parkside with Shawn Cirkiel

Shawn Cirkiel has been a star of the Austin restaurant scene since 2002 when he took over the wildly popular Jean Luc’s Bistro and made it his own.  His commitment then as well as now to local ingredients and creative presentation have garnered him legions of fans as well as critical acclaim including two trips to cook at the James Beard house.

Shawn’s latest restaurant, parkside, is a casual gastro pub intended to showcase his take on the New American Cuisine on 6th street in the heart of downtown Austin.  A recent trip for a celebratory dinner in honor of my friend Michelle was a delicious reminder of why parkside was named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the “Hot 10 New American Taverns.”

First course was a sumptuous bite from the raw bar.  Instead of flowery descriptions, parkside lists this appetizer as:

madai, cherry gelee, toasted pistachio, fried basil

Madai, by the way, is a Japanese fish similar to snapper.  The slight sweetness from the gelee brought out a brightness in the firm white fish.  Notes of green from the basil and crunch of the pistachios rounded out the delightful first bite.

Next came a dozen oysters of three different varieties.  I should mention now that Wednesdays are my favorite night at parkside because the oysters and champagne are half price.  The raw bar offers a selection of at least half a dozen different oysters.  My favorite this trip were the Blue Points, very buttery and briny.

The gnocchi were light, little melt in your mouth pillows of a dumpling with an earthy mushroom medley and sauce.

Chef Cirkiel taught a class last fall at Central Market that included his recipe for a savory sweet potato soup topped with, wait for it——-  BACON MARSHMALLOWS!  The marshmallows were toasted brown on top so they melted into the soup and gave a little textural crunch.  It was probably one of my favorite bites of the year.  But new seasons bring new soups and Chef did not disappoint.  

Velvety corn chowder with bacon and chive fritters tasted like summer in a bowl.  The corn soup was pureed smooth and topped with lightly fried bacon fritters and a dash of chive oil for color.

Sides for the meal were 2 huge platters of fried okra and brussel sprouts.  The okra were lightly breaded and fried to a delicate balance of past golden brown but not overcooked to achieve a crispy perfection without even a hint of okra slime.  The brussel sprouts were heavily studded with chunky bits of bacon that gave a smoky flavor to the bright green sprouts.

Entree was the pan seared halibut pictured at the top of the post.  This lovely chunk of fish was perfectly cooked and fell into beautiful flakes with the touch of a fork.  Honestly, I was falling rapidly into a food coma but being a pastry chef, I had to forge ahead!

We had a nice goat cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries.  There was a plain tuille cookie on the plate that seemed like an afterthought but the standout was the basil ice cream.  It was the palest of green with a slightly herbal flavor.  My favorite was the warm chocolate brownie with toffee ice cream and pecan tuille.  Sweet, crunch, soft, cold, warm, chocolate all in one bite.  A perfect end to an orgy of food.  Thank you, Chef!

Originally uploaded by christy111luv


Did you know is housed here in Austin?  That’s Buckley Wineholt on the right  interviewing a winemaker about his pinot noir on TV.  Got an email from Buckley today announcing a big clearance sale TODAY May 14 from Noon-7 at 5005 Commercial Park Dr Austin, TX 78724.  I have gotten some great bargains from the VIP list including a beautifully deep shiraz from Two Hands that was #14 on Wine Spectator’s top 100 last year.  This wine normally retails for around $60-$80 and I got it at a STEAL for $30 during one of Buckley’s sales.  I will be there this afternoon.  Hope to see you there!!

Galaxy Cupcakes

TLC is airing a new 6 part series narrated by John Goodman called “Best Food Ever.”  Central Texas is represented in each episode!  Tonight is Bodacious Bakeries including Georgetown’s Galaxy Cupcakes, featured for their “moist cocktail cupcakes.”

As a pastry chef, I am VERY picky about baked goods.  The recent soar in cupcake popularity has led to a surge in beautiful but tasteless cupcakes.  I am happy to say this is not the case with Galaxy.  I tried all four of the chocolate cupcakes available the day I was in Georgetown and found them all moist and made from scratch.  The chocolate and mocha were good but the outstanding ones were the mint and ruby port which both also had a delicious, chocolaty ganache in addition to the buttercream frosting.  What can I say, I am an icing girl!

Most of the time I find the mint flavor overpowering but in this case a delicate hint of mint went well with the dark chocolate ganache enrobing the top of the cupcake.  My favorite was the pretty in pink ruby port made from the port produced at the Georgetown winery.  Again, subtle in flavor, the port adds a warmth and depth to the icing instead of boozy and cloying as I feared.

The ladies at the bakery were a delight and very helpful as well.  I will be making a return trip soon!

And the Winners are….

Winners for the 2010 James Beard Awards are out.  Here is the full list. 

