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

Sous Vide Steak Fajitas

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!

Sous Vide 136

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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.

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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Trailer Crawling with Truck by Truckwest

txtw

For six days, Truck by Truckwest, a new food trailer showcase, took over Austin’s mobile food scene. With a $20 pass you could access special deals at over 60 Austin food trucks, trailers, and carts. Some gave out free samples, others provided discounts, and a few put together exclusive menu items. As for the food trucks, the incentive came in the form of one, winner-take-all, voted-by-the-people $10,000 prize. I’d call that a big motivator!

So of course I participated in this city-wide food trailer crawl! In total I tried 17 different dishes from 15 trailers, with some surprising (and not-so-surprising) favorites. For me, my favorites came from my already-favorite trailers, like both stackers from Cow Tipping Creamery and the chopped brisket slider from La Barbecue. The dark horses included Valentina’s TexMex BBQ (smoked brisket tacos) and Llama’s Peruvian (Saltado de Pollo Sanguche (grilled chicken sandwich)). That’s not to say others weren’t delicious too. Most were excellent, with only one or two considered disappointing.

As for the event itself, I’d call it a big success. Considering the fragmented world of food trucks, where any given truck may not know it’s own schedule from day to day, coordinating such an effort is no small feat. For the most part, trucks were communicating their deals and honoring them just at the sight of a TXTW badge. Some were eager to have those badges come up to their window (Celia Jacob’s Cheesecake Experience comes to mind as being super enthusiastic). The only feedback for the event would be to create a mobile app to help organize a person’s TXTW experience, but that’s a future nice-to-have, and not a criticism.

So who got my vote? Well, that’s my little secre… COW TIPPING CREAMERY. Not for nothing, they are seemingly incapable of creating anything short of a masterpiece in ice cream form. Now, I don’t know if they’re going to win, but I sure hope they do. My fear is

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that the voting may become a popularity contest regardless of the food that was served during TXTW, but that can’t

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really be helped.

As for the winner… I’ll update this post when it’s announced shortly. But really, we’re all winners. Because that was a lot of food for not a lot of money. Can’t wait for next year!

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Austin City Guide 2013: Austin’s Newest Food Trailers

Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide

Click image to see the full 2013 AFBA City Guide

While some choose to focus the calendar around January 1st, Austin revolves around something a little more important: South by Southwest.  I mean, sure, you could celebrate the day changing, just like it does 364 other times a year, along with every single person in the world.  OR you could be a little weird and celebrate 2,500+ bands, 730+ film screenings, and thousands of other events, all crammed into 10 days.

I like to use this as an opportunity to reflect on the newest food trailers making a name for themselves.  By no means is this list a full representation of the dozens (hundreds?) of new trailers hitting the scene.  In fact, this post would get unwieldy very quickly if I tried to include them all.  Here are just a few to whet your appetite.  Hope you’re hungry. (all photos are mine)

CENTRAL

Kicking things off, an entirely new trailer park has opened on UT Campus called the Rancho Rio Eatery.  You could stop here in the morning and be all set until bed time, with coffee, waffles, smoothies, sandwiches, Thai food, pizza, sausages, dessert, and more.

Velveteen Coffee House – Facebook | Food Trailers Austin
Run by a young husband and wife, this trailer makes a mean cup of coffee.  Though primarily targeting the bleary-eyed students on their way to class, you should plan to swing by for your caffeine boost and avoid the lines at Starbucks.  If the line gets long, they’ve been known to offer up free samples of other menu items while you wait.

Velveteen Coffee House

Coffee at Velveteen Coffee House

Cow Tipping Creamery – My Reviews One Two ThreeWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
For a new spin on ice cream Cow Tipping Creamery is working its magic with soft serve.  This isn’t some pedestrian TCBY knockoff; this truck puts together special flavor combinations.  Grab a Cone, Shake, or Stacker (below) and sit back and let the goodness wash over you.

