Another Monday is over. So, naturally, it’s time to think about next weekend! I already know what my family will be doing on Saturday. Austinites — if you need something fabulous, fun and foodie- (and family-) friendly to do, I’ve got just the ticket.
Taste of North Austin is coming to the Domain this Saturday, June 21, from 11 am to 4 pm. There will be free entertainment, including live music and fun stuff for the kiddos, but if you want to taste the goods — you do, don’t you? — a wristband is required. It’s $20 for 10 tastes, and $10 more for VIP access.
Participating restaurants include local favorites Cru Wine Bar, How Do You Roll?, The League, Punch Bowl Social, Schlotzsky’s, Tiff’s Treats,* Tony C’s, Top Golf Austin, Urban – An American Grill, Zed’s Restaurant and many more.
* Man, does that ever remind me of college. Warm cookies delivered right to your dorm room — what could possibly be better?
With that plus live music, children’s entertainment including face painting, caricature drawings and balloon twisting, as well as prize giveaways, there’s a little something for everyone. VIP access includes entry into the VIP tent with shaded, soft seating, two drink tickets (for beer/wine) and a goody bag. Wristbands can be purchased at Guest Services at The Domain.
What: The Domain’s 7th Annual Taste of North Austin
When: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Time: 11 am to 4 pm
Where: The Domain, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Suite 210, Austin
If you like cocktails, you probably know that this week (June 2-8) is Negroni Week. If you didn’t know, well, I’m telling you. Get thee to a local bar! Over 1,300 bars around the country are participating, including 19 bars here in Austin, and each will donate $1 for each Negroni sold to a charity of the bar’s choice. I’m not going to pretend they let me out of the house for this kind of thing night now,* so I’ll just link to Matt McGinnis’s excellent round-up of the Austin bars participating and what they have going on this week (along with some Negroni-inspired cocktail recipes) over at What Are You Drinking?
* New mommy = close to zero social life. I drink at home.
As for me, well, I have never been the world’s biggest Negroni fan. I find them to be very bitter. I will readily admit, however, that I don’t always take proper care of my sweet vermouth (meaning storing it in the fridge and using it quickly), so that may be a part of my issue. I promise I’ll try to do better.
But, bitter is big right now. So, if you’re like me, maybe you’d rather tame the bitter with a little sweet to see if you can acquire a taste for it. For a Negroni, I accomplish this by adding a splash of Grand Marnier.
I think it works nicely with the flavors in the classic drink, and it makes the drink more palatable to those of us without a super-human ability to withstand bitterness. Cheers!
… a day late and a dollar short, I know, I know. But I have a good excuse! Her name is Amelia.
This little cutie arrived on December 10, and let me tell you, this whole mom-of-two thing is not for sissies! We are all doing fine, though, and settling into our new routine (such as it is).
That said, I plan to be around more in the coming weeks… and I’m reinstating Cocktail Thursday!* I’m not really up to cooking much just yet — thank goodness for friends and family and frozen meals — but we’re getting there… so we’ll start with drinks and simple, make-ahead meals, yes? Alright then.
All of that said, I am honored and pleasantly surprised to again be on the Austin Chronicle’s list of the Top 10 Austin Food Blogs. Check out the list — there are some great finds on there! There are several of my old favorites on there, and a couple of new ones that I’m eager to check out.
I’ll be back next week with a fun new cocktail — promise!
You know what’s good? Brussels sprouts. I know, I know — they’re all the rage right now, but I have to say, I’m so glad they’ve been re-discovered and that people are actually doing them right!
Roasting is the way to go, hands-down. You’re not still cutting those little Xs in the bottom of your Brussels sprouts and boiling them are you? Roasting is so much easier, and so much tastier, too.
The hubby and I went out to dinner at Uchiko a little while ago, and, among the many dishes they wowed us with was a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce. Since I love Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and wanted to include them in our feast, I decided to try my hand at a similar recipe. Although ours didn’t come out as crispy (or, truth be told, as greasy*) as Uchiko’s, they were still awesome.
* Not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing — they were utterly delicious.
