Austin Food & Wine Festival outdoor activities canceled due to soggy grounds at Auditorium Shores

The Austin Food & Wine Festival has canceled all outdoor activities this weekend due to soggy conditions at Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park.

From the organizers:

Due to recent and ongoing inclement weather saturating the grounds of Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park, all outdoor Austin Food + Wine Festival programming has been canceled. All paid ticket-holders will be refunded the amount of purchase to the original form of payment.

For more information or additional customer support, please contact Front Gate Tickets at info@frontgatetickets.com or by calling 888-512-7469 (SHOW). Cheers to 130 Years and Social Hour will proceed as planned and original tickets will be honored.

We are tracking down festival organizers and park officials to find out more details.

UPDATE: There are two festival events that will still take place: Tonight’s Cheers to 130 Years and Friday’s Social Hour, which will proceed as planned and original tickets will be honored.

festival

A healthy spin on fried chicken from New York chef Melba Wilson

51Csp8GwJuL._SX364_BO1,204,203,200_Melba Wilson might have learned the restaurant ropes at various eateries in New York City, but the Harlem native credits her grandmother, Amelia, for teaching her how to cook. Wilson owns her own restaurant now, Melba’s, in Harlem, where she serves comfort food classics, including meatloaf, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and the fried chicken and eggnog waffles that beat Bobby Flay’s chicken and waffles on his Food Network show.

Since we’re talking about chicken this week, I wanted to share her spin on fried chicken, which involves panko bread crumbs, mayonnaise and an oven. This recipe is from her debut cookbook, “Melba’s American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen” (Atria, $30), which came out last week.

New York chef Melba Wilson's new cookbook features a recipe for oven-fried chicken. Photo by Melissa Hom.
New York chef Melba Wilson’s new cookbook features a recipe for oven-fried chicken. Photo by Melissa Hom.

Oven-Fried Chicken

With a lot less fat (and a lot less mess) but all the great flavor of traditional fried chicken, this is also a great way to serve fried chicken to a crowd. Just increase the quantities as needed, put it in the oven, and you’re done. You can even make it in advance and serve it at room temp.

— Melba Wilson

6 chicken thighs
6 chicken drumsticks
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Put the chicken in a bowl and season with the poultry seasoning, cayenne and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. In a second bowl, combine the bread crumbs, the salt, and pepper to taste. Combine the milk and mayonnaise in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken pieces in the milk mixture and then in the bread crumbs.

Lay the breaded chicken in the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. Then turn it over and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until it is done. When done, it should register 165 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer and, when pierced with a fork, the juices should run clear. Transfer to paper towels to drain before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “Melba’s American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen” by Melba Wilson (Atria, $30)

WATCH: Taste test of the new frozen pizzas from Austin’s Pizza

austinspizza
One of the new frozen pizzas from Austin’s Pizza. Photo by Addie Broyles.

One of Austin’s best known pizzerias is now selling pies in a freezer aisle near you.

Austin’s Pizza, a local staple since 1999 that now has 13 area locations and is in the middle of a kerfuffle with UT, launched a line of frozen pizzas this week that includes pepperoni and three Austin-inspired varieties: Brazos (Canadian bacon, pepperoni, onions, green peppers, jalapeños and feta cheese), Downtown Special (pepperoni, sausage, black olives and mushrooms) and Mopac (Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and olives).

Starting this week, the pizzas ($8.99 each) will be available at H-E-B stores in Austin, San Antonio, Houston and San Marcos. So, how do they taste? We tried them in last week’s Deskside Dish livestream:

For more info, go to austinspizza.com.

This chicken soup will cure the rainy day blues

Want to make a better chicken soup? Start with a whole chicken, use plenty of aromatics and only bring the soup to a simmer -- not a boil -- when cooking. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Want to make a better chicken soup? Start with a whole chicken, use plenty of aromatics and only bring the soup to a simmer — not a boil — when cooking. Photo by Addie Broyles.

How do you make chicken soup?

I do have a soft spot for canned chicken noodle soup from Campbell’s, but Jon Shook, a Los Angeles-based chef who will be here for the Austin Food & Wine Festival, recently convinced me that I’ve been making homemade chicken noodle soup wrong my whole life.

