Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide - Austin's Best Bloody Marys



Once upon a time, I referred to bloody marys as "cold, alcoholic soup." I now know much, much better. Bloody marys are my favorite weekend drink--the spicier, the better! And if they double as the brunch itself? Home. friggin. run.


Casino el Camino - This bloody mary is a meal in and of itself. Various nibbles (taquito, chicken slider, pig in a blanket, meatball, various pickled items, and more...) are stuck on skewers in the middle of the drink. You can pick your spice level on a scale of 1-10, with 5 being the start of the habanero spice. I have a fair heat tolerance and a 5 was right on the cusp of being too much for me, so take caution. Extra points: even if you get this drink mid-week, you'll still get all the accompanying snacks. All in all, a delicious bloody mary experience!

Rio Rita's - This East 6th bar is one of my favorites. While I've never had the bloody marys here, I know their infused-cocktail game is strong. Their bloody marys come in three levels: regular, jalapeno, and habanero. All house-infused.


Lucy's Fried Chicken - While I have mixed feelings about the chicken, I was extremely impressed with Lucy's bloody mary. Anywhere that makes their own mix is significantly cooler than a bottled-juice joint, that's a no-brainer. Spicy house made bloody mix with Clamato, horseradish, and hot sauce with homemade pickled veggies make this a slightly spicy bloody worth pairing with your chicken and waffles.

Frank - Bacon. Infused. Vodka. Need I say more? Okay, I will. Homemade bloody mix with a crazy depth of flavor, and they're not stingy on the toppings. Plus it has a cute name: "Red Headed Stranger." I love the cocktails at Frank, and the bloody mary is no exception, and is a great way to combat the sweetness of their drool-worthy French toast.

Image via the Star Bar Instagram
Star Bar - I have heard of the famous Hail Mary, which is more food than drink, but when I've tried to see it for myself the bar has been closed. According to Facebook, the Hail Mary made its grand return to Star Bar on Superbowl Sunday. If legend is to be believed, this epic bloody contains the following: an hot dog, lil’ smokies, bacon, shrimp, onion rings, hamburger slider, chicken nuggets, deviled egg, crab, pickled okra, tomatoes, pepperoni, pepper jack cheese, and a cinnamon roll. If you try it, do let me know.

South Congress Cafe - As with everything at this classy cafe, the tomato juice is fresh. They use pepper-inflused Tito's for a balanced spice. I haven't had this bloody myself, but multiple sources call it the "best ever" so it's gotta be good. Not heavy on the toppings, as other entries on this list are, but a clean and solid bloody for your classy brunch.



Swift's Attic - Swift's wins for the best do-it-yourself bloody mary bar in town. A few restaurants do the build-your-own schtick, but Swift's goes a step beyond with high quality ingredients. No shelf-stable bacon here! A side of bacon will run you $6, so you know it's legit here, and you'll see that fancy bacon as an accoutrement in the DIY bar. Various pickled things and stuffed olives, as well as cheese and some sort of fancy beef stick are also available to put into your drink. Two types of thick tomato mix are provided as well. I had a ton of fun putting as much into my bloody as possible, and the result was utterly delicious.

Alamo Drafthouse - How can you ensure you get a table for brunch in a timely manner? Buy a ticket. Alamo's bloody mary is heavy on the wasabi. While you can't quite SEE it (put your phone away!) the flavor packs a punch. Since the heat is wasabi, it burns quick and clean and is perfectly balanced by the tomato juice.

Bonus: Cheap Sunday Kickbutt Coffee special. It's a simple bloody--just a shot and some mix, maybe some olives if the bartender is feeling generous--but it's only $3 on Sundays! The only better deal is the $2 bloodies at La Condesa, but those require a sit down meal and a bit of a wait during brunch hours.



Where is your favorite place to get a bloody mary in Austin?

2016 Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide - Austin's Best Fried Chicken



En route to Austin, Texas from Massachusetts I stopped in Nashville for some Hot Chicken. I immediately fell in love, and immediately after, I started CRAVING a solid fried chicken. Through trial and error, I found some places that will quell my craving in Austin. Check out my entry in the 2016 Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide for Austin's Best Fried Chicken below!





















Ms. P's Electric Cock -- A personal favorite of mine, and not only because I take every guest who visits me in Austin to take a picture in front of the sign at her South Congress food truck. Ms. P's touts "FRESH, never frozen, no hormones, no additives, LOCAL free range chicken." The skin is crispy and flavorful, the meat is juicy, and the whole "eat local" jazz is just the feel-good icing on the deep fried cake. Plus her sides go beyond the typical mac and cheese and slaw sides you find at most fried chicken joints--Truffle Mac and Cheese, Street Corn, and Waffles are only a few of the tasty sides. Bonus Points: She serves a legit breakfast taco in the morning!
Ms P's Electric Cock 
1101 South Congress Avenue 
Austin, TX 78704


