Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Our Short Regional Nightmare May Be Approaching An End

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Blue Bell ice cream to begin test production this week.

Hip hip, hooray! If all goes well, they expect to have product back on store shelves by Labor Day. Also, billionaire Sid Bass has made a “significant investment” in Blue Bell, which should help them survive until production is up and running again.

Don’t Order the Chong Chin Chicken at Asia Cafe

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

For twenty years worth of the Saturday Dining Conspiracy, I’ve had good dishes and bad, but never before until this past Saturday had I just sent a dish back as completely inedible.

The Chong Chin Chicken was described as seasoned with lots of hot peppers and peppercorns. I didn’t really see the peppercorns, but I definitely saw the hot peppers; it looked like they dumped a giant fistful into the dish. Though a chilehead, I’ve never had that many dry hot peppers in any dish before.

That’s not why I sent the dish back.

The first few bites of the dish seemed incredibly dry to me, and it tasted like they hadn’t used any sauce whatsoever, which was an odd choice.

That’s not why I sent the dish back.

After a few bites, my tongue’s taste receptors just seemed to shut off, ruining the taste of the dumplings Dwight and Andrew had ordered. Shortly thereafter I realized what the big problem was: it was the most salty dish I’d ever tasted in my life.


An image of the chef preparing the dish.

Normally my tolerance for salt in my meal is higher than most, but this was beyond the pale. I had my co-conspirators try it, and they all agreed it was inedible salty, even Andrew, who loves salt more than I do.

A dish too salty for Andrew and too hot for me; it was like some sort of anti-miracle.

So I sent it back and got some orange peel chicken instead, which was far more edible.

I wouldn’t discourage you from going to Asia Cafe, but unless you look like this:


The only diner who might enjoy the Chong Chin Chicken at Asia Cafe.

I would strongly urge you not to order the Chong Chin Chicken…

(Cross-posted to The Logbook of the Saturday Dining Conspiracy.)

Blue Bell Recalls ALL Products

Monday, April 20th, 2015

“Brenham-based Blue Bell Creameries is pulling all of its products from the shelves after more ice cream samples tested positive for a life-threatening bacterial infection.”

The voluntary decision, announced Monday, is the latest and most sweeping development to plague the Texas business icon since a recall last month, the first in the company’s 108-year history.

It came after an “enhanced sampling program” that found half-gallon containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream produced on March 17 and March 27 contained the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, company officials said.

Plus this:

“The latest tests mean the company had several positive tests for Listeria in different plants.”

Pretty hard to fathom a wide-spread outbreak in multiple plants. The only explanations I can think of:

  • A hardy new strain of Listeria is running wild in Texas cow herds
  • A mutant Listeria has evolved to survive pasteurization (a pretty scary thought)
  • There’s a problem somewhere in their additive supply chain
  • Sabotage/Eco-terrorism (PETA hates dairies).
  • Anyway, if you have any Blue Bell in your freezer, it’s probably safest to throw it out…

    Blue Bell Ice Cream Recall Notice

    Saturday, April 4th, 2015

    Well, this sucks if you were planning to buy or eat any Blue Bell ice cream today:

    Blue Bell Ice Cream has voluntarily suspended operations at an Oklahoma production facility that officials had previously connected to a foodborne illness linked to the deaths of three people, the company announced Friday.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people throw away any Blue Bell products made at the company’s plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, even if some has been eaten without becoming sick.

    Products made at the facility will have the letters “O,” “P,” “Q,” “R,” “S,” or “T” following the “code date” printed on the bottom of the package, according to the CDC.

    “We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide our consumers with safe products and to preserve the trust we have built with them and their families for more than a century,” the company said in a statement.

    Last month, the company and health officials said a 3-ounce cup of ice cream contaminated with listeriosis was traced to a plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The ice cream product — cups of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla — is not sold in retail locations and is shipped in bulk to “institutional accounts” such as hospitals in 23 states that comprise less than 5 percent of the company’s sales.

