Prune, peach and poppyseed: How to get Old School Kolaches, delivered

Dawn Orsak has spent much of her adult life learning about Texas-Czech foodways.

What started as a personal interest of preserving family history through recipes has turned into a company called At Memory’s Table, where she’ll help others gather their own family recipes, record the stories behind them and preserve them in various forms.

These Old School Kolaches are from At Memory’s Table owner Dawn Orsak. Contributed by Dougal Cormie

In 2016, Orsak co-curated a traveling exhibit on the history of Texas-Czech culture, and one of the biggest ways Texas-Czech heritage has been preserved is through the popularity of kolaches, which you can find everywhere from the refrigerated section of H-E-B to one of the beloved kolache shops in West or La Grange.

Back in 2014, Orsak and I made the journey over to Caldwell to judge the town’s annual kolache baking competition, and now Orsak is getting into the kolache business herself. Through her new cottage business, she’s selling Old School Kolaches, as she’s calling them, by the tray.

RELATED: A plea to Central Texans from a Czech girl: Please stop referring to sausage-filled pastries as ‘kolaches’

Austinite Dawn Orsak is selling her Old School Kolaches from her cottage business, At Memory’s Table. You can order them for delivery in South and Central Austin. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

You can pick up to four flavors — apricot, pecan, fig, poppyseed, prune, peach and apple — for delivery to South and Central Austin at atmemorystable.com. A tray of 24 kolaches (or two trays of 12) costs $60, including delivery.

We tried these kolaches in my Relish Austin livestream last week, which is now sponsored by H-E-B.

 

How to ship Blue Bell anywhere in the country, including new Reese’s-inspired cookie dough flavor

Blue Bell’s newest limited edition flavor combines the best of several worlds into one, but the best news might be that you can order it and have it shipped anywhere in the U.S.

At first glance, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough might seem to be targeting the cookie dough ice cream fans, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it’s the people who love peanut butter cookies and chocolate — aka people who also love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — who will be seeking out this flavor.

RELATED: With no Blue Bell in sight, putting other ice creams to the test

The Brenham-based ice creamery often releases limited edition flavors, which sometimes sell out quickly. This flavor is available in 1/2 gallon and pint sizes, and it’s one of dozens of flavors you can order ($129 for four 1/2 gallons). to have shipped anywhere in the U.S. for  You can’t place the order online, but you can call 979-836-7977 to find out more.

RECIPE: How to make a blueberry muffin ice cream

 

How to buy bulk meat without a Costco membership

At a Costco, many shoppers head straight for the meat and produce aisles.

Instead of going to a warehouse store, thousands of home cooks are buying meat through a direct-to-consumer company called Zaycon Fresh, which is based in Washington state but has more than a dozen pick-up sites in Central Texas. Contributed by Zaycon Fresh

That’s where you’ll find mega packs of ground beef, chicken breasts, fish, sausages and pork chops that cost less per pound than what you typically find at regular grocery store.

Buying large quantities of meat can save you money, but you usually have to use the freezer to take advantage of the savings. That’s why a direct-to-consumer company based in Washington called Zaycon skips the middle man and sells large quantities of already frozen meat — we’re talking 40 pounds here — at more than 1,200 pick-up sites around the country. A few of the products, including the chicken breasts, are sold fresh/not frozen.

(Protip: You can order from Costco without a membership through Instacart, but there is a mark-up on the products you buy.)

Zaycon Fresh sells bulk meat, including beef. Contributed by Zaycon.

Zaycon, which was founded in 2009, has several large pick-up days planned for the Austin area. The company offers more than a dozen pick-up locations around Central Texas, and some of the sites have fewer options than the others.

Here’s the upcoming schedule and examples of what they are selling each visit. You can find out more info and place an order at zayconfresh.com:

Monday, February 12: Hickory Smoked Bacon, Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Fillets, Wild Argentine Red Shrimp, Pork Sausage Links
Saturday, March 3: Ground Turkey, Pork Tenderloins, Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, Sweet Italian Sausages
Saturday, March 24: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Thursday, April 12: Ground Beef, Applewood Smoked Ham
Wednesday, May 2: Chicken Tenderloins, USDA Choice Chuck Roast, Kansas City Strip Steaks, Pulled Pork
Friday, May 25: Wild Alaskan Cod Fillets, Hickory Smoked Bacon

How to send Texas grapefruit to your friends who are snowed in

Grapefruit is one of the only seasonal winter fruits you’ll find in the grocery store, and many South Texas farms will ship boxes of Ruby Red varieties anywhere in the U.S. Contributed by Nelly Paulina Ramirez

Love Texas grapefruit? Me, too.

