take out

Austin Gastro Graze 5: Asia Cafe

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I love this place. When I’m reminiscent for New York Chinese food, I have to head to Asia Cafe. I’m still looking for a place with NYC style egg rolls, but they may simply not exist out here. Every thing else delicious that I crave, however, can be found at Asia Cafe. You don’t have to take my word for it, though, as Asia Cafe is a local favorite among people of all walks of life in Austin and surrounding areas as well as extremely deserving of their 95% positive rating on Yelp.

There are two things you can count on at Asia Cafe:

1. Delicious food.

2. A line. (See countable item number 1)

You order at the counter, receive a number, and they call out your order number once it’s ready. Often my husband and I will call in an order. When you call in an order for pick up, they ask you skip the line. March right up to the front and let them know you called in an order for pickup. Yes, it looks and feels rude, BUT your food is sitting back there on the counter and that’s what they ask you to do. I have actually waited in line twice after calling in an order, keeping my food waiting a solid extra 15 – 20 minutes and the woman behind the counter hit my arm – “Come to front!” she berated me. And she’s right. Chip and I normally are craving pieces of home when we go there, which is shameful because there are dozen upon dozens of dishes to try. It’s great to go with friends, grab a table and order family style. It’s affordable, super tasty, and very affordable. Their General Tso’s is the best in town, as are their green beans and eggplant dishes. Their spring rolls are good, but are served with a little container of applesauce; I prefer duck sauce, which they don’t actually offers, but this really doesn’t matter. Every else is so good. Their dumplings are made in house and are an excellent change to the general pre-frozed fare you get at other restaurants. I don’t think I’ve every ordered a dish over $9.95 and the servings are so large that there’s always enough for lunch the next day. If my husband and I order one order of General Tso’s, a vegetable, and an order of dumplings, our bill is well less than $30 and there are always left overs!

I’m already disappointed in this review. Each and everyone of my friends loves Asia Cafe and everyone has a separate favorite dish that I’m definitely going to miss out placing in here. A couple of friends claim Asia Cafe’s spicy fish to be the best they’ve had, as well as excellent garlic pork, baby bok choy, and crispy tofu dishes. Asia Cafe is excellent for both meters and vegetarians.

Sweet potato pancake with a stuffing of black bean curd.

Baby Bok Choy

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

These Ain’t Yo’ Mama’s Chicken Cutlets

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One thing I make once a week are chicken cutlets. A crowd pleaser for both kids and adults alike. These were a staple in my house growing up. Skinless, boneless chicken breast dipped in egg, breaded in doctored Progresso bread crumbs (garlic powder would be added) and fried in an ancient pan purchased all the way back in the ’70’s. Once I got my own place I started making cutlets as well, filling my apartment with the smell of my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchen. As I got older I tweaked and updated the recipe. By the time I owned my own kitchen I had gotten my own cutlet recipe just right for my tastes, and it was a decent departure from what I’d been taught. Honestly – and this is going to sound cocky and I apologize, but it’s true – the only complaint I get about these chicken tenders is that they have ruined numerous friends and family on being able to order fried chicken and chicken strips when eating at bars and restaurants. Once you get this recipe down pat, this chicken is way better than anything you can order out.

First things first: I chucked the Progresso to the wind. Swapped them for panko. Next, I stopped serving them as a partner with pasta or marinara and cheese. And finally, inspired by Americanized Asian fare, I created my own sauce, which is what we’ll start with.

1 cup of water

The juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange (not pictured)

1/2 cup Rice vinegar

1 tbsp ginger

1-3 cloves of garlic based on what you’d like

1 tbsp soy sauce (or 1/2 tbsp fish sauce)

Red pepper to taste

Throw everything into a medium sauce pan and boil down until it’s about 1/3 of it’s original volume, nice and syrupy. Be careful with this; you’re cooking down a liquid containing red pepper, so the thicker it gets, the spicier it is. You can pour this over chicken, toss veggies in it, or be a super adult and use the sauce for dunkin’.

Now for the chicken.

3/4 to 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken or raw chicken tenders

1 cup panko

1 cup flour

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

1 tbsp dried parsley

2 eggs

Vegetable oil

Kosher salt

I don’t use a deep fryer, just a cast iron pan filled with about 1 1/2 inch of oil. Beat the two eggs in a small bowl or tupperware container. In a flat, edged container (I use an 8in. X 8in. pyrex, but even a plate will do) mix the flour, panko, parm, and parsley. Rinse, dry, and cut the chicken how ever you’d like. This evening I cut my chicken into half tenders, large nuggets really, but anything is fine. Dip the chicken in the beaten egg, let the excess drip off, coat both sides of the chicken in the panko/flour mixture and set aside. Here, I’ll show you.

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I start heating the oil once I have the chicken coated. The coating needs to sit on the chicken a moment to better stick anyway, so waiting for the oil to come to 315-320 degrees is the perfect time to do so. Also, gives you a mo’ to clean up. Tonight was the first time I ever took the temperature of my oil. Prior to this I checked my heat the way my parents do and the way my grandmother did before them: Turn on the heat, wait ten-ish minutes, throw a small bit of chicken in, and make sure it sizzles just right. Like this:

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My tenders were roughly 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches by 2 inches. They took about 3-4 minutes per side. In the right temperature they won’t brown too quickly, but will turn to a beautiful light golden brown gradually. Once the chicken is out of the fry pan, place them on a plate layered with a paper towel to help drain the excess oil. Sprinkle immediately with kosher salt. This MUST be done while they’re still warm. Let them sit at least five minutes before you start gorging your face; I promise – those few minutes will feel like an eternity, but they’ll be worth it.

This time around I decided to serve the chicken with oven fried dumplings. I steamed a bunch of the grocery store bought frozen chicken dumplings, while heating my oven to 500. Super hot. I tossed the dumplings with 1/2 a tablespoon of sesame oil, sprayed a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and placed the dumplings in the oven for about 8 minutes, turning once. The perfect veggie for this dish, not seen on the plate, is crisp, bright, green beans, sauteed with garlic and sea salt. Delicious and a wonderful pop of color. All in all, it’s great for a pseudo Chinese food dinner at home and beats the hell out of paying P.F. Chang’s for what would wind up being a less satisfying meal.