Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big Apple BBQ 2011

Okay, be honest... you're totally sick of reading about BBQ after my trip to Austin, aren't you?! Well too bad! Even though I swore about 20 times that I would never eat BBQ again after my trip to Texas, the Big Apple BBQ rolled into NYC on June 11-12 and there's no way I could ever miss this event, it's just too good! All the best Pit Masters from around the country drive their pits to NYC's Madison Square Park for a day of all-you-can-eat ribs, brisket, pulled pork and other amazing BBQ delights. It's a fabulous event, and one of my favorite food festivals of the whole year.The funny thing is that they sell "Fast Passes" for over $100 a pop that let you cut the line. Just like Disney World! And trust me, Big Apple BBQ is Disney World for grown-ups. I didn't buy a Fast Pass this year because they sold out several months before the event, but my amazing food blogger friend, Megan (better known as the writer behind This Girl Can Eat) texted me the day of the BBQ to say she and her boyfriend had extra passes and did I want them. Did I want them?! I think I cried tears of joy over this news.With passes in hand, Patrick and I headed down to the event in the rain happy about the weather because we hoped it meant it would even be less crowded than usual. Turns out we didn't need to worry about the crowd because those passes gave us "backstage access" to all the food vendors. Several of our friends met us at the event since we told them we could get multiple orders of each dish when we cut the line. It was party time!

As soon as we got down there, we knew we wanted pulled pork and ribs. My favorite pulled pork last year was from Big Bob Gibson's out of Decatur, AL. We hopped in line and as soon as we did, something awful happened. THEY RAN OUT! Noooo!! I was really upset, but quickly got over it when I saw ribs one station over. We got ourselves some Baker's St. Louis-style ribs from Dallas, TX.After many ribs in Austin that came without BBQ sauce, this was a pleasant change for me since I LOVE BBQ sauce. The ribs were moist, succulent and delicious. They came with a side of cole slaw, one of my favorite BBQ side dishes, and we were off to a great start.

As we disappeared back behind the ropes to go for some more food, we were met with quite a surprise. Martin's BBQ Joint out of Nashville, TN had a WHOLE HOG out back and they were filling it with seasoning as we walked by. We had to stop and watch. (WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTO)

As an animal-lover AND a food-lover, I am always torn by these kinds of situations. Part of me felt like "aw, poor piggy" and the other part of me (namely, my stomach) was saying, "yum, delicious piggy!" Quite a conflict of interest. Of course we had to try this piggy, served on a bun, and boy was it good! I again covered it in BBQ sauce, pickles and cole slaw and went to town.Next up, Baby-Back Ribs from 17th Street Bar & Grill out of Murphysboro, IL & Las Vegas, NV.These ribs were fatter and meatier than the ones we had earlier, but also very tasty. At this point I was covered in BBQ sauce, licking my fingers and starting to get a little full. It was as if I learned nothing from my multiple Austin food comas and decided to just keep going. Probably not the best decision, but oh well. All for the love of BBQ!

We moved on to New York's own Dinosaur BBQ for Pulled Pork Shoulder. I had been trying to avoid getting any NY BBQ since I live here and can get it anytime, but since I haven't made it up to Dinosaur in Harlem yet, I figured I should give it a try.This time, the main course came with a side of baked beans instead of cole slaw and these beans were TO DIE FOR. They were loaded with bacon, and honestly, what isn't made better by the addition of bacon?! These beans were out of control good. The pork shoulder was definitely awesome, but these beans! I wanted to drink them with a straw they were so good. My mouth is watering just remembering them.

I was almost ready to stop there, but then I thought to myself, "Just. One. More. Rib." and went for one last dish. I can't say this was a wise decision, but the Big Apple BBQ only comes around once a year so I got the Baby Back Ribs from Pappy's Smokehouse out of St. Louis, MO.These ribs were really good, fall-of-the-bone tender and the sauce was tasty. As the beans were not as good as Dinosaur's, I decided not to fill up on them so I could finish the ribs. By the time I took my last bite, I was in very serious need of a nap and once again, I cursed the BBQ gods for making me eat so much dang BBQ.

