Friday, March 26, 2010

Bowie BBQ at Whole Foods

Bowie BBQ

I did not expect grocery store BBQ to be as good as BBQ served at well established joints around town.  I should've known better since Bowie BBQ is a dine-in or take-out counter facing the butcher's counter at Whole Foods.  The racks of ribs in the display case looked so gorgeous that I just had to have the ribs plate with mac and cheese and potato salad.  The sides were excellent!  The ribs were better than those from Franklin's BBQ trailer and Rudy's.  Both Rudy's and Franklin's BBQ trailer tend to over-pepper their ribs, and I find that I need BBQ sauce to enhance the meat's taste.  I did not use one drop of BBQ sauce for my Bowie ribs.  They were moist, flavorful, and slightly crusty on the outside.  It was one of the most enjoyable to-go meals I've had.  Being able to wash the meat and sides down with cold sweet tea was the cherry on top.  I can't wait to try the brisket next time!

Ribs Plate with 2 Sides-mac and cheese and potato salad

St. Patrick's Day Dinner

I know I am beyond late in posting about St. Patrick's Day, but homework over spring break and presentations afterwards have been kicking my butt!

My friends were my lucky charms for giving me a reason to enjoy one evening during spring break by hosting a St. Patrick's Day potluck!  I was in no mood to cook, and I came upon an easy, no-cooking necessary Irish recipe--Smoked Salmon and Chive Butter on Irish Soda Bread.  I used Kerrygold Irish Butter and used Central Market Irish Soda Bread instead of making my own due to a time crunch.

Kerrygold Irish Butter with Fresh Chives on Central Market Irish Soda Bread

Smoked Salmon and Chive Butter on Irish Soda Bread

Our friend Kevin baked Irish soda bread and cooked corned beef with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and celery.  I was kicking myself for not having communicated with Kevin beforehand about Irish soda bread, but it was good that we had two.  The Central Market loaf was less dense and thus more suitable for my smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres, whereas Kevin's was better with our hearty main course.

Kevin carving corned beef

Pot o' Corned Beef and Vegetables

Kevin's Irish Soda Bread

Serious Food Photoshoot

Eating corned beef traditionally with grain mustard

A Very Irish Dinner

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thai Green Apple Salad

I love reading menus at restaurants because I can pretty much steal the restaurant's recipes from the ingredients listed!  I found a detailed list of ingredients for a Thai green apple salad at a restaurant recently and decided to recreate it at home without ever having tasted it.  I think it worked out well, except that I would julienne the apples instead of cube them and dice the tomatoes and cucumbers finely next time.

Thai Green Apple Salad

Green Apples-julienned
Dried Small Shrimp (10)-minced
Fish Sauce

Put the dried whole shrimp in a small bowl of water and a bit of cooking wine and let it soak for at least 15 minutes before mincing.  Mix the fruits together in a large bowl and dress with some sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Fry the minced shrimp and garlic until golden, scoop out with a slotted spoon and dust onto the salad.

Thai Green Apple Salad

California Pizza Kitchen

I love California Pizza Kitchen.  It's the place I look forward to the most at any mall across America, and it was one of the first places I hit the first day of Spring Break.  Ahh...I felt like I was back in high school or middle school...hmmm...was I ever a mall rat?  *shudder*

Four Cheese Ravioli (Asiago, Mascarpone, Ricotta and Parmesan) in a Pomodoro Cream Sauce

Wild Mushroom Pizza-Cremini, Shiitake, Portobello and white mushrooms and wild mushroom walnut pesto on honey wheat dough

Blue Crab Cakes with grilled asparagus and spaghettini in a creamy lemon-caper sauce

I'm sad that they discontinued the Peking duck pizza long time ago.

The Steeping Room

I wanted to go to The Steeping Room for the longest time.  The afternoon tea ambiance and the delicate and creative sandwiches, sweets, and drinks indicated by the menu all had the potential to get on my favorite things checklist.  The prices, well, not so much...

The dressing on the salad was delicious, the sandwich had clean flavors and was light, the mint tea was refreshing, and the orange tea cake was way too sweet.  The food is fine, but in the end, the meal was way too simple for me to plunk down hard-earned grad student money. 

