Second Annual Balvenie Rare Craft Collection

Tomorrow, the second annual Balvenie Rare Craft Collection, a gallery-style exhibition featuring original works from some of America’s finest craftspeople, is coming to Austin.

Curated by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and native Scotsman Dario Franchitti, who will make an appearance on the 16th between 5:30–6:30 p.m., each of the 20 pieces in The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection stands as an expression of craftsmanship. From a hand-woven, hand-dyed merino wool hat and ornate bagpipe to a shuffleboard table constructed from ex-Bourbon barrels and a Baxendale Harwood guitar, this collection represents rare crafts from every corner of America, including Texas represented by western wear maker M. L. Leddy’s that has been fitting presidents, royalty and rock stars for leather boots and saddles for the past four generations.

The event will be co-hosted by Texas native Jonathan Wingo, The Balvenie Brand Ambassador. Wingo was recognized in 2012 by Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” in the Food and Wine category for his dedication to curating a collection of craft and obscure whiskies distilled from all over the world at a boutique liquor store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, called The Whiskey Shop.

The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection is Sept. 16 & 17 from 5:30–9 p.m. at Brazos Hall, 204 E. 4th St.  The gallery-style exhibit is free to the public (21+) and includes complimentary tastings of the world’s most hand-crafted single malt Scotch whisky, The Balvenie and light hors d’oeuvre. RSVP is a must: www.thebalvenie.com/collection.

I’m planning on being there Wednesday, so I hope to see you there!

Chocolat: Means making a lot of chocolate!

Chocolat: Means making a lot of chocolate!

Having been reading “Chocolat”* for about a week now, I knew it was time to actually make some to eat while reading. You can only read about someone opening a chocolate shop for so long before you’re going to get a craving.

*Yes—Like the movie!

I happened to have a stash of chocolate flavored bark coating* (you know, for emergencies), so I decided to make a chocolate bark. I had pistachios and dried cranberries on hand, but you could use plenty of other things in this, such as peanuts, raisins, walnuts, seasonings, orange or lemon rind, crushed peppermint—get crazy!

*I definitely plan to use solid chocolate next time, but this is what I had on hand.

Chocolat Cranberry-Pistachio Bark

8 oz. chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dried cranberries1/4 cup dried pistachios
Kosher salt

Melt 8 ounces chocolate in a double boiler*. Add butter and melt to thin out the chocolate if needed (never water). Pour into a small baking dish, lightly coated with Pam and cover with parchment, cut to fit. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup whole or crushed pistachios and about 1/4 cup dried cranberries. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Cool in fridge or freezer until solid. Use the tip of a knife to pry the chocolate from the baking sheet and peel off parchment if it’s stuck. Break into pieces with your hands.

Takes about 15 minutes, plus about 30 minutes to harden.

Tips:

I used my finger to push the pistachios and cranberries into the chocolate a bit so it won’t fall off as much when you are breaking it apart. Use the biggest salt crystals you have on hand for the prettiest look (Which is why I didn’t use sea salt. My sea salt is fine instead of big.)

*I have never owned a double boiler, so the method I’ve always used is to place a pot inside a slightly larger pot. Add a couple inches of water to the bigger pan and bring to a light boil, place smaller pot inside. If the water tries to boil over the side just bring the smaller pot up until the water settles down and turn down the heat. Stir frequently. The double boiler (and self-made double boiler) keeps the chocolate from burning. You could melt in the microwave if you need to, but make sure to only melt for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time to avoid burning the chocolate.

Now it’s time to curl up with my book and chocolate!

Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey

If you love cooking or eating, then the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is for you.

Set in France, an Indian family embarks from London to France in search of tasty vegetables. Not knowing where they might settle in France, fate decides for them when their car crashes in a small town with wonderfully grown tomatoes and mushrooms. The family finds a restaurant for purchase, but it happens to be right across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The father, who has a bit of a stubborn side, does not listen to his children’s protests and purchases the restaurant. The French woman who owns the restaurant across the street tries to sabotage the new restaurant, but when someone goes beyond competition and tries to hurt the family out of bigotry, the woman shows a caring act that begins to thaw the two sides.