I think I've gotten my fill of BBQ for the rest of the year, but I know that all I have to do is walk by Blue Smoke or Hill Country and I'll be ready for another gluttonous feast of pork and beef.

What's your favorite BBQ in the country? Have you ever been to Big Apple BBQ? What do you think?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Farewell to Metrazur

As a frequent visitor of Grand Central Station, I'm personally sad to see Metrazur go. Andrea Strong recently asked me to write up the announcement for the closing of this restaurant on The Strong Buzz. Here it is:

“Goodbye Metrazur”
It’s always sad to say good-bye to a restaurant that was a staple in the culture of New York City. After dinner service on July 1st, we must bid a fond farewell to Charlie Palmer’s Metrazur, located in the spectacular East Balcony at Grand Central Station. Named for a commuter train that once ran along the Cote d'Azur en route to Monaco, Metrazur has served seasonal American cuisine overlooking the beautiful and historic Grand Central Station for the past 11 years.

To thank the loyal patrons of the restaurant, Palmer will be offering a special Farewell A La Carte menu to guests in place of their Lunch 27 and Dinner 49 menus beginning Monday, June 27th and running through the restaurant’s close on Friday, July 1st. This special menu will include the most popular dishes from years past, including Ahi Tuna Tartare ($16), Pork Tenderloin ($26) and the Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad ($14).

In a note sent to the patrons of Metrazur by Palmer himself, he thanks them for their many years of support, welcomes them to dine at his flagship restaurant, Aureole, and urges them to be on the lookout for his upcoming ventures in New York City. Says Palmer, “When I stand at the top of the staircase and look out into the terminal, it's like cooking in the center of the world."

Au revoir Metrazur, you will certainly be missed!

Metrazur is located in the East Balcony at 404 Grand Central Terminal. For reservations, call 212-687-4600.

Aureole is located at One Bryant Park (at 42nd Street).

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Strong Buzz Guide to Summer!

Now that the weather is warming up, Andrea Strong asked me to write a piece on some of NYC's seasonal offerings. From Greenmarket menus to street fairs, here is my latest Strong Buzz round-up!

The Strong Buzz Guide to Summer: The Best Eats From Blue Crabs to Greenmarket Tastings (and where to get them all)

We New Yorkers endured a long, brutal winter and a chilly, rainy spring—we’re in serious need of a little relief. Sure, sunshine and warm temperatures are a solid start, but what we’re all really craving is an al fresco meal (or ten). Most restaurants roll out the sidewalk tables the moment the thermometer reads above 60 degrees, and to celebrate the beginning of the outdoor dining season, The Strong Buzz’s Rachel Barbarotta has compiled a list of the best places to go for summer’s amazing seasonal fare, everything from blue crabs to Greenmarket menus.

Where: 190 Avenue B (at 12th Street), 212-388-1990, www.backfortynyc.com
When: Tuesday nights through the end of August (except 7/5) plus Wednesday 8/31 and Friday 9/2 - $40 per person.
On the menu: Back Forty will provide the mallets for a true Chesapeake Crab Boil including Spiced Blue Crabs, Buttery Potatoes and String Beans along with seasonal desserts and pitchers of Sixpoint Crisp Lager for an additional $15. Don’t worry if you’ve never cracked open a Blue Crab with your bare hands, the staff at Back Forty will show you how it’s done and provide plenty of towels to clean it all up. If you don’t mind getting a little messy in the name of sweet, succulent crab, this is definitely the place for you!

Where: 1 East 15th Street (at 5th Avenue), 212-647-1515, www.tocquevillerestaurant.com
When: Now through Columbus Day - $39 for lunch, $55 for dinner and $30 for wine pairing
On the menu: In an age where we can find any restaurant menu online, it’s quite unusual when even the chef doesn’t know what he’ll be serving tomorrow! Tocqueville’s Chef Marco Moreira takes the Greenmarket trend to heart by creating fresh and inventive new dishes every single night. Chef Marco is leaving the fate of his menu to the offerings of his local Greenmarket, only featuring ingredients that he can find on that given day. This will guarantee the freshest dishes and a true taste of the summer season. Last year’s offerings included such creations as Fried Green Tomatoes with fluffy sheep’s milk ricotta and green tomato jam and Grilled White Peach Cobbler with sweet corn gelato and fresh blueberries. If sweet corn gelato doesn’t scream “seasonal ingredients,” we don’t know what does!

