November 23, 2017

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

-Henry David Thoreau

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am thankful for all the good things I have in my life, including my followers. Have a safe and happy holiday. Let the food coma commence!

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November 6, 2017

Way, way back in the day, like in the 1990s, if you wanted to tell everyone you ate waffles for breakfast, you couldn’t just go on the Internet and tweet it out. There was only one way to do it. You had to go outside and scream at the top of your lungs, ‘I ate waffles for breakfast!’ That’s why so many people ended up in institutions. They seemed crazy, but when you think about it, they were just ahead of their time.

-Ellen DeGeneres

Birthday Excursion Part Deux – Sir Duke (Baltimore)

After the heavenly experience of Insomnia Cookies, my friends and I walked the square searching for any place that served food at 10 PM. Bars of Baltimore: please don’t stop serving food at 10 PM. Continue serving food until the bar closes. You’ll get more people in.

We found ourselves back at the hotel’s basement bar. Basement bar at a haunted hotel? Totally not creepy. There was one older fella drying up some glasses with a cloth. He looked lonely considering the place was completely empty. There was something eerie about the place. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was like an old school movie meets horror film meets lighthearted fun. Does that make sense? The bartender was nice enough to smile for the picture at least. 🙂 Too bad he didn’t have food.

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He recommended that we tried the restaurant next door. We walked in, relieved it was only ten feet away from the hotel. Stomachs growled in frustration when the hostess told us the kitchen had closed. She did, however, provide us with a recommendation: Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store. It was not on the main square but on the side streets, about a block or two away from us. It was a bar and a liquor store. A part of me didn’t feel like walking in the 40-degree weather but it was my birthday and wasn’t going to stop then.

I ordered a grilled cheese with french fries. My friend ordered Breakfast Poutine for the three of us to try. I’ve had poutine only once in my life and that was at a French party/class assignment at St. Ed’s. The poutine was amazing. The gravy sorta stayed with your breath but totally worth it.

The grilled cheese was also good. It was cheesy, the tomato was fresh and the fries (more fries!) were crispy. What I liked most about it was the fact it was warm enough to heat up my body and protect myself from the chill that came through the door.

The three of us had grown happy with a pinch of homesick when we saw the Tito’s tins used as a receipt holder. We asked the waitress if she knew what Tito’s was and of course she did. We explained we were from Austin and she immediately replied “I love Austin!”. She tried remembering the sparkling water all the hipsters drank (Topo Chico) and says it’s her tradition to drink a bottle of Topo when she goes down to ATX. It’s funny to hear someone say they love Austin, let alone visit. After living in ATX for 11 years and seeing it when it was still sorta in sleepy town mode, you tend to forget it has become such a tourist destination. Nothing wrong with ATX being a tourist destination…just don’t move there (there are plans for a major I-35 overhaul so just warning you).

We headed back to the hotel with leftovers. On our way back we found a couple homeless teenagers outside a closed boutique sitting on a bench. I gave them my leftover sandwich, keeping my oatmeal cookie. My friend took a few steps before turning around and giving them his cookie. The guilt got to me when I saw another couple of teenagers near a lamp post. I gave them my cookie, feeling both bad that I didn’t get a chance to experience the oatmeal cookie, but happy to know I didn’t think of my stomach for once.

It was a great last night in Baltimore. A wonderful adventure full of unexpected people and events. Definitely a birthday I will not forget.

Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store is located in Fell’s Point at 701 S Bond St., Baltimore, MD 21231

Birthday Excursion Part Un – The Horse He Rode In On & Insomnia Cookies (Baltimore)

The evening started with a best 2 out of 3 chess match in the hotel lobby with one of my more nerdier friends as we waited for a third companion to come long. The first game went on for some time as we were both rusty. I lost that match. The second and third matches were much swifter and also not in my favor. Turns out the nerd was hustling hahaha

The night began with a short walk around the corner to The Horse He Rode In On, which is a well-known dive bar. It is supposedly the oldest bar in Baltimore, opening around the 1700s (can someone fact check that for me please?). It is also said (per the bar folks) that it was Edgar Allen Poe’s last stop before the Grim Reaper showed up. No, unfortunately I did not see Poe’s ghost wander around.

