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CHAGO’S Authentic Carribean Cuisine

May 9, 2013
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7301 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78752
(512) 275-6013

Today I had the Pollo Fricase with arroz blanco y salada. Next time, I plan to get the paella. Clean and neat and the owner is the chef. He will come out and talk to you about your selection. On North Lamar between Research and Airport.

 

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California Pizza Kitchen

May 5, 2013
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California Pizza Kitchen Moroccan Salad

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad on CPK website

In the world of restaurant salads, California Pizza Kitchen is a bonanza! This is not a typical pizza

How my Moroccan salad really looked on arrival.

How my Moroccan salad really looked on arrival

restaurant like the huts and inns of my youth.CPK feels like a slightly upscale restaurant with both booths and tables and a full bar. The one my friend and I visited is next to Macy’s at the Domain. Two sizes of salads are available for each salad and the “half” salad size is plenty for one person. The wine glasses are on the table when you are seated and drink orders are taken right away. The menu includes  wonderful sounding pizzas, sandwiches and pastas but of course, we were there for the salads.

My choice was the Moroccan Spiced Chicken and my friend had the California Chopped. The Moroccan did not look at all like the picture below when it was served to me but all the ingredients were there. The chicken was buried in the romaine leaves but it was fun finding all the hidden gems underneath. “One of a kind, with roasted butternut squash, dates, avocado, toasted almonds, beets, chopped egg and cranberries. Tossed with housemade Champagne vinaigrette. GF” is the description on the menu and that doesn’t do it justice. The almonds are Spanish Marcona Almonds and the cranberries are dried cranberries. The fig and the roasted squash are two things you don’t usually see on salads and the champagne vinaigrette tasted terrific.

I can’t say much about the salad my friend had except that she ate 100% of it. The applewood smoked bacon looked real good. She could have

gotten the optional beets on it but declined.  This place is going to require more research. I’m already planning my next visit here.

California Cobb Salad

California Cobb


Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

April 25, 2013
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Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

I met my friend for lunch at The Triangle yesterday. The Triangle is a lovely shopping place that took a huge amount of real estate that was known as the Triangle long before the first shovel of dirt was turned because it lies in the intersection of Lamar Boulevard and Guadelupe.  It was a field of green that people used to sun bathe, play frisbee, picnic and let their dogs run. Many people of Austin were opposed to  commercial construction going up there a few years ago but they lost and now it is “The Triangle”, a huge complex of residential and commercial properties. This is part of the new Austin.

That being said, there is a lot to like at The Triangle. My favorite part is the Farmer’s Market that sets up there every Wednesday afternoon at 3 PM. You can get fresh local vegetables mid-week as well as some pre-made products like Indian curries and sauces. Some Wednesdays they have live music and there is still some green grass where dogs can run and frisbees can sail.

Lunch for us was at Flying Saucer Draught Em

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

porium, a place I would like to visit again sometime after 5 PM when I can sample some of the brews. Since we were there for lunch and both of us still had a few chores to do, we had salad with soft drinks. They have an excellent salad deal where you can get the grilled chicken and avocado salad with a soda for less than $6. People who say they can’t afford anything but fast-food places are not looking hard enough. I have been very successful at finding under $10 lunches around town, especially when willing to drink water instead of the much over-priced sodas, which can run $2-$2.50.

The salads were large, pleasing to the eye and palate and filling. Between the two of us, we had the grilled chicken salad and the goat cheese/spinach salad. We agreed they were solid, pleasing and healthy salads for a great price.


Pinthouse Pizza

April 25, 2013
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Pinthouse Pizza

Now that my children are grown, I figured I would never eat pizza again if I didn’t want. There was a time when we had pizza almost every week in our family. It’s embarassing to say, because I tried to raise my kids to eat healthy. That being said, to pick up the phone on a Friday night after a busy week is just too tempting. I have had a lot of bad and mediocre pizzas in my day, mostly pepperoni. You know how pepperoni is the universal pizza, everybody likes it? I always wanted one covered in vegetables but I was always outvoted. I have to say that one of the best pizzas I have ever had was a deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s in Chicago. I went there totally prepared to be underwhelmed because I don’t like a bready pizza. Much to my surprise, the crust is thin. It’s the dish that is deep and it is full of stuffings: in my case, vegetables. I got the Lou which is meatless and it was incredibly good. A truly memorable pizza, I must say. The picture is on the right.

The Lou at Lou Malnati's Chicago Pizza

The Lou at Lou Malnati’s Chicago Pizza

So there have been very few times in Austin that I have had what I think of as a great pizza.  I invited a few of my friends to go out for dinner so I could blog about a new restaurant and my friend suggested we go here, to Pinthouse Pizza. We brought our 20 something year old children so there were 6 of us all together.

