Archive | September, 2009

Dining Out Sustainably: Primizie Osteria

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UPDATE: Primizie has closed their restaurant but continues to offer catering services.

The first time I ate at Primizie Osteria, I wasn’t thinking about sustainable food. I just wanted to have lunch with a friend at a place that had parking, good food and wasn’t too expensive. Primizie had just opened and seemed to fit the bill.

If I knew any Italian, I would have known that even their name hints at their commitment to local, fresh food. According to their website, the translation for “primizie” is the first fruits and vegetables harvested in the season. In addition to using local ingredients whenever possible, Primizie also offers a local menu that changes daily. I appreciate that they list the purveyors and farms next to each dish so that you know where the food comes from rather than having to guess.
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I have had lunch at Primizie a number of times and recently decided to visit for brunch. I’m never quite sure what to expect from a brunch menu, but I was wowed. I had a very difficult time picking, but finally decided on the Brown Butter Gnocchi Hash and Eggs as I am a total sucker for an egg on top of most things. My friend Paige ordered the Peach Blueberry Crepes and we decided to split a “fruit salad.”
First of all, this is no fruit salad. It was a huge plate of fruit drizzled with honey and sprinkled with mint and we could barely finish it. The women at the table next to us were actually envious and ordered their own even though they were almost done. While not all the fruit was local (note the grapes), I was told that the peaches and melons were from local farms.
The gnocchi and the crepes were equally delightful. I do not like sweet things for breakfast, but Paige insisted that I try her crepes, and I was glad I listened to her. They did not add much, if any, extra sugar to the fruit sauce for the crepes so you tasted the sweetness and tartness from the fruit and it was not the sugar bomb I was expecting.
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As for the gnocchi hash, if you follow me on twitter you already

know that I wanted to lick my plate – seriously wanted to lick my plate. I managed to restrain myself but just barely. My favorite part of this dish was that the eggs were perfectly cooked; when I cut into them the yolk ran everywhere. It was beautiful.
I left brunch that day pledging to come to Primizie more often. I was reminded of that pledge this week at a preview reception for La Dolce Vita, a fundraiser benefiting the Austin Museum of Art. Primizie is one of the featured restaurants at the event and provided the food for the reception. The food was delicious and Primizie demonstrated once again that they are not only a good restaurant, but they are a good steward of our community (they also support the Sustainable Food Center and participated in their annual Farm to Plate dinner.)

093009_3There is something magical happening on the East 11th corridor. Located just a few blocks east of I-35, Primizie has become the cornerstone restaurant for that revitalized development. And, it has good company. On less than a mile stretch you can dig into delicious locally-sourced food to meet most palates and budgets. Whether you are looking for bistro fare at Blue Dahlia, a pizza topped with local ingredients from East Side Pies or a delicious Italian meal from Primizie Osteria, head to East 11th if you are interested in dining out sustainably.
See you on East 11th and definitely at Primizie. Please avert your eyes if I’m licking my bowl.
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Exploring the Pearl: Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio

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092609_1My friends from out of town have started to use farmers markets as a bargaining chip for me to come see them. The conversation usually goes something like this, “If you come see us, we can go to the market on Saturday.”

This, of course, is a very effective strategy – my friends are smart – and recently resulted in a weekend visit to my friends Kate & Trey in San Antonio. Of course, them being great friends and having two precious boys who are big fun to hang out with didn’t hurt either.
092609_2I had been following the progress of the Pearl Farmers Market since it opened earlier this year and heard great things. The wise folks in San Antonio have re-purposed the old Pearl Brewery as a retail & office space with plenty of room for special events. With the Texas Farm to Table Cafe, a sustainably focused restaurant, already making their home around the corner, I guess it seemed logical to put a farmers market here.
092609_3The market is still growing, but definitely had enough vendors to fill your vegetable crisper and your meat drawer (lamb, goat, beef & bison.) I was delighted to see some familiar vendors like Thunder Heart Bison and loved the vibe of the market. There is a definite buzz to the place.

092609_4One of the true treasures at this market is the Chef’s Table by MesAlegre (means very happy) and Chef Johnny Hernandez. For $20/adult you get to enjoy what looked and smelled like a truly delicious meal from the local farm products. Yum. Unfortunately, with a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old in tow, we did not get to partake this time, but I am definitely coming back. It is recommended that you buy your tickets online as the table frequently sells out.