I’d forgotten the story about how Ruby Red grapefruit came to be until researching one of my favorite winter fruits this week. Apparently, orange growers in Florida weren’t that interested in growing the then-bitter grapefruit that first arrived in 1823. Eventually, Texas farmers started experimenting with the crop, and in 1929, a farmer whose name seems to be lost to history discovered a one-off mutation that was bright pink.

RELATED: Go ahead and buy that big bag of citrus. Here’s how to use it up.

From that single discovery, Texas now has a booming grapefruit business, growing about 10 percent of the U.S. crop. Arizona, California and Florida are the only other states with commercial grapefruit operations, but we know that those Ruby Red grapefruit — in varieties like Rio Red, Star Ruby and March Ruby — from the Rio Grande Valley are just about the best ones you’ll find.

You can buy top notch Ruby Red grapefruit online for shipping anywhere in the U.S. Contributed by South Tex Organics

If you live in Texas, you can walk into just about any grocery store and buy top-notch grapefruit this time of year, but if you really want to impress your friends who live elsewhere, there are a number of orchards that make it easy to ship fruit anywhere in the U.S.

A warning: These babies aren’t cheap. We’re talking like $25 for 8 grapefruit, but if you love grapefruit and don’t mind dropping the cash, this would make a really nice winter surprise for someone buried under snow up north.

Earth Born Market

Laura’s Delicious Rio Red Grapefruit

South Texas Citrus Shop

South Tex Organics

Pittman & Davis

Harry & David

Bell’s Farm to Market

What food rescue group Keep Austin Fed really wants for Christmas this year

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Keep Austin Fed has been preventing food waste and reducing hunger in Austin since 2004, but it wasn’t until last year that they could hire their first employee.

Lisa Barden, program director for Keep Austin Fed, left, hands Melissa McClure prepackaged food from Snap Kitchen as Anne Hebert, a volunteer from Keep Austin Fed, sorts through a cooler. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Thanks to winning the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s top grant of $10,000, the organization was able give more hours to Executive Director Lisa Barden, who became the organization’s first full-time employee a little more than a year ago.

RELATED: Keep Austin Fed keeps food out of the trash, gives it to Austinites in need

Melissa McClure, 36, bakes leftover bread she turned into croutons. She says she avoids wasting food by making juice from bruised fruit and turning extra bread into breadcrumbs or croutons. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For more than a decade, Keep Austin Fed operated entirely on volunteer effort. Founder Ira Kaplan gathered the first volunteers in 2004, and the nonprofit became official in 2014. It wasn’t until 2015 that Barden started volunteering.

“I’d watched a movie called ‘Just Eat It’ and was overwhelmed by the amount of food waste, but I was a little incredulous that that much food waste actually exists,” she says. After picking up excess food as a volunteer, she saw what the statistics tell us: Forty percent of food doesn’t actually get eaten.

Lisa Barden, program director for Keep Austin Fed, collects apples and other food donations from Austin Achieve Public Schools to donate on Dec. 1. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The quantity of food surprised her, but Barden says she was most shocked by just how many people needed it. “That blew me away even more than the waste,” she says. “I got hooked. The warm fuzzies when you deliver the food is a powerful thing.”

Every month, about 20 to 25 businesses donate about 56,000 pounds of food — that’s almost 50,000 meals — that Keep Austin Fed volunteers pick up and deliver to more than a dozen partner agencies, including Foundation Communities, Caritas, Salvation Army, refugee communities, day habilitation programs and church food pantries.

Anne Hebert, a Keep Austin Fed volunteer, puts donated food from Snap Kitchen into a cooler before dropping prepackaged meals to La Reunion in Austin on Dec. 1, 2017. La Reunion received about 30 pounds of food from Snap Kitchen that day. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The highest-volume donors, including Snap Kitchen, Trader Joe’s, Eddie V’s and the Westin Hotel, have scheduled pickups every week, but many donations come in by phone.