No Texas winners, in fact pretty much just the usual suspects.  Daniel Bolud with nine previous awards, Jean-Georges Vongerichten with 25, and Danny Meyer with 20 collective awards still rule New York.  Tom Colicchio from Craft got the best chef award. 

A West Coast nod went out to Thomas Keller’s wunderkind and chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth who received the Rising Star Award.  Hollinsworth also served as U.S. representive at the illustrious Bocuse d’Or competition last year in France where he placed sixth.

In the blog world, Serious Eats took the blog award.  This sight is great and I especially love the science stuff from Kenji.  Check out his article for turning your beer cooler into a sous vide.  (Please be especially careful to watch your food temps or you could end up with botchulism, yuck!)  The Peepshi idea came from this sight also. 

Congratulations to all the winners!

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Poundcake

This recipe came as a result of my favorite kind of dining, guerrilla dinner party.  Picture it, an assortment of Austin hipsters are hanging out on a porch in Buda.  And I know they are hipsters, myself included, because they would be really pissed to find out someone was trying to define their coolness with something as bourgeois as a label.   They are drinking Lone Stars in truly vintage t shirts that some might pay a fortune for but I know for a fact came from the bar one used to work at as a gimme from the beer company and another was actually purchased at the Fishbone concert in the 80’s and it looks washed and worn because it has been.  At least they are not fake hipsters.

Anyway, said hipsters on the porch happen to be a couple of miles from one of the best meat markets around that also functions as a Mexican market/gas station.  I know exactly how to get there but I am not sure of the address.  I just know all the roads you turn on start with RR or FM.  The boys bring back 5 gorgeous New York Strips for less than $5 each, a suitcase of Natty Light, and more Lone Star. 

I  brought a beautiful box of produce leftover from the chef demo tent at the Wine and Food Fest, so Michelle and I start making sides with the vibrant purple cabbage and sweet, fresh corn.  But we need something for dessert.  I had given Michelle an autographed copy of The Essential Baker by Carol Bloom who I had the great pleasure to work with at the Central Market Cooking School a while back.  Michelle had made the cornmeal pound cake before and thought she might just have the ingredients to make it.  Lucky for us she did!

I added the blueberries to the batter instead of the compote that Ms. Bloom used and  kicked up the tartness with a fabulous lemony glaze that sent us in to a puckery heaven with the crunch of the cornmeal crust.  This cake is a wonderful cross between cornbread and blueberry muffins.  Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Poundcake

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries-  if you use frozen, do not thaw or your batter will turn purple

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups cake flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

zest (optional but adds a wonderfully tart texture) and juice of 4 lemons, approximately 1/4 cup

1 cup confectioners sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 8 1/2 inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Place the 12 tablespoons butter in large bowl and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cream together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping in between each egg addition.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, powder, salt, and cornmeal. Add to the butter mixture in 3 stages, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add the lemon zest and juice.  Fold in blueberries.  Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. It should be very thick, so spread it evenly throughout the pan. Bake 45 minutes, until the cake is light golden on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out slightly moist.
  5. Combine lemon juice and confectioners sugar.  Let cake cool about 10 minutes and pour 1/2 of glaze over cake.  Let sit for another 15-20 minutes and pour over rest of glaze over cake.

* if you do not have cake flour, use 1 TBS less of all pupose flour.

Luncheon at Fall Creek Vineyard

Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Fest is one of my favorite foodie events of the year.  I attended for the first time 7 years ago and had so much fun that I have volunteered every year since.  I always start the fest with one of the luncheons in the Hill Country at a winery.  For the last few years I have been lucky enough to attend the luncheon at Fall Creek Vineyards.

Susan and Ed Auler are luminaries of the Texas wine world.  The very first fest 25 years ago, the legend goes, was planned around Susan’s kitchen table along with a now megastar in the wine world, Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible and beloved PBS host.

Here is the menu we enjoyed with pictures:

1st Course

Seared Texas Shrimp and Blue Crab with White-Truffled Gazpacho

By Chef Jon Bonnell

Peregrine Hills Chardonnay

2nd Course

Texas Coffee Rubbed Grilled Strip Steak,
Roasted Parsnips, Candied Garlic, Mesquite Syrup

By Chef Josh Watkins

Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, “Salt Lick Vineyards”, 2008

Dessert Course

Pound Cake, Fresh Seasonal Berries and Lemon Curd

By Chef Randy Evans

Llano Estacado Moscato

The grounds at Fall Creek are gorgeous.  Especially charming during this lush spring were the bluebonnets blooming among the vines.  Only in Texas!!

Chef Jon Bonnell prepared a creamy gazpacho that perfumed the air with the scent of white truffle.  The soup was topped with blue crab and Texas Gulf shrimp and matched with a crisp Chardonnay from Perregrine Hills.

