Popsicles Molds

Popsicle Molds from HEB

Now that it’s summertime, I’ve been craving iced treats. I found several popsicle recipes on Pinterest, so I decided to make my own. I went to Target on Great Hills and Research Blvd. and couldn’t find popsicle molds. I walked all around the HEB in the Arboretum searching for them; still no luck. I finally found a set of four at Bed Bath & Beyond. They were $4.99 ($4.32 with a 20% off coupon and tax). I thought I was getting a good deal. Well, last night Ben and I were back at the same HEB and guess what we came across in the crackers/cookies aisle…CRAYOLA POPSICLE MOLDS! These are way better than the BB&B ones because 1) they were only $1.97 and 2) the popsicles come out of the molds more easily.

Lessons learned:

  • Bed Bath & Beyond is still expensive even with coupons.
  • I should go up and down each aisle in HEB to find what I need.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Mac!

We celebrated Mac the Pug’s birthday yesterday at Round Rock Dog Depot.  I had never been there before, but my friend said it had plenty of room to run around, some shaded tables, and divisions for large and small dogs.

Although Mac is considered a small dog, we spent the entire time in the large dog area (just to clarify, small dogs are allowed in the large dog area, but large dogs are not allowed in the big dog area…not like this is strongly enforced though).

We got there around 5 and stayed for 2.5 hours.  It was hot!! I thought I was being clever by starting the party in the evening, but I forgot how long the TX summer days are.  Supposedly, the park gets packed around 8 pm when it’s slightly cooler.

I think we all had a fun time…the dogs, especially!  See below for pictures:

There was a small kiddy pool for the dogs.

There was this hill/tunnel thing that I called the Teletubby Hill. It was pretty cool, but Mac was a little too scared to run through it.

Leon is sharing secrets with Mac.

Enjoying homemade doggie cake

Chowing down

The Three Musketeers

“Ready to Nosh” Food Tour Not So Ready

For Christmas, my cousin and his wife gave me a Groupon voucher for a Ready to Nosh Food Tour.  It was for the Austin Food Cart Tour.  It sounded like a really cool idea: a guide takes a small group of no more than 10 people to various food trucks to sample the food.

Anyway, around early March, I finally got around to booking the tour.  I followed the directions on the Groupon voucher and went to Ready to Nosh’s website.  The only available day was May 11th.  It was a little annoying that they only offered tours on weekdays, but it must be well-worth it if there was a 2-month long wait, right? So, I went ahead and requested that day off from work.

Right after I registered, I got a confirmation e-mail with details on where to meet.  Here’s a snippet of the e-mail:

Thank you for your purchase. We look forward in providing you a memorable experience…Please arrive on time.  Our tours are time sensitive as we coordinate with our vendors as to when we arrive.  Please have respect for the other participates and vendors by arriving at least 10 minutes before the start of your tour.  Our tour guides have been instructed to start on time.

Meeting location:

1503 South First Street
Austin, TX 78704
Neighborhoods: 78704 (South Austin), So-Fi (S. 1st St. District), Bouldin Creek

THIRD FOOD TRAILER LOT ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD
AS YOU ARE HEADING DOWN SOUTH FIRST STREET
GOING SOUTH – THIS FOOD TRAILER LOT HAS PLENTY OF PARKING!

Anyway, on the day of the tour, we went to the address listed.  We were right on time, but nobody was there yet.  There was no “Ready to Nosh” sign or anything.  I asked one of the food truck employees about it, and he said he never heard of the company.  My husband and I waited 45 minutes, but nobody ever showed up! They never gave us a name, e-mail address, or direct phone number.  The only number I had was a toll free 877 number.  My husband I called that, and it went straight to voicemail each time.  After reading reviews about it online, I found out that many other people had similar experiences.

Funny thing is I got an e-mail from Ready to Nosh at 12:30 pm, right when the tour should’ve ended.  It thanked me for my business and provided a link for me to leave a review.  I clicked on the link, but it only took me to their website.  There was nowhere on there to leave a comment or anything.

I guess this is some elaborate scam.  I wish I had known because it was a waste of our time and energy, and my cousin’s money.

Hopefully, Groupon, LivingSocial, and all those other coupon sites stop offering this deal.  This is not legit at all.

In conclusion, READY TO NOSH IS A SCAM.

 

CoCo’s Cafe

Green Onion Pie 蔥油餅

My husband and I went to CoCo’s Cafe about a month ago, and again a few days ago.  I decided to combine pictures from both trips into one entry.

