Redesigned Royal Blue Grocery near Second Street doubles square footage

With more than 12,000 people living in downtown Austin, it’s somewhat of a surprise that there aren’t more grocery options.

Whole Foods Market is way over on the western edge of downtown, and it’s not an easy walk from a condo, say, on Rainey Street. H-E-B has locations on East Seventh and South Congress and there’s a Randalls on Lake Austin Boulevard, and those are the stores where you’ll find delivery drivers and shoppers fulfilling online orders for downtown denizens who don’t have a car or who don’t want to get out.

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The Royal Blue Grocery stores downtown serve as a place to grab a coffee or a beer, a bite to eat and maybe even a few groceries. Contributed by Royal Blue

On the other hand, Austinites who live downtown have Royal Blue Grocery, which calls itself a “compact urban grocery store” with six locations within just a few blocks of each other, and though it’s not the kind of store where you could buy all your groceries, it’s a good option to have for last-minute stuff.

Royal Blue has six locations downtown.

One of those locations, the one at 241 W. 3rd Street, has just finished a major overhaul and expansion that doubles the square footage from 1,000 to 2,235.

This Royal Blue space will host a grand opening from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday with lots of samples. All the Royal Blue stores are open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

The new store will feature outdoor patio seating; a full espresso bar; beer and wine; hot food; a mix of new and local vendors like Eastside Pies by the slice, Stumptown Coffee and Tacodeli Tacos.

Love lox? Check out this salmon schmear that’s perfect for bagels

It takes a special person to love spreadable meats. Canned pate, the cheap kind we used to buy at Mercadona in Spain, is perhaps my favorite spreadable meat, but I recently made a schmear-able salmon spread that reminded me how much I love it.

This no-cook recipe is for rillettes, a fancy word for spreadable meat, but you could mix together room temperature cream cheese with smoked salmon for an even easier lunch or breakfast.

Salmon rillettes are a light summer meal that you can take on an outdoor picnic. This version is from Le Picnic: Chic Food for On-the-Go by Suzy Ashford (Smith Street Books, $19.99). Contributed by Chris Middleton

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Salmon Rillettes

3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 French shallot, thickly sliced
1 (9-ounce) salmon fillet
Sea salt flakes
3 1/2 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped, reserving a piece to garnish
3 dill sprigs, stems removed, plus an extra sprig to garnish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup crème fraîche or light sour cream

In a small saucepan, bring the wine, shallot and 1 cup water to the boil over medium heat. Season the salmon fillet with salt and add it to the hot liquid. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to rest in the poaching liquid for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the salmon from the poaching liquid and place in a mixing bowl. Cover and leave until cool. Remove the skin and any bones, then flake the salmon. Add the smoked salmon, dill, lemon juice and crème fraîche and stir with a spatula until combined.

Pack the rillettes into a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved smoked salmon and dill. Cover and chill until needed; the rillettes will keep for 3 days.

To serve, spread onto fresh baguette or cucumber slices, or spread into lengths of celery. Serves 8 to 10 as a starter.

— From “Le Picnic: Chic Food for On-the-Go” by Suzy Ashford (Smith Street Books, $19.99)

Check out the latest lifelike cake from ‘Texas Cake House’ before it flies away

The cake artists who run Sideserf Cakes and star in the Food Network show “Texas Cake House” have made cakes that looks like a bleeding heart, a chimp, LeBron James and the human-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

But earlier this year while filming for the show, Natalie and Dave Sideserf made a cake for the Umlauf Sculpture Garden that will make you look twice.

This blue heron cake will be featured on Saturday’s episode of “Texas Cake House.” Contributed by Food Network

Inspired by a blue heron that occasionally visited the sculpture garden off Barton Springs Road, the cake artists made a life-sized heron with realistic feathers and two legs sturdy enough to hold up the edible bird.

It’s a sugar sculpture in a sculpture garden and an impressive one at that. You can catch the whole episode with the blue heron cake — “Fly Me to the Moon” is the name of the episode if you want to record or search for it — this Saturday at noon on the Food Network.

ICYMI last week, the Sideserfs made this two-headed dog cake for Roky Erickson’s 70th birthday.

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Below, you’ll find a few photos of the Sideserf’s amazing cakes.

