new home and decided to take a break amid the hubbub and treat ourselves to a fuel-filled breakfast.

We haven't made it back to the Original Pancake House -- and now we might not have to.

Our first attempt at a homemade Dutch baby was surprisingly delectable, and we didn't even use whole milk! (Side note: Are there many childless adults out there who keep a regular supply of whole milk in their fridge?)

Mike did all of the work on this one, but I still wanted to capture this steering wheel of a pancake in all its glory. The final product, once it's puffed in the oven and then collapses on itself within moments of coming out, is delicious on its own but most popularly paired with a healthy squirt of fresh lemon juice and sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.

Oh, baby, was it good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bahn Mi

My first banh mi experience occurred at an impromptu lunch this week with the hubby, who was looking for a lunch companion via Facebook, forgetting that I regularly stalk him via social networking.

After strong-arming him into lunch, we agreed to meet in north Austin's Chinatown at Lily Sandwich. It's an unassuming little shop, not terribly clean but certainly not dirty enough to sound any alarms.

It's possible I couldn't really distinguish the three different types of "meat" in my sandwich. But I loved the fresh cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumber, and their crunchy-soft baguette. I also loved the budget-friendly price ($3.25) and getting to see Mike for one of our rare lunches together.

Their baguette was so fresh, we bought a few loaves (made in-house) to take to a friend's house for dinner later that evening -- and I'm pretty sure I'll be asking Mike to bring some home on a semi-regular basis as Lily isn't far from his office.

Side note: One Yelp reviewer mentioned that the guy taking their bubble tea order tried to gyp them out of a couple of bucks. The same thing happened to us, and my guess is that their bubble tea guy is the same guy who made our sandwiches. We ordered two sandwiches at $3.25 each, plus a can of soda. I figured that would come to no more than $8-$9, yet the man behind the counter simply said "Ten dollars." After a couple of minutes - we stood watching while he made our sandwiches - another guy rang us up with an actual calculator. Even with a last-minute egg roll thrown into our order, our real total came to just under $9. So, sure, the sandwich maker was trying to make a couple extra bucks off of us. Not cool, sandwich guy. But I'll keep going back, and I'll just call him out on his erroneous math if it happens again.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Carbs for breakfast -- croissants and cafe con leche at our favorite little Cuban cafe. Carbs and veggies for dinner - popcorn and goat cheese salad at my favorite movie theater.

I was clearly in need of some fruit and dairy at lunch to balance out the day:

Summer's arrived in Austin, Texas.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garee curry

Last night after work and a 40-minute walk around the neighborhood with the boxing octopus and her youngest, I pulled some broccoli and shitake mushrooms out of the fridge and stared at them for a few minutes trying to figure out how to prepare them before they went bad.

Roasting broccoli is one of my favorite methods, but that wasn't going to work for the mushrooms. I could saute them both together, but that didn't sound very good and I wasn't sure what spices I'd use and what I'd pair them with.

I eventually landed at soup (it's still technically spring in Austin, right?), and then realized we were fresh out of veggie or chicken broth. So I went to the pantry, where I was reminded that we had 9 jars of assorted curry pastes and a couple of cans of coconut milk from recent cooking classes at Thai Fresh , which incidentally sells various quality Thai ingredients in their adorable south Austin restaurant for at-home cookin'.

I've always loved my garee curry the traditional way - with chunks of chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions, served wtih enough rice to soak up all of the spicy, creamy goodness that's left at the bottom of the bowl. And I've always had three local favorite spots for garee -- Thai Fresh, Madam Mam's and Titaya's. (Titaya's holds a sweeter spot in my heart as it's also the site of my first date with the man who would become my husband.)

Still, I'm happy to say, after last night's attempt at garee - made with broccoli, mushrooms and onions, sans rice and other carbs - my new favorite local spot for garee curry is my own kitchen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No-knead bread

I could not resist cutting a slice off this no-knead loaf after 30 minutes of cooling, even though the recipe urges you to wait an hour.

Oh, don't look at me like that. It was 11:00pm, and I needed to get in bed.

I slathered my first warm slice with some room temperature butter, which I like to leave out on the counter despite my hubby's mocking and judgment. This morning, I slathered another slice with butter and some blackberry cobbler filling we're still picking on from a not-so-recent potluck. (We made a lousy blackberry cobbler in the slow cooker and couldn't bear to throw away the fresh fruit filling.)

I'm so glad Stella has been experimenting with no-knead recipes for long enough that she was able to recommend her favorite. Sparing me from the testing.

This bread was phenomenal. Is phenomenal. I hope to make fresh loaves a regular thing.

I went the plain route on my first loaf because I wanted to see exactly what this bread tasted like all on its own. But I plan to play with my bread in the future. Next up: rosemary and sea salt. Down the line: sundried tomatoes? cheddar and jalapenos? whole wheat flour? rolled oats?

