It is finally feeling a bit more like fall over the past few days. With this kind of weather, the patio beckons and one of the coolest patios in town is at Bullfight. I was there with friends this week and tried a variety of drinks. A friend ordered Membrillo (pictured above) which contains Nolet's gin, orange sherry and quince jam. I had a sip and thought it was nicely balanced between the sweetness from the quince jam and the acid from the orange sherry. I ordered the Ahumado which has moonshine, mezcal, citrus, fig syrup and a grating of fresh nutmeg on top. The smokiness of the mescal was what hit me at first sip, but the drink was very smooth, with a nice contrast between the sweet fig and acid in the citrus. The last drink I tried was the Doña Rosa with fino sherry, vermouth, lavender, lemon and cava. The bubbles made this festive and it paired well with the variety of tapas on the menu. Try to pop by during happy hour, Monday-Friday 5:00-6:30 p.m. when beer, cider, vermouth, liquor and snacks are half off.
We made a quick 48 hour trip to New York City just before the Labor Day Weekend. Catching up with family and friends over meals was great fun. We met our lovely niece at the Italian restaurant Palma in SOHO one evening. I love that so many things on the menu are gluten-free or can be made GF. Highlights included the Carciofi Croccanti which is crispy baby artichoke hearts with parmigiano and parsley--a favorite appetizer of the whole table. Some of the best gluten-free pasta I have ever eaten was the Pappardelle allo Spezzatino d’Agnello with homemade pappardelle, slow-roasted lamb, olives, rosemary and pecorino sardo. The pasta was fresh and tender (it's gluten-free status was undetectable) and the lamb was tender and hearty. On the second evening we met up with friends over dinner at The Eddy, an intimate American restaurant in the East Village. Their menu changes often, featuring seasonal ingredients. We sampled a great many of the shared dishes from the well edited menu, all of which were very good, but the Roasted Duck was a standout. Afterwards we attempted to drop in the nearby Death & Co. cocktail bar, but the hour and a half wait shooed us away and we landed at the stalwart Temple Bar for nightcaps.
On our way to re-visit The High Line one morning, we breakfasted at The Wild Son in the Meatpacking District and had a fabulous meal. Many items on the menu are gluten-free, making selection easy. I had the Buckwheat Pancakes with fresh berries served with warm honey butter (and maple syrup on request). It was so delicious and filling, there was no need for lunch. My husband was very pleased with his Blueberry Corn Waffles with warm honey butter and housemade clabber cream, and the fresh juice drink To My Health with spinach, celery, pineapple and orange. We both enjoyed their expertly made coffee drinks.
Later that afternoon we went to see the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. I highly recommend making a reservation and going to see this at the earliest opportunity. I appreciated the conception, architecture, presentation of the exhibits and the space in general. It was a very emotional and moving experience, but extremely rewarding and enriching, one of the high points of our trip.
After such high emotion, I felt a bit drained and surprisingly hungry, so we made our way back to home base,Inn at Irving Place, and popped into Cibar Lounge for happy hour drinks and snacks. With a pretty outdoor patio and welcoming, open lounge area, happy hour was a perfect respite from the busy streets. We never made it to tea at the inn's Lady Mendl's Tea Salon, but it is on the list for next time.
The next day we had just enough time for lunch down the street from the inn at Casa Mono, a Spanish restaurant/bar co-owned by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Selzer. We took our chances and walked in without reservations. We were seated quickly inside the cozy space with mosaic tile floors and floor to ceiling windows overlooking Irving Place. The menu from Executive Chef Andy Nusser focuses on small shared raciones--appetizers or entrees--inspired by Spain's Costa Brava. We started with Ensalada Mono with manchego, pimentón and spiced marcona almonds. The salad was refreshing and well seasoned. Next up was Melon with Jamon, which had perfectly ripened melon with a touch of sweetness; a nice contrast to the savory crisp ham. For entrée we shared the Scallops with mango, cucumber, basil and chorizo oil, a beautifully executed dish with sweet, perfectly cooked scallops. We also had the daily special Smoked Trout with potatoes, capers and parsley. This was a heartier dish with great flavor from the smokey trout. For dessert we couldn't resist Helado de Azafrán which is saffron ice cream with fresh spiced mango chutney, dried golden fruits, honey and olive oil. I will dream about that saffron ice cream for a while; that and our next trip to New York.
