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Griffin to Go: Byte for Bite, It’s Party Time in Austin


Music is a big part of South by Southwest, but food is gaining ground. This is Quiet Company.

For many tech fans, there’s nothing like the annual South by Southwest gathering that takes place in Austin each spring. The exchange of information about the latest and greatest gadgets, as well as seminars on what’s happening in the cloud that encompasses the world of digital information, is akin to geek nirvana.

Ultra miniature cupcakes are becoming popular.

And it doesn’t stop there. There’s the film festival, and the music that Austin is known for filling the air on both sides of the lake.

But something else is happening in Austin that is making the SXSW scene all the more exciting this year. It seems as if food wants to join the party. In a big way.

Food and drink is a part of every party, to be sure. And last year, food celebrity Rachael Ray threw several shindigs that showcased local producers as well as sponsoring food companies, distillers and more.

It's easy to make pancakes with Batter Blaster.

But this year Cooking Channel set up what it calls Beer Garden at Easy Tiger, offering a dual menu of house favorites and recipes from the network’s stars, including Nadia G from Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen. The party may be over, but Easy Tiger is open, offering an excellent coffee-rubbed pastrami sandwich with house-cured sauerkraut and a nutmeg- and ginger-laced bratwurst. The beer cheese with the pretzel is also a winner, with that pretzel a star among the exceptional breads baked in house.

BakeSpace.com hosted a gathering with numerous local and state producers, including Driscoll’s berries, tea merchants, bakers with ultra-miniature cupcakes (most likely to replace last year’s cake balls, a dessert trend that just never became trendy), chocolatiers and paleta producers. Perhaps the most attention-getting product of the event was Batter Blaster, which puts pancake and waffle batter in a whipped cream-style canister. Now you can make your own pancakes in minutes and without a lot of mess. The cakes were good and buttery, though the appeal may have been jacked up a bit by the lox, sour cream and fresh dill that were served on the side.

Try the coffee-rubbed pastrami at Easy Tiger.

The party was held in Hickory Street, a new restaurant serving up American fare with a modern Texas twist. Samples were passed of several signature items. Charred sweet corn guacamole wasn’t bad, but it was a little busy, with too many textural bumps for guac. Braised short rib with macaroni and cheese really hit the spot.

There was a food truck showcase that we missed because we went instead to a private party hosted by digital communications company Waggener Edstrom. The company was featuring an up-and-coming six-piece band called Quiet Company, which rocked the block. Unfortunately for the band, the sound system was erratic, to say the least. The tacos, however, were quite good, especially with rings of pickled onion on top. There were also gorgeous cocktails with fake ice cubes that lit up a sparkly emerald green. You had to know the wizard to get one of the shiny cubes, which let us out of the loop but it certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying the sight of them.

This coming weekend, it’s back to Rachael Ray’s parties, where she’s laying down the music while hopefully showcasing some new food trends. Last year, the headliner was Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly, who once toured with Elvis and still knows how to how a crowd in the palm of her hand. This year, Train captured top billing, but I’m more interested in reggae great Jimmy Cliff, whose soundtrack for “The Harder They Come” was a part of my teen years.

There will be more, including some great music at the Baker St. Pub for a free show Friday night that the Austin Music Journal is sponsoring. Free is always a good word, especially when it applies to the parking, too. Parking downtown during SXSW can be aggravating to one’s wallet. We saw garages and lots charging $20 and $30 a day. You could always park south of the bridge and catch either one of the free Chevys around town (free during the fest) or the bus, which is only $2 for a one-day pass.

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Make Your Own Flip Happy Crêpes


People of all ages enjoy crepes.

With the Food Truck Throw Down happening until 11 p.m. Sunday at the Boardwalk on Bulverde, 14732 Bulverde Road, I thought it was a good time to run the recipe for the basis of one of my favorite food truck items, the crêpes from Flip Happy Crêpes in Austin.

I’ve stopped by the truck several times over the last few years and have never had a bad crêpe. I must point out that the vegetarian crêpe is often not available, which doesn’t matter too much to me, as that is usually the least interesting option of the day at the truck. And when I say the same to the person taking my order, he or she usually smiles and points out how good the salmon is that day or something to that effect.

