Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanksgiving and a Little Exam We Call THE BAR

Yes, I have been on a hiatus, you might say.  I didn't intend for it to go on this long.  Actually I was pretty strongly working my way towards the minimum posting guidelines to get a place in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance.  Alas, their posting guidelines are there exactly for people like me who start a blog, and then fall by the wayside.  My lack of posts, while temporary, will likely continue for awhile.

Quite simply, Hubby and I had some money concerns.  No money means no going out to eat, and no exciting cooking experiments at home either.  So then what was I to blog about?  I could have continued posting, but how many diatribes on chicken noodle casserole can one read?!  Posts on hot dogs are hardly scintillating either.

In all fairness, it was also a little procrastination on my part.  We did go out occasionally, but I didn't take notes, and I would have to reconstruct those visits in my head.  Right now, all my addled brain can tell you is that The Hula Hut was VERY disappointing (and if you click on the link, be prepared for hellishly loud Hawaiian music, don't say I didn't warn you); and The Noble Pig was absolutely freakin' awesome, and I had literally one of THE BEST sandwiches I have ever eaten (and that's coming from someone who grew up with real New York type deli)!

Money is slightly better now than it was over the summer, but now I am about to dive, head first into preparing for the Texas Bar Exam.  For those unfamiliar, this is the hellish exam you have to take to become a licensed attorney in any given jurisdiction.  While I am licensed in New Jersey, Texas feels that I need to take their test too.  This will be three fun-filled horrific days of testing, followed by a nervous breakdown inducing waiting period of MONTHS before I get my results.  Therefore I will studying my tail off from now until late February.  After a 48 hour nap brief respite where I try to regain my sanity in early March, I hope to be back and posting on a regular basis again.  [And when I find out I passed I am going to throw one HELL of a party, so be prepared for that.]

For right now I will try to satiate your desire for posts with an array of photos from the Thanksgiving dinner I made (along with my trusted sous chef, Hubby).  I may try to post some quick pics of Christmas goodies, but I make no promises, and after Saint Nick departs, I will definitely be in deep hibernation until after the exam.

Sweet potatoes after roasting, with all of their natural sugars leaking out

Cornbread, which is destined to be reborn as stuffing! (Y'all can call it "dressing" if you like. I don't "stuff" it in the bird, but I still call it stuffing.)

Squash post roast, now it has to cool so it can get pulverized!

Squash about to be roasted for soup
Finished squash soup

turkey brine

icy green beans destined for casserole
cranberry/port tart filling
creamed corn a la Alton Brown - heaven!

Stuffed celery, a holiday must

Ginger bread crust awaiting pumpkin cheesecake

mashed sweet potatoes w/ bourbon, OJ & brown sugar
apple pie, I forgot to foil the edges!

THE bird!

the beginning of stuffing
Cranberry/port wine tarts
turnips and potatoes simmering

Epicurious mac n cheese
the buffet
tinfoil buffet, must keep hot!

the buffet , view 2

 Also, I have to give credit where credit is due.  This Thanksgiving meal was brought to you by Wolfgang Puck, Epicurious, Emeril Lagasse, Alton Brown, Betty Crocker and my Mom. Honorable mention goes to Paula Deen just for the shear amount of butter used.

Bon Appetite! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

寿司こんにちは![Hello Sushi!]

Yes, yes, I have not been keeping up with posting.  We have been doing a fair amount of entertaining over here and I didn't want to saturate you with just recipes and no reviews.  I have several places I have not published reviews for yet.  I am hoping to get to Monument Cafe and Shady Grove soon.  But first, let's talk about raw fish

Last Sunday I went to Imperia in downtown Austin.  It wasn't my choice, I went there for a meeting, but boy am I glad I did!  First off, it's on Colorado Street, which is, along with all the surrounding area, under construction.  This made both getting there AND finding parking a little more challenging than I would prefer.  That being said, they have valet if you want to drop the cash for it.  I was lucky enough to find a spot right around the corner.  (Also, it bears mentioning that I parallel parked like a champ!)

