Friday, February 26, 2010


I've been following Closet Cooking's creative use of homemade kimchi in omelettes, quesadillas, pizzas, dips, and tacos, and I've been craving anything with kimchi since.  Then I read a timely post by Tasty Touring about the Korean-Mexican tacos served by the moving trailer, Chi'lanro.  Check their website for their location schedule.

I never thought about the possibilities of fusing Korean and Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines, but I now realize that they share some common ground--spicy, tangy flavors and grilled marinated meats.  The two came together deliciously at Chi'lantro.  I ordered a spicy chicken taco and a beef taco.  At first I thought that the tacos were going to rely on the kimchi to make the fusion happen, but the beef was actually Korean marinated BBQ and not fajita beef, which made the taco a fusion success.  The chicken was good, but not as memorable. 

Beef Bulgogi Taco and Spicy Chicken Taco with Chi'lantro Salsa, Julienne Lettuce in Korean Chili Soy Vinaigrette, Cilantro, Onion, Green Onions, Sesame Seeds, and Lime Juice

I got a side of spicy fries.  The kimchi aioli was a hit.

Spicy Fries with Kimchi Aioli

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tacos at Cabo Bob's Burritos

Cabo Bob's Burritos

I avoided going to Cabo Bob's for a long time being a loyal Freebird's customer, but its location and variety lured me in. 

I was most excited about the different flavored tortillas made-to-order in front of you.  I checked out their menu online before going, and I was glad I took dorky notes on the 3 tacos I wanted.  It turned out I wasn't the only person in line with ingredient notes! 

Ancho Chili, Smokey Cheddar, and Cilantro Tomatillo Tortillas

Here's what I ordered:

1) Chicken fajita with lettuce, cheese, and chipotle crema on ancho chili tortilla

2) Fish with chipotle crema, mango and cucumber pico, and lettuce on cilantro tomatillo tortilla

3) Beef fajita with pico de gallo, cheese, and ancho rancho on smokey cheddar tortilla

The veggie ingredients were fresh and the mango cucumber pico won me over.  However, the only meat filling worth ordering is the beef fajita.  The chicken was dry and overcooked, and the fried fish tasted like school cafeteria fish sticks.  I had the shredded pork once before this visit, and it was bland.  The beef on the other hand was tender and flavorful. 

Next time I come here, I'll order beef for all three tacos and continue experimenting with topping and tortilla flavors!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Portobello Mushroom and Baby Spinach

Portobello Mushroom and Baby Spinach in Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar

This recipe is dedicated to my brother, a strong advocate for cooking without oil. 

3 medium sized portobello mushrooms sliced
1 bag of baby spinach
whatever kind of balsamic vinegar you have on hand
garlic powder
salt & pepper
some mushroom stock (I used the liquid excreted by the mushrooms in the steaming process)

Steam the mushrooms over a pot of boiling water until the mushrooms become tender.  Take them out and set aside.  Pour some of the mushroom liquid (1/4 cup?) from the steam pot into a pan on medium heat.  When the liquid starts to move away from the center of the pan, throw in the spinach.  As the spinach starts to wilt, season with a little bit of salt and garlic powder and add the mushrooms.  Stir and add balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. 

This dish is quick to make, healthy, delicious, and pretty.  It's also versatile.  You can stir in some cooked pasta and top it off with some grated cheese or pair it with steamed rice or with roasted chicken or baked/steamed fish or with less healthy-duck, steak, or as a hamburger topping.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rio's Brazilian Cafe Blogger Tasting Night

My first experience with Brazilian cuisine was at Fogo de Chão in Houston long before they opened one in Austin.  I was torturously hooked: addictive meat and salad bar galore, but inconveniently expensive.  Being a poor college and now graduate student, I've only eaten once at Estancia Churrascaria and haven't had a chance to visit Fogo de Chão in Austin. 

I managed to satisfy my Brazilian cravings without the amazing meats by buying packets of Yoki brand pão de queijo mixes at Ana Brasil.

I wrongly assumed that churrascaria and pão de queijo sum up Brazilian cuisine.  Rio's Brazilian Cafe introduced me to a whole other side of Brazilian food, and I willingly devoured everyting they had to offer.

Rio's Brazilian Cafe

Chef Elias Martins and partner Ben Googins started Rio's Brazilian in 2006 making all-natural Brazilian packaged products from their cafe kitchen.  You can find Rio's Brazilian products at Whole Foods, Spec's, Ana Brasil, or on the internet at, but you can also visit their cafe in East Austin to experience a cozy, home-style breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

I went beverage crazy and sampled mango and passion fruit juices as well as Guarana, a Brazilian soda.  I recommend all of them, though that's not surprising since I love all kinds of tropical fruit juices.  The Guarana stands out because you won't find it at many restaurants (though I'm sure you can buy it at Ana Brasil).  It has a lightly sweetened taste without the slimey corn syrup after-taste of American sodas.

