So here I am, after a very long and crazy month and the craziness continues. We went to Austin for SXSW and Flatstock, we closed our store, the big job we’ve been working on finally launched and my head is officially spinning. That being said, I honestly don’t know if I have ever been this happy. The only thing missing right now, which I am quite sad about, is the time to cook and more importantly to blog about it. I have been cooking as much as I can, which isn’t nearly as much as I would like and I definitely feel like life is just a bit incomplete without it. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know once April is over, life will certainly calm down a bit and the time to cook will be there once again. Part of the reason we closed the store after nearly 5 years, was to be able to focus better on the things that matter most to us, both professionally and personally. We are only five days in on being without a store and I already feel more focused.
This month we are finishing up modifying our home to move the studio in – we have to gut the garage of all the junk and garage-items to be able to move in our presses, poster inventory and all the print-related equipment. We also converted the two additional bedrooms upstairs into home offices for each of us. We have to go through what feels like millions and millions of things, both at home and at work to donate, give away and sell to be able to consolidate everything in one place. It’s definitely a daunting and overwhelming task, especially with the deadline of May 1st looming overhead, but we will get through it all.
Part of what is keeping us going right now besides the excitement of what’s to come is all the traveling and fun things we have going on. We took the long and fun road trip down to Austin in the middle of March and that was incredible, the weather was beautiful, we saw so many great friends whom we missed dearly, we saw family (albeit too briefly) and of course, we ate!
As usual, I didn’t bring my camera to every restaurant as I would have liked, so I did the best I could. On this trip we decided to take our time driving to and from Austin, enjoying the drive as much as the rest of the trip. We tried to seek out the best local restaurants for our taste in each city we stopped in and we had so much fun figuring it out as we went and of course we loved trying out new places. We certainly weren’t disappointed by traveling this way.
I am going to do my best to give you a review of some of our most favorite restaurants from the trip, some will include photos (some of which are better than others) and with others you will have to use your imagination.
Columbus, Ohio – zpizza
At the start of the trip we left Buffalo Saturday at a reasonable time and once we got to driving decided that our first major stop would be in Columbus for lunch. I did a little google searching for a fun gluten-free friendly restaurant where I could fill up and eat with assurance of not getting sick on the drive. I ended up finding a place called Z Pizza. It isn’t exactly “local” but certainly met all of our other criteria. Their pizzas are fire-baked on hot bricks and they even feature organic ingredients, additive free meats, daiya vegan cheese and most importantly gluten-free pizza crust. So we took a peek at their menu online and called ahead to order two small pizzas to share. (Please excuse the photos, my good camera was packed very deeply in the car at this point, so I made do with my iPhone). We went with the Tuscan and American pizzas. The Tuscan is a white pizza that features their homemade roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, feta, a variety of mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffle oil and fresh thyme. WOW this pizza tasted like something I would make at home, all the ingredients were very fresh, the sauce had so much flavor and the crust was perfectly thin and crisp. The American was just like it sounds, a classic. It featured their classic organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, bell peppers, red onions, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes. It was definitely a great pizza as well, lots of flavor with very fresh ingredients, though it really didn’t come close to comparing to the Tuscan. I am actually excited for all the drives we take to Louisville now that I know I have an easy and good lunch option along the way. For a chain restaurant I was thoroughly impressed with not only the quality of the food but also the service. It also didn’t hurt that they stocked gluten-free beer, always a plus for me!
