What do beet chips and our food fest in Austin have in common?
Beet Chips do not resemble any of the foods we feasted on in that food truck populated, barbecue famous, college-town oriented city.
Traveling in a city known for culinary pleasures as a 'food-
Expanding waistlines was the culinary take-home gift bestowed on us as hallmark tokens from Austin as we rolled (literally) back to Houston.
Beet Chips, among other revised caloric options, have become a mainstay snack for awhile as we regress back to a healthy more balanced lifestyle.
Crunchy, salty, and earthy...these are a great crispy side texture to put with our salads and soups.
After a complete indulgence in the fabulousness of Austin's food offerings...beet chips, kale chips (coming soon!) and all sorts of healthier snack options are back on the table in our kitchen.
But, instead of lamenting the "after" effects of our Austin experience, more captured moments in the city need to be shared.
SoCo, known as Southern Congress, is a fabulous street to hang out for excellent people-watching, to stroll up and down for diverse and fun shopping, and for forming a straight path towards
... our first pod of food trucks!
Austin has a tag line that it considers an apt overall description of its urban personality.
"Keep Austin Weird" are the words found on T-shirts, bags, and signage all around the city.
Well, no kidding. Rightly named, I say.
There is a definite "weird" vibe that keeps one amused, guessing, and intrigued by the residents of this Texan city.
But, I guess that is all from one's point of view, isn't it? What is considered "weird"? Is what is weird to some people normal to others?
What we have here is the mixture of the southern Texan cowboy influence...i.e....as indicated by this young girl galloping down what would be the equivalent of "Broadway" in NYC. ON.A.HORSE! Wonderful BBQ is their gift to the culinary scene of the Austin menu!
Then, there is the concentration of a "liberal" populace that flock to this urban and suburban haven of what is an otherwise extremely conservative oriented state.
Throw into that mix a humongous student population that attends U. of Texas and attracts some of the best scientific and engineering minds in the country. They need to eat...and cheap...thus food trucks with delicious offerings.
Oh...and then there is the placement of the national headquarters of Whole Foods located in Austin. Bring in the super health conscious populace that is shaking up and promoting the 'green' movement. (ignore the 'Hey Cupcake' truck above)
No...I wouldn't call it a "weird" population. That has a negative connotation. I would say is it....
a fabulously diverse, intelligent, artistic community of very dynamic people who are all living in what appear to be harmony with one another.
But, let's zero in on the 'food truck' movement in Austin. Pods of food trucks are all over the city. Big and small trailers, cute trailers, and ugly trailers are nestled in parking lots across varying parts of the city.
That is what R. and I were there to experience. We had everything laid out carefully.
"Hey Cupcake" was a must-do...or should I say "must-eat". We sampled the 'red velvet' cupcake. It wasn't the most earth shatteringly delicious cupcake that I have ever tried but it was ... like a homemade cupcake one would bake in a home kitchen. Good...from scratch quality.
We had our food trucks mapped out and fortunately in between our food stops, great shopping could be enjoyed.
The shops along SoCo are fun, edgy, and diverse. I thought they would be more 'trinkety' but I had no problem finding items that I wanted to bundle up and take back home.
I found some really cute dresses...that if I just had NOT eaten that red velvet cupcake... I might have looked pretty cute in...
It is known here at "thyme" that I am a lover of all things "po-boy". Cajun Oyster po-boys, shrimp-boys, it doesn't matter...pile good fried seafood into excellent french bread and I am happy, happy, happy.
When Diane, from "White on Rice" blog featured her favorite 'sandwich' called a Bahn Mi a few months ago, I just couldn't get that sandwich out of my mind. I loved the story that she wrote about it because it mirrored how I write about the cajun 'po-boy' sandwich.
When I read some really excellent reviews on the Austin food truck "Bahn Bahn"...I knew this would be our lunch stop and my days of dreaming of this sandwich would be fulfilled with the reality of sampling one.
I have also been super intrigued by the Vietnamese "Iced Coffee" drink after watching this ADORABLE video here.
I just cannot stop giggling over the creativity of this video!
