Friday, July 29, 2011

Green wine and green bottles plus a little leftover Franklin BBQ.

Last Friday Steph and I were invited to a little party in South Austin.  Some friends had come down from Dallas to visit and decided to throw a little shindig.  Most people don't seem to know about green wine but if you like having a glass or two on a hot summer evening then you should consider it.  Served cold, green wine usually comes slightly carbonated and has a nice crispy flavor.  Not really sweet and certainly not acidic this young wine can really hit the spot.  Just look for the Vino Verde.  And pick up a couple extra so you can invite friends over for drinks and good times.

We also tried a few different beers.  Mexican standards, Microbrewed Vanilla Porters, even one with a funny name.  They were all delicious.  If you haven't noticed the beer cooler in a while you might want to check it out the next time you're at the grocery.  Microbrews have taken off and there is such a wide variety of beers to be found I don't even know where to start sometimes.  Luckily I have a friend, Jack Diddley, that loves to try new beers all the time so I just check his beer blog on  He's reviewed almost 600 different beers.  So the man knows his beer.

While we were chatting with old and making new friends Steph and I we offered some leftover Franklin BBQ.  If you don't know, Franklin BBQ is the place that has people lined up before they open each day and has been known to run out of food before noon.  How could we pass up such an opportunity?  I'll have to say Franklin BBQ is delicious.  We had some brisket from a sandwich and it was great.  A little smoky, a little greasy, quite the savory snack to go with a good beer and good friends.  It made me want to go stand in line to have more though I doubt I really will.  I hate standing in lines.  Probably a flashback of my Army days.  But nonetheless that was some good BBQ.

So thanks to Julia for inviting us to share in good food, good drinks and most importantly good friends.  Cheers!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I passed on the hot coffee but they did have good food.

Steph and I headed downtown for a burger today.  Jo's on 2nd Street.  On Saturday you can park free at City Hall before 5pm and it's just around the corner.  There weren't very many people sitting outside but they were almost full inside.  We grabbed a couple Mexican cokes to cool off while we looked at the menu.  They have burgers, dogs, salads and other semi-fast foods on the menu.  The place looks and acts like a restaurant but they have a pretty wide selection of beer and wine if your inclined.  We stuck with the Mexican cokes.

We both had burgers but dressed different ways and that gave the experience slightly different outcomes.  It's funny how something as unexpected as lettuce can overpower the balance of a meal.  There burgers are prepared to order and done right.  We ordered them medium rare and that's exactly how they were served.  They come on those sweet kolachi buns and if you haven't had a burger on a kolachi bun you need to try it immediately.  It elevates the whole meal a few notches.

Steph had hers with bacon and blue cheese.  Plain and dry.  She said the bacon and cheese gave the burger the right amount of saltiness and blended well with the beef and the sweet, sweet kolachi bun.  I'm sure I heard her say Mmmmmmm a dozen times.  She also had fries as her side.  They looked hand cut to order, though we didn't ask, and were cooked done.  No limp, greasy basket of potato mush here.  And even though she said plain and dry they put a pickle in the basket.  I had to remove it before it ruined anything.  Disaster averted. : )

My burger came with American cheese, jalapenos, tomato slices and a forest of shredded lettuce.  My basket was almost half full of just the lettuce that fell from the sandwich so I added a little mayo to it and enjoyed an impromptu little salad.  Now don't get me wrong here, the quality of all the ingredients was excellent, but the burger can across as a little unbalanced.  The sweetness of the bun and the extra lettuce overpowered the flavor of the beef.  It was like I was eating a vegetarian sandwich.  The beef patty was probably 1/3 pound so it should have taken center stage.  Maybe I just needed to add a little salt or something.  So learn from my mistake and perhaps nix the lettuce or rake it off to the side as your salad.  Speaking of sides I had onion rings and they were fantastic.  Definitely battered and fried inhouse, they make those big, beefy 1/4" slices of heaven.  The batter is light and crunchy but doesn't overpower the taste of the onion.  I can't enough good things about those little round slices of goodness.

