Monday, June 20, 2011

Yesterday I spent seven hours cooking my first Thai meal, and it really was worth it. Cooking Thai food is so labor intensive, every last bit, from sourcing the right ingredients* if you're in the U.S. (light soy sauce, not Japanese soy sauce, kaffir limes, coriander root, etc.), to pounding curry paste in a mortar and pestle, to first frying the dried shrimp before you chop and mix it with everything else. Anyway, I learned a lot (like you may have to visit five stores to find everything that you need, and you're lucky if you do) and had a great time sharing it with my friends. I probably most enjoyed my favorite Thai snack, miang kham, which I described previously on this blog, because I was quite satisfied by the look and taste after having made it myself. Arroy mak! Very delicious.

I used Andy Ricker's recipe, which was published last year by Northwest Palate. But, I think next time the craving strikes, I'll head over to the Whiskey Soda Lounge and order those with a Singha, instead of going through the ordeal of gearing up in gloves and goggles to prep the birds-eye chilis that the recipe requires.

*I found the photographic ingredient glossary at to be very helpful.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More from Castagna:
1. Dungeness crab with lemony foam
2. Squid a la plancha with leek charcoal (one of the best dishes I've had there yet)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Franklin BBQ

I never expected to have such strong feelings about this meat. But a few bites into my lunch at Franklin BBQ, I was feeling some passionate love. Not only was the beef brisket unbelievably succulent (Aaron Franklin asked us when we ordered if we wanted "lean, or Fatty McFatterson," and of course we ordered the latter, which he held out to show us the glistening ribbon of fat sandwiched between the roasted meat layers), but it had such a depth of flavor. And its salty, smokiness was only enhanced by the potato salad, and tangy coleslaw, and bites of the tenderest pork ribs (you could chew right through the cartilage) I have ever had in my life. They were bright with black pepper and so, so juicy. Every accoutrement was vinegary, including the homemade bbq sauces that you can see in the jars in the background, which complimented all the richness. This meal was absolutely worth waiting for an hour in the sun and 100 degrees - it outshined the hype, and they bring you iced tea while you wait. Get in line before noon.

There's some more detail from the mouth of a Texan, at Hungry in Houston, from when Franklin was just a food truck. Now they have seating, and AC.
Franklin BBQ is located at 900 E. 11th street, Austin, Texas.
Snapshots of Austin, Texas

Visiting these places, in order, would comprise a perfect day in Austin. From top to bottom:
1. Breakfast tacos at Congress Ave. Grocery inside La Peña art gallery (corner of 3rd and N. Congress Ave.) are $1.00 each, and the real deal. The bean and cheese was really good, and I thought, kind of genius (how else would you want to eat beans for breakfast?). They're more like a little burrito than a taco, served warm wrapped in a small flour tortilla and foil, served with fresh salsa. And this one was better than the one I tried from Taco Deli.
2.Lunch at Franklin BBQ. See next post. Seriously worth the wait, but get in line before noon, otherwise you'll be out of luck. They sell out at about 1:00 p.m. If you don't live in the South, this will likely be the best BBQ of your life.
3. Ice cold beverage in the leafy courtyard at the Hotel San Jose.
4. Dinner at Uchiko. I was skeptical about sushi in the desert, but they really know what they're doing here, and then some. Ultra fresh hamachi to rival what I've had in Hawaii, and really creative (but not overdone) additions. I love how they serve sashimi on a mound of shaved ice, as pictured above (that was mackerel with tomato and shaved truffles - not my favorite, but beautiful). Standout dishes were the raw ones, especially the hamachi with Thai chili, the pork belly, and the desserts (big time talent at the pastry station). Great service and sexy dining room design, too.
5. A hot and breezy after dinner stroll on South Congress, under the neon lights of places like Fran's Hamburgers, feels so nice, with options to stop into one of the many bars for a margarita outside, or a craft cocktail inside. We found Woodland, which fell into the latter category, and I had an ultra-refreshing lavender gin rickey.
If you find yourself in Austin seeking live music, sophisticated cocktails, an amazing atmosphere (including silent Westerns projected in the background), a charming patio and speak-easy vibe (trust me - this is what you should be seeking), head across town to Eastside Showroom, one of the coolest bars I've been to, ever.