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 Kaszeta's 2012 in Review

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kaszeta

Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 12/18/12 2:39 PM (permalink)
Like the last two years, I figure it was good to do a year in review thread.
 
This year started out slowly: for a variety of reasons I did almost no travel the first three months of the year, and originally thought 2012 might be a mild year for me.  That said, as I'm sitting here now, I've visited and written up 112 places this year (see the full list here), and the year's not even over yet (I'm slated to visit Buffalo, Detroit, and Cleveland in the next 10 days)!.  Here's a nice Google Maps breakdown:
 

 
What started as a slow year turned into quite a few trips (9 US states and four foreign countries):
  1. A trip to Quebec City for the Winter Carnival
  2. A trip to Chicago for this year's Death March (read the full trip report here)
  3. A repeat trip to Austin, TX for more BBQ and food carts
  4. Several day trips to NYC and Montreal courtesy of Dartmouth College's After Hours employee program
  5. Accompanying my partner to a conference in San Antonio
  6. A work trip to the Arizona dessert to test things for work in hot climates
  7. The Iceland Trip (an entire thread of its own)
  8. A trip to Frankfurt, Germany, hitting London again on the way home
  9. A trip to Minnesota to give an invited talk, and visit some old haunts.
That, and a lot of local exploration made for a very busy year (and uncountably many calories!).
 
So, let me start off with the local attractions.  2012 was a rather good year for our local area (the Upper Valley region of VT/NH).  In late 2011 or 2012, we had several new places open up, including Cantore's Pizza (West Lebanon, NH), The Lebanon Diner (Lebanon, NH), Worthy Burger (South Royalton, VT), and 3 Guys Basement BBQ (Hanover, NH).  For our area, that's a lot of new restaurants, and the results varied:
 
Cantore's Pizza (if the name sounds familiar, it's owned by the brother of the Weather Channel's meteorologist Jim Cantore) opened up in late 2011 (review here, and they've been a very good addition to the local pizza scene.  While pizza slices don't always photograph well, the slices I've had there all have the basic qualities I look for in a good New York style slice: A fairly thin crust (I do think they go a little thin) with a really good amount of toasting from the oven, a sauce that’s primarily tasting of tomatoes and not salt or sugar (not overwhelming the crust), decent mozzarella cheese amply applied, and a good selection of quality cold cuts and veggies for toppings:

 
The Lebanon Diner (review here) added to downtown Lebanon something that's been lacking for decades: a decent breakfast spot.  While they were off to a bit of a rough start, after a bit they caught their stride, and both the CBH and the Biscuits and Gravy are made in-house, and are both quite good.  Here's a pic of their very flavorful biscuits and gravy:

 
Worthy Burger (review here) was one of the most-anticipated local restaurants we've had in years, and opened up a combination beer and burger bar featuring regional beers and good burgers.  The beer list was a phenomenal success from the start, as were their tallow-cooked fries.  The burgers started off a bit rougher (they grill them over wood, which is a bit of a challenge to get right), but my latest kimchi and Vermont cheddar burger was one of the best burgers of the year (although later in the thread I'll talk about some even better burgers...):

 
3 Guys Basement BBQ (review here) was also a highly-anticipated restaurant, and has generally been well received, like the vast majority of "New England BBQ" places, I was skeptical... and somewhat rightly so.  Their brisket was decent.  The pulled pork wasn't, resembling some sort of ill-conceived spaghetti dish.  But their smoked bacon was quite enjoyable.  So while my primary approach to getting BBQ will be to head to a part of the country where they have some inkling of what BBQ should actually beer, 3 Guy's Brisket and Bacon will serve as some decent methadone for my BBQ addictions:

 
That's it for now, I'll cover a few other local places next, and then start with the highlights of the various trips.
 
#1
    kland01s

    • Total Posts: 2835
    • Joined: 3/14/2003
    • Location: Fox River Valley, IL
    Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 12/18/12 3:08 PM (permalink)
    Kaszetas, your photographs of Iceland where some of the most stunning ever posted here. I'm looking forward to your highlights!
     
