my first jbg box


… and I got one of these bad boys! How sexy!
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Go on with yo bad, root vegetable self. Makes you just wanna snuggle down in a nice, warm bed of soil and take root ’til you sprout. Betch called you an albino carrot say wha? Ain’t no diva parsnip like you gonna take that ish.

Ok, enough sassy parsnip talk. That’s only the beginning of the fun I had with my first ever CSA box from Johnson’s Backyard Garden! Next came this amazing three cheese, kale, and slow-roasted tomato orecchiette. enchiladas-6225


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Opening the CSA box is like one of those game shows, Tim Gunn in the corner telling me to “Make it work!”. I know kale has been très chic for the past few foodie fads, but I have to admit I was a little intimidated when I opened the box and saw the rubbery green monster staring me back in the face. I didn’t want to just throw it in a blender with a mélange of other fruits and veggies to mask the flavors, that would just be cruel to the locally grown, organic leaf that this kale bunch is.

So into the pantry I dove, and I found this beautiful box of pasta I’d bought on an impulse a few weeks before. Here’s to impulse buys and non-perishables! Spinach goes so well with pasta, so why wouldn’t kale? Plus, when you add three types of cheese to something it’s impossible to hate it.

But a key-stone ingredient was probably the slow roasted tomatoes. Now some might think slow means, oh, 45 minutes. No, these babies need to roast at 300˚F or lower for an hour and a half or longer. The lower and longer the better. It brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and neutralizes their acidity. Oh, and garlic. Lots of garlic. Because garlic makes everything better.


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Right! Root vegetables! Look up there at that magnifique casserole. La mère did good for Christmas, and this was the first time I got around to actually using it. The thing holds up like a champ and is a wonder for serving to keep up appearances at the table.

But this root vegetable tian is simple and nourishing. Both parsnips and beets came from the treasure box delivered to my door, and both the russet and sweet potatoes were sitting in the pantry. It’s like the decision was made for me. And of course, anything can be made French with a little olive oil and fresh thyme. Emphasis on the fresh. I’m so thrilled about the color party these veggies and this dish had on my kitchen table. But make sure you do have a good while before any guests arrived, I kept this one in the oven for almost an hour and a half before I felt comfortable taking it out. This one requires patience, but it pays out in flavor.


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Safe to say, I’m absolutely thrilled with my JBG subscription. I’m finding that I might not have all the time I’d like to cook everything in it the way I’d want before the next box arrives, but it’s such a privilege to have vegetables this fresh delivered to your doorstep. Here’s lookin’ to next week!


slow-roasted tomato and kale orecchiette

ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale, thinly sliced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of slow roasted cherry tomatoes
  • box of orecchiette
  • 1 cup of shredded gruyere
  • 1 cup of shredded parmesan
  • ½ a cup of goat cheese (chèvre)
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • salt and cracked pepper to taste

directions

-steam the sliced kale in olive oil and 2 tbsps of water in a large saucepan

-while the kale is steaming, boil a pot of water and cook the orecchiette until al dente, then drain. Leave the pasta in the strainer in the sink

-in the pasta pot, add the white wine and bring to a simmer; add the cheeses and lemon zest and stir until all cheeses are melted into a cheesy sauce; add salt and pepper to taste

-add the pasta back into the sauce and stir until coated

-pour the pasta and sauce into the saucepan with the kale; add the tomatoes and stir until all is incorporated

-top off with a little more salt and pepper and some shredded parmesan as you see fit


root vegetable tian

ingredients

  • beets, sliced
  • parsnips, diced into small cubes
  • potatoes, sliced, of any kind, I used russet and sweet
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • fresh thyme, both whole and de-leafed
  • salt and pepper to taste, err on the side of lots with the salt

directions

-preheat the oven to 375˚F

-arrange the sliced beets and potatoes vertically in a buttered baking dish

-once arranged, sprinkle or place the diced parsnips on top

-drizzle the olive oil on top; add salt, pepper, and the leaves of the thyme plus a few extra whole sprigs

-cover with parchment paper; cook at 375˚F for an hour and a half, or until vegetables are tender

district

Known more for strip malls and soccer moms, it’s safe to say the Circle C Ranch development is not known for their culinary prowess. But times are a’changin’ and as Austin grows, traditional Austin staples grow and expand with it. Hey, they’ve even got a Whole Foods, Kerbey Lane, and a Chuy’s down by the CostCo now!

Still, I was more than skeptical the first time padre suggested we try District. I just didn’t understand how something so close to the soccer fields I spent way too much time on could hold up to some other dinner favorites closer in town. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I was so, so wrong. You only have to walk in the door and see the industrial-meets-clean interior to realize any preconceived notions of a cookie-cutter suburban eatery are completely false. Better yet, the food and drinks hold up to the high standards set by the decor.