Where: Hester Street (at Essex Street), 917-267-9496, www.hesterstreetfair.com
When: Every Saturday from 10am-6pm
On the menu: Some of the best things about New York City in the summer are the street fairs. Those who drive may disagree, as traffic is often re-routed around them, but the Hester Street Fair is not only one of the hippest street fairs in all of Manhattan, but it also boasts some of the best food. With everything from New Orleans-style sandwiches and treats from Cheeky Sandwiches to fresh offerings from Lower East Side hotspot The Fat Radish, there is truly something for everyone. And who doesn’t love checking out unique jewelry and clothing while munching on an Empanada from La Sonrisa?

BEST FOR DATE NIGHT: Park Avenue Summer
Where: 100 East 63rd Street (at Park Avenue), 212-644-1900, www.parkavenyc.com
When: Sunday evenings throughout the summer - $35, 3-course Paella Menu
On the menu: At a restaurant that thrives on the concept of changing their menu with the seasons, Park Avenue Summer is the perfect spot to celebrate the warmer weather. Park Avenue Summer will offer a three-course Hamptons Paella Menu paired with Lieb Cellars RosĂ© on Sunday evenings for the duration of the summer. For an authentic paella experience, the classic Spanish dish will be made in the dining room in a 4-foot paellera and will be loaded with summery ingredients like Maine lobster, native corn and mussels. The regular menu will also include other summer favorites such as Swordfish Nicoise with Haricots Verts and Mediterranean Branzino. While this certainly isn’t a meal you’ll have to crack open with a mallet, the elegance of Park Avenue Summer is a true delight.

Where: 242 10th Avenue (at 24th Street), 212-645-5659, www.trestleontenth.com
When: Select cocktails (four at a time) from The Drinkable Garden menu will be on circulation for brunch, lunch and dinner throughout the summer
On the menu: When you were little, you used to feed your vegetables to the family dog under the table. And while you can’t quite remember the exact day when you decided you actually liked Brussels sprouts, you never thought you’d be drinking them through a straw! To celebrate the season, Trestle on Tenth opened their newly renovated outdoor patio and simultaneously announced their brand new cocktail menu including drinks made with fresh vegetables! Whether you prefer the Belle of the Ball with vodka, red bell pepper, mint, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and yellow chartreuse or the 20/20 with house-made carrot-infused Tito’s vodka, fresh carrot and lime juice, we promise not to rat you out to your mom!

Bring on the sunshine!

Let's Eat!
The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, June 10, 2011

Eating My Way Through Austin: Days 5 & 6

Why do I keep doing this to myself?! It's now June 11th and I've been home from Austin for 5 days. I went to NYC's Big Apple BBQ today and, again, ate my weight in BBQ food and, again, am in a serious food coma. But, that's a story for another post, as I still have to tell you all about my last 2 days in Austin!

I woke up last Saturday morning feeling better than I felt on Friday night and ready for the final day of the IACP conference. The day started with a Social Media seminar followed by food blogging panel. I was really excited for the panel because it was with some big names in the industry--Lisa Stone of BlogHer, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen. The panel was great, and I was so happy to meet them all after.

Next up was a lunch provided by the IACP, a good variety including Shrimp Skewers, Roasted Veggies, Blueberries, Broccolini and Scallops with Israeli Cous Cous.Immediately following the lunch, I attended my final session, a cooking demonstration with New Orleans' own John Besh! When Patrick and I were in New Orleans visiting Aunt Kath last January, we ate at Besh's wonderful Domenica restaurant and I was so excited to see him in person. We got to taste his Shrimp Creole, and it was so good!Besh's demonstration ended a little early so I was able to catch the end of a panel called "Marketing your Food Brand in the New Age of Engagement," where I met Janet Helm of Nutrition Unplugged. I ended up having a few drinks with her later that night and was happy to have made such a great foodie connection.

