dining

The search for the lobster roll

photo (11)By Tiffany Young

In my family it’s always about the food. Forget talking, spending time together, watching movies and playing games (well, we do that, too, but it’s not the main event). The majority of our family time is spent talking about food, looking up food and eating food.

My mom, in particular, talks a lot about foods she craves. For example, she’s always wanted to go to Maine. If you asked her of a single tourist spot she’d like to see, she probably couldn’t name a one.
It’s not the cold weather that entices her either-she can’t stand it. So why does she want to go to Maine? To eat a lobster roll. She talks about lobster rolls a lot and she finally found a place that’s not a thousand miles away to eat one. It is more than a hundred miles away, but still.
T.J.’s Seafood Market (http://www.tjsseafood.com) in Dallas has lobster rolls– a whole one for $25 and a petite for $18. They each come with the choice of a side.
Now the rest of the family is not as obsessed with lobster as my mom is. I think I’d prefer a good crab any day, but I’m not opposed to it. And since we were there for the lobster, I thought, “Why not?”

Three of us got the petite rolls, with my dad going rogue with the gumbo.

The rolls came to us on a plate more than half-filled with veggies and a roll a little larger than my fist. Red chunks of lobster meat covered the buttery roll with lemon peel grated on top. The steamed veggies consisted of broccoli and cauliflower, cooked to perfection, sprinkled with parsley and served with a grilled half lemon.
Overall my first lobster roll was pretty tasty, but the best part about it was the buttery roll, which made it simply addictive. I followed the meal with a nice cup of coffee. Mmm.
Next time I may try the crab cakes, but this year, that is what we’re having for Christmas dinner, so I’ll hold off for now.
As for atmosphere, the place is small, clean and decorated simply but nicely. It’s tucked away in a an upscale, nondescript strip mall in Highland Park.

While the food was good, the shops were kind of lame unless you’re looking to spend a lot of money on old lady clothes. However, do stop by the bed store a few doors down to lay down in a $100,000 bed. Don’t worry-they have foot covers, so you can even put your feet up!
Happy holidays!

New vegetarian cookbook “Herbivoracious” leads to dining discovery

Last week, Antonio and I participated in Michael Natkin’s book tour stop in Austin for his new cookbook “Herbivoracious” under the same name as his blog. While we haven’t gotten a chance to cook with it yet (look for future blog posts on recipe adventures we have using this cookbook), we were impressed with the color photography, which Michael took himself.

The event took place at Icenhauer’s on Rainey Street and was catered by its new next door neighbor El Naranjo, who supplied us with wonderful food, including some “can’t stop eating it because it’s amazing guacamole.”  If you’ve heard of the just-opened-last-week-on-Rainey-Street El Naranjo it’s because it was formerly a food truck. The fine dining restaurant is open for dinner only for now and describes itself as traditional Mexican cuisine, but I think you, like us, will find it anything but typical of the Mexican fare you find around here. In fact, we thought it might have more of a South American background from its unique blends.

Sorry for the tangent on El Naranjo, but that just shows how impressed we were!

Anyway, Michael was a gracious host answering all of our crazy questions, such as “Who are you? Why a cookbook? Where are your from? Where are you going next?” All of the answers can be found at his blog http://herbivoracious.com.

We were excited to receive a courtesy copy of his cookbook with an inscription to the OhSpooners. If you are new to vegetarianism, just looking to cut back on meat or want some more vegetarian choices to add to your repertoire, this cookbook may strike your fancy. After the intro, Michael goes into detail on some of the ingredients and hand tools that are used a lot in the book and may not be familiar with readers, such as mirin, panko and a potato ricer.

The book, which includes 150 recipes, is broken down by appetizers/small dishes, soups, salads, 4 main courses, side dishes, desserts, breakfast and sauces, condiments and basic recipes.

The Spooners can’t wait to try it out and report back!

Date Night: Sagra

On our second date, Antonio kidnapped took me on a several hour date that began at Sagra Trattoria and Bar, an Italian restaurant on San Antonio Street. He was trying to make a good impression after his mistake on date No. 1, where he cut the date short because he had other plans. He claims he was meeting up with friends for dinner, but it sure sounded like he had double booked dates to me.

This was a restaurant where he felt comfortable—after all he used to work there—and we had brunch on the front patio in nice weather.

That’s where I fell in love … with the Sagra pizza. He’ll tell you my love for him grew at a much slower pace, but he was on to something bringing me to a place with such great food. Since that fateful day in January 2011, we have been back many times for happy hour and date nights.

The Sagra pizza includes a classic Italian tradition—an egg atop the pizza. This may not sound like a good idea to you, but that just tells me you haven’t tried the Sagra pizza yet. For $15, you get a whole pie topped with tomato sauce, egg, grana padano, spinach, mozzarella and truffle oil. Their other pizzas are also delicious.

Last month we visited them and got the funghi pizza  for $14 with mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh herbs and fontin. It was good, but I still missed the Sagra pizza, which we returned to on our date night last night.

I also really enjoy their libation menu, which includes not just creative cocktails, but also apertivos—an appetite stimulator—and digestivos—which helps settle your meal. My favorite so far is the apertivo Perucchi Vermouth Blanc with flavors of chamomile, ginger, lemon, cinnamon and orange blossom for $5. It comes in a tiny, tiny cute glass that I enjoy slowly sipping on before my meal comes. The flavors meld together so amazingly.

We also enjoy the wine selection, which comes in three sizes: a glass, a quartino—about a glass and a half—and a bottle.

Outside of the pizza, we highly recommend the fried calamari and the arugula salad, although I can’t recall us eating anything we didn’t love at Sagra. Also, while we rarely eat dessert at most places, unless it’s a special occasion, we usually do ask for their dessert menu. They change their gelato regularly and have great custard-type desserts featuring fruit.

We hope to see you at happy hour some nice evening enjoying the front or back patio, which reminds me—all the seats in the house are quite romantic. Enjoy!

Sagra Restaurant
1610 San Antonio St. Austin, TX, 78701,
(512)535-5988