Friday, June 1, 2012

Yankees in the South

My recent trip to Mississippi involved one good meal after another. Basically, we woke up, ate until we induced a food coma, went back to sleep, and woke up to do it all over again. This is my idea of a vacation.

I had some terrific Southern food. The best catfish I have ever had in my life was at Cock of the Walk, a dive-y spot right on the Mississippi River where everything was served in tin containers.

I don't know what it was about the fish. Normally, I find catfish pretty bland. I think it really comes down to there being a better tasting catfish in that part of the country. Their coleslaw was delicious. I normally prefer a vinegar-based slaw over one doused in mayonnaise, but this one had a nice balance of both. Their fried pickles were outstanding. I love me a fried pickle. I didn't care for the turnip greens, but that's just my aversion to their slimy texture. An added bonus is that the tin cans make the soda extra cold...which really helps in the Mississippi heat.

I was also introduced to comeback sauce, a condiment you can only find in the South apparently. It's comparable to a thousand island dressing, but the variations I tried were not as creamy. Most places put their own spin on it, so it's hard to say what's really in comeback sauce. At any rate, it's pretty tasty. They put it on everything, like these fried green tomatoes:

Fried Green Tomatoes in Comeback Sauce - Two Rivers, Canton, MS

Here's what I had after those tomatoes:
Ohhh yeaaaaa.
And here's what I had after that ribeye:
Homemade Peach Ice Cream - I will never be thin again.
My best meal in Mississippi, though, was at a new foodie establishment in the heart of downtown Jackson: Parlor Market. When I say foodie, I mean that they're putting stuff like bone marrow on the menu. The place is garnering buzz and a few local and statewide awards for best new restaurant. There aren't that many places in the area that are playing with food the way the chef at Parlor Market is. I'm really glad we got to dine there. My party went for brunch...which happened to be the very last brunch that the restaurant is offering. There simply isn't a market for brunch in the Jackson area. It's a shame because it was spectacular. 

Boiled peanuts. Pronounced Balled.

We started with another Southern staple that I'd never had before: boiled peanuts. The boiling water is seasoned with anything you can think of. Ours tasted like they'd been boiled in earthy, spicy water. The shell (you don't eat it, but I licked it because I was trying to figure out the seasoning) tasted briny and like it had been infused in oregano and bay. The peanuts themselves become slightly soft. I can envision smearing them onto a piece of toast and it being delicious.

We then had a second appetizer: warm biscuits with three different spreads. The first was a fig spread that I preferred because it had a very aromatic, nutty flavor. The second was an apricot butter that was silky smooth and slightly sweet. The third was a jelly made of the mayhaw fruit, yet another thing I had never tasted before. It was similar to a strawberry preserve but slightly sweeter. The three spreads were amazing but each person in my party sort of grabbed their favorite so there wasn't much to share.

Egg in a hole

Our third appetizer (that's right, third) was a tower of toasted French bread that had been pierced so that each piece of bread had a hole in it. What was in that hole? An egg. What was the dish called? Egg in a Hole.  What's that on the side? Comeback sauce. My mouth just watered typing about this dish. It was so unbelievably perfect--the soft, chewy bread to soak up the creaminess of the egg as you cut into it. Yum.

Brunch burger. Hence, the egg.
Parlor Market's brunch menu offered two entree choices: a burger or their chicken pot pie. Thanks for making it simple, Parlor Market. We got one of each so we could sample both. The burger looked like a challenge after all the food that came before it. It was juicy and scrumptious but I had enough on my plate with my pot pie. I offer a magnified snapshot because it was just that good.

Somehow, we made it to dessert. It didn't amaze us, but it didn't disappoint. It was a biscuit with a bunch of fruit sauce on it. Nothing spectacular, but their biscuits are nothing to turn down.

And that, friends, was the highlight of my MS food tour. Retelling it has made me relive it and now I need a nap.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Uchiko: Restaurant Week and More

I love restaurant week. I love sushi. I love Top Chef. I loved winner Paul Qui this season (humble, talented and not dramatic). So, when Restaurant Week announced this year's participants, I was excited to see that Uchiko, where Paul is the chef, was on the list.

First off, the special wasn't that special after all (financially): 1) $35 bucks is what the meal normally would have cost and 2) I ended up eating way more than just what came in the restaurant week menu. For someone with my budget, Uchiko definitely is not a place I visit often, but when I do, it's worth the splurge.

