Best Happy Hours in Austin

The mussels at Abel's on the Lake are some of the best in town.

Trying to list all of the happy hours in Austin would be like trying to list all of the drummers in town.  While fun and entertaining, they change constantly and you can’t throw a rock downtown without hitting one.  So before you go, call or double check the website to confirm hours and specials.  (Also, please do not throw rocks at drummers.)  A pretty good resource I use is Austin on the Rocks.  I believe they are doing a makeover on the site so hopefully it will be more updated soon but it allows you to sort by area of town and what kind of place you are looking for.

Of course there are hundreds of places that offer drink specials.  My focus is more on the places that offer good food as well, not just the nacho car at Chuy’s (which is also delicious, just looking for something a little more substantial.)

.50 oysters, $3.50 Real Ale beers and Deep Eddy drinks

First up is my newest discovery, Abel’s on the Lake.  Next to the ever popular but overcrowded Hula Hut, Abel’s has a gorgeous deck overlooking Tom Miller Dam and yet it is only a 10 minute drive from downtown Austin. Happy hour is 4-6 Monday through Friday and offers half price appetizers, .50 Gulf oysters, and $3.50 Real Ale beers and Deep Eddy drinks.  Much of what they offer is just pretty good bar food but the mussels here are the real stand out.  Steamed in a butter white wine broth with shallots, capers, and sprigs of thyme I could drink shots of the broth alone but I recommend dipping the grilled bread in it and topping it with those delicious oysters.

Foreground- creamy chicken liver pate Background- wagyu tartare from Fabi and Rosi

Not too far down the road the atmosphere and the food get more upscale at Fabi and Rosi.  Happy hour here goes from 5-6:30 Monday through Friday.  $5 starters and $2 off beer and wine featuring wagyu tartare, chicken liver pate, a delicious cheese plate, as well as some damn fine mussels of their own and even classic escargot.  Thursdays also include half price bubbly both by the glass and by the bottle.  Fair warning, happy hour here easily melts into dinner with such delicious offerings as the classic schnitzel and spatzel made with Richardson’s farm pork or the wagyu steak and frites which is a steal at $19.

 

The beautiful Hibiscus Margarita at Vivo is unfortunately not on the happy hour list but with the rim of black sea salt, it was too pretty not to include.

Vivo has two locations in Austin, one on the east side off Manor Road and one northwest on Lakecreek Parkway.  I am more partial to the north location since one of my favorite chefs, Paul Petersen started working there.  The menu at Vivo is classic San Antonio TexMex with brisket enchiladas that are out of this world but if you go to the north location especially Friday through Sunday, ask if chef Paul has any specials.  His upscale take on TexMex is going to be subject to a full post very soon but take my word for it, what he does with pork belly, scallops, or whatever has taken his fancy that day is a flavor roller coaster worth the ride.

The trio at Vivo features homemade guacamole, old school yellow queso, and a spicy bean dip for half price during happy hour.

 

Happy hour at Vivo runs 5-close on Monday and Tuesdays and 5-7 Wednesday through Friday.  You get half priced appetizers that go beyond just the yellow queso (still delicious, even from the nacho car) like shrimp nachos and comal seared queso fresco.  Drink specials are $5 house margaritas, $2 Tecate and Lone Star, $3 wells, and $3 house wines.  Added draw on any night are the free chips and salsa that I believe are sprinkled with crack because they are so addictive.

For only $8 you can substitute the brie on the sliders at Wink with foie gras. Foie for happy hour, only in Austin.

Wink is one of those places in Austin that has been around forever and sometimes I forget about this little gem tucked away near a dry cleaners off 11th and Lamar.  Shame on me for that.  Next to the formal dining area, Wink opened a wine bar years ago that boasts a very broad winelist that even offers tastings and flights.  From 5-7 daily in the wine bar area you can also get half price appetizers like the brie burgers served slider style, creamy chicken liver pate, house cured salmon, and decadent mac and cheese with truffles.  Note that you can substitute the brie on the sliders with foie gras.  That makes me giggle. Foie for happy hour.

