Impromptu Iron Lunch

A few days ago the idea of barbecue for lunch came up but was ultimately discarded for something else that I can’t even remember.  But that idea of barbecue stuck with me, lurking in my subconscious, gnawing at the very essence of my decision-making being — until this day! — when it punched through and exclaimed “Mike, you want barbecue right now!”  If this all seems a little dramatic, welcome to my life when it comes to deciding what to have for lunch.

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Foodie Day!

Last week our neighbor mentioned something along the lines of seeing my incredible food photos and wanted to set up a “foodie day”.  After thinking about it, I realized that a relatively average day for me is not quite the norm for others.  So then I did what anyone would do and ran 14 miles.  Anyway, we had a plan set out for Republic of Sandwich (my new favorite spot in Austin) followed up by Cow Tipping Creamery (my forever favorite spot in Austin).  Here’s how things played out.

My foodie regular day began with a short run and then met up with Jeff at Easy Tiger to try a real pumpkin spice latte.  PSLs, as they’re known on sosh med, can be made one of two ways: 1) with pumps of non-organic, non-local, non-natural, non-delicious syrups; or 2) with homemade pumpkin syrup made from real pumpkins.  Easy Tiger makes theirs with option 2.  As someone whose coffee order is “iced coffee, no room”, this ranks in the top 3 of all coffee beverages in Austin.  The other two will not be named at this time to avoid spoilers in an upcoming post.

Easy Tiger Pumpkin Latte, photo courtesy of the inimitable Jeff Amador

Easy Tiger Pumpkin Latte, photo courtesy of the inimitable Jeff Amador

With coffee in hand and no food in my belly, I made my way over to Joe’s Bakery, which routinely finds itself atop most “best breakfast taco” lists.  Egg-and-potato wins every time.  The tortillas… OH! the tortillas!  A great snack to hold me over before Foodie Day officially began.

Joe's Bakery Breakfast Taco

After breakfast an idea popped into my head that can be described as nothing but humbly brilliant.  The pieces fit so snugly: it’s raining + I’m near La Barbecue + people don’t like to wait in lines in the rain = go get La Barbecue for foodie day!  This meant a change in plans, but everyone involved was on board.  I arrived 15 minutes after opening and was 12th in line.  I ordered a lot of meat for three people including a pound of brisket, three ribs, a half pound of pulled pork, and a half pound of turkey.  We had leftovers.

La Barbecue Spread

And finally, with barbecue acquired, on the way home I received an insider tip from Jeff that there was a new Red Rabbit special donut available!  So I swung by our local amazing grocery Wheatsville and snagged three donuts, including two of the gingerbread specials, before finally making it back home.

Red Rabbit Gingerbread Donut

The pre-Foodie Day latte and breakfast taco hit the spot before diving into the barbecue feast.  I love everything they make at La Barbecue, but the brisket steals the show consistently.  The little gingerbread man rounded (donut pun!) things out perfectly.  To me, it was just a regular day, but I was happy to share and enjoy with others on their special day of eating.

And because no post can have too many babies, here are a few of the Foodie Day participants working off their meals.

Wes and Walker

Live Fire: 2014 Edition

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.

Live Fire Banner

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

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

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

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!

Live Fire 2014

In order of consumption:

 

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.

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