Wednesday, December 5, 2012

♥ Foreign and Domestic Review

Foreign & Domestic
306 East 53rd Street  Austin, TX 78751
(512) 459-1010 

People...people! Only 20 days till Christmas!! {Eee!}
Annnndd... it was 80 degrees in Austin...again. 

Sorry Austin friends, not much winter weather wonderland going on here. But if you are looking for a cozy, fall meal full of warm spices and seasonal veggies to get you in the festive spirit, look no further than

Let me just start off by telling you about the Fall Squash Curry because it was absolutely AMAZING! It began with a carved out, sweet acorn squash filled with an array of seasonal squash and veggies that are simmered in sweet spices to soft, aromatic perfection. Then, if you can imagine a gastronomy miracle, the dish is covered in coconut milk based, curry foam. Yes, foam. This dish was beautiful and delectable. The foam slowly began to melt and coated the veggies in a rich sauce. Each bite was absolutely heavenly. You have to hurry over to Foreign and Domestic because this is a seasonal dish and it won't be around for long.


Phew! Had to get that one off my tongue, first and foremost. Speaking of tongue, I'm working backwards to tell you about the fantastic appetizers. The pan-fried beef tongue served with horseradish yogurt and fresh watercress was luscious and flavorful, with a slightly crispy outside and tender center. It was my first time to ever try beef tongue and it was beyond expectation; each bite was savory.
Trust me, you wont be the only one to be pleasantly surprised with your first taste of beef tongue because Foreign and Domestic won Best Beef Tongue Dish by the Austin Chronicle this year.
{along with many other amazing awards}. We also ordered the Fall Salad with crispy chicken skin. The tangy vinaigrette allowed for a break between our heavier dishes.


The other entree we ordered was the Seafood Stew which was akin to a bouillabaisse, including scallops, mussels and clams. I'll be honest and say I'm being a seafood snob, since I almost always order scallops wherever I go. The broth was too light and it seemed to be lacking the same type of body and flavor that the other dishes mastered. In my opinion, it was the bits of lardons that were the saving grace for this dish, yet it also seemed to steal the leading role that the seafood so deserved.


That being said...

we had the absolute best service and server, who immediately turned our frown upside down by bringing us an extra dessert! {like we needed it!}
But not just any desserts--Brown Butter Blondie Sundae layered in a big bowl of butterscotch sauce and Toffee Chip Ice Cream, topped with dried cherries.
{ Holy Ice-Cream-Sea-Sweet-Tooth-Heaven-Candyland-Dreams- it does not stop there. }
We also got to sink our teeth into a Lemon Tart made with orange marmalade, smothered in caramel cream and topped with grapefruit flavored shaved ice. I'm talking PURE dessert genius, extraordinaire. I think I'll be stopping by again just for dessert.


Foreign and Domestic is one of my favorite restaurants in Austin and if you have any brains in your noggin' you will make your way to this restaurant and give it {all} a taste.

♥ Happy Tasting!
Mel

Monday, November 26, 2012

♥ drink.well :: hip, local, Hyde Park pub

drink.well
207 E 53rd St, Austin, TX
(512) 614-6683
Located off of I-35, on 53rd and Airport, drink.well is the prototype of North Austin hip bars. With it's modern interior, and accent wall designed with funky graffiti, you are made to feel as if you just discovered a slick local bar in the East Village of Manhattan, yet it seamlessly blends with the rest of the new development in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

The drink menu is extensive and elegant. A tad pricey but the few extra dollars per drink are worth the time the bartenders take to make sure your drink is garnished properly.
When we pit stopped at drink.well, we decided to try several cocktails, particularly the 'Royale with Ease' made with Tenneyson Absinthe, house-made hibiscus cordial and fresh grapefruit juice. The fresh mint and grapefruit garnishes are aromatic and prepare the palate for a quenching sip of the cocktail. A number of our friends are the creators/backers of Tennyson Absinthe and we are always excited to see it on local menus and to support our fellow entrepreneurs.
We also found it suiting to order several things off the menu, in true Tastytown fashion.
100% Kobe beef burgers - Check!

We were able to add pulled pork and extra cheddar cheese to our burger which gave it an amazingly flavorful flare. Each and every bite was juicy and decadent!
We also ordered the Chicken Sausage and Waffles with honey chili syrup, which is a specialty dish and isn't always on the menu. But why? I ask. It is just SO good! The combination of sweet and spicy syrup and the perfectly sized sausage patties allow you to make the best mouth-watering bite.

