Christmas Eve 2010

Zomie sign

Having relocated the base of operations to the great state of Texas, I am now beginning to see the realities of a year round love affair with Carts, Tacos and Beers. Reflecting on the last few months of food-scapades I am suddenly jerked into the realization that I have only just begun.

This is certainly not what I am used to associating with winter, but the new smells and surroundings of Austin are ever more seeming like home and less like an extended holiday. I realized that this Christmas we wouldn’t be eating the same way we have in past years. So instead of the usual blathering on about some titanic gorge fest, I think I will list my top 10 must eats and drinks of Austin TX(so far).

10. Chilantrohttp://www.chilantrobbq.com/

A Korean twist on a Texmex classic, the Chilantro truck swaps marinated pork for Bulgolgi and jalapenos for Sriracha. This unlikely duo seems to please on many levels, the heat lover, the asian cuisine lover, the wild man and the late night snack attack.

9. Old school BBQhttp://www.oldschoolbbqandgrill.com/

Texas and BBQ are in fact somewhat synonymous. And there are many great places to get a full plate of BBQ at. This little spot is something of legend for everyone as the BBQ is so high regarded that it is often hard to get anything that you want because someone ahead of you just bought 20pounds of it. This issue forces me to leave it close to the bottom of the list.

8. Mighty Fine Burgershttp://mightyfineburgers.com/

Cheeseburgers are nothing short of an American miracle, and in a place where beef is king, there was bound to a be a place that is not only fresh but fast. Mighty Fine practices what it preaches and offers burgers made from the finest ground beef (which you can watch them grind) and a In & Out menu that focuses on the basics, burger cheese fries and shakes. Make sure you ask the staff how they are 😉

7. El Chile – http://www.elchilecafe.com/

Old reliable. I think of El Chile and I realize that the consistency and accessibility out weigh any of my inhibitions about returning to the usual place. I love that everything is really good and that the flavors of each dish reflect the progress of Texmex cuisine. Nothing can be more refreshing than a Shalongo (frozen spicy margarita) and a Charlie’s Lunch Special.

6. Gourdoughs Doughnutshttp://www.gourdoughs.com/

Doughnuts are something of a phenomenon here. Denver could barely pass mustard in terms of quality for the yeasty fried treats but Texas has a strong tradition of amazing fried confections. Gourdoughs is more than an exceptional trailer, it’s the standard that desserts in general should be measured. Doughnuts do not adequately describe the excellence that is available at Gourdoughs.

5. Upper Crust Bakeryhttp://theuppercrustbakery.com/

Gluten of the wheat variety can’t possibly be this delicious. I know that I can’t compare this bakery to an elits french patisserie but, there is a sense that this place is filled with a wealth of breads, pastries and even quiche built from the essentials of butter, eggs, milk and flour. A site that is the undisputed authority of all things baked fresh.

4. East Side Kingshttp://www.eastsidekingaustin.com/

Somewhere in the back of my mind there is a place that combines the gritty punk rock of a dirty concert and the flavors and smells of my favorite Asian snacks. East Side Kings is that place. Tucked behind a bar in a trailer that cannot possibly hold more than 3 people, beef tongue and beet homefries are being served to me on beds of delicious rice. I hate to say this but the average Japanese man would find this place a paradise.

3. The Draught Househttp://www.draughthouse.com/

Even though I have left the warm bosom of the Colorado craft beer network, I have found a new pride in this local pub’s ability to not only serve things that I know with regular celebrity but introduce me to new fresh concepts both foreign and domestic. The Austin craft beer scene is a burgeoning one on the edge of volcanic eruption. This gentle beer garten’s a testament to the really educated palette of Austin’s beer lover.

2. Torchy’s Tacos http://torchystacos.com/

Without going into the rant that I am prepared to give about this local gem, it is safe to say that if you want something that is not only consistently amazing but satisfying, you don’t have to look any farther than Torchy’s. Although the ravenous fanboydem in Austin would elevate the appearance of this humble product, the fact remains that they consistently have some of the most delicious tacos that could be dreamed up by mere mortals.

1. Odd Duck farm to trailerhttp://oddduckfarmtotrailer.com/

A gourmet chef whipping up sustainable trailer food that would make parisian chefs blush at the quality and price. Nothing really beats fresh meats and vegetables roasted, braised or otherwise grilled over the warm glow of a wood fire to fill you with a healthy flavor of the natural land. If this is a sign of the coming dystopia that everyone fears, I only hope to quicken the pace of its arrival.

Cupcakes are a form of currency

cupcakes

Cupcakes, the only people that don’t like cupcakes are the soulless monsters that live in the shadows of Rachel Ray’s imagination. These precious delights can be easily overdone with the offerrings in most super markets and local specialty stores. The fine line between comfort treat that your mom or grandmother made and the specialty gourmet sugar shops is starting to blur. But I always think that something that is made for you specifically is always more delicious than what is made to impress the public. Continue reading

Free Gelato Day at Wholefoods

What am I talking about? Is there really a free gelato day at Wholefoods? No. But there should be. For what they charge to fill a bag of groceries there should be a consumer appreciation day.

I know I have misdirected some of you but allow me to whisk you away to this far away city known as Denver Colorado, wherein I will tell you a tale that involves an old friend, goat tacos and free gelato. Continue reading

How Though Shalt Make Beer Part 1

Hello friends,

Let me take you on a journey through the mind, heart, and mouth of the consumate beer enthusiast. This tale will be in many parts as it is part instructional and part reflection. A memoir to what may be a new frontier in my life as a brewer, of the home variety. Make no mistake, this was a first attempt, at what I am now lovingly referring to the Bitches Brew. Now I did not take on this path to thirst quenching on my own, I was joined by friend, colleague and fellow brew lover Ben Jeavons.