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It was only fitting that so close to the soccer fields, I meet up with an old soccer friend. District stepped up to the plate with some delicious, and rather potent, cocktails to help us digest the time we’ve been apart. Started off with the soft glow, a cocktail that mirrored the ambiance of the lounge area. Fruity and tart, it tasted as good as it looks.


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Because a side project of mine has been to find the best margarita in Austin, I had to get this frozen beauty, especially when happy hour has it at only $4.50. This one doesn’t make it to the best of list, but it’s still pretty dang good.


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The cocktails are good, but I think the food steals the show. On my first visit I got a fish. Like, a whole fish. And it was awesome. Marinated in chimichurri, it met my whole fish craving that lasted the whole summer. These moroccan lamb kabobs (on special during happy hour) are something you’d never find this far south about 5 years ago. At least not in Circle C. But I’m so excited for this transformation, sharing the beauty of what food can really be with those who don’t have the good fortune of living smack in the center of foodie-ville.


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Like the fish, the ratatouille killed it. A variation on the traditional dish, it looks like the veggies were all roasted rather than stewed, with smokey tomatoes and crunchy chickpeas to boot! But what’s even better is the ratatouille hash I made with the leftovers the day after. How to magically transform something into brunch: put an egg on it!

There’s been a terrible trend recently of establishments ending their happy hours at 6 o’clock, or even 5 (shocking!) which needs to stop immediately. Come on, I mean who can even get there by that time? People who don’t have jobs, that’s who. Luckily, happy hour at District lasts until 7, giving you ample time to brave the rush hour traffic and still make it in time for a cocktail and a snack.

District Kitchen+Cocktails Happy Hour: Monday-Saturday 3:30-7

5900 W Slaughter Ln, Austin, TX 78749

food and drink specials, see menu

new la V happy hour

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This week, the wine connoisseurs at La V announced new happy hour specials just in time for Valentine’s day. The romantic restaurant will now offer half off bottles of wine from 5-7 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a perfect way to take the edge off right when you need it. In addition to these boisson specials, they have a selection of discounted snacks and bites. Surprise your date this Valentines day by taking them to La V the Wednesday before!

I’ve been wanting to give La V a shot for so long, just my wallet holding me back at this point. But now there is no excuse! Expect a personal account very soon.

summermoon coffee bar

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Just because I’ve postponed my thesis a semester doesn’t mean I can just stop working on it. Just gotta keep going. But I’ve found I’m disproportionately influenced my surroundings. If I’m not feelin’ the vibe of my workplace, it’s like the productivity switch of my brain isn’t just off, it’s indefinitely out-of-order and no amount of staring at the computer screen or re-reading materials can churn out useable content. Needless to say, many an afternoon is spent coffee shop hopping (because of course there are only rare days when my space at home is productivity inducing) looking for that ephemeral aura of a space.

One such attempt landed me at Summermoon Coffee Bar on South 1st. Austin has been mourning the loss of Flipnotics for almost a year now, but I have the solution for those lost wanderers! Born in historic Buda, Summermoon channels the same type of organic, don’t give a f*** attitude of the former coffee shop slash music venue. While a clean, modern look is great, there’s something about being able to almost disappear into the decor, unnoticed by the other coffee shoppers that just triggers the desire and ability to get ish done.

Most everyone is wrapped up in their own work, tucked in their own little corner with their coffee and their computer (with the occasional lost sorority girl on an awkward coffee non-date, but still kind of a date,with little regard for the quiet atmosphere exchanging drunk stories, because that’s the best way to fend off an unwanted suitor. For Summermoon’s sake, I’m going to chalk this up to a rare occurence). One of Summermoon’s biggest assets is their plethora of outlets. Seriously. There’s like one for every chair. It’s awesome. And their playlist is awesome. Their coffee is awesome. Also, their bathroom key is attached to a dinosaur. That’s awesome too.

So, fortunately, I was able to tune out the unwanted tales of stumbling down 6th street and draft a couple pages of my thesis, and my advisor was very proud…that week. Yay! Thanks Summermoon!


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summermoon coffee bar

3115 South 1st Street 1 B, Austin, TX 78704

piranha killer sushi

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With zero resolutions made, 2015 is shaping up to be quite a transformative year. January alone has seen some major changes, serious steps towards real people life. I started a new job with some amazing people, I cut off almost half my hair, began one of the last semesters of school (fingers crossed) with a reasonable course load for the first time ever, I postponed my thesis (ok, maybe not the most mature thing to do, but the right decision for right now), and I joined the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance family! This last decision was in no small part influenced by the wonderful people I met at the Piranha Killer Sushi media dinner I was lucky to be invited to, and I’m so excited for what this year will be!

Sometimes, there’s no way to just ease into a thing. You don’t even get to jump in. It just falls on you like a cartoon piano from the sky and then there’s a person-shaped hole left in the concrete. But, like the cartoon, defying any notion of physics, you crawl out of that hole relatively unharmed and you keep going. At times that’s how I’ve felt at this new job. There’s a job to be done, you’ve never done it before, but it’s got to be done and no one else is going to do it but you. While at times I’d have rather crawled back into that person-shaped hole, the support of my colleagues and their incessant belief in my abilities has pushed me to rise to the occasion to do things I’d never do on my own.


