HOWDY FOLKS!

Yesterday I took my annual trip to the State Fair of Texas, mainly to consume as many different kinds of fried foods as possible, with my aunt and my dad.  (It was Seniors Fly Free Thursday, and I had an empty Coke bottle to get $4 admission.  Hooray for discounts!!!)  And at the request of several people who begged and pleaded with me for a food review of this godforsaken place, I have created the blog entry that you are reading right now.

And before I start, I would like to state a couple of things:

  1. NO, I DID NOT TRY THE DEEP FRIED BUTTER.  From what I heard from others who tried it, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  It was more like a fried biscuit.  And I had better things to waste my money on.
  2. (From a previous visit):  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT GET THE DEEP FRIED GUACAMOLE.  Unless you enjoy having intestinal distress to go along with the funky, badly-spiced-guacamole flavor that will linger in your mouth for hours.  HOURS.  Just don’t.

And so, On to the reviews…

My first foray into the Wild and Wonderful World of Fried Foods was this:

The deep fried strawberry chocolate waffle ball!

Strawberries covered in chocolate, then dipped in waffle batter and deep fried!  What more could a girl ask for?  I only had one of these, and my dad ate the other one.  And since he is all about Quantity over Quality, he didn’t much care for these, but I thought they were amazing.   Perfectly sweet, with none of the bitter aftertaste that is so typical in other non-waffle batters.  I give this a thumbs UP!

Next up was lunch.  Since I am following a vegetarian diet this month, I couldn’t have my annual Fletcher’s Corn Dog (*sniffle!*), but instead, I got this:

Spanakopita!

And a beer.  (Did you know that beer in the food court is $1-$2 cheaper than the beer outside at the other food stands?  And you know what that means???  More money to spend on fried food!!!)

Oh yes, the review part:  The spanakopita was perfection.  Instead of being in slices, it was wrapped in a phyllo pocket.  The phyllo was perfectly cooked, not too flaky (and therefore not too messy), and the inside was perfectly chewy.  The spinach and feta were well-balanced and seasoned, and I would not hesitate to get this again.  Great job, Greek food kiosk people!

And my dad, once again proving himself to be the Quantity Over Quality guy, got THIS:

Blech!

In case you can’t tell by looking, this is a baked potato from some BBQ joint in the food court.  A baked potato with EVERYTHING.  Including a heaping mound of brisket.  And yes, my dad ate it ALL.  (And no, he’s most definitely not a big guy.  He just eats one HUGE meal a day.  And apparently, this was it.)

After a bit of shopping, we arrived at the Embarcadero and tried this tasty little number:

Fernie’s Deep Fried Peaches & Cream

According to bigtex.com:

 Sweet juicy peaches are coated in a delicious batter of cinnamon, ginger, coconut, graham cracker crumbs, eggs & milk, then deep fried to a crunchy golden brown on the outside, while luscious and sweet on the inside.  Served on a plate drizzled with raspberry sauce, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a cool dollop of whipped cream.  A side of vanilla butter cream icing is provided for dipping. 

These were SO good!  The peaches on the side were obviously canned, but the ones that were fried were most definitely fresh, and still a bit crunchy. The dipping sauce on the side was a little watery, though.  My aunt and I LOVED these, but my dad wasn’t too impressed.  And although my aunt and I thought they were great, we thought we could do them better.  Maybe with a sweetened/spiced tempura batter, and a thicker dipping sauce, sweetened condensed milk with bourbon and/or cinnamon, perhaps?  I dunno.  But I do know that if I have the chance to try these again, I definitely will!

So after eating, we went to look at sculpturey things…

Look!  OMG TURTLES!!!

And OMG A STATUE MADE OUT OF JUNK!!!

Owls and acorns!  Oh my!

We ended our day at the Fair by doing what every good Fairgoer MUST do:  We took a ride on the Texas Star!

WHEEE!!!

And no, we didn’t spit on anyone from the top.  This time.

