dining

Austin, Texas 

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Austin, Texas in partnership with Visit The USA, Official USA Travel Guide to American Holidays.

I had heard and researched great things about Austin’s food and music scene snd was really excited to visit as it would be my first time visiting Texas. I had little or no idea what to expect.

I flew into Austin on the first of September, expecting a cool, summer-is-almost over feel, but boy was I wrong! Upon leaving the airport, I was welcomed with a hot breeze, cowboy boots, and sweet southern music! The people were so friendly and helpful in directing me to my hotel downtown.

We checked into the Hilton Austin on 4th Street, close to the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin.

We enjoyed some drinks whilst admiring the city views from the 25th floor lounge before heading out for the night.

We had dinner reservations at the highly acclaimed Uchiko,  which serves upscale Japanese farmhouse cuisine. We had tried various menu items and the desserts were out of this world!

As a pastry chef, I enjoyed them immensely and appreciated the various techniques that were showcased. Overall, the service and food were excellent and the ambiance was lovely.

The following day, we had brunch at the Magnolia Cafe, a classic 24 hour eatery which serves Southwestern/Mexican food.  My particular favourites were the migas, huevos rancheros, sweet hibiscus ice teas and the yummy grapefruit mimosas. This place was full of locals and definitely a classic Austin eatery with good eats!

After brunch, we headed out to do some shopping on South Congress Avenue, a favourite spot among tourists. We visited some interesting eclectic shops filled with a wide vaiety from vintage props to old fashioned candies to Mexican dolls.

After purchasing some cool souvenirs and candy, we headed out in search of tacos for lunch.

I had heard about the infamous Torchy’s Tacos and couldn’t wait to try them.  My favorites included the Baja Shrimp and the Democrat!  What a fun place!

We continued shopping along the South Congress strip after brunch stopping in some very nice retail clothing shops when all of a sudden, it started to storm like crazy.  That’s Austin weather for you, sunny one minute and hailing rain the next!

We ran for cover and ducked into a cute coffee shop called Mañana, a great little shop with a cozy atmosphere and very chic vibe. I tried some silky cortados with strawberry Macarons. Yum! I’m so happy that we stumbled upon it!

After a full day of walking under the Texan sun, we headed back to the hotel to relax and enjoy some snacks and cocktails in the Hilton hotel’s lounge.

Dinner was at the infamous Barley Swine headed by Chef Bryce (he was named Food & Wine’s best chef in 2010.) We were seated at the Chef’s table with a great view of the kitchen. It was a delight to watch the magic of the kitchen happen right before our eyes. Beautiful plates of food being served one course after the other.

Some of my favourites included the Hatch chile cheese pretzel, Akaushi Ribeye with corn pudding and bone marrow marrow hash as well as dessert; the lime mallow sorbet with cucamelon and olive oil cake and the Mango Koji rice pudding. A not to be missed restaurant!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and crossed through the infamous 6th Street in downtown Austin.  The hustle and bustle of the bars, clubs and loud music keeps this street alive until the wee hours of the morning. Popular amongst the students from University of Texas and tourists alike.

We reached our destination Voodoo Doughnuts, a 24 hour bakeshop. I finally had the chance to try these colourful, creative and quirky doughnuts and they did not disappoint!

The next day we walked our way around the city and explored Lady Bird Lake where we walked along the trail to the boardwalk. The lake is beautiful and it’s a great place where locals go to workout, kayak or stroll.

After a lovely walk through the city and visiting the Texas State Capitol, we ventured over to Second Bar & Kitchen for some amazing cocktails paired with a burger, fried chicken and biscuits for lunch. One of my favourite spots.

After lunch, we stopped into Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars,  a lovely local foodie shop in downtown Austin selling a wide range of high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We learned about how they are made and had an opportunity to do a tasting. We puchased a few lovely flavours such as Grapefruit balsamic and South African Chili oil. Can’t wait to pair them with my meals.

