Austin Eats

I think this blog post about Austin eats is timely since SXSW is happening right now.  On Food Network’s episode of “Best. Pizza. Ever.,” eleven pizzerias made the list including Bufalina in Austin.  (Note that Oakland’s very own Pizzaiola is also one of the eleven and the only one in the entire Northern California.)



First off this is a popular place so do what me and my friends did to ensure you get in without waiting an hour or more.  We showed up about twenty minutes before they opened.  I was surprised that when the door opened at 5:30pm, we already formed a long line.  

For an appetizer, we chose the burrata cheese with egg yolk and olive oil.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but what came out was lovely.  The presentation of the cheese looked like a boiled egg.  It was soft, salty, and very delicious especially with the olive oil.  



Our first pizza was the margherita.  This is the most simple pizza essential to determine the worthiness of a Neopolitan style pizza.  It passed the test.  It had a nice chewy crust with great flavor.  

Our second pizza was the napoletano which had tomato sauce, sausage, garlic, black olives, chile, and basil.  The waitress was nice to let us know that this pizza doesn’t come with mozzarella cheese, but we could add it.  We added cheese for half at the recommendation of my BFF who wanted to also taste it as it was meant to be.  This pizza had great flavor as well, especially the half with cheese.  The bad part was that the middle of the pie was on the soggy side.  The toppings were unable to hold up to the pizza crust.  


After two pizzas, the three of us still felt like we had some room left.  We went ahead and ordered the meat plate which came with prosciutto, two kinds of salumi, bread, and cornichons.  This plate was good, but there was nothing special about it.



For dessert we ordered the olive oil almond cake with ice cream.  I have to repeat, good but not special.  



Something special in Austin were some beignets I had for brunch.  Our friends took us to Epicerie Cafe & Grocery for brunch.  For the table, we ordered two servings of beignets. 



The warm fried dough was soft and pillowy and had a generous amount of powdered sugar just like it should.   They were yummy and dunking it in my coffee transformed me to New Orleans.



I ordered the shrimp and grits as my main dish.  The jumbo shrimp were delicious and complimented the density in the grits.  The scallions added a nice freshness to the dish.



My BFF ordered the quiche which I tasted and found quite tasty.  The texture was perfect with a soft sponginess.

I had planned to go to Micklethwait Craft Meats for BBQ on my last day, but it ended up raining.  When I got to the airport, I realized it was my last opportunity to get my BBQ fix.  



I ended up at Salt Lick to pick up a  BBQ beef sandwich for the plane ride.  Surprisingly my sandwich held up pretty well.  The beef and the roll was nice and tender.   I put on some extra BBQ sauce that added a nice tang.  



Austin is another city filled with great food.  If you’re visiting Austin, I know you’ll have fun exploring.



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San Antonio: First Meal, Last Meal, and Coffee In-between

I am writing on the airplane ride back from Austin, Texas.  My BFF and I spent a few days in San Antonio and Austin, my two favorite cities in Texas.  Our first meal upon arrival in San Antonio was the best meal of the entire trip at a restaurant called Cured located in the Pearl District.  Cured got its name not only because of their housemade chauchuterie, but because the Chef who opened up the restaurant was thankfully cured of cancer.   



Our server first brought us an amuse bouche of lamb chili.  I’ve never had chili made with lamb meat.  The chili flavors were really nice, but I felt it was a little gamey.  I was thinking that if this chili was made with pork, it would be off the hook.  



We couldn’t dine at a restaurant named Cured without having their cured meats which have been cured anywhere from 30 days to 12 months.   We selected three items — chicken liver pate, jalapeño sausage, and lamb citrus terrine.  The generous plate was complimented with pickled carrots and cucumbers, mustards, and delicious crackers.  

The menu at Cured is listed in categories and each category has items of various sized proportions.  We each selected two of the smaller dishes.  My first dish was the beet, avocado, and citrus salad which came with a citrus vinaigrette and was topped with a beet crackling.  I was not feeling like I was in Texas.  It was an excellent salad and I not only loved the idea of the beet crackling, but it worked really well.




