butternut squash black bean chili

Full disclosure: fall does not exist in Austin. It is almost Halloween and it’s 82˚. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get a craving for those cold weather foods. Like butternut squash. She’s kind of fizzled out in the food scene, no longer does every restaurant have their token butternut squash dish (she’s unfortunately been replaced by cauliflower). But I for one still pine for last year’s favorite gourd. Hence, this (secretly vegan) butternut squash black bean chili.

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What does one do with whole butternut squash? Take pictures with succulents of course!

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J’admets, these pictures are misleading. Whole butternut squash are near impossible to deal with. Fortunately, CostCo and sometimes Central Market sell butternut squash pre-cut into bite sized cubes, perfect for a quick pour into the pot of veggie-ful delight.

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Note to self: three onions is too many.

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Sauté, then add spices.

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Ok, so if you add the cheese it is no longer vegan. But it is nowhere near essential to the ultimate effect. Avocado is another apt addition. But the best part is, for those who hate timing, it’s hard to go wrong as long as you start early. It only gets better as it sits!


(secretly vegan) butternut squash black bean chili

ingredients (amounts are flexible according to taste, you really can’t go wrong):

-veggies: butternut squash cut into cubes; chopped onions, green pepper, red pepper; minced jalapeños and garlic; dried and soaked or canned black beans; large can of fire roasted tomatoes.

-spices: 3 tbsp chili powder, 2 tbsp cumin, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp oregano, 2 tsp red pepper. Next time I’d experiment with a little bit of thyme.

directions:

-sauté onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes until semisoft, then add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes

-add spice mixture and stir

-add can of tomatoes and stir

dried and soaked beans: add beans and then enough water to cover the beans in the pot. Bring to a boil then move down to a high simmer. Cook until beans are tender, around 1.5 to 2 hours

canned black beans: add to pot, bring to a boil then down to a simmer

-once beans are added/tender, add red and green peppers, jalepeños, and butternut squash. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Simmer for 30 minutes

-serving options: with cilantro, monterrey jack, avocado, cotija. Can be easily stored and flavors improve with time.

elizabeth street café

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Definitely not new, but a great place to start. At home la mère just has to say ‘breakfast’ to wake me up. Not in some nostalgic 50s housewife flashback of a mother effortlessly whipping up a hearty traditional ‘merican breakfast of eggs, pancakes, bacon, biscuits, sausage and orange juice for her perfect and patiently awaiting family. No, because breakfast to la mère means one thing: Elizabeth Street. So I roll out of bed, throw on the clothes I wore the night before and jump in the car for the short jaunt down the road.

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Far from traditional, this French-Vietnamese fusion café has become a weekend staple. In addition to their stellar cuisine (I never seem to venture far from the Singapore Noodles, poached eggs not fried i.e. the perfect hangover cure) they feature some far out espresso. So here we are with entry number one in projet café, the cappuccino at Elizabeth Street.

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Part of the charm is the dish-ware. Featuring unique cutlery and delicately designed yet deceptively hardy glasses, the café is neither the Seine nor Saigon: it is Austin at its finest. A soft foam and hearty espresso turns into a surprising cooling element to the many fiery dishes.

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Elizabeth St. Café  1501 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

winebelly

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What’s a girl to do on a Friday night but have dinner with her parents? Tucked unassumingly between a gas station and a cash advance store is Winebelly. Just over a year old, this wine and tapas bar boasts an innovative menu, a surprising wine selection, and intimate ambiance that makes you forget there’s a Church’s Chicken across the street. Keep Austin Weird, amirite?

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Alas, padre and I missed happy hour as we navigated the land barge, the dogmobile’s replacement, through the South Austin neighborhood. But their five dollar happy hour menu does include several selections from their appetizers, as well house wine by the glass.

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neyers mourdevre

I was initially confused when the hostess asked if we’d like to sit inside or the back patio. Judging from the surroundings, I assumed the back patio would simply be chairs and tables in an industrial alley. Taking the risk and choosing the patio (how can you not on a gorgeous night?) I was pleasantly surprised to find a charming arrangement of lounge style seating as well as dining tables, accented by a soft light and the humble buzz of conversation fueled by good food and wine. It’s safe to say that Winebelly has a best of patio.

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It’s impossible. I just can’t pass up anything truffle. Though I believe Hopdoddy still holds the spot for first place in the parmesan truffle fry arena, Winebelly comes a close second. With a thicker, crisper fry, Winebelly’s fries hold up against the aioli.