Brussels Sprouts
I met two friends for an early dinner. We started out with two appetizers: Brussels sprouts and a grilled peas with kimchi.

The brussels sprouts were amazing: crispy with a roasted flavor and topped with a sweet lemon chili sauce. We finished the sprouts quickly and were disappointed that an efficient bus boy took the empty bowl away because we all wanted to lick up the sauce left in the bottom of the bowl.


The pea dish was mostly a hit with us. An alternative to a traditional edamame, the peas had a smokey flavor that paired well with the pickled kimchi flavors. I was proud that I was eating peas since I usually avoid them, and I would eat them more if someone cooked them for me at home. One friend said the pods were too waxy and that made the dish difficult to eat. I didn't mind, but I understood her point. This was a messy dish.

Read more about the meal, see more pictures of delicious food and hear about the one major flaw of our experience, after the JUMP!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Comida Blog Travels: Taking Las Vegas Suggestions

We here are Comidablog like to travel when we can. Many of our trips are centered around restaurant prospects and not silly things like national landmarks (just kidding...kind of...ok we try and integrate them both into our trips).

Jimbo is taking his lovely wife to Las Vegas to celebrate many things and gamble away the fortune he's made from his blogging. So far, they've planned to go to Jaleo (for dinner one night) and 'wichcraft (for lunch).

I want to go to where?
Where else should they eat? What's the best meal you've had in Las Vegas?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

JMueller BBQ - a Comidablog outing

It was cold outside and we haven't posted in five months.  What better time to get some BBQ and eat outdoors?

I was a huge fan of the original John Mueller BBQ on Manor Rd, and it was incredibly disappointing when it closed in 2005.  In September 2011 John Mueller made his triumphant return to Austin with the arrival of JMueller BBQ on South 1st and Elizabeth.  His return did not disappoint.

I made the long trip from NW Austin with my wife to enjoy some BBQ with TRE.

The wife and I ordered 1/2 lb of moist brisket, a link of beef sausage, a pint of potato salad (the best potato salad I've ever eaten), and we got a side of chipotle cole slaw.  TRE had a side of baked squash.  Everything was great.  The moist brisket is my absolute favorite brisket in Austin.  The brisket is covered in a generous amount of coarse black pepper that John Mueller expertly smokes into a wonderful "bark".  It's exactly what you would expect from someone with John's experience and pedigree.

TRE ordered a fatty brisket sandwich that looked great then and still looks good now.  I get hungry every time I see the photo.

JMueller BBQ - The spread

JMueller BBQ - meat close up

JMueller BBQ - Better picture of the fatty part of the brisket

JMueller BBQ - brisket sandwich
It took all the mental fortitude I had to not eat what was left of our brisket when I was already full.  The three of us sat knowing a meat coma was headed our way, so we left before we passed out in the cold.  I was happy, wife was happy, and TRE was happy.

John Mueller has gotten a lot of press recently with Texas Monthly featuring him and Aaron Franklin. It is well deserved and I wish him the best of luck and hope he is smoking meat in Austin for a long time to come.

JMueller BBQ is open W-Su at 10:30AM, and like all great BBQ places, closes when they sell out of meat.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Westin Hotel bar (Urban Lounge) - Unexpected Pizza Find

I met up with some friends I hadn't seen in a couple of years at the hotel bar at the Westin at the Domain.  The Westin has a restaurant, Urban, that I haven't tried yet, but will get to eventually.  This is not a review of Urban, but of the Urban Lounge.

We were at the bar for about 90 minutes when some food service workers from another restaurant at the Domain came in and sat at the bar.  About 20 minutes after they arrived some wonderful smelling pizzas came out.  I'd had a small dinner, got hungry without realizing it, and those pizzas were smelling like they would be the cure for my hunger.  The bartender pointed us to the bar menu and saw the pepperoni and sausage pizza for $6.  We ordered one to share for the four of us.

Pizza with a cheesy slice

The pizza came out and it tasted as good as it smelled.  The crust was crispy on the edges, there was a generous amount of cheese, and the pepperoni was tasty.  The sausage was not like regular "Italian" style sausage it was chopped up link sausage.  It had a mild non-BBQy flavor and was very good.  The change-up in sausage was appreciated.  The pizza was very light on the sauce.  I really like sauces and condiments so this could have been an issue, but the light sauce worked on this style of pizza.

We all really enjoyed the pizza and will definitely be back for a late night bite, definitely better than any of the 6th street pizzas.  The pizza isn't going to outdo Homeslice, Reale's, Craig O's, or NoRTH, but it's really good for bar food.  Also a great deal price-wise considering the bar has typical hotel bar pricing ($4.50 domestic beers).