We set out to make a Pale Ale that could actually be consumed by our friends without them having to pretend to like it to save our feelings. We had some tools, a book and some patience and through it all we had fun. We dreamed of a delicious concoction all our own and we were over all pleasantly surprised with our creation. Remember that you can do this. People have been brewing beer almost as long as they have been baking leavened bread.

Patience is really your key ingredient. Fermentation, Carbonation, Bottling and Boiling all take time. A lot of time. Some secrets to our success may have been our ability to neglect things. But in some places it did create minor havoc. Forgetting that you are brewing Beer and that the fermentation could take a few weeks to complete is the biggest point I can stress. So relax and have a cold one.

What we used:
1. Car Boy – 5gallon glass bottle
2. Boiling Pot – can be a stock pot, needs to hold over 2galons of liquid
3. 2stage Filter – removal of particulates before entering fermentor
4. Funnels
5. Homebrew starter kit – included wert, yeast, grain and hops (and some instructions)
6. Towels
7. Kitchen
8. Home Brewer’s Guide
9. Patience

First, Boil the grain in an athletic soc basically, for a certain amount of time so that the natural flavors of barley into the water. A sort of barely tea if you will that needs to be slightly boiled. Make sure that the grain doesn’t sit on the bottom or it will taste burned which is bad. To get around this obstacle we tied some string to the top of the bag and then suspended it from a spoon that went across the top of the kettle.

Afterwords you will have a lovely smelling bag that looks like this:

From this point on its boil boil boil, starting with the wert and ending with the hops, which are added at 2 different times. The wert is the sweet honey syrup and is as thick as such. Once that wonderful roll starts after a few moments you add your first portion of hops into the drink.

After the first hops you wait a while (about 20min) and through in the last portion and wait about 15min. Then its time to move it to the car boy which is the last stop for the brewing. This is a single staged fermentation. 2 stage fermentation essentially uses 2 carboys. You move the contents from one to the other during the fermentation process. It being our first time we decided that single stage would have to suffice.

As we poured the very warm elements into the carboy for cooling and eventual fermentation, we used 2 stage filtering to try to limit the impurities going into the bottle, which, in retrospect, may have been an error. As it got close to the end we could only pour a couple of pints at a time before having to stop and scrape all the goo out of the 2 filters.

Super badass right?

Next you have to add water to fill the carboy to the appropriate level which is the last line before the neck (approx 5gal mark). As you add your cool water to the warm brew, you will want to watch the temperature drop to the desired area for your yeast to be added. To warm you risk killing the little monsters and too cold they won’t activate quickly.

Our last step in this post is the topping off and hiding. You want to cap your newly minted batch quickly and feed a long tube out of the top into a spill catching bucket. Why? Well within the first few days, if all was successful, your yeasts will go to town eating all the sure they can find in the bottle and foaming like crazy. This foam, combined with the low ceiling in your bottle will need to displace itself somewhere. A little bucket nearby should be good enough.

Store your masterpiece in a dark (seriously lightless, a closet would be great), cool, dry place and allow at least a week and a half so that all the heavy foaming is over before you put the secondary (fermentation) cap on that has a water valve to allow the bag gas to escape and the good environment to promote the fermentation process.

Now, have yourself a beer and relax. You did some good work.

Thanks for reading.

Zach (brewmaster in training)

editors note: The Supplier of all our Hardware plus some bottles and caps is Greg Knaddison. This friend of friends was gracious enough to allow us to use his equipment free of charge and indulge in our flights of beer fancy. Many Thank Yous.

Why Should I Shop at a Farmers Market?


According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are more than 4,800 farmers markets operating throughout the nation. So what’s the appeal?

Why Should I Shop at a Farmers Market versus a Conventional Grocery Store?
The sustainably grown food offered at farmers markets is often going to taste better, retain more naturally-occurring nutrients and be fresher than the equivalent produce in grocery stores. Farmers markets provide you the opportunity to ask questions about the growing methods directly to the farmers. In addition to fruits and vegetables, many farmers markets also sell meats, flowers, plants, cheeses or wines, sold by the farmers that produce them.

Okay—That Sounds Good. Now How Do I Find a Farmers Market Near Me?
Check in the newspaper or at a health food store to find listings of farmers markets and local farms. There are also several options available online, such as localharvest.org or farmersmarket.com, that allow you to search by city, state or region. Depending on your location, there may be several options, so try them all out—you may discover you like the taste of one farmer’s carrots over another’s, or the selection and prices may vary by farm or market.

Will This Cost More? And What if I Can’t Find the Produce I’m Looking For?
Typically, shopping at farmers markets or family farms will save you money. When you purchase locally-grown food, the cost of shipping and packaging is taken out of the equation. And when it comes to getting the produce you’re looking for, farmers markets sell what’s in season—so you may not find granny smith apples if it’s not the peak season for apples. However, the trade-off for freshness is often worth it. And you can also supplement any missing ingredients with canned or frozen produce.

In choosing to shop at farmers markets, not only will you be supporting your local economy, but you’ll also be reducing the negative impacts of production, packaging, transport and shipping that is often part of the supply chain of getting produce to conventional grocery stores. Reducing your environmental impact in these ways is just an added bonus to the tasty, fresh produce you’ll discover at local farms and farmers markets!

Nathan Joynt works with Gaiam and Spiritual Cinema Circle – advocates for health and wellness through motivational movies and lifestyle media.