I love the combination of soy sauce and sweet chili sauce on these, for a slightly Asian spin that was still perfectly at home with more traditional Thanksgiving foods. We had the rest of the sprouts (recipe testing, round 2) with a dinner of caramelized tofu with ramen noodles a couple nights ago, and it went great with that, too. Definitely a must-try!
Note: This is one of a series of guest posts I’ll be hosting over the next few weeks to spice up Cocktail Thursday. Today’s guest is Priscilla Carruthers, AKA The Icebox Queen, who is a personal chef in Austin, Texas who specializes in healthy comfort food. She also writes an inspiring blog of the same name, which draws from her experiences as a chef as well as the local Austin food and wine scene and her “nomadic existence” all over Texas before settling in the capital city. I’m excited to test-drive a virgin spin on the delicious cocktail Priscilla has to offer us… and someday soon, the real thing. Those of us with basil overtaking our gardens this time of year can definitely appreciate this one!
I have the blackest of thumbs. Plants look at me and wilt. Nurseries close the blinds and turn out the lights when I pull into the parking lot. My dogs look at me with disdain when I try again, year after year, season after season, to grow another pot of herbs or a window garden with flowers. Even they can see the foreshadowing of my failure. People gift me with “easy to grow” plants, promising that, “No one can kill mint!,” and warning me to plant it in a pot to fight the spread. They shake their heads when they return to my house, realizing that plants taking over my garden would certainly beat the bare dirt and burnt up oregano that lives there now.
That is, until this time. This time, my mother didn’t just tell me what to do to have a garden, or send me home with a few plants. This time, she came with me to the nursery, and better yet, she came home with me and helped me plant them. And thanks to her, they live. They not only live, they thrive. Thanks to her fairy dusted green thumbs, I have more basil than I know what to do with. It’s starting to flower out there! I didn’t even know basil had flowers.
So this Basil Ginger Cocktail is dedicated to my mother’s verdant thumbs.
If you don’t have as lush a garden as I do, (she giggles), store-bought basil works just as well, and it only takes a little. If you’d like this to be an adult beverage, I’d highly recommend Dripping Springs Vodka, or Tito’s; otherwise more club soda in place of the vodka would taste just as fine on a hot Austin day.
I just finished re-reading one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby. Of course, everyone is excited about because there’s a new movie out (and, yes, I am planning to see it at my earliest opportunity), but I just love being transported back to the world of the Roaring 20s. And it’s just a fantastic piece of literature. But today, I’m talking about it from a purely nostalgic point of view (that is, if one can be nostalgic for a time period in which one was never actually alive).
If you’d like to get in character and pretend you’re partying on Jay Gatsby’s lawn, you’re in luck — that is, at least if you’re in Austin (or one of the other cities with a Sullivan’s*). Sullivan’s is hosting a Gatsby Gala tomorrow evening, complete with dining, dancing and 20s-era cocktails and dishes. Guests are encouraged to come in full 1920s style and enjoy some delicious food, including a few vegetarian options, like deviled eggs and oysters (yes, I think oysters are arguably vegetarian).
And the cocktails — Oh, the cocktails! You all know I’m a sucker for classic cocktails, and they’ll have a few delicious-sounding ones on tap for the gala. I’m pleased to share the recipes with you, courtesy of Sullivan’s. Cheers!
When I first posted about fleur de sel chocolate chip cookies, a number of you asked where you could place your order. Well, now I have an actual answer, and it’s for a great cause!
You may have heard (and if you live in Texas, you’ve certainly heard) about the fertilizer plant explosion that rocked West (comma) Texas last month. People lost their homes, their livelihoods, their pets and some (mostly first responders) sadly lost their lives. West has a special place in my heart. I’ve driven through this little town many, many times on the way to or from home in DFW and college in Austin, or between home in Austin and visiting in-laws and friends in DFW, and I always loved stopping for a kolache (cream cheese, please!) at the Czech Stop. It may not even be the best Czech bakery in town (West has a huge Czech population), but it sure is good, and it’s definitely convenient. One of my law school roommates, Amy, is from West, and I attended her wedding there a decade ago.* It’s a wonderful, friendly, tight-knit community, and it has been unimaginably devastated by the explosion.
*Sidenote: I am getting old.
