Bites and Bloggers and More Life Changes

logoI am so excitednervoussadhappystressed. As usual, I have a million things going on (don’t we all?) Thank God for good friends and fellow bloggers who are getting me through. First up on my plate, I have been asked to speak on a philanthropy panel at BlogHer ’13 Food here in Austin next weekend. I am so flattered. It should be an interesting panel. We have had several conference calls to get acquainted and all the panelists are coming from different perspectives. It is titled Your Brand+Your Cause and it is during the 10:15  breakouts on Saturday. If you happen to be attending and have a chance, come see if I can actually put a coherent thought together in front of an audience.

More importantly, if you are a blogger in Austin or visiting for the conference, the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance is throwing a heck of a kickoff party along with the Austin Food and Wine Alliance and Whole Foods on Thursday called Bites and Bloggers including a long list of Austin’s top female chefs. It’s FREE! Here are the deets:

When

Thursday, June 6
5:30-8:00 pm

Where

Whole Foods Market Lamar
525 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, Texas 78703

The Bloggers

All food bloggers are welcome to attend! Membership to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance is not necessary. Male and female food bloggers are welcome. Admission is free, but RSVP as soon as you can–this event will fill up fast!

The Chefs

Austin’s top female chefs will be preparing small bites for us to enjoy. They’ll also be on hand to chat with bloggers and talk shop.

Alma Alcocer-Thomas – El Alma Cafe

Erica Beneke – Max’s Wine Dive

Sonya Cote – The Homegrown RevivalHillside Farmacy and Eden East

Illiana de la Vega – El Naranjo

Jodi Elliott – Foreign & Domestic

Kristine Kittrell – Mulberry Austin

Jessica Maher – Lenoir

Sarah McIntosh – Epicerie

Rebecca Meeker – Jeffrey’s

Kendall Melton – Contigo

Janina O’Leary – Trace

Nicole Patel – Delysia Chocolatier

Rebecca Rather – The Pink Pig (Fredericksburg)

Laura Sawicki – La Condesa & Sway

Monica Sinclair – Congress

Callie Spear – Swift’s Attic

Nadine Thomas – W Hotel Austin

 

I am also in the middle of planning the AFBA fundraiser coming up July 19th Cupcakes and Cocktails and looking for a new job as my contract with Cooking Planit will be coming to an end soon. Ack!! More about these things soon. Join me at Bites and Bloggers. I need a little drinky poo or two.

 

Wrap Party for The ATX BBQ Quest on Sunday

Paul PetersenChef Instructor and BBQ Pitmaster Chef Paul Petersen of the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts to be Featured in “The ATX BBQ Quest” Short Film

Wrap Party for the Film to be Held in the School’s Garden with

Event Proceeds Benefiting the School’s Farm To Table® Student Scholarship Fund

 

AUSTIN, TX (May 2, 2013) – The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts located at 6020-B Dillard Circle in Austin, Texas, will host a wrap party on Sunday, May 19 from 6 – 9 p.m. for the Texas Food Crawlers and AUSTIN Foodstyle magazine’s  short film “The ATX BBQ Quest”.  Tickets to the event are available for purchase online at http://bbqwrap.eventbrite.com with proceeds benefiting the school’s Farm To Table® Student Scholarship Fund.

 

The short film, created by Texas Food Crawlers creator Hayden Walker and in partnership with AUSTIN Foodstyle magazine will take viewers on a journey that explores Austin BBQ hot spots Live Oak, StilesSwitch and La Barbeque as well as interview award-winning BBQ Pitmaster and Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Chef Instructor, Paul Petersen.

 

“We are fortunate to have Chef Petersen from Season One of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters as an expert resource for this project. We look forward to sharing our experience with Austin and our YouTube short film viewers,” said Shawn Lively, publisher of the new AUSTIN Foodstyle magazine.

