7 Mar

New places to try: Love Balls

It’s like cake balls, but EXTREME!

The menu is Japanese-inspired and it includes fare like octopus and ginger pancake balls (Takoyaki).

They also have something called the “Texas Takoyaki Roulette”,  which is a regular order of Takoyaki, except one of the balls is laced with ghost pepper laced habanero. Sounds fun to eat with friends. 

Love Balls is located on the E. 6th Trailer Park and open from 11AM to 8PM.

[Read more on 365 Things Austin.]

[Love Balls website.]

2 Mar

Lunchtime blog: Hickory Street

Hickory Street resided at the corner of 8th and Congress. I have very fond memories of that place, usually surrounding SXSW time, or summer afternoons grabbing a bite before watching a film at the Paramount for the Summer Series.

Mind you, back then, the food wasn’t great. It was your run-of-the-mill pub fare. Burgers, sandwiches. Beer selection wasn’t anything special either. 

They did have a salad and baked potato bar, which was okay if you needed a bite in a hurry and were downtown. However, if you happened upon said salad bar later in the day, you were wise to stay away. 

Last year, it was with a sad heart I heard Hickory Street was closing down. Sure, the food wasn’t great, like I said; but the memories I had there, as well as the utter convenience of the location, made me bemoan the loss of the establishment.

Fast-forward to a few months later, Hickory Street is back. New owners, new look and new menu!

image

The patio is no longer covered, it’s just so much more inviting and pleasant now (at least on a nice, Springy day like today, with 80 degree weather). Definitely a good alternative to the recently closed pizza joint Red House on the East Side.

You know how Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares always says you should keep the menu simple and streamlined? The new Hickory Street is a great example of a simplified menu and execution.

The lunch menu is one page long and everything is self-service. You stand in line, order, get a pager, then go get your food when you’re paged. The wait was not long at all. See? Streamlined.

image

Onto the food. I had the catfish tacos. They were simple and delicious. Just battered catfish with an amazingly fresh, tangy and slightly spicy coleslaw with green apple. The fish was crispy yet buttery, and the coleslaw makes that gross concoction the Colonel calls ‘coleslaw’ at KFC look like soylent green. 

image

My friend and co-worker had the Short Rib Mac and Cheese, which is exactly what you heard. A mac and cheese bowl with pulled short rib on top. I tried some of it, of course, and it was to die for. The short rib just melts in your mouth. I would say the Short Rib Mac and Cheese is one of the items to get. Even if it’s as a side or you split it with friends while enjoying other entrees.

That was what I liked about their new menu the most. The plates are filling enough on their own, but they’re small enough to get a few and share with friends, making this a good spot for a happy hour with friends.

That’s my verdict. I am not sure how long Hickory Street will be open until the building is shut down to make way for (yet) more condos in downtown Austin; but I sure hope that if they close down, the place will re-open somewhere in the downtown area to keep the vibe, tradition, and great new food alive.

19 Feb

Lunchtime blog: Counter Cafe

Counter Cafe is known for its burgers. Delicious, beefy burgers.

I recently went there for lunch and was conflicted.

Should I try the beef and be a bad vegetarian*? Or should I stay safe and go with the veggie patty?

My rule is that if a place makes their own veggie patty, I will try it. I HATE pre-made veggie patties. I don’t even make those at home, so why would I pay someone to make that for me. I rather eat salad. Gross, tasteless salad. (I hate salad.)

I was told they do make their own veggie patty out beets, beans and some other veggies I couldn’t quite place. It was delicious! (A veggie burger Dwight Schrute would be proud of!)

Their burger is just a nice, simple burger with fresh lettuce and tomato (cheese if you want it too!). The bun was fresh and soft, though a bit sweet for my taste. 

The patty was excellent. I’ve had lots of veggie patties before, and some of them just crumble up and don’t hold up. This one holds up very well. (Unlike other veggie burgers, like Hopdoddy or Flat Top.)

It was also just plan ol’ good! Not overly sweet, not overly salty, it was pretty perfect. Not huge, but not too small — just perfect.

In terms of downtown lunch, I did have to drive there from my workplace (7th and Congress), but it might be a good stroll in the spring, if I had the time to take a long lunch.

Their breakfast looked really great too, so this might be a place I revisit on a weekend for an early, old-school counter breakfast. (You know, like old people do.)

*On me being a vegetarian: I recently decided to start introducing meat back into my diet, just to try it out and see how things go; see if I like it. I’ve just been feeling like I needed a change in my diet. I still Love veggie burgers though. Yeah, more than beef burgers. Veggies 4eva!

10 Feb

Cauliflower: No longer the vegetable I despise


[Photo credit: Morgue File]

Cauliflower is tasteless. I hate it.

It’s unappealing. It’s white. Blank. It’s Broccoli’s lame Albino cousin.

That is, until I learned recently you can turn it into a delicious patty.

A few friends of mine are on a take of the paleo-diet, and they swear by cauliflower. Since potatoes and rice are off limits, they use cauliflower as a replacement. You can chop up cauliflower and eat it as rice, or mash it up and use it as a replacement for mashed potatoes.

Last night, I was introduced to the wonderful world of cauliflower patties. My research indicates this is a traditional dish in places ranging from Italy, Scotland and Hungary. If you already knew this, please pardon my ignorance. I was completely unaware you could turn this lame-o excuse of a vegetable into something appealing and rustic.

Since I am now obsessed with finding and perfecting the cauliflower patty, here are some of the best recipes I have found online:

Cauliflower cakes on “More Fruit Please.”
This one uses Italian bread crumbs to hold it together and give it spice, as well as Parmesan cheese. 