The inside is cool and dark, which was welcome on a sweltering Texas evening.  The entryway vestibule is one of those waterfalls where the water softly cascades flat over the surface of the wall.  (Yes, I touched it to see if it was real water.  Yes my mother raised me better than that.  No, I am not ashamed of my behavior because it was KEWL!)  The dining area is rather large, with several seating areas, three tatami tables, the obligatory sushi counter and an impressive bar.  We sat at one of those raised tables with stools (which I find uncomfortable, and thus usually decline); but we were a rather large party and they were very accommodating about giving us our own space and joining two tables together to ensure we had enough room.

 We arrived just as their 2 for 1 sushi special was over for the evening, but they were continuing with "reverse happy hour".  Our waiter, Bastion, was helpful in explaining drink specials and he returned my banter volley immediately.  He was, in a word - awesomesauce.

The restaurant fancies itself a bit "swank" as evidenced by the hostess's laisse faire attitude and the chill surroundings.  The wait staff is also uber-attentive.  In restaurant parlance this means EXPENSIVE; but when it comes to food, you usually get what you pay for, so you really can't complain.  Bastion continued to amuse me throughout the evening with his quips, while simultaneously taking good care of us.  He kept everyone's water filled and even poured sake for those that ordered it, lest we be taxed by having to lift the tokkuri and pour into the choko ourselves.

I ordered a crab rangoon appetizer.  It was tasty, but at $10 I would skip it next time as I can get the exact same thing at any Chinese take out place for a third of the price.  I didn't mind much, because what I was really looking forward to was the sushi!  (Oh sorry what?  meeting?  agenda?  Did we have stuff to discuss?  Whatevs.)  Bastion was very hands on when we ordered and flat out told us which items were his favorites and which items to avoid.  One particular specialty roll he described as "not so much" and followed it up with, "I warned you, if you order it anyway and hate it, I am not taking it off the bill."  All this with the appropriate attitude and neck swerve.  I swear this guy was straight out of Manhattan, but no, he's a Texas boy with a New York 'tude.

I ordered the "4138" and a spicy tuna roll.  The 4138 is tempura shrimp and avocado topped with salmon sashimi, and the best part, a spicy peanut sauce with crushed peanuts.  It was HEAVENLY.  I thought the peanut sauce would make the whole thing taste like a satay, but noooo, it was the perfect complement.  The tuna roll was also delish, and artfully presented with chive fronds.  Their pickeled ginger was white instead of dyed pink, and I was also immensely impressed that when i asked for "fresh" wasabi (as opposed to that green putty), Bastion not only knew what I was talking about, but they had it!

4138 Roll
I also had the good fortune to sample my friend's Red Devil roll.  That is spicy marinated tuna with black sushi rice and roasted red bell peppers topped with spicy mayo and white angel sauce.  The description didn't initially grab me, but the taste was phenomenal!  I will definitely be ordering this roll the next time my wallet allows me to make a return visit.

I decided to take a gander at the dessert menu.  I was expecting some azuki bean paste wrapped ice cream or maybe some lychee nuts.  The tempura fried ice cream tempted me, but again Bastion was there to advise.  He first asked if we wanted just a little something sweet to end the meal or a "dessert experience".  DUH.  And so, we ordered a half baked chocolate chip cookie with ice cream on top.  When it arrived, it was not just a cookie, it was a COOKIE!!  And yes, it was an experience.  Let's just say I was glad he brought multiple spoons.

When the bill came, I was leaning over to grab my purse.  Damn high tables, I could not reach it and I hate climbing in and out of those stools.  One of the sushi chefs was walking by, and he grabbed my purse and handed it to me - top notch service all the way.  The bottom line is the food is amazing, the ambiance fantastic and the service beyond reproach.  The prices are a little steep, but not out of this world. They have specials and, personally, I used a Groupon, so it can be done reasonably.  If you like sushi, then you really should check it out!

Monday, June 4, 2012


The trifle turned out really tasty so I am posting the recipe below.  Feel free to tweak it.  Let me know what you think!!

