More Family, More Eating

Well it happened again. More family came into town and self-restraint went out the window. Both of our moms came to visit as well as my sister Jackie. We ate a ton, so let’s get to it.

Family at Whole Foods

Even before they arrived, froworker Tyler and I grabbed lunch downtown at Swift’s Attic. I’d been touting their “Bowling Alley Burger” as one of my Top 3 Burgers in Austin, so the time had come to try it. I’m not sure if I had hyped it too much in my own mind, but it didn’t quite live up to my own expectations. Very good! But probably not Top 3-worthy (keep reading).

Swift's Attic Bowling Alley Burger

Swift’s Attic Bowling Alley Burger

The family arrived and got settled at their hotel while we were finishing up at work. We picked them up and headed to Fonda San Miguel for some Interior Mexican. After some menu translations for the inexperienced palates, we all ended up with some fantastic meals. I had the Camarones Adobados, loosely translating to six huge grilled shrimp on top of corn tortillas, peppers, onions, and a chipotle-black bean sauce. Ev got the biggest Chile Relleno either of us had ever seen. And, for obvious reasons, we passed on even looking at the dessert menu…

Camarones Adobados

Fonda San Miguel Camarones Adobados

…because from FSM we zipped over to Cow Tipping Creamery. Who didn’t see that coming? Since they had already sold out of the daily special, I got a Salty Sweet stacker and Jackie got a Gimme S’mores. Due to a mix-up in the truck, they also brought us a Whiskey Rivers on the house. It was a lot of ice cream…

Saturday we ran some errands downtown and found ourselves at Clark’s Oyster Bar for lunch. I’ve had it before, and couldn’t resist ordering the burger this time too. A thick, juicy patty topped with gruyere and a smear of fancy mayo (called Sauce Gribiche). On the side come some of the most addictive matchstick fries. My sister Jackie got the same thing and both were demolished. This burger pushed Swift’s Attic out of my Top 3.

Clark's Oyster Bar Burger

Clark’s Oyster Bar Burger

Six hours later, after running more errands and still barely hungry since lunch, we had reservations at Olivia in South Austin. We’d heard good things, and my mom found it listed on several “Top Spots” lists in her Austin research. How was it? “Blown away” would be a good start. The highlight appetizers for me were the Brussels Sprouts and the Lamb Tongue. My pork loin entree, paired with grilled watermelon, was good but didn’t stand up to Jackie’s Mushroom-Truffle Cream pasta. We almost didn’t get dessert … until my mom ordered three out of the four on the menu. I rarely order it, but the Creme Brulee had to be the best I’ve ever had.

Sunday morning we took it easy before heading to la V for brunch. Before the waiter could finish telling us about the special Sweet Potato Doughnuts, I cut him off and ordered some, along with large French Press of Blue Bottle Coffee*. The doughnuts took forever, attributed to making sure the kitchen could execute them perfectly. Anyway, eventually they arrived and were incredible. I panicked when he took our ordered and got the scrambled eggs with trout roe and brioche toast, which was very good, but not memorable. We rounded things out with very cute mini eclairs. Also good, but they didn’t hold a candle to the doughnuts.

*it was tasty, but why not serve some amazing, local Austin coffee?

After brunch we enjoyed a lazy Sunday at home and watched a movie before ensuring the family got excellent barbecue before heading back to Florida. We headed to Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ to show-off our hidden gem that happens to also serve dinner. I ordered a whole spread including 5 chicken tacos, 3 brisket tacos, a beef rib, guac, and queso. The tacos, on homemade flour tortillas, in my opinion have no equal. The chicken is my favorite. It’s the best chicken I’ve ever had, on the best tortilla I’ve ever had. Everything was devoured.

And no trip to Austin is complete without visiting Whole Foods downtown, so we stopped by for dessert. After a quick walk around the store I decided on blueberry cheesecake gelato while the rest of the family went to town at the chocolate case. Ev also snatched up a tres leches cake to share with Jackie, which turned out to be my favorite.

It’s always fun to host people when they’re in town… because that means showing them our favorite places to eat. And no one ever leaves hungry.

2014 Cap10K Race Report

Another year, another Cap10K.  As my fourth time running this race, I wanted to set a new PR (currently 39:45).  I had big hopes of following a brutal training plan full of speedwork, tempo runs, and general self-torture.  It’s all about pain management after all.  And everything was going to plan, except that I didn’t do any actual training.  At all.  Sure, I ran; just nothing you could call “training”.  So would I set a new PR?  Did I overcome the deck that I had stacked against myself?  What are lofty goals for if not dramatic cliffhangers in a blog post?

CAP10K

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I Eat, You Eat, We Eat

Time for another for a food round up before a big weekend of eating. Like last time, here’s just a taste of the noteworthy places I ate that I think you should eat too.

Last Friday Evelyn and I went out on a fancy date to the newly-opened La V out on East 7th. The space is beautiful, the service was great (thanks Courtney!), and the food was fantastic. We shared everything and the real standouts were the “grilled baby octopus” (amazing; the best octopus we’ve ever had) and “veal two ways” (exceptional and truly memorable; veal cheek and sweetbreads). The meyer lemon cream dessert might be Ev’s favorite dessert in Austin. The menu changes weekly, so over time everything will phase out to make room for new, seasonal dishes.

And as you’ll notice there are no photos because, and this is important, sometimes most times every time, the company you’re with deserves your attention more than a future blog / Facebook / Twitter post audience. That important fact is something I need to remember much more often.