Live music was playing near the front. The singer was good but I’ve got to say nothing beats Austin live music. The food menu wasn’t too grand. Mostly snack items from what we could tell. We left the bar around 9:20 in search of food.

We passed by Insomnia Cookies near Fell’s Inn. The place smelled like fresh hot chocolate chip cookies. They also advertised ice cream sandwiches. We went in, falling for the temptation. Who doesn’t want dessert before dinner?

Insomnia Cookies Counter
Bryan, the gent pictured here, was quite friendly and non-judgemental, which is perfect when you are craving dessert before dinner.

Oh man. We spent a great deal of time in there, deciding which cookies to get and talking to Bryan The Cashier, who is pictured above. Insomnia Cookies doesn’t have a large variety, but when everything looks good, it’s hard to pick the cookies that gets the honor of cheat meal.

I got a Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal. I ate the Chocolate Chip in one minute. It would have taken about 20 seconds but I wanted to enjoy the gooeyness of the chocolate and the smoothness of the dough. It was heavenly. More than heavenly. It was above heavenly.

The best part? Insomnia Cookies is open AND DELIVERS until 3 AM. We made a note to venture back here later for ice cream sandwiches because dinner was awaiting us.

Insomnia Cookies Banner

The Horse He Rode In On is located in Fell’s Point at 1626 Thames St., Baltimore, MD 21321.

Insomnia Cookies* is located in Fell’s Point at 812 S Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231.

*For you Austin folks, Insomnia Cookies has a location in San Marcos at 111 E Hopkins St., San Marcos, TX 78666. Please note they do NOT deliver to North Austin. I asked.

Love Thy Neighbor

There’s a wonderful French cafe and bakery in Bee Caves. They’ve been in business for several years and serve the most delicious desserts. I recommend the 3 Chocolats. It’s a sweet treat that uses white, milk, and dark chocolate mousse. It’s a chocolate heaven. Think that’s too much chocolate? Try the Versailles! It’s dark chocolate mousse and raspberry jelly…oh and a praline feuilletine. If you want more savory flavors, check out their crepes and paninis (pst! The Parisien Brie is to die for!).

The place is small. It’s very quaint and the staff is super friendly. They close on Mondays, which when you first hear about this place you find it odd. But when you really think about it, who doesn’t want Monday off? 🙂

This is more than a food review. This is a call for support. My sister sent over these screenshots that she took of Baguette et Chocolat’s Facebook page. I am not political and if you want to comment political shenanigans, please think thoroughly or don’t comment at all.

My thought process is use common sense. This below drives me nuts. Why would anyone try to ruin an establishment? Especially a lovely establishment as Baguette et Chocolat. I will let the rest speak for itself. If you are an Austinite or a tourist who has visited this place and loved this place, please support them. Please give them rave reviews on yelp. Please tell your friends and neighbors and family and that odd cousin in Idaho about this lovely staff who work in the cutest joint in Bee Caves and who serve the best French food you’ll ever get in Austin, maybe even in Texas.

Love thy neighbor. That’s all I ask.

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The Edge of Texas 2017 Lineup Announced

2017 marks the first annual Texas Monthly The Edge of Texas. Based off the May 2017 issue, this event is what I like to think of as a all-Texas SXSW in the middle of the Autumn season up in Dallas, TX.

The Edge of Texas will be held on November 10th and 11th, with each day holding a different theme. Friday, November 10 will be “Party on the Edge” at the Fashion Industry Gallery. Think great food, great music and great art as you and your fellow Texans celebrate everything art, fashion, and food.