I'd say drink.well's only major downfall is that there is very, very limited seating. We found ourselves feeling slightly anxious when a group set eyes on our table we had been waiting so long for. But the wait was well worth it and once you sit down, you will bask in its exclusivity. I highly recommend swinging by this new jaunt. Or maybe even walking there if you live in the area. It's open till 11pm on weeknights and 12pm on weekends.
♥ Enjoy!
Mel

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

♥ A Typical Spanish Breakfast

Good Afternoon Tasters!
 
I hope you enjoy another guest blog post by my sister, Kim, who is living in Madrid, Spain. She has been gushing about the dining differences between the US and Spain. Breakfast, being something that stood out most! Today she is sharing her sweet and savory Spanish Breakfast experiences in Madrid:
 
Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. I honestly don't think I can survive the day without it.
 
Back home, I could easily eat everything on the menu-- in one sitting-- and still be hungry for more. Yes, I know it seems like a lot, but I believe that everything you eat for breakfast burns off by the end of the day. Right?! Or maybe that’s just my little excuse I like to gorge myself J.
 
Since moving to Spain, I have had to make some simpler (and sometimes sweeter) adjustments to my normal breakfast feast.
 
A typical Spanish breakfast usually consists of sweet treats, coffee and some fruit. It is not unusual for someone to have churros and chocolate for breakfast or even a Sabao, which is a type of cake-- similar to a pound cake soaked in butter (Yikes!), which I have tried to keep my distance from. The kids love those things. Sometimes chocolate milk and biscuits (aka cookies) is an option too. As a fan of the more savory fair, I usually don’t care for super sweet things in the morning; I picture myself with lots of energy and then a sudden crash in the afternoon.
 
Just when I thought I was doomed to a sugar rush and crash for the next ten months, a savory (and healthier) option was served on the breakfast table one particular morning. I thanked the breakfast gods!
 
This particular morning I was introduced to something quite different, but delicious nonetheless. A tomato purée made with tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and sometimes garlic atop crispy toast; so simple, unique and so delicious. On a couple slices of toast, add a few squirts (yes squirts, putting olive oil in a pump bottle gives you the perfect amount of olive oil with each pump) of high quality olive oil first, then spread chilled tomato purée and you have yourself a delicious and healthy Spanish breakfast. This has become my favorite breakfast; and I cant seem to get tired of it!
 
 
 
Putting my healthy and reasonable side away for a minute, lets address the fact that I cannot ignore my sweet tooth as the rest of the day goes on. With as much walking as I do in the city on a typical day, I don’t feel as guilty stopping into a nearby bakery for a decadent snack. Mallorca, a well-known bakery here, is full of sweet culinary delights. I am especially familiar with their croissants because the children’s grandpa brings over these warm, freshly baked croissants every Saturday morning for breakfast. So, when I stopped by for a snack I decided to try the chocolate ones. Not only were the buttery, edges dipped in chocolate but it was also filled with chocolate ganache on the inside. 
 
 
 
There’s nothing like a good balance of sweet and savory throughout the day.
Ciao <3
 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

♥ Tastytown tries 'una barbacoa en Madrid'


As some of you may know, my sister, Kimberly, recently moved to Madrid, Spain to not only work as an Au Pair but also to immerse herself in the Spanish language to better prepare herself for teaching. She works for her room and board and earns supplemental income by taking care of two children. Although I miss my best friend being so close and being able to see her regularly, we keep in touch via our many online medias and iPhone apps (if you have a friend or family member abroad, you should really download WhatsApp-- it allows you to text for free!). We are constantly texting/emailing/skyping about the amazing cultural differences in Spain, especially within the culinary world and my mouth is almost always watering. So we decided to join forces and take Tastytown to Madrid! Ole! Starting with her first guest blog post today!
Look out for many many more updates on her travels and foodie experiences in Spain.
Enjoy!
 
***
It’s been almost two weeks since I moved to Madrid, Spain and I am happy to say that I’m beginning to feel like part of the family. Although I do not work on the weekends, my host mother always makes the effort to invite me to any activity or event that they will be attending. So when she mentioned a “family barbecue”, I could not turn down the offer (being the true Texan that I am). 

