Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Joy East quick-lunch

The visit to Joy East is, in a way, following up on the recent visit to Buffet King. Buffet King was a first-time experience; Joy East was a return after quite some time (since so much of the East Riverside area has been demolished). Both are chiefly all-you-can-eat establishments.

These days, all the Joy East staffers seem to be fluent speakers of Spanish. The big-screen TVs are tuned to Telemundo, which, during breaks in the futbol games was playing a repeat commercial for China Star buffet. Joy East is just as busy as Buffet King, and just as child-friendly. The children at Joy East seemed to be split down the middle when it came to selecting dessert, with half choosing self-serve soft ice cream in cones and half choosing fruit plates with three kinds of melon.

Freshly made pico de gallo still holds its place on the buffet line, as it has done from the very beginning. We dined quite quickly, yet saw at least three turns of tables while we were there. The entrees were constantly replenished to meet the demands of the capacity crowd of diners. Mussels, crawfish, and a dish of spicy octopus appeared to be among the most popular. My favorite dish this time was the sesame chicken, which I preferred to that at Buffet King. Again, as at Buffet King, sweetened iced tea appears to be the default version, so be sure to request unsweetened tea if that’s what’s wanted. Joy East plain steamed rice has a delicious nutty flavor. There were five kinds of soup, with cayenne pepper and fresh rings of green onion to be added at will.

There’s a bar, but, crowded as Joy East was, not one place was taken. Nevertheless, there was much beer being imbibed at Joy East, and pitchers of beer were seen at many of the tables. There are big illuminated signs on the wall near the entry for three different Mexican brands of beer.

Children are charged at two different rates, differentiated by their heights. I didn’t notice whether there’s a measure or height bar similar to those at amusement parks governing eligibility for various rides or whether the members of the staff can estimate height visually.

Find Joy East at 2410 East Riverside in the old movie theater (telephone 693-8833).

La Patisserie: macaron central

La Patisserie is immaculate. Found today in the glass display case were several elegant varieties of macaron (the selection changes daily), opera cake, flaky mille-feuille, strawberry tartlets, chocolate-coffee eclairs, petit pain au chocolat, and more. The petit pain was light and contained excellent chocolate, as well as some snappy, flavorful almond.

And the macaron? The one chosen was orange, cardamom, and honey. So it was green; so what? What a truly delicious flavor and texture, not over-sweet, and with each ingredient blending with the others yet retaining its own intense individual character. These have a certain initial degree of chewiness and then just melt away. Wow! The pistachio macarons are reputed to be superlative, also, but today they weren’t in the case. Never mind; those orange, cardamom, and honey items provided enough wonderment for one day.

The little bungalow housing this attraction is larger inside than it first appears to be. There’s even a separate playroom, also immaculate, for small children. There’s ample parking behind the building. There are often chairs and tables set out in the shady front yard. 600 West Annie Street does not suffer at all from traffic noise.

Pastry selections vary daily and according to the season, and there’s also a lunch menu of sandwiches and salads offered. La Patisserie is open six days a week, from 8 am to 4 pm on Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

La Patisserie (by Luxe Sweets) is teaming up with Mercedes Flowers and Schatzelein to offer a “Sweet Suite” of fine gifts for Mother’s Day. Orders for the trio of macarons, custom earrings, and an artistic floral arrangement must be placed by May 5, but La Patisserie imposes no deadline for those who enjoy the finer things of life.

Buffet King quick-lunch

Buffet KingBuffet King is busy to capacity! Or at least it certainly was during a weekday noon hour late last week. The only ads I’ve seen for it have been published in El Mundo newspaper. There were many speakers of Spanish among our fellow diners, but every demographic of Austin was well represented, a true cross-section of the populace, including every age as well.

Among those dining at Buffet King were numerous children, many of high-chair age. Noise isn’t a factor, since this is quite a cavernous space. It’s not too loud for table conversation, but the piped-in music (Hong Kong pop) could be heard only in the restrooms. I believe there were at least a couple of wall-mounted televisions, but they were inaudible and not one person seemed to be paying any attention to them. Many of the children were treating themselves to an ice-cream cone for dessert (soft-serve?).

Although takeout food is sold by weight and there’s a menu for ordering individual dishes, the buffet was the attraction. Upon arrival, diners are seated, order a beverage if they wish, and then proceed to the all-you-can-eat buffet, sushi, or Mongolian grill areas. There were no sushi authorities at our table, but the selections did look fresh. Among the buffet items, the hot and sour soup was tasty and generous with tree ears. The Thai roll was better than the standard egg roll, we thought. We concluded that the best main dish was the mysterious “jolopeno chicken,” with chicken and broccoli a close second. Lovers of shrimp were going to town, returning for more again and again. Five-spice powder was prominent as a seasoning in one dish, and plenty of fresh ginger in another. The steamed rice had a nutty flavor that was very appealing. The mei fun noodles were also a treat.

