Deep in the Heart of Texas

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After a drama filled trip complete with staying a night in Detroit, I finally made it down to Austin.  This is my second time here and I had a great time.  Austin has the moniker of being the Live Music Capital of the World and that is why I ventured down there this year; to experience South by Southwest (SXSW). But with the live music aside, Austin has really good food from Tex-Mex to Texas BBQ and everything is really tasty so prepare to have a huge appetite when you decide to visit.

One thing I noticed is that Austin is a healthy town.  There a lot of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, lots of things made with agave nectar instead of sugar, and plenty of free trade coffee.  The city is a liberal-minded mecca in the middle of a very conservative state.

The use of agave nectar made me think that once I return to NYC, I am going to start using it instead of sugar when baking or when a recipe I make calls for sugar.  I tried this wheat beer brewed in Colorado that uses agave nectar. This post is about my culinary journey I had in Austin, Texas during SXSW 2010….enjoy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My first night in town I went to a Mexican restaurant called Sazón. I started out with chips and salsa and a nice silver tequila margarita. I had the TACOS AL PASTOR which is Guajillo marinated grilled pork, pineapple, onion, & cilantro on a corn tortilla.

Tacos al Pastor with a side of charro beans.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The next day I went to the restaurant where my friend works called Curra’s Grill for brunch.  Again, I had chips and salsa and one of their famous avocado margaritas in which they say is the only restaurant in Austin that you can get these margaritas.  It sounds like it wouldn’t be very tasty, but it’s actually really delicious.  They blend the frozen margarita mix with avocado and cilantro.  I had the Tacos al Pastor again since I like this dish a lot.

Chips and Salsa

Avocado Margarita

Tacos al Pastor on flour tortilla.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday I decided to take a break from Mexican food.  I ended up going to a vegan friendly establishment called Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse. I had some free trade coffee and the Kool Summer Sammich ($6.00 which INCLUDES tax) for lunch. I know sandwich is spelled wrong but that is how they have it listed in the menu. This sandwich is served on grilled ciabatta bread with chipotle pesto spread, stuffed with Roma tomatoes, red onions (I omitted the onions), sprouts, cucumbers, field greens, and carrots.  I added feta cheese for .75¢ extra and I chose to have chips and salsa as a side.

Kool Summer Sammich

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday was the day that I went to have some Texas BBQ. I found myself at Uncle Billy’s on a colder and cloudy Austin afternoon.  Luckily, they have a lunch special that is under $10.   The lunch special runs from 11a-3p Monday to Friday.  I got the two meat plate complete with two sides; pork ribs and pulled pork and my sides were mac and cheese and creamed corn.  Before we got our meal, we ordered some queso with chopped beef and some tortilla chips. Uncle Billy’s brew their own beer and they have an agave wheat beer that I hear is really tasty but didn’t have the chance to taste it.  I left Uncle Billy’s feeling full and satisfied.

Queso with chopped beef

Two meat plate--pork ribs, pulled pork, mac and cheese and creamed corn

This was also the day that I decided to go to the mother ship Whole Foods Market. This store has everything.  I decided to go in a buy some groceries for the week to eat instead of eating out for every meal. None of the meats were packaged.  It’s all wrapped to order, there is a honey and agave nectar bar that you can serve yourself, wine and beer section complete with wine tasting and a dry goods bulk section that is so big I couldn’t even count how many different types of oatmeal they had. This store was wonderful but overwhelming at the same time.

Whole Foods Austin

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick’s Day.  I decided to head back to Curra’s since I am staying so close and my friend is a bar tender there.  This day is associated with drinking green beer, but since I am in tequila country I decided to drink margaritas (they’re green too)!  I started out with another avocado margarita, but then switched to regular margaritas. I got a little hungry during the celebratory ritas that I decided to have something to eat.  I ordered the plate of four pork tamales complete with a side of charro beans and St Patrick’s Day rice.  The tamales were so tasty that I felt full a while afterwards.

Pork tamales, charro beans, rice, sauce, margarita, and free trade Mexican coffee; the perfect St Patrick's Day feast!

Later on after a little more drinking, I was hungry again.  We ended up ordering a pie from East Side Pies, which locals tell me this is one of the few pizza places in Austin that sells pizza by the slice (a trait pizzerias in NYC have).  Most people from New York will say that their home town pizza is the best and nothing compares.  For the most part this is true, but the pie we had this night was delicious.  It was a specialty pie called the Mojo; a thin crusted pizza with pesto (instead of tomato sauce), mozzarella cheese, meatballs, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, jalapeño, and cilantro. I added a little New Yorker spice to the pie and sprinkled some graded Parmesan cheese on top.

