Thursday, January 21, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
My parents made the move to Dallas when I graduated from college. So even though I sometimes go to Dallas to see them, it's far from my "hometown". Infact, I'm so unfamiliar with the city that sometimes I'm shy to tell people where my folks live, because they always say "which part of Dallas?" and honestly, I haven't the foggiest idea. I do know that GWB and Laura Bush are neighbors (ick) and that my Mom and Dad are very happy in Dallas. And honestly the latter is all that matters to me. They've really embraced this town and culture. Infact, as I'm sitting here typing this the family is sitting around watching a Johnny Cash Live in Concert DVD. No lie.
I enjoy visiting my parents very much. It's something that I don't get to do very often. It's a visit that always includes good food and a long soak in my mom's amazing jacuzzi tube.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, my Mom was a very good home-taught cook. Even with my entire family coming in for a visit, she made some awesomely tasty meals with a white chicken chili the first night including a cold bok choy salad (I need the salad recipe!), holiday cookies and chicken on the grill the second night. The third night my parents' hosted a small cocktail party complete with my Mom's sweet and sour meatballs (yum) and shrimp cocktail, which is my fave. It was a good time with a hired guitarist singing some tunes for the guests' enjoyment. It was a lot of fun.
Our last night in the big D, my parents wanted to take us to Fort Worth so my nephews, both 5, could see the Longhorn sauntered down the street and then take us all to the restaurant Reata.
The restaurant is a favorite of their's for the food and decor. Inside it pays homage to the movie Giant. A fantastic movie that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys epic old movies. It has Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean in it...Seriously, that should be enough said.
My parents reserved a large glass room for the fam to sit in. The room happened to be in the center of the ground floor dining room (my Dad later told me that there were actually 5 floors to this restaurant) so we were able to look out at the decor which included movie pictures, a wax statue of James Dean, plenty of horse saddles and various other cowboy and other Giant memorabilia.
I ordered the chicken fried steak with black pepper white gravy. One of my favorite meals that I can't often get in Boston for sure. I also got a field salad as a starter but it wasn't really worth mentioning. However, the chicken fried steak came and it was immensely. It came served with mashed potatoes and crisp garlic green beans. It was delicious! I felt a little guilty about going to a "fancy" restaurant and getting something that isn't fancy at all. But it was really quite good. The crust was good and crisp and the gravy was flavorful and rich. The greens were fantastic and not to be a disregarded side. The potatoes I also liked however they were not as amazing as the rest of the meal. Plus they had been flavored with blue cheese as was the mac and cheese (a side that was ordered for the entire table to share). And even though I'm a huge fan of blue, I know that it's strong flavor doesn't agree with E at all. So it seemed odd that the menu gave no mention of blue cheese in either the mac and cheese or the potatoes. Oh the mac and cheese! First of all it had blue cheese (yum!) and there were shards of bacon strewn in it as well (double yum!).
Overall, I was very pleased with my meal choice but sadly too stuffed to even consider dessert but if I had been interested in dessert, I would have asked for the Texas pecan pie. I had a feeling that it would be have been amazing and possibly had chocolate involved somehow.
A very nice end to our week long stay in Texas. Sadly, we head home back to Boston tomorrow and while it will be nice to get back to our home, etc. I will miss seeing my family and being able to spend time with them. Oh yeah and the close to 70* weather isn't bad either ;)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I took a week off from the chill of Boston and headed west to see my folks in Dallas. E and I decided to take a couple of days and visit Austin. I'm in Austin right now. I'm loving this lil town. And culinary wise, it's been really good to us.
We arrived at the Austin Motel last night. A place I highly recommend for people looking for a bare bones, reasonably priced lodge. It's in a really great location with plenty of fun shops and good eats all around (more on that in a bit). The service is friendly and warm and since they were the first people in Austin to truly greet us, my initial impression was a good one.
We were excited to finally arrive and wanted to experience some good BBQ. In Boston, we have a couple of decent BBQ joints but nothing that is really crave worth in my book.
So after doing some Chowhound research (Yelp reviews are completely not useful. The level of snark and meanness just makes me think all places sux inclu. my own lil amazing shop, but I digress..) we found two places that sound promising: Mann's and Rudy's. So off we went. Unfortunately we arrived at Mann's only to find that they had closed. They close at 8pm. Eeek too early for us. Oh well so off we set to Rudy's.
Rudy's is a little overwhelming at first glance. It's set up almost cafeteria style but with three stations where you order your meat choices. When it was our turn: we already decided on ribs and brisket, we were helped by a young man by the name of Brad.