Saturday is split into two themes. The day events (10 AM-4PM) is “Storytelling on the Edge”. Your favorite Texas Monthly writers and editors will be interviewing various speakers, allowing their stories to come alive from the pages of the mag. Topics vary from medicine to ISIS to movies to magicians to murder! The night portion begins at 7 PM with live cooking and a “futuristic campfire”. The night is finished off with musical performances by Shinyribs, a local Austinite band (“I Got Your Medicine“) and Sarah Jaffe, who is from Denton (“Clementine“, “Bad Baby“).

To see ticket information, the full lineup and the schedule, check out www.edge.texasmonthly.com.

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Can I take the butter to-go? (Clark’s Oyster Bar – Austin, TX)

My friend John and I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary. We went to a fancy dining spot. Okay, Clark’s isn’t “dress code required” fancy. It’s upscale casual with high dining prices. Well, John and I considered it high dining prices. We’re broke college students. Cut us a little sack. 🙂

Clark's Oyster Bar
Clark’s sign from the outdoor patio

Clark’s is a quaint bar located on West 6th Street. Around the area are art galleries, other restaurants, a bakery and a liquor store. Even more quaint homes reside on the side street. The parking situation is not idea, but it’s not impossible to deal with. Depending on the time of day, you can find empty curbsides with no restrictions.

Before you enter, you are standing on the porch with a long high table that stretches to the end before the porch swings around. The high table faces the street. Picnic tables run along the windows. When you enter, you face the bar and kitchen. Above the kitchen is a black sign listing out the oyster selection, cold bar and catch of the day. To your right, past the indigo aquarium, is a long booth with about ten white tables and two chairs on each table. The decor is simple. There is a mix between modern and ultra. Since it was dinnertime, the place was packed. You had folks who were dressed uber nicely and you also had folks who were dressed as if they came out from yoga.

Clark's Bar area
Courtesy of: Clark’s website

We got three oysters, two from Prince Edward Island and one from Maine (“Mookie Blue”) to start with. Note to oyster amateurs: Canada is the entry level. I went straight to the Maine oyster since it had a cool name. John thought the oysters were good, but could not eat more than two. I had one and sadly regretted it (more on that later). For entrees, John ordered a lobster roll with fries. I got the Catch of the Day, which was Bluefish with a side of watercress salad and a dressing that I believe was smoked paprika with herbs. Whatever it was, it was amazing. I used it on my fish and John used it on his fries. The seafood was super fresh, a plus for any seafood joint that is not near an ocean in my opinion. John’s lobster was not gummy, it was perfect. My Bluefish was to die for. It was crispy on top and it melts in your mouth on the inside. I’ve never seen a fish so white and beautiful!

Oysters

Lobster Roll
Compared to other places, this lobster roll was tall. The dish came with fries, pickles and butter.
Catch of the Day: Bluefish
Bluefish with a side of watercress salad, an amazing mystery dressing and a cooked lemon. Please excuse the oyster. Also, that red stuff is cocktail sauce.

Now the fun part. As I mentioned earlier, we hardly go to upscale downtown spots. My friends and I usually find the most casual, budget-friendly spot that isn’t a traditional fast food chain. Typical food spots include Torchy’s, coffee shops, or Mediterranean cafes. There’s a certain vibe that comes with places like Clark’s. You can hear it from people’s conversations: dealing with million dollar accounts at work, vacationing in Europe, escaping to the lake house at Horseshoe Bay, etc. They may not be dressed like a million bucks, but I’m pretty sure most of those people, if not all, had more than a couple hundred bucks in their bank account. That being said, here are the six things you shouldn’t do when you are a nicer place:

1. Don’t bring food from another food joint. I managed to get there and find parking at 6 PM. John and I were meeting at 6:30, so I had thirty minutes to kill. The outdoor patio didn’t look packed so I figured there’d be indoor seating. Less than a block away was Sweetish Hill Bakery, which I have heard is a top bakery in Austin. They close at 7 PM, so this was a now or never opportunity. I called up my mum to see if she wanted bread from the bakery. She, as always, says yes to bread from the bakery (grocery store bakery bread just doesn’t do trick). I grabbed a baguette ($1 folks! First time in my life that I have seen a whole baguette sell for $1!!!!! #success) and two “I love Texas” cookies, which were shortbread cookies with a red frosting heart. I thought about putting the treats in my car, but leaving bread and cookies in a car during a 100+ degree day is not a good idea. I had to take the food with me. Fortunately, the wait staff did not say anything since we got outdoor seats. But they didn’t bring us their bread until it after we got out oysters because John had to ask for it (he was on the verge of stealing my baguette).