Crispy calamari with spicy marinara at Moonshine

Another old favorite I revisited for this post was Moonshine near the convention center.  Moonshine was at the forefront of the upscale comfort food movement.  I am happy to report that although owner Larry Perdido is busy with his newest venture over at Hopdoddy’s, Moonshine is as delicious as ever.  These gorgeous days we have been enjoying sure are nice sitting in the carriage house or on the porch of this Austin landmark while sipping on one of the patio cocktails.

I had the charming waiter jot down the specials on a coaster since I had a hard time locating them online.

The menu changes roughly with the seasons and the latest list of appetizers are below.  The calamari were crisp and perfectly cooked, no chewy rubber bands.  The baked brie came served with sliced apples, grapes, and a bed of arugula that made the plate seem like a nice cross between cheese plate and fresh salad.  The biggest seller on the menu are the corn dog shrimp.  Just like they sound, shrimp are dipped in a corn dog batter, fried and served with a honey mustard sauce with a blueberry swirl.  They are worth trying but I have had them so many times I usually go for something new.

Sushi bar at Uchiko, one of the best seats in the house.

 

With Tyson Cole winning the James Beard award last year for best chef Southwest, Paul Qui about to be crowned Top Chef tonight (knock on wood so I don’t jinx it), Philip Speer nominated for a James Beard award for best pastry chef for a third time, a new Uchi open in Houston and a brand new Food and Wine Fest in April led by chef Cole, Uchi on South Lamar and her sister Uchiko on North Lamar have got to be the hottest ticket in town.  And yes, my friends, I am happy to report they have a “Sake Social Hour” daily from 5-6:30.  Word of advice, get there as close to 5 as you can as this place fills up quickly.  There is also a bit more room at the North Lamar location. The menu here changes daily with the freshest fish and produce available.  Always on the menu is the classic shag roll but daily specials are varied as they are delicious.  Note my previous dessert post, it would be a huge mistake to fill up on dinner and skip desserts here.  Make your girlfriend get her own so you can taste more than one.  Now I must share my Uchi porn with you.

Honestly, I don't even remember what was in this one anymore but isn't it gorgeous??

 

Tuna, compressed watermelon, and cilantro
Shag roll with salmon, sun dried tomatoes, and avocado

 

One of the best damn burgers and fries in town for half price during happy hour at Parkside.

Right in the heart of dirty 6th as we like to call it around here, you will find parkside.  I have been here more times than I can count for happy hour as well as long multi course dinner with friends. With so many inventive seasonal offerings, I made the mistake of skipping the burger for years.  Only recently did I finally give in to a craving for “just” a burger and order this hidden gem on the menu.  The burgers should come with a warning.  They are so juicy that you are likely to get a good dribble down the front of your shirt if you are not careful.  And the fries, oh the heavenly fries.  Fries are calories I usually skip even at good old Mickey D’s.  Fortunately for me they come with the $5 burger plate.  They are perfectly crisp on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside, and are tossed with herbs and garlic for a flavor blast.  Bring friends with you, though because there is so much more here to try.  $14 for a gourmet assortment of oysters, $5 for the blond pate with strawberries.  Really anything you get will be good.  Happy hour runs 5-7 daily with 1/2 price bar menu and 1/2 price beer and cocktails.

Grab a pre happy hour nap in a hammock by Lady Bird Lake on the path behind Trio at the Four Seasons.

The last place on my list I am sorry to say will not be having a happy hour during SXSW.  Trio at the Four Seasons recently got a new chef who is revamping the menu including a new happy hour that will launch post SXSW.  The property and the restaurant are gorgeous and worth a visit, especially if your new record label is footing the bill.  If you are not that lucky, keep an eye out and I will post the specials once I get word.

So many more great places not listed here in Austin to enjoy discounted sips and nibbles.  Please list your favorites in the comments.  I am always on the cruise for a new happy hour!

Trio dining room

Star Chef’s Rising Star Gala

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Check out the menu for the upcoming gala at the Driskill on February 21. General admission is $85 and VIP is $125.  Buy tickets here.

