When I say to you: “My favorite summer meal is a cool, crisp salad topped with grilled goodies” … I can’t blame you for yawning as you toss me that perfectly arched “this is news?” brow.
So I’ll explain. Because you want to know this, you really do. You want to mimic the minced cucumber-mint-honey-coconut-agave beauty that is a Thai-inspired salad that is my lunch, topped with one perfectly grilled coconut-crusted salmon filet drizzled with chili oil and agave and sesame seeds and maybe a dash of smoky toasted walnuts, because why the hell not?
It’s summer, and “salad” takes on a whole new definition. Thusly: anything I can toss into a bowl without first cooking is a salad. The grilled goodies on top? Those are the province of the bf, and I dare not (and care not to) challenge his ninja grilling skills. It’s 107 out there today. If he wants to stand in front of a fire and char all manner of veg, fish, and fowl, who I am to argue?
I don’t care a bit for the traditional American lettuce-carrot-tomato horror that most call a salad, but if you must: at least toss some bread on the grill to infuse with smoky goodness before cutting up and calling it croutons. Don’t forget to douse it in olive oil and garlic first. If you’re feeling it, toss the romaine hearts on the grill, too. Grilled lettuce is delish.
But this is summer, I might have mentioned, when salads are less about greens (a cool weather crop) and more fruit-cheese-meat. Red grapes, apple, bleu cheese, grilled pork loin. Toss with a yogurt-honey sauce. Not a green leaf in sight. Nevermind the mint in that mojito. Stick to the subject.
This is tomato season, no way around it. If you like that sort of thing, tabouleh is a great example of a lettuce-less salad. And truly, one can consider pico de gallo less of a salad or condiment and more of a main dish without too much effort. Add some chips and margarita… admit it: that’s been dinner more times than you can count.
Don’t even get me started on avocados. Me, I’m inclined to cut one open and grab a spoon, end of story. But since we are all about salads today: chop up an avocado, toss with feta, onion, lime juice, cilantro, grilled corn. Top with grilled fajita-spiced chicken. You’re welcome.
Chilled grains are a fab base for summer salads. True, they must have been cooked at some point. But a big enough batch will last all week without heating up the kitchen.
Chilled wild rice with minced kale, basil, dried cranberries, pecans and topped with grilled peaches. Drizzle with lime-orange-honey. Or ruby red juice, if you’ve got some. Stay local.
Or try chilled quinoa with chopped cherries, strawberries and dark chocolate bits. Some nutmeg, cardamom. If you are a purist, and therefore must have something green in the bowl before you will recognize it as a salad: add mint. Goes great with chocolate. But then, what doesn’t?
We haven’t even touched on chicken salads, a category all their own. The traditional version with mayo and celery, yes, but also: with rice and raisins and curry and … you get the idea. Break out of the lettuce habit. Greens are fantastic, but maybe think of them as a garnish rather than the bulk of the salad, yeah?
~ posted by Kristian
I kept meaning to post a handy list of all the food-centric conference sessions at SXSW. Turns out, these nice people already did, thereby saving me hours of time. They didn’t add the lovely snarky commentary I would have, but to each their own. So go check it out.
The firehose of information surrounding SXSW is daunting. Staggering. Majestic in it’s voluminosity. And eventually, just overwhelming. Sleep here, drink there and there and there. Shop on that street. Or this popup store. And of course, eat… everywhere.
Next to the party lists, the question of where to eat is by far the largest body of information to wrangle. The lists I’ve seen (so far) collectively recommend over 150 individual restaurants. And this is important, because at some point you get tired of the tiny warmish portions of free food at all the parties and hanker for a real meal.
To help out the non-locals a bit, here are all the Eats Lists which have crossed my desk, grouped into one handy post. Together, these
nine 12 13 comprehensive lists cover everything from new darlings to old favorites. Some focus on food trucks, others are strictly geographical (downtown or East, mainly) and there is even one just for bakeries. Enjoy!
How To Eat Right At South By Southwest
The Best Dishes in Austin, According to a Local
25 new places to eat since last year’s SXSW
Austin Eavessdropper with Citysearch:
Top Ten Things to Do in Austin (most of them are food/drink related)
A Visitor’s (And Austinite’s) Guide To Austin Bakeries
Second Helpings: Interactive Foraging Downtown
What list would be complete without a Pinterest board?
Food in Austin
2012 Essential SXSW Guide
More from Pinterest:
SXSW Food Lovers Guide
If you like your food guides with a side of 1997 technology, check it out Zagat. Their guide comes complete with animated page turning and sounds effects:
Flavor of Austin
The Ultimate Guide to Austin Eats
ps: Us locals? For the next 10ish days, we’ll be at the places not on these lists. And sorry, but we aren’t going to tell you where they are.
~ posted by Kristian
You know how it is: end of the weekend, friends over for brunch, chatting, pulling random ingredients from the fridge and the garden and so forth. Next thing you know, you’ve accidentally invented the best bourbon sauce in the world.
At least, that was my Sunday. And because I’m nice like that I will now share it with you. Sort of. You see, I don’t really do what you might call ‘measuring’ the ingredients. If you require that in your recipes, you might want to go read someone’s else blog. Otherwise, let’s proceed:
Chunk up two apple and two pears.
Toss them into grill basket.
Grill over a charcoal fire until soft.
Into a saucepan over medium heat, place two sticks of butter.
Let it melt.
Stir in a healthy glug of bourbon.
And another of whipping cream.
Toss in two cinnamon sticks & a handful of cardamom pods.
Add previously grilled fruit.
Let it simmer.
Add another healthy pour of bourbon.
Then a little more cream.
Simmer down a bit more.
Strain into a bowl.
