Sunday, November 17, 2019

Where to Eat in Downtown Austin - Best Downtown Austin Food

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When most people visit Austin, they either end up downtown, or very close to it. In my personal opinion, that's not where you'll find the best food. However, if you don't have a car to bring you outside the city proper, there are still some hidden gems that are worth checking out.

The rule of thumb here is to try not to be too close to the touristy places--restaurants near the convention center or music halls aren't going to be great. After all, foot traffic alone means they don't have to be stellar to make a living.



Visiting Austin and staying downtown? Here are my suggestions for the best food you'll find within walking distance or a quick Uber/taxi!

BBQ


  • Cooper's Old Time Pit - the best BBQ in downtown proper. Meat by the pound, incredible sides (rare for a BBQ place!) and you can get it dipped in their BBQ sauce.
  • Terry Black's - Not quite downtown, but worth a scooter ride or quick rideshare. Pick your meat by the pound in this counter-service restaurant. Grab a cold beer from the cooler and try their beef rib, what they're known for.
  • Lambert's - Fancy BBQ. Full disclosure: I've never been, but it seems to be the go-to place to take visiting clients. I hear they also have a good happy hour!


Mexican & Tex-Mex



  • Chispas - My favorite new place in town to get tacos. The queso, which is a barometer for a Tex-Mex's quality, is decent, but the taco menu is so unique and all are tasty. I love the butternut squash taco and the pork belly.
  • Taco Deli - An Austin favorite, though it's only open until about lunch time. Skip the line by ordering ahead and sit on their patio to people watch.
  • Chuy's - It's a chain now, but the original spot is on Barton Springs Road. The quirky decor, extensive menu, and friendly service make it the perfect first stop when you're looking to try Tex-Mex cuisine for the first time.
  • Gabriela's Downtown - A hidden gem that really shouldn't be hidden considering it's right at the beginning of East 7th Street with full view from the highway. Incredible, homemade Mexican food by a brother and sister duo. Everything from the snacks to the dinners to the drinks is incredible


Burgers, Sandwiches, and More



  • Easy Tiger - a Beer garden AND bakery with incredible snack boards, sandwiches, sausages, and more. Their $3 Old Fashioned is a happy hour staple.
  • Fareground - Want a little taste of everything? This food court serves up food from some of my FAVORITE restaurants that you may not get to experience without a drive outside the city. Try Kome, Dai-Due, and Contigo.
  • Casino El Camino - It's in the back of a bar (with the best bloody marys, btw) but if you love burgers it's the best in town. Open late, it's the perfect place to get your drunchies on as you make your way down Dirty 6.
  • Banger's - Bangers is Austin in a nutshell: unique food concept (everything on the menu is a sausage), vegan/vegetarian options, the most craft beers you'll find on tap in one place, and a wide open space for both live music and mini dog park. It's probably one of my favorite places in the city!
  • Stube - Another unique sausage place that is generous in their portions and incredibly tasty. They just expanded their food truck behind Star Bar, so you can grab a fancy drink to pair with your brats.


Asian



  • Graj Ma'hal - Some of the best Indian food I've ever had, in a cool, quirky space. One of the few restaurants on Rainey Street that is worth your money.
  • Clay Pit - Another great option for Indian food if you happen to be closer to campus. Their lunch options are awesome and word is that the building is haunted!
  • Papadom - One of the best lunch deals in town! $13 for all-you-can-eat. I've never had a bad meal here, and it's my go-to when I want a filling, tasty lunch.
  • Swift's Attic - Asian fusion with Southern comfort cooking. Really unique and tasty dishes and a great happy hour. I especially love the ice ball cocktails!
  • House of the Rising Tanuki-San - I've only been here for lunch, but everything has been so flavorful! The dishes are unique, the atmosphere is fun, and everything is super tasty.
  • She's Not Here - The only sushi worth trying in downtown Austin. We're not known for seafood in this city, but the hand-crafted rolls taste a lot fresher and are more unique than other options. Bonus: awesome happy hour!
  • Koriente - Not quite sushi, but other great option for some fresh and tasty Japanese cuisine! The focus here is on healthy food, and during lunch salad and soup is never-ending. 