When all the sessions were over, Kristen, Marie and I decided to explore downtown Austin a little and do some shopping. I picked up some great new earrings, and then we stopped by Ethan's restaurant, Second Bar + Kitchen. We had initially planned to only get a glass of wine, but Ethan brought us out his Buffalo Fried Pickles with Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce and they were phenomenal. Spicy, salty, savory... we were raving about them for hours after eating them. Amazing!The delicious white wine was the perfect chilly beverage to wash down the spicy "frickles" (fried pickles.) They were really great.

That night was the big Pig Roast event on Boggy Creek Farm. All we'd really had to eat were the fried pickles and we were all starving! A coach bus took us on the 10-minute ride out to the farm where yet another BBQ feast awaited us.It was very hot and sweaty on the farm, but we were so excited to eat some good food.I didn't want to overload on food again, so I ate a lot less this time around, but everything there was really great. I had some of the feral pig (that was caught in the wild), a few ribs, some incredible brisket and cornbread. We sat around a small table on the farm, sipping refreshing cocktails and eating fresh, amazing BBQ food.It was glorious! But due to the 100-degree heat and the flies that were starting to buzz around us, we decided to head back to the hotel and get ready to go out to the local bars for the night. We had a lot of fun!

Perhaps too much fun. We woke up the next morning not feeling so great, and for our last morning in Austin we wanted some great breakfast food. Marie had to leave to catch her plane, but Kristen and I weren't flying out of Austin until later that night. My friend Rev suggested we check out a place called Guero's, and since I trust his food opinion over most, Kristen and I went. It was exactly what we were looking for! Fresh tortillas were being made right in front of us and all the food looked so good.I ordered the Migas with Chorizo and a side of Guac. It was just what the doctor ordered! This was a great final meal in Austin, both delicious and full of amazing local flavors.Using Rev's infamous "Left-Hand Grab" (LHG) to show off my breakfast!

Overall, I had a wonderful trip to Austin. The food was amazing, the culture was awesome and the IACP conference was incredibly rewarding and wonderful. I made some great new friends and strengthened some friendships I had made before the trip. Next year, the IACP will be in New York City and I can't wait to show all my fellow foodies around the city I know and love. Thanks to everyone who made my 6 days in Austin so fabulous! Looking forward to making many more great memories with you all.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eating My Way Through Austin: Days 3 & 4

[Note: The first part of this post was written Friday evening, 6/3. I had to stop writing because I was SO full that writing about food was making me feel ill. Piece was finished on 6/6.]

The ironic thing about this post right now is that I'm literally writing it while in the middle of the most ridiculous food comas I have ever been though in my entire life. I'm literally propped up in bed feeling so full that I can't even imagine ever eating again. But I have to tell you about the eating adventures I've had over the past 2 days in Austin!

First of all, sleeping in late on Thursday didn't allow me to have a breakfast even close to as awesome as at Juan in a Million the day before. It was a lot worse, in fact. It was a bagel from Starbucks (blech!) I scooped out the middle and toasted it well, then spread cream cheese all over it, but even that amount of description is too much. It was nothing special at all.

My morning session was with Shauna James Ahern better known as Gluten Free Girl and I have to tell you, it really was fabulous. She has been blogging for years about Gluten-Free living and I found her to be funny, approachable and incredibly sweet. This was one of the sessions I enjoyed most, and I met many other food bloggers during this session that was called "Blog to Book." I was also delighted to see Marge Perry in this session, who was my Food Writing teacher at the Institute of Culinary Education and the one who told me to join IACP in the first place.

