AFBA Potluck: Quiche Me Again, Please

DSC_2635By Tiffany Young

OK, from the title, you may have already guessed I have a bit of a love affair with quiche. I mean, how could I not? It has eggs. I love eggs. It has cheese. I love cheese. And best of all—it has crust! I mean frittatas are good, but quiche, with it’s lovely crust, is better. (That’s the difference between quiche and frittatas if you never knew.)

I have been invited to a lot of potlucks lately, and, while I enjoy cooking I don’t like to spend all of my free time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning, unless it’s by choice. So, I’ve been sticking to quick and dirty recipes. Some of my favorite, easy recipes include cornbread, quick pies and—back to the subject—quiche.

My favorite base recipe comes from here. This “recipe” is perfect for me, because it’s not too structured. I want the basics: about this many eggs, this much dairy product, but I never really follow recipes to the T. This recipe allows you to decide what to add. Case in point, sometimes I have milk on hand, other times it’s half and half or cream. They all work just fine, so start with this recipe and then venture from there.

This quiche was made to share with the Austin Food Blogger Alliance for our anniversary potluck. You can just imagine all the deliciousness that was shared. And in good company, too!

Luckily, my coworker, Frank, had brought me a dozen fresh eggs and I had a frozen pie crust already awaiting for me in the freezer.

At the store, sundried tomatoes were calling to me, so I decided to pair it with feta cheese and Italian herbs. A quick tip: Always line the pie crust with cheese, so it doesn’t get too soggy on the bottom. I had a little cheddar cheese to start with, about 1/4 cup to spread on the bottom. Then I added a thick layer of feta cheese, then sundried tomatoes (both of these items already had Italian herbs added), then the egg mixture (see the formula on the link above) and then I added a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence.

I wasn’t sure what I would get since I’d never used feta or sundried tomatoes in quiche before, but it was better than I had even imagined.

So, the next time you’re pressed for something to bring to a potluck (or a brunch, or Easter breakfast), do us all a favor and make a quiche (just remember it takes about a full hour to bake, so it’s not necessarily quick, but it is easy!).

Eggscellent!

 

Review: Magnolia Café

magnolias eggs benedictBy Tiffany Young

In Austin, we love our brunch. Breakfast? Closer to the lunch hour? Brilliant. Saturdays and Sundays you should expect to wait a couple hours to eat if you wake up past 10. But that’s OK, because mimosas and bloody Mary’s are likely to be involved.

One of my favorite brunch places, especially to take people from out of town is the tried-and-true Magnolia Café. Open 24 hours, this classic diner has its breakfast menu down. From the love migas to the eggs benedict and eggs zapatino to the Magnolia omelet, there’s an option for everyone’s taste. Not to mention the delicious pancakes and daily specials.

I love the Lake Austin Boulevard location, where you can see runners trekking  around Town Lake. Parking is slim, but you can always park in the neighborhood and have a lovely, hilly walk to your destination to especially appreciate the good food.

They do expect you to have your entire party before being seated, so respect the rules–the staff is trying to make everyone’s visit nice, not just yours. It’s the least you can do. After all, they keep fresh flowers on the table for you each and every day.

I especially love the eggs zapatino–basically the eggs benedict for vegetarians, it comes on an English muffin, topped with an egg and smothered with queso. Yum Yum!

If you’re at a loss for where to go, Magnolia Café comes through for you, no matter the time of day–breakfast is always served.

Another SXSW has come and gone

By Tiffany Young

As many of you already know, I’m a big fan of music, and more specifically, music festivals, which works out great with me living in a place like Austin, Texas. Here there are three main music festivals, in my opinion: ACL Music Festival, SXSW Music and Fun Fun Fun Fest.

The coordinators of SXSW are smart in that they have coordinated the festival dates around UT’s spring break, which local schools generally are based around as well. This means, not only can all the college students attend, but also professors and teachers. And it’s not unheard of for students from nearby colleges to come into town for the occasion. That being said, it’s been a long time since I was in high school or college, but I do work in education, so this was the first year I got the entire week off to celebrate SXSW ( I mean spring?).