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truffle parmesan fries
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crispy sunchokes

Though I question their definition of tapas (don’t think I’ll be eating these with my finger) these sunchokes stole the show, and they’re not giving it back. What is a sunchoke you ask? Well it looks like ginger, has the texture of a potato, and tastes like an artichoke. Otherwise stated, the king of root vegetables. Crisped then tossed in a tangy, spicy, earthy, Mediterranean-y, buffalo wing-y sauce, these super tubers are topped with an herb labne, a yogurt-like cheese whose cool complements the warmth of the sauce.  It was brussels sprouts, butternut squash, now its cauliflower, but these earthy veggies need to be the next food fad to sweep Austin.

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arctic char

There is a middle-eastern theme that permeates Winebelly’s menu, a welcome reprieve from the western cuisine that often dominates wine based eateries. One of several fish selections, our waitress described this arctic char as a salmon look-alike topped with crème fraiche and a buttery lentil base. A sort of comfort food. I’m not a salmon zealot, but the char had a subtler taste more friendly to my preferences and to it’s accompaniments.

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Though we had eaten quite enough by this point, la mère had arrived, so of course we had to order more. In addition to the sunchokes, because we could not leave before she tried them, we ordered these decadent sliders. I now know just why everyone raves about wagyu beef. Topped with a dry cheese, bacon jam, and a touch of aioli, these sliders are on par with the Hopdoddy standard.

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pork chop

And another special. To me, a pork chop is a pork chop, nothing special — usually. And I think it will stay that way, because Winebelly just raised the bar so high for future other-white-meat consumption that I don’t know if anyone will ever match it.

Again with another amazing suggestion from our waitress: the chocolate tart. I’m not usually a huge chocolate lover, I’m not even a huge dessert lover. So I never jump to chocolate options in the odd chance I do ask for a dessert menu. But a good rule of thumb for any curious eater: always listen to your server. They’ve been there longer than you and know what is good and what is great at their establishment. Another rule: when there is crème brulée, you eat the crème brulée. Especially if it is cinnamon toasted.

So this particular evening was a splurge, but Winebelly killed it in every category: ambiance, drinks (did I mention the selection of wine cocktails??), foods from all courses, and best of all: an amiable and amicable staff.

Winebelly Happy Hour: Tuesday-Thursday 4-6

519 W. Oltorf Street, Austin, TX 78704

$5 select appetizers, $5 house red, white, rosé wine by the glass

vivo!

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So it’s almost impossible to describe just how ecstatic I’ve been about the revival of Vivo. Imagine if Austin had an efficient, cost effective public transportation system providing affordable access to all areas and citizens of the city equally. My excitement was about on par with this fantastical dream.

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It’s new home at Lincoln Center (still can’t bring myself to genuinely refer to it as The Linc) unfortunately has a strip mall vibe. Scratch that. It is a strip mall. Part of the heart of Vivo was tied to the repurposed house on Manor. A piece so cemented in the infrastructure that it unfortunately could not be transferred to the new location. Nonetheless, the management has made a valiant effort to retain the intimate ambiance, evidenced by the elaborate candle collection at the entrance, in the new, more open space. Hopefully with time the Vivo team will settle into their new space. We cannot expect it to be exactly the same, down to the last cozy nook, because that’s impossible. Rather we hope it will become something different and better.

That said, I was disappointed to see a few of my favorite paintings missing from the walls. Vivo was most memorable, to me at least, for its tastefully seductive large format portraits. A few remain in the new space, and here the wall space is a bit more scarce. Predictably, choices had to be made. I do hope in the future that expansion might allow for the resurgence of these paintings, which I’m assuming (hoping, very hard) are somewhere in air-conditioned storage, being well taken care of because art, like its makers, is often a fickle friend in need of constant care.

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california nachos

Our food did take a bit to emerge from the kitchen, which I am unwaveringly attributing to opening day jitters. Like the ambiance, I’m sure timeliness will settle into a comfortable routine with a few more nights of operation. And the wait only made the moment more sweet when our happy hour choices did arrive. Diverging from the traditional Tex-Mex choices, I ordered the California Nachos. The sprouts were a bit overwhelming but didn’t inherently detract from the experience. I boil it down to a testament to of Tex-Mex’s superiority to Cali-Mex (Mexi-Cali? Mexi-Cal? Who cares.).

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Despite all the changes, the best part did follow the team up the highway. Each margarita still comes with a beautiful lily, making each sip that much more special. Unfortunately, the kitchen had run out of their characteristic margarita glasses. Maybe not so unfortunately as that must mean a successful night. To make up, margaritas were subsequently served in pint glasses, so I’m not complaining. And they were as good as ever. I didn’t get a chance to see if the cucumber margarita maintained its eminence in the move, which was a best of at the old location, so a separate drink profile will assuredly be coming soon.

Did I mention they’ve added brunch??