This recipe is included in “Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels” by Heather Shouse (Ten Speed Press, $20), which also has information on food trucks from Marfa as well as Chicago, Milwaukee, New York and Washington, D.C., among other spots.

I wish Flip Happy had come down from Austin, but it didn’t. Another crêpe truck did, and the offerings are just as good. So, if you want  to make your own, try the recipe below. If not, head out to Boardwalk on Bulverde today or make your own trek to Austin.

Flip Happy Crêpes

6 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 cup water
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking the crêpes
2 (16-ounce) jars Nutella, for serving
Fresh slices strawberries, for serving
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and water. Whisk in the flour until blended. Add the melted butter and mix again just until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with about 1 tablespoon melted butter. Pour in 1/3 cup of the crêpe batter, swirling the pan to spread it evenly over the bottom. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the underside has golden brown spots all over, then flip and cook until spekled on the second side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the crêpe to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel while you repeat the process to make the remaining  crêpes.

To assemble, spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons Nutell inside each warm crêpe. Fold in half, then fold in half again to form a triangle. Top with the strawberries. If you want to finish it with a dollop of whipped cream, in a large bowl, whip the cream until it thickens slightly. Add the vanilla nd powdered sugar and continue whipping until it forms soft peaks. Spoon the cream on top of the crêpes and serve.

Makes about 20 (12-inch) crêpes.

From “Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels” by Heather Shouse

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Take a Bite Out of ‘¿Tacos or Tacos?’


Taco trucks have become popular across the U.S.

Taco trucks — practically everywhere you look, there’s another one heading down the road, selling everything from crab cakes to cupcakes to actual tacos. The recent increase in popularity of mobile food has even spawned its own documentary.

At the recent Hill Country Film Festival, audiences had the chance to see a 15-minute film titled “¿Tacos or Tacos?” that was made by Robert Lemon, a  doctoral student at the University of Texas-Austin who has shown the film at several other film festivals.

(To watch a preview of the movie, click here.)

Though Lemon’s film deals with the taco scene in Austin, it touches on the state of what we are eating today across the country. The filmmaker answered several questions about the burgeoning taco truck scene in Texas and elsewhere.

Where did the idea for the movie originate?

I became interested in taco trucks while I was working as a community planner in Columbus, Ohio, in 2005. There were several community issues about the trucks, and in general, I found the trucks to be fascinating; especially as I had lived in Mexico the previous year. Ohio is probably the most stereotypical middle American place I’ve been, and to see these trucks moving in was unusual.

To what do you attribute the growth of taco trucks?

The trucks to Mexican immigrants and many Mexican Americans are practical places for Mexicans to find something familiar to them. The trucks themselves represent various culinary regions of Mexico, so there is something to be said about their diversity. So not all the trucks are representing the same places or the same types of foods, plus there is competition for quality and authenticity. For one, as immigration continues, the trucks will continue. On another note, food in Mexico is very popular in the informal economy of Mexico. Many Mexican’s turn to cooking in order to have something to sell. This idea is also in the United States. Many Mexicans who open a taco truck have never cooked before, but need a job and decide enter into taco making.

Is this a fad or something more permanent on our dining scene?

The more high-end food trucks that are not “traditional Mexican taco trucks” are probably here to stay. To what extent is the question. The new food truck scene is still relatively new and more people are trying their hand at it as the economy is slow. At the same time, I think street food is becoming more popular in the United States amongst non-Hispanics and won’t go anywhere. Right now there are more and more trucks popping up around the country … some of these trucks will dwindle out because of a weak concept, while others will probably fold as people grow tired of them. I think the trucks that are well managed and have a strong following will end up becoming fixtures in particular neighborhoods that celebrate street food culture.

What has been the response to the film?

