Tag Archives: Bakery

Good-bye Austin!

It’s 28 degrees and sunny on our last day in Austin and we head to Walton’s Fancy and Staple for breakfast. Sandra Bullock, who lives in Austin, owns this establishment among other spots. Arriving and lucking into a parking spot right out front (there is a curious lack of traffic and an abundance of parking in downtown Austin), we are greeted by a very old-timey building with gold leaf signage.

Inside this elegantly restored historic building is a quaint granary, with rustic floors and tables, exposed brick walls and beamed ceilings. Small items like vintage style candies, baking cook books and coffee are for sale. The store boasts an in-house florist and a bakery with both unusual bakery items items like golden eggs (small nutmeg cake rolled in cinnamon and sugar) and traditional items like cream filled cupcakes, squares and whoopie pies.

The main part of the business is  a soup-salad-sandwich and breakfast bar. The hand scrawled chalk board has enticing items under the breakfast section such as grilled shrimp and grits.

Tempting, but oooh…it’s 10:30 and the lunch menu also looks very good. In the end I choose ham and cheese on a pretzel bun with a cup of onion soup, and Rob orders the pastrami with spicy potato salad. Walton’s uses organic local meat without injected preservatives and hormones.

I expected the usual run-of-the-mill deli ham but, no: the ham was thick sliced and oven roasted. Truly delicious paired with emmental Swiss cheese, crunchy leaf lettuce, dijon aioli on a soft, chewy, salted pretzel bun. The onion soup had great beefy depth and was very rich with cheese. A cup was enough. The sandwiches at Walton are substantial. Think about sharing if you want to order a side.

Rob’s Pastrami was very good: mild, well-made brisket pastrami with grainy mustard and Swiss on large pieces of grilled light rye bread. He did remove a bit of the mustard as it was over powering the meat, but once adjusted it was excellent. The potato salad was exceptional. Made creamy with a mustard-tinged mayo and kicked up with sliced jalapenos.

We also shared a golden egg out of curiosity. It was a light and delicious nutmeg cake concoction that, although baked not fried,  rolled in butter and sugar, still manages to taste like a very cakey, yet refined doughnut.

Walton’s was the kind of shop you wish they had back home — great sandwiches and other preparations, perfect for breakfast and lunch, a lovely bakery and a keen eye on quality.

Walton's Fancy and Staple on UrbanspoonOur early afternoon was spent walking Austin’s historic 6th Street and taking pictures in the lovely February sun. Soon we were hankering for a margarita and headed back to our favorite watering hole, Guero’s. Seems like everyone else had the same idea and we could not get a seat outside. Not wanting to waste the precious sunshine, we drove around looking for a patio. Seems there is not a lot of patio action in Austin in February, despite it being 28 degrees. Eventually we settled on a craft brewery, Uncle Billy’s Brew and ‘Cue, only because it had a patio. It’s not worth mentioning other than the beer was just okay, the margs below average and the queso…well, lets stop there. Better things await.

After spending an hour or two blogging and posting photos, we headed to Driftwood, Texas, about a 30 minute drive. In about an hour the sun will set on our last day in Texas. We are headed to The Salt Lick BBQ, another iconic Texas joint noted for open pit BBQ. After a leisurely drive through hills and valleys, we come upon the massive parking lot of the Salt Lick and its many out buildings. This is an impressive organization. We park and head over the the Salt Lick cellar, a pretty little building residing beside a still napping vineyard, and surrounded by rail fencing entwined with thorny rose canes. The Salt Lick is BYOB but sells wine and beer in this separate business on site. We saw the more prepared among our species lugging coolers.

After purchasing the minimum 6 pack on ice (Shiner Light Blonde), we headed inside the main building which houses the open pit, some seating, the cash and the requisite sauce and T-shirt “store”.

The Salt Lick is one of the only BBQ places that uses this open-pit style of smoking the meat, cooking it on a grill above a hot fire, constantly repositioning it to keep the temperature regulated. All of the meats they serve are cooked her at the same time. It’s quite a feast for the eyes to see this open pit in action.

We are quickly lead to the pleasant covered patio, with it’s warm, yellow Texas flagstone floor and lacquered wood tables and benches. The lighting is cheery and there are two trees growing through the canopy.

The staff is friendly and helpful. Our young waiter arrives and takes our order. We decide to eat family style which is all you can eat but brought to you by your server. Self serve is so wasteful. We were actually brought a perfect amount for us but our waiter was attentive if anything looked like it needed refilling.