Let me just say service means everything to me and Brad was great. He was really into making sure we made the right meat choices. And started us out by giving us samples of everything including the sides. He patiently told us what each thing was and asked what we thought. He was a knowledgeable and really personable guide. We decided on the moist brisket, St Louis Ribs (based on Brad's rec), creamed corn, coleslaw and pinto beans. Unfortunately the St Louis ribs were sold out and so we went with the baby back ribs. After filling out our massive order of food, Brad topped it off with what had to be half a loaf of white bread.
We got all this food plus a soda for myself and beer for E for less than $30! Quite the bargain. And how did it taste? AWESOME! Ok so the babyback ribs were not a fave for either of us but they were absolutely smoked properly with a wide pink smoke ring and a good amount of char on the outside. But the most amazing part of the meal was the moist brisket. The white bread came in handy as I made myself a lil sandwich with the brisket, a little BBQ sauce, coleslaw and pickles. Oh man, I really had died and gone to meat heaven. The brisket was so delicious. It was melt in the mouth tender but with burnt bits that provided a bit of good texture change.
I decided that I wanted to marry the moist brisket.... Yeah, I liked it that much.
A great evening overall.
Today we woke up and went to check out but before we did so, we thought to ask the motel staff for a breakfast place recommendation. They said the placed next door had great food that included grits. Say no more! E wanted grits. Sadly, I don't remember the name of the place but it's right next to the Austin Motel and is very cute with a modern 50's motif.
The service was friendly and helpful especially since plain grits were not something on the menu. They typically put goat cheese and herbs into the grits and well E wasn't down for that. The server said that she didn't see them having a problem making them plain for her and so we ordered. Simple eggs, bacon, toast and grits for E and shrimp and grits plus a side of bacon for me. We also shared a fruit bowl (pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe) that was nice too.
Everything was super delicious and there was a ton of it too. That seems to be a overarching theme to food in Austin and dare I say Texas? Food servings are very large...Not something I'm complaining about!
E and I spent a really nice day wandering around and getting a feel for the city. For snacks we got cupcakes at "Hey Cupcake". This place is nothing more than an air stream trailer. Actually, we saw that there were plenty of food trucks and rv's. It was kinda rad to see so many food carts. In Boston we hardly have any. The cupcakes were $2.50 (Boston people who complain about the price of cupcakes take note, it is a fairly standard price). E opted for a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and I got a red velvet one. Both were really fantastic. Moist with plenty of tasty frosting. Another plus for me? The chocolate one didn't have a butterceam frosting but a really nice sugar and milk frosting. I tend to not enjoy buttercream so I was really into this. Also the red velvet one had an exceptionally well done cream cheese frosting. Later, we also split a slice of pizza from a place called Home Slice. It came recommended to us by a local who told us that they annually take a trip to NYC to study the pizza scene. Neat. We got a slice of the Marguerite to try. It was very good. The crust was nicely executed. Crisp and chewy where it needed to be. Good air bubbles in the crust but not enough char because the crust was a bit blonde and could have been cooked a bit longer. The toppings were good and we were pretty happy with the rec.
We were suppose to head back to Dallas tonight but we opted to try and stay for one more night. Asking the good folks at the Austin Motel to hook us up with a room. We made a bit more and got upgraded to the "Mediterranean" suite. It's a bigger room with one side of the room wallpapered in a cliched Mediterranean scene. It's a little campy and fun.
For dinner tonight we decided to do Tex Mex and again used Chowhound as a resource. E said that Jorge's looked good. She was able to make a reservation on Open Table so this time, we knew it was open ;)
When we arrived, E told the hostess that we had a reservation on Open Table and she kinda shrugged saying that sometimes it didn't work for them. Seemed odd but she looked anyway and sure enough there was our reservation. The hostess lead us to a table but quickly accessed that we'd be sitting next to a huge table of crazy acting children and their passive parents. So she led us away to a corner table that was perfect. We were given menus and looked over while we munched on very good chips and salsa.
We did sit for quite a bit of time and noticed that not only did we not have any silverware but we also didn't seem to have a server. Drink orders were not taken, nothing for literally 10 minutes. E finally got up and spoke to the manager who very quickly took care of the problem. But honestly we were upset about it at all. We just wanted to order.
E got a sampler entree and I got the chicken enchiladas. Again the portions were huge. And again the food was massively tasty. I didn't really love the taco that was part of E's dinner because the shell had been fried and the grease from the beef filling had made the taco a bit soggy. I tend to enjoy steamed corn tortillas for my tacos so it's more of a personal preference than anything else. But I really enjoyed my chicken enchiladas. I got them in a red sauce that was very flavorful as were the refried beans and rice that came with our dishes. We were both very satisfied. As witnessed here
We got our check and saw that they had given us a 50% off discount for the wait we had. It was a very pleasant surprise and one that we weren't expecting.
Overall, Austin has really embraced us and we're kinda enthralled. Infact so much so that we've been contemplating if a move might be possible for us. Let's just see what happens.