We were just there, at the Czech Stop, on our way through last weekend. We stopped and got a half-dozen kolaches (please don’t ask how may of those I personally ate) for the road. We stood in a long line (much longer than usual) with various passers-through like us, as well as some firefighters from as far away as Calgary who were in town for the funerals, which had been held the previous day. It felt good to do a little something, to inject even a little money into this town’s struggling economy.
Now I can do a little bit more, and you can too. As we speak, I have a couple dozen fleur de sel chocolate chip cookies baking, and they’ll soon be on their way to a bake sale site.
Austin Bakes for West is a city-wide bake sale benefiting recovery efforts in West. Please check the poster above for the site nearest you and come out and buy some cookies to help the folks of West out. And if fleur de sel chocolate chip cookies aren’t your thing (who ARE you?!), I won’t take it personally if you buy some of the plethora of delectable baked goods on offer from other area bloggers and bakers instead.
So, please come. And if you’re not in Austin, you can donate directly to Americare‘s relief efforts in West. Let’s help West get back on its feet!
Note: This is the first of a series of guest posts I’ll be hosting over the next few weeks to spice up Cocktail Thursday. Although many people’s minds are turning to margaritas with Cinco de Mayo coming up, it’s almost time for another big drinking day — the Kentucky Derby! I do love a good mint julep, so when Veronica Meewes of My Well-Fed Life (and my fellow AFBA member) offered to do a piece on the julep (so very intertwined with the Derby), I thought it was a fabulous idea. Read on for some great local spots (for the Austinites) and a couple of delicious recipes to make your own julep to sip while you watch the derby.Drink.well also happens to be one of my favorite local spots, so I’m pleased as punch to have the secrets behind a couple of their inventive twists on the julep.So, without further ado, may I introduce you to the lovely and talented Veronica Meewes?
Pineapple Julep ~ photo courtesy of drink.well
I’ve always been captivated by the Kentucky Derby. An excuse to dress up, wear big hats, bet on horses with tongue-in-cheek names, and drink boozy, refreshing drinks? Umm.. yes, please! You can bet my dress is already picked out with a hat to match for this weekend’s race.
But I’ve always wondered where the tradition of drinking mint juleps came from. The combination of bourbon, mint, sugar, and water is so ingrained in Derby culture, it’s nearly impossible to hear the word “julep” and not think of the races! The word “julep” itself is derived from the Persian word for rose water, but according to Wikipedia, “the origins of the mint julep are clouded and may never be definitely known.” But the first American julep sightings occurred in the late eighteenth century after Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky brought the beverage into popularity.
Now, in the course of two days each year, around 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby. And did you know they also sell ultra-premium mint juleps for $1,000 each?? Served in gold-plated cups with silver straws, these high rollers’ cocktails are made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, spring water ice cubes from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. (The proceeds are used to support organizations dedicated to retired horses.)
Thirsty yet? Here are a couple places hosting Derby parties this Saturday, May 4th in Austin. Want to host your own? Scroll down for a several delicious julep variations from the mixologists of drink.well!
Maybe you didn’t even know there was a polo club in Austin? I sure didn’t! But this is the third year of this annual event, where you can watch two live polo matches before the Derby begins at 5:40pm. General admission is $20, while VIP runs $50-75 (how VIP are you??) Proceeds benefit the Texas Canine and Horse Rescue and the horses of the Longhorn and Aggie polo clubs.
Prize baskets will be given out for best dressed and best hat while bartenders pour juleps in flavors like ginger and blackberry, or a sweet tea collins, if you prefer! Enjoy a hot brown sandwich while they screen The Run for the Roses before the races start.
If you’re in it for the drinks, this is where you need to be (I’ll be here!) The award-winning staff will be dressed to the nines and shaking up creative cocktails as usual, such as pineapple and baker’s rack juleps (recipes below), Jabronis (a hybrid julep/Negroni), and Seelbachs, an aperitif named after the Louisville hotel where it was created.
I love love love FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar. It’s my new favorite restaurant in Austin, aside from Wink… maybe. The food and wine list stands out at Wink, but, since I tend to veer toward the tasting menu there, it definitely qualifies as a special-occasion restaurant. FINO, however, is my go-to date night pick. And the cocktails? Oh my, but they are amazing.