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Like go to a private tasting where I know no one. I’ve always considered myself an extrovert, invigorated by the energy of strangers, but I’d correct you quite quickly if you thought I actively seek out this madness. But again: job to be done, you gotta do it. After finally silencing that inner voice reminding me the car’s not that far away and walking into the 2nd street restaurant, I was greeted by a dozen unfamiliar, but exceedingly friendly faces.

I have to say, the planning for this event was spectacular. Because a room full of strangers begs for a social lubricant, we started the evening with a personalized cocktail menu in the chic bar area. Above left is the lychee martini, above right, the spicy pear martini. These two were definitely the star cocktails of the night. I don’t think anyone ordered anything else, because why would you when you’ve found such perfect concoctions? I’ve been on a spicy cocktail fix lately, so the spicy pear was a natural favorite. But spicy cocktails are not so easy. In many attempts, the flavors don’t mix. They hit you in two different waves: first the cocktail, then the jalapeño that sends you to the bathroom in a coughing fit. But when done right, it’s a subtle blend of a sweetness that bites. Like a piranha. Sorry, had to.



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Official disclaimer: I am in no way a sushi expert. I never crave sushi, or at least I never had before. I’ll eat it when it’s in front of me, but like great wines, I only wish had the discerning palate to truly appreciate and dissect the intricacies of the plates. I may not be able to detail the finer aspects of each piece, but I can sure tell you if it tasted good (spoiler: they all were!).

In no particular order, above is the crudo of hamachi, the salmon tar tar on cucumber chips, and the tako supreme. I was initially intimidated by the hamachi which was first out, but again, no jumping in, job to be done, it turned out to be so much more than a couple chunks of fish. The plate was delicately dressed with a cilantro purée and a light mix of lime and spice. And it was off to a great start! The salmon tar tar proved a little difficult to maneuver with chop-sticks, but hey, we at the self proclaimed ‘kids table’ managed fairly well. While the tako supreme might sound like something off a Taco Bell menu, I assure you, it’s quite a bit more daring: thinly sliced octopus with a habañero tobiko. This might’ve been what I was most worried about on first look at the menu. I’m not even a huge kalamari fan. But by thinly slicing the octopus, the talented Piranha chefs avoided what could’ve been a rubbery disaster and created a uniquely presented, very flavorful dish.


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Ok, so a bit of reordering. This was actually the second dish to come out, but it was hands down my favorite and deserves a spot on its own. This Vietnamese beef salad was essentially Piranha’s take on beef carpaccio with a southeast asian twist. It’s no secrete I’m a Sriracha fan (side note: there have been a few variations on Sriracha making their way into local grocery stores, but nothing compares to the rooster, green capped original. Try only if you want to be seriously disappointed.) and I think it was the Sriracha lime sauce that really made this dish for me. Of course my favorite thing at a sushi tasting would not be sushi, further evidence I’m a sushi novice.


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While the beef was unquestionably my favorite, these two came in a close second. The Picasso roll on the left paired the best combinations of flavor and texture, with a little bit of spice and a little bit of crunch. In case there was any confusion on my affinity for spice, let those little jalepeños on top be the flagship for my taste profile. While some sushi can end up a little squishy or soft, this roll was accented by tempura flakes for a perfect little crunch. Now the two pieces of chef dressed sushi were another somewhat intimidating menu item for a sushi novice, but after this plate I think I’m a convert.


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Now dessert is always a little hard for a western audience at any asian restaurant. Meal concepts are just so different across the world, and the post-meal course in the east is quite far from our own. Some restaurants attempt to reconcile the delicate asian palate with the decadence and boldness that is western desserts, but I think this one is best left un-fusioned. The banana spring rolls with green tea and red bean ice cream were an interesting twist on a banana split, but they paled in comparison to what Piranha does best: sushi.

After the last plates were cleared, there was no sign of the evening winding down. There’s nothing better than good people and good food. Thanks particularly to my friends at Oh Spooning, Keep Austin Eatin’, AustinFoodstagram, and sushigirl_atx for introducing me to the Austin blogging scene! I hope to see y’all around soon!

Did I mention they have happy hour too???


Piranha Killer Sushi Happy Hour

Monday-Thursday 4-7, Friday and Saturday last hour of business, Sunday noon-5

207 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX 78701

food and drink specials, see menu


Mandatory additional note to Budweiser, on their hilarious Superbowl jab at craft beers:

Dear Budweiser,

So sorry my preference for flavor and alcohol content in my beer is hurting your sales. You can’t shame me with patriotism because buying local is the ultimate form of consumer pride.

Sincerely,

The new generation of beer drinkers