Southern Food



  • Moonshine Grill - Fancy Southern Comfort Food. Super tasty but a bit pricey. It's great for date night, as it's cozy and dark. I love their shrimp and grits!
  • Cannon & Belle - if you want fancy Southern food, this is a great option. It’s my new favorite in town and worth the price. Their bone in ribeye and pork chop rival steak houses in the area, for a much better price.
  • Fixe - This place is worth a stop for their biscuits alone. Holy wow these are little buttery bits of perfection. Pro tip: Get a side of biscuits with their excellent fried chicken and make a sandwich. you won't be sorry.


Sadly most of the best Mexican food in town has been priced out of the city. If you have a budget for an Uber, it might be worth it to check out Papalote, Veracruz All Natural, Matt's El Rancho, The original Polvo's, or one of the touristy favorites like Torchy's. If you really want a taste of something special, check out one of the independent food trucks you'll find scattered around the city.

Same with homestyle Southern food, as you'll notice most of my suggestions are of the "fancier" variety. Try Hoover's Home Cooking, Threadgills, Jack Allen's Kitchen.

Other restaurants worth the drive: Uchi, Odd Duck, Salty Sow, and La Barbecue. If you have a rental, definitely take a drive to The Salt Lick in Dripping Springs. It’s a Texas institution. Dripping Springs also has a bunch of breweries and distilleries, my favorites being Jester King and TreatyOak.



Where do you like to eat in Austin? Have you ever visited? Let me know!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Pimento Cheese Spread - Holiday Appetizers

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So, here's the recipe I wanted to get up here before the holidays, because it makes an excellent side dish or appetizer, and it's super easy to put together! Aside from the pimentos, I typically have all these things in the house, too.

Pimento cheese was something totally new to me, as a New Englander during her first year in Texas. When I first tested this recipe, I simply threw in the ingredients I found on the Wikipedia page (yes, pimento spread has it's own Wikipedia page) and hoped for the best. It was tasty... but did it pass the test? I brought in the results to my coworkers and my desk-mate, a true Texans , said it was the best Pimento cheese he's ever had!



So I guess I did it right the first time ;)

As I said, this is the perfect appetizer for any gathering. Add a bit more mayo and cream cheese to make a dip, or a bit more cheese to make a cheeseball, or leave as-is for a spreadable cracker snack. The possibilities are truly endless!


Pimento Cheese Spread
(Adapted loosely from Wikipedia)

  • 1 8oz bag sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 8oz bag colby jack cheese
  • 1 oz brick cream cheese (I used neufchantel)
  • 2/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 4oz jar pimento peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

*keep a bit extra cheddar cheese on hand in case cheese mixture gets too soft*

-In a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Stir until well combined, adding more cheese or mayo to desired consistency (I like mine with a bit more cheese). Taste, adding more seasonings as desired

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Meal Fit for a Goul - Halloween Black and Orange Gnocchi

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Hello? Is this thing on? It's been a month. I KNOW. And, admittedly, it's been even longer since I've put up an original recipe. So here you go, Homemade Halloween Gnocchi. Perfect for Halloween Dinner!

Lucky me, I had a food blog for five years that I closed up and can mine recipes from when I'm busy. It's my shameful secret, don't judge. But I haven't even had the energy to update my post drafts.

If you know me personally, you know 2019 has been an utter crapshoot and while we're barrelling towards the end of it, all I can say is GOOD RIDDANCE. Here's hoping 2020 starts looking up for your girl here. Send thoughts and prayers and maybe a whole lot of red wine.



But you know what actually makes me smile? October. It's my favorite month--not only because it contains my birthday, but also my favorite holiday--HALLOWEEN! I've always embraced this holiday with my whole being, and spooky food is just the icing on the bloody cake.


Though I'm in Texas and fall is just Slightly More Bearable Summer, I still love the fall themed everything, everywhere. So I'm embracing it. Spooky Season!!

She cooks! She writes! She... does Zombie Makeup? My birthday Zombie Pub Crawl this year!