Mojo pizza in the middle of consumption.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This day we decided to cook food at home before heading out on a long night of free live music and drinking.  Check out the salmon post.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I headed to my favorite Mexican spot, Curra’s, again and got the Carnitas which is Michoacan’s most traditional plate. Pork marinated in Coca-Cola, orange juice and milk and then fried. Served with guacamole, salsa, beans and rice and corn tortillas. I decided to eat the carnitas like a taco. My meal was complete with coffee and a avocado margarita. This dish is really tasty and I even recommended it to another customer while waiting for a table.

Carnitas with refried black beans, rice, guacamole, and salsa.

We cooked again for dinner.  Check out the posts for smoked gouda turkey cheeseburgers and baked rosemary mashed potatoes.

Smoked Gouda Turkey Cheeseburger, Baked Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, and salad.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

For a late lunch/early dinner we went to another BBQ place called Rudy’s. To me, this BBQ was better than Uncle Billy’s from the week before.  This place looks more like a rest stop than a restaurant and you don’t get waited on.  It’s cafeteria style you order at a counter, the person serving you puts your meats in a large crate, and you take your food and find a place to sit on the many picnic tables they have available.  We ordered the moist brisket, the pork spare ribs, half chicken, jalapeño sausage, and creamed corn (which was so creamy and sweet it was like a dessert). All of it was delicious and moist.  The ribs had a lot of meat on them and the chicken reminded me of BBQ chicken in the summer.

This is how you get your food; in a crate and separated by butcher paper.

They don't give you plates. You eat off of butcher paper. BBQ chicken, jalapeño sausage, creamed corn, moist brisket, and pork spare rib.

Monday, March 22, 2010

For my last full day in Austin, we went to another taco place called Torchy’s Tacos. This place is unique because they serve food out of a trailer and it is located in an area that is like a parking lot with other trailers serving different kinds of food. You order your food in the window, they give you a number and you find a seat at the outside picnic tables and someone brings your food out to you. I decided to order the taco of the month which for March is the Ace of Spades; it’s on a 8″ flour tortilla’ stuffed with grilled jalapeño sausage, smoked brisket, 1 fried egg, shredded cheese, green chili queso, cilantro, queso fresco, sour cream, and diablo sauce.  It was SOOO good.  Diablo sauce is Torchy’s own; Fire roasted habanero chilies blended with vinegar, spices, and tomato.  We got some chips and salsa while we waited for our food.

Torchy's Chips and Salsa

Torchy's March Taco of the Month: Ace of Spades

Later on in the afternoon we decided to get a healthy dessert from a local fresh juice and smoothie place called Daily Juice. This place doesn’t use ice, only frozen fruits and fresh fruits and freshly squeezed juices. They give you the option of making your own combination for juice or smoothies, but I opted for one that is on the menu with ingredients that I use in my homemade smoothies.  I got the El Paraíso; mango, banana, fresh pineapple, lime, organic ginger, organic coconut oil and spirulina. I took one of their menus so I can try to recreate some of their smoothies once I get home.

El Paraíso smoothie

For my final meal in Austin, we went to this place called Threadgill’s; Southern home cooking style food. I had their “World Famous” Chicken Fried Steak with collard greens and fried okra as the sides.  I felt that if I’m in the South I might as well as do it right and have a traditional Southern meal. I didn’t know what chicken fried steak as until we came here.  It is basically a tenderized cube steak that is coated with seasoned flour and then pan fried, similar to fried chicken.  It is covered with gravy.  This was probably not the most healthy meal of my visit to Austin, but it was delicious and definitely an experience.

Country Fried Steak with gravy and collard greens and fried okra.

I had a great time in Austin and I’m looking forward to coming back soon for a visit.  I ate so much good food and drank so much agave beer and margaritas that I gained about 3 or 4 lbs (I weighed myself at the gym once I returned home).  I can’t wait to attempt to recreate some of the things I ate down there in my own kitchen like the avocado margarita from Curra’s; which is already an idea formulating in my head. Austin’s food gave me inspiration to create my own dishes using the flavors I experienced while I was there and I am excited to share them with you!

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