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Last night, the JohnnyCakes and I went to Stephan Pyles…Again!   It’s currently Restaurant Week (actually Restaurant MONTH for some places), which is always a good time to check out some really great restaurants for Cheap. 

Here is the menu at SP for RW:  http://www.stephanpyles.com/events.asp

Go ahead and look over it.  I’ll wait…

 

…And now that you’ve looked over the menu, let’s get on with the show…

(Note:  We got the wine pairings.  Because you just have to.  You do.)

 

First Course

Local Heirloom Tomato Salad with Paula’s Bocconcini, Fried Avocado and Balsamic Gelée*

 tomatoes

 Wine pairing:
Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2008

This was my choice for the 1st course.  It was amazing.  The tomatoes were perfectly ripe (Do they have a huge window that they set the tomatoes on to ripen every day?  Wouldn’t it be cool if they did?), and the panko-encrusted avocado provided a crunchy, sweet foil to the flavors of the tomatoes and the balsamic gelee cubelets.    The bocconcini was like a bonus layer of creaminess to the dish.  (Note to self: make panko-encrusted avocado. )

 

Scallop and Pork Belly Carnitas with Sweet Potato Hash, Smoked Onion Confit and Plum Purée

Scallop and carnitas

Scallop and carnitas

Wine pairing:
Catena Chardonnay, Tupungato, Mendoza 2007

This was Johnny’s first course.  But I tried it, of course…

The waiter had detailed the entire 57-step process of getting the pork belly just right, from the roasting, to the peeling off of fat and forming the pork into a Jimmy Dean Sausage-shaped Tube.  But whatever.  All that really mattered was whether all of that was worth it.  And it was…

I’m not normally a fan of cooked scallops (Although I LOVE scallop sushi!), but this was really tasty.  It had a perfectly bacony flavor, the scallop was not rubbery at all, and for me, sweet potatoes in general can do no wrong.  So no complaints on this one at all…

 

Extra Course – Central Market Coupon

Red Snapper in Thai-Red Curry Masa with Veracruzana Sauce and Caramelized Fingerling Banana

The snapper 4th course

The snapper 4th course

Wine pairing:
Van Duzer Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2006
 

We had to get this.  Even though we didn’t have the Central Market coupon. 

Holy crap it was good.

This was a slab of snapper, on top of coconut rice, with sort of a curry tamale on top.   On top of that was a Veracruzana (think sweet, oniony stewed tomato) sauce.  On the side was half of a carmelized fingerling banana, and then the whole shebang was drizzled with creme fraiche.

(Note to self:  Make bass or some other kind of meaty white fish with  carmelized banana.  And avocado.)

This was like another dessert.  And probably my favorite course of the evening!

 

Second Course

48-Hour Braised Beef Cheek with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Baby Squash

beef

Wine pairing:
Hook and Ladder “The Tillerman” Red Blend, Russian River Valley 2006

 This was the most yummy cowface I’d ever had.  It was like a carmelized pot roast. Sweet, fork-tender, and slightly crispy.  OMG I’m drooling just thinking about it…

Some people are afraid of eating Animal Face, but really, it’s usually the most tender and sweet meat on a critter.  Try this with fish (hamachi kama) the next time you eat sushi.  You will thank me.  Trust.

 

Pan-Seared Salmon with Hoja Santa Pesto, Corn Griddle Cakes and Clay Pot Black Beans

salmon

Wine pairing:
Latour “Domaine Valmoissine” Pinot Noir, Coteaux du Verdon 2007

 Meh.  Mine was better.  (Johnny got this, and it tasted pretty much like it looks.)

I could make this.  It’s like they didn’t even try.  And the streak of pesto just makes the salmon look, well,  diseased

 

Third Course

Mexican Chocolate Fondant with Fleur de Sel Caramel and Kahlúa Crema

chocolate

Wine pairing:
Marenco Brachetto D’ Acqui “Pineto” Piedmonte DOCG 2008

 For our dessert orders, I had asked the waiter to just randomly give us the chocolate dessert and the cheesecake.  So at first, this was my dessert.  Again, I can’t say I’m a fan of cake.

