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

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!

Monday, August 11, 2014

I found my Dimple Twin at the 2014 Pay is Forward with Daniel Curtis

Another great Lone Star Paralysis Foundation Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis has delighted us, touched our hearts, and invigorated our dancing moves.  
This year for me was a pretty exciting.  I finally met my dimple twin via a conversation prompted by my Google Glass.  You’re thinking “what on Earth is a dimple twin?”  I’ll take a step back.  I have an unusual dimple on my cheekbone - on just one side.  It is a distinctive trait that garners attention.  It was just another trait that made me a statistical outlier.  
Attendees danced the night away to the Spazmatics.
Being a statistical outlier is pretty fun. You stick out like sore thumb (which I like to use to my advantage), but you also get a yearning for someone who might share your same feelings.  Well, I met my dimple twin.  He doesn’t look much like me, but darn, if it I didn’t feel like we had a small community of two.
So I got to chatting with AJ - that’s my twin’s name.  He suffered an injury about 3.5 years ago and was told that he would never walk again.  While I can’t understand what he felt to be told that your entire way of living would be turned upside down just when your life is getting started, I do know that he’s standing and walking because of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.  
My dimple twin! 
AJ is still active in physical therapy and lives with chronic pain.  But he’s working, happy, and full of life.  Stories like his carve an even deeper place in my heart for the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.  I’d like to say that you’ll come to Lone Star Paralysis Foundation events for the great food, great entertainment, and the great auction prizes.
The truth is that you should really come for the great people - the people who have formed an amazing community around recovery and the people who have triumphed past those difficult recovery stages of their lives.  Cheers to AJ and all the others on the road to recovery!

I would be remiss if I didn’t show off at least photo of food porn and thank our generous supporters.  Fabulous bites and sips courtesy of:  
Chef Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck
Chef Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Chef Ben Nathan of Café Blue
Chef Philip Speer of Uchi & Uchiko & St. Philip
Chef John Bates of The Noble Sandwich Co.
Chefs Jenn Costello and Chris Hurley of The Bonneville
Thank you so much to everyone for your support and making it a great evening!
Brown butter bruleed shepherd’s from Jack Allen’s.  Don’t forget that both Jack Allen’s and HopDoddy’s donates regularly to Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.

Monday, July 28, 2014

11 Myths about Google Glass and other Random Tidbits #throughglass

Oh, Google Glass, one of the more recent darlings of the tech world to come under public fire.  I would actually argue that Google Glass is fading out of the limelight, and drones are the current targets.  This is not uncommon when a new gadgets come out.  When the first iPhone came out in 2007, I received one as a gift.  The reaction to my spanking new iPhone in 2007 was actually much worse than the reaction I get with my Google Glass.  I was questioned repeatedly why I had to have such an expensive phone and why I couldn't live without checking my email. It was so bad I always had to preface pulling my phone out with "it was a gift."  My cell phone before that was a flip phone I got free with a $20 a month plan.  It didn't even have color, and I don't remember if I even had texting turned on.  It is probably hard to believe that people were so hostile about iPhones back in the day.  

Here's some Glass fun at Disney.  I wasn't the one doing the screaming.  I was mostly laughing. 

I've found the news coverage of Google Glass has been so dramaticized that it is comical. Please.  Do you need traffic that badly that you need to use fear and drama to get a click through?  Is everyone turning into the Onion or Buzzfeed?  Get a Glass first before you start speculating on what they can or cannot do. 
Here's some random tidbits about Google Glass before we jump into the myths. 

Tidbit1: You get a ton of selfies and really blurry pictures.  See below.  I used to never have photos of myself because I'm holding the camera.  Now that I let people play with my Glass, I have tons of accidental photos of myself demonstrating the camera function to others. I also have random photos of other people looking at my Glass when I'm demonstrating the camera feature. 

Tidbit 2: It is a great conversation starter.  Many people are genuinely interested in the Google Glass, and you can chat with random strangers about it.  It does take quite a bit of time, so if I'm in a rush, I keep it in my purse or hidden until I arrive at my location.