I lost my register slip, but recall that the buffet was ten dollars or under (iced tea included or not, I’m not sure). The default for iced tea seems to be sweetened beyond belief, so it’s important to make it clear that unsweetened tea is what’s wanted, if that’s the case.

If there’s a Web site for Buffet King, I haven’t found it. The address is 5451 North I-35 at Capital Plaza. Seven days a week, Buffet King is open continuously, from 11 am until 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, 10 pm on Friday and Saturday, and 9 pm on Sunday. There is a distinction between the lunch buffet and the dinner buffet (the latter begins six days a week at 3:30 pm and is available all hours on Sunday). The telephone number for Buffet King is 452-1888.

Lines and more lines

Time’s running out, and not just on the year 2010. This picture of the tranquil allée outside the Blanton Museum does nothing to convey the bustle there this morning. Today is the last day of free admission for the loan exhibit from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, and long lines snaked everywhere. People were being admitted only as others left. After waiting but seeming to make no progress, we departed (as did many others), planning to try again tomorrow. “Turner to Monet” will be on view through January 2.

Katz’s will klose at the end of business on January 2. We waited in line there, also, today, seeing many familiar faces, but didn’t wait long enough to take a seat. Out-of-town visitors always want to visit Katz’s at least once a day while they’re in town. Katz’s for me has always been the place to go in the middle of the night. At those times, the acoustics are hushed, all are members of one big party, and everything tastes just as good as it can be. Everyone has a favorite main and side; in our household, we’ll especially miss the true milkshakes and the giant perfect potato pancakes.

All Katz’s souvenirs are sold out, it appears. The bar seems to be as it has ever been. The menu for these dwindling days is in abbreviated form and is not the complete one of yesteryear. So call ahead to learn whether your favorite is still being served.

Artz Rib House quick-lunch

There is no quicker quick-lunch than carry-out, and Artz Rib House is a fine place to find it during the mid-afternoon lull when so many dining establishments have closed their doors after the lunch hour and have no plans to open them again until the dinner hour nears.

My true confession is that I have never sampled the eponymous ribs. I rely on the brisket, which is not greasy and bears no trace of ketchup flavor. The sauce at Artz is not sweet, and it contains jalapenos. And the links, of the finest, are from Austin’s own Smokey Denmark.

I really miss the Pit on South Congress (although at least the building won’t be empty long–look for New India Cuisine in that location soon), but let’s be thankful for Artz. I am. Very.

New India Cuisine quick-lunch

New India Cuisine brings new dining pleasures to South Austin, including two of the most refreshing beverages available anywhere in town to help the hot and thirsty withstand our hot weather. These are homemade fresh ginger soda and homemade fresh lime soda. The first is extremely generous with fresh ginger-root and is sweeter than the deliciously tart lime drink. I think we must ask for both the next time we visit.

New India Cuisine shares space with Eva B’s Bakery in the shopping center at South Congress and Oltorf that’s directly east and across the street from H-E-B and across Oltorf from the Twin Oaks shopping center. The door faces south and the building is at a right angle to the former Bealls, now AceMart.

Orders are placed at the counter and paid for at that time. We were famished and too tired to deliberate and so were delighted to follow suggestions from the owners. We began with Wada, which arrived accompanied by a delicious mint chutney and a tamarind chutney. These were seasoned potato cakes, which I’d gladly order again. At the table was a generous bowl of boneless chicken pieces in a coconut curry. Rice was beautifully seasoned. I enjoyed my curry of cauliflower and potato with tomato and seasonings. Our garlic naan was hot and a wonderful accompaniment. I plan to return again and again for the dal tarka malvani style (a broth of yellow lentils with black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves), as beautiful as it was tasty.

Menu options include many vegan and gluten-free selections. WiFi is free. New India Cuisine is closed on Monday and closed daily from 3 to 5 pm. Call 445-9727 for more information or to place a takeout order.

Trail’a Confusion

Closed, Open or shut forever?

Closed, Open or shut forever?

[Yes, it’s a pun]Austin’s food/shops-in-a-trailer community continues to grow, it’s amusing now to think back to the City Council meeting about 801 Barton Springs road when the developers proposed a massively oversized building, when it looked like they were going to be turned down, one of their team threatened to fill the space with more food trailers. Really, thats bad ??

Still, I’m guessing that one of the attractions of running your business out of a trailer is that it’s “unconventional”, well sort of. You can move it around, you can keep your own hours, and of course the costs and regulations are significantly less than running out of a traditional building. They have their own blog, the Trailer Food Diaries. [Complete with annoying music playing widget].