Photos from SideserfCakes.com

9 Austin-area food companies among 25 finalists in H-E-B contest

H-E-B has picked the 25 finalists in its 2017 Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best competition, and Central Texas entrepreneurs are dominating the competition.

Nine Austin-area companies will be competing in the final round for a combined $70,000 and a chance to get their products on H-E-B shelves. The 25 finalists were selected from almost 600 entries from across the state.

Four winners will be chosen based on quality, marketability and product readiness on Aug. 10-11 at the Central Texas Food Bank.

The Austin-area finalists are:

Bola Pizza (Jamie and Christian Bowers), Austin

Cocina 54 (Cecilia Panichelli and Federico Carrillo), Austin

Damon W Lambert Inc. (Laura and Boss Lambert), Wimberley

GFY Kitchen (Tim Elias), Austin

Ladybird Provisions (Sarah Rioux), Austin

Skull & Cakebones (Sascha Biesi and Yauss Berenji), Austin

Tamale Addiction (Adrian and Mariana Paredes), Austin

Texas Pecan Cake Shop (Bridget and Will McCoy), Betram

Wander Life (Katherine Waldrip), Austin

Do you have what it takes to win a pie-eating contest?

Ready to watch (or participate in) a pie-eating contest?

Ready to eat some pie? This weekend, Indian Roller and a local bakery startup called Zucchini Kill are hosting a pie-eating contest and a pie-baking contest. Tina Phan / American-Statesman

This weekend, a local bakery startup called Zucchini Kill and the South Austin bar Indian Roller are hosting what they are calling Grandma Rhoda’s South Austin Pie Off, a day of festivities on Saturday that includes pie-eating and pie-baking contests.

Although Zucchini Kill specializes in allergen-free baking, the contest is open to all styles, according to the Facebook page.

Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at Indian Roller, 10006 Manchaca Road, contestants will drop off pies for a panel of judges, including chef Armando Carranza of Panchita Taco Taco, who will be judging the pies on three categories: best crust, best filling and best overall. Cash prize goes to 1st place.

The pie-eating contest will feature pies from Zucchini Kill Bakery, and there will be a watermelon seed spitting contest and maybe even cupcake jousting. Send an email to indianrollerbooking@gmail.com to sign up to enter the bake-off or eating contest.

Exploring Portland’s first food hall, with a stop by Mt. Hood for pizza

I’ll be dreaming about that grapefruit radler by a creek in the Mt. Hood National Forest for weeks.

There I am, sipping on a shandy in the shade, and my kids are playing in the stream by some waterfalls. They are slathered in sunscreen borrowed from another family hanging out at this enchanted waterway under a bridge. We have just hiked a mile and a half along a fern-lined trail with soaring trees above and glitter afoot.

This creek deep in the Mt. Hood National Forest was a chilly refuge on a hot July Oregon day in what I like to call Camp Mom. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

It was worth every step, they said on the way back to the car.

For two weeks, we are taking steps in every direction up here in the Pacific Northwest. First in Portland and soon, in Boise, where my sister lives.

Camp Mom, I’m calling it. Where we eat pizza next to a snow-covered mountain top.

Pizza from the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Hood. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

In Oregon, I’m here with my closest girlfriends. We met as roommates in Spain, so our first endeavor was a tapas trail, where we hopped from restaurant to restaurant, eating as Spanish as we could.

Small plates from Taqueria Nueve in Portland. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Taqueria Nueve, St. Jack, Ataula and Pollo Bravo served us well in our efforts to drink lots of red wine and gin and tonics and eat patatas bravas, croquetas, pulpo and chicken mousse. (We were hoping for a thicker pate-like consistency in that meat puree, though. “Basically human cat food,” Rachel says of the canned stuff we loved in Alicante.)

The rotisserie chicken at Pollo Bravo is served with sauces, including aioli and romesco. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

A highlight has been Pine Street Market, where we already spent two meals’ worth of time yesterday. Portland’s first indoor food court opened last year in the historic Carriage & Baggage Building, a skylit livery dating back to 1886. You’ll find everything from burgers and espresso to ramen and bibimbap, with a little Salt & Straw ice cream and Spanish bodega thrown in.

Oh, and a juice bar and a “frankfurter test kitchen” from Olympia Provisions.

Inside Pine Street Market, you’ll find nine mini outposts of Portland’s top restaurants and food shops. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

It’s a busy space glimmering with culinary delights.

