Tuesday, April 24, 2018

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things - Spring 2018


Disclaimer: Items marked with a "*" are those that I received promotional product for. Reviews/mentions are never required in these complimentary samples/tastings, but I want to make sure it's clear I did receive product. 

There was a time when I thought I was going to do these weekly. I even wrote it into my weekly calendar! Hah. That's so funny. I'm surprised I have time to write this right now!

Anyways, here's my roundup of spring favorites in Austin and beyond. Let me know what you think!

Yellowbird MINIS!* - Follow my YouTube channel for my first impressions (and the other half of my duo struggling through the tasting) but I ADORE Yellowbird to begin with, and this new mini version is TOO convenient! Not only are they the best way to get a solid sample of each flavor, but they also are perfect for taking on your carryon if you enjoy a midflight bloody but need a little more oomph! My personal favorite is habanero, but the Ghost Pepper is surprisingly complex and even a little dab would add a ton of flavor to any dish. Buy them here!

Uncle Billy's Brewstillery* - Heads up. Uncle Billy's, a Barton Springs favorite, is not only brewing delicious beer--they're now distilling their own whiskey and vodka! They'll be unveiling these to the public soon, but I got a sneak peek tasting last week and was incredibly impressed. The vodka is totally drinkable on its own, but even better in their new kegged cocktails. And y'all know I'm a whiskey girl, so trust me when I say their whiskey is legit. I suggest grabbing an old fashioned and sitting on their patio to listen to some local tunes at your earliest convenience. Be on the lookout for their spirits on shelves in Austin and beyond soon!

Cannon & Belle* - Have you ever written off a place because it was in a hotel? Hotel restaurants tend to thrive on convenience and nothing more. Well, I'm never judging a book by its location ever again. This place is hands. down. incredible. We started with cornbread and bacon butter (!!) and braised short rib (zomg) followed by the pork chop for myself and the ribeye for my plus one. I was recently invited to sample their spring menu and I am not hyperbole-ing when I say every single forkful was better than the next. And no, it being on the house (how can I thank y'all enough??) didn't sway my opinion--I'm of the "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all" camp with my various blogger comps. And I have only nice things to say. It was truly incredible and the icing on the cake was the service. Our server was attentive and made excellent suggestions, even pulling over the bartender to show us how their Fall Old Fashioned was made (here's a hint: REAL FIRE (do I have enough parenthetical statements? Yikes))With the closing of my beloved Vox Table, I needed a new date night restaurant. And I've found one. Definitely give Cannon and Belle a try if you're in the Austin area!
500 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78701

Depressed Cake Shop - A lesser-discussed subject on this blog: I struggle with anxiety and depression. So, major shout out to Depressed Cake Shop, a project by NAMI Austin (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and local bakeries.

From the website:
Participating Depressed Cake Shop pop-up bakeries will promote Mental Health Month throughout the month of May featuring items decorated with an element of gray to signify the gray cloud that can descend over a beautiful world when someone is struggling with mental health issues. Bright colors inside the dessert represent the hope that always continues. When customers purchase a "depressed" item, they will receive a free "conversation starter" card designed to offer specific information about how to talk about mental health with loved ones.
For more info, visit their website!

T22 - The new brick and mortar is so close to me, I could eat their delicious Nashville Hot Chicken every day if I wanted to! It's just perfect. Juicy on the inside, perfectly crisp on the outside, so so flavorful (even the mild is delishhh) and AS BIG AS YOUR FACE. I'm not even kidding. The amazing cocktails and happy hour are just the icing on the cake. The skin on the chicken? The best.
7211 Burnet Rd, Austin TX

As I've been growing my own channel (please subscribe?) I've been studying popular Youtubers to see how it's done. I haven't had cable in about 4 years, but binge-watching Youtube is pretty much my new channel surfing. Here are the ones I love most lately:

Makeup Junkie G - I stumbled upon the documentary following Georgia, and was touched by her journey. What a surprise that she popped up in my Youtube suggestions once I started following makeup tutorials! Her accent is my favorite and her tutorials are easy to follow, and her vlogs are always a great time! Her bubbly nature and adorable pup make this one to watch.

EmmymadeinJapan - Something about Emmy's soothing voice and quirky sense of humor puts me at ease after a long day. She's even named the food spot that often appears on her lip--Winston. I can't quite put my finger on why her channel is so wonderful, it just is. Her channel was what convinced me to start doing my own tasting/unboxing videos. Thanks, Emmy!

