Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 AFBA City Guide
Favorite Austin Specialty Food & Wine Shops

When I was younger, I imagined I'd be middle-aged (at about 35), and I'd be a writer. I'd sip on tiny cups of nuclear espresso. I'd ride my candy apple red bicycle down the sidewalks, my straight ashe-blonde hair pulled back in an insouciant ponytail, streaking behind me in the wind. I'd wear wools and flannels and leather, because you know how frequently Southern women wear wools and flannels and leather, I'd be effortlessly chic, because I'd read that in my mother's not very well hidden copy of Cosmopolitan, and I'd have a worn copy of Jack Kerouac tucked under my arm. I'd carry a sleek gold pen and a tattered leather diary. On a perfumed sheet of pale pink stationary, folded and tucked into my pocket (my big wool pocket), my hastily sketched grocery list, decorated by absentmindedly doodled stars and hearts, of course.

I'd stop, first, for a bottle of champagne, and sample port with the wine stewards before I leave. I'd cycle on for charcuterie, then bread, and stay a bit too long for the jazz, then on to pick up cheese, maybe fish--and a chat about politics, perhaps a dessert. Of course every stop along the way I would have nibbled and sipped and snacked, so that when I slowly rolled myself home--edible treasures tucked securely in the wicker basket attached to my bike, I'd be almost full before dinner. I'd slip into some vinyl Edith Piaf crackling on the turntable, and finish the evening curled up early with a luscious cashmere lap blanket and a book, a flute of chilled champagne, and a plate of my favorite light nibbles. And oh, yeah. I'd be French.

And here I am at middle age (which is way older than 35). Among the aprons I wear and the pens I carry, I'm a writer. A food writer by trade. A writer who drinks too much espresso, probably. I don't have long, straight hair, I don't wear wools and flannels very often (I've never lived anywhere north of  South) but you might catch me dressed in a little leather rebellion occasionally. I tote all kinds of diaries and journals around, I'm on my third Kerouac, And in the pocket of my cardigan, you'll find at least one slightly crumpled, hastily sketched grocery list (and likely those stars and the hearts, too.)

I have that vinyl Edith Piaf, and the turntable with which to spin her. I have a pretty blanket, so soft, not cashmere. I never seem to call it an early night, and champagne is a rare treat (but I stash an emergency bottle. A girl should never be too cautious about champagne). And I have that candy apple red bicycle with a wicker basket attached to the front in which I tuck the treasures of shops like those that populated my younger dreams, Imported Cheese and a fresh baguette for dinner? Sure--just a bike ride away. You'd think, just maybe, my dreams had come true. Well, I live in Austin, Texas. My dreams have come true.

And I'm Southern. Not French. Kinda like it that way.

I'd like to welcome you to Austin, if you're visiting, and congratulate you, if you're a resident. This city guide, My Favorite Austin Specialty Food & Wine Shops, is just one in a collection of many culinary guides written by members of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, to which I proudly claim membership. Do yourself a flavor favor and check it out. The 2015 AFBA City Guide, #ATXBestEats, is an annual collection of guides covering a wide range of Austin food offerings, including ethnic cuisines, food events and experiences, best of's of all shapes, sizes, geographic regions of the city, and beyond. The Guide is published just prior to SXSW Interactive, Film, and Music festival that takes over the bustling center of the city for 10 exciting days in March. I'm fortunate to live pretty close to the thick of things. A bike ride away, if you will.

With proximity to the action in mind, I've curated a list of my favorite food and wine specialty shops in the area where you can grab a nibble, collect a picnic lunch, or pull together an impromptu after-concert dinner for friends. Some even serve prepared meals-- look for their restaurant hours, which may be different from retail shops, along with menus, at the links provided below. Not an exhaustive list, certainly, but spots that are easy to get to from downtown or the UT campus, providing quality food and service. I've left off of the list anything that was a little out of the way, is a national chain, or is service-challenged. Those below are top-notch choices that won't disappoint.

Antonelli's Cheese Shop
artisanal cheeses, cured meats, bread & sundries, wine & craft beers.

Hyde Park Area
4220 Duval St
Austin, TX 78751
Phone:(512) 531-9610
Hours: Mon-Sat 11-7   Sun 12-5
Con' Olio Oils & Vinegars
premium olive oil tasting bar serving complementary samples of fresh extra virgin olive oils and aged traditional balsamic vinegars

2ND Street District
215 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701
Phone:(512) 495-1559
Hours: Mon-Fri 11-7 Sat 10-8 Sun 12-6

Dai Due Butcher Shop
grass-fed beef, pastured pork, feral hog, free-roaming venison, goat, lamb, fresh chicken, quail and more, sourced from local ranchers, restaurant

2406 Manor Rd
Austin, TX 78722
Phone:(512) 524-0688
Hours: Butcher Shop - Tue-Sun 10–10
Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden
house-made bread, pretzels, sausages and corned beef and hand-selected cheeses, craft beers, wines, and spirits.