As most of you know, Texas BBQ’s usually consist of finger-licking ribs, juicy brisket, potato salad and local Texas beer, as well as wet wipes-- a sheer sign of good times and great food. As I prepared myself for a night where I could really feel at home again, I put on a cool and comfortable cotton dress with a little breathing room. I was a bit bummed because I didn't even have my cowboy boots to show my true Texas nature, but that wasn't going to stop me, l could already smell the reminiscent smokiness in the air!   

When I walked into my host mother’s parents house, I immediately noticed a colorfully decorated table with bright, crisp linens. Alongside the fine china and glassware were at least 10 different bottles of wine opened and breathing to prepare for the night ahead.
 This was not the kind of BBQ I was used to but I was in full support of its amazing potential for the evening. I closed my eyes and tried to picture in my head what a classy BBQ would look like and then opened my eyes; this was it!
 

 Before I knew it, the first course was beginning and plates of sliced artisan cheeses, Spanish ham (even better than prosciutto, if you can imagine), shrimp, prawns and crabs came pouring out of the kitchen. 
I was in heaven...

Until out of the blue, lightening and thunder struck and it started to rain! I couldn’t believe it; was I in Texas? This was so typical of Texas weather. The day you want to have a BBQ it rains! Everyone ran to bring all the plates under the patio and of course the 3 liter bottle of wine that was casually popped open. Without hesitation, everyone filled up their wine glasses and gathered around the patio to begin the feast, rain or shine.
 

Soon after, the meat was ready. Huge pieces of beef were brought off the BBQ, I wondered how it would ever compare to what I was used to back home, but I was extremely satisfied. Juicy steaks and sausages were passed around and quickly disappeared.
 
My stomach was at full capacity, but one more glass of wine did not hurt! It may not have been a ‘Texan BBQ’ but it was 'una barbacoa en Madrid’ and it was wonderful! 
 
Tastytown... welcome to Madrid! More to come!
♥ Ciao!
Kim

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

♥ Tastytown dishes: Gluten-Free Fried Chicken and Waffles at Thrice Cafe // Thai Fresh


Thrice Cafe // Thai Fresh
909 West Mary Street Unit B
Austin TX 78704
(512) 494 6436 

Lately it feels like its hard to find a hidden gem restaurant in the Austin area. Most new joints get so much talk and chatter that an hour long wait just to be seated is just not even worth it. But have no fear, because I think I have found my favorite gem. 

Every time I go to Thrice Cafe // Thai Fresh, I cant help but walk in and just feel a cool, relaxed mood come over me. It's difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why; maybe its the open windows and natural lighting or the Feng Shui arrangement of tables or maybe its simply the friendly, laid back vibes the staff gives but either way, i walk in almost instantly feeling at peace. It helps that the food is absolutely amazing! The chefs really know what they are doing when they combine the traditional Thai flavors with local produce.

But today, Tastytown is dishing about a particular dish that has sort of moved mountains in my mind in terms of some of my favorite dishes in Austin. And that is their Gluten-Free Fried Chicken and Waffles. The flavors are so deliciously combined that it's extraordinarily unexpected--especially in a Thai restaurant, you will probably consider seconds.

I know there are a lot of restaurants in Austin claiming to have the best chicken and waffles; and honestly I dare someone to challenge me on my claims that Thrice Cafe // Thai Fresh makes THE best! If I'm not mistaken, I believe both the waffle and chicken batters are both gluten free. The chicken is juicy on the inside with a delicious crisp on the outside and the waffle is perfectly fluffy, but it's the light ginger, maple, lemongrass syrup that packs the perfect punch of saucy flavor. Topped with cilantro and this dish is heavenly.

I'd also like to mention that this place offers cooking classes  which I'm considering trying and also writes up a pretty stellar blog
Please! Go! Taste it for yourself and try some of their amazing Curry or Pad Thai while you are there! 
I dare you! 

♥ Taste On!
Mel

Monday, August 27, 2012

♥ Apothecary Wine Bar

Apothecary Wine Bar
4800 Burnet Rd Ste 450
Austin, TX
(512) 371-1600
When Mike was living off of Burnet, Apothecary Wine Bar quickly became a staple in our diet
and restaurant choices. Without fail, we would order the cheese plate upon being seated; it’s just a delicious start to prepare your palate. The plate is a combination of flavorful soft cheeses, candied fruits like guava and juicy grapes, served on crackers with your choice to drizzle sweet honey. Paired with a light rosé, this could be a meal in itself. But that would not follow Tastytown etiquette to quit after apps. So we continue..