Kasbah Cooler-Moroccan mint green tea, mint and pomegranate syrup, and rose water

Jasmine Tea-Cured Atlantic Salmon Sandwich with cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumbers

Orange Tea Cake

Unfortunately for me, I am intrigued by the other menu items: the simple but creative sandwich concoctions like the lemon edamame sandwich, the overly sweet desserts like the matcha dusted brownie, and drinks like the Mojteato. Thus, I will likely find my way back until I have satisfied my curiousity.  And of course, I'll have to try their afternoon tea at least once.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring 2010 Austin Restaurant Week: Lunch at Perry's Steakhouse


Yes, Perry's is a chain, and yes, you need to catch lunch or dinner there TODAY.  I've been attending performances at the Bass Concert Hall for four years, and at every performance, I see their ad in the program with a gorgeous photo of the "lunch" portion porkchop.  It's a freakin' triple pork chop.  So for 4 years, I would stare salivating at the food porn, though the ad was highly inappropriate for the "Fiddler on the Roof" program. 

$15 for a 3-course meal with a triple chop as the main dish?  This IS the best deal of restaurant week.  You would be crazy to pass it up...unless you don't eat pork (they only offer the pork chop for the main course during lunch). 

I decided to treat myself to this awesome meal deal a few hours before taking a stressful mid-term exam.

First, the chopped salad with two applewood smoked bacon was the size of a main course salad, and tasted fresh, tart, peppery, and smokey.  I was sad to put it aside once the pork chop arrived.

Chopped Salad with tomatoes, scallions, cheddar cheese, Italian dressing, and applewood smoked bacon

My, what a pork chop.  It was breathtaking--perfectly browned on all sides with a gorgeous puddle of seasoned butter with a few crumbles of what looked like blue cheese under a slice of lime.  I took my first bite without the apple sauce so I could judge the taste and moistness, and indeed, the chop needs no accompaniment.  However, cutting each piece on the lime made it even more delicious. 

Cured, Roasted, Slow-Smoked, and Caramelized Pork Chop with Mashed Potato and Apple Sauce

Triple Chop "Lunch" Portion

You can see the dark meat and white meat sections of the pork

Why are you still reading this post?  DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND GET ON THE PORK CHOP TRAIN ALREADY!

I obviously didn't finish the chop, but as classy a place as Perry's is, the waiters are more than happy to pack up your leftovers for you.

The dessert was a plate of creme brulee, chocolate cup filled with chocolate mousse, and a caramel cheesecake.  My favorite was the super light cheesecake followed closely by the mousse. 

Dessert Trio-Hazelnut Praline Cheesecake, White & Dark Chocolate Mousse, and Vanilla Creme Brulee

If you miss out on today's last day of restaurant week special at Perry's, then take advantage of the $10.95 pork chop special on Fridays during lunch. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring 2010 Austin Restaurant Week: FINO for Shu's Birthday Brunch

Food Dilettante, Fickle Foodie, and Shu

My graduate classmate and good friend, Shu, celebrated her birthday at Fino. We were happy to catch Fino during Restaurant Week and took advantage of the prix-fixe brunch menu.

Our table of 9 was not fond of our waiter, who rudely interrupted our conversations to tell us that it's going to be a busy day so we must pay attention to what he had to say now.  Throughout our brunch, we barely even saw him.  We saw more of other waiters who were more attentive to us than him.

The food tasted fine.  I find the dishes are catered more for the trendy.  A couple of us were laughing about the "House-made Spiced Almond Granola with Yogurt and Fresh Fruit" starter.  It was more like "granola with a dollop of yogurt for garnish."  My "House Cured Salmon with Tzatziki and Cracker Bread" had more Tzatziki than salmon.  Again, the main ingredient turned out to be the garnish rather than the center piece of the dish. 
Hibiscus Mint Tea

House Cured Salmon with Tzatziki and Cracker Bread

House-made Spiced Almond Granola with Yogurt and Fresh Fruit

The main brunch course was so much better in that the ingredients are in expected proportions. I liked how they replaced English muffins with thick slices of potatoes for the benedict.  The ham gave the dish just enough saltiness without overpowering the other ingredients. 

I didn't get to taste the other main dish option for the prix-fixe, the Tortilla Espanola, but did manage to take a photo before being devoured by a friend.

FINO Benedict with Poached Farm Eggs, Paprika Hollandaise, Serrano Ham and Potato

Tortilla Espanola with Roasted Peppers, Egg, Onions and Tomatoes

The doughnuts were fun to eat, but there was no wow factor.

