Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blue Dahlia Bistro

Yes, this is another "why on earth have we not been here yet?!" moment.  So our $10 off coupon expires today so we went for happy hour yesterday, they have a really good happy hour.  We got the vegan plate for 2 which included a heaping pile of grainy tabbouleh, a big scoop of hummus, a ramekin of sun dried tomatoes, a ramekin of olives, 2 slices of baguette, 2 slices of cranberry raisin bread and 2 slices of olive bread all atop mesclun greens.  It was much larger than we expected  and very filling.  Plus we got a bottle of merlot for $10 which was nothing special but not bad at all.  Out of pure curiosity, not hunger, we ordered one of their $4 happy hour sandwiches, the brie with walnuts and apricot preserves, sub tofu for brie.  It was pretty bland since they just put a raw slab of tofu but we definitely appreciated how nothing in the meal tasted overly sweet or salty so a couple shakes of black pepper and a dip in the delicious red wine vinegar and it was all good.  We can't wait to go back and try their vegan ravioli!  They have vegan pesto, vegan bread, vegan dessert and they are very knowledgeable about the vegan substitution secrets.  It doesn't seem like the atmosphere could be all that great from the front since it's on a boring, semi-busy road and the inside is like a coffee shop but the back patio is completely fenced in and has a fountain and garden and they even have a noise machine making birdy and bug noises which really does set the mood.  The misters and fans made it feel perfect outside.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


We took a staycation at the Omni downtown for Shannon's birthday and our monthiversary combined.  We chose the omni because of the roof top pool but will likely be back for the mofo breakfast.  Although it's not included so maybe we can just eat there and stay at our own house..  Anyway, at first glance the breakfast seems expensive since the continental breakfast is $11 and it's $16 if you want everything.  Of course the extra $5 is for the breakfast meats, eggs, french toast, special omelet maker, steel cut oats and potatoes.  So we asked if we could just pay for the continental breakfast and still have potatoes and oatmeal and our anonymous server obliged.  The potatoes were so good and there was a choice of quartered new potatoes or hashbrowns, both cooked with peppers and onions.  Plus they had 3 homemade salsas and we snuck some of the omelet toppings into our potatoes so we had spinach and jalapenos too.  If you think about what a regular restaurant charges for a side of potatoes, and most of them aren't as good or all you can eat, you really start to appreciate the value.  Then the so called continental breakfast turned out to be this amazing array of healthy, fresh and delicious foods that we most definitely squeezed $11 out of.  This section included 3 types of Kashi cereal, every other cereal in the mini boxes, soymilk, 6 types of fancy jellies, almond butter, cashew butter, home made french baguette, sourdough, wheat, and a seedy wheat.  They had 6 different fresh fruits all separated into their own display, including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, honey dew, cantaloupe, and pineapple.  Then they had dried apricots, cranberries and yellow raisins and to top it all off they had gluten free cereal, granola, english muffins, rolls and bread.  Keep in mind this is just the vegan stuff, not including the goat butter and other vegetarian delights, oh and also remember this is all you can eat!  We usually get our money's worth at buffets and we succeeded here eating so many fresh berries and plates full of taters.  It was really so good and goes along with the ultra courteous staff you would usually find at a nice hotel so it was that much better.  They told us that since everything is cooked in house they will accommodate any vegan to the best of their abilities but they are able to do this even more so at lunch and dinner.  So we will be back, especially since has a certificate for their dinner.  Also, the next time we are wondering where to go for a big, amazing brunch, we have our answer.