We didn't have any dessert as Steph was on the lookout for some ice cream imported from Wisconsin or some such place up north.  And I've been craving some Jelly Belly jellybeans so I know what I'm having later too.

Until tomorrow, Keep Austin Weird.

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Jo's just visit Steph's blog: Jo's 2nd Street

Jo's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We had a $10 off coupon and it was pretty good anyway...

Living in Texas we eat our share of BBQ.  And if you're from Texas you know all BBQ isn't alike.  We have just smoked, dry rubbed and smoked, smoked and sauced, sauced and probably a few more.  The purists say you smoke a brisket, serve it moist ( fat and lean together ) and don't even think about needing a sauce.  Let the meat speak for itself.  Well I can't deny a good chef doesn't need the help of a sauce if it's cooked just right but for me I love some sauce.  At Dickey's BBQ in Cedar Park, on 1431 and a little east of Bell, you can eat your BBQ either way.

I know I'll get eye rolls for talking up a corporate BBQ joint but really they aren't bad.  You won't walk in and see 100 years of tradition or get the smells of hickory or mesquite smoke but you will find a large selection of meats and sides.  Two meats and two sides run $10 bucks plus your drink.  They also serve beer if it's after work.

I had a plate of brisket and spicy cheesy sausage.  The brisket was nice and moist but had little fat.  It also lacked a good smoke ring on the side so it was a little like eating roast beef rather than BBQ.  I still give them props for getting it so moist and tender so don't think it's bad.  The spicy cheesy sausage was better.  Take your standard smoked sausage and add some jalapeno and cheese bits to it.  I dunked both in their spicy sauce to add a little more kick to the meal.  Steph had the Polish sausage.  She said she liked it but felt it had a funny smell to it.  I did note that it smelled a little too much like liquid smoke kinda chemically but she described it as smelly socks.  It tasted fine though and the sauce covered up the smell.

We had four different sides between us.  I had the cole slaw and mustard potato salad while Steph had beans and mac n cheese.  The cole slaw was fresh and creamy with a good crunch to it.  It's really good in my opinion.  The mustard potato salad was made from mashed potatoes, like my Mom makes, with some bits of pimento or red pepper.  It was tasty but could have used a little more zip.  Steph didn't like her beans.  They looked pretty standard BBQ beans but they had some flavor she didn't like.  She's picky as you'll find out if you keep reading my little stories of food.  I didn't try them but I'll get they weren't all that bad if you aren't picky.  She liked the mac n cheese saying it was cheesy enough and the noodles weren't "squishy."

Overall I'd say Dickey's is good if you get their "special" for the day or if you have a coupon.  I'm not sure I'd be completely satisfied with the experience if I had to pay full price.

Until next time keep that smoke out of your eyes...

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Dickey's just visit Steph's blog: Dickey's Barbecue Pit

Dickey's Barbecue Pit on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Looking for a day trip this weekend, try the Moulton Town and Country Jamboree

This weekend all eyes will be on Moulton, Tx as they hold their annual Moulton Town and Country Jamboree. I've never been but I was told about this event last Friday by a BBQ guy named Larry that will be competing in one of the several best food events. They judge salsa, sausage, shrimp, beans, chicken, chili, spare ribs, 2 different brisket events and finally a bbq sauce.

The Chamber of Commerce site is a bit lacking in details but I found they will also have live music, a pie contest, arts and crafts booths, a 5k run early Saturday morning and many other events to showcase their "Small town with a heart as big as Texas." Somehow I envision meeting Aunt Bea, Floyd the barber and all those other great warm hearted characters there.

Looking at the map you could go two or three different ways out of Austin. Down to San Antonio then east on I10 until you reach 95 then head south. Or you could just take 183 south through Lockhart, and maybe stop there for a little extra BBQ, down to I10 and then the same as above. Or take what I call the ZZ Top tour and run 71 south to a little town called La Grange, they got a lot'a nice girls there :), and just keep going until you hit I10 then go back west to 95. Again from 95 and I10 just head south and you'll see it.

Just Google Moulton, Tx if you want to see if you can find more information. I had a hard time finding much but it's out there if you search hard enough and certainly sounds like a good time. Especially for you fast life city slickers that need to slow down and enjoy life a little.

