Monday, May 23, 2016

Boston Coffeehouse in Deland, FL

Boston Coffeehouse divides people. I know certain people who love Boston Coffeehouse while other people claim it's the most horrible coffee/food they've had. I recently visited the Boston Coffeehouse in Downtown Deland. Not horrible, but not great either.

I ordered the half sandwich/half soup. For the sandwich, I had the Cambridge Croissant. The croissant was filled with sliced turkey, spinach, provolone, tomato, and creamy avocado spread. It was a very basic sandwich with nothing too exciting going on, but it was tasty enough. For the soup, I had corn chowder.
I also ordered a Frozen Hot Chocolate. Frozen hot chocolates confuse me. There is the contradiction in the name. Something cannot be frozen and hot. Wouldn't this drink be more like an icy chocolate milk than a hot chocolate? Regardless, the drink was good. Like I said, it tasted like an icy version of chocolate milk, topped with whipped creme and chocolate syrup.

Boston Coffeehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 19, 2016

San Antonio Food: Casa Rio and Mangonadas

After a few days in Austin, I headed south in Texas to San Antonio for a day. Everyone who I spoke to in Austin told me I'd be terribly disappointed with the city and not to waste my time with the two hour drive to San Antonio. I'm not sure why San Antonio has a horrible reputation among Austin residents, but I throughly enjoyed my day exploring the city. I toured Spanish missions, I rented a bike and rode along the San Antonio river. When it was dinner time, I found myself in the San Antonio River Walk section of downtown. I took the canal tour boat ride and had a restaurant called Casa Rio pointed out...

Casa Rio:

Casa Rio is the oldest restaurant along the San Antonio River Walk. That little factoid made me decide to have dinner there. I ate outside along the river where there were nice views of passing boats, people strolling, and a gang of attack ducks that were going up to tables then biting diners if they weren't fed. It was very entertaining.
I ordered the Deluxe Dinner. This came with a cheese enchilada, tamale, crispy beef taco, chili con carne, chili con queso, mexican rice, refried beans, and a guacamole salad. It sounds like a lot of food, but I didn't realize how much it actually was until food started being delivered to my table. I got a basket of chips and salsa first. This was soon followed by the guacamole salad. Their guacamole salad was shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes topped with a big scoop of guacamole. Tortilla chips covered in queso also came out with the salad.
The plate with the rest of the food soon followed. Standout items on the plate were the the tamale and the chili con carne. As with many Mexican restaurants, everything else was pretty standard and tasty enough.
At $11.25, all this food was pretty reasonable. Nice environment and good food. I'd return to Casa Rio.

Casa Rio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Cathedral of San Fernando Food Stand:
Later that evening I went to the Cathedral of San Fernando where they had a projection mapped light show on the outside of the building. In the park outside the cathedral, there were a few food trucks and a couple permanent food stands feeding the tourists.

One of the permanent food stands had an interesting menu. They had corn in a cup, mangonadas, and funnel cakes. I had never heard of a mangonada before, so I decided to give it a try.
It turned out a mangonada was basically a Mexican version of an Italian ice. I had a mix of strawberry and lime. It was served in a large cup. The mangonada was sweet and refreshing!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Austin Food #4: (Kolache Shoppe, Naegelin's Bakery, and Der Lindenbaum)

This is the last of the foods I tried in the Austin area on this trip. You can read about some of my previous Austin food adventures here. Today's blog post is pretty much about German/Eastern European foods. I didn't realize before my visit, but Texas was settled by a lot of German immigrants that brought foods over from Europe. This blog post is talking about some of these foods. We are starting at Kolache Shoppe...

Kolache Shoppe (Austin, TX):

I became aware of a kolache when I was at a Four Rivers and noticed they had kolaches available on their menu on Saturday mornings at breakfast time. I never got around to visiting a Four Rivers early enough to try a kolache, but I found out that they are a sweet or savory pastry popular in parts of Texas.  When I went to Austin, I put trying a kolache on my list of regional foods to eat. Google told me the closest place to where I was staying with the highest reviews was called Kolache Shoppe. They were located in a old looking strip mall in the suburbs of the city.
I decided to try a sweet and savory kolache and ordered a blueberry and a jalepeno sausage. The kolaches were interesting, but not exactly what I was expecting. The bread that made up most of the kolache reminded me a whole lot of a King's Hawaiian Roll. It was mushy, slightly sweet white bread. The blueberry kolache had a pool of blueberry jam baked into an indentation on the top of the bread.
The jalepeno sausage kolache was sort of like a pig in a blanket. The sausage was baked into the bread. For some reason this one caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting to see a whole sausage in the kolache. I was thinking crumbled sausage for some reason.
I was a bit disappointed with my first kolache experience. I was expecting some sort of delicious pastry and ended up with dinner rolls...


