Month: June 2012

Austin Gastro Graze 2 UPDATE: MORE Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

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*Scroll to bottom for Update and new photos of items.

There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant

* 6/23/12 update

Went to the Bake Sale again today with a friend who just had a baby. What better way to get your strength back then to indulge in delicious pastry offerings?! Today was just like the other visits I’ve made to the Bake Sale: Excellent choices, incredible recipes, and cash only. I did notice, however, that after the usual intense burst of early birds, a line that always wraps around the building, the line really wore down to nothing at about 10:45am and there were still plenty offerings left. That being said, they do have a lunch rush so that window of opportunity can be fleeting. I wanted to show the reader, however, exactly what you can get for $20.

Please excuse the bites taken out of a couple of pieces above.

Also, please note that they are not sitting on a regular plate; they are on a platter.

What I purchased this pat Bake Sale was a strawberry cream cheese danish, made with fresh strawberries and it was HUGE, see below. It was more sweet than savory, but because the strawberries were fresh they weren’t too sweet, and the cheese was more tangy than sugary. I’m not normally a fan of “sweet” nor danishes, but this was created in perfect balance. Rather than eating a bit of dessert for breakfast, the freshness of the berries and creamy cheese counter against the flaky and buttery dough.

There’s also a ham & cheddar turnover that was massive and flavorful with thinly sliced ham and a thin spread of mustard on the inside. The turnovers where new and they offered the classic sweet apple as well as the ham. There were also sour cream donuts, that, like the danish, balanced sugar with intense flavors that made it far more in depth than merely sweet.

I  purchased a sausage breakfast sandwich, which was kept from being messy, by the ingenious method of cooking the eggs. While the sandwich itself is very, very large, it’s easily sharable, cutting in half does not cause the layers to fall apart and, as a Neat Freak as well as a Foodie, this is something I appreciate. The eggs are light and fluffy, and have been baked almost in a Yorkshire Pudding like way. If you notice above, it’s classic biscuit followed by a richly flavored sausage – I’m not normally a fan of sausage, but this was sweet and savory, absolutely delicious – and then another layer prior to the bottom of the biscuit. That layer is the whipped eggs, keeping the sandwich from sliding around on a round egg top and making sure that the eater gets a bite of white and yolk in each nibble. And, and finally, there’s a gruyere and black pepper pop-over.

The above plate cost $20 exactly. It fed myself, my friend (who has quite the Saturday brunch appetite), and we still have plenty of left overs to get us through brunch today. Though, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t stop eating that danish! I had brought friends to F+D with me on this trip and they, too, were blown away, asking before we left that we make sure to visit F+D regularly from now on.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Austin Gastro Graze 3: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop & Hillside Farmacy

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Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

Heading to a dinner party and don’t know what to bring? Want something special for an appetizer, but don’t know what to plate up? Or maybe you’re just a lover of cheese, like me and want something exciting.

If any of those are sound familiar, and you’re in the Austin area, I highly recommend Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. This little place down on Duval, just north of the campus, is a great shop to try something new, get something impressive for the table, and really bring an evening of courses together.

If you need a very specific cheese for a recipe, you can bet that not only will Antonelli’s carry it, they’ll probably offer a number of variations. Overwhelmed shoppers need not fear, either, as the staff at this cheese emporium are incredibly nice and, most importantly, extremely knowledgeable. Merely mention what flavors you do like or what you’re serving for dinner, and they’ll share tips and let you taste alternatives you may not know existed. And to bring everything together in perfect harmony, Antonelli’s also offers complimenting wines, honeys, meats, and baguettes. My friends and I have always said that if we were to win the lottery one of the first thing we’d do is have a dinner of a multitude of different cheeses, and Antonelli’s would be the only shop we’d need to make our purchases.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of cheese and charcuterie, Antonelli’s offers classes a couple of times a month for nerdy foodies in the need to know. Tickets are $35 and sell out pretty quick, so be sure to plan ahead. On top of all that, when you check out at Antonelli’s you have the option of giving them your email and name. They then will put you in their system so that you always know what you’ve ordered in the past and they can make recommendations on your next purchases that will delve you further into the world of cheese. We’re looking forward to having a Fromage Fest in fall, inviting each friend to bring a different kind of cheese, putting out pickles, breads, crackers, and wine and gouging until the sun comes up. When you have plans like that, suddenly Autumn feels very far away. Good thing I’ll have time to squeeze in a couple of classes before then!