Vivo Happy Hour: Monday-Friday 4-7

6406 North Interstate Highway 35 Suite 2343 Austin, TX 78752

$5 house margarita, vivo ria, top shelf IXA margarita; $4 for two tacos; $5 appetizers

grosse fragen

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Sometimes, padre gives great advice. The question “what am I going to do with my life?” is too big. Instead of posing life as a question, a problem that needs solving, it is easier, more productive, and more meaningful to look at it as a statement: a mark you want to leave on the world. So often we answer questions wrong to the point that in the scheme of something so massive, it is futile. In light of this beautifully simplistic suggestion, I will try to finish the following statements. They may change from day to day, but so is the nature of life. So here are today’s completions:

  • I really like working with … creative people
  • I really like making … sense
  • I really like helping people with … enjoying my city
  • I would really like to learn more about … running a business
  • I think I’m really good at … learning

(Lily I’ve borrowed your font, please forgive me, it’s beautiful and you’re brilliant)

viva Vivo!

standOut

Things that stand out this morning:

  • Blue pens in a box of black
  • The temperature, already at 75˚
  • Monica Lewinsky joining Twitter, somehow that’s noteworthy?
  • Early voting starts today
  • Most importantly: Vivo’s opening date, Oct. 22nd i.e. this Wednesday! 

la barbecue

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Every weekend is Parents Weekend when you’re living with them. But I guess, like Mothers day and Fathers day, it’s fitting to set a weekend aside and call it theirs. So thanks mère and padre for birthing me. Let’s celebrate with la Barbecue.

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Now I haven’t had Franklin’s, so I can’t reasonably say that la Barbecue is better, but I can assuredly say that it is the best barbecue I have ever had. Sorry Salt Lick, ambiance can only go so far. Arranged by Austin Eats Food Tours, the Spirits family and their families gathered around picnic tables, coolers full of beer and champagne (ok, maybe the champagne was just me et la mère) for some not-so-old-fashioned Texas cuisine.

Meat aside, we’ll get there later, the potato salad and cole slaw are what truly set this trailer apart from the multitude of barbecue joints around. Bacon is always a good idea, which is what makes this potato salad totally rad, along with a novel addition of stone ground mustard to differentiate it from the mayonnaise mess that is many attempts at this traditional accompaniment. With a little bit of salt and tang, the ingredients complement the potatoes, rather than smother them. Like the tang in the salad, there is an innovative spice in the slaw. Again, straying from the soppy traditional version, la Barbecue makes a fresh cole slaw that emphasizes the fact that it actually comes from a vegetable, not a jar.

I’m a sucker for sausage. Considered the less time intensive option of barbecue, I’m definitely ok with it usually being the more price friendly option of the bunch. These links, like the slaw, have a kick to them that’ll make you reach for that beer. The sausage is great, but the brisket is life-changing. I can’t go so far as to say that I didn’t like barbecue before, but I definitely was not a fan of brisket. But something about the la Barbecue method makes their meat moist and flavorful, contradicting the dry, cardboard-like meat I’d been served at other places. I’m now officially a brisket convert.

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I personally believe that only ice cream can follow from barbecue on a hot day, but Sugarmama’s will always do the trick.

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haymaker

I’m not one for sports bars. I’m not one for sports, for that matter. Having sworn off sports after spending ten years on the soccer field, I’ll occasionally get fired up for the world cup or an EPL game, but in general I try to stay away from the professional athletics arena. But for those choice days where the soccer bug comes back (or when the BF’s roommate has a birthday and a poutine craving), there are only two places in Austin, from the same founders, that adequately reflect the oxymoron that is this artsy city’s sports scene: Black Sheep Lodge and Haymaker.

Now Black Sheep Lodge is nothing new to the clan. Many a night have been spent on the patio of Aviary when padre decides it’s time for a burger, and subsequently hops next door and orders take out for the table. After the triumph of their first establishment with the “Number One (i.e. only) Burger In South Austin Between Kinney and Oxford,” the team opened up Haymaker last year to similar success. An analogous model to its older sister, Haymaker boasts a similar menu of burgers and beer with a twist on sandwiches and poutine. And if you’re an English soccer fan, up for watching the game at an ungodly hour, Haymaker opens up on Saturday mornings for the day’s EPL games with a breakfast menu complete with coffee and, yes, beer.

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Neither Black Sheep nor Haymaker have traditional happy hours, but they do have daily specials to put all specials to shame. Thursday is $2 Mexi-cans (i.e. Imperial, Tecate, etc.) and $2 off all tequila. Granted, this doesn’t cover cocktails, but just come back Monday for $2 off all craft cocktails!

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78722 Rita

It really is worth it to venture off the specials menu every once in a while. This is the 78722 Rita. She’s not a looker, but she packs a punch. Careful now.