Austin Java

This is probably the first vegan version of Austin Java since the last time wasn't all that impressive.  We realized that in Vero Beach, where we're from, if a restaurant isn't really really good you will probably still go to it just because there are only a few choices.  In Austin, there are so many choices that if you don't stand out in taste or quality then you go to the back burner, behind 50 other restaurants.  So that is what happened to Austin Java.  We actually only went there at someone else's request.  We ordered the steel cut oats with fresh fruit and that new Honduras coffee that has blown up their twitter feed.  Their coffee is probably the biggest disappointment since it's a coffee place, but it's really just because the workers don't refresh the coffee often enough.  We like to test all of the different types before choosing and 2 of the samples were cold, although the Honduras did end up being the best.  They also had soy milk, always a plus.  The steel cut oats took a while to make but were pleasantly surprising.  The fresh fruit is a delicious and generous mix of strawberries and blueberries.  A ramekin of brown sugar and one of raisins is included as well as a slice of wheat toast and some jelly and butter.  We didn't even eat the toast because it was so filling so no word on whether vegan butter was even an option.  It was quite good and really impressed our guest.  We also noticed all of the vegan options on the menu now that we were looking.

Still Recommended


We went here during lunch today so we could catch them during their 3 hour window of openness.  We joined the line of many wrapping around the little trailer.  Even Chi'lantro was there and this place had the longest line.  The hummus of the day was tomato basil although it pretty much tasted like hummus, fresh hummus, we went for the spinach artichoke hummus but they had none :(  Anyway, to be healthy and all, we ordered the Turkish salad with one falafel ball and extra hummus rather than tzatziki and spicy sauce that has only "a little bit of dairy."  The salad was described as having romaine lettuce but was littered with arugula and other lettuci.  The falafel was pretty good although, don't listen to people telling you it's the best they've ever had because it just sets your expectations too high.  The jalapeno hummus was good and the flavor was apparent.  Mixed with the veggies, the hummus made the salad really good and with an occasional bite of falafel there were a lot of yums.  The olives were unusually yummy, maybe because the last 10 times we've had kalamata olives was via Panera..  Overall, we probably won't be back.  It is sad when you pay more for a vegan salad than an 8 inch gyro and it may very well be the non-vegan sauces that are taking this place up a notch in others eyes.  Also, for the picky vegan, it doesn't seem like it's possible that there is no contact with the meat unless the workers are careful, which they may be.  For the gluten free vegans, they have Zucchini Tuesdays where they offer gluten free zucchini fries for $4-$5, you get less than 10.


That's right, an actual picture!  The Turkish Salad at Kebabalicious.

Thai Passion - Downtown

Just a quick note.  The coconut mango rice is bigger and better at this location.  The dishes are a bit more salty but so delicious.  This time we had the Panang Curry and the Gang Jeudwoonsen soup.  Both were really good and the curry tasted similar to the last curry but with different vegetables.  We added pea pods, carrots, bell peppers and a few others but only ended up getting a few a piece so not really worth it.  The Chang beer was pretty good and went well with the food. 
Still Recommended

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Second Bar + Kitchen

Yes we are now snobby upscale people.  As it turns out, all of this wanting for some good vegan food in Austin can be answered for the right price.  The staff at Second Bar + Kitchen was given a few days advance notice and a list of likes/dislikes and they used their time wisely.  This meal was stupendous.  Unfortunately their special was a beef tartare so the truffle fries weren't technically vegan but at least they said so.  The corn gazpacho was just OK, it was like a pico de gallo turned soup and was slightly oversalted.  The entree consisted of a vegan "steak" made of beets, grilled tomtatoes, mushrooms and a sweet and spicy sauce that was a little sticky so that it all held together, wow.  The side "salad" was a grilled and sauteed brussel sprout medley, the leaves were torn so that it was in a pile and the distinct and delectable flavors were toasted almonds and pureed apple.  The icing on the cake was the side of black truffled grits.  Wow, wow, wow.  This was heaven.  The chef came out to ask how it turned out and everyone seemed to care whether or not the vegan food was up to par.  Oh how it was.  The vegan dessert was an arrangement of sliced Texas grapefruits covered in poprocks with 2 scoops of grapefruit sorbet balancing on top.  The poprocks actually crackled the whole time and they added a really important sweetness that mellowed out any sour that would come from the juicy grapefuit.  The sorbet was good but it was not as notable as the rest.  Of course this is said with a certain snobbery that develops when one is spoiled with amazing food.  Oh boy will we be back, perhaps going out to eat once a week and paying top dollar for amazing food is better than going out more frequently but settling for less.  Time to go play polo and starch the knickers then, cheers.