When that session was over, I had just about 15 minutes to grab the free lunch before meeting with Lynn Woll, Sr. Director of International Marketing of allrecipes.com. As part of IACP we could choose to meet with a "mentor" for 1/2 hour, and I chose Lynn because she had marketing in her title and allrecipes.com is HUGE. Lynn was incredibly nice and we chatted about my career path, her career path and a few other things for the 1/2 hour. I chowed down on my lunch, some hummus and some chicken breast, but again, nothing special. These were really just rushed meals eaten quickly so I could speed off to the IACP events, including a demo with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser of food52.com, both of whom I admire and was excited to see.Jacques was adorable, Amanda was a great moderator/interviewer and we got to taste some of Jacques' food! Delish.The real treat came for dinner that night. The IACP had planned one fancy night with a reception planned at the famed Driskill Hotel followed by an awards ceremony at the Paramont Theatre. I had been planning to go to both, but Rev (Burger Conquest) asked around and some people told him that the reception was great but recommended to skip the awards ceremony. Since Rev's friends Julie and Ethan live in Austin, we made plans to meet them for dinner after the reception.

The Driskill Hotel was beautiful, everything I had been hoping it would be. The event was elegant and all the cocktails were made with vodka so I was a happy girl. We didn't want to eat too much at this event, so we only had tiny tastes of the offerings: duck (my favorite!), squab and venison. Yum! All three pieces of meat were very good, but the venison was definitely the best of the three.After a few cocktails and some lively chatter with fellow IACP members, Rev and I took a walk to a restaurant called Haddington's in downtown Austin.
(photo courtesy of Haddington's)
Julie and Ethan were there when we arrived, so we sat at a table for 4 in one of the small side rooms in the restaurant. Since Ethan is a chef (Second Bar + Kitchen), we let him order us some appetizers. He got us the Duck & Foie Gras Meatballs, the Sweetbreads and the Tomato & Burrata Salad. Unfortunately, he found a tiny piece of metal in the salad so we had to send it back, but the Meatballs and Sweetbreads were both addictively good.

As if Foie Gras in my meatballs wasn't enough, the waitress then brought out four small shot glasses filled with a mysterious yellowish substance.She explained it was Foie Gras Egg Nog, and I was instantly turned off by the thought. But, being me, I took a sip anyway just so I could tell you all about it, and my initial reservations were confirmed. It was truly disgusting. I've never liked any drinks that are creamy or rich before, so adding something as heavy as Foie Gras to the flavor was a major turn-off for me. Rev and Ethan both liked it, Julie and I did not.

We had a great time at the restaurant. This was my first time meeting the two of them, Rev & Julie have been friends for years, and I found them both to be incredibly fun, delightful people who were great dining companions. Throughout the meal I sipped on a crisp, light Sav Blanc and decided that an entree of Sea Scallops would pair with the wine quite well. I was right. The Scallops were huge, light and very flavorful.I tried Rev's steak (he ordered the Steak Frites) and thought the steak was also very good. Cooked just how I like it (which as you know by now, is bloody) I thought the seasoning was perfect and the meat was tender.

Ethan ordered a few desserts, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Cocoa Panne Cotta, neither of which I had any interest in, but those who did eat them said they were good. I got myself my usual Espresso and was truly satisfied by the meal. Julie was incredibly generous and paid for the meal (thanks Julie!) and off we went. I decided not to go out that night since I had a full IACP day on Friday, so I went to bed that night with a full tummy and a happy feeling that often comes after a good meal spent with great people.

Now on to Friday, the day of the food coma I mentioned earlier. Again without time to grab a decent breakfast, I went to my morning IACP sessions and dreamed of lunchtime when Rev and Julie were planning to take me to Smitty's, a BBQ joint about 30 minutes outside of Austin. As soon as my sessions were over I met the two of them a few blocks away from my hotel and we piled into the car to head out on our BBQ adventure. Rev is somewhat of an authority on both Austin and food, so I was going to trust whatever he told me. And while I had only just met Julie, something told me she also really knew her stuff.