Until tomorrow ya'll come back now...

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm going to coin a new word today...

I've noticed a trend in Austin of Asian restauranteurs serving Cajun style food.  And it's really good!  If you want to get a pot of crawfish cooked just right with a little of this and a little of that you should try The Crawfish Shack and Oyster Bar.  It's in a little strip mall off Wells Branch about a half mile west of I35.  They seem to have all the traditional fare of a Cajun place.  Crawfish, oysters, yeah I know it's in the name, shrimp, jambalaya, crab, catfish, talapia, and several more I can't remember.  The decor is what you would expect with the fish nets and the anchors and the propellers hanging on the walls or sitting on the shelves.  And the place is small so expect to have an intimate dining experience not only with your own party but those sitting next to you.  Don't be afraid, just say hello, maybe you'll make a new friend too.

Steph had the fried catfish platter.  It came with a huge steaming hot, as in cooked on the surface of the sun, fillet of catfish perfectly cooked.  She commented that it wasn't overdone and rubbery like so many other catfish places around town.  And it stayed hot all through the meal so that is a plus.  The platter comes with fries and hush puppies.  They were both good but nothing stood out.  Just honest sides to the plate.

I had jamabalaya.  It was filled with shrimp and sausage.  When it came out it was also as hot as the sun but given that the shrimp were perfectly cooked.  They had just a little tooth to them but not rubbery at all.  In fact they were like that until the last few bites which isn't my normal experience so a tip of the hat to their cook.  The rue they used seemed very authentic to the red brick color, took all day to get it right, style straight out of NOLA and it had just the right amount of this and that to give it that unique Cajun flair.  I did add some Tabasco but then again I like my food spicy.

I've started calling these places Asiajun due to the cooks being from Southwest Asia but they certainly know their food well. Maybe it's the French influence from long ago colonial days or perhaps they just naturally have a passion for food.  What ever the reason I've found these Asiajun places are always above the bar when it comes to flavor.  They would make Justin Wilson proud.

Until next time, Ahhhhhh Yeeeeeeee...

Crawfish Shack & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fresh house made tortillas, a salsa bar, fast service... Can this be a corporate restaurant?

Last night I ate at Rosa's Cafe and Tortilla Factory in Cedar Park.  For fast food I'll have to say they are really good and certainly worth the coin.  You can choose from, I can't remember now, but maybe 60 different plates.  I don't think anything is over $7.  Walk in, order at the front, get your drink and find a table but don't get comfortable because your food is probably ready.  Just look for you number on the TV screens placed around the large dining room.  This is the best part, you get to eat on real plates with actual flatware.  No plastic sporks here.  They even have napkins on the table and offer honey to go with the extra tortillas you get with every meal.

I usually get the #1 Burrito Platter.  The burritos on this plate are more like overstuffed ground beef soft tacos but I'm not complaining.  You can fill them with the lettuce and tomato you get on the plate plus the salsa, pico de gallo, jalapenos, onions, cilantro and whatever else I forgot from the salsa bar.  The rice and beans are standard but tasty.  I like to add a little salsa to the rice to give it a little extra flavor.  And the portions are good for me.  Not too much and not too little.  They hit the Goldilocks zone on that one.

I was eating dinner with Cody this evening.  He had the chicken enchiladas.  You get two good sized enchiladas sauced with sour cream. I haven't tried their chicken but it looks like good quality breast meat.  I didn't ask what he thought but he cleaned his plate so I'm going to say he liked it.

Now for dessert.  You get a pack of extra tortillas with your order so add a little butter and honey and you have a sweet treat after dinner.  They make their tortillas in house so they're fresh and steaming hot.  It's just good for the soul.

That's it for Rosa's.  You just can't go wrong for a little more than fast food price and sit down meal experience.

Oh I forgot, they serve beer and frozen margaritas too.  How's that for muy bueno?

Rosa's Cafe Tortilla Factory on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You smoke the brisket, I'll bring the sides...

