Posts Tagged ‘2012’

I love Christmas.

The Austin Food Blogger Alliance recently organized a gift swap with fellow foodies in Boston.  I was so excited to share a taste of Austin that I decided to put together a box for a lucky reader!

I found Rhythm Superfoods kale and sweet potato chips at my regular grocery store, my favorite flavor is the Mango Habanero because it’s naturally sweet with a background heat that keeps you snacking.  Nuts are not my friend but I’ll gladly share with you.  Honey Toasted Pecans from Austin Nuts and three types of Thunderbird Energetica Bars, go nuts!  Beanitos Chips are gluten-free, corn-free chipotle flavored bean chips, great with dips.  Last of all is a precious addition that I’m having a hard time leaving in the box, Confituras Apple Hatch Chile Chutney.  Austinites love go crazy during hatch chile season and I never buy enough of them to last until I want some.  Next year I’ll have to can some.  For now I’ll offer up this locally made, small batch confection, sigh… 

This time you will have to enter the contest via form, the last giveaway gave me heartburn trying to track down the first two commenters who “won” by random number.  Please enter your mailing address so that there is no delay in getting the prize sent in time for Christmas!  Scouts’ Honor I never share your information, EVER.

Contest closes Nov 30th at midnite.  Open to USA and Canada.  One entry per reader, bonus entry for a Tweet or Pin about this giveaway, leave a comment for each bonus entry.  Good Luck!

Click here to Enter to WIN!


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Had lunch at Freebirds (N. Burnet location) and was disappointed.  I ordered a steak burrito bowl with the spanish rice and grilled veggies, with a SoBe drink it came to $10 with tax.  This was not worth ten bucks.  I think it was the rice that had left a weird coating all over the roof of my mouth, I don’t know what they added to make it “Spanish” but it wasn’t good.  There were little bits of rice that had dried out and crunched (not in a good way) as I made my way through the bowl.

It was cold.  The A/C was on full blast so the whole interior was cold.  My food was cold by the time I sat down.  Who knows how long the hot topings were sitting in the warming tables.  Next time I’d like to have one of those heat guns like Robert Irvine has on Restaurant Impossible to check the temperature of buffets.  I highly doubt everything was kept hot enough.

When I first moved to Austin, Freebirds was one of the cheaper cool places to go for lunch.  Now it’s not that cheap, and not that good either.

Good luck if you have gluten issues here too.  The nice people behind the counter can give you a chart of what is or isn’t gluten-free, but it’s hard to keep everything straight in your head as you venture down the line to build your impending doom of a meal.  Some sauces contain gluten but this is not specified clearly enough for my gluten-free friends, so they either go without or risk tummy issues later.

Try something else on my list…


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The local kiddies got cookies with treat bags tonight.  I hope they were enjoyed and not tossed out.  It’s sad  that people can’t trust each other anymore… Would you bake or let your kids eat something like this?  No high fructose corn syrup in the cookies, by the way.

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I’ll come right out and say that Gevalia wanted to send me coffee to test and write about their products.  Sure!  Who doesn’t like free stuff?  I’m normally a tea drinker at work and rarely prepare coffee at home.  I usually leave coffee to the baristas, it tastes better when someone else makes it.  However, this Gevalia Stockholm Roast Kaffe was so smooth, almost sweet, that I’ve renewed my hopes of finding a coffee palatable for home brewing.  I might be way off the path here, but this is my opinion after all.

I know there are local coffee vendors, hint hint, but Gevalia was the first to find me in the blogosphere.  Kudos for being first!

I’m always elated when a parcel arrives.  I also love to share the giddiness, therefore I will give one of my readers the joy of a box of coffee to enjoy while reading my blog.  Join the throngs of contestants by leaving a comment below with your favorite time of day to sip a cup o’ jo.

This coffee was also good iced.  Since Texas is too darn hot 98% of the time, this is the mode of choice for the barista prepared caffeine beverages I like.  Make a frosty with it and you are my new BFF!  Again, very little sugar was required.

Don’t know what else you can do with coffee?  Ever baked with it?  I got the idea from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten), you know, that episode where she made chocolate cupcakes with a ganache and put coffee in the second batch (or maybe the first… I don’t recall the order of the batches).  Her friend took the “A” batch and the “B” batch to a pack of drooling women confined to a conference room without natural light (this can bring out the PMS in any woman forced to conference chocolateless).  Anyways, guess which cupcakes tasted better?  The ones with the coffee, of course.  I must say, it does highlight the flavour of chocolate, especially dark chocolate.  If you have a chocolate cake recipe you like that calls for water or milk, try using a strong brew of coffee as the liquid (keep some portion of the milk if called for, the acidity might be a key factor).  Try Paula Deen’s Texas Sheet cake using this swap!

