Category Archives: Food Follies

Gypsy Picinc in Downtown Austin

Two of our friends were in town this weekend for a wedding, and being that this was the first time we ever had friends “in town”, Dave and I took full advantage of their company for the day. We picked them up from their hotel, and headed over to the Gyspy Picnic, a food truck festival that was taking place in downtown Austin. It was perfect, end of summer weather, and we strolled in ready to eat.

gypsy picinc in austin

The event really epitomized the vibe of the city. Known for it’s food truck movement, the Austin festival corralled thirty-five local vendors into a park next to Lady Bird Lake for a day of finger food, craft beers, live music, lots of dogs, and free entry. That’s an equation for some serious chill-time. Now that I think of it, why didn’t we bring a frisbee? 

Our first truck stop was East Side King, with a menu inspired by Southest Asian street food. They had three options on the menu, and we jumped in for all of them: chicken kaarage (sounds like chicken garage, I know… and I have no idea what was in it), a pork bun, and fried brussel sprout salad. I see brussel sprouts on a menu and I just can’t say no. I know Dave felt the same ;).

East Side King food in Austin

The bun on the left was so white it blended into the paper tray in this photo, but it was really good. The chicken was our favorite–it had that sweet, fried, dry chewy Chinese food consistency that you would get from an order of sesame chicken. That description sounds weird, but I promise it was yum. And the brussell sprouts were also good, topped with a balsamic dressing and some large french fry like croutons. I dominated the sprouts, and Dave handled the chicken–teamwork. While we ate we watched the hipster marching band go by, naturally.

Hipster Marching Band in Austin

Next we stopped at Blenders and Bowls for a refreshing dessert type treat. To me it was really more like breakfast: an acai smoothie (pronounced ah-sigh-eeeeee!), topped with granola, strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, chia seeds, and a drizzle of honey. Mix two plastic spoons with two hungry people, and some silent food domination battles are bound to break out. It was like low-impact passive aggressive fencing as we both oggled the smoothie bowl out of the corner of our eyes while pretending to nonchalantly walk. Oh, I was aware.

Blenders and Bowls

We wandered around the park for probably another hour or so while our friends tried some other food trucks, and Dave tried pizza at Spartan Pizza. He’s on a quest to find pizza worthy of his New York pizza-obsessed palette–but I’m pretty sure that day will never come in Texas. I forgot to snap photos of the pizza, but I would compare it to Domino’s and Ellio’s coming to together to make upscale thin crust. Can you picture the undercooked white bread like crust? Someone commented on the blog the other week asking me not to compare Austin food to New York City food, and to that I say: fair enough.

Besides the pizza, everything was delicious, and we left there looking like sun-burnt, swollen blueberries. The day with our friends was a lot of fun, and Austin’s unique culture was definitely the catalyst.

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The Awesomeness of Oat Bran

Today’s morning was a little flipped from my normal routine. Instead of starting out with my usual peanut butter and jelly on half a piece of bread to get me going before my workout (also known lovingly as pbj-bread), I had an 8:30am conference call to partake in. So I started out with straight up breakfast, instead. And there was no peanut butter involved. I don’t even know me anymore.

I’ve been eating a lot of oat bran lately. Have you ever heard of it? It’s basically like a really healthy version of cream of wheat. You can find it in the cereal aisle, tucked all the way on the end of the hot oatmeal products. I’ve had the Quaker brand, and the Hodgson Mills brand. I like them both: Quaker is creamier and the calorie count is lower somehow, while Hodgson Mills is a little chewy, which makes it fun to eat. Right now I’ve got Hodgson Mills Either way you go, it’s very filling and has really awesome stats:

This is a huge picture, isn't it?

I made mine with 1/3c oat bran, 2/3c water, 1 splenda, a dash of salt (all in the microwave for 2 minutes–watch it, it will overflow!), and topped it with raisins and a little coconut butter for some healthy fat.

cooked oat bran

Get in my belly

The coconut butter is a fancy shmancy topping, I know. I was feelin’ like a fancy shmance one day in Whole Foods, what can I say. If you’re all out of fancy shmance things when you try it, just make it with half water, half low-fat milk (fat + extra protein), and add honey and a little salt and you’ll be all set.

After breakfast and a conference call, my workout today was the Sexy Supremacy bodyrock routine (awwww yeah).  It was a tough workout, and I was grunting in the very small gym, thanking God that all the guys in there were wearing headphones. My grunts are not manly sounding. I probably sound like a kitten coughing.