We ordered moist brisket (choice of lean or moist), pork ribs, Texas link, beans, potato salad and coleslaw. Pickles, onion and white bread accompany the meal. Two creamy, tangy, mustard based sauces are provided, one sweet one with heat. They were unlike any other sauces we had tasted across the country The sauce is perfect for the meat, sweet how I like it but it allows the smokey flavours of the meat to come through.

The brisket is merely good. We were totally spoiled by the brisket at Kreuz. This mild brisket needed, and was rescued by the excellent Salt Lick BBQ Sauce sauce.

The pork ribs are meaty and well smoked to the bone with a good, thick bark. The Texas link is juicy and delicious especially eaten with the wonderful, soft white bread provided and the pickle which is much like a half sour deli pickle. Sides are also pleasing here at Salt Lick. The tangy coleslaw is crunchy and well dressed. Beans are of the unsweet cowboy variety of which I’m not fond, but the potato salad was excellent, creamy with a mustard-vinegar dressing which must have been poured in when the taters were still steaming hot. The dressing permeates right through the spuds instead of being a gloppy mess of mayo sitting on top. Addictive.

We had to push it away as the promise of a blackberry cobbler demanded it. Salt Lick offers peach and blackberry cobblers for dessert. We chose blackberry. Ice cream? Of course. The warm cobbler, dark with rich berry flavour and sweet with excellent vanilla ice cream was a perfect end to a great Texas day, and our final day in Texas.

The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

 

 

RT9: Backwoods Tennesee Cajun

We are up early this last day we are to spend in Nashville, so that we can head into the pretty little town of Franklin for breakfast and to explore a little. We are breakfasting today at Merridee’s Breadbasket. It is a very busy place on a Saturday.

The atmosphere is warm and homey with blue-checked oilcloth covering the tables, rustic worn oak floors, brick walls and exposed rafters. We manage to snag a just-vacated table and take our spot at the end of a very long line to place orders.

After a long wait of twenty or more minutes our number is called. Both of us are having egg, ham, and cheese biscuits and one of their famous cinnamon rolls to split. The house coffee is fine but has a distinct hazelnut flavour. The orange juice is bottled from concentrate. Our sandwiches are made on an excellent, buttery ham and cheese biscuit which is too crumbly to eat by hand and we have to resort to fork and knife. The thinly sliced ham has been lightly pan fried and has a nice sweet-to-salty ratio. The processed cheese and fluffy egg omelet are delicious.

We savour the soft sweet buttery cinnamon roll that has a nice, loose, icing sugar topping which we prefer over a hard glaze. Overall the atmosphere at Merridee’s is one of hustle and bustle and noise. It’s clearly THE place to be for locals on a Saturday morning, but it is not the spot to enjoy some quiet time with a newspaper. Take your cinnamon bun home and enjoy it in the shade of your front porch. Or hotel.

Merridee's Breadbasket on Urbanspoon

We spend 45 minutes walking Main Street and enjoying the shops before heading over to The Factory, a 12-building complex that is a converted factory most notable for manufacturing stoves. One shop of note in the plaza is a well appointed antique store with numerous relics from the American Civil War. Oh how I would love a cannonball but my luggage was already over the weight limit on the way in. Instead we purchase some frames which contain small bits of the conflict and personalize it and let you feel the ghosts of a time gone by. A bit of pipe, a hand struck nail, buttons, dice, a harmonica reed, a bullet…

As we are leaving to meet our friends, Josee and Trevor for lunch, we get a surprise phone call from a another friend who I have known since she was just 1 year old. We did not think we would get to visit with her this time, but she caught us just as we were leaving the Factory and tells us she lives just three minutes away. After a short but sweet visit we head into town and have a refreshing lunch at Calypso Cafe, which specializes in Caribbean fare and makes a great salad.

Calypso Cafe on Urbanspoon

We are a little early and pop into the Dog and Cat Shoppe around the corner. I am in kitty heaven. They have three cats and multitudes of kittens roaming free and sleeping everywhere. I spend 15 minutes with an adorable baby tortie sleeping in my arms while I look for “presents” to bring home two my two kitties. After lunch the boys head on out to shop at Nashville’s Guitar Center and us girls go on a two mile hike on the lovely walking trails in Nashville.

Dinner tonight has been suggested by Trevor and Josee. They tell us it is really a backwoods hole-in-the-wall which serves pretty good cajun food. We are game, especially if it is a hole-in-the-wall. That’s where you will find some of the best cooking.