This is a delicious Halloween dinner that is sure to impress--gnocchi gets a bad rap for being difficult, but so long as you pay attention to the texture (not sticky, not too thick, should feel like a squishy pillow) you'll be golden. Keep a bit of pumpkin on hand to add to the batter if it's too dry, and a bit of flour in case it's too sticky.

Happy Haunting, y'all!

Black and Orange Gnocchi with Slime Cream Sauce

(gnocchi recipe adapted from Taste of Home)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (plus more for flouring surface)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon activated Charcoal*

Slime Sauce
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup parmsean cheese


-In a small bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in pumpkin until well mixed. Divide in half.  In one bowl, gently mix in the charcoal.

-On a lightly floured surface, knead each ball until a soft dough forms. Let rest for 10 minutes.

-While the gnocchi rests, make the slime sauce: create a roux by melting the butter and whisking in the flour until a paste forms. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking until thick. Stir in the pesto and cheese. Keep warm. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick.

-Divide dough into equal portions and roll into "snakes" (long dough rope of about 1/2 inch thick). Cut into equal pieces and shape into small ovals, pressing against a fork for the "gnocchi" pattern if desired.

-Bring salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in 3 batches until they float, remove with a slotted spoon. If desired (and I always do this!) heat butter over high heat in a skillet and fry the gnocchi until lightly crispy.

-Serve with sauce.


*Charcoal at your own risk! While I use this often as a coloring, it can and will absorb any medications you're taking if you consume enough. If you're concerned about this, black food coloring or squid ink will work just as well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

What I've Been Eating - Chicago and Indianapolis

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You guys. When I visited Chicago, it was still -10 degrees outside. So you KNOW this travel post is LOOOONG overdue! Since these were both work trips, I figured they would work best in their own little post, rather than two short posts. 

So, if you're headed to either of these cities in the near future, be sure to check out the restaurants I found fit to write about! Also, if you'd like to Follow Me on Yelp, please do! To get an up-to-date account of all my favorite places to visit in every new city I explore.
Coming soon... Denver!

Chicago



Two Lights - I only stopped in here because it was directly across from Second City, and it was such a happy accident. I got my fill on seafood for sure--with fresh oysters, a lobster roll, and some seriously bomb clam chowder. Oh, and don't forget dessert. Yummm. If you're taking in a show, or even if you're not!, be sure Two Lights is on your list.




Lou Malnatti's - I had to get Deep Dish, and this place came HIGHLY recommended. "There's two places to go, and Giordanno's." I went with the closest one, and was not disappointed! Deep dish is definitely an experience. Having grown up in the Northeast with the classic New York style, it almost didn't feel like "pizza" to me, but it was nonetheless delicious. Thick, buttery crust, tomato sauce (and you can TASTE the tomato! It's not bogged down with anything else but TOMATO), and savory sausage. Definitely a true taste of Chicago!



Girl and the Goat - Hands-down, the best meal I had in Chicago. Run by Top Chef Stephanie Izard, the menu is (obviously) goat-focused. While I've had goat before, none of it could hold a candle to these delicious, fresh, unique dishes. I started with bread from the bakery/diner across the street (Little Goat Diner!), then moved onto a goat empanada, and finally the braised goat belly with LOBSTER and bourbon butter sauce. Probably the best thing I've ever eaten. Reservations are impossible to come by here, but the bar was pretty empty in the middle of the week, so it's worth taking a chance and sitting at the bar--there's a full menu! If not, I've heard Little Goat Diner is also amazing.



Indianapolis



St. Elmo's Steakhouse - As a foodie, I always do my research. In Indy, I...didn't. Where the heck do you go in Indianapolis?? The one suggestion I got was from my boss--St. Elmo's Steakhouse, and be sure to get the shrimp cocktail! Okay? Turns out, their cocktail sauce is famous. Youtube it, and you'll find people taking the "challenge." Every person I told I was going to St. Elmo's said "Are you getting the shrimp cocktail?" Then, warningly, "Have you HAD IT BEFORE?" And they were right to warn me, holy hell that cocktail sauce is FIRE. There is more horseradish in that sauce than anyone should ever have at one time. But thankfully, the burn is quick and it's an all around experience. I ordered a moderately priced steak, of course topped with crab, and did I want to upgrade my soup to lobster bisque? Um, duh. St. Elmo's was a steakhouse my dad would have adored, and my foodie self was more than satisfied. This place is very busy--it took over a half hour to get even just a seat at the bar!--so make sure to make reservations.