    Ten products recalled earlier in March were from a production line at a plant in Brenham, Texas, the company’s headquarters.

    The recall, the first in the company’s 108-year history, began when five patients at Via Christi St. Francis hospital in Wichita, Kansas, became ill with listeriosis while hospitalized at some point from December 2013 to January 2015. Officials determined at least four drank milkshakes that contained Blue Bell ice cream. Three of the patients later died.

    I hear that HEB has pulled all Blue Bell off their shelves.

    Check those labels…

    Junk Food Review: Salted Caramel Moon Pies

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    This is part of Things I Shouldn’t Be Eating: A Continuing Series.

    I found this at an HEB:

    A Salted Caramel Moon Pie.

    Obviously I had to pick it up.

    How does it taste?

    I wouldn’t waste your money. It tastes like a Banana Moon Pie without the banana, so it still has that faint artificial petrochemical tang, a faint hint of caramel, and a tiny bit of salt.

    That’s not good enough.

    The Banana Moon Pie is a nostalgic taste from childhood I occasionally indulge in. By comparison, the Salted Caramel Moon Pie is just a disappointment.

    When I want a subtle dessert, I’m not reaching for a Moon Pie. I want the the sweet junk food rush of caramel to hit my tongue like jackhammer. The Salted Caramel Moon Pie doesn’t deliver.

    Restaurant Review: September 20, 2014: Pour House Pints and Pies

    Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

    Pour House Pints And Pies
    11835 Jollyville Rd (Austin, 78759)
    (512) 270-4740

    This is essentially a sports bar that serves pizza. The pizza was pretty good (but could have used more cheese to hold our “four meats plus onions” toppings in place), but the fried mozzarella was undersized for the price, and the service was indifferent at best.

    Unless you want to watch sports, there’s no reason to go here instead of Reale’s just up 183.

    Restaurant Review: Maggiano’s Little Italy

    Thursday, August 28th, 2014

    Maggiano’s Little Italy
    10910 Domain Dr #100, Austin, 78759
    (512) 501-7870

    • Pepper Grinder Rating: 0 (They had several impressive pepper grinders in a server cubbyhole, but neglected to offer any to us.)
    • Bathroom Rating: 3
    • WiFi note: There’s free WiFi…if you’re using the conference room and have a password. Otherwise the restaurant seems to be built within a Farady Cage, as my iPhone frequently was unable to connect to AT&T at all.

    Maggiano’s offers up tasty, overpriced Italian food. In that sense it’s much like Brio, with the added hassles of being in the Domain, which makes it hard to get to. We also had to wait for a table, even though I had made reservations (though we did get there a little bit early).

    The first disappointment after being seated was the free bread: uninspired baguette rounds (though at least they were served warm) with unspiced olive oil. Both Reale’s, with their delicious breadsticks, and Brio, with a more interesting bread assortment and spiced olive oil, do a better job in the bread department.

    The crab cakes appetizers were good, but not $15 for two good.

    Service was attentive, with numerous free drink refills without having to ask.

    For my entree, the veal picatta was both nicely done and had pretty generous portions (which is only fair, considering the price). I thought the angel hair aglio olio was underspiced.

    For dessert I had a perfectly caramelized creme brulee with fruit.

    It was a very good meal. It also cost some $50, without any alcoholic beverages. That, dealing with the hassle of The Domain, and dealing with the hassle of the crowds (“Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”) make it hard to recommend.

    If I’m hungry for great Italian food, Monday through Saturday I’m probably going to go to Reale’s if they’re not too packed. If it’s Sunday (when Reale’s is closed), I’d pick Brio over Maggiano’s.

    [Cross-posted to The Logbook of the Saturday Dining Conspiracy.]