Papa Boudreaux’s Cajun Cafe is an hour and fifteen minute drive from Franklin to Santa Fe, Tennessee (the locals pronounce it “Santa FEE”) mostly on a winding two laner through gorgeous country. Rolling green hills, pretty mansions and beautiful more modest bungalows, horse farms and fence rows and even the occasional beat up trailer add spice and variety to this drive. We hit two detours and are completely lost to the backwoods of Tennessee save for Stella 3000, our GPS. She finally pulls us up at a small, yellow building. The parking lot is full of cars and trucks. It is a surprise because I have no idea where they all came from. There is not the kind of population in the area it would seem, to support a restaurant here. We enter, give a name and go outside and wait to be called. No waiting time is given. Several more people show up and put their names in. Some of them are smarter and have brought coolers of beer knowing they will have to wait in the heat for a table.

We sit outside and enjoy a pleasant, warm Tennessee evening. After about twenty minutes we get called in. Papa Boudreaux’s is small, boasting only seven tables. The entire place inside and out is decorated in yellow and purple, with a side of beads and football memorabillia. A flattie on one wall is showing a game between Oregon and LSU. “Papa” alternately yells with approval and swears his disgust at the TV.

Right beside our table, Ronnie Fruge serenades us on his Gibson, and chats between folk, country and cajun tunes and some of his own. Trevor and Rob are a tough audience being guitarists/singers themselves. Ronnie is a treat and is the genuine article. Papa’s is old school and accepts only cash or cheques. There is no alcohol for sale but you are welcome to bring your own in.

As we peruse the small menu on the chalkboard, people continue to pour in and put their names on the waiting list before heading back outside to wait. Our waitress returns to our table with our drinks and some warm baguette and butter to take our food orders. I ask her what the best thing on the menu is as I am tempted by several things. She tells me it’s the crawfish-shrimp etouffee. I order that and skip apps because I want to have dessert here. Rob orders some boudin balls and pasta with chicken and andouille, Trevor orders fried scallops and garlic shrimp and pasta, Josee gets the shrimp creole.

The apps arrive first. Both the scallops and the boudin come with a chunky, spicy, tomato, onion, pepper relish. The scallops are large and perfectly fried. No greasy residue and great scallop texture. The boudin balls are fried as well,  have strong pork flavour and go well with the tomato relish.

Boudin balls with a perfect, lemony, garlicky tomato relish.

The mains arrive shortly and I am not disappointed. My etouffe is homemade, honest, authentic cajun food. The portion is quite large and I’m glad I skipped apps. The dish is chock full of plump Gulf shrimp and tiny crawfish tails. The creamy sauce is delicate yet contains a mild heat, cooled by the rice it is served over.

Shrimp and Crawfish Etoufee.

Rob’s pasta had a light barely there cream sauce that nicely tied together the flavours of the smoky andouille, the chicken and a little cajun heat.

Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta.

I tried Josee’s creole and it was a classic, rich, smokey tomato sauce with onion and pepper and a good kick of heat, the kind that makes you sweat a bit eating it. Trevor enjoyed his pasta but I never got a taste. It sure looked good!

Shrimp Creole

I’m glad we saved room for dessert. Louisiana chocolate bread pudding. And four spoons. It is a big portion with warm, rich, not overly sweet chocolate bread pudding with a fudgy sauce and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream all ready melting it’s descent into the goo.

Under all that is Chocolate Bread Pudding. The cuisine of Louisiana has given us new appreciation for Bread Pudding. We’ve had it three times at Cajun restaurants. All were magnificent.

Papa Boudreaux’s is an incredible treat in the backwoods of Tennessee and serves Cajun food as good as any you will find in the bayou state.

Papa Boudreaux on Urbanspoon

 Here’s a local Tennessee TV bit on the place:

 We had a great 3 days in Nashville and in Tennessee. It was a great mix of music, food and friends. The area is captivating and beautiful. Tomorrow finds us moving on to unfamiliar turf as neither of us have been to our remaining road trip destinations before, not counting Rob’s occasional overnight business trips, which are definitely not the way to discover a region and its offerings. Tomorrow the road leads through Kentucky, on to Evansville, Indiana. Goodbye to Nashville.

Chinatown Buns

We don’t venture downtown as often as we should considering all of the great things to see, do and eat. When we do go, we’re usually headed to Chinatown to buy buns, bubble tea and get something permanently etched into our skin. Our tattoo shop of choice, Sal’s Tattoo and Barber Shop (http://www.salstattoo.com/) is found there, surrounded by amazing bakeries and shops. Matt was headed for a consultation as well as to have his arm traced, while I tagged along for the food.

