Monday, October 13th

Epicerie

Epicerie, Austin Texas

I’m jealous of the people who live within walking distance of épicerie Cafe & Grocery because it’s just the nicest little place to have in a neighborhood. From the ivy-covered exterior to the bright modern interior, épicerie is an ideal spot for drinks, dinner, lunch, or a quick cup of coffee. Or in the case of Mr. Betty and I, a leisurely brunch.

Epicerie, Austin Texas

Cheese Counter at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Epicerie, Austin Texas

Part of the casual charm of épicerie is the small grocery where you can browse specialty cheeses, beer, and yummy specialty items while you wait for your food. It really does feel like a tiny French neighborhood spot that you’d stop by on your way home to pick up some delicacies to enjoy with your fancy poodle. Now, I don’t have a fancy poodle but I do have a coffee habit. And the Blue Bottle Coffee made in a Chemex is some of the finest to be found in Austin.

Chemex pour over coffee

Coffee at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Famous for their beignets, we had to try a batch. They were warm and fluffy and sweet. I’d happily go back for just coffee and beignets any day of the week. We also had the Shrimp & Grits and the Croque Madame. Both were filling and decadent. This is a robust brunch that keeps you full till dinner.

Shrimp & Grits at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Croque Madame at Epicerie, Austin Texas

I ogled the brownies and shortbread, which looked positively sinful. Someday soon I’ll be asking one of you to meet me at épicerie under the guise of having a productive meeting, when I really want to gossip over top-drawer coffee and a little something sweet.

Brownies at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Shortbread at Epicerie, Austin Texas

Do you have any neighborhood gems that I should be checking out? Leave a comment and let me know.

Epicerie Cafe & Grocery

2307 Hancock Drive, Austin TX 78756

M-Th 10:30am-9:30pm, F-Sat 10:30am-10:30pm, S 10-3 

Friday, October 3rd

Spend the Day in Lockhart

Lockhart BBQ

Most of my ventures outside the city take place on a plane. Even though it’s been years since I moved to Austin, I haven’t taken much time to explore much of Texas. Lame, right? An exception has been Lockhart, a small town so famous for its barbecue that they estimate a quarter million people travel there annually just to eat meat.

On this particular trip I was with a group of people who were working on a large barbecue write-up. Now I’m not going to write about barbecue or try to compare who had better meat because y’all be crazy when it comes to barbecue and I’m not claiming to be an expert. I know my place as a yankee is to just shut up and try not to cover everything in sauce and rudeness.

Kreuz Barbecue Lockhart Texas

We ventured to Kreutz, Black’s, and Smitty’s, in that order. Kreutz was my favorite. Maybe it was because it was our first stop and that’s where we were hungriest. And I think the atmosphere had something to do with it, as it was my favorite setting of the three, too. Just nice and large with fun stuff to look at while you wait in line. We agreed that the spare rib was nothing short of a miracle.

Barbecue from Lockhart, Texas

Black’s is where I learned I do not like beef ribs. After spending about $35 for a rib that was mostly fat and gristle, I was reminded of a valuable lesson: Bigger doesn’t mean better. Maybe it was the just a bad rib or the wrong day, but I’m hesitant to ever try again. Black’s had the most interesting selection of sides and we sampled our fair share.

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart Texas

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart Texas

Smitty’s Market made me feel like I had stepped back in time when I walked through the door. From the classic market in front, to the burning fires inside the place, it felt historic. Like I was eating in a museum. We loved the brisket here and we finished off the meaty day with ice cream cones.

Smitty's Market, Lockhart Texas

Smitty's Market, Lockhart Texas

Smitty's Market, Lockhart Texas

That’s a lot of barbecue for one day, isn’t it? We took our time and browsed the antique stores in between meats stops. Perhaps my favorite part of the day was sitting in dark bar lined with foil and loaded with hundreds of elephants, all facing the door for good luck. We drank cheap beers and searched the jukebox for something familiar as we talked about what it must be like to live in Small Town, Texas.