After a 40-minute drive out of Austin, we arrived to a cute, old-fashioned town called Lockhart. It looked like the towns in old western movies and I was instantly charmed. We pulled up to Smitty's and I could hardly contain my excitement. What kind of BBQ heaven awaited me inside? I truly couldn't wait to find out.
I'm a big fan of Texas, don't get me wrong, but dang, it's HOT! It was up around 100 degrees almost every day I was down there, and for me, that's really just too hot. When we walked in the front door of Smitty's, I was expecting a blast of AC, which is what happens anywhere else you walk into in Texas. But not Smitty's. It went from hot outside to an absolute inferno inside. It was so hot in there I almost couldn't breathe! I then realized the cause of the intense heat: the smoker. All the workers stand around the smoker to sell the meat and I'm telling you, I just about passed out. We ordered pork shoulder, brisket, pork ribs and a hot ring (sausage) with about 6 slices of white bread. I was in hog heaven! Pun intended.We took our food into the dining area which was thankfully a chilly 68 degrees and ordered iced tea and pickles (for Julie & me) and beer and cheese (for Rev.) We took our meat over to a big picnic table, took the usual photos of our food and went to town on the huge pile of pig. It was nothing short of incredible. The ribs were absolutely phenomenal. The smoky flavor permeated every inch of the meat and I couldn't get enough. Trust me, the brisket and pork shoulder were great, but these ribs! Out of control good.Once we finished all the meat, I made the ill-advised decision to go back out into the smoker and order two more ribs. The kind people of Smitty's gave me two very generously-sized ribs and as I carried them back into the air conditioning, I knew I was making a poor decision eating more but how often am I in Lockhart, TX at a BBQ joint like this? I carried on.Speaking of ill-advised... now I'm not usually an ice cream person, but at a mere $1 per cone, I couldn't resist. Julie and I, who are both lactose intolerant, each had an ice cream cone, knowing full well what it would do to us. Oops.We finished our ice cream, got back in the car and drove back to Austin for the rest of the IACP panels. I can't deny it, I was FULL. I sat in the back of the room wanting to be upstairs in my bed. I had eaten way too much. And to add to it, I had dinner plans with Patrick's cousin Brian and his fiancé Tanya later that night. As I said before, oops!

A full 4 hours later, as Brian and Tanya were picking me up for dinner, I was still incredibly full from lunch. I had been hoping I'd get hungry again, but no such luck. We drove 20 minutes from the hotel to a place called County Line BBQ.
(photo courtesy of County Line)
While it is a chain restaurant, I'd heard good things and they apparently had the "best bread ever" according to several reputable sources.

I ordered the Lite Plate with BBQ Chicken and a Beef BBQ Rib, Cole Slaw and a Salad.We also ordered a loaf of the famous bread, which was as good as everyone told me it would be. The loaf had to weigh at least a few pounds, and it was warm and delicious.I stuffed myself to the point of no return, which put me into the food coma I was in when I began writing this post. When they dropped my back off after dinner, I tried to meet some people out at a bar and I literally couldn't do anything but moan and clutch my stomach. I had clearly eaten too much, and it was time to go to bed. I went back to the hotel and called it a night. It was a true food coma, but it was absolutely positively worth it.

Have you ever eaten too much of one kind of food? What kind was it? Did you regret it, or was it worth it? Leave me your comments, I'd love to know I'm not the only one.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eating My Way Through Austin: Days 1 & 2

How unusual for me, two travel posts in a row! I really don't travel very much but this spring has found me in several interesting locations with great food so NYC will have to wait! Plus, when I'm in New York my life is so crazy that I've rarely had time to write (tragic!). I'm currently in Austin, TX for the International Association of Culinary Professionals National Conference hanging with fellow foodies and bloggers. This is my third day here and I've already had quite a few adventures.

I traveled down with Kristen Hess, the Artful Gourmet and we met Marie Asselin at the airport. Marie's food blog is Food Nouveau. I met both of these lovely ladies at the Regional IACP Conference in New York this past winter and we all decided to travel down here to Austin for the National Conference. Marie and I were going to be roommates for the trip to Austin and I was so excited! Another friend who came down for the conference is Rev who you all know better as Burger Conquest. So many great people are down in Austin this week!