La Condesa

Yesterday was Shannon's birthday, just a short time after the La Condesa groupon so we called the day before and headed on over.  The atmosphere is very clean, comfortable and chic.  It was more casual than we were expecting but still a classy place.  Just as Shannon was saying how much she hated arugula, out came the vegan platter.. littered with arugula.  We had fried corn masa, topped with creamed sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, green beans and arugula.  An arugula salad that was described as similar to one offered on their regular menu with toasted pumpkin seeds, a bit of couscous, fresh peaches and oranges, and a delicious lemon dressing.  Grilled eggplant (the only thing Shannon hates more than arugula) atop sliced peaches, mint and cooked lemons.  Then a delightful pile of grilled asparagus topped with shaved jicama, mango and chile powder.  Let us just say, this was all outrageously good.  Any thought of hating arugula was out the window because this was the best arugula ever, it perfectly added to the fresh, sweet lemon flavor and the ripe and juicy peaches, this was by far Miguel's favorite.  The way the arugula added to the fried masa was another feat because it had no dressing at all but the apparent pepper flavor paired with the slightly pickled onions and crispy corn flavor like magic.  Another trick they performed last night was the eggplant, we have never liked eggplant after giving it many chances but out of left field this was Shannon's favorite (tied with the masa).  It acted like tofu by soaking up the grilled flavor but with a new texture that was tough but so smooth.  The asparagus couldn't even compete with these titans of flavor so it was just a great side dish, plain and simple.  We called ahead of time to ensure Shannon got a birthday dessert and boy howdy did she, that's fancy talk for "it was really good."  Anyway, we each got a small glass of 3 scoops of the best sorbet ever.  2 scoops of dark chocolate and 1 scoop of coconut, yum.  As if we weren't already on cloud nine at this point, we get the bill and we have $6 left to spend before using up our $50 groupon.  We go with the $6 guacamole with chipotle and toasted almonds.  When you frequent as many restaurants as we do you come to expect some dishes to taste pretty much the same no matter where you go, guacamole being one of them.  Thank you La Condesa for throwing that out the window with this almost tex mex inspired, after dinner appetizer.  The avocados were perfect to the normal standards but the spicy, smoky flavor of the chipotle sauce and the added smoke and crunch of the almonds just sent this guac over the edge.  It was literally finger licking good, fortunately we took this to go so we were licking our fingers in the comfort of our own home!  Overall, this was a culinary experience not to be missed by vegan or meat eater.  That being said, we would have to limit this type of dining to a yearly, or perhaps a semi-annual event.  The cheapest cocktail was $8 and the cocktails we wanted were $12, and it just kept going up from there.  The wine was moderately priced, we managed to get a bottle of red wine for $28 which is not bad and it tasted great.  One of their "things" is their tequila selection but the prices were too high to even look at the menu.  Each vegan plank was $18 and was too light to share.  We have seen other vegans get tofu on their planks though so perhaps it could be possible with a hearty request.  It may also be worth mentioning that their coffee smelled delicious and almost compelled us to order it but we had bellies full of wine and couldn't possibly pour more liquid on top.    


Friday, June 17, 2011

Satay, Thai Passion, Bananarchy

So this is quite a trio, it made for a delicious weekend. 


