Southern summers = Southern tea. It's not difficult to brew your own tea, but lately I have been buying the Lemon Sweet Leaf Tea. It is refreshing and ready to go in a pinch. For happy hour, what about a spiked tea? Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka. The invention of Chad Auler, owner of Fall Creek Vineyards who also runs Austin's Savvy Vodka, and Clayton Christopher, the former CEO of Sweet Leaf Tea. Don't let the label on the bottle fool you. This is tea flavored vodka, not vodka flavored tea. It is 70 proof! Mix with water, a squirt of lemon and enjoy. (Gina)
As the temperature continues to rise, the desire to eat lighter, cooler sides increases too. Salads are easy and fast to make and adding texture and flavor is a breeze. This weekend I made Frankies Corn Salad spotted in InStyle Magazine, August 2010. The salads featured are suggested for a summer dinner party--perfect! The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual contains this recipe among others and is available at Amazon. The two chefs who wrote the cookbook are both named Frank and own restaurants in Brooklyn and New York City. I could not find the Castelrosso cheese at Central Market and did not have a chance to visit Henri's (see Around Town page) so I used mild provolone. The results were delicious. By the way, Frankies make their own olive oil and it is available online. (Gina)
Frankies Corn Salad
4 ears corn, roasted, kernels scraped off cobs
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn
1/2 medium red onion, sliced very thin
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
Big pinch of salt
Red Pepper flakes to taste
Castelrosso or mild provolone cheese
Soak ears of corn in a bowl of water for 10-15 minutes. Peel back husks, remove silk, and pull husks back over to cover corn kernels while grilling. Grill corn for 5 minutes over moderately hot fire. Remove corn form the grill and when cool enough to handle, peel off husk, Scrape kernels off cobs and place in a large salad bowl. Toss tomatoes in with the corn. Add mint and onion. Dress with olive oil, lemon, salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Crumble cheese on top. (Serves 6)
I visited La Patisserie by Luxe Sweets on West Annie the other day and enjoyed their almond croissant with a latte. It was a nice mid-morning break--sneaking a quiet moment with the paper in this quaint and charming little bakery. The following week I meet a friend at Houndstooth Coffee which is a special place that takes coffee very seriously. They brew each cup individually by hand (this is a process that takes time, but is worth it--see photo below). They serve Cuvee coffee, which is a local coffee roaster that I love. I ordered a cinnamon roll which was coincidentally made by Luxe Sweets. I have to say, this cinnamon roll was the best I've had in Austin (even better than that bakery that is known for their cinnamon rolls). Flakey, sweet, but not too sweet, with the perfect amount of butter. Divine. (Cathy)
I just finished the wonderful book Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and while the description of exotic Indian and African food is extensive, I found myself thinking about stone fruit. Specifically, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, etc. that are in abundance right now. I found this simple and tasty recipe from New York restaurateur, Donatella Arpaia. Ciliegine and Peaches can be served as a fun side for the family or as an appetizer at your next cocktail party. (Cathy)
Ciliegine and Peaches
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 ripe peaches, halved, pits removed, and each half cut in 3 wedges
1 pound ciliegine, mozzarella fresca (cherry size) packed in water
20 small basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Drizzle some oil onto a ridged stove-top grill and place over high heat, grill peach wedges for 2-3 minutes per side, until nicely charred. Slice each wedge in half and place in a large bowl. Add drained ciliegine, basil, shallots, oil and vinegar. Toss gently until well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste; let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slide ciliegine and peach pieces onto mini skewers. Tuck fresh basil leaves in between. Serve on a platter. (Serves 10-12)
By the time we arrived at 5:55 on a Friday evening in May, the line wrapped around the corner and the door had not even opened yet. Lucky for us, our friends arrived at 5:45 and had secured a place. We were seated at the communal table which we shared with 4 others, but that was not a problem--we were happy to have made it in (no reservations accepted). The menu offers small plates and the suggestion is to order 3 plates per person to be satisfied. Since there were 10 regular menu items and 2 specials, we ordered the entire menu and split each item four ways. We enjoyed every dish, but the standouts were the scallops, pork belly (of course) and lamb rib eye. The scallops were served with brussel sprouts, roasted peanuts and grapefruit—an unusual but perfect combination. The pork belly was well executed, served with zucchini, pine nuts and nicoise olives. The lamb was accompanied by green tomato, fried chickpea cake and mushrooms. The menu has changed since my visit (seasonal ingredients are king) but be assured you will find an incarnation of the lamb as well as other stellar items not mentioned. The service was attentive yet relaxed--nothing stuffy going on here. The beer menu is extensive as one would imagine from the name barley. We had no room for dessert, but felt perfectly comfortable and well fed--sounds like a good excuse for a second visit. Barley Swine is easily the best restaurant in Austin right now, confirming all the accolades being bestowed upon Bryce Gilmore. (Cathy)
I may have found the answer to world peace in a glass--Fino’s cocktail called Brotherly Love. The name drew me in, but the ingredients made me place the order: bluecoat American gin, cocchi Americano, St. Germain elderflower, canton ginger and orange bitters. It was smooth, very drinkable and oh so lovely. It was blended in such a way that all the notes of the drink winked at you, the elderflower liquor being slightly predominant. I do believe if all the world sat down and tried this simultaneously, brotherly love would surely be achieved.