    #2
      buffetbuster

      Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 12/18/12 3:14 PM (permalink)
      I agree with kland01s about the photos from Iceland!  Very much looking forward to this report.
       
      #3
        mar52

        • Total Posts: 7598
        • Joined: 4/17/2005
        • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
        Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 12/18/12 5:51 PM (permalink)
        Ditto! l
         
        Your reports and photographs are top notch.
         
        #4
          kaszeta

          Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Wed, 12/19/12 9:03 AM (permalink)
          Next up:  "Local" places that I either hadn't visited in years, or had somehow neglected to write up.
           
          First and foremost is Coffee Corner in Montpelier, VT (review here).  Located downtown at the corner of State and Main, it’s got a nice little interior, with a short serving counter, half a dozen booths, and then the coolest feature: a large communal table nestled into the front window, so you can eat while gazing out at the street life of Montpelier.  It's also where Alton Brown filmed his "Flap Jack Do it Again" episode on pancakes.  They've got great pancakes, but this time I opted for their Beefeater: a bed of home fries (and they’ve got good home fries, nicely cooked with onions and herbs), top those with shaved seasoned angus beef, then topped that with shredded Cabot and two eggs. Served up with toast, it’s a rather nice little breakfast:

           
          Next up is Wasp's Snack Bar in Woodstock, VT (review [url=]here[/url]).  I love Wasp's, it's a nice little snack bar just outside of downtown in Woodstock, VT, and they have a pretty good breakfast and lunch menu, and some really good cooks (when I order benedicts, they make the hollandaise to order in front of you).  But I don't get there very often, since (by choice, to avoid the rush and the tourists) they generally aren't open on weekends, so it needs to be a special occasion when I'm off work for me to visit.  This time, I decided to get the grilled ham and cheese with potato salad, which was a perfect grilled sandwich coupled with a nicely executed salad that actually tasted of potatoes (instead of those “potato” salads that are mostly mayo or egg) with just a little bit of bacon:

           
          Penny Cluse Cafe in Burlington, VT (review here) is another perennial favorite that I seem to have neglected to write up despite it being a regular VT breakfast destination for me.  Located at the corner of Cherry St and Winooski Ave, it’s just around the corner from Church Street, so getting in here for breakfast on a Saturday can be a bit of a wait. An hour, in our case, until I managed to sweet-talk the hostess into letting us squeeze in at the counter, which is a nice spot, since you can look down into their kitchen.  This time I opted for their most excellent biscuits and gravy (which is doubly surprising that I enjoy it so much, since it's vegetarian):

          and their Rancheros

           
          The Old Courthouse in Newport, NH (review here) is another neglected spot that's actually a pretty frequent destination for us, since they are the nearest good "fine dining" restaurant to our house in the middle of nowhere in NH.  This time they were having a Polish Dinner in celebration of Polish Heritage month, highlights being the "polish platter":

          and the Bigos:

           
          Finally, circumstances demanded that I revisit another local popular place, Gusanoz in Lebanon, NH (review here).  Gusanoz fills an important niche: they are pretty much the only halfway-authentic Mexican restaurant around the immediate area (we have a few really tacky Tex-Mex "cantina" joints as the only alternative), although they've always been a bit of a customer service nightmare.  And if any of you watch Restaurant Impossible, they were featured on that show (which isn't a good thing, you've got to be on the verge of bankruptcy to be on that show).  They got makeovers to their restaurant (which previously had a decor best described as "Late Period La Cucaracha Tacky") and some menu improvements (although the items I always get have always been good), and some guidance on improving customer service.  Well, IMHO, they still stink at customer service, but their menu continues to have some decent food, like this quite enjoyable pollo mole, that make it worth occasionally dealing with lackluster service:

           
           
          #5
            kaszeta

            Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Wed, 12/19/12 5:44 PM (permalink)
            Another common theme this year is that it was a particularly good year for breakfasts.  Aside from diner fare, my area isn't exactly known for breakfasts, but my various travels took me to a lot of seriously great breakfasts.
             
            Here are some good examples, in rough chronological order....
             