A great place to relax and grab a drink is the historical Moonshine Patio Bar serving classic American food and drinks. With an equally delicious cocktail menu, it’s hard not to find a favourite. I’m still dreaming and missing this Bourbon Renewal!🍹❤ The Bourbon Renewal quickly became my favourite drink which is made with Rye, créme de cassis, lemon and Angostura! Yum!😋

Moonshine Patio Bar also serve a tasty buffet style brunch on Sundays worth checking out, but get there early as the line ups can be very long (mostly filled with locals, they know good food!)

Another dinner restaurant worth mentioning is Emmer & Rye by Chef Kevin Fink on the ever popular Rainey St. We chose this restaurant as Chef Fink was named Best Chef of 2016 by Food & Wine.

Dishes are served small plate and dimsum style. Truly farm to table cuisine worth sharing that showcases up to 15 different kinds of grains milled in their kitchen, which demonstrates Chef Fink’s  passion for incorporating local ingredients into his cuisine.

For dessert, I tried the cocoa bean ice cream with red fife cookies. A great twist on a classic with this hearty grain, a nice highlight dessert on my trip.

Further down Rainey Street there are more bars and food trucks that are worth checking out for quick fare ranging from Grilled Cheese to Indian to Greek. It’s a really lively street lined with bars and lounges, similar to 6th Street but with a slightly older vibe (post graduate crowd).

Another cafe that is hip and upcoming is Launderette, which is a converted gas station serving gourmet new American fare such as Fried chicken and Asparagus eggs Benny.  The food was hearty and delicious with another great cocktail list, including the Rose Grapefruit cocktail which was the perfect accompaniment to the hot weather.

Not to be missed and truly Texan is the BBQ scene! While there are plenty of places to choose from,  I had the pleasure of trying La Barbecue and it did not disappoint but be prepared to wait as there are long wait times, but it’s worth it!

Be sure to try the Valrhona 70% chocolate gelato from Gelateria Gemelli next door. It’s the perfect afternoon treat!

Austin was a great experience for a city girl like me. The food scene is amazing and the city is really up and coming. There is new construction everywhere and you can feel the tech boom moving in.

It has a great vibe and I highly recommend visiting it, especially if you’re into the music scene. There are many amazing music festivals that I would love to catch on my next trip, until next time!

A special thank you to Visit The USA and Visit Austin for this opportunity and the hospitable staff at the Hilton Austin for a great stay.

Advertisements

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

image

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
(Makes 12)

Ingredients:

Wet Ingredients:

1 zucchini, shredded
Pinch of fleur de sel (sea salt)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup plain 2% yogurt

Dry Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ground vanilla bean (or extract)
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of fleur de sel (sea salt)

1/2 cup Guittard super cookie chips or any other dark chocolate,  chopped

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F, prepare 12 baking cups or cupcake liners

1. In a large bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and whisk well.

2. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients and mix slowly, careful to not create any air bubbles.

3. Add the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and gently fold into the batter.

4. Measure 1/4 cup of batter into each baking cup for 12.

5. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and let completely cool.

6. Dust with powdered sugar or top with your favourite buttercream.
Enjoy!

image

Aquafaba Meringue:

1/2 cup of strained chickpea water (from a can)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean

1. In a stand mixer, whisk the aquafaba, salt and cream of tartar on medium until frothy.

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and continue mixing on high speed until you reach a meringue consistency, approximately 15 minutes.

3.Add the vanilla and whisk until combined.

4. Pipe or spoon the meringue over the tops of the cooled cupcakes.
Enjoy!

image

Cinnamon Waffles Recipe:

image

Cinnamon Waffles Recipe:

1.5 cups ap flour (or gluten free flour mix)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon powder or cinnamon extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp fleur de sel
2 organic free range eggs
1.25 cups skim milk or almond milk
1/8 cup almond oil or melted butter

Mix it all in a high speed blender and make the waffles accordingly.  Makes approx 6 medium sized waffles or 4 large. Enjoy!