Sweetish Hill Bakery

2. Google “How to eat (insert food here)” before you go into the restaurant. I’ve seen oysters before. I never ate one and neither has John. John said you should slurp them but I didn’t believe him. Or, I was too afraid to slurp them since oysters are slimy. So I got the tiny fork that came with the plate, put some cocktail sauce on top of it, picked up the white part and ate it whole. I highly recommend you don’t do that, unless you want to be borderline gagging. It was after then John Googled “how to eat oysters”. First, you have to make sure it’s detached and then you–you guessed it!–slurped it. Hm, I wonder if slurping it would give a better taste than bland mixed with medicine flavored cocktail sauce…

3. Warn your friends about dressing up. I’m guilty of this 100%. I love dressing up and find every moment to doll up. I had a Banana Republic short summer dress that ruffled on the bottom with flip flops and earrings. I thought John, who works at an immigration law firm as a legal assistant, would be coming in his work dress (collared button downs and dress pants are much the dress code at his office. I, on the other hand, work in a place that has no dress code). John did text me asking if he had time to put on shorts. I responded sure why not, failing to mention I had an above-average dressy dress on (this is why you should call and not text at the stoplight). When he got there, I gave myself the face palm. He came in a shirt and basketball shorts. We laughed it off obviously and he won the award for most comfortable in summer heat.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter what the guy behind you ordered. Again, I’m guilty for this. There was an old couple who sat behind us. The man ordered a plate and when it arrived, John and my jaws dropped. The man got a whole fish! We figured he ordered the catch of the day, so I got pretty excited and slightly intimidated at the thought of eating such a huge thing. When my plate came, we were confused. It was a filet, not a whole fish. Then we put logic to it and $29 was not going to be enough for a whole fish at that place. I didn’t care. I loved that filet. But yes, don’t try to act like you know what you are ordering. It never hurts to ask.

5. Don’t get excited when you get dinner and a show when the show is a car accident. I’ve been in fender benders but I’ve never seen one happen in front of me. John and I were talking about how changes to the immigration process had made things more complicated at his work. I see a white SUV, a Ford Explorer I believe, turning onto West 6th from Blanco. The Explorer slowly accelerated when the sedan came from behind at a higher speed and rear-ended the Explorer. The whole block could hear the windshield glass shatter and the front of the sedan smash into the back of the SUV. The SUV had some minor scratches. The wait staff and restaurant-goers rushed to the scene to make sure everyone was fine and information was exchanged. Fortunately, all parties involved did not get hurt.

6. Never ask to take only the butter to-go. Okay, this didn’t happen but there was a 95% chance it was going to happen. The butter that came with Clark’s bread was the best butter you can get at any restaurant. It was light and fluffy. It had the perfect balance of saltiness. You couldn’t stop eating it! John even had it as a dip for his french fries. He loved it so much that he wanted to take one to-go! The only thing stopping him was the fact he finished the butter (you can find it on the picture of the lobster roll).

It was the most fun nights I had in a long time. Sure, I didn’t act on my best behavior, but I didn’t care. The food was great, the weather was not too hot and I had great company. Who could ask for more? Definitely want to get into the habit of treating myself to the above-average budget experience. John, where do you want to go next? xD

I’ll give Clark’s an 9/10.

I’ll give Sweetish Hill 10/10. That bread was totally worth it.

Clark’s Oyster Bar is located at 1200 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703.

Sweetish Hill Bakery is located at 1120 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703.

