Monday, September 22, 2008

ACL Festival Preview: The Food Booths

Headed to ACL this weekend? I personally cannot wait. Sure the lineup is going to be awesome, and I of course can't wait to see all our Houston friends coming in town, but my personal favorite is the ACL food court. The Austin Eats food courst at ACL features many of the local Austin favorites and is a great chance to try out several at the same time. Han and I went to both ACL and Lollapalooza last year, and believe me, Chicago ain't got nutthin on us.

I've taken the liberty of re-posting the entire menu of the Austin Eats Food Court, with our own commentary of our past experiences, to help you all make decisions once you're at the festival.

Salt Lick Bar-B-Que: Sausage Wrap, Sloppy Nachos, Chopped Brisket Sandwich

You must believe me when I say this will be the very first thing I eat at ACL. In fact... Salt Lick... Vampire Weekend... eh... we'll have to see. In all seriousness, the Salt Lick is widely known as being one of the best, if not THE best, BBQ spots in Texas. Their meats are incredibly tender and covered in their famous BBQ sauce (which, recently, we learned contains unholy amounts of calories and saturated fat, but is delicious nonetheless). I'm probably going with the Chopped Brisket Sandwich.

Hudson's on the Bend: Hot & Crunchy Fish Cone, Hot & Crunchy Chicken Cone, Hot & Crunchy Avocado Cone, Death by Chocolate

These cones are amazing and ACL is a great chance to try of one of Austin's best (and most expensive) restaurants for an affordable price. We had a fish cone and a chicken cone (think pita wraps, not ice cream), and even though they are still a bit pricey for ACL standards, they're pretty much a must-have.

Boomerang's Pies: Guinness Steak & Potato, Southwest Chicken, Spinach & Mushroom

Han and I became fans when we first moved to Austin, so much so that at our first visit we bought an additional 5 frozen pies to take home. Essentially these Australian-influenced meat pies are similar to the chicken pot pies that mom used to make (ok maybe not my mom), with buttery and flaky crusts but filled with flavors of various cultures. I'd definitely give them a try, but it's too bad they're not offering the Curry pies at the festival, because those were definitely my favorite. You can pick some up at their restaurant on Guadalupe and 30th.

Austin's Pizza: Pepperoni Pizza, Cheese Pizza

I've heard it said that pizza is like sex. There's good pizza and there's bad pizza but even bad pizza is still pretty good. Austin's Pizza is definitely the former. Originally located on the drag, there's no surprises with this pizza but it's definitely a good thing.

Doc Green's Gourmet Salads: Chicken Caesar Salad, Dr. Fruity Salad, Grilled Veggie Wrap

There's one of these kind of near where we live. Han liked it a lot but I wasn't blown away. But if you're anything like me, you're probably going to want to take a break from fried foods at some point during the 3 day festival, and this is a pretty good bet.

The Original Hoffbrau Steaks: Steak Sandwich, Cheeseburger, Jumbo Hot Dog

I'd avoid this. Even though Hoffbrau is a local legend, the charm of the place doesn't carry over to a festival setting. I had the steak sandwich last year, and it was literally a steak between two pieces of bread. And not a particularly good steak either. I just think there's too many options here to settle for something you could easily make at home.

The Best Wurst: Grilled Sausage Sandwich with Bratwurst, Smoked Pork Italian, or All Beef Country, New York Buttered Salt-Potatoes

A Sixth street favorite, the Best Wurst definitely lives up to its name. I'd go with the smoked pork italian.

Amy's Ice Cream: Ice Cream with assorted toppings

Chances are, if you are reading this, you already know about Amy's, but they will be at ACL too, and deservedly so. I'm hoping they're bringing the Shiner flavor.

Vespaio Ristorante & Enoteca Vespaio: Housemade Mozzarella, Tomatoes & Basil Pesto, Crispy Calamari with Lemon Aioli, Pork Meatball-Parmesan Hoagie with Melted Mozzarella

We haven't been here yet but we've heard a lot of good things. I'm a big fan of things with mozzarella and/or calamari in general so you can probably bet we'll have something to report after the festival.