*This batter can also be used for pancakes. Yum! 🙂

Roasted Rhubarb with Nuts + Oats

image

Roasted Rhubarb with Nuts + Oats

Ingredients::

7 stalks of rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/8 tsp fleur de del
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground vanilla bean
1/4 cup water

Topping :

1 granny smith apple, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup Hazelnuts
1/4 cup Pistachios
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup unsalted cold butter, chopped

image

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place the rhubarb in an even layer in a baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.

Sprinkle over the rhubarb and add the chopped apple or arrange along the perimeter as I have done in the photo.

Pour the water around the base.

For the top layer, sprinkle the oats evenly and repeat with the nuts.

Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and dot with the chopped butter.

Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Also great for breakfast with Greek yogurt or as a topping over your favourite ice cream. Enjoy! 🙂

image

image

image

Blueberry and Lemon Muffins

 

image

Lemon + Blueberry Muffins Recipe:

Wet Ingredients:

1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon or 1 clementine
1 tsp lemon extract
Pinch of ground vanilla bean or 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fleur-de-sel (or kosher salt)
Pinch of baking soda
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tin with 9 liners.

1. Whisk wet ingredients well until the batter has doubled in volume.

2. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients and then the blueberries.

3. Divide amongst your baking cup liners and sprinkle the tops with raw sugar.

Bake at 350°F for 20 min.

Let cool + serve or serve warm with a dusting of icing sugar and some clotted cream and jam.

Sweet Honeycrisp Apple Cake

image

Sweet Honeycrisp Apple Cake Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 honeycrisp apple, shredded
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup full fat sour cream

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fleur de sel

1 honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced with a mandolin
Raw sugar for the top

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F

1. In a large bowl, combine the shredded apple, sugar, olive oil and the eggs. Mix vigorously with a metal wire whisk.

2. Add the vanilla and sour cream until incorporated.

3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture into the batter and mix gently until combined and no lumps remain.

5. Pour the batter into a 9″ square cake pan and top with the sliced apples and the raw sugar.

6. Bake for 35 minutes and let it cool completely.

7. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a dallop of cream. Enjoy!

Apple & Castello® Blue Cheese Fritters

image

Friends! My recipe for these delicious Apple and Castello Blue Cheese Fritters is apart of the Melt Recipe Blogger Challenge!  Please help me WIN by clicking the link below and please share this link with your friends and family! Thank You!!!

http://meltrecipechallenge.com/vote.php?rcp=1

http://meltrecipechallenge.com/recipe.php?rcp=1#.VcNYU8tZTqA

image

Apple & Castello® Blue Cheese Fritters

1/3 cup 75 mL all-purpose flour
1 tsp 5 mL baking powder
1 large russet potato, peeled and shredded
1 granny smith apple, shredded
1 shallot, finely diced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp 15 mL fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp 15 mL fresh dill, chopped
2 egg whites, lightly whipped
1/3 cup 75 g Castello® Blue Cheese, crumbled
1 tsp 5 mL sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp 5 mL fresh cracked black pepper, or to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Recipe:

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and gently fold in the Castello® Blue Cheese.

Add 2 inches of vegetable oil to a large skillet. Heat until just smoking, and then reduce to medium low.

Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture into the hot oil and slightly flatten with the back of a spoon.  Cook until golden and flip the fritters to cook the other side. Work in small batches and do not overcrowd the pan.

Drain on paper towels to soak up excess oil.

Pairs well with a cool dip of Greek yogurt and fresh dill.

Makes approximately 20 fritters.

Please Vote! 🙂

image

Financiers (Almond Tea Cakes with Fig Jam)

image

Recently, I was asked to create a recipe on behalf of Bonne Maman using their Fig Jam.  Many of you may know them by their familiar jam jars with the checkered lids.  The first thing that popped into my mind was Financiers. These delicious golden gems pair filled with this delectable jam served with tea. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed eating Bonne Maman jams with my morning baguette and salted butter.  It’s such a treat!  Just one bite transports me back to France.
image

image

image
image

For decades, Bonne Maman has created special preserves following traditional and cherished recipes. Today, Bonne Maman continues shaping the sweetest moments by producing their preserves in France using all natural ingredients with no artificial colorings, no additives or preservatives.
image

