Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

No Grocery Store, Day 311-Uchiko Wine Dinner November 9, 2010

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On Sunday, day 311, I woke up way too early, still suffering from a self-diagnosed pinched sciatic nerve.   Yikes, this thing is painful.  I have way too much to do to be down with a bad back, and how cliche that seems.  I made some garden migas for brunch, with Vital Farms eggs, garden peppers, farmer’s market tomatoes and onions, and garden cilantro.  I mixed in exactly 2 crack tortilla chips from the Barton Creek Farmer’s market, and topped the whole plate with Crack dona sauce from Taco Deli.  I skipped lunch to save room for the Uchiko Wine Dinner that my dear friend Michelle invited me to.

Uchiko called this dinner the Sunday Wine Project.  It was amazing.  It took place in the back private room, and knowing that I might not be able to sit the whole time and might need to walk around, I sat at the end of the table.  I was surprised when the server opened up the wall, to reveal the kitchen and Paul Qui, our chef for the evening.  It was dramatic and fun.  The menu looked to be very light and I was glad for that – little did I know of the surprises to come.

First Course – wild salmon roe, charred yuzu meringue

Second – coho salmon, wild huckleberries, meyer lemon, thyme

Third – black trumpet mushrooms, dungeness crab, uni.  Chef Paul, having already said that he uses these dinners to experiment on dishes, told us this was his take on pasta.  I didn’t buy it, until I tasted these black mushrooms, sliced to resemble pasta, and with similar texture, and amazing flavor.  Win.

Fourth – dungeness crab, thai chili, sunchokes.  This dish was hard to eat, because the crab was still in the shell and no cracking devices were provided, but it was delicious.  We all wanted to drink the thai chili sauce, or have something to sop up every bit of its deliciousness.  The sunchokes were sliced thinly and fried like potato chips.  So good.

First off menu surprise – Toasted rice sorbet with shaved truffles.  A delicious palate cleanser.

Second off menu surprise – A whole grilled sockeye salmon with pickled vegetables.  This was de-boned at the table and was delicious.

Fifth – Sauteed hedgehog mushrooms, Oregon truffle puree.  Another delicious mushroom dish, and we were hard pressed to eat all of the truffle puree with chop sticks, but we tried.

After this dish, Chef Paul broke out some hoagie rolls and I got scared.  After all of this, he was going to make sandwiches?  That’s crazy!  But no, he took an ever slight break to make food for his staff.  I thought that was awesome.

Sixth – foie gras, licorice, cashew, balsamic with candied almonds and candied garlic.  I was stuffed by this point, but hey it’s foie.  There wash hardly a trace of the licorce, for which I was glad.  It was wonderful.

Seventh – Pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling sorbets – I was full, and these were tasty, thoughtful and a bit sweet.  I am a huge fan of the corn sorbet, so after tasting each of these, I called it a night.  A night like no other.

This was so much more than dinner, it was an interactive experience with the chef, and it was fabulous.  I would highly recommend it.  Thank you Michelle for a wonderful evening!



No Grocery Store, Days 285 and 286 October 13, 2010

Just so you know, I’m not really ever going back.  To the grocery store, that is, except for avocados.  Some of the things I heard at Farm Camp, echoed everything I learned from Food, Inc. and other sources, that led me down this path.  So, I’m officially committing to never buy any meat product from a middle man.  I want to know the folks that raised it, fed it, and took it to slaughter.  Ultimately, it would be awesome if the government would allow growers to slaughter their own, but that may be a while off.  I heard a lovely story at Farm Camp, about the matriarch of the Bastrop Cattle Company.  When asked how they reconciled hand raising hogs at Green Gate Farms, then taking them to slaughter, Erin replied that it was with great sadness and reverence for the animal, and stressed how hard it was, and how horrible it was not always getting back all the cuts that lovingly hand raised animal should have provided.   But, after enumerating the local slaughterhouse problems, she told a lovely story.  She said she felt that her animals knew when they saw the red trailer that would transport them to their “transition into food” (my words), that it caused them stress.  Bastrop Cattle Company, which I’ve only ever seen at HOPE Farmer’s Market, takes their cows on a trailer ride regularly, to get them used to the trailer as a non stressful event.  I love that so much.

