Thursday, July 30, 2009

Melon Soup

One of the things I really dislike about the summer in Austin is the heat. It's oppressive, and it feels like it's never going to end.

One of the things I love about the summer in Austin is the fruit. I look forward to melon season all spring long.

This year, one of the first farms to have melon at the Sunset Valley market was Buena Tierra.

Buena Tierra Farms

Fresh melon is crisp and cooling, and I don't think I've ever had melon as delicious as the melon I've gotten here in Texas. Maybe it's the heat?

I've also had melons I hadn't heard of before moving here, my favorite of which is the galia. It's kind of canteloupey, kind of honeydewy, and all delicious.

Fresh Galia

And during these really hot days, a chilled melon soup is simple to make, requires no cooking and is really cooling to eat.

Melon Soup
One melon, preferably galia
1-2 cups vanilla-flavored yogurt, depending on the size of the melon
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut the melon in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Add yogurt, starting with 1 cup. Add the rest of the ingredients, and more yogurt to taste.

Soup with mint leaves and ginger snaps

Instead of croutons, I like to crush ginger snaps on top.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chocolate Grapes!

Chocolatey, grapey goodness

It's grape time! Once a year, for only 4 days, Lammes Candies, a fifth-generation, family-owned local chain of candy shops, sells their chocolate-covered grapes.

I usually find myself in a Lammes store when I'm visiting home, or having out-of-town guests coming to visit me. I get a handful of their pecan-packed Texas Chewies, a buttery, chewy praline that everyone loves.
Lammes on 38th & Lamar
Texas Chewies, plain, chocolate-covered, or habanero-flavored

But, come grape time, I am scrambling to get there, thinking, should I get two boxes? Will I be able to make it back to get another before they're over?

See them? Stacked on the back counter?!

Why they're only available 4 days a year is beyond me. They're delicious. Better than chocolate-covered strawberries, I think.

At $8.95 a box, they're not cheap, and the box disappears quickly. The cool grapes crunch under the hard shell of chocolate, and give way to lots of juice.

Half a box left

I've already made my way through most of my first box, thinking of the second to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seattle Weekend

I spent a fantastic few days in Seattle last weekend.

The man and I stayed in Kirkland, a cute little town across Lake Washington and near Redmond. We arrived on Friday afternoon and spent a little while at the Friday Night Market at Juanita Beach. Though small, the market held a wealth of fresh and ripe stone fruit, including a few varieties of cherries.

Yes, cherries. We bought about a pound from one of the first stalls we encountered, intending to take them back to our hotel and eat them later. They lasted about 5 minutes. Seriously? These were the best cherries I've had in my life.

They were soft, juicy, sweet and really complex in flavor. I love cherries, and I thought supermarket cherries tasted good. Well, they're nearly all from Washington, and Washington cherries in Washington are like nothing I've ever had.

We bought another pound to take back with us, along with the most delicious fresh apricot I've tasted.

The next morning, we checked out the University District Farmers Market, where we got even more cherries. There the standard Bings and Raniers, along with varieties I'd never even heard of - Goldens, Index and more.

We brought about a pound or so home with us, and have been snacking on them every night. I'm going to be sad when they're gone (probably tonight).

Sunday morning, before heading to the airport, we ate breakfast at Trellis a farm-to-table restaurant near the water in Kirkland. After checking out the menu, I ordered the cheese plate from the dinner menu.

left to right: Cougar Gold Cheddar with toasted hazelnuts and quince paste, Mt. Townsend Seastack triple creme with orange-tomato marmalade, fresh crisp bread and Point Reyes Bleu with onion jam.

The cheese plate itself was great - the cheeses were delicious, but cold (I totally understand they weren't room-temp. Not everyone wants cheese for breakfast), and the jam and marmalade were really good, too.

There were some doughnuts for the table with some house-made strawberry compote and butter. The doughnuts were fine, but would have been much better warm. They had a slight orange flavor, and were tasty with the compote.

Monday, July 6, 2009

House Pizzeria

I'm picky about pizza. I haven't eaten a lot of it in Austin, and I think that's mostly because the pizza here never measures up to what I'm expecting. And what I expect is a thick and chewy crust with a crisp exterior with a sweet-tart tomato sauce and good-quality toppings.

I've liked Home Slice so far, but I've found a new favorite: House Pizzeria.

I love it for a lot of reasons:

They have great drinks, from local beers to Mexican Cokes and Italian sodas. Plus, the plain table water is served chilled in these sexy glass bottles:

Everything is really fresh. The mixed green salad, with strawberries, chevre and walnuts has great texture and a lot of flavor.

The roasted olives sounded great, but were only OK. And for two people, the large ramekin they were served in was waaay too big. The homemade bread they were served with was good, too.

Most of all, the pizza is fantastic. The crust isn't thick, but it's somehow thin, crisp and chewy. The toppings are fresh and abundant. So far, I've tried the Eggplant, the Potato & Goat Cheese and the Arugula & Garlic.

The crust is nicely charred on the bottom, with great texture. My favorite so far is the Arugula & Garlic, with piles of fresh arugula on top of melty fontina and tomato sauce. The Eggplant and the Potato & Goat Cheese aren't bad either. Next on the list to try: the Margherita.