If you're like me then you like to eat a few sides with your BBQ.  My personal favorites are potato salad and coleslaw.  A must have at any get together in the south.  I haven't done it in a while but I used to invite a couple dozen people over and BBQ the afternoon away.  Burgers, hot dogs, pork ribs, sausages and the like.  In Oklahoma we tend to embrace the BBQ styles of Atlanta and Memphis over Texas BBQ.  An Oklahoma sauce is sweet and only slightly tangy to go with the pork ribs but in Texas it's all about vinegar and black pepper.  It makes sense because Texas is cattle country and beef is the staple of all Texas BBQ.  No matter if you like your BBQ sweet and savory or hot and tangy my potato salad and coleslaw will go well and add some different notes to the meal.

Let's get started with the easy one, coleslaw.  I like my slaw sweet but have tried some fine tangy ones.  This slaw is sweet.  Shred up a head of cabbage and julienne a few carrots.  Mix that all together in a big bowl.  Now start by adding about a cup of mayonnaise and a half cup of milk.  Mix that all together and decide if it's creamy enough.  Some people like it creamy and some don't but no matter.  The sauce will settle to the bottom in the end so each can get how they like it if you serve it in a big bowl.  Now add a little sugar, salt, pepper and maybe some cayenne pepper if you want to give it a little zip.  Once you get those spices just right it's time for the magic touch.  Take a lemon, or lime if you like and juice it over the whole bowl.  Now just cover and put it in the fridge until it's time to serve.  One down, one to go.

While you were making the coleslaw you could have the potatoes and the eggs boiling.  For a big crowd I tried to make about 1/4 pound of potato per person.  It ends up being too much but who wants to run out?  So get those spuds in a pot and use about one egg per pound of potato.  More if you like or leave them out, you're making it so make it your own.  I like to add some crunch so I dice up some bell peppers and onions to put in.  Again, just put in what you like but remember it's potato salad not bell pepper salad. : )  Once the potatoes are soft just chop them up.  My mom makes mashed potatoes for hers but I like them just chopped.  Now for the fun stuff.  Add some yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, chop up those eggs and throw them in, salt and pepper to taste and you're ready to roll.  Oh yeah, I forgot the secret ingredient.  Pickle juice.  Pour in a good hit of juice from a jar of dill pickles and mix it up real good.

Now you're ready for company and they won't get here until tomorrow.  How's that for low stress entertaining?

Let me know if you try it and how it went...  Until next time keep your grill hot and your beer cold...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

El Patron - The food is fine for a bar but don't mistake it for a restaurant.

We hit El Patron in Cedar Park to try some Iranian Tex-Mex.  The owners are from Iran and proudly tell you their story on the front of the menu.  They fly the American and Texas flag out front off their large outdoor patio which was filled with people when we drove by after work.  On this occasion we went late afternoon so only a few people at the bar.  In fact we had to sit in the bar area.  They had TVs with sports and an endless soundtrack of 60s music playing so I got the impression I would see a large amount of Vietnam vet bikers coming in shortly.  The wait staff was all blonde so we knew right away this was going to be a bar trying to pass as a restaurant.  And don't get me wrong, I like bars. And blondes... OK I'm getting off track so here we go with the experience.

Steph ordered the cheese enchiladas with rice and borracho beans.  The enchiladas were plenty cheesy but the tortillas were dry and chewy.  She said the extra cheese made up for it.  The borracho beans tasted like just a bowl of pinto beans without seasoning so while they were OK there was nothing special to set them apart from any other place.

I had the beef burrito sauced with chile con carne, rice and refried beans.  It was your standard huge "baby's arm" burrito filled with ground beef, beans and cheese.  There were plenty of each inside and the chile sauce was full of ground beef too.  And if you like your food on the bland side you'd love this but alas this was the first tex-mex dish I've every had where I thought I needed to add salt.  I liked the refrieds, nothing stood out but they were honest beans.  The rice was fine but again nothing stood out.

Before the meal they served chip and salsa which were OK.  The chips were thin, crispy and fresh but the salsa was a little watery and didn't have much kick to it.  Again, if you like your tex-mex on the bland side then you might like it here.