 

“We’re looking forward to hosting the ATX BBQ Quest wrap party in our garden.  I have barbeque in my blood and am honored to be a part of this exciting project.  Escoffier’s strong relationship with our local farmers allows me to handpick all of the meats and vegetables that go on our pit and gives us the ability to share a true Farm To Table® experience with others,” said Chef Instructor and BBQ Pitmaster, Chef Paul Petersen.

Event includes complete dinner created by Chef Paul Petersen along with small bites from StilesSwitch and La Barbeque, featured beverages from Honest Tea, Independence Brewery, Fall Creek Vineyards, Bone Spirits, Z Tequila, and Jameson Irish Whiskey, and live music by local musician Bob Apple. To purchase tickets, visit http://bbqwrap.eventbrite.com or contact Special Events Manager, Nancy Marr at nmarr@escoffier.edu.

 

For more information regarding the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, visit www.escoffier.edu, call 866-552-2433 or follow us on facebook at www.facebook.com/escoffierschool. For more information regarding the school’s Culinary Adventures program, contact Special Events Manager, Nancy Marr at nmarr@escoffier.edu or call 512-451-5743.

 

Austin Bakes for West

austinbakesposter1So if you haven’t heard, it is time to circle the fundraising bake sale wagons. Austin Bakes who held the phenomenally successful bake sales raising money for tsunamis in Japan and wildfires in Bastrop is rolling out next weekend for our neighbors in West, Texas. Bakers, volunteers, and most of all, patrons are needed for May 4th, 2013. Eight convenient locations and goodies from the best in central Texas with all of the donations going to a good cause. I will update later in the week with the donations coming from epicuriosities and Cooking Planit.com. See ya’ll there!

Cookie Swap Plus Recipe for Grandma’s Cowboy Cookies

 

IMG_4979Despite the million other things we all have going on around the holidays, when I saw the call for a blogger cookie swap to raise money to fight kids cancer, I knew I wanted to participate. Julie at The Little Kitchen and Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil were the brave organizers of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. For a small registration fee of $4 (which all went to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer), each blogger receives 3 contacts Secret Santa style. You send a dozen cookies to each and in return, you receive a dozen cookies from 3 other bloggers. Neat, huh?

In addition, the good folks at OXO are matching the donations and sent each participant the super cute “be a good cookie spatula”. Half of the sales from the spatula are also being donated to CFKC

IMG_4992The cookies I received were so tasty!  Big thanks to DJ’s Sugar Shack for the Chocolate Cookies Stuffed with Salted Caramel , In Her Chucks for the Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies, and Pennies on a Platter for the Butterscotch Cornflake Cookies. All delicious!

I sent cookies to The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler, Chocolate and Carrots, and blogchickabowow. I included both my business cards, a Scooby Doo Christmas card, and still neglected to tell them what kind of cookies I was sending. Although I usually like a soft cookies, I had box of Crispy Rice cereal (yes, I spelled it right, it is the generic version) I wanted to use. I dug through my recipe box for my grandmother’s Cowboy Cookies and got to work.

IMG_4977Cowboy Cookies are a highly versatile version of a chocolate chip cookie, usually containing oats and chocolate chips but pretty much open to interpretation after that. The combination of oil and butter gives a crisp, shortbread texture and the crispy rice cereal adds an extra crunch that is hard to identify on first bite. So you must follow up with many more bites, just to be sure. I also added a cup of dried fruit that I had on hand that gave a nice chewy sweet kick to them as well. I am not a raisin fan but little bits of dried mango, pineapple, and cranberries go well in cookies as well as homemade granola. I used a smaller scoop for the cookies to make sure I had enough and boy, did I. This made almost 5 dozen 3 inch cookies. Quality control is very important. I had to taste a few before I boxed them up. Then decided I better send 1 1/2 dozen to each of my bloggers before I ate them all.

[kitchenbug-your-recipe-appears-here-5063]

  • 1 cup Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 3 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Crispy Rice Cereal
  • 1 cup Quick Oats
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Dried Fruit

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° and line sheet pans with parchment paper.

Combine butter and oil as well as you can and then blend in sugars until creamy and smooth.