There's loads happening this weekend in our fair city: Pecan Street Festival, Rattletree Glow Party, Texas Craft Brewers Festival, Alabama Shakes at Circuit of The Americas, and Fantastic Fest.
This is also the first weekend of fall, so what better way to celebrate than a libation. This one comes from Liquor.com and seems like a nice bridge between the seasons. The gin and lemon are refreshing and light (which is nice since it still feels like summer here), while the Campari and Cointreau hint at the fall colors to come. This is a very easy drinking cocktail and, even though there is no floral element in the drink, you can almost imagine the faded jasmine falling off the vine as summer comes to a close.
1 1/2 ounces gin
1/4 ounce Campari
1/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Lemon twist for garnish
Place a cocktail glass in the freezer to chill. Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well until chilled. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist. (Serves 1)
Weekend 1 of Austin City Limits Music Festival begins next weekend. While we are all very excited to see/hear Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Flying Lotus, Miike Snow, Cage the Elephant and so many more, there are a few logistical changes at the fest this year which sound promising. Bodegas are new on the scene featuring one-stop shops where you can buy snacks, fresh fruit, trail mix, plus basic needs like sunscreen, etc. This year there will be 100% flushable toilets throughout the grounds that are environmentally friendly. The Rock Island Stage has been relocated to improve the flow of human traffic. Barton Springs Beer Hall has been expanded with more shade and picnic tables, plus a wine bar, the Wine Down, is being introduced.
The food menu for ACL Eats has not been released yet (check back since this post will be edited to include highlights from the menu once available), but let's hope the repeat vendors who have been at this for a while keep some old favorites, adding a few new options as well. Here is a list of confirmed vendors:
Amy's Ice Cream
Burro Grilled Cheese Kitchen
East Side King
Freebirds World Burrito
Hat Creek Burger Co.
High Brew Coffee
Lamba's Indian Kitchen
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro
Maine Root Beverages
P. Terry Burger Stand
Shade Tree Organic Lemonade
Skull & Cakebones
Southside Flying Pizza
The Peached Tortilla
The Salt Lick
Tino's Greek Cafe
Way South Philly "Authentic Cheese Steaks"
The beer choices this year at the Barton Springs Beer Hall include: Ace Pineapple Cider, Adelbert’s Hibiscus Saison, Alaskan White, Deep Ellum IPA, Founders All Day IPA, Harpoon UFO White, Lagunitas IPA, Oasis Metamodern, Original Sin Hard Cider, Odell Drumroll American Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, Stone Arrogant Bastard, Sweet Water 420 Pale Ale, Real Ale Devil’s Backbone, Real Ale Fireman’s 4, Real Ale Hans Pils, and Real Ale Oktoberfest.
In the Wine Down you will find wines from Treana, Austin Hope Wine Collection and Troublemaker.