As prices go the lunch special would have been reasonable but we came in after 3pm so had to pay dinner prices.  I thought they charged a bit too much for what they delivered but I like a spicy meal.

That's all for now so until next time, Ole!

El Patron Restaurant & Cantina on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Forget hot wing places, Korean Chicken is the real fire bomb...

Hungry for some spicy fried chicken that will clear your sinuses and soothe your soul?  Try some Korean fried chicken.  Steph and I went to a place with many names.  You might find it as Austin BBQ, Somunanjib, Korean Food and Drinks or they even have their name in Korean on the sign.

They'll bring you water up front and if you order the hot chicken you'll need several glasses.  Don't worry, that's healthy and good for you.  We stuck with water.  If you order chicken there's enough for several people.  It comes on the bone and steaming hot from the wok.  We took a bunch home because we tried the hot and the regular styles.  They serve it with a little bowl of pickled radishes so if you want sides be sure to order some appetizers.  The hot chicken is really hot and really tasty.  By my second or third piece it was sweating on my forehead and my nose was nice a clear.  If you've ever eaten in a Korean restaurant you'll probably remember the sound of everyone sniffing from their sinuses clearing due to the hot spices.  If not, you're missing out.  Back to the chicken, the regular style was still a little spicy but more from garlic.  Again very tasty.  I liked the pickled radishes but Steph didn't care for them.  They did break up the heat a bit.

I think it would have been better with a few beers.  A standard pilsner or lighter lager would go down well with the hot stuff.  I'll have to remember that next time.

So until next time, annyonghi kyesayo.

Somunanjib / Austin BBgo on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tired of slacker waiters and may as well slop it out food?

Hallelujah! We finally found a place in Austin that's local but has superior service!  The Old School Grill is in that strip mall on the NW corner of Parmer and McNeil.  Close to Tommy's house if you know him. This place sets the bar for service.  I always hear that the food brings'em in and the service brings'em back and well, I'll be back.  We asked and most meals are cooked to order from fresh ingredients.  The wait staff is superior so don't be afraid to ask for extra this or leave off that.  If you're not sure what you want just ask, they don't do the standard "my favorite is the [insert most expensive dish on the menu]" and they can actually describe the dishes and how they are cooked.  For example, how many places will point out that the chicken fried steak, made from NY strip no less, is cooked on the flattop instead of in the deep fryer.  Now that's how I remember them cooked when I was a kid going to my uncle's diner so they even earn points for their "Old School" name.  My wife tried the mac and cheese wedge and couldn't praise it enough but again the Old School staff went above and beyond.  They noticed she was running low on the creamy sauce they pour over it so they brought out more.  How many places do that?  They also have a well stocked bar for those days when you just need to unwind.  They suggested their Pimm's Cup cocktail.  It's a refreshing drink that's just right on a hot Austin day.  I'll leave the rest for you're own experience and review...  And if you wonder why I only give it 4 stars, well, someone told me there's always room for improvement.  Even at one of the best restaurants in town...

Wondering about that Pimm's cup?  It's one of the easiest drinks to mix evar...  In a 16 oz glass add half full with ice.  Pour in your favorite ginger ale until it's almost full and then finish it off with a couple ounces of Pimm's #1.  I found it at Spec's for about $16 a bottle.  The Pimm's itself is an British product made from a secret concoction of spices that is best described as lighter than Jagermeister and Ouzo but rich with flavor.  Add a twist of lemon and kick back for a refreshing drink after a long hot day at the office.

Until next time cheri-o as they say...

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Old School Grill just visit Steph's blog: Old School Grill

Old School Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When's the last time you had a root beer float?

Last Friday Steph and I went to BJ's Brewhouse.  It's one of those typical corporate restaurants with a beer brewing theme.  They offer a wide selection of many styles of beer with names that I can only describe as obviously from some kind of corporate focus group meeting.  Names like Piranha Pale Ale which is very hoppy so it has bite, BJ's Blonde with a picture of a blonde girl in the bikini, you get the idea.  I wasn't in the mood for a beer so instead I ordered a cocktail.  It's obviously hot in Austin in July and a root beer float sounded like a nice way to cool down but instead how would you like an Irish root beer?  Here's how to make one at home and enjoy sitting back and remembering those lazy days of summer when you were a kid.