Chinatown is an experience – little old ladies sell baubles and plants on the sidewalk, and shops are filled with rambutan, durian, various types of tree fungus and jars of tiny, freeze-dried seahorses (I’ve yet to find a recipe for these, but if you’ve got one let me know). There’s a “smell”, but it’s less pungent on cooler days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Spadina/College neighbourhood, two particular bakeries sit nearly side-by-side offering soft, sweet, pillowy buns with tasty fillings. We normally stop at each one, loading up on bun varieties the other bakery doesn’t offer. We first stopped at Ding Dong bakery for lunch, which consisted of a few BBQ pork buns, curry beef buns and my personal favourite – the bun with a hot dog in it. But we were surprisingly disappointed by these buns, which were not as we remembered when we last dropped in. Matt described his curry bun as “soggy”, while the BBQ pork was full of onions and none of the sweet red sauce that normally accompanies it.

The remainder of our bun shopping was done at Mashion Bakery just up the street. For savoury fillings, we chose BBQ pork, ham and cheese, curried beef and hot dog (“things with hot dogs in them” cross all cultural boundaries). There are as many sweet options, including coconut buns, custard, pineapple, raisin, wintermelon and red bean. Miniature and fried versions of most bun flavours are also available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We loaded up two grocery bags full of buns, along with six loaves of coconut bread, which included all they had on the shelf plus much of what they were hiding in the back. Coconut bread resembles a batch of Wonderbread hotdog buns, but chewy, sweet, covered in sesame seeds – and each roll holds a tube of the most delicious ground up coconut filling not unlike what’s inside a Bounty bar.

Another of our favourite recent discoveries is Japanese cheesecake, a light and airy white cake with a distinct cream cheese flavour.

The buns are ridiculously cheap, sometimes two or three for a dollar. The total cost of our haul: a paltry $26. The buns also freeze well and make a great snack or lazy lunch. Next time, we’re bringing more bags.

Bun selection greatly diminishes at the end of the day, and there are never leftovers that are bagged up and sold for less later on, as far as we’ve seen. You don’t have to go all the way to your nearest Chinatown for these delicious buns, though. They can be found wild in great numbers at Asian supermarkets like T&T, as well as prepackaged at your average No Frills if they know what they’re doing.

Our next stop was the best bubble tea around, Number 9 Bubble Tea, which lets you combine various flavours to your heart’s desire. I had a coffee/coconut bubble tea followed by a blueberry bubble tea later on (elated after discovering I could double up on their tapiocas upon request, which are made in small batches and are the tastiest in the neighbourhood) while Matt discovered their amazing slushes – fruity, fine-grain slush that melts in your mouth. On this occasion, I must admit I also filled up my loyalty card and scored my second bubble tea for free.

 

Maureen’s Note: In Ottawa, Green Fresh Market in Vanier on Montreal Rd. has in my opinion the best bbq pork buns. Made fresh daily, they are made with a slightly sweet dough and generously stuffed with large pieces of pork soaking in an excellent Chinese BBQ sauce (char siu) – a bargain at 89 cents. This is my go-to early flight meal. The buns at T&T are more expensive and of lower quality with less filling, but are nicely individually wrapped. Several of the grocers in Ottawa’s Chinatown offer an array of stuffed buns as well.

Contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences. Check out her website at www.heatherrosewriting.com.

Breakfast LES: Clinton Street Bakery

Monday morning is our last chance to grab a bite in New York. We fly out in the afternoon and have to head to the airport just after noon. A  cloudy but warm day which holds some promise of a very nice spring day once the clouds disperse. We head on over to the Clinton Street Bakery a few blocks from our hotel. We attempted to eat here on the weekend but were faced with a 90-minute wait.

Clinton St. Bakery, very busy on a NYC morning.

9:30 on a Monday finds the bakery very busy but with an empty table or two. We are seated near the window. The place is clean and welcoming, bright and homey. We order the Southern breakfast with biscuits and tomato jam on the side, and I can’t resist a glass of fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice.

Sign on wall: “Ice Cream is the New Health Food”.

The southern breakfast consists of two eggs however you like ’em, two slices of excellently fried green tomatoes, adequate cheesy grits (Rob makes them way better. His are cheesier) and four or five slices of thick-sliced sugar-cured bacon that is the BEST EVER bacon we’ve had. Juicy, flat, perfectly crisped, and almost candied, it would be a good enough reason alone to return to this breakfast spot. Their famous biscuits are in my opinion just good biscuits but I’ve had better cat-head biscuits (so named because they’re the size of a cat’s head — made with lard or bacon grease and whole buttermilk) in the south, in Nashville and North Carolina specifically. At Clinton Bakery they were served with good raspberry jam, not the tomato jam we ordered and were looking forward to, as good tomato jam was a treat, but we didn’t make a fuss. It was all good.

Eggs over medium, cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, sugar-cured bacon and those biscuits.
Up close…yum.