Julian ordered the ramen from Marukin, a Japanese chain with nine locations abroad and only a couple in the U.S. My youngest got pizza from Trifecta Annex, whose owner Ken Folkish has several bread cookbooks for sale next to the breads behind the counter.

Ramen from Marukin, a Japanese restaurant with two locations in Portland. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I sipped on a sake and munched on a happy hour chicken karaage from Marukin while we refueled after a long day of walking around downtown. Later, my friend Erin met us for the most amazing rotisserie chicken with aioli and romesco sauce from Pollo Bravo.

Another splendid afternoon in Oregon, even without the creek.

 

 

 

If you get a food-borne illness this month, here’s why you need to report it ASAP

No one like to talk about food poisoning, but keeping food safe is a big part of being able to enjoy it.

Fresh produce is usually the culprit of cyclosporiasis, a disease caused by a parasite that thrives on raw fruit, vegetables and greens. Washing doesn’t remove the parasite, but cooking kills it. Contributed by Mary Helen Leonard

There’s an outbreak of cyclosporiasis in Texas right now — that’s the food-borne illness from the cyclospora parasite — that has sickened at least 68 people.

Cyclosporiasis is a food-borne illness that is not usually fatal, but it does cause vomiting and diarrhea. Contributed by the CDC

What’s the contaminated food? That’s the thing. The Department of Health Services hasn’t been able to figure out where the parasite is coming from, so they need your help.

If you or someone you know comes down with the symptoms of cyclosporiasis, which include diarrhea, cramps, fatigue and vomiting, let your health care provider know as soon as possible so they can test and report any additional cases.

Why does this matter? Until the health department can nail down which specific produce item is making people sick, more people will fall ill. It’s not typically fatal, but nobody wants a food system with undetected cyclospora parasites being shipped and consumed all over the place on raspberries, herbs, lettuce or the like.

One of the recent cyclosporiasis outbreaks in Austin happened in 2015 when more than a dozen Austinites consumed contaminated cilantro imported from Mexico.

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Health officials recommend thoroughly washing all produce, but cyclospora can be difficult to wash off. Cooking will kill the parasite, however.

The bright (and not-so-bright) side of making Jell-O cookies

Jell-O and cookies are two super kid-friendly desserts, but what happens when you combine them?

A few weeks ago, a reader emailed me about Jell-O cookies that she’d seen in an Arizona newspaper and thought me and my boys might like to try for a summer project. I picked up some Jell-O on a slow weekend day, and we set out to try this somewhat weird combination.

Making Jell-O cookies is easy, but don’t use more Jell-O than the recipe calls for. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The recipe (below) is a simple sugar cookie recipe, but some of the sugar is replaced with the Jell-O. The original recipe said you could halve the recipe to make different colors, so that’s what I did, but I made the mistake of using the whole package of Jell-O in each.

To be honest, I was just trying not to waste half a pack of Jell-O, but looking back, I should have just tossed that extra 1 1/2 ounces because the resulting cookies — though cute — were too tart and sour to really enjoy. The cookies do need that extra 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and even the decorative sugar (or, in our case, Skittles) to sweeten the treats.

These Jell-O cookies were fun for my kids to roll out and cut. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Otherwise, this was a fun cookie to make! The dough has a nice texture to it that’s easy to roll and cut with the cookie cutters. The bright red color of the cherry Jell-O was more eye-popping than the grape flavor, and even though we didn’t like that first batch (because of my error), I’m going to try again with the lime Jell-O, just to see how the green turns out.

We added Skittles to our Jell-O cookies. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

If you’re looking for a brightly colored cookie that does not have Jell-O in it, you should check out this story we did a few years ago about making colored dough for the most adorable sugar cookies ever.

You can just use food coloring to brighten up your sugar cookie dough. Tina Phan / American-Statesman

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Jell-O Cookies

3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 (3-ounce) package Jell-O or flavored gelatin powder (not sugar-free)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour, or slightly more if batter is too sticky
Food coloring, if desired for more color
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and Jell-O until well blended. Add eggs and cream well. Add salt, baking powder and flour, mixing well. Add food coloring if desired.
Scoop batter into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours to harden. When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out patterns. Sprinkle with decorative sugar.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cookies on baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until done. Let cool on baking rack and then store in airtight container.

