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

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cupcake Smackdown 1.0 - 1st post

Cupcake Smackdown 1.0 is on the way! We have a time. We have a place. We are tying up some loose ends, and we're going to all fall into a sucrose induce stupor on August 1st. Last day to submit entry forms for amateur classes is July 22nd. Entries per amateur category limited to 10. I'll be posting more updates on this event as we go along. Here's the current flyer for your viewing entertainment.

Sponsors so far include:
Rise and Shine Bakery
Sugar Mama's
Polka Dots Bakery
Luxe Bakery
L's Cupcakes
The Cupcake Bar
Hill Country Bakery
Austin Urban Gardens
All in One Bakeshop

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Milano Cafe makes me raise my hands and shout!

Oh. My. God. Milano makes me want to sing and dance, with both Sami and Giki Demi (the owners). This was one of those unexpected "OMFG" finds, which I sorely needed. I had a bad case of the Mondays. The MOTHER of all Mondays. Milano Café showed that Monday who was boss.

I brought my friend (former Austinite now NYer) and a bottle of Reisling to check out Milano Cafe. The decor of this location is just too cute. It is chic, but not pretentious. With the table lay out (cushy arm chairs and large low tables), you get a laid back lounge feel. If Milano Café had wi-fi, my expanding buttocks would be parked there every day. My friend ordered a panini, and I ordered the spanakopita (spinach puff pastry), beef and chicken milanos (meat and veggies wrapped with puff pastry all for $4), and an Alfredo pizza (white sauce with chicken for $8.99). Because my pizza was coming out late, Giki wanted to try other dishes they had - that was the Ablanezze pizza and salad.

The decently sized spanakopita and milanos were puffy and flaky, but not at all greasy. I liked all three that I tried: beef, spinach, and the chicken with sundried tomatoes. Mmm…. puff pastry goodness! The salad wasn’t anything to blink at either. Piled high on a large dinner plate, it was fresh, colorful, generously layered with feta cheese, and lightly coated with dressing. No dressing drowning casualties here. This healthful salad was perfectly proportioned and delightful on the eyes.

As much as I liked the milanos, spanakopita, and salad, the pizzas really stole the show. The Alfredo pizza was piping hot with an incredibly crispy thin crust. The chicken was flavorful, tender, and juicy white breast meat. Paired with the sauce and a glass of Reisling, I was in heaven. I can't quite put my finger on why the chicken was so tender. Just try it. You'll be speechless like me. This is one of the best pizzas I’ve had in Austin.

Next pizza up is the Ablanezze pizza, which deserves its own paragraph. This pizza is topped with Albanian sausage (beef and lamb) which is smoked for 25 days. Yes, you heard me. 25 days. That's nearly a month being smoked. When you smoke a sausage for 25 days, it's called passion, and that passion is out of this world tasty! If you like pepperoni, you’ll LOVE this pizza. It tastes like gourmet pepperoni, but it is sausage. It has the same salty and spicy flavor, but goodness knows it is not cheap pepperoni. I brought the left over pizza home for the SSO, and he said, "I want to marry this pizza." If I'm going to be left for a food item, I'm glad it was the Ablanezze pizza.

Let’s move on to the sampling of desserts: Frutti Di Bosco, Kadaif, and Tiramisu. The Fruitti Di Bosco is a fruit tart with layered with a smooth creamy custard and fresh berries . The fruit is a glazed with a mixture of fine grain vanilla French flour,. It is amazingly smooth, just a hint of sweetness, and it had a flowery aroma. Yum! The Kadaif can be conceptualized as a baklava type of dessert with angel hair pastry instead of sheets of phyllo dough. It looks somewhat like a big piece of shredded wheat sitting in a sweet nutty syrup. If you like baklava, you’ll like this fun-to-nibble angel hair pastry. Last dessert up is the Tiramisu, to which Sami pats his belly and says, “It’s Good!” It is not. It is DANG good! The cream is light and smooth, not too heavy like a marscapone tiramisu. The lady fingers are cake-y and moist, and perfectly soaked in coffee. I love tiramisu, and this one didn’t put me into a food coma. I heart it. I heart it. I HEART it! Oh, and let me make note that I resisted 65 plus cupcakes in my fridge over the weekend, but I did not resist the tiramisu. I attacked it with full force. I also had it for breakfast on Tuesday morning. Good thing I went to Crossfit. My hips will thank me.

