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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.

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Raspberry & Nectarine Oat Crumble

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Raspberry & Nectarine Oat Crumble

4 nectarines,  sliced
1.5 cups raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup butter, chopped
1/4 cup Raw sugar

Toppings:

Raw pistachios, sliced
Roasted coconut chips

Preheat oven to 375°F

In a large ovenproof dish, add the nectarines, sugar, ground cinnamon,  and salt. Toss with your hands. Sprinkle the raspberries over top.

Sprinkle the oats overtop, covering the fruit.  Evenly place the chopped butter overtop and then sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.   Uncover and bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes more.

Serve warm with some ice cream or cold with plain greek yogurt.
I like to add sliced pistachios and roasted coconut chips.  Enjoy!

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Blueberry and Lemon Yogurt Cake

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I love blueberries.  I have fond summer memories of eating them by the basket full,  juices dripping down my chin.  So irresistibly sweet and the perfect pairing with fresh squeezed lemonade.  If you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure you know  how much I love berries!

I make a lot of cakes,  but this has got to be one of my absolute favourites, by far.

I made this cake on a whim, craving a not too sweet cake with lemon icing and lots of blueberries. I took this to a bbq and it was a real hit!

It reminds me of a cake my mother used to make for us when we were little, a simple vanilla cake with a fantastic crust and perfect crumb.  I still dream about that cake…!

In this recipe I use cake and pastry  flour, with the addition of some ground almonds for a slightly denser texture.  I just want to note that it’s not absolutely essential to use cake flour or the almonds.  If you only have all purpose flour, it will still work.
Also, this is a very soft and moist cake.  Please allow it to cool completely before icing.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.  It has become a requested favourite!

Blueberry and Lemon Yogurt Cake

2 cups cake flour
*1/4 cup ground almonds (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 extra large eggs (organic + farm fresh, if possible)
1 cup 2% yogurt
Lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter a 9″ round baking pan.

In a small bowl whisk the flour, ground almonds if using,  salt, baking powder, lemon zest and 3/4 cup sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl,  whisk the eggs and 1/2 cup sugar until frothy.
Add the olive oil,  vanilla extract, and yogurt.
Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the wet mix. Do not overmix.
Gently spread the mixture into the pan with a small offset spatula.
Bake for approx 30 min.

Let it completely cool down before flipping onto a rack.  *Because this cake is very soft and moist, I suggest removing it from the pan when cool, onto a parchment lined sheet or directly onto your serving plate before icing. 
Ensure that the cake is cold enough before proceeding with the icing,  otherwise it will be a hot mess!

Icing:

2 cups powdered icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
*Few drops of water (if needed)

1 pint (or more) blueberries

Combine the powdered icing sugar and the lemon juice until it’s slightly runny, but pliable.
*You do not want it to be too runny! If this happens,  simply adjust by adding more powdered icing sugar.

Spread a thin layer over the cooled cake and arrange your blueberries.   You can pile them on and let them arrange themselves or create a nice pattern. (I prefer the tousled look with this type of cake!)
Drizzle the remaining icing sugar over the berries, top with the lemon zest and refrigerate until set.

Enjoy!

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Skillet Fried Scalloped Potatoes

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Tired of the same potato dish? I made this fantastic side dish to go with our filet mignon steak dinner and served it alongside a lovely salad.
It’s a very easy, no fuss recipe and you can prepare this ahead of time and finish it off in the oven just before serving. 
Leftovers make a fantastic brunch ~ top with a poached or fried egg with a lemon hollandaise sauce. Perfection! 🙂

Skillet Fried Scalloped Potatoes:

1 lb baby potatoes,  rinsed and thinly sliced
1 large sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
3 tblsp olive oil or clarified butter
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp herbs de Provence
kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup Beemster cheese, shredded
(Comté or Gruyère also work well)

Thinly sliced your potatoes and onion using a mandolin, if you have one.
Toss them into a large bowl and add the salt, pepper, herbs de Provence,  1 tblsp olive oil,  and 3 sprigs of thyme (remove the stems).
Mix until the potatoes are coated.

Heat up a large, heavy saucepan (a deep one if you have), add 2 tblsp of olive oil.
Add the potatoes in an even layer and cook on high heat for approximately 3 minutes. Reduce the heat setting to low and cover with a lid.   Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Check occasionally to ensure the bottom is not burning.

*At this point you can turn off the heat and set the pan aside if you want to finish it off before serving.

Remove the lid and bring the temperature back up on the highest setting to allow the moisture to evaporate and create a nice golden crust on the bottom,  about 3 minutes.  But you will need to continue checking to ensure they do not burn.
Take the potatoes off the heat and sprinkle the shredded cheese over top and the rest of the thyme.
Set it under a broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and a golden top crust is formed. Serve immediately.