The film has show in Sonoma, Calif.; Austin and Fredricksburg. One of the best screenings was in Sonoma where people were cheering at the end. Sonoma has similar issues with food trucks the community there could relate to. The Sonoma audience also asked some very astute questions about food and place and enjoyed the manner in which I subtitled the film in both Spanish and English. The screening at Cine Las Americas here in Austin, most people enjoyed the film, but I didn’t receive much feedback about its content. It is interesting that Austin audiences tend to want to know where the taco truck is and where “The Mighty Cone” is, because they want to eat both of the establishments. The Hill Country Film Festival had a very good Q&A session on some of the filmmaking aspects of the documentary short, and the audience thought the movie was well timed because it is a new issue that people haven’t necessarily looked at critically.

What kinds of foods do you like to eat from taco trucks?

The funny thing is, I’m not big on eating at food trucks. I’m mainly interested in the phenomenon and what it means culturally from a more critical perspective. For five years I would go to the trucks and talk to people but would never eat at them. Only recently, while shooting the movie, would I eat at the trucks. For the most part, all their foods are great when I do eat at them. I enjoy regular tacos de pastor or bistec from the Mexican taco trucks and pretty much all the diverse foods at the food trucks in South Austin. I love eating and trying all food, so I’m not picky … but as an academic, I’m more interested in food as place making. … So although I know most everyone’s menu, I haven’t tried everything. There are just too many trucks, and it is overwhelming. The funny thing is, most people think I critique or like to find out who has the best taco. The truth is I don’t care. I used to know all the trucks in Columbus, Ohio, and in Oakland, Calif. And I have seen trucks in so many other cities. It is impossible to try them all, however I’m interested in how the trucks are perceived by the communities they move into and how they are regulated by city.

For more about Robert Lemon, click here. No further screenings of “¿Tacos or Tacos?” have been scheduled at this point. If any are scheduled in the region, we will include it in our Upcoming Events.

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Bruce Auden Earns Another James Beard Nomination


Bruce Auden

Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St., is among the five finalists for best chef in the Southwest, according to the James Beard Foundation.

Auden has been nominated several times in the past for the award, which is the culinary field’s equivalent of the Oscars.

Auden is up against several Texas competitors, including Bryan Caswell of Reef in Houston and Tyson Cole of Uchi in Austin. Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas and Ryan Hardy of Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, Colo., are the other nominees.

Another Texan to make the list is Robb Walsh of Houston, who is nominated in the journalism division for Food Culture and Travel writing. He shares the nomination with Rick Bragg and Francine Maroukian for a piece in Garden & Sun titled “The Southerner’s Guide to Oysters.” They are up against Bill Addison for a piece in Atlanta Magazine on “BBQ 2010” and Matt Gross for an article in Saveur on “Tapei, Family Style.”

The journalism awards will be announced May 6. The restaurant awards will be announced May 9. For the full list of nominees, click here.

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Weekend Calendar: Sugar Art, Basil Fest, Hill Country Beer, and More


Real Ale celebrates its anniversary.

“A Taste of Provence” Tasting Menu
Through July 31, $48 plus tax and gratuity, $12 additional for wine pairings
Fig Tree Restaurant
515 Villita
This French-inspired meal starts with your choice of Zucchini Blossom Beignets or Terrine de Légumes.  Next, select either Blue Prawns Provençale or Grilled Mediterranean Sea Bass.  The main course options are Pan-seared Herb Marinated Lamb Tenderloing or Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Garlic Créme.  Dessert choices are Hill Country Peach Croustade or Poached Fruit of the Day a la mode.  The optional wine pairing includes Chateau Routas, Rosé Var 2008; Mas de la Dame, Rosé du Mas 2009; and Mas de la Dame, Rouge 2006.  For reservations, call 210-224-1976.

“A Study in Shrimp”
Thursday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25, $35 plus tax and gratuity
The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills
1746 Lockhill Selma
The four-course prix fixe includes a glass of wine and starts with “Bloody Mary”: Grilled Shrimp with Sous Vide Celery, Tomato Sofrito, and Horseradish Foam.  The second course is Shrimp Bisque with Tomato-Basil Rouille “Crostini”, followed by “Shrimp and Grits”: Butter Poached Shrimp with Slow Cooked Corn Polenta, Piquillo Peppers. and Garlic Chips. Dessert is “Soufflé” Inspired Nutella-Dark Chocolate Cake with Creamy Peanut Butter Mousse and House Made Caramel.  For reservations, call 210-349-8466.