When we were visiting, there were smokers and grills set up on the corners of the market for the barbecue cook-off to be held the next day. Their presence reinforced how much of a community space the Pearl has become. The Pearl is just that – a jewel in the center of San Antonio that is definitely worth a visit.
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Nature’s Happy Accident: Pusghetti Squash

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092209_1I always get excited when I see something new at the market. Recently, a friend and I were wandering stalls and I did a double-take. I saw this odd squash that sort of looked like spaghetti squash, but it was the color of pumpkin. I had to find out what it was.
The folks from Winfield Farms told us that they had planted spaghetti squash and pumpkins near each other the previous year. Apparently, the bees had been busy and when they planted the seeds this year, up came what she calls Pusghetti squash.
Like a pumpkin, the skin has a more orange hue than spaghetti squash, the seeds are large like pumpkin seeds and the flesh is not a stringy when you cook it as a regular spaghetti squash. The pumpkin also gives the meat a richer flavor.
I’m a big fan of using spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta and decided to make a mushroom
and arugula pusghetti squash “pasta.” My one mistake was not considering the seeds and keeping them for roasting later. I got so focused on cleaning the squash, I didn’t think about saving the seeds until it was too late. Rookie mistake.
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I believe that Winfield has finished harvesting their pusghetti squash, so feel free to substitute
with regular spaghetti squash. If you do find a pugshetti squash at the market, nab it fast.
In this dish, the peppery arugula really adds some punch to the richness of the mushrooms. The contrast in flavors and textures between the three vegetables is terrific.
Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms & Arugula
1 spaghetti squash (or pusghetti squash)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 lb of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used crimini or baby
bellas, but you can substitute with your favorite variety)
1/2 cup of white wine
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 bunch of arugula
Salt to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds. If you are using a pusghetti squash save the seeds for roasting. If you are using a regular spaghetti squash, toss the seeds.
Place about a 1/2 inch of water in a pan and place the squash cut-side (face) down in the pan. Bake the squash in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until tender. As the pusghetti squash is more dense than a regular spaghetti squash, I had to test mine a few times and roasted for about 35 minutes.
Remove the squash from the oven and set it to the side to cool so that you can handle it.
092209_4In the meantime, heat oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic. If you’d like a richer flavor, substitute butter for the olive oil. Add the wine. After a few minutes of cooking, add the thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender. At the end, add the arugula and cook for about a minute just to wilt it. Add salt to taste.
Using a fork, scrape the meat out of the squash and into the bowl. It will look a bit like pasta as you scrape it. Top with the mushroom and arugula mixture. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.
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Dining Out Sustainably: Olivia

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One of the things I love most about my friends is that they encourage and support my food nerdiness. Let’s be honest; I transitioned past “foodie” a while ago.

My friend Beverly has always been one of my great culinary influences and indulgers. She continued her enabling this year on my birthday by giving me a gift certificate to one of Austin’s finest new restaurants, Olivia. Thanks Bev!

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I was excited because I had heard great things about Olivia, its sustainable focus and delicious food. I also heard that it was a bit on the pricey side (after all, you pay for quality), which is why I hadn’t visited yet. I couldn’t wait to finally explore this gem. We opted for brunch, and I couldn’t make the reservation fast enough.
Olivia is enchanting. From the minute I parked, I was drawn to the sophisticated, but casual architecture and the garden patio. I wanted to sit outside with an iced tea and idle away the afternoon, but there was brunch to be had.
091009_2One of my favorite things about Olivia is their commitment to using local products whenever possible, which they have put in writing on their menu with a list of the local farms with whom they work. Of course, as one of my friends always points out, using local products isn’t enough; the food has to be good. Fortunately, as the sign out front claims, it was.

My brunch companion and I ordered Olivia benedict, eggs florentine, a side of house-cured bacon and the smoked gouda grits. The food was delicious and I appreciated the creativity of the dishes. I never would have thought to put braised short ribs with eggs benedict, but it was a great combination – the spices of the short ribs with the hollandaise was a pleasant surprise.

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Olivia is also making things in house like curing their own bacon and salmon and making their own granola and sausage. I always
appreciate when a restaurant is willing to deidcate time to put their special touch on their food – I know that I’m getting something unique and special.
It was clear to me why they were picked as one of Bon Appetit’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America. Olivia is creating elegant, thoughtful food with an Austin casualness. I look forward to visiting again and enjoy more good, sustainable food.
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