Tag Archives: Austin

French fare in the heart of Texas

French food is one of the most globally celebrated cuisines,  infinitely rich in cultural and historical influences. Offering des plats rustiques et élégants, world famous desserts and pâtisseries, French flavors and influences abound in cuisines around the world. It’s because of that diversity that we’ve put together a list of our préféré French and French-inspired restaurants in Austin. Bon appétit!

Elizabeth’s Street Cafe

Elizabeth’s Street Cafe: 1501 S. 1st St. Austin, TX
http://elizabethstreetcafe.com/

For those who want a taste of the French influence on Vietnamese food, head over to the dynamique et mignon Elizabeth’s Street Cafe on S. 1st. This cute restaurant offers Vietnamese classics and some of Austin’s best and most authentic French pastries. Here are our top picks:

1. The croissants- In any shape or form they are, hands down, the best in town. We’ve used them for our popular Saturday “cafe”…délicieux!

2. Broiled escargots- Tender escargot with an Asian twist. Instead of the usual butter and garlic, they use a Thai basil curry butter, served with a baguette.

3. Bánh mì- Our favorites are the grilled marinated pork, and the house speciality of chicken liver, mousse, pork pâté, and roasted pork…Ooh la la!

Flip Happy Crêpes

Flip Happy Crepes: 400 Josephine Street, Austin, TX.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flip-Happy-Crepes/77132682069?fref=ts

Crêpes, thin- like pancakes enjoyed as either crêpes sucrées (sweet) or crêpes salées (savory), are often served from street vendors. Flip Happy Crêpes offers some of Austin’s best original and unique crêpes, and what’s more Austin than serving something unique and fantastique from a trailer? Here are our favorite crêpes:

1. The Ham and gruyere cheese and green onions, a perfectly French combination.

2. Nutella and bananas (or strawberries) a classic enjoyed by children as well as adults.

3. Roasted chicken, mushrooms, cheddar, and caramelized onions. Hearty yet simple.

Lenoir 

Lenoir Restaurant: 1807 South 1st Street
All photos from http://lenoirrestaurant.com/

Lenoir is the creation of culinary husband and wife power team Jessica Maher and Todd Duplechan, and despite only being open for less than a year, it has already created a reputation for amazing locally produced French-inspired food. This cozy space (which only seats around 30!) is dreamlike and eclectic in decoration and menu (which changes seasonally), with it’s menu featuring dishes from “field, sea, land and dream”. Here are our top picks to fall in amour with.

1. From the “sea”  try the poha-crusted fish, butternut curry, pomegranate and corn.

2. From the “land” try the delicious crispy rabbit terrine, sweet potatoes, watercress and orange salad.

3. And lastly, this “dream” dish of chocolate brioche pudding, coconut sorbet, rum raisins and pecan crunch.

Justine’s Brasserie 

Justine’s Brasserie: 4710 East 5th Street, Austin, TX
https://www.facebook.com/Justinesbrasserie?fref=ts

 And finally, a list of French restaurants wouldn’t be complete without the très tendance and très français Justine’s Brasserie. Not only is the food extraordinaire but so are the cocktails. A must try is their soixante-quinze, or as we know it the French 75 ( gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar), a sip seems to immediately transport us to Paris. Here are our top dishes:

1. Soupe à l’oignon- French onion soup.

2. Ratatouille – Classically prepared à la Provençal, c’est superbe!

3. Moules frites- Mussels and fries.

C’est magnifique!

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Our pick of the best authentic Latin American and Spanish food trucks in ATX

With Otoño weather finally here, we thought we’d help warm you up with some caliente Latin American and Spanish cuisine. What better way to enjoy this weather than with some of the best auténtico dishes from Austin’s intuitive food truck scene.

Miguel’s. The Cubano, Tapas Bravas, Art of Tacos

Recently the rest of the U.S. has jumped on Austin’s food truck bandwagon with mobile food trucks rolling out from every other state. Long gone are the assumptions that food trucks only offer questionable hotdogs and peanuts, today’s food truck’s are fresh, funky, and everything that makes Austin, Austin. Here’s our pick of the best authentic Latin American and Spanish food trucks.

For those who want to a taste of Spain we recommend Tapas Bravas located on the chida y divertida Rainey Street.

Tapas Bravas- 75 Rainey St Austin TX 78701. Photos from Tapas Bravas Facebook.

As the name indicates this food truck offers Spanish style tapas, which are warm/cold appetizer sized dishes. The estupendo thing about tapas is that it invites people to share food AND a conversation. Our top picks:

1. Croquetas- Deep fried chicken & serrano ham croquettes

2. Pimientos piquillos rellenos de queso de cabra y piñones- Goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers with pine nuts and honey.

