During our three-month stay in Austin Texas we broke bread very often with Caroline, T, Wyatt, and Ellis. At least once a week we prepared an all-vegan dinner and brought it over piping hot to share with them, giving the two work-from-home parents a break they appreciated. Richard became a master of vegan cuisine, concocting new ways to use non-meat, non-dairy ingredients to make a vegetarian paella, black bean enchiladas, cactus paddle tostadas, and everyone's favorite, roasted eggplant and portobello mushroom farfalle pasta bake. Every so often Richard baked up a batch of toasted oatmeal coconut currant cookies that T and Caroline prized for their afternoon coffee breaks.
Our biggest triumphs were when Caroline and Richard teamed up for an all-vegan Thanksgiving dinner - it's really all about the sides anyway - and when everyone pitched in for an all-vegetarian Asian Feast at New Year's Eve. The hits that night were the vegetarian Masaman Curry, and the Curry Triangles made with "Beyond Meat" - everyone had a hand in rolling them up. T put his packaging engineering skills to work on the scallion pancakes. Angela - Caroline's friend visiting from Richmond, kept things flowing with imaginative cocktails.
Our AirBnB hosts and neighbors, Rebecca and Robert, became fast friends and we shared three socially distant patio dinners with them. For our first one Richard made up some of his favorite Spanish Tapas: Pimientos de Padrón, Gambas al Ajillo, Catalan Tomato Bread, and Papas Bravas. For the second, we enjoyed a Velencian Paella. On the third, close to departure from Austin, Robert treated us to his sous-vide BBQ Brisket with yummy sides.
But our stay in Austin wasn't limited to homemade meals. The mild Austin weather made outdoor restaurant dining a safe pleasure. Caroline introduced us to some of her favorite spots, and we found a few of our own. Here are the highlights.
Our very first restaurant meal was at funky little diner that we stumbled upon during our exploration of our neighborhood. The Counter Cafe, close to the University of Texas, serves up fresh, local, organic food that puts a twist on traditional diner fare. Where else would you find Quail & Eggs and Crabcake Benedict? We returned to this place at least 3 more times, for breakfast, brunch, and lunch and we were always delighted.
Caroline introduced us to Tiny Boxwoods - a creative and slightly upscale restaurant that we enjoyed for two special occasions; the four of us for Nancy's birthday on November 11, and a romantic anniversary dinner for two on December 10. The wine list, the service, and mostly the food were exceptional. Next to the restaurant is a bakery - Tiny's Milk & Cookies - famous for their chocolate chip delights that we enjoyed for dessert.
Nancy can't resist a good biscuit, and we found some of the best at Biscuits & Groovy, a permanently situated food truck in the Hyde Park district near Caroline & T's AirBnB home. All of the menu items are named for disco stars - "The Village", "The Donna", "The Gloria" - but hands down our favorite was "The M. C. Hammer" - a freshly-baked buttermilk biscuit served open-faced with two scrambled eggs on one side and your choice of maple bacon or sausage on the other, all topped with Colby jack cheese and chopped scallions. YUM!
Being from Massachusetts. we have had our pick of great seafood restaurants. But we've also lost touch with the concept of "Happy Hour" where drinks and appetizers are discounted to bring you in early. Well, the happy hour is alive and well in Texas and so, apparently, is good seafood. From a Google search of "happy hour near me", Nancy found Mongers Market & Kitchen a short walk from our AirBnB where we had a lovely light evening meal. We enjoyed a nice glass of wine with a tasty fish dip served with house-made potato chips, and shishito peppers sautéed with fish sauce, shallots, peanuts, and basil. We followed that up with a plate of amazing "crab fingers" - meaty claw pieces sautéed in a sauce you just needed to sop up with the french bread slices that thankfully came along with them.
Caroline took us to another of her favorites, a neighborhood Vietnamese café and French bakery in South Austin called the Elizabeth Street Café. We enjoyed vegetarian rolls on the patio on a warm evening. The sauces were delicious.
We need to be honest....while we enjoyed our healthy vegan meals with Caroline and T, there were times when we had to be all-out carnivores and enjoy some smoky Texas barbecue. Across the street from our local supermarket was the reliable Texas chain Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q. Their smoked meats were tender and juicy and the sauce was tangy, but the sides were rather uninspired. Their deluxe hand cleaning stations are worth the visit.
On our second trip to Austin we tried Terry Black's BBQ, an Austin legend with a second location in Dallas. Here, the meats were also tender and juicy, the rub was outstanding, and the sides decidedly better, but Nancy wasn't wild about the sauces. We're sure there are more Texas BBQ options to try...we'll get back to you on that!
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Nancy McCabe &