Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Onward we go...

I wanna die with a worn out passport
In the pocket of stolen jeans
On a beach somewhere I've never been before
Full of people I've never seen

And I want my body filled with
More alcohol than blood
Don't take this as self destructive
Because this wish is filled with love

So we drank and talked for hours
About the places you wanna go
I suggested every country in the world
And I never heard a 'no'
(-Worn Out Passport- The Copyrights - abridged )

Is it scarier to be at the mercy of the winds or to fight the ocean for the course you choose? It's hard to tell some days but this much I know - in order to have a chance at either you have to set sail.

Happy travels!

Note: Travel will take us through the gulf states soon. Stay tuned for more stories, new places and if we're lucky, some delicious food.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sau Paulo's Restaurant - Austin, Texas

Ad for a local market

 This past weekend found us in Austin again. No BBQ stops this time but we did stop in for dinner at a favorite of ours. 

While we were there we got talking with our waiter and the conversation turned to authenticity and Brazilian food in general. Our server, I can't believe I didn't get his name, had just come back from a trip home to Brazil visiting family. I noted that we wished Fogo served feijoada (fesh-wah-duh) and he promptly told us about a Brazilian restaurant in town that did serve it and also something called coxinha (co-shee-nya) and did we know about coxinha? Umm no. He said that they would be hard to explain and what we needed to do was give them a try. 

Which is how we wound up at Sao Paulo's the next day.

Sao Paulo's is a Brazilian restaurant but not a churrascaria. That is to say it is nothing like Fogo or any of it's kin. The menu at Sao Paulo's gives a nod to the local Tex-Mex cuisine and also has a burger and a few sandwiches listed. We were there for two things: the feijoada and the coxinha. We looked over the menu for one other entree to add and we ordered the Galinhada which is a Brazilian take on paella. 

First up were the coxinha. These are pear shaped fritters made of cornmeal that are stuffed with different things.We had some that were stuffed with spicy chicken and a type of cream cheese. Very flavorful. We really liked this dish and could honestly eat these by the dozen.


Sorry about the photo but this was the best shot of the stuffing in the coxinha
 Next up that delicious stew. Feijoada is a black bean stew made with various meats. It's served with rice, greens and farofa as accompaniments. 

The first time I had this dish was at a small churrascaria in Sioux Falls, SD of all places. It was love at first bite. While most of the Brazilian steakhouses we've been to have black beans on the menu very few of them have this lovely stew. Because it's so hard to find on any menu I learned how to make it myself. Definitely worth doing. The feijoada at Sau Paulo is perfection. Hearty, full of deep rich flavor, pure comfort in a bowl. The perfect antidote for a cold winters day.

Next up was the galinhada, a one pot rice dish similar to paella. The rice and shrimp were perfectly cooked and the saffron struck just the right note.  This was a lovely plate of food but with so many choices we'll try one of the other entrees if we get back here.

Galinhada - Jasmine rice seasoned with saffron, onion, cilantro, tomatoes and mushrooms with shrimp
But I'll definitely get the feijoada and the coxinhas. Everything else will have to fight for a place on the table. 

The Austin area may be well known for barbeque but don't be fooled. Hidden gems like Sao Paulo's are out there waiting to be discovered. If you're at all interested in Brazilian food outside of their steakhouses give this place a try. You'll find a lot to love.

On another note we came across this while we were out walking the dog...

 A free public solar powered charging  station. You can charge up a cellphone, tablet or what have you. How cool is that? And what a great idea.
So that was the weekend. We had a great time walking around the city and eating some good food. If you're looking for a unique experience give Austin a try. It's a great city served with a big dollop of fun and a side of weird. Just perfect if you ask us. 

Happy travels!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Willie G's - Galveston, Texas

Willie G's is a small chain seafood and steak place. They have three locations in Texas and one in Colorado. We stopped in for lunch when we were visiting the Galveston, Texas area.

This statue is called High Tide and features a boy with seagulls

Galveston is a popular destination with both tourists and locals. There's the beach of course, some nice resorts and lots of places to eat and drink.

We decided on Willie G's due to its proximity to local attractions we were visiting. Willie's has nice open spaces and a large deck that overlooks the water. We skipped the deck and had lunch inside the sunny dining room.

After drink orders were placed we took a minute to look over the lunch menu.

I went with the Willie Burger and the Dining Companion had seafood salad on a croissant. The food was good; typical lunch fare.

Seafood Salad Sandwich

Willie Burger

We enjoyed our lunch but with so many other places to try it might be a while before we make our way back to Willie G's. If you plan on visiting the Galveston area you'll have no trouble finding lots of good places to wine and dine.

Future plans will take us back to Galveston. There's the awesome Sunday brunch at the hotel Galvez, harbor boat tours, an old submarine and lots of other local attractions. Watch this space for more.

Happy dining!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

T-Bone Tom's - Kemah, Texas

T-Bone Tom's is a local Kemah institution. It's a smokehouse that has a little bit of something for everyone on their menu.  It's been a local fixture here since 1974. We were there for their version of that perennial bar favorite, the jalapeno popper. T-Bone Tom's features a couple of unique varieties billed as Shark Eggs and Armadillo Eggs. The Shark Eggs are poppers filled with a shrimp and crab and the Armadillo Eggs are filled with smoked brisket.