709 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78701
Phone:(512) 614-4972
Hours: Bake Shop 7a-2p Beer Garden 11a-2a

henri's cheese & wine
gourmet cheeses, charcuterie, fine wine, craft beer, coffee and tea, and cafe' fare

2026 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
Phone:(512) 442-3373
Hours: cheese and charcuterie 11:00 am – close

Mandola's Italian Market 
imported salumi, cheeses & antipasti dishes, authentic Italian cookies, cakes & pastries, imported groceries, wine, restaurant

Triangle Location
4700 W Guadalupe St #12
Austin, TX 78751
Phone:(512) 419-9700
Hours: Store Hours Mon - Fri 11 - 10 Sat 9a - 10p Sun 9-9

Quality Seafood Market
fresh, high-quality seafood, filleted in house, FDA-approved fish processor, restaurant, oyster bar, food truck open for breakfast

Highland Mall area
5621 Airport Blvd
Austin, TX 78751
Phone:(512) 452-3820
Hours: Market open 8-8

Salt & Time Butcher Shop & Salumeria
full service butcher shop, salumeria, restaurant, fresh cut meats from local sustainable ranches, house-made sausages, salumi and charcuterie, fine artisan foods, coffee, beer and wine.

Address: 1912 E 7th St,
Austin, TX 78702
Phone:(512) 524-1383
Hours: Butcher Shop Tue - Sat 10 - 8 Sunday 10 - 6

Texas French Bread
freshly-baked artisan breads, pastries, and desserts from scratch, homemade sandwiches, soups, salads, locally roasted coffees. French country bistro fare for eat-in.

West Campus
2900 Rio Grande St
Austin, TX 78705
Phone:(512) 499-0544
Hours: Mon - Thur 7a-9:30p Fri-Sat 7a-10p
Sun 8a-3p

If you found this guide helpful, you might be interested in the additional guides I'm working on-- the 2015 Guide to Austin's Farmers' Markets, and coming later today, A Creole Crawl-- The 2015 Guide to Cajun & Creole food in Austin, and the 2015 Guide to Barbecue East of Austin. Don't forget to check out the complete 2015 City Guide: The Best Places to Eat in Austin, #ATXBestEats.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2015 AFBA City Guide
A Guide to Farmers' Markets in Austin

Welcome weary travelers!  Welcome to Austin. Have a great time while you're here. As a contributor to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance 2015 City Guide, I have the pleasure of sharing what's near and dear to my heart, and my appetite-- Farmers' Markets in Austin. I spend a lot a time around the markets and I've come to love the sense of community, the availability of peak of the season fruits and vegetables, and just for hanging out, eating delicious prepared foods, and jamming with the band. I'm even a farmers' market chef. Join me on a fresh adventure around Austin and thank you for supporting your local farmers!

The challenge to traveling light and lean is often the lack of  healthy, wholesome food among the greasy spoons and fast food one often settles for on the road. In absence of sound nutritional and convenient choices along the highways and byways, a drive-thru salad day old salad bereft of color and flavor with a hefty squeeze of what passes for ranch-style dressing is about as healthy as you'll find. Yet how, and where you choose to fuel your body will go a long way toward energizing you for vacation days, and nights, of walking, and partying, during SXSW, or any time spent knocking around Austin, for that matter.

Now, just how many In-and-Out burgers are you going to stuff in your face before you start feeling the effects of haphazard and hasty food choices? Sluggish, bloated and worn down is not what you're after when you're on the go, go, GO. Treat yourself right.

When your body starts to disapprove of that typical road food fare (or all that barbecue you've been scarfing down?), head over to one of Austin's friendly farmers' markets and dig right in for a little digestive rescue. You'll find farmers, ranchers, beekeepers, prepared foods to eat on site or take away, and in many instances, art, body care, clothing, jewelry, ponies, petting zoos, family-friendly special events and even FREE LIVE MUSIC. Really! No wristband required!