            A trip down to Boston in April to pick up my brother from the airport led to meeting up with friends at Sofra in Cambridge, MA (review here).  I ended up settling on the Migas: cubed French bread with chorizo, roasted veggies and a poached egg. Chorizo? Poached egg? Hard to say no to this combination, and I’m glad I got it. The chorizo was quite flavorful, the egg perfectly poached, and the little cubes of French bread just soaked up all the extra juices. This was pretty close to the perfect breakfast for me:


            My friend opted for the Shakshuka, a fairly simple dish of poached eggs in a tomato curry broth served up with some bread, it looked wonderful. And smelled even more delicious. While I adored my migas, this was so good, I ended up getting this dish on a return visit in May:

             
            A trip in April also led us to Cambridge on a Sunday around brunchtime, and we were able to score a seat at Craigie on Main (review here).  We started simple, with pork belly. This literally was just that, two ample slices of pork belly, seared up nicely on the grill, and served up to us on a plate. Nothing more, and nothing less. Except that these were top-notch examples of good, flavorful pork belly:

            Next up was the brunch carbonara “Noir”. This was a solidly good carbonara, made with all the right techniques: fresh pasta, obviously finished in the sauce. A pleasantly light sauce with guanciale (pig cheek bacon, aka “face bacon” which is getting to be one of the trendy things these days) and boudin noir (French-style blood sausage). Top all of that with a perfectly poached egg:

            And it's not breakfast with hash.  Here's theirs, which was the item that brought me to Craigie. Quoting from the menu: “Grass-Fed & House-Brined Corned Beef Cheek & Smoked Beef Tongue Hash”. How could I not order this? And indeed, it was everything I was hoping for. The house-brined corned beef was nicely spiced, soft, and meat. The smoked beef tongue had a nice texture, and just enough smoke to add a nice dimension to the dish. Topped with nicely done onion rings and a perfect poached egg, this was a phenomenal brunch entree:

             
            Our trip to Austin, aside from the food carts and BBQ, also led to two really good breakfast taco joints. The first was Flaco's Tacos (review here) who served up this most awesome pair of tacos, one barbacoa taco, and a nopalito (cactus) taco. The barbacoa was one of the best barbacoas she’s had, with nice, juicy, and flavorful chunk of tender meat, while the nopalito had nicely simmered bits of cactus served up with some eggs. Like mine, the tacos were cheap, nicely assembled, and flavorful:

            And Maria's Taco Xpress (review here) was also quite good.  I ordered up one with chorizo, potato, and black bean, and another with migas.  The first had nicely spiced chorizo, tender potatoes, and really savory black beans, all in a very nicely toasted flour tortilla. Nothing fancy, but perfectly executed. The migas was also the right mix of everything: perfectly cooked eggs, a really nice salsa, some fried chopped onions and peppers, and tortilla chips that are just starting to soften from being mixed in:

            And our other trip to Texas, to San Antonio, yielded a good breakfast joint as well, Grumpy's Mexican Cafe (review here).  I went for their migas.  This was a very flavorful migas, cooked up with the tortilla strips still somewhat firm, nice flavorful chunks of ham, and plentiful cheese (a four cheese blend) and salsa, and this was very satisfying. The beans were also flavorful and yummy as well (which usually means, in my experience, that I don’t really want to know how fatty they are…). Served up with rather nice red and green salsas on the side, I enjoyed this dish a lot. It wasn’t haute cuisine, but it was good:

            Carol's Chicken Fried Steak was also a massively impressive construction.  A large dinner-plate-sized portion of chicken-fried steak was served up with a thick layer of gravy, two eggs, hashbrowns, and biscuits. The result was one of the largest breakfasts I’ve seen in recent history. On top of that, it was also a really well done chicken-fried steak, with a nice flaky exterior and a tender, juicy interior. Not the best I’ve had, but definitely near the top of the list. (For those wondering, that honor, as well as the most excessive breakfast honor, still go to the Pines Cafe in Palmdale, CA, although they’ve since closed, so I can’t ever repeat that feat):

