An Argentinean Delight

El Arbol recently opened. Driving by one day, I found their South American inspired exterior very chic and I thought – wonder if their food is as good as their building looks? So I asked my friend Mari to join me for drinks and the always needed gab session. The menu features South American inspired cocktails and Argentinean food using produce and meat from Texas farms and ranches. Go Texan!


When I strolled into the bar, I noticed that Mari had already started with a fresh looking Caipirinha. On a hot, muggy day like today I thought, perfect! The Caipirinha did not disappoint in fact, I liked it so much, I ordered a second.  It was crisp and tart. Delicious. Those tasty lime drinks always go so quickly.


Mari and I started off with the Provoleta and two empanadas – the Mendoza and Carne Suave. The Provoleta is a cheese lovers dream as you dip your crostini in and gather the smoky provolone blend around the toasted edges. The oak wood flavor really came through and worked nicely with the paprika and oregano. With all the different flavors, you could still savor the cheese. But once the cheese cooled, it made it difficult to continue to enjoy the experience. I love cheese but I wasn’t excited about carving out hunks of congealed cheese. Our server noticed that we stopped eating it and suggested that he take it back and comped us. I was impressed with his gesture. (If you decide to get this, I suggest you eating it very quickly and/or asking them to reheat it once it cools.)


We then moved on the two empanadas. The Mendoza featured a mix of pork, raisins, onions and almonds. It was an interesting blend. Good but nothing I would order again. The Carne Suave was a “suave” mix indeed with sirloin, potatoes, onion and spices. Me being a steak and potato girl, I of course was delighted with the Carne Suave and thought the spices complimented the meat nicely.

The Mendoza and Carne Suave Empanadas

After we finished, we were still craving something more, so we ended up ordering the Matambre. I loved it. Mari loved it! It was delicious! The flank was cooked perfectly and all the elements of the dish worked so well together. I couldn’t get enough of the Malbec demi-glace and the rosemary mustard sauce blended together. I would slather the meat in it. Yum! Definitely a dish I would order again! We of course didn’t have room for dessert after that but they did have some interesting “Postres” listed and are worthy of a try in the future.


Overall, Mari and I enjoyed our experience. I would definitely go back to El Arbol for another round, possibly try some of their entrées and sip on one of their Cairpirnha Mora, (mmm blackberries). I liked the cool retro South American vibe and the service was excellent. If you were to go South American, El Arbol is a good choice.

El Arbol –


Nutella Me All Over!

After having a crazy weekend of working, my case of the Mondays was something fierce. I headed to Apothecary to enjoy a little vino, try something sweet and gab with my friend Emily.

I had heard they were in the process of revamping their menu and will be featuring some goodies devised by Chef Johnny Romo. Daily they have been featuring their latest creations on their Facebook page and the one that caught my eye was the Nutella Crepe. The page promised it to be “quite possibly the sexiest plate featured at Apothecary” and me being a sucker for visually appealing dishes, I had to try it. But let’s be real…anything with Nutella in it, has to be is good!

Nutella Crepe

They smother Nutella on to fluffy crepes and then tightly wrap them to be sliced into small rolls. The rolls are dowsed in a yummy port and berries sauce and topped with a light fresh whipped crème. After savoring the first few bites, the crepes quickly disappeared from the plate. I wasn’t a complete glutton, I did allow Emily to enjoy a few bites. I found the nuttiness of the Nutella comforting. The port berry sauce not to be too sweet and the berries still a little tart. Nice. The crepes were the right consistency. After the crepes vanished, I found myself dipping my finger and dragging it across the plate. As my index finger dragged across the plate, it quickly and efficiently covered itself with the leftover mixture of Nutella and the port berry sauce. Then ever so coolly I slowing brought my finger to my lips and allowed the flavors to mingle on my tongue. I wanted to prolong the experience as much as I could. I repeated this step a few times and then relinquished our plate to the server. I will definitely be making a repeat order the next time I stroll in. It was the perfect ending to a crappy Monday.

As Emily and I were leaving, I had a total foodie rockstar moment and met Tyson Cole. He was sharing one of the antipasto plates and bottle of white wine with his beautiful wife, Rebekkah. He was ever so cool and humble as we discussed my experiences at Uchi, how we came across Apothecary and our appreciation for Nutella. He too is a fan. In the world of chefs, there are a few divas, it’s nice to meet the chefs who still appreciate their fan base and who remain down to earth.

Apothecary Café & Wine Bar –

I love the summertime..

