A dessert SO worth the effort!Read More
If you have never been to Austin, Texas, you should put it on the top of your list of places to go! You will find a vibrant music scene, lots of outdoor activities, great shopping and an exploding food and beverage scene. The feel all over town is laid-back, casual and of people having a good time. Every time I visit Austin, I find so many great places to eat and drink. I hope you get a chance to try some of these upscale yet casual spots, as well as some of the many excellent food trucks and hole-in-the-wall taco places popping up all over.
1) UCHI - Chef Tyson Cole's contemporary Japanese restaurant has been a winner since it opened in 2003. Not only is Cole the first American Itamae (chef in a Japanese restaurant) to win the prestigious James Beard Best Chef award, but his restaurant has won numerous accolades. From Trip Advisor's #4 spot in the list of the 100 best fine dining restaurants in the US to Time Out's #1 spot on their list of the 21 best sushi restaurants in America, Uchi is a not-to-be-missed spot in the Austin dining scene.
2) ODD DUCK - One of Austin's most popular restaurants housed in a lovely contemporary building on South Lamar. The small plates reflect a commitment to locally grown produce. Top quality, fresh ingredients are the hallmark of Odd Duck. The dishes are playful, creative and pack a big punch of flavor. The wine list is an interesting mix of mostly old world wine from Spain, France and Italy with some new world (California, Oregon and Argentina) selections as well.
3) LENOIR - Another Austin favorite, Lenoir is also committed to the use of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. The owners call it "hot weather food" which means fresh and light cuisine, high in acidity, citrus flavors and spice. Many of the spices hail from Southeast Asia and North Africa. The restaurant is a small (reserve ahead!) space that is beautifully decorated with recycled materials, such as an eclectic assortment of lanterns collected from Habitats for Humanity and beautiful linen curtains decorated with antique crocheted doilies. The wine list is impressive with many choices not typically seen on a menu. A great choice was the 2013 Moric Blaufrankisch ($64), a multilayered, expressive but not heavy red wine that went well with all of the food. There is also an alfresco space known as the "Wine Garden" which serves small plates, along with beer, cider and wine. Don't miss Lenoir, a unique, exciting and delicious dining experience.
4) SECOND BAR & KITCHEN - Located downtown in the Second Street District, this casual and contemporary restaurant dishes out locally sourced, inventive New American cuisine. There is a large outdoor seating area to sit and people watch while enjoying flavorful, creative dishes. The interesting selection of cocktails, as well as beer, cider and wine on tap and in the bottle satisfies all types of thirst.
5) BULLFIGHT - (CLOSED) Restauranteur Shawn Cirkiel's homage to the cuisine of Spain is a modernized take on many of the regional dishes you find all throughout Spain. The variety of small plates run from cured meats and Spanish cheeses to classics like paella, as well as many seafood, vegetables and meats dishes. The space is modern and comfortable with both indoor and outdoor seating. The all Spanish wine list has some gems on it such as the 2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Rioja Riserva Tempranillo blend ($82) and an impressive selection of dry and sweet Sherries.
6) PERLA'S SEAFOOD & OYSTER BAR - Open since 2009, this popular spot for brunch, lunch and dinner is smack in the middle of the hopping South Congress Street shopping and dining area. Known for the freshest oysters and seafood flown in from both coasts daily, Perla's delivers a wonderful dining experience. Sit outside on the patio underneath the oak trees while enjoying refreshing beer, wine and cocktails with the simple, yet delicious cuisine.
A good banana bread recipe is something which will serve you well in many ways over many years and for many different people in your life. When my youngest daughter was little she could hardly wait for me to miscalculate (sometimes on purpose!) the amount of bananas which would be eaten in our house that week because this meant 2 or 3 overripe, mushy bananas which could be turned into banana bread! She loved having a warm slice with a little butter or cream cheese on it for breakfast.
A friend's mother once sent him a loaf of banana bread when he was in college to help get him through some long nights studying in the library. Little did she know, on the way to the library he ran into a buddy who happened to be sitting on a bench with a full pitcher of beer (don’t ask!) to which my friend quickly offered up a barter and the two of them then sat there in the warm Autumn sun devouring both the banana bread and the beer!
Most recently, I discovered the delights of drinking wine with banana bread, specifically a Vendange Tardive (which means late harvest) from Alsace in France. The grapes used for this type of dessert wine are left to hang on the vine until they start to dehydrate and shrivel up. The sugar in the juice of these grapes becomes very concentrated and the flavors become more intense. Serving the banana bread with a late harvest pinot gris makes it more like a dessert rather than a breakfast item or an afternoon snack. You could even toast a slice of it and serve it with vanilla ice cream alongside any type of dessert wine, such as port, sauternes or a cream sherry.
No matter how you eat it, what you will be left with is a big smile on your face and a glow left over from the love which was put into the baking of it!
MY FAVORITE BANANA BREAD RECIPE
I discovered this recipe several years ago in Martha Stewart's Entertaining Cookbook. Over the years, I have adapted it and made it my own.
Makes one loaf
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium sized bananas, mashed with a potato masher
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1) While preheating oven to 350 degrees, cream butter, sugar and eggs.
2) In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix together well with butter, sugar and egg mixture. Stir in bananas, sour cream, vanilla and walnuts.
3) Pour into a buttered 9x4x3 inch loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer or wooden toothpick and checking that it comes out clean. You may need to bake an additional 10-15 minutes. The loaf should be lightly browned.
4) Turn out onto a wire rack.
In additon to the Francois Baur late harvest Pinot Gris, following are a few other suggestions for sweet wines to go with the banana bread:
Lustau "Solera Reserve" East India Sherry - $27
Fonseca 10 year tawny Port - $30
Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes - $75
Graham'sVintage Port 2000 - $125