Posts Tagged ‘Brussels Sprouts’

East Side King and Via 313 – Austin, TX

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 by virginia

Food trucks are pretty mainstream in Austin. Everywhere we went, there would be parking lots with multiple food trucks set up in what seemed like permanent locations, with Christmas lights strung up, picnic tables, and other assorted outdoor seating. It’s pretty different from NYC where food trucks park on the street and have to move to different locations each day and deal with parking tickets, street cleaning schedules, etc., and we knew that we couldn’t leave Austin without trying a few of the most popular ones.

We were pretty full after our incredible meal at Franklin Barbecue, so even though we walked miles around the city to burn off the calories, we didn’t have room to try as many places as we would have liked. The top of our list was East Side King, which is owned and operated by Paul Qui, the winner of Top Chef Texas. There are many East Side King trucks located throughout Austin, and we were hoping to try the one at the Grackle (which has since closed), since it was outside in front of the bar, which would have made it easier for us to sit there and eat with J.

Austin (and Texas in general) has super strict rules about children not being allowed in bars that don’t serve food. We tried to get into multiple bars on Sixth Street to listen to live music but were turned away every time. Some places even specified “no babies” on their signs that decreed no one under 21 was allowed in, so it’s not just a matter of trying to deter under-aged teens and college students from trying to sneak in. Unfortunately, the East Side King truck at the Grackle was catering a private event that night, and so we went to the next closest location, at the Liberty Bar, which was just up the street. However, the truck is located behind the bar, and to get there, you have to walk through the bar. Josh checked at the door, and they confirmed that they wouldn’t even let us walk a baby through to get the truck out back. So we did what we had to do – park on the street, have Josh go in to order and pick up the food, and then eat in the car.

East Side King at Liberty Bar

East Side King at Liberty Bar

It worked out pretty well, as the food was neatly packaged in takeout containers that allowed us to eat easily without making a huge mess. First we tried the brussels sprout salad, which was fried brussels sprouts with shredded cabbage, onions, and assorted herbs tossed with a sweet-spicy sauce. The brussels sprouts had a good char on the outside and had a nice texture to them – not mushy. The dressing and the herbs gave the salad a southeast Asian flavor, and it was both sweet and savory at the same time. There was lots of mint, basil, and cilantro, which made it quite a refreshing dish that was well balanced. The salad was topped with a deep fried mantou bun.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprout salad

Next we tried the Thai chicken karaage, which was a fusion of Japanese fried chicken bites with Thai flavors. The chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle. The sauce was similar to the dressing for the brussels sprouts, though a tad sweeter and stickier. Again, the fresh herbs mixed in helped bring balance to the dish.

Thai chicken karaage

Thai chicken karaage

The beet home fries were pretty intriguing – I love beets but I’ve never thought about deep frying them before.  The beets weren’t exactly crispy, but they had a distinctive shell on the outside, and the inside was smooth and creamy. It was like frying had concentrated the roasted beet flavor, making them less earthy and more sweet. There was kewpie mayo (sweet Japanese-style mayo) on the side topped with schichimi togarashi, which is a Japanese spice blend. We didn’t use a lot of the mayo though, as the beets were delicious on their own.

Beet home fries

Beet home fries

Lastly, we tried the Poor Qui’s buns, which is roasted pork belly on steamed mantou buns with hoisin sauce and cucumber kimchi. Pork belly buns were pretty trendy in NYC at one point, and this was a fairly standard version, though still solid. The pork belly wasn’t as melty as I typically prefer, but the cucumber kimchi added a little twist to the usual fare. I just wish there was more filling overall, as the innards were pretty skimpy compared to the bun.

Poor Qui's buns

Poor Qui’s buns

Overall, we were pretty impressed with the dishes we got from East Side King. Even though Josh had to carry the food through the bar outside to us, it was still hot and fresh when we dug in. Everything we tried packed a punch of flavor, especially the brussels sprout salad. It’s definitely something I want to try recreating at home. The only thing I might not order again was the pork belly buns, but there were plenty of interesting-looking things on the menu that we didn’t get to try.