Flat Films - Okay, this is kind of a cheat because I'm a part of this production company. But, if you want to see me and one of my very best friends banter about random things, give it a subscribe!

PS. Subscribe to my channel--my friend and I will be reviewing MD 20/20 as well as all of Yellowbird's sauces!

Upstairs Circus - You know those painting and wine nights? Well, what if you took that painting, and expanded it into awesome AND functional crafts, plus added a whole BAR? That's Upstairs Circus. I snagged a ticket to the soft opening and was able to sample two (strong!) drinks as well as a craft. I opted to do a cool painting, but other options included wooden signs, jewelry, stamped leather, and so much more. They're expanding to major cities, so keep an eye on their website!

Oros* - Have you seen my recent posts on Oros? Yes, they hired me for a campaign, but I stand by my statement that it's an awesome app! You can opt into different categories and locations, post a question, comment, or whatever, and get real responses from real people. It's like Yelp and WhasApp had an incredibly convenient lovechild. It's now available nationwide, and can be found in the app store. 

Nextdoor - I don't know why it took me so long to sign up for Nextdoor! It's a super local social media, where you can connect with your actual neighbors. I've been using it to window-shop for cheap furniture, but it's a great way to be in the know on local restaurant and shop openings, as well as events! There's the occasional neighborhood drama, too. But only enough to be interesting ;)

I need to check out these local spots!

  • HEO Eatery
  • Hank's
  • Arpeggio's
  • Be on the lookout for a local roundup of my favorite neighborhood spots!

Brunchweek 2018 is coming up soon! In the meantime, check out my past Brunchweek recipes.

Monday, April 23, 2018

White Wine Spring Mussels


Pssst! This is a re-post of an old blog post from my old blog. I'm posting it moreso for nostalgia and the recipe itself. It was originally posted in 2011. Keep that in mind, or just skip to the end for the actual recipe. I may or may not update it to be more recent, but it's a Monday and I haven't done a recipe for a while, so here you go.

A conversation I had with a friend:
"I have a great opportunity for you!"
"Really? About what?"
"Your cooking!"
"My... cooking? Or you mean writing? My blog?"
"No, your cooking. [the restaurant across the street from my community theater] is starting a program where they let local chefs into their kitchen for a night for special menus! You could make a menu and open it up to their customers and make it yourself in their kitchen! I gave them your name."
"But... I'm not a chef, I'm a writer. A food writer, but still--"
"But you cook."
"I do but--"
"It'd be a great opportunity to promote your book, you should think about it!"
So, I thought about it.

Not that I ever thought seeing my dishes on someone's paid-for plate would ever be a reality for me, or even something I was remotely interested in. After all, I want to write about food, not make it for other people in the very intimidating restaurant business where as a waitress I was once stiffed a tip for not letting my table purchase alcohol without proper ID. And, remember, just a few years ago I could hardly make toast.

Me, in the kitchen. Running a restaurant kitchen?
Hard to picture...

When I began this blog, I was not one to think up a recipe on my own. If you go back far enough--please, don't, the pictures are abhorrent--you'll mostly see either recipes pulled from cookbooks in my personal collection or Google searches, or simply links to outside recipes since I didn't feel right copy and pasting. I was unsure of my abilities in the kitchen, and refused to stray from what was written lest I create something inedible.

Random Cat Picture to break up text!
My cat, Finn. Duh.

These days, I'm happy to say, I find myself rarely following a recipe word-for-word. I'll glance at it once or twice, then search for similar recipes to compare cooking times and techniques, and when I have the bare bones of the process down I just go wild. More often than not, I end up with something ranging from absolutely delicious to at least mostly enjoyably edible. Recent posts link back to content I've "adapted," often showing little resemblance to the original content.

Random dog picture to break up the text! It's my dog, Lily!

I look back on these two years of food blogging and am so proud of myself for coming this far. Could I compile a menu of recipes for an actual restaurant? Why not? I'm already conceiving 100 recipes for my cookbook (which is being pitched by my agent RIGHT NOW OMG), I already have dinner parties for friends about once a month. Though my timing isn't the best--appetizers and main course should not come out at the same time--timing is something that I can fix.

I think, to be a truly well rounded food writer, one needs to understand all different angles and aspects of careers in food. I'd love to be a food critic for a day, or be on a farm tending to vegetables and livestock, just to know what those sides of the industry are like. Running a restaurant for a night would surely put me out of my comfort zone, but even if I failed miserably I'd be all the better for it and my writing would improve. This goal I have of being a food writer (or publisher!) as a full time career feels so close, but I know I still have so far to go. Chef and writer are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and perhaps to be one or the other you must appreciate both.

