Jan 5, 2008

Favorites List

Happy New Year! It's the time of year for top 10 lists. There's no way I can limit this list to 10 favorite food finds...there's just too much that's too good not to share. Some of these are old favorites, some are new finds. Hope they lead you to some new discoveries.

In no particular order...

1. Spicy Sashimi Bowl at Maru. This little neighborhood sushi joint has won us over. The setting is basic, but the service is attentive and caring and the food is always fresh. Great for a weeknight sushi fix. I could eat the spicy sashimi bowl at least once a week, and sometimes do. Soft, warm sushi rice goes in the bottom of the bowl. Then spring mix topped with pieces of fresh sashimi. The toasted sesame spicy sauce is just spicy enough, but not mayo-based like some spicy sauces. It's a huge bowl, quite a deal for $12. A healthy way to pig out on sushi without breaking the bank.

2. Mandola's arugula and prosciutto pizza. This thin crust pizza is baked simply with prosciutto and three cheeses, then topped with arugula that's been tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. Not heavy and guilt-ridden, like most pizzas. It's light, crispy, bright-flavored and delicious. Also try the minestra di farro, a veggie minestrone soup with beans and spelt – healthy and comforting at the same time; and the Sicilian tomato salad. In the new Triangle at 48th and Lamar.

3. Eastside Cafe's take-out sirloin meatloaf with beer-tomato sauce from the Wednesday farmer's market at the Triangle. I don't even like meatloaf, never have. And it has even less appeal in the heat of Texas summer. But lucky for me they were handing out samples at their booth at the farmer's market one Wednesday. One taste and there was no going back. We've been craving it ever since. One take-out package easily serves two.

4. Affogato at Teo's. So we already know Teo's has the best gelato in town. But if you haven't tried the affogato, you're missing out. It takes ice cream to a whole new level. A fat scoop of dark chocolate gelato in a mug with a shot of espresso over the top. Hot and cold all at once.

5. Torchy's "Democrat" and "Green Chile Pork" tacos. The best taco truck in town. The Democrat is a shredded beef barbecoa with onions, avocado, queso fresco, cilantro and lime. The Green Chile is pork carnitas simmered with green chiles and served on a corn tortilla. Hungry yet? Two locations, South First and 6th at Nueces.

6. Vosges Chocolates Peanut Butter Truffles and Bacon Chocolate Bar. Vosges takes chocolate to the religious level it deserves. She has so many intriguing and more importantly, very well executed, chocolates with flavored infusions. Try them all. The Red Fire and the Black Pearl bars are old favorites. But if you like Reese's, then try the new peanut butter truffles. This is what a Reese's should be. Find them online or at Whole Foods.

7. Abbi's Asian Chicken Salad at Leaf. This is my new favorite salad. It comes with cabbage mix (I usually substitute spring mix), grilled chicken, edamame, carrots, green onions, mandarin oranges, toasted almonds, and crispy chow mein noodles, topped with sesame ginger vinaigrette. I eat salads all the time. This is the first one that fills me up for hours. Very satisfying way to eat your veggies. There are plenty of other options on the menu to tempt you, or make your own combo. But my heart will always be with the Asian chicken salad. And another good-for-your bonus, if you get take-out, as I often do, their take-out containters are corn-based and biodegradable -- something that every restaurant in Austin ought to do. Brave the construction around 2nd St. and check out Leaf. It's in the same building as Lamberts, on the far west corner.

8. Caulifower soup at Vespaio. I know, I know. We're late to the party. We'd been to Enoteca, Vespaio's little sister restaurant, several times, but never made it into Vespaio itself. We finally went. And it lived up to everything everyone said. The pureed cauliflower soup was like velvet. So smooth and like tasting cauliflower for the first time.

9. My Buddha Bowl. Thanks to my friend, Kelley, for sending me a Buddha Bowl. A bowl large enough for your favorite soup or cereal, but with a place for your thumb so you can cup it easily in your hand. There's something very comforting about it. Get one online here. Also, a silicone pastry brush. Tired of the shedding and hard-to-clean bristles of my conventional pastry brush, I finally tried one of the new silicone ones. Alas! A well-designed tool. Easy to use, easy to clean, and I'm not embarassed to admit, so much more attractive with it's apple green color. You can find them in almost any supermarket or Target.

10. Pumpkin Seed Oil. First had this at Uchi. Then tried it on a salad recently with kabacha squash. It's fall in a bottle. It has an earthy, but rich quality that comes through in only a few drops. Can't wait to find more ways to use it. Online here.

11. TacoDeli's Jess Special. We used to live just blocks from TacoDeli and could have their tacos every weekend. Now, I still pine for them and occasionally we still make the trek, because it's so worth it. The Jess Special is scrambled eggs, onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, crumbled chips, cheese, and avocado. Add bacon to put it over the top. And don't forget their signature superhot Doña green sauce. You can buy it by the jar. We do. And if you've missed breakfast, try their Heather Taco for lunch. Grilled queso fresco and puréed black beans with guac, lettuce and tomato.

12. Swad Indian restaurant. Bare bones, but the real deal vegetarian Indian food. Way the heck up on North Lamar in a gawdawful strip center. The service can be sketchy when there's a crowd, but the food is worth it. Try the dahi poori (potatoes, yogurt, beans and chutney in a little fried puff), the samosa chat (fried crisps stuffed with chickpeas and chutneys), chhole bhatura (chickpeas in a tangy tomato sauce), spinach pakora (fried spinach fritters), or the thali special (a sampler platter of poori or roti, vegetables, rice, raita, pickel, dal, papad, salad and sweet). Swad. 9515 North Lamar. On the east side of Lamar, first level, next to the night club. Their food has inspired me to want to learn more vegetarian Indian recipes.

13. The buns on the burgers at Phil's. Remember the soft, yeasty, steamy rolls from the school cafeteria? The only edible thing in our cafeteria. These are burger-hugging versions of those. So good they apparently have them sent all the way from Houston. They should make cinnamon rolls out of these. While you're there, be sure to try the sweet potato fries. Phil's IceHouse. 5620 Burnet Road.

14. Once Upon a Tea. Found this in the bulk teas at Central Market. It's by SerendipiTea. A rooibos tea with peppermint, chocolate and vanilla. Sounds strange but is the best tea I've ever tasted. And no caffeine. It's so good I sometimes nibble the bits while I'm waiting for the water to heat up. You can order it online too.

15. Whole Foods chocolate and caramel-covered popcorn with cashews. Jen and Kevin, our friends who got us hooked on it, call it "Crack Jack" and for good reason. One crunchy bite and you're hooked. Beware.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I've had that meatloaf at Eastside, and it's truly outstanding. It's also great heated up as a leftover! And don't get me started singing the praises of Torchy's.