Anyway, I used to go to CoCo’s all the time back in college.  I always went to the Guadalupe location, but this time I took my husband to the one up north (near what used to be the Hong Kong Supermarket).  I wasn’t expecting much since most Chinese food here has been disappointing since coming back from Taiwan.  My husband was pleasantly surprised though.  The first time we went, we ordered the Green Onion Pie, Rice Ball, and Fried Chicken with Rice.  I suggested we get only the half order of Green Onion Pie.  As you can see in the picture above, the half order is still a lot of food.

Rice Ball 肉圓

The Rice Ball looked really good, but it didn’t taste as good when we finally got around to eating it.  I honestly think it’s because we didn’t eat it when it was still steaming hot.  We were too busy filling up on the Green Onion Pie and Fried Chicken with Rice.  Now, we know better.  The fried chicken dish was just all right, so I think we’ll skip that in the future.

The more recent time that we went, we were really looking forward to trying the Fried Squid appetizer.  We couldn’t find it on the menu, so I asked the cashier about it.  He told me that and the Eel Steak with Rice are no longer served.  How disappointing!

We were pretty hungry by then and ended up ordering more than we should have: Sa Cha Beef Lo Mein, Bamboo Leaves Sticky Rice, Fried Tofu, Spiced Kelp, and a Taro Milk Tea with Tapioca Pearls.

Sa Cha Beef Lo Mein 沙茶牛肉炒麵

The lo mein was a bit bland, so we added the sauce that came with the sticky rice.  It tasted much better after that.  Maybe I had my expectations raised after the first visit to CoCo’s, but I left a little disappointed.  The sticky rice was good, but nothing like what my grandma used to make.  Of course I’m biased because nothing will ever taste as good as Grandma’s cooking.

As for the fried tofu, I’m not a big fan of it to begin with.  I don’t get what’s so great about it.  Maybe it’s the dipping sauce that comes with it, or the crunchy exterior.  I don’t know.  My husband liked it though.

Spiced Kelp 海帶

The Spiced Kelp was decent.  It’s kind of hard to mess this up, though.  I don’t eat this for the taste, but more out of vanity.  I heard that eating lots of kelp will make your hair darker, and I’ve recently found a few white hairs.  I know it’s silly to think a side order of kelp will fix that, but hey…I’m desperate.

As for the Taro Milk Tea, it was decent for what I’ve had in America, but nothing compared to the stuff in Taiwan.  In Taiwan, you have the option of lots of ice/sugar, some ice/sugar, little ice/sugar, no ice/sugar.  Maybe I should’ve asked, but I didn’t think to.  The drink was too sweet in my opinion.  Plus, CoCo’s uses taro powder as opposed to real taro (most places use the powder, so I wasn’t surprised).  Again, the pearls were all right.

I realize I’m making this place sound mediocre.  It really wasn’t that bad, but I guess I just had higher hopes.  The service has been great both times, and it’s the closest thing to authentic Taiwanese food that I can find.  I would go back.

I leave you with some silly Chinglish.  I thought it was pretty cool that these drink tops now have cautionary labels.  I wonder if they have these because more non-Taiwanese people are jumping on the tapioca pearl bandwagon.  I feel like Taiwanese kids innately know how to consume tapioca pearls without choking on them.  So, to everyone who thinks tapioca pearls are a novel thing, please remember to chew thoroughly and not let children under 5 have any!

Caution: Not Safe for Children Under 5

On an unrelated note, CoCo’s only accepts credit cards with a minimum charge of $5.  If you only plan on getting a drink or appetizer, then remember to bring cash!

Enoteca Vespaio’s Sunday Brunch

Today, my husband and I met up one of my old college roommates for Sunday brunch.  Alice and I had not seen each other since college…so that would be 5 years ago? 6? I honestly can’t remember.  Anyway, it was long overdue.

Since Alice is no longer living in Austin, I wanted to pick an “Austin-y” place to eat.  I suggested South Congress Cafe, which was a TERRIBLE idea.  No, I’m not saying South Congress Cafe is a terrible place.  We didn’t even get to eat there.  I got there around 11:15 am, pushed through the huge crowd of hungry people waiting out front, and asked the hostess how long the wait would be for a table for 3.  ONE AND A HALF HOURS.  Yikes!