I also chose the smoked pork gumbo which came with Heritage hog, andouille sausage, and okra.  This was topped on fluffy white rice.  The gumbo overall was a little on the salty side.



My BFF ordered the fried chicken livers.  These were perfectly crispy and laid on top of a lemon pepper jelly.  The savory fried livers with the sweet tangy jelly was superb.



She also ordered one of her favorite things, the bone marrow soup.  The server poured the soup which also had caramelized Brussels sprouts and root vegetables.  I tried a taste and thought it had great flavor.  



We were both intrigued with the pork butter and corn bread and decided on ordering this side dish as well.  This may sound a little over the top, but it was so good.  I sort of felt like I was eating a mini savory cupcake.  My kinda cupcake!



For dessert we shared the chocolate tarragon ganache with hazelnut mousse with bitter orange ice cream.  This was quite rich and we got through about half of it.  Although beautifully presented, I was not impressed with this particular dessert.  I may have selected the wrong one.



Our last meal was lunch at Boudro’s.  This Tex-Mex restaurant is located on the Riverwalk.  We both have fond memories of eating there a few years ago when our friend took us there.  The waiters all prepare delicious guacamole table side.  



But it’s really the prickly pear margaritas that we were coming back for.  The fuchsia color of the prickly pear is pretty and the drink is delightful.  If I wasn’t driving to Austin, I would’ve liked another.  



We both were looking for something on the lighter side so we each ordered the chicken and tortilla caldo.  This comforting chicken soup was topped with tortilla chips, avocado,  queso fresco, and cilantro.  This soup really hit the spot for me. 



I was happy to have found the local coffee shop in San Antonio called Local Coffee. They recently began to roast their own beans as well.  For me, the key to good coffee is fresh roasted beans, a good espresso machine, and a barista that cares about each cup.  I found that at Local Coffee.  It was not close to where we were staying, but we made an effort to go there twice.  



Those were my highlights of San Antonio.  Stay tuned next week to see what I ate in Austin.

Best of London

I realized that I didn’t document my food experience in London or Paris very well on my blog. Borrough Market in London was great and so was that dinner at Le Comptoir in Paris. This week’s blog will focus on my best eats in London and next week will be my favorites in Paris.

I’ll start out with my favorite coffee shop in London. I was lucky to find Tapped and Packed one block away from my hotel. I was at T&P every morning which enabled me to redeem a frequent drink card on my last day for a free beverage. Sometimes I ordered a skinny latte and other times I got a flat white. Lots of customers were there for their drip coffee. I enjoyed the vibe there and even tried their delicious homemade sandwiches.
20140727-224736-82056594.jpgTapped and Packed
193 Wardour Street
Soho

I sat down for an actual English breakfast once during my time in London and it was at Regency Cafe. I ordered the set breakfast which came with an egg, bacon, sausage, baked beans or tomatoes, bread and butter, and coffee. I asked for both the beans and the tomatoes and an extra side of hash browns. Hey, I wasn’t coming back, at least not on this trip. My favorite things were the baked beans, the tomatoes, and the hash browns so I am glad I ordered the extras.

20140727-224946-82186212.jpgRegency Cafe
17-19 Regency Street
Westminster

My friend and I actually had Afternoon Tea twice in London. The better of the two was at The Wolseley. It is a fancy restaurant with servers that are very formal and attentive. I have had High Tea at plenty of nice places with good tea, sandwiches, scones, and desserts. But in no other place besides London can you get such amazing scones with clotted cream and jam. The whole experience of people having their nose up in the air and their pinky pointing up is worth it for the scones, clotted cream and jam.
20140727-225727-82647486.jpgThe Wolseley
160 Picadilly
Mayfair

I actually had scouted out a restaurant serving dim sum a couple of months before my holiday started. Coming from San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine wanting to have dim sum while in London. Let’s just say A. Wong puts dim sum to a whole new level of sophistication. Imagine a siu mai (steamed pork dumpling) with a crispy chicharrones on top. Imagine a har gow (steamed shrimp dumpling) with a citrus foam on top. That is what I am talking about!
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20140727-225442-82482763.jpgA Wong
70-71 Wilton Road
Victoria