If only they could send that Swedish guy (who is really an actor from Cali, but hey) with the coffee….


* Contest Rules *

Open to US and Canadian residents

Please include your email address in the comment submission form or I can’t find you if you win!  To clarify: you don’t have to put your email in the comment field, include it in the form field *above* the comment and *below* your name.  Sorry for any confusion 🙂

Leave a comment once per day until contest closes on Oct 19, 2012.

Bonus entry if you Tweet this post, leave 1 extra comment for a Tweet.

Winner: 35th comment!

Thanks everyone who entered!

Update: The winner doesn’t want the coffee.  I’m drawing again:

Congratulations #9!   I’m sure you really want the coffee, not links, comments, and such like the last person….

OK, people… use real email addresses when entering contests.  Second person either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care.  Let’s try this one more time I will pick #28 my favorite number because random.org  isn’t working right now.  So the winner (hopefully) is Jennifer!  I will be contacting you shortly!


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…. yours truly!

I’ve been eyeing Melissa Joulwan’s cookbook since reading about it here and on her blog The Clothes Make the Girl.  Now I have an autographed copy!  Thanks Melissa!  I donated a box of Spiced Ginger Molasses Cookies to the silent auction that was paired up with a gift certificate to Easy Tiger.

My friend and I enjoyed mini cupcakes dressed in flavours inspired by cocktails.  You could text in your vote for the best cupcake and see the results on the projector screen during the event.  Oh, yes I should tell you more about the event!  But first, here are three of the tasty bites competing for numero uno cupcake.

Black and White Russian Cupcake

The Black And White Russian topped with a marshmallowy meringue and chocolate covered espresso bean.  This handsome little guy was the first one I tasted.  It was a moist chocolate cake and all together a good cupcake, however it didn’t scream cocktail to me.

Black Cherry Pomegranate Martini Cupcake

Something that reminded me of a trifle was the Black Cherry Pomegranate Martini, it even came in a mini martini cup!  This looked like a cocktail the most, it got my design award.

Steve’s Special Cupcake

My official vote went to the Steve’s Special Cupcake, Guinness chocolate cake and Irish Whiskey spiked frosting.  Just delicious!  I’ve never had a better cupcake.  If you are looking for a recipe try this one on Smitten Kitchen.  Might not be the best thing for a kid’s birthday party, these would be great for a groom’s cake though!

The event was a benefit for Bake-A-Wish Foundation.  There was hardly a dry eye in the room as we listened to the presentation about the impact Bake-A-Wish has on so many children and elderly lives in Austin.  I can sympathize with those kids who never had a birthday cake.  I was a farm girl way back when, we lived off the land and last time I checked birthday cakes don’t grow from the ground.  I recall my 16th birthday.  I said “My favorite cake is Black Forest, could I please have one for my birthday?” A Sweet Sixteen is supposed to be special and we didn’t have a cake that night.  Granted, we did have an apple pie Mom made using frozen apples from either our trees or my uncle’s.  Mom makes a mean apple pie, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

I want to give someone a birthday cake that they want to have but might be too afraid to ask for it.

Let the kids have some cake on their special day!

I don’t know how much the Austin Food Blogger Alliance managed to raise for Bake-A-Wish, but every dollar counts.  If you missed the event or you are reading this from afar, you can donate directly to the non-profit at www.bakeawishaustin.org

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Foodies of Austin,

I have a ticket to giveaway to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance fundraiser on July 25th!  One lucky winner will spend an evening tasting cupcakes while enjoying a couple of drinks, courtesy of Cardamom Finnish Cottage Bakery.  While you’re there, you can bid on gifts at the silent auction.  You will find a box of cookies from yours truly among other goodies!

This is the Alliance’s BIG fundraiser and I want one of my readers to be there.

Details:  Wednesday, July 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Tejas Room of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, on the campus of UT Austin.

Fundraiser: Proceeds will go to Bake A Wish Foundation, who provides birthday cakes to those in need of a smile on their special day.  Please check out their website!


Giveaway Rules:

  • You must be 21+ years of age to enter
  • Winner will be chosen from comments to this post using Random.org
  • Winner needs to respond within 24 hours of contest close to receive ticket
  • Enter up to one time per day until contest closes

*    *    *   Contest Ends July 19, 2012   *   *   *

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For as long as I can remember, cheese and crackers with a side of dill pickles was the snack plate of choice growing up.  I was dragged to countless Lion’s Club, Toastmasters, and potlucks as a kid.  My brother and I looked forward to creating the perfect glass of “swamp water” and playing hide-and-seek on the main floor of the community hall, where most of these functions took place.  Weddings were always upstairs.  The meetings and communal gatherings were held in the basement, in the open space in front of the caterer’s kitchen.

