Category Archives: Nicki Lemon

A PLACE IN THE SUN

AE7 AE1 AE2 AE4 AE5 AE6 AE14 AE3 AE13 AE12 AE11 AE10 AE9 AE8 AE15 AE17 AE16 AE21 AE22 AE19 AE18 AE23

A Pack of Boozy She-Wolves, A Sorority for Thirty Year-Olds, A Ragtag Band of Aspiring Thelmas and Louises —

These are my beautiful, profane, dancey girlfriends. We all went to South Padre a couple of weeks ago; sort of an annual thing for us. We pack up our things, hop in a car, and drive!

I always come back from South Padre just a bit dreamier than before I left, fully ensconced in summer mode. This year we took a bar hostage, frightening our seated, fellow patrons, but also took full (full) advantage of the cover band, and hopefully made said band’s night.

It certainly made mine.

All photos by the unbelievable Nicki Lemon.

0
 

DON’T STARE TOO HARD, YOU MIGHT GO BLIND

Can we just discuss the fact that this beautiful being is my real-life FRIEND, and not (shockingly) some model?

Everybody: meet Fannie. She is a dear soul, an old soul. A video game producer, a yogini, a lover of cats, a keeper of secrets. She comforted me a few weeks ago when I drove home to Austin covered in poison ivy, and speaking of skin, she possesses one of my favorite tattoos ever.

Austin Eavesdropper’s talented photographer, Nicki Lemon, has been taking portraits of our friends, and I thought I’d share some of these with you guys from time to time while she works on this cool project. Enjoy! And thanks Nicki!

5
 

DOMO ARIGATO, MR. ROBOTO: LUCKY ROBOT REVIEW

Have you heard about Lucky Robot?

It opened on South Congress next to Amy’s, where Zen used to be. But before I, Megan, get into any more details, I have two words —pardon me. THREE words for you:

Japanese Street Pizza!

I can’t stop thinking about it. Known as Okonomyiaki, it’s shrimp and Krab topped with kewpie mayo, a savory tonkatsu sauce, pickled ginger, scallions, bonito and sesame. I don’t know twenty seven of those words I just typed, but my stomach is nodding its head in agreement with me: hot damn, it’s good. And not just tasty — spooky too. The topping, the “bonito” part, moves. On its own. Like it’s alive.

To me, it looked like seaweed undulating silently underwater. I took a video of it, so if you’re extra curious, come over and we can stare at my iPhone together. According to local lore (the owner), it has something to do with the heat and the fact that bonito is delicate and paper-thin.

Back to the location: Adam Weisberg, who founded the local Japanese restaurant chain Zen, decided that with this particular location, he wanted to expand on what patrons love about Zen and create an elevated menu and restaurant experience.

The Adam Weisberg.

For instance: iPads dot each table.

You can order your drinks and various dishes after taking a fingertip tour through the menu. Nutritional info, price, and photos of each plate appear on the screen.

If you like, you can even pay your bill this way. This does not, however, mean that you don’t deal with any wait staff—they still serve you at all times.

“The iPads are really here for you to have fun,” says Adam. “You can course your meal your meal to be as slow or as fast as you like. You can rate it, too.”

Other fun features:
–A swing seat is suspended from the ceiling.

–The wait staff dresses in Harajuku street style.

–The menu offers gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian items (with many under $10).
–And, sake. Sake Punch, to be exact. Pretty darn tasty.

This one is the Green Manalishi: Junmai sake, lemon & lime juice, agave nectar, cucumber, cilantro, mint, serrano, magic.

The Orient Express: Cucumber-infused sake, lime, lemongrass, cucumber, fever tree bitter lemon. These punches are, as you can see, served in ginormous 42oz carafes.

We also tried:

Yummy sashimi, adorned with crispy shallot, cilantro, ponzu, and lemongrass soy.

Crisped brussell sprouts tossed in lemongrass soy — be still my beating heart.

This makimoto roll is grilled hanger steak, avocado, carrot, topped with shrimp and plated with that delicious, savory tonkatsu from the Okonomiyaki pizza, as well as green onions and spicy sauce.

A pretty little sashimi plate, made up of seared albarcoare, avocado, cucumber, serrano, cilantro, habernero oil, ponzu, and lime juice.

It was a slow burn, those bites.

And finally, dessert, which looks elegant in this picture, but was quickly and decisively ravaged.

 Blue yuzu donatsu and Mexican vanilla bean ice cream.

I will definitely be going back. Very soon. Maybe with this dinner companion, i.e., the most adorable girl in the world.

Links: LuckyRobotRestaurant.com, Lucky’s Robot’s Facebook, and @luckyrobotATX.

12
 

BUTTONS BURSTING: DINNER AT UNCLE BILLY’S

Let’s talk about Uncle Billy’s, y’all.

A couple of weeks ago, I (Megan Renart) attended a “Wild Game Brewer’s Dinner” there, and I had all sorts of things stored up in the writing section of my brain to tell you about it. The food, how it was so good; the views from the room, and how they dazzled before the sun went down. But really, this post needs to be about Spencer Tielkemeier and Mike Ludlow: the food and drink wizards/heart-and-soul combo behind Uncle Billy’s On the Lake.

