Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dolce Neve



Dolce Neve Crew


We have all heard the old children's rhyme: "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." Ice cream is one of those quintessential treats that all kids love. Heck, most if not all adults love the stuff too. And why not? The truth is that like pizza even bad ice cream is still pretty good. It's cold, sweet, and brings us back to a simpler time. I'll bet most of you are probably smiling fondly as read this, thinking of days gone by..... While we may even be able to enjoy less than stellar ice cream it is always worth the drive and money to get the best, most indulgent ice cream we can find. Friends, I may have found the best anywhere, not just Austin. Where is this magical place of whimsy, wonder, smiles, and all things frozen?

The Answer my lovelies, is Dolce Neve (pronounced Dole-chay Nevay) gelato on South 1st street. I know I've been talking about ice cream and here I mention gelato. The way I see it both are part of the same family of dairy based frozen confections, along with Indian Kulfi. The differences are few and you still end up with a tasty frozen treat that happens to be lower in calories than traditional ice cream. You might think of gelato then, as ice cream's prettier Italian cousin. I'd take her on a date any time! I'd get into a full discussion of the differences between the two but I don't have the space to do so. Also it's just not that important.

Opened in January 2014 by Italian transplants Francesca, Leo, and Marco, Dolce Neve offers some of the best frozen goodies you'll find anywhere. They source everything as locally as possible, including the decor. Just get them talking and you will quickly see their passion for their craft. Francesca, as it turns out, learned the craft at Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna Italy. That's right, Ice Cream University. It actually exists. Her training and dedication to the craft really show! Each of these good folks can easily tell you what goes into each of their gelatos, but that may be because there aren't that many ingredients start with. Only naturally ingredients, no chemical preservatives or stabilizers. Just good, natural stuff.

Here is a quick look at what we were able to sample-

Parmagiano Reggiano- This one is savory, and one of my favorites. It is totally unexpected. Imagine the richest, creamiest parmagiano cheese you've ever had and then freeze it.

Goat cheese- This one took my daughters by surprise. They were expecting the tangy in your face flavor of feta cheese but instead got a sweet, rich gelato. It reminded us of cheese cake. It was the girls' favorite.

Pistachio- If you are a fan of pistachio ice cream, as I am, then you owe it to yourself to try this flavor. Fresh roasted, all natural pistachios.

In addition to the gelatos they also have some other hand crafted frozen treats. We didn't sample any of them but they looked absolutely fantastic. And what could go better with your cup of frozen goodness than a hot cup of steaming espresso goodness? They also have a beast of an espresso machine imported from Italy, stocked with locally roasted beans, and powered by the gods of all things caffeinated! And it's just begging to make you a cup, so why not grab some on your visit. And you know you'll be there.

Nostalgia, great treats, and feeling of doing something socially responsible. Can there be anything better?

Official AFJ rating- 5 points of Lone Star! We'd give more if could.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Daily Juice

Daily Juice


Anyone in the food community is aware of the fantastic documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead," but in the off chance that you are newer to the scene or perhaps have been living under a huge rock someplace, it chronicles an Australian man's journey from overweight and ill to fit and trim in just a few short months. And secret to his success? Juicing. Now to be clear we are not talking about store-bought juices in nice sealed plastic containers. We are talking fresh, hand-made juice from all manner of fruits and vegetables. The end results speak for themselves.

So why mention this at the start of a write-up? Quite simply, it started, or perhaps restarted, a revolution. People are now more interested than ever in getting their hands on fresh juices and the health benefits associated with it. While juicers come relatively cheaply (I picked up a nice used juicer for around $20, thank you very much McLemore!) there is the time factor involved in creating your own juices. Making enough for an entire day can be rather time consuming. Thankfully the beautiful people at the Daily Juice here in Austin have heard our pleas and have come to our aid! Hooray capitalism!

A while back my daughter and I decided to go on out to the Bee Caves location and give them a spin. The first thing we noticed was how nice the place was, and how much variety they have. Variety not just in the form of juices and other drinks, which we'll get to shortly, but in the over all products offered. And the best part? Almost all of the products they sell come from Texas with a preference for Austin based producers. That kind of "Keep it Local," or as we say Austin, "Keep it Weird," attitude is something that means a lot to us and I find it genuinely gratifying to see a local business help out other local businesses. Incidentally, I reccomend the kale chips. They're raw vegan friendly and produced in Austin.

Here's a quick look at the drinks we tried:

The Depth Charge: A potent mix of cucumber, kale, celery, spinach, parsley, and coconut water. Earthy from the kale and spinach but refreshing from the cucumber and coconut water. This is one that I'll need to memorize for the next time I go on a juice fast!