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Louisville slugger

This semester I did something silly: I joined an intramural soccer team. In high-school I swore I’d never set foot on a pitch again, but we all have to break our own rules from time to time. So Thursday is game day, and the team having put in a valiant effort, I thought I could do for a little splurge. This is the Louisville Slugger, an open faced sandwich with turkey, gruyere sauce, bacon, and tomatoes on Texas toast. I have to say, I was less than impressed by this choice, but I have it on good authority that the rest of the menu really knocks it out of the park (did I mention there was apparently a huge baseball game on?).

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poutine: traditional (left), southern style (right)

J’admets, I’m not a poutine connoisseur, and frankly brown gravy makes me gag. I was so intrigued when poutine first came to Austin with the opening of Banger’s, but I was disappointed that the traditional version does not use white gravy. I was delightfully surprised when the table ordered the dish to have the waitress ask which type of poutine we wanted, because one used white gravy and the other brown. So of course we did the natural thing and got both. And the southern style poutine was every bit as hearty and heart clogging as I’d initially imagined traditional poutine to be. Far out guys, well done, and thank you.

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cocky burro

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I’m a Sriracha groupie and I’m not afraid to say it. I put it on everything, from eggs, to burgers, to tacos, to guacamole. But I’ve never thought to put it in a drink. It was only natural: I had to try the Cocky Burro. Sriracha goes with many things, but I’m going to have to say that simple syrup is not one of them. Nice try though.

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Haymaker: Daily Specials Monday-Sunday

2310 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722

Monday: $2 off all craft cocktails, $2 white trash cans, $4 paper bag (white trash can and a well shot), $5 lunch box (white trash can and call shot)

Tuesday: $3 Texas pints, $3 Texas liquors

Wednesday: $2 off all whiskey, $1 off all pints

Thursday: $2 Mexi-cans, $2 off all tequila

Friday: $2 frozen margaritas, $3 beer ritas, $2 off all bombers

Saturday: $1 off beer cocktails, $3 wells, $2 white trash cans

Sunday: $2 off all pitchers, $2 mimosas, $3 bloody marys, $3 red or white sangria

the buzz mill

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Sometimes on a Monday, you just just need to snuggle up to your man and chill out with a few drinks. Because what else are Mondays for? With this cooler weather peaking out from summer’s coat tails, the patio at the Buzz Mill is a perfect place to do both, that is before it gets too cold because, ya know, Austin doesn’t have a lasting medium between mirage inducing heat wave and blizzard.

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Tucked in the East Riverside district, en route to become Austin’s newest Rainey Street, one yelper described this coffee house-bar hybrid best: if Ron Swanson were a bar, he would be the Buzz Mill. In true Swanson style, all of the furniture seems to be homemade, possibly by their Lumber Society? Let’s be honest though: the coolest part is the beaver in the wall. I don’t have a picture. You’ll just have to go see it yourself.

While we just went for a pint or two, I’m definitely coming back for a taste of their espresso during a late night study session at, oh, maybe 3 or 4 am because it’s open 24 hours! I’m not a night working person. Mostly I’m in bed by 11. But there are those nights we all have where you just have to suck it up and buckle down. And, if you’re like me and you just cannot get any work done at home, you know decent late night study places are hard to come by.

Now I guess Mondays are not particularly hoppin’ during happy hour, maybe it was midterms, maybe it was the chill, but the staff was setting up for a live performance. So if you like live music, beards, and brews (both of the alcoholic and espresso kind) put the Buzz Mill on your list.

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The happy hour specials are a win in my book. Specializing in beers, they offer a range from PBR to crafts. And unlike most happy hours, the best day is Friday!

The Buzz Mill Happy Hour: Monday-Thursday 5-8; Fridays 1-8

1505 Town Creek Dr, Austin, TX 78741

Monday -Thursday: $3 drafts and wells; Friday: $3 bottles and wells, $1 PBR, $4 Deschutes

acl twenty fourteen thank you

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S.W.E.A.T. For keeping us safe

Shaun White for taking a selfie with the middle schooler et al, even though they didn’t know who you were because you cut your hair

AFI for helping me relive 8th grade

Eminen for helping me relive 8th grade better

Skrillex for playing at the same time so I wasn’t even tempted to go

Major Lazer. Because.

J. Roddy Walston and the Business for keeping rock ‘n roll alive

Everyone who didn’t wear a fanny pack ironically

Mac Demarco for giving a fan the lead on Viceroy because he had the balls to ask

High schoolers in basketball jerseys for making my era’s trends seem less lame

L.L. Bean for the care free romping in the mud

The middle schooler for being the coolest thirteen year old at the fest

The freshman, for the mid-crowd accidental meet-ups

Alexis Chong and Sway for the salt-n-peppa shrimp that changes the definition of festival food

Padre and la mère for manning base camp, a much needed between-set oasis

The BF for helping me realize sometimes you just need some ribs when you’re crashing on Sunday

Uncharacteristicly gentle crowds

And the last guy left in tye dye. For keeping ACL weird.

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