Spencer (on the right in this bottom pic) is the brewer. He is 25.

TWENTY FIVE.

He’s been with UB for only three months, and in that time, garnered gold at the Great American Brew Festival for the Bottle Rocket lager, along with Brian “Swifty” Peters. Uncle Billy’s is pretty proud of that.

Spencer majored in English at UT, and worked for 512 Brewing in delivery before joining UB as their brew master. If anything, Spencer’s astonishing timeline is a testament to how grassroots the Austin brew scene is, and how no formal training is needed. (But talent is paramount.)

Mike is the Executive Chef, and makes it a priority to create only locally sourced dishes, and frequents the Cedar Park farmers market as often as possible.

“We have so many good ingredients from 10 minutes away around here that there’s no need to go anywhere else,” he says, which explains why the goat cheese in our salad was the freshest, tastiest I’ve ever had. This means I’ll never again be able to purchase it in the grocery store and will now have to commit part of my life to raising baby goats in my apartment. Why, Mike?

Look at this little beauty. I’m not even a salad person and I loved it! Cheese from Pure Luck Farms; fruit from Heaven.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning:

Ciabatta bread with goat cheese, pickled peppers and capers. Crunchy, creamy, tasty.

So there we were, primed for culinary greatness with this teasingly good morsel: Ciabatta bread with goat cheese, pickled peppers and capers. Crunchy, creamy and tasty, we had it with this drink:

This is blood orange juice mixed with Uncle Billy’s Agave Wit, and was gulped down by everybody quicker than any other drink during the course of the evening. It’s not just for nighttime, either — I think the mimosa now has some competition in the brunch beverage department.

First course: Texas quail locally sourced from Broken Arrow Ranch, stuffed with blueberries, fresh sage, and orange rind. Paired with Uncle Billy’s Agave Wit.

Would you guys think poorly of me if I told you that for the first five minutes upon receiving this, all I wanted to do was pick the quail up by its little arms and make it dance on the plate? Please be my friend.

Second: Rabbit Consomme made with rabbits from Countryside Farm in Cedar Creek, TX. The delicate broth was cooked over several hours with fresh tarragon, thyme and rosemary, and smelled like wood burning when it’s cold outside. Paired with Uncle Billy’s Axe Handle Pale Ale.

Third: Salad from heaven, served with Wit vinaigrette and paired with the award-winning Rocket Lager.

Fourth: Boar loin chops from Black Hill Ranch grilled with a sweet and spicy prickly pear glaze. Served with pine nut polenta (oh mah Lord, good) and fresh local-greens. Paired with Uncle Billy’s Vienna Lager.

Did you all know we are in the middle of a boar epidemic? We can solve this by eating them, or sending them to Xenu to live with L. Ron Hubbard.

Polenta tip from Mike: soak the polenta in a hoppy beer for 10-15 minutes; add cream, salt, pepper, and toasted pine nuts. Then, be quite pleased with yourself.

Last, but not least: Vanilla bean ice cream made with local duck eggs from Countryside Farm, paired with CASK Uncle Billy’s Lake Monster Imperial Stout. This pairing was met with a round of approving murmurs across the tables.

The ice cream was curiously gritty — I’ve never had to chew my ice cream before — but it was fantastic.

This was the first appearance of the brand new CASK Stout, which was chocolatey and deep.

“Darker beers are my wheelhouse,” said Spencer, after we complimented him a million times.

About the restaurant: Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que now has a second location next to the Oasis, and offers some pretty spectacular views, if you’re into beauty.

And if you are into beauty, here’s a final image for you—Nicki, photographer extraordinaire, enjoyed her meal so much that this happened:

HER BUTTON BURST!

(This is why I don’t wear clothes that have buttons when I eat. Just kidding, I do. But usually there’s food or drink distracting the viewer’s eye from any ‘straining’ on behalf of my garments.)

UPDATE 11.12.2012: Right after this post was published, we received some sad news that Uncle Billy’s on the Lake is closing. We wish the company the very best in all their future endeavors.

3
 

OMNIVORES AND HERBIVORES WELCOME: SOUTH LAMAR TRAILER BAZAAR.

It was nine thousand, seventeen-hundred degrees when I (Megan) arrived around 6pm last Wednesday evening for the South Lamar Trailer Bazaar to sample dishes and meet the chefs from each trailer. The fronts of my knees were sweating since everywhere else on body was already taken with the process of sweating the sweat.

Do you see the sun trying to laser its way through the fabric?

Collie’s Real Serious Burgers, Tacos la Guera, Boxcar Bistro, Trai Mai Thai and Honky Tonk Hot Dogs are located next to Red’s Porch and have a gravel/dirt parking lot for people who like to 1.) drive and 2.) eat.

Where was I? Oh yes, sweating.

We were sweaty, and we were going to EAT, and we were going to do that as a group. (Makes me think of the old adage: There’s no “sweat” in “team”.)