Bowling Green, Kentucky – Greener Groundz
We continued driving after lunch on Saturday and stopped in Louisville to see Mark’s family and we got to have a short, but quality visit with his Momo (Grandma). After that stop-off we continued on to Bowling Green, Kentucky to spend the next two nights with our good friends Connie and Stacey from Print Mafia. Connie and Stacey took us to their friend’s restaurant for brunch Sunday morning before we headed to Nashville for a bit. Greener Groundz is an adorable little coffee shop / cafe right in Bowling Green that offers 100% organic fair-trade coffee, local and organic ingredients and they have a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. They also cater to many food allergies! When I saw they had a breakfast pizza that could be made with gluten-free crust, I went for it. It had a delicious white sauce, you have your choice of scrambled local free-range eggs or tofu scramble, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, cheese and your choice of protein – ham, crumbles sausage, sliced italian sausage or vegan sausage. I had the local eggs and crumbled sausage. WOW this pizza was incredible and so filling. I had half for breakfast that morning and the other half the next day before we hit the road again. I was content all day! Everyone else at the table had Kentucky Hot Damns – a fun and creamy spin on the famous Kentucky Hot Brown. We all started with a serving of their homemade hummus that Connie and Stacey raved about. I love my own hummus so much that it is rare I care for other hummus (whether at a restaurant or store-bought), this time I was impressed, it was full of flavor, creamy and very well made. We had it served with tortilla chips but you can also get it with pizza crisps or gluten-free pizza crisps. I really cannot recommend Greener Groundz enough if you ever find yourself in the Bowling Green area, in fact it’s so good I would recommend stopping there even if you are traveling on to somewhere else. It really is the type of place that I wish every city and little town had, it really makes me so happy to support places like this. I knew when we pulled up and walked through the front door that this place that it was just my kind of place. I can’t wait to go back.
Memphis, Tennessee – Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
This stop was all for Mark. Since he had eaten at all these great organic and gluten-free restaurants for me, it was his turn. I started asking around on Twitter if anyone had recommendations on somewhere we could grab lunch in Memphis when we passed through. More than one person recommended Gus’s. Being the fried chicken-loving Southern boy that he is, we had to stop and get lunch there for Mark. I was happy just to eat sides and enjoy the smile on my husband’s face. Much to my surprise they even had bottled hard cider on their menu, even better! Mark got a classic plate of fried-chicken with sides. When I told our waiter that I was just gonna have a few sides he asked if I was vegetarian, I replied with “not exactly, I don’t eat much meat and I am also gluten-intolerant so either way the fried chicken wouldn’t work for me”. He leaned in really close to me and said “our fried chicken is gluten-free, I cannot tell you the recipe since it is secret but we use corn starch, not flour. My ex-girlfriend was very very sensitive to gluten and she ate it all the time”. As tempting as it was, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have learned to trust few people who can’t tell me with 100% assurance that something is safe and though I am sure I would be OK I didn’t want to risk it with all the traveling we had ahead. Though I would definitely be curious to know how true this really is. So I obviously cannot give you a first-hand review of the fried chicken here but Mark did say it was the best damn fried-chicken he has ever had and that I can trust.
Austin, Texas – Frank
This wasn’t our first time at Frank, in fact I have actually lost track of how many times we’ve eaten there. A poster/designer friend of ours from Austin, Geoff Peveto, opened Frank with a couple of his buddies and their wives. Normally you wouldn’t find me excited about a hot dog / sausage restaurant. It’s never really been my thing, plus having a gluten-intolerance and being mostly vegetarian makes this all even less fun. Frank, however, really caters to everyone – they carry gluten-free rolls, homemade vegetarian sausage and dogs and plenty of house made sausage from local meats and ingredients. Though I wanted their homemade veggie sausage, I couldn’t have it as it contained gluten, unfortunately. So I make sure to always go with one of their homemade sausages since they never disappoint. To be able to eat a sausage or a hot dog on a bun feels like a luxury after 6+ years. We usually eat there at least two times when we are in town and I like to try something different each time. On this visit I had the Texalina served on a gluten-free bun which is their housemade local pork and beef sausage covered in a grilled coleslaw and topped with a Carolina mustard BBQ sauce and shredded white cheddar. It was so incredible and tasty, it had a nice subtle spicy heat and the crunch from the coleslaw is what makes this sausage really stand-out, in my opinion. Though I am not a huge BBQ sauce lover – I am always down for a mustard based sauce and it was perfect on this. The Texalina is definitely messy, but something I was willing to deal with. I, of course, washed this incredible treat down with one of Frank’s deliciously fresh house margaritas (ok well maybe, two). Besides having delicious food, Frank is one of the most aesthetically pleasing restaurants I have ever been to, complete with hand painted signage and well though out menus and decor. A must see if you are in Austin.