Oh how I love summer – the sounds of blues on the green, the waves splashing on the beach, the smell of Coppertone as it hits your skin, drinking a cold beer while toobing down on the river, eating ice cream sandwiches as it melts between your fingers, the smell of grilled meat during a bbq. I love it all …well except for the blistering heat in Texas. When summertime comes it’s as though certain fruits and vegetables ripen in flavor and taste better. Notice how tomatoes have more flavor and watermelon taste sweeter? Summer is their peak season and truly the best time to have them.

I decided to treat my taste buds to these summertime flavors with Whole Foods’ Lunch Express class: Summertime Garden. The menu featured Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Watermelon Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette; Saffron Rice Salad with Shrimp, Haricot Verts, Dolce Peppers and Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette; and Madeleines with Rose Scented Cream for dessert. Our teacher, Wes Mickel, was AWESOME! In the mix of demonstrating each dish, he shared facts like there are at least 400 varieties of tomatoes, how to purchase the right tomato, how to pickle onions, the differences between a green bean and a haricot vert or that you can keep vinegar for years! He also introduced me to the dolce and lipstick peppers. I am still amazed at the extensive variety of vegetables out there in the produce universe!

Heirloom Tomato, Avocado & Watermelon Salad w/ Sherry Vinegar

We started with the heirloom tomato salad. It was one of the best salads I have ever had, up there with the wedge salad from Perry’s and a few others. Such a simple salad made with a few ingredients was full of savory bites of sweet yellow watermelon, ruby red heirloom tomato, ripe avocado glazed perfectly with a dressing of sherry vinegar, olive oil and fresh cracked pepper. The sea salt on the heirloom tomato reminded me of summers spent in East Texas visiting my Grandmother and eating tomato slices during lunch. When finished, I literally wanted to drink the remaining dressing on my plate or slop it up with my index finger. But I refrained.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it at home:

Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Watermelon Salad with Sherry Vinegar (serves 4-6, but really I could eat the whole thing)

3-4 small heirloom tomatoes, cored, ripe, juicy and cut into thin wedges

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes

1 cup yellow or red seedless watermelon, cut into small pieces

1 avocado, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup mixed herbs, cut small (basil, parsley, tarragon, mint, chives and cilantro all work well)

1 tsp toasted coriander seeds, roughly ground

1/2 cup Sherry vinegar

2 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, reduce the Sherry vinegar and sugar until it has reduced to about 1/4 c. Allow the reduction to cool.  In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon and avocado with 1/2 the herbs, ground coriander, 1 T extra virgin olive oil and a light seasoning of salt and pepper. Place all the contents on a serving platter or individual plates and finish the salad with a splash of the sherry vinegar reduction, the remaining herbs and salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Saffron Rice Salad with Shrimp, Haricot Verts, Dolce Peppers & Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette

The second course was the saffron rice salad with shrimp. During the demonstration, Chef Mickel explained how to pickle the remaining red onions and extend the life of unused vegetables. Apparently you can pickle anything with 1 pt sugar and 2 pt vinegar and keep it around for a month or so. Duality noted! As I consumed the second salad of the day, I noticed how the shrimp worked nicely with the smoked paprika vinaigrette and saffron rice. Though I really enjoyed this salad, I was still thinking about the first.

Madeleines with Rose Scented Cream

The last course was the madeleines. Unforunately this course was a bit disappointing. The madeleines came presented deliciously and I couldn’t wait to sink my folks into them. I found them dense and chewy. I was surprised since Chef Mickel used a workout analogy about the dough. Working the dough = working your muscles. You must allow the dough to rest or the dough will shrink during baking resulting in tough and chewy madeleines. Looks like someone didn’t let my madeleine dough rest enough leaving my jaw a little sore. And to continue this downer moment, I didn’t get enough of the rose water flavor but what I did expect since it only called for a tsp. But I did enjoy the vanilla bean paste. I had no idea it existed and will keep it in mind for future baking projects.

Despite the disappointing dessert, I ended up waddling out of my cooking class, which is a good sign that I enjoyed myself. I am already planning my next class at the culinary center – Healthy Tex-Mex, I’m highly suspicious…

Whole Foods Culinary Center –

At the Snack Bar

This post also appears on AustinOnTheRocks where I regularly contribute posts as a Guest Blogger on happy hours, brunch, restaurants and bars around Austin, TX.