Back to my food.  Day 285, I had some unconventional breakfast of leftover salad which Addie brought to book club.  I think it was from the Central Market salad bar, if I remember the packaging.  Salad for breakfast – odd but it worked for me!  The day went downhill after that.  I had 2 clients who were supposed to hook up with me for Earthboxes at 1:00, and mom needed out of the house, so I swooped her up and we went to Maudies where I exhibited no good judgment or willpower.  I had a 2 taco plate with guacamole and a ridiculous amount of chips.  Dinner was incredible wood fired pizza at a Bola Pizza private party.

Day 286 I had salad for breakfast again!  I’m all about easy and it was.  Exhausted from an over scheduled life (which I enjoy immensely, don’t get me wrong), I committed to stay in for the next 6 days, until my next planned meal out.  So, for lunch, I made egg salad, with Vital Farms eggs, Texas Olive Ranch olive oil, my homemade pickles and some tarragon from the garden.  For dinner, I cooked some Richardson Farms’ ground beef with Johnson’s Backyard Garden onions,;  chile, cayenne pepper, and adobo seasonings from Penzy’s Spices online.  I had some lettuce from the SFC Farmer’s Market, and grated some Full Quiver Cheddar Cheese for a taco salad.  I put a dolop of Taco Deli Dona sauce on top as a heat filled dressing and chopped some Engel Farms tomatoes.  All in all, an inexpensive, tasty, all local light dinner, which I needed after much gluttony and ridiculousness.

Local Taco Salad

I have been making this salad since college years ago.   It is inexpensive, tasty, healthy and quick.  My go to spice, was Lawry’s Taco Seasoning, and I was curious as to its contents so I looked it up.

Not quite as bad as I expected, but I prefer to use just the spices which on their own have no sodium content, or preservatives.  And the flavor couldn’t be beat, was very fresh and had no hint of staleness, like jarred spices can have.

I’m going to try to keep this lightened up, stay at home deal going for a while, in preparation for the holiday craziness to come.


No Grocery Store, Days 276 and 277 October 5, 2010

Day 276 was Sunday, my favorite day for breakfast.  So, I sauteed some garden onions, and scrambled 2 Vital Farms eggs into the onions then loaded them down with garlic chives and tarragon from my garden and finished them off with some grated Full Quiver Cheese, and a dollop of Dona Sauce from Taco Deli.  Not hungry for lunch, and having done paperwork all day, I was kidnapped by friends who thought I sounded a bit down.  They swooped me up and took me to Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, the site of all things happy, filled with love and amazing cheese.  I bought a bottle of wine and some Salt and Time Genoa Salami and we went and had ourselves a little outdoor picnic of yummy cheeses, wine and Barrie’s great bread.  We sampled some olive oils and called it dinner.  Perfect.

Day 277, after a chilly walk around Lady Bird Lake, I managed to eat 2 boiled eggs for breakfast.  I was still full and skipped lunch.  I had defrosted a Richardson Farms 7 Roast over the weekend.   Ever since my lunch at Whip- In last month, I’ve been craving Indian Food.  I didn’t know anything about this cut of roast, but I figured low and slow was called for, so I rubbed it down with Garam Masala spice, and Cayenne Pepper, seared it and put it in the slow cooker on high with several cups of water, garlic and garden onions.  After an hour, I turned it down to low and let it cook for about 5 hours, until the meat fell off the bone.  (The bones were my clue that this was a tougher cut of meat.) The house smelled wonderful, with those aromatic Indian spices.  I ate it with some Lowell Farms Jasmine rice, having no other vegetables in the house.   I took some pictures to share, but beef roast is a hard thing to photograph, so I’ll spare you.   Some of my photos remind me too much of James Lileks’ Gallery of Regrettable Food.  (

I really need to explore Indian cooking more, because I find the smells and flavors absolutely intoxicating!


No Grocery Store, Days 271 and 272 September 30, 2010

Day 271 I was good and managed a soft boiled Vital Farms egg for breakfast.  I’m not a huge fan of soft boiled eggs, but sometimes you just don’t leave them on long enough.  I spent the after noon working on the Austin Wine Merchant edible landscape gardens and didn’t eat lunch.   For dinner, I cooked a Richardson Farms ribeye in the smoker on high, which is quicker than firing up the Big Green Egg, and had that steak with a lettuce and onion salad.  Lettuce from the farmer’s market, my garden onion and Texas Olive Ranch oil and vinegar.

