Thursday, December 28, 2006

Home Made Bread

So what to do on a rainy day? Señora Foodblog and I decided to take Christmas easy this yr, due to our recent wedding and all the time spent with the fam. So what to do on a rainy day? I know, it's bread-making time. I have never made bread, but with our recent gift of a food processor things were looking up along with my confidence. Bread has always seemed to far out for me to attempt. I think, like most people, that to make bread takes some sort of special power not possessed by common man. The whole yeast, chemistry thing is kind of scary. I have made beer before which also involves the yeast thing, so I figured with the help of the food processor, what the heck, lets give the bread making a try.

My friend, the Fin, told me that it's all about stretching the gluten in the dough, but without breaking them. OK, that sounds simple...I guess? I set up my processor and began my yeast mixer, warm water, milk and a sugar with the yeast sprinkled over it. According to the recipe, the yeast should sit for about 10 mins and have a nice foamy top when you add it to the flour mixture already in the food processor. Things began to get interesting about this time. As I added the yeast slurry to the flour, the flour began to combine into small sticky balls. The instructions tell me to continue adding the liquid until the flour forms into a one ball which no longer sticks to the side of the processor. Well, it didn't work out like that. I guess I added to much water, while the dough did form a ball, it still was very sticky. Calling the Fin for advice, he tells me to get the dough out of the processor and just roll it a few times on a floured cutting board. Good advice and it worked. I began to roll out the dough, which came together nicely, but while trying not to over handle and break the glutens. Apparently, if you play with the dough too much, it will not rise correctly and will be hard like a hockey puck.

After letting the worked dough sit for an hr and rise a little, I again work a few for folds into the dough and set it aside for it's final rise, which takes about 40 mins. My oven is preheated to 325 degrees. The bread takes about 20 mins to cook or until its golden brown on top. My house smelled amazing. The smell reminded me of my mothers home-made-bread; when I was just a little boy, growing up in jolly old England.

My final product turned out just great. The bread didn't rise as much as it possibly could have, this could be due to the low protein content of the flour and/or the humid, rainy day. Señora Foodblog had forbidden me to cook much bread, she tells me that it's too much of a temptation to just sit and eat it all at once. Man, I just love hot bread, smeared with butter and orange marmalade.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Spec's comes to Austin

The rabbit is back….yes I am talking about Spec’s Warehouse. Absent from Austin for 20+ yrs, Spec’s has returned with its discount liquor and amazing selection of cheese and drinking accessories. Most blogs and articles that I have read about Specs returning to Austin have all said the same thing, Specs is going to shake up the local beer and wine market! This is true; Señora Foodblog and I spent a good hr just walking around the store, checking out the shelves, blown away by the great prices.

For you beer drinkers, Spec’s is bragging about the largest beer cooler in Texas, yes folks it true. Spec’s beer cooler makes Whole Foods cooler look small, small, small. Cup Cake Death Kitten tells me that the new S. location, still under construction (71 / Brodie), will have an even bigger cooler. Someone please save my liver.

And for you smokers, a giant amount of cigars to shop inside Spec’s walk-in cigar humidor.

Most folks don’t know that Spec’s has been owned and operated by the same Houston family for over 40 yrs. The Houston store carries 40,000 different labels of wine and 900 different kinds of cigars. One of the Spec’s sales employees told me that the new south Spec’s will be twice the size of 290 store, and will occupy 50,000 sq feet of liquor selling retail space…

Spec’s also offers a discount for cash purchases. Combined with the Spec’s Key Card and if you just happen to be buying a case of wine, even more discounts. You will have to visit and check it out for yourself. Señora Foodblog told me that she had noticed the Beaujolais Nouveau was only $7 a bottle, better than Sam’s. That will mean lots and lots of Sangria this season.

Living on the East Side, I was getting tired of driving south to World Market, dealing with the traffic, having to hunt for parking. Señora Foodblog and I both agree that Spec’s is very much like World Market but without the furniture and a carries a much larger selection of beer and wine plus lots of cheese. Life is good in Austin, Ikea and now Spec’s….cool.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Suzie's China Grill & Sushi - Austin, TEXAS

Suzie's on Shoal Creek has to be one of my fav places to eat lunch. I just love Suzie's. This intense gastronomical love affair started with the S. Lamar location. After Mrs. Food trapped me in her net of love, it moved north to the Shoal Creek / Anderson location. Parking is not an issue, but getting a table during the lunch rush usually involves a short wait. I would highly recommend getting to Suzie's before 11:45am for instant seating but after that, you will probably have to wait.