We had Bananarchy coupons that were about to expire so we went twice in a row.  It sucks to be forced to have dessert but it was pretty darn good so we won't complain.  OK so there is some complaining, but not much.  So first off the hype of this place wasn't quite met so it was a bit disappointing in that sense.  It is just a normal banana, covered in sugary chocolate and there is nothing above average from there.  We agreed that we prefer our frozen bananas to be a little more squishy on the inside but that is probably hard to keep up with in a trailer.  Also, we prefer simpler bananas and these were a bit over the top.  You couldn't even taste the banana because of the mound of chocolate it was covered in and because we had to spend $10 for our coupon we had to pile toppings on top of that.  Now for the good stuff, you get that really nice sugar buzz afterwards and no bad taste so they must use good quality ingredients.  The GOB is delicious, we added coffee to it and it counteracts that sugary chocolate perfectly.  They sort of messed up the order so we apparently got more toppings than most and man was it good.  The salty peanuts counteract the sweetness as well.  Then we had the custom order of oreos, peanuts, and coconut but they accidentally added cinnamon.  The cinnamon ruined it but we had already said it was OK so oh well.  If you are like us and don't like your sweets overly sweet, don't add anything sweet to your banana.  Then the Joe Banana with coconut instead of toffee since it's not vegan.  This banana was really good, the crunchy coffee with the cinnamon, yum.  You could not taste the coconut and there was a lot of chocolate.  Overall, they were fun to eat and in the future we would probably get the half and keep it simple for more enjoyment :)


Thai Passion

Oops this is going backwards from the title but let's just say we're saving the best for last ;)  So we were in the mood for "chinese" food, which with our lack of experience in the Asian world means all Asian food so we dug through the groupons and picked Thai Passion.  Of course we are sauntering along through the 100 degree whether and got half way to 6th Street before Shannon checked the address and saw the coupon was only good at the South IH-35 location, grr.  So we sweat our way back home and get in the car because you can't stop us now.  We really have never legitimately eaten Thai food before, one time in Orlando we ate at Royal Thai and the flavors were so sour and gross we wrote it off.  Well Thai Passion rekindled the faith.  Hey-zues.  We started the meal off with rice balls and fried tofu, yum and yum.  For our entrees we got a bowl of Tom Yum and the Tofu Mus Mun curry, insert singing angels.  The Tom Yum was a little weird, the sour was literal sour but once we got used to it it was all good from there.  The Mus Mun curry was outstanding, everything we love from curry but not too thick and stuffed with the perfect vegetables.  We also got a thai tea with coconut milk and it was the best one we've ever had, even though it was only like number 3, trust us, very good.  Then it was dessert time and Miguel was apprehensive about ordering rice for dessert but he had no choice because Shannon ordered the sticky coconut rice with mango before he could object.  We were in heaven at this point.  Who would have thought that hot rice with fruit could be good?  Well it's more than good, this meal was just an overall taste sensation.  We will most definitely back, next time to the much closer downtown location but hey the Southern one was near a lot of shopping so that was fun.



So you may be wondering how it could get better after that glowing review.  Well it just can so there.  Apparently Thai food is just out of this world and we've been missing out.  What really caused us to enjoy Satay so thoroughly was a combination of atmosphere, service and food pairings!  We were greeted inside by 2 very friendly looking women, one being the hostess.  We asked if we could sit outside and they said of course, they would prefer if we did since they have a garden out there.  So we sat down and our server came and she just about ruined the beginning for us.  She was not very knowledgeable, very insincere and seemed slow.  We were starving so we ordered the Miang Khum for an appetizer, it was extremely light, as in a few spinach leaves with some toppings, but it was really good.  We had just about decided on what to order when the owner, Foo, came out and offered her help.  We told her what we were thinking about and she steered us in the right direction, even suggesting added vegetables and an extra pepper, to really refine the taste.  Apparently, her and her family are all vegans so we felt safe ordering with her.  One of her specialties is her ability to pair food with wine so before she left we got a suggestion.  She suggested a pinot noir that was the best we've had on it's own, but paired with the food made magic.  Miguel ordered one of "Foo's Recommendations" the Laksa Noodle Soup which was amazing.  The perfect curry with vermicelli, tofu, veggies and soupy, definitely Miguel's favorite combination of food.  Shannon ordered the Bataan Delight with an extra chili to add heat.  It was delicious on it's own but the wine really ignited the flavor for this entree, it was really amazing.  Then we finished off the meal with some black, sticky coconut rice and it was really good.  They have more vegan desserts that we will try next time, including a black silk pie, yum.  We talked some more with Foo when she came out to ask how it was, she told us of her travels in Paris and through France and how her world was opened up when she learned what wine could do for food.  Well, we agree and we are glad it happened!  The best thing about Foo's role in all this is she really limited how much time we had to spend ordering from and talking to our server so that was nice and the hostess even came out to check that everything was great so we really felt welcome.  Overall, it was a perfect night and we eat here every night if didn't limit the use to once a month, ha!  Satay has been added to the list of the few restaurants in Austin we would go to daily if we were rich :)