Add egg, salt and vanilla to butter and sugar.

In separate bowl, combine flour, and baking powder. Then add oats and cereal to flour mixture.

Combine butter mixture with flour mixture to make a soft dough, then fold in chocolate chips and dried fruit.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

 

 

Two more bonus links-  to the Round Up of all of the participating bloggers! Part one at Love and Oil and part 2 at The Little Kitchen. Just a few hundred more cookie recipes to drool over :-)

Share Our Strength Killed by Dessert

 

Share Our Strength.    Killed By Dessert Austin

November 5, 2012 

5:30 P.M. VIP Admission

6 P.M. General Admission and Reception

7 P.M. Guests are seated

Foreign & Domestic
306 E. 53rd Street
Austin, TX


Join the country’s top pastry chefs for an unforgettable evening of dessert to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Killed by Dessert is a collaboration of far-flung friends- a mere slice of a broad pastry chef community. Spontaneously conceived among the mumblings and rumblings of social media, our vision is to share personal reflections of ‘favorite things’- those things that please us, things that motivate and inspire us, and the processes that often remain hidden in the kitchen.

FOUNDING KILLED BY DESSERT CHEFS

Lincoln CarsonCorporate Pastry Chef, The Mina Group, San Francisco

Bill CorbettExecutive Pastry Chef, The Absinthe Group, San Francisco  

Michael LaiskonisCreative Director, Institute of Culinary EducationNew York City

Francisco MigoyaProfessor of The Culinary Institute of America 

Christina TosiPastry Chef/OwnerMomofuku Milk Bar

LOCAL PARTICIPATING CHEFS

Ned Elliott, Chef/Owner, Foreign & Domestic

Jodi ElliottPastry Chef/Owner, Foreign & Domestic 

Plinio SandalioPastry Chef, The Carillon

Philip SpeerExecutive Pastry Chef, Uchi Restaurants

All proceeds benefit benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.

For General Information, tickets or sponsorship inquiries, please contact:
Emily Byram | ebyram@strength.org | 202-478-6527

VIP Tickets for Killed by Dessert are currently sold out.

Cookie Swap

Now this sounds like fun!

Hey fellow food blogger & cookie lover! Get ready for the
2ND ANNUAL
GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

This year we are even more excited to be partnering with COOKIES FOR KIDS’ CANCER, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. By participating in this cookie swap you are not only contributing to the food blogger community, but also supporting a great cause.

HOW IT WORKS:

  1. STEP1

    SIGN UP. Fill out the sign-up form to participate. Be sure you meet the basic requirements for participation (listed below). Our sign-up system utilizes a double-opt in process. You MUST click the link in your email to confirm your subscription. If you don’t receive a link, check your spam folder or sign up again.

  2. STEP2

    DONATE. Once you confirm your subscription, you will be instructed to make a $4.00 tax-deductible donation directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. You MUST complete this payment to participate in the swap (Why do we require this?). 100% of this donation goes directly to CFKC.

  3. STEP3

    MATCH. We will send you the names and addresses of three other food bloggers. These are your “matches,” the people to whom you will be sending cookies! It’s important you keep these matches a secret until they receive your cookies.

  4. STEP4

    BAKE & SHIP. Now comes the fun part! Whip up a batch of delicious cookies and ship one dozen to each of your three matches by the shipment deadline. Don’t forget to photograph your cookies for your post before you send them off! :)

  5. STEP5

    POST. Post your cookie recipe on your blog and submit the post along with an image (if you have one). We will then collect and compile all participants’ posts and publish them in one huge roundup!

DEADLINES:

Please pay close attention to the official swap timeline, and be sure you will be able to meet these deadlines before signing up to participate.

  1. NOV5

    SIGN UP DEADLINE

    signups will be accepted from October 15 through November 5 at 12 midnight EST.

  2. NOV12

    RECEIVE YOUR MATCHES

    please email us if you do not receive your matches via email by this date.

  3. DEC5

    SHIPMENT DEADLINE

    please be sure your cookies are in the mail on or before this date.