The building has a massive red brick facade with a few picnic tables out front and lots of communal tables inside. There is a lot of parking but it fills up. The Pit Barbecue is right next door so be careful not to park in their designated spaces or you might come out and find your car is gone.

The first thing you notice when you walk in is the bar and the metal casks that store the beer. I’m going to have to ask Joe Mohrfeld, the brewmaster, what you call those things but they are massive. You see those at independent breweries.

One of the people in our group eats a gluten-free diet so he went with the nachos. The nachos looked so good, I want to go back for them myself. Chicken, jalapeños, black beans, green onions, Roma tomatoes, cheese, black olives, salsa, queso, sour cream, avocado, and tortilla chips. They’re very hearty for $6.50.

My salad, the Pinthouse Salad, came in a metal bowl with plastic utensils. Although I would rather have a real knife and fork, that is not a big deal. This salad made me so happy. It was all baby spinach, dried cranberries, red onions, blue cheese, candied pecans and poppy seed dressing. Not exactly a low carb salad but it was so good. Sugar, how I love you, even on my salads.

My pizza choice was the Milano because it was exactly what I wanted and at 7.75 for a small, I could eat the whole thing myself. There are three price points for each pizza and I got the small one for 7.75, which is a bargain. Ingredients included olive oil, cheese, artichokes, Kalamata olives, prosciutto, and fresh oregano. I’m not kidding. Fresh oregano! My friend had the Margherita pizza which is basically sauce, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Fresh basil! Oh my gosh, and I’ve been eating Pizza Hut all these years. Their only complaint was that there was not a whole wheat choice. However, they liked their pizza and there was not a drop of it left at the end.

A trivia game ensued before we left. My apologies to Pinthouse Pizza for not posting pictures I took that night. I don’t know where my cable is which connects my camera to my computer but as soon as I can, I will post pictures of their pizza!


Polenta alla Forno at Andiamo Ristorante

April 13, 2013
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Where do you find the only truly authentic Italian restaurant in Austin, according to the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas Inc.? Not behind a Jack-in-the-Box on Rutland Drive in North Austin, you might say. Although this is an unassuming place in a strip mall, make no mistake. This is a fine dining establishment. White linen tablecloths and napkins, impeccable service, relaxing atmosphere and wonderful art of Italian scenes and countryside. Lace curtains hide the parking lot outside the huge windows that let in just the right amount of filtered light.

Polenta alla Forno

Polenta alla Forno

Andiamo Ristorante opened in 2004 and has been receiving accolades on Yelp ever since. I first discovered it on Yelp when I used to work night shifts and had a little time on my hands to kill. The reviews were just like this one: “what the hell?’ Great Italian food by real Italians, not the diluted American kind of Olive Garden fare.  I had looked at the menu on the website before going and had a good idea of what I wanted to get but had only narrowed it down to two items. So I looked at the menu again to try to settle on one. I advised my sons to also choose one item, from any part of the menu. In Italy, people generally take a very long time to eat. First, they serve the appetizers or antipasti, eat, talk, eat, talk. Then they serve a pasta course, called the primi piatti, or first plates. After more talk and more wine over pasta, then they serve the secondi piatti, or second course. This is when you get the meat and vegetables. After the second course and before the dessert, you are offered a salad. It cleans the palate before having the dessert. Then you have a sweet treat to finish the meal.

Remember, we are Americans and we have a tendency to be overweight and are prone to diabetes and heart disease. So we chose one thing and drank water (except for the secondi son who ordered a  Coke). I love polenta so I settled on the polenta antipasto. It was crispy on the outside and tender and soft on the inside. The mushrooms were flavorful and warm. In fact, the plate was really hot when brought out and I was warned not to touch it right away. This little dish had layers of flavor. As I ate my way through it, I got a totally different taste at the end which was the parmesan, I’m sure, because it was cheesy and salty but not overly so.

Nolan had the Penne con Vodka,pasta with a creamy tomato sauce spiked with vodka, laced with prosciutto and chopped onion. It was divine. Fletcher had the Linguine alla Bolagnese, which is very much like a spaghetti with meat sauce, but better, lighter.

When we first sat, someone brought us bread plates and poured a rich olive oil into each plate, then scooped heaping spoonfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano into each plate. That’s when I knew I was in the right place. Next time, I will get the other choice that I skipped for the polenta; Insalata di Fagioli, a bean salad, described as “green beans, Cannellini beans, Garbanzo beans, green onions, red radishes, tossed in lemon olive oil, accompanied with Andiamo bread”. I can’t wait. Oh, and say Ciao! to Daniela, the owner. She was the first and last person we saw on our visit there.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Parmigiano Regianno.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Parmigiano Regianno.

