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Andrew Zachary's Profile

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Weekend in Austin

Lisabelle, So much depends on what you consider "fun" or "good food." Some people crave BBQ and are willing to stand in line for 4+ hours at Franklin's. If that's your thing, then based on comments here and elsewhere, Franklin's, LA BBQ and possibly a few others would make you proud. Some come for the Tex-Mex, and here I don't want to make any waves. If you hunt on the board, each participant has his or her own "favorite, you must eat here!" place. Again, hunt on the board.

Austin does not have any restaurants like Alina or 11 Mad Park; not in appearance, not in quality of ingredients, not in cost, and not in the level of cooking. What it does have is some very good, quirky places that emphasize local ingredients. A few places that come to mind are Odd Duck, Barley Swine, Dai Due, and possibly Qui (I say possibly because I haven't eaten there myself.) They are all fun, they are all interesting, and they are all outside the usual range of Chicago, New York or San Francisco restaurants. Go with an open mind and an adventurous stomach.

If you want a more "formal" experience, then I can recommend La V, Wink or Congress. While expensive by Austin standards, they are substantially less expensive than Chicago or New York. But you can find their equivalents back home!

Keep in mind that during SXSW, almost all restaurants will be fully pre-booked. There are a few, like Bufalina (Neapolitan style pizza and superb wine), and Foreign and Domestic, that don't take reservations.

And on shopping - well, to be blunt, why? We are at the tail-end of the supply chain, with all the good stuff intercepted by Dallas or Houston. Get a "Keep Austin Weird" t-shirt, or a cowboy hat, or some other souvenir.

That said, there are some shops of 2nd Street and on So Congress, but neither district compares favorably with anything back in Chicago!

about 23 hours ago
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Where to buy good quality duck eggs?

I realize you've asked for duck eggs outside the farmer's markets, but I haven't found any.

Belle Vie Farm and Kitchen sells duck eggs, pates, confits and whole ducks at the Cedar Park and the Mueller Farmers Market. Perine is from Perigord and really does an excellent job with the Muscovy ducks she raises. Everything she sells is superb.

You can pre-order on her website, which is http://www.belleviefarm.com/

Feb 26, 2015
Andrew Zachary in Austin

So I went to Bufalina

By an odd coincidence, my wife and I were also at Bufalina last night. And yes, the guy with the beard is certainly distinctive.

Had a very different reaction, though. We, too, waited an hour for our table, then found the food to be great and the wines to be outstanding. Could the pizza be better? There is no "perfect" pizza and tastes differ. But sui generis, Bufalina's is best in breed.

And the wine list is a masterpiece.

Feb 16, 2015
Andrew Zachary in Austin

What Austin really needs

Heard a rumor that Kenny & Ziggy's was planning to open a branch in Austin, but that turned out to be only a rumor.

We could also use:
- good bagels. Rockstar & Wholly Bagel are okay, not great.
- good dim sum. Awaiting Wu Chow's opening.
- good smoked salmon. Nothing on the horizon.
- good sourdough bread. Bar Tartine? Acme? Loved Flour, but they are gone and much lamented.
- great retail fish store. Quality does not come close to Citarella or Monterrey Fish.
- "pure" sushi place, like Yasuda or Karuma. Uchi/Uchiko are superb in their way, but still a step behind these guys.
- Great pastries, croissants, etc in the downtown area. B&C is very very good, but a very long hike from my house.

Just my $0.02 worth, and worth every penny.

Feb 01, 2015
Andrew Zachary in Austin
1

Please help finalize Austin itinerary (researched!)

If/when you return, I have a few (highly opinionated) suggestions to add to your list:

Bufalina: my favorite place for Neapolitan-style pizza. I think the crust has no equal in Austin; the toppings are great and match the best in Naples. Wine list is full of gems.

La V: flat-out great cooking and superb desserts. Expensive, so make sure someone else is paying. Wine list is great at all price points, including some high prices for truly rare, outstanding wines.