3. Catimpalitos a la sidra- pan fried mini churizos in cider glaze

4. Sangrias on Wine Down Wednesday! Not to be missed, it’s BYO-Wine and for $7 you’ll get a start up kit to make your own Sangria pitchers! Ok, technically not food but the fruit must count… right?

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For those who want to experience Cuba and feel the revolution! Vamos to Miguel’s. The Cubano for some of the most auténtico, sabroso y creativo Cuban food Austin has to offer.

Miguel’s. The Cubano.-611 Trinity ST Austin, TX 78701. Photos from Miguel’s. The Cubano. Facebook

Our top picks:

1. The famoso El Don sandwich- Slow-Roasted Eden Farms pulled pork, caramelized Onions, cilantro and mojo served up on fresh milled bread and lathered in smoked chili aioli

2. De La Noche sandwich- Local Berkshire Ham, slow-roasted Eden Farms pulled pork, baby swiss cheese and pickles served up on authentic homemade Cuban sweet bread and pressed to perfection.

3. Yuca Fries with Mojo and Meat- Yuca fries served with choice of sherry-pimiento-garlic chicken, braised brisket, or slow-roast pulled pork

4. Maduros- Caramelized plantains served with a crema for dipping

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Last but not least, the taco. While Austin may be chock full of taco trailers that bring you everything from authentic to creative fusion, a simple taco is sometimes the best. And if you haven’t already filled up on Tapas Bravas (or had a couple drinks afterwards roaming Rainey St.) check out The Art of Tacos.

Art of Tacos- 75 Rainey St Austin, TX 78701. Photos from Art of Tacos Facebook

Simple, fresh and delicioso. Our top picks:

1. Ground beef and potatoes taco

2. Fajita chicken quesadilla

3. Al pastor taco

Buen apetito!

We’re so lucky to live in a city with such varied culture and language. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook!

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Fall Italian Food & Wine!

One thing we, as Americans, tend to think of  regarding Italy, is passion. Italians treasure , and indeed are passionate about, their rich culture and heritage which traditionally center around  food and wine.

Romance & passion in Italy

In Italy, the cuisine reflects regions as well as the seasons. In Fall, communities in northern Italy celebrate truffles and mushrooms, so much so that the internationally famous Alba truffle festival takes place over 7 weekends (7! Over 14 days of truffles! Now that is passion for truffles. What decadence!) White truffles are an exquisite and expensive ingredient found mainly near Alba, and in the piedmont region.

White truffles in Alba, Italy

In Italy’s southern regions, chestnuts are the celebrated ingredient of Fall. In the town Fagnano Castello, in the Cosenza region, the annual festival called the  “Sagra Della Castagne” celebrates the chestnut harvest, to nearly mythical proportions.

Sagra Della Castagne (Festival of Chestnuts)

The Italians use chestnuts and truffles in ways we would have never dreamed. Check out a few recipes we’ve selected:

RECIPES USING WHITE TRUFFLES/CHESTNUTS:

Taglierini Con Tartufi Bianchi / Taglierini With White Truffles:

Serves 4

1 clove garlic, halved lengthwise
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large fresh sage leaves, torn into 4 pieces each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3⁄4 lb. taglierini
2 oz. white truffles

1. Rub a small saucepan with garlic clove. Over low flame, melt 6 tbsp. of the butter. Add sage and salt and pepper, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, letting the butter bubble, but being careful not to let it toast.

2. In a large stockpot, bring ample water to a boil. Salt generously and add taglierini. Cook pasta until al dente, then drain thoroughly. Toss pasta with sage butter in a large, warm serving bowl. Cut remaining 2 tbsp. butter into pieces and add to taglierini, tossing again to bind pasta. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. At the table, shave approximately 1⁄2 oz. white truffles over each serving.

(Credit: Christopher Baker)

Castagnaccio/Chestnut cake

Serves 8

3 T sultana (golden) raisins
1/2 lb chestnut flour
2 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for oiling the pan and drizzling on top
pinch of salt
4 t sugar
2 to 2 1/2 c cold water
3 T pine nuts (pignoli)
a few sprigs of rosemary
1. Soak the raisins for a few minutes in a small bowl with warm water.
2. Mix the chestnut flour, oil, salt, sugar, and water (I used 2 c, but you can add a little more according to your taste and the consistency of the batter).
3. Drain the raisins and mix them into the batter, along with the pine nuts.
4. Pour the batter into a greased 9″ diameter pan, 2″ deep. The batter will not rise during baking, so if you have a slightly different size pan on hand, that is fine too.
5. Sprinkle the rosemary sprigs over the top of the batter and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.
6. Bake at 400 F for 1 hour. You’ll know it is ready when the surface is covered with little cracks. Cool, turn out onto a plate, and enjoy!

(credit: http://www.epicurious.com user marzipan4)

Buon appetito!