I found the reverse push-ups to be seriously killer. For anyone who follows bodyrock, here are my reps. The workout consisted of 4 rounds of each exercise in a full loop circuit–40 seconds on, 10 seconds rest:

  • 10 mountain climbers and 1 push up: 4.5, 4, 4, 3.5
  • one arm row, alternating arms: 15, 14, 12, 12
  • forward and backward lunges (left): 11, 8, 7, 7
  • forward and backward lunges (right): 9, 7.5, 7, 7
  • reverse push-ups (halfway down): 24, 20, 22, 19
  • bicycle crunches: 55, 42, 50, 52

Now I’m ready for lunch, and it looks like my pbj-bread will never happen today. I’m going to miss that lil’ guy. He’s my fave morning friend.

“Healthy Lunch at Quiznos” or “Sponges, Snot and Chocolate”

One of the things I miss most about living in New York City is twenty-four hour delis. Any time of day, anywhere I was, I was guaranteed access to a freshly made turkey sandwich, with an apple and a Diet Peach Snapple–my go to choice when all I have is ten minutes. This is genuinely fast food done my way (I sound like Burger King)–consistently healthy, yummy, and filling.

Back at my NYC office, I went to the same deli everyday, lovingly knicknamed “the dirty deli”, for breakfast and lunch. They knew me by name, and invited me to their family Christmas parties and children’s birthdays. One might call me a deli addict, one might call me boring. I say I’m just low maintenance (right Dave?). I digress…

Today, after a killer bootcamp workout at personal trainer school, I was starving but only had twenty minutes to find a place to eat lunch. I pulled out my GPS and typed in “dirty deli”…. but nothing came up. So I looked up “local food destinations” instead, and tears were shed as I drove myself to a nearby Quiznos, pondering what I could get off their menu.

When I got there, the smell of salty meat and pickles immediately ovewhlemed me (I know you know that Subway smell I’m talking about) as I scanned the menu for a healthy option. I ended up choosing the Mediterranean Chicken salad, swapped the cheese out for pumpkin seeds, and got a side of fat free balsamic vinagrette. I paid, stared longingly at the chocolate chip cookies for a minute, and headed to the outdoor seating to eat.

quiznos salad

All of the ingredients were good except two, which isn’t bad! Except that the two were kind of main items: the chicken and the salad dressing. The one thing that really gets me with meat from these fast food chains is the spongey texture. Gah, what was in this chicken?

Ingredients: water, salt, spongebob squarepants, artificial chicken flavor, pepper, matzoh balls”.*

That’s what it tasted like. I wish they added more matzoh balls. I’d also like to note that the salad dressing was super gloppy. Every time I dipped my fork in (yes, I eat salad that way) a big blob would come up, but then get sucked back down. Some nice balsamic snot for my salad. Mmm yeah.

quiznos salad dressing

But really, the pumpkin seeds and olives were right on :).

After kind of finishing the meal, I promptly went into the Starbucks next door and grabbed a package of heaven dark chocolate covered graham crackers which I immediately devoured. So in my attempt to grab a healthy lunch, I ended up eating sponges, snot, and chocolate cookies. #Winning?

Hey, I’m doin’ the best with what I’ve got.

*Those are not the actual ingredients in Quiznos chicken. But I still say they should add more matzoh balls.

Gourdoughs in Austin: A Doughnut Like No Other

Seeing as I just started to study personal training, it seems only fit that after my first day of class I ate the biggest heart-attack-on-a-plate that I’ve ever seen. I’m talking fried food, topped with fried food, topped with icing. And I have no regrets.

..

Last night Dave and I went to the movies, and on our way out back in the parking lot decided to go for a walk rather than just get in the car and go home (because home is boring). We started wandering down South Lamar Blvd around nine thirty, and came across a food truck alcove up the block. It was very unassuming and quaint: three trailer sized trucks, centered around wooden picnic tables with party lights strung over them, on a gravel lot by the side of the road.

food trucks in Austin

This is something that is truly an Austin find. Food trucks are big in NYC, yes, but they don’t really huddle together reliably–you have to follow them on twitter to get their location and pray that you get to the right street corner in time to grab an order. My coworkers and I once chased around a frozen yogurt truck for thirty minutes.

Because Dave and I happened upon these food trucks so randomly, it felt like a spontaneous moment that was worth taking part in. One of the trucks in the lot was called Gourdough’s, and it had a menu full of doughnuts with off-the-wall toppings. All doughnuts, all the time.