After they learn of a donation, Barden puts out the call to volunteers to see if someone is available to transport the food. The organization hasn’t been able to buy trucks or a van to move food, so volunteers, who have been trained in food safety and handling, use their own vehicles. They deliver hot food hot, and most organizations distribute it that way.

Keep Austin Fed relies on a small pool of about 70 volunteers, so they do have to turn away food sometimes, especially on the weekends. “We could rescue so much more food if we had volunteers with flexible schedules,” Barden says. “There’s so much more to be done. We’re hamstrung” by a lack of volunteers. (Interested in volunteering? Go to keepaustinfed.org to find out more.)

At some point, she’d like them to have their own trucks and cold storage, so they could keep donations cool overnight. For now, Keep Austin Fed’s lean machine will keep moving as much food as it can to fight hunger.

Keep Austin Fed accepts donations from anyone, but the food must prepared in a commercial kitchen and can’t have been served on a buffet or to an individual. Barden reminds potential donors that, thanks to laws passed in the 1990s, there are federal protections for people who donate food, so there’s no liability.

In 2016, Snap Kitchen donated more than 200,000 individually packed meals to Keep Austin Fed, and they are on pace to meet that this year. With such high volume, a Keep Austin Fed volunteer comes every day to the Northwest Austin store, where meals from all the area stores are consolidated.

Shaady Ghadessy, brand director for Snap Kitchen, says that the company has similar partnerships with food rescue organizations in Plano, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

Ghadessy says Snap Kitchen employees become invested in the donation as they get to know the volunteers and learn more about where the food is going. “There’s an immediacy. You know they are headed to this place and this is what’s for dinner tonight.”

Just in time for these cool mornings, Austin-based Sips By offers tea subscription service

When Staci Brinkman set out to develop a subscription tea service, she knew she wanted the help of a sommelier to develop an algorithm to identify a customer’s flavor preferences.

Sips By is an Austin-based company that sells a monthly tea subscription. Contributed by Sips By.

In January, she launched Sips By (sipsby.com), which ships boxes of curated, personalized tea based around not only taste, but also how to steep the tea and its origin.

Four teas from among more than 50 different international tea brands arrive in the mail each month, and then you can rate what came in your box to help the Sips By algorithm pick even better matches for you in the next delivery.

RELATED: Find the latest about new Austin food products, services

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Sips By uses an algorithm to help match your tastes with teas.

At $15 per month, the box costs about $1 per fresh cup of tea, but you can resteep just about every tea at least a few times. If you get loose leaf tea samples, they include disposable tea bags, which I never seem to have on hand. The company is donating proceeds from its Texas box to Hurricane Harvey relief if you use the code “Texas” at checkout.

RELATED: Banger’s hosting Hurricane Harvey benefit Saturday with barbecue and Houston brews

All-star roster of Austin chefs participating in Hurricane Harvey benefit Sunday

 

 

Smoothies by mail? Trying Daily Harvest’s smoothie delivery service

How do you make a healthy smoothie, anyway?

That was the question I posed to Mary Agnew, our Ask a Dietitian columnist, who answers in today’s food section.

RELATED: How to make a healthy smoothie, not a calorie-packed milkshake

As we were searching for recipes and smoothie tips, I came across Daily Harvest, a delivery service that sends cups of frozen fruit (and vegetables and grains and other ingredients) to make dozens of kinds of smoothies at home.

This Daily Harvest smoothie had cherries, kale, blueberries, banana, raspberry and acai. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The company sent a beginner’s box with six smoothies. Half were somewhat unusual flavors — chocolate and blueberry, cacao avocado and watermelon cucumber — and the other half more familiar: mango papaya, chocolate banana and berry banana.

They all contained superfood ingredients to sneak in as much nutrients into each smoothie, and the cups had these plastic lids with a place for you to insert your straw.

It was convenient to be able to pull out a cup from the freezer and fill it with liquid. We had to let it sit for a few minutes to thaw enough to blend in the blender, but once we did, it was a pretty good smoothie. Nothing remarkable, but it’s a good service if you make several smoothies a week.