 

 

Spontaneous Outings

It’s never fun when your original social outing plans get cancelled. But that also opens up a whole day to be spontaneous and explore new things. My best friend Siddiqi and I did just that.

We started first off picking up a vinyl player in the Hyde Park area for Siddiqi’s friend whose birthday is tomorrow. Next came the grand adventure at Half Price Books on North Lamar for 50% off day. Sold two overflowing bags of books for $24.50 (a major success) and got a couple CDs for close to $14.00. Siddiqi found two vinyls of Russian classical music for wayyyyy less than that.

We had lunch at MezzeMe in the Triangle. MezzeMe is a relatively new Mediterranean restaurant (I was overdressed for Peace Bakery). Siddiqi got a braised lamb (it’s halal btdubs) pita wrap with spicy tabouli and hummus. I got a Crazy Grain rice bowl with braised lamb, roasted eggplant, hummus, and sprinkled with parsley and feta cheese. It was pretty good. The braised lamb was spot-on. The hummus was amazing too and this is coming from someone who doesn’t like hummus. There was nothing really grand about the rice and the roasted eggplant had too much vinegar. If you get a pita wrap with the lamb, hummus, parsley and feta, it’d be a pretty damn good pita wrap.

Lunch at MezzeMe
He seems to be liking his deconstructed pita wrap.

MezzeMe is located on 4700 Guadalupe Street, #9, Austin, TX 78751.

Our next stop was Goodwill on Peyton Gin near 183. This is the only Goodwill in the Austin area that has a computer store. We browsed through the general area, finding old microwaves and a couple Sony cassette players. We then caroused to the computer store. I am not a computer nerd. I am far from it. I call the Motherboard a flat plate that pricks your fingers. You would think I would be bored as Siddiqi looked for power supplies and cables for a computer he’s building. Actually, I was not. Computer parts are like one big puzzle game with colors and boxes and shapes and weird foreign pieces. During the hour or so we were there I found a cool BG camera that takes lomography for $5.00. Held onto that for dear life. Also found an old Apple keyboard for $12.95. It’s got the USB cord and the traditional clicking sound and everything. The staff was super friendly and helpful (Siddiqi said it was because I’m a girl who was pretty dressed up and girls are rare finds in that part of the store). The supervisor of the computer store knew quite a bit about cameras and helped me look for more film cameras. His mannerisms reminded me of Doc from Back to the Future. Probably my most favorite part of the day. Who knew?

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Our next stop was Tours Les Jours, a Korean-French bakery in a small Korean plaza on North Lamar in Central Austin. Siddiqi was craving bubble tea and I was craving anything cold (100 degree burning sun is not fun without a cold drink).  He’s never been to TLJ and it was super close to Goodwill. I got blueberry cream cheese bread and a cold chocolate roll. Unfortunately, they ran out of tapioca for the bubble tea. 😦 We weren’t going to give up though! We went to the interwebs and found a place nearby called Snow Monster. We jumped into his Subura and drove off to this 4.6 star place.

Tous Les Jours is located at 6808 N Lamar Blvd B-115, Austin, TX 78752.

Snow Monster is a “build your own shaved ice” joint on Lamar and Braker. It’s relatively new, opened in 2014 by two Taiwanese UT Alumni. Snow Ice is, according to Snow Monster’s website, fruit extracts and fresh milk made into blocks and shaved finely to create flakes. You can add your own toppings, including fresh fruit, nuts and chocolate chips. You can also use soy milk if you are dairy free. It gives the same fluffiness as whole milk. I got vanilla snow ice with a side of strawberries and chocolate chips, topped with  condensed milk. Siddiqi finally got his bubble tea and according to him, it was delicious.

Snow Monster is located at 11220 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753.

It was a grand day full of spontaneous productivity and amazing food. The clouds came in and the wind picked up so it was perfect timing to head on home. Pretty excited to go back to Sno-Mo and the computer store. Hopefully I can come up with a glossary of computer-to-my mind’s version terms of computer parts soon.