Blackberry Tiramisu Trifle

  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 10 tablespoons orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  • 3 Cups mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 28 soft ladyfingers or 2 (12-ounce) pound cakes, cut into 3 by 1 by 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 (½ dry pint) baskets fresh raspberries or blackberries
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 heaping tbsps. espresso power
  • Dark chocolate shavings, for serving

Stir the jam and 5 tablespoons of the orange liqueur in a small bowl to blend, set aside.  Combine espresso powder and hot water, set aside.

Combine the mascarpone and remaining 5 tablespoons of orange liqueur in a large bowl to blend.

Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Using a large rubber spatula, stir ¼ of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture to lighten. Fold the remaining whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Line the bottom of trifle bowl with ladyfingers. Spoon espresso onto the ladyfingers to moisten.  Spread thin layer jam mixture over the ladyfingers. Sprinkle ¼ of berries over the jam mixture.  Spread ¼ of the mascarpone mixture over the berries. Repeat layering with the remaining ladyfingers, espresso, jam mixture, berries, and mascarpone mixture for a total of four layers. (If you chose to use a rectangle glass pan, make two layers instead of four, using half of each ingredient per layer.)  Shave dark chocolate over final layer of whipped cream mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tea for Two (or Ten)

A friend of mine in Houston hosts an awesome tea party every year for her friends.  We gather together, and eat too many sweets while our husbands go off and do manly things.  Last year they went to see THOR and then oogled women had lunch at Hooters - whatev.)

This year, finally being a Texas resident, I hit the kitchen to whip something up to take with me.  I made Old Fashioned Ginger Bread and lemon curd from scratch.  [I love Ina Garten's recipes!)

No photo of the lemon curd, as Hubby said "It just looks like yellow goo."

Then I did my usual "consult multiple recipes, then make up my own" and came up with Blackberry Tiramisu Trifle.

We'll see how the trifle tastes.  My kitchen experiments usually come out pretty tasty, but there have been blunders too.  I am also super excited that I finally got to use my Pampered Chef trifle bowl!  It is a little pricey, but it is made of thick, tempered glass, it doesn't "sink" in the middle, so the layers stay even and it has a removable stand and fitted plastic cover for easy storage and transport!  (Sheesh, you would think I was getting a commission.)

Completely aside:  Notice the Kitchenaid mixer in the background. These two items alone were worth getting married for! (Also, I'm madly in love with Hubby, so that works out.)  I am a super sucker for kitchen gadgets.  I may be the only one I know who swoons over immersion mixers and milk frothers.  After Hubby proposed my first thought was, "I get to spend the rest of my life with this wonderful man!!"  My second thought was, "I get to REGISTER!"

So that's your dose of sweet for now.  Enjoy the holiday weekend folks!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Going to the Country .. Gonna Eat a lot of Peaches

I am happy to report that Hubby harvested four wee little peaches from our tree today.  The birds were starting to go at them, so it was time.  But let me tell you, what they lacked in size they more than made up for in taste!  They were juicy and sweet like I could not believe!  I have rarely, if ever, had a store bought peach like that.

I suspect that they were small because the tree is small.  We bought it this spring and re-potted it into a larger pot, but we are not putting it in the ground until we move, some time within the next year.

This is our wee little tree a couple weeks ago.
In other garden news, aggressive weeding has killed my squash plants.  (I should have picked those blossoms and filled them with goat cheese when I had the chance!)  The tomatoes are coming along, and finally have buds!  The herbs are growing well.  The dill is going like gangbusters, but the cilantro is only just thriving and not in a way where I can really use much.  The lavender never even sprouted! *pout*  The basil is doing well, and Hubby has been adding cigar ashes to them to see if that brightens them up a bit.  They are doing well, but I generally don't count them as they were not grown from seed.

My dreams of buckets of green squash are dashed, but I am hoping for boatloads of tomatoes to make delicious recipes!!  If that happens, of course I will be posting them here!  This weekend I am going to a formal high tea.  I will post pictures of my homemade clotted cream and lemon curd (if I remember).