We all got in just before 11pm on Tuesday night and decided to go out on 6th Street for a few drinks after checking in at our hotel. Little did we know that our night would end with Pickle Back Shots! In general, the bars on 6th Street were pretty dead for what Kristen & I are used to in NYC, but the drinks were super cheap ($6 for Ketel Soda?!) and it was fun catching up with the girls. When I asked them if they'd ever heard of Pickle Back shots and they hadn't, I knew I had to get us some. I asked the bartender at the bar we were at where I could get some, and she directed us to a bar just up the street. We walked a few blocks to the bar she recommended and asked that bartender for Pickle Backs. What we found out was that this bartender LOVED the shots and usually had them on hand, but since they are so rarely ordered, he stopped keeping pickle juice. "Do you ladies want me to run to the corner store and grab some pickles?" he asked. "How long will that take?" we asked him. "Only one minute!" he replied. And off he went in search of pickles.

He came back after I pointed out that something like this would NEVER happen in NYC and poured us some lovely pickle back shots.4 to be exact, including one for him. And do you know how much they were? $14! 4 shots for $14? Insanely cheap. We went to bed after 2am feeling wonderful and excited about the days to come in Austin.

We woke up the next morning and went to check-in for the conference. Here I am with my official IACP badge!After we were done with the registration we decided to get breakfast at a spot called Juan in a Million. A few people had recommended their breakfast tacos, so I suggested we try it. We met up with another fellow IACP member, Nikki Gardner, whose food blog is Art and Lemons, to go get some grub. We took a quick cab ride there and the place was so adorable!We got a table for 4 and began to look over the huge menu. I knew I wanted tacos so I ordered the Chorizo with Egg Breakfast Taco, the "Don Juan" taco (A secret combination of potato, egg, bacon and cheese in a deliciously hot tortilla, according to the menu) and a side of guacamole. Little did I know I had just ordered enough food for all 4 of us on my own!

I just read that Man vs. Food's Adam Richman visited Juan in a Million for the Don Juan taco challenge in which he had EIGHT of the massive tacos. I couldn't even finish one!This was one massive taco and even though it was truly delicious, I barely made a dent in it.

The Egg & Chorizo taco was also really good, thankfully much smaller than the Don Juan taco, and I was actually able to finish it.I (of course) asked to have cheese added and I enjoyed that the chorizo was ground up to maximize the flavor.

The guacamole was also a huge portion and needed a little something to make it great, namely a few squeezes of a lime.I enjoyed putting it all over my breakfast and scooping it up with some crunchy tortilla chips.

After breakfast we were lucky enough to meet Juan himself, a sweet man with a clear passion for his restaurant.Thanks for everything Juan, our breakfast was great!

Without realizing it, I skipped lunch that day because I was so full from my huge breakfast. I had a few interesting panels that day, including The Craft of Food Writing. That night, there was an opening reception party held at a museum in Austin with food and drinks from a bunch of local restaurants. My favorite dishes of the night were:

1. The Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates from FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar (with a lovely mix of veggies on the plate as well)I went back about 5 times for just the dates, they were absolutely incredible.

2. The Beef Short Ribs with Shishito Pepper Jam and Burrata Cheese from Second Bar + Kitchen (and I was lucky enough to have dinner the next night with the chef, Ethan Holmes, but more on that later)
3. The Japanese Hamachi and Big-Eye Tuna from Eddie V's Prime Seafood
4. The Green Chile Pork Tacos from Roaring Fork (also owned by Eddie V's)
5. Honorable Mention to the Fried Quail Egg Benedict from Catering by Rosemary because while I didn't love the way it tasted, it was by far the most beautiful, colorful dish at the party.
I went to sleep that night VERY full, and looking forward to the many more eating adventures to come in Austin.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

PS- One non-food thing I forgot to mention is that I got to hold a baby armadillo and pose with a bull! The armadillo's name was Matt Dillo and he was AWESOME. I don't know what the bull's name was, but I was really scared of his sharp horns!I love animals and it was so fun to play with them!