Despite reading over and over that you aren’t supposed to boil chickens over high heat to make broth, I’ve always cranked up the heat when I have leftover chicken carcasses. I rarely started with a whole bird and almost never took the time to simmer it slowly.

After chatting with Jon and his chef partner Vinny Dotolo for today’s lead story about why chicken doesn’t have to be boring, I made the most divine chicken soup according to his directions, following the most important rule: Do not boil the bird.

Yes, you need to simmer the chicken in order to draw out all those yummy flavors, but as soon as the bubbles start to come to the surface, reduce the heat so that the liquid doesn’t come to a hard boil. Why? A violent boil causes the skin, fat and collagen to disintegrate into the liquid, which can make a cloudy, greasy stock.

If you cook the bird over low heat, not all of the fat in the chicken skin will render out, so you’ll pull it off the bird after the meat has cooked. Also, keep a strainer nearby so you can skim any foam or scum that gathers at the top.

Jon’s Chicken Soup

1 (3-4 lb.) whole chicken (giblets and innards removed)
2 to 3 large brown or yellow onions, peeled and divided
8 to 10 carrots (roughly equal to quantity of celery), peeled and divided
1 head of celery, divided
1 bay leaf
1 bunch flat loose-leaf parsley
1 bag wide egg noodles
Kosher salt to taste

Place whole chicken in a 12 quart pot. Cover the chicken with an inch of cold water. Chop half of the onions, carrots and celery into 1-inch chunks. Add vegetables to the pot, as well as the bay leaf and about a dozen sprigs of parsley. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat so that the liquid is just simmering. Cook for roughly 1 hour or until chicken is falling off the bone. Strain and toss the cooked vegetables.

Let the chicken cool enough until you can handle it and then pick the meat off the chicken. Put broth back in a clean pot over medium heat. Cut the other half of the onion, carrots and celery into pieces that are about 1/4 inch or smaller. Chop remaining parsley leaves for garnish.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pulled chicken and simmer for another 20 minutes. In a separate pot, cook noodles following the directions on the bag. When done, run the noodles under cold water but keep the noodles separate from the soup. Once the vegetables are tender, add salt to taste. Serve soup in bowls, adding the noodles to each bowl. Serves 6 to 8.

— From Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo

Recipe of the Week: Strawberry Cobbler from Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Strawberry cobbler is one springtime dish you can make with fresh berries and a few ingredients you probably already have on hand. Photo from Jack Allen's Kitchen.
Strawberry cobbler is one springtime dish you can make with fresh berries and a few ingredients you probably already have on hand. Photo from Jack Allen’s Kitchen.

Fresh strawberries alone make a wonderful dessert, but as soon as you start adding whipped cream or ice cream or maybe a little crunchy streusel topping or a biscuit, then you start building something even more special.

I’ve been eating plenty of strawberries with shortcake, drop biscuits and scones this spring for our most recent Year of Baking stories about strawberry scones and shortcake. But I haven’t yet made a cobbler.

Dee Dee Sanchez, the pastry chef at Jack Allen’s Kitchen’s, bakes desserts that change with the seasons. A few weeks ago, she was making strawberry rhubarb cobbler, but now that rhubarb is phasing out, she’s making a strawberry-only cobbler under a buttery streusel topping. At the restaurant, they bake these in ramekins and serve the cobbler with Amy’s Mexican vanilla ice cream, but you can use a larger pan at home and serve with whatever’s on hand, including whipped cream or even a drizzle of heavy cream.

Strawberry Cobbler

2 lbs. Texas strawberries, hulled, washed and cut into quarters or halved if berries are small
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. Mexican vanilla
For streusel topping:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oats
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss berries, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl and set aside.

Grease a 9-inch-by-13 inch pan. Set aside. In large bowl, mix streusel ingredients together using fingertips and rub together until butter is incorporated, keeping streusel crumbly and light. Small chunks of butter are good, but no larger than the size of a pea. Do not knead into a dough.

Place strawberry mixture and juices in baking pan. Crumble the streusel topping loosely over top of strawberries and to edges of pan. Bake on top of a sheet pan to avoid any strawberry filling bubbling over edges of pan. Bake for about 45 minutes until streusel is golden brown and edges are bubbly. Cool for about 10 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream. Serves 12.

