Archive | December, 2010

Still shopping? Scoop up these restaurant gift certificates

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Ok people, it’s T minus 5 days until Christmas.  If you aren’t done shopping yet, I have one last suggestion to help you finish up that list – start buying restaurant gift certificates.

A gift of a lovely meal at one of Austin’s restaurant gems is always appreciated and can make an otherwise unaffordable restaurant fit into anyone’s budget.  If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll ask you to join them.

Austin has a plethora of great restaurants to pick from, but if I was doing the shopping, I’d want to share one of my favorites. Some are fancy, some are casual, but all are terrific.

The Backspace, new pizzeria from Parkside
Blue Dahlia Bistro  (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Cipollina (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Fino (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Foreign & Domestic Food & Drink (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Olivia (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Parkside (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Thai Fresh (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Trio (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Uchiko (Austin Farm to Table Profile)
Vino Vino

What are you waiting for?  Go finish your shopping so you can relax and enjoy the holidays.


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A cookbook in every stocking: more holiday gift ideas

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Phew!  I emerged from last week’s Edible Austin Eat Local Week with some great new finds (post to come soon) and a little worn out, only to realize that I hadn’t finished my holiday shopping.  Hopefully, you don’t find yourself in the same predicament, but just in case, I raided my bookshelf and thought I’d share some of my great cookbook finds from the year.

If you have a dessert lover in your life, you can’t go wrong with Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts.  It is obvious from the first page that Deborah loves fruit and celebrates everything about it.   The photos and stories are lovely and the recipes are fantastic.

Edible: A Celebration of Local FoodsAnother favorite from the year is the beautiful Edible Communities book, Edible: A Celebration of Local Food.  Part travel guide, part cookbook, I enjoyed reading the book from cover to cover.  Learning of the local food adventures across North America has never been quite so fascinating.  I felt like I was on a long journey as I read each story.

In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You LoveI had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Clark, columnist from the New York Times, during the Texas Book Festival this year.  Melissa is delightful, but her cookbook, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite, is even more so.  Her recipes are straightforward in a way that only a mom could understand the importance of and yet are packed with flavor.  From Cheater Pork & Ginger Dumplings to an easy recipe for Bacon & Pecan Pralines, you will not get bored with this book.  It’s worth buying just for the Better Fried chapter.

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily

The last two books I received this year focus on our food traditions and heritage.  The first, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, features interviews and recipes from twelve grandmothers in the different regions of Italy.  Jessica Theroux lovingly recounts her visits and I felt as if I was sitting in the kitchen of each woman as I read their stories.  It made me want to be Italian – or at least eat that way.

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in FranceFinally, I had the pleasure to visit with Joan Nathan during her recent visit to Austin and have thoroughly enjoyed her cookbook Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.  My stepmother is Jewish and I have attended more than a few family passover dinners, bar and bat mitzvahs.  Trust me that nothing as lovely as the Friday Night Algerian Chicken Fricassee or Moroccan Braised Lamb with Couscous graced our tables.  Joan weaves stories of French food artisans and Jewish traditions with mouth-watering recipes that anyone of any faith will truly enjoy.

I hope someone on your nice list will enjoy one of these selections.  Please chime in with your favorites from 2010 as well.  The more the merrier!

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Let the shopping begin: Eat Local Week Better Bites of Austin Holiday Fair

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I spent Saturday listening to holiday music and singing Jingle Bells at the top of my lungs with my niece and nephew as we dashed from farm to farm during the Eat Local Weekfarm tour.  All the caroling kick started my holiday spirit and now I’m ready to finish shopping.

My first stop is this Wednesday December 8th at the Eat Local Week Better Bites of Austin Holiday Fair from 4-8 pm at City Hall.  Better Bites is a trade association for makes of local, all natural food and beverages and their members offer up some of the best foodie finds in town.
Whether you need salsas (Austin Slow Burn, Kelly Jo & Co., Kala’s Kuisine), chocolate (Arte y Chocolate, Delysia Chocolatier, Shakti Chocolate),  coffee (Casa Brazil), nuts (Austinuts) or popcorn (Reel Popcorn), Better Bites has a quality vendor for you.  I will definitely be stopping by Jake’s Granola and Hope+Glory to fill out some of my holiday baskets.   If you don’t want to put your own baskets together, you can also bid on pre-made baskets.
I’ll finish my gift basket shopping at the farmers markets this weekend.  Many of the vendors offer terrific products that work perfectly in baskets, but I’m particularly partial to Confituras who makes jams, jellies and conserves.  I haven’t eaten breakfast without one of Stephanie’s terrific products in over three months.  You can find her at the Downtown and Barton Creek Farmers Markets.  Yum!
If you’d rather let your friends and family pick their own gifts, you can still give them terrific products from local artisans with gift cards.  One of the best gifts I received this year was a gift card to Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.  John and Kendall Antonelli carefully hand select unique cheeses, charcuterie, and all the necessary condiments and beverages to accompany them.  They even keep a record of the items you buy so that you can revisit that beautiful blue cheese you bought a few months ago that you just can’t remember the name of.
Savory Spice Shop, one of my new favorite foodie spots,  has everything an adventuresome home cook needs to wow their friends and family.   The pre-mixed spice blends are terrific and include dips and dressings.  On Wednesday December 8, Savory will be donating 10% of their sales to the Sustainable Food Center so you get great gifts and help a wonderful nonprofit.
And on that note, as you check items off your shopping list, I hope you’ll leave some room in your budget for those who aren’t as fortunate as you and yours.  Please consider making room in your budget for you favorite area nonprofit.  Many have special holiday campaigns to serve their clients and every little bit helps. The Capital Area Food Bank, the Sustainable Food Center and Urban Roots are on my personal gift list and I hope you’ll consider them for yours as well.
Start humming Jingle Bells and grab your list – it’s time to start shopping.   See you at Eat Local Week!
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Drink local coffee (or suffer the surliness)

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Photo from Thunderbird Coffee

In the morning, I hover somewhere between useless and surly before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.  I’ve tried to fight if for a while, but have found it is better for everyone if I just feed the beast and make sure the coffee is terrific.

I was delighted when Austin companies started roasting their own beans, and now Austin is the home to several truly terrific roasters.   My two favorite roasters in town are Cuvee Coffee and Casa Brasil.  You can find them both at various locations around town.  I get my Cuvee coffee at Thunderbird Coffee, one of my favorite spots in town, and you can find Casa Brasil at Whole Foods, Spider House Cafe and at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market.

You can experiment with both of these roasters and more at Edible Austin’s Drink Local Coffee Fest on Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm at Cuvee Coffee.  If you are a coffee aficionado, it’s worth the drive to Spicewood to savor the rich, dark coffee flavors.

See you at Eat Local Week!

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