Hillside Farmacy

Hillside Farmacy is a bakery and eatery located East 11th, just east of Blue Dahlia. My office chose to go for lunch recently for a coworker’s birthday, and our experience would be rated to 3 out of 5 stars, where as Blue Dahlia would be 5. I’ll review that for you at a later date, but let me just say Blue has Farmacy beat on price and execution.

The interior of Hillside Farmacy is very pretty, great usages of classic and modern. The staff is very “hipster”, but the client base is very, very mixed. A person going for lunch should expect to pay right around $10+ for their sandwich, which isn’t too bad. It’s choosing the right plate that’s a little tougher. Myself and four coworkers each ordered a different sandwich. Tap water was placed in the center of the table for us to serve ourselves, which was quaint, but it is Austin in late June, so having the option of ice, or even chilled water would have been nice (it was room temperature and the jar-glasses were iceless).

The short rib sandwich received excellent reviews from the two coworkers that shared it, and there was not a crumb left by the end of the meal. The grinder, which is similar to an Italian sub was also enjoyed, but at $11 it was much more than similar offerings at other locations. One coworker had the Forager, a brie and mushroom sandwich, which was very tasty (see picture below). I had the Faccia Bedda, and it was rather disappointing. Though the menu states it’s made with smoked mozzerella, it seemed to contain a single slice of deli counter cheese, sliced on the thinnest setting. I had to pull it a part to discover if there was any cheese on it at all and it was completely void of the deep smokey, salty flavor that normally accompanies this kind of mozzerella; it could have been American and made no difference in flavor. The single slice of tomato was awkward and the arugula was served on the side. My final coworker got a single bite into her pate sandwich before she began pick it apart (see below), finally quietly settling on going back to the office to eat other food. She was asked by two staff members why she had stopped eating (as well as why she was declining a box) and she explained very calmly and honestly, but politely as is her style: “The pate was very dry, almost like an over cooked burger patty. The bread is too big, and the strong flavors of the pickles, goat cheese, and mustard are far too much competition for each other.” To Hillside Farmacy’s credit, they took the sandwich off the bill, even though no fuss was made and no complaint; my coworker only explained the issue when pressed. One confusing aspect, however, was that one of the two Farmacy employees mentioned that he himself had had similar feelings about this particular sandwich, had received the same review of it from customers “all the time”….so why leave it on the menu or not change it?

While I always recommend trying new places to eat, Farmacy seems fairly hit or miss as well as being somewhat expensive. While it’s in a very good location, and has a charming interior, their menu needs a bit of work to be listed as a full fledged Foodie Find. It’s certainly worth trying, but be aware that what you get maybe hit or miss, especially for the price.

Crap I Love (and Don’t Need) Right Now: Sustainability, Bitters, & Blaak

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I love stuff – it’s the most American thing about me! Here’s what I want right now:

I’m all for local and sustainable, but I’m also all for meat. Ethically, I love leather goods and would hate anything get needlessly disposed of, so I really eat steak to reduce waste. And that’s why I love this reusable, washable, canvas lunch bag: It’s got a of a butcher’s pig diagram. Give more meaning to your ham & swiss sammie while doing something good for the planet!

Available through Etsy store GirlsCanTell

Bitter Old Man! A guaranteed way to literally charm the pants off me is to make fantastic cocktails, and Bitters, Old Mengives everyone a leg up. With flavors like Roasted Macadamia and recipes named things like “Gangsta Lee’n”, Bitters makes every foodie home body the booze connoisseur.  I can’t wait to get my hands on some Krangostura, named for the Ninja Turtle antagonist. With hints of clove, mace, molasses, and orange and lemon peels, I’m looking forward to a bit of gin, ice, and maybe – maybe – a splash of club soda and slice of cucumber. Remember: Just a little dab ‘il do ya. Sweet, sweet sip of the close of summer.

Flavors available at BittersOldMen.com

 It’s Coming! (What’s coming?) Blaak! (…What?) BLAAK! Beekman 1802, aka the Fabulous Beekman Boys, are the fine purveyors of Blaak, a once yearly cheese coated in ash and aged in a cave for four months. A semi-hard cheese mixed of both sheep’s and cow’s milk, Blaak’s unique, but mild flavor has earned quite the fan base. While I got on the waiting list a couple of weeks ago, it was announced yesterday that the waiting list had reached close to 1000 people, so be sure to get on it quick if you want your own hunk of tangy heaven. At $48 this cheese isn’t cheap, but it comes as an entire 2lb. wheel, so it can easily be shared amongst a couple friends. There’s a number of things on their site that I can’t wait to get my hands on, and I already know their whipped Rosemary honey will be a stocking stuffer for some of my dearest loved ones.