Mrs. Food (light of my life) and I arrived at Suzie's at about 12:20 and added our name to the list. After about a 15 min wait, we were seated in the sushi bar part of the restaurant. One of Suzie's strong points has to be the great, fast service, you don't have to wait or want for anything. The servers are efficient and on the job. We had menus and water upon being seated and the server was right there to take our order. We each started with soup. Mrs. Food likes the egg drop while I am a big fan of the hot and sour, which on this day was pretty darn spicy and perfect for the cooler weather. Talking to our server, Mrs. Food discovered that Suzie's has brown rice, which is great for her diet and matched perfectly with her order of steamed vegetables. Not so concerned with my diet, I always get the sweet and sour pork lunch special. The food started arriving at our table no longer that 5mins after we ordered…a real plus if you have places to go and people to see and don't have the luxury of a long lunch break.

It's like I am just addicted to the sweet and sour pork. The combination of pineapple with the pork just rocks my world. I also like to mix the sauce with my rice…o yea baby. Mrs. Food's plate was heaping with vegetables and was more than enough to satisfy her appetite. The combination of brown rice with her meal made Mrs. Food very happy indeed and when she is happy, I am happy. Our total cost for two hot teas and two lunch entrees (each came with soup) around $20 – not including tip.

Mr. Foodblog gives Suzie's two spoons up. Great food and great service. A friendly, happy wait staff combined with a warm comfortable atmosphere and tasty good food always equals a positive eating experience. Suzie's has three locations in Austin, check out the website for more info. .

Suzie's China Grill & Sushi
7858 Shoal Creek Blvd
302 4600

1152 S. Lamar
441 8400

2745 Bee Caves
347 7077

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mother's Cafe & Garden - Austin, TEXAS

Mother's, Duval and 42rd, has graced Austin's eating scene for 25yrs. Known for its veggie burgers and vegetarian cuisine, Mother's has filled a lot of local bellies and made a lot of people very happy. Mrs. Food and I decide to check Mother's out and see what was really going on down on Duval.

We arrived just after noon and …crazy …we actually got a parking spot up front. Gods little gift. We were quickly seated in the covered patio area and our server brought us water and menus. The patio is really nice, lots of plants, combined with the paved floor and filtered light, gives the impression of sitting out doors but without all the sound of the street. We place our orders and settle into the chips and salsa. The salsa is pretty good. Good flavor, not to hot.

Mrs. Foods order started with the soup of the day special – Tomato Basil. She like this a lot but I thought it had the taste of liquorish…I am not a big fan. I chose the Cream of Broccoli soup as my opener. Now this was good, the soup was about the broccoli, not the cheese. For our main course, Mrs. Food had Mother's Veggie Burger while I had the Enchiladas Mole which also came with beans and rice.

Mrs. Food was not too impressed with her burger, she liked it but it was a take it or leave it kind of thing. The burger looked dry to me. The Enchiladas Mole was pretty good, nice and cheesy while the mole sauce was uninspiring. The black beans made for a nice break from the standard refried a lot of places serve around town. But sadly, the plate just didn't come together for me, it was the Mole. Our total cost with tip came to $25.

Mr.Foodblog give Mother's one spoon up. Nice place to sit and eat. The outdoor patio is a gem. For me the only problem was the lack of originality of the food, it just seemed like the same old thing served most places in Austin. True, if you are a vegetarian, your choices are limited and Mother's is good for the Austin eating scene, but maybe they should try something new or just revisit some of their old recipes. Check out the website for complete menu, prices and location info.

Mother's Cafe & Garden
4215 Duval
451 3994

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kerbey Lane - Austin, Texas

Who has the best pancakes in Austin? I think my homemade are the best and so does Mrs. Food (she better) but when I go out for pancakes, one of the first places I always think about is the Original Kerbey Lane Café just north of UT and Austin’s growing med center (3704 Kerbery Lane).

