Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Modern Korean Cuisine at Hanjan, New York City

During a trip to New York City, I had the absolute honor of trying out Hanjan, a modern Korean restaurant.  The food was was utterly stunning with contemporary twists on traditional flavors.  I'm so thankful for the experience. 

I didn't look at the menu so I can't say for certain which dishes these were, except absolutely delicious.  The tofu pictured above was cool, firm, yet silky and creamy.  The sauce on it brought back nostalgia like no one's business. 

For the kimchi enthusiasts, this offering is sure to please.  Not only was the kimchi perfectly executed, the perfectly stacked and aligned leaves were nothing short of perfect presentation. 

Get some skewers.  Like all of them.  Korean grilled meats some of my favorite dishes. 

This is probably the best seafood green onion pancake ever.  The seafood and green onion were enclosed in crispy wonderfulness.  This is like traditional green onion pancake on crack. 

I think these were the spicy dumplings.  They were wondeful pillows of spicy goodness.  Eat with the egg yolk to truly experience what it feels like to be rich. 

And more skewers. 

And this fried rice was just done well.  Really well.  There were little crunchy caramelized bits at the bottom, which indicates you did it correctly. 

And for dessert, some sorbets and red beans.  I was in food heaven when I tried these.  They were slightly sweetened, clean, and refreshing.  Thank you, Hanjan, for the hospitality!  I will be back in the future. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

How to Fix #Austin Traffic and Drive like a Nice Texan

Alright, alright.  We all know that Austin is growing up.  We're still trying to figure out how the infrastructure(s) of Austin are going to handle the increased population.  In the meantime, we can all complain about traffic OR we can learn to be more considerate drivers.  Now that our roads are congested more than our sinuses during Cedar Season, every little thing drivers do to create inefficiency or to disrupt flow can have a big impact on the bigger picture.

Here's some ways to help the Austin traffic situation along.  None of these are groundbreaking, and these aren't the only things that you can do.  Some of the more obvious ones I won't be talking about are 1. opting to work from home if possible 2. altering your schedule to avoid peak traffic hours 3. taking public transportation  5. car pooling or 6. biking.

1A. Quit blocking lanes, especially turn lanes.  Some of our intersections are big enough for two vehicles.  Quit blocking the lanes if someone else needs to use another lane.  Here's an example. 

For crying out loud, scoot over and the let the person behind you get where they need to go.  My persona rule of thumb: If I'm close to the light, (like the <5 adjust="" and="" br="" cars="" disrupting="" don="" flow="" for="" from="" get="" have="" i="" in="" lane.="" lane="" light="" m="" means="" nbsp="" not="" of="" people="" plenty="" right="" slow="" t="" the="" to="" turn="" turning="" you.="">

1B. Another variation is to scoot up! If someone behinds you needs to get by to get into their lane, by all means, scoot up!

1C. Use the turn lane.  They are meant to be used by people who are turning.  If you need to slow down or stop to make a turn, do that in the turn lane.  The driving lanes are for driving, not stopping or slowing if a turn lane is available.  If I need to post a diagram of this, then maybe you need to start using public transportation.

1D. If you're in line for a drive thru, please make sure you aren't actually blocking traffic.  Other people might be trying to get by.  Either leave them some space or go park your car and go into the restaurant.  Just because you are waiting for to order food, everyone trying to get by don't need to wait for you.  There's no need to grid lock a parking lot. 

2. When you see a parking spot, take it.  Unless you need to park someone to charge your electric car or you are qualified to use a handicapped parking spot, you don't need a special parking spot.  And don't take two spots.  Pick a spot.  Stay in the lines.

Here's an example of something that did happen:

I'm backing up to leave a parking lot.  Someone comes behind me and wants my spot - and only my spot.  My spot is not particularly special, and it isn't even close to the entrance of the building.  I'm not sure why someone would want my spot over many of the other spots open right next to me.  The car behind me not only blocks traffic in the parking lot; she also caused traffic to back up into the street.  Yes, that's right.  People in the street were stopped on a busy street.  While this situation doesn't directly affect me, it did disrupt traffic flow.  That's not cool.  Not cool at all.

3. Communicate with your fellow driver.  I can't predict where you want to go.  I can't adjust my activity to accommodate you if I don't know what you're doing.

3a. Use your blinker.  If you need to turn or change lanes, use you blinker.  Practice using it consistently, even if no one is around.  Make it a habit so that you'll communicate consistently.  Not using your blinker probably isn't as severe of a mishap as running lights or cutting people off, but it can streamline traffic flow because people can adjust to one another.