Even though going, going, going can, indeed be exhausting, as many are apt to complain about, I find this week also to be rejuvenating. Just the sheer amount of creativity going on in Austin during the week is amazing. There is also a film festival and interactive festival going on. It’s hard to imagine the amount of genius that surrounds all this activity.

Instead of telling you about my whole week (which to be quite frank—I could not recall everything anyway), I will be highlighting a few things from my week, and then, if Flickr cooperates, I will add more photos later.

1. Probably THE most inspiring act at SXSW was Rich Aucoin. I had seen him before, but this year I saw him a whopping three times. If you’re not familiar with him (and it’s unlikely you are) he’s a Canadian, who produces dance parties at will. Think: screaming “Let it go – o – o -o!” playing with giant parachutes and confetti flying in the air mixed in with YouTube videos. I know.. it’s hard to imagine. But If you get the chance, try it out. I think Rich’s genius is that he’s just a guy who’s bringing fun and stress relief to a generation who sometimes forgets about fun in the need to succeed.

This show is all about letting loose and having a good time en mass with a bunch of strangers, who you’ll share a bond with by the time all is said and done. If you’re just looking for the best musician at the festival, this might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking for a heartfelt party, this is it.

2. July Talk came in at a close second for me. This duo is insanely passionate onstage. It’s hard to describe the crazy rock feel, but I’ll try. The guy part of the duo, Jeremy Dreimanis, reminds me of a crazed Johnny Cash. In contrast, the sweet gal, Leah Fay, has a sweet Betty Boop-ish voice. They banter with one another while toying with the audience. Leah not only was drinking honey from the bottle onstage, but offered it up to many an audience memb

er. By the end of it all, you’ll be slightly scared of Jeremy (from yelling at the audience to wake up, while slapping his own face) and enamored of Leah, who’s flirty and sexy and seemingly sweet. If you’re looking for an energetic show, that plays around with teasing and has a sense of the unexpected, this is where it’s at. The band is solid and the energy is catching.

3. Other bands of note: Loved Wonder Villians (seriously poppy, reminds me of Cindy Lauper); Loved MISUN (Cheerleader moves, gorgeous indie-rock voice combined with hipster clothes); Austin’s own The Gents (Rockabilly Indie Music, if that were a thing with a lead singer that has bounds of energy–they are playing a free show Tuesday in Austin with RSVP); And of course, there were lots, lots more that I truly enjoyed–these just left a really lasting impression.

4. Food: We’re still a food blog, so I guess I’d be remiss to not

mention the food I ate. I finally got to try Café Crepe, which was delish. I also ate  falafel from a food truck–can’t remember the name, but it wasn’t Kebabalicious. Shout out to Nespresso, who served up yummy coffee during interactive (’cause clearly Austin needed to be a little more wired than usual that week). Other than that, I was usually on the go and didn’t grab pictures or just grabbed Roppollo’s pizza, while I was on my way to another show. There was a party at Maggie Mae’s serving poutine.

If I can get my other photos uploaded, I may share more of my week later, but for now, that’s all the South By news. Until next year!

City Guide: Sarah’s Mediterranean Grill And Market

When you run a food blog, people seem to think you are a guru in the world of food. Maybe I relish in letting my friends think that I am the all-knowing. Maybe it’s a facade. Or maybe, I truly enjoy food and finding hiding gems in the city.

Over the past, the Spooners have stepped away from restaurant reviews and have leaned more on spirits, recipes, food memories and feeding creativity.  A large number of blogs do reviews better than we do. But when the Spooners get excited about a food establishment, we get excited! Overjoyed, even.