Cheesy cauliflower pancakes on “A Good Appetite.” 
Cheesy indeed. This recipe calls for cheddar cheese (and panko). 

Cauliflower patties on “Eating Chalk.”
This one seems like a spicier take on the patty, using curry powder and lime. 

Cauliflower patties from “ItaliaRican Kicthen.”
These look very hearty and full. The recipe also calls for optional ketchup or apple sauce, which seems like an interesting take. 

9 Feb

Note to self: New places to try

GDS&M created a really nice landing page for SXSW called SXsurvival.com. As a foodie, I checked out their food recommendations and was pleasantly surprised to see some placed I hadn’t thought of going to before:

BACKSPACE
Pretty much in my backyard (at least during work hours), Backspace opens daily at 5PM and is located on 5th and San Jacinto. I have never noticed it or even heard of its existence until recently. Your pizza is on my list now.
[website.] 

ENOTECA VESPAIO
Call me uncultured, but I have no idea what an Enoteca or a Vespaio is, but it sure looks delicious. Not really a walk for lunch (at least not for me), but definitely drivable distance from my work, and a pretty central location for just about anybody — except for that pesky parking situation on SoCo.
[website.] 

FOODHEADS
They call it the best sandwich. And I have sot of heard of Foodheads, but I have never ventured there on account that it is located on campus. Probably not a workweek type of lunch place for me (or for anybody on a schedule. Let’s face it, getting through campus during lunchtime is a nightmare), but maybe a place to check out during the weekend.
[website.] 

7 Feb

I do love the cheese

Cheese plate at Hopfields

My favorite cheese shop in the whole wide world, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, is celebrating their two year anniversary this week.

I love cheese. I love cheese plates. I could seriously have a plate of cheese and a pint of beer for dinner every single day.

Antonelli’s is being awesome to the Austin foodie community by offering free cheese plates all week (while supplies last) at the following locations:

Tuesday: 24 Diner, Hopfields, Fino
Wednesday: Bartlett’s House Pizzeria
Thursday: Chez Zee, Max’s Winde Dive, The Steeping Room
Friday:  Coal Vines, The Seedling Truck

Read more on Austin 360.

*I have italicized the places where I plan to go. See you there!

31 Jan

An expert on cheese

Fab.com features a sale today with the book “Grilled Cheese Please: 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes.

I found it on Amazon (because Fab takes forever to deliver packages!) and proceeded to read the author bio:

Laura Werlin is a highly respected authority on cheese.”

How does one become an authority on cheese? I want that title!

In the meantime, I will be getting this book and eating my way through the recipes. More cheese to come.

26 Jan

Eastciders

Eastciders

The folks from Austin Eastciders make cider the “old-fashioned way,” and it certainly pays off!

Eastciders is crisp, refreshing and not too-tarty, like some ciders can be. It really is the perfect, sweet, sweet cider.

One of my favorite new drinks, as found at Hopfields, the Draught House and Black Star Co-Op. For a full list of availability, click here.

24 Jan

Lunch: Easy Tiger on 6th Street

TL;DR: Try the pastrami sandwich! If you’re there for lunch, ask for a half-pint. 

When I say Easy Tiger is a new eatery, I really mean it. Today, Easy Tiger has been open for two days!

The layout is cool: On the top floor, you can get pastries, sammiches and coffee to go; while you can enjoy a sit down meal downstairs.

The menu is simple and beautiful. Breads, cheeses, and meats. That’s it. It’s pub food at its best. Simple, homemade (I think they make their own bread there), no frills. I could seriously just go there for the beer and the cheese. 

My big beef, however, is with the vegetarian fare. You can easily go there and have some breads, cheeses and beer and be satisfied, don’t get me wrong. Silly me, I tried a sandwich for lunch. Goat cheese, pear and fennel mustard on a baguette.

I love goat cheese, and I love pear. Often, together they are great, like in a Waldorf salad. I was not a fan of this sammich. I didn’t even finish it. For 8 bucks, I’d have expected something a bit more filling, more satisfying. 

The bread to delicious filling ratio was off by about 9,000. Also, WHY WOULD YOU CHOP THE PEARS? Pears are delicious sliced. In long slices. Several long slices over a generous portion of goat cheese. 

As for the mustard, I couldn’t even taste it. My friend pointed out, “mustard should come and kick you in the face.” Not this one, my friend. In this situation, the mustard seemed out of place. Like a lost kitty who stumbled into a beagle convention.

I’m sure some vegetarians out there will like this combination and come at me with flame torches. Alright. I just like substance in my sammiches. Sue me.

I was so sad, that I turned to my friend Bethany, who was eating a delicious pastrami sandwich, and I felt jealous. She asked me if I wanted to try some. I was still hungry, so I did. The vegetarian ate some meat. I blame the stupid chopped pear!

It was delicious. The bread was soft and airy, the pastrami was warm and melted in your mouth. Sauerkraut and swiss cheese were the perfect complement and did not overpower the meat (as sauerkraut tends to do). This sauerkraut was fresh, yo. Like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fresh (or should I spell that phresh?).

The visit was worth it for that ONE bite of the pastrami sandwich alone.

I also love the fact I can get a half-pint. Any place that serves a half-pint is instantly a favorite of mine.

I’ll definitely be going there again, but I will try the veggie sausage.

***/5

Quite a happy collection of bitters @HopfieldsAustin

Quite a happy collection of bitters @HopfieldsAustin