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CHOW Tour Austin, Your Thoughts On Where to Go?

" More than any wood, the copious availability of mesquite defines our local bbq."

Wha...??? No way. No decent barbecue place uses mesquite. It's gotta be oak. Mesquite burns too hot, doesn't give you good coals, and imparts a nasty resiny flavor. Check out the woodpile at any good bbq place, and you'll see stacks of OAK.

Jan 21, 2011
Bat Guano in Austin

Asia Cafe Menu Item Comparison

The House Dry Wok dishes (there's chicken and shrimp in addition to beef) bring some serious spice - chile and szechuan pepper. Very flavorful; they're actually a bit too intense for me to enjoy thoroughly, but if you're a chile and ma la-head you should like them.

Jan 21, 2011
Bat Guano in Austin

Mole

I've never made it either, but I've picked up the "homemade" mole from La Michoacana meat market, mixed it with stock, and ... it was really, really good. It's a dark mole in unmarked tubs at the meat counter; I don't know how often they make it - not very, it seems, since I usually don't see it there - but I think it was around this time of year I got it before. They have several commercial kinds, too, but the stuff they put out at the fresh meat counter is fantastic.

Nov 22, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

Celeriac

Make yourself a good garlicky aioli (or just commercial mayo mixed with lots of crushed, minced garlic), mix with a big pile of grated raw celeriac and a bit of salt. One of the best things you can put in your mouth.

Sep 30, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Roasting Winter Squash Seeds

Mine are fairly clean; I rinse them in a colander, then salt them while they're still wet, before roasting. That's all - no oil or other flavorings. Low and slow also has the advantage that you don't have to check them as carefully; at high heat they burn or scorch easily if you let them go even a little bit too long.

Sep 23, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Freezing Smoked Mozzarella

Don't know about smoked specifically, but I recently made a Caprese salad out of mozzarella that had been in the freezer for a year (still in the original thick plastic wrapping) and it was just fine; I couldn't tell the difference between the frozen mozzarella and a fresh one.

Sep 21, 2010
Bat Guano in General Topics

fridge got left open last night

Throw everything out, or you will undoubtedly die. Probably best to get a new refrigerator as well, as the bacteria will have spread to the walls, and will contaminate anything you put in it.

I'm kidding, of course. It's probably fine. If the milk smells OK, then it is OK. Same with everything else; 3 hours may be enough for some things to get a bit warmer than the ideal temperature, but again, the smell test is a pretty good guideline. Eggs don't even really need to be refrigerated.

Sep 15, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Can Akla Seltzer Work As A Leavener?

Those fizzing denture cleaner tablets would probably give a lot of leavening, too, but I wouldn't use them.

Sep 15, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Best Cheap Beer

As for the Genny, we upstate locals always called it Genny White, because it came in white cans with a red logo, to distinguish it from the Cream Ale, which of course was Genny Green (sometimes, somewhat sarcastically, "the Green Dream"). Drank my share of Pabst, too, but I don't remember ever calling it 'blue.' Doesn't mean it didn't happen, though!

Sep 13, 2010
Bat Guano in Beer

2010: Hatch Chile Peppers are Back

Got a batch at Whole Foods the other day for .99/lb. Advertised as 'hot', and they are - about as hot as serranos. Advisable to wear gloves during the peeling/seeding process (I didn't and my fingers were burning for hours afterward).

On a related note, I usually roast and skin my own peppers, using high heat on the gas grill. This time around I decided to short-cut it, and do them while I was cooking a rack of ribs. So I'm repeating myself when I say that the temperature on the grill was low. They seemed to blacken and blister up pretty well, just took considerably longer than when on high heat. And yes, they do have to blacken and blister pretty much all over, or the skins will not come off. However, this is not recommended: the longer cooking time dries out the flesh way more than a quick charring, to the point where much of it is unusable - just a dried-out bit of flesh that re-adheres to the skin. So Hatches are not ribs, don't cook them the same way.

What I did manage to peel and use are delicious, if a bit hotter than the average Hatch.

Sep 07, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

My cooking has gotten simpler over the years...

Yes, this is basically what I was trying to get at, and you've clarified the issue for me - letting high-quality ingredients speak for themselves. And my tastes reflect this as well, as well as my shopping. Yes, I do throw something on the grill very often, too....

Sep 02, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

My cooking has gotten simpler over the years...