Everyone enjoy your holiday weekend!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

While I was visiting my parents last month in New Jersey, my father tipped me off to a restaurant that he read about in The Week Magazine that just happens to be in my city.  The mouth watering Lucy's Fried Chicken sounded like someplace I needed to check out.  The review, for those who don't subscribe says:
Austin’s hottest new picnic-style joint “announces itself boldly” with a unique, flashing neon sign, said Matthew Odam in The Austin American-Statesman. “A leggy dame holding a chicken leg” beckons passing drivers to pull in beneath her glow for a piping-hot meal that, taste-wise, “has few rivals.” The fried chicken originated at chef James Holmes’s more upscale Olivia, but was too popular to remain just a weekly special there. Holmes couldn’t resist broadening Lucy’s menu to Gulf oysters, Texas chili, and daily-special sausages, but the chicken and sides are the reasons to visit. The birds served at Lucy’s are raised on vegetarian diets, and the parts are soaked for 24 hours in a buttermilk brine before cooking. Once the chicken has been fried to “rust-colored perfection,” the “knobby skin enshrines tangy, buttery meat made salty by a dash of soy sauce and piqued by cayenne and paprika.” Enjoy your bucket with some sides of smashed grilled potatoes and a few cold beers, but be sure to leave room for a slice of the oat-streusel shoofly pie.
So, a few weeks ago Hubby and I grabbed our friend Mouse and set out to find "Lucy".  First off, I love a place where I get the back story, so right off the bat from reading the above blurb I was IN.  It turns out that College Ave is a little side street, almost a back alley running in between Oltorf and S. Congress.  We almost missed it, but then you see the "leggy dame" and you know you are in the right place.  Parking is minimal at best and there are signs EVERYWHERE telling you NOT to park at the gas station across the street or you will be towed.  We parked down the street about a block.  It was not a big deal.

When you walk up there is a big picnic area outside and a small indoor seating area.  In being an uncharacteristically cool day in Texas, we opted for outside.  The staff is wonderfully attentive without being intrusive.  They are also friendly and a little chatty, which I enjoy.

We crack the menus, and first off I notice that this is more than fried chicken, much more.  They have deep fried deviled eggs, fried chicken livers (I'm a big fan of chicken liver) and a bunch of other interesting things.  They also have some serious down-home southern sides.  Right away we HAVE to order the calf fries because, to be blunt, testicles have been on my foodie bucket list for years.

They come fried with a panko-esque coating and a creamy ranch dressing. They were tasty, as almost anything deep fried would be.  I thought they would be chewy, but they were almost mealy inside.  The taste was excellent, but the texture put me off a bit.  I was SHOCKED that Hubby tried a couple.  I thought for sure there would be some machismo comment about not putting balls in his mouth, or some such juvenile man-boy shenanigans.  But no, he popped one in his mouth with aplomb and pronounced them decent noms.  Mouse declined to sample them.

We ordered a basket of chicken to split, and several sides.  The chicken is amazing!  The skin is crisp and golden, but not greasy.  The meat is incredibly moist.  They serve all their chicken with pickles and jalapeños on top. [Side note: They add jalapeños to EVERYTHING in Texas, so if you don't like spicy be on guard!]  In the future I will ask them to leave the peppers off.  For sides we ordered collards (another food I have always wanted to try), Mexi-coke mashed sweet potatoes and smashed, grilled potatoes.  I would order all three again in a heart beat.  To be honest, MY sweet potatoes are better (because what isn't better with whiskey?) but I only make them once a year, so there is that caveat.  The grilled potatoes were delicious, as only something swimming in butter can be.  The collards were tasty.  Having never had them before, I don't know if they were good, as compared to others; but they were delicious.  They were much more vinegary than I anticipated, but that bite went well with the succulent chicken.