  4. DEC12

    POSTING DATE

    please post your recipe ON this date, and then submit the link to us.

REQUIREMENTS:

YOU MUST HAVE AN ACTIVE FOOD BLOG. In order to participate in this swap you must have an active food blog (Why?). This year, we will be checking participants to make sure they do indeed meet the requirements. An active food blog is defined as:

  • Has been posting for at least 2 months (started on or before August 15, 2012).
  • Has posted at least once in the last 6 months.
  • Subject matter is primarily (at least 51%) focused on food.
  • An actual blog (blogger, wordpress, typepad etc), not a facebook page.

YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MEET THE DEADLINES. Before signing up to participate, be sure you are able to meet the above specified deadlines.

YOUR COOKIE RECIPE MUST BE NEW-TO-YOU, meaning, not one you have posted previously on your blog. It does NOT have to be an original recipe, however please give proper credit when posting someone else’s recipe.

NON-US FOOD BLOGGERS ARE WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE, however we must have at least 4 bloggers from any one country. You will only be matched with bloggers from your own country (to avoid outrageous shipping charges and customs issues). Please contact us if you’d like to get your country on the list.

FOOD ALLERGIES OR DIETARY RESTRICTIONS? No worries, you are still welcome to participate! There’s a question on the sign up form, just answer accordingly. We will do our best to match you with other bloggers with similar restrictions.

FOLLOW THROUGH. Please do not sign up if you do not plan on following through. This swap is supposed to be fun, and that depends on everyone sending their cookies as promised. While we’ve taken steps to verify participants, we have no way of ensuring or confirming that everyone indeed sends their cookies. Your word is all we have to go on, and we are optimistic that that is good enough. Please don’t betray that trust. (Thank you much!)

SIGN UP NOW!

RARING TO GO? By continuing to the sign up form you acknowledge that you have read this entire page (phew!), meet the minimum blogger requirements for participation, and agree to uphold your commitment to this cookie swap. Note that if it turns out you do not meet the requirements or drop out prior to the sign-up deadline, donations are NOT refundable.

Sign Up Now

BONUS!

WE ARE THRILLED TO ANNOUNCE that OXO® will match our donation toCOOKIES FOR KIDS’ CANCER, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 dollars! By participating in this cookie swap you are not only contributing to the food blogger community, but also supporting a great cause.

ALL U.S. PARTICIPANTS who sign up for the cookie swap and complete their donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer will receive a free “Be a Good Cookie” Cookie Spatula, courtesy of OXO®. Your spatula will be sent to the mailing address you enter upon sign up (U.S. residents only, limit one per household). Allow 2-3 weeks for arrival.

*100% of all donations will go directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a recognized 501(c)3 public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey.

Dripping with Taste in Dripping Springs

We have been blessed this year with a relatively mild summer, especially compared with last years record breaking days over 100 degrees.  The 5th annual Dripping with Taste Festival in Dripping Springs, TX had the advantage of a beautiful new location at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company as well as a first cold front of the season that brought temperatures into the low 90’s (don’t laugh, that is a cold front for central Texas in early September!) Record crowds doubled the attendance of last year and led to some crowding issues but the wines, beers, and food for tastings were plentiful and delicious!

Some of my favorites of the wines available for tasting included the Gotas de Oro from Wines of Dotson Cervantes, a crisp bite of fall stone fruits in a glass, an easy drinking Cabernet Claret from Spicewood Vineyards, and a delightfully dark and complex Dolcetto that is not sweet despite the name being Italian for little sweet one from Duchman Family Winery.  General admission patrons were only given 6 tasting tickets and many of the food samples were 2 or more.  Additional tickets were available for purchase for $1 each but so were bottles of wine.  Many festival goers including myself chose to use their tickets for food tastings and purchase a favorite wine to share with others.  This strategy also helped avoid the overcrowding in the tasting room.