"Shark" Egg and "Armadillo" Egg Jalapeno Poppers
While both of these versions were good my favorite was the brisket popper. I'll be back for that one.

Tom's is, for the most part, a BBQ joint and they feature all of the usual suspects; brisket, ribs, pork and sausage. They also do steaks and fried chicken. We'll get back there to try their BBQ and other items but on this visit it was all about the jalapeno poppers and the burgers.

Jalapeno Cheeseburger
The meat for T-Bone Tom's burgers is ground fresh daily on premises. The care they take with the meat definitely comes through in the burgers. Perfectly grilled half pound burgers on a really great toasted bun. A surprisingly good burger and one we'd go back for again. To top off the great burgers we had the homemade bread pudding with hard sauce. Perfect note on which to end our meal.

Homemade Bread Pudding

While the space is nothing fancy it's comfortable and what you'd expect from a homey place like this one.

Tom's is also a live music venue. Tom's Backyard is located alongside the restaurant and features live music several days a week.

A lot of the local touristy beach areas are filled with chain restaurants. T-Bone Tom's is a bright spot in that landscape. If you're in the Kemah, TX area looking for a good lunch or dinner option give this place a try. It won't disappoint.

Note: This place was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives back in 2009.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Alpine Brauhaus - Webster, Texas

A small unassuming restaurant located in a nearby strip mall has come to my attention. Nothing too unusual about that you say, there are restaurants in strip malls all over the place. Well this one is not your usual strip mall chain offering. This mall is home to the Alpine Brauhaus, a German restaurant. I love German food. It's easily up there at the top of my favorite-food-ever list.

When I think of comfort food one of the cuisines that comes to mind is the food of Germany. Sausages, potatoes, bread, cheese, I love it all. And the beer. My love of German beer goes back many years (more years now than I want to think about). Round all of that out with strudel or a Linzer Torte and maybe a glass of my favorite Riesling and I am one happy diner.

Which leads me to Alpine Brauhaus. Having lived for many years in an area abundant with German restaurants I've kind of taken them for granted. Sadly, good German food (or even not so good German food) is not so easy to come by in some parts of our country. But I'm in a lucky spot right now and there are several to choose from in the area. Alpine Brauhaus is the first one of these that we tried.

Quick aside, I just recently realized that Chicken Fried Steak is just another type of schnitzel. It was actually brought to the area by German settlers. Seems so obvious right? I can't believe that I never knew that. From the Kitchen Project website:

Schnitzel morphs into Chicken Fried Steak
In the mid 1800's German Immigrants flocked to Texas. Beef was more plentiful than veal or pork and something needed to be done with the . So instead of using veal or pork for schnitzel they used beef.
Looking for a way to sell the tougher cuts of meat they pounded it and tenderized it a bit. Legend has it that a cook accidentally grabbed one of these steaks by accident when doing an order of fried chicken. The accident was loved and became known as Chicken Fried Steak. 

Well, maybe that wasn't so quick. Anyway, we've been to Alpine Brauhaus a couple of times so far, once for lunch and once for dinner. When we were there eating lunch we had a chance to check out their dinner menu and decided that we had to come back again some evening. 

I didn't see a menu online but I have a couple of pictures of them.

Lunch Menu
Dinner Specials

Dinner Menu

The dinner item that caught our eye was the Bauernplatte (Farmer's Plate) for Two on the Specials menu. I love being able to sample a variety of what a place has to offer and this covered a lot. 

Potato and pea soup

Seeded rye bread

Krombacher Dark beer
Dinner started with what was clearly a made from scratch soup. This one was potato and pea, some rye bread and a nice Krombacher Dark beer. My only complaint was that the beer was served too cold. After I let it sit for a bit I was actually able to taste the flavor notes in the beer. A nice dark beer, I liked it. 

Then onto the main event.

Sausage, Smoked Ham Haxe, Leberkase, potatoes, purple cabbage

Green beans, sauerkraut, purple cabbage and more sausage
I'm not sure that the pictures tell the whole tale of the volume of food here. We took enough home with us for a couple more meals. While this is listed as dinner for two I would guess it could easily be dinner for 3-4. 

Everything was good and exactly what we expected. German food is very mildly spiced, some might even say bland. The most notable flavor profile in German cooking is the play of sweet and sour. A combination that I happen to love. While the flavors are definitely subtle they are all there. The sweetness of the purple cabbage and sauteed onions, the vinegary taste of the sauerkraut all play well against the rich tastes of the smoked ham haxe and the snappy, grilled sausages. And then there's the leberkase.

One of my favorite things on the plate is the Leberkase which is a mix of meats and onion that is ground together and then baked in a loaf pan. The loaf is then sliced and either grilled (shown here) or served cold in a sandwich. I really like meatloaf and this feels a lot like meatloaf's European cousin. 

After all of that deliciousness we couldn't eat another bite, not even with the siren call of Apple Strudel begging to be tried. For that reason and a few more menu items we want to try, we'll be back to Alpine Brauhaus.

When you add to that the cozy and inviting atmosphere, the grandmotherly servers and the good food this place is a gem and well worth a visit or three.

Happy dining!