57th Annual Luling Watermelon Thump
Thursday – Sunday, June 24 – 27, prices vary from free to $8 depending on time of day
305 W. Davis St.
Luling, TX 78648
Watermelon seed spitting, melon eating, and more at this festival east of San Antonio.  www.watermelonthump.com

Aldaco’s Chef’s Table
Thursday, June 24, 6 – 8 p.m., $24.95 plus tax and gratuity
Aldaco’s Restaurant
100 E. Hoefgen (in Sunset Station)
Blanca Aldaco will be hosting this three-course dinner, which includes margarita and tequila presentation and live Latin guitar by Adam Zuniga.  The menu consists of the following: choice of Tres Marias Iceberg Wedge Salad or Cream of Mushroom Martini; choice of Grilled Rib Eye Steak or Achiote Pechuga Estillo; and choice of Pastel Tres Leches or Chocolate Flan.  For reservations, call 210-222-0561.

Basil Fest
Saturday, June 26, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., free
Pearl Brewery Complex
312 Pearl Parkway
At 9:30 a..m., Mary Dunford of Natures Herb Farm will teach how to grow and harvest basil.  From 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., children are welcomed to pot their own basil to take home.  The San Antonio Herb Society will have a Mediterranean cooking demonstration at 10:15 a.m.  From 10:45 a.m. – noon, local chefs will compete in the People’s Choice Pesto Challenge; funds raised will go to the San Antonio Food Bank.  www.sanantonioherbmarket.org

Green Fields Market Store Events
Saturday, June 26, free
Green Fields Market
19239 Stone Oak Parkway (at Huebner)
Produce sampling will be from 11 – 3 p.m. and wine sampling will be from noon to 6 p.m.  Pizza making for kids ages 4 – 12 will be 4 – 5:30 p.m.

Real Ale 14th Anniversary Party
Saturday, June 26, noon – 5 p.m., free admission, $5 parking
Real Ale Brewing Company
231 San Saba Ct.
Blanco, TX
The anniversary ale will be released at this anniversary party, which features beer, barbecue and brewery tours.  realalebrewing.com

Great Austin Beer Festival
Saturday, June 26, 4 – 8 p.m., $30 online, $40 at the door
Austin Music Hall
208 Nueces St.
Austin, TX
Explore beers from over 40 breweries near and far. Four-ounce samples are included in the admission price; food is available for purchase.  www.greataustinbeerfestival.com

Frosting Creators of San Antonio “Day of Sharing”
Sunday, June 27, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., $40 regular admission, $25 students with ID
Leon Valley Community Center
6427 Evers Road
Learn from sugar art techniques from demonstrators including Dena Bryngleson, Jacque Benson, Ximena Sempertegui, Linda McClure, and Earlene Moore.  Breakfast and lunch are included.  For more information at to register, see www.frostingcreators.com/classes.html.

Paleo Dinner
Sunday, June 27, 6:30 p.m., $75 plus tax and gratuity
Auden’s Kitchen
700 E. Sonterra Blvd., #1117
Chef Patricia Wenckus will prepare a multi-course dinner following the Paleo Diet.  The proceeds will benefit The Wounded Warrior Project.  For reservations, call 210-494-0070.

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Calling All Chefs: Enter Austin Competition


Keeper Collection and Plate & Vine Interactive Cookbook are hosting an event to remember, Chefs Under Fire.

San Antonio chefs are invited to enter and compete in front of award-winning Iron Chef America Challengers David Bull (of Bolla at the Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa), Tyson Cole (of Uchi), and Kent Rathbun (of Jasper’s & Abacus).  Each chef has personally selected one of his Plate & Vine Interactive Cookbook recipes for you, if selected as a finalist, to prepare and present to the chefs in front of a live audience at the first Chefs Under Fire Competition.

The entry fee has been waived by the organization and there are prizes for winning, including media promotion and a stay at The Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, including dinner for two at Bolla.

Interested? The deadline is coming right up, on Thursday. The competition is on Nov. 30. For more information go to The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas,  at http://www.keepercollection.com/content/display/page/about.

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