Vitamin C, I told ya: In addition to being a fun name for a teenager to order, this one is a very refreshing mix of grapefruit, orange, pineapple and lime. I think this one makes a nice go to drink anytime. While I've always been a fan of citrus juices from a bottle I have to say that there really is nothing like flavor of freshly squeezed. This one does not disappoint. It's just fresh juice with nothing added.

Vitamin C I Told Ya and the Depth Charge


In addition to great juices, smoothies, and other products you also get a great staff. I found them to be very knowledgeable and friendly and always ready to make a quick recommendation or give a quick history lesson on the company. You folks at the Daily Juice have an excellent staff, in fact give them a raise already!

All told, it was a great experience. Official AFJ rating: 2 points of the Lone Star.

The Daily Juice


Friday, July 12, 2013

Garbo's

This review will be fairly short by our standards but illuminating none the less. We hope. A while back I was talking with my mom, and being the honorary Junkie that she is she let me know about a new truck that has popped up- Garbo's Lobster rolls.

"Lobster rolls? What the heck are they", you may well be asking. If so, sit back and be illuminated. Lobster rolls, for our readers not familiar with this New England treat, are comprised of lobster salad spread liberally on a fresh baked roll. What could be better than that? Garbo's serves up some great rolls done either Connecticut or Maine style. Connecticut style is served on a roll spread with tarragon butter, Maine is without. I opted for a half roll, Maine Style, and soup. Here's a quick look-


Lobster Roll
Roll- The bread itself was perfect for the sandwich, which is to say that while tasting good it knew its place. It had a nice fresh baked kind of taste without being too bready, if that's a word. If not, then I just invented it. As for the lobster salad, it was delicious and had very generous amount of lobster. Maybe I'm just used to crab salad which is usually made with krab, not crab, and seems to consist mostly of mayo. Not the case here at all. This lobster salad is absolutely delicious.



Add caption
Bisque- The soup offered when I went was lobster bisque. It had a nice rich broth, and again a surprising amount of lobster meat in it. I figured it would be just be a nice lobster broth but was pleasantly surprised to find large pieces of meat in it as well.

All in all this is a very good truck and well worth the visit. If you're interested in trying them, and I suggest you do, you'll need to visit their site for current locations because they are mobile.

Official AFJ rating- 2 points of the Lone Star

Garbo's Website

Friday, June 21, 2013

Benji's Cantina

Photo credit- Reagan Hackleman

West 6th street. For an old-timer like myself (I've been in Austin for nearly 18 years) the entire area has lots of great memories: Gatemouth Brown at Antone's with my buddy Noah, Sue Foley also at Antone's, with Dave and Alex. Social Distortion, the Misfits, and Clutch all at Liberty Lunch (RIP). And after great shows like that we would grab a bite at places like Best Wurst, and Katz's (RIP). But things change. Liberty Lunch is gone, and so is Katz's. Change is inevitable and not always a bad thing. For instance, one of the newer arrivals to 6th street is Benji's Cantina, a Tex-Mex and Mexican inspired gem that has popped up recently. The place was recommended to us by good friend Paula, and when Paula suggests a place it is bound to be good. Here's a quick rundown of what we had-

To start we opted for the guacamole. Guacamole so fresh it's made at your table. The avocados were mashed just the way I like them. Creamy but still plenty of texture, and the tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro were just right with a little fresh squeezed lime juice. Table side guacamole service.....I need this at my house.



 My lovely wife opted for the fish tacos. A piece of lightly fried redfish with tomatoes, cilantro, and topped off with fresh crema (Mexican style sour cream) and a little green sauce. Like much of what is served a Benji's the tortillas are made fresh which went perfectly with an absolutely stellar piece of fish. It was tender, flaky, and not even slightly dry. I'd order this again in a heartbeat.




I decided on Pork Adobodo. I'm not even sure where to start with this. We were told that this dish was one that they worked on for weeks to perfect. Quite frankly it shows. The flavor of the Adobo sauce was deep, rich and just a little sweet. The pork was cooked perfectly. Honestly I don't remember the last time I had pork this good. I ordered mine with corn tortillas. These were some of the best I've had in a long time. Seriously. I've had tortillas made right in front of me in Monterrey Mexico and these tortillas rivaled any of the tortillas I have ever had there. This one is a must order when you go.


The atmosphere of Benji's is pleasant and upscale. The service is as you would expect at a restaurant of that caliber- helpful, courteous, and attentive. Another thing that impressed me was that both the General Manager and one of the owners were walking the floor and did not hesitate to stop and chat and make sure that things were going as they should. It's that kind of attention that helps to ensure that a restaurant will succeed.