So we traded.

This tasted like a brownie.  (And that’s probably why Johnny LOVED it!)

The wine that was served along side the brownie was a Piedmont, which was sort of a fizzy Pinot Noir.  This wine might have done better with a ganache or something smooth like that.  Because again, I am not a fan of cake…

 

Unless it’s CHEESECAKE…

Deep Ellum Goat’s Cheesecake with Thyme-Infused Cherries Jubilee

cheesecake

Wine pairing:
Lillypilly Noble Blend, New South Wales (Riverina) Australia 2006

 Who but Stephan Pyles would think to make a cheesecake with goat cheese (and not screw it up)?  And then make it look like a cherry cobbler with ice cream?

To be honest, I was expecting the standard baked, triangular slice of cheesecake, maybe with some cherries baked into it.  Maybe a little browning or crustiness on top…  But certainly not this!

(I totally got the best dessert.  After I traded with Johnny, anyway…  Yay, me!)

The cheesecake was perfectly smooth and creamy, and the cherries were perfectly cooked and seasoned with thyme.  Accompanying the cheesecake/cherries was a liberal sprinkling of (graham cracker crumbs?) on the side.  It was basically a deconstructed cherry cheesecake.  And I need to remember to add more herbs to my cobblers…

And as for the wine, the Lillypilly rocked it.

 

All in all, the JohnnyCakes and I were once again very, very impressed by Stephan Pyles.   I’m pretty sure this is our new favorite restaurant. 

 

*All photos were taken by my iPhone, because although I was prepared to look sort of geeky taking photos of my food, I didn’t want to look Japanese Tourist geeky with my honkin’  big DSLR slung around my neck. 

This morning, the Johnnycakes requested another vegan breakfast.  And since I was in a rather accomodating mood, I obliged…  Therefore, I now bring you…

Vegan Breakfast Number 2!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2):

  • 4 frozen hemp waffles
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter or margarine
  • 1-2 peaches, chopped roughly
  • 1 handful pitted bing cherries
  • 1 handful blueberries
  • 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • a bit of soy milk to make icing…  2-3 Tbsp?
  • dash of cinnamon, and nutmeg might be nice as well…
  • Vegetarian sausage patties

Directions:

 

PEACH/BERRY MIXTURE:
  • Preheat oven for sausage patties and heat according to directions on package.  Or nuke them. Whatever floats yer boat…
  • Heat up a small saucepan and melt butter/margarine.
  • Throw in fruits and cook until soft.  Or until thawed, if you are using frozen fruits.
  • Add cinnamon and whatever other spices you want to throw in.
  • Add white wine and reduce.
  • Add brown sugar and stir.
ICING:
  • Put powdered sugar into small bowl.  Slowly add tiny amounts of milk, and whisk until it’s the consistency of thin icing.
WAFFLES:
  • Put them into a toaster and wait for them to pop up.
ASSEMBLY:
  • Stack 2 waffles on plate per person.  Add sauteed fruit mixture, and drizzle with icing.  Serve with sausages.
YUM!

Icing is yummy on sausages too!

 If there is one thing that  I do rather well, it’s CHILI!  I love to make beef chili, turkey chili, venison chili, and the other night, I made vegetarian chili!  (This is the kind with TVP as a sort of meat substitute.  If you are copying this recipe, you can sub black beans instead.  But I’m sorta diggin’ the TVP…)

Ingredients for TVP Chili:

Chili ingredients

Chili ingredients

You will need:

  • 1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein) granules
  • +/- 1 cup boiling water, to reconstitute TVP
  • 1 can chopped/diced/stewed/whatever tomatoes
  • 1/2 can corn, drained (Use the other half for the cornbread below.)
  • 1 can tomato sauce or tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle of beer
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 cups frozen mixed veggies (optional)
  • chili seasoning of your choice, in the amount of your choice.  I used 3 Tbsp of a really nifty chili seasoning that I got in Terlingua.
  • 1 can kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • whatever secret ingredients you use for your chili.  I have mine, and no, I’m not sharing. 