Castagnaccio/Taglierini Con Tartufi Bianchi

For us Austinites, check out this authentic Italian restaurant:

Andiamo Ristorante:

Fall Special: “Pumpkin Ravioli in brown-sugar and sage sauce.” Also, check their menu for more fall dishes…delizioso!

2521 Rutland Drive Austin TX 78758

http://www.andiamoitaliano.com/About_Us.html

-And a few other Italian restaurants:

Vespaio:

1610 South Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704

http://www.austinvespaio.com/vespaio/vespaio.html

La Traviata Italian Bistro:

314 Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78701
http://www.latraviata.net/

Carmelo’s: 

504 East 5th Street, Austin, TX 78701
http://carmelosrestaurant.com/

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Summer Drinks Series: Tequila!

Bottles of Tequila for sale

For those of us in Texas, we’re all pretty familiar with tequila, or at least drinking it. Margaritas, frozen or on the rocks, salted or not, is one of the most popular cocktails in the United States, especially come summer time. We write songs about it (Margaritaville anyone?), create popular cocktails with it, and even cook with it. However, even though we might be pro’s at consuming tequila, and dealing with the morning after, not many of us are familiar with tequila’s production or history. So here’s a couple things you might not have known about your favorite drink.

Tequila was first exported to the US by Jose Cuervo, when in 1873 three barrels were shipped to El Paso, Texas, a number that rapidly increased throughout time. Similar to Champagne, Tequila has denomination of origin, meaning that under regulations and laws, tequila can only be produced in certain areas of Mexico. The most popular area being Jalisco. Mexico takes their tequila seriously, so it comes as no surprise that it is the country’s national drink. It is created from the blue agave plant, and unlike many liquors, is primarily aged within the plant, and not in casks. The plant takes around 8 to 12 years to mature before being harvested, and if the tequila is aged, anything beyond 4 years can lessen the quality of it.

Blue agave plant (left) Blue agave painting (right)

In Texas, one of the most popular tequila drinks is the Texan Martini (also known as the Mexican Martini). The cocktail was actually created here in Austin, at The Cedar Door Bar and Grill, some twenty years ago. Now, this strong drink can be found pretty much everywhere in Austin, with some of our favorites being at the Cedar Door, Trudy’s,  and Baby Acapulco. For those that want to make this drink at home, try this tasty recipe:

 Ingredients:

Servings: 1

2 fluid ounces tequila

1 fluid ounce Cointreau liqueur

1 -2 fluid ounce Sprite

1 fluid ounce orange juice

1/2 lime juice

Directions:
Shake all ingredients and strain into glass rimmed with salt; add stuffed olives, enjoy!

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Being a Third Culture Kid

For most, the question “where are you from?” requires about as much thought and explanation as answering “what’s your name?” Simple questions with simple answers. Like many, I used to be able to answer these questions without much thought, and it wasn’t until I moved to the US from Indonesia that it became more complicated. Growing up in Indonesia, surrounded by other expatriates, it was simple for me to say where I was from. Back then I would say that I was American and British, a good enough answer since most of my friends had also lived in places outside of their nationality. But when I moved to the US for university, I suddenly realized how little of a claim I had on being American. It was my feeling of being out of place in a culture I was inherently from that lead me to find out about the term Third Culture Kid (TCK). Officially a TCK  “is a person who has spent a significant part of [their] developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.” In my case, I’m a TCK because my father is from the US, my mother from the UK, but I was born in Singapore, and grew up in Indonesia. Even typing that seems long winded.

Of course, one of the first things people ask when meeting a new person, is where are they from. Since I couldn’t just say I was from “here” or the U.S, my answer always seemed to turn into my life story. At first I didn’t mind sharing, going through how I ended up in Indonesia, why I spoke with an American accent, and so on. But having to go through so many details did get old quickly. Oh, and guess what every professor asks their students to share “name, where you’re from…” yeah, I got pretty good at summing it up in a few sentences. Luckily, it was during this time that I stumbled upon the Facebook group “I’m a Third Culture Kid, don’t try and understand me.” I suddenly had a definition of how I felt, and a whole community of people like me. I even found a thread where TCK’s commented on the best and worst part of being a TCK, and almost everyone said  the worse part was having to explain where they’re from. It may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who doesn’t quite have a certain place to call “home” it was huge to see I wasn’t alone in feeling a bit lost.

Finding this “support group” made me realize how globalized our world is today, and just how many people have had the same upbringing as me. It also made me appreciate that, even though I may not have one place to call home, I’m lucky enough to have multiple homes. I’ve lived here in Austin, Texas for over 5 years now, and even though I miss Indonesia immensely, I’ve learned to adapt and can finally tell people that “Short version, I’m from Austin, longer version, you may want to sit down.”

