eat! craft! live!

Baking, crafting, mama-ing and taking photos of it all. When I remember.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: Little Giant

In February, I met a lovely friend for a lovely dinner at Little Giant. And I…apparently took only one photo and it’s of me, slightly tipsy, modeling the cowl I had just finished for another dear friend? So, uh, hi!

littlegiant

I started with a knife fight. Which does not involve any sharp weaponry, but is “a bourbon sour, with an edge.” (Bourbon, lemon, pineapple, ginger.) It was strong, and fruity, and definitely had a serious kick of ginger.

For an appetizer, I got the little biscuits with maple-whipped lardo and hot pepper jelly. They were…good. I expected better biscuits frankly (um, I make amazing biscuits), but the combination of the biscuits and the toppings was definitely tasty.

I opted for the LG Burger & Jojos for my main meal and it was quite good. The menu changes relatively often, it seems, and looking at it now, I so wish that the Broad Arrow Farm Pork Meatballs with parmesan polenta, shaved brussels sprouts, pancetta vinaigrette had been available when I went because that sounds amazing. Time to go back?

I also got a second drink on a whim – a special that was benefitting…something or other…and I mostly remember that it had a sprig of lavender jutting out of the top, which at first was unnerving and then was delightful. I could sip my drink and as long as I managed to keep the little branch from poking me in the eye, smell the lavender while sipping. Aaah… (Seriously, it was great but I don’t remember what was in it! Maybe gin? Something fruity? I think it was carbonated? Not helpful.)

All in all, a great night. More expensive than I usually go for, but if I’m feeling a little flush with cash (lol) I would definitely return.

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Operation Try New Restaurants: The Local Press

Last week I got my hair cut (a rarity I need to remedy) and as my stylist is practically next door to The Local Press, I popped over for a sandwich and, unbeknownst to me beforehand, a malt. Yum.

Hello, delicious. Why is it so hard to get a milkshake and even harder to get a malt in this town? Hm?

I opted for the orchard turkey – a panini with turkey, bacon, apples, sharp cheddar, and chipotle mayo. It was heavy on the turkey and fairly light on everything else but it was really good. (I must admit to having a particular fondness for sandwiches I haven’t made.) It was reasonably priced but doesn’t come with anything – there is an assortment of bagged chips & salty snacks to fill out your meal if you wish. I didn’t. Between the sandwich and the malt I was plenty satisfied!


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Operation Try New Restaurants: Bogusha’s

So here’s the deal: I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. But I am one for setting goals. This year I made it my goal to try at least one new restaurant every month. More, if time and budget allow! (So far…not. But here’s hoping!)

I made basically no rules for the project, just that it has to be new to me. Lunch, dinner, breakfast, snacks & drinks…casual, fancy, anywhere in between…anything goes!

I came up with the idea while sitting in traffic on my way to pick up the kids one evening, right outside Bogusha’s Polish place on Stevens Ave. I’ve driven by this place literally hundreds of times, and I work just down the street, but I’d never been. And there are so many places like this! I don’t get out a lot, what with kids and busy schedules and lack of money and and and…

Hopefully, not only will this project spur me on to try new restaurants but also just get out and see friends more often! (Hi friends! I miss you!)

Appropriately, the first new place I tried was, in fact, Bogusha’s. It’s a tiny Polish restaurant and deli, with just 3 tables surrounded by grocery items. It’s very much like eating in someone’s home. Someone who happens to make delicious Polish food.

M & I met for lunch one icy day and both got the Polish platters with pierogi, kielbasa, bigos (hunter’s stew, consisting of cabbage, sauerkraut, kielbasa, ham) and golabki. Everything was wonderful, especially the bigos which I’d never even heard of, let alone tried! We also started the meal with white borscht, which was delicious.

I also picked up kinder eggs for the kids and some chocolate bars for my work stash.

All told, I’d recommend it – as long as you aren’t in a hurry! While the food was great, the service was…leisurely.


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pinata apples, anyone?

pinata apples

I get a lot of PR people contacting me about various things, most of them entirely irrelevant to my interests/this blog/my location. (Hey Austin PR folks – I moved away 2.5 years ago! Just, y'know…) But once in a while, something catches my eye and I actually pay attention! This is one of those occasions. How could I pass up free apples?

The apples are called Piñata and this is what they have to say about them:

"Piñata is a cross between England's Cox's Orange Pippin, Russia's Duchess of Oldenburg, and the classic American apple, Golden Delicious. The best attributes of these three varieties combine to make Piñata, an apple that is crisp and juicy with both high sugars and high acids, and a subtle tropical finish."