 

Directions:

ABOUT 10-20 MINUTES BEFORE MAKING CHILI:

  • Add boiling water to TVP and let it sit there and reconstitute for 10-20 minutes.  Add some tamari or worchestershire sauce for flavor if you want.
TVP and H2O

TVP and H2O

 

ON WITH THE SHOW:

  • Get out your favorite chili-making pot/pan, and fire that sucker up!
  • Add olive oil, and saute onions and garlic until clear.
Onions...

Onions...

  • Add veggies, tomatoes, and beans, and warm through.
Pretty, isn't it?

Pretty, isn't it?

  • Add tomato sauce/paste, and TVP
TVP in chili...

TVP in chili...

  • Stir…
YUM!
YUM!
  • Add THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT:
Beer!

(Add 1/2 of the bottle. The rest is for the cook!)

  • Add the chili seasoning and the rest of your secret ingredients and warm though…
Yay, Chili!

Yay, Chili!

 

Cornbread!

INGREDIENTS:

Cornbread ingredients

Cornbread ingredients

  • 1 box Jiffy or Martha White cornbread or corn muffin mix.
  • 1 small can of evaporated milk.
  • 1/2 can whole kernel corn, drained (split with chili recipe above)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced and sauteed
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar or mexi-mix cheese
  • 1 aig

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven according to cornbread package directions.
  • For the onion, an easier way to go would be to saute the whole onion from the chili recipe above first, and then take out about 1/3 of it for the cornbread.
  • Put onion and corn in mixing bowl.  
  • Basically, you will be following the directions on the package of cornbread, but adding other ingredients and substituting the evaporated milk for the regular milk called for on the package.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
Cornbread batter

Cornbread batter

  • Pour into 8×8 square pan, or cake pan, and bake according to package directions.
Before...
Before…
...And after!
…And after!
Enjoy!
YUM!

YUM!

As I wrote earlier, my Food Fad du Jour is to be as vegan as possible for a while.  I dunno.  Maybe it’s a Summer thing…

So, with that in mind, here is my favorite vegan dinner…

VEGAN MAC ‘N’ CHEEZE WITH OKRY AND BLACK BEANS!

 

Mac ‘n’ cheeze:  

(recipe loosely stolen from Very Vegetarian by Jannequin Bennett):

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water or soymilk
  • 1 Tbsp light miso
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine or 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp grainy or dijon mustard or 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 4 cups cooked macaroni

DESTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, toast the yeast and flour just until the flour begins to take on some color and the yeast is lightly toasted.  
  2. Carefully whisk 2 cups of water or soymilk into the flour mixture, making sure that no lumps form.  
  3. Add the miso, garlic powder, and paprika and whisk to blend thoroughly.  
  4. Gently cook the mixture until it is thick, about 8-10 minutes.  
  5. Add the margarine and mustard and tamari/soy and mix well.  
  6. Taste and adjust the seasonings.  
  7. Stir in the macaroni and heat through.  
  8. Serve immediately or reserve in a warm oven.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Cheeze sauce!

Cheeze sauce!

 

Mac 'n' Cheeze!

Mac 'n' Cheeze!

 

Okry:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 cups of okra, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1 can chopped/diced/stewed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic (2 cloves?)
  • a wee bit of cardamom
  • olive oil

DESTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a skillet, saute the garlic and onions in olive oil, until the onions are sort of clear.
  2. Throw in the okra.  Saute until tenderized.
  3. Throw in HALF of the can of tomatoes and warm through.
  4. Add salt, pepper, cardamom, and whatever spices you think would work.  Cinnamon?
Okry!

Okry!

 

BLACK BEANS:

  1. Open a can of black beans.
  2. Put beans into saucepan.
  3. Heat up until boiling/simmering.
  4. Add the rest of the can of tomatoes.  Or some salsa. Whatever.
  5. Add some cardamom, salt, pepper, maybe a little garlic.  
  6. Heat until bubbly…
  7. Serve!
Soup's on!

Soup's on!