             
            Finally, we also managed to have an outstanding brunch at a fairly new (open in 2011) brunch place near us: Market Table in Hanover, NH (Review here). I opted for the corned beef hash served up with potatos, salad, poached eggs, and hollandaise. I’ll say one thing up front, this was definitely a place that made its own hash that wasn’t out of a can, since it was a rich and flavorful hash with a lot of meatiness and some nice spice and vegetable notes. It was definitely one of those homemade hashes that was more on the “pot roast” end of the spectrum than the “corned beef” end, but I actually don’t mind that if it’s well done:

            <message edited by kaszeta on Wed, 12/19/12 5:45 PM>
             
            #6
              mr chips

              • Total Posts: 4715
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              • Location: portland, OR
              Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Fri, 12/28/12 2:26 PM (permalink)
              Great photos and interesting reviews. And the Iceland report was one of the best ever oroadfood, a great mix of photos and food info on a place I knew little about.
               
               
              #7
                ChrisOC

                • Total Posts: 901
                • Joined: 7/9/2008
                • Location: Ocean City, NJ
                Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Fri, 12/28/12 2:50 PM (permalink)
                Your photos are amazing!!   
                 
                #8
                  kaszeta

                  Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Fri, 12/28/12 4:56 PM (permalink)
                  Need to get back to this, buf my Buffalo-Detroit-Cleveland trip is still in full swing.
                   
                  #9
                    mar52

                    • Total Posts: 7598
                    • Joined: 4/17/2005
                    • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
                    Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Fri, 12/28/12 5:05 PM (permalink)
                    I am so hungry after seeing these latest pictures!  They are beautiful!
                     
                    I want poached eggs in curry sauce!
                     
                    #10
                      FriedClamFanatic

                      • Total Posts: 1496
                      • Joined: 7/14/2008
                      • Location: west chester, PA
                      Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Fri, 12/28/12 11:48 PM (permalink)
                      OMG...first Iceland...now NE....wants to make me move back to Milford NH...............nah...............keep the snow but keep the stuff coming!!!
                       
                      I'll be up some time to visit cousins in Tunbridge VT...........so the reports are greatly appreciated!
                       
                      #11
                        buffetbuster

                        Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sat, 12/29/12 12:16 AM (permalink)
                        Without a doubt, the best photos on Roadfood! Thank you so much for sharing.
                         
                        #12
                          ChiTownDiner

                          Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sat, 12/29/12 9:53 AM (permalink)
                          Well done and great photos!  Nice mix!
                           
                          #13
                            ann peeples

                            • Total Posts: 8317
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                            • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
                            Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sat, 12/29/12 10:28 AM (permalink)
                            Outstanding- both on food choices and photography......
                             
                            #14
                              scrumptiouschef

                              • Total Posts: 640
                              • Joined: 10/5/2005
                              • Location: austin, TX
                              Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sat, 12/29/12 10:39 AM (permalink)
                              Brilliant. Keep em coming.
                               
                              #15
                                kaszeta

                                Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sat, 12/29/12 5:27 PM (permalink)
                                Well, I might as well start talking about some of the trips we did.  Unusually, I didn't have any work travel scheduled for the first three months of 2012, but that didn't stop me from getting around.  Indeed, when my coworker asked if Carol and I were interested in going with her to Quebec City in February for the Winter Carnival, we couldn't say no.
                                It's a really impressive Carnival, and Les Quebecois do a great job celebrating winter instead of cursing at it, with snow carving...

                                ...and ice castles:

                                 
                                But it was also a chance to dine at some nice Quebecois places, including Casse-Crepe Breton (full review here: a cozy little cafe with approximately 10 tightly packed booths cranking out crepe after crepe.   My jambon, suisse, epinard,  and champignon crepe was quite good:

                                As was our dessert crepe of banana and chocolate:

                                 
                                And while we really enjoyed wandering around in the subzero weather, that meant burning a lot of calories, so we eventually ended up stopping at Restaurant A La Nouvelle France (full review here) for poutine:

                                And another Quebecois specialty: split pea soup:

                                 
                                And, before heading home, we decided that we should avail ourselves of one of Quebec's finer dining establishments: Le Hobbit (review here).  Located just outside of the walled part of the city, Le Hobbit served up a most excellent Duck Confit:

                                And one of the most over-the-top Creme Brulees I've seen in recent history:

                                 
                                All in all, Quebec, QC, did us well!
                                <message edited by kaszeta on Sat, 12/29/12 5:28 PM>
                                 
                                #16
                                  kland01s

                                  • Total Posts: 2835
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                                  • Location: Fox River Valley, IL
                                  Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sat, 12/29/12 5:34 PM (permalink)
                                  Again, top notch photos!
                                   
