For our five-year anniversary, my amazing boyfriend surprised me with a weekend trip to Austin, Texas, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect getaway. We had been meaning to hit up the live music capital for some time, and he just so happened to pick the weekend with the best weather — sunny, warm, slightly breezy and without a cloud in the sky. It was the perfect setting for exploring areas like Barton Springs, Zilker Park and Lake Travis, and eating, of which we did a whole lot.
Austin is known for its food trailers, which are stationed throughout the city and dole out delicious grub — everything from tacos and tortas to Thai food and banh mi sandwiches. We had our fair share of trailer food as well as an awe-inspiring dining experience at Uchiko, a Japanese restaurant, which was a James Beard semi-finalist and named one among the top 10 new restaurants of 2010 by GQ magazine. Between that, the tacos and one heck of a red velvet cupcake, we left satisfied, satiated and sun-tanned.
Here, a few snaps from the trip:
This dinner at Oficina Latina was momentous for a few reasons:
1. My boyfriend and I have been meaning to go ever since we realized there was a hip, new taqueria around the corner from our apartment.
2. Our wonderful friends Samar and Amer were in town from Dallas.
3. We were celebrating my 26th birthday.
4. I ate a lot of seafood…and loved it!
Considering such weighty reasons to celebrate, this meal had a lot riding on it. Thankfully, the restaurant delivered.
Oficina Latina, which took over the space of 24 Prince, is mostly a tapas restaurant that specializes in seafood. Going in, I didn’t actually know that second point. I never touched seafood growing up. For the most part, that was stupid because I never tried it properly, so my reasons were pretty baseless. (Though, my one experience with fish as a kid was a rank-tasting fish filet sandwich from White Castle.)
But something has changed in the last year. Part of it is the light-bulb realization that, hey, seafood can be extremely healthy. The other part is that it gives me the satiation of meat without the general comatose.
I’m starting slow, and the more fish-y varieties (i.e. salmon) haven’t won me over yet, but I’m a new fan of scallops and sea bass. (Also, I got to try Richard Blais’ raw hamachi at a Bravo event recently, and man, that really sealed the deal.)
On this particular occasion, we got a spread of tapas, and Amer, Samar and my boyfriend shared steak.
Feeling veg? Arepas vegetariana; tostones (deep-fried plantains with queso fresco and spicy sauce); arroz con vegetales (rice with mixed vegetables); vegetarian burger topped with avocado; torta de vegetales con portobello (torta with grilled eggplant, zucchini portobello mushroom with artichoek, swiss cheese and lettuce)
Feeling non veg? Camarones al ajillo (sauteed shrimp in extra virgin olive oil and garlic); albondigas (ground pork and cotija cheese meatballs in homemade tomato sauce); pincho de atun y pera (grilled tuna skewers with pear, bell pepper and onion); pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken with yucca and mixed vegetables)
I don’t drink often, but considering reasons #2 and 3, I figured then was as good a time as any to indulge. Plus, Oficina’s exotic cocktails sounded pretty friggin incredible.
The avocado cocktail unsurprisingly looked like guacamole, which sounds gross, but it was actually pretty interesting. I had never seen anything like it. I myself had the passion fruit mojito, and unfortunately, that was the one downside of the dining experience. SUPER TANGY + SUPER SALTY = ASSAULT ON MOUTH. Once the ice melted, the cocktail was somewhat palatable. Although, those passion fruit seeds didn’t help.
I love pizza in all iterations from my old corner joint (East Village Pizza) and the slightly more upscale (Arturo’s or Patsy’s) to D.O.C. style (L’Asso) and the lavash version I made at home. But I had yet to try the Middle Eastern version, cutely terms “pitzas.” So off I went with my friend, Deep, to Moustache in the West Village. (Funnily enough, I used to live one block from from their East side location, but isn’t that what always happens? Whenever you live close to something, you think, “Oh, I can go anytime.” And then you never go.)
It sits on a quiet segment of Bedford, which happens to be one of my favorite streets in Manhattan. How can you have a favorite street, you ask? Well, it looks just like a a movie set that mimimcs New York. Is it cliche? Maybe. But it’s still a nice reminder of how a gritty city can be just as charming.