In addition to the wineries on hand, many of the local breweries were represented as well including Independence, Jester King, Thirsty Planet, Live Oak, and Real Ale.  Choosing my favorite among the beers is like choosing a favorite child.  It has been a pleasure watching the brew scene explode and mature over the last decade in Austin.  As hard as it is to choose, I would have to say my favorite of the day was the Devil’s Backbone from Real Ale because it is seasonal, hard to find, and very easy drinking despite its high alcohol content of 8.1%.

The food at the festival kept me going with all of that alcohol.  The folks at Wednesday Dinner deliver a 3 course meal to the Dudley’s Wine Bar at 6pm for only $10 per person and the mussels they served at the festival had me wishing I lived closer to Dripping Springs.  The curry and coconut broth had me licking the bottom of the bowl!  Kate’s Place in Wimberley was serving up what they called “Ultimate Mac and Cheese”.  That sounds like a challenge to me, so I had to try it.  The cheese was creamy, the pasta toothy, the crumb topping crunchy, and the addition of tomatoes, not too many, just enough for a textural contrast made for a nice surprise.  Although not my “ultimate” mac and cheese, it was definitely good enough to put Kate’s Place on my list of places to visit soon.

 

My favorite bite of the day came from the Nutty Brown Cafe.  My hands were full and I actually had run out of tickets.  I planned to go by some more and come back to Nutty Brown but one look at the unctuous bowl of Shiner braised short ribs over a steaming bowl of horseradish mashed potatoes and I had to have some immediately!  The chef was nice enough to front me some and I was so glad he did!  The short ribs were fork tender in a savory broth over a bowl of creamy potatoes with just a hint of kick from the horseradish.  Very rich and perfectly paired with the Dolcetto.

Of course, we cannot forget desserts!  And there were plenty of those as well.  Some of the standouts were Better Bites Bakery which offers delicious vegan and gluten-free cake balls and cupcakes.  Their products are available in Austin by delivery as well as at People’s RX among other places.  High Street Chocolates from Comfort, TX offer handmade chocolate bars with a spicy kick.  Rolling in Thyme and Dough is a bakery in Dripping Springs that offer fresh loaves of bread and sandwiches as well as an assortment of desserts and baked goods including a decadent chocolate dipped fig.  Roadside favorite Navidad Farm Pecans had a selection of their specialty nuts and candies including a rainbow of brittles.

In addition to all the food, there were vendors with handcrafted goods, live music all day, and culinary demos plus a huge bar for tasting the delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars available from our host at Texas Hill Country Olive Oil.  


I came early to the fest and intended to leave mid afternoon because of a later event but I had so much fun with the weather, the music, the food, the wine and especially all of the friendly folks I met, I stayed long enough to actually get a bit of a sunburn on my back.  Lounging at one of the tables provided for patrons, I met a steady stream of friends both old and new, exchanging glasses of wines and advice on must try bites of food.  I will definitely be returning to the Hill Country for next year’s fest and even sooner to visit new places and friends.

 

 

 

 

My Dream Job

It has been over 2 months since my last post.  So much has happened.  So much that I have been afraid to talk about because I was convinced that acknowledging it might make it disappear.  I have felt so unworthy of announcing I finally have my dream job.  I have so many talented and dedicated friends that do exactly what I have been doing, some for much longer.  We share what we love about food and cooking, posting it into the unknown ether of the internet, hoping to connect with like souls.  We do it because we are obsessed.  Not for book deals, or cooking shows.  Yes, those are dreams we all share and cheer for when someone we love achieves but know that it’s like taking up basketball to reach the NBA, fun to think about but not entirely practical.

In January 2012, I lost my job of 12 years that I was very good at but had no passion for.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the majority of people work a job that may not fulfill their hearts desire but may fund it.    That in itself is a blessing.  Knowing what makes your heart sing is the first half of the answer.  Finding a way to do it is the second.  A very, very small minority find a way to fund the first half with the second.