At least in terms of ingredients, seasonings and spices. I've found as my technical skill in cooking has grown, I use fewer, but more carefully-chosen ingredients. This became clear to me recently when I found an old recipe I'd written down for a sauce I'd improvised one time, that my GF liked so much she insisted I write it down. Stuff I'd be unlikely to do nowadays; it involved deglazing, sauteeing a bewildering number of ingredients, a strainer and a blender... I followed it and made it again, and it wasn't worth all the fussiness; I could make a better sauce more easily now. Lately, on the other hand, I tend to use far fewer ingredients - often only salt and pepper - and pay more attention to cooking technique: preparation, cooking method, heat level, etc. So basically more precision, less scattershot use of ingredients and spices. This is of course when I'm not following a recipe, which is most of the time; if I'm cooking something I've never made before I follow recipes fairly closely, and use it as a way to learn about seasonings I may not be that familiar with. And overall my cooking has gotten better. Practice, you know.

Anyone else have a similar experience? Or the opposite - are you using more stuff than before?

Sep 02, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Your Favorite Pasta Dish?

I don't know about the zucchini, but penne is fair game; at a little family-run restaurant in Rome where I had an excellent carbonara, one of the regulars there asked for, and got, carbonara made with penne. They didn't bat an eye. That makes it authentic enough for me!

And I know guanciale is hard to find in a lot of areas, but if you can get it, it really makes a big difference (instead of bacon, which is admittedly what I use most of the time). Oh, and no arugula OR parsley (yes, I use green stuff sometimes, but I'm playing carbonara nazi right now).

Sep 01, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

16-course gastronomic Belgian dinner - NH/ME, Aug 19

Wow, this sounds awesome. I'm going to have to arrange to be in the area next year at this time.

Aug 31, 2010
Bat Guano in Northern New England

Solo diner, late dinner near Galleria

OK, on the advice of this thread I went to Oceanaire on Friday; drove up from Austin for the weekend. My GF and I got the Restaurant Week menu. Her salad was fine, with good blue cheese dressing and strawberries, an unexpectedly good combination. My gumbo was just OK; I never expect much from gumbo outside of Louisiana, but I keep hoping. This one had a bit of the proper dark roux flavor, but it was overwhelmed with a slightly sweet tomato taste - just not right.
My Amberjack dynamite (an amberjack filet topped with crabmeat and 'spicy butter sauce') was good; nice large, fresh piece of fish. Crabmeat topping was heavily adulterated with breadcrumbs, sauce was fine. The filet was quite thick and uneven, so that there was a portion that was basically raw in the center; I didn't mind that, but some people might. As for my GF's lemon sole... well, it was a disaster. Covered with a thick breading and just DRENCHED in butter - I mean, they must have used a half-pound of butter on this one dish, NO exaggeration. Butter was not just the dominant flavor, it was the only flavor. I've got absolutely nothing against butter, but this was just way, way too much of a good thing. My GF thought that maybe they forgot that they'd already added a ladle or whatever of butter to it, and added another one (or two).
The key lime bars (basically a key lime pie in bar form) were good. Nothing was outstanding, and the sole dish was disgusting. Wine list was fairly good but way overpriced. I wouldn't go back.

Aug 30, 2010
Bat Guano in Dallas - Fort Worth

Earthshaking Cutting Edge Sandwich Survey

Well OK, when you put it that way it doesn't sound so bad....I bet a little sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese would be a good addition too.

Aug 23, 2010
Bat Guano in General Topics

Earthshaking Cutting Edge Sandwich Survey

What?! Mayo on a hummus sandwich? That sounds strange....

Aug 20, 2010
Bat Guano in General Topics

Best bargain at Costco (or Sam's Club)?

Don't know if this is the case with all, but my local Costco (Austin, TX) has recently switched to Gulf shrimp.

Aug 13, 2010
Bat Guano in Chains

Asia Cafe Menu Item Comparison

Nope, no bones. The meat is pretty much the same as the chunks in H&S, but without that spicy coating, with some vegetables (sorry, I forget exactly which) and sliced chilis instead. Both are delicious. I make it a point to always order at least one dish I've never had before for the gf and I to share, aside from our rotating cast of usual favorites (spicy fish, twice cooked pork, green beans, black and white mushrooms w/ bok choy....) and have never been disappointed.

Jul 09, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

Asia Cafe Menu Item Comparison

Actually I've found the stir-fried lamb with chili to be spicier than the hot and spicy lamb. Probably the spiciest dish I've had from there (I've had most of the ones with the peppers denoting 'spicy' on the menu). It may vary with the hotness of the peppers they use, but one time it was ... pretty f-in hot. In a good way.