Close up view, picture ended up dark.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

La Condesa Austin

I visited with two friends on a Monday evening. We had to make reservations because the restaurant is always full – if you decide you want to try La Condesamake a reservation! Two of us arrived early and visited the bar where I ordered a Margarita Classico, which was delicious, but small for the $8 price tag. My friend ordered a Shiner which was $5. Kind of ridiculous in Texas.

When we were seated we decided to start out with a bunch of the smaller plates. We ordered chips and salsa ($4!) which came with four small salsas ranging from chipotle mild to habanero hot.We decided to try the crab and apple guacamole which was $8 (most guacamoles are $6 but the one with crab had a $2 upcharge). The taste was amazing, the amount (of crab and the overall amount of guacamole) was lacking. I assumed it would be a giant molcajete full but it was just a small cup. The crab was fresh and the texture of the apple in the guacamole was nice.

Crab and apple guacamole & salsas
Next we decided to try a huarache. We chose the Panza de Puerco (pork belly - $14). It was pretty small – not at all what I am used to when ordering huaraches especially considering it’s called a huarache because of the dish’s resemblance to a shoe. This would’ve been a shoe for a young person with extremely narrow feet. The pork belly itself was amazing.  It melted in your mouth as pork belly should. Sadly, the masa base was tough and oily.

We then ordered the Hamachi ceviche, priced at $16. It was beautiful and came in a broth of different citrus juices. The flavor was bright and refreshing and was served with grapefruit sections, avocado, and chicharron to add a nice surprising crunch. This was a dish I wished there was more of.

As our main dish we decide to share two sides and an entrée. We chose the chile relleno ($20) because 1) it was $12 less than the short rib and 2) the combination of manchego and butternut squash sounded delicious. Unfortunately, it did not live up to our expectations. One friend inconspicuously spit out her share while the other friend and I nibbled on it trying to figure out what the odd taste was. I couldn’t taste any of the squash or manchego. It’s possible that it was an off night, but I wouldn’t order this dish again to find out.

The Mexican Elote was good and they offered to cut it in half for two of us to share. The platanos were delicious – they were topped with the avocado tomatillo salsa and some queso fresco but even without, the flavor of the plantains alone would have satisfied us. They were probably the best thing I had there all night.

For dessert we tried one of the house made ice creams ($2). We chose the banana brown sugar which tasted just like banana nut bread. It was accompanied by a Mexican wedding cookie.

The positives:
The décor in La Condesa is beautiful. The patio would be a great place to enjoy dinner when the weather cools down.  The chips were warm which is a plus and my margarita was delicious. I also did not order an entrée with meat so it’s possible that I would have enjoyed that better.

The negatives:
The restaurant was HOT - it had to have been about 85 degrees inside. We had pretty poor service, so maybe our waitress had too many tables. We saw her walking past us a lot, she just rarely stopped to check in. The restaurant was also very dark (that’s why there are not more pictures) - possibly to try and counteract the heat and even more likely to help hide politicians who were out with their non-wives. The restroom situation is odd. It’s upstairs (just a small flight) which is fine for me, but I just thought about older or handicapped patrons who don’t do well with stairs. There is a small elevator right next to the entrance which I feel would be 1) difficult to use and 2) very attention grabbing and possibly embarrassing.

Overall, it was a very disappointing experience. Would I return? Yes, if someone were paying for my meal. So, if anyone wants to take me just let me know.

Whataburger Green Chile Double

Everyone knows I love seasonal items and now it's Hatch Green Chile festival time! Right now at Central Market you can get everything from Hatch Macaroni and Cheese to Hatch Green Chile Apple Pie (a friend swears it's good). Chuy's also does a Hatch Green Chile themed menu and this year I noticed they added some new items. My favorite is the Hatch infused Mexican martini but I am pretty sure that is available year round.

Today, I got an email from Whataburger about this:

 Has anyone tried this yet- or heard anything about it? I think it may be my dinner tonight.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Random - Candy!

