Thursday, July 31, 2008

Four Spots, One Slice: Looking for the Best Pizza in Austin, TX

I love pizza, as do most people and we all have our favorites, but there are definite standards by which to judge a slice that we can all agree on. Hot delicious crust thin/thick, flavorful sauce, and fresh toppings are the basic necessities. These along with service and atmosphere were my ruler as I delved into the world of Austin Texas Pizza. As of now, I still haven't found the perfect slice in Austin but I have found some solid pies.

1. Home Slice

When I first arrived in Austin the almost ubiquitous answer to my "Where is the best pizza?" query was "Homeslice, it's awesome." Even people I didn't know at bus stops informed of the great Homeslice. So, I visited this hallowed pizzeria first. Homeslice is comfortably located in the commercial area of southern Congress amidst shopping and bars. Inside it's punk which, in my experience, is a strong indication of good pizza. I either want to see a mohawked figure or a serious Italian throwing dough and Homeslice employs. The pizza was tasty. The sauce is light and tangy but the crust is unadorned, uninteresting. I had a Margherita pizza with sauce on the side and was delighted with the generous amount of fresh basil on the pie but what most impressed me about Homeslice was the service. Our server, a gentleman with a mohawk and lovely tattoos, pulled and replaced our silverware with every course, offered us freshly ground pepper, and a first for me: repeatedly poured our pitcher of Lonestar as if it was a bottle of wine. So I do recommend Homeslice, as long as servers like him are still there.

2. The Parlor

Some people think avocado has no business being on pizza and their unfortunate view will forever leave them wanting. The smooth and oily avocado, a perfect foil for spicy jalapenos, raw garlic, fresh basil, bacon, tomatoes, and pineapples, is a sensuous topping that I highly recommend for these hot summer days. The Parlor situated in the Hyde Park area is my favorite place to enjoy said topping and listen to Reagan Youth, Fear, or the as this is another punk pizza place. The parlor has a very sought after patio but the inside is fun too, hosting a variety of arcade games you thought you'd never see again. Alas, the crust is not interesting. The service is sweet and casual. The pitchers are generally cold, try it out.

3. East Side Pies

I went to this tiny pizza shop once after a show at the adjoining record store Trailer Space and had a delicious thin, greasy, slice of pepperoni. My mouth waters just thinking about it and how much it reminded me of NYC pizza. Since then I've been back and repeatedly disappointed by burnt spinach and raw garlic. Bland pies aside, I still think about that first slice. Oh who was in the kitchen that night and where have they gone?

4. Frank and Angies

What I liked about Frank and Angie's right away is the location. It's downtown on West avenue and easily accessible by many forms of traffic. This is a family style Italian diner owned by the same people who on Hut's hamburgers. Frank and Angies has spagetti and meatball specials and the restaurant is decked out in kitchy Italian memorabilia. The wait staff was young and personable but on to the pies; most self aware pizza I've had in Austin. The pie seemed just as purposefully Italian-American as the decorations on the wall. How? The pies are small and hand thrown with lobed uneven edges. Purposefully thin sauce applications and a heavy hand with cheese reminded me of mom and pop pizzerias back in Ohio where garlic is scarce and grated parmesan is unloaded by the pound. Cute place, worth a visit.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Relocation: The joys of building a new kitchen

So all,

I have left the land of corn and in my attempt to obtain cheap gas prices have moved to the land of oil; Texas. Actually I am going to graduate school here and I sold my car on the way down but, all reasoning aside, I am now living in Austin, Tx and Dinnerella is already banging away in the kitchen, south-west style.

Currently I live in French Place which is adorable and hotter than hell. Without a car I knew grocery shopping would be an adventure of sorts but luckily I live very near a Fiesta, a Mexican influenced grocery store, where unbelievably mangoes are 3/ a dollar and avocados are 2/ for a dollar. Roughly a third of what we pay in Ohio, yeah North! Also, Fiesta has a downright frightening selection of "other" foods. Things I've never seen in a food aisle. Cactus leaves, fresh ezpazote, and dried seahorses were most notable and although a cacti seahorse taco sounded all right I opted out, maybe next week. Instead I made a lunchtime variation of the popular frijoles con papas breakfast tacos, delicious.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Sour Cream


1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 can of black beans, or 1/2 cup of dried beans soaked and boiled
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 clove of garlic

salt, pepper
soft small flour tortillas

Heat some canola oil in a medium skillet and add onion
Cook for four minutes and add the cinnamon and cumin, coat the onions evenly
After a minute add potatoes, garlic, jalapenos
Cook until potatoes are tender about 15 minutes, add beans
When beans are warmed through turn the heat up to high and use the orange juice to deglaze the pan
When orange juice has simmered away, add parsley, salt, and pepper to taste, remove from heat and fill in tortillas, top with avocado sour cream

Avocado Sour Cream

1 avocado
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Mash up the garlic and salt to form a paste
Mash the garlic paste into the avocado until smooth
Incorporate the yogurt until homogenized
Stir in the cayenne and cilantro

Either let sit in the refrigerator for an hour to meld or serve right away, it keeps in the fridge for about three days