Opened in the early 80’s (some of you won’t remember the 80’s…I have a problem with the 70’s) Kerbery Lane has become one of Austin’s fav eating spots for both locals and visitors alike.

Operating out of a small location, both parking and getting a table can take a few minutes but with the nice stress free felling Kerbey lane offers waiting should not prove to be a problem.

This morning Mrs. Food and I were able to seat right away and the server quickly took our order. I decide to have the Biscuits, Eggs and Gravy w/ the sausage side $5.95. I just love this stuff, the way the sausage has just a hint of smokey taste matches really well with the gravy. Mrs. Food had the Breakfast Platter $5.35 (2 eggs, 2 half size pancakes, fresh fruit and bacon). She can never finish all the food so I get to enjoy the pancakes, always part of my evil plan when I suggest eating here.

Kerbey Lane also offers soups, sandwiches, entrees and a large variety of salads including Cobb Salad $8.95 (avocado, bacon, bleu cheese crumbles, purple onion, vine-ripe tomatoes, hard boiled egg and chicken breast served over mixed greens). If you are in the mood for something other than breakfast I would defiantly recommend this. Check out their website for the complete menu.

Mr. Food says two spoons up for the Original Kerbey Lane. I would feel ok about bring out of towner’s to eat here. Kerbery Lane is one of the places I hope never changes (not to be confused with the UT Kerbey Lane which needs a lot of help and is a horrible place to eat) I would definitely recommend the Original Kerbery Lane to traveling shows… if you have a big drive ahead of you a great breakfast can make all the difference.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cream of Poblano Soup

After my mom died, I was organizing her stuff when I discovered she had some 1960's cook books from Time Life, Foods of the World. The books came as a set of 7, each dedicated to a different county or region of the world. I decided to try my hand and chose a French soup, cream of mushroom, but I wanted to give it a Texas twist. So I got to thinking and ….why not poblano peppers. A great soup when things are starting to cool down outside. I adapted this recipe for garlic once, which I was told was like drinking liquid warmth. If you like to cook like I do, this is a great soup to play with, make it cream of anything, just have a good time, maybe open a bottle of wine. I will bold where I made a change to recipe.

1 ½ lbs Poblano peppers
5 tsps butter
6 tsps flour
6 cups chicken stock
2 egg yolks
¾ cup heavy cream
White pepper

Rub poblanos with olive oil. Roast poblanos in 350 degree oven for 45mins on a cookie sheet. Turn once or twice. Place hot, cooked peppers in paper bag and seal. Let the bag stand for 15mins before cleaning the poblanos. Discard the poblanos outer skin, seeds and stem. Set cleaned poblanos to side.

Melt 5 tsps butter in 4 – 6 quart saucepan over moderate heat. Add flour and make a roux. Cook about a 1min over low heat, stir constantly. Do not brown roux. Add Chicken stock, beating constantly to blend stock and roux. Stir until this cream soup base comes to a boil, thickens and is perfectly smooth. Add poblanos and simmer on low heat for about 15mins.

Puree the hot soup then pour through a fine sieve back into saucepan. Blend your egg yolks and cream together at this time. Whisk in the hot pureed soup, 2 tsps at a time, until ½ cup has been added. Then reverse the process and slowly whisk the now-warm egg-yolk-and-cream mixture into the soup.

Bring to boil, and boil for 30mins, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat, taste and season with salt and pepper.

I just love this soup. The creamy poblano taste is wonderful. I also like to sprinkle bacon over the top or maybe diced cooked potatoes. Sorry no picture, I guess I was just thinking about my mom.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chango's - Austin, TEXAS

Just a quickie….I stopped by Chango’s (3023 Guadalupe) on the drag, next door to the Wheatsville Co-op, for some breakfast tacos around 9am. Mrs. Food and Polly were hungry and had put me to work fetching food. If you haven’t been to Chango’s, that’s ok, it caters to the UT crowd, mostly. It has its own parking lot and on this morning it was not a problem for me to find a spot.

The inside is nice and open. Big windows face out to Guadalupe making for good people watching. I was the only person in the restaurant at that exact moment so I had the complete attention of everyone that working….or so I thought. I placed my order of 6 tacos, 4 with flour and 2 with corn. Chango’s is known for making its own tortillas both flour and corn. It’s always a good time watching the tort lady do her thing. After 10 mins or so, I had my breakfast tacos and headed down the road.