(starting from left) Mango Juice, Passion Fruit Juice, and Guarana

What truly sets Rio's Brazilian Cafe apart from other Brazilian venues is its specialization in Brazilian savory pastries.  I tried the Chicken Risoli, Beef & Corn Pastel, and the Brazilian Breakfast Pocket.  The fillings ingredients were fresh and well-seasoned and the pastry was flakey and not at all greasy.  Being able to see and recognize all the filling ingredients is a testament to the quality of food you're getting.  You can still decipher all the filling ingredients from the shaky photos I took!
Chicken Risoli, Beef & Corn Pastel, and the Brazilian Breakfast Pocket

Beef & Corn Pastel, and the Brazilian Breakfast Pocket

Chicken Risoli

I especially liked the beef and corn pastel and the breakfast pocket.  The breakfast pocket was very well balanced.  Usually breakfast tacos or sandwiches have disproportionate amounts of egg (because it's cheaper and more filling), which makes me sick in the stomach.  I was pleasantly surprised that the Brazilian breakfast pocket made the cheese and the bacon the standout ingredients.

If you crave pão de queijo, Rio's offers original as well as basil and roasted red pepper ones!!!!  When I saw this on the menu, I couldn't wait to stuff myself with the flavored pãos!  Rio's sells them frozen, and I bought basil and red peppers that very night.  They're pillowy chewy, cheesy, and savory.

pão de queijo

Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pãos de Queijo

Rio's offers 3 desserts.  I tried the Pudim de Leite, a Brazilian flan, and it was dense and creamy.  I'm defintely coming back to try the chocolate and passion fruit mousse and the sweet banana and cinnamon pastry! 

Pudim de Leite; Big Mug of Brazilian Coffee with Cream

I'm delighted that I can finally afford to eat Brazilian in Austin!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Franklin's BBQ Trailer

Franklin's BBQ

I decided to cheer myself up after a dreary day at work and before my afternoon and late evening classes with BBQ from Franklin's

Franklin's Menu

I ordered the 2 meats combo: sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, and cole slaw.  Wow.  That sausage was the best BBQ sausage I EVER had.  It beats even the highly esteemed Salt Lick's!  The sausage was juicy, tightly packed in the casing, and snapped with each bite.  However, the ribs did not impress.  The rub fell flat on the surface and the seasoning did not penetrate the meat.  I had to rely on the espresso and hot BBQ sauces.  The sauces were too vinegary.  I wanted the espresso to have more coffee bean flavor and less tartness. 

2 meats combo: sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, and cole slaw

I'll have to try the beef brisket next time and of course help myself to another sausage.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whip In

Whip In Convenience Store

I've been curious about Whip In since it first opened next to I-35 a while back.  A convenience store that serves Gujarati style Indian food and doubles as a live music venue?  It's stores like this that makes Austin so distinctly Austin.

Table in front of the stage

I walked in at noon not knowing what the heck I wanted for lunch.  I ended up ordering a combo basmati rice bowl of cauliflower and curry chicken, a homemade naan, and Indian iced tea. 

Cauliflower and Curry Chicken & Potatotes on Basmati Rice with Naan

I didn't feel like a total pig until the enormous bowl was set in front of me.  The curry was medium spicy and rich in flavor.  Combined with the fragrant basmati rice, I was in curry heaven.  Shu, if you're reading this, Whip In is definitely a place that you should try.  This bowl of steaming rice and curry warmed me right up on a cold, damp and gray day. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Little City Cafe

I've been trying to ween myself away from buying coffee and survive on tea or coffee from home.  That explains why I managed to work right next door to Little City Cafe without purchasing one cup of joe. 

Little City Cafe

One of the managers noted that they make a killer wasabi beef baguette sandwich.  That was enough to tempt me into their door. 

I decided to order a smoked salmon with pesto cream cheese on a ciabatta instead, and it was delicous.  However, it's definitely something we can all make at home.  And I guess that goes with all sandwiches.  One reasoning may be that it saves you time from making a sandwich yourself; it was not the case here.  The wait for this sandwich was ridiculous.  Apparently Little City is known for its inefficiency, but that hasn't diverted its clientele.  I would suggest calling in your order at least 10 minutes ahead, but they're prone to mess up phone orders.

Smoked Salmon with pesto cream cheese ciabatta sandwich with chips and Little City's salsa