                                  #17
                                    FriedClamFanatic

                                    • Total Posts: 1496
                                    • Joined: 7/14/2008
                                    • Location: west chester, PA
                                    Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sun, 12/30/12 12:49 AM (permalink)
                                    Kazeta.........RF does not give out awards for the best posts of the year.........and so.you do not win the Nobel Peace Prize.....nor the Noble Piece Prize ( although that shot for the Creme Brulee comes close!).............but for this and the Iceland commentary..............a Hearty Big Mac-thanks for a great year and all the best in 2013!.  Keep those cards and letters and PHOTOS!!!!!!!!!!!! coming
                                     
                                    #18
                                      pnwchef

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                                      Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Sun, 12/30/12 2:40 PM (permalink)
                                      Great ending to a great year of Roadfood, thx for sharing..........How did you come up with the death march idea and name..................take care................pnwc
                                       
                                      #19
                                        kaszeta

                                        Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Mon, 12/31/12 2:30 PM (permalink)
                                        Next up was my Chicago trip.  That was enough for a thread of its own (which you can read here).
                                         
                                        In addition to some nice Chicago photo ops...




                                         
                                        It was also some really fine dining.  Highlights included a trip to Frontera Grill (full review here), where I had two of the most delicious dishes of the year: this chicken in wild ramp crema:

                                        and this Duck with Pasilla-Huitlacoche:

                                        The death march itself was 22.6 miles of walking and eating, and wasn't without some real highlights as well, such as Don Pedro's Carniceria (full review here):


                                        Another fine performer was this perfect slice of coffee cream pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company (full review here)

                                        Meanwhile, these pizzas from Great Lake (full review here) were amongst the best pizzas I had in 2012 (sorry about the dismal lighting):


                                        And our wanderings after the walk were excellent as well, with the standout being The Publican (full review here)



                                         
                                        (And for those interested, the next Death March will be in Boston, around April or May)
                                         
                                        <message edited by kaszeta on Mon, 12/31/12 2:31 PM>
                                         
                                        #20
                                          ChiTownDiner

                                          Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Mon, 12/31/12 5:28 PM (permalink)
                                          Great selection of Chicago restaurants...most are among my favs!
                                           
                                          #21
                                            scrumptiouschef

                                            • Total Posts: 640
                                            • Joined: 10/5/2005
                                            • Location: austin, TX
                                            Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 01/1/13 1:05 PM (permalink)
                                            you can feel a little better about those beans from Flaco's, they noisily went off the manteca and switched to oil awhile back. Olive? Not sure but no more lard.
                                             
                                            #22
                                              kaszeta

                                              Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 01/1/13 8:04 PM (permalink)
                                              Next up after the Chicago trip (indeed, the very next weekend), I met up with other friends for our 3rd annual trip to Austin (the "Meat Meet") for several days of barbecue, food carts, and tacos.
                                              The core of the trip was mostly a reprise of the 2011 trip (which I wrote up here, actually), with repeat visits to Black's BBQ, Kreuz Market, City Market, and Franklin BBQ, but we also added a few places (Stiles Switch and the now-departed JMueller) as well.  But it was still a solidly good trip.
                                               