The piece de resistance of the meal HAD to be the dessert.  Mouse, Hubby and I each ordered a different type of pie, and then we all shared.  We got the Sweet Tea pie, S'Mores pie and Shoofly pie.  The S'Mores pie was delicious, but very rich.  The chocolate layer was akin to a solid hunk of ganache and too sweet for more than just a couple of bites.  The Shoofly pie was lovely, with a strong molasses flavor.  It was not like the syrupy, sweet shoofly pie you get in Pennsylvania, but more like a moist oatmeal cake with molasses mixed in.  The shoofly was Hubby's favorite, and Mouse tucked into the S'mores pie with delight.  This worked out for me, because in my estimation the best thing on the entire Lucy's menu is the Sweet Tea pie!

The menu describes it as a chess pie with lemon and tea added.  I just call it heaven!  I was kind of glad that neither Hubby nor Mouse chose it as their favorite - more for me!  You can buy whole pies to take home, but they were a bit pricey.  I was very tempted though.  In fact, the overall pricing was decent and the food was certainly worth it, but if you decide to order a bunch of things in order to taste a variety (as I am prone to do) it will get expensive fast, but you will end up with yummy leftovers!  Again, our friendly waiter was happy to chat with us and provide a myriad of little cups and containers to stow our chicken bounty for the trip home.

Our experience was so enjoyable, that a little over a week later when my friends from And That is What He/She Said called and said they were passing through Austin, we suggested meeting up at Lucy's for some chow. (Any excuse for more of that pie!)  You can read their review of Lucy's HERE.

This time we sat inside.  This is good, because I learned upon leaving after our first visit that the blackboard specials are only listed inside.  Make sure to stick your head in even if you are "picnicking" or you might miss out on some gourmet salads or frog legs!  However, while the outside is laid back and pleasant, the inside is ... LOUD.  We had trouble even carrying on a conversation.  Again, the waiter (a different one) was awesome.  He got brownie points for not needing an explanation of what goes into an Arnold Palmer. [Another side note: They brew their own tea and make their own lemonade.  The lemonade is TART, so even though I drink my iced tea with nothing in it, I mix lemonade with "sweet tea" at Lucy's to get more sugar in the cup.]

Hubby and I skipped the chicken and decided to nosh on fried chicken livers and fried chicken gizzards.  The waiter offered us a basket of half each, which we immediately dubbed as "fried lizzards".  They were both so awesome that we ordered a second basket!  They come with a spicy sauce, so I exhibited my north-east plumage and asked for the ranch sauce I enjoyed on the calf fries on our first visit.  I was adamant about ordering more sweet tea pie, and I sampled the apple pie that our friends ordered.  It was nice, but (again) not to be vain, but mine is better.  I do have to give them props on their pie crust.  The sweet tea pie and the apple pie have the same type of crust, and it is out of this world.  When you run out of filling you still want to eat every last bite of that yummy crust!  I wonder if I can wheedle the recipe out of them ...

So Lucy's seductive leg wave drew me in.  The pie alone will keep me going back.  Check it out at 2218 College Ave., (512) 297-2423.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cooking for a Picky Eater

by Adrienne McGuire of www.dailypath.com

My seven-year-old son is an extremely picky eater, and has been since the age of two. For five years, we have tried many techniques to get him to eat a variety of foods, and they all failed miserably. First, we demanded that he eat a certain number of bites of each food on his plate. That ended with him in tears and me completely frustrated and yelling. Next, we attempted to let him decide what and how much he would consume. We had to put a stop to that tactic after he became so weak and lethargic that he was not functioning properly. We then started to feed him only the foods that he likes, feeling good that at least he was eating something with calories. This option landed us in the hospital, with him dehydrated and an almost emergency bowel obstruction. To say that his food choices are not balanced would be putting it mildly.

After the hospital incident, my husband and I decided we really needed to include Ethan in the planning process so that he could take ownership over his own health and food. We begin by sitting down with him and reminding him about the extreme stomach pain and hospital stay, and we explained that the only way to avoid that in the future is by making healthier food choices. He agreed, and we proceeded to create a weekly food schedule wherein the entire family eats the same food, and if it is something that he does not enjoy, he just has to try it and preferably, take a few bites. He is now adding a variety of fruits into his diet voluntarily and has been drinking a ton more water and juice. He seems to be developing healthier eating habits that work for him.