It just so happened that the last time we visited Apothecary, it was the anniversary of Elvis' birthday. So after we shared a fresh summer salad, and chowed on pulled pork sandwiches and a pesto BLT classic, we managed to look up from our plates, only to notice the chef standing by the bar -iphone in hand- taking photos of what looked like a dessert sandwich (?)… Needless to say, we were intrigued and had to inquire. He politely told us that he had made, his own spin on Elvis' favorite Peanut Butter-Banana-Bacon sandwich, ONLY he had replaced the PB with Nutella and added a honey drizzle inside. Eyes wide, and watering mouths he kindly let us have a bite.

DROOOL!

If you make your way up to the Rosedale/ Allandale area of Austin, I highly recommend Apothecary Wine Bar. You’re sure to enjoy the comfortable space, naturally lit with wide windows, and decorative lanterns, and delicious food all paired with great wine.




♥ Cheers,
Mel

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

♥ happy birthday Julia Child! + Lemon Bars

Today would be the iconic culinary pioneer and influential woman to boot, Julia Child's 100th birthday.



In honor of her birthday celebration, I would like to share with you my attempt at making Lemon Bars.

Though Lemon Bars may not be the first thing you think of when you think of this wonderful woman (ehem...French cuisine.. duh!) To me it makes perfect sense. Because Lemon Bars were the figurative limb that I climbed out on, from my diminutive baking 'tree'. The tree has since sprouted a few new blooms. :)

Not to toot my own horn, but I think they came out amazingly! I took them to work and shared them with the office and everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you Julia Child and all of the amazing chefs/home cooks that inspire me to try new things in the Tastytown Kitchen.


My pet beta fish, Gary the Targaryen (for all you Game of Throne fans out there),
 seems mildly impressed with my amateur baking skills.



I searched for this recipe via Pinterest and also, happily stumbled upon this fantastic blog Kitchen Corners who suggested Ina Garten's recipe!

♥ Happy Baking!
-Mel


 
Ina Garten's Lemon Bars
|ingredients|
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
|directions|
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the crust: cream the butter and sugar. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Gather the dough into a ball then flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides.
  3. Bake the crust until very lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  4. Leave the oven on. While the crust is cooling start making the filling.
  5. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.
  6. Let cool to room temperature then cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

♥ Chen Z Hot Pot + Noodle Bar

Chen Z Hot Pot + Noodle Bar
2700 W. Anderson Lane
Suite 212
Austin, Texas 78757 

Recently, I saw the movie, The Avengers, at the Alamo Drafthouse. I'm a bit of a superhero fan, and to see them all come together in classic superhero form, kept me at the edge of my seat. Personally,  I thought it was pretty stellar in 3D.

Anyway, typically I'm an Alamo Drafthouse food fanatic, despite the fact that it turns into a caloric crunch! They have the best fried pickles, spicy mac-n-cheese and potato skins around!

Thinking with our waistlines in mind, we opted to hop next door to try the new restaurant, Chen Z Hot Pot +Noodle Bar.
We were floored with the impeccable interior design that was put into this new spot. With clean, warm wood panneling surrounding, accented by a natural, limestome wall, the place gave off an elegant and chic design. It always lifts the spirit and the appetite to walk into a restaurant with such amazing lighting as well.



Now, before I go on, I must preface this post with the fact that we did not actually order a hot pot. I know, I'm ashamed to not have even tried their namesake, but we were in a bit of a hurry and the waitress kindly suggested they take a bit longer to come out.
We started off with the Sesame Pockets which is a toasted sesame bun stuffed with soy caramelized pork, tossed with cilantro. They were deliciously sweet and juicy and perfect for sharing! This was probably our favorite part of the meal!


The pork mini sammies were probably the most 'Westernized' dish on the menu, and we were craving the Far East, so we ventured to order the "Noodles in Broth" Jumbo Shrimp style. Self-proclaimed, home-style Chinese cooking, Chen Z is proud of their Pan-Asian noodles, made fresh and in-house daily, so we had to give it a try.


