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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Seven Things You Probably Didn't Know About #Taiwan

You might have noticed that I took an extended trip to a small island on the other side of the country. Taiwan, though small, boasts personality, stunning landscapes, and magnificent food. I might be a bit biased in those regards, and you should attribute that to pure pride. Before we get started on reliving my two weeks of fun, here’s a thing or two about Taiwan that you probably don’t know.

That's me in front of a sushi restaurant with my sushi shirt on.

1. Contrary to popular belief, Asian people can drive. At least Taiwanese people can drive. They do appear to be riskier than the lackadaisical drivers in the United States, but I assure you that they are focused and much more skilled at handling their cars. The traffic here is busy with motorscooters around every corner, giant buses packed with passengers, and pedestrians popping up out of no where. Everyone has to be on keenly focused on driving.
  • No one there texts while driving. Even talking on the phone while driving is rare. You’d have a severe accident every 15 seconds if you tried.
  • Drivers here can park like it a Cirque Du Soliel act. If you think it is entertaining to squeeze 12 adults into a Toyota Corolla, you’ll find it even more entertaining when they squeeze three corollas into one parking spot.

2. There’s no such thing as fake sugar here. There’s no equal, no splenda, no saccharin products. If you’re going to eat something sweet, you’re going to be real.

All real sugar. No fakers here.

3. The fries at many of the restaurants here are outstanding. I mean hands down best fries I have tasted in my life. I didn’t see the fries coming, but I’m glad I ate them. *Note: Mosburger fries were standard, not amazing. I’ll be writing up a post about Mosburger later.

Bees are a thing here.

4. Taiwan is really proud of its honey. In Kaohsiung, there were many opportunities to see local honey being produced and sold. It is something to celebrate.

Incredibly cute honey packaging.

This man is pouring honey that was just harvested from the hives behind him in Kaoshiung.

5. There is a peaceful coexistence with animals here. There are many places where you can be very close to wild animals, peacefully. One of which was the Shoushan Monkey Mountain in Kaohsiung and the Swan Lake Resort in Kenting. People don’t bother the animals, and the animals don’t necessarily bother the people unless you tease them with food.

This monkey just chilled out as hikers walked by.

5. The Taiwanese are really prepared for just about anything. Typhoons, fires, angry murderers, and everything else you can think of has been on the prep list. There are signs everywhere instructing you on what to do in case of emergency. You won’t go far without seeing a fire extinguisher somewhere. On the bus, on the train, in a hotel room, and even in temples. If there is an unintentional fire, there are means to put it out. There’s even emergency buttons in 90% of the public bathroom stalls I visited. I suppose there can be several types of emergencies in bathrooms, but let’s not go there.

Bathroom emergency? We got you covered.

6. Mango Ice may be the next new dessert from Taiwan to hit America. About 20 years ago, bubble tea called boba (tapioca ball drinks) came to America and now you see them everywhere teenagers and college kids hang out. Several years ago, shaved snow started showing up in the United States. I guess Taiwanese are dessert trendsetters.

Mango ice and a Swiss Cow at Taipei 101.

7. Salted coffee. Trust me on this one. I’ll have a separate post on 85C and bakeries in Taiwan. The sea salt coffee was sooooooo delicious. To my great joy, I saw that there were a few 85C locations in California. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning who has been good all year!

This coffee will get its own blog post. Coming soon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Asian Food in Austin: 2014 Edition before I stuff my face in Asia

Not long from now, I will departing to the other side of the planet to embark on an eating journey that will no doubt leave me with a Winter Wardrobe several sizes too small. While I’m gone, here’s my list of restaurants in Austin to get a taste of the East.  Last year’s expanded list is here:
Xian Sushi and Noodle House is serves hand pulled noodles, pulled to your specifications. You can have thick noodles, thin noodles, or even flat noodles. I suggest the traditional beef noodle soup as a starter. They also have a great happy hour and reverse happy hour!
Here's the beef noodle soup at Xian Noodle House. 

Shabu Hot Pot and Noodle House (formerly Chenz) is your go to stop for hot pot. While it is a perfect communal and interactive meal on a bitterly cold day, I would eat it alone on a warm day.
Chen’s Noodle House (related to Shabu, but not related to me) is another go to for Chinese noodle dishes.
Don't miss the crispy rice at Umai Mi. The texture is delightful.

Rice Bowl Cafe has the best three cup chicken. The garlic in the dish is worth a cross city trek. Don’t forget the green onion pie when you are there. 

Snow Monster is the new boba tea. Shaved ice has been popular in Asian countries since before I was born. It is just now being discovered here in Austin. Sit down, have one, and get a taste of my mother country.
A lovely twist on deviled eggs.

Kin and Comfort is a little more off the traditional beaten path. However, it is so well executed that even my mother was pleased with the fusion of Southern Comfort and Asian Cuisine. I ordered one of everything on the menu, and you can too.
Umai Mi is not in Austin, but it deserves a nod not only in the Asian food category, but it also deserves a nod in the San Antonio restaurant category. Chef Jason Dady has done a fantastic job putting a modern flair on Asian cuisine. My favorite was the eel dumplings, hands down.
These are some amazing eel dumplings at Umai Mi.

[Coming up] Angry Bear is Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki’s version of Chinese food. Having sampled their mapo tofu at a previous event, I can attest that your socks will be knocked off.
[Coming up] Wu Chow by Mat Clouser and CK Chin should be on your radar. As the choices for satisfactory dim sum in Austin are slimmer than a saffron thread, this new restaurant is a welcome addition. I can’t wait for it to open.

Friday, October 3, 2014

2014 Great American Beer Festival Facebook Social Graph

The Great American Beer Festival of 2014 is underway, and my first post is a social one. It isn't specifically about the festival experience or beer as those will come later. This data was pulled on Oct. 3, 2014.

I present to you the Great American Beer Festival Facebook Page Like Network. This data is a network of pages that GABF likes, and their liked pages liked. Some of the connections are pretty obvious, but others are a little less so. Enjoy the graph and enjoy the festival, safely!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

St. Philip's Pizza Crust from Heaven

St. Philip is nothing short of answered prayers. We now have it - another amazing restaurants in South Austin to join the likes of Lenoir, Sway, and Odd Duck. Here's some recommendations from my first visit.  *Disclosure: I really like Uchi, Uchiko, and the staff there. I guess I'm biased in that I'd like their next venture.

1. Get a beer. Their beer list is thoughtfully crafted so you ought to start with one.

2. Meatballs. I had the chicken meatballs, and I dipped my pizza crust in the white sauce. The meatballs are so juice and flavorful. The flavor of chicken comes through while being perfectly balanced with the spices, herbs, and sauce.

3. Pizza. Specifically the mushroom pizza. The crusts of the pizzas are amazingly tender and fluffy with a crispy bottom. It is like eating clouds of heaven. My heaven is pretty awesome. The mushrooms pizza is drizzled with an utterly delicious umami sauce that is pretty much savory orgasm in a bottle. The mushrooms were so earthy and meaty that it was as if you were eating in the middle of a forest. I was one with nature, and a pizza.

I had some left over pizza the next morning. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH yes!

4. We were gifted with a dish of potato chips. If you thought something s basic couldn't be improved, you are wrong. These chips are delicately paper thin with a salty and tangy crunch. Do not skip.

5. A version of chicken and churros that is sure to make you go "Wha?"

5. Pick up some goodies on your way out.

Like these fine buttery goodies.

Or this lovely chocolate smores snowball? 

St. Philip is still has a few days to go before they officially open to the public on Oct. 2nd. I hope you can wait until then!