Blaak Cheese and other fine products available at Beekman1802.com

What the Hell Did I Just Watch: Prometheus & Moonrise Kingdom Reviews

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As far as Prometheus goes, I’m doing an un-review. I say little and there are no real spoilers, period.

If you want something more comprehensive scroll down for the Moonrise Kingdom review.

Prometheus Review:

I’ll keep this brief. It shouldn’t be discussed unless you’re with people who have already seen it.

I went to see Prometheus. Spoiler alert: If you’re 8+ months along in pregnancy and you go see it, you will have you kid shortly there after. I’m not kidding, totally happened to a friend of mine (Welcome, new baby Kai, to the World and Nerdom!). Other than that, be prepared to leave with a ton of questions. If you don’t walk out with at least some questions that spawn (get it?) into more questions, then you’re doing it wrong.

David. Focus on David and his agenda. I’m not a huge Alien (or Aliens or Alien Resurrection or Alien 3 or Alien vs. Predator or Alien vs. Predator 2) fan, but I do love Sigourney Weaver, puzzles, and science fiction. No, Sigourney wasn’t in this one, but I still found it to be entertaining and interesting. I’m hoping many of my questions will be answered in the sequel, Paradise, that we probably won’t see before 2014. It’s gross, it’s phallic, it’s spacey, it’s Ridley Scott. Go see it. It’ll be fun. There’s not much else on Netflix anyway.

Moonrise Kingdom review:

I love Wes Anderson. I love his usage of color, his need to show viewers that it’s okay to love and lose, that the more we care the more painful it is in the end. His long shots, his simplicity, and always, always his choice in music. Moonrise Kingdom starts off much the same of his other films, the classic songs, the endless single shot that reveals a lifestyle, and blocked colors, beautiful, bright, setting our mood and the tone of his story.

“I know what you do with that dumb policeman…” Photo courtesy of Booooooom.com

Suzy is a twelve year old girl feeling troubled. She’s on the cusp of womanhood, she has no real friends, and her mother and father, lawyers with little to no true relationship remaining in their marriage played by Bill Murray and the fantastic Francis McDormand, think her to be troubled as well. Ultimately, however, she seems pretty on the ball compared to most tweens, merely going through all those horrible bits we all had to face. Sam is also a troubled youth of 12, recently orphaned and trying just to fit in where ever he lands while being himself…which is a bit over every one elses’ heads. Both Sam and Suzy are growing up on a small island off the coast of New England, the story focusing on the summer of 1965. Shortly after meeting in 1964, Sam and Suzy become pen pals, sharing much of themselves, trusting only each other with their secrets and childish demons, until finally they hatch a plan to go camping for a few days together. What ensues is the frantic search for the children by the adults in their lives, revealing that youth – even “bad” youth – is always innocent while adults are just hot messes. Bruce Willis plays an wonderfully thoughtful and patient policeman, with Edward Norton as a stiff Khaki Scout leader who really wants to be the Dudley Doright of his troop, and Tilda Swinton as the heartless, frigid Social Services.

The shooting locations were primarily around Rhode Island and Jamestown, absolutely beautiful settings made all the more breathtaking through Anderson’s shooting style, that made me ache for my own childhood. The story itself was interesting and entertaining, but not very thought provoking. It was as if watching a very well written and enjoyable  young adult novel. It was a bit funny, a tiny bit heartbreaking, but more than anything it was relatable on a very real level. We were children once, or we have them now. It’s what we went through, what we feared, what we worry about today, and it’s a pleasure to watch. We’ve all felt left out, odd-balled, or worse – doing whatever we had to in order to be a part of the group. Moonrise Kindgom  touches on this unabashedly and goodness wins the day.

Each primary adult in the film was dressed to their own accord. The policeman and savior in white, the Khaki leader in starched tan, Social Services in harsh navy like the turbulent sea, Suzy’s father in aged sweaters and mismatched pants while his wife dresses almost too young for her age, signifying blatantly what their marriage had become to each. The Narrator is always in red, and adorable. This aided in the story telling aspect and was somehow refreshing after all the overly stressful movies, TV shows, and news that air nightly at home.

