February 19, 2009

catalina coffee... from houston... in austin

We were gifted last weekend--intentionally or not, I'm not sure--with some great beans from Catalina Coffee in Houston. My brother- and sister-in-law are big fans, and I'm with them. I hope they weren't too sad to arrive home and realize they left their favorite coffee behind in Austin.

Someday, we'll add an espresso machine to the new kitchen. A start would be to buy milk and dig out my frother, though!

The perfect cappuccino by { sara }.

I stumbled upon this gorgeous and fluffy cappuccino at { sara's } flickr page.

February 15, 2009

of chocolate tarts and countertops

Well, despite my inactivity here online, I have begun to cook a bit again. Why?

OUR COUNTERS ARE FINALLY DONE! Yes, the kitchen is fully functional.

And there was much rejoicing...

Last weekend, as planned, I finally made the recipe for Chocolate Ganache Tart with the pretzel crust that Krysta (aka Evil Chef Mom) posted a few weeks ago. Here's a rather inferior, blurry photo, probably taken with someone's cell phone. Note the new countertop in the background.

We had a great group date (kinky, eh?) at III Forks, followed by Ballet Austin's performance of Hamlet, which was really pretty incredible. I thought it would be fun to come back to the house for dessert, and it was indeed. I think we were up until 2 or 3 am talking, drinking wine and armagnac, and going back for little nibbles of this awesome, rich tart.

(Here they are, awaiting said tart while I serve it.
P.S. The crust required a serrated knife; pretzels made it a bit dense and crunchy.)

Thanks for Krysta's myriad warnings, I didn't have any problems with this tart. It's a bit time consuming, but I just set aside time the Thursday before Valentine's day, made sure I actually set an alarm for each phase of baking, cooling, etc., and paused the ol' DVR when the bell told me it was time for the next step.

To avoid the issues with this sticky and tear-prone crust, I kept it between the plastic wrap until the last moment. To start, I did roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. (At one moment, it slooshed out of the wrap and my rolling pin immediately stuck to any dough it contacted. Seriously: Keep the dough covered at all times.)

I also only refrigerated the dough for about 10 minutesafter rolling it out. I then carefully transferred it, using the plastic wrap to place it and then as a glove of sorts to press the dough into the fluted tart pan. That way, the dough could finish cooling in the refrigerator already prepped in the pan.

Also, if you want to try this recipe and don't have pie weights (I actually don't know what they are yet! Note to self...), you can weigh down the shell while baking with uncooked beans.

Thank you, Krysta! This was the first dish I've cooked in the new kitchen that was more complicated than black bean tacos, and it was really pretty glamorous.

February 1, 2009

things I saw this weekend

Well friends, for the time being, I have no camera. We were burglarized recently, and amongst the theives' spoils was our Nikon. Wah! All's well, thank goodness for homeowner's insurance and our brand-new alarm system. (Ah, hindsight.)

Still, I have some good blogging energy and wanted to share a few things that inspired me this weekend:

1. Austin's Botanical Garden's vegetable garden and composting demonstration. I don't know who's responsible for the happy and healthy garden next to the composting demonstration, but it was the best part of the garden today. Lettuces, broccoli, beets, radishes, herbs, cauliflowers, strawberries, and kale: Oh, my! Really, it was a gorgeous little garden; teeming with life and green goodness. I wanted to run home and build a bed right away. (Of course, I didn't. Still, the... er, seed has been planted! I've got a good sketch worked out and a list of plants was begun.)

2. Early spring visit to The Great Outdoors. I thought a garden in our new house wasn't going to happen this year, but I really want to get something started soon. My mom, the gardener and flower designer extraordinaire, drew my attention to blue ice cypress (also spotted at the botanic garden), lemon trees, wisteria, and a handful of cool grasses.

3. Beautiful rugs at SoCo Designs. I realize this has nothing to do whatsoever with coffee, queso, or anything else edible, but I'd love to host a bohemian feast atop one of SoCo Designs' gorgeous hand-tufted wool rugs. They also had an incredible variety of shags that can be cut to size and other interesting and glam wall-to-wall options. Oh, to have a trust fund (or any extra funds, these days!)

4. Sago's blackberry cocktails. The Zarzamora and the Blackberry frozen margarita are both high on my list these days. We arrived with my parents in tow in the busy Triangle area--hungry and cranky--at 7:30 on a Friday night. Usually, this is something of a gastronomic death sentence in Austin, because most of our favorite spots come with a minimum 30-minute wait in the evening.

Within 15 minutes at Sago, we were seated in a cozy spot at the bar, halfway through our tasty beverages and enjoying fresh guacamole and chips. Whether you like the controversial Triangle development or not, I recommend this spot for it's great drinks (and happy hour specials), tasty dishes, warm and sexy interior, and very nice staff.

All in all, it was a most productive and pleasant weekend! I even found two Jonathan Adler mugs on clearance at a favorite boutique (Mercury Design Studio) that perfectly match his elephant teapot that we received as a gift last year and love. Sahweet.

It was a warm and sunny February 1st here in Austin. A friend said today, Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l'hiver est par derriere, meaning If February is clear, winter is behind us.

Happy Spring!