When I delivered Mrs. Food her tacos, we realized that all six where flour……noooooo. I was so disappointed, I could have cried. I was the only person in the restaurant, how could they have missed my order? I had ordered 2 egg bean and cheese tacos, which I liked very much. Not giant but not small, the beans tasted great and the flour tortilla……o yes, so good. The six tacos cost around $13.50…give or take a nickel.

Mr. Food gives Chango’s One spoon up. Sorry guys, but how do you miss your only customers order? The food I received was just fine, the torts where fantastic. I also felt the cost was a little out of hand. I am use to paying about a $1 each per taco from my favorite taco shack…the Tamale House on Airport. Check Chango’s out; let me know what you guys think. I also understand that Chango’s is WiFi… Other people have also told me that the fish tacos are worth the tip to Chango’s.

3023 Guadalupe
480 8226

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mr. Natural - Austin, Texas

Eating out in Austin can be challenging at times. We all want to live healthy lives, well most of us do. Ever heard that old adage…you are what you eat? Mrs. Food and I had just arrived back in Austin from a two-week trip only to find our refrigerator empty and our stomachs rumbling. Tired of the same old thing, eggs fried and soaking in grease, we decided to try another of Austin's eastside staples…Mr. Natural – 1901 E. Cesar Chavez, about 1 mile from I-35. Parking is easy, no need to bring walking shoes.

We arrived at the restaurant around 8am. Mrs. Food and I had eaten lunch at Mr. Natural on many occasions but never breakfast. We were both pretty excited to see what was offered and discover if it was any good. I had heard that the breakfast tacos were huge…one equals two kind a thing. Upon checking out the menu I was excited to see that chilaquiles - $4.50 (corn tortillas, ranchero sauce, cheese) were listed (a regular breakfast item in Mexico). Refried beans, potatoes and fresh homemade corn tortillas come with the chilaquiles. I also like 2 eggs over easy served on top, and the folks at Mr. Natural were more than happy to oblige me. Mrs. Food decided to have the Migas - $4.50 (corn tortillas, eggs, ranchero sauce). The torts are scrambled w/ the eggs and ranchero sauce, served with refried beans and potatoes on the side. Other items offered include: breakfast tacos - $1.85 (vegetarian chorizo sausage, potatoes, alfalfa spouts…ect), Tofu Migas - $4.50 and Huevo Rancheros - $4.50. With drinks, one coffee and a med size glass of horchata - $1.85, our total came to $16.

Mr.Foodblog gives Mr. Natural two spoons up. Great breakfast. Not soaking in grease, the beans and eggs were great and the chilaquiles, while not the same as in Mexico, were just as good and definitely filled me up. The corn torts served with the meal tasted just fine. So, if you are traveling east one morning and feeling hungry and don't want the same old breakfast, give Mr. Natural a try; I don't think you will be disappointed. For more info about the restaurant and Mr. Natural's bakery…did I forget to mention fresh baked vegan breads and pies, check out their website,

Mr. Natural

1901 E. Cesar Chavez
916 – 9223

2414 – A S. Lamar
916 - 5228

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cafe Any - Zihuatanejo, Mexico

On our recent trip to Mexico, Mrs. Food and I had the opportunity to sample some really amazing food. I ate so much, at times I thought was going to pop. We took photos of most of the food that we ate, and as the photos become available I will post photos blogs with a brief description of the meal and the serving restaurant. Some of the plates are truly beautiful, real artistic endeavors… sit back and enjoy.

Café Any, located in the central shopping district of Zihuatanejo, is a must stop for people that truly savor a good tamale. Famous for its food, Café Any is always busy with a steady stream of world travelers seeking, what some consider, the holy grail of tamales. But this day, I decided to try Café Any's Pozole and Mrs. Food had the consommé.

The traditional Pozole Verde, served with chilies, onions, radish, avocado, Mexican oregano, dried red chilies, pork rinds, and chips. That is some meal! Chicken and veggie consommé, served with chilies, onions, and lime. We also tried the queso fundido (melted cheese) with poblano peppers and corn tortillas. Absolutely dee-licious!

One of our favorites...Tamales y Atoles Any. A great local restaurant in downtown Zihuatanejo.

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