Naegelin's Bakery (New Braunfels, TX):

I ventured a bit outside of Austin and found myself in the town of New Braunfels, TX. This town was founded by German immigrants and still had lots of German influences around the city. There were German restaurants, a beer garden, and German desserts from the oldest bakery in Texas. I went into Naegelin's Bakery and saw they also served kolaches. Since I wasn't impressed with my first kolache experience in the state, I figured I'd see how a place that had been around since 1868 made them.
Naegelin's Bakery had several varieties available. Not nearly as many as Kolache Shoppe had, but still plenty to choose from. I asked the woman taking my order what her favorites were and she recommended the bratwurst and the breakfast sausage.
These kolaches were different from what Kolache Shoppe served. These were also similar to pigs in blankets, but the bread was much denser with a yellowish dough. Out of my two kolache experiences, these were far superior to the mushy white bread that I had the first time, but I still can't say I'm sold on kolaches. These were tasty enough, but I think I would have much rather have had some other sort of German desserts which Naegelin's Bakery sold.
I've since been told I should have also tried a chain called Kolache Factory for good kolaches. They initially came up on my first search for nearby kolaches in Austin, but they had an average 1.5 star review so I passed. Next time I'm in Texas, perhaps I should attempt to find a Kolache Factory for a third kolache data point. I wonder if their kolaches would be different from what I tried as well?

Naegelin's Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



Der Lindenbaum (Fredericksburg, TX):

Fredericksburg, TX was another town nearby Austin that I visited during my trip. Like New Braunfels, there was also a whole lot of German influence here. Because of this, I decided I should have German food for dinner. I ended up at a restaurant called Der Lindenbaum.

I ordered the Currywurst. I don't think I had ever tried currywurst. It came with two sausage links with a large bowl of curry sauce. Mashed potatoes and sauerkraut came as sides. The thick, slightly sweet and slighty spicy curry sauce was delicious. It was definitely better than the sausages themselves and made its way onto the potatoes as to topping. The sauerkraut was really good too. It had fennel seeds, along with other flavors tasting like dill and lemon. I would have eaten a whole plate of the sauerkraut alone!

Der Lindenbaum Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, May 13, 2016

Austin Food #3: Brunch Haus, Threadgills, and Amy's Ice Cream

Continuing with food from my trip to Austin, we have some more restaurants which I tried. There's no breakfast tacos or barbecue in this post...

Brunch Haus:

I had breakfast one morning during my trip to Austin at a food truck park called Barton Spring Picnic. There were several trucks here, all centered around a central covered seating area. Of the trucks here, not too many were open for breakfast. There was a large number of people sitting here though, who apparently got there a couple hours early to wait for trucks to open for lunch. I noticed people like waiting for food in Austin.
The truck I ended up trying was called Brunch Haus. It didn't seem busy, but it took a good half hour to get my food. More of people not minding the waits for food in Austin.
I had their Stuffed French Toast. I hardly ever eat French toast, but they made this toast sound tasty. It was a thick slice of challah bread served in a cardamom-infused heavy cream stuffed with a strawberry jam, basil, and mint mascarpone filling. The whole thing was topped with syrup, powdered sugar, and sliced strawberries. The toast was really sweet, more like a dessert than a breakfast, but I enjoyed it!
Brunch Haus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Threadgill's:

I ended up at Threadgill's for dinner one evening. I liked this place. They served southern food and like Stubb's Bar-B-Que talked about previously, are known for live music. Apparently Janis Joplin played at Threadgill's frequently. I had their blackened catfish, served with scalloped potatoes and stewed okra & tomatoes. The catfish had nice spice in the blackening and both sides were delicious. I was there with a large group of people and they handled the crowd very nicely.
Threadgill's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Amy's Ice Cream:

This is a chain of ice cream shops that I saw all over Austin. I visited their location in SoCo. I had two scoops, one coconut and one Mexican vanilla. It was okay. Nothing worth going out of my way to get again. I still don't know the difference between their Mexican vanilla and regular vanilla. The person taking my order couldn't answer what differentiated the two...
Amy's Ice Creams Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Austin Food #2: Mellizoz Tacos, Home Slice Pizza, and Stubb's Bar-B-Q

Continuing with food from my trip to Austin...

