Monday, January 31, 2011

Austin Day Trip: Dinner - Odd Duck Farm to Trailer & Gourdoughs

dBest for last.  Naturally.

Odd Duck Farm to Trailer is widely recognized for its delectable gourmet dishes prepared with 100% locally sourced ingredients.  It is located in a gravel pit with a smattering of picnic tables and a trailer neighbor called Gourdough's.  Together, they make the perfect dinner pair.

At night, the glow from the trailers and the strings of lights illuminate the eating area and create a casual, intimate atmosphere with amazingly good food.
Odd Duck's menu changes daily - everything is good, so just arrive early as food can run out by 9:30 p!

The most popular item at Odd Duck has to be their Richardson Farms pork belly sliders with aioli, tomato and arugula

Our pork slider was 95% fat, marinated, thick and velvety smooth.  Serious pork swoonage.

Polenta + roasted broccoli + poached duck egg + fresh grated parmesan cheese

Duck eggs are like 80% golden, indulgent yolk.  The mild creaminess of the thick yolk contrasted nicely with the tangy but smooth polenta.

Beautiful roasted florets. 

Roasted quail with sweet potato.  Some of the best quail I've had (besides my mama's, of course!) - most likely made with a deeply flavorful marinade; the result, a deliciously juicy little bird.

For dessert, Gourdough's is a must.  The gleaming silver trailer is a clear beacon for decadent desserts.

The menu cites many colorfully named doughnuts - all fat and appealing.

It was hard to limit ourselves to just one each, but we managed to make a decision after staring at the menu the entire time we enjoyed our Odd Duck dinner.  The first doughnut selected was the Blackout.  The Blackout features brownie batter, fudge icing, chocolate covered brownies, Oreos and chocolate chips.  (Oh, is that it?) 

The doughnuts are made fresh to order, and the friendly clerk will remind you that your order will take about 15 minutes after placement.  For your patience, you receive a freakishly hot, freshly fried pastry enveloped in chocolate goodness of all shapes and forms.  Death. By. Awesome. Fat. And. Chocolate.

I got the Funky Monkey with a hot, honkin' doughnut hidden beyond all recognition by a thick, luscious coating of cream cheese icing, grilled bananas and a healthy sprinkling of brown sugar.

You might have detected a pattern lately of my ongoing love affair with warm/cooked bananas.  I cannot explain this phenomenon other than the fact that grilled bananas with brown sugar is da bomb diggity.  For realzies.

No trip to Austin should be without a visit to this dynamic duo.  It is just one of the best food experiences one could have.  Seriously.  With a complimentary ceiling of stars at that!

Love the Lone Star State - especially our capitol!

1219 S Lamar, Austin, TX 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Noodles on Earth @ Xinjiang World (新疆界)

One of the most interesting and delicious meals I had in Taiwan this past summer was at Xinjiang World (新疆界). I had to look this up on the interwebs, but apparently Xinjiang is where the Uyghurs live! I've never known much about the Uyghurs, but now I know that theirs is an amazing cuisine...

Xinjiang World is located in Danshui and - luckily for me - a stone's throw from my family's new place. We had dinner there back in August; my aunt and cousin did the ordering, I did the eating. (You gotta stick with what you're good at.)

We started with the baked buns (烤包子). The restaurant's baked buns are a hot commodity, and it has a stand in the main tourist street of our town just selling these buns.

The buns are filled with curried beef (or lamb) and onions. They were soooo wonderful. I loved the scalding, super thin, crispy bun... very much unlike your typical doughy Asian bun. Together with the curried beef and onion filling, this baked bun instantly won my heart.

And then, the star of the dinner show arrived: big plate chicken, or da pan ji (大盤雞)! From the minute this came out of the kitchen toward our table, it took my breath away. Why? Because it is literally a huge round metal pan, at least 3 feet in diameter, filled with chicken, veggies, potatoes, and the kicker: handmade thick+wide+long noodles.