Linguine alla Bolognese
Linguine alla Bolognese

Guero’s on South Congress Avenue

March 5, 2013
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Guero's on South Congress Avenue

Guero’s Salad with marinated chicken and cilantro vinaigrette. So cheap. $5.59 and all the chips and salsa you can eat. Plus, you get to spend time on South Congress Avenue shopping and petting the puppies. This salad does not come with sour cream. I ordered that on the side. Hey, I eat salad! I think I can have some sour cream once in a while!


Cafe Java

February 18, 2013
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Chopped Salad

Chopped Salad

If people find out I write a blog about salads, they will usually tell me about a great salad they have had. That’s how I found out about this place, Cafe Java in North Austin on Metric Blvd. This is a little spot in a strip shopping center near Austin Community College. It was recommended to me by someone I met when I was at my hairdresser’s. There were at least 8 different salads and they all sounded wonderful. My friend and I settled on the Cobb Salad and the Chopped Salad.

I just want you to notice how much bleu cheese I got on my Cobb salad. Those stripes of delicacies are the blue cheese, tomatoes, chicken and crispy bacon. What you can’t see here is the huge amount of avocado that is layered underneath. It comes with creamy Caesar dressing.

Cobb Salad and Chopped Salad
Cobb Salad and Chopped Salad

The Chopped salad included chicken and boiled egg, bacon bits, tomatoes, parmesan cheese and sunflower seeds. My friend topped hers with blue cheese dressing. Both salads come with Texas toast.

Most of the restaurants that have moved into Austin from other cities and other states would charge $12  for these salads. It’s refreshing to know there are still locally owned restaurants with decent prices. These salads were $7. 99 each. Wow! Look at them. They’re huge.

I’m going back so I can try the Spinach salad with chicken, feta cheese, bacon bits, tomatoes and red onions with a garlic vinaigrette.

The restaurant is known for its coffee and breakfasts. The sandwiches we saw served at other tables looked really good. But remember, this blog is about salads. So you’ll have to go try the sandwiches for yourself.

I was told that the place was very busy on Sunday and lunch and that held true. In fact, we found the place by seeing a lot of people in the parking lot walking with take-home containers. We arrived at a little after 1:30 and still had to put our names on a waiting list for a table. The wait was short and we were served right away. Great place with great atmosphere and friendly service. Highly recommended.

IMG_0649[1]IMG_0648[1]IMG_0647[1]Cafe Java<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/11/140329/restaurant/North-Austin/Cafe-Java-Austin”><img alt=”Cafe Java on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/140329/biglink.gif” style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px” /></a>


East Side Kings at The Hole in the Wall: Fried Brussels Sprouts Salad and Jasmine Rice; Dessert at Teo’s

January 19, 2013
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Brussels Sprout Salad $7 over Liberty Rice $4  Together called Veggie Meshi $7

Brussels Sprout Salad $7 over Liberty Rice $4 Together called Veggie Meshi $7

East Side Kings at The Hole in the Wall
East Side Kings at The Hole in the Wall

 

The 9th Season of Top Chef on Bravo Network was exciting for us Texans because it took place almost entirely in Texas. You could follow the contestants right up Interstate-35 on their adventure,  from San Antonio to Austin to Dallas, even stopping along the way to cook something on the side of the road. No, not road kill. We’re not that crazy.  That’s Louisiana. It came down to four final contestants who I had already picked out as my favorites: Beverly Kim of Aria Restaurant in Chicago, IL; Lindsay Autry, 29 — Omphoy Ocean Resort & Michelle Bernstein (West Palm Beach, FL), and I might add the granddaughter of my high school principal in NC; Sarah Grueneberg, 29 — Spiaggia (Chicago, IL) — Runner-up and also a Texan; and winner of it all, Paul Qui of Uchiko Restaurant, right here in Austin, TX.

Paul came back and did exactly what his mentor, Tyson Cole, said he feared would happen: he left Uchiko and started his own restaurant. I think Tyson Cole can only be proud to see Paul’s success. Paul now owns three food trailers and this brick and mortar establishment in the back of  The Hole in the Wall. The Hole in the Wall is on “the drag”, Guadalupe Street,  and is an iconic establishment for students and alumni of the University of Texas campus for the past forty years.  Now the East Side Kings have moved in and are making glorious food at affordable prices, yet maintaining the vibe of The Hole in the Wall. The Foosball table is still there, as are the pinball machines and the picnic tables. But this is not your average bar food. This is Paul Qui’s small plates and noodle bowls, Ramen in a way you can’t find on the grocery store shelves.

The fried Brussels sprouts are hit with a slightly sweet glaze that doesn’t take over and the sulfuric aftertaste that turns people off the vegetable just is not there. The thin slivers of white onion with the thin slices of jalapeno do  not overwhelm the palate and the freshness of the mint, cilantro and basil give a nice finish. Try as I might, I keep eating white starches which I had once sworn off.  However, if I am going to cheat, I really appreciate it being with a memorable rice like the one I had today.   Steamed jasmine rice, ginger, garlic oil, basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeño work in symphony to  make this busted diet so worth it. 

