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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ode to Fino Austin.

By now you've heard the sad news, Fino Austin will be closing their doors at the end of March 2015. While I'm happy for Emmett and Lisa Fox, this piece of Austin culinary history will always have a place in my heart and a place in many chef's vitaes. During Fino's ten year run, the back of the house was a training ground for many of Austin's new great chefs, bartenders, and restaurants. Faces that I got to know and love at Fino include Jason Donoho now at Alamo Drafthouse, Bill Norris also at Alamo Drafthouse and Midnight Cowboy, and Josh Loving now at Midnight Cowboy and Jeffery’s. That’s just the short list. I’ve included a social graph of some of the chefs that have gone through the doors of Fino. Photos by John M. P. Knox.

While we wait for Emmett and Lisa’s new place to open, savor some past photos from Fino.

The shishito peppers are one of my favorites along with the fried olives.

Here's the mussels with a light yet flavorful broth.

This was a special. And special indeed.

This photo was from a wine ride in 2011.

Mr. Josh Loving doing his thing.

I'm pretty sure those are the hands of Bill Norris.

This was a special. A modern interpretation of meat and potatoes.

Fino was one of the first places that had a solid cocktail program. Many of Austin's great bartenders had a stint behind the bar here.

This foie was part of a chef's special dinner with St. Germain Elderflower circa 2010.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mom's Asian Cake Recipe

Here's an Asian cake recipe from my mom.  I don't know where she got it originally, but it is now her staple.  Asian cakes are quite similar to angel food cakes are they do not require a cargo load of butter, and they are fairly light and not too sweet.  This particular recipe is for the typical type of Asian cake that you'd find in an Asian bakery.  They are usually covered with light whipped cream and fruit.  Sometimes you'll see them decorated like Hello Kitty or other fluffy animals.

I'm not including decorating instructions as you're free to do whatever you like with your cake, and that you can find a simple whipped cream recipe.  I happy to like my cake straight up with no icing.

This Angry cake was at Six Ping Bakery in Houston, TX. 

Here's the recipe my mom has written down.  I'll have the English translation below in case you were wondering.

Here's the ingredients for the Asian cake: 
  • 3/4 cup fat free milk 
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon
  • 3/4 cup oil 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon Almond extract (or whatever type of extract you want)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon powdered sugar (or you could add more if you like sweeter cakes) 
  • 7 egg whites 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  You'll need to oven ready to go when the cake is ready to bake.  You can't let the batter on this one sit around.  

2. Combine the milk, egg yolks, oil, and almond extract together in a bowl.  Mix vigorously.

3. Sift together the cake flour, salt, and baking powder together.

4. Mix the dry ingredients with the milk, egg, and oil mixture in parts.  As in only put 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the bowl and then mix.  Then put in the other 1/3 into the bowl and mix.  You get the picture.

5. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Before they form soft peaks, add in the powdered sugar and cream of tarter.  2 tablespoons of sugar for a cake doesn't seem very sweet, and it is not.  If you like sweeter cakes, add more sugar. 
6. Combine the egg whites with the other mixture in parts.  Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the other mixture and fold gently.  Don't crush the egg white.  Then add in another 1/3 of the egg whites and fold ever so gently.  And then fold again very gently.

7. My mom likes to split the batter into two 9 inch round pans.  She also uses an angel food cake pan.  Whatever you do, DON'T oil the pans.  Mom just puts the batter in the pan straight up.  And be gentle.  Gentle with this batter.  It is delicate like a snowflake.

8. Bake for 25 minute at 350 degrees.  The cakes should be springy when you remove them from the oven.

9. Allow them to cool.  Decorate or just plain like I do.

Meet my mom's mixer.  It is about as old as I am. 

Here's the two mixtures.  The one with the egg yolks is the yellow one. 

Egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. 

And into the pan the batter goes. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Street Foods of #Taiwan: Things on a Stick

If you've done any reading about #Taiwan's food, you'd know that street food is a main attraction in the cuisine and in the culture. In many of the cities you visit, you won't be far from street food. Food carts and food cars are aplenty in morning markets, around most all attractions, and especially the night markets. Here's some photos of street foods from various locations in Taiwan. Here's an article from CNN on the run down of some other food might want to add to your list foods to try. Not all of then are necessarily street food.

This is an example of a food truck. You'll notice through out the posts that Taiwanese are very efficient with their space. There's not a square inch of this truck that is wasted.