Take a 16 oz. beer mug chilled in the freezer and pour a bottle of your favorite root beer.  I used IBC but any high quality, or even low quality : ), root beer will do.  Then finish it off with some Irish Cream and Irish Whiskey.  I'll give you a recipe below to make your own fresh Irish cream but I used O'Mara's Irish Cream and Bushmills Irish Whiskey.

To make a quart of your own Irish Cream, which is a great heart starter in the morning with your coffee : ), just combine the following and stir.

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 regular can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey  ( I like Bushmills but Jameson will do in a pinch. )
  • A spoon of instant coffee
  • 2 big squirts of chocolate syrup ( or a little more if your wife is chocolate inclined. )
  • A spoon each of almond and vanilla
I think the best part of the drink is the froth that floats to the top of the glass.  It has a taste of ice cream sweetness turning to a little Irish burn from the whiskey.  It'll make you dance a jig and write poetry about drinking...

While we were at BJ's Brewhouse we also ordered a deep dish pizza with pepperoni and meatballs.  The crust is a nice soft texture inside with a little bit of crunch from the burnt cheese.  Their sauce is spicy with a little heat to it and they add chunks of stewed tomato on top as well.  The sweetness of the tomato didn't always play well with the savory parts but overall it was a good pie.

We finished the meal with their Triple Chocolate Pizookie.  It's a big brownie cooked and served in this shallow tin dog dish looking thing with a big scoop of chocolate ice cream and a square of Ghirardelli's chocolate.  Very rich, very decadent and quite the lady pleaser.  Steph was all ooooh and ahhhh over it.

The tab was about $40 so not too bad and at least they gave me a good idea for the cocktail.

That's it for now.  Hope you enjoyed it...

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Can you have dessert with breakfast?

We ate at The Woodland today.  A trendy hipster diner down on SoCo.  Nice green interior and even a tree inside.  I had biscuits and gravy, side of sausage, side of two eggs scrambled.  Steph had the "Morning Wood."  Two eggs over medium, tater tots, sourdough toast, sausage and bacon.  The Morning Wood is two eggs any style plus 4 selections from a fairly long list of sides though it didn't include gravy for the biscuit or pancakes so you'd have to order them separately.

The biscuits and gravy we excellent.  The gravy was homemade ( not from a box ) and they broke up the biscuits for you serving it in a bowl.  And it was seasoned well so no need for salt or pepper.  Very traditional flavors.  The scrambled were good, off the flattop style.  A little on the done side with just the right amount of browning on the bottom.  You're not going to get runny eggs here.  The sausage seemed homemade.  It was on the lean side with just enough spice to give it a kick but certainly letting the pork flavors shine through.  Overall I'd give the meal an excellent rating though you pay for it.  $6 + $3 + $3 = $12 for my meal.

Steph said her over medium eggs were almost perfectly cooked.  She likes them just to the point of not being runny which is very hard to get right.  These were as close as she's gotten in Austin.  The sourdough toast tasted homemade and fresh.  A little chewy, as you would expect from sourdough, but still had that crisp crunch on the toasted side.  The tater tots we just from a bag but they were crispy and not at all greasy.  The bacon was good too.  A standard cut with plenty of flavor.  It reminded me of the Black Label my Dad would buy when I was a kid. The Morning Wood was $13 bucks.

On to dessert.  Can you eat dessert with breakfast?  Well, it was after noon so we went for it.  A slice of pie.  The crust was homemade, thin, flaky and crisp.  The filling.... Wait for it.... A peanut butter cheese cake topped with a nice thick layer of fudge.  It was delicious.

Add a couple of drinks and tip and we got out of there for a little under $50.  A little too much to pay for breakfast but it was good and we got to see guys in plaid western shirts with lots of tattoos...  Oh wait, that was Steph's eye candy... : )

The Woodland on Urbanspoon