The boys, my two sons, ordered the noodle bowls and the Poor Qui Buns.

Poor Qui’s Buns (2 pcs) $7
Roasted pork belly in steamed bun, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi, green onion

Sapporo Beer Bacon Miso Ramen $8
Bacon dashi, white miso, Sapporo beer, corn, butter, bacon puree, pork belly, chashu, garlic, chili bean sprout, scallion, beni shoga

Chicken Tortilla Ramen $8
Bacon dashi, chicken-tortilla-Tom-Yum paste, shrimp paste, chicken thigh, avocado, corn, corn tortilla, pickled yellow onion, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, lime

I’ll be going back or looking for his East Side Kings food trailers to try more items on the menu. I love that way of using whole leaves of the herbs. It is a feast for the eyes when you first see your food come out and adds such aroma that it takes you to a memory of a country lane or walk in the park.

After lunch, we stopped at Teo to get some gelato and cappuccino. We really didn’t need it. Icing on the cake, I guess I’d say. Everything at Teo’s is wonderful.

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Gelato at Teo, 38th Street, Austin

Gelato at Teo, 38th Street, Austin

Authentic Italian gelato in Austin, Texas

Authentic Italian gelato in Austin, Texas

 


Summer Watermelon-Feta Salad at La Tasca Tapas Trailer

December 22, 2012
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Summer Watermelon-Feta Salad at La Tasca Tapas Trailer

415 Jesse Street, Austin, TX 78704

(Thanks to Austin Food Journal for the photo)

I have to admit I haven’t eaten here yet but the photo came from another blog and I just had to use it. This salad is $6 at this food trailer and looks mouthwatering delicious. I must try it next summer at Latasca Tapas. You can find them on Facebook or at http://www.latascaaustin.com.


Jack Allen’s Kitchen- Twisted Cobb Salad and Country Club Fancy Chicken Salad

December 10, 2012
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Twisted Cobb Salad

Twisted Cobb Salad

Country Club Fancy Chicken Salad

Country Club Fancy Chicken Salad

Jack Gilmore is the chef/partner with Tom Kamm behind Jack Allen’s Kitchen which describes itself as “local in source, Texan in spirit.” Jack is the former chef of the popular Z Tejas restaurant in Austin. When he decided to open his own restaurant, he planned a menu that would be a crossroads between Southern American cuisine and Southwestern cuisine which you see in the decor and the food. The pendant lights in the entry are made to look like  mason jars and when your waiter comes to take your drink orders, he brings a small plate of pimento cheese with flatbread crackers instead of the ubiquitous chips and salsa.   Part of our game plan was to wait until after 2 PM to eat because we were there for the salad and between 10 and 2 on Sunday, you have to eat from the buffet. In fact, we got there slightly before 2 and were directed to the bar to wait until 2 when the kitchen would be taking orders from the menu.

My friend and I sat out on the porch since we are having summer for Christmas this year in central Texas. There is supposed to be a cold front coming in tonight and I have never been so ready for one. The only annoyance was a bee that kept trying to go for our food but our waiter kindly brought out a glass with some lemonade in it and sat it away from us to distract the bee.

I ordered the Twisted Cobb salad, $10.99, which was large and filling. It came with grilled achiote chicken, roasted corn, grape tomatoes, cotija cheese, ranch vinaigrette and homemade corn nuts. I like the way they toss the salad in the kitchen instead of sending the dressing out on the side of the plate as some restaurants do. This salad was just to my liking. My friend said her country club fancy chicken salad was a bit too sweet for her but she was able to eat it all. I sampled it and I know what she meant. The thinly sliced pear, the fig, the candied walnuts and most likely, some sugar in the vinaigrette combined to make a savory but sweet salad. The bleu cheese was a nice contrast.

I decided to have a beer from their extensive bar menu so I had the Fireman’s #4 pale ale. I was delighted when the waiter came back with my beer and had brought a sample of one of the other draft beers for us to try, a darker Thirsty Goat amber. It’s a good way to make repeat customers because now I want to go back to have that other beer again. I ordered a hamburger to take home with me, the Killer Cheeseburger, which is huge and comes in at $9.99. Even though I peeled most of the bread off, I could still tell that the bread was a sweet variety like Hawaiian bread is sweet. The meat was cooked to preference, which I asked for medium-well and I thought it was more pink than that, it was really, really good. That one came with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, tomato and iceberg lettuce. My total bill came to $30 but I got two meals and a beer out of it. Good food, good company and excellent service.  It was all very good and I will be back many, many times.

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Twisted Cobb Salad

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Country Club Fancy Chicken Salad


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