So, I'll think about it. I know I COULD do it, I'm always up for the challenge. The idea is apparently still in the planning stages, so I have time. We'll see if they call.*

*2018 update: they never called. But I'm always up for cooking opportunities! Email me!

And now, back to recipe development. These mussels were on sale for just $1.99 per pound, and though I'd never made mussels before, the deal was too good to pass up! I knew that I loved spicy mussels, and I loved mussels in white wine sauce rather than the heavy tomato sauce they sometimes come in at restaurants, but could not find a recipe that combined the two. So, I made my own. The results were pretty fantastic.

Spicy White Wine Mussels
(Used Ina Garten's Recipe for times and liquid amounts for steaming)
  • 1.5 lbs mussels, rinsed and de-bearded
  • 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, diced
  • 2 tsp capers, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste
-In a dutch oven or large saucepan (make sure you have a lid handy), heat the butter and olive oil until combined. Stir in the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, cayenne, and chili oil and heat until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant.

-Add the wine and broth and stir until combined and just barely simmering. Add the mussels and cover immediately. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until mussels have opened and cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and capers. Let sit for two minutes with the cover on. Remove any mussels that have not opened and serve hot with sauce spooned over the top.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

It's Here! Oros Officially Launches in Austin! #sponsored


Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Appyness and Oros. I received compensation for my review.

Oros has officially launched!

In case you missed my last post, Oros is a new messaging app that instantly connects you to people around the world--allowing you to text anyone, anywhere, about anything! Simply download the app, select your interests, and post your message. Other Oros users will see your message and reply.

For example, y'all know I'm a foodie. I'm also a somewhat broke Millennial. This means that when I'm in a new place, or perhaps searching for a new cuisine, I want to ensure I'm not wasting my funds. But certain review sites' sketchy practices coupled with the fact people don't go out of their way to review unless service was excellent or terrible... there's lots of room for error.

Thats why I love Oros! I can post a question like "where is the best pizza in Los Angeles?" "Is Franklin BBQ worth the line?" "Which airport is going to be the least busy during the holidays?" and get REAL responses from REAL people in REAL time.

And, as a person with a passion for food, I also like to share my educated foodie opinions with anyone who is looking for the best spots in town. It feels good to help someone have a great night out!

Oros is available for both iOS and Android. Take it for a spin, Austin!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Last Breaths of Winter and Zesty Hamburger Soup


How have I never blogged this recipe? I've been making it for YEARS, definitely years before I was ever flooding the internet with recipes. It was probably the second meal I learned to make from memory as an adult, the first being my version of my mom's famous Baked Mac and Cheese.

I made a big batch of this soup when it was chilly a few weeks ago--true Austinites were bundled up in their parkas but I was doing okay with just a fleece, I guess my "Texas skin" just hasn't come in yet--and now the sun is back and temps are creeping back up.

However, if my Facebook newsfeed is to be believed, my New England friends are still toughing it through colder temps, so I'm sure this soup will be well received.

This makes a huge batch, but it freezes well. I kept a good stock of it in my college apartment's freezer and pulled it out when I didn't have the time or money to grocery shop.

This soup is very hearty, just a little bit spicy, and these days I eliminate the noodles, so it's also gluten free! I imagine if you're paleo-ing it up you could sub out the white potatoes for sweet, and get rid of the corn. Either way, it's pretty freaking delicious.

Zesty Hamburger Soup
(I believe the original recipe was from Home Comfort)

  • 1 pound ground beef (also can substitute ground turkey)
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced baby carrots
  • 1 cup onion
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth 
  • 2 medium red potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups uncooked shell pasta
  • 4 cups V8 juice
  • 1.5 cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • Hot sauce (as much or as little as you'd like--I like it spicy so I use a lot, plus a little cayenne pepper)

-Cook beef, celery, carrots, and onion over medium heat until meat is browned. Add the garlic and mix in.

-Drain the fat, then mix in broth, potatoes, corn, hot sauce, and pasta.

-Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes and pasta are cooked to your liking (I'm not a fan of al dente so I go for the full 15 to get them a little softer)

-Add the rest of the ingredients (V8, diced tomatoes, and sugar) and heat over medium until heated through.*

Garnish with a little bit of fresh parmesan cheese.
*If you'd like to add noodles, do so at this point. If you are freezing, make noodles separately and keep out of the portions you're freezing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Foodie Friends - Meet Your New Favorite App #sponsored


Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Appyness and Oros. I received compensation for my review.