After polishing off the food from East Side King, we continued up the street to Via 313, a pizza truck parked outside of the Violet Crown Social Club. Again, J and I stayed in the car while Josh ran out to order. It took about 15 minutes for our pizza to be ready, but we were parked just across the street so Josh was able to stay inside with us while we waited for order to come up.

Via 313 pizza truck

Via 313 pizza truck

Via 313 features Detroit style pizza, which a thick crust, square pie, similar to a Sicilian. However, the cheese is layered directly on top of the crust, and the tomato sauce is drizzled on top of the cheese. We ordered a plain cheese, so that we could taste the classic version of the pizza.

Classic Detroit-style cheese pizza

Classic Detroit-style cheese pizza

The crust was lighter and more airy than a usual Sicilian, though the very middle was a little doughy. The pizza is baked in a pan, so the bottom and sides are nicely browned. The cheese covers the entire top of the pizza, all the way to the edges where it gets all caramelized and crispy – that was the best part. The sauce was tangy, not too sweet, though I did wish there was a little more of it.

Underside shot

Underside shot

Overall, I had to admit, the Detroit-style pizza was pretty good. We’re NYC pizza snobs, but I could see the appeal of the thick yet crispy crust, the browned cheese edges, and the sauce on top. Via 313 makes a fresh, hot pie that we really enjoyed. J took down a whole slice by herself, and she’s pretty picky about her pizza.

Even though we spent the last night of our trip eating in our car, it was a fun experience, as we got to try innovative and well prepared food that is astonishingly cooked on a food truck. It’s pretty incredible, considering I used to complain about the size of our kitchen when we lived in NYC. The only downside to dining in the car was that we couldn’t enjoy any beers while we were eating, but that was a small sacrifice to be able to taste such great food. Unfortunately we weren’t able to hit all the spots that we wanted to try, but I do hope that we’ll be back in Austin at some point in the near future.

East Side King (multiple locations)
@Liberty Bar
1618 1/2 East 6th St.
Austin, TX

VIA 313 (multiple locations)
@ The Violet Crown Social Club
1111 East 6th St.
Austin, TX

Fun with Foie Gras

Friday, April 12th, 2013 by virginia

This past Valentine’s Day, Josh and I celebrated the 15th anniversary of our first date. Unfortunately, with a four and a half month old baby and both of us working full time, we really didn’t have much time to celebrate properly on the actual day, since it was a Thursday.

The night before Valentine’s Day, however, we were watching the latest episode of Top Chef, where one of the cheftestants, Josh, made foie gras three ways. As we watched him break down a lobe of foie gras on tv, I commented to my Josh that I would love to have my own lobe of foie gras to play with. The next day, he promptly ordered an entire lobe of foie gras from D’Artagnan for me. Definitely a unique anniversary present, but so fitting for us!

The following Saturday was the first weekend in months that we had no plans so we hit up the local Fairway for some ingredients and sequestered ourselves in our house, devoting the full afternoon to preparing our feast. On the menu: seared foie gras with balsamic glaze served with crostini, rack of lamb with shaved brussels sprout salad and mushroom spaeztle on the side, and creme brulee for dessert.

Josh had prepped the foie gras when it was delivered to our house in the previous week. Since it was a grade ‘A’ lobe, there wasn’t much cleaning involved. He sliced it into half inch thick slabs and we vacuum sealed them in two-person portions, then popped them into the freezer. I was sad that we weren’t able to eat any fresh out of the package, but we figured this was the best way to preserve the integrity of the foie gras. We were able to get six good-sized slices and a few end pieces out of the lobe. In anticipation of our meal, I defrosted one of the sealed bags overnight in our refrigerator.