— Dee Dee Sanchez, pastry chef, Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Rained out Reggae Fest might leave food bank 400,000 meals short

This is the second year that rain has cancelled part of the Austin Reggae Festival at Auditorium Shores downtown. Admission to this event is a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank, which is soliciting donations to recoup some of the loss. Photo by Deborah Sengupta Stith.
This is the second year that rain has cancelled part of the Austin Reggae Festival at Auditorium Shores downtown. Admission to this event is a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank, which is soliciting donations to recoup some of the loss. Photo by Deborah Sengupta Stith.

The Austin Reggae Festival is one of the Capital Area Food Bank’s biggest fundraisers, and for the past few years, rain cancellations have put a serious dent in the amount of money the organization can raise through it.

On Sunday, the second day of the festival was cancelled because of weather, which is about a $100,000 hit for the food bank.

The nonprofit, which serves 46,000 Central Texans each week, says that’s the equivalent of 400,000 meals.

Nearly half a million meals isn’t a small number. The food bank is asking the community — no matter if they were planning to attend the festival — to make donations to help make up some of that loss.

You can make a donation and find out more about the Capital Area Food Bank’s mission at austinfoodbank.org.

Hillary Clinton’s hot sauce in her bag has ties to Austin, swag

Ninja Squirrel Sriracha is a hot sauce from the Austin-based Whole Foods Market. Photo from Whole Foods.
Ninja Squirrel Sriracha is a hot sauce from the Austin-based Whole Foods Market. Photo from Whole Foods.

Beyonce isn’t the only leading lady with hot sauce in her bag.

This week, Hillary Clinton was on the primary trail in New York and did an interview with a radio station, where she talked about carrying around a bottle of hot sauce in her bag, just like Queen Bey, who mentioned it in her wildly successful video “Formation.”

Time magazine reached out to her campaign to find out what kind, and it turns out that Clinton prefers the Ninja Squirrel Sriracha hot sauce from Whole Foods Market.

I’ve never had Ninja Squirrel, but Clinton apparently eats it every day and her love of hot sauce goes way back.

From Time:

In 2008, she told 60 Minutes her habit of regularly eating chilies to stay healthy goes back to 1992. At the White House in the 1990s, Clinton boasted a collection of more than 100 hot sauces, according to a December report by the Associated Press. In Monday’s radio interview, Clinton reiterated that her love of hot sauce is partly to do with its health benefits.

“No seriously, hot sauce. I’ve been eating a lot of hot sauce. Raw peppers and hot sauce,” she said. “Because I think it keeps my immune system strong. I think hot sauce is good for you, in moderation.”

Apparently she’s not the only Ninja Squirrel superfan. The hot sauce has its own Facebook page.

Grocery Diaries: Four days in Boise, four supermarkets

I went to Boise last week to visit my sister and my niece and nephew. Taking my own kids to the grocery store is one of our favorite activities, so I had fun doing the same with 4-year-old June. We went to the Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in downtown Boise, which are located practically on the same block.
I went to Boise last week to visit my sister and my niece and nephew. Taking my own kids to the grocery store is one of our favorite activities, so I had fun doing the same with 4-year-old June. We went to the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in downtown Boise, which are located practically on the same block.

Four days. Four grocery stores.

I sure know how to have fun on vacation.

Over the weekend, I was visiting my sister and her kids in Boise. We ate out exactly twice (Chick-Fil-A and a local Mediterranean spot called Mazzah) and cooked the rest of our meals in her tiny kitchen that is only slightly larger than my cubicle.

Instead of cookbooks and calendars that have swallowed up my desk, her countertops are covered in drying dishes, boxes of tea, a blender for smoothies and a rainbow of plastic bowls and cups for her two kids, ages 4 and almost 2.

I love cooking with my sister, even in her tiny kitchen. I showed her that chicken soup recipe from my latest column and she showed me how to make kombucha, a kitchen project that will make its way into the paper soon.

But in order to do that cooking, we needed groceries, right? My 4-year-old niece, June, who didn’t know what a newspaper was, much less what her aunt does at one, was happy to accompany me to two stores on the very first day of my visit.

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods — located just a block from one another — are the newest supermarkets to open in downtown Boise, and I hadn’t been to either location. They are just blocks from WinCo, a regional favorite that I’ll explain in detail in a minute.

