This Week’s Eats: 08/03/12

Last weekend, after a hard day of homebrewing (well, okay, I mostly sat in the kitchen and had a chinwag with my foodie host and our opera-company-starting friend), we rallied by the pool and did some fantastic grilling.

Julie brought fresh tilapia for these succulent fish tacos, and Laura’s homemade coleslaw was a convenient topping.  Served on fresh, grilled tortillas, with a sprinkle of cilantro and a dash of lime for good measure, they were delicious.  After a lifetime of exclusively eating beef tacos, I think I’m now a convert.  This is the summer of fish tacos.

We also had grilled sausages and sweet potato wedges—amazing!

And there was a waltermon involved.

Look at that.

The grill.

Check out these grilled sweet potatoes, y’all.  My friend Laura is a genius.

Eric and Kris, brewing up some summer IPA.

We also tried Joe’s Bakery at another friend’s request, arriving at prime brunch time on Sunday morning.  The place was packed, the lemon empanadas were amazing, and we enjoyed large, affordable breakfast plates.

I had the migas plate with cheese and jalapenos, and it was wonderful; the beans were excellent.  Service was prompt and friendly—especially considering how packed the place was.  We’ll be back.

I’ve written about Hai Ky before, and I’ve tried a lot of their tasty and nicely-priced lunch and dinner plates, but I keep coming back to the #83 vegetarian noodle special, the bun goi cuon tofu: a huge pile of vermicelli topped with fresh sliced, raw carrots and cucumber, crushed peanuts, and fried tofu in a tangy glaze, served with spring rolls and peanut sauce.

I’ve only been to their Guadalupe location; I hear the original Bee Caves restaurant is even better.  But this place has some of the best tofu in Austin, for my money.  It’s thinly-sliced, expertly fried, and succulent.

Go eat some.

Here’s a typical, rushed, weekday lunch, feasted on in between blogging and going to the day job.  This week, I enjoyed the rest of Laura’s leftover coleslaw, alongside sharp cheddar, Kalamata olives, and some crushed pecans.  It was surprisingly filling, and suitably light for my 105-degree, fifteen-minute walk to work!

Of course, I also posted this creamy, lime-infused recipe this week: Stella’s Green Beef Curry.  It’s shockingly easy, and great for the budget home cook who wants to approximate a Thai curry.  I am really pleased with the result, and I think you will be, too.

Have you noticed a theme here yet?  Yes, it was the week of lime and cilantro!  So summery.

Here’s a typical breakfast, usually eaten as I cruise the latest tweets of a morning.

As you’ll know if you read my interview in Marie Claire, my cholesterol vastly improved after giving up veganism in 2009.  What was borderline high and being monitored has now been pronounced “awesome” by my GP.

I usually eat a couple of scrambled eggs and a couple of bacon rashers for breakfast, often supplemented with some fresh berries and pecans.  Sometimes I make breakfast tacos.  I used to drink a whole glass of whole milk every morning, but I’ve been sticking to water or black coffee lately.

I also made these amazing Forked Lemon Potatoes from Dinner with Julie. Instead of pan-frying, though, I baked them on a cookie sheet.  And I substituted some fresh, homegrown sage for the thyme.

The result was so satisfying that we ate the whole pan for dinner!

Next time, I’ll try the pan fried technique.  I baked them because I was feeling lazy, not for any health reasons!  Come on… y’all know me.

I also hung out with a friend at Caffe Medici (on the Drag) this week—one of my very favorite ways to spend the morning (their original West Lynn location is an even cozier spot!).  This coffee is the best in town, the baristas are super knowledgeable and helpful, and they’re always playing the best music (recently: “Sloop John B.” and a Motown mix).

Last summer I drank a lot of vanilla Italian sodas.  This summer I’ve gone hardcore and have been downing iced coffees.  The one pictured here left me in hyper-productive mode for six full hours.  And did I mention that Caffe Medici serves Taco Deli breakfast tacos?  Be sure to get there early—by 8:30—to have your pick of the mix; I like the Beans, Papas, and Cheese Taco the best!

Finally, we also enjoyed yet another happy hour at Sagra, our neighborhood trattoria.  This time, I sprang for the prosecco, and spent the rest of the evening wondering why I don’t have it with pizza more often.  In fact, I haven’t had anything similar since we finished off a bottle of champagne and a whole pizza on New Year’s Eve 2009, in San Francisco.  All wines, beers, and house specialty cocktails (of which there are many, all mind-blowing) are $2 off during Sagra’s fantastic happy hour, which is now over at 6:30pm (formerly 7:00) but is available throughout the entire restaurant (as opposed to just on the patio)!

We split the Pizza Vesuvio, which is quickly becoming Eric’s favorite: a folded pizza with spicy salami, mozzarella, capers, olives, pepceroncini, tomato sauce, and a dusting of parmesan.

Topped with fresh arugula, it’s a real treat.  At only $6 during happy hour, it’s also a great deal.

I know I talk about this place all the time, but it’s really great.  Check out this video about Sagra and its chef-owner, Gabriel Pellegrini.  I kind of want to work there.

The prosecco and pizza was great, but dinner wasn’t even the best part.  I rarely order desserts, but I couldn’t resist when the waiter told us that one of the current flavors of house-made ice cream was Fernet Branca.

When I posted this picture on Facebook, I immediately got Batman-related comments (“Inspired by Michael Caine?”), but that’s not what it reminded me of at all, and not just because I haven’t yet seen The Dark Knight Rises.  No, when I hear “Fernet Branca,” the first thing I think is Cooking with Fernet Branca, the parody Italian holiday memoir by James Hamilton-Paterson.  My editor friend in London mailed me a copy a few years ago, just after it was published, with an insistent note in her scraggly handwriting, “Read this at once!”  The book is filled with hilarious send-ups of “the British cook abroad,” interspersed with totally inedible recipes, such as “Mussels in Chocolate Sauce.”  It’s a hoot.

This ice cream was as delightful—and surprising—as Hamilton-Paterson’s book.  I encourage you to try both, preferably simultaneously.

That’s it from beautiful, downtown Austin!  Have a great weekend, y’all!

6 thoughts on “This Week’s Eats: 08/03/12

  1. Homebrewing is one of those things I always have in the back of my head to try, but never do. Why? Because I have no carboy & general equipment, really. One of these days it will happen!

    I DO have a copy of Cooking w Fernet Branca, but haven’t cracked it! Must get on that.

    • The boyfriend does 99.9% of the homebrewing. But I take 100% of the photos, and drink 25% of the product. 🙂 (I would drink more, but he always beats me to it!)

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