Sarah’s Mediterranean is a diamond in the rough. A number of Austin establishments pride them selves with unique fusion cuisine and gorgeous yet disenchanted service. Sarah’s is nothing like that. Tucked away on Burnett between 51st and Keonig, you can Sarah’s in the same shopping center as Man Bites Dog. Visually, Sarah’s is both a grill and a market. Not a far stretch from a layout of any major grocer that has an eatery – just on a smaller scale and less glitch. By that, I mean that anyone, in any attire could feel comfortable.

Sarah’s reminds me of going over the your aunt’s house. She will greet you with a smile on her face and hug you if she isn’t standing on the other side of the counter. Her and her family use well rehearsed and silly banter to disarm even the most hard-hearted. Side note: Any front-of-the-house manager or server could learn or be reminded of a thing or three from Sarah and her family and their interactions with customers.

As for the food, Sarah and her family cook well spiced and tasty Mediterranean dishes. Everything from Lamb Shank to my personal favorite, the rotisserie chicken. I am not kidding when I say that I eat the chicken at least twice a week. All dishes are prepared Halal. A number of places in Austin are trying hard to stand out but Sarah’s has leaned on the other end of the spectrum by doing what they love and doing it well.

By now, you might have figured out that Sarah’s is the place I recommend the most. “It’s been a long day at work, where do I go?” Head to Sarah’s. “I need a paleo meal to go.” Sarah’s in the answer. “What about a first date.” Sarah’s is perfect. Needless to say, I believe that Sarah’s in the answer for most every occassion.

Sarahs Mediterranean
5222 Burnet Road, Suite 500
Austin TX, 78756
(512) 419-7605
Mon – Sat 10 am to 9 pm. Closed Sunday

Suggestions: 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken [$6.99], Lamb Shank [$9.99] and Baklava [$0.99]

cityguide_afba_badge-1

Childhood Memories with Mark Collins

1. What was the most (or some of the most) common meal(s) you ate as a child?

I always complained terribly about meatloaf night and often refused to finish my plate. It wasn’t until Junior year of high school that I realized the exact same meatloaf was the main protein when my Mom made pitas – a meal I typically requested for my birthday dinner. So I started eating meatloaf after that and now it’s one of my most favorite dishes.

2. What was your favorite snack as a kid?
My sister and I would put velveeta cheese on English muffins, sprinkle it with salad seasoning and toast it in the oven. We didn’t have a name for them until one morning my mom became exasperated over how quickly we went through English muffins and called them “stupid cheese things.” The name stuck.

3. Tell me about the setting of a typical meal in your family.
All four members of the family sat down to dinner together every night. Most times my mom prepared something from her repertoire of 15-20 dishes she could cook from memory. Every Friday was pizza night and we’d usually sit down and watch TV while we ate.

4. Did you have any odd eating habits as a child?
Nothing particular comes to mind but I’m sure my family members would disagree.

5. If your palate has changed, when did that occur and what did you like differently?

Goodness yes. When I first moved to Austin I lived with a chef and she exposed me to so many exciting culinary wonders, in addition to making me appreciate staples like onions and mushrooms. Now I try as many new foods as possible, from goat brain curry in Bangalore to ant egg tacos in DF.

French Toast: Solution for day-old sourdough

DSC_2311

By Tiffany Young
I’m trying to be more mindful of wasting food. As someone generally cooking for one, this is difficult to do. I typically go to the grocery store once or twice a week and try not to buy too much, but inevitably, I’ll think I’m going to eat dinner at home most nights per week and then end up being home about once during the week. This means I definitely can’t get carried away buying all the fruits and veggies I want. It also bothers me when I end up with a can or a 1/2 cup of something random that sits on the shelf for months upon months. For this reason, I’m trying to evaluate what food I have in the house on Sundays and determine what needs to be used and what items I should buy at the store to go with what I already have.

DSC_2320
That being said, this week I had almost a loaf of sourdough left on Sunday and it was the “baked fresh” bread from the bakery–i.e. no preservatives, i.e. gonna go bad if I don’t use it pronto. I thought about ways to use it up quickly and came up with either 1) croutons or 2) French toast. And with my sweet tooth, you know which one I was leaning toward.

