dinner party

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.

Prime Rib like Butter

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For Thanksgiving I always do a Prime Rib Roast. Screw turkey; it’s dry and boring and literally puts people to sleep.

Thanksgiving of 2011 I made a roast that I just was not pleased with. It had NO flavor and the cooking method I used was less then desireable. I like my meat medium-rare, which is mostly pink, but warm through. I tried that old method of setting the oven to 500 degrees, cooking for five minutes per pound, and then turning the over off and letting the roast sit in there for 2 hours. Yeah, guess who had to recook her roast two hours later? Not fun. My father uses the Showtime Rotisserie, Ron Popeil’s thing, which Dad just refers to as the “SetItAndForgetIt”, and it does normally do a good job. I, however, do not own one of those. So, last night, on my husband’s 30th birthday, I decided to use a tried and true method: low and slow. Placed in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven, I cooked the roast until it reached 130 degrees. That’s it.

Time here doesn’t matter. You need a meat thermometer, period. Seriously. You want time, though? Fine. If your roast is room temperature it will probably take about 30 minutes per pound at 200. If it’s not completely room temperature, then it might take 35-40 minutes a pound. Personally, I don’t like to screw around with such an expensive piece of meat, so I bought a $10 meat thermometer and never looked back.

This recipe is about appreciating the cut known as the prime rib for what it is, ultra meaty deliciousness that’s meant to be served rare, with sauces or butters, that melts in your mouth and tastes fabulously of cow.

I didn’t get a bone-in roast only because the dinner was just for Chip and I. I found a prime roast that weighed 3.8 lbs, cost $28, and felt it would be good for us. If we wanted to have a couple of friends over for an impromptu dinner, there would be enough, and at the same time it was the right size to allow for a long, slow cooking. An hour before cooking, I took the roast out of the fridge. In hindsight I should have taken the roast out about three hours prior to cooking, but, thanks to my thermometer, it didn’t really matter. After an hour of sitting out, I put my roasting pan on my stove top and over high heat I seared each side of my roast for about four minutes per side.

Once seared, I let the meat cool for about 10 minutes and then I rubbed kosher salt, black pepper, and crushed garlic on all its sides, but especially on the fat on top. Once seasoned, I placed the rack into the roasting pan and placed the Prime Rib into the rack, fat side up. I placed the meat thermometer into the center at a decent angle so it could be read periodically without having to pull the entire roast from the over. As it roasts fat side up in a rack all that salt, pepper, and garlic would mingle with the liquifying juices and pour down through the meat while slowly cooking. A. Mae. Zing.

Once the roast reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I let the Prime Rib rest uncovered on a cutting board for 30 minutes. The roast isn’t going to gain much in terms of heat after cooking so slowly, but those juices will be reabsorbed into the meat. I realize that my old, out-dated thermometer in the picture above states that medium meat has a temperature of 160, but I disagree. America’s Test Kitchen recommends removing a rib roast at 130, many chefs I know remove their beef at 123-127, and all of us agree meat done to the point of 160 is dry and over well, let alone mere medium. 130 degrees is more then enough to kill the bacteria we worry about.

Cooking this for so low a temperature and so long a period meant the juices stayed within the meat and that the proteins had extra time to break down. This was the juiciest, tenderest slice of steak I’d ever eaten. Husband and I were both blown away. We’d had filet mignon that was four times the price that wasn’t nearly has delicate and flavorful as this prime rib.

I’m not a fan of horseradish, so with this I made a seasoned butter, using have a stick of room temperature unsalted butter, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 clove of crushed garlic, 1 half a minced shallot, and 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley. The steak really didn’t need it, but it certainly didn’t hurt!

Our meal was served with a salad with bleu cheese, sauteed fennel, and fresh bread. No potatoes necessary! I apologize now for the photo, however; I was more then half way through stuffing my face when I realized I didn’t have a picture of the final product, and my husband had gone back for seconds and unceremoniously hacked away at the meat rather than slicing prettily as I had done for his first serving.