Austin-San Antonio Gala Tasting Menu

 

CHEFS

David Bull, Congress Austin
Pan-roasted Sea Scallop, Jicama-Mint Salad, Coconut Cream, Cocoa Nib, and Chocolate Mint

Ned Elliott, Foreign & Domestic
Australian Wagyu Flank Steak, Red Pepper Sauce, Fried Orzo, Poached Egg, Bacon, Togarashi, and Ham Broth

Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue
Featured Barbecue

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine
Grilled Rabbit Terrine, Bacon-Liver Mousse, French Breakfast Radishes, and Texas Onions

Rene Ortiz, La Condesa
Cervena Venison Tacos, Chipotle Harissa, Fennel Pollen Yogurt, and Bacon Fat Tortilla

Paul Qui, Uchiko
Sunchoke-Dashi Soup, Uni, Bottarga, Baby Carrots, and Zucchini Blossoms

Quealy Watson, The Monterey
Fried Chicken, Thyme, and Pickled Jalapeño

Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo
Cauliflower Gratin, Currants, Capers, Almonds, Garlic Cream, Parmesan, and Balsamic Reduction

PASTRY CHEFS

Plinio Sandalio, Carillon
Grapefruit Sorbet, Grapefruit Supremes, Campari Pop Rocks, and Angostura Bitters Ice Cream

Philip Speer, Uchiko
Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Miso-Apple Sorbet, Peanut Brittle, Micro Wasabi, and Raisins

SUSTAINABILITY CHEF

Michael Sohocki, Restaurant Gwendolyn
Pig’s Foot Terrine, Rooster Mousse and Deviled Eggs

HOTEL CHEF

Josh Watkins, Carillon
Cured Niragi, Beet Ceviche, Goat Cheese, and Citrus Vinaigrette

ARTISANS

John Bates and Brandon Martinez, The Noble Pig 
Italian Sausage Sandwich with Roasted Red Onions, Tomatoes, Provolone, and Basil Pesto-Aïoli

RESTAURATEURS

Tyson Cole, UchiUchi Houston, and Uchiko
Hama Nabe: Baby Yellowtail, Koshihikari Rice, Farm Egg, and Soy Broth

Jason Dady, Bin 555Tre Trattoria, and Two Bros. BBQ Market
Smoked Cabrito Ribs, Polenta, and Natural Jus

MIXOLOGIST

Jeret Peña, The Esquire
Cabin Fever: Highland Park 12-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Pecan Syrup, Fernet Branca, and Habañero Pepper
The Sacrilege: Chamomile-infused Pisco, Green Chartreuse, Lime, Honey, Egg White, and Cracked Pepper

SOMMELIER

June Rodil, Congress Austin
Beverage pairings with chefs’ dishes

HOST CHEF

Jonathan Gelmann, Driskill Grill
Purple Potato, Truffled Crème Fraîche , Petrossian Caviar, and Lemon (VIP Reception)
Herb-crusted Australian Lamb Lollipop with Spicy Apple Kimchee (Gala)
Reuben Sandwich: Organic Australian Brisket Pastrami, Sauerkraut, Tomato-Caper Dressing, Swiss Fondue, and Pumpernickel Bun (Gala)

Lucy’s

 

 
James Holmes has taken the wildly popular chicken offered at brunch at Olivia and also sold at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and turned it into a new casual concept Lucy’s  Fried Chicken.  They are located at 2218 College Avenue near the corner of Congress and Oltorf.  I grew up in Travis Heights very near here and can definitely see this place turning into a neighborhood favorite.  Yet another reason to miss my old hood.

The place offers a full bar with craft cocktails and all Texas beers, a covered porch area with heaters and fans for whatever Texas weather might hold, and a music selection that is fine blend of classic Country and Honky Tonk.

 

Of course, the most important question is, “How’s the chicken?”  Best. Damn. Chicken. In. Austin.  They use locally sourced farm raised birds that they obviously butcher themselves.  My three piece basket actually had four pieces in it because the breast was so large they split it in two.  I love breast meat but sometimes with larger pieces you have to sacrifice the perfect crust to meat ratio you get with smaller pieces.  Not at Lucy’s.  Oh, and that crust.  Crispy, crunchy, salty, and slightly spicy.  At $9 for 3 pieces of chicken with no sides, it is a little pricey compared to chain places but the quality is well worth it.