We ended up going down the block to Enoteca Vespaio.  I had never heard of this place, but according to Yelp, it was worthy of 4 stars.  We went in, I was relieved to see that it was busy (a sign that it had to be decent, right?), and was extra relieved to hear that they just happened to have an empty table for 3.  We walked past the delicious dessert display, had our orders taken promptly, and didn’t wait long for food.

Alice ordered the omelet of the day.  I forget what that was, but she liked it.  My husband got the poached eggs with sauteed spinach and roasted tomato.  I ordered the French toast and coffee.  I thought everything was reasonably priced…$9-16.

Unfortunately, I didn’t snap any pictures.  I was too busy chatting and stuffing my face.  I will definitely go back here and try more on the menu.  I hear the adjoining restaurant Vespaio is really good, too.

ChenZ

A group of us went to ChenZ the other night to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  I wasn’t sure what to expect since the restaurant opened only about a month ago, and there were mixed reviews on Yelp.

The moment we stepped foot inside, I was surprised.  It did not look like the “typical” Chinese restaurant.  The decor was modern, the lighting was dim, and things looked slightly upscale.

For a moment I panicked and thought I was in for a PF Chang’s experience.  Nothing against PF Chang’s, but I was just planning for authentic Chinese food at ChenZ.

After glancing at the menu, I was a little more reassured.  I noticed that the noodles and dumpling skins were made in-house.  AWESOME.  I feel like nowadays, most places just use frozen crap.

Another plus was that the menu was varied without being overwhelming.  My husband commented that one thing that often puts people off from going to Chinese restaurants is the complicated menu.  It can be frustrating trying to decide on what to eat.

Anyway, we had no problem making our selection.  There were 8 of us, so we ordered a ton of food to share.

Duck Noodles and Beef Noodle Soup

I didn’t get to try the beef noodle soup.  It was on the other side of the table most of the night, and I was too full by the time it made its way over to me.  The duck noodles were all right.  They were covered in hoisin sauce.

Lamb Noodles and Spinach Pork Fried Dumplings

I thought the lamb noodles were really good.  I think the noodles were made of buckwheat.  The texture and taste of the lamb was spot on…not too gamy, perfectly juicy, not overly flavored (which often happens with lamb).  The dumplings were nice and crispy on the outside.

Dumplings and Ja Jang Mein

Honestly, these dumplings were forgettable.  They weren’t bad, but they weren’t AMAZING.  I also found it a little odd that one order consisted of 20 dumplings, and they wouldn’t let us do a half order.  The ja jang mein (炸醬麵) was pretty good.  It didn’t taste like what I’m used to (a little strong on the peanut sauce), but it was still good.

Chili Oil Wontons

I can’t remember the exact name of this dish, but it’s basically wontons in chili oil sauce.  It wasn’t that spicy, which was perfectly fine with me since I have a low threshold for spiciness.

Pork Sesame Bun Wrap

These sesame seed bun thingies (燒餅…I’m not sure how to say this in English) had pork inside.  It almost reminded me of 胡椒餅 (Pepper pie? Pepper bun? Again, I’m not sure how this is translated into English).  The meat had a nice ginger kick to it, but it was a bit dry.  I really liked the outer part, though.

Green Onion Crepe

I’ve often heard this dish called “green onion pie”, “green onion pancake”, “scallion pancake”, scallion pie”, etc.  It’s called 蔥油餅 in Chinese.  I think you can figure out what’s in it.  It’s basically dough fried flat like a pancake with bits of scallion in it.  ChenZ made it really crispy and flaky.  It was great alone, but I think it would’ve been phenomenal if they also gave soy sauce with bits of garlic chopped in it for dipping.  That’s how it’s normally eaten.

Hot Pot Menu

So, this is what sets ChenZ apart from other Chinese restaurants in Austin…hot pot! ChenZ currently holds the title of the only restaurant in Austin to serve this.  If you’ve never had hot pot, you basically get to cook your food at your table.  Some people have trouble understanding this concept.  “Wait wait wait, you want me to pay to cook my own food??” It sounds silly, but I’m still a fan of it.  You get a huge pot of broth, and then you choose which veggies, meat, and other things to cook in it.  When the food is done cooking, you can dip it in different sauces.  You can also choose different flavors of broth.

Unfortunately, we were too full to order hot pot.  I’ll have to go back another time just to try this.

The bill came out to $87 (including tax, excluding tip).  For all the food we ordered, I thought it was a steal.