On our last visit there, I sampled two cocktails, and they both blew my mind. The first was dubbed the Brief Introduction, and it included Flor de Caña 4-year rum, Velvet Falernum, lime, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and grenadine.
The layers of flavor — wow! When dining out, I often eschew the simpler flavors of a classic cocktail for a glass of wine with some complexity, but in this case, I didn’t have to make the decision. This cocktail was as multi-layered as a lovely wine, and I’d expect no less from the mixologists at FINO.
The hubby went with the Professional Courtesy (yes, we were all about formality), which included Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Amaro Ramazzotti, Bénédictine, Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur and orange bitters.
Check out the giant ice cube! It was a very different drink from mine, but still lovely and complex. I think we both chose perfectly for our respective preferences.
To accompany dessert, instead of going with my classic choice of port or another dessert wine, I went with one of FINO’s “after-dinner cocktails.” Though I was a wee bit skeptical, I was not disappointed. I can’t recall the exact composition of the drink,* but I do remember that it starred a house-made coffee liqueur, and it was sublime with our dessert of house-made donuts with sugar and cardamom accompanied by coffee sorbet. I felt like I had died and gone to dessert heaven.
* Is anyone really surprised at this point?
While I do love mixing it up in our home bar, it is nice to get out every so often and let the pros do the heavy lifting.
I got to go to a wine and cheese tasting last night. It was amazing. Not only because I was sprung from the house on a weeknight to go do something grown-up,* but also because the wine and cheese, and especially the pairings, were amazing.
* My undying thanks to the hubby for coming home early from work, feeding the little one dinner and putting her to bed… and not even acting like it was a big deal. He is a keeper.
The tasting was hosted by Antonelli’s, an awesome little cheese shop in Hyde Park, and the wines were provided (and mostly paired) by Jordan Winery. How did I get in on this awesome event? I got lucky… literally. The Austin Food Blogger Alliance opened this event to their members on a lottery basis, since there were a limited number of spots, and I was one of the lucky few.
I had never had Jordan wines before last night, but I enjoyed them quite a lot. They pride their wines as more food-friendly than many California wines, and they seem to have hit the mark, judging in particular by how well the Cabernet Sauvignon — not typically seen as a cheese-friendly wine — played with the cheese selections.
And, oh, the cheese selections! Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? Jordan only makes two wines — Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The only white was a 2010 Chardonnay (its slightly older sister got some good press recently from California Chardonnay skeptic Jeremy Parzen), and it paired beautifully with a young (first of the season!) and creamy Ste Maure from one of my favorite local producers, Pure Luck Dairy, elevated further by the addition of a dab of lime marmalade.
The other three wines were all Cabernet Sauvignons (from 2009, 2008 and 2003), so we were treated to a vertical tasting. The 2009 paired nicely with Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk, a cheese I am still dreaming about today (and, we were told, one of the only U.S. cheeses currently exported to France). I didn’t try the salumi, obvs, so I missed out on the full impact of the pairing, but that’s cool.
Next up was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which, along with Onetik’s Ossau-Iraty (erotic cheese!) and a luscious strawberry jam from INNA Jam, was my favorite pairing of the evening. The fresh strawberry flavor really brought out the jaminess in the wine, and the cheese balanced it all out. Good stuff.
Last but not least came the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with an aged Cabot Clothbound and a sublime 74% dark chocolate. I loved the wine — it was probably my stand-alone favorite of the evening. I was not a particular fan of the cheese on its own, and I was on the fence about the pairing until I tried it with the chocolate — and it worked! Shazam.
So, many, many thanks to Antonelli’s, Jordan and AFBA for making such a wonderful evening possible! One of these days, I hope to make it to one of Antonelli’s cheese classes, and I will totally make the drive to Hyde Park for all of my fancy-cheese needs from here on out. Specifically, I need to put in my order for some Ste Maure and Red Hawk, STAT!
I’m a recovering lawyer-turned-freelance writer, aspiring domestic goddess, and mom to a spunky and demanding preschooler and a tiny and demanding baby girl. I love all things food and drink, and I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking now that I’m not spending most of my days locked in the office, but I often have to improvise, since having ankle-biters around makes it more challenging!