Austin, and the surrounding area, is filthy with food choices from farmers' markets and local farm stands almost every day of the week. A comprehensive listing and map of all Austin and surrounding area farmers' markets, sorted by day, can be found at Edible Austin. (and look for an upcoming overview of markets in South Austin from fellow blogger, Kay, at ATX Food News)

Below, find listings for all farmers' markets, certified by the Texas Department of Agriculture, within the Austin city limits.

Barton Creek Farmers' Market 
2901 1/2 Tamarron
Austin, Texas 78746
Days of Operation: Saturday
Hours: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
List of market vendors

Barton Creek Farmers' Market 
2323 S. Lamar (Bluebonnet and S. Lamar)
Austin, Texas 78704
Days of Operation: Sunday
Hours: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
List of market vendors

Hope Farmers' Market 
412 Comal Street
Austin, Texas 78702
Days of Operation: Sunday
Hours: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
List of market vendors
Photo credit: Hope Farmers' Market

Mueller Farmers' Market
4550 Mueller Blvd - Under Historic Hanger
Austin, Texas 78723
Days of Operation: Sunday
Hours: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
List of market vendors

SFC Farmers' Market Downtown 
422 Guadalupe
Austin, Texas 78701
Days of Operation: Saturday
Hours: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
List of market vendors
Photo credit: Thomas Winslow

SFC Farmers' Market at Sunset Valley 
3200 Jones Road
Austin, Texas 78745
Days of Operation: Saturday
Hours: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
List of market vendors
Photo credit: Thomas Winslow

SFC Farmers' Market at the Triangle
4700 W Guadalupe (Triangle Avenue)
Austin, Texas 78705
Days of Operation: Wednesday
Hours: 3 - 7 p.m.
List of market vendors
Photo credit: Thomas Winslow

SFC Farmers' Market East
2835 E. MLK Jr. Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78702
Days of Operation: Tuesday
Hours: 3 - 7 p.m.
List of market vendors
Photo credit: Thomas Winslow

Feel like going straight to the grower? You're not far from the source. Several urban farms operate within the Austin city limits, and at least two of those farms lay claim to some of the friendliest folks you'll meet in Austin. Stop by these flourishing East Austin farm stands where you'll find tables teeming with abundant, freshly-picked produce and more.

Boggy Creek Farm Stand
3414 Lyons Rd.
Austin, TX 78702
Days of Operation: Wednesday-Saturday
8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Seasonal Report

Springdale Farm Stand
755 Springdale Rd.
Austin, TX 78702
Days of Operation: Wednesday and Saturday
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Currently Growing

Disclosure: As mentioned above, I work as a market chef contractor with Texas Farmers' Markets, the operator of the Mueller Farmers' Market, listed above, as well as the Cedar Park Farmers' Market located at Lakeline Mall, Cedar Park. .

Stay tuned for 2015 guides for Creole Food, Barbecue, and Favorite Specialty Food Shops, and be sure to check out additional recommendations in every category of food and drink under the sun, at #ATXBESTEATS.


(Almost) Wordless Wednesdays
Road Trip

"...Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had. Rather than the back of an airline seat or endless, identical rest stops on the interstate, I saw farmhouses in the middle of protective stands of trees, silos reaching for the sky, barns faded to the soft red of tomato soup. The weather everywhere stayed stubbornly warm, and people seemed edgily grateful—what could this mean, sixty-degree weather in November? I drove through one small town where old people sat on rockers on front porches and kids tore around corners on bikes and young mothers, jackets tied around their waists, proudly pushed babies in strollers...." 

 Read more from The Year of Pleasures, by Elizabeth Berg.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

South Bytes: Best Bets for Eating at SXSW
Queue up for 'Cue at LA Barbecue

LA Barbecue “Cuisine Texicana”
Maggie Perkins, Notes from Maggie’s Farm

Queueing up for ‘cue is a uniquely Austin experience, but to get to my favorite barbecue in Austin, feel free to sleep in a bit and avoid the notorious line up the street in favor of a lighter, and just as enthusiastic crowd at this little smoker of a spot on the corner of Cesar Chavez.  

Now don’t wait too late as the word is out and barbecue aficionados, beginners, and out-of-towners, alike do line up before lunch, just not so early, for some of the best barbecue in Central Texas. You might even find yourself with a complimentary cold one in your hand as you chat with your fellow line mates.