I got the black eyed peas and cornbread stuffing as sides.  They were good versions of country classics but not as outstanding as the chicken.  I will have to try some more of their offerings like collard greens or Mexican Coke sweet potatoes to find a better match.  I did really enjoy the starter I had of fried chicken livers with an extremely spicy dipping sauce.  Again that crunchy crust won me over especially against the creamy interior of the livers.  The menu offers many diverse options like oysters both raw and grilled, chicken boudin, deep fried deviled eggs, and even calf fries.  Reasons for many more visits.
I ended my first visit to Lucy’s with a piece of Sweet Tea Pie from Olivia pastry chef Taff Mayberry.  I was intrigued when I first heard about it and despite being stuffed to the gills, I had to give it a try.  It was a custardy filling and the tea gave it a caramel flavor.  Loved it!  Loved it even more when I got the recipe in an email from Tasting Table.  Try it at Lucy’s and if you like it give the recipe a whirl.

Sweet Tea Pie
Recipe adapted from Taff Mayberry, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Austin, TX
Yield: One 10-inch pie
INGREDIENTS
Crust1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and diced into ½-inch cubes

⅓ cup ice water

Filling

1 cup hot water

2 orange pekoe tea bags

2½ tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons medium-grind cornmeal

⅔ teaspoon kosher salt

2½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes

11 egg yolks

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Using the paddle attachment on low speed, add the butter into the flour mixture, beating until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on, gradually add the ice water. Beat until a dough just forms.2. Form the dough into a rough circle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove the dough and set aside to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch-round-and-¼-inch thick circle. Carefully place the dough over a 10-inch pie pan with about 1½ to 2 inches of dough hanging over the edge. Press the dough over the edge and use a fork to crimp the rim of the crust. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the filling.

4. Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 350° and move the rack to the center of the oven. In a coffee cup, pour the hot water over the tea bags. Set aside to brew for 5 minutes, then remove and discard the bags. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Set aside. In a large, heatproof mixing bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar. Whisk in the reserved tea and lemon juice. Whisk in the flour mixture.

5. Fill a medium saucepot with water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixing bowl with the sweet-tea filling over the simmering water and add the butter in four batches, whisking until each batch is melted before adding the next batch. Pour the filling into the chilled pie shell and place in the oven on the center rack. Bake until the center jiggles but does not ripple and the top is a deep brown, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too much). Remove the pie from the oven and set aside to rest at room temperature until cool. Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.

I noticed on the chalkboard wall where the special were written that Lucy’s was offering their first steak night the following Tuesday.  At $19 for a 13 oz. strip steak with 2 sides of potato gratin and spicy green beans along with bone marrow and a roll, I had to check it out.  I was going to a book club meeting on later in the evening so I found myself back at Lucy’s right at 5pm and I was honored to be the first customer on the first steak night and it was indeed worth the trip.  My steak was charred  on the outside and a perfect rare in the middle.  The gratin was slightly underdone but I chalked that up to being so early in the evening.  The green beans had a nice crunch to them without being undercooked and a nice punch of tomatoey spice.  I used the marrow as meat butter on my roll. Mmmmm, meat butter.  So check out Lucy’s and let me know when you are going because I will probably meet you there.

 

 

Slideshow of Pics Since Starting epicuriosities

OK, I know looking at other people’s pics can be as entertaining as watching paint dry.    I was looking through the mountain of pictures I have taken over the last 2 years and these are my favorite food shots, people, and events that I have been lucky enough to eat, meet, and be part of.  Hopefully you will see someone or something familiar enough to entertain you.  The slideshow crops some of the pics in a weird way but you can click on them to see the full image.  I purposely left captions off if you want to make a game of it and see how many you can identify.  If you want to confirm any guesses, just leave a comment below.

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The Dessert Project

 
Left to right, Our multi-talented chef host: Steven Cak (parkside), Philip Speer (uchi/uchiko), and Plinio Sandalio (The Carillon)

Little known fact about most restaurants, very few employ a full time pastry chef.  Most either subcontract the work out to a local bakery or order straight off the Sysco truck.  Many times pastry chefs have to prove their worth by working both the savory and sweet sides of the line to make their positions economically viable.  Sometimes there is the rare hybrid of ADD culinary chef and OCD pastry chef that excel at both.  I had the pleasure of attending the winter gathering of three of Austin’s best pastry chefs at parkside on November 20 who wanted to showcase their abilities with a savory and sweet course each plus an amuse bouche, intermezzo, and petit fours along with wine pairings.  So much delicious food!!!  And a portion of the proceeds go to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. The next gathering of the Dessert Project will be in the Spring at Plinio Sandalio’s new home at the Carillon.  I will definitely be there, hope to see you as well.