I have been blogging for almost 3 years now.  That came about as a failure to my dream of becoming a pastry chef.  I loved pastry school and the years I spent trying to make a living at it.  The truth of being a chef is that it is for the young and the broke.  My knees betrayed me and my bank account could not keep up with the mortgage and car payments.  I would have done better to spend a couple of years on the road after school working at the best gigs I could wrangle working for free but I was too settled in Austin.  I went back to work for the company I had been at before my stab at the culinary world and started to blog as an outlet for all I had learned and all I had met.

There have always been more culinary events in Austin, than I could ever hope to afford to attend.  I also have a love for volunteering that makes me more comfortable behind the scenes anyway, so I spent additional spare time as a volunteer at the Central Market Cooking School, La Dolce Vita, and the Hill Country Wine and Food Festival now the Austin Food and Wine Fest to name a few pouring wine, taking tickets, doing dishes, and on a few lucky occasions, working with some amazing chefs both local and national.  I was not angling to further a career, I was just being a food dork and looking for others who could relate.  Not all of my Facebook friends understand what seeing Martin Yan debone a chicken in 18 seconds in person meant.

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

This quote from first century philosopher Seneca or Oprah Winfrey, take your pick, is my favorite.  My passion led to my preparation which led to my opportunity.  My pastry chef dreams led to my blogging which led to my association with Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, which led to my employment by Cooking Planit.  When I lost my job in January in this age of recession one of my friends recommended I write down my dream job and I remember responding, “What’s the point?  Nobody is going to pay me to bake from my kitchen.”  Yet here I sit in August 2012 and that is pretty much my job  description.  I am truly blessed.

Now that being said, there have been lots of learning opportunities and surprises with this dream gig.  I have been writing recipes for years on my blog and in conjunction with partners like Greenling who has been so generous in supporting my community and my passion.  I am limited on some of the details I can share right now about the Cooking Planit job but basically I am writing and photographing dessert recipes from my kitchen.  The way I have to compile this information is more formal than what I am used to.  I thought I would be knocking out a dozen recipes a week at least.  I am used to writing recipes and baking professionally  but applying these skills to what is essentially writing an online cookbook for a website is profoundly more challenging.  And exciting.

Today I had a “fail” day in the kitchen.  We are having a launch party on Wednesday August 29, 2012 for Cooking Planit and I insisted on doing some small dessert bites for the party.  Partly because my friends that are attending would expect it and partly to hopefully impress the Executive Chef at Cooking Planit, Emily Wilson.  She is the genius behind the plethora of savory chef-tested recipes that Cooking Planit is launching with and she told me that Tiramisu is one of her favorite desserts.  I had visions of knocking out 80 of these or so in a small serving version as an impressive verification of my sweet to her savory.  Of course, today the mixture both curdled and proved to thick for the ISO canister I planned to use to whip out 80 servings.  But also I am learning to embrace the failures as of more value to users.  I can find a million recipes for Tiramisu.  How to prevent/fix a mistake is the most valuable contribution I can have to a recipe that has so many variables.  Hopefully my fails will help our users build on the collective culinary skills.

I have another day to fix mistakes and hopefully wow my friends and new coworkers.  I could not wait another day to claim what I have wanted most.  I am a pastry chef.  My “overnight success” has taken years of training, preparation, volunteering, wanting, and dreaming and if only for one brief and shining moment, I am doing what my heart wants most to earn a living.  I am sharing a passion and knowledge of pastry and baking with others.  May every one of you find and embrace your passion as well.

 

Google Places Mac and Cheese Tour

Picture perfect creamy mac and cheese from Hoover's

Austin is extremely lucky to be one of the first cities to get a Google Community Manager who plans outreach activities like interactive tours, power user parties, SXSW fun, and a million other things designed to promote the Google brand.  Whitney Francis is the whirlwind planner behind all this fun and you should definitely follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Google+ for your chance to attend one of her soirees.

I have been lucky enough to get to go on the BBQ bus, the beer bus, and now the mac and cheese trolley as a reward for doing reviews and entering a contest through what used to be Google Places but is now the new and improved Google Local.

