Monday, March 24, 2014

Moonshine Restaurant Austin, TX

Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill is conveniently located across the street from the Austin Convention Center. It was also one of few places in the area that was open late (10pm) during our visit for SXSW. It seemed like most restaurants were either closed by 8pm or jammed pack with hour plus waits. Luckily, we stumbled upon Moonshine. With over 30,000 people in town for the festival, our wait was about 30 minutes, which was just enough time to grab a cocktail and an appetizer. We also enjoyed a Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine from North Carolina (pictured above) with our steaks.

Old fashioned and Homemade potato chips
6.50, 6.95
First of all, a cocktail under $7? YES please! The old fashioned was made with Kentucky bourbon, muddled oranges, cherry, simple syrup and bitters. Perfect with crispy homemade potato chips and scallion sour cream dipping sauce. 

Go easy on the appetizers because the minute you sit down, the wait staff will bring over a giant bucket of seasoned popcorn. Definitely the first time I've received popcorn at dinner and it was pretty awesome! The popcorn was a mix of plain and cheese with seasoned salt on top.

Jalapeño hanger steak
The hanger steak was highly recommended by our waitress and we were very glad that she did. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rear topped with a sinfully delicious jalapeño scallion butter. Tender, juicy, flavorful, all the components of a great steak. The sides included roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary oil and grilled seasonal vegetables. The portions were huge, but so were the flavors. As the saying goes "everything is bigger in Texas!"

It's worth mentioning that Moonshine "proudly supports local farmers, growers and ranchers fielding the best in fresh, natural ingredients."

Have you been to Austin? What's your favorite place to eat?

Moonshine Restaurant Patio and Bar
303 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78701

Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cafe Europa, Palm Springs

Search for the best breakfast/brunch spot in Palm Springs and you will probably come across Cheeky's. Unfortunately, the wait is usually well over one hour and can be as long as two hours. I don't know about you, but brunch is not worth a two hour wait. When we arrived at Cheeky's and were told the wait was over one and a half hours, we decided to search for an alternative and came across Cafe Europa down the street. The casual cafe setting with outdoor seating and menu boasting organic omega 3 eggs, nitrate free meats and organic produce delivered daily convinced us to give the eatery a try.

The coffee was served in a french press and charged by the person and not by size. At $4 a person, the large french press above was enough for four people to each have a cup. This is pricey if you want to enjoy more than one cup of coffee.

Applewood smoked bacon and potatoes
3.75 and 3
What's breakfast without bacon and potatoes? The applewood bacon was crispy and meaty. The potatoes had subtle hint of rosemary flavor, but could have used a touch more salt and more time in the oven.

Grilled Vegetable Salad
The salads were available in Euro or American portions. We got the American which was $3 more than the Euro portion. This was a hearty salad loaded with grilled asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers on a bed of mixed greens with a nice balsamic vinaigrette. Fresh ingredients and vibrant colors made this a great salad to enjoy on a warm afternoon.

The American Scramble
The menu offered a variety of omelettes and scrambles. The American scramble consisted of cheddar cheese, bacon, tomatoes and red peppers served with a side of potatoes. The scramble was a bit overcooked, but the flavors were good and the freshness of the ingredients came through.

I hope to try Cheeky's one day to see what all the hype is about, until then, there are plenty of brunch destinations along Palm Canyon to try. What's your favorite breakfast spot in Palm Springs?

Cafe Europa
515 N. Palm Canyon Suite B9
Palm Springs, CA 92262

Cafe Europa on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 10, 2014

El Tovar Restaurant, Grand Canyon AZ

A trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim is not complete without going to El Tovar Hotel. Not only does it offer the most sought after accommodations, but its also home to the fanciest restaurant inside the park. The dimly lit dining room and cozy fireplace offers a wonderful escape from the outside elements. El Tovar restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday with the exception of four days. It it best to make a reservation ahead of time, but we were lucky to snag a late dinner reservation the day of our arrival. The dinner menu offered a wide range of options from gluten free to vegetarian to organic and locally sourced ingredients.

Complimentary bread and butter

Mediterranean salad
12.75 entree size
The mediterranean salad was certainly large enough to be an entree or to be split as a starter. It came with a choice of grilled chicken, smoked salmon or tofu. We opted for honey smoke salmon, which was tender, moist, smokey with a subtle touch of honey flavor. There was a nice balance of crisp greens and hearty vegetables tossed in a light balsamic vinaigrette. 

Vegan Stuffed Portobello Mushroom
The large portobello mushroom was stuffed with spinach, onion, artichoke hearts and bell peppers then topped with a tangy red pepper sauce served over wild rice wheat berry pilaf. The meaty mushroom and rice pilaf worked really well with the pepper sauce. A good vegan dish that's tasty and filling. 

Hand-Cut, Grilled Natural Black Angus New York Strip
The New York strip had to be re-fired because the first time it came out, it was way under cooked. When it reappeared, it was exactly how we ordered it: rare. The tender and flavorful beef was accompanied by a mix of seasonable vegetables and fingerling potatoes. Not a bad steak for being in the middle of Grand Canyon National Park.

It was an enjoyable meal and one we would have again on our next visit to the Grand Canyon. We also dined at several other restaurants in the park, but for dinner, El Tovar Restaurant was definitely our favorite for taste, ambiance, quality and service.

It is worth mentioning that due to the remote location, restaurants in the park add a nominal fee to each check to offset the cost of pumping water up from below.

El Tovar Restaurant
1 El Tovar Road
Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

El Tovar Dining Room at El Tovar Hotel on Urbanspoon