Lilly's Lockhart Texas

Lilly's Lockhart Texas

Lilly's Lockhart Texas

Sadly, we didn’t make it to the fourth must-do barbecue spot, Chisholm Trail, but that gives us a reason to go back. I know people feel a strong allegiance to these Lockhart barbecue joints. Do you have a favorite?

Friday, September 19th

First Look: Stouthaus Coffee Pub

Cappuccino at Stout Haus Coffee Pub, Austin Texas

Still in the soft opening days, Stouthaus Coffee Pub already looks promising. The cappuccino I had, one of their first in the newly converted space, was dark and complex. Sophisticated.

Sophisticated is how I’d describe the space, too. The ghosts of Cannoli Joe’s have long been exorcised and in their place are clean lines, modern decor and dashing new places to spend money. Stouthaus inhabits the building with soon-to-be-opened Milk + Honey Spa and the most anticipated opening of the year, St. Philip.

Stouthaus Coffee Pub, Austin Texas

It’s impossible to discuss Stouthaus without talking about St. Philip. The former will be selling the latter’s baked goods. They coordinated beer taps. They share a building, doors, planning, and even share similar philosophies of excellent edibles, genuine customer service, and superior attention to detail. This is an optimal match and the best thing to happen to Sunset Valley since the farmer’s market.

Beer taps at Stouthaus Coffee Pub, Austin Texas

While the intended focus is, of course, the coffee (Cuvée) there’s plenty more to be enjoyed in the vintage fittings, the gorgeous reclaimed wood, the subtle art that enhances and doesn’t scream to be noticed. Blacksmiths are currently working on custom tap handles for the carefully selected brews. I am most excited for the Leprechaun Dry Cider, a personal favorite of mine.

Stammtisch, Stouthaus Beer Pub, Austin Texas

The inspiration is found on the wall. Stammtisch is loosely translated as “regular’s table” or a get-together. Owners James and Sandy Hughes envisioned a comfortable place that was an extension of their living room. A setting where people would gather to converse, have fun, and enjoy being together. There is wifi, but James insists that this is not going to be a coffeehouse with heads buried in laptops. He wants to restore community from an online notion to…real life. What a novel idea.

Stouthaus Coffee Pub

Stouthaus Coffee Pub, Austin Texas

There’s no word on the official opening date yet, but stop by in the morning or afternoon for the soft launch, which they anticipate to last another week or so.

Stouthaus Coffee Pub

4715 S. Lamar, Austin, TX 78745

Wednesday, September 17th

Together: My Little Korean Hole-in-the-Wall

Kimchi Dumpling Soup at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

I enjoy fine dining as much as the next fancy pants, but it’s the hole in the walls that I really gravitate towards. The places where the chairs might not match and there are paper placemats and cheap plastic water glasses. Nondescript little nothing places where you are the ambiance. Together Restaurant fits the bill with the decor consists of some whimsy, some ugly, and thin walls that let you hear the Mexican karaoke next door. It’s in a kind of rundown location, quite far from my South Austin digs…and damn, I’m just crazy about this place.

Together Restaurant, Austin, Texas

The love affair began when Mr. Betty and I joined some foodie friends for a night of Korean BBQ and drinking. It was so much fun that we decided to make it a monthly endeavor. We don’t make it there quite that often, but it’s become enough of a regular thing that we have a routine with a core group of friends and usually order the same things. The extended cast of characters always changes a bit, with new faces and friends joining us for each dinner. These are some of my favorite nights!

Korean BBQ at Together Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Samgyupsal at Together Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Typically, my friend MJ orders everything in Korean and bustles around manning several grills and feeding us all like we are guests in her home. In between bites of crisp pork belly—Samgyupsal—wrapped in lettuce, she urges us to take another shot of soju, another sip of makgeolli from our bowls. Both the soju (spirits made from rice) and the makgeolli (a lightly carbonated, malted rice drink) are relatively low in alcohol. It’s socializing the Korean way and we always play a drinking game or two at the table. Sometimes we’ll get a few Hite beers and they are served with a full bowl of peanuts.