Amuse Bouche from Philip Speer- grilled grape and boquerones (marinated white Spanish anchovies)
 
 

 
From Plinio Sandalio- Scallop, cauliflower puree, grapefruit, bacon jus
 
 
 
 

From Philip Speer- Roasted guinea hen, butternut squash, black trumpet mushroom, puffed barley
 
 
 
 
 

From Steven Cak-Pork Belly, Texas apple, celery, brussel sprouts
 
 
 
Intermezzo- gin, mint, campari, grapefruit granita
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
From Plinio Sandalio- coconut pound cake, grapefruit sorbet, avacado puree, ginger honey
 
 
From Philip Speer- curried squash semifreddo, acorn croquant, orange coriander sorbet, squash beignet, marigold

 

 
 
From Steven Cak- peanut butter mousse, Texas apple, celery, sultana sorbet, honey
 
Talented crews from all 3 restaurants that help make one of my favorite meals of the year.

FREE PIE from Cutie Pies

Heath Bar Pecan Pie from Cutie Pies

Did you get enough pie for Thanksgiving? Me neither, no such thing!  Today the first 2000 to sign up for ClickedIn deals through this link will receive a voucher for a free 4″ pie.

ClickedIn is a new daily deal website from Time Warner Cable.  They hope to add another avenue to advertisers including local businesses like Cutie Pies.  The goal is a more sustainable marketing campaign versus the guerrilla tactics that leave many small businesses even worse off.

Jaynie is especially fond of pink, tiaras, and feather boas.

The heart behind Cutie Pies is Jaynie Buckingham.  Being especially fond of pie, I have followed news of her since she first won a holiday pie contest at the Driskill.  This inspired her to take her massive collection of family pie recipes and turn it into first a successful South Congress trailer and now a brick and mortar at 7329 Burnet Rd.

 

Now this is a cutie pie!
 
Cutie Pies come in a variety of flavors.  Buttermilk is her signature pie but also look for key lime, chocolate ice box, pumpkin spice, coconut cream, cherry, the list goes on and on.  My current favorite is the Heath Bar Pecan.  I especially love the flaky, thin crust that Buckingham manages to produce on every single tiny pie.  She also sells full sized pies, cookies, and other baked goods.  It is best to call ahead if you are looking for a specific flavor or want a whole pie. 

Sweet on Austin- Philip Speer Uchi/Uchiko

What makes a great dessert?  Although this question can be as subjective as what your favorite band is and dependent on your mood at the time, truly great desserts need to be beautifully presented and have a fine balance of flavors and textural contrasts that excite the palate.  Dessert is usually the climax to a meal and the last impression you will take away from a restaurant. 

Left to right: Philip Speer, Monica Glen, and Andrew Lewis

My first stop for a magical dessert has got to be either Uchi or Uchiko both led by Philip Speer.  Technically, Speer is now the Culinary Director of the Uchi group and has recently named his long time assistant, Monica Glen, as the pastry chef of the soon to be opened Uchi Houston and Andrew Lewis as the pastry chef at Uchiko.  Speer is still very involved in the development of the pastry menus but not as much in the day to day productions as his new job duties take him  between all three restaurants with staffing, training, aligning food costs, and the million other things it takes to launch and run three high end restaurants.

Speer’s desserts are as sophisticated as they are playful, a blend of familiar tastes with innovative techniques.  He seeks to balance textures in a final course that is not too sweet with definite notes of contrast like acid and salt in the clean Asian aesthetic that the rest of your meal followed.

Head chef Tyson Cole has been known to challenge Speer to come up with a dessert with components from a single color.  One of my favorites is his “Yellow” dessert of polenta custard, corn sorbet, cornbread tuile, and lemon fluid gel.  Your first bite transports you to a field of corn swaying in a summer breeze.  It is not over the top sweet, just bright and balanced like fresh picked corn.  The cold sorbet complements the soft custard and the crispy tuile, with just a hint of acid from the lemon gel.

