Category Archives: Austin

Barley Swine

Barley Swine, Bryce Gilmore’s experiment in adventurous culinary creations has been on fire since it opened. The  $85, 12-course tasting menu is the only thing on the menu, that is, until later this year when they leave their South Lamar digs for a spot north of UT Austin. Rumour has it they will offer small plates independently of the tasting menu in the new spot.

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To avoid a 10-page post I’ll just say that if you are in Austin and you are a confirmed foodie known to brave odd-sounding combinations of ingredients – this place is for you. The menu changes often, below is what I and long-time friend, The Hobbyist, tried. Everything was incredible in taste and presentation. The young and heavily tattooed staff were wizards with polished service. Each course was about 1-3 bites and at the end of the 12 courses you will be pleasantly full. You might have a little more room to stop at neighbouring Lick for ice creams made with the oddest ingredients.

Definitely make a reservation, its small and very popular.

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  • Tomato, buttermilk snow, smoked trout roe
  • Gulf shrimp, fried head, mango soup, jasmine panna cotta, buckwheat groats
  • Cured squash, goat feta, cast iron seeds, basil oil
  • Shishito, fermented mushroom glaze
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  • Pork bun, bourbon, peach
  • Morel, avocado, strawberry
  • Gulf fish, hoja santa, corn, fried egg foam
  • Eggplant, squid, grapefruit
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  • Waygu tongue, pintos, tomato, homemade Funyuns
  • Roasted duck breast, confit, plum, potato
  • Aerated vinegar pie, chewy fruit, streusel
  • Peach ice cream sandwich
  • Cannoli, mango, keffir lime, spiced chocolate
  • Coffee and hay semifreddo, toasted peanut, puffed rice, salted caramel, dark chocolate candy bar

Dinner: July 2015

Barley Swine | 2024 S. Lamar | Austin, TX 78704

Hysteria

hysteriaI was in Austin when Amazon was filming some extras scenes for this pilot. Filming in Austin is a frequent enough occurrence that most locals just ignore it and move on. I was interested and managed to find out the pilot was for a new show starring Mena Suvari called Hysteria.

I made a mental note. Then completely forgot. That is until tonight when I saw the pilot show up in Amazon Prime – ah, ha!

I wanted to like this show more than I did – its a little better than OK. The premise is interesting – a small population of high school kids in Austin are afflicted with some sort of hysteria, a possible neurological disorder causing convulsive behaviour and landing them in hospital. The main protagonist, an infectious disease specialist, Suvari, is recruited away from her Houston digs to investigate. Ironically, Austin is her hometown and there are some back stories involved with her family.

At the end of the pilot there is conjecture that the hysteria is being spread by social media. That people are somehow so connected to the stream of events pushed through devices they become ‘infected’ by the content. A new and literal spin on ‘going viral’. This is the first problem I had with the show. Almost all evidence points to the opposite – as a society we are gradually becoming desensitized to specific events due to an ongoing saturation of information. Its the same adage since the internet was born – if you keep repeating the same thing, people will ignore you since there isn’t any new information and they aren’t capable processing the deluge of information they already have.

The other problem I had was the injection of vague subplots. One involving a high school girl having a sordid affair with a middle aged policeman was too staged. Another involving the protagonist’s brother on death row for murder was ambiguously defined but constantly referenced. Dialogue between brother and sister seemed poorly constructed since it gave no clues to nature of their relationship other than the obvious – strained.

Acting from Suvari is quite good; she takes on a very serious, almost tortured persona in keeping with her character’s past and current career. Suvari defines the tone and pace of this show since most of the other actors are just OK and the direction, while good, swings between styles too frequently – moody and mysterious to chaotic in one frame.

If I happen to see this turn into a series, I might check out one more episode to see if they can weave the elements together into a cohesive story. Otherwise, I’ll pass.

Cho Sun Gal Bi

Austin is worse than Manhattan for dinner on a Saturday night. No reservation? Two hour wait for you. Expected in the downtown and South Austin buzz restaurants, however due to what seems like an influx explosion, you can now expect it everywhere.

Fortunately we arrived at Chosun Galbi Korean BBQ before all the other buzz-restaurant-rejectees and slipped right into a cook-it-yourself table. There was a 45 minute wait when we left. Austin, geez.

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Atmosphere
Chosun in located adjacent to a strip center in free-standing building which might have been an Outback Steakhouse in a former life. There isn’t much else open for business at night around it, so the area is not exactly a destination. Inside is configured just like a Outback, cushy booths in a throwback, cafeteria-style configuration. Its pleasant and functional with a dash of style. Even at full capacity the noise levels are reasonable, the feeling is upbeat, the crowd is mostly families and groups of friends. This did not feel like a date place or a scene.

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Food
If you haven’t been to a Korean BBQ restaurant then you might not understand why there is an electric grill sunken in the middle of your table. Well, that’s so you can cook the meat yourself.  I’ve only had the beef version of Korean BBQ but Chosun had chicken as well. One order is really enough for two but we got two orders; one chicken and one beef. Oh and a Green Onion Pancake, gots to have one.

Chicken, Beef BBQ : Some of the success is due to cooking it correctly, however most of the success is in the marinade; a delicious blend of salty and sweet. One server told me the secret is adding grated pear. I don’t know, sounds good to me, but the flavour is incredible and the meat is juicy even if you kinda leave it on the grill too long.

Green Onion Pancake:  These are flour-based pancakes but the amount of veggies in the Chosun version reduced the role of the flour to adhesive. Crispy on the out and crunchy with green onion and bell peppers; chop off a piece and dip it into the soy-chili-vinegar sauce. Definitely a meal in itself despite being advertised as an app.

Also, again, just in case you have not eaten Korean before, each meal comes with a bajillion side dishes. No you didn’t order them, they are just part of the meal. I recognized kimchee but that was all. I liked all of them except one which tasted like candied herring. Yeah, pass.

Service
Excellent. While my friend and I have both cooked our own Korean BBQ before, the servers here will sneak a pair of tongs in and flip your BBQ or move if off to the side if its getting too crispy. Frequent stops to see how you’re doing. Water refills are clandestine, which is good in case you are like me and overdo the Korean Hot Pepper Paste.

Price
Each BBQ dish is about $30, keep in mind this is enough for two with a Green Onion Pancake, which is $10. Dinner for two is usually around $20 a person, without Sochu, which is evil and should be avoided. Or maybe just consumed in moderation. I’ll try that moderation thing next time.

Dinner: 5 April 2014

Cho Sun Gal Bi | 713 E. Huntland Dr. | Austin, TX 78752

Avocado Margarita

It sounded interesting so I ordered it and now I’m on a mission to reproduce. At  El Alma, where I also had some incredible soft tacos, the Avocado Margarita seems a straight up lime-tequila variety but the added avocado smooths out the flavors and adds an interesting richness. A nice touch – the glass was rimmed in ancho flavoured salt.

Be warned, at El Alma, drinks are seriously strong. So strong I forgot to photo the tacos.

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El Alma | 1025 Barton Springs Road | Austin, TX 78704

Austin Fiber Art

A talent for creating art runs in my family, on both sides and in many forms. Aunt in Austin has a penchant for fiber art. When she sent me a flyer for an Austin Fiber Artists show at the Doughtery Arts Center, her piece being the background image, I knew I would have to pop by before the exhibit ended on 28 August.

I can’t speak well on fiber art but like all consumers of art, I know what I like and I liked it all.

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