P.S. Try the Fino happy hour which is Monday-Friday from 4-6 p.m. offering discounts on cocktails, beers, sherries, aperitifs, sparkling, & rosé wines and tapas. There is also Paella Night every Tuesday with 50% off paellas from 5-7 p.m. and 25% off from 7-10 p.m. (Cathy)
Note: Fino has closed since the date of this post publication.
I was cutting some raw chicken the other day and decided my knife was not doing the job. I realized it had been 6 months since my last visit to the Knife Sharpest, the place to have knives and other implements sharpened. It was time for a return trip. The professionals there allow you to drop off your knives for pick up later in the day, or you can wait if you please. They also offer knife and tomahawk throwing classes, just in case you need to sharpen your skills in that arena. Now my knives cut through everything like butter and make food prep even easier. (Cathy)
I have a love affair with pasta—it is easy, satisfying and versatile. It’s my go to comfort food. The one pasta dish I return to again and again is pasta carbonara. I challenge myself to try and make it better every time. I have learned not to put the sauce on the pasta until the very last minute, when everyone has a plate in hand, otherwise it will dry out. You can substitute cream for the milk if you are feeling decadent. There are many variations on this recipe, like Ruth Reichl’s which has no milk and uses bacon grease (tres decadent). My version is adapted from Nigella Lawson with the lemon juice and lemon zest included in a version she presented when she was on a different cooking channel. This can be served as a side or entrée. (Cathy)
¾ pounds spaghetti or linguine
4-5 slices of quality bacon or pancetta
4 egg yolks
1 lemon (using lemon zest and juice)
3 tbsp. milk (whole or skim)
½ cup parmesan cheese, divided
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water, cooking al dente according to package directions. While pasta cooks, cut up the bacon (or pancetta) into small chunks and cook until crispy. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain grease. Zest the lemon and set aside for garnish. In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks, milk, ¼ cup cheese, salt, pepper and juice from half a lemon (take care to strain out the seeds). Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside. Add bacon to the pasta, incorporating it throughout. Then just before serving, add sauce. Serve with lemon zest, parsley and remaining parmesan. Serves 4.
Lenoir was voted in the Austin Chronicle 2012 Restaurant Poll as Critics Pick for Best Place to Fall in Love, and fall in love you will. Whether it is the sublime seasonal food that highlights local ingredients, the transportive intimate space with dim, flattering lighting, or the company you keep; there is much to love about Lenoir.
The menu is categorized into 4 sections: Field, Sea, Land and Dream (dessert). Diners can choose any three items from these categories for a prix-fixe price of $35 (a fourth course can be added for $10). As we studied the menu and sipped drinks, we started with pickled vegetables and pate with bread. Favorites from the Field included the sweet corn agnolotti with fried garlic, cascabel aioli and epazote. Gina was pleased with her heirloom tomato salad with tamarind. The tomatoes were especially rich in flavor. A Sea favorite was the fish curry with roasted squid, heirloom tomatoes and poha. Tender fish and a spicy curry flavor made this dish very satisfying. From the Land portion of the menu, Cathy enjoyed the crispy goat and potato terrine with pea tendrils, hariss and preserved lime jus. An unusual combniation that worked well. Gina enjoyed the fried Texas quail. The flavors were not overwhelmingly gamey or intense (quail, wild boar and lamb), but rather simply layered. Our dreams came true with the chocolate pecan cake, Poteet strawberries and white coffee ice cream. The moist, dense cake accompanied by the fresh, sweet berries and the intense coffee flavor of the snow white ice cream was a lovely finish to a special meal.
My Dad is from a generation of men you can’t find anymore. A gentleman, a man who doesn’t wear his pjs and slippers out to dinner (inside joke). When we were younger I remember he would occasionally have a celebratory drink. A whiskey which he sipped and savored slowly. As kids we begged for a taste. As we raised the glass to our lips, the smell alone was too much. We did not like it - at all. After researching good whiskey, I am eager to attend a whiskey tasting. I think that would be a fun gift for a Dad who doesn’t need anything. There is limited seating so don't snooze. Specs is offering an engraved bottle of Gentlemens Jack for a fathers day gift. Check out this link . Pay special attention to the whiskey made in Waco, Texas at the Balcones Distilling. Both Twin Liquors (Hyde Park location) and Spec's ( Mopac location) currently have whiskey from the Balcones Distilling.
This weekend, to celebrate Father's Day, remember simple drinks are appreciated. Celebrate with beer, wine, or a good whiskey. Happy Father's Day! (Gina)
The love of food and how it can bring people together led to the creation of this blog. As a mother of two grown boys, who have left the nest and occasionally return, I noticed a common occurrence-- there is usually someone at home who is hungry.
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