I really can't describe this dish to do it justice. Just know that everything about it was spectacular. I mean, look! The noodles were the widest and longest I'd ever seen, and they were sooooo chewy/bouncy and perfect. I have a feeling Han would have passed out from the joy of eating these noodles. The sauce it all came in was a light curry, and it was nicely infused in all the veggies - even the potatoes, through and through, making the potatoes more delectable than expected. The chicken itself was tender and very flavorful.

You cannot visit this restaurant without getting the big plate chicken. But remember that it's a requirement to call ahead and order the dish at least a day before you go. The dish is their specialty, and it takes love and time to make.

We wanted other noodles, too, so we got the veggie pan fried noodle.

The noodles had the same perfect texture as the ones in the big plate chicken. I would have eaten more of this dish, but I was too distracted by the gigantic round thing in the middle of our table.

As if we hadn't had enough carbs, we also ordered fried rice with corn and mustard leaves.

This was a huge hit. I've never had fried rice like this before - it was so simple, didn't have any egg in it, and yet it was really quite amazing. The Uyghurs are definitely onto something...

Speaking of things I'd never had before: Xinjiang baked fish! It came wrapped in the same thin crisp dough of the baked buns. It definitely looked strange yet intriguing.

The fish was really fresh, baked in a lot of rosemary, and the wrapping was great. I actually like my rosemary in limited quantities, so it was a little too herby for me, but the sheer novelty of this dish was enough for me to love it.

I can't wait to visit Xinjiang World again in just a couple of months!!

Xinjiang World (新疆界)
78 Xinmin Street (新民街78號)
Danshui, New Taipei (台北縣淡水鎮)
Taiwan, R.O.C.
Phone: 02-2611-3223

Austin Day Trip: Lunch - Chi'Lantro, Home Slice, Amy's Ice Cream, Mighty Cone

Shortly after polishing off the Don Juan, we headed to find our first food truck, Chi'Lantro.  It is located in the downtown area with a couple of other trucks/trailers and a few picnic tables.  Chi'Lantro specializes in Korean tacos, kimchi fries and other Korean-ex fusion fare like bulgogi quesadillas.

We ordered a couple of bulgogi tacos to share.  You can choose four types of bulgogi: beef, chicken, pork or tofu.  The double layered corn tortilla tacos come dressed with soy vinaigrette Korean salad, cilantro, onion, sesame seeds and Chi'Lantro salsa.
Take a look at that well-marinated beef, bulging through the  corn tortilla seams.  It was quite messy to eat, but thank goodness they gave us a couple sporks to tackle it with.
The Turf 'n Surf trailer is located right next to Chi'Lantro and uses a cardboard box to detail its menu.  My eating partner was a bit creeped out to eat here, but I think Diana and I should most definitely try it out when we tackle Austin.
Cleaned our palates with some Amy's Ice Cream, a local chain in Austin.  Flavors can vary by location, but the most popular, as stated by the clerk, was the Mexican Vanilla.  We sampled it and agreed the deep, rich vanilla tones was a winner.  We mixed it with a Reese's peanut butter cup.  Perfection.
Home Slice Pizza.
Home Slice Pizza is a popular hangout along the Congress strip well known for good, thin New York style pizza.  They sell by the slice or by the pie.  
Proper New York style pizza eating instructions.
I tried the garlic and sausage slice.  The sausage was sliced into thin rounds like pepperoni and sprinkled with tiny minced bits of garlic.  The sauce and cheese made a flavorful background to the tasty garlicy sausage, and the pizza was served crisp and hot like all thin crust pizzas should.  I would eat this simple slice pretty often if I lived nearby.
Pepperoni.  Always good.
Cute after-meal candy!
Near Home Slice are several food truck/trailers.  Some were closed by that team or seriously depleted of their signature goods, so we just had a quick snack at The Mighty Cone, known for serving tacos in cones.
I couldn't eat any more tacos that day, so we opted for their  chili-dusted fries.  Their red picnic tables are topped with a round disc that has several drilled holes to hold the cone cups.
The chili-dusted fries were more salty than spicy, had a chewy crunch but still satiated our fried cravings.
 The sun was beginning to set, so it will be time for dinner soon!

