Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Austin Hot Sauce Festival

So if you know Han and me well, you know that we love to eat spicy foods. And if you know me even better, you know that I am completely overconfident in the amount of spicy food I can handle, and often bite off more than I can chew, so to speak. My best story was when Han and I went to BW3 and I had to quit midway through a dozen Blazin' wings. My mouth was so red that Han said I looked like a little child who had been drinking Kool-Aid all day.

On Sunday, Han's new classmate Alyssa got to see this first hand when we all went to the Austin Hot Sauce Festival in Waterloo Park. We were actually a little surprised to see how big of a festival this was and how large the crowd was. Tents were sprawled out all over the place, with everyone from large restaurant chains to small independent bottlers letting everyone try free samples of their hot sauces and salsas.

It was a really hot day which made waiting in line pretty awful (and that comprises about 90% of your time at the festival) but what was great though is that a lot of places had a wide variety of sauces. So once you got to the front you could take your time and try as many as you like. We later figured out that some of the longest lines weren't necessarily for the best salsas, but just that they were in the shade. We didn't end up getting to try even a significant fraction of the sauces available, but here were some of the highlights:

TacoDeli - I actually ate here on Friday at lunch, but I didn't even bother to get any hot sauce. My mistake. Their green sauce was creamy and very tasty with a spice that sneaks up on you. I'll definitely know better next time.

Aztexas Habanero Supreme - One of our favorites and winners of their division several years in a row, including this one. We actually took a bottle of this home, and it's already going pretty quickly. It's very flavorful, VERY spicy, and goes with absolutely everything. Our favorite so far has actually been peaches.

Big Daddy's Ass Burn - Their motto is "Hell going in. Hell going out." These guys were actually Houston-based. We took home a bottle of their "Flaming Lips" sauce, which is made with pineapples and St. Arnold's Lawnmower.

Austin Slow Burn - This group had one of the bigger selections that we saw. They had a green sauce, a red sauce, and a queso --all delicious-- but they also had a selection of spicy jams and jellies and a "Fire Dusted" peanut butter. I made myself a hot little PB&J with them.

Honorable Mention: HEB - Above average for a supermarket brand, they still had a tough time competing with all the other guys at the festival. But what was really impressive was that, while most supermarkets probably only have three types of salsas (mild, medium, and hot, if that many), HEB had no less than a dozen gourmet-style salsas ranging from roasted garlic to peach pepper.

We actually didn't get a chance to try all the individual contenders, which I regret, but the line was incredibly long and we had already eaten more than our fair share of tortilla chips, but I'll definitely be looking forward to it next year.

Here are the list of winners, some of whom may be available in your area, even if you don't live in Austin:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicken fried steak at Shady Grove

Since moving to the dirty south, I had yet to experience the magic of chicken fried steak. Justin had been egging me to try it for quite some time. I finally had the chance at Shady Grove this week. I went there with my new school psych classmates twice, once for drinks and again for a social mixer with the 3rd year students.

This Austin staple has an energetic atmosphere, outdoor seating, and live music every Thursday. The staff are nice, even letting me bring Malcolm (my toy poodle) in despite the "dog-free dining" sign. The lead singer of the folksy band that was playing when we arrived was passionate and reminded me of Alanis Morrisette. They also have a separate outdoor bathroom located in a cute metal twinkie-shaped trailer with flower curtains. Very charming. My only gripe is that they split up our party of 12 into 3 separate booths, which defeated the "mingling" intention of the mixer.

The inside of the restaurant is cozy but dark. Justin and I decided to split the chicken friend steak after being told the caloric content is in the ballpark of 1800. This was definitely a cheat meal for me! Well worth it though, it was crispy and spicy and covered with cheese, gravy and green salsa. I forgot to take a picture before I scarfed it down, but judging by this "after" shot, it was super yummy! I don't think I'll be eating another one of these for quite awhile, especially after tonight's fried avocado meal. But I'm certainly glad to have experienced this southern delight.