Hoover's -- Hoover's was the first fried chicken I had in Austin and I was pretty impressed. While they do have a heavy hand on the breading (I wish the ratio of meat had been a bit better, as did my fiance who had the chicken friend steak), the homestyle feel and traditional sides made this a satisfying meal. The Happy Hour specials are some of the best in the city, with a chicken basket of a leg, wing, and thigh for $6 among many other nibbles and libations from 3-7pm Monday-Friday. Plus they have a location in the airport, so you can check them out as soon as you step foot in our fine city!
Hoover's Cooking
2002 Manor Rd
Austin, TX 78722


Gus's -- Gus. Where have you been all my life. Ever since I tasted the delicacy that is Nashville Hot Chicken, I've been craving that spicy crunch. And I've found it at Gus's. While Gus's is actually a chain that began in Memphis (so, not quite Nashville), they have the spicy fried chicken down to an art. I was blown away by the flavor of the skin and the juicy interior. There are no heat levels, so be comfortable with a "medium" amount of spice if you check them out. I thought the spice was perfect, but my fiance found it slightly overwhelming.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
117 San Jacinto
Austin, TX 78701


Lucy's -- Full disclosure: I've personally only ever had okay, not incredible meals at Lucy's. But I really really want to love them, so I keep trying again. I feel like either the skin is under-seasoned, or the meat is dried out. However, they deserve a spot on this list because 1. I am sure I've just had bad luck with how people rave about this place, and 2. The fact that I DREAM about the deep fried deviled eggs is enough to get me to keep coming back. Plus it's a totally "Austin" spot and the Lucy's on the Lake patio is breathtaking. The desserts and sides are delicious. Strangely enough, I enjoyed my leftovers better cold the next day. Come to find out, they'll serve them to you cold if you wish. Next time I'll try that!
Multiple Locations:
2218 COLLEGE AVE/5408 BURNET ROAD/2900 RANCH RD 620 N

Kin & Comfort -- This restaurant's theme is Thai and Southern Food infusion. Might sound weird, but trust me--it WORKS. Tucked away in the Hana World Market on Parmer in North Austin (aka my neck of the woods) it's somewhere you might miss. But seek it out. Their home-fried chicken thigh is bursting with flavor. A solid choice for those in North Austin, and worth a trip for everyone else. It's a unique experience you won't soon forget.
Inside Hana World Market
1700 W Parmer Ln #100
Austin, TX 78727


Black Star Coop -- Another solid "eat local" choice, as their menu states: "With the spirit of co-operation guiding us, we've created a menu of Texas Pub Fare true to the vision of Black Star Co-op. Our desire to serve locally sourced and sustainably produced foods is met by a community of conscientious Texas farmers and ranchers who are devoted to the same principals." And their fried chicken never disappoints! I love that this menu item can be ordered in a "snack size" as I can never finish a whole basket by myself! The breading has a subtle spice as well as the honey and lemon vinagrette and the meat is always juicy. The accompanying Ranch dip is the perfect creamy addition to these crispy chicken legs.
7020 EASY WIND DR,
STE 100
AUSTIN, TX


Bonus: sliders at Eureka. I recently ordered this Happy Hour item on a whim and was blown away by how perfect these little sandwiches are. We'd had a Food Blogger Alliance Happy Hour here, but these weren't served for us to sample--probably a good thing, as I would have eaten them all. It's a chain, but another good  one. While a fried chicken sandwich isn't really what this list is about, I felt it was worth pointing out. The Reaper Chili Sauce packs a subtle punch of heat, but not overwhelmingly so.
200 E. 6th St.
Austin, TX 78701



Did I miss any legit fried chicken? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Blood Orange Dark Chocolate Eclairs


To prepare for my trip to Italy, I decided to try my hand at baking a French pastry.

Don't ask me how my mind works, I really don't know.

Italy recap, coming soon.

The plan was actually to post these in time for Valentine's Day, but that dang Italy trip had me all side tracked and suffice to say, these didn't post in time. Sorry about that, the lovely pink center would have been perfect for the occasion, don't you think?


I've always wanted to make my own eclairs, as they've long been my absolute favorite dessert (with cannoli and macarons close behind, of course), but to BLOG about, I knew I had to do something special. Since anyone can google a basic eclair recipe, I'm sure.

Cue me remembering my Whole Foods gift card from a promotion a while back, and the happy realization that blood oranges are in season. Ta-da! Blood orange eclairs.


This recipe will get a lot of pans dirty, and it's kind of involved, but the steps are easy. Don't be intimidated!

Blood Orange Dark Chocolate Eclairs
(Referenced Food Network for basic pastry recipe and pastry cream recipe)

Pastry

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 4 eggs

Blood Orange Pastry Cream

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp blood orange zest
  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Ganache Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips

Prepare the pastry: Sift together the sugar and the flour. Melt the butter into the water and bring to a simmer. Add the flour and mix until a soft dough forms--it should pull away from the pan and be oily.

-Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, until the dough is thick but flows easily. Transfer to a pastry bag with a wide tip and pipe onto a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper.

-Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F or until light brown and puffy. Let cool to room temp.

-While the pastries are baking, prepare the cream: In a large bowl, mix together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1 cup of the heavy cream.