Gourdough MenuI’m actually not a fan of doughnuts. It’s one of those foods that I really wish I liked, because they seem to be so delcious to so many people.. but I just can’t get with it. I’ve even tried warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts. No dice. Just give me a brownie and send me on my way, thank you.

To combat the lack of doughnut love, we went balls to the wall and got the “Flying Pig: bacon with maple syrup icing.” I was picturing we’d get a little round doughnut with two strips of bacon and a squiggly line of icing on top. …Oh no, not the case. We got a fast food tray piled to the brim with bacon, dripping in warm icing, on top of a giant freshly fried doughnut. With fork and knife included. And a side of obesity.

gourdoughs bacon

Looks gross, doesn’t it. IT WAS AMAZING. I wanted to hate it, I really did. I kept cutting off tiny bites saying “okay, last one, last one,” while Dave moaned “wow… wow…” It was tough. We fought our way through three quarters of it, put our napkins on top, and then stared longingly at it for five minutes.

  • “Should we finish it?”
  • “Nah..”
  • “But it’s so good…”
  • “But it’s so bad…”
  • “But that icing…”
  • “Let’s leave before face dive back in.”
  • “RUN!!”

If we know what’s good for us, we’re never going back. OR we’re going back all the time. I can’t decide yet.

Coffee Brands: Sure or Unsure

My second big grocery shop for all of life’s necessities in Austin took place at the original Whole Foods market in the heart of downtown. Great idea if my kitchen staples include items like jicama and organic sea salt, not a great idea if my kitchen supplies include rice and coffee–because these basic items cost way more than at a traditional grocery store (twenty bucks for a bag of coffee? ah!). So, I went home coffee-less, rice-less, and oatmeal-less… planning on grabbing some the next time I hit a regular supermarket (but I did gt the jicama).

two bags of coffee

The next time I went shopping, I found myself at Marshall’s with Dave, down their bonus aisle of random assorted food items like jalapeno olive oil, cookies, hot chocolate mixes, etc., when I came across Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Coffee. Because this little aisle in Marchall’s always enchants me, I fell for believing that the coffee was a special little find (at a store that buys defect products in bulk and resells them at cheaper prices… ahem..) and I grabbed it for $6.

The next morning, I brewed it, took a sip, and a saccharine taste washed over my tongue with a hint of caramel. Ugh. Not my kind of coffee.

Next up: a stop at HEB (for my New Yawkahs–it’s a big supermarket chain in Austin). This time I wanted to make sure I got something decent. After scanning the coffee aisle trying to balance quality and price, I ended up with a bag of Eight O’Clock French Roast. Instead of going for the bag of undeniably strong Starbucks, I convinced myself that while this other brand was old school, and the packaging looked fairly generic…. maybe it was a hidden awesome coffee gem of olden days. And French Roast is always pretty good, right?

Fail.

You would think after all my posts exclaiming my love for coffee, I would be able to pick right from wrong, quality from crap, sure from unsure.

Did you know that French Roast is actually the type of roast used on beans that are of a mediocre quality? It is a technique that roasts the beans longer than average, making them very dark and masking the flavor of their country of origin (or of their staleness, if they were old). Do not be fooled by the beret wearing flavor name, that was probably just a [very smart] marketer’s ploy. Check out this little blog post here for the full details.

I’ve been doing a scoop of each brand in the mornings to mix the badness away and just finish them so I can buy another bag. Or, if you can spare some brand advice, I’m all ears. Just try not to go over $15 a bag–or do I have no choice?

Easy Thai Stir Fry

Last night we finally hunkered down (hunkered is such a funny word. I feel like you have to be a lumberjack to “hunker”) and spent the night taking it easy at our place. After a very productive day being out from 10:30am straight through 4pm on a Saturday, all we could dream of was the couch, and our newly connected cable and internet (wahoo!).

This called for a home cooked meal too, which has been all too elusive as I have issues managing my hunger around 6pm. Generally speaking, I get hungry every two hours–which is very annoying. I constantly have to interrupt whatever I’m doing (probably staring at this blog) to find something to calm the beast that is my stomach. I try to ignore that hunger starting at 4:30pm so that I don’t ruin my appetite for dinner, but this means that by 6pm… I’ve transformed into the Incredible Mulk, and can’t wait a minute longer to eat or else Dave’s life is in danger.