Tidbit 3: You get really good at being totally okay pretending not to hear when people are talking about you behind your back or your face.  Some people are not so subtle when they are alerting their friends that there is a Google Glass in person - and they are all too chicken to come up to talk to you about it.  If they make eye contact, sometimes I'll start the conversation.  But mostly, I generally ignore them. 

Tidbit 4: You wind up with a ton of photos of people you meet. It helps when you forget what they look like if you connect in the future.  This guy was interested in integrating Google Glass into their medical imaging research.  Now I will be able to remember what he looks like.  Win for me.

Tidbit 5: You can take photos without using your hands.  I find this really useful when handling the dogs.  Here's @Mousethedog at 12 years old at Meet the Breed at the Houston Reliant Show (above).  And here's a video of Mouse fetching a bumping at the lake filmed with Google Glass.

Here come the myths.

1. MYTH: That people are scared and fear for their privacy.  My experience having had Google Glass for nearly ten months in many different cities all over the United States (New Orleans, New York City, Atlanta, San Jose, and Austin to name a few) is that people are NOT scared.  99.99% of the people who see me with the Google Glass either don't care or they are curious.  If they aren't in one of the aforementioned categories, they are still polite and ask things like "I heard XYZ about Google Glass.  Is it true?

I have yet have anyone run away screaming in fear or becoming violent.  However, I am pretty intimidating in person with my mad ninja skills.  Perhaps people know better than to behave erratically around me. 
This brings me to a theory that someone with deep experience in the Bay area presented to me.  All the "stories" (more like telephone game hearsay) about hostility around Google Glass are only occurring in areas where gentrification has created severe tension with the tech community.  In these areas, the Google Glass (and probably a host of other physical cues) is like rubbing salt in the wounds of gentrification.  It isn't that residents of the area are fearful or hate Google Glass specifically, they have a problem with all things tech related.  Outside of these areas, there is little to no hostility towards Glass reported.  In conclusion: Dear blog writer who needs to jack up web traffic and the Google Glass seems like an easy target, Quit being such a drama queen and find a real story.  
Here's a video made with Google Glass and my iPhone at the Austin Food and Wine Festival in 2014Ming Tsai plays ping pong.  He's so Asian.  You already know. 

2. MYTH: It is dangerous to wear in public.  See myth 1.  I don't feel any more at risk when I do or don't wear it.  That said, I haven't worn it in the gentrifying places of the Bay Area.

3. MYTH: That it looks through clothes.  First, some people look way better with clothes on.  No, it doesn't look through clothes.  Please put your pants back on.  No really, I don't want to see your reproductive organs ever.  Also, I didn't bring a magnifying glass.  No pun intended. 

4. MYTH: You're scanning my face for the FBI.  The Glass is almost always "off," much like your phone if you are not actively using it. It doesn't have enough storage to record video or take that photos nonstop, and it certainly doesn't have enough battery life to be scanning.  And quite frankly with the problems of big data, do you really think a government entity would know what to do with random blurry photos?

5a. MYTH: What are you looking at all the time?  Dead people.  Just kidding.  The answer is nothing.  It is almost always off unless I'm using it.  Remember that thing about short battery life?

5b. MYTH: You'll get pulled over for wearing Google Glass while driving. It is such a distraction because it is always on.  I don't wear Google Glass if I'm not actively using it.  It doesn't have much battery life when I'm using it for photos and videos.  Also, given there are just over 10,000 Google Glass owners (estimated as of Summer 2014) in the world and the Glass is almost always off, I have a hard time believing that Google Glass is more of a distraction than a phone.  Sure, people may get pulled over.  But the raw numbers are pretty low given there aren't even that many Glass owners in the world. 

6. MYTH: Do you get to download and watch pornographic movies?  See the references to storage and battery life.  And no, I wouldn't anyways.  The screen is too small. 

7a. MYTH: You work for Google.  No. I don't work for Google.  They couldn't afford me.   

7b. MYTH: My name is Google.  While I answer to many names, I don't answer to "Hey Google!"  

8. MYTH: You got it that day everyone got it (April 5th, 2014)?  No.  I got in late Oct. 2013.  Do I look like everyone else?  