My favorite dinner was at Nopi. I discovered Chef Yotam Ottolenghi about six months ago and when I found out he had restaurants in London, I knew I had to go. Nopi serves Mediterranean food. My friend and I shared quite a few dishes. My favorites was an appetizer of Burratta cheese and peaches and the dessert called Pomegranate Mess. It’s a take on the dessert Eton Mess with meringue, cream, and strawberries. Our version had mascarpone and sorbet.
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20140727-230229-82949208.jpgNopi
21-21 Warwick Street
Soho

There goes my London picks. Check back next week for my Paris picks!

The Best Things I Ate: San Diego

I was in San Diego last weekend. A lot has changed since I lived there twenty years ago including the food scene. That’s probably true everywhere. Food has changed a lot in the last twenty years. Another change is that you can easily find the best foods to eat even when you are a visitor.

My trip to San Diego had me searching for some of the bests. The best breakfast/brunch goes to Hash House A Go Go in Hillcrest. People rave about the Sage Fried Chicken and Bacon Waffles. While I thoroughly enjoyed the fried chicken (not so much the waffle), it was the B.L.T. Mary that surprised me and impressed me.
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My Bloody Mary came with bacon, lettuce, tomato, toast, and mayo. I was now able to build half a sandwich as well as have a drink. What a clever and fun concept! Realistically, this was all I needed to call brunch.
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The best place for a bowl of ramen noodles is a hip place called Underbelly in Little Italy. I enjoyed my ramen, but loved the ambiance. At Underbelly, you place your order, pay for your meal, and then take a seat. We were seated at the bar. The walls are made of glass so you feel like you are eating outside.
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I ordered the Belly of the Beasts Ramen which included a soft boiled egg, oxtail dumplings, smoked brisket, and hoisin glazed short rib. When my order arrived, it didn’t come with a soup spoon. The story behind this is that they say that in Japan they don’t use soup spoons for ramen and the soup is meant to be slurped. I followed the rule and after consuming everything in my bowl with chopsticks, I slurped down the remaining broth. Delicious!
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I saved the best thing I ate in San Diego for last. The best thing I had was a donut from the Donut Bar in Downtown. While the Donut Bar also has a version of the donut croissant combination called the crobar, it is not their best offering.
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I tried quite a few donuts and my favorite by far was the strawberry split. They take a deep fluffy sugar donut, cut it in half and stuff it with whipped cream and strawberries. While donuts are typically eaten as a form of breakfast, this one makes for a great dessert. I had the strawberry split twice during my short visit, after all it was the best thing I ate in San Diego.
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Southern Fried Chicken: Atlanta Style

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My favorite meal in Atlanta was my first meal. An early and long flight meant I didn’t want to wander too far from my hotel to have dinner.

I discovered Sway which is a restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency, which is where I was staying in Downtown Atlanta. I made my same day Open Table reservation and was set to go.

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I perused the menu online already, so when I sat down, I immediately ordered the buttermilk fried chicken. The meal came with four pieces of chicken: a drumstick, wing, breast, and thigh. The meal was beautifully presented in an iron skillet and topped with two sprigs of rosemary. Buttermilk really changed the consistency of the fried chicken giving it a much crispier, crustier batter.

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I requested hot sauce and my waiter gave me peach hot sauce. I became intrigued since we are in Georgia after all. For fried chicken, I usually add a few dabs. The peach hot sauce was a perfect combination of sweet and spicy and was so good I used several tablespoons. To be honest, the four pieces of chicken varied in size so much that I think the smallest piece, the wing was slightly overcooked. Ignoring the wing, the rest of the fried chicken was juicy and one of the best I have had.

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My fried chicken came with whipped potatoes in a separate iron skillet and the gravy came out in its own gravy boat. The whipped potatoes and gravy were wonderful. It was creamy, buttery goodness. I had to stop myself from eating it all. My gravy loving friends would’ve been disappointed in me if they saw the amount of gravy still left in the boat.

Sway was a great start to some great meals in Atlanta.