Fortunately, last night I was able to calm the beast and cook a nice healthy dinner :). This recipe is something I used to make myself in college because it’s really simple and quick–two characteristics I need my meals to have because when hunger strikes, there is no telling what will happen. I used soba noodles last night because Dave loves noodles, and I like pasta in moderation. By focusing on tons of veggies and mixing in a serving of pasta, you get the best of both.

Easy Thai Stir Fry – 15 minutes

Here’s what you need.

thai stir fry ingredients

Easy sauce ingredients:

  • 1 part honey (when cooking for two, I used a two tablespoons of everything)
  • 1 part peanut butter
  • 1 part soy sauce
  • 1 part water (or more, until it’s silky)
    • Bonus ingredients: splash of fish sauce for an authentic Asian taste, siracha (or whatever hot sauce you like) for a little heat

Easy Stir Fry ingredients:

  • whatever bite sized vegetables you have on hand (broccoli florets rock because they soak up the sauce)
  • frozen shrimp (I used 20 for two people–Dave got 12, I got 8. I was precise with that. You don’t have to be.)
  • soba noodles–or whatever carbohydrate you want. Brown rice would be great, too.
    • Bonus ingredients: 1 clove of garlic and some chopped onion to saute before you throw the vegetables and sauce in the pan. Adds an extra layer of flavor and makes your boyfriend say “wow, that smells good!” right when you start cooking.

Give me food fast method of cooking:

  • Put shrimp in a bowl of water to thaw and forget about it as you do the rest
  • Prepare carb of choice by following directions on back of box. If you want a super fast meal–use 10 minute rice 🙂
  • Put all sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir together until smooth. May look a little piecey, but that’s fine
  • Throw vegetables in a microwavable bowl with a sprinkle of water. Microwave for three minutes to steam them soft (fancier people would blanch them in boiling water, but I don’t want to wait for the water to boil).
  • Put vegetables and sauce together in a hot pan on medium-ish heat, and stir for four minutes (no idea how long I actually stirred for, most likely until the sauce was bubbling a little)
  • Throw in thawed shrimp. Mine were already cooked, so I just waited until they heated up, about five minutes.
  • Put carb on two plates. Pour everything in pan on top of each evenly.
    • Bonus ingredients: Squirt with lime and sprinkle on cilantro at the end (huge bonus factor that will make your food taste like you’re the grand master thai ninja)

Using the micro to make dinner might be a chefly sin, but I really don’t care. The sooner I can eat it, the better. And this was awesome. We both immediately devoured it with an oktoberfest beer (great complimentary bev), and made plans to open our own Thai restaurant in Austin. But then realized a one item menu wouldn’t fly. On to other plans…

Great Food at Papi Tinos in Austin (Finally!)

We did it! We found awesome food in Austin!

We found this small, romantic Mexican place on the Eastside called Papi Tinos by the magic of Yelp on Dave’s smartphone (our go-to these days when I pick him up from work starving and beg that we eat immediately). Yelp themselves actually classified it as romantic, and when Dave read the word “romantic” to me, he did the eyebrows up and down move which made me laugh and say “done.”

We got there, and took a seat on the porch, which was very cozy. We ate our appetizer there, but then it got windy and we headed indoors for the rest of the meal. They also had tables on the front lawn, which made it look your Southern grandma’s little house-turned-restaurant. Note: I don’t have a Southern grandma, but that’s where I imagine she would have lived if I did.

I forgot the camera, but I DID have my flipcam, so here’s a video of the appetizer and entree. It was love at first bite.  This is one of those restaurants with a very small menu, and then at least three additional off the menu specials for both appetizers and entrees. In our case, the appetizer shrimp we ordered tasted like lobster, the drinks were the best cocktails we’ve had in Austin altogether, and the entrees kicked ass. Yes.

The waiter bent down on one knee and almost whispered each special like we were in a museum. “And each entree is made to order…” trailed off his tongue like the last wisp of smoke from a cigarette rising up into the air. Fact: whispering waiters make the food feel more important. And the whole down on one knee thing reminds me of a marriage proposal; like he was asking us to kindly partake in his food because it would mean the world to him and his ailing mother. His melodramatic approach (and the awesome food) worked. It was one of those meals where I asked Dave to roll me home after because it hurt to walk.

Appetizer special: Shrimp ceviche–which really wasn’t like ceviche at all, but MAN it was awesome. Spicy and mango-y.

Entrees: Dave got the lobster enchilada special, in a verde cream sauce. I got the chicken enchiladas in a mole sauce. We both wiped our plates clean.

P.S. Don’t you love the way Dave says “suizas” at the end of his entree name? Very authentic 🙂