What I Ate: The Salt Lick

June 17th, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I promise this is the last of my Austin posts. I realize it took me a week to getting around to writing about The Salt Lick too. But this place is so popular, that while in my opinion Franklin Barbecue is better, I figured I ought to post some photos and say a thing or two about my experience here.

It seems to be out in the middle of nowhere, which kind of adds to its appeal as a sort of barbecue oasis in the boonies. My group and I packed up plenty of beer and wine in the car (the Driftwood location is in a dry county, therefore B.Y.O.B.), and upon arrival we brought our drinks in and proceeded to wait about 45 minutes for our table – and we had around 20 people, probably more, so I was surprised that we got seated in less than an hour. But I loved how there’s plenty to do while you wait, which is all part of the experience at Salt Lick. You can drink your beers, listen to live music, mingle with other folks waiting around, check out the grounds (there’s a garden) and there’s a kids area if you have little ones. The wait pretty much flies by.

And the food? Yes, I did mention that I liked Franklin Barbecue more. But I still enjoyed the meat and sides at Salt Lick. Franklin has more of a unique seasoning and crust on its brisket, and it’s very, very tender. Salt Lick’s brisket was flavorful, albeit a more traditional barbecue flavor, and the meat was tougher. You have to chew a bit more with the meat here. I enjoyed the ribs, especially with an extra helping of barbecue sauce on top. The sauce was thick with a good mix of sweet, tangy and spicy flavors. And the sausages were fantastic – peppery, tender, easy to pop in your mouth. My table shared a family style meal, which came with potato salad (much like mashed potatoes), beans, coleslaw and bread. The sides were solid, and I particularly liked the barbecue flavor in the beans and the vinegary slaw.

Overall, The Salt Lick is a fun place, and there was so much food that I left feeling more than stuffed. Even though it wasn’t my favorite barbecue joint in town, I’d still definitely suggest going for the experience. It was a fantastic end to my last evening in Austin, and it kind of encompasses a lot of the great atmosphere of the city – live music, good food, laid back atmosphere.

What I Ate: Austin (Part dos)

June 7th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Maybe a better title for this post would be Austin: Instagrammed! I didn’t bring my DSLR to half of the places we ate at, but I made sure to bust out the iPhone whenever I could to capture moments when I could. The capitol is a nice building with quite a lot of greenery around it, so I couldn’t help but take this shot like a true tourist while riding down South Congress.

Farther up South Congress, is South Congress Café. Before the wedding on Saturday, the fiancé and I wrangled up another couple and we had breakfast at this popular eatery (again, another place my fiancé raved about so much that I couldn’t not go). There’s a bit of a wait for Saturday brunch, but you can put your name on a “call ahead list” so that by the time you arrive at the restaurant, you’ll get seated faster. The menu has a mix of new American classics with some Tex-Mex flavors thrown in, with dishes like Crab Cake Benedict, Migas, and Corned Beef Hash. The first dish that caught my eye was the Carrot Cake French Toast. If you have a massive sweet tooth like me, this dish is perfect for brunch. It had thick slices of carrot cake cooked french toast-style in a cinnamon-vanilla batter, with cream cheese-pecan syrup and fruit on the side. To balance out the sweetness, I got venison sausage on the side as well. The french toast had a good crust on the edges but the cake itself was moist. I only needed a little bit of the super-thick, sweet syrup with each bite. I enjoyed the smoky venison sausage as well; it tasted like a lighter version of regular pork sausage. Overall, the dish was fantastic, and it was perfect for getting away with having dessert for breakfast.

Speaking of dessert, allow me to backtrack a bit. After our Franklin Barbecue dinner the night before the wedding, I convinced my fiancé to take me to Gourdough’s, a doughnut food truck. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting…maybe smaller doughnuts? These ones are huge. And completely covered in toppings, like marshmallow fluff, chocolate sauce and pieces of fudge brownie candy. Yes, all that on one doughnut, and that’s what I had ordered. (It’s called the Heavenly Hash in case you find yourself there and need a suggestion). I found it quite delicious, but very sweet and very much a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of thing. We ended up taking our doughnuts back to the hotel and I just dug into mine without snapping a photo. If you do want to see a photo, go to their website – and keep in mind that the doughnuts are bigger than they appear. One doughnut is easily shareable between 2, maybe 3 people.

Down the street, about a block away from Gourdoughs, is Torchy’s Tacos, which was a spot that many of my friends recommended to me and happened to be the designated post-wedding lunch spot on Sunday. My Green Chile Pork taco was fantastic – I loved the tender, shredded pork carnitas and the mile green chile flavor. On the side I had their Street Corn, which had roasted corn-off-the-cob with a creamy ancho aioli, topped with queso fresco and cilantro. It was a delicious take on the Mexican street corn, with a little bit of sweetness from the corn and some spice from the aioli. I also shared another side of queso and chips with folks. Ohemgee, let me tell you how much I love melted cheese, and Texans do it so well. This queso had green chiles, guacamole, queso fresco, cilantro and hot sauce. So good. I had also tried queso at Trudy’s the day before (again, no pics, but I’m telling you, I ate A LOT). That was equally delicious. I still dream about Texas queso these days, and I only wish I could have the stuff shipped to me weekly.