And that’s how I came to make a lot of French toast this morning. So much, in fact, I’m freezing some and planning on taking some into work a few days this week to heat up for breakfast.

DSC_2336

For the recipe, which promises (and delivers) crispy, not soggy, French Toast, visit Sweet Pea’s Kitchen. I subbed coconut milk for the milk and completely didn’t see it called for brown sugar until just now, but it worked out all the same. I’ve never done this before, but they have you bake the bread for 8 minutes on each side to keep the bread from getting too soggy when you dip it in the egg mixture. Also, I thought it was brilliant that they have you keep all the toast in the oven after you’ve put it on the griddle so that you can serve it all warm. I’m going to have to tell my parents about this! We always just eat pancakes and French toast one at a time when it’s ready so that it doesn’t get cold, but this way makes way more sense! It sucks to be the one cooking and watching everyone else eat while you’re still flipping food.

I will say French toast takes a lot longer to make than I had thought–You have to cook each slice of bread 3-4 minutes per side, with about 10 slices of bread puts you at 30-40 minutes, not to mention the pre-toasting time. Luckily it tasted so yummy I didn’t mind, and hopefully the grab-n-go breakfasts may save me some time in the mornings.

Childhood Memories with Eric Pulsifer of Tuesday Newsday and The Movie Press

Eric Pulsifer

 

Meet Eric Pulsifer, music and movie blogger for TuesdayNewsday (http://tuesdaynewsday.tumblr.com/) and The Movie Press (http://www.themoviepress.com).

What was your favorite snack as a kid?

The snacks I remember most from my childhood were breakfast foods, which is probably not a big surprise since breakfast is still my favorite meal today. Few things are better than breakfast. As a great man once said, “There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food.”

Breakfast as a kid was a little different than the multiple varieties of meat pork-stravaganza with eggs I like to chow down on these days. It was all about cereal — sugary, sugary cereal.

Most of these multi-colored boxes of happiness were cross-promotional items for TV shows, movies or action figures. In the ’80s, my dental kryptonites of choice were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, or two-in-one goodness of Nintendo Cereal System. If my bowl of sugar-coated carbs wasn’t promoting a cartoon or toy, you could be sure it was from an oversized box packed with a free toy of its own: Cap’n Crunch with little Cap’n and Soggy figures, Fruity Pebbles with rubbery Flintstones figures, or Raisin Bran with its California Raisin toys. There were also plenty of Fruity Marshmallow Krispies, Count Chocula and Cinnamon Toast Crunch consumed between 1985 and 1995. In the dusk of my cereal-eating years, it was Spider-Man Cereal, which in retrospect I’m fairly certain was just a fresh face on the Ninja Turtles cereal — think: extra-sweet Chex with multi-colored marshmallows.

Eventually, I graduated on to microwavable pairs of Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits, putting a fatty finishing touch on the foundation of my formative years. I don’t know how I lived past 20.

(Side note: If you were or still are a cereal killer, you owe it to yourself to check out this short read from Mental Floss on the history of cereal and its surprising effect on American culture.)


What was the most common meal you ate as a child?

I’m going to answer that question with a question: Can I just keep talking about breakfast? When out and about for the most important meal of the day, there were two “restaurants” I frequented as a young human: Shoney’s and Grandy’s.

Every Friday, I would go with my parents and meet my grandmother for the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s. Shoney’s, if you’ve never been, is like a less fancy Sizzler or Golden Corral. I can still taste the awful orange-red seasoning salt I would sprinkle on scoops of slimy instant eggs topped with heat lamp-warmed cheese sauce. These were accompanied by dry biscuits and mountains of frozen hash browns drowned in bland white pepper gravy with all the spice of lukewarm wood glue.