After spending nearly three hours eating myself into oblivion, I learned a few things about Milano Café. Hopefully the details aren’t too fuzzy. That may happen after three glasses of Reisling. Sami and Giki Demi brought these recipes with them as they moved around Europe. I can’t pinpoint their accent, but it is charming and unique. They took little bits of different cultures with them and created these fabulous dishes. The cook, whose name escapes me now, was brought in from Manhattan. He gave me a blank stare when I asked how he prepares the dishes. Apparently, I’m not supposed to know certain techniques.

After Sami found out that I bake (no, I’m not a professional pastry chef.), he was eager to show me the ingredients that make their food stand out. Ask to see the French Flour. The flour doesn’t seem to have a gritty taste when raw. Sami uses it on the Frutti Di Bosco, and the fresh berries seem to be just ever so slightly glazed. This aromatic flour has such a wonderful vanilla and floral aroma that I’m pondering getting some for my own baked goods. The Albanian 25 day smoked sausage is quite pricey, and only two places in the United States make it. I won’t give out all their secrets, but I will urge you to try it. You may never go back to Italian sausage, pepperoni, or Canadian bacon.

Milano Café is still BYOB, so bring a bottle of bubbly. Sami and Giki will bring some wine glasses with a smile.

Milano Cafe is at 4601 Southwest Pkwy Austin, TX 78735 (512) 428-6076, just off of Mopac in South Austin.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chicken in white wine sauce with Sundried tomato spinach couscous and fresh mozarella

This is one of my "cleaning out the fridge", dinner in 15 minute meals. John (@windaddict) made plain couscous several days before, and I had some thawed chicken breasts in brine. Instead of eating out for the 6th time this week, I wanted to stay at home. Sorry about the pic. It was eaten quickly so um..... there's not many pics.

Chicken breasts in white wine served with sundriedtomato spin... on Twitpic

Ingredients (feeds 2, or just 1 if you're a 13 year old boy):
2 cups plain couscous
10 oz baby spinach
1-2 oz fresh mozzarella
1 teaspoon sun dried tomatoes in small slices or diced (if you get them in bulk section at Central Market, they are very very salty)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup of chicken broth or water
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken breasts, brined and/or pounded flat
1 tablespoon soft creamy blue cheese (optional)
Basil, oregano, other herbs (optional)

How to:
In a large heavy skillet or pan, heat up the olive oil. Pan fry each side of chicken breasts for about 5 minutes or until each side is browned. Cover the pan each time to speed up the cooking process. Once the second side is browned, add the wine and chicken broth or water. You may want to turn down the heat at this point. Cook for another 3-4 minutes to ensure the chicken is cooked thoroughly and remove the chicken from the pan. Set the chicken aside. You might want to use the plate you're going to eat off to save dishes.

In the same hot pan, add the sun dried tomatoes at this point and let them get heated through so that the flavor meld in the chicken juices and olive oil. You can add your other optional herbs at this point. Layer the baby spinach over the top and let it wilt. Cover the pan to speed up the process. Add the couscous (can be hot or cold), and toss through the spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Once it seems to be heated thoroughly (there should still be a little bit a liquid on the bottom of the pan, if not add a bit of water or chicken broth or wine), place the chicken on top of the couscous and spread the cheese around. The blue cheese is optional. I think it tastes fantastic with couscous and chicken, but I know it isn't a crowd favorite. Cover with a lid and leave the heat on high for 15 seconds. Turn off the stove, and walk away for 3 minutes. This should allow the liquid in the pan to turn into steam and thus heat the chicken and melt the cheese thoroughly. This will also allow a little of the couscous on the bottom crust up. Plate up and serve with a white wine or pale ale. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bread in a Can & Who wants cupcakes?