Feeling veg? Falafel sandwich; eggplant moussaka; lentil soup; green pitza with scallions, leeks and herbs; tomato and cheese pitza
Feeling non-veg? Merguez (spicy lamb sausage) sandwich; chicken kebab plate; seafood pitza with shrimp and scallops
We skipped the “specialties” menu of traditional Middle Eastern fare (i.e. kebabs and falafels) and went for their famous pitzas:
There’s only one thing that can make a Friday better than the sheer excitement of a weekend ahead, and that’s a dessert delivery! Last Friday, I got a package of desserts made by Christina Tosi, the pastry chef of Momofuku Milk Bar. In the box was a passion fruit meringue with Fruity Pebbles and a Cocoa Pebbles bar. Does the kids cereal throw you? Well, if you’ve been to the Milk Bar, then you know that Tosi loves adding whimsy to her creations, like her cereal-milk soft serve and “crack pie.” It’s that playfulness that makes me love Milk Bar so much, despite my grudge that they now serve cake “truffle balls” instead of actual cake slices.
After devouring both that night, I decided that the meringue had won the key to my heart. I loved the flakiness of the shell and the tang of the passion fruit curd center. Plus the colorful presentation was so in line with Tosi’s knack for turning desserts into “treats.” The crunch bar is great too, but, for me, the flavors weren’t as exciting as the meringue’s.
Included in the box were Tosi’s recipes for these treats, and duh, of course I’ll share them!
What to get
- 4 egg whites
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1½ cups confectioners sugar
- 2 cups Fruity Pebbles, finely crushed
What to do
1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Whip egg whites with electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Sprinkle in the salt and mix well.
2. Sprinkle in the confectioners sugar, mix well for 2 minutes until glossy and stiff. Add cereal and mix well.
3. Pipe rounds or drop tablespoons full of mixture 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Sprinkle remaining cereal on top.
4. Bake 2-3 hours until meringues have cracked and hollowed out. Pipe or spoon in passion fruit curd.
For Passion Fruit Curd
What to get
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp passion fruit puree
- 2 sticks butter, melted
What to do
1. Whisk eggs, sugar and salt until smooth in a microwaveable bowl. Whisk in passion fruit puree and butter.
2. Microwave on high in one minute intervals, stirring each time until mixture is thick and custard-like.
3. Refrigerate one hour or until set before using to fill the meringues.
*Makes about 2 dozen meringues
What to get
- 5 cups Cocoa Pebbles
- 2/3 cup coconut flakes
- ½ cup nonfat milk powder
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 2 stick butter, melted
- ¾ cup dulce de leche or other caramel sauce
What to do
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix cereal, coconut, marshmallows and butter.
2. Press firmly into a greased 6-inch square baking pan. Bake 25 minutes. Hot out of the oven, drizzle caramel sauce over the bars and cool completely.
*Makes two dozens bars
After living in New York for a certain number of years (I’m going on four), you start to learn/appreciate/hate certain New York-isms. The trials and tribulations of getting an apartment. Surly taxi drivers. Going cross town on the subway. The one New York-based show that got these right was Seinfeld. One of my favorites is the episode with the interminably long wait for that Chinese restaurant. Oh boy have I been there. I mean, the lines we New Yorkers wait for an omelet or entry to a bar can blow my mind. And after four years here, the mystique surrounding restaurant waits has all but faded for me. I want my food and I want it now.
So thank the food gods for Five Points in NoHo, where I went recently for a mini college reunion and to celebrate our friend Nitesh’s birthday. Not only do they seat you even if your entire party isn’t there, but they also take reservations. RESERVATIONS for gosh sakes! The funny thing is, the food is so good that I might’ve even waited in line anyway. At least once.
Feeling veg? Eggs in cocette (goat cheese, root vegetables, mixed greens, baguette toast); roasted tomato and eggs (locally milled polenta and ricotta cheese); shredded apple and rolled oats pancakes
Feeling non-veg? Three eggs baked in a crock (with bacon); smoked salmon eggs Benedict; chipotle marinated pulled chicken; fish taquitos; pasture raised beef burger with bacon and Vermont cheddar; pork fennel sausage with poached eggs
We had gone out the night before, and I was…tired (yeah, let’s call it that), so I was a starvin’ Marvin. We had quite the spread:
I already gave you my spiel on L’asso pizzeria and how much I loved it. Well, I didn’t really know what love was until I was back their last weekend and ate their Patata Affumicato, a pizza pie with handmade potato chips (un-freaking-believable), ricotta (smoked or regular – we went with smoked), walnuts and rosemary. It was maybe the best non-traditional pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life. I think I dreamed about it that night.