Grandy’s was the last thing I ate before getting braces put on and the first thing I ate after getting braces taken off. Whether I was getting the buffet or ordering off menu, my choice there was always the same: chicken-fried steak with gravy, eggs and a McDonald’s-like fried puck of hash browns.

If it was after 11 a.m., the meal I remember most was a dish from El Chico, a chain of Tex-Mex casual dining establishments big in the ’90s around my hometown and the rest of the Ark-La-Tex — the cutesy name for a culinary bermuda triangle around the Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas borders framed by East Texas’ dry, over-lean barbecue, North Louisiana’s echoes of great Creole and Cajun cuisine available five hours to the south and… whatever it is that Arkansas brings to the tri-state dinner table.

El Chico was my go-to birthday-dining destination. It was the place I wanted to go if anyone was taking requests. Besides consuming an ungodly amount of paper-thin tortilla chips, corn tortillas and runny salsa, my go-to there was an appetizer called the Botanas Platter — a sampler plate stacked with a couple of greasy fajita nachos, quesadillas, taquitos, stuffed jalapeño peppers, a mini chimichanga and a shot of queso.


Did you have any odd eating habits as a child?
Besides eating all the previously mentioned disgusting crap on a regular basis, I was really into mixing ketchup and ranch dressing together and putting it on everything. I even had a name for it: “Ziti Sauce.” That might sound disgusting (and it is) but it’s pretty similar in taste to the secret sauce at Raising Cane’s, if you’re into that kind of thing.

If your palate has changed, when did that occur and what did you like differently?

Around the age of 25, I became more sensitive to the fishy taste of lower-quality seafood and cheap fish. Southern staples I used to love like fried catfish or boiled shrimp just isn’t very appetizing any more without copious amounts of lemon juice and hot sauce to battle off the bad taste. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be an issue with fresh cuts of cleaner fish or in raw or under-cooked fish.

This is a part of our Childhood Memories series. Want to be considered for a future post on your childhood memories? Contact tiffany@ohspooning.com.

City Guide: CU29 Cocktail Bar

Tucked away on Congress Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth Streets in downtown Austin, sits Cu-29 Cocktail Bar. The bar opened within the past year and is a cross between a ’90s martini bar and a handcrafted cocktail bar. What makes this bar unique is that the bartenders enjoy helping their customers create new drinks, based on your tastes—whether it’s adding bacon-infused spirits or one of their many homemade simple syrups.

CU29 Cocktail Bar
720 Brazos St.
(512) 474-0029
Daily 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
http://cu29cocktailbar.com
Happy Hour daily until 6 p.m.
Takes cash and cards

Drink suggestion: The Friendly Stranger ($12) and a deconstructed rum old-fashioned ($12)

The CU29 Cocktail Bar venture is a collaboration between the owners of SoHo Wine and Martini Bar and Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Pub in San Antonio, to bring an East coast flair mixed with the relaxed vibe of the South.

With a dark interior and floor to ceiling windows in front, the bar side has flashes of copper drawing your eye in. Across from the bar are booths against a red brick wall. There are also a few floating tables and plenty of seating at the bar with candles for a little lighting.

In determining your drink, the bartender will be interested in your tastes, such as whether you prefer sweet, spicy, herbal, citrus or fruity. He’ll also want to know what your base spirit is. Hawaiian Rose is one of their over-the-top original drinks, which I would have tried, except that I don’t eat or drink bacon. Try it out and let us know how it goes!

In addition to The Friendly Stranger and a deconstructed old-fashioned, the bartender, Cole, concocted us our own cocktails as well. Antonio’s had Hendrick’s Gin, muddled cucumber, orange bitters, a dash of lemon juice, chili rim and infused Ghost chili pepper vodka. Tiffany’s included vanilla vodka with a bit on cointreau and grandma (“grand marnier“), a dash of milk, handmade whipped cream, cocoa, coco real with cocoa butter, a chocolate almond rim, orange flakes and chocolate on top.

Presentation is key, with lots of flared orange rinds, homemade meringue (made while you watch), lemon peels and chocolate syrups.

