Monday, November 17, 2008

Austin Land and Cattle

I've read enough Michael Pollan to understand the benefits of vegetarianism. And if you ask me now, my belief is that red meat should be treated as an indulgence and not an every-meal staple, kind of like a hot fudge sundae. But at the end of the day, I just appreciate a good steak far too much to ever quit cold turkey.

For Han's birthday, we went to Austin Land & Cattle, located on Lamar. I think what I like best about this restaurant is what I like best about Texas: it's unabashed and upfront. Don't get me wrong, the interior is very nice, decorated with white tablecloths and antique ranch-style decor, but when you walk in, it's not like you'll ever confuse this place with Fleming's.

The service was had the same charm. Sure our waiter was dressed in slacks and a tie, but he also talked like he worked at Chili's. I loved it.

And when I say that the restaurant is upfront, it's never more apparent that in the food. You definitely get the steaks that you pay for. Nothing fancy, no crazy Asian-fusion marinades or New American-style side dishes. Just delicious high-quality beef cooked to perfection.

Now, I don't consider myself to be a steakhouse snob or anything, but I do believe that when eating steak, the only two cuts worth your time are the ribeye and the filet (that is, unless, you're going the porterhouse or chateau briand route). So Han and I got exactly that.

The bone-in ribeye (also known as The Cowboy) looked more to me like The Tennis Raquet (pictured above). Perfectly marblized, each bite begins to melt like butter the second you put it in your mouth.

Han's filet mignon was also pretty sizeable and was also perfectly tender and chewy.

What was most interesting about Austin Land & Cattle was the selection of sauces you could get with your steak. Upon recommendation we decided on getting the Roasted Garlic Sauce and the Gorgonzola Butter, which tasted a lot like blue cheese. I usually prefer not to put anything on my steaks, but the sauces were pretty good and probably worth the extra $3 per sauce.

The side dishes were pretty much as you would expect. I definitely reccommend the garlic mashed potatoes. We also had the Oysters Tex-afeller for appetizer. They were just like Oysters Rockafeller but with a pretty big jalapeno kick.

The only downside to the meal was the creme brulee we had for dessert. Of course any creme brulee is good creme brulee, but this particular one sort of tasted like it came from a buffet line. It did come free, though, with our meal. Our waiter said his present to Han was both the dessert and saving our ears by NOT singing "Happy Birthday" to her.

Austin Land & Cattle Company
1205 N. Lamar

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quality Seafood

A long-standing Austin tradition, Quality Seafood Market (motto: "Selling Our Sole Seven Days a Week") has been serving Austin's freshest seafood in a laid-back atmosphere since the 1930's.

Because of its location and value, it is rapidly becoming an every-week spot for us. They'll probably know us by name by the end of the year.

Like many Austin favorites, you wouldn't know it by looking at it, and you'd probably drive by it 100 times and not give it a second thought, if it weren't for the hoards of people packed in every night.

The premise is simple, if not unique. Go up to the counter and order any number of fresh seafood dishes, then either take it to go or sit down at a table and chow away. Or instead, get your fish directly from the adjacent fish market and go home and cook it yourself. Han and I have gone both routes, and can vouch for great experiences either way.

When dining in, Quality Seafood's biggest asset is just that: the quality of their seafood. The dishes they serve are exactly the same dishes you've had a hundred times over: fried clams, blackened salmon, peel-n-eat shrimp. There is nothing necessarily remarkable about these dishes except the shrimp are exceptionally savory, the salmon especially delectable, and the fried seafood is the best fried anything you've ever had.

In fact, though it goes against our recent goal of trying to eat healthy, the fried shrimp and the fried clams are what has kept us coming back week after week. Lightly battered and equally lemony and buttery, Quality Seafood's frying process definitely enhances the taste and flavor of their seafood instead of masking it. Something you definitely won't get at Long John Silver.

Also right now is a great time to visit Quality Seafood if you are a fan of oysters on the half shell. Imported straight from the gulf, you can get some of the biggest oysters in town for a very reasonable price. See above.

Quality Seafood also has great specials Monday through Thursday with huge discounts on certain dishes and beers, but even if you can't make it then, their non-happy hour beer is still so cheap ($2.50 domestics) that you can't lose either way.

But the best part about Quality Seafood is the staff. Everyone there from the bartenders to the busboys are incredibly chummy and very friendly and helpful to everyone from regulars to first-timers.

Quality Fun Fact: The most famous employee ever to work at Quality Seafood is none other than Joe Lewis, as in Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears fame. Word on the street is he used to alternate working the counter and driving the fish truck in the morning. I'm not sure if he still works there now that his band has kind of taken off, but you will still see an homage to him at the restaurant, in the form of a Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears t-shirt hanging behind the bar.

When you visit the fish market, the experience is more of the same. Sure the prices are going to be a bit higher than HEB, but everything there was caught that morning, never frozen. And with raw seafood you definitely get what you pay for. The fishmongers there are more than willing to give you their recommendations for the day, and if you have any questions about how to prepare the fish there, they are happy to help. The first time Han and I went to Quality Seafood we ordered two pounds of mussels. The fishmonger helping us personally picked through each mussel to make sure that it was still alive and that we would get no duds when we cooked them. Yeah we paid a little extra instead of going to HEB but we definitely got more of our money's worth by going to the Quality fish market.

Anyways, in conclusion, it may not be in the most convenient location in town for you (or the nicest) but definitely make it a point to come on by. Han and I will probably be there too.

Quality Seafood Market
5621 Airport Blvd