After a loooong holiday season that involved my apartment getting broken into, a trip to very cold upstate New York and a missed connection that very nearly required a night spent at O'Hare (thankfully, we were able to get on the stand-by list and make it onto a plane just a few hours after our missed plane left) and some really cold days, things are finally settling back to normal in Austin.
On a recent Saturday morning, the man and I ventured over to TRIO at the Four Seasons for breakfast. Having not been to TRIO before, we both thought breakfast was a fitting introduction to the swanky restaurant.
We were immediately seated, and a waiter brought coffee right away. The coffee was fresh, very hot and strong, and served with heavy cream. Yum.
The menu presented lots of delicious-sounding choices, and waiters carried plates of great-looking food like waffles, eggs and fresh fruit, but I knew what I wanted: TRIO's famous pancakes.
I got the Trio, one banana-blueberry, one gingerbread and one oatmeal-pecan pancake with warm maple syrup, caramelized bananas and candied pecans. Do you see these things? They're the fluffiest, tallest pancakes I've ever seen.
Fluffy, pancakes goodness
And they were fantastic - soft, chewy and piping hot. Of the three, my favorite was the oatmeal-pecan pancake. The soft crunch of the pecans was wonderful with the moist chewiness of the pancake. My least favorite was the gingerbread, but I'm not a big gingerbread fan anyway. In fact, I'm not sure why I got a gingerbread pancake at all.
I was tempted to get an order of their griddled hash browns, too. I love fried potatoes (who doesn't?), and they were hard to pass up, but in the end, I'm glad I did. I couldn't finish my pancakes, and I don't know how I would have dealt with a plate of probably delicious potatoes and a full belly.
The man got the Farmers Market Breakfast, with two eggs, a corn cake with blackberry sauce, a yellow tomato with chevre and herbs and a bowl of grits (subbing grits for the sausage). I tasted all but the eggs, and while the tomato was a little underripe and crunchy, the grits were heaven - luxuriously creamy and covered with sharp Cheddar cheese.
Farmers Market Breakfast
I'm already planning a return trip to TRIO, hopefully this time for lunch or dinner. Or maybe their happy hour, a great deal with half-price bar appetizers.
Eat Local Week has been a great time so far - there are so many great events, and I'm really impressed with the number of people who have been turning out.
Last night, I went to City Hall for the Better Bites of Austin Edible Local Holiday Gift Fair. Better Bites of Austin, a trade organization that links small natural food businesses in Austin, had representatives from many of its vendors.
The highlight of the night for me was the Mary Louise Butters Brownies booth. I've been a fan of the sweets since moving to Austin, and I love giving them to out-of-town guests and sending them out in gift packages to my family and friends in Chicago.
Mary Louise Butters and her brownies
Last night, I tried the Fara, a swirled blend of a brownie and blondie, and I've got to say, that even with half of it being a non-brownie, it quickly became my favorite. I think I even took a couple steps back after tasting it - it was rich with chocolate and molasses, moist and chewy. I bought one for myself, and a couple more for gifts (we'll see if they make it into the packages).
The brownies (the Fara variety are in the tan and black packaging)
Zhi Tea also had samples of their Sweet Desert Delight, a caffeine-free sweet tea. We bought a few teas for gifts, as well.
Edible Austin's Eat Local Week kicked off last weekend with some great events that I was lucky enough to attend. (In the interest of disclosure, I work with Edible Austin on their editorial team.)
All of this week's events benefit Urban Roots, an amazing program that teaches local teens sustainable farming, and all it encompasses including planting and harvesting, selling, marketing and how local food benefits the community. Urban Roots donates a portion of their harvest to local hunger relief efforts and is working hard to bring fresh, local food to East Austin. So go out and give them some money!
Saturday, I attended the Tea Festival at Zhi Tea and got to try lots of delicious teas from several local tea purveyors, and attended a screening of FRESH at the Paramount downtown.
Sunday, I checked out the Drink Local Coffee Festival and Drink Local Night.
There are still lots of great events going on all week, from the Julie & Julia Feast tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse, the Gulf Coast Sampler tomorrow at AMOA, a Meet Your Local Brewers Happy Hour at the Whip In, and lots more. I'm going to try to pack as much in as I can.