With time, I also realized that one of the beneficial characteristics of being a TCK is my ability to adapt to where I am. Having grown up in such a drastically different culture, and being able to travel throughout my life, has allowed me to feel comfortable in different environments. These environments might be as different as walking through Bangkok at night, to joining a Zumba class in South Austin, where everyone, including the instructor, spoke Spanish. Instead of feeling out of place, I just danced along, trying to “mover el culo” or “shake your butt” in time with everyone else. Although I’m pretty sure I ended up looking like Jim Carrey in this picture:

-Written by Brooke Fay Bullard

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This is What Austin Sounds Like to Me, Part II or “Un gaou à Austin”

It is now spring, getting on towards the end of it anyway, and this is one of my favorite times of the year in Austin.  I can drive with the windows down, music semi-blasting (I’m not young anymore, I’ve got to take care of these aural devices.) The sun is starting to set later and later, which brings le coucher de soleil closer to the moments when I meet friends for drinks or dinner, or, on rare occasions, begin a night of bacchanalian revelry with those friends that are better labeled bad influences.

Magic System is from Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and their music is called Zouglou.

There was a stint when I lived in NW Austin, around the Four Points area.  Sometimes too far from my preferred haunts in and near downtown, Magic System made that journey much more tolerable.

“La musique est pour nous un facteur de rapprochement du peuple…”
[Music is, for us, a way to bring people together…]

 Take the drive on 2222 from 620 into town.  Do it as the sun sets, or just as the lights of night start to outshine said gaseous giant as it heads to bed.  Lower your windows, and crank up a little “On va samizé.”

Let the opening notes blow past your ears and the wind blow through your smartly coiffed hair as you descend Tumbleweed hill, foot covering the brake pedal so as not to achieve enough velocity to attempt low-earth orbit or earn some sort of traffic citation.  Cross under 360, pass County Line BBQ and the music, already getting you in the mood to dance, rhythms you in and out of every turn and switch-back on the descent to Mopac.  Go ahead, play it twice, get yourself to Loop 1 to head south for downtown.

Now, having followed Mopac south, take the exit to go au centre-ville, and after you curve to the left, do a little down-and-up shift in the road, then back to the right (just like you’re dancing, man), level out onto 5th and keep Magic System as your copilot.  Switch to their song “Premier Gaou.” Nothing beats it as you patrol the streets, hunting for errant parking spots that are, if you’re lucky, only a few blocks from your destination.  The music keeps your hips primed for dipping in any concert venue, and calms the savageness of parking rage as you hunt.  Long after you’ve paralleled your way between an obnoxiously stationed Hummer and the Car2Go Smart that it dwarfs, despite their separation, you’ll be singing to yourself as you walk downtown

“On dit premier gaou n’est pas gaou, oh…/ C’est deuxième gaou qui est niata, oh…”
[Fool me once, shame on you / Fool me twice, shame on me…]

 

Now that you know the route, give your Sunday drive a Zouglou kick!


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This is What Austin Sounds Like to Me, Part I

I recently wrote that, for me, Austin has a very unique soundtrack, in much the same way that Saïan Supa Crew will always be my accompaniment on the #31 bus in Paris, or Akhénaton the background to my treks in the métro from Line 13 in St Lazare to Auber for RER A.

Whenever I’ve much on my mind (what I often refer to as S. O. double M.), I’m wont to either take my dog, Finn, on a longer-than-usual walk, or sometimes a little car ride.

With gas prices what  they are, I’m far less likely to do the latter these days, but it still happens on occasion.

On these vehicled excursions, I really get into the thinking groove, the reflecting mood, on the drive going north on 360 from Mopac to 183.  It is exactly long enough, with a good dose of the Austin skyline mixed with the quiet solitude of the hills, to create the sense it’s only you, your dog, your car and possibility. Like a sumo wrestler eating for his next big match, the vibe is enhanced when making the drive at night.  And  though Ted Mosby is mostly right, this is probably the only thing that gets better after 2AM.

All you need do is cross the Pennybacker Bridge, the suns of other systems winking at you, the lap of lake waving you on, and you can stretch into the world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:360_Bridge_at_night,_2008.jp

In just a few miles, windows down, dog chilling on the back seat, the running away into thought, singing at the top of your lungs, all is captured by one song: “Désolé.”  And sometimes, as if watching from outside the car, scarcely a few feet above, I imagine I’m making my own video for it.  This is just a minor escape, five fleeting minutes, with the crisp night air, Finn up way past his bed time, volume up even higher.  The world seems a little more conquerable as I leave the embrace of the hills to get back on 183 to head home.   Though this might be my preferred route, song and place dancing inextricably in my mind, to be honest, any night drive will do.  Try it once and see for yourself.  But try the song first.

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