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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!

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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

Home Cooking

March 13, 2013
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Creamy Polenta with butter, chicken broth and cheddar jack cheese.

Creamy Polenta with butter, chicken broth and cheddar jack cheese.

Tonight, I was being treated to smoked ribs by my awesome barbecuing son. All I had to do was make the sides. So I went to the refrigerator and pantry and came up with a flavor combination that took me back to my roots. Collard greens were a big part of my upbringing. My father grew them in the winter garden and my mother cooked them. In the South, in the past at least, every mother knew how to cook collards. They appeared at every family reunion and church homecoming, every pot luck and certainly every Thanksgiving table. They freeze easily after cooking and they’re cheap, somewhere around 88 cents a bunch. Not only that but they are full of vitamins A, C, K, Folate, calcium, B complex and many other vitamins and minerals. A cup of collards has 21% of the daily required fiber, 8% of protein and 7.5% of omega-3 fat. The taste is so deep and satisfying, it’s no wonder it was a staple in Southern households all these years.

To prepare, clean them very well under cold water. Cut or strip the stems out and then roll them up like a cigar and slice into half-inch strips with a sharp knife. Heat two or three tablespoons of olive oil in an iron skillet over medium high and stir  the collards in so that they get coated with the oil. Stir constantly so they don’t burn.  Once they are a little shiny with the oil, add some chicken broth or water to the pan, add a half teaspoon of salt, cover and cook on low for about an hour, checking occasionally to add more liquid if needed. Before serving, cut into bite size pieces if you prefer. Serve hot with apple cider vinegar in a cruet for seasoning to each individual taste.

The polenta is cooked in chicken broth and milk, about 70/30. Follow the package directions. I add a couple of tablespoons of butter and some cheese toward the end for a smooth and unctuous finish. Also on the plate are some canned field peas I just heated in a small pot. Tomatoes were left over from our hamburger lunch so they added a nice bit of color. The ribs were delicious and so were the sides.

Home Cooking

Polenta, Collards and Field Peas with Sliced Tomatoes

Smoked rib with sides

Smoked rib with sides


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>


Italian Food Galore

January 30, 2013
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Shopping

Shopping

www.2012triptosicily.wordpress.com 

I show pictures from my trip to Italy to people and they ask, “Did you do anything besides eat?” Well, yes, we did a bit of sight seeing and shopping and lots and lots of walking. Obesity is not a  problem people have there because they don’t have ‘drive-in’ everything. We are tied to our cars here because public transportation doesn’t meet our needs and we  don’t live near the center of everything. All shopping, banking and mailing is spread out where we have to drive our cars to get around. There, driving a car looks a little like a nightmare of either being stuck in traffic or first come, first served method of maneuvering around the streets. Typically, you have breakfast around 7 or 7:30, a leisurely lunch about 1-3 PM, and I mean it takes two hours to eat, then dinner is around 9 PM. All the businesses close mid-day for three hours for lunch and relaxation, then reopen at 4 until around 8. Really, not a bad way to live. The only problem is that Italians don’t stick to a schedule. If the sign on the door says the hours are 8:30-12:30, they might be open when you come at 8:30 or they might not. In fact, they might not open at all with no explanation!

Traffic on New Year's Day Night

Traffic on New Year’s Day Night


Posted in Uncategorized

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

 


My Antipasto

January 8, 2013
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My Antipasto

Griddle eggplant; roasted peppers and rosemary potatoes.


Christmas Chicken

December 23, 2012
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Crispy Chicken

Crispy Chicken

We had our Christmas meal today since I have to work all day Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Every other day of the year, I insist on my sons eating the way I eat unless we go out and they choose what they want from a menu. In other words, I make what pleases me and they are welcome to share with me or they are on their own. The only vegetable we had for this Christmas meal was roasted broccoli, which was delicious by the way. Fresh broccoli, trimmed of it’s fibrous outer coating, tossed with olive oil and salt and placed on a pan on the bottom rack while the chicken was cooking. It was crispy and salty, still maintaining its crunchy texture.

This chicken was made with my sons in mind. I sent them some ideas for today’s meal and this is the one they gave their thumbs up. The boneless chicken is first dipped in milk, then coated with a layer of cheddar cheese, then pressed into Ritz cracker crumbs and baked in a pan for 35 minutes. To top it off, canned cream of chicken soup was warmed in a sauce pan with two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of sour cream. This recipe came from a Pinterest board I have because it looks so good in the picture, right? Only problem with eating this way is that it stimulates my appetite instead of satisfying it. Green foods and salads satisfy my appetite without making me want seconds. Breads, crackers and rice dishes make me eat in an out-of-control way. In my mind I’m thinking, “That’s so good I have to have more.” When I eat salad, I think, “That’s good but when it’s gone, I will not desire more.”

Now that I’ve made this “Crispy Chicken” and eaten it once, I will never make it again, at least not according to the recipe on Pinterest. First of all, it doesn’t need the cheese. That cheese was totally unnecessary. The buttery taste in the cracker crumbs was delicious without the cheese on the few pieces that I pan-fried because they wouldn’t all fit in the baking dish. Also, pan-frying cut the time and made them crispier than the ones in the oven. I don’t see any health benefit to baking when you wrap each piece in cheese then drizzle cream of chicken soup with butter and sour cream over the top. I’m going back to my crispy baked chicken with no coating. I’ll post that one soon. Simple, cheap and unbelievably good. Oh, heck, I’ll just go ahead and post the recipe without the picture.

Crispy Baked Chicken

1 pkg. chicken parts, dark meat preferred but will work with breasts

Salt and Pepper

Garlic Powder

Wash and dry chicken thoroughly. Season liberally with salt and pepper and garlic powder. Place on rack in roasting pan or on foil lined pan in 425 degree oven for 1 hour or until skin is crispy and fat is rendered. (45 minutes for breasts, which are less fatty).


Posted in Recipes

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini

December 23, 2012
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Spring Mix, Cremini, Camembert, cherry tomatoes, bacon.

Spring Mix, Cremini, Camembert, cherry tomatoes, bacon.

I got a new camera today, Nikon Coolpix L610, so I’m experimenting with photographing food with it.  It has a food setting with different shades of filters from blue to pink. My phone has been woefully inadequate when photographing food in restaurants in low light and there is always the problem with salads looking so disheveled. I took this one on my coffee table with a few tea candles on the side.

This is a very filling salad and so easy to make. I have a restaurant-style salad bowl for tossing the greens with the dressing which helps to dress the leaves without a heavy hand as so often happens when you pour salad dressing over top of greens. I start with the dressing in the bottom of the bowl. Usually, one tablespoon will do. After that, drop the greens and all the other ingredients over the dressing before tossing with two spoons or salad tongs. It just takes keeping a few vegetables cold in the refrigerator. I could eat this everyday.

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini Mushrooms

Dressing of Choice, I used Blue Cheese

Spring Mix, approx. 2 cups

Rotisserie Chicken from HEB

Cremini Mushroom

Cherry tomatoes

White onion

Camembert

Bacon

Sesame Seeds

Chia Seeds

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini

 

 

 

 


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