-In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together the rest of the cream, blood orange juice, zest, and sugar. Let come to a simmer, about 10 minutes.

-Slowly pour a bit of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, add the rest of the blood orange mixture. Immediately press a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl so that it touches the surface of the custard. Let chill for two hours or overnight.

-Once chilled, pour pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a metal tip, and press into the end of each eclair. Squeeze gently to fill with pastry cream.

-Heat the heavy cream for the ganache and pour over the dark chocolate. Let sit for five minutes, then mix until smooth. Let chill slightly, then use to frost the finished eclairs.


TIP: If your pastry cream breaks, like mine did on the first try, divide the cream in half. Sprinkle one envelope of flavorless gelatin over one half, and warm the other until barely steaming. Mix together, and chill. It should thicken within an hour.

DOUBLE TIP: Use some food coloring to get that deep red. I won't tell.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Game Day Baked Garlic Wings


So, I've never ACTUALLY cared about sports. Football especially. I just don't see the point in a game that starts and stops and involves grown men tackling each other for a ball. The stopping and starting... bleh. BUT, I've always loved the food. ESPECIALLY the wings.


What's weird though, is ever since moving to Texas, I've been a bit more interested in my "home team"--the Patriots. Last year was fun. The Pats were in it, the games were playing on Texas tvs, and despite that "deflategate" nonsense, I was happy to say I was from New England.

Woooo Tom Brady! (pretend I said that with a Boston accent, ok?) We'll just forget I wore a Red Sox shirt during the game... oops.


This year, the Pats sadly didn't make it. But it's okay, I think they needed a year to get over the controversy... at least until the next one comes up.

These wings remind me of home. Not because of the Pats, but because they're my attempt to create a delicious dish from my hometown: Garlic chicken wings. They're savory and totally umami, and pack a bit less heat than your typical buffalo wing. Serve these at your "big game" party*--you won't be sorry.

Game Day Baked Garlic Wings

  • 12 chicken wing pieces (or 6 wings, cut in half)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4-6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp coconut aminos/soy sauce
  • Cooking spray (olive oil preferred)


-Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F. Mix together the flours, 1 tbsp cajun seasoning, 1 tsp baking powder.

-Toss the wings with the flour mixture. Set the wings on a wire rack and spray liberally with cooking spray.

-Bake for 30 minutes. Then, increase heat to 450 and bake for another 20.

-While the wings are baking, prepare the sauce: melt the butter over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, coconut aminos, and the remaining cajun seasoning.

-Once the wings are done, toss with butter sauce and serve.

*Isn't it SUPER duper dumb we can't call the game what it really is without facing a potential cease and desist? Oh well. I guess I'll just eat a BOWL of these lil fuckers and deal with it :P


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Low Carb Spaghetti Squash with Clam Sauce

Low carb has got to be my favorite diet to attempt and fail at. Why? Because it doesn't taste like I'm eating cardboard--1. Except those pre-packaged Atkins snack bars, gag. and 2. I just typo'd that as "carbboard" LOLZ--and I don't have to compromise flavor. Sub in pasta for squash and lettuce for bread and you avoid a bloaty tummy for a week before you succumb to pizza's siren song.

I even put this recipe into an online calorie calculator and the calories clocked in at under 350 per serving despite the heavy cream. If you trust those kind of things, that is. So even if you're all ZOMG I CANNOT GIVE UP TEH BREADZ!!!1 fine. Sub out the squash for your favorite carby delight, I don't care.

Whether you're using squash or zoodles or whatever, the true star here is the sauce. It's creamy, slightly briny, and with a little punch of spice. And because it's spicy, you can forget that "white wine with seafood" nonsense and go for a solid red instead.


Are you a bit wary of canned seafood? Don't be. Avoid the store brand if it makes you nervous, but aside from a minor texture difference these canned clams tasted legit.

PS. Finally posting this recipe because I'll be in Italy next week and I want to prep myself for the onslaught of bread and cheese and homemade pasta made by little old Italian men and figured a carb-conscious week was a good way to prepare. Be ready for "look at this vacation I went on" bragging pics in the near future, and rest assured I am kicking myself for stupidly putting it on my near-maxxed credit card like the true Millennial I am.

PPS. Why didn't I class up with mofo with some parsley? It tastes better than it looks, promise.


Spaghetti Squash with Clam Sauce

  • 1 small spaghetti squash, sliced in half with the seeds scooped out
  • 2 cans clams, drained
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese


-Bake the spaghetti squash at 400 degrees with a light coating of olive oil until softened, about 25-30 minutes. Scrape strands out from the rind and set aside.

-While the squash is cooking, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until the onions are translucent.

-Add the clams, roasted red pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes. Add the wine and let simmer until wine is reduced by half.

-Stir in the cream, salt and pepper, and a bit of parm. Stir well and simmer until sauce has thickened. If needed, use a cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp corn starch + 1 tbsp water) to thicken.

-Toss sauce with spaghetti squash strands, serve hot with an extra sprinkling of parm cheese.