Friday, April 20, 2012

Road Diaries: Jacksonville, Florida

El Mofongo
Every so often us Food Junkies go out of town. Not necessarily for the purpose of discovering new and exciting places to eat outside of Texas, but just for the sake of going. And while we're out we need to eat. So we asked ourselves, if we are going to be out anyway why not write about it? Why not look for great little places in whatever town we happen to be in? And thus is born the inaugural edition of Austin Food Junkies: The Road Diaries.
Mofongo with pork

I know you're all probably sitting on the edge your seats, peering intently at the words on your monitor with wide eyes barely an inch from the screen just waiting for the exotic locale to be revealed. Well my friends wait no longer; I was able to visit Jacksonville, Florida. A trip of well over 1,000 miles from Austin and spanning five states, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The trip out was a bit rushed, so we didn't have the chance to stop for anything along the way (that's right, no Cajun or Creole food in Louisiana, maybe next time) save for the usual fast food type stuff, but what awaited us in Jacksonville made skipping those places worthwhile.

There were, of course, the usual fast food and mega-chain type places all around but what I wanted was a bit of the flavor of Jacksonville. I wanted a place that was local to them, but perhaps a bit unusual to an outsider. Well I found exactly what I was looking for in El Mofongo. They serve a mix of Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican food. As soon as I rolled up to this place I had feeling I was going to like it. It had the look and feel from the outside of a welcoming neighborhood cafe and inside I was not disappointed. What drew me to this place initially was the name, El Mofongo.

Mofongo is a dish that I had seen on a cooking show a long time ago and had wanted to try but never did find any place in Austin that serves it (if there is feel free to drop us a line!). Mofongo consists of fried plantains (those banana looking things in the produce section), spices, and various types of magic. All of the ingredients are then placed into a pilon (a giant wooden mortar and pestle) and beaten into submission until the whole mass forms a nice dome. The dome of plantain-y goodness is then fried.You get your choice of meat, I chose the pork. I love pork. It is easily one of my favorite meats and I do not say this lightly, but this was perhaps the best pork I have ever had. Ever. The meat was perfectly tender and moist; it just fell apart in mouth. And the skin....I still have dreams about it. Perfectly crunchy, perfect. It wasn't at all hard or tough; it was crisp and disintegrated quickly on the tongue. I can't wait to get another.

 On the way out, I had plenty of leftovers but I had gone out alone and several people back the home I was staying in who had not eaten. So I used this as an excuse to order a few more things. I got Tostones (fried green plantains), and a couple of sandwiches. I got the Cuban, after all when you're in a Cuban place in Florida you have to get a Cuban sandwich, and the Triplet. All of these items were great. The bread is made in house and the plantains came served with a delicious mojo, which is a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, and in this case lemon juice.
We try to keep our ratings specific to Texas and Austin in particular so we can't give an official rating this time. But if we were to rate them, El Mofongo would be amongst the highest. The staff was friendly and helpful and the food was fantastic. So the next time any of our fellow Junkies are anywhere near Jacksonville be sure to run by this place. The pilgrimage will be worth it.

El Mofongo
6011 103rd st
jacksonville Florida 32210

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Olive & June

Olive and June

Hey there food fanatics! If you are at all in touch with the soft, and delightfully overfed underbelly of Austin, which is to say its food scene then you are doubtlessly acquainted with Chef Shawn Cirkiel. Chef Cirkiel is the proprietor of both Parkside and the Backspace, and now his newest restaurant Olive and June. We were recently treated to a night at Olive and June and had quite a night.

Olive and June is located just off of 35th on Glenview Ave, and serves up some fantastic Italian fare. It's a lovely location with a equally lovely interior consisting of three floors and outside deck seating. We were ushered up to the second floor and given a small table (it was just the two of us after all) near the middle of the room which afforded us the opportunity to observe the rest of the guests and the staff. As one would expect the staff was very friendly eager to assist.


We started with the fried ravioli, and the suppli which is fried saffron risotto and mozzarella. These are now easily two my favorite things. I love ravioli, risotto and most things fried. So when you take two of my favorite things and fry them, you have created a winning dish in my book. The next time I come back I will start with both of these. Also pictured is the Tuna Crudo

Next up was the salad, we opted for the escarole. This is served with pancetta and a fried egg. All I had to see was that it came with a fried egg, and the deal was sealed for me. How can you not love a food that makes its own sauce? Our waitress also suggested the pickled beets. If you are a lover of beets, then these are worth a try. An excellent recommendation on the part of our waitress.

We also had the grilled swordfish and the short rib papparedelle. The papparedelle was good, but the real standout for us was the swordfish. This was easily one of the best pieces of fish I've had in a long time. Perfectly cooked and nicely accompanied with lemon, pistachio, capers and mint. This will probably be my go to entree.

To finish we decided on the chocolate zabaglione, but were also given the bombolini (it was the soft opening event after all).  The zabaglione was fantastic and so rich I was glad to have help finishing it. The bombolini were also delicious. Little Tuscan doughnuts served atop house made nutella, with candied orange zest, and orange mascarpone. We washed it all down with a very nice cappuccino.

Ordinarily, we don't feel it's fair to rate a new restaurant based on a soft opening event. After all, the whole point of an event like this is to help work out some of the kinks. But we were able to sample enough of the menu that I feel I can confidently give a rating to Olive and June. And Chef, if you happen to read this please give our complements not only to the kitchen but to the front of the house as well. Customer service is a huge part of an evening out and your wait staff seems to have it down.

Official AFJ rating- 4 Points of the Lone Star.

Four Lone Star Points