Last night, I decided to check out Snack Bar on South Congress and asked my friend Kristi to join me. It sits nicely on South Congress next to the Austin Motel and bares traces of a 50s era diner but with an Austin feel. Perfect for SoCo’s funky Austin vibe. Sitting on the patio, I mentally noted that this would be a perfect location for brunch or people watching on First Thursdays! As we looked over the menu, I was pleased to find that they are incredibly thoughtful in considering dietary needs and had many vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options to choose from, from their snacks (appetizers) to their desserts. Our server was also quick to make any changes to our order to meet any dietary needs or preferences. Along with dietary needs, many of the menu items included organic juices and ingredients. Oh and did I mention they serve the brunch menu all day, every day! And they operate eco-friendly by composting and recycling and buying local.

Pomgrenada with Remonake

With it being happy hour and all, we decided to start with a few cocktails mixed with organic juices – for me, the Pomgrenada and for Kristi, the Remonake. Both were fabulous! The Pomgrenada is ideal for those who have a fondness for pomegranate juice and/or bubbly. Kristi’s Remonake was like a refreshing lemonade, perfect for a hot day.

Kristi drinking her Remonake

Skipping the snacks, we headed straight for the entrées. I ordered the bleu burger with blue cheese, bacon and pickled onions. Cooked to perfection, it was juicy and greasy like a diner burger should be. I quickly devoured my burger enjoying all the elements in each bite. Kristi ordered the veggie burger with brie, apple raisin chutney and caramelized onions. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Kristi’s order because the veggie burger was stuffed with avocado. How would that taste with brie and apple chutney? Delicious. How unexpected!

Bleu Burger with Bacon & Pickled Onions

Veggie Burger w/ Brie, Caramelized Onions & Apple Raisin Chutney

Mac & Cheese

We ended up splitting the snack size mac and cheese with our entrees and it was comforting like a mac and cheese should be. And usually I would finish off my meal with a dessert but the burger and mac and cheese did me in for the night. If I had any more room I would have probably ordered the peanut butter pie or the black and tan (dark chocolate brownie and peanut butter blonde with ice cream on top). I did end up finishing my time at Snack Bar with one of their reds, a Grenache blend, 2008 Beckmen Cuvee Le Bec, biodynamic and very tasty. I will definitely return to Snack Bar again, and again!

Happy Hours are M-F from 4-7pm – $1 off fancy drinks and beer, $2 off select plates and snacks and $3.50 organic house wine. And pet-friendly on the patio! Visit Snack Bar.

Follow MeFoodie on Twitter at @fooddrinklove


This post also appears on AustinOnTheRocks where I regularly contribute posts as a Guest Blogger on happy hours, brunch, restaurants and bars around Austin, TX.

Tuesday night, I ventured to TNT with my friend Emily. I passed it on 5th street a few weeks back, and recently discovered TNT stood for Tacos and Tequila. I needed to check this place out! Vision of mixed drinks and assorted tacos baited my stomach and lured my taste buds, and I was reeled in like a fish.

My Friend Emily

At first, I was overwhelmed with the scrumptious options of tequila drinks mixed with agave nectar and fresh fruit juices; there were so many I wanted to try! So I decided to start with the basic house margarita. Emily decided to stick with the house red. Drinks on the way, our server introduced us to the savory quesadilla bar with choices of Chile Glazed Steak and Southwest Veggie. Turns out, TNT offers free quesadillas until 6:30 during happy hour. We considered ourselves lucky for getting an early start! Another complementary treat at TNT, crispy sweet potato chips with a creamy chipotle mayo dipping sauce. These are not to be missed!

Sweet Potato Chips with Creamy Chipotle Mayo

For our entree, we split the Good Karma Guacamole and the TNT platter. The house margarita was good but typical for a house margarita; I stepped it up with their Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita. The Good Karma Guacamole was made fresh at our table and with roasted garlic, giving it a very smoky delicious flavor. It may seem pricey on the menu, but we found it to be worth it. Not to mention, a portion of proceeds of the guacamole goes to Urban Roots. Our platter arrived with three different tacos, Corn Crusted Chicken, Korean Beef and Rojo Shrimp and two sides, Chimayo Market Corn and Black Bean Adobe Pie. The Chimayo Market Corn was absolutely heavenly! I was hooked by its sweet, buttery kernels smeared with cotija cheese and sprinkled with red pepper. The adobe pie was a tamale shaped in a flan dish covered with a cream sauce and pico de gallo. I finished the meal with my refreshing margarita. Cucumber based drinks are perfect for the summer. I was surprised that it wasn’t too spicy even with the jalapeño. Overall, I found my food to be flavorful and the drinks worth a sip or three.

Good Karma Guacamole

TNT Platter

Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita

Happy Hour is Mon-Fri from 4-7pm. Drink specials includes $4 house drinks and $2 draft beer. Free retail parking at the Gables Pressler Apartments. Visit TNT .

Follow MeFoodie on Twitter at @fooddrinklove