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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jeff’s favorite bite came from The Granary (also in San Antonio) and their Smoke-Grilled Beef Cheek, Plantain, and Chimichurri.
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!
In order of consumption:
The Ladies Come to Town
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.
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.
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.
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.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, we have guests coming to town, so it’s time to loosen the belt a notch.
When the Parents Come To Town
My dad and step-mom came into town to visit for the first time, so we showed them the ropes. And by ropes I mean we ate a crazy amount of food in a very short period of time. Like a few weekends ago, it would be a lot for a week, let alone two days.
Curly’s Carolina, TX [CLOSED]
UPDATE: Sadly, Curly’s Carolina, TX has permanently closed in September 2014.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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
|Curly’s Carolina, Texas|
|Additional Info||Yes BYOB, No WiFi, No Reservations|
Back to the Food Reviews!
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.
Trailer Crawling with Truck by Truckwest
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
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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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!
April’s Trailer Food Tuesdays
I’ve gotta say, these Trailer Food Tuesdays events are pretty fantastic. Since the first one early last year, they’ve really found their groove and know how to show off Austin’s food trucks to Austin’s hungry residents. Ev and I headed down after work hoping to meet up with friends and try some new-to-us trucks.