I can never get enough Brussels sprouts recipes (as you can see from those in my collection here, here, here, here and here). This one is from The Portlandia Cookbook: Cook Like A Local by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Now, I know what you are thinking, but this cookbook is not a joke. Not to say that the book isn't funny--it is full of humorous characters from the t.v. show, Portlandia--but the recipes are the real deal. The sprouts are cooked over high heat and they become nicely caramelized and a bit charred. The nuts add another layer of earthy depth and some crunch. If you have a significant amount of loose leaves from the Brussels sprouts, try cooking those with the shallots so they don't overcook. There is even a note in the book suggesting you can "lay an egg on it" (that might sound familiar if you watch the show). Adding a fried or poached egg on top might just make this a complete meal. Make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hazelnuts
1/2 cup of hazelnuts
1 pound of medium-size Brussels sprouts (walnut size), trimmed and cut in half
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch size pieces
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts in a rimmed pan and bake in oven for about 10 minutes. Remove nuts from oven and place in a clean tea towel, and rub with the towel to remove the hulls from the nuts. Allow to cool, then roughly chop, set aside. Place the Brussels sprouts in a medium size bowl and add olive oil; season with salt and pepper and stir well. Preheat a large skillet over high heat, then add sprouts cut side down in the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the sprouts and cook on opposite side for 3 more minutes covered. Remove sprouts from heat. Cook the bacon in the skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until crispy and brown. Remove bacon from pan and place on a plate layered with paper towels. Remove residual grease from pan. Add shallots to pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until soft and golden brown. Add Brussels sprouts, bacon and vinegar to pan, stirring until vinegar is nearly evaporated. Add hazelnuts, season with salt and pepper to taste, stir to combine, serve immediately. (Serves 3-4)
We were in New York City at the end of August for a few days and had a delightful visit (check the blog in the coming weeks for more on that trip). We stayed at The Inn at Irving Place and one evening during happy hour, we had drinks at their bar, Cibar Lounge. This drink is a familiar combination of ingredients, but the blood orange juice elevated it just a bit. It is simple enough to prepare at home. Reviewing a few variations online, I came up with this recipe. Try to use fresh blood orange juice if it is in season (different varietals of blood orange are typically available December-May), but cartons of "freshly squeezed" blood orange juice can often be found at Central Market and Whole Foods. Lean towards a dryer prosecco to keep it balanced. Make it your own and consider adding a floral element with 1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur and/or a sprig of thyme for garnish.
Blood Orange Collins
2 ounces Ford's gin
2 ounces blood orange juice (freshly squeezed if available)
Prosecco to top
Garnish with a lemon slice or blood orange slice
In a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice, add gin and blood orange juice and shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice filled glass and top with prosecco, garnish with lemon. (Serves 1)
Everyone who loves Thai food loves Thai-Kun. I was a fan back when Thai Changthong, Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya first opened the trailer at the original Wonderland location (it has since moved to Whisler's). It received national attention when it was named one of the best new restaurants in the United States in 2014 by Bon Appétit Magazine. So it was no surprise that Thai-Kun would expand and open a brick-and-mortar. My husband and I finally made it by last weekend to the new location at The Domain on Rock Rose Avenue. We were wowed by the fun, bright interior adorned with murals by Peelander Yellow, the iconic artist whose work is featured in all East Side King projects. We were promptly greeted and seated at one of the comfortable, cushy booths. The interior has lots of golden blonde wood, with colorful accents from light pendants that highlight the primary colors used in the murals. One of the things that struck me immediately about Thai-Kun is the exceptional service. Everyone works well as a team and all of our needs were met, with someone quick to bring more water, take our order, clear plates, answer questions, etc. We even had two managers come by to ask if we enjoyed our meal (more on that later).
Our server guided us through the menu, explaining that the restaurant is an expanded version of the trailer with a bit of overlap, but primarily features dishes not found at the trailer. The portions are family style, so one dish easily serves two people (or more). The menu contains a section with exceptionally hot traditional Northern Thai dishes, and there is a cocktail menu with wine, beer and sake cocktails. I asked for advice on a wine that paired well with the dishes we were ordering. Our server made a few suggestions and brought out a white wine for me to taste, which was perfect. Our server inquired about dietary restrictions, my cue to ask about gluten-free offerings. I was assured that most items could be made gluten-free, which made ordering very easy.
As suggested by our server, we started with the Chive Cake appetizer, which is pan fried with serrano, vinegar and soy. This savory "cake", which was almost like a crustless tarte, had a subtle onion taste and mild spiciness--a great start to the meal. We also ordered two entrée specials and a vegetarian dish. The Eggplant was wok stir-fried with ground pork, Fresno chili, onion, and basil served with steamed jasmine rice. This was a bright, beautiful dish with bold flavor and medium spiciness. The Beef Panang Curry (similar to the same dish found at the trailer) had beef simmered in homemade panang curry, Kaffir lime leaf, holy basil and steamed jasmine rice. By far the spiciest dish we ate, the curry had great depth and richness. The Stir Fried Chinese Water Spinach with Thai chili, fermented soybean, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce.was a welcome respite from the heat of the other dishes on the table and added a lighter element.
