Four days of food!

As you may’ve noticed, I haven’t been posting much lately.  Fact is, I haven’t been cooking much.  Between my day job, my studies, and my geriatric laptop, the blog has suffered.

And I haven’t cooked dinner in more than a week!

We were very excited to welcome my out-laws to Austin for a long weekend of relaxation, sunny walks, and button-popping eats.  It was their first trip to Texas, and we hit all the highlights, except for (gasp) having barbecue!  So, Franklin BBQ: you’re still on my list!

However, in four days, we managed to take the parents to a backyard hot dog grillin’, eat Arturo’s breakfast tacos, tour campus, have a Shiner at the Cactus Cafe, engage in some serious cat whispering, enjoy homebrew and shoot shitting on our patio, go to Sagra’s pizza happy hour, watch UNC (family favorite) beat Ohio over free pints of Newcastle at Dog and Duck, cross the 360 bridge, nibble on fried green tomatoes and chicken fried steak sandwiches with prickly pear tea at the Silver K Cafe in Johnson City, tour the LBJ Ranch, ooh and aah at bluebonnets, explore South Congress, buy a pair of Lucchese Boots, cool off on the patio at the new Hickory Street, sample Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout, try fried catfish and jalapeno slaw tacos, scoff at 6th Street, have coffees at the Driskill Bar while watching more basketball AND hearing a band play Buddy Holly and Buck Owens tunes, meet some dressed up cowboys in starched shirts and fancy hats, walk across the Congress Bridge twice, listen to Twine Time, watch Meet the Press, have chicken mole enchiladas at Janitzio, go on an accidental moon tower tour, walk from the Bob Bullock Museum to the Co-op to Tyler’s to The Tavern to watch yet more basketball and drink yet more beer, and enjoy a violet sunset from the bridge overlooking House Park.

Here’s a sampling of what we ate:

The Sage Paloma cocktail at Sagra: Espolon Tequila Reposado, Luxardo Triplum,
grapefruit, lime, sage, and agave syrup.  Six dollars during happy hour, this one’s an Italian margarita!  So refreshing.

The Pizza Sagra (foreground, $7.50 during happy hour).  Our favorite of Sagra’s specialty pizzas, this crunchy pie is topped with tomato sauce, grana padano, spinach, mozzarella cheese, and truffle oil; but the very part is the egg cracked right in the center.  So rich!

We also really enjoyed the Calabrese Vesuvio pizza, which we hadn’t tried before.  At only $6.00 during happy hour, this one’s a steal: spicy salami, mozzarella, capers, green and black olives, peperoncini, and tomato sauce, folded and baked in Sagra’s brick pizza oven.

Fried green tomatoes at the Circle K Cafe.  We stopped into this adorable little restaurant on our last trip to the LBJ Ranch, last April, and decided to take the parents there.  It was a big hit.  Between us, we had these tomatoes with Ranch dipping sauce; a huge, fresh Caesar salad; a warm, homemade bowl of chicken and vegetable soup; a filling and flavorful grilled vegetable and Provolone sandwich; and the pièce de résistance, a chicken fried steak sandwich (you can guess who ordered it):

This was even better than I expected.  Crispy, peppery batter and tender, flavorful beef tucked between leaves of Romaine inside a honey yeast roll.  The prickly pear tea was also amazing.  I might have to drive back to Johnson City just to have this meal again.

The weather was so nice on Saturday, we decided to find a spot to eat outside on Congress.  We ended up at the newly revamped Hickory Street, which has been transformed from a tired but wallet-friendly buffet and happy hour spot to a more sophisticated foodie patio restaurant.  Whether this makes the place more or less Austiny, I’ll leave up to you.  The menu has certainly been updated to reflect current Austin trends.  Pictured above is the Charred Sweet Corn Guacamole with homemade potato chips ($8.00, serves 2-4), which was a big hit with our visitors.  Incorporating corn, feta,  and lots of cilantro to the more usual base of avocado, lime juice, red onions, jalapeños, this guacamole is one I might even try to replicate at home.

The Chickpea Chili ($7.00) was good, but probably not a dish we’d order again.

These Texas Fried Catfish Tacos ($9.00) featured two jalapeño tortillas with cornmeal battered, fried Palacios catfish and cilantro-lime apple slaw.  Creative and flavorful, the tacos were good but not great.

And, once again, you know me—I couldn’t resist the Bison Burger!  It was actually a little small considering it was $9.00, but Hickory Street is trying to go upscale, and bison ain’t cheap.  It was so rich that the single burger (sans fries or chips) proved more than adequate, especially after sharing the guacamole appetizer.  Bison is usually a little dry compared to beef, and that was the case here, but the flavor was great, and the caramelized bourbon onions and smoky sharp cheddar were delicious.  The challah roll bun was a great twist—another thing I’ll probably try at home.

At Janitzio, on MLK, conveniently located a mere block and a half from our house, we had enchiladas and fajitas.  The Enchiladas Mole with chicken ($8.99 for two huge ones, not pictured) are wonderful, though the nutty sauce could use a little kick; and the Enchiladas Suizas ($8.99 for three) are one of my favorite dishes here.  The sauce is sour-cream based, mixed with a little salsa verde.  I always substitute black beans with this combination, too!

Have you noticed a pattern here?  That all this food (especially the items I ordered) are kind of… absurd?  And by “absurd,” I of course mean “delicious” as well as “haute junk food.”  Well, this one takes the cake.

Behold the Tavern Dog, a quarter pound Angus beef frank wrapped in bacon and deep fried, topped with cheese and onions (and, supposedly, chili—although mine didn’t come with any!), wrapped in a cheddar cheese blanket (which is essentially a huge circle of crispy, fried cheese), on a bun.  With fries.  This monster is $8.99, and was, perhaps surprisingly, wonderful.  The Angus beef dog was just delicious, and I’m a sucker for a good slab of fried cheese.  When I was little, my mother used to make it on a cookie sheet as a snack—true story.  The Tavern should think about entering this dish into that fried foods contest at the State Fair.  Also, it reminds me of this.

Of course I ate all of it.

Check back soon for new recipes!

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