Cole’s passion for cocktails shined through and he hires bartenders with energies that match.

Coming soon: That Takes the Cake! Austin Cake Show

cake show

By Tiffany Young

So, you’re thinking about entering Austin’s That Takes the Cake Art Show this year? Here’s what you need to know:

1. It takes place Feb. 22-24.

2. It’s got a new location: ACC, Highland Mall, 6001 Airport Boulevard, Suite 1199, Austin, TX 78752 (which is very near the hotel that is always booked for the cake show).

3. Early registration has passed, but regular registration is open until Feb. 16.

4. Entry fees are: divisional competition $25, showcake competition $25, tasting competition $15.

5. Registration info, rules and prizes can be found at Rules.

6. If you enter sculpted cake, it must be made of, well, cake. Otherwise, most entries can use cake dummies.

7. The competition is pretty stiff. Just look at that picture of Willie Nelson above. It’s not really him–it’s a cake. I know, crazy.

8. This year’s theme is cake of ages.

9. Your friends and family can attend: $10 per day or $17.50 for a weekend pass online through Feb. 16 or $12 per day or $20 for the weekend at the door.

10. Celebrities, such as Karen PortaleoMarina Sousa & James Rosselle, Mike McCarey, Dot Klerck, Colette Peters, Nick Lodge & Lauren Kitchens and Dot Klerck will be teaching classes: http://thattakesthecake.org/index.php/classesandevents/celebrity-classes.

11. There are onsite competitions to watch on Saturday and Sunday.

12. There’s a lot more info over at http://thattakesthecake.org.

Below are some pictures from last year’s competition to get your creative juices going. Here are some posts from prior years: 2013 Day 1, 2013 Day 2, mom takes second, my mom wins third, and 2012.

Hope to see you there this year!

 

 

Whisler’s

If you enjoy drinking in candle-lit historical buildings, look no further than Whisler’s in East Austin. This cocktail bar features bartenders who really know their stuff: from the history of bitters to how to make old-fashioned cocktails. With three bars and a food trailer named Dumpling Happiness outside, there’s no reason you can’t stay here for the long haul. Depending on the weather, there’s nice ambiance inside and outside. The bar has plenty of tables, bar stools along the bar and seating on the patio.

1816 E. 6th St.
(512) 480-0781
Daily 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
www.whislersatx.com
Takes cash and cards

Drink suggestions: Noveau Western ($11) and Brown Derby ($9)

When you enter the front, you’ll find low-lit mood lighting consisting only of candles, except for the chandelier directly above the bar.

The bartenders, Justin (Lavenue) and Ben, are friendly and helpful, assisting with a drink based on your tastes. My preference is gin and slightly sweet, while Antonio prefers whiskey.

Justin suggests a house cocktail, the Noveau Western ($11), for me, which is what I had been eying to begin with. It includes gin, aperitif wine, unfiltered sake, cardamom (a favorite of mine) syrup and lime bitters garnished with a sprig of thyme and a slice of lime.

For Antonio, he suggests a Brown Derby ($9) from the classic menu, consisting of bourbon, grapefruit and honey syrup.

Both are just what the doctor ordered—playing to our individual tastes perfectly.

Antonio says his drink reminds him of his childhood when he’d go to the mall with his mom because she’d promise him an orange Julius. To him, this drink offered the same sort of refreshment.

We also tried the Naughty Literati punch, which was the special of the night because a book club had met there earlier in the evening (Lisa, take note! My book club is cool, but no Naughty Literati’s yet!). We also enjoyed this drink of raspberry liquor, sapphire Bombay, orgeat (a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water or orange flower water) and lemon bubbles, while learning about the history of punch, which you can hear for yourself in our podcast from Justin himself.

As for ambiance, friends and couples alike can sit at the bar or at a cozy table. There’s inside and outside seating, depending on your mood, and, of course, the always-changing Austin weather (except in the summer, when it’s just HOT).