Well, I am now here to say that as soon as I sank my teeth into my first Bahn-Mi sandwich from the Bahn Bahn truck in Austin
...I was hooked...in love...all taste buds were firing.
And Vietnamese Iced Coffee! I now can't get enough of this incredible concoction that includes a thick layer of creamy condensed milk at the bottom of a glass, a dousing of strong hot chicory flavored coffee, and a scoop of ice.
The drink is a satisfying mix of cold coffee creaminess that makes for the most refreshing balance to the spiciness of the Bahn Mi sandwich.
I wanted so much to savor this drink in small sips but I just kept sucking down huge mouthfuls of cold creaminess...(brain freeze!)
No doubt...next Austin trip...straight to the Bahn Bahn truck.
Something about Austin made me feel very much comfortable in my own skin. People love to sit and eat outdoors on the sidewalks.
Misting Sprayers gently spray cool jets of fresh water to make the heat of this southern city more bearable.
After shopping more...well, that's not entirely true. Only so much shopping can be accomplished with a 15 year old teen boy in tow.
To be quite frank...thank goodness Madeleine and I hit the shops the afternoon before her orientation began and snatched a few finds.
With Riley, shopping entails reluctantly entering a store, making a sweeping glance of the goods, eliciting a grunt or two of acknowledgement, and shuffling backwards towards the exit.
Well! At least he's a cheap travel companion!
We headed to the Gourdough Donut truck in the afternoon for the gargantuan experience of this gi-normous indulgence.
Conclusion? NOT impressed. The toppings loaded on top were ridiculous. When we finally dug down deep to find the donut and pushed the overwhelming layers of toppings to the side...the donut itself was...delicious.
The donut itself was fabulous. Why the mounds of gimmicky cheap sugar infested toppings? We didn't know that one could only order cinnamon sugar sprinkled only as a topping. Next time...the donut = totally worth it. The toppings = ew...pass.
Madeleine and I wanted to see the city lit up at night. From the campus of U.of Texas to the State Capitol Building, to the river, and then all the way down SoCo, the street flows in a straight line and is beautifully punctuated by the state capitol building high up on the hill.
The site is an impressive and unique one. I must say, we were glad we kept our weary bodies out on the street into the night because it was a chance to see beautiful view of the city.
So much more to do and see in Austin. Perla's Seafood Restaurant (frequented by A. Bourdain) will be featured on 'thyme' soon.
But, until then, we have dorm goodies to track down...bedding, lamps, wall art...all that fun stuff for any 18 year old.
Crispy Beet Chips:
3-5 Medium size beets
Oil of your choice...I used olive oil
flavored spices of your choice (optional)
Preheat your oven to 325˚F
Cut the stems off each beet then wash and peel them. Cut off the pointed ends so they are straight and smooth.
Using a mandolin slicer, evenly cut the beets into thin (but not the thinnest) slices (the more even they are the better). Lay sliced beets out on a paper towel and pat them dry.
Coat the thinly sliced beets with oil of choice (about 2-3 tablespoons, depending on the amount of beets used). This can be done by tossing them in a bowl (**be sure to coat each beet entirely) or lay them out on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet, lightly coating each side with a pastry brush or with your hands. (warning: it's going to be a little messy as beets have a lot of juice)
Once the oiled beets are evenly placed on your rimmed baking sheet, use another matching rimmed baking sheet (with the bottom lightly oiled) and place it on top of the beets. This creates a type of "press", helping the beets to cook evenly and flat. You can do two sets of these at a time if you have 4 matching rimmed baking sheets. You will need to rotate the sheets part way through the cooking process.
Bake the beets in the 'press' on the center rack of the oven, for 15-20 min (depending on the thickness of the beets). Check the beets a few times during the cooking process. When the edges of the beets start to dry out some, remove the top baking sheet.
Continue baking the chips uncovered for another 10-15 min or until they start to turn lighter in color and brown slightly. Remove the chips as they look finished. Watch them carefully at this point because they will burn quickly. Remove some of the smaller beets that cooked faster than the larger ones.
Allow to cool. Sprinkle with salt or any powdered spices you want to try. Chips should become crisp as they cool.