And you know me, I wouldn't actually blog about them if I didn't like them. They were really quite tasty! We ate them fresh, me and little E, though apparently they are good for cooking too. And the most recent apples I've been getting from the supermarket have been rather mealy and dry and a little long in the tooth, so it was refreshing to get some nice, crisp juicy apples this time of year. (Though M did mention it seemed to take advantage of modern logistics, this sending two apples in a little padded box through the mail…)

pinata apples

But we were glad to have them! E devoured them, but she isn't exactly an apple connoisseur, so… I thought they were crunchy, crisp, surprisingly juicy. They were a nice mix of sweet and tart. I'm not a huge fan of the "Delicious" family of apples myself, so there was something that I didn't exactly love about them, but really they were quite good and I will definitely make a point to seek them out this winter!

My only real complaint is that they are only licensed to be grown by one grower and I'm not really sure how I feel about that…but frankly I don't know enough about the apple industry to have any sort of adequately educated opinion about it, so take my words with a grain of salt!

The apples are tasty – give 'em a try!

Find them here


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made from corn!

utensils

A while back, I was sent some Dandelion corn plastic tableware and utensils to review. (Ahem. A long while back. But hey! At least we've fully tested them!)

plates, spoons, forks

First off – corn plastic!

What?

It's exactly what it sounds like. Plastic made from corn. There's more information over here than I could easily summarize. (If you're interested in that sort of thing.) All I know is that plastic made from a renewable resource that can be grown pretty much anywhere instead of from a non-renewable resource, most likely sourced from a politically unstable foreign country, sounds pretty good to me. It's BPA, phthalate and PVC free, which I certainly appreciate.

Plus, the products are super cute! We've gotten a ton of use out of the utensils especially. The baby spoons are just the right size and shape – they're perfect for scooping out bites of kiwi or avocado for the wee ones. They're not sharp, but they're not as blunt as some other spoons, so they actually scoop nicely instead of just mashing. Perfect for cutting soft things but not at all dangerous to baby's mouth. We're just getting into using the toddler forks and spoons but so far they've been a big hit. One fork for E, one fork for me…

The plates are adorable but I find that I don't use them all that much. We use a lot of bowls, so maybe we'd be better off with a set of those! Partly, I think, E is just still too little to have her own plate and not toss everything on it onto the floor, whether intentionally or not. In addition, our plates haven't held up quite as well as the wonderful utensils. The utensils look as lovely as the day we got them. The plates, on the other hand, have gotten slightly warped and crooked. We don't microwave them or put them in a dishwasher, as the package recommended. (Heck, we don't even have a dishwasher. Unless you count me.) So I'm not exactly sure what the issue is, unless they're delicate enough that simply sitting around and having some other dishes press upon them for the amount of time they sit in the kitchen sink has been doing it. They're still functional, but they don't stack nice and neatly anymore and won't sit straight on the table.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there have been some concerns with disposing of items made from corn plastic. Though they look like conventional plastic, they can't be recycled right alongside it and can, in fact, contaminate a batch of conventional plastic, rendering it useless. And while they claim to be biodegradable, from what I've read they only break down under the super hot conditions found in industrial composting facilities. If you toss it out in your backyard, or even right in the middle of your compost pile, it could still hold up nearly as well as conventional plastic for a good long while. However! With these particular products, given that they are intended to be reused and not tossed after a single use, like, say, a water bottle made from corn plastic, I don't think that should be of much concern. It's worth considering, but in this case I think the pros outweigh the cons. You'll have to decide for yourself!

Overall, I would definitely recommend the utensils and I'd certainly give the other items – bowls, plates, etc. – a try. I love that they aren't made from petroleum products. That is a huge deal for us!

sandwich!

You can find the tableware here. You can also see if it is stocked somewhere near you! Happy eating!


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Belgian ale doughnuts with toffee sauce (by bookgrl)

Last Wednesday, I dragged a friend out on the town for a little wine and free dessert. The event for food bloggers, Twitterers, Yelpers and regular folks was wittily named the “RSS (Really Sweet Syn) Feed” – how I could I pass it up? Cissi’s Market on South Congress is one of those places that I’ve passed by a million times, but have never set foot in. And there’s a perfectly logical reason for that! It looks completely out of my usual price range. The truth? It’s only mostly out of my price range! Hoo-ray!

In all seriousness, the free sweets and discounted wine were definitely what motivated me to do something other than sit around my living room with M and the kitties, knitting and watching 30 Rock on Netflix. Which is what I generally do on a weeknight. And I’m glad I got out! It feels good to be around other humans sometimes. (Not that M doesn’t count…he’s very human.)