Benji's Cantina


Monday, April 15, 2013

El Monumento



El Monumento


Hey there food fanatics! I know, I can see the hurt look in your eyes and I am sorry that we have been absent. It's been a long, cold, lonely winter with nary a word from the fabulously fanatical, furiously fiendish Food Junkies but we are back friends! And back with a fantastic new find for you in Georgetown, TX.

For years in the Austin area if you wanted high end Mexican or Tex-Mex fare your options have been limited. Yes I know there are plenty good little places around, Maudies, Vasquez, or classic Austin staple Chuy's. But when it comes to higher end fare you pretty much have had two long-enduring options- Z-Tejas (Tex-Mex) or Fonda San Miguel (Mexican). And to be clear, either of those options are FANTASTIC, but little Georgetown has now produced a third option that is easily on par with those two places.

"Georgetown? Seriously? What could ever come from there?," you may be asking. And if you are, stop it. First, Georgetown is a lovely little town worth a visit in its own right. Secondly, Georgetown has already given us one of my favorite diners- Monument Cafe. And now they have El Monumento to offer us as well. El Monumento, as you may have guessed by the name, is the sister to Monument Cafe and given the quality of food from Monument I automatically set the standard high. Extremely high to be honest, and they met my expectations easily.

Located just down the street from Monument El Monumento specializes in Mexican and Mexican inspired food. Like its elder sister, much of its produce is grown on site and any of the ingredients they don't produce are sourced as locally as they possibly can.

The restaurant and the property it sits on are very striking. Seriously, Dave and I could have spent all afternoon just wandering around and admiring the place. That creates certain culinary expectations, and the food lives up to those expectations.



So here's a quick look at what we had-

Campechana Cocktail- Shrimp cocktail  but so much better than shrimp cocktail. Texas Gulf shrimp, crab, tomatoes, green olives, and lime juice. It was a little sweet, a little tangy, the olives are not overpowering (even Dave loved it and he hates olives) and there is a generous portion of seafood in the mix. It comes served with chips. We ordered a small and found it to be a perfect size for sharing.




Mexican Benedict- Their take on Eggs Benedict. It may not be traditional Mexican fare, but it comes served with a deep fried avocado. I'll say it again: Deep fried. Avo. Cado. The only place I've been to that serves deep fried avocado as good as this is Izzos Tacos (now called Mellizoz) and Izzos is still my favorite nontraditional taco trailer in town. The avocado comes out warm and soft and buttery and is topped with a tomato remulade........But wait! There's more! It also comes with a bacon (pork belly) flauta, poached eggs, and black beans. Order this.



El Mon Casserole- Eggs, chorizo, poblano pepper, onions and tortillas are some of my favorite things. How do you make them better? Serve them up together as a casserole! Imaging the best breakfast taco you've ever had, turn it up to 11, then serve it with fresh home fries and fresh fruit. When I go back I may have to order this and something else so I can have this for dinner!


As expected El Monumento easily met the standard set by Monument Cafe. The food was excellent, the setting was beautiful, and the service was superb. I can't wait to get back!

Official AFJ rating  5 points of the Lone Star  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Zed's Write Up

Zed's
So a couple of weeks back we got an invite for an event Zed's. The good folks over at Newton-O'Neil communications sent us an invite to attend a media event welcoming their new head chef Jacob Hilbert. Having been to Zed's before, this one caught my attention. The food has always been good out at Zed's so the opportunity to come out and have a five course meal as a way saying "hey what's up, good to have you on board," to the new head chef was something we just couldn't pass up. Yeah you read that right, a five course meal. It was....well just keep reading.

Shrimp
First up was the appetizer of fried shrimp and Chef Hilbert's version of a Spanish tortilla. Fried shrimp? Really? Really. Seriously. It was no fast food or frozen-shrimp-in-a-bag from the local mega mart. The shrimp had a fantastic flavor, and the breading had a perfect crunch. For those not familiar with a Spanish tortilla, it has nothing to do with the Latin American style corn or flour based flat breads that we all know and love in Austin. A Spanish tortilla is more like an omelet or a frittata. In this case made with potato and served cylindrically. I've had these before (made by an actual Spanish woman no less!) and Chef Hilbert's version stands up very well, and not just because it was served on its flat end! It was great, and I'd totally get this appetizer again.

Fish and Grits
The next item served was a one of the favorites of the evening for a lot of the participants. I liked it a lot too, but it wasn't quite my favorite course. It was the Southern favorite, fish and grits. In this case it was a perfectly cooked piece of salmon on a bed of grits. Now personally I'm not usually a huge fan of grits but I liked these grits quite a lot. They had a nice rich flavor and a thicker texture than I’m used to with grits. Usually it’s the texture that I don't care for with grits so the thicker texture here may have been what put it over the top for me. This dish may not have been my favorite thing of the evening but if Chef Hilbert decides to keep it around this will be one of my go to items.