Here are the rest of the offerings:
Aquarelle Restaurant: Steak N Frit Sandwich, Crawfish Poor boy, Blackpepper French Fries
El Chilito Tacos: Chochinita Pibil Taco, Tinga de Pollo Taco, Bean and Cheese Taco
Austin's Best Burgers: Cheeseburger, Veggie Burger, Cheese Fries, Sliced Watermelon
P. Terry's Burger Stand: Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Chicken Burger, Veggie Burger
Pureheart: Beef and Lamb Gyros, Mediterranean Veggie Gordita, Greek Salad, Turkey Panini
Restaurant Jezebel: Falafel Pita Sandwich, Cold Pasta with black olive pesto, Big'ol Curried potato, Cabbage and Pea Burrito
Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant: Hawaiian Style Smoked Turkey Leg, Pulled Kahlua Pork Nachos, Grilled Sausage on a Stick
Saba Blue Water Café: Mahi Mahi Fish Taco (chipotle aoli slaw), Pulled Pork Taco, Chicken & Cheese Flautas, Coconut Plantain Shrimp
Solar Natural Wraps: Falafel Wrap, Hummus Wrap, Chicken Wrap
Stubb's BBQ: Chopped Beef Sandwich with Fritos, Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fritos, Sliced Brisket Sandwich with Fritos
Thistle Café: Chicken Chipotle Wrap, Smoked Turkey Wrap, Veggie Wrap
Wahoo's Fish Taco: Blackened Fish or Grilled Chicken Tacos, Fish or Chicken Burrito, Vegetarian Burrito.


Best Lemonade: Fresh Squeezed Lemonade, Fresh Squeezed Strawberry Lemonade, Fresh Squeezed Blueberry Lemonade
Flipnotics Chilled Beverages: Strawberry Smoothie, Mocha Frappe, Iced Coffee
Maine Root Hand Crafted Beverages: Root Beer, Ginger Brew, Prickly Pear Agave Lemonade
Sambazon Acai-Organic Smoothies: Organic Acai Smoothie, Organic Acai Juice, Rio Bowl, Rasta Bowl


Ben & Jerry's/Lifeworks: Cherry Garcia ice cream bar, Half Baked ice cream bar, Vanilla ice cream bar
Children of the Kettle Corn: Organic Kettle Corn
nICE CONEz: Shaved Block ice Snow Cones, Snow Cones stuffed with ice cream
Snowie: Regular and All Natural Snow Cones

Also don't forget that there are plenty of great restaurants outside the festival near by too, including Shady Grove, Baby A's, Chuy's, Flipnotics, and Austin Java. If you've got an hour or two between shows, why not take a break from the crowds and enjoy some air conditioning?

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Hey everyone. We're back. The hurricane madness seems to have passed. Luckily all friends and family are safe and unharmed, and no one we know even had any major property damage. In the meantime, we're having a blast hanging out with our refugee friends.

Anyways, this is a bit of old news, but I definitely wanted to write about our dinner at Zoot, before I forget. So, from what we understand, there is kind of a "big three" of Austin fine dining, and they are Uchi, Fonda San Miguel, and Zoot. We are planning on visiting all three in the upcoming months.

Overall, let me just say that Han and I have been to a modestly decent number of fine dining restaurants in Houston, and wow, Zoot pretty much blows all of them away.

Actually, let me clarify that a little first. I consider myself to be a "foodie" but by no means a food connoisseur. I love trying new and interesting dishes, and I always appreciate innovation over the same things over again, but I'm also not one to require the latest culture fusion dishes with trendy designer ingredients. Atmosphere is very important to me, and I like dining at upscale places, but I also feel really uncomfortable if the restaurant is stuffy or elitist.

Zoot is pretty much the perfect balance of everything. The restaurant itself is cozy and set inside of a house, kind of like Just Dinner in Houston. The interior was white table cloth and very classy, but comfortable enough that you'd still be ok wearing jeans.

But the reason this place was such a home run was the food. Some times when I've gone to expensive restaurants for dinner, I feel like I'm paying the extra money because whoever created the dish was more creative than someone else. The food at Zoot was like the work of a master artist, where the technique and craftsmanship were every bit as good as the creativity of the recipe. Every single bite we had was perfectly seasoned, perfectly textured, and perfectly prepared.