Those aren’t misters…that’s HEAT, making things buuuuurn.

First up: Collie’s Burgers.

For the most part, our samples from Collie’s Burgers were dainty, and now, looking back, it makes me laugh that the daintiest sample of the entire bazaar was provided by the trailer that offers the meatiest, most hulking-est portions of food.

The burgers are a blend of chuck and brisket and are half-pound patties. Our samples (which were ground only 3 and a half hours earlier) were enough to give us the best idea of what the burgers are like, according to Rob Collie, burger chef extraordinaire.

Rob Collie

He knew he was the first on the roster, and didn’t want to overwhelm our stomachs right out of the gate. This kind of thoughtfulness is threaded throughout his approach: loving tributes to his lineage line the menu, with his grandmother Lexie’s coleslaw a staple on there (there’s also a burger named after her).

“All of my burgers have a story,” he says.

Have you heard the one about the Mason Farguson? Check out Collie relaying the tale on Thrillist.

So far, he says, only 13 year-old boys order the Mason.

Someone give this guy a show already. I’d watch it.

Karina from Tacos La Guera came by next, bearing homemade fresh tacos that are made to order.

Karina Ballesteros

“There are 27 tacos listed on our menu, but, with all of the ingredients available, you can create 120 different kinds,” she said. Well, don’t mind if I do!

The al pastor taco was quite tasty and had a pineapple salsa, I believe. I squeezed a wedge of lime on the inside and chomped away. I’m craving it again right now.

Karina beaming by her trailer.

Boxcar Bistro (headed up by Ivo Gruner, serving classic and casual French food) followed, with an elegant serving of chicken salad on mixed greens and a side of dressing. Fellow bazaar-goers were guessing aloud on the ingredients and suggested that apples, tarragon and walnuts comprised the salad.

Oui!” said Ivo.

Ivo then served a taste of his croque monsieur, which was actually the catalyst for his trailer. “I didn’t know where I could get a good one,” he admitted, so he opened the trailer to honor his French heritage.

The croque monsieur, just the way Ivo likes it.

Next up was Trai Mai Thai. Go ahead, try it! (Is this thing on?)

The background on this trailer is pretty darn cute: Ning’s cooking so wowed her boyfriend that he insisted she quit her job and open up her own place instead, and so he put forth the money for her trailer.

Me, swooning at their story.

And oh my God, can Ning cook.

This sample is just a fraction of what their menu offers, it’s so extensive.

The crab rangoon is made by hand by Ning, twice a week. It’s filled with blue crab meat from the Gulf of Mexico. See the dumpling on the plate? Heaven. It’s steamed, not fried, and filled with pork. The topping is fried garlic, which is enjoyably crunchy.

The soup seemed to be everybody’s favorite: Tom Kha (special guest star: the straw mushroom).

Their food is all made to order AND…they deliver! (In a very limited portion of 78704, but still — this food trailer delivers.)

Here’s another fun tidbit: free beer. Every Tuesday, they purchase a keg, and let people drink it until it floats (usually by Saturday evening). The limit is three per person but they don’t charge, AND you don’t have to buy any food either. Just come by and say “hai” to Trai Mai Thai.

This is when I heard the news about the free beer.

Last but not least was Honky Tonk Hot Dogs.

Singin’ n’ playin.’

About four months ago, Scott Angle (that’s him on the right) got the idea to open up a food trailer combining his love of two things: hot dogs and impromptu country music. Honky Tonk Hot Dogs was open six weeks later.

The atmosphere he aims to create is an actual honky tonk, complete with a peanut-shell covered dance floor. “It’s an experience,” he says.

Ah wait, excuse me: Scott’s third love is the spork. He’s been a fan of them ever since since he was a kid. “And it’s my right to bring them back!” he declared, and we cheered.

Serving us sporks.

Some of his gourmet dogs are named after Austin music legends who have agreed to support his business (like Dale Watson, Cindy Cashdollar, and Dallas Wayne).

Often, musicians will come by and play on the stage near the trailer before heading across the street to their gig at the Broken Spoke. And … Awesome Citizen Alert: in the near future, Scott is going to donate a portion of proceeds to HAAM.

Honky Tonk Hot Dogs is BYOB and uses 100% all beef hot dogs from the Vienna Beef Company in Chicago. 

This pretty little thing features pickled jalapenos and a dash of chili powder. The chili was served on the side (avec sporks) because Scott knew we’d be quite full at this point and wanted that to be an option. You should know that the (Dale Watson) chilidog is the most popular one on their menu, complete with Scott’s personal chili recipe.

What really struck me about everybody at the South Lamar Food Trailers is that, much like the good people I met at Casa Brasil and the South Austin Brewing Company, this is their heart’s work. It’s not their first job. This is what they’ve chosen to do: make people happy with their food.

“My grandfather and father once sat me down and told me that thing I should be doing is the thing I love and would do for free,” says Collie. “So I took their advice.”

So glad he did.

*And all trailers have vegetarian options, darlins. So mosey on by.

6