Another feature to note: Daily Harvest uses organic produce that has been picked at peak ripeness and frozen within hours right at the farm, which means it has more nutrients than produce that has been sitting on the shelves in a truck or grocery store.

 

The boxes start at $47.50 for six smoothies, but if you’re already paying $8 each for smoothies, you might have fun experimenting with the Daily Harvest options. You can choose from dozens of flavors, including sundae-inspired line with ice cream. They also sell heartier options, such as overnight oats and soups that you can blend and serve hot or cold.

As for the question of what point a creamy chocolate brownie batter smoothie becomes a milkshake, I’ll let you decide.

On a side note: We mixed our Daily Harvest smoothies with the new tart cherry flavor of WTRMLN WTR, one of four new flavors coming out (ginger, lime and lemon are the others). The lemon flavor actually came out last year with Beyonce’s “Lemonade” album, and the other varieties have the same prominent watermelon flavor of WTRMLN WTR’s original. It is squeezed from fresh watermelons, but the process intensifies the watermelon flavor. I love it, but if you’re on the fence about watermelon, you might not like even the flavored versions of the drink.

 

Shipt grocery delivery expands to Killeen, Temple and College Station

Austinites are spoiled with delivery options, but outside the metro area, shoppers don’t have as many options for grocery or food delivery.

That’s slowing changing as these companies, such as Instacart and Favor, expand their delivery zones, and this week, the Alabama-based Shipt expanded its own rapidly growing service area to include Killeen, College Station and Temple.

Shipt is expanding its service in Texas to include more neighborhoods in Austin and San Antonio, as well as the cities of Killeen, Temple and College Station. Contributed by Shipt

Shipt already delivers in Austin and San Antonio, and Killeen, College Station and Temple already have Instacart, which, like Shipt, partners with H-E-B to deliver groceries, but the expansion is notable because it indicates that enough shoppers outside the Texas metro areas are interested in having their groceries delivered that multiple companies can compete for business.

RELATED: How one Austin company revolutionized how we get food delivered

At your service: Influx of food delivery options is changing the Austin landscape

“Texas residents have been some of our most loyal Shipt members, and we continue to receive requests from new and current metros for greater access to grocery delivery,” Bill Smith, founder and CEO of Shipt, said via release. “This expansion is a reflection of this demand, and our growing partnership with H-E-B has allowed us to work in our shared mission to serve these communities, together.”

Shipt operates on a membership model, where customers can get free delivery on orders over $35 if they pay a $99 per year membership.

Shipt operates on a membership program, not unlike Amazon Prime. For $99 a year (or $49 if you can catch a launch special), members can get free, unlimited grocery delivery on orders over $35. The cost of the groceries is slightly higher — they estimate $5 higher on a $35 order — but orders can be placed as early one hour before delivery.

With the addition of 185,000 households to its current Austin and San Antonio delivery zones, the company now estimates that its service area covers 4.6 million households in Texas. The company has been in Texas since 2016.

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.

RELATED: How one Austin company revolutionized how we get food delivered

At your service: Influx of food delivery options is changing the Austin landscape

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.

RELATED: Take a peek at the free food offered at tech companies

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

 

 

How Purple Carrot changed this food writer’s perspective on meal kits

I’ve been more than a little incredulous about meal kits.

My biggest complaints have been that they are expensive and not environmentally friendly. I’m not paying $8 or $12 per serving for a meal unless someone else is cooking it, and those bulky boxes weighed down with ice packs are so heavy to deliver to my doorstep.

These ingredients for sweet potato bao buns came in a recent Purple Carrot delivery. It’s a dish I never would have made for myself, but the meal kit introduced me to different flavor combinations and techniques. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

When I opened a recent delivery from Purple Carrot, the vegan meal kit company that recently expanded to Austin, I saw even more of the little bottles and jars and bags that are a convenience weighing on my conscious. The ingredients looked fresh, except for the spring greens (above) for one of the meals that I could see hadn’t fared well during the long journey to my office.