2nd & Congress
Follow their Twitter for locations

1415 South Congress Avenue

Multiple locations

1600 South Congress Avenue

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Austin Day Trip: Breakfast - Czech Stop, Round Rock Doughnuts, Juan in a Million

On New Year's eve eve, we gallivanted down to Austin for a quick day trip because we had watched that Austin Man vs. Food episode just one too many times.  And.  We discovered:

Austin has food trucks.
Say what?

There have been hundreds of food trucks in our own state running underneath our noses the entire time !  I have no idea if that sentence is worded properly, but I'll sum it up in one word: Madness!

The trip from Dallas to Austin takes ~ 3.5 hours.  Along the way, you will see the Czech Stop in West, TX, which is a must stop if you love kolaches (which Diana and I most definitely do!):

Czech Stop offers dozens of kolache varieties from sweet fruit flavors to savory sausage options.  We grabbed a couple of sausage kolaches for the road.

The sausage to bread ratio was too much!  Even for a carnivore like me!  The sausage was also harder than the traditional mini-links from Korean doughnut shops. Next time  I gotta try the sweet ones.
Three hours into the trip, we reached our key destination: Round Rock Doughnuts, one of the coveted top ten doughnut places in America according to Bon Appetit magazine, and Diana and my life list.

While Bon Appetit noted Round Rock for their cake doughnuts (which I ordered one but forgot to eat...I can't even explain myself on that one properly), Adam Richman clued us in on their secret weapon:

The Texas sized doughnut!  Sure it looks like a normal glazed doughnut here but...
Here it is next to a normal sized fella for comparison.    Like way bigger than the dude's already giant-sized head!  Unbelievable, I know (about the size of the guy's head).
The Texas sized doughnut comes in regular glazed or regular glazed plus chocolate icing.  You got that?  The chocolate is already glazed and then it is topped with chocolate.  That is how all chocolate doughnuts should be !  Naturally we got both.
What is the most unbelievable about this doughnut shop is that all doughnuts are made fresh to order.  Like.  The two giant elephant-head sized doughnuts are made FRESH TO ORDER.  

  We were handed two boxes of piping hot doughnuts that we immediately tore apart with our hands.  We had no idea what was going on with the orange-tinged dough, but it didn't stop us from noting how fantastically airy and light and hot and crispy and soft the whole thing was.  How did they cook this giant monstrosity of my dreams so fast and so perfectly?!
Just look at it.  So airy and delicate and melt in your mouth delicious!
If I had a pint of milk, I think I can definitely polish off at least one sucker myself (like this guy).  We ate half of each and then headed into Austin to begin the rest of our long day of gorging.

We had more breakfast at Juan in a Million, super popular spot in Austin for their hefty breakfast tacos.

This Don Juan breakfast taco has bacon, potatos, cheese and egg.  It weighs like two pounds.  The waitress asks you how many tortillas you would like with the order.  I guess you can order an infinite amount, which I suspect a lot of college kids do since the meal will clearly have leftovers.  We also ordered a guacamole taco for the helluvit.

The Don Juan?  Solid.  I was most surprised at the nice, thick pieces of salty bacon in the mix, pretty high quality stuff.  The guacamole was pretty underwhelming - it looks like just mashed up avocados - no tomato, jalapenos or onions to be found.   Every young kid in the shop was ordering the DJ, and it was amazing seeing how tall every plate of breakfast glopped goodness was being served around.  For $3.50, this is definitely a bargain breakfast you can eat on all day.  Way to go, Austin, lovely way to start the day.

105 N College Ave, West, Texas
Czech Stop on Urbanspoon

106 West liberty, Round Rock
Round Rock Donuts on Urbanspoon

2300 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
Juan in a Million on Urbanspoon