The recipe for Financiers is straightforward and requires little fuss or expertise.  As these are petit fours, you can be creative with your choice of moulds or filings.  I have used rectangular financier mounds,  savarin ring mounds as well as mini cupcake liners.  You can also use a greased mini or standard muffin tin for ease. For best results, the batter must be prepared hours in advance or best if left rested overnight in the refrigerator.

image

Recipe: Financiers (Almond Tea Cakes with Fig Jam)

Makes approx 12-15 mini cakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup ground almonds

3/4 cup egg whites (from 6 large eggs)

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 vanilla bean scraped or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 drops of almond extract

1 cup Bonne Maman Fig Jam

Mini baking moulds

Method:

Brown Butter:

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the butter to a gentle boil until it turns a light golden brown. Take it off the heat and set aside to cool. Strain the browned butter into a small bowl.

Preparing the Financier Batter:

  1.  In a large saucepan mix together the sugar, ground almonds and egg whites. Place the pan over low heat and stir for approximately 2 minutes until it’s heated through and the colour has changed slightly to white without overcooking the egg whites.
  2.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, almond extract and the flour. Mix thoroughly and slowly incorporate the brown butter into the batter with a whisk.
  3.  Transfer the batter to a bowl and tightly seal with cling wrap.
  4.  Refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or overnight to allow the batter to rest and the flavors to infuse.

Baking:

  1.  Preheat oven to 410°F and if you are using silicone bake ware, you do not need to butter them. If you are using metal molds or a cupcake tin, butter the insides and dust the interior with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2.  Remove the batter from the fridge and place the contents into a large piping bag or a cookie scoop for even results and ease of preparation.
  3.  Measure 1 cup of the Bonne Maman Fig Jam and set aside until you’re ready to use.
  4. Fill the bottom of each cavity with an equal portion of the Financier batter.
  5. Pipe or scoop a thin even layer of the fig jam followed by a layer of the Financier batter.
  6. Set the molds on a large baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the Financiers are golden brown and cooked through.
  7. On a large sheet of parchment invert the molds and transfer them to a cooling rack.

Serve with your favorite cup of tea and enjoy!
image
image
image
image
image

*Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Bonne Maman. I received a free sample of the product for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

Sweet Ricotta Fritters with Brie Cheese and Cara Cara Oranges

image

Fritters! Who doesn’t love a fresh and piping hot donut, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar on a cold day! Yum!

image

If you have tried a version of fritters made with ricotta, then you’re in for a real decadent. I decided to up the ante and play with the flavours by adding Cara Cara oranges which are currently in season and some velvety Castello Brie cheese.
It’s a sinfully delicious combination, one that will have you and your guests hurrying to finish your meal so that you can share these after dinner treats.
image

The fritters are best served immediately after they’re fried (as is usually the case with homemade fritters).  The addition of the Brie cheese and oranges make them extra soft, they also pair well with gelato or a silky crème anglaise sauce.
image

image

These serve a small crowd as they make approximately 15-18 fritters, I used a small cookie scoop for measure.  If you cannot find Cara Cara Oranges, you can substitute it with a another variety of sweet oranges or clementines. Be careful when working with hot oil and melting cheese, these don’t take very long to cook and you’re looking for a nice golden brown colour and a quick toss in the cinnamon sugar.  Enjoy!
image

Sweet Ricotta Fritters with Brie Cheese and Cara Cara Oranges

45g all purpose flour
26g raw sugar
1 Cara Cara orange, (just the zest + 2 tblsp juice)
145g (3/4 cup) full fat Ricotta cheese
1 extra large egg
40g Castello Brie Cheese, diced (rind removed)
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of baking powder
Pinch of vanilla bean powder or (3 drops of vanilla extract)
Vegetable oil for frying

Cinnamon Sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Method

1. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta and the egg until combined. Slowly add the remaining ingredients and set aside while you get your deep fryer or pot of oil ready.