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Heirloom Frittata with Curried Potatoes

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Heirloom Frittata with Curried Potatoes:

3 large farm fresh eggs
1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
1 tsp butter
1/4 cup milk
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Fresh herbs (parsley& thyme)
6-8 Baby heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup Curried Potatoes (or other leftover curry)
1/3 cup Beemster cheese, shredded (can substitute with sharp cheddar)

Curried Potatoes Recipe:

10 small new potatoes, sliced
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1″ knob ginger
1/2 tsp each – Salt, pepper, cumin, sugar, coriander, tumeric
1 tsp red chili powder
3 tsp tomato paste
1 green chili sliced (optional)

In a small pot, fry the onions until golden, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the spices and the tomato paste and fry 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add a few tblsp of water and cover. Cook on medium heat for about 20 min or until potatoes are cooked. Stir occasionally to ensure that potatoes don’t burn.

Frittata:

In a large ovenproof skillet, melt the butter and sautée the onions until softened (not browned).  Add a few sliced tomatoes and sautée 1 more minute.  Add the curried potatoes until warmed through and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, spices, and some fresh herbs.

Return the skillet over medium heat and pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining sliced tomatoes on top.

Cook until the bottom is lightly browned and the top is starting to set. Sprinkle the cheese over top.

Turn your broiler on to 550°F and set the skillet directly under.
Cook 5-7 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the top of the frittata is cooked through. 
*keep an eye on it so it does not burn
Sprinkle the top with fresh herbs and serve with your favourite bread or an heirloom salad. Enjoy! 🙂
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Sweet and Spicy Salmon (two ways)

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Salmon two ways
6 servings

Le creuset dishes, sesame oil

Salt
Pepper
1 tsp Mustard seeds
3 tblsp Maple syrup
1 tsp Raw sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried parsley
Dash of red chili powder
1/3 cup Soy sauce
Black Sesame seeds (optional, for the top)

{1-2 tblsp Sambal oelek (red chili paste)} * Add This To half The Marinade

This recipe works best with salmon fillets due to the complementary flavours in this marinade; but feel free to try it with other kinds of fish.

I serve this with roasted vegetables on the side.

1. Clean and dry the fish fillets and place in a shallow bowl or plate
2. Combine all the ingredients and coat the fish with the marinade. Set aside for about 25 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

3. Preheat oven to 470F

4. Transfer to a baking dish and place a little sesame oil to coat the bottom. Lay fish in a single layer and pour over remaining marinade.

5.Roast the fish for approx 15 (do not overlook) and put under broil for a few minutes to slightly char the top.

6. Alternatively, you can bbq it.

Enjoy!

Summer Zucchini Tart

image Recipe: 1 sheet of puff pastry,  thawed 1 large zucchini,  sliced into thin ribbons with a mandolin 100 grams sheep’s feta Fleur de sel (or kosher salt) Fresh black pepper Herbs de Provence Olive oil Fresh rosemary sprigs Preheat oven to 425° F Line a baking sheet with parchment Roll out your puff pastry and sprinkle some feta and drizzle a little bit of olive oil. Place an even layer of zucchini ribbons over the pastry and  then sprinkle with salt, pepper,  herbs de Provence, olive oil,  and feta. Repeat layers with remaining zucchini. Top with fresh rosemary sprigs and bake for approx 25 min or until golden brown and the pastry has risen. Slice when slightly cooled. Great as a main or as an appetizer. Enjoy! 20140724-143555-52555255.jpg

Garlic Scapes and Eggs

Garlic Scapes and Eggs

Serves 2

1 tblsp olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 Garlic Scapes, chopped
2 small green chilies, thinly sliced
2-4 eggs
Aged Gouda (sharp, aged 100 days preferably)

Habanero tortillas (or plain)
Fresh thyme
Salt, pepper to taste

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the shallots.  Sautée until softened, then add the chilies and the garlic scapes. Cook for 3 minutes and then crack the eggs over top.
Cook for 2 minutes until the whites are set, take it off the heat and top with the Gouda cheese.
Broil for approx 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and slightly crispy.  Take care not to overlook the eggs.  (The yolks should still be very soft, but the whites completely set).

Remove and slide over tortillas, top with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Enjoy! 🙂

Chocolate Avocado Tarts with a Cashew and Date Crust (RAW)

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Chocolate Avocado Tarts with a Cashew and Date Crust (RAW)

4-6 small tart shells (with removable bottoms) or 1 – 8″ springform pan
(Line the bottoms with parchment for easy removal)

tart base:

1 cup raw cashews
5-6 medjool dates, pitted OR 8-10 small dates
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse.
Spoon nut mixture into tart bases evenly and level with back of a spoon.
Put the tart shells in the freezer to set whilst preparing the filling.

Filling:

1 ripe avocado
1/3 cup dark cocoa
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 tsp fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
5 tblsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or the seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Transfer to a piping bag with a decorative tip and fill the tarts or spoon into the tart shells and level off the tops. Put them back in th
e freezer until ready to serve.

*remove the tarts from the freezer 5-10 min before serving