Fluffer Nutter

Fluffer Nutter at Cow Tipping Creamery

The Mighty ConeWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Not new by any means — in fact, one of the oldest food trailers in town — has a new home.  You’ll find all the same, coney goodness in a new location.  The Mighty Cone is an institution, and as such, its new location needed to be mentioned.

The North Loop neighborhood has seen a boom in bars and restaurants recently, and now trailers are finding their way there too.  Two new spots, which couldn’t be more different, are offering some great eats worth checking out away from the downtown fray.

Melvin’s Deli ComfortWebsite | Facebook
With a weekday, lunch-only, meat-heavy menu, Melvin’s Deli Comfort makes big sandwiches with house-made deli meats.  We’re talking huge pastramis, hefty hot Italian beefs, and rich Croque Monsieurs.  Get there early, though, because they seem to run out of popular menu items (ahem, pastrami) pretty quick.

Melvin's Deli Comfort Italian Beef 1

Italian Beef at Melvin’s Deli Comfort

The Vegan NomWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
To counter Melvin’s meatastic menu, The Vegan Nom focuses on vegan tacos, along with other animal-free breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare.  No promises, but you might just forget that there’s no eggs, meat, or cheese by the time you’re finished here.

Guac N Roll – Website | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
A green truck, with a mohawk, and a clever name — talk about a winning combination!  Plus most of their guacamole menu –yes, a whole section of different guacamole options– is based on musical puns (Guac The Casbah, anyone?).  It’s just outside of the North Loop area, and worth a stop on your way to or from downtown.  Follow them on Twitter, since rumor has it they may be going more mobile soon.

SOUTH

Little Big Mike’sWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Pizza in Austin has seen some relative improvement recently, but is still a veritable dead zone in the land of Tex-Mex and BBQ.  Little Big Mike’s, located on South Congress, offers a new style to the city by featuring individual pan pizzas with all kinds of unique flavor combinations.  Hatch Green Chile & Avocado, anyone?

Burro Cheese Kitchen Website | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
If there’s something more comforting than a grilled cheese sandwich, I’m not sure I’ve found it.  Burro Cheese Kitchen elevates the grilled cheese to the next level, while staying true to its roots.  The cheese is the star of the show, made obvious by the impressive list of options listed on the menu.  Check them out on South Congress until the trailer park closes down.

Waylon & Willie at Burro Cheese Kitchen

Waylon & Willie at Burro Cheese Kitchen

Yeti Frozen CustardWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
You say “frozen custard”; I say “ohmygodgetoutofmyway”.  With that said, true frozen custard is rare find, kind of like a Yeti.  Swing by Yeti Frozen Custard on South 1st for a real treat.  Even better idea?  First grab some La Barbecue (scroll way down) and follow it up with some Yeti dessert.

Concrete at Yeti Frozen Custard

Concrete at Yeti Frozen Custard

Tommy Want Wingy – Facebook | TwitterFood Trailers Austin
Although I question the name choice, the premise is solid.  The worst part about chicken wings is the mess.  TWW does the prep work for you and you’re left with chicken wing popsicles.  Think of them as wings in drumstick form, like this.   Find them at the Barton Springs Neighborhood Food Court.

Honky Tonk Hot DogsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Sometimes you need a good ol’ fashioned hot dog, dressed how you like it, and served with a punch of live music.  Honky Tonk Hot Dogs delivers on all counts, including performances from the very talented owner Scott.  Drop by for a dog, some tunes and, as is typical with many food trailer parks, be sure to BYOB.  They’re next door to Tommy Want Wingy.

Honky Tonk Hot Dogs

All-American w/ sample of chili at Honky Tonk Hot Dogs

Lard Have Mercy!Website | Facebook | TwitterFood Trailers Austin
Probably the best name for a trailer, ever.  Specializing in deep fried everything, Lard Have Mercy! is a great late-night snack place — y’know, when that fried Twinkie doesn’t sound quite so bad.  Find them on South 1st.

NORTH

One of the most noteworthy trends this past year has been the expansion of food trailers to the greater Austin area.  Now Round Rock and Pflugerville each have their own dedicated food trailer parks serving the underserved and doing it quite well.  From my experience, both of these mentioned BBQ trailers can hold their own against any barbecue found in the greater Austin area.