At his suggestion, we switched to drinking soymilk, which seems to really help his digestive system. What he doesn't know is that when my husband and I cook dinners, we rely on the book The Sneaky Chef to add covert vegetables into every meal. Neither Ethan nor his nine-year-old brother has ever noticed a difference in the taste, and on many occasions, they have actually complimented meals that contain our special vegetable additions.

What we learned through this process is that you cannot force a child to eat, and it really isn't a good idea to let a child younger than seven years old be totally in charge of his diet. For the best chance of success, you should work as a family to create an eating lifestyle that works for everyone. It helps everyone get the foods that they need to remain healthy, and it can bring you closer together during the planning and creating phase. If you have a picky eater, what are some of the things you tried that were successful? I am always looking for new ideas to make my life easier!

Adrienne McGuire is a writer, website consultant and wellness enthusiast who abandoned the corporate ladder to create the life she really wanted.  Her journey down the road less traveled took her to www.dailypath.com, where she is now an integral part of the writing team.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Home Cookin' - Pollo Boracho

Hubby and I made Pollo Boracho (i.e. drunken chicken) for the first time on Sunday.  It is ridiculously simple, but usually requires a special beer can holder for the grill, unless you want a pain in the butt trying to keep the chicken upright and you want to spill boiling beer on yourself when the chicken is done.  As luck would have it, they had some of these holders in the supermarket when hubby went on a grocery run recently.  Understanding the correlation between buying me kitchen gadgets and eating tasty food, he picked one up!

I just rinsed the chicken, salted it inside and out (kosher salt ONLY, what am I? A barbarian?), stuffed a peeled onion and some garlic cloves in the cavity and stuffed it onto a partially emptied can of beer on the holder.  You need to empty between a quarter and half of the liquid from the can, so there is room for it to boil.  I gave my husband the excess beer to drink.  He was heartbroken, as you can imagine, but he took one for team chicken!

The beer heats and steams and flavors the inside of the chicken.  It also slowly roasts the onions and garlic to sweet and tender perfection.  I can tell you the chicken was awesome after slow roasting for about 90 minutes.  I would love to show you the finished product but my husband someone carved them before I had the chance.  We also grilled some corn and baked some potatoes on the grill in foil packets with salt and butter.

I am looking forward to playing with this recipe and using other things besides beer as my cooking liquid.  I really want to try cranberry juice next!  Has anyone out there in cyberspace done this with anything besides beer?  Tequila?  Cola?

UPDATE: Our friends who were over for dinner the night of the Pollo Boracho caught our finished birds on camera!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The List

So last post I mentioned by now infamous "list".  I have an Excel spreadsheet I set up ages ago for restaurants, tourist spots, museums and specialty hotels that I would like to visit one day from all over the country, and even the world.    It has everything from fancy schmancy tasting menus in New York City to the Ice Hotel in Canada, and another in Sweden.  (The latter two of which I have little hope of ever seeing as my husband regards being cold as slightly less comfortable than being water-boarded.)  Consider it a traveler's bucket list, so to speak. (No, I'm not compulsive, not me ...)

I've got the basics like name, address and phone number, along with web site and a column to list any specific items they are famous for.  I also note if they are uber expensive and leave space to notate the date when I finally get there.  (What?! Recording keeping is important.)

This all started primarily with restaurants I saw/heard about on what I refer to as the TV Foodie trifecta: The Food Network, The Cooking Channel and The Travel Channel.  But I don't limit myself to these three sources; I am also a voracious magazine reader (I once read Cigar Aficionado on a regular basis just because the office where I was employed had a subscription for the waiting room - but I don't smoke!)  Word of mouth is also excellent, so if you have a recommendation, don't be shy!

Once I started dating my husband, I surmised that I would be regularly visiting Texas, (because, I naively thought that I would never move there, no not me ... uh huh. Right.) so it got its own special tab.  Now the Texas food tab has just EXPLODED. And I love writing.  You see where this is going...  Also, I now have the perfect foodie battle cry, "But Honey, we HAVE to go out to dinner, it's for the BLOG!" Hee-hee.