Shady Grove
1624 Barton Springs Rd.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


So Trudy's is one of those places that if you haven't heard of it by now, you're either brand new to Austin or you live in some kind of cave. It's one of those Austin legends: always packed, always worth the wait. The atmosphere lively but unremarkable. The food is really what people come for.

Tonight we started out with the queso especial, which was pretty standard for a restaurant queso, and definitely sub-standard compared to the Kerbey Queso at Kerbey Lane. Things soon got much more delicious with the sushi-meets-chimichanga called the Poquito Chicken Flautitas. It's fried and you can eat it with your hands. Enough said. They also have a veggie version as well.

Then came the star of the evening, the Stuffed Avocado. Two people at our table got this dish tonight so everyone got a chance to try it, and it was pretty much consensus that if we were ever put on death row, this is what we would order for our last meal. Pictured, here, is our friend Kim's stuffed avocado, as by the time I remembered to take a picture, we had already gone to town on ours.

Now keep in mind, this isn't for the faint of heart. It's basically an avocado half, stuffed with chicken and cheese, and then deep-fried. And then covered with more cheese. I like to justify eating it by telling myself that avocados are in fact vegetables. The waiter warned us that ordering it with the caliente sauce (three peppers!) could be dangerous, but I hardly noticed it. Psh! Oh well, we'll definitely be tested more at the hot sauce festival tomorrow.

Also not to be forgotten were the fish tacos which were delectably crunchy and delicious. You can ask Han, I'm pretty picky about my tortillas and these ones were pretty good, even for whole wheat. They are pictured here, only half-eaten.

Lastly, if I had one beef with tonight's meal, it's that I had heard many stories about the famed Texas Martinis at Trudy's. That they can't serve you more than two and they knock you on your ass and lead to all sorts of blackout antics. Well I must say I had one and I'm still standing tall. Maybe two is the catalyst, who knows. Any of you out there who've personally experienced one of these Texas Martini nights, I'm eager to hear first-hand of your accounts.

In short, Trudy's. It's worth the hype and worth the wait. Check back soon for the Hot Sauce Festival update!

409 W. 30th St

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flightpath Coffee House

Ok so our first review isn't exactly a restaurant. Bear with us.

First, let me give a little bit of backstory. I've been working from home for the past few weeks, and I'm sure that sounds
pretty great to all of you unless you have actually done it. Anyways, I started looking around for places with free wi-fi where I could work and just get myself out of the house.

I first tried Flipnotics, a local favorite that recently opened a branch up in Hyde Park. Seemed like a cool place with great music, but the lighting was pretty poor and the seats were really uncomfortable. Worst of all, the shopping center has an apartment complex sitting on top, and the window where I was sitting opened up to their pool. I definitely exchanged a few awkward glances with some of the residents.

Not too far away though was a great little place called Flightpath Coffee House and I have to say, in terms of coffeehouses, this is one of the best working environments I've ever been to. It may not have a trendy motif or the coolest indie music playing at all times. But what it does have are a lot of big tables and working spaces, comfortable chairs, and lots of electrical outlets. The place is pretty much packed during the day, and almost everyone has a laptop or at least a book.

The feel of the place is very comfortable, kind of modern and retro at the same time. The staff is very friendly and the coffee is pretty good too. They feature 4 or 5 different brews at one time, including one decaf. And then of course your usual array of barista-created drinks. Haven't gotten a chance to taste any specialty drinks, but I assume I'll be here a lot, so if I try anything noteworthy, I'll let you all know.

Anyways, if you ever need to get some work done, or just want a great place to read, or a comfortable atmosphere to just relax and play some games, give this place a try.

Flightpath Coffee House
5011 Duval (at 51st)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to Keep Austin Tasty!

Hello and welcome to our blog! We are two brand new Austinites who can't wait to explore our new city. We are foodies at heart who are always on the look out for good restaurants that are exciting, delicious, and healthy (or at least delicious enough to be worthy of a cheat meal). Check back often as we discover all that Austin has to offer!