Mellizoz Tacos:

This taco truck was located in another one of Austin's food truck parks. This was a few doors down from where I ate at the Torchy's Tacos food truck the day before.
I had two breakfast tacos from Mellizoz. One was the Bac-Spin. This taco was filled with egg, bacon, and spinach. The other was The '04, filled with egg, bacon, beans, avocado, and cotija. Both were good!

Mellizoz Tacos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Home Slice Pizza:

I ate at Home Slice Pizza in Austin's SoCo neighborhood. I ate in their fancier dining room, not realizing they had a smaller storefront next door for pizza by the slice until after I had finished eating.

Their pizza was very good. I had a slice of cheese and margarita. Both had nice, thin and crispy crusts. There was good proportions of sauce and cheese. The margarita slice had the addition of chopped tomato and basil. I was very pleased with my pizza in a state that I don't typically think of being known for pizza.

Home Slice Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stubb's Bar-B-Q:

Somebody told me that all barbecue in Austin is delicious because any bad barbecue wouldn't survive with all of the competition in the city. Stubb's BBQ proved that wrong. Like Torchy's Tacos, Stubb's was another restaurant in Austin which I had heard of in the past. Not sure where, perhaps I knew the name from the barbecue sauce that they sell in Publix. The place was half restaurant and half music venue. There were no concerts happening when I was eating there.

I ordered the Stubb's Minor, which came with two meats and two sides. I had the brisket and the pork spare ribs for the meats. Unlike the delicious brisket which I had had previously in Austin at Terry Blacks, this was not so delicious. Both meats were very dry and rubbery. They lacked the smokey flavor generally found in barbecue. They just tasted very bland, even with their peppery rubs on the meats. The barbecue sauce didn't help either. It just tasted like plain ketchup to me. For the sides, I had mac & cheese and serrano cheese spinach. Like the meats, the mac & cheese lacked flavor and was very bland. The serrano cheese spinach was one of the few things I enjoyed. It was a very spicy creamed spinach. White bread, pickles, and onions were served on the plate with everything else.
I was not a fan of Stubb's Bar-B-Q at all. Perhaps they are more well known for their live music than their food...

Stubb's Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Austin Food #1: Torchy's Tacos, Terry Black's Barbecue, and Voodoo Doughnuts

I recently went on a trip to Texas. Most of my time in the state was in Austin, but I did make a couple excursions to other nearby cities.

I was told that the two foods I had to try in Austin were breakfast tacos and barbecue. When I questioned what restaurants were good for these two foods, I was told it didn't matter because the standards for these foods were set so high in the city. Anything subpar apparently doesn't survive in Austin when it comes to these two foods. With that in mind, my first food adventure in Texas was to find some breakfast tacos...



Torchy's Tacos (University of Texas and Barton Springs Food Truck Park):

This is a local Austin chain. Somehow I have a T-shirt from Torchy's Tacos. I don't remember exactly where I got the shirt, but I recognized the name because of it and stopped into the Torchy's Tacos just outside UT on my first morning in Austin. I had The Wrangler, filled with scrambled eggs and potatoes with smoked beef brisket and jack cheese. I also had the Monk Special, with eggs, bacon, green chilies, and cheese. As my first introduction to Austin's breakfast tacos, I was impressed. These had a whole lot of flavor happening inside the tortillas and were overflowing with the fillings. I think I preferred The Wrangler a little over the Monk Special, but both were good.
I also happened upon another Torchy's Tacos for lunch during the trip. This Torchy's was in food truck form, located in the Barton Springs Trailer Park. I came across several of these food truck parks around the city and they definitely are an improvement on Orlando's food truck scene. The trucks are centered around actual structure, with tables, air conditioning, and bathrooms. That way you're not standing in a hot parking lot trying to eat your food. Food truck prices in Austin didn't seem to be horribly inflated like Orlando's are either.
I tried the Republican and the Crossroads tacos. The Republican was a flour tortilla filled with grilled jalepeno sausage, shredded cheese, and pico de gallo. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the hot dog-like sausage in the tortilla threw me off a little. It was okay, but I don't think I'd get The Republican again. Crossroads was filled with smoked beef brisket, grilled onions, jalepenos, cilantro, jack cheese, and a slice of avocado. This was the much better of the two tacos.