What’s clear though is there is a huge turnover of these businesses, some are little little more than “fly-by-nights” they arrive, they last a couple of weeks and are gone. Part of their problem is one of their strengths, not only do they come and go, you really can’t predict when they will be open.

There’s a trailer park just up the street from me on South 1st, not the South Austin Trailer Park Eatery where Torchies is, but on the South West Corner of Live Oak. It was 98f and I decided to walk up and get a sno cone. Closed. Now, I can’t be sure if thats closed, or out of business. Cafe Racer was there a month or so ago, now it’s gone.

Although not strictly a trailer, the same was true for the Mary’s Cubana Coffee that I wrote about back in September, originally open only 7-11am, then it seemed to be 8-10am, then it was gone. Another uncertainty was the Austin Daily Press, it was there, then it wasn’t. A trailer currently it sits on South 2nd during the day all closed up. Who knows if it heads somewhere under cover of darkness or is just abandoned on a residential street. [According to this Austin360 entry from last week, it looks like it might indeed move overnight to Club De Ville].

What’s clear from my perspective is that opening a trailer doesn’t appear to be an “easy job”. The successful ones I visit keep regular and mostly long hours. They don’t appear to be part-time jobs.

Another place to keep up with Food trailers or carts as some are called is the Austin Food Carts Blog, they even have a map of locations.

Jaime’s Spanish Village: last call

Jaime’s Spanish Village, serving Austin for almost 80 years, will close its doors at midnight tonight. The current Chron gives an address to which to send contributions to an employee fund if you can’t make it to Jaime’s today. There’s a Web site up for Jaime’s that will be expanded, and Jaime’s has a Facebook page also. Jaime’s has always been friendly to breastfeeding mothers and for a long time displayed a banner on the street that said so, at a time when some establishments did not welcome them. We have been assured that Jaime’s queso and truly wonderful salsas (our favorite is the peerless tomatillo jalapeno salsa) will continue to be produced and available in the refrigerator cases at Central Market, Whole Foods, Royal Blue Grocery, and other fine establishments, as well as (along with t-shirts) via the new Web site. A thousand thanks for all the wonderful memories.

Hope Farmers Market at Pine Street Station

Here’s a market in the shade, and on Sunday. Hope Farmers Market is under the trees; and adjacent to it is Pine Street Station, under a roof, and complete with indoor restrooms (some know it as Fader Fort).

Among those represented today were Engel Farms and McKemie Orchards from Federicksburg, Royal Indian Foods, Chaos Cards, Texas French Bread, Johnson’s Backyard Garden community-supported agriculture, and many more. The atmosphere was greatly enlivened by Christy Hayes and her Sunday Best, encouraging us to step lively to the excellent music in what seemed to be an alt-country vein.

We brought home locally grown celery (!), peaches, heirloom tomatoes, four kinds of squash, a baguette of Texas French Honfleur, fresh naan, fine yellow onions, potatoes, and more. Others were drawn to the orchids and herb plants. KO-OP radio was soliciting memberships (and KO-OP t-shirts make fine Austin–or Hornsby–souvenirs for your out-of-town friends).

The Chaos Cards people had inspired frame-worthy serigraphs on paper (just three dollars each–lone stars, playing-card personalities, Indian deities, famous Western masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and Boticelli’s Venus imagined in bold new colors) and also intricately silk-screened t-shirts that are beautifully imagined; step indoors to see these and the work of other artists and craftspeople. Don’t miss the handsome posters promoting Hope Farmers Market; these also make wonderful souvenirs of Austin.

Find all this at 414 Waller Street at East Fifth. Summer hours are from 10 am to 2 pm. See some photographs of the market today, taken before we looked in on the Mexico-Argentina partido. At Buenos Aires Cafe Este, those in attendance were elated; at Takoba (which had its large parking lot at Navasota completely filled), the mood was less jubilant. Even with all the Copa Mundial action today, it was easy for people to park near the Hope Farmers Market, and in the shade.

Baking for father

A party’s not really a party without a cake, and an event barely counts unless there’s a giant sheet cake at the center of it. Sure; there are those who bring their home-baked German chocolate cake with lots of native pecans, but a large gathering virtually demands a commensurate sheet cake, ideally one with the right theme and decorations.

Who can resist this one? It’s from the weekly ad supplement for our favorite local three-letter grocery (click on the linked image to see a larger version). It’s especially for the father who spends all his time recumbent in front of televised sports events, predominantly football and baseball.

Is Dad brandishing a remote control, as he appears to be? Is that a beverage in a cylindrical container in his other hand? Does this cake reflect the predominant view of contemporary fatherhood? I hope to see an actual example of this cake in the bakery case at the store.

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