Made to Order Doughnuts with Blackberry Compote and Vanilla Crema

Maybe I should try FINO outside of Restaurant Week, but I honestly don't feel compelled to return.  There are so many other restaurants around town that I absolutely can't wait to return to and others that I have yet to try.  FINO just didn't make a mark on my taste buds.

Happy Birthday Shu!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Get Sum Dim Sum

Get Sum Dim Sum looks suspiciously like a Panda Express, but I knew that I loved their siu mai before my first visit because my brother brought some back home for me to sample a month ago.  Not knowing what to eat before catching Fiddler on the Roof at the Bass Concert Hall, I decided that it was the perfect time to...."Get Sum Dim Sum!"  Har har har.

And you know what?  As lame as the name is and as much as it looks like an Americanized Chinese fast food joint, Get Sum Dim Sum sure offers some delicious dim sum!  However, I hear that the prices are better at Fortune Restaurant and there's definitely more variety at either Fortune or Chinatown on Mopac.  But if you need a quick and delicious meal close to campus, there's no reason to pass on this place.

You must order the pork siu mai.  The ingredients are the freshest I've had at any dim sum restaurant, and they're huge!  As for the other dishes I tried, they were all excellent.  I really don't think you can go wrong with any of the dishes on the menu.

Pork Siu Mai

Steamed Spinach Dumplings

Law Bok Go-pan-fried turnip cake with Chinese sausage

Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp

Salt and Pepper Tofu

Chinese Brocolli

Cha Siu Puff Pastry-filled with Chinese BBQ pork

Gai Mei Bao-baked bun with coconut

Egg Custard Tarts

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring 2010 Austin Restaurant Week: Bess Bistro for Lunch

Graduate studies have certainly taken a toll on my social life.  And for some reason, the fewer classes I take, the heavier workload I get in return.  Sara and I are both studying at UT-Austin, but we only managed to wean ourselves away from our work and studies for lunch and catch up with one another after four months of not seeing each the same city...on the same campus.  Yeah, I'm a lousy friend.

Bess Bistro

We chose Bess Bistro for lunch because, well, it's Austin Restaurant Week!  We want to take advantage of food that we can not otherwise afford! Bess Bistro is an American Southern and French-inspired establishment opened by Sandra Bullock.  We were stoked to lunch on a $15 prix-fixe lunch at a restaurant owned by a likeable Oscar-nominee! 

I was hungry from a morning of writing a paper on assessing presidential tools for effective policymaking and dug right into the basket of bread and butter.  Although I admired my friend's amazing restraint and reason (the lunch promises more bread to come in the form of croutons and sandwiches), but I enjoyed the comfort of delicious carbs though I was caught off-guard by the extremely sweet butter.  This foreshadows the extreme flavors that were to come in Sara's dishes.

Bread with surprisingly sweet butter

I wanted to order the spinach salad with warm ranch dressing and fried egg for my first course, but I decided to pick the herb salad with strawberries and toasted walnuts so we can try different dishes.  I immediately regretted my pick when I saw the egg on top of Sara's salad.  My salad on the other hand was light, crisp, and a perfect starter to build appetite.  But screw my healthier salad!  I was completely envious when Sara exclaimed the intense garlickyness of her croutons.  I tried one, and it was like a firecracker in my mouth.  It was a total Emeril "BAM!" moment.

Organic Baby Spinach with smoked bacon, oven roasted tomatoes, over easy egg, and parmesan brioche croutons

Organic Spring Mix with herbs, toasted walnuts, parmesan, strawberry, and raspberry basil vinaigrette

Next came my friend's panini and my croque monsieur.  Again, Sara's dish had an overdose of flavors and ingredients-super strong basil pesto and copious amounts of mozzarella cheese.  My croque monsieur was well-balanced but is a rich dish to start with.  The bread was generously buttered and perfectly crusty to withstand the heavy bechamel.

Panini with roasted bell peppers, mozzarella, and basil pesto

Croque Monsieur-rye toast with shaved ham, mustard, bechamel, and gruyere cheese

By the time we got to dessert, we were the only people left in the restaurant and they ran out of the trio of bite-size cupcakes we had ordered.  Our waitress was very thoughtful and detected that we did not want sorbet for dessert.  She offered us desserts from the regular menu.  When she mentioned rosemary goat cheese cake, I immediately took to it.  I can't help getting excited over unique dishes!  I was pleasantly surprised at the lightness of the cheesecake.  After all the strong flavors of our previous two courses, dessert was decadent, but not overwhelmingly so. 

Lemon Tart

Rosemary Goat Cheese Cake