3b. When you do communicate with others on the road, and they adjust their driving to help you, give them the Texas Wave.  Not the birdie. I'm talking the friendly Texas Wave.  This is just a term for communicating thanks, acknowledgement, and a general pleasant salutation.  You can the "Texas Wave" three different ways.  I've illustrated them in the video above.

They are the 1. old fashioned wave (just like it sounds) 2. Two second flash (turn on your flashers for two flashes) and the 3. Digit dance (keep your hand on the wheel and lift two fingers).  You do this because Texans are nice.  If you just got to Texas, be nice on the road.  Smile because dang it, you're in Texas now. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Austin Chef Heritage Tree 2014 Social Graph Edition

Heritage, Pedigree, and Lineage are words can be used to describe any industry that has a culture of apprenticeship. Characteristics of mentor are passed down to mentee in a systematic fashion.  
I experienced this during my graduate studies. Sometime in the early 2000s, I was reading a paper by Mark Snyder, and the writing style was familiar and distinct. It read just like my advisor’s, Jeffry Simpson, work. Mark Snyder was Jeffry Simpson’s advisor. Since Jeff was my advisor, some of that writing style rubbed off on me too - in technical writing. I have different styles for different audiences.

When I interviewed chefs at the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival, many of them said something in a similar vein.  
“A sign of a truly great food city is one where you see the local chefs training others to be chefs and eventually open their own restaurants.” The training here is emphasized. 

*Save the graph to view full size.  *Updated 10:25 pm 8.25.14


It could not be more true of Austin with its blooming food scene. It isn’t difficult to taste the influences that many of the new young chefs carry with them from their mentors. Chef David Bull of Congress Austin and formerly the Driskill makes a very distinct and delicious gnocchi. You can taste that same technique in the style of chefs that have trained under him. The gnocchi are fluffy pockets of carby sunshine.  

I can also pick out plating style out of a line up if the chef has ever trained at Uchi or Uchiko. I’ve done it before looking at Instagram streams. The marriage of juxtapositioned flavors and textures along with vertical garnishes (think the house made cornflakes) are distinct characteristics of their style. That plating style must have been forced into their genes via X-man like mutations.  
I started collecting chef and restaurant data a few years ago, and here it is. *I’m a data nerd during my day job. The hubs of chef training is obvious: Driskill and Uchi/Uchiko. It is also easy to see powerhouses like Sonya Cote and Shawn Cirkiel owning multiple establishments. This graph is to inform readers about the food history in Austin. It is important to document history so that we can someday learn from it.

This is a work in progress. Chefs and restaurant data changes constantly, and I do expect to be updating this social graph on a regular basis. If you would like to submit additions, please do email me at Jennie@misohungrynow.com.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Where you Should Eat in Austin - 2014 Edition

Where should I go eat in Austin?  You probably hear this question 1000 times, and if you’re like me, it isn’t an easy answer.  It usually follows with a list of questions like “What kind of food? Which part of town?  How much have you budgeted? Do you have any specific dislikes?”  *Most photos by John M. P. Knox

These questions can make navigating Austin’s food scene more complex than making chocolate caramel sea salt lavender macarons.  Here’s my 2014 handy dandy guide for where you should go eat broken down by category. Some of these fit into many categories - like date.  Just about any of these fine establishments could be a great date night - depending on the stage of the dating process.  I’ll make note of multi-category fittings as we move along.

*Note: I didn't cover BBQ because FedManWalking already covers it in great detail.  

Ramen Tatsu-ya number 2. 

Italian - There is good Italian in Austin, peeps.  You just need to find it.  
Andiamo - This is a cozy place on the north side of Austin.  Sweet, quiet, and a pleasant experience for all.
Bulfaina Pizza - I haven’t been here yet.  But the chatter about it is so great that I just had to add it.*Update: I tried it last weekend. The pizzas were fantastic. There will be a wait, but you can pass the time with their beer and wine menu.
Botticelli’s - Like Andiamo, it has a sweet quiet feel located on SoCo.  No hype.  Just butter and cream in the sauces.
Patrizi’s - I love this place because the owners are so darn cute and friendly.  Also, the dishes are very tasty, and their story about moving from Beaumont beyond heartwarming.  
Josh Loving behind the bar at Fino circa Jan. 2011.

Cocktails - Everyone needs a good cocktail once in a while.  
Tigress - You go here for the drinks.  But what you get is a hug from Pam.  
Drink.Well - Michael, the owner, says that if you don’t get the burger, I’m gonna give you a spanking. I mean I will give the spankings, but him.  
Whisler’s Austin - I haven’t been here yet, but this is the unofficial post whatever you were doing earlier meet up for many of the industry peeps.  I guess it’ll do.  
Half Step - There’s this really cute bartender there, Rob.  This man made a banana creme something, and I cried tears of joy.  