Check out Edible Austin's Eat Local Week events page to find an event (or events!) that appeal to you.
It took me two years to get to Flip Happy. I've lived near the crepe trailer for that long before I finally stopped by one Saturday morning.
The long line snaked back in between the parked cars, and I considered going back another time, but I decided to stick it out.
The friendly Flip Happy cash register informs you of what's to come.
I had the Tarragon Mushroom crepe, stuffed with fresh mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and chevre. The slightly eggy crepe was tender and held up well against the fillings. I was really amused that almost everyone eating crepes on the picnic benches picked them up and ate them like burritos. Thinking when in Rome (h/t Ron Burgundy), I followed suit.
Tarragon Mushroom and Spinach Feta crepes
The man had the Spinach and Feta crepe, and reported it to be delicious.
Probably against our better judgment after eating filling savory crepes, we decided to split a dessert crepe. The Lemon Curd crepe was sweet and tart and dressed with freshly cooked blueberries. Very tasty.
Lemony blueberry-y goodness
I've since been back 3 or so more times. They keep funny hours, so check their website before heading over.
I love a food trailer. Give me good food, served on the street, and I'm happy. I'd heard rumblings about Sushi-A-Go-Go, a sushi trailer in the parking lot of a gas station. Looking at their online menu, I saw there were a lot of veggie choices. Sounded promising.
After a little wait, I had 4 rolls and an order of inari to share with the man. We got (clockwise from top left) a natto roll, a kanpyo roll, 3 pieces of inari, an avocado mango roll, and a vegetable roll.
Sushi, with extra packaging
The food was all OK. Not bad, but nothing special. The inari, which is always a favorite, had a tasty skin, but the rice was a less sticky than I'm used to in sushi. It didn't hold together well. I was excited to have the kanpyo, though, as it seems to be rare in Austin. The sweet gourd shavings are slightly crunchy, a little sweet, and totally delicious.
The veggie roll was beautiful in its bright green soy paper, but pretty mildly flavored. The mango avocado roll had nice avocado, but the mango was less than ripe.
The natto, well . . . it was my first time having natto. We'll just leave it at that.
One major turn-off was all the packaging. All the soy sauce, pickled ginger, even the wasabi, was individually packaged in little packets. And all the packets were packed into a little 2-ounce sauce cup. Kind of a waste of materials for condiments of lesser quality than you'd get smooshed up against your sushi at other places.
Would I go back? Maybe, but they've moved since I was there last, and they're awfully close to Banzai. While not fancy food, Banzai has some excellent veggie sushi, for similar prices to Sushi-A-Go-Go, and the food is a little better.
The man's brother was in town, and we thought it was a great way to let him try some of Austin's food and check out the urban farm. We arrived just after the event began, right around noon. The crowd was trickling in, and it filled out over the course of the afternoon.
At $35, it was a bargain. Some of Austin's best restaurants were represented, bringing samples of their delicious food for tasting, while a silent auction raised even more money.
For me, some of the standouts were:
Parkside's pumpkin soup with coriander. So good, I went back for seconds.
Aquarelle's corainder-carrot salad: really spicy, crunchy and sweet.
Olivia's spicy deviled egg and spicy maple sweet potato. The sweet potato was just OK, kind of mildly flavored, but the egg was perfect - spicy, creamy and perfectly tender.
After gorging ourselves on more veggies and chocolate, and buying some sweet potatoes and green beans at the farm stand, we headed to the back of the house to catch a cooking demo.
Jam of Thai Fresh showed us how to make a Thai egg custard inside a kabocha squash. I've been buying kabocha the last few weeks, and just roasting them, so I'm glad to have an interesting new recipe to try. (If you want to try it, check out the recipe on Jam's blog.)
Jam, scooping a squash
The custard was delicious - delicately sweet and flavored with pandan leaves. The squash was tender, but not mushy. It was light, and really nice after all the food we'd just shoved into our faces.
Thai egg custard made with coconut milk, cooked into a kabocha.
A visit to Boggy Creek wouldn't be complete without visiting the chickens, so we popped over to check them out. They have the most gorgeous chickens, with lots of variety in size, color and seriousness of strut. Check out this character: