Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bananarchy and Chaos In the Blogospshere!

My story on Bananarchy for The Decider has been re-blogged. Several times. By national pop culture blogs.


Entertainment Weekly

Comedy Central

It's more buzz than the cake ball controversy, and despite all the banana-penis joke, it's much better, too. Now if only they'd credit SavannahRed for the photo they keep stealing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Love Avocados

Random food notes from the week:
  • I tried several other Izzoz menu items for a write-up for The Onion. Any of the tacos with braised meat are excellent, especially the Padre (braised pork with avocado and pineapple) and the Bob Bowman (roasted chicken with pico de gallo and tomatillo sauce). The tortas are good, although there seems to be a disportionate amount of meat-to-bun. That said, I very much enjoyed my tempura shrimp torta, and the garlic fries are yummy.
  • The Do Good Deli is a wonderful little basement outfit downtown. It doesn't have a retail store front, but they deliver downtown for free and take catering orders. Do Good derives its name from it's mission: it donates all of its profit to Caritas of Austin to fight hunger, homelessness and poverty. As for the food, the sandwiches are excellent, especially the Rockin' Roast Beef and the Keep Austin Veggie.
  • Finally, I've eaten a ton of avocado sandwiches lately, and my favorites so far have been Garden District's veggie and, suprisingly, Which Wich's avocado and tomato. Keep in mind, Which Wich leaves a lot of control up to the customer, but it's still a delightful treat. It might also have something to do with its proximity to my work place and my general happiness to have a lunch break...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Let Bananarchy Rule!

As if Austin didn't need another dessert cart...

Then comes Bananarchy. Take that clever name, plenty of Arrested Development references, and damn good bananas (that are fair trade, too!) and you've got one of the most unique of all the food carts around town.

Bananarchy is run by two recent UT grads with no business experience, but they've got a lot of heart. Their cart (and it's really cart, not an airstream or a trailer) is hand-painted and customers can write on the sides with chalk. So it's got a great DIY, homemade atmosphere that makes you feel welcome as soon as you walk up.

As for the bananas, you can choose from chocolate, peanut butter or vanilla dippings and top them with anything from Oreos to cinamon (and if you try Oreos with cinamon, let me know how that goes...)

They've also got a menu of specialty bananas that make all the decisions for you. Be sure to try either the Afternoon Delight (a vanilla banana with chocolate and peanut butter drizzle, covered in graham crackers and peanuts) or the Cold War (a chocolate banana dipped in Reeces Pieces and M&Ms). If you're really adventurous or just a big Arrested Development fan, The Gob is a mammoth banana (well, bananas plural). It's two bananas double-dipped in chocolate and covered in peanuts--just as Gob would have ordered it.

Right now, it's just the two girls working, so the hours are somewhat limited, but if you can make it to Lamar during the afternoon, it truly is a delight.

The Basics
Location: 706 N. Lamar Blvd., just two blocks north of Whole Foods
Hours: Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Accepts: Cash only
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: Bring on the revolution ... of desserts.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Home of the Hemp Burger!

Does that sound a little ... odd?

Okay, I haven't tried the hemp burger yet, but I have tried the avocado sandwich at Good Seed Organic, yet another food cart in South Austin.

But Good Seed is, well, good. Everything on the menu is organic and vegetarian, along with vegan, raw and gluten-free options. So they make food for all those complicated people. They also have an extensive breakfast menu that includes breakfast tacos (because what place in Austin doesn't serve breakfast tacos???)

But allow me to expand on lunch. The avocado sandwich was delectable, albeit messy for something I bought at a food cart. It's a open-face sandwich with piles of avocados, cherry tomatoes, pesto, mustard, raw cheddar, and sunflower sprouts. Alongside was a serving of Good Seed's signature yam rounds - "chips" made out of yams/sweet potatoes, served with an agave mustard.

I washed it all down with their specialty herbal tea, sweetened with stevia (an all natural, non-sugar sweetener). Much like my experiences at other veggie places, like The Daily Juice Cafe and Mother's, it was an altogether satisfying lunch.

Please be sure to stop by. I'm not sure how long they've been open, but I think they're not very visible at their current location on Oltorf, near the Lamar intersection. They're really nice and can answer any questions you'd have about their special menu.

The Basics:
Location: 1402 W. Oltorf, near the Lamar interesection
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Accepts: Visa and Mastercard, cash
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Bottom line: Meat was not missed, although my fork was.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Watch Out Torchy's

I've blogged quite about bit about Holy Cacao recently, but this is last post to mention them. I swear. They now have carrot cake balls. Not kidding. It's the best of their cake balls, probably because the carrot cake doesn't come out too sweet (like, say, the red velvet).

But I'd like to highlight Izzoz Tacos, the trailer sharing a lot with Holy Cacao. It takes some guts to open a taco trailer on South First, and Izzoz opened right next to the Torchy's-lead Trailer Park Eatery. I heard Izzoz's chef braises the meat daily, and I figured that was enough to give Torchy's a run for their taco-trailer-money. But we all know I'm not much of a meat-eater. So of course, I had to try the fried avocado taco.

Let me say, it is somehow better than Torchy's fried avocado taco. I still love Torchy's but Izzoz managed to out do them. This fried avocado taco comes with a pile of fresh arugala, bits of Cotija cheese, tomatoes, and a sweet, tangy sherry vinagrette. Then there's that crispy, lightly-fried avocado. It almost felt healthy. Then I remembered it was fried.

Still oh so good.

They have a menu full of other yummy-sounding items, including breakfast tacos. I'll have to try those some other time.

The Basics
Location: 1207 S. First St., in the same lot as Holy Cacao
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Accepts: Visa, Mastercard
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom Line: Seriously, Torchy's better watch out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cake Ball Controversy!

So I told everyone to read the first comment on my Holy Cacao story, and then it exploded! I can't believe this little feature/review has generated so much controversy. I had read the press on Holy Cacao before I interviewed them, and I had only heard good things. I mean, they've had a few negative Yelp reviews, but that's to be expected.

It looks like some rival dessert business has issue with them and has no shame posting accusatory comments. I stand behind my story and the interview. John Spillyards and Ellen Kinsey, owners/managers of Holy Cacao, are friendly, positive people, and they gave me a great interview. I like HC's products and the story reflects that.

But judge them for yourselves.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Dessert Queen Gets Published

I've always been a dessert queen. I've got too much of a sweet tooth, and always go straight for the chocolate.

However, I claim this title because I seem to be making a niche for myself by writing little food features on desserts. Check out these two stories I wrote for the Austin Decider site about NadaMoo! and Holy Cacao.

I was particularly excited about the comment on the Holy Cacao story because the commenter visited Holy Cacao after reading the write-up in The Onion print edition. I've been skeptical of whether people actually read those little restaurant write-ups in the back of The Onion, but apparently, this person did. Plus, my writing (with some help from my editor) was convincing enough to send someone out of their way to try a cake ball.

You can read my Holy Cacao write-up online, and also check out the one I wrote on Bennu Coffee. Both were published last week.

And, props to Anslee/SavannahRed for taking kick-ass photos for both stories.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Karibu Welcomes the Adventerous

Posting two days in a row! I should advertise on Facebook more often...

I lived in Tanzania for a few months back in 2006 and learned a tiny bit of Swahili. So when I heard there was an Ethiopian restaurant on the East Side called Karibu, I thought the name was cute.

[Karibu means "Welcome" in Swahili. And Swahili, while a commonly-spoken language in most of East Africa, is not considered an Ethiopian language...]

Anyway, I'm trivializing this place by calling it "cute." I'm not an expert in Ethiopian food at all, but I was really impressed with the overall atmosphere and dining experience at Karibu. Sadly, there were only a handful of people there last night, and I hope it does a better business in general.

It's a simple place with a pretty simple menu. I had the vegetarian combo plate, with the yellow lentils, green beans and sauteed cabbage, along with a salad. All these dishes have Ethiopian names that I can't pronounce and are served with the traditional fermented flatbread. You eat it all with your hands. It's not as hard as you think.

Apparently, the lamb is also really good, so when I'm in a meat-eating mood, I'll have to return.

The Basics:
Location: 1209 E. 7th St., near the intersection of 7th and Attayac St.
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 to 2 a.m.; Lunch buffet 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Sundays
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Bottom line: Eating with your hands has never been this good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brand Spankin' New

I'm not really sure if anyone reads this at all. I've been to several new places in the last two months, but I haven't been motivated to write about them because there seems to be no interest in this blog, from myself or anyone else.

But I felt inclined to share about two new spots, both of which I'm covering for The Onion/Decider.

First there's Holy Cacao, a dessert trailer on South First. As soon as my story is posted on Decider, I'll share the link here. Holy Cacao is Austin's only retail outlet to serve cake balls. While I still giggle a bit when I say "cake ball" they're so good, I have to take them seriously. Little round bits of cake and homemade frosting covered in a chocolate coating, they rival any cupcake place in town. (I'll be getting to cupcakes sooner or later, seeing as Austin is able to support several bakeries specializing in cupcakes.)

But if you try anything at Holy Cacao, get the frozen hot chocolate. That's not a typo. It's a mix of real drinking chocolate (this ain't Swiss Miss), chocolate ice cream, and ice. It's a rich, refreshing drink--much more than a milk shake. You really have to experience it.