So here we are on this foodie adventure together.  Next stop - calf fries!  (Which is really just a euphemism for testicles!)  Party on!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Shellfish Massacre

Anyone who knows me well knows that shellfish is my FAVORITE food.  My husband is not far behind me in his fondness for crustaceans.  So when we decided to splurge on a nice (read expensive) dinner after doing the responsible thing and using most of our income tax refund on bills, it was a no brainer.  I cracked open my infamous Excel sheet (more on that later) and clicked on over to the "Austin" section. 

Lo, and behold The Boiling Pot!

Now I'm from New Jersey.  I know a good seafood place when I see it, and this was it.  On the inside it looked like a shack someone threw up next to a dock (good sign).  There were multiple tables both inside and out on a deck, that were covered in plastic, red checked table clothes, a bar with bottles displaying all the cold beers available, a series of ceiling fans operating by a complex pulley system reminiscent of a Goldberg machine and a friendly staff person who encouraged us to "sit where you like".

We found a table, ordered drinks and were quickly issued a basket of yeasty, slightly sweet rolls and butter.  We were ready for some shell crackin', so we ordered a variety feast of shellfish.  At about $80 USD, it was a bit pricey, but we came to splurge, so *shrug*.  The menu states that it will feed 2-3 people, and that seems about right because we did NOT leave hungry.

Our tables was quickly covered with sheets of long, white paper, we were shrouded in plastic bibs and issued cups of melted butter.  In almost no time the waitress was back with a giant, steaming metal bowl.  The protocol in this place is they just dump your food right on the paper, hand you a small, wooden mallet and let you have at it!  And we did!  Our selection included a little of just about everything on the menu (except lobster): jumbo shrimp, snow crab legs, king crab legs, stone crab legs, craw fish and potatoes, corn on the cob and sausage.  (There was supposed to be blue crab in there too, but they ran out, so we got extra shrimp instead.)

I am happy to report that despite recent concerns about shrimp from the gulf, ours did indeed have TWO eyes.  I know, I decapitated them myself. ;)

The food was DELICIOUS. Even the iced tea was excellent.  (I am somewhat of a connoisseur because I drink mine with nothing in it, and some places ruin a simple thing by letting it get bitter.  Also, drinking iced tea completely unsweetened drives Southerners to near convulsions!  But I digress ...)  My only suggestion would be that they lighten up on the spice.  The craw fish were caked in a mixture of Old Bay and other Cajun spices, which then transferred to the other food and left my lips burning.  Next time, I will just ask them to hold back on that; those readers who are capsaicin junkies won't mind this at all.

The crab meat was tender and briney, the shrimp succulent and not overcooked.  Eating this type of meal is not just ingesting food, it is an experience.  My husband and I laughed and joked.  We pounded crab legs with our mallets, sometimes inadvertently jettisoning shell bits and salty juice on each other.  My husband taught me the proper way to eat a craw fish.  We had FUN. 

The staff checked on us occasionally and kept us supplied with ample iced tea and cold beer.  They were attentive, without being intrusive, which was excellent.

We managed to finish most of our mound of goodness, save for a few potatoes, sausages and corn cobs.  The menu assessment was correct, it would have easily fed another person.  Witness the carnage:

When the waitress inquired about dessert I had to waive the white flag, despite an alluring selection.  We departed and took a much needed stroll along Austin's famous 6th Street.

I will definitely be back.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's Get This Party Started !

Several friends have been hinting that I need to start a new food blog after suffering through reading my numerous posts on Facebook.  Well here it is! I am a recent transplant from Trenton, New Jersey to Austin, Texas; and I'm an amateur foodie.  I'll be reviewing restaurants, lauding my own cooking exploits and occasionally ruminating about my garden.  Also expect a fair amount of complaining about the heat as this will be my first Texas summer. 

Hang on, it's going to be a tasty ride!