2. Test the oil by dropping a spoonful of the batter in, it should float to the top and you should see tiny bubbles around it. Fry for approx 2 minutes or until golden.

3.Repeat with the remaining batter using a small cookie scoop measure for the remaing fritters, taking care not to overcrowd the pot. Fry and drain on paper towels and quickly toss into a bowl with sugar/cinnamon and serve immediately. Enjoy!

*Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Castello Cheese. I received a free sample of the product for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

Ferrero Rocher Chocolate Bûche de Noël

Are you looking for the perfect holiday dessert?  Look no more!  I created this exquisite Chocolate Bûche de Noël just in time for the Holiday season!
image
image

image

A very simple and elegant cake to put together and you can make some of the components ahead of time.  From start to finish, if you have all the ingredients on hand; it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to prepare and decorate.
image

A few notes about this cake: I make many cakes for the holiday season and there is no limit to the variations possible.  I like to add rum and/or a shot of espresso to my simple syrup as it goes very nicely with chocolate.  If you don’t like alcohol, leave it out as I have in the recipe below. Also, try to use the best cocoa and chocolate couveture possible as the flavours are very pronounced in this type of cake.
image

I hope you enjoy the recipe and please leave a note in the comments if you try it as I would love to hear from you.
image

Wishing you a safe and happy Holiday Season, Enjoy!

Asima 🙂

Ferrero Rocher Chocolate Bûche de Noël 

Serves 8

Bakers half sheet (13 x 18) lined with parchment paper or silpat

Preheat oven to 400F

Ingredients:

Chocolate Sponge Cake:

3 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

80 grams of all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

30 grams of cocoa

Method:

In a small bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and set aside.

In a stand mixer or large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar on high speed for 8 minutes until tripled in volume and you have a thick ribbon-like texture.  Whisk in the vanilla and then slowly incorporate the flour mixture by folding it into the batter with a spatula with quick movments and becareful not to deflate the batter.

Spread the batter evenly on the lined baking sheet and bake on 400F  for approx 6 minutes.  Allow it to cool while you prepare the buttercream.

Flip the sponge over onto a clean parchment sheet, set aside until you’re ready to assemble.

Chocolate Buttercream Filling:

120 grams or 3/4 cup chocolate couveture melted

115 grams of softened butter

125 grams icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

In a stand mixer or a large bowl, whisk the softened butter and icing sugar for a few minutes until no lumps remain.  Add the vanilla and cooled melted chocolate and whisk until combined. Set aside until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup boiling water

coffee extract or one shot espresso

Method:

In a small pot bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Take it off the heat and allow it to cool slightly.  Add the espresso or coffee extract and set aside.

Chocolate Ganache/Glaze:

1.5 cups of dark chocolate couvture melted

3/4 cup heavy cream (35%)

8 Ferrero Rocher Chocolates or more (to decorate the top)

Method:

In a large heatproof glass bowl boil the heavy cream (microwave on high for 2 minutes) or bring to a gentle boil in a small pot.  Add the chopped chocolate and let it stand for 1 minute.  Whisk until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth and silky.

Assembly:

Working with the sponge cake first leaving it on the parchment. With a pastry brush, gentlely brush the syrup all over the cake until it is absorbed.  Spread the prepared buttercream evenly across the entire sponge.

Starting lenthwise with wet hands, start rolling the cake towards the opposite end keeping it fairly tight, but not so tight that the filling comes out.  Roll it over and ensure that the end seam is underneath.

If you have any syrup left, you can brush the remaining on the top of the cake.

You have two options here.  You can either simply glaze or ganache style frosting and decorate the cake into a log.  Glaze the cake while the chocolate is warm by pouring the warm ganache over the cake using a cake rack with a ladle and allowing it to cool and then frosted it again with an offset spatula as the ganache firms up.

Just before the ganache hardens, adorn the top with whole pieces of Ferrero Rocher Chocolates so that each cake slice will have a piece on top. You can further design the cake however you like with crushed Ferrero Rocher Chocolates on the top or around the bottom.  Dust the set cake with icing sugar (optional).  Enjoy!