Not only are the Taiwanese proud of their street food, they are also proud of their architectural feats. We have Taipei 101, and we have gigantic ice cream cones. These cones were very popular at Dansui (also called Tamsui on the red train sign out of Taipei train station). The sunset here is stunning like the cones. This one was 30 NTD, or just over a $1 USD. To answer your question: Yes, I did eat it. It was difficult to eat it at first because my arms weren't long enough t lower it so my mouth could reach the top. This is a pretty thorough blog post of Dansui, by a Texan just happened to be a coincidence.

This is an example what is called literally "big sausage wraps small sausage."  The small sausage inside is a traditional pork sausage tucked inside a rice sausage (similar to boudin) sliced lengthwise. It is topped with pickled vegetables and garlic. The American name for it is sausage with sticky rice. This photo was taken at my cousin's food stand, and there are many food stands in Taiwan selling these very same dishes.

Here it is deconstructed. You have the sliced rice sausage, pork sausages, pickled veggies, and garlic.

Also at my cousin's stand, we have pig's blood cake with rice. YUM! *If you don't like the thought of it, don't eat it. That just leaves more for me.

These are some very tasty pan fried dumplings. They've been called a variety of things from potstickers to gyoza. I call them tasty.

When it comes to street food, things on a stick are popular as they are easy to eat. Here's examples of things on a stick - rice sausages and fish cakes.

This stand was really interesting. They had things on skewers - all sorts of things. We have mushroom stems, beans, chicken offal, chicken, pork, and green onions wrapped in thinly sliced meats.

And here's more mushrooms and green bell peppers. Each stick was about 30 cents USD. Once you made your selection, someone behind the counter would grill it up to your specs and brush it with the sauce of your choice.

This isn't necessarily a food stand, but it is popular enough that it deserves a photo. You see many of these facing the sidewalk with seating inside. I didn't get to try any, but it appears to be "pick your own soup ingredients."

Conchs in the shell at the Queen's Head attraction at Yeh Liu Geo Park in Northern Taiwan.

This isn't street food. This was a parade in the streets of Tamsui / Dansui.

Here's another shot of the street parade in Dansui / Tamsui.

Deep fried squid is very popular in Taiwan.

I mean really popular. You will find many stands selling these crunchy lovelies in Dansui / Tamsui.

I found sausages in three flavors for just $1 USD for the stick. The top one is mixed in with salmon roe, the second one with squid ink, and the third one with with pieces of black squid.

Tempura goodies in Dansui / Tamsui

I don't know what these things are called in English. This was batter cooked on a griddle, filled with something, and sandwiched by another layer of batter. The generic name for these could be red bean cake.

Here's the one I ordered. It was about $1 USD.

At Baquashan's Great Buddha Statue, vendors sell griddled quail eggs. Some of the cooking devices on the street carts are just genius.

I'm guessing these are corn dogs also at Baquashan.

There's a variety of egg sizes depending on how many people are in your party at Baquashan.

Did I mention that Taiwanese people really like squid?

And more squid.

And waffles? That's right. Good old fashioned waffle sticks were popular as well.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Traditional #Taiwanese YouTiao Breakfast

If it isn't already apparent, I did a fair bit of eating while I was in Taiwan. You cannot go to Taiwan without having the traditional breakfast of YouTiao, a deep fried stick of dough. YouTiao (pronounced Yo Tao) loosely translated means oil tail - a play on what it looks like.

My cousin took us to one of the most popular youtiao shops in Kaohsiung. It is so popular that the establishment hired officers to direct traffic in front of the shop and to manage the motor scooter parking. There are many youtiao shops all over Taiwan. It is probably best to ask a local which shops in your area have the tastiest ones.
In addition to the youtiao, this place also has pan fried buns. There were amazingly delicious. So yummy!

The youtiao are cut in half, and nested into airy, crusty bread, and packaged into paper bags for service.

Here's what our tray looked like.

OMG. So crunchy and delicious. Bread pocket is one of the crunchiest, no-nonsense breads I've ever had.

Another view of our breakfast.

I'm already ready to go back for more. The traditional drink with this is soybean milk. We got a few pan fried yummies too.

The proper way to eat this is like a sandwich. You dip the end into the spicy soy sauce mix they give you on the side. Then you experience happiness in a bun.