Here’s the thing: I love food, but I’m also desperately trying to stay on a budget. This means when I have a bit extra stashed aside for a night out, I’m torn between taking a chance on somewhere new, or going to an old reliable. And it’s not just food--I’m actually planning my honeymoon and I can’t decide if this once-in-a-lifetime trip should be somewhere absolutely new (risky!) or somewhere I know we love.

If only everything came in flights, so you knew what full size to get!

So, what’s a Millennial to do? Our options are sort of limited. We can either fight the social media algorithm and ask the masses within our limited social bubble, or hope that we find a handful of up-to-date, honest reviews across any number of review sites.

Guess what. There’s a third option. Oros! Oros is an app that allows you to text “anyone, anywhere, about anything” within its interface. Meaning you can get a suggestion for the best burger in the city from people who are in the know, without having to give out your number to strangers or wade through endless reviews.

With Oros you can get real-time responses from users in your area and beyond. Simply send out a request for information and users who have opted into that contact filter will be notified of your question. For example, I obviously chose food and travel, but there are endless categories to opt into--crafts, sports, photography--anyone can share their expertise in Oros!

Oros is launching in Austin, Texas on April 3, 2018 with plans to expand to additional cities thereafter. I was lucky enough to get to try it over the past week and I have to say, I’m impressed. I asked for suggestions on local sushi (my never-ending quest!) and immediately got a handful of thoughtful responses. I love how easy Oros makes it to connect with others! It’s like the best parts of Yelp and WhatsApp came together to create one amazing app.

Keep an eye on orostext.com/launch/ for updates! And Austin, be sure to download on April 3rd.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Marshmallow White Chocolate Ice Cream and Nostalgia


It's funny, the kinds of things you get nostalgic for. How food can call up a certain memory, take you back to a certain place. With this ice cream, I was trying to do just that--call up the year 2006, early Fall, when I'd just arrived at Emerson College and was trying to find my way around the city with my roommates. Our block on Boylston Street (right next to the Common) had many great dining options, which was great because we soon found our dining hall to be "only okay" in terms of deliciousness. One night, just as a chill began to settle in, we quelled an ice cream craving with a trip to Coldstone Creamery.

I had never been. Back home, it was sacrilege to go to Coldstone. Why go to a chain when there was a plethora of locally-owned businesses with homemade ice cream? Locals even cheered triumphantly when a Coldstone storefront only lasted a year downtown before closing its doors. But we were hungry for sugar, it was dark, and the city was too scary to explore looking for a Mom & Pop type place. Coldstone became the short-term solution for a late night ice cream craving. Especially after I found a fully loaded gift card in a secondhand sweatshirt.

I only ever had one flavor, but that was all I needed. White Chocolate, with marshmallows mixed in. Since I got two free mix-ins, but only wanted one, I always just asked for rainbow sprinkles. This was my go-to ice cream. Whenever the drippy dining hall fro-yo became too much, someone would suggest the five minute walk to Coldstone and we'd all follow. A well-meaning new friend assumed I was simply a white chocolate lover and gave me a three pound slab of the stuff for my birthday--strangely enough, this was the only way I enjoyed white chocolate: in my indulgent little ice cream.

Imagine my horror when they no longer carried mini marshmallows for the mixing. My routine ruined, I pushed for frequenting JP Lick's, Emack & Bolio's, or, if we could handle the trek to Cambridge or Allston, the former Herrell's spots there. But I never found the exact combo again.

White chocolate ice cream, with mini marshmallows and rainbow sprinkles folded in, will always remind me of that first year of college. Now, I can happily make my own, when the feeling strikes.

White Chocolate Copycat Ice Cream
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 bag white chocolate chips OR 1 large Godiva white chocolate bar, broken into chunks
  • 1 overflowing cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

-Over medium-high heat, cook cream, milk, and salt stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot.

(Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Place a large, clean bowl in the ice bath and fit the bowl with a fine-mesh strainer.) <--I always skip this step and things turn out just fine, btw.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until well blended. In another bowl, place the white chocolate.

-Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Slowly temper the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly until there is enough liquid in the yolk mix to heat it. (most recipes say half the cream mixture, I simply do it until it is hot)

-Transfer the yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture while whisking vigorously and return it to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula and scrape the bottom of the saucepan so it doesn't scorch, until the liquid begins to steam and the cream has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

-Immediately pour the hot custard into the bowl with the white chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then whisk vigorously until the white chocolate is melted and combined with the custard.