9. MYTH: I can stop you Glasshole.  I'll just cut off your wifi access.  I only connect mine to wifi when I'm at home.  I can connect it to my phone via bluetooth.  It is such a pain to connect it to a wifi network that I do not do it outside of my home.  Also, I don't need wifi to use the video and camera function.  That is just about the lamest thing I have heard about Google Glass.  Perhaps the person should have learned how Google Glass connects to wifi before wasting their time trying to block it.  

10. MYTH: You're going to pirate movies at the theatre.  This one is beyond hilarious.  Again, I reference the storage space and the battery issue.  If you have ever seen a video recorded on Google Glass, it is very difficult to record things that are remotely discernable.  I've posted several for your entertainment pleasure.  Trying to record with Google Glass is like trying to get a non-blurry photo of yourself herding cats while riding on an angry rhinoceros.  I've gotten pretty good at it, but not for more than a few minutes at a time.  If someone is really interested in a recording a movie, Google Glass is probably the last device to be considered.

Here's an example of a blurry Glass photo.  Really?  You're going to pirate a movie like that?

1. RARELY DISCUSSED: People actually use them for good.  There are many ways Google Glass can be good.  I used it for recording adventures at Disney (see above). 
Using it to streamline employee training, specifically in the fast food industry : http://www.qsrmagazine.com/exclusives/sizing-google-glass
Taking sick kids to the Houston Zoo: http://mashable.com/2014/04/08/google-glass-sick-kids/
To track your fitness: http://venturebeat.com/2014/06/26/google-reveals-a-surprisingly-useful-non-awkward-use-for-glass-fitness-coach/
Healthcare: http://www.healthcare.philips.com/main/about/future-of-healthcare/
Another one on healthcare: http://www.informationweek.com/healthcare/mobile-and-wireless/google-glass-gains-momentum-in-healthcare/d/d-id/1278648
And another on healthcare: http://www.ahier.net/2014/03/google-glass-in-medicine.html
Just for kicks, here's a video of a private ZZ Top concert in Austin #throughglass.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Republic Tequila Dinner at Chavez Restaurant

Let's talk about tequila.  Not taking shots of it, but enjoying the flavor and body nuances.  I was invited to a tequila dinner hosted by Republic Tequila at Chavez Restaurant.  Their product, along with the others out there are evidence of a changing approach to this lively spirit.  It isn't just for mixing anymore (though that is perfectly acceptable). It is can also be enjoyed by itself, to really get to the essence of the tequila.

Republic tequila is sold in their iconic bottles on Texas shelves.  They may come in other types of bottles in other areas of the country.

As with any other adult beverages, tequila is a complex character.  Variations by yeast used and aging process are just two variables that give different types of tequila its flavor.

Tequilas are generally split into lowland and highland tequilas, which indicates the regions.  Republic Tequila is a lowland tequila, garnering its flavor profile from the minerally volanic rocks found in the terrorr.  We had the Republic Plata (same thing as a blanco or silver) with these nibble-sized fried oyster tacos with habanero sauce.

I just wanted to say that the green bean sides were really delicious.  I'd get these again.

Here's the quail that was marinated in tequila with a tequila mole sauce.  Each dish was paired with a cocktail, but I enjoyed sipping the tequilas first with the food.  Sipping the tequila as opposed to having it with cocktails let the tequila flavors shine through more spectacularly without being blended with with the cocktail flavors.  Also, if you tried cooking poultry in tequila, it is delicious!  If making a chicken breast, make sure to pound it flat with a mallet first, and then brown until crispy after you have marinated it.  The flavors of tequila and other types of spirits give an additional dimension to food that is difficult to replicate.

We were also served three very delicious cocktails made with Republic Tequila.  The sage blossom with reposado was my favorite, and quite possible the best one I've had in a while.  It had earthy notes from the herbacious sage.  I'd probably get lost in that one.

It is 1.5 oz Republic Reposado, 1.5 oz pomegranate-sage shrub, and .5 oz lemon juice.  The shrub recipe was 1 part apple cider vinegar, 2 parts POM pomegranate juice, and 3 parts sage simple syrup (1 part sugar 1 part hot water, and 1 handful spanked sage allowed to steep overnight).    Shake and serve in a highball on the rocks garnished with spanked sage leaf.