About a year ago I backed a project on Kickstarter for the Sansaire Sous Vide machine. It was a purchase of passion and took a little convincing to a certain rationally-thinking wife that it was going to be amazing. It arrived, I tried it out without much fanfare, and put it in the cabinet. Well I recently got re-excited about it and have had lots of success, so I thought I’d share what came out of our kitchen!
It’s the little things that you don’t think about when your whole routine gets flipped on its head. With the arrival of Wes we quickly learned how little time we had to plan out meals, go grocery shopping, and spend a relaxing evening cooking dinner. Thanks to our incredible friends and neighbors bringing over prepared meals, we haven’t starved to death. But there are times when there’s just no chance we can get out the door to even grab some takeout. Enter Postmates.
Whoa. My first blog post as a dad. It’s been tough. As Wes sleeps (or doesn’t), we sleep (or don’t). These past few weeks have been rough, so to combat the morning … and day … and night … exhaustion, we’ve dialed up the coffee intake quite a bit. And in the Texas summer, iced coffee is really the only option.
Some nights after dinner you find yourself with a craving for something more than what the four pints of ice cream in your freezer can offer. In a moment of sheer brilliance Evelyn simultaneously thought of, searched for, and found a recipe for brownies made in a waffle iron. So we got to work!
While waiting in line at the grocery checkout we chanced upon a copy of “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen” issue full of ATK’s best recipes. Once home and flipping through the pages, one of the last pages caught my eye: Magic Chocolate Flan Cake. In true ATK fashion, there was a lot of trial and error and ultimately an explanation of how it works. But I didn’t read any of it. I just wanted to start making something called Magic Chocolate Flan Cake!
In a new segment called “Mike’s Likes” I’m going to keep track of my favorite of Austin’s whatever. This is NOT a list of the best but rather a list of my favorite. I want to be clear that I cannot possibly say “This is the Best [fill-in-your-food-item here]”. I have not had ALL, or even most, not to mention personal tastes make it a completely silly conversation. As this list evolves, I’ll update it with my new favorites. With that said, let’s get into my favorite burgers!
This year marked the third year (one and two) of the Austin Food and Wine Alliance’s Live Fire and the third year that Evelyn and I have attended. Unexpectedly the weather turned wet and dreary, but remained relatively tame for the duration of the face-stuffing festivities. We met up with Jeff and Lisa (of Full and Content), who had already scoped things out and snapped some great pictures, so check them out for some actually good photos of the event.
After battling traffic Evelyn and I arrived around 7pm and got right to the eating. Ultimately we tried all but two of the tents, some of which had multiple samples to try. All pictures are below, and rather than somehow rank 17 dishes, I’ll share a few highlights.
For me, Cafe Josie’s Braised Short Rib and Sweet Potato Skewer, the second thing we tasted, topped my list.
Braised Short Rib and Sweet Potato with Chili Aioli from Cafe Josie
Evelyn and Lisa both preferred the Toasted Chile and Garlic Skirt Steak with Jalapeno Jelly, Cherry Tomato Relish and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds from Arcade Midtown Kitchen in San Antonio. That would be my second favorite.
Toasted Chile and Garlic Skirt Steak with Jalapeno Jelly, Cherry Tomato Relish and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds from Arcade Midtown Kitchen
Jeff’s favorite bite came from The Granary (also in San Antonio) and their Smoke-Grilled Beef Cheek, Plantain, and Chimichurri.
Smoke-Grilled Beef Cheek, Plantain, and Chimichurri from The Granary
In true Franklin BBQ fashion, he ran out of food very early (like 7:45pm at an event that goes from 6:30-9pm) and many people were left without sampling his beef ribs. Ev and I made the rounds quickly (more on that in a sec) and still didn’t make it to Franklin’s line in time. Franklin himself said he prepared 500 plates (the number of tickets that were sold), but alas… sad times.
As for the event itself, it just didn’t have that same “WOW” factor as in years past. Perhaps being pregnant (i.e. no drinking) coupled with soggy weather meant there was less opportunity to grab a plate or two and then find a spot to just hang out and enjoy while sipping wine or a cocktail. Instead, we grabbed a plate of food and promptly moved to the back of the next line. Jeff, Evelyn, and I agree that the quality of the food, for whatever reason, didn’t blow us out of the water either. Perhaps we’re simply remembering last year with an unfairly high expectation.
We’ll see about if we’ll attend or not next year. If deciding now, probably not. But who knows, maybe we’ll remember it with a certain fondness that forgets the downsides of this year’s event. Until then, onto more (mediocre) food pictures!
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.
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
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…
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
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.
Another year, anotherCap10K. 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?
Well it happened again. We had guests in town and we went on an eating frenzy. Four of Evelyn’s good friends from college came to Austin to check out the city and see Evelyn before our little man gets here. Here’s a recap of how the weekend of indulgence played out.