My friend and I opted to get dinner beforehand at Home Slice Pizza, which is conveniently across the street from Cissi’s. Assuming (correctly, I might add) that actually eating dinner at Cissi’s would prove to be a little beyond our budgetary allowances, the pizza was a nice fill-me-up before the main event. A couple greasy but delicious slices of pepperoni later, we crossed the street and entered a roomy space lined with giant windows and shelves of wine. We were early and there were plenty of spots to sit, so we perched at a high table by one wall of windows and people-watched while we perused the (really entertaining) menu. Waitstaff with trays of delectable goodies wandered here and there, asking, “Would you like some dessert?” Seriously? You had to ask? Who says no to free sweets? Between us, I think we managed to try just about everything. I nibbled a mini Sacher Torte, two skewered Belgian Ale doughnuts with toffee sauce, a surprisingly tasty tangerine financier, some sort of gingerbread muffin which wasn’t on the menu so I can’t remember what it was called, and two glasses of very pink bubbly wine. (And I have now revealed the true extent of my free food-induced gluttony.)

Cissi's (by bookgrl)

Here’s what the folks at Cissi’s had to say about the desserts:

  • Belgian Ale Doughnuts: Warm Beer Toffee Sauce, Peanut-Fleur de Sel Toffee
  • Tangerine Financier: Browned Butter Almond Cakes infused with fresh Tangerines
  • Roasted Peanut Macaron with Caramelized Banana Ganache: Crisp and chewy Almond & Peanut Sandwich Cookies with a Caramelized Banana White Chocolate Ganache
  • Mini Sacher Torte: Small Bite-sized version of the classical Austrian dessert. Dense layers of chocolate cake with housemade Apricot Preserves and Dark Chocolate Glaze served with a side of “Schlag” or whipped cream as is done traditionally.

tiny doughnuts and dry wine (by bookgrl)

They described them better than I ever could but I’ll give you some brief impressions. The Sacher Torte was delicious and soft, but a bit melty which made for some, shall we say, indelicate eating on my part. I passed on the macaroon because the idea of banana ganache made me very unhappy. The thought of anything banana, except bananas, pretty much makes me want to run screaming. The tangerine financier was, as I mentioned, surprisingly delicious. I say surprisingly because I am not generally a huge fan of anything almond flavored, except almonds. (I sense a trend here…) It was moist and just sweet and flavorful enough without being overwhelming. The doughnuts were by far my favorite – they were the little treats I was looking forward to all evening but which were always absent from the trays when the waitstaff came by! I can only imagine that everybody got to them before the trays got to us. Warm, sugary and fried, with a deliciously sweet, warm toffee sauce, they made quite an elegant picture served skewered two at a time on long, narrow white plates. I assure you, they are not to be missed.

Oh yeah! I had wine too! Which led to an ill-advised shopping moment after we left Cissi’s where I said to my friend before we entered the store, “Don’t let me buy anything because I’ll think it’s all a really good idea!” I won’t go into detail about the wine because I don’t know what it was – only that it was pink, bubbly, sweet and delicious.

wines (by bookgrl)


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South Austin Airstream Tour

01.10.2009: hey, cupcake (by bookgrl)

Last Saturday, as I mentioned in my last post, I went on the South Austin Airstream Tour. Well, sort of. I dragged along a somewhat willing friend for the adventure and we showed up at Flip Happy Crepes around 11AM, only to see a very long line. Despite the chilly temperatures (and the wind!) we waited patiently to place our orders at the window of the delightful Airstream trailer. My friend got the salmon and I ordered the (heavenly) ham and gruyere with mornay sauce and green onions. Oh. My. Heavens. Delicious! The crepes were perfectly cooked and deliciously eggy. My fillings were warm and well-proportioned. And they are surprisingly easy to hold in your hand and eat, even though it looks, at first glance, like it’s going to be a nightmare of ham blobs and dripping cheese. My only complaint about the place is the extremely limited hours!

truly drool worthy (by bookgrl)

Next up was La Dee Dah, which I skipped in lieu of going to Hill Country Weavers instead to buy some yarn. Because…it’s conveniently located directly across the street from the last official destination – Hey Cupcake!

Snowcap (by bookgrl)

I’ve mentioned Hey Cupcake! before, I think… When you’re selling sweet, tasty cupcakes out of a shiny Airstream trailer with a giant rotating cupcake on top…well, it’s just really hard to go wrong! I got my usual, the Snowcap – chocolate cake with vanilla icing. I always forget that their chocolate cake has chocolate chunks in it, which I adore. The icing is nothing special and a bit too sweet for me, but the atmosphere (and the proximity to a yarn shop!) is hard to beat.

So why the “Well, sort of” up the first paragraph? My main complaint about the day, and it has nothing to do with any of the places we actually went, was that I never actually met the other “tourists.” Since the whole thing was organized over the internet and I didn’t already know anybody that was going, I wasn’t really sure who to look for. There were a handful of people I was pretty sure were part of the tour, and I think I saw the organizer, but all in all, I didn’t feel overly social. Which is largely my own fault, I’m sure…I’m not exactly the most outgoing person. (Far from it!) Hopefully, at the next event I attend along these lines, it will be a little more obvious who’s there as part of the group and who’s just there with their kids on a blustery Saturday morning!

For a few more photos of the tour, check out my Flickr set.