Also recently opened is Bennu Coffee on E. MLK. It's a standard independent coffee shop, but it's got a few notable characteristics. One, it's open 24 hours--they only coffee shop east of I-35 to do so. It also has plenty of seating and outlets, and a menu of decadent mocha drinks all named after classic works of literature. The Pride and Prejudice is topped with chocolate shavings. The Great Gatsby is a mix of dark and white chocolate. The Don Quixote is topped with cinamon and chile powder. Any place that honors my favorite books by developing them into chocolate-coffee drinks is worth my patronage, so I expect it will replace Clementine as my East Side hangout.

The Basics:
Holy Cacao
Location: 1207 S. 1st St., just north of the Trailer Park Eatery
Hours: Closed Mondays, Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday 12-8, Friday and Saturday 12-10
Accepts: All major credit cards (a rarity of food carts)
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: There's no better place to satisfy a chocolate craving.

Bennu Coffee
Location: 2001 E. MLK Blvd, between Chestnut Ave. and Poquito St.
Hours: Open 24 hours, all week
Accepts: All major credit cards
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Bottom line: Grab a comfy chair and the East Side's best mocha.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Clarification on the Red House

What was once Stortini is now officially (based on the paint job) The Red House Pizzeria and Bar. The Red House Lounge referred to the bar in the back, and it's still the same, what with all the dead animals and vintage lamps.

I mention this because I wrote a post about the closure of Stortini and, at the time, the old Stortini dining room was for private parties and events only. Now it's open to the general public and looks more like a traditional pizzeria.

All the better, I suppose. Pizza's still half-price at happy hour, which is why my book club meets there at 6:30.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sandwiches! Sandwiches! Sandwiches!

Need a new lunch place? Food Heads has won several local awards in regards to sandwiches, and the Upper Crust Bakery has held the titles of similar honors in regards to bakeries.

We're talking some serious breads and sandwiches, people.

Let's start with Food Heads. First of all, it's quaint and settled in a renovated house, so you automatically have associations of good, homemade food. It's close enough to campus that it's often overrun by students, but it's worth waiting in line (although if you avoid peak times, it's not a bad wait).

The best sandwich, by far, is the grilled salami and fresh mozzarella on toasted sourdough, although other combinations of meats and cheeses on artisinal breads make for a pleasant experience no matter what you order. There's the mouth-watering garlic and herb roasted leg of lamb sandwich on ciabatta. There's also the grilled chicken and eggplant served with goat cheese on a toasted baggette.

In true Austin fashion, Food Heads has plenty of vegetarian options, like a grilled squash and fresh mozarella sandwich. It's so flavorful, you don't really miss the salami. And you can't go wrong with any of the salads or soups. Plus, the cafe offers a wide range of iced teas and fresh coffee all day. Did I mention it caters?

In the same vein of fresh ingredients and homemade bread, Upper Crust is a family-run European style bakery that offers delectable pastries and has a thorough lunch menu. You build your own sandwich, with choices of meats, salads, and veggies and then pick from their choice breads. Whole grain, croissants, sourdough and others all make for a good sandwich no matter what you decide.

The stand-out chicken salad, full of celery, green onions, grapes and pecans, has flavor and texture to spare. Try it on a fresh, airy crossaint with side of chips and salsa for a near-perfect lunch. Or opt for a homemade soup. My favorite is the cheese soup, a creamy blend of cheese, onions, garlic, and celery. It's made with half-and-half, so it's a little bit better for you than other cheese soups (but only a little...)

Upper Crust is renowned for its cinnamon rolls, which have a blend of cinnamon and sugar, noticeably without icing. This makes for a sweet treat that is not overwhelming but pleasant and filling and probably won't send you into a diabetic coma.

The basics:
Food Heads
Location: 616 W. 34th St., just past the intersection of 34th and Guadalupe
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Accepts: All major credit cards
Rating: 4 stars

The Upper Crust Bakery
Location: 4508 Burnet Dr., at the intersection of 45th and Burnet
Hours: Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Accepts: All major credit cards
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Bottom line: Bring on the bread!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sometimes I Get Paid For This

I've written a few restaurant blurbs for Decider Austin, the city-specific spin-off of The Onion's A.V. Club. Basically, it's the only news that's not fake (although, I'm not sure I'd use the word "real" to describe the Decider...)

Here are some of my favorite reviews:
Siena Restorante Toscana
Shanghai Chinese Restaurant
The Daily Juice Cafe
The Red House Lounge

Sadly, no bylines on the website, but I get them initialed in the print edition. Plus, I get paid a tiny little bit of money for these. While this gig has taken some of my attention away from this blog, I hope it will become more active for 2009.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New P. Terry's Location Coming Soon!

According to the Austinist, there will be a new P. Terry's on the corner of 32nd and Lamar. So now we can have organic burgers all along Lamar. Plus, it's close to campus.