Meanwhile, one of the Indian sons has an unusual gift for cooking and is determined to impress the very particular French restaurant owner by perfecting French dishes, in addition to the cultural dishes he brings to France with him.

See the trailer here.

Lump Crab Migas and Bloody Marias

Lump Crab Migas and Bloody Marias

On a quest for the perfect brunch, we have found quite the forerunner: Lump crab migas paired with a bloody maria.

What’s a Bloody Maria, you ask?

A Bloody Maria is a Bloody Mary subbing tequila for the vodka. Seeing that we had recently acquired a free bottle of Real Gusto Blanco Tequila for testing, it just made sense that we’d try this new twist. We did two trials to find the perfect recipe and we’re happy with the final recipe below.

Try this combo for your next brunch with friends.

Bloody Maria

Here’s the basic Bloody Maria recipe. Pour all ingredients into a blender (or Nutribullet) and blend.

  • 2 oz of Real Gusto Tequila Blanco (USDA Organic!)
  • 3 Dashes of Worcesterchire Sauce
  • 3 Dashes of Pepper
  • 3 Dashes of Celery Seeds
  • 3 Dashes of Makrut Lime Sea Salt [Savory Spice]
  • (How to pronounce Worcestershire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylP_iQvOuaM)
  • 1 Teaspoon Horseradish
  • 6 ounces tomato juice or tomato-vegetable juice cocktail
  • [5 oz of organic strained tamato / tamato sauce plain + 1 oz of water]
  • 1 oz of lime juice or Half a Lime
  • 3 Dashes of Hot Sauce

Rim a pint glass with Makrut Lime Sea Salt. Garnish with Habanero Smoked 16/20 Shrimp, a slice of avocado and a sprig of cilantro.

Migas are one of my favorite things in the world. Other favorites: crab and avocado. So, this recipe has pretty much everything beloved in my life. The seafood migas compliments the Bloody Maria perfectly so that I can’t imagine one without the other.

If you’re not from Austin, let me explain to you the wonderful world of migas. Originally stolen from Mexico and Spain, this Tex Mex favorite has become an Austin staple.

Migas by definition, means crumb—basically made from leftovers, such as tortillas or tortas. In the Tex Mex version, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos are diced and thrown in along with fried tortilla strips and generally served with guacomole, avocados or salsa and smothered with queso or cheese.

Lump Crab with Migas

  • Deshelled Lump Crab ($20/lb.)
  • Pico De Gallo*
  • Scrabbled Eggs
  • Fried tortilla strips
  • Salt + Pepper to Liking

To cook, pour a thin layer of olive oil in a medium-sized pan. Heat on medium high. When hot, add a layer of pico de gallo (about 1/3 cup) to the pan until heated throughout. Meanwhile, whisk five eggs seasoned to liking with pepper and salt, in a bowl. Pour eggs into pan and pour crab and fried tortilla strips over eggs as it begins to settle. Scramble eggs. Under cook eggs by about 2 minutes, add pepper jack cheese slices across the eggs and cover and let melt for 2 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, avocado and lime.

*We should note that pico de gallo is not the same thing as salsa. Salsa is generally chunky and blended, where as pico de gallo consists of tomato, onion and jalapeños only—very finely chopped. No seasonings, no fanciness, but it’s good stuff.

 

 

This is the perfect end to a long weekend!

AFBA Happy Hour: The Hightower

AFBA Happy Hour: The Hightower

The Hightower in East Austin is hard to classify.

Outside the patio is nice and large, perfect for grabbing a drink before heading home. In July, that did not seem like the best option, so we asked to be moved inside, which they so kindly obliged. Inside is a bit dark (and very hard to take good pictures in :) ) but the atmosphere is relaxed for a nice after work happy hour.

About 15-20 people showed up to July’s happy hour—whether that’s because we didn’t have a happy hour in June or because there was free food is hard to say. We each got two free drink tickets. The drinks were fairly strong, so I gave away my second ticket. I would have liked my drink, the Deep Eddy Splash, to have been a tad bit sweeter, but it was refreshing none-the-less.