Photo credit Salon

Moonrise Kingdom is simple and lighthearted in it’s writing, a wonderful interlude between the usual deeper fare, missing even the minor politics and family struggles that Anderson’s previous live-action works delved into. It’s filled with his usual honesty for the beauty we may be missing and the ugly that we sometimes prefer to ignore, flows comfortably, and is extremely entertaining. I in no way mean to intend that in being less complex than, say, Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore this film lacked anything; it was merely a sweet story, simply told, with all the visual delight Anderson always brings to his films and was very endearing. It’s very enjoyable, and everyone in it, including to new-comers to the screen Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are wonderful, though my favorite ma have been the minor role played by Jason Schwartzman; the narrator, played by Bob Balaban, was also hysterical. Gilman and Hayward encompass Sam and Suzy, playing with raw innocence, and the kind of awkward determination that only children can possess. Their characters were imperfect, the actors themselves perfect, making the viewer remember, at times uncomfortably, exactly what those years of life were like.

I recommend Moonrise Kingdom for the Wes Anderson fan or those just searching movie theaters for a more upbeat alternative to Spiderman, Prometheus, or Avengers. It’s summer, but we don’t have to to have Action Flick boners to see an excellent film. And you don’t have to take my word for it: Moonrise Kingdom got a 95% on RottenTomatoes! It’s funny, a good date movie, and a great summer flick when you get tired of gratuitous explosions, films that cost hundreds of millions for no obvious reason, and bloodshed…though Moonrise Kingdom has that, too.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Photo credit AwardsCircuit

Austin Gastro Graze 2: Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

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There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant

Austin Gastro Graze 1: Michi Ramen, Moo Bawk Oink, and Krak 2

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I like trying new things. By “things” I mean food.

Living in Austin means I get an ever evolving restaurant scene in which to bask in beautiful tasty goodness.

This past weekend I ventured to the North Austin Trailer Yard, NATY. Some bites were simple meh, but one place was amazing.

This trailer yard is right outside my gym, which is…unfortunate. It makes circuit training much less effective. But that’s mostly due to the good food found within.

On Saturday we ordered a beef Snarky cheese steak from Boo Bawk Oink and a Black and White Donut from Krak 2 which is within the same trailer as Moo Bawk Oink and a bottle of water. The entire tab came to $13, which we considered to be a bit pricey for trailer food. The sandwich was overly bready and the meat what I believe to be pulled brisket, in fact at first I questioned if it was pork, a little dry, but not bad. I prefer the horrible cheesesteak sliced meat, but it was a decent sandwich. The jalapenos are not spicy and the cheese more like white goo sauce. Good enough to try, not sure if I’d go back, especially considering its competition at NATY.

The donut was actually a square piece of fried dough with a whole in the center, drizzled with icing, hershey’s chocolate sauce, and Cocoa Krispies. According to the prices on Boo Bawk Oink’s website our sandwich and bottled water was $8. There weren’t prices for Krak 2 and aren’t any on their website, but based on our tab the donut was $5. While the fried dough “donut” was tasty – what fried dough isn’t? – it wasn’t worth $5. It was essentially a large beignets. Now, if it came with a scoop of ice cream then I’d dig the $5…

We also ordered a bowl of ramen from Michi Ramen. Michi Ramen is, in a word, AMAZING. Flavor, rich, warm, traditional, the comfort food you never knew your craved. Michi only has the room to create 50 bowls of Ramen for lunch and 50 for dinner, so their twitter is merely a count down of the bowls they have left. At noon on a Saturday, however, Chip and I had no problem scoring a bowl. The line was steady, though, and for good reason: As an American who thinks of ramen as those dried 38cent packets you can get at the grocery store. What Michi serves is incredible, flavorful, and even served with a poached egg if so desired. The broth is cooked for almost TWO DAYS with all natural ingredients (this is their claim, but boy does it taste like it!), pork bones, leaking their delicious marrow and flavors into a rich base for a ultra flavorful lunch/dinner. The standard ramen is served with two slices of Cashu on top, gorgeous, fatty, soy marinated braised pork. It was $9, but in this case it was money well spent. I took home our left over broth, let it coagulate and then sauteed spinach in it with the next night’s dinner of grilled steak and mashed cauliflower.

Yeah. It was awesome.

Yes, under the pork and poached egg and mushrooms there are ramen noodles.