                                              First, the meat highlights.  Our first visit was to JMueller BBQ (review here), which in most of the online chatter was starting to get mention alongside Franklin as a new paragon of Austin BBQ.  How was it?  The brisket was phenomenal, with a rather good texture and moisture level in both the lean and fatty slices; several places I’ve been can do a great fatty brisket, but put out a dry and mealy lean brisket, but all the slices here were juicy, tender, and just starting to fall apart. Flavor-wise, there was a good smoke ring and a nice smoke taste throughout the meat, although I usually shoot for a bit more smoke left to my own preferences. The bark was also top rate, with a nice caramelized texture, strong salt and pepper flavors (JMueller’s forebears at Louie Muellers also do a very peppery bark), and nice smoke. Overall, this was some great brisket, having that nice lace-like texture that I look for from properly-smoked beef:

                                              The sausage and ribs were excellent as well:

                                              Overall, definitely "top 3" BBQ material... except that JMueller closed amidst internal strife earlier this year.  I'll need to go check out their replacement.
                                               
                                              Next up was a relative newcomer to the Austin scene: Stiles Switch (review here) on Austin's north side:

                                              A nice thing about Stiles Switch is that while it's great BBQ, they don't have any of the drama of some of the other places like Franklin, in that they don't have extreme lines and don't generally run out of product at noon.  How is the BBQ?  It was quite good.  Not quite in the same league as, say, Franklin, but still a top-notch product:

                                              And the ribs were pretty good as well:

                                               
                                              Our repeat visit to Kreuz was also a hit, with us particularly liking the sausage, although the brisket there is pretty good as well:

                                               
                                              But, like 2011, our visit to Franklin BBQ (full review here) showed that their meat continued to be worth the hype.  Furthermore, we found that with a group our size that ordering ahead for takeout was an excellent way of avoiding the lines:

                                              How was the meat? Perfect. Like last year, the bark was dark and crusty, but also spicy and flavorful with a nice pepper tang. The meat was seriously tender, especially the few slices we had from the fatty end pulling apart into a light lace as you tugged at them. It was juicy. And  we even had some leftover:

                                               
                                              So for anyone that really likes BBQ, I still strongly recommend a visit to the Austin area!
                                               
                                              #23
                                                Michael Hoffman

                                                • Total Posts: 17823
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                                                • Location: Gahanna, OH
                                                Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Tue, 01/1/13 8:42 PM (permalink)
                                                Sweet!! Good stuff. Thank you.
                                                 
                                                #24
                                                  HollyDolly

                                                  • Total Posts: 1065
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                                                  • Location: Schertz, TX
                                                  Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Wed, 01/2/13 11:55 AM (permalink)
                                                  Thanks for the great photos and commentary.I'll have to check out the review of Grumpy's as they right up the road from me in Bracken.If you are ever in the San Antonio area again; check out Bracken Cafe which has good burgers.Harmon's BBQ in downtown Cibolo is just a couple of miles from me and pretty good.
                                                  Haven't tried Austin area bbq; and if anyone is in the Austin area you may want to check out Lockhart and Luling for great bbq.
                                                   
                                                  #25
                                                    crew84row

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                                                    • Location: Tallahassee, FL
                                                    Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Wed, 01/2/13 2:17 PM (permalink)
                                                    kaszeta
                                                     

                                                    Another fine performer was this perfect slice of coffee cream pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company (full review here)
                                                     
                                                     



                                                    Interestingly enough, Serious Eats ran a slideshow on Hoosier Mama's pie making process today.
                                                    http://chicago.seriouseats.com/2013/01/behind-the-sweets-lindsay-zamora-makes-smores-pie-at-hoosier-mama-pie-co.html?ref=excerpt_readmore
                                                     
                                                    Now I have to find a local pie to bring home for dinner, LOL.
                                                     
                                                    #26
                                                      brisketboy

                                                      • Total Posts: 1056
                                                      • Joined: 6/11/2007
                                                      • Location: Austin, TX
                                                      Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Wed, 01/2/13 2:25 PM (permalink)
                                                      Luling City Market Smitty's and Salt Lick have long been on my list of go to places. So each time I make the drive from Georgetown to Cabella's we always make a side trip to either Driftwood (Salt Lick) or Lockhart (Smitty's). Our Luling stop is normally on the way to Port Aransas. Great review and I love all the pictures.
                                                       
                                                      #27
                                                        kaszeta

                                                        Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Wed, 01/2/13 3:57 PM (permalink)
                                                        HollyDolly

                                                        Thanks for the great photos and commentary.I'll have to check out the review of Grumpy's as they right up the road from me in Bracken.If you are ever in the San Antonio area again; check out Bracken Cafe which has good burgers.Harmon's BBQ in downtown Cibolo is just a couple of miles from me and pretty good.
                                                        Haven't tried Austin area bbq; and if anyone is in the Austin area you may want to check out Lockhart and Luling for great bbq.