-Strain the mixture into the cold, clean bowl and refrigerate, stirring every 20 minutes for the first hour or so, then occasionally every hour after that (for me this means "when I remember to"--again, turns out fine). When the custard is cold, leave in fridge for an additional hour or preferably overnight.

-When you are ready to make the ice cream, transfer it to an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once ice cream has churned for the recommended time, pour in the mini marshmallows and the sprinkles. Churn until well combined.

-Pour the ice cream by the cup into your desired ice cream holder or eat immediately if you like it at thick-milkshake-consistency. Freeze overnight for more traditional ice cream texture.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2017 - Best Happy Hour Bites


Salty Sow - Where else can you say "yes, one of everything, please," and have it total out at under $50? I'm endlessly amused by this, but the food is the real selling point here is the food. Highlights include the fried chicken, truffled deviled eggs, and ohhhh the brussels sprouts! 4:30-6:30 every day.
1917 Manor Road, Austin TX

TNT - It's all in the name. Tacos and Tequila! Their new re-vamped menu and awesome happy hour is one of the best deals in the city. The menu is bursting with flavor for a wide range of tastes. Bonus: on Tuesdays it's all-you-can-eat tacos for $10! We actually came in for that deal and ended up over-eating the Happy Hour apps before we got a chance. $4 bites and $4-$8 specialty cocktails Monday-Friday 4pm-7pm.
507 Pressler Street, Suite 400 Austin, TX 78703

Ten Oak - I'm glad I know this dark bar serves tasty food, with generous happy hour portions! I suggest sipping one of their signature cocktails while noshing on these "Fig in a Pigs" and truffle fries. Bonus points if you catch some live music while you dine.
409 Colorado Street, Austin, Texas.

Oasthouse - If you're living North, you probably already know about Oasthouse's Happy Hour. If you don't, then you should. Gastropub eats at happy hour prices, with enough beer and cocktails to keep you happy. Don't leave without trying the Carnitas Poutine, or the Truffled Proscuitto Bruschetta.
8300 N FM 620, Unit E  Austin, Texas 78726 

Bullfight - If you want a snack sized sample of what Bullfight has to offer, head over during Happy Hour. The calamari are delicate and fresh, and best of all, half off! All snacks, beer, and select cocktails fall under this amazing deal. The jambon croquettes are worth a taste, too.

Photo courtesy of Sushi Girl ATX

Uchiko - Get to Uchiko right at 5, otherwise you probably won't be able to catch this quick-but-worth-it happy hour, aka their Sake Social Hour. Select nigiri, make, and specialties are all under $10, with beer and sake options as well. It's hard to suggest any one thing (the desserts are pretty stand out though!) so I'll just suggest ordering one of everything.
4200 n lamar blvd, Austin TX

Parkside - You know you'll find inexpensive eats and booze on 6th, but will it be tasty? Somehow Parkside doesn't seem to know it's in the "dirty" part of town, and serves up exquisite food. Their Happy Hour boasts half off all cocktails, beer and bar food, including raw oysters, and a special happy hour burger.
301 e 6th st, Austin, tx  78701

Kome - Kome is one of my favorite sushi places in town, so of course it has one of my favorite happy hours! Again, it literally is an hour long, so get there right at open. All of my favorites are on it--gyoza, chicken wings, dynamite roll, all the sake cocktails... yes, I am a happy happy lady at this happy hour. Don't miss it, at their new expanded location!
5301 Airport Blvd., Austin, TX 78751

Photo courtesy of ATX Eats and Treats

Eureka - Okay so, full disclosure, I can't find their menu online for this, and I am sleepy at this moment. However, I do know that I love Eureka and make a full meal out of their happy hour while achieving a steady buzz. Most things on their menu are solid, so definitely check this out when you find yourself edging into Dirty 6. I know for sure their chicken sliders and corndog lollipops are on it, so check those out!

Peached Tortilla - Cocktails, snacks, tacos, and a special social hour burger are all up for grabs at this Korean-Southern infusion foodtruck-turned-brick-and-mortar. The kimchi arrancini balls are my absolute fave, but Mom's Toast and the burger itself are definitely runners up. With a happy hour Kentucky Mule, of course.

BONUS: Mueller HEB. Y'all, you can get large and in charge sliders here for $3 during Happy Hour, plus beer discounts.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide for 2018!