Speer likes to take traditionally savory ingredients and transport them to the  dessert world. One of my all time favorites is the roasted tomato sorbet with cherub tomato confit and chevre fondant.  It sounds like a salad course but not at Uchi.  Speer roasts the tomatoes to bring out their natural sweetness and turns them into a sorbet with a hint of sherry vinegar, basically candies a few luscious tomato babies for the confit, turns the goat cheese with cream and gelatin into a creamy custard, places the whole thing on a bed of pistachio crumble for crunch and contrast, then accents it with tomato salt and tomato paper.

One of the most visually stunning desserts has to be the coffee panna cotta with mango yolk.  The coffee flavored panna cotta is presented on a bed of crunchy coffee soil with a white chocolate sorbet and transparently crispy mango paper.  Once you pierce the panna cotta, a river of mango puree runs forth like the yolk from an egg.  The earthiness of the coffee and chocolate are highlighted by the bright mango burst.  Crunchy, creamy, cold, sweet, crisp all come together in a symphony on the tongue.

So head over to Uchi or Uchiko and get a taste of the best.  Or for a real treat, check out the Dessert Project.  Speer and his team join fellow pastry chefs  Plinio Sandalio from Congress and Steven Cak from parkside in a tour de force of one sweet and one savory course each with wine pairings on November 13 at parkside.  Friendly rivalry between the trio is sure to bring out the best in each and I want a table up front for this one.

Happy Birthday to Me!

From left to right: Quita Culpepper from KVUE, Bettie Cross, and Leslie Coons, both from KEYE

What a wonderful week I had!  I was bummed that I could not afford to jet away to my favorite tropical island (Jamaica!) for a luxurious getaway.  The economy is squeezing my pocket like most American’s these days, so I had to be content having a “Staycation” in Texas.  With a little luck and some good friends, I was able to swing a pretty decent time despite the lack of funds. 

First came the luck.  I watched the first Cowboy game of the season at my local Red Robin which offers happy hour specials during the games as well as always friendly staff.  If you RSVP’d on Facebook for the watch party, it put you in a drawing with the grand prize being two tickets for the Cowboys vs Redskins game on Monday night September 26.  I was lucky enough to have my name drawn at the top of the third quarter, even though Romo choked in the 4th for a loss to the Jets.  One of my close friends assured me they would bail me out of jail if I found myself on the field in Dallas pimp slapping Tony for similar shenanigans, so I recruited a road buddy and was off to Dallas. 

 We stopped in Waco for lunch at the Elite.  Waco is home to Baylor University which I attended as well as my parents before me.  In fact, the Elite was one of their date spots in the late 1950’s and is still a popular meeting place today.  My first tweet of the day was this picture with “Having CFS and DP at the Elite in Waco.”  For you non- Texans that is chicken fried steak and Dr. Pepper.  The soda was invented in Waco and the mascot Baylor bear was famous for swigging a cold one during games and for tourists.  I don’t think PETA lets them do that anymore.

Getting to Jerry’s World for the game was an adventure in itself.  My friend Dax commandeered a couch from a buddy for us to stay on.  Parking for the game is minimum $40 but I heard about a shuttle they were running from Humperdink’s, a local brewpub, for $10 each.  Dax talked me into parking in some random lot with a shuttle for only $8 but we ended the evening having to take a cab back to the lot because we could not find the meet up spot after the game.  If you go, use Humperdink’s shuttle.  We ended up there drinking beer after the game anyway and it would have cost less.  Plus the beer is pretty good and the fans are friendly.  Fortunately, Romo did not choke in the fourth this time and thanks to some phenomenal defense, the Cowboys won!  And thanks to the plastic flask Dax snuck in, we did not have to pay $8.50 for a Coors Light. 

On the way back to Austin we stopped at Ruby’s Cafe in Jarrell.  It is less than a mile off the highway near the Flying J truck stop.  I had heard this place had fabulous CFS (that’s chicken fried steak if you are paying attention) and they did not disappoint.  The Elite’s was good but Ruby’s was slap your mamma good!  They also do a large variety of veggies daily.  You have to have mashed potatoes with CFS and I got creamed corn as my second side.  The potatoes were delicious but I really loved the creamy sweet corn that had a just right spicy kick to them.  I will definitely be making more trips to Jarrell to try more as well as some of the pastry items in the window of this picture. 

I will finish birthday tales tomorrow including details of the lovely ladies in the picture at the beginning of the post.  Time to head home for now!