Hanging out downtown? You’re just a walk away from mouthwatering ribs so tender the meat falls from the bone, brisket lovingly prepared by Pitmaster John Lewis (formerly of that spot up the road) yielding that sought-after bark and pretty as pink smoke ring, and smoked sausage, my favorite in town, made in house with a hint of coriander and the signature “crack” of a perfectly prepared link. Also serving smoked turkey, pulled pork, chopped beef, and both pork and beef ribs, with the usual, yet thoughtfully rendered sides. GQ Magazine recently named LA Barbecue one of the 25 Best New Restaurants in America. Don’t miss an opportunity to taste for yourself!

Tips for Tuesday
In the Garden: March

This month's In the Garden graphics are in honor of my late mother, Margaret Ann, or Peggy as she was called, who loved quilts, and window boxes, and blooming bulbs. She admired pretty as much as she was pretty. I miss her all year long, but I hear her voice strongest right around her birthday, March 6. If she's watching, she'll be happy to see that I'm planning my flower boxes. This year, I'm planting jonquils in a public garden in her memory. 
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.  Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
In like a lion, out like a lamb for much of the country, March will see winter's chilly nights arise to Spring's warmer days, yielding crisp sunny afternoons that just give a peek at the riotous glory to come. It's perfect gardening weather, and that's a great thing, because break's over, friends. It's time to get busy!

Below, find planting information for USDA Zone 8.  Adjust accordingly for the zone in which you garden-- you can find more information about your plant hardiness zone, here.

Things To Do In March

Begin monthly feedings of hibiscus after pruning. Start a rose feeding schedule; spray and feed camellias. Begin fertilizing azaleas after they bloom. Fertilize established fruit and nut trees with 1 lb. 15-5-10 per inch of trunk diameter. Berry bushes should receive 1/3 cup per square yard of planting area.

Watch for aphids on new growth, spider mites on older leaves and cut worms on young transplants. Spray peach and plum trees for curculio weevils when 3/4 of the petals have fallen (repeat three times at two week intervals).

Prune hibiscus, also spring flowering shrubs and trees, after they bloom. Prune and train vines. Shape spring-blooming shrubs with light pruning after bloom. Allow bulb foliage to yellow and die before removing.

Things To Plant In March

Flower Plants
achillea (yarrow), ageratum, alyssum, joseph's coat, summer forget-me-not, african daisy, alpine aster, butterfly weed, balloon flower, balsam, blue daze, blue cardinal flower, boltonia, scarlet bouvardia, browallia, calliopsis, candytutft, chocolate plant, chrysanthemum, cigar platn, cleome, cockscomb, coleus, columbine, copper plant, coreopsis, dahlia, dianthus, daisy (michaelmas, shasta and painted). feverfew. gao;;ardoa. geranium, gomphrena, hibiscus, hollyhock, indian blanket, jacobinia, lamb's ear, lantana, liatris, edging lobelia, mexican heather, nasturtium, nierembergia, penstemon, penta, petunia, phlox drummondi, plumbago, oriental poppy, salvia, sedum, spiderwort, stokes' aster, sunflower, torenia, veronica.

Flower Seeds
ageratum, balsam, amethyst flower, candytuft, castor bean, cleome, butterfly pea, cosmos, dahlia, echinacea, feverfew, impatiens, moonflower, cyperss vine, gomphrena, sunflower, nasturtium, flowering tobacco, pinks, portulace, sweet sultan, marigold, tithonia, torenia, verbena.

achimenes, acidanthera, allium, alstromeria, amarcrinum, amaryllis, ground orchid, caladium, calla, canna, crinum, crocosmia, dahlia, daylily, butterfly iris, ginger, gladiolus, gloriosa lily, hosta, spider lily, yellow star grass, liriope, monkey grass, rain lily, society garlic, tigridia, tuberose.

Early—Mid Month: Asparagus crowns, Collards, Turnip.
Mid—Late Month: Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Watermelon.
All Month: Beans, Lettuce, Mustard, Radish, Tomato Plants.

Be prepared to protect plants from frosts and freezes. Give transplants a weekly boost the first month with a liquid plant food or "manure tea".

anise, star anise, basil, bay, borage, bouncing bet, caraway, catnip, chives, comfrey, costmary, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, horseradish, lamb's ear, lavender, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mexican mint marigold, monarda, oregano, parsley, perilla, rosemary, sage, santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sesame, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme, common wormwood, roman wormwood, yarrow.

container grown fruit and nut trees

Fun Reading:
Add Charm with Window Boxes: Better Homes and Gardens
Creative Window Boxes: Country Living
Window Box Gardening: Organic Gardening

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.  ~Nadine Stair
Planting and gardening information courtesy of the Garden Guide for Austin and Vicinity, published by the Travis County Master Gardener Association, copyright 2000-2002.
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