Wink: Does anyone go here anymore? Still good cooking, solid upper-middle. Nice desserts.

Odd Duck: Quirky, eccentric, weird. Typifies the best and the "oddest" about Texas food in general and Austin cooking in particular. Wine list is indifferent, so drink beer or cocktails.

Houndstooth Coffee: Excellent brews. I think Houndstooth, Medici, Figure 8 and Patika are the 4 best coffee shops around.

Dolce Neve: Gelato done right. Great depth of flavor, superb texture. Best gelato I've ever had in the US. The owners are incredibly nice, too. [Disclaimer: my daughter works here from time-to-time.]

Lenoir: Prix fixe menu using only seasonal/local ingredients. Excellent cooking, with small, intensely flavored portions. The wine list is short, but well curated. Relatively inexpensive for such good cooking.

As usual, YMMV.

Jan 08, 2015
Andrew Zachary in Austin
1

Lobster.

I believe, but am not 100% sure, that Garbo's will sell you fresh lobster meat. Her lobsters are great and well worth the price.

Dec 29, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Numero 28

Not sure -- I think it might be their address, which is 428 2nd Street.

Dec 09, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Numero 28

Just opened on 2nd street next to "How Do You Roll." Stopped in for a panini at lunchtime and it was quite good. They have a wood-fired pizza oven but do not yet have a permit for it. Nice guys running the place + they have 5 or 6 flavors from Dolce Neve. Worth checking out, particularly once their oven comes on line.

Dec 08, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Carrots

Funny you mention carrots: there's a long section in Dan Barber's book, "The Third Plate," about carrots. His farm-manager has been growing heirloom carrots and brings some into the kitchen at BH@SB. The chefs go crazy because these carrots are at 14 Brix and taste delicious. By comparison, the "organic, field-grown carrots" that are in the cooler come from Mexico and have a Brix of 0. That's right: 0. No sugar at all.

I think most of the carrots at CM and WF have a Brix of 0 or 1. They are mostly tasteless starch. If I'm lucky, some of the local farmers at Barton Creek FM or at Hope FM have Dragon Carrots; these taste like the real thing.

Dec 03, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

M. Odom's review of LaV

I remember that thread - and boy, do I sympathize.

Oct 12, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

M. Odom's review of LaV

Sorry to hear that was your experience. We went once (was a big splurge with kids in college) and did not have that problem.

Oct 11, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

M. Odom's review of LaV

Absolutely not! As you probably know, people do it all the time in California, New York, Oregon, Chicago, Massachusetts, Washington (both the state and the District), and in fact, anywhere with reasonably sane liquor laws.

I always call first to make sure the restaurant accepts corkage and I always offer at least a 1/2 glass to the staff/chef/owner.

Oct 11, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Holy Latkes !!

I feel your pain - I miss great NY delis, bagels, lox, latkes, etc. Have resorted to curing my own salmon and making my own latkes.

I heard some cringe-worthy stories about Mastman that lead me to believe it will never open. Mayhaps Kenny and Ziggy's will open a branch up here? Then again, probably not.

Oct 11, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Secret Tien Hong Chili Oil Source?

Relatively easy to make your own chili oil.

1/3 cup dried red chili flakes
3-4 T fermented black beans (do not rinse), coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 T minced ginger
1 cup corn or peanut oil
3-4 T sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a heavy non-aluminum pot. Bring to a low bubble (225 to 250 if you have a thermometer.) Let simmer for 15 minutes. When cool, place in a clean glass jar and keep refrigerated.

Notes: I use the hottest red chili flakes I can find - Penzy's has crushed Indian red pepper at 40,000 Scoville units. Fermented black beans available at MT. Be careful not to let this burn.

Oct 09, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

M. Odom's review of LaV

Across the US, alcohol regulations are set by each state, and sometimes by each county or city. That is the legacy of the 18th and the 21st Amendments; the first of these prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of "intoxicating beverages" across the entire United States; the second repealed the universal "Prohibition" on alcohol at the Federal level but left each state or territory free to set its own regulations.