So I stopped at the local store post work out to pick up a protein shake and found one of my favorite candies. I have to say there are many like them...Sour Straws, Sour tapes, etc. I cant even give a brand name but they are usually packaged very generically in a sandwich bag in groups of five or six. You can see from the picture they just look like a bag of drugs....not that I would know. They usually sit by the register in a clear tupperware like container that has no label. Ok enough of that they are the best of their kind. Not too tart and they dont stick to your teeth the way sour punch straws do. They are a little addicting I can never eat just one. I'm aware I havent posted in a while but I really thought I'd mention these since usually I'm pretty loyal to my proteins.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BBQ chicken at home

I enjoy watching America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country.  They tend to make meals that are appealing and the recipes are very easy to follow as they've done a lot of testing (in the Test Kitchen) to make sure the food turns out great.  This was a pretty simple recipe, but I had been scared of doing chicken on my grill so they gave me the confidence to give it a try without fear of overcooking it.  This is the Cook's Country "Classic BBQ Chicken on a Gas Grill" recipe.  You have to have an account to view it (lame, I know), but I don't think you have to pay for it.

everything on the grill
I didn't make my own BBQ sauce like they do in the recipe, I used their store bought substitute, Bullseye and it was good.  I bought one bone-in breast and leg quarter from Sun Harvest, and paired it with some grilled yellow squash and zucchini.

finished product

I think it turned out very good (this is the second try, I was more liberal with the seasonings this time).  One concern is getting a good amount of flavor from the breast.  I don't want to slice into the meat to put rub in it for fear of it drying out, but the meat at the thickest part ends up tasting very plain.  I guess that is what sauce is for then?  Any suggestions on how to add more flavor to the breast meat?

Recipe from Cook's Country, "Classic BBQ Chicken on a Gas Grill".  Be sure to rub the seasonings over and under the skin for the best flavor.

Squash and zucchini prepared with olive oil, kosher salt, and McCormick brand Hot Shot pepper blend.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hopdoddy Burger Bar - Austin, TX

In my last post I discussed the Austin "big burger" scene and pronounced Hopdoddy to be tops in town.  Even though Hopdoddy is very far from where I live it's good enough that I agreed to go one weekend afternoon with the wife (and I try not to go anywhere on weekend afternoons).  Hopdoddy has 11 different burgers to choose from, but I don't find any of the specialty burgers to be quite right so I always go for a "Classic burger" - Beef, Red Leaf Lettuce, White Onion, Ripe Beef Steak Tomato with mayo and mustard (taken directly from their menu).

Hopdoddy Classic Burger with pepperjack

One thing I loved about Hopdoddy right off the bat was the default inclusion of mayo and mustard on the burger, exactly like I make at home.  I knew I wouldn't be waiting another 15 minutes after I got my burger because the waitress didn't remember my side condiments.

Firstly, the Hopdoddy bun, which they make in house, is a thing of beauty.  I don't care for hamburger buns very much.  I grew up eating burgers on plain wheat bread and have always found that better than cheap white buns most places offer, or even the sickeningly sweet Sheila Parlin buns from the dreadful Phil's Icehouse.  Hopdoddy buns aren't sweet or spongy, and have the right amount of wheaty sweetness to not overpower the whole burger.  They arrive with that perfect sheen from the griddle that says "I will be tasty".

The beef is well seasoned and not so thick that the middle part of the patty is tasteless.  The tomatoes are juicy and the onions add a nice crunchy sweetness.  Luckily for people like me who hate dry foods there is plenty of extra mayo and mustard available at the table.  I'm not a potato guy, but their fries are good enough that I'll order them, and I don't always order fries.  I'm sorry, but that's my only fry criteria.

Hopdoddy Classic Burger with cheddar
My wife ordered the Classic Burger with cheddar cheese and hers was the superior burger (and the picture of hers shows better evidence of caramelization from the flat top).  This is not a problem not relegated to Hopdoddy, but to all burger places.  Ordering a burger with pepper jack is a losing bet right from the start.  No place puts on a thick enough slice of pepper jack in order to get enough of the pepper jack flavor, and unlike cheddar, jack cheese isn't salty enough to add flavor to the burger on its own.  I'll be sticking to cheddar when eating out from now on, and saving pepper jack for home.

Hopdoddy has a strange seating set up where you get in line, then are given a table number based on how many are in your party.  You have to remember the table number (which you get before you order), and then search the restaurant for the correct table (huh?).  I have not had a problem with it, but I could see that it might rub some people the wrong way.  They must have a reason behind this style of seating, but I would think there's an easier, workable method of seating.

Now that I have declared Hopdoddy Austin's best "Big Burger", I eagerly await an opening of a Hopdoddy in  NW (Arboretum) area Austin so that I can go more often.

Two more views of my pepper jack burger:
Picture 1, Picture 2