Like in Austin, the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in Boise try desperately to appeal to the Keep Boise Weird crowd, which is nearly as fervent as the Keep Austin Weird demographic here, with murals of the nearby Capitol and signage touting local products. At Trader Joe’s, we picked up a sparkling limeade and a local IPA (my treats) and knock-off Fruit Loops and orange juice (her treats), plus some roses, a token of adoration for the woman who was — at the moment — pulling single mom duty while her husband is on a two-week mission trip to Africa.

She’d requested a kind of beer that Trader Joe’s didn’t carry, which was a pretty good excuse to pop into the Whole Foods. They didn’t have it either, but it was fun to walk through an Austin institution as a tourist trying to spot products from our booming consumer packaged good industry. On an end cap, I found Austin’s Boomerang Pie’s on sale, as well as Austin-based Skinny Pop popcorn, Rhythm Superfoods’ kale chips and Beanitos, the bean-based tortilla chips also based in Austin.

Austin has the flagship Whole Foods, and Boise has the original Albertsons, an unremarkable store just two blocks from my sister’s house that is good for last-minute purchases, like the toppings to go on the Trader Joe’s pizza dough I’d purchased the day before. With overpriced produce and mathematically complicated loyalty program pricing, Albertsons is like Randalls: totally forgettable and worth avoiding unless you really need pepperoni and mozzarella cheese at the last minute. (UPDATE: Apparently Albertsons does not have a loyalty card program. They did away with it in 2013.)

I saved the best for last. Chelsea had been under the weather all weekend, which — oh darn — meant that someone needed to go to WinCo to buy groceries for the week.

WinCo Foods is a regional grocery chain in the Northwest that feels like a combination of Costco and H-E-B. Customers sack their own groceries, and the bulk and deli sections are enormous.
WinCo Foods is a regional grocery chain in the Northwest that feels like a combination of Costco and H-E-B. Customers sack their own groceries, and the bulk and deli sections are enormous.
Loss leaders, including milk and eggs, are products that stores intentionally under price to bring customers in the store.
Loss leaders, including milk and eggs, are products that stores intentionally under price to bring customers in the store.

WinCo is to Boise as H-E-B is to Austin, but with a walk-in beer cooler, kombucha on tap and a bulk selection so large and so diverse that it’s enough to make a grocery lover weep.

Am I drunk on Winco because we don’t have it? Probably. Is it my sister and all her friends’ favorite place to shop, even though they have to sack their own groceries at the end? You bet.

The loss leaders — those items that stores intentionally underprice just to get you in the door — will make your eyeballs pop: $1.98 for a gallon of milk and 99 cents for eggs, specifically. The store-branded products can’t hold a candle to what H-E-B offers, but they are well-priced and good quality, my sister reports.

The flashing neon sign out front advertises kombucha on tap, but they don’t mention that Humm, the brand on draft, is the only kombucha sold by the bottle, too. The organic section is about as large as the one at Sprout’s, which is to say, not very large, but the prices were good.

wincoboisekombucha
WinCo in Boise has Humm kombucha on tap, which you can drink while you shop.

But it’s the bulk and deli section that are so interesting to me. Although there are organic options in the bins, you can also buy powdered drinks (a la Kool Aid) or three kinds of gravy mixes or even bright orange cheese powder. These aren’t the foodie shoppers who stock up on quinoa at Whole Foods, but you can get quinoa and barley and farro at WinCo, too. They also sell pet food and nuts and cereals and gluten-free flours and Chex mix in bulk, as well as sell candies and gummies and chocolate-covered banana chips.

You could get lost in that section alone, but over in the deli, you’ll find about twice as many prepared foods and meats as most stores in Austin, including $4.98 rotisserie chickens and pre-seasoned taco meat and grilled chicken breasts that are a staple of my brother-in-law’s diet.

I bought a fried chicken salad for the plane ride home the next day, along with about half a dozen treats from the bulk section to surprise my kids with. (Chocolate-covered gummy bears, anyone?)

I gawked at the new-to-me ice cream brands, including one from Tillamook, on the way to the check-out stand, where my cashier rung up my groceries and then sent them down a conveyor belt so I could pack them into resuable bags I’d borrowed from my sister. (Our friends in our hippie sister city to the north do not yet know the joys of a citywide plastic bag ban, and after talking with my sister, it doesn’t sound like it’s even been a matter of public discussion. They don’t get the newspaper or watch the local news on TV, though, so I could be wrong.)