To cook the foie gras, Josh added a bit of vegetable oil in the pan and scored one side of each slice with a cross hatch pattern, like you would do with the skin of a duck before cooking. It doesn’t really do anything to the foie gras, but makes for a pretty pattern after cooking, and more seared bits on the outside. He also liberally sprinkled both sides of each slice with kosher salt. Once the pan was super hot, almost to the point of smoking, he laid the slices in the oil, counted 45 seconds out loud, and then immediately flipped them over. He cooked the second side for another 45 seconds, and voila, they were done. We put them on paper towels for a minute to rest and soak up some of the grease.

It was a mistake for Josh to put oil in the pan prior to searing, as the foie gras produced enough fat on its own. He ended up having to pour off a lot of the oil/fat (we tried to save it to use later on in the week, but we got busy again and didn’t have a chance to cook with it. Next time.), and then he deglazed the pan with some aged balsamic vinegar to make a syrupy sauce that we ended up pouring over the foie gras. He served the seared slices on top of some crostini that we toasted with olive oil, and the result was pretty fantastic.

Seared foie gras on top of crostini

Seared foie gras on top of crostini

We paired the foie gras with sauternes, which is pretty classic. We bought a half bottle of the 2009 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes, which was sweet but not cloying, fruity, and slightly floral. On it’s own, it was a delicious dessert wine. However, I hated the pairing with the foie gras. After drinking the wine and eating some of the foie gras, I thought that it brought out the irony, sour notes of the liver. After eating the foie gras and drinking some of the wine, I thought it made the sauternes taste a bit harsh and acidic. While each was wonderful on its own, together, I thought it was a pretty horrible pairing. I’m not sure if it was just me, as Josh didn’t seem to mind that much, or if we picked the wrong bottle of wine, or what. It wasn’t a cheap bottle – about $40 for 375 ml, and it had received a 94 from Wine Spectator. I was disappointed, and wound up saving the rest of my glass for our dessert course, which turned out to be a better option.


2009 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes

For our main course, Josh prepared the rack of lamb by marinating it in olive oil with garlic and rosemary. Then he cooked it sous vide in our Sous Vide Supreme at 55 degrees celsius for about two hours. Afterward, he seared it quickly to develop a crust on the outside, and made a pan sauce with cognac, mustard, and chicken stock.

I was in charge of the side dishes. I took about a pound of beautiful bright green brussels sprouts and sliced them as thinly as possible. I could have shaved them using a mandolin, but I was too lazy to bust out and have to clean extra equipment. We tossed the brussels sprouts with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard.

I was inspired to make spaetzle based on a dish we had in Bratislava a year and a half ago – roasted pork tenderloin with spaetzle covered in a porcini cream sauce. I’ve never made spaetzle before and used the easiest recipe I could find, which was from allrecipes. I cut back on the nutmeg though, which is a personal preference (I really don’t enjoy nutmeg). We don’t have a spaetzle maker so I used the biggest holes on a box grater, pushing the dough through with a silicon spatula. It worked surprisingly well, and the result was chewy nubs of jaggedy spaetzle. For the sauce, I sliced cremini mushrooms and browned them in olive oil until they were soft and cooked down. Then I used the food processor to chop them into tiny pieces, put them back into the pan, and added heavy cream, salt, and truffle oil and cooked it through until the sauce was rich and creamy, but that the mushrooms were still distinguishable. I was incredibly pleased with how the dish turned out. The combination of the meaty lamb, the rich spaetzle, and the bright, slightly bitter brussels sprout salad, was just perfect.

Sous vide rack of lamb, shaved brussels sprouts salad, spaetzle with mushroom cream sauce

Sous vide rack of lamb, shaved brussels sprouts salad, spaetzle with mushroom cream sauce

Josh was in charge of dessert and made creme brulee upon my request. He uses the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe cookbook, and uses real vanilla beans. The custard is velvety and smooth, not too sweet, and the sugar crust on top is hard to beat. I have to admit that I usually lick out the ramekins to get every last bit and all the little vanilla bean seeds that stick behind.