UPDATE: THE ROUND ROCK FOOD TRAILER PARK IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED.

Round Rock isn’t just home to Dell and giant donuts anymore.  The Round Rock Food Trailer Park is the first food trailer park to set up in this Austin suburb.

UPDATE: CURLY’S PERFECT PIG AND HALL OF FLAME BBQ HAVE CLOSED THEIR TRAILERS AND HAVE OPENED A JOINT VENTURE BRICK-AND-MORTAR RESTAURANT CALLED CURLY’S CAROLINA, TEXAS.

Curly’s Perfect Pig – My Reviews One Two | Website | Facebook | TwitterFood Trailers Austin
Sure, Curly’s serves barbecue, but this isn’t like any Q you’ll find in Texas.  Here pig is king.  At this Carolina style BBQ you’ll almost forget you’re in Texas with the first bite of pulled pork.  Get it on a sandwich, baked potato, or just on a plate.  No matter how you order it, you’ll be impressed.  Right off of I-35, it isn’t really that far to pay a visit up to Round Rock.

curlys baked potatoes

Pulled Pork Baked Potato at Curly’s Perfect Pig

A little northwest of Austin you’ll find the new Pflugerville Pfood Ranch serving the outer edge of Austin to those who don’t want to fight I-35 traffic to get deep into Austin.

Hall of Flame BBQ – My ReviewWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Technically not new, but new to the mainstream scene, Hall of Flame BBQ knows how to cook meat.  With brisket that rivals the best in town and a wasabi cole slaw that will blow you away, it’s worth the trip away from downtown just a bite before heading back.  Currently only open on Saturdays, they’re hoping to expand hours and locations soon.

Hall of Flame BBQ

Beef Ribs and Sausage at Hall of Flame BBQ

SCATTERED

Little Fatty’s – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Serving up gorditas (which quite literally translates to little fatty), these guys are taking to the streets in a seriously mobile way.  At five bucks apiece, you’ll be handed an extra large arepa-like pocket packed with big flavor.  Easy for on-the-go mouth filling.

EAST

Fried and TrueMy ReviewWebsite | Facebook | Twitter
Oh boy.  Decisions, decisions.  Funnel cake or fried Oreos?  Chocolate-covered candied bacon or deep fried Sriracha grilled cheese sandwich?  If you’re like me, the only choice is to get all of it.  Want it for half the calories?  Go with a friend and share.  Open late on the East side, perfect for post-drinking refueling.

Deep fried Oreo and Funnel Cake at Fried and True

Deep fried Oreo and Funnel Cake at Fried and True

Lastly, I want to mention two (three?) trailers that have reinvented themselves in the last year.

East Side King @ The Grackle – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Never content with success, (Top Chef) Paul Qui has rebuilt one of the East Side King trifecta.  The Grackle location has a new truck and new menu, making it as new as an old trailer can be.  The menu is just as inventive as the other spots, but remains heavily focused on utilizing it’s big grill.  A great stop at the easternmost stretch of East 6th St to either start or end your night.

J Mueller BBQ –> La Barbecue “Texicana Cuisine” – WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | Food Trailers Austin
Thought of as one of the tops in the city, J Mueller BBQ has been rebranded as LA Barbecue Texicana Cuisine (don’t even get me started on the name).  The change came after John Mueller was unceremoniously relieved of his post as pitmaster and replaced by Franklin BBQ alum John Lewis.  It’s still turning out some of the finest BBQ in the city under John Mueller’s sister (LeAnn)’s watchful eye. (My Review of J Mueller BBQ)

Beef Rib at LA Barbecue

Beef Rib at LA Barbecue

JSM Meat Market – Website | Facebook | Twitter
John Mueller is the pitmaster you love to hate.  Not one to shy away from controversy, one thing most people can agree on is he makes some mean BBQ.  Perhaps best known for his beef ribs, go grab a sampler from his new location out East.

JMueller - Meat Plate

Sampler at J Mueller BBQ