The rugged, small bar has surprisingly good food, which ranges from classic-with-a-twist American food to traditionally ethnic dishes.

At The Hightower, the chef takes the always-popular Brussels sprouts ($5) and adds peanut butter and golden raisins, to create something different than you’ll find elsewhere. The fried chickpeas ($4) were a nice, crunchy pre-dinner treat. But the real favorite seemed to be the roasted pork jowl with rice, egg yolk, burnt avocado, cucumber, pickled shallots and house sriracha ($14). I tried a bite before the bowl got stirred up with all the roasted pork jowel and it seemed top notch!

I’ll definitely recommend this place to coworkers for a future happy hour. Thanks for hosting us!

Condo update: Kitchen needs

Condo update: Kitchen needs

I’m finally settling into my new condo. I’ve been in it about a month and have already begun baking and cooking again! Just this morning I woke up at 4 a.m. and baked cinnamon rolls for my monthly book club meeting (and then went back to bed for much-needed sleep!).

Now that most of my kitchen supplies have found a home, I’m evaluating what I don’t have. I already made a trip to Crate and Barrel to pick up some plain white bowls for cereal and soup, etc. (4 large, 2 small).

The list of things I’ve come up with that I’m missing in my kitchen (although I’m sure the list will grow) are:

  • wooden spoons
  • cookie sheets (Bought one, could use another)
  • serving spoons
  • turner spatula (for pancakes, etc)
  • colander
  • pie plates (There’s a cute one at Target for $12 I am thinking about)
  • trivets
  • bread basket
  • vase
  • food processor (There’s a nice turquoise Kitchen Aid at Target)
  • cookie jar
  • table cloth
  • pasta maker
  • ramekins
  • pizza pan

I’m trying to keep the list somewhat minimal since I only have so much space, but some things are necessary: like cookie sheets. How can I make people cookies without these?

If there’s something not on the list that you can’t live without in your kitchen, add it in the comments. I may or may not already have it. For instance, I already have the coveted kitchen aid mixer, a wine rack, plenty of bar glasses, and many mixing bowls passed down from my mother.

Also, if you know of a place I should check out to purchase any of the above, please let me know. I typically go to Crate and Barrel or Sur la Table, but am open to places with unique selections. I used to love the kitschy place on Anderson Lane, but am not sure where it moved to.

To new kitchen experiences!

 

 

Pin it. Make it. Eat it.: Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Pin it. Make it. Eat it.: Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Sometimes you just want a cinnamon roll, but you don’t want it to take all day long to make. Insert this recipe from Crazy for Crust that I found on Pinterest: www.crazyforcrust.com/2014/03/quick-cinnamon-rolls-small-batch/.

In just 45 minutes you can have some yummy to your tummy cinnamon rolls. I love that it only serves six rolls—Just the amount to not get too carried away.

When I went to Texarkana for the week of July 4th, my mom and I were craving a sweet, so we ventured online for a quick recipe. This was the one I thought worked well with our timeframe and the amount we wanted to make. Not to mention a delicious cream cheese frosting recipe! The only thing we changed was adding raisins—you’ve got to add plump raisins!

Although my mom and I took the rolls out just a tad too early at first, we quickly put them back in for a few minutes and enjoyed this recipe so much! So quick, so easy and so delicious!

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Sailor Jerry Day at Moontower Saloon

Sailor Jerry Day at Moontower Saloon

Typically I try not to venture too far south of the river, but I found myself almost half a mile south of Slaughter Lane at Moontower Saloon for Sailor Jerry Day last week.

That said, this might be one of the coolest bars in Austin—not just because it has misters everywhere—but also because it’s got volleyball courts, washers, picnic tables, armadillo sculptures and several food trailers scattered about the outdoor area. The jams were good, both the outside stereo and the live band.

I should also mention dogs are allowed at this bar, so no excuse for you pet owners!

I felt a bit over- or under-dressed when I arrived, depending on how you look at it, being that I was dressed for work instead of as a pinup girl. I also felt just a tad naked, having no tats to my name. I could have fixed that at the event, as free tattoos were being given out, but I’m just not that committal. If I haven’t committed to a man, I don’t know how I’d be expected to commit to something that would be on my body forever. If I were to get a tattoo, I think the Sailor Jerry designs would be up for consideration. I love the simplicity of them.

