Monday, September 24, 2012

Tito's Vodka wants to bring someone to Austin!

Tito's Vodka, made in Texas, is having a contest via Wine Enthusiast.  Winners get a trip to Austin for two (airfare wouldn't be that much for me and The Lovely Spouse) as well as other awesome benefits.  And I like my 6 readers so much I'll even include the url so that you all can enter too.  [I heard about this from the ever-awesome Cookie Madness.]

The fine print states that this post has to be a minimum of 100 characters and say something about Tito's.  How's about I tell you all the recipe I usually make with Tito's?  It's simple and refreshing for when the weather gets unbearably hot here in Texas.  The vodka is pretty darned good so we usually keep it on hand.

Key Lime Vodka Tonic

1. Fill a pint glass 3/4 the way full with cubed ice.  None of that shaved or crushed stuff for us (and it'll mess up the measurements).
2. Fill about half way full with Tito's Vodka. Available at Spec's.
3. Add a splash or two of key lime juice, available at the grocery store.
4. Fill the rest of the way with tonic water. We use the diet version.
5. Stir and enjoy!

So there you go, Tito's!  Choose me and I guarantee I'll blog about it.  Beside, can't you help a girl out who's finishing up her PhD?

I promise we'll have fun with it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

We'll be right back after these short messages...

Stolen from a facebook meme.
I'm taking a break from regular blogging for a couple months.  I need to finish my research project and dissertation and have a pretty tight deadline.  In the meantime I'll post quick news bits from the food world.  Then will return with the're used to seeing in this space.  


PS - If you haven't already done so, check out my friends' kickstarter campaign.  Give them money to help them expand their business and they'll send you really cool stuff in return. Everybody wins!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Great people making great beer

Image source.
The good folks at New Republic Brewery are doing what they can to expand the business of making great beer in the town of College Station, Texas.  To assist in this effort they have launched a KickStarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to complete their expansion. Check out the video (blogger will not allow me to embed a non-youtube video for some reason, so please click the link) and kickstarter site, and please consider donating to help some really good people make even more great beer. Minimum donation is only $1. Donations of $12 will be rewarded with swag, such as pint glasses, stickers, laptop skins, t-shirts, and much more.

Support your local independent brewery!

Friday, September 7, 2012

T. Jin's China Diner

Believe it or not there is a fierce rivalry among foodies in the B/CS area as to which Chinese restaurant in the area is the best. There are those who will only eat at Jin's World Cafe.  Some will only eat at Chef Cao's.  Some swear that others are the best or most authentic there is in the are.  I, personally, adore T. Jin's China Diner and eat there regularly. If you click on the link you'll see there are 3 locations, with one in Bryan and one in College Station. This review is for the location along Rock Prairie in College Station.

I'm also going to state from the get-go that I don't know what is and isn't authentic as far as Chinese food is concerned. I've never been to China and it's a large country so I imagine there are regional differences in the food. I do know what I think tastes good.

On this latest trip to T. Jin's my group of three got soups and entrees.

A cup of hot and sour soup.  Well balanced and a great way to start a meal.  The soup manages to be both light and hearty at the same time.  Great mushroom flavor.
Chicken Fried Rice.  The Lovely Spouse orders it time and again so it must be to his liking. 
Szechuan Chicken. I love the balance of sweet and spicy.  Lots and lots of veggies.
Szechuan Eggplant.  Again this has the sweet and spicy mix, but here with all veggies.  I ate around the onions. 
The above, except the fried rice, were served with a choice of steamed (white) or fried (brown) rice for an additional fee. House specialties are also served with orange slices.

In addition to the above there are a few other entrees we gravitate towards including green beans and tofu (I like the flavor of tofu), Thai chicken and shrimp, moo shoo anything, Pad Thai, the dumplings on the appetizer menu and the meat of choice with veggies on the special healthy/light menu.  But really everything that has sounded good on the menu has been delicious there. All three of us made at least 2 meals out of the above.  If I order off the healthy menu I usually make three meals from a single entree.

The also have my favorite iced tea in B/CS.  I'm not sure what tea they're using but it has a nice, strong flavor. No sugar or cream needed.  They have beer and wine available as well.

The service has always been incredibly fast and for the most part very friendly.

Would we recommend T. Jin's?  Of course.  Again, I don't know if they're authentic or not, but I enjoy their food.

Will we be back?  Of course.  We eat here regularly.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Upcoming event

I wish I could attend this but have other plans.  Click the picture to enbiggen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Madden's Casual Gourmet

Image souce.

I've been trying to blog about Madden's for awhile now.  I love the food and dining experience there and we go every time we have something to celebrate.  However the lighting is such that it's nearly impossible to get good images of the food without using a flash.  And who wants to use a flash with fine dining?  Well, here's an attempt to do the meals here justice.

Image Source.

Madden's Casual Gourmet is located in downtown Bryan in the Bryan Marketplace. It is a chef-owned family friendly restaurant that specializes in seasonal American style fine dining, but with a low-key casual approach.  You can visit Madden's in jeans just as you can also visit there in a tux.  You'll be equally comfortable either way.