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Josh Watkins.  He shines like no other at the Carillon.  But have you ever had a steak cooked to a perfect medium rare at any kind of large event off site from the restaurant?  Josh’s solution is to cook the steaks sous vide, which basically means searing the meat off, sealing in a plastic bag, and then placing them in a large warm bath where they can be brought up to the perfect temperature.  Another advantage to sous vide is that almost the entire steak is the correct degree of doneness and not just the pink center with a ring of gray around it.  The steaks where enhanced by a lovely Tempranillo from Fall Creek but what I really wanted was the big, bold, and hard to come by Meritus that Fall Creek produces.

And I learned the secret to Josh’s candied garlic garnish!  Maybe I will share in another post.

Of course, as a pastry chef, dessert is my favorite!  I have an obsession with lemon curd which almost bloomed into a business at one point and Randy Evans did not disappoint.  The pound cake was toasted for textural crunch, placed upon a layer of lemony buttery curd, then topped with fresh Texas strawberries and lightly whipped cream.  Beautiful and tasty, it inspired me to create a blueberry version over the weekend which I will post along with recipe soon.  Chef Evan’s version was paired with a not too sweet, almost musky Llano Estacado Moscato.

What a great start to a lovely weekend!


When I saw the post from Serious Eats on making sushi out of Rice Krispie Treats and decapitated Peeps, I had to give it a shot.  Their recipe called for store bought Rice Krispies and Fruit by the Foot.  Of course, I had to make my own! 

Here is the recipe straight from Kellog’s website for Rice Krispie Treats:  

  • 3 tablespoons  butter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40)  regular marshmallows
  • – OR –
  • 4 cups  miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups  Rice Krispies®


1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
2. Add KELLOGG’S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.


For best results, use fresh marshmallows.
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème can be substituted for marshmallows.
Diet, reduced calorie or tub margarine is not recommended.
Store no more than two days at room temperature in airtight container. To freeze, place in layers separated by wax paper in airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

     I thought it would be easier to mold the the Treats before they were set.  It wasn’t.  I found the easiest method was to let them set fully and then cut off slices about 1/2 an inch thick.  Also a good idea to butter your hands and have a cup of water standing by to quickly wash off sticky goo. 
     Fruit leather is very simple  and a heck of lot cheaper and tastier to make yourself.  Basically you make a fruit puree by peeling and pureeing in a food processor whatever fruit you feel like and then straining out the solids.  Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, add sugar to the puree to taste.  You can also add a touch of lemon or any spices you want at this point.  Cook the puree on the stove top until thickened.  This will vary depending on the water content in your fruit.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap (the kind that is microwave safe) or use a silpat baking mat.  Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.  Place the baking sheet in the oven, try to keep any plastic wrap from touching the sides of the oven or the oven racks. Also try to make sure that the plastic wrap hasn’t folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won’t dry out. Heat the oven to a low 140°F. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and form fruit leather. I usually keep it in the oven overnight, so about 8-12 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.  I have even over dried it before and it became almost brittle but I just brushed it with some water and it became pliable again.
     I found it easier to shape individual pieces of the sushi and cutting the leather to fit the pieces.  It might have been possible to shape in rolls like regular sushi but I did not have a rolling mat.  I used Pop Rocks to garnish like roe as well as sesame seeds and chocolate sprinkles. 
I took these to a birthday celebration and had to get a shot of my biggest fan!!

BBQ Cookoff

Yeehaw!  I am not really a country music fan.  Like most little girls, especially in Texas, I did grow up with a fondness for horses but I was never really drawn to the rodeo.  Until I discovered free beer and barbecue at the BBQ Cook off at the Star of Texas Rodeo.  I have to say it again, FREE BEER AND BARBECUE.  I love Texas!

In addition to the livestock show, roping competitions, and carnival rides, a couple dozen teams compete in the annual barbecue cookoff.  They set up their smokers and in a few cases elaborate tents meant to draw in the public to taste their wares.  There are actual judges for different categories such as best brisket and best beans but the public gets to vote as well with their dollars into tip jars that go towards the Austin Rodeo Scholarship fund.  Many of the venues hand out beer, wine, even jello shots to raise money. 

This Saturday a final bitter winter wind blew into Austin on the first day of Spring.  The whipping wind may have discouraged some from attending but by 3:00PM most of the tents were packed with patrons enjoying the live music as well as the food and drinks.  The La Pasadita tent pictured above is always one of the favorites.  Maybe it was all the free beer but I found myself returning again and again to this tent for the tasty brisket, crispy fried catfish, and the great entertainment from LC Rocks. 

Despite the chill in the air, the rodeo means spring festival season in Austin is upon us.  Look for me at Reggae Fest, Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Fest, and, of course, Eeyore’s Birthday Party.  And for those of you visiting for SXSW,  try and make it out of downtown and come to the rodeo next year!

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