What I Ate: Austin (Part I)

June 4th, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I went to Austin and I ate. And ate more. And then a lot more.

I actually visited Austin over the Memorial Day weekend for the wedding of two of my good friends, Brendan and Katrina. It was my first time in Austin for more than half a day – I had visited the Texas capitol briefly several years ago during a family trip to San Antonio, when we checked out UT as a possible grad school for my brother.

Everyone who I had talked to who’s been to Austin really hyped the place up and they all said it was the kind of city that I’d probably love, for the food alone. And they were right. I came in with high expectations and left fully satisfied, and quite literally I might add. I’m pretty sure I gained about 5 pounds in the 3.5 days I was there.

My fiancé had been to Franklin Barbecue on a previous trip to Austin, and every time he talked about the city, he’d gush about this AMAZING barbecue. Not that I was doubting him, but he was spot-on in describing it as the best barbecue in the US. (Bon Apetit actually thought so too). I thought I knew what barbecue was until I had Franklin. Now I know everything else I had before no longer stands a chance!

We got really lucky with having Franklin Barbecue for Friday night dinner because our friends rented the place for their rehearsal dinner. How awesome is that?? No waking up early to wait in line for 2 hours to try and get some barbecue – they pretty much had the full menu available for this huge group of friends and family. Plus, Mr. Franklin himself, as well as his crew, was in attendance. I thought that was really nice, and I would not have expected the owner himself to be there to serve us. Plus, they were all really friendly guys.

I tried lean brisket, ribs and sausage, with a side of coleslaw. Franklin’s meat must be rubbed in crack or something – it’s got this amazing, peppery, super-flavorful crust. The meat itself: incredibly tender, and slides right off the bone. The sausage was very thick, a little spicy, but just enough for my liking. None of the meat really needed sauce, but I did enjoy trying them – one was thick and a tad sweet, with what I assume was a molasses base; the other was thinner and more on the vinegary side. The coleslaw was great as well. It was crunchy and also vinegary and not overpowered by mayo, which I liked.

For dessert, we were all treated with adorable and delicious pies by Cake and Spoon. I had actually heard of Cake and Spoon from Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel, and I was glad I got to cross it off my list of “To Eat in Austin.” There was Texas Pecan pie and Key Lime pie, both of which were fantastic. The Texas Pecan was thick, sweet, and had a great buttery pie crust. The Key Lime had a tart, creamy, lime filling with a crumbly graham cracker crust.

Of course, this isn’t the end of my gastronomic tour of Austin, but Franklin was certainly a fantastic start. More photos and words of the deliciousness to come…


Friday VJ: Omelette

May 31st, 2013 at 11:50 am

This is such an adorable video. I love that the story shows the love and dedication a pet can have for its owner, and vice versa. It makes me want to get a dog (and if I could ever find one that can make a mean omelette, that would be even better). Plus, the animation is simple yet beautifully executed.

Pet or no pet, this video also expresses another wonderful message that I can really get behind: cooking for someone you love is one of the best ways to show how much you care.

Omelette from Madeline Sharafian on Vimeo.

In the District: BakeHouse

May 21st, 2013 at 12:30 pm

cardamom carrot cake/artisanal salts by Nosh/the display/an adorable mural

About a year ago, I wrote a preview of BakeHouse, a local bakery that was in the works but already promoting its products through events and markets. Well, they finally opened! I’ve followed the progress of this shop since that first preview and have kept in touch with the owners/bakers, Lindsay Morse and Niall Cooper. Knowing how kind they are and how passionate they feel about their new business, I couldn’t be more excited for them.

The shop just opened last Wednesday, and I swung by a few nights later with a friend to see the finished product. The white-washed walls and simple, modern decor look sleek, but there are simple touches that make the space inviting. Morse and Cooper hired a local artist to create a mural on their “chalkboard” wall, which is visible when you first walk in. The food and baking motif gives customers a sense of how pleasant the atmosphere is of the place.

As for the wares, BakeHouse is more than the baked goods that I first sampled last year – they offer breakfast foods, sandwiches, salads, coffee and espresso drinks, candies and even products from local artisans like cards, maple syrup, and salts (made by Emily, a friend of mine who has a supper club!). I tried the cardamom carrot cake, which was filled with sweet, shredded carrot and had a moist, dense cake base. I could taste a subtle twinge of spice toward the end of each bite. The cream cheese frosting was sprinkled with coconut, which I thought added a little extra something.

I brought home a few truffle tarts to share with the fiancé, and enjoyed those as well. They’re little pastry cups filled with ganache mixed with different flavors, like pistachio. These were perfect for settling those little sweet tooth cravings, when a cupcake or brownie is a little too much.

While the 14th street area is booming with new shops and restaurants these days, I think BakeHouse has already managed to stand out, not only with it’s cool-but-welcoming vibe, but with its food as well. Plus, it has long hours (7am-9am on weekdays, 7/8am-11am on weekends), so it’s a great spot for anything from early morning coffee and breakfast sandwiches to post-dinner dessert cravings.

*This post was not solicited by BakeHouse or anyone else. It was written on my own accord because I enjoy the goods that much and want to support friends and local businesses. :)