While attending weddings of my elder cousins, there was a second round of food.  This was typical for my family, and since two of my aunts were caterers, many other families would have experienced the same routine.  The late night snack, I think, was a way for people to eat the leftover roast and keep a good food-to-drink ratio until the party ended.  With my husband’s family, there is a similar ritual, only the fare is different.  Back home we had rolls, cold cuts, cheese, pickles, maybe a salad and desserts.  Down South this is rice, beans, and possibly menudo.  Menudo is said to help ease the transition in the morning.

(from left) Kerrigold aged white cheddar, polish pickles, colby cheese, honeycrisp apple

After moving away from home, the ritual continued in my apartment.  When I worked evenings as a security guard, this was often my snack after work.  To this day I’ve maintained my affinity for cheese.  My children also love cheese.  Any block of cheese in the fridge will never last long enough to grow unsightly fuzz.

What is your favorite midnite snack? 

Are you attending SXSW 2012?


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Catfish and Shrimp (Not Seafood)

Take a look around Austin.  Do you find any sunny sandy beaches overlooking an endless body of water?  I didn’t think so.  So why do so many restaurants tout themselves as “seafood” establishments?  Well, they improvise with catfish and shrimp.  I’m not a fan of either.  While some of you may agree with me and are searching for fish from an ocean, there are a few good catfish in these parts that will do in a pinch.

 Deckhand Oyster Bar ( EB SH-45/Louis Henna Blvd  & Parker Rd in Round Rock) did a great job with their Whole Seafood (Shrimp) Stuffed Flounder.  The waitress gave me a sample of their catfish when I wrinkled up my nose while perusing the menu.  It didn’t have that distinctive muddy flavor that catfish typically has.  Go during Happy Hour (3-6pm M-F) to save a couple bucks, maybe have an extra drink or half-dozen oysters on the half shell?  The gumbo is good too.

The Catfish Parlor (Hwy 183 SB, between Pavillion Blvd & Bell Ave in Austin) includes a lunch buffet option if you are famished.  Spicy or regular fried catfish, shrimp, and fresh coleslaw with a selection of sides.  Good little hushpuppies here too.

Fun Fish Fare

Fish Daddy’s Seafood Grill (I-35)not only serves up traditional American style fish ‘n’ chips, they make a darn good margarita.  Head north on I-35 and take the Wells Branch Parkway exit, stay on the left of the frontage road.  There is a movie theater just a little further up the road to round out the night.

 Roaring Fork (downtown 701 North Congress Avenue or in north Austin on Stonelake Blvd) Paula Deen enjoyed a meal here while in town for Texas Book Festival last October, she loved the green chilies.  Try the crab cakes or wild salmon!  This is a great spot if you’ve scored tickets to the Paramount Theater right next door, or to nosh on aquatic delights before heading to 6th street to dance the night away.

Marisco Grill Mexican Seafood (6444 Burnet Road)another Mexican dive in an older neighborhood of north Austin, but don’t let looks fool you.  Try the Vuelva a la Vida cocktail of octopus, shrimp, oyster, avocado, cilantro and spicy lime juice.  If you’re into ceviche this is a MUST try! If you like Mexican food and want something other than beans and cheese on everything, Mariscos is where to go. Sure there’s shrimp and catfish, but you’ll also run into whole snapper fish on the menu. Update: This restaurant may be closed?  Drove by the other day and nobody was there.

Freda’s (Hwy 183 NB & Pecan Park) Thursday is Ladies Night!  Pop in for free salsa dancing lessons and a refreshment.  If you’re hungry try the gumbo or the seafood stuffed avocado (seriously, I’m drooling right now).  Freda’s is also a good place for Sunday brunch, all you can muster down the hatch for about $18 (adult). Prime rib, pork tenderloin, fresh omelets, pancakes, and seafood including that avocado I’m dreaming of.  Did I mention crab legs?  Now that’s a surf ‘n’ turf that will stuff you sober!

Make an Impression

Perry’s (downtown, Colorado & 7th)  This is the best restaurant downtown to find fine dinning surf’n’turf.  Perry’s offers a Hong Kong Style Sea Bass that is heavenly paired with a glass of their private label white wine.  Salmon, Snapper, and Lobster are also menu mates with the Sea Bass.  Everything is made with pride at Perry’s.