Makgeolli at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Soju at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Soju at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

The banchan keeps us busy between grillings, which goes on for a couple hours. The small dishes vary and it’s always exciting to see what we end up getting and who likes what. Michelle loves the potatoes, Mr. Betty is crazy for bean sprouts, I’m a fan of the broccoli, Peter likes the fish cakes, and so on. There are always about ten little dishes to nibble on.

Banchan at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Banchan at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

We’ll all jump up and take some turns grilling. In addition to pork belly they have beef ribs (bulgogi) and tender baby octopus (jjukkumi). We always skip the rice to save room for more of the good stuff, preferring to linger over several courses and not fill up too quickly.

Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Pork Belly at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Beer at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Baby Octopus at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Unlike some other Korean BBQ joints I’ve been to, it never gets too smoky at Together. Still, it’s wise not to dress up as we all end up with little splatters on ourselves from cooking at the table. Like the decor, it’s 100% casual and anything goes.

In addition to the BBQ, we always get a seafood pancake and another meat dish, either pork or beef.

Seafood Pancake at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Pork dish at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Beef dish at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

The night ends with what might be my very favorite dish, an enormous bubbling hot bowl of kimchi dumpling soup. It’s not just hot, it’s as spicy as it looks and it’s the thing I dream about when the temperatures in Austin fall below 70. Look at how magnificent that is, bursting with thick noodles and dumplings, layers of kimchi underneath. It’s a fragrant bowl of nirvana:

Kimchi dumpling soup at Together Restaurant, Austin Texas

Our per person average on these nights is about $20 to $35, depending on how many bottles of soju we order. It’s a great value for the amount of food consumed, laughs laughed, and memories made.

Do you have a favorite hole in the wall? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

Together Restaurant

9200 N. Lamar, Ste 101, Austin, TX 78754

Open everyday 4 pm-2 am

Tuesday, September 9th

An Afternoon at Winflo Osteria

Winflo Osteria, Austin, Texas

Down on West 6th, an area with notoriously limited parking, there are a bunch of cute restaurants and shops that I rarely visit. It took me a long time to make it to Winflo Osteria, and even then, it was prompted by a lunch invite with a group of lovely ladies I had not yet met. I should note that they have free valet parking, so that won’t be my excuse anymore. We ordered with abandon and shared everything, enjoying a lovely day on the sizable patio of the bungalow.

Cocktails at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

Cocktails at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

Cocktails at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

The Insalata Mista and Polenta Fries were the perfect starters with our various cocktails before we moved on to heavier fare.

Insalata Mista at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

Polenta Fries at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

Our group’s favorite dish was the Salisiccia pizza, with fontina, ricotta, Italian sausage, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions. We also had the Prosciutto pizza with baby arugula and balsamic onion marmalade. The Spaghetti Alla Carbonara was too rich for my tastes, especially at lunch, but it was nice to try it.

Salisiccia Pizza at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas Prosciutto pizza at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara at Winflo Osteria, Austin Texas

I was recently part of a conversation where a number of people expressed their anxiety over meeting new people. When I think back on this lunch with a group of strangers who decided to eat a meal together, it makes me happy. All four of us remain connected and my life has been enriched in small ways. I don’t have anxiety or shyness about meeting new people, but can imagine that it’s quite a burden for those who feel that way. Anyway, I encourage you to reach out to someone you’ve been wanting to meet. Invite them to lunch, to coffee, or for a drink after work. You have nothing to lose.

Winflo has happy hour Monday through Friday 3:00-6:30, featuring $6 select cocktails, wine, and appetizers, and $10 pizzas.

Winflo Osteria, 1315 W. 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

M-Th 11am-10pm, F 11am-mid, Sat 11am-3pm, 5pm-mid, Sun 11am-3pm, 5pm-11pm

Thursday, August 28th

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Signs of autumn have crept in with back-to-school sales and pumpkin spice lattes, but I’m still fully entrenched in summer. Because it’s hot out there, people. It’s not fall until I put on long sleeves.

Cherry Almond Tea Cake

We’ve had a nice long cherry season and I’ve been taking advantage of it all summer long. I can’t remember a year where Mr. Betty and I ate more cherries. Most days I enjoyed a bowl of fresh cherries as my afternoon snack, but I also froze them for smoothies and baked them into a delicious tea cake, pictured above.