Duck
Next up was a lovely piece of duck. I don't know about y'all but I prefer dark meat poultry. White meat is good, but it just doesn't have a lot of flavor. That's what I think I like most about duck: it’s all dark meat! And it came served with BBQ, beans, and cornbread. You can't go wrong with that.

Lamb
Finally, we get to my favorite dish of the evening. Lamb shank.....I still have dreams of the lamb shank.....My brother and fellow Junkie, David, has a theory regarding the inherent tastiness of lamb. He calls it his cuteness quotient. Think about it, beef comes from cows. Beef isn't bad at all. It's pretty good actually. But how cute is it? Any member of the bovine family is sort of there. Even as calves they're not the cutest things around. Chicken, and other poultry, well they're totally cute as chicks but by the time they're old enough to eat they're just sort of there. But think about sheep; even as adults they're pretty cute to look at. And as lambs, well they're just downright adorable! So it follows that lamb should be exquisite. And in this case the lamb certainly was. It was perfectly cooked with plenty of that lamb gaminess that I love so much. The broth was fantastic and it was served with a slightly sweet and spiced couscous. I would order this every time I come in.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte
And finally, mercifully we were served the final course. Don't get me wrong, the evening was great and filled with fantastic food. And the portions were large! All five of them were very generously sized, easily large enough for a regular dinner serving, including this absolutely fantastic chocolate peanut butter torte. A peanut butter mousse sandwiched between a layer of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse. This is another dish that continues to stalk my dreams.....If not for the lamb this may have been my favorite dish of the evening. But to be fair, I do have a quite sweet tooth and chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite combinations. I'd order this in a heartbeat!

As this was a media event, we won't be giving a rating to Zed's this time around. But not for lack of quality, it’s simply that we can't be sure how representative the tasting menu is likely to be of the menu after Chef Hilbert gets it tweaked the way he wants it. Personally I'm hoping the lamb stays on, and the salmon and grits too. While we may not be giving a rating this time around we are however giving a recommendation. We only write about places we like and we totally dig Zed's!

Zed's
512-339-9337
Website

 























Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cuban Sandwich Cafe

Cuban Sandwich Cafe
Hey there fellow foodies! We have found a real gem of a home-style cafe on N. Lamar Blvd that we have been just dying to tell you about: The Cuban Sandwich Cafe. As the name implies they certainly do specialize in sandwiches, though they also serve plates and fresh baked breads. I stumbled on this place totally by accident. I was on my lunch break and was planning to go to a good little Mexican cafe in the same lot when I saw the sign, and the Cuban flag. I just had to stop and give it a shot. In the time since I first ran across this place I've been back probably four or five times and have never been disappointed. This place has all the makings of a great neighborhood spot. Friendly service, a homey atmosphere, and of course great home-style food. Here's a look at what I've sampled so far-


The Cuban
The Cuban- One the most classic sandwiches from the Americas, this Cuban is exactly what you'd expect. It's pressed sandwich served with ham (of the cold cut variety), pulled pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, mayo, and a pickle on grilled Cuban bread. And the bread is of course made in house. This is a very nice sandwich and a great introduction to the Cuban Sandwich Cafe.

El Cubanito
Cubanito Burger- Beef, bacon, and pulled pork on a fresh made bun.....is there really anything else to say?




Roa Vieja
Ropa Vieja (pronounced vee-EH-ha)- Meaning "old clothes," this plate comes served with some very nice shredded beef, congri (pronounced con-GREE) which is Cuban style beans and rice, and boiled yuca (pronounced YOU-kah). For those who have never tried yuca it plays the role of the starch in a meal. Where we would normally expect potatoes, in much of Caribbean cuisine it is replaced by items such as yucca and plantains. The texture and flavor are different than a potato and work nicely with everything else that's on the plate.


Yuca
Fries
In addition to the main courses I have also had the chance to try the tostones (pronounced tos-TONE-ehs) which are fried green plantains, Fried yucca, and fried ripe plantains. The tostones are fried green plantains. They have a similar texture and flavor to potatoes. Very nice indeed. The fried yuca are like yuca french fries, and well worth giving a try. The fried ripe plantains are like pan fried bananas, and who doesn't like that? The yucca and tostones are nice when paired with their mojo (pronounced mo-ho) which is basically a garlic and lemon vinaigrette.

In all this one was a very pleasant experience for me and I will continue to go back. The atmosphere is warm, inviting, and has the feel of a neighborhood shop. The staff is friendly, and the food is very good. In my opinion it is well worth checking out. Since they have two locations in town, it makes it just that much easier to get there. And we recommend you do.

Official AFJ rating- Two points of the Lone Star.

-Matt

Cuban Sandwich Cafe

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