Despite saying I was going to try the Old Ironside (which I’ve been experimenting with another type of spiced rum at home, but really need to try with Sailor Jerry, since it has a stronger taste to it), I ended up trying another drink altogether, Jerry and Ginger (It was $3 or $4 on special …). It has Sailor Jerry’s and ginger beer. I know I don’t like beer, but ginger beer is a whole ‘nother story! I like pretty much any drink with ginger beer, and this drink was no exception—very tasty! I like that Sailor Jerry’s rum has a bold taste, and it’s not a weak drink, either.

If you haven’t done so already, stop by Moontower Saloon sometime and while you’re at it, why not try the Jerry and Ginger?

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Moontower Saloon Celebrates Sailor Jerry Day in Austin June 12

This Thursday Moontower Saloon, 10212 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748, will be commemorating Sailor Jerry Day to celebrate Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, Father of the Old School Tattoo from 5 p.m. to midnight. Moontower Saloon will host a series of games — from raffles and social media contests to a cornhole tournament — to win free tattoos by tattoo artists Philip LaRocca and Ramsie Segura of Austin Tattoo Co.

“Sailor Jerry Day pays tribute to a truly under-appreciated American icon and independent spirit, Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins. His influence is definitely seen throughout Austin’s culture, and his loyal followers will salute him and toast with the 92-proof bold and smooth-as-hell namesake rum on this special day,” said Austin-based Chase Hanna, Sailor Jerry Brand Ambassador for Texas.

Born January 14, 1911, Norman Collins was a hard living, tough Navy sea dog who set up a tattoo shop in Honolulu in the 1930’s. Over the next 40 years, he carved out a unique style that would change the face of tattooing forever.

Perfecting a deftly crafted, boldly lined style that blended American design and traditions with Asiatic coloring and sensibilities, the iconic “Sailor Jerry” tattoo has become one of the most recognizable icons of Americana, representing an authentic attitude and spirit of rebellion.

Collins also revolutionized the industry by advocating for regulated standards of sterilization and sanitation that are still met in modern day tattoo shops. Sailor Jerry Rum is a premium, old-school spiced rum, crafted in the traditional Navy way by William Grant & Sons. Sailor Jerry Rum, a 92 proof rum, is made from aged Caribbean Rum and blended with spices, including ginger, cinnamon, clove and vanilla.

For more information, visit www.sailorjerry.com or follow www.twitter.com/sailorjerry and www.facebook.com/SailorJerry.

The event is free for those 21 and up.

And, the Spooners favorite part: Sailor Jerry drink specials include signature Old Ironsides made with Sailor Jerry, pineapple juice and soda water; and frozen Sailor Jerry Piña Coladas.

Here’s a recipe they’ve provided for us. We’ll let you know what we think and post pics once we’ve tried it!

Old Ironsides Recipe

  • 2 parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 4 parts fresh pineapple juice
  • Soda water

Build in a rocks-filled highball glass.

Top with soda water and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Cheers!

AFBA’s Biggest Fundraiser The Big Chill Helps Meals on Wheels

The-Big-ChillHey! We just wanted to share with you one of the biggest events the Austin Food Blogger Alliance puts on. This year, we’ve changed the name from Cupcakes and Cocktails to The Big Chill, which will focus a bit more on the food side than in prior years where the cupcakes were the main focus.

Restaurants will be serving cold dishes to cool you off from the summer heat. As noted above, we’ll have yummy foods and drinks from some great chefs, such as No Va, Trace, Noble Sandwich Co. and many more.

I’m especially excited that this year’s event benefits Meals on Wheels and More, my nonprofit of choice. I already support them financially, but especially since my grandma died recently, I’ve been thinking about what a great service they are for the older community who may just want a visitor to pay them a visit and bring them a hot meal.

I hope you’ll come out June 26 and enjoy food and drinks and support Meals on Wheels! It’s gonna be a blast!

Purchase your ticket now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-big-chill-tickets-11149888617.