Part of my cherry inspiration came from Stephanie McClenny of Confituras, and a cooking demo she did at Whole Foods where she demonstrated several ways to use cherries. In that class I got to pickle cherries, make syrup and cocktail cherries, as well as learn some flavor profiles that are complimentary to cherries. Stephanie talked about how cherry pits have an aroma similar to almonds and ever since then I was dying to make a cake.

Stephanie McClenny of Confituras

Pickled Ranier Cherries

My Cherry Almond Tea Cake is adapted from an Epicurious recipe. We enjoyed it for dessert with steaming mugs of tea or frothy cappuccinos. It was rich and moist and satisfied our sweet cravings without being too sweet.

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved

Sift the first four ingredients together and set aside. Combine butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then mix in eggs one at a time along with the extracts. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients, reserving 2 TB, into the wet. Mix in sour cream and zest. Dust cherries with reserved dry ingredients before gently folding them into the batter, which will be very thick.

Pour batter into greased and floured springform pan (9 or 10 inches) and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Garnish with a light dusting of powdered sugar and more cherries if you like.

Cherry Almond Tea Cake

Thursday, August 21st

Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend

Even at my most fit, I’ve never been a runner. I’ve always been intimidated by the prospect of a long stretch of road (or time) with just me and my sneakers on the pavement. Unlike a spin class, which is my preferred cardio, there’s no routine, no one to push you on, no air conditioning.

And yet, I signed on as an ambassador for the Fit Foodie 5K which is a race and also a whole weekend of events. Why?

Because I need a challenge.

And because I’m NOT at my most fit.

And because I’d like to be someone who runs, if not obsessively, at least sometimes.

And because 10% goes to City of Hope.

The reasons to do it far outweigh the reasons to stay home. So I’m doing this.

Fit Foodie Race Weekend Austin

But this is so much more than a race. The theme is Calories Burned, Calories Earned, which means that there are some delicious elements to the weekend, too. (How very Austin, right? Exercise and food? If they incorporate some dogs, a live band, and a new online social platform, they’ve nailed the city. Oh, and hipster mustaches. Can’t forget those.)

In addition to the Saturday morning race, there’s a VIP Party Friday night, a post-race chef experience, and brunch, yoga and bootcamp with an obstacle course on Sunday. You can go to one or all. And the code MADBETTY will get you 10% off. Buy tickets or learn more here and get updates and news on Facebook.

My goal for the race is simply to run for as much of it as I can. I won’t be the fastest. I might even be the slowest. But I will finish. And I’ll be running for the next few weeks to prepare and using the hashtag #TweetYourFeet. Should you decide to join me, use the hashtag so I can cheer you on!

#tweetyourfeet

What’s going to keep me inspired?

  1. The Finisher’s Village with chef tastings and demos, giveaways, and Alison Sweeney, Biggest Loser host and author, signing her book for fans.
  2. Mr. Betty. He’s an avid runner and fellow race ambassador, so I’ll have a buddy on race day as well as a training partner.
  3. I have a bunch of friends who are also participating in the race including Mary Makes Dinner, Stetted, and A Time to Kale.
  4. My playlist! I’m putting together a motivating selection of songs to keep me pumped for 3.1 miles.

I’d love to see you on race weekend! And my question for you: Have you done anything lately that’s pushed you out of your comfort zone? Leave me a comment!

Disclosure: I received free entry to the Fit Foodie 5k Race Weekend but was not compensated for this post or any further social media sharing. And the running? That’s all me, baby.

Friday, August 15th

South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse Reopens

Alamo Drafthouse and The Highball, Austin, Texas

Tomorrow the long-awaited South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse officially opens. The redux is substantially larger, with nine theaters and an increase of almost 20,000 feet, nearly doubling it in size. There’s a parking garage (and a couple more being built) that will hold 700 cars or so. So, yeah, our little neighborhood theater is a behemoth. But Austin is crowded and we need more parking, more seats, more everything.