Many moons ago, my friend Jillian gave me bread in a can as she could not longer eat it due to dietary issues. I finally decided to open it and attempt to eat it. It was edible, but um....... well, it's canned bread. It was dense, kind of flavored, but mostly tasted like preservatives. Can't expect much. Pictures below for your viewing pleasure.

I'm also thinking of 3 new cupcake flavors: Reese's, Nerds/Sugar Rush (the name for this is still up in the air), and Latte. I have some ideas so far, and experimenting will start this week. Since John is on sabbatical, I need taste testers. His co-workers are the usual taste testers. If you want some cupcakes this week, holla!

Reese's - 512 Pecan Porter chocolate cake, filled with a Peanut butter cream, topped with whipped cream.

Nerds/Sugar Rush - Sprite vanilla cake laced with Nerds, topped with Pixie stick whipped cream.

Mochachino or some other coffee name - 512 Pecan Porter chocolate cake laced with espresso, filled and topped with a chocolate mocha whipped cream and topped with chocolate covered espresso beans.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Night at Trio

Prime Beef Sashimi

It is no secret that I love TRIO. The food is fabulous, the view is gorgeous, the service is just fantastic. What's not to love? After the last food blogger event, I was in heaven. My review is here. I thought there was no way TRIO could out do that event, but they made a liar out of me. A big thank you to Paul, Mark, Camile, and Susie for making the evening absolutely phenomenal.

A group of ladies had Happy Hour at TRIO at the Four Seasons on a Monday night - organized by Allison. Just to show you how far TRIO went to make sure our evening was heavenly, not only did the staff expect us, they recognized us. If I didn't already have a lustful relationship with TRIO, I would have thought that they were stalking us. I started by a visit to the bar (I had chit chat with my favorite bar tender, Susie) and a glass a Reisling. When we got to the table, Allison and Jaye let the cat out of the bag. We were all presented with gift bags containing a $50 gift certificate to their spa services (can we say bomb diggity awesome??!!?) as well as some lotion and soap.

Baked Gulf Oysters, Shrimp, Bacon, Shoestring Potato

After the ladies had some drinks and eats, we were given a tour of the spa facilities by Paul. I'm a woman. Women like spas. The spa had large floor to ceiling windows that literally brought the outdoors right inside. Imagine getting a massage with a beautiful view of Lady Bird Lake and flowers. Eh? You like? I like. Also, available was cucumber water and granola bars. All spas should be like this.

Artisan Cheese Plate

Following the tour of the spa was a tour of the kitchen. Um...... yes. I love food. Need there be more words? Really.... Jennie in the Kitchen is a Happy Jennie. Oh, and I spotted a gigantic jar of Rooster sauce. *Insert rauncy joke here* After the kitchen tour, we are taken to the pool area. On the way, we pass by a chimea, and Paul tells us that they do smores with the kids out there on Friday and Saturday nights. Whoa, Stop. Smores at the TRIO? The ladies get excited. Is there an age limit on being a "kid?" We all want a part of this! Paul must be a ladies' man because he senses our adrenaline rushing. Paul insists that they build a fire and bring out smore ingredients. The ladies cannot resist, and we are all grinning like Chershire cats.

We finally get to the pool, which is absolutely paradise. Sunblock in pump dispenser, big fluffy white towels, and lounge chairs were all at pool users' disposal. Paul also told us that frozen grapes and Evian water spritz (to mist your skin) is offered every half hour. I think Allison nearly passes out from glee.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The party moves back inside to order our last glasses of wine before paying our check, and Paul walks us and presents us with $25 gift certificates. He then proceeds to build a fire in the chimea while wearing his suit. I've decided that TRIO doesn't want to impress us, they want us to all marry Paul. Allison and I are taken, but the other six lovely ladies are still available.

We ended our happy 5 hours with smores on the gorgeous backyard of the Four Seasons over looking Lady Bird Lake. You're tired of reading text, you want more pictures. Makes you kind of mad that you skipped out, doesn't it? If you're a man, you're probably wishing that you were Paul.

Look at that Excitement!

Paul and Kris roasting marshmallows.

I'm happy. Jessican and Kris are happy. Are you happy?

We look like cheerleaders.

*Note: We didn't eat all the food pictured. Those pictures are from previous TRIO visits.