Since the regulation of the sale, manufacture and transport of "intoxicating beverages" is now explicitly left to the States, the result has been each state has a crazy, patch-work quilt of regulations. Some states, like CA, NY, IL, MA, CT and probably a host of others, do not explicitly forbid you to bring wine to a restaurant. It is up to the restaurant's owner to decide if they will allow it, a practice known in the trade as "Corkage." In California, every good, great or even in-different restaurant I've eaten at will allow corkage for a fee, or perhaps with a limitation on the number of bottles, etc. The same holds true in NY and in IL (or at least in Cook County where your uncle lives.)

When I got to Texas, corkage was a foreign concept that had not yet found general acceptance. Many restauranteurs simply forbid it, even if it is permitted. With all the usual caveats (I am not a lawyer, etc, etc etc) as I understand the TABC regulations, any establishment that sells hard liquor ***CANNOT*** allow corkage. This policy makes absolutely no sense to me. But I have also heard that restauranteurs who violate this rule face harsh punishments, up to and including jail time.

[Editorial comment: The machinations of the TABC are bizarre and simply beyond my ken. Just talk with the brew pub owners who want to sell their product on-site. They were being forced to go through the 3-tier distribution system, meaning that the beer sold on-site had first to go to a licensed distributor, then to a licensed wholesaler, and then back to the brew pub. At each step along the way, the price went up while the quality went down.]

M. Odom's review of LaV

Great suggestion, but the wonderful State of Texas has some severe restrictions on corkage. As I understand TABC regulations, any restaurant that serves hard liquor cannot allow anyone to bring in their own wine.

Bufalina, Wink, and a few others -- charge a reasonable fee for corkage. But any restaurant with a full bar: Uchiko, Congress, La V -- is forbidden to let me bring in my wine. I have heard possibly apocraphal stories that restaurant owners can be fined, lose their liquor license, or even go to jail. All over a bottle of wine.

Sep 27, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

M. Odom's review of LaV

Wine prices are determined by several factors: rarity, popularity, the crazy patch-work quilt of alcohol laws, and by an out-dated notion that a restaurant breaks even on its food sales but makes its money on its liquor sales.

Let's view that list keeping these factors in mind. Most restaurants price wines at 3x wholesale, or roughly 2x retail. (Personally, I think this is an inane way to price and sell wine. No one has asked me for my opinion, though.) For the great bulk of the wines at or under $150, and there are perhaps 100 or more at or around this price point, LaV pretty much adheres to this rule. And I point out that there are truly wonderful wines among this list.

Second: rarity. Some of the wines, like the '45 Latour that lists for $20,500, are among the rarest on Earth. They are great wines, highly sought after, and only available through private sales, at auctions, or at a restaurant. Owning a bottle must be a bit like owning an original Monet oil. If I were fabulously wealthy and wanted to celebrate with one of the greatest Bordeaux ever made, I might go ahead and splurge. But that's my choice, and no different from buying my own 747 -- assuming I could afford it!

Third: popularity. Many of the wines between $200 and $2,000 are insanely difficult to find in the open market. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, "They are so popular no one can buy them anymore." It takes a real effort to find them, and the prices reflect that scarcity factor.

Fourth, our state's insane, antiquated liquor laws prevent La V from buying wines at auction, or from importing wines directly from the winery. All done in the name of preserving the three-tier distribution system that has done so much to line the pockets of the liquor distributors and our local politicians. Just ask the brew-pub guys about their attempts to serve their own products.

Finally, whether you like or dislike the food is ultimately a matter of personal preference. I respect HungryInAustin's opinion about the food and have no interest in persuading him to change his mind. When it comes to the prices on the wine list, let's at least keep them in perspective. There are some true rarities and some collectibles all priced rather high. But there are also lots of true gems at much more modest price points.