I don't know about man, but this woman could do just fine on this bread alone. Especially if paired with some salami and soft cheese ....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Taste the Love

My friend Shanita recently launched a homemade salsa biz. She's in the process of getting all of her licenses and whatnot in order, but she's already selling salsas through word of mouth, Facebook, out of the trunk of her Volvo station wagon and parties hosted by friends (like yours truly).

She makes several kinds of salsa (four staples and a range of seasonal salsas), but my love, my obsession, is the Hal's Hot Love - a creamy, garlicky roasted jalapeno salsa that I just can't get enough of. I often build my meals around Hal's.

You would, too, if you had two (ok, three) jars in your fridge. (Four if you count the one I keep at the office!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

hopdoddy = family

I've only been to Austin's new bustling, enviro-friendly burger spot twice. Both times were with family. The first time, a large group of us went on a Saturday afternoon, and I had a regular ol' mushroom-and-swiss burger that was anything but regular.

My little sister was dying to go back and we agreed to have lunch - which we don't do often enough - when she was scheduled to get out of her nursing job earlier than usual.

We'd committed early on to sharing a burger with a salad, and she convinced me to try the Janis Joplin. This hemp seed veggie patty was so meaty and fresh, you could see the bits of lentil throughout. All of the fixin's -- avocado, sprouts and Tillamook Cheddar with a slathering of Mustard -- made it look and taste substantial. (This is key for meat lovers who find themselves eating meatless burgers.)

The $6 field greens salad was generous in size and topped off with killer croutons that can only be homemade, like the Hopdoddy buns.

My half of the salad and half of the buger ($7.50 total) was the perfect lunch. My sister is the perfect lunch companion.

In fact, the only thing about our lunch at hopdoddy that wasn't perfect was the crappy photo I took on my iPhone:

Friday, April 1, 2011

barley swine

The only critiques I heard about barley swine had more to do with the quantity of animal products on the menu than with the food itself.

And while I am falling deeper and deeper in love with carbs, I am my father's daughter, and, well, he owned a steak house and was raised in Argentina. Sweetbreads weren't some weird food that people in other parts of the world consumed; they were a regular feature in the asados of my childhood.

And barley swine might have served up some of the best sweet breads I've ever had. Even if they did cost $13 for two small pieces.

Sweetbreads with garlic puree, roasted brussel sprouts and braised bacon

The sweetbreads of my childhood, I confess, were not sourced from local farms nor were they served on fancy plates in an urban setting. I understand the need to charge $13.

Our meal began after a ridiculously short wait (about 10 minutes on a Saturday night; the hostess told us we'd gotten lucky) with the complimentary olives, one beer and one diet coke. Five small plates and $90 later, we were satisfied and impressed with this fun and trendy spot. Just not crazy about the price tag.

The lows: There were absolutely no lows for me during our visit. My husband would probably argue that the seating arrangement was a low. Tables of six forced parties of two to sit next to strangers; in his case, his right arm was up agains the wall and his left arm was up against a strange but cute blonde woman who wasn't his wife. More awkward for him than for me, I suspect.

The mediums: The jerk-rubbed pork belly came with grilled sweet potato and kale salad. Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods. They have so much potential for, well, sweetness. Grilling them seems to be one of the blandest possible ways to serve it. The pork belly itself was just fine. But at $12 for a modest-sized piece, I couldn't help but think of the mouth-watering hunk of pork belly we'd oven roasted from the farmer's market that set us back a mere $18 and fed us for two dinners and two amazing PBLTs the following day.

The medium-high: The scallop dish was lovely. Especially the parsnip puree with vanilla and saffron ... though my not-so-refined palate couldn't make out the saffron or vanilla, as hard as I tried. The leeks were equally subtle, but not bland. The scallops themselves? Just fine, cooked as they should be, but I love a really good crust or sear on a scallop. I wish they'd take that step for added caramelization.

The orgasmic: Braised short ribs, celery root, trumpet muschrooms and black truffle shavings. The picture does not do this plate justice. Every bite was perfection. It was among the most elevated forms of 'meat and potatoes' I've personally experienced.

Also among the orgasmic was that previously mentioned sweetbreads dish.

The kicker for us was the $90 price tag for five small plates, one beer and one diet coke. It was a wee overpriced for what we got. And yet ... when you look around the packed room, at the many bustling waitstaff and chefs in plain sight (thanks to a contemporary open kitchen style), and you think about the quality product you're being served, and the prime location in one of Austin's hippest neighborhoods ... the $90 made sense. It just doesn't make sense ... regularly. This will be a special-occasion spot in my book.

I'm looking forward to seeing how their menu changes this spring and beyond.