— Adapted from a recipe by Jan D’Atri

This picnic-friendly Moroccan carrot salad feeds all five senses

It turns out that raisins, pepitas, mint, parsley and chickpeas go together like peas and carrots.

This Moroccan carrot salad is a hearty summer side dish that could double as a light lunch. Contributed by Erin Gleeson

This carrot salad from “Forest Feast Gatherings: Simple Vegetarian Menus for Hosting Friends & Family” by Erin Gleeson (Harry N. Abrams, $35) pulls in crunch from the pepitas, carrots and quinoa, a kick of sugar from the raisins, a bitterness from the parsley, a brightness from the mint and a smoky tang from the dressing.

This salad keeps well for a picnic or a hike. Or just another workday at the office. Careful if you’re using a mandoline. You could use shredded carrots for this salad to save some time and effort.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

5 medium carrots, sliced into thin “coins” using a mandoline or knife
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup pepitas
1/2 cup chickpeas, drained
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons mint
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil

Toss all ingredients. This can be made ahead, but add pepitas, herbs and dressing just before serving. The quinoa can be made the day before.

— From “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods” by Erin Gleeson (Harry N. Abrams, $35)

Former Jeffrey’s chef Rebecca Meeker is now running a meal delivery startup, Lucky Lime

Want to get a meal from one of Austin’s top chefs without leaving your house?

Rebecca Meeker was the executive chef of Jeffrey’s and Josephine House for five years before deciding last year to take a step out of professional kitchens and into a less shiny commissary, where she’s launched Lucky Lime, a meal delivery service that drops off healthy, chef-driven food once a week to customers all over the city.

Chef Rebecca Meeker ran some of Austin’s top kitchens before opening Lucky Lime, a meal delivery service that drops off high-end, healthy food to customers once a week. Contributed by Lucky Lime.

The menu focuses on good-for-you food “that you’d want to eat on a beach,” Meeker says, and is inspired by her years cooking in high-end Asian and French kitchens in Taiwan and New York.

“I was at Jeffrey’s for five years, and it was where it needed to be. I felt confident that they could take over and grow it,” she says. “I had this big overwhelming feeling that I needed to do something different this year.”

She teamed up with Chris Duty, a startup founder and investor who is interested in healthy cooking, to start Lucky Lime. Instead of seeking out investors to go big, they went small, creating a curated menu and relying mostly on word-of-mouth advertising.

“It’s still just an idea in a space where it can start to grow,” she says.

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She had to figure out how to develop meals that would be OK in a fridge for a day before being delivered to customers’ homes or offices, which was her biggest learning curve. She figured out that cooking the rice in coconut milk would help its texture in the fridge, and that you couldn’t use olive oil in the vinaigrettes because it solidifies in the cold.

Lucky Lime’s bestselling menu item is this poke salad served with coconut rice. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

In the height of summer, she’s serving lighter fare, such as collard green wraps filled with mango chicken salad or pineapple barbecue steak, but who knows how it will change this fall and winter. The poke salad will likely always be on the menu because it’s such a bestseller, but after a recent trip to Baja Mexico, she wants to incorporate some Mexicali dishes inspired by the hybrid farm-restaurants she enjoyed while she was there.

“The great thing is that I can change it every week,” she says.

Meeker calls this style of business a “floating restaurant,” inspired by the likes of the recently closed Maple in New York from chef David Chang. It’s the fastest way for a chef to prepare the things he or she wants to cook, without getting bogged down in building permits and loans to open a physical space. “The overhead is non-existent compared to other restaurants,” she says.

This kiwi radish salad is one of the dishes Rebecca Meeker recently had on the menu at Lucky Lime, her meal delivery company. Contributed by Lucky Lime.

At some point, Meeker might add a to-go counter so people can get the food without ordering ahead, but right now, customers have to place an order online on Friday for a Monday delivery. They deliver all over the Austin area, and the neighborhoods placing the most orders are 78704 and 78701. Through her Mindful Lunches program, Meeker says she’s hoping to tap into Austin’s lucrative office catering business, where companies order meals for their employees.

Papi’s Kitchen recently ceased the delivery part of its business, which we wrote about in April as one of Austin’s first virtual restaurants. Owner Fernando Saralegui says hoping to continue to build the brand with events and other marketing avenues.

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Veteran chef takes new approach with one of Austin’s first delivery-only restaurants