We like this spooned over grilled angel food cake. You could also drizzle it over sautéed kale and call it healthy. If you’re into that sort of thing.
~ posted by Kristian
My distaste for this ridiculous Italian food trend is suspended for this ONE instance: Olive & June. *Housemade nutella*; a dish involving meatballs with figs; so blissfully much more. Oh hello, Gluttony. Thought I heard ya come in.
Olive & June | 3411 Glenview Ave | ATX 78703
~ posted by Kristian
Field Report: I’ve been crossing the river with alarming frequency of late. In the interest of saving you time should you decide to do likewise, here is what I have learned:
~ posted by Kristian
About our guest poster: Daniel Mennega writes and eats in Austin, Texas. He began his career delivering Grit Magazine. He is not now nor ever was a merman. (Allegedly. We’re still having those photos researched. ~ Kristian) Subscribe to Daniel’s Facebook updates over here.
No place says vegan less than Austin rock and roll bar The Parlor. “Mayhem” perhaps, or maybe “Eightball.” But fussy palettes seem unlikely at this Hyde Park punk oasis.
Its skull-and-bones logo has “meat” written all over it. And sometimes stuck to it.
So the Parlor upped its cred and irony lots recently when its vegan pizza was declared Top Dawg in All of Pizzaland by Austin Vegans Themselves.* That’s quite a feat in this food-trendy town, and validates enduring buzz among a particularly choosy gastro subcult.
More important, it flat-out contradicts the hurtful and misinformed notion that vegans won’t eat anything shaped in a circle.
*Actual award: “Ultimate Pizza Pie” as bestowed by veganaustin.org.
The Parlor | 4301 Guadalupe St | ATX 78751
~ posted by Daniel
Austin Terrier: Not a pet store. Not a specialty pet groomer. Since this is Austin, let’s go ahead and say it: also not a band, or an AV-backed high tech startup, or a local beer (which would have been my first guess).
What is it? Take a mental walk with me: I have a Siberian Husky. He’s friendly to a fault when you first walk in, then backs off so as not to be overbearing. He has good taste, as evidenced by the fact that he stole my Jo Malone body creme off the counter while completely ignoring the store brand lotion. With his mismatched eyes, he’s a little bit funny looking. He has a quirky sense of humor. Now imagine him in restaurant form.
Where: Austin Terrier is in that cursed old Mesa HIlls Cafe location, which briefly did a stint as El Chile.
Vibe: It’s weekday lunch material, all the way. In even though it is tucked away in the Far West neighborhood, it distinctly lacks any cozy neighborhood feel. It’s less Foreign & Domestic, more Hangtown Grill. Do not bring a date here.
As is the trend lately, the interior walls of AT feature kooky Sgt. Pepperesque pop art murals, I suspect done by whoever did the walls at Gusto. They’re entertaining, even though it comes across as trying too hard and a little bit creepy.
Why you want to come here: the entree salads are divine, the service is quick, I’ve never seen it crowded at lunch, and the food is reasonably priced.
Menu: extensive list of sandwiches, some salads, some pizza. That sort of thing. I’m told they have an outstanding beer selection.
ps - please let the record show that although dayglo dogs on acid stared at me from the walls while I ate lunch, I dutifully stayed away from all dogmeat jokes. Because we aim a little higher here. But not by much.
Austin Terrier | 3435 Greystone Dr | ATX 78731
~ Posted by Kristian
Though eastside upstart Contigo has existed for less than a year, what began as a restaurant* has morphed into an addiction for an alarming number of Austinites. I am here today to warn you of this epidemic.
Due to its patio-centric nature, more and more people will likely become affected as the weather warms. Often, it only takes one visit. There is no known cure; there is only your next fix.
The most likely population segment who risk addiction to Contigo are self-described adventurous eaters. Much like Jehovah’s Witnesses on Ecstasy, Contigo junkies feel compelled to share the love with as many people as possible. Thus they build themselves a handy coven of enablers who are always up for that next round of crispy green beans, of pork rillette, of fig scones.
Contigo junkies are most recognizable by their knowledge of the Smokin’ Gypsy and the way their eyes glaze over at the mention of rabbit & dumplings. “Crispy Green Beans” does not mean the same thing to you that it does to them. They spell it c-r-a-c-k. They drool uncontrollably at the mere thought of the cassoulet, of the ox tongue slider, of the crepinette.
There is no rehab, and this particular addiction is notoriously tricky to manage. Just when you think you have tried it all… not so fast. Think you’re done? Surprise: new menu additions! Oh, you’re over it? So then, you won’t be needing to try the new homemade cinnamon rolls and new respado hot chocolate and new pozole (holy hell, that’s delicious).
These people are clearly not amateurs.
Perhaps you have not tried Contigo. Perhaps you believe I overstate the situation. Hey, I have an idea: Let’s go for dinner tonight. And maybe again tomorrow for brunch? What? Do not look at me in that tone of voice… I can stop anytime. Really.
Contigo Austin | 2027 Anchor Lane | ATX 78723
~ Posted by Kristian
(*yes, I know it is also a ranch)
While my love for various local eateries is sometimes (or often) in question, my love for my readers is steadfast and true. And this is why I have a new year’s gift for you.
Perhaps you have been interested in checking out the much buzzed about French/Vietnamese-influenced Elizabeth St. Cafe. But since not all those comments have been positive, you first pop over to their website to peruse the menus only to find… what’s this? They haven’t posted menus on their website?!
Good thing I’ve posted them here then, isn’t it? :)
Personally, I want my Vietnamese food served in a cramped space located in a dicey stripmall by people whose first language isn’t English. So long as Tam Deli, Lucy’s and Sunflower exist, I’ll likely refrain from making the drive down to ESC. But don’t let me stop YOU from trying it. And do let me know how that $22 Pho measures up.