Beer - Because this is nectar of the Gods.  All of them.  
Black Star Coop - Dog friendly, beard friendly.  
Easy Tiger - They have a lovely beer and bread selection.
Draught House - Dog friendly, and it is pretty much the beer connoisseurs hang out.  
Gingerman - I used to come here often, but parking downtown is a pain in my big toe.  

Uchiko.  Isn't it beautiful?  

Indian - I bleed curry. Just FYI.  Indian cuisine has a sweet place in my heart.  
WhipIn - This is also great for beer, and dog friendly too.  
Bombay Grill Austin- This unassuming eatery in Bee Caves is actually quite delightful.  I like to get their butter chicken and naan.
Asiana Indian Cuisine Austin - Two words.  Lentil donuts.  

Dogs - Sometimes you happen to have the pooches with you.  They gotta eat too.
Banger’s - Just don’t let the dogs drink too much beer.  
Midway Trailer Park - I like that this is fenced (not that it is dog proof fencing), but at least you can keep your little ones corralled.  
Pretty much anywhere on South Congress with a patio - For reals, but please keep your dog on a leash.  Cars there be driving crazy.

Odd Duck Pretzels.

Young Gourmands in Training (You’re teaching your kids to have a sophisticated palate and table manners)
Roll on Sushi  - This is a great experience for kids as they have menu items more approachable by kids.  
Quality Seafood - Fish tacos for the kids.  Fish tacos for you.
Whole Foods - This is a great place to the little ones to try new foods in a fun environment.  Let’s just make sure they keep their hands out of the food bars and samples.  

First Dates - If you want date numero dos, ditch Trudy’s and the Olive Garden.  
Lenoir - This place will show him or her that you are classy, thoughtful, and have impeccable taste.
Green Pastures - Peacocks.  Whatever Chef makes with that brioche.  Your hearts will swell with love and lust.  
Asti - If one of ya eats garlic, the other needs to as well.  
Arro - The feel here should set the mood - modern French with an Austin flair.  Get the lobster bisque and move onto the date two.  

Happy Hour - Getting your nibbles and sips on.
Perry’s - This is also known as Pork Chop Sundays
Little Barrel and Brown - The cocktails here did not disappoint.
Hightower Austin - Fried chickpeas and cocktails should be on everyone’s order.
Peche - More cocktails and small bites.
Salty Sow - I brought my sister here for happy hour on her birthday, and we got one of everything on the menu.  I am not opposed to doing that again.


Sushi Date - It is becoming an institution now.
Uchi - No words necessarily.
Uchiko - Get dessert.
Soto - This is a hidden gem in Cedar Park.  Get the flaming salmon.
Musashino - This is where Tyson Cole started.  In 50 years, this might be a food museum of where Japanese food in Austin gained traction.  

Celebratory Dates - Did you just graduate?  Let’s go celebrate!  
Odd Duck - Hola, delicious pretzel sticks of yumminess. Also, cocktails.
Fino - Cocktails, and some of the best deep fried olives you can imagine.  
Hudson’s on the Bend - This is an Austin classic. Very old Austin.
Congress Austin - New Austin.  New and James Bond-ish. Get cocktails.
Swift's Attic - If there’s some with meat here, you should get it.  I’m just saying.  
Qui - The cocktail program here is amazing.  It is as inventive as the food.  Also, try the ice cream sandwich.  

Crowd Pleasers - These restaurants can please an array of palates and without sacrificing the integrity of a beautifully executed dish.
Jack Allen’s - Almost everything on this menu is approachable from all angles, and they donate a proceed of queso sales to the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.
Sway - I really like Sway for being interesting and inventive while being familiar enough for everyone.  It is also fancy enough to take business clients.  
Moonshine Cafe and Grill - Comfort food with an upscale feel that make your dinner feel fancy.
Trace - Tell Chef Lawrence I sent you and ask for foie gras pancakes.

Here's one of everything on the menu of Kin and Comfort.

New to Asian Food - While the Asian food scene in Austin grows, here’s some places to take the not yet indoctrinated.  
Ramen Tatsu-ya - If I have to explain to you that this to you, you need to get on the Internet and watch them on tv.  I won’t even waste my time trying to explain to you why this is one of the catalyst for Asian food in Austin.  
Kin and Comfort - Located in Hana World Market on Parmer, who would have thought they could be churning out food that made even my traditional mother nod her head in approval?
Snow Monster - This is a fun shaved ice join that reminds me of my childhood.  Taro rules.  
Haiky - This is a great Vietnamese restaurant that is very approachable, but it still maintains integrity of the traditional dishes.  

Now that you know where the go for that occasion or cuisine, cheers!