I’m thrilled that while there are lots of digital upgrades and the like, the spirit of the old Drafthouse lives on in the decor. The old metal spaceships and planes dot the ceiling of the lobby, along with a new zeppelin. And it seems like a silly thing to be attached to, but I always loved the whimsical hot dog in the original theater and am happy to report they brought him back.

South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, Texas

 

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The hallways feature vintage horror posters with a bit of a freak show element. Think Mr. Bungle at the movies.

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Attached to the theater is The Highball, which also features decor and furniture from the old one. You can’t bowl there anymore, but the wood from the lanes is everywhere from the floor of the top of the bar, the ceilings and benches. It’s smooth and shiny and feels like home. A point of pride with the cocktail program is that the staff (all from the original Highball) create the drink menu themselves. In addition to the 22 craft beers there are two cocktails on draft, all of which will rotate regularly. And mixed drink bottle service is a new feature, which is perfect for the karaoke rooms. You’ll be able to get a large bottle (enough for six) of Moscow Mules and other cocktails for $45. Very convenient.

Speaking of the karaoke rooms, they are the real draw. Each of the seven private rooms is done in a fun theme and all are spectacular. I won’t show but a couple photos, because the real magic is being surprised by the details yourself. Needless to say I was blown away and especially loved Truly Outrageous, done in a sparkly Jem and the Holograms theme and The Fifth Dimension, a black lit Twilight Zone room.

Truly Outrageous, Jem earrings

The Fifth Dimension Twilight Zone

The Fifth Dimension Twilight Zone

I’m not even into karaoke but I think I’ll be changing that. And I can’t wait to resume my regular trips to my favorite location to see movies. Welcome back, Alamo Drafthouse. It was a long year and a half without you.

Alamo Drafthouse

1120 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

Wednesday, August 13th

VERTS Kebap

VERTS Kebap, Austin, Texas

Did you know that August is National Sandwich Month? I like to think of it as Joey Tribbiani Month, the biggest sandwich lover since Mr. Betty.

In honor of the celebratory month, VERTS Kebap treated us to dinner one night and we happily accepted. We both ordered the special Döner Kebap, the signature Berlin-inspired wrap with a freshly baked flatbread. With the choice of meats, we chose the chicken and beef/lamb combo and topped both with loads of fresh veggies.

Doner Kebap at VERTS Kebap, Austin, Texas

The sandwiches are quite large and the crunchy vegetables keep it light. All told, it’s a very satisfying meal. For me, it’s the sauces that make it. The choices are garlic, spicy red, vinaigrette, house, and an intense hot sauce. I enjoyed a combination of spicy red and garlic, which was suggested by the server.

Doner Kebaps at VERTS Kebaps, Austin, Texas

Cheers to you, VERTS, and thanks for the sandwiches. It wasn’t my first visit and it won’t be my last. As Joey would say, How YOU doin?

VERTS Kebap, 1500 S. Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704 (Or visit one of their other locations.)

11 am-10 pm

Monday, August 11th

Roll On Sushi Diner

Roll On Sushi Diner Austin, Texas

Austin’s got a nice range of sushi options, despite being so far from the nearest ocean. We have fancy sushi, budget sushi, fast sushi, fusion sushi, creative sushi, etc. I’d say Roll On Sushi Diner fits into a few of these categories, namely fast and creative. I went to a media night a couple weeks ago to try some new menu offerings and updated seating.

I must admit, I’m less likely to go for outside the box offerings when it comes to sushi. I just love the classics so much and prefer fresh fish with little getting in the way. Still, it was nice to indulge in some wacky rolls like the 512 Club with chicken, bacon, romaine and guacamole. Or The Wave, with tempura shrimp and crab with eel sauce and wasabi honey.

Hamathai at Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Salmon Rockets at Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Crispy Brussels Sprouts at Roll On Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Presentation was beautiful with the rolls arranged on a large tray with fresh flowers, wasabi stars, and a Buddha statue immersed in a misty fog.

Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

Roll on Sushi Diner, Austin, Texas

What are some of your favorite creative rolls? Have you been to Roll On Sushi Diner?

Roll On Sushi Diner

5350 Burnet Rd, #2, Austin, TX 78756

M-Th 11am-9pm, F 11am-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 4pm-9pm