Thai-Kun seems to have just about everything going for it: on point service, stellar food, comfortable atmosphere with the exception of adequate air conditioning. I brought it up with two managers who came by to check on us separately (they initiated the interaction, I did not ask to speak to them). Both acknowledged the air conditioning issue became obvious to them once the summer months rolled around. I suspect the high ceilings, open kitchen and low power units are all part of the problem that make the restaurant feel a bit swampy at times. A friend mentioned this issue to me a few weeks ago when she visited the restaurant, but I assumed it was a single incident that was fixed. Apparently they have been battling the cooling problem all summer. It wasn't a big deal to us until we started eating the spicy food; that is when the heat became overwhelming. That feeling ebbed after we finished our meal, but clearly this is problem that could be settled by adding more air conditioning units, ceiling fans, or additional insulation. Pretty straight-forward, but both managers were unclear as to when and if this issue would be under control. Hopefully some action is taken, because we really enjoyed every other aspect of our experience and would love a repeat visit soon. Happy hour at Thai-Kun happens Monday-Friday, 5:00-7:00 p.m. Take-out is available for both lunch and dinner. There is also an outdoor patio, possibly the best place to sit in the evenings now through the fall months.
We have another beautiful weekend in Austin with so much to do: Tributes to Gene Wilder at both The Alamo Drafthouse and Blue Starlite Drive-in, Austin Music Video Festival at various locations, Horns Football with UT vs. UTEP on the University of Texas campus, Eastside Kings Festival at various venues, and Elm Cares continues at Italic, Irene's, and Easy Tiger which helps the Italian and American Red Cross (all proceeds from select specials go to relief efforts through September 30).
A few weeks ago the family and I visited 2nd Bar + Kitchen at 2nd and Congress. We sat upstairs on the outdoor patio and found it surprisingly pleasant that evening with a cool breeze cooling us off. We had a great view for people watching and saw a gorgeous sunset between the buildings. I enjoyed their SBK Pimm’s Cup with housemade Pimm’s #1, cucumber + celery gin ginger, citrus, and mint. A classic Pimm's Cup with a twist; refreshing, balanced and easy sipping. 2nd Bar + Kitchen just opened a new location at the Domain in The Archer Hotel offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and terrace dining. The same great food and drinks on the north side. If you can't make it out for a weekend libation, here's a recipe for Pimm's Cup from the archives to try at home.
I am not sure if everyone is a fan of egg salad, but sometimes I get a craving that won't go away until I make a batch (previous cravings satisfied by this recipe and this one). When I saw this video on Twitter via Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try it. While this rendition is essentially traditional, the thing that sets it apart a bit from the recipes I have tried above is the addition of horseradish (which gives a burst of flavor) and the experimentation with serving leftovers. Adam Rapoport of Bon Appétit urges you to serve it on a toasted bagel with sliced tomato or cucumber. I used some seeded whole grain bread for my husband, while I had mine on gluten-free bread. I liked the use of tomato, but also recommend a few slices of avocado if you have it. You can skip the bread and use some good crackers (I love the Primzie Ancient Sprouted Grains Crispbread, which is gluten-free) or serve the egg salad in a bowl with just cubes of cooked chicken and avocado.
The video does not include exact measurements, so I came up with my own and I think it worked out well. Hold back on the amount of salt you use since there is salt in the mustard and horseradish. After adding those two ingredients, taste to see where the salt level stands, then add salt if needed.
6 hard boiled eggs (This is my favorite method. For a softer egg, cook for 8 minutes instead of 11)
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish
2 inner stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped, leaves included
2 tablespoon dill, chopped
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced tomato, cucumber and/or avocado for serving
Bagel or whole grain bread (or gluten-free bread) for serving
Peel the eggs after they have cooled. Slice in half lengthwise, chopping into large chunks and place in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard and horseradish to bowl, combine well. Taste and decide if salt is needed; add freshly ground pepper. Add celery, celery leaves, dill and chives; fold gently into bowl. Serve on bread, bagel or atop greens with sliced tomato, cucumbers and/or avocado. Serves 3-4)
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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