A dozen of us met at 11am on a Saturday to experience the mother of all carb load trips.  We boarded a former Dillo Trolley to head out on a quest to visit some of the top rated places to get macaroni and cheese in Austin.

The man himself, Hoover Alexander.

Our first stop on the tour was at the home of Austin restaurant royalty, Hoover’s.  The man himself was there to greet us.  We were treated to three versions of the mac and cheese including a green chili and a chili mac version but my favorite was the original.  It was a creamy, homestyle classic version with a gooey bright orange sauce just like Mama used to make.

The consensus on the trolley was this version of cheesy goodness would make a perfect side dish to some wonderful crispy fried chicken or smokey barbecue.  Not a fancy gourmet version but simply delicious homestyle goodness.

Brick chicken with mac and cheese at Cover 3 topped with crispy pancetta.

 

Second stop on our tour was at a place I had heard good things about but this was actually my first visit to Cover 3.  This was a decidedly upscale version of the classic and a true stunner.  The creamy sauce enveloped a toothsome bowl of pasta, topped with a semi-boneless grilled chicken and crispy strips of pancetta that lent a smokey, salty punch to the dish.  I will definitely be making a return trip to Cover 3 to check out their happy hour and some of their other dishes soon.

Jack Gilmore, chef and owner of Jack Allen's

 

Last stop on the carb trolley was at one of my favorite’s, Jack Allen’s.  Love the brunch, love the happy hour, love the patio, and especially love the chef.  Of course, you know that Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine is his son but did you know that Jack and Hoover both are responsible for raising a generation of chefs in Austin through the various restaurants they have been at both separately and together?  Kind of appropriate that we visit them both on a tour dedicated to a favorite comfort food.

Steaming hot bowl of 5 cheese mac and cheese topped with achiote rubbed chicken. The famous pimento cheese is in the background.
String cheese theory (credit to Catherine for the witty quip)

For me, the mac and cheese at Jack Allan’s was the perfect combination of gooey comfort homestyle and gourmet fancy upscale.  The achiote rubbed chicken was a delicious addition to the dish, moist and piquant.  The dish was hot like lava but once it cooled enough to taste, the creamy sauce was accented with stringy bits of chewy cheese.

The rest of the group was pretty evenly split over favorites.  For sure, they were all fantastic and I will be returning to all three soon both for more mac and cheese and to try some of their other offerings as well.

Big thanks to Whitney and Google for yet another fantastic trip.  I cannot wait to see where the next bus takes us.

My fellow passengers on the mac and cheese tour.

 

 

 

 

Austin Food and Wine Fest Part 2

 

 

Thursday-  Live Fire at the Salt Lick then Dessert Dinner at Trace by Pichet Ong 

Beautiful evening at the Salt Lick. The long line is for Franklin's BBQ. Shocker.
Jester King lineup
A scrumptious pinotage blend from Cape Classics
John Bullington smokes an entire cow for his delicious meaty sandwich
I like pie! Especially if it is from Bud "The Pieman" Royer at Royer's Round Top Cafe
The lovely Paula from Paula's Texas Orange
Trace pastry chef Janina O'Leary (left) with Pichet Ong (right)
Barely Buzzed- creama panna cotta, Round Rock honey, lavender
Cream Soda- market berry vanilla swirl ice cream, black pepper genoise, Dr. Pepper reduction
Smoked chocolate cream beignet, caramelized white chocolate ice cream
Assorted Petit Fours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday-  Secret Dessert Party at Hotel St Cecilia

Austin's own Philip Speer (foreground) with his pastry chef from Uchiko Andrew Lewis (background)
Sam Mason formerly of wd~50, currently at Empire Mayonnaise
Pichet Ong owner/chef P*ONG, Village Tart, The Spot, Bubble Lounge, and Batch
Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar
Popping bottles at the Hotel St Cecilia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday-  More Morimoto

Morimoto's Japanese fishing song elicited a Grito from the crowd. Texas fusion.
"TEXAS! Very, very hot."

 

 

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