The Eagle - Located in a trendy part of town, this place has legit fried chicken. I don't know what else I can say about it, honestly. I got a quarter fried chicken and it was perfectly flavorful and moist. To start, I got the hushpuppies and those were ALSO incredibly flavorful and perfectly fried. I didn't check out their alcohol menu, but it looked like it would do the job. If you're in the Mass Ave area, definitely don't miss The Eagle!


Indianapolis City Market - Want a little sample of everything the Indianapolis food scene has to offer? This is the place for you. From sandwiches to tacos to seafood and Asian fusion, this place has it all! I circled three times, not knowing what to order. Finally, the pizza from Mauricio's Pizzaria caught my eye and I had two wonderful slices. Next time I'm back in town I'll definitely check out the other options! 


These are two cities I'm in often for work, so... where should I go next??

Psssst! Did you see my post about what to eat in Alaska? Check it out!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Peach Bourbon Old Fashioned - Perfect Texas Summer Sipper

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It's Summertime in Texas, and that means one thing: PEACHES!

Actually, it means quite a few things. But after a stroll through Fredericksburg this weekend reminded me that peach season is in full swing. And while Georgia may have the peach market saturated, Texas definitely holds its own.


Fresh peach goes extremely well with bourbon. The sweet notes blend perfectly with the spice and smoke. I love crushing fresh peaches into a cold glass of bourbon, and an Old Fashioned is the perfect way to showcase this delicious summer fruit.

For an elevated flavor, try grilling the peaches first!


Texas Peach Old Fashioned
  • 1 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz Texas Honey lemonade (basic lemonade recipe with honey swapped for sugar)
  • 1 or 2 splashes Grapefruit bitters
  • 1 cherry
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 slice ripe peach, no peel

-In a cocktail glass, muddle together the cherry, orange zest, and peach together. Shake in the bitters.

-Fill glass with ice, and pour bourbon and lemonade over.

-Sip slowly, and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Spicy Summer Gazpacho

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Happy summer, y'all! We are WELL into the sweltering months here in Texas, how about you? I don't mind it though. I'd trade 1 New England winter for 100 Texas summers ANY day!

You do need to learn how to handle the heat here, though. Which is why when I'm craving a delicious way to get my veggies in, I whip up an easy gazpacho.


By using a combination of cooked and fresh veggies, the flavors are wonderfully complex. And chilling the soup overnight helps those flavors develop even more.

Add with a slice of warm bread and butter, and this is the perfect summer meal!



Spicy Summer Gazpacho

  • 2-4 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper, OR one jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 cucumber, seedless preferred
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice (I use spicy!)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2+ cloves garlic (do you like garlic? I add up to 5!)
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sliced scallions, for garnish
  • pinch of cayenne, for garnish
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche, for garnish, OR 1 tbsp sour cream + 1 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper

-Dice the following veggies: tomatoes, pepper, cucumber (peel it first!), onion, and garlic.

-Over medium heat, heat a bit of the olive oil. Cook HALF of the veggies you just chopped until soft. BONUS: if you'd like to ROAST the veggies in the oven first, even better! But for a hot summer's day, stovetop might save on the AC ;)

-Let the veggies cool to room temperature. Reserve a few of the fresh veggie dice for garnish, if desired, and put the rest of the non-garnish ingredients into a blender and pulse until mixture is smooth or desired consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

-Pour into a bowl and let chill overnight. Serve cold, with garnishes.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

What I've Been Eating - Anchorage, Alaska

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Read on for my list of The Best Places to Eat in Anchorage, Alaska!


Glacier Brewhouse



HANDS-DOWN the BEST meal I had in Anchorage! Everything here was delicious--the beer, the apps, the meals, the DESSERT! Ahhh I can't stop thinking about it. We had literally just hopped off the plane and were famished. So we started with the pretzels and pub cheese. The pretzels were soft with just a bit of a buttery crisp, and the cheese was so good we saved the remainder for our fries once we'd wolfed down the pretzels.


