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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


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

Hamburger Happiness

November 28, 2012
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I love a good hamburger as much as the next person. You don’t have to go out for a delicious hamburger though there are plenty of good hamburger places in Austin. The beef that makes the best burger is 80% lean and 20% fat. Any leaner than that and you end up with a dry burger, and let’s face it: dry and hard is what gives the homemade burger a bad name. Start by sauteing chopped onion in a little fat in a pan, add a clove of garlic and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add this to the raw meat and form patties to your preferred size. Fry the hamburgers in a dry pan over medium-high heat. The fat in the meat is all you need to get a good sear on the surface of the meat. The onion will keep it moist and add flavor. I love these and have to have one at least once a week. Simple and cheap but long on flavor.

Hamburgers

Ground beef, 80/20, enough for 4 ounce burgers, precooked

Bacon fat or butter

Onion, chopped

Garlic clove

Salt and Pepper

Lettuce, Tomato and Carrot

Saute chopped onion over medium heat in a pan 3 or 4 minutes in the fat of choice. Add crushed garlic and saute another 1 minute, stirring. Add softened onion and garlic to raw hamburger along with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Stir until combined well. Form into balls and then into patties approximately four ounces each. Cook in pan over medium high heat about 5 minutes per side. Should be seared brown on each side and no pink in the middle.

Serve with lettuce, tomato slices and carrot sticks. Dressing of choice if desired. I added a few cilantro leaves to mine.


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