Zoot is famous for its Chef's Tasting Menu and its Farmer's Tasting Menu, but we kind of opted to build our own. We started out with a take on tomato basil soup with grilled cheese. The soup was savory, creamy, and flavorful, and the (minature) grilled cheese sandwich was perfectly buttered and lightly textured.

And then it was off to the second appetizer, foie gras, which I had for the very first time. Now, those of you who know me know that I try to be a good person. I recycle, I drive a hybrid, I donate to charity, and I love animals. But God help me, I feel awful saying this, but foie gras is DELICIOUS. (Veal is too, btw.) The foie gras is one of the specialties of Zoot, and it's not cheap, but I can definitely say it's worth the money. Unbelievably tender and fatty, it's hard not to just wolf it down in one bite.

Next came the entrees. I had the seared duck breast and Han had the roasted escolar. Like I said earlier, every single bite we had was both perfect and uniform. All we had to do was sit back and enjoy it. I apologize because the pictures of our dishes didn't turn out but they wouldn't have done justice anyways.

Lastly we finished it off with a french press of coffee and a salt toffee ice cream sandwich. Absolutely amazing. The mixture of sweet and salty made you pause when you tasted it because it was such an odd combination, but once you were done processing it, all you wanted to do was eat more.

509 Hearn St

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Recipe: Mango Salsa

Someone once asked if we were going to put recipes on here.  Han and I are by no means superstars in the kitchen, and I can only shudder to imagine what you all might think if I ever posted about some of Han's "grab 4 random things from the fridge and throw them in a pot" dinners, but every now and then we find a recipe (or make something up) that might actually fool people into thinking we know what we're doing. 

Here's a pretty good recipe we found a few days ago that's not only delicious but unbelievably easy. 

1 large or 2 medium sized mangoes (largely diced)
1 cucumber (diced)
1/2 medium sized onion (you guessed it, diced)
1 tablespoon minced jalapenos (this is for a very mild salsa, add more if you want it spicier)
A few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Throw them all together in a big bowl and mix together. 

And voila! You're gourmet.  Eat it with chips or throw it on a tortilla with grilled mahi-mahi and chopped red cabbage and have one of the best fish tacos you've ever had (that you made, anyways). 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Post-Tubing Grub: The Gristmill

[Editor's note: This post coming to you live from Chrome!] 

So Berman and Lindsay came up to visit this weekend and we all had an awesome time.  On Sunday we all went up to the Guadalupe which was a blast as always.  Of course we ended up staying on the river much longer than planned, so we were definitely starving by the time we left.  Berman had a fantastic suggestion for some post-tubing grub. 

Right by the river is the historic district of Greune.  I'd heard a lot about this area as a great day trip from Austin, and believe me it was pretty much exactly as described.  It was a very quaint old town with a lot of wooden-sided buildings and a great place to just stroll around and look at shops and eat food.  At the heart of the Greune district is the Gristmill, a very popular restaurant right by the river. 
The look-and-feel is very reminicent of the legendary Salt Lick BBQ.  The "inside" looks like the inside of an old watermill, and the outside seating was on a spacious patio under the trees with a great view of the river.  It's perfect for post-river floating because you're out of the hot sun but still get to enjoy the outdoors. 

The food itself was satisfying.  No one at our table seemed to have a "can't-miss" dish, but everyone seemed pleased.  If you go, go ahead and pass on the queso, but the Gruene Wings and the Texas Torpedos (stuffed jalapenos) were as good as I've had in a while. Here, Yesenia chomps down on her Chicken Salad Sandwich. 

The Guadalupe Chopped Beef was an interesting entree. At first glance it looked like just a plain regular hamburger patty, but inside it was stuffed with queso, jalapenos, and onions.  A diet killer for sure. 

I do wish though that there were more barbeque options. Maybe it was because the place looked a little like the Salt Lick, maybe because we were in the Hill Country, home of legendary barbeque, or maybe it's because Gristmill sounds like "Greasemill" or "Gristlemill," but I was really jonesing for some post-river barbeque. The only option it looked like they had was the Best Wurst, which I opted not to get, but I guess you should always leave something for next time. 

The Gristmill
1287 Gruene Rd
New Braunfels, TX