I'm not a beer connoisseur, but I adored every taste in my flight. The standout for me was the raspberry ale. I love a good fruit beer and this one was refreshing without being too sweet. I also love a good stout, and the oatmeal stout delivered.


And OH MY GOD the FISH AND CHIPS was the BEST I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. And this is saying a lot, considering I grew up in New England. For starters, it comes with a cup of chowder, which was excellent, and a side slaw that was the perfect palate cleanser for the dense meal. The fried fish was perfect. PERFECT. It was fresh, flavorful, and the breading was perfectly seasoned and amazingly crispy. My friend had the chicken sandwich and said it was just as good. We also took home two desserts--the Peanutbutter Pie and the Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake. They made for a great midnight snack while we enjoyed the long long summer day before turning in for the night.

Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse


We sort of accidentally had dinner here. We'd planned on popping by for a Pride event, but ended up making friends at the bar and settling into our stools for longer than planned, and food was eventually necessary.

I love oysters and get them everywhere I can. I was a little suspicious of cold water oysters, as I didn't realize that was a thing, but these were fresh and tasty. Just the right amount of fishy flavor and accompaniments.


Next we wanted to try reindeer, and what better way than Nachos? The plate was piled so high that we didn't even need a full meal for dinner. The nachos stayed crisp, were piled with toppings, and reindeer was seasoned like tacos.


Humpy's feels like a neighborhood bar, but the food is next level and the beer selection is vast. If you want a laid back introduction to the local bar scene, Humpy's is a great start!

49th State Brewing


I was dying for a taste of Alaskan King Crab during my first trip to Alaska, and 49th State DELIVERED! Not only that, but when I asked if there was a smaller portion (the $60+ one was ONE AND A HALF POUNDS!) they offered me a half pound or full pound for $25 and $50 respectively. I went for the half pound, sides included, and it was more than enough.


The crab was fresh, light, and utterly packed with meat. A half pound was only one enormous leg, but it was enough. The asparagus and polenta were also solid, and the elk meatball we got as an app was delicious. I was surprised to find Alaskan elk not gamey at all, and it basically tasted like a leaner beef.

A few tips: Try their beer! They only serve their own brews, so if you're wanting a beer that's really your only option. IPA lovers will find more than enough to sample. If the wait is long, opt for open seating in the bar. But be aware that it may take longer for food to arrive.



Other Things I Ate
And here are the other assorted things I ate in Alaska, not tied to a particular restaurant.

WHALE


Yep, I tried whale. Actually, I've tried whale before, but it was a very different kind: In Iceland it was a minske whale, cooked like a beautiful medium rare steak. In Alaska--to be specific, on our mini trip to Barrow/Utqiagvik--our tour guide actually called a relative to bring our group some to try. It's illegal to sell whale or any other native food, so this was our only chance to try real Alaskan whale from a family that catches it themselves. We ate it cold and raw, and it reminded me of an oyster. Not my favorite thing, but really cool that I got to try it!

FRY BREAD

Not only whale, but our tour guide brought us some fried bread to try. This is like their dinner roll. She explained that since their food is so rich, they typically use the bread to sop up the juices. It tasted like a savory donut.

REINDEER HOT DOG


Not only did I try it on the nachos, but I also got a reindeer hotdog. I was shocked at how un-deer-like it was. Not gamey at all, just tasted like lean beef. I can see why it's a popular choice in Alaska!

REALLY EXPENSIVE GROCERIES


In Barrow/Utqiagvik, there is no way to get to the town other than plane. Groceries all are shipped in via barge a couple times a year or flown in. This means groceries are EXPENSIVE. $9 for JUICE?? Our B&B hosts told us they actually fly to Costco a few times a year to buy groceries, since flying them in is cheaper than buying them at the store. Thankfully, our hosts made homecooked meals for a small fee, and we were very well fed during this excursion!

That's it! What do you think of my suggestions? Have YOU ever been to Alaska? Let me know!