Purple Carrot is a vegan meal kit delivery company that recently expanded to Austin. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

This kit contained the recipes for three two-serving meals: Sweet potato bao buns with kimchi, peaches, spring greens and lemon aioli; miso tofu with soba noodles, shishito peppers and beans; and cauliflower steaks with zucchini-poblano sauce and pistachio dukkah. Twenty years ago, I probably wouldn’t have known what half of those ingredients were, but they certainly meet today’s food standards.

I made the meal that looked the most interesting first, that sweet potato tempura served on those soft bao buns. As with all the meals, the cooking time took longer than the card stated, but I didn’t mind because I was frying batch after batch of thinly sliced sweet potatoes, a vegetable I had not yet cooked in a tempera batter. With the weird but delicious smell of kimchi and peaches behind me, I stood at the stove in awe of my abilities. (I forget that I’m a food writer sometimes.)

I’d made tempura shrimp and fish before, but I hadn’t cooked sweet potato tempura until this Purple Carrot meal kit. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I was gaining a new skill as I turned each orange round, learning little lessons about how much batter should be on each slice, how hot the oil should be, when is the perfect time to flip. Even though I like them, I never buy those steamed bao buns, and I’d certainly never thought to combine kimchi and peaches. The spring greens that came with the kit went into the trash, and I replaced them with a handful of arugula. By the time I was ready to eat, I felt like I could open a food truck serving these sandwiches.

That meal left me feeling virtuous. I’d added a new dish to my roster. I could recreate this recipe another time, and my culinary life is better for it.

The same is true of the zucchini-poblano sauce I made a few nights later. After sauteeing the zucchini and pepper in a skillet, you add it to a blender and make this thick, nutrient dense sauce that added so much flavor to the cauliflower steaks. (The leftover sauce complemented the chicken tostadas we made later in the week.) You could follow that similar technique with so many vegetables to create a bright, healthy sauce to toss with pasta or serve alongside a seared piece of meat.

The ingredients for a miso soba noodle dish came in lot of small bottles, jars and plastic bags. Meal kit companies are trying to cut down on their packaging, but it still feels wasteful. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

My doubts returned, however, by the time I got to the final meal. I love tofu and was surprised to see a slightly different cooking technique than the one I use, where you sear the tofu first and then toss with the sauce. (I almost always marinade mine first.) But that excitement waned as I started to get bogged down in the steps to make the two (very similar) sauces and instructions that called for making the soba noodles long before you actually needed to.

The recipe was also vague in several key places, including how much of the soba noodles to cook — the package they sent included four-and-a-half servings, but the recipe is only supposed to serve two — and what to do with the shishitos after they steamed. This dish also yielded too much trash. Three little plastic bottles and three plastic jars doesn’t seem like much, but when I start to think about millions’ of meals worth of these plastic bottles, I cringe. I’d prefer one bottle with an already mixed miso, vinegar and sesame sauce, but maybe I’m in the minority here.

UPDATE: The company responded with a comment about my comment on waste:

Since they are a plant-based meal kit company (and plant-based eating is actually the fastest way to reduce your carbon footprint), Purple Carrot consistently works to make their packaging reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. For example, they recently reduced their box size by 38%, and all of the materials used in their packaging are made from post-consumer waste.

This miso soba noodle dish turned out well, but it took a little longer than expected and the directions could use a little editing. In general, however, I enjoyed Purple Carrot, and it helped me realize that meal kits can help infuse your cooking with new creativity. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

What I did learn from cooking these meals is that meal kits really are a path toward culinary discovery. The companies try to sell them as an easy fix to get dinner on the table, but I haven’t found them to be 30 minutes or less or, to be frank, anything my kids would eat.

But now I understand that you’re not supposed to order meals you already know how to cook or dishes that include ingredients you’re already familiar with. The hundreds, if not thousands, of meals available through these companies, including Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated, are almost like a try-it-before-you-buy-it program for new ingredients or new meals that you might one day cook on a regular basis.

At $10 per serving, that’s a pretty expensive experiment, but if you have a wide palate and deep curiosity, the once-a-quarter meal kit is an excellent way to plant some new seeds for the next time you’re in the grocery store. You can’t debate the convenience of having pre-measured ingredients show up at your door, but I still have reservations about ordering these kits on a weekly basis. When grocery stores get the hang of developing the recipes and marketing the kits (and bringing down the price), I will absolutely be buying them more.