Our particular visit was last week to celebrate my birthday.  The Lovely Spouse got me a new cell phone, to replace the broken one I've been using for the past few months.  It has a new camera, which I used to take the picts here, and a screen without a series of large cracks on it.  I also got an Otter Box so hopefully I'll manage to not break this one any time soon.

This was the middle of the week at the beginning of the school year so Madden's was not busy. We started with appetizers. I got the tomato bisque and The Lovely Spouse got the deviled eggs.  As I mentioned above, the lighting is soft so the pictures were dark.  I edited them on powerpoint and paint so they might look like they came from Instagram.

The tomato bisque is light but hugely flavorful.  It's a very nice way to start a meal.  Maddens also starts meals with a nice fococcia served with high quality olive oil and an herb chiffonade.
The Lovely Spouse started with deviled eggs. I was unable to eat them due to them containing onions (listed on the menu = yay!), but he said they were absolutely delicious with a complex herbal flavor.  He said the onions served with them were a very nice touch.
Next we ordered our entrees and wine.  We got a bottle of the Tempesto for the table, which beautifully complemented my duck and The Lovely Spouse's tenderloin.

I used a flash to get this image. This is a smoked duck served over homemade jambalya, with grilled okra, topped with zucchini noodles.  The entire thing was spicy yet complex.  Not to mention the duck was perfectly, melt-in-your-mouth cooked.
Also taken with a flash. The Lovely Spouse got beef tenderloin cooked three ways. Perfectly cooked, that is. Everything was delicious.
And while Peter Madden, the chef, is known for his entrees, the desserts at Madden's are not to be missed.  I didn't get a photo of it, but The Lovely Spouse got the bread pudding.  Always creamy and delicious and served with homemade vanilla ice cream.  I got a scoop of the toasted marshmallow ice cream.  And the server happened to mention that she also had a caramel popcorn ice cream and we just had to try it.

On the left is the toasted marshmallow ice cream.  My usual favorite.  And on the right is the caramel popcorn ice cream.  Something new that totally impressed me.  It had the texture of very high quality ice cream, but tasted exactly like caramel popcorn.  Truly amazing. And a friend who joined us who doesn't like desserts completely fell in love with it.
Other items we've had at Madden's that are exceptional include the scallops, which are cooked to buttery perfection and the chili rubbed tenderloin.  The wine list is also very, very good.  And the coffee served is some of the best in the area. They also serve a nice selection of dessert cordials.

The service is always fantastic.

And while everything is fine dining quality, the prices are very reasonable.  This meal would cost much, much more in Houston, Dallas, or DC.

Madden's is also an excellent place to host larger celebrations.  They have a small, but nicely appointed, party room that may be reserved for up to around 20-30 guests.  And the restaurant itself may be reserved for private engagements.  Friends of mine tell me the service for private engagements, for both professional and private events, is second to none. This quality of service would easily cost four times as much in a large, major metropolitan area.

So, do I recommend Madden's?  Absolutely.  It's fine dining without being stuffy.  The service is fantastic while making you feel at home.

Will we be back?  I certainly hope so. :-) As I said above, it's our go-to place for celebrations.

ETA (1/21/16): Madden's is now owned by Chef Tai of Veritas. Veritas has some excellent food so I'm sure that Madden's will remain in good hands. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's my party and I'll bake if I want to...

OK, I'll admit I didn't come up with that title. I found it on another blog, whose name I can't remember, while searching for things to bake for the ol' birthday. 

Lately all of my friends are on a low-carb and anti-dessert kick. Additionally our house rules involve an "if you want it you have to make it" rule when it comes to sweets. However as it was my birthday and I really wanted baked goods, I made my own desserts.  The Lovely Spouse hosted a small party for the occasion so I served them as well.  And people asked for the recipes so here they are.

The Salted Caramel Cupcakes came from Pass the Sushi.  I made no alterations to the recipe.  I'm guessing the cupcakes didn't rise because our baking powder was old.  However the caramel filling made them moist and chewy, in a good way.  I don't own a piping bag.  I just used a gallon sized zip lock bag, pushed the frosting to an end and cut the tip with a pair of kitchen scissors. 

The Preacher Cake came from Just a Pinch. This cake is one of those "throw everything in a pan, mix and bake" kinds of recipes.  I followed the instructions for the less sweet version using 1 cup of sugar instead of two and left the icing off.  I also used pecans instead of walnuts, because walnuts taste like soap. Believe it or not I found this by clicking a link off of facebook.  People tell me no one ever clicks through the ads there.  Well, I did. And the results were tasty.

The secret to The Lovely Spouse's super savory hamburgers:  vegemite.  On its own vegemite tastes like what I imagine salt would taste like if it could decompose.  But it's super savory and chock full of "umami" therefore it makes a good flavor enhancer.  Kind of like garum.

Thanks to everyone for making this birthday special.  I loved all the facebook well wishes as well as the visit from close, local friends.  Thanks, as well, for the birthday cards from my family back in my home state. 

<3 <3 <3 <3 all around.