Anyone else out there like to grocery shop when they are traveling? What are some of the favorite stores you’ve found?

Austin360Cooks: Strawberry shortcake in a skillet from books editor Charles Ealy

Charles Ealy, the books and movies editor at the Statesman, makes a strawberry shortcake from his grandmother's recipe. Photo by Charles Ealy.
Charles Ealy, the books and movies editor at the Statesman, makes a strawberry shortcake from his grandmother’s recipe. Photo by Charles Ealy.

Strawberry shortcake was a Christmas dish around Charles Ealy’s house growing up.

Ealy is the books and movies editor here at the Statesman, and if you mention strawberry shortcake, his ears will perk up from across the department. His grandmother, Elizabeth Ealy, was a dairy farmer in Hazel Green, Alabama, who made a from-scratch shortcake in a skillet and layered it with strawberries and whipped cream. It was a family treat every July 4, but especially on Christmas, when it was the centerpiece dessert.

Ealy makes the shortcake to this day and has the method down. Clean two pounds of strawberries, and slice half of them. Chop and mash the other half with sugar. Bake the shortcake in a skillet, but unlike with cornbread, you don’t have to heat it before baking. (Ealy puts a piece of wax paper in the bottom of the pan to help it lift out of the pan.) Let the cake cool and then remove from pan and slice it in half.

Separate the top and bottom half and poke holes in the bottom with a fork. Pour over half of the mashed strawberries and spread a layer of whipped cream on top. Replace the top half of the shortcake and cover with remaining mashed berries and juice, or “until it’s oozing off,” Ealy reports. Cover the cake with whipped cream and artfully place the sliced strawberries all around the cake, pressing the berries gently into the cream.

Ealy uses a potato masher for the strawberries and has to bake the shortcake about 10 minutes longer than the recipe says. You can assemble the cake a day before you plan to serve it and store it in the fridge overnight. That really gives the juices time to soak in, he says, with a palpable glee.

IMG_5164
This strawberry shortcake is layered with berries and whipped cream. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Strawberry Shortcake

2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup milk
2 lb. strawberries
Sugar, to taste
Whipped cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening with a handheld mixer. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix again.

Alternating between flour and milk, add some of each to the creamed sugar and shortening, ending with flour. The batter should be smooth and light. Pour into a cast iron skillet. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool.

Slice half of the strawberries and mash the other half with sugar, to taste. Start with a tablespoon and add more, depending on the sweetness of the berries.

Assemble cake with the strawberries and whipped cream on top of the cake or in layers. You could also slice the cake and serve the berries and cream on the side. Serves 8-10.

— Adapted from a recipe by Charles Ealy

Why we don’t use deer antlers to leaven our cakes any more

Baking powder is a somewhat modern leavening agent. For centuries, bakers used hartshorn, made from ground deer antlers. Photo by Rainer Zenz.
Baking powder is a somewhat modern leavening agent. For centuries, bakers used hartshorn, made from ground deer antlers. Photo by Rainer Zenz.

King Arthur knows what’s up with baking.

The Vermont-based flour company has (wisely) expanded its customer base by providing not just recipes, but all kinds of helpful information about how baking works.

For our Year of Baking story tomorrow, I used King Arthur’s base scone recipe to make my own strawberry scone, and in the process of researching the difference between scones and shortcakes, I found an incredible helpful article about leavening.

(“Ooooo, leavening!” I can hear your excitement through the computer, my friends.)

If you’ve baked even a handful of times, you know that there’s a difference between baking soda and baking powder, and if you’re an above-average cook, you’ll know that’s because baking powder has cream of tartar, which activates the release of carbon dioxide without the addition of an acid. Baking soda relies on something like buttermilk to “turn on” its leavening powders, but baking powder does not.

That’s why so many recipes today call for baking powder instead of baking soda, unless the baked good needs an extra lift, and then you might find both.

That King Arthur article also includes all kinds of other info about what bakers used before commercial baking powder and soda was available (hartshorn, made with deer antlers), where baking soda comes from today (Wyoming! Who knew?) and how to know if your baking powder has lost its mojo.

Even if you think you know everything about baking, check it out.

Your quick breads will thank you.