Sep 27, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin
1

M. Odom's review of LaV

Your original review (dated 29 Aug) was tepid at best. Any particular reason?

I might point out that the wine list, while admittedly filled with rare and expensive gems (and some of those are truly astonishing wines, well worth the price if you are lucky enough to afford them) is also stuffed with amazing wines at very reasonable prices. But I can certainly understand feeling intimidated by the list and by the knowledge that some of the wines will, I regret to say, always be out of my price range.

Sep 26, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Just got back from Soft Opening of St. Philip

I hate to admit it, but yes, I do. Otherwise my wife won't be able to eat the pizza. Steve has been very gracious about it.

Again, I point out that the SmartFlour crust is not nearly as good as Steve's version, but as a platter for the other superb ingredients, it does just fine.

Sep 26, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Just got back from Soft Opening of St. Philip

Not sure this will help in your quest to find excellent GF pizza at local shops, but SmartFlour makes a very good gluten-free crust. (Available at WF.) My wife is GF, so we usually bring a SmartFlour crust with us to Bufalina.

I think that the SmartFlour is actually pretty tasty, certainly the best of the GF pizza doughs we've tried. But it isn't a patch on Steve Dilley's 00 dough.

Sep 26, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Hard Hat XII

No, not yet. Am eager to try them.

Sep 02, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Hard Hat XII

The "chocolate" factory might be this one:
http://www.chocolaterietessa.com/#

If so, should be an interesting place to work.

Sep 02, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Mastman's Deli Downtown Austin

Dolce Neve makes great dark chocolate gelato, including a variant with bitter orange. But it is on S. 1st and would be a bit of a drive from Melvin's.

May 30, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Hard Hat XII

Unfortunately, no.

Apr 04, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Qui Reservation system sucks

Not sure I see your point.

I'm passing along other people's opinions about the cooking, not about the reservation system. I've not eaten at Qui, so cannot offer a personal observation about either one.

Apr 04, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Qui Reservation system sucks

Just to be clear: my earlier post has nothing to do with stocks, Wall Street, or finance.

I wanted to make the point that the inside scoop on Qui was that it isn't worth the price. There are better choices for your hard-earned money.

Mar 31, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

Qui Reservation system sucks

There is a website called Whisper Number that supposedly offers an inside look at the best Wall Street earnings estimates. The Whisper Number on Qui: save your money. I haven't been so have no personal opinion.

Mar 30, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

New Oven

Yes. Lead times are long -- between 3 and 6 months, as each range/cooktop is built from scratch. As I said, the range is great, and I much prefer it to my previous Viking stove. You are welcome to try out the cooktop if you'd like. Just let me know.

Mar 24, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

New Oven

We have a BlueStar range and oven -- the range is great, with superb heat and control. I prefer it to previous range, which was a big Viking. At full throttle, I believe the cooktop will boil water as quickly as the best induction ranges, which is helpful when I'm making complicated dishes. And the simmer burner really does provide a perfect simmer.

I also like that everything is analog - no stupid digital boards that burn out at the most inopportune moments and leave you with a useless hunk of metal in your kitchen. The ignition is the only part you might need to replace, and that should be easy to do on your own. (N.B. I haven't had to do this yet, and don't anticipate any trouble when it happens.)

I took a while to adjust to the gas oven, though. It takes longer to heat up than my previous Viking dual-fuel ovens, doesn't brown chicken as well, and the knobs on the stove can get uncomfortably hot. But, on the plus side, the BlueStar oven gives a more even heat, is better at broiling, and gives a moister heat, so roasted food remains extremely moist.

Like most of life, you pays your money and you makes your choices.

Mar 23, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin

New Oven

Wilson Appliance in Dripping Springs has an excellent, if expensive selection of convection and conventional ovens and cooktops. Worth a look, anyway.

Mar 14, 2014
Andrew Zachary in Austin