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Snack Bar - Last time

Since the credit card was maxed out for the weekend the options were limited to available groupons and gift certificates.  We had really wanted to try the ricemilk french toast with ice cream last time so the Snack Bar it was.  This is the last time we will visit the Snack Bar.  We have been there 3-4 times and each time we have a different server and each time it is a bad experience.  The server is always spacey and forgetful and not all that helpful.  This time the server suggested the lavender scone and brought out a cranberry scone that may or may not have had lavender but if she said it had cranberries, it would have been a different story.  Once again they don't ask about customization so out came french toast with ice cream on Italian bread.. with sesame seeds.  Weird.  Then even though we had originally ordered the crepes and the ice cream on the french toast, she could swear she heard we wanted ice cream on the scone?  You may be wondering what is so bad about all these little things?  Well first of all it is way too expensive to be having to deal with things we don't want, next it is increasingly annoying to get this kind of service consistently.  Lastly, after watching the server dance outside for 10 minutes, forgetting drink refills, menu requests, etc. she promptly returned with the bill and said "I don't want to rush you but can you cash out now because I need to get to my next job?" yea it happens, but then she proceeded to wait to grab the receipt with the tip on it so she could leave.  It just felt very rude and it seemed like if she would have dropped the receipt off before leaving to dance it would have taken the rush out of paying out.  Overall, the end of the Snack Bar run.  They have vegan food, some of it's good, but we won't be doling anymore cash out to them.

The Woodland

In an attempt to try a new Austin restaurant we went to the restaurant we have been hearing about, hearing that it has a tree inside, but hearing none the less.  Well before you get too excited about the tree, it's fake.  Lame.  Anyway, things started off a little rocky because the place was dead, the tree was fake, they had half price bottles of wine but were out of the first 2 bottles we ordered.. Then we ordered the french white wine and it was soo good it made everything seem brighter.  The menu was diverse and interesting and had everything our group was craving.  Grits for the deprived Californian, chicken for the anti-fish person, pot pie for the Southerner and veganizeable food yay.  So the vegan dish of the night was a stuffed tomato filled with orzo, spinach, mushrooms and fresh basil.  It was accompanied by a side of tarragon jus which sent it over the edge.  The tomato was perfectly cooked so that you could cut into it and eat it in bites with the stuffing.  The wine also paired well with this savory dish.  Then the trickers pretended the top of the keylime pie was vegan and just before setting it on the table remembered it has gelatin :P  All of their crust has butter in it so they have nothing for the vegans.  They did send a request to start some vegan pies though so let's cross our fingers.  Overall we will be back, the food was gourmet delicious and literally everyone of us cleaned our plates.  We were a difficult bunch that customized everything and they didn't get anything wrong.  Best of all even though the tomato usually comes with cheeses stuffed in, it was not missing any flavor without the cheese and it was still really filling.  Overall, we will definitely be back and of course as is often the case, we are kicking ourselves for not trying this before!  Note: they also have a vegan, house made burger.