    Yelp’s Top 100 Places To Eat Include Six from the Austin Area

    Saturday, March 1st, 2014

    So Yelp has release a Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. list. Their ratings, being based on actual diners, are very different than high-end restaurant critics, and include six places around Austin:

  • 8. Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX
  • 35. Turf N’ Surf Po Boy, Austin, TX
  • 85. Uchiko, Austin, TX
  • 86. Little Deli & Pizzeria, Austin, TX
  • 91. Taste of Ethiopia, Pflugerville, TX
  • 99. Uchi, Austin, TX
  • Quick thoughts:

  • Yeah, because it just wasn’t hard enough to get Franklin BBQ already.
  • Uchiko and Uchi are run by the same people.
  • I’m really happy to see Taste of Ethiopia on here. It’s a swell joint run by great people.
  • By comparison, only one place made the cut in Houston, and none in Dallas…

    (Cross-posted to The Logbook of the Saturday Dining Conspiracy.)

    Prima Pizza Pasta Relocating, Mi Pizza Taking the Space

    Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

    A double-dose of restaurant relocation news I don’t think has been reported anywhere else:

    Prima Pizza Pasta has relocated from its location at Parmer and McNeil to a new location at Anderson Mill and 620 as of February 1st. (The news is so new they haven’t updated their website yet.)

    Taking the old Prima space on Parmer (as well as their phone number) is a new restaurant called Mi Pizza, which seems to focus on custom-designed 11 inch pizzas cooked in 5 minutes for $6.99.

    (News in route to The Logbook of the Saturday Dining Conspiracy.)

    Saturday Dining Conspiracy Restaurant Review: Imperia

    Friday, January 17th, 2014

    Imperia
    310 Colorado St. (Austin, 78701)
    (512) 472-6770

    We’d been hearing good things about Imperia for quite a while, so we thought they were a good choice for the first SDC of 2014.

    It lived up to the hype.

    Imperia serves up pan-Asian fusion cuisine that draws equally from Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines (and probably a few others as well) in an attractive, understated space in the warehouse district (or what used to be called the warehouse district; they keep changing names and I don’t think there are any warehouses left). There’s a bar, but it doesn’t seem overemphasized the way it does in other downtown establishments.

    We started off with the pork belly steamed buns, which were delicious but definitely smaller than the steamed buns you get at the average dim sum restaurant. The calamari was very good, with a nicely light batter, but not enough to eclipse perennial champion The Clay Pit. For sushi, we picked something that stretched the definition:”The Hot Mess,” which the menu described as “Snow crab and shrimp atop a honey and avocado roll. Topped with Dynomite [sic] sauce and Kochijyan butter,” to which I can only add “what they said.” The individual portions were very tasty and came out in an escargot dish. (I also had two pieces of unagi, which were fine but undersized.)

    For my entree I had “Kinoko to Suteki,” which is a very savory steak and mushroom dish; the portions could have been a bit bigger, but it was in-line with downtown Asian fusion expectations. I also like the portion of Pad-Thai Dwight and I spilt.

    I can’t find an online listing for the dessert I had, which involved creme brulee, ice cream, caramel sauce and decadence. Service was pretty attentive.

    We ended up getting several entrees and appetizers, so the bill was substantial: more than $150 for three people including tax and tip. You’d be hard-pressed to get an appetizer, meal and drink for under $20, but you could probably do it for around $30. Just keep in mind that you’re not paying for Chinese food, you’re paying for a downtown Asian fusion restaurant, and adjust your expectations accordingly. (The biggest difference between Imperia and the late, unlamented Austin location of Roy’s is value. Though we ended up spending about as much at both places, we didn’t feel like we were being ripped off, and we didn’t leave still hungry.)

    Besides price, the biggest problem with Imperia is their location in the warehouse district downtown. Unless you want to use the valet parking, there’s a good chance you’ll have to park several blocks away (I found a metered space on Republic Square). But Imperia is well worth the hassle, either for special occasions or if you already live downtown.

    (This review will also appear on The Logbook of the Saturday Dining Conspiracy.)