Sad to say, the bland description of the dish, unfortunately matched the flavor. We found ourselves scouring the pot to find the few shrimp that were in the bowl. The broth was a bit watery, and I may have had to sprinkle some spicy red pepper oil, for flavor. I must say that the noodles were thick and delicious and probably the best part of the soup dish.

I have a little sad part in my heart as I write this review, because I havent written a single bad review since I started this blog. I am a foodie at heart and I enjoy trying new things. My palate is always open for exotic and interesting flavors. I am not necessarily giving Chen Z a failing grade, I was simply disappointed. I havent given up hope, Chen Z! I will be back to try your Hot Pots in hopes for redemption.

I want to hear about your experience at Chen Z. Tell me whether or not you liked their cuisine.
 
♥ Ciao!
Melissa



Thursday, May 3, 2012

♥ Takoba- East 7th

TAKOBA
1411 East 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78702

Takoba has the best Spicy-Mango Margaritas in town!

Hands down.


These tasty toddies are what brought me back to Takoba for a second time (and will probably be what brings me back a third time--very soon), but they aren’t the only thing.

The food is fantastic and during SXSW (especially), the location couldn't have been better. We sat outside on the patio under pecan trees, and caught New Orleans jazz music floating on the breeze from the bar next door.

On my first trip I ordered the baja ceviche and couldn't stop dipping my house-made tortilla chips into the tangy mixture of fresh shrimp, avocado, lime and cilantro; all while Mike chomped down on a juicy pork torta.

Walking away stuffed, we couldn’t believe we didn't even bite into a single taco.

Round two was in order. And boy did we order! :)

Sharing amongst my boyfriend and my sister, we each sampled most of the taco choices and came up with two unanimous favorites:

El taco al pastor: it's a good thing I love cilantro and keep hearing about its many amazing health benefits. And this taco's got it! Pineapple marinated pork, cilantro and onion... It gets a little messy too, so be sure to have a few napkins.

y

El taco de verduras: zucchini, sweet potatoes (Mmm!), roasted corn, green chilies, queso fresco, chipotle mayo and quac! Amazing!



Another one of the many reasons to venture to Austin's eclectic east side. The cuisine never ceases to impress a foodie like me and the atmosphere is always lively and spontaneous.

The chocolate truffle cake was delightfully whipped and melted in your mouth!



♥ Love,
Mel

Thursday, February 23, 2012

♥ All Quiet on the TastyTown Front and 24th Birthday

Though my posts have been hushed recently, my life has been everything but. Some exciting things have happened that have caused me to be distant from you, oh Tastytown.

We hired a new employee at my company and she has been such a big help to me so far! The assistance is much appreciated, but I am also enjoying the opportunity to see my company grow.

During the first week of February, I moved into my very own apartment! This is something I've been waiting for and saving up for, for quite some time. So lately I have been taking the time to decorate it and make it into my own paradise, which has been a lot of fun.

I also celebrated my 24th birthday with a wonderful group of all my friends. We all met at my *new* apartment to make cocktails and mingle, before we ventured off to a small comedy club in my neighborhood called Coldtowne Theater. On Friday nights they do stand up comedy, where a series of beginner comedians do 3-5 minute sets. The show was only 5 bucks and the club is BYOB, which was a huge plus considering my party shenanigans consisted of a very large cooler filled with liquor, mixers and beer. The theater was small, so needless to say, my birthday group made up the majority of the crowd. The comedians were hilarious and allowed all of us interact with their routines! It was a really fun and different activity to do in Austin and I think we all got a kick out of it!

Here are some #Instagram shots to fill you in:
beautiful pale yellow roses my boyfriend gave me for my birthday
another amazing arrangement of flowers from my good friends.
My friends brought me so many beautiful flowers for my birthday
and also some gorgeous champagne glasses for future tastings :)

the most delicious, pillowy, coconut cream cake from my friend.
I single handedly ate the entire thing over the course of a week. easily.

my mom brought this cute vanilla strawberry cake, decorated with
big yellow sunflowers! there's never *too* much cake :)

Raevan came in town for my birthday festivities,
we are waiting for the comedy to start

Coldtowne Theater

 Fat Tuesday celebration in San Marcos


Tiffany, me, Carly


♥ Much Love,
Mel