                                                        I hate to say it, but I think the days of having to go to Lockhart and Luling are somewhat over.  This year, JMueller and Franklin were both better than anything we had in Lockhart or Luling (although the Lockhart and Luling places were still quite good).
                                                         
                                                        Speaking of Lockhart, I forgot to mention that we did Black's this year as well:

                                                         
                                                        And to taunt the Austin folks, here's two full briskets from Franklin that our group ordered for takeout.  I'm surprised were weren't mugged by the crowd in line as we walked out:

                                                         
                                                        #28
                                                          kaszeta

                                                          Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Thu, 01/3/13 8:45 AM (permalink)
                                                          Of course, Austin wasn't entirely about BBQ.  In addition to the BBQ and the two taco joints shown above, we also did several food trucks again.  Unfortunately, the very nature of food trucks makes them somewhat ephemeral—in fact, most of the the food trucks (and for that matter, the "food court" areas they had set up in) I had liked the most in 2011 had moved on.  Particularly notable by their absence were Odd Duck (although the reason for its closing was the opening of a brick-and-mortar joint), Love Balls (had their food court closed from under them, but I think they are back now), and Bits and Druthers (not sure what happened there).
                                                          That said, there are still more good food trucks than you can shake a stick at in Austin, and we did pretty well.  Highlights included one of the many Torchy's Tacos trucks (full review here), serving up these decidely non-traditional but delicious tacos (a "trailer trash" (imagine a McDonald's snack wrap, but made correctly with good ingredients), and a "Libertarian" (deep-fried sausage)):

                                                          Other successes included Via 313 (full review here) which showed me that, oddly, "Detroit-Style Pizza" (read, "Buddy's" for those that are actually familiar with Detroit foods) makes for a decent exported food.  Although it's far from my favorite pizza style, Via 313 did a good job of it:

                                                          Other random food carts with good fare included Regal Ravioli:

                                                          who served up this surprisingly good I went for a straightforward order: Cheese Ravioli with Bolognese (sorry about the poor photo, it was really dark).  These were surprisingly good, especially since the ravioli had a bit of lemon zest in them:

                                                          Another good Austin food truck was Coolhaus,

                                                          Coolhaus is serving up made to order ice cream sandwiches, such as this Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Chocolate Chip Cookies:

                                                           
                                                          Other particularly successful food items included these donuts from Gourdoughs:

                                                          this Lobster Roll from Dock and Roll Diner:
                                                          ,
                                                          and another fine taco from Maria's Taco Xpress:

                                                           
                                                          It wasn't all successful.  We found that Wurst Tex was a place where you had to show up really early to score anything before they sold out for the day, but they had a nice sign:

                                                          And one of the most-hyped food trucks was the most disappointing, East Side King (at The Grackle, since there are several East Side King carts, full review here).  They served up this Pork Belly Ssam which should have been good.  The pork itself was decent, but the rice was the finest expression of "stale" that I've had served to me in a long time:

                                                          Still, The Grackle had a cool sign and some good beer:

                                                           
                                                           
                                                          #29
                                                            MetroplexJim

                                                            • Total Posts: 3705
                                                            • Joined: 6/24/2007
                                                            • Location: McKinney, TX
                                                            Re:Kaszeta's 2012 in Review Thu, 01/3/13 8:56 AM (permalink)
                                                            Thank you, Mr. Kaszeta, for both the insightful reviews and the wonderfully composed photography.  I have added your site to my 'favorites'; your posts re: Austin will soon come in very handy!
                                                             
                                                            If you don't mind my asking, what camera do you use?
                                                             
                                                            #30
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