Day 272, I had pre-cooked some Kocurek breakfast sausage and bacon the previous night in an effort to make breakfast quicker.  So, for breakfast, 2 Kocurek breakfast sausage patties.  Lunch was Falafal Crusted Trout at Cafe Josie, a last minute lunch plan with a friend.  Then I had to drive to Karnes City to pick up my mother.  I barely made it back in time for the Triangle Farmer’s Market, but managed to get some eggs and pork ribs from Richardson Farms, and some Cazuelas Stew from the Kocureks.  This stew is what I had for dinner.  This Spanish stew is evocative of a French Cassoulet, the base being white beans, herbs and richly flavored with duck bacon, morcilla, and sausage.  It was good, and perfect to heat up on a night when I was exhausted.


No Grocery Store, Day 261 September 19, 2010

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Due to the excesses of everything during birthday month, and BIG plans for Day 262, I kept it very light.  Brunch, 1/2 a Dai Due Roast Beef Sandwich at the SFC Farmer’s Market downtown.  Dinner, 2 scrambled Vital Farms eggs with herbs and peppers.  That’s about it.


No Grocery Store, Day 252 September 10, 2010

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I missed breakfast.  For lunch, I went to Cafe Josie with the intention of ordering my new favorite salmon salad.  But I didn’t.  I ordered my old favorite Pepita Redfish.  It was extremely good, and just as I remembered.  I wasn’t very hungry for dinner, and with no exercise and lots of food things coming up, I opted for scrambled Vital Farms eggs for dinner.

What about all the leftover chili?  It is in the freezer, keeping along side two quarts of Dai Due gumbo, and several Kocurek rabbit pies, the pesto I’ve been making all summer, the tomato sauces, and other cold weather treats.  Now if it would ever get cooler, I could break all that hot comforting food out.


Farm Fresh Eggs – Egg Salad September 2, 2010

Now that the citizens of the United States are all checking their egg containers, for the date, source, sku and returning suspect ones to the grocery store, the local Austin farmer’s are seeing an upswing in their local egg customers.  And this is a good thing.  But, for those unfamiliar with fresh eggs (the recalled eggs were from April and were still in stores), there is something many are undoubtedly finding out.  If you boil a super fresh egg, it will be very difficult to peel.  I buy eggs at the farmer’s market every week, and keep some segregated for boiling.  Just a week or two in the fridge and they are easy to peel.  One tip, is to start at the fat end of the egg where the air pocket is, and once the eggs are completely cooled, peel from that end under running water.

About a month ago my friend and I made some pickles.  I’d been thinking about making egg salad with them ever since.  They were stored at my friend’s house, and I finally got my hands on some.  They are to die for.  So I got busy making egg salad.

MMM pickles

While the eggs were boiling, I chopped 2 slices of Kocurek bacon, some of these amazing pickles, a Salt and Time pickled jalapeno, and since I didn’t want the strong flavor of onions, I chopped some garlic chives from the garden.

Bacon for egg salad

Please do not over boil your eggs.  This ruins them beyond repair.  Once a boiled egg has been cooked too long, and formed the green rim around the yolk, it is no longer the miracle creation it was meant to be.  And a green egg yolk tastes like crap.  And makes chickens sad.

Well cooked egg

If I weren’t making egg salad from these, I would have cooked them a tad less, but that’s just how I like them.

So in the end, eggs, homemade pickles, 1 pickled jalapeno, garlic chives, bacon, salt, pepper, moistened with pickle juice, jalapeno juice, and a little mayo.

MMM Egg Salad

Where to get local eggs in Austin:

Smith and Smith Farms – SFC Farmer’s Market downtown, Triangle, Sunset Valley, and Barton Creek Farmer’s Market

Vital Farms – Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, and SFC Farmer’s Market Sunset Valley

Richardson Farms – SFC Farmer’s Market at the Triangle, Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, SFC Farmer’s Market Sunset Valley

Boggy Creek Farms, at the farmstand and you can meet the chickens!

There are more vendors and more farmer’s markets, I’m just giving those I know first hand.

And one more thing about those recalled eggs.  What do you think happens to them once they are recalled?  I don’t know.  I heard recently from some in the food industry, that the recalled eggs are pasteurized and put back out on the open market, since pasteurization would kill the salmonella.  I don’t know if this is true.  But, uhm. Gross.