Austin, Texas – Fonda San Miguel
One of our favorite things to do while we’re in Austin is to eat as much Mexican food as we can. Living in Buffalo there really isn’t much authentic Mexican food and I certainly crave it. What isn’t there to love about Mexican food, the spices, the margaritas, etc and it is so very gluten-free friendly. We definitely have a long list of classic taqueria style Mexican joints in Austin that we like to visit, but this time we decided to try out something a bit different that a friend recommended. Fonda San Miguel is an upscale restaurant that features fine interior Mexican cuisine, something I had never really experienced. It’s classic regional cuisine prepared authentically using numerous ingredients from their on-site organic garden. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I can honestly say it is one of the best Mexican meals I have ever had. So different from the classic taqueria’s that I have become accustomed to. I decided to go with the Camarones en Crema De Chipotle, gulf shrimp in a spicy chipotle cream sauce. I am a big fan of the gulf shrimp and when I saw this dish, I knew it was right up my alley. It had a wonderful smokey heat that was balanced by the creaminess. Once we returned home to Buffalo I promptly recreated this dish myself so I could enjoy it again. I plan to make it again really soon so I can share the recipe here. I don’t have access to delicious gulf shrimp so my recipe was definitely lacking there, but otherwise I think I came close. I also had an incredible martini style cocktail that featured mezcal, tequila and fresh lime juice, this was my first time trying mezcal and I loved it. The strong smoky flavor from the mezcal was so unique and special, I am certainly going to have to keep an eye out for this at my local liquor store. I cannot wait to go back to Austin next year so we can go back to Fonda San Miguel and try even more things on their menu. I am sorry to say I had my camera with me, but was far too happy, relaxed and involved with both incredible food and wonderful company, to take any photos of the meal, so you will have to use your imagination on this one or get your butt to Austin and visit Fonda San Miguel yourself.
Austin, Texas – Juan in a Million
Last, but certainly not least, is Juan in a Million. Though simplistic in many ways, it is one of my favorite grub spots in Austin. There’s no organic garden or gluten-free breads, it is just straight-up, classic Mexican food, perfected. We always try to hit Juan in a Million at least twice for breakfast while we’re in town – they have amazing breakfast tacos and THE best migas, probably my favorite breakfast dish of all time. It is a simple concept, scrambled eggs with various veggies like peppers, onions, tomatoes and it also has strips of fried tortilla. Then it’s all topped with fresh grated cheese. Don’t ask me why it’s so much better than every other ‘ol scrambled egg dish, it just is. There is something about it. Juan’s migas with a side of their delicious beans, some fresh warm corn tortillas and their super spicy salsa? That really is heaven. Unfortunately the terrible iPhone photo that I took, really doesn’t do the food any justice, but you get the idea. If you are a Travel Channel junky then you probably saw Juan in a Million featured on Man Vs Food. Oh and Juan in a Million consistently wins the award for best handshake in all of Texas – so if Juan is there, make sure to shake his hand, it is not only award-winning but it’s also epic (your hand will burn afterwards)!
We obviously ate at other great restaurants along the trip, but these are the ones that most stick out in my mind. I always try to remember to bring my camera but somehow this part of the blogging process always alludes me. That being said, I plan to do more of these types of posts with all the traveling we have coming up, so I hope you enjoy it. I would also love if you shared any restaurant recommendations that you have for me. This weekend we will be in NYC and Brooklyn for a gallery show our work is in and some meetings and next weekend we’ll be in Pittsburgh for Handmade Arcade. We are home the rest of the month finalizing our move home and getting the new print studio all set-up, after that we are off to a week-long vacation on the beach on South Padre Island, which will certainly be needed. If you have any restaurant recommendations for any of these places, definitely post them.
Look for some recipes in the next week or so, I hope to recreate the Camarones en Crema De Chipotle again for dinner tonight along with a gluten-free Chocolate Almond Pound Cake for dessert, if I can squeeze in the time to do it. And look for more travel/restaurant reviews very soon. Hope everyone is well!