Truluck’s (downtown, Colorado & 4th or Hwy 183 @ Gateway/Great Hills) If crab is your muse, Truluck’s has your ticket.  Monday is all you can eat stone crab!  Visit during Happy Hour (4:30 -7pm) for the best prices so you can relax with a drink and slurp ceviche or munch on a salmon burger at half price.

Perla’s (1400 S. Congress south of downtown) For casual upscale seafood, Perla’s is the place to go.  They won’t mind the flip-flops you’re sporting.  Perla’s has a very diverse seafood offering and you can find oysters from both Canadian coasts here (bonus point from me)!  Insane tuna tartar and scallop pozole soup.

Ho Ho Chinese BBQ (I-35 @ Parmer Lane) Abalone with sea cucumber and black mushrooms are only two of the treasures from the deep you can sample at Ho Ho’s.  Live lobsters, giant crab, prawns, and Rockfish greet you at the door as you wait to be seated at one of North Austin’s best Chinese restaurants.  Don’t let the Mandarin fool you, the Chinese eat an extensive array of ocean delights and Ho Ho’s will amuse your senses at an affordable price.  Dinner is presented family style, so bring a friend (or more) and try something different.

Eddie V’s  (downtown, 5th & San Jacinto; Arboretum) Fine Dining with a gluten-free menu.  Live music on Sunday and Monday evenings will set the mood for a couple’s dinner.  Have a glass of wine and relax after a day of sightseeing around Austin.  Wildfish is owned by the same people and has a similar vibe as Eddie V’s.
Wink (downtown, 10th & Lamar) prides itself as personable fine dining.  The chefs prepare a menu every day using local ingredients, so it will change with the seasons.  Obviously the seafood is flown in fresh (see first paragraph).  Local ranchers are the sources for lamb, beef, and other critters selected for Wink’s fabulous menu.

Uchi (downtown south of the river, 8th & South Lamar) by Tyson Cole, yes that Tyson Cole!  If you’re not a Food Network junkie like me, Chef Cole met his match against Chef Morimoto-san in an Iron Chef America battle of ginger.  Uchi is expanding to Houston this year so you can enjoy all the best seafood and sushi near the quaint tourist destination and cruise ship port of Galveston.

Don’t Miss Austin Food Blogger Top Picks!

Quality Seafood Market (5621 Airport Boulevard) The perfect place to buy your own seafood to prepare at home.  There is also a café on site if you prefer someone else to do the cooking.  Check their Facebook page for the daily specials!
Parkside (downtown, San Jacinto & 6th) Dinner menu features Canadian oysters (P.E.I. and B.C. yum!), several creative twists on ceviche, several vegetarian options, and five-star entrées by Chef Shawn Cirkiel.  This chef loves his local farmers and was one of the founders of the SFC Farmers’ Market downtown (4th & Guadalupe Saturday mornings).
Le Soleil (9616 North Lamar) Shellfish of all sorts are the stars of the show at Soleil (“sun” in French).  Go on the weekends for the live lobster and crawfish and other Vietnamese dishes.
The results are in! AFBA survey for 2012 top restaurants is here

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Do you know how many times we’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve, watching Times Square on television as each time zone rings in the new year?


This year we were invited to a friend’s in south Austin, quite a hike for us on the opposite side of the city.  I got all girly and put on a dress (not noticing I haven’t shaved in about 3 months but it’s blonde so no one should see it).  Little Sister was just gorgeous in her holiday dress, I took a stab at trimming her fine baby hair that was growing haphazardly at the back of her head.  You can’t really tell any hair is missing, it’s still fuzzy.

Our friend made a simple cracker spread out of smoked oysters and soft cream cheese.  She just mashed it up and sort of made a mold with the mixing bowl and inverted it on a platter for crackers.  Along with the oyster spread was cream cheese doused in what tasted like mango chutney.  Very simple and very easy to eat.

Hubby enjoyed the oyster cheese dip so much that he wanted it again for dinner today.  The inaugural trip to the grocery store was full of bleary eyed shoppers, who probably just woke up to make it to the store before dark. Night had fallen while we spent the better part of an hour gathering essentials for the house, and the smoked oysters of course.  Little Sister partied as hard as we did, she passed out in the bumper car themed cart for kids (Not the best idea when you know there are loads of groceries to pick up, the actual cart volume is smaller than the regular carts!).

Dinner was a thick steak seasoned with Worcestershire sauce and Montreal Steak Spice, left to marinade and adjust to room temperature on the counter for 20 -25 minutes (the time I took to make rice).  I also sautéed mushrooms and yellow onion for the steak.  The cream cheese (2 – 3 oz) and smoked oyster (3 oz can) was a strong compliment to the beef.  You’d think we were in fancy rotating restaurant in downtown Calgary!

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