UPDATE!  Part 2

My actual birthday this year was on Wednesday and it happened to coincide with the . portfolio tasting in Austin.  I was invited to the tasting by my buddy in the wine biz Buckley Wineholt in celebration of my birthday as well as his ironing out the final details to open his new shop Urban Wine and Liquor at the Austonian.  The store will offer wine, spirits, beers, barware, imported cigars and cigarettes, and a choice of artisanal foods including Texas-produced items. The shop’s 2,615-square-foot storefront on Congress Avenue will be designed by local design-build firm Bercy Chen Studio.  I have had the pleasure of attending several wine tastings by Buckley and I cannot wait to see what he stocks his store with. 

The Ambiente tasting was incredible. It was in the Sangerrunde Hall at Scholz Garten.  There were well over 100 wines of all different styles and price ranges. 

My absolute favorite wine is a Brunello. This was my first taste of the highly rated 2006 release.

Here are some of my favorites: 

Cab from Stag's Leap
Pinot Noir from Benovia

 

I spent my birthday dinner at the opening of a new Japanese restaurant near MLK and Lavaca called Lavaca Teppan. I was invited to the soft opening by the gorgeous Jette Momant who is always at the best parties, usually because she is throwing them.  She seated me with 3 of my favorite media ladies in Austin, Bettie Cross and Leslie Coons from We Are Austin on KEYE and Quita Culpepper from KVUE.  I LOVED hanging out with the media ladies over dinner!
The food was delicious, too. 

Thanks again to all my wonderful friends who made my birthday special this year!!! 

Beautiful space at Lavaca Teppan designed by Austin architect Jamie Chioco
Beef tataki- charbroiled filet with ponzu dipping sauce
Tempura vegetables and shrimp
House soup with mushrooms and tempura flakes
Teriyaki chicken
Tori kara don- Japanese fried chicken and eggs over steamed rice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Austin Restaurant Week Fall 2011

It is that time of year again, Fall is in the air, temperatures plunging into the 70’s at night (do not laugh at us, Northerners, it has been a dry sauna of a summer here in Texas.)  As a budget conscious (cheap) diner, I LOVE Austin Restaurant Week.  It gives me a chance to try a wider range of menu items plus try places I have not gotten around to yet.  At $35 for 3 courses for dinner, some places are a real bargain while for others it is pretty close to their price point on a regular evening, so it takes some research to locate the true bargains.  With $15 lunch and some brunch options as well, I am able to justify a few extra tastes around town.  I am a little worried that more of the menus are not posted yet with less than 2 weeks to plan but I will update as soon as more information is released. 

Based on previous ARW dinners, some past favorites were Austin Land and Cattle, Carillon, Uchi, Uchiko, Fabi and Rosi, Green Pastures, Olivia, and Parkside.  Some of the restaurants I would like to explore further are Braise, El Arbol, Foreign and Domestic, Kenichi, and III Forks. Restaurant I wish was on the list?  Congress, of course.  At least, Second Bar and Kitchen should be. I never thought I would see Uchi and Uchiko on the list but I believe this is their third time participating.  Before ARW, I thought I could never afford Uchi.  While I wish I could visit more often, I think the restaurant week menu encouraged me to explore and now I dine their on a semi regular basis. 

Remember fellow bargain diners, whether it is a Groupon, Austin Restaurant Week, or other social media deal you are dining on, tip your waitstaff well. You are saving enough money on food, they should share in your windfall.  I always tip at least 20% of the undiscounted cost or 30-40% of a specially priced menu.  Tip in cash if you can, not on the card. Also be patient, Restaurant Week can be overwhelming to a place being swarmed by bargain hunters.  Try to be understanding.  If you must cancel a reservation, please do so as far in advance as you can, do not just pull a “no show” as this is not only rude but adds to an already confusing evening.  Finally, use some of that savings to have an extra glass of wine.  Be good diners so they will have us back next time.

Vodka Fest

One of my favorite events of the year is tomorrow night at Cool River near Mopac and Parmer from 7-10 pm.  $20 in advance and $25 at the door gets a tasting passport to sample a few of the more than 30 vodkas on display.  Way too much fun for a weekday.  The different brands usually give out swag which allows me to bribe my boss into letting me come in late on Thursday.  Hope to see you there!

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