The next day we met up with friends at Curly’s Carolina, Texas to get Q’ed up. I followed my own advice and got “The Texan”, a brisket-on-bread-and-nothing-else sandwich, and topped it with some wasabi cole slaw. Banana pudding rounded things out for good measure. It was incredible.

curlys brisket sandwich

After a few days of recovery I stopped by Guac N Roll, who sets up shop at The Draught House on Wednesdays. I tried an experimental tamale featuring Adelbert’s Brewery Naked Nun, Tillamook cheddar, queso fresco & Anaheim peppers. Not quite as good as the standard tamale, but the regular tamale is the best tamale I’ve ever had, every time I have it. But I love that they continue to try new things.

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And finally Ev and I went for a walk back over to The Draught House the next night to get a post-dinner snack. We grabbed some always-delicious Chicken Kara’age –deep-fried chicken thigh, sweet-spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro (bleh), mint, onion, jalapeño– and the daily special “Broccoli Two Ways” –shaved stalk & dehydrated florets, togarashi candied peanuts, nori paper, yuzu, mixed herbs, Thai coconut dressing. Both were great and hit the spot.

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And now, if you’ll excuse me, we have guests coming to town, so it’s time to loosen the belt a notch.

Ultimate Showdown: In-N-Out Burger vs P. Terry’s

headtohead

Here we go. The ultimate showdown between the hometown hero, hailing from AUSTIN, TEXAS, and the challenger, just in from CALIFORNIA. Lots of buzz surrounded the invasion of In-N-Out Burger into the home turf of P. Terry’s. The people are split: the West Coast transplants came out in force when the first store opened while the locals dug in their heels defending their local love. As an unbiased outsider* I felt it was my duty to pit them head to head and settle the debate once and for all**. So let’s get into it.

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Curly’s Carolina, TX [CLOSED]

UPDATE: Sadly, Curly’s Carolina, TX has permanently closed in September 2014.

photo credit: Texas Monthly BBQ

photo credit: Texas Monthly BBQ

Texas has always been the center of barbecue in the country. Anyone who disagrees, well, isn’t from Texas. In the past few years there has been a resurgence of great BBQ, particularly here in Central Texas, with new places pushing the envelope. To succeed in this market that values tradition and consistency, you also need to innovate. And that’s where Curly’s Carolina, TX comes in.

Curly’s Carolina, TX is a coming-together of two former Austin-area BBQ food trailers. Hall of Flame BBQ brings its old school Texas style while Curly’s Perfect Pig shows off its Carolina roots. The menu offers each style on its own as well as mash-ups combining the two for something you can’t find anywhere else. Pitmaster Jay Yates is one of the nicest guys in the business, and he’s brought great barbecue to the I-35 corridor in Round Rock, Texas.

The space is large, with two dining rooms and a large patio out back. There’s even a dedicated parking lot behind the restaurant, making it easier for you to get great food into your mouth even faster.

As for that great food, from experience I can say that literally everything is worth your money. If you’re looking for that traditional, pinch-me-I-think-I’m-dreaming meal, go with the brisket. I prefer mine on a sandwich (called The Texan), but as long as you’re getting some brisket, it doesn’t matter how it’s served. They’re using USDA Prime meat and smoke it all through the night to make sure your meat can barely hold itself together. The rub they use is a secret blend with salt, pepper, brown sugar, and a whole slew of other spices. And it’s amazing.

curlys brisket sandwich

If you want to try something a little less traditional, but no less delicious, I recommend the Carolina Quesadilla. As a matter of fact, you should order it every time and share one as an appetizer. And then order another just for you. They fill stuff a huge flour tortilla with their Carolina pulled pork, smoked Gouda cheese, and poblano peppers, top it with a chipotle-avocado sauce, sour cream, a little more cheese, and serve it with a side of pickled onions. No Tex-Mex joint can touch this quesadilla. Trust me.

curlys pulled pork quesadilla

At most BBQ spots, the sides are forgettable. Not here though. The fried okra, wasabi cole slaw (yep.), hushpuppies, and fried green tomatoes are all worthy companions to your meat(s) of choice. Keep an eye on their Specials board to see what else they have that day.

Curly's Okra and Sandwich

And no matter what you do –I’m serious here, so pay attention– be sure to order the banana pudding for dessert. Oh man, it’s indescribable. It’s like… …

But really, it’s creamy and satisfying and light and if you catch it on a special day, they smoke the bananas before placing them on top. Do it.

curlys banana pudding

And here are a few additional shots of what Curly’s has to offer:

 

You can let your friends stand in 3 hour lines, be greeted by “Sold Out” signs, and fret over who has “the best” barbecue, but you’ll know the secret to avoiding all those things sits just up the highway.

cityguide_afba_badge
Address 112 Main Street

Round Rock, TX 78664

Phone number (512) 537-9227
Hours of Operation Tues. & Wed. 11 am – 2 pm, or until sold out

Hours: Thurs. – Sat. 11 am – 7 pm, or until sold out

Hours: Sundays 11 am – 5 pm, or until sold out

Website http://www.curlyscarolinatx.com/
Facebook Curly’s Carolina, Texas
Twitter @CurlysBBQ
Additional Info Yes BYOB, No WiFi, No Reservations

 

Back to the Food Reviews!

Capture

It’s been WAY too long since I’ve posted any sort of blog post about food, food trucks, or really anything you put in your mouth. In an effort to get back to it, I’m going to try something a little different. Rather than a full, detailed post about each and every food truck I’ve visited (like I used to do), you can expect more ad hoc “summary” posts about places I’ve really enjoy recently. The focus will probably still be on food trucks, but honestly that’ll be because that’s where I eat most!

To kick things off, this past weekend Evelyn was out of town. And I went a little overboard, so I’ll (try to) keep things brief.

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