We still have several portions of foie gras left in the freezer, and I’m not sure what I want to do with them. Searing is quick, easy, and delicious though, so we really can’t go wrong doing that again. Maybe we’ll play around with the toppings – port wine, stone fruits, there are tons of recipes online. I’ll also have to see what we can do with the end pieces; maybe we could make something more creative with those. I just don’t want to experiment on the nice slices that we have, in case something goes awry.

All in all, even though we didn’t go anywhere exciting or try any new restaurants for our anniversary, we ended up doing what we love most – cooking, savoring the fruits of our labors, drinking nice wines, and simply enjoying being together.

CSA Week #22 (Last Share of the Season!)

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by virginia

Sadly, today is the last day of our CSA share for the season. We decided not to do the winter share so we will have to wait until next summer before we can join the CSA again. This was our first year trying it out, and it was definitely a great experience for us. Even though the produce got a bit overwhelming at times, we definitely tried our best not to let anything go to waste.

This week we got our biggest distribution of the season, probably because it was the last share. Our vegetable share contents included:

Winter Squash – 1 each
Brussels Sprouts – 1 each
Radishes – 5 each
Potatoes – 1 lb
Cooking Greens – 1 lb
Bok Choy – 1 each
Cabbage – 1 each
Carrots – 1 1/2 lbs
Onions – 1 lb
Beets – 1 lb
Celery – 1 each

Bok choy, beets, onions, brussels sprouts, celery, carrots, radishes, cabbage, kale, squash, potatoes

I’m excited about the winter squash, which was butternut this time. I might just roast it, or make some butternut squash soup. I was also happy to see bok choy again, since it was always one of my favorites during the season. Everything else looked great as well, and we definitely have enough vegetables to last us for the next few weeks.

Any guesses what our fruit share contained? That’s right, MORE apples! This week the contents included:

Fuji Apples – 4 3/4 lbs
Jonagold Apples – 4 3/4 lbs

Fuji and jonagold apples

The entire bottom shelf of our refrigerator is just packed with apples right now. Some are getting a bit bruised and soggy so I’m going to turn them into a huge batch of applesauce. With the rest, I foresee a few pies and tarts, and maybe a crumble or two. I’m complaining about the amount of apples now, but when we finally do get through them, I know I’ll feel a bit sad.

Joining the CSA was really a great decision for us. We got to try out vegetables that we ordinarily would not have picked up from the supermarket, and it was nice to have fresh produce on hand weekly. Cost-wise, the share was very reasonably priced per week, though you have to pay the total at the beginning of the season. The vegetables and fruits we got more than covered the cost, especially when we saw how pricey certain items were at the local Greenmarkets. We will absolutely join a CSA again next year, and we hope we’ve inspired some of you to check out a CSA as well.

P.S. No worries about CSA posts withdrawal, I’ve still got plenty of recipes to write about. Thanks for reading!

CSA Week #21

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by virginia

Oy vey, what a day. Josh and I were supposed to meet up to get our CSA share together at 5:30 but I got stuck at work so he had to go by himself this week. Not a big deal, except that he got there so late they ran out of leeks! Darn, I had already been planning on making a potato leek soup this week. Oh well. This week our vegetable share included:

Potatoes – 1/2 lb
Greens – 1 lb
Radishes – 5 each
Green Tomatoes – 1 lb
Turnips – 3 each
Brussels Sprouts – 1 each

Turnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, kale, green tomatoes, potatoes

The potatoes we got were absolutely covered in mud, but apparently that’s how they stay preserved. Interesting, but super messy. The green tomatoes look like the heirloom variety and I plan on making fried green tomatoes. The brussels sprouts look absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to eat them. For the greens, Josh picked up purple kale, which will of course be made into chips.

For the fruit share, we got apples, apples, and more apples. The share contents included:

Macoun Apples – 5 lbs
Empires Apples – 5 lbs

Apples, apples, and more apples

I really need to do something with the apples in our fridge, and applesauce looks like the best bet. Claire also recommended a bunch of recipes to us, which I might try out this weekend. I think next week is our last week of CSA, and I’m absolutely devastated!