Terry Black's Barbecue:

To cross my barbecue in Austin off my list, I had dinner at Terry Black's Barbecue. Someone told me this was the second best barbecue in Austin. The number one barbecue choice involved lining up way early in the morning and waiting hours to get in, so I decided to pass on them. Second best was good enough for me because Terry Black's had some delicious smoked meat!
Terry Black's had an interesting setup. All the sides were buffet style where you served yourself, then your meat would be added onto the plate by an employee. I decided to try the brisket with macaroni & cheese and beans as my sides. I've sampled barbecue brisket in Florida here and there, but none compared this brisket. It was tender, almost creamy. The meat had a thick, peppery crust. It had a very nice smokey flavor. I don't like using superlatives, but I think I'm going to rate this as the best brisket I've ever had! Rather than the baked beans in barbecue restaurants that I'm used to seeing, here they served pinto beans. Pretty tasty. The macaroni and cheese was okay, but nothing noteworthy.



Voodoo Doughnuts:

When I was in Denver last year, I was told I needed to try Voodoo Doughnuts. I never got there, but when I passed by another Voodoo Doughnuts location in Austin, I decided to give them a try. There was a really long line almost out the door. With that many people wanting doughnuts, I was expecting something amazing.
I had one of their Voodoo Doughnuts. It was vaguely person shaped, covered in chocolate icing then topped with an icing eye and mouth. Inside, the doughnut was jelly filled so the blood oozed out as you  took a bite. Overall, I liked the concept but the doughnut was nothing exceptional taste-wise. It was a generic jelly doughnut with way too much icing. I wouldn't wait in that line again.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Black Bean Deli in Orlando, FL

Black Bean Deli has been around for a long time now. They always win awards for the best Cuban food in the Orlando area, but I didn't get a chance to eat there until the past year or so. Since then, I've returned several times to their Orlando location on 50.

I had the Ropa Vieja lunch special on one visit. Tender, stewed, and shredded beef was served alongside black beans, rice, plantains, and a salad. I was surprised when I got the plate of food. Many of my previous experiences with Cuban restaurants involved mostly tasty food, but poor presentation. To me, this plate of food was very visually appealing. Everything was delicious, so that made it even better!
During another visit, I had the Papas Rellenas Platter. This included all of the same sides as the Ropa Vieja, but the meat was replaced with two deep fried mashed potato balls. I had one filled with beef and the other with chicken. I don't think I've ever eaten papas rellenas before. I became a fan!
I also have tried Black Bean Deli's Cuban Sandwich lunch which includes the sandwich and black beans and rice. It was a typical Cuban Sandwich filled with meat, cheese, pickles, and mustard. Cuban sandwiches are always a little disappointing for me, and this was no exception. I always have the expectations that they should be more than they are.




Black Bean Deli & Cuban Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, April 11, 2016

Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival

I ventured out to Busch Gardens to check out their Food & Wine Festival. This was my first time going to the park during this event, so I really didn't know what to expect. They had 26 booths set up in the back section of the park, mostly under the ruins of Gwazi. You could have bought everything individually, but I went with the package where you got a punch card to try multiple food options.
The first thing I tried was the Venison Chili from the booth called Southern Station. The Food & Wine booklet described this as Venison Chili featuring roasted corn, black beans, and lime sour cream. Pretty tasty, although it was hard to taste the ground venison once in chili form.
Up next was the Potato and Goat Cheese Tart from the Light Fare Canteen booth. This one sounded good, but the goat cheese flavor wasn't prevalent enough.
Duck Tacos came from the Chef's Plantation booth. I think this might have been my favorites of the food I tried. The shredded duck was nice and tender, served in tortillas with cabbage and duck sauce.
I tried the Smoked Beef Brisket from the Gourmet Lodge Booth. It was served with Potatoes Au Gratin. The brisket seemed to be the same meat that is served elsewhere in the park at Zambia Smokehouse. I'm a fan of the brisket at Busch Gardens, so that's a good thing. Potatoes au gratin were disappointing though. Very bland tasting.
Lamb Chop topped with Tzatziki served with tabouleh came from the Field House Eatery Booth. Two pieces of on-bone lamb were placed over the tabouleh. The lamb was a little chewy, but had nice flavor.
Finally, I ended with the Pan-Seared Creole Shrimp with white corn artisan grits from the Artisan Eats booth. The two large shrimp were topped with some sort of salsa and greens. Can't go wrong with shrimp and grits.
Overall, I had fun at the Food & Wine Festival. They did more for the event than I expected with lots of new topiaries and extra entertainment. More importantly, they did a good job with most of the food. If only they would bring more of this food into the park's restaurants for the rest of the year, many of which could use some work...

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