Jul 08, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

Worst Beer Ever?

I have a new one: Bud Light Lime. Inflicted this on myself at a music festival with a really limited beer selection (they all started with "Bud"). It was a hot day, I figured, well, how bad can it be? The answer: worse than I could imagine. Tasted like artificial lime soda - not a trace of malt or hops. It's been a long time since I couldn't finish a beer on a hot day, but I gave this away in favor of cold water. I still shudder when I think of it....

May 25, 2010
Bat Guano in Beer

Worst Beer Ever?

There are two beers brewed in Costa Rica, both by the same brewery. One yellow label, one white. I think they're both the same beer in different cans. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. There may be more selection in bigger cities than what I went to....

May 25, 2010
Bat Guano in Beer

garlic

I don't know about measurement equivalents, but if you crush the cloves, it releases a lot more flavor than just slicing them. Use the flat of your knife and smash them, then slice them.

May 17, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Las Vegas: Five Nights

Just went to Michael Mina last week. Gf and I had the pre-theater menu - appetizer, entree and dessert. I had the salad and Lobster pot pie, gf had the tuna tartare and olive-oil-poached halibut. Everything was really good; the tuna tartare and lobster pie were extra charges on top of the prix fix menu cost, but well worth it. I will be reliving that lobster pot pie for a long time: a whole lobster, which the waiter said was 1-1/4 lb., baked in a copper pot with a pastry crust, the tail sections cracked and cut up, and the claws de-shelled completely. It was in a brandied truffle cream sauce that was absolutely delicious - a wonderful combination with the lobster, with which it was infused since it was cooked together. Lobster was perfectly cooked - tender and succulent. Some vegetables mixed in also. Amazingly good.

The halibut was actually almost as good: just-cooked, moist and flaky, delicious. A nice-sized fillet also.

Desserts were good too, but we were so full by that time that we didn't finish them. Wine selection was good - we had a very nice Gruner Veltliner - and no more overpriced than other places in Vegas.

-----
Michael Mina Restaurant
3600 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

May 17, 2010
Bat Guano in Las Vegas

Best French Toast Ever

Oh, one more thing: fry in bacon grease. Seriously.

Mar 16, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Looking for a place with good food and live music in the 6th street area

Well, this weekend is the film and interactive part of SXSW, and the serious madness really hits next weekend with the music. You should be OK this weekend if you already have a place to stay. That said, The Eater is right, there really aren't places that have good food AND good music; it's one or the other. So my advice would be to decide what kind of food you want. There are several great places within walking distance to the music hot spots, so eat and then go listen to music.

Mar 09, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

Black and White cookies?

I saw some at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago. Didn't try them, though....

Feb 17, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

Your favorite Carbonara recipe

Yes, this is it. I finally got a hold of some guanciale and did followed this technique, and came pretty close to duplicating the carbonara I had in Rome, that I'd been dreaming about for months. It was the guanciale that did it; had been using thick-sliced bacon before, with disappointing results. Also, lots of black pepper: more than you think you'll need. Oh, and I used good, fresh free-range eggs, with rich orange yolks, which I think also made a difference. It's all about the ingredients.

Jan 28, 2010
Bat Guano in Home Cooking

Central TX BBQ in Philly - Compare and Contrast

They say it's smoked over oak, so if they do it right it should be pretty good; of course, tending the fire is really the art in barbecue. Pork belly? Color me skeptical on that. But Rauchbier? A smoked-malt beer with barbecue is nothing short of brilliant! Places around here should take note. Uncle Billy's, I'm talkin' to you!

Jan 07, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin

Please review restaurant recommendations near downtown Austin conference

I agree with moosy on dropping Carmelo's; it's just not very good. Same goes for Iron Cactus - it's third-rate Tex-Mex. El Sol y La Luna is better, and closer to where you're staying.
Only been to Koriente a couple of times, and was not impressed; not bad, but not really worth going back.

I actually prefer Finn and Porter in the Hilton (not the Hilton Garden Inn - the taller Hilton a couple of blocks away) to Eddie V's for $$$ seafood, though Eddie's isn't bad - more of a scene, if that's what you're looking for.
Iron Works is passable barbecue, but by no means the best in town, not to mention out of town. Probably the best within walking distance, though.

Haven't been to most of the other places (never even heard of Texas Embassy...)

But if you want a good burger in a bar, there's Casino El Camino, and Jackalope, both just up 6th St. And Chez Nous for good French Bistro food, probably mid- ($$) price range.

Jan 05, 2010
Bat Guano in Austin