Review: Salty Sow. Austin, TX.

Salty Sow
1917 Manor Road
Austin, TX 78722

During our trip to Austin, I wanted to try one of the newer joints in the area. After reading about Salty Sow, I thought it would be a nice choice. It’s from the guys who recently sold Eddy V’s to the parent company of Red Lobster and also behind the recently expanded to Dallas Hopdoddy. Apparently the inspiration behind the restaurant is the Purple Pig in Chicago.

We went here with our daughter and some friends with kids. It isn’t set up super great for kids, that’s not meant as a criticism, just a note because I don’t think it was meant to be.

The menu reads like a list comprised of the hottest trends in restaurants. Ex. fries cooked in duck fat, pork belly, house made charcuterie, brussel sprouts, etc. While not coming across as super original the results were outstanding.

Starting off were the oyster boudin fritters with chipotle remoulade. They were oysters covered with rice, made into balls, covered with batter and deep fried. I dug em, Mrs. Roadrunner thought they were just okay. The remoulade was nice and had a good smokey / peppery flavor.

With the oyster fritters came out the triple fried duck fat french fries topped with a 110 minute egg. The fries were great, though I thought the egg on top didn’t add a ton to them (besides sogginess). The housemade ketchup and cold bernaise were good, but the fries stood on there own plenty.

The truffle deviled eggs with smoke pork belly were outstanding. The small pieces of porkbelly mixing with the intoxicating aroma of truffle oil was completely intoxicating. I don’t care what you say, I still love truffle oil and I’m not afraid to say it.

For sides, we ordered crispy brussel sprout leaves with pecorino and golden raisins. THEY ARE BONKERS. The best brussel sprouts I’ve ever had at a restaurant. So good. Must have if you go here.

The crisp chicken thighs with smashed potatoes and neck bone gravy appear to be on the menu to satisfy the less adventurous eaters. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The other main course we had was Petite bone-in filets with shiitake mushrooms and bone marrow red wine sauce. As opposed to the chicken thighs, these were amazing. The steak was cooked perfectly and seasoned perfectly. The bone marrow red wine sauce mixed with the juices from the meat combined to make sheer magic. Running the mushrooms through the sauce was purely dleightful.

The dessert, Bananas foster beignets with honey nutmeg ice cream, was the low point of the meal. Not sure I can place what was off with them, just weren’t very good. It seems to be a common complaint after amazing meal that the dessert isn’t that great (see Riffle NW, Toro Bravo).

If I gave half stars, this place would be 4.5. It’s definitely the best restaurant in my grouping of 4 star restaurants. Like their other restaurants, I expect this place to start expanding and be a big hit wherever it opens.

RATING:****

Salty Sow on Urbanspoon

Review: Smoke. Dallas, TX.

Smoke
901 Fort Worth Avenue
Dallas, TX 75208

During a brief twitter conversation about favorite Brunnch spots, I mentioned that my go-to in Dallas is probably Smoke. A big reason for that is that I live right off I30 and the other reason is that it’s really good.

When a co-worker wanted to meet for brunch one Saturday and then asked if I’d heard of Smoke, I smiled slyly and said “I’ve heard of it.” I didn’t want any backing out because I eat there so much.

The food here is all made in house with incredibly high standards. Chef Tim Byres’ dedication to quality and never taking the easy way out is quite refreshing. The dedication definitely comes through in the food.

Dining with me on this meal was Mrs. Roadrunner and little roadrunner. We ordered 3 plates with the intent of splitting them between us (like every loving family who enjoys variety does).

The first dish up was the Ricotta Pancakes with Vanilla poached  apricots, blueberries and cream. This bad boy is what is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when the conversation of brunch at Smoke comes up. Rightfully so, the pancakes are light and airy and not too overly sweet. The apricots and blueberries always add a nice amount of tartness to the dish, making it a real winner.

The brisket hash was the low point of the meal. I enjoy it, but Mrs. Roadrunner doesn’t (and let me know it repeatedly). I think it’s good, not great though. The smoked brisket sits on top of a cornbread hash and is topped with a poached egg. The cornbread hash isn’t amazing and is probably what causes this particular dish to miss.

The Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict are probably my favorite brunch item in Dallas right now. The pork is juicy and has great flavor. The poached egg and hollandaise are both spot on. It’s a simple dish, but those are always the best right? On the side are goat cheese potato cakes. You can never go wrong with frying goat cheese and potatoes.

Overall, if you’re looking for a great brunch with some Texas flair, check out the Tim Byre’s Smoke. The place is about as good as it gets.

RATING: ****

Smoke on Urbanspoon

Review: Hyppo. St. Augustine, Fl.

The Hyppo
48 Charlotte St
St Augustine, FL 32084

When you travel a lot for a living (or just for fun), you find that the places you visit that stick with you most are the ones that you stumble upon by happenstance.You can research as much as you want, but the ones that resonate most deeply with you are the ones that just kind of sneak up on you.

I walked by Hyppo the first time I had ever been to St. Augustine on my way to dinner. When I saw the sign said “gourmet popsicles”, I knew that we would soon cross paths. Sure enough, immediately after dinner I bee-lined there. That night I tried the Elvis (Peanut Butter, Honey & Banana) dipped in chocolate. One word: AWESOME.

On a recent weekend family vacation to St. Augustine, I got to introduce my girls to Hyppo. We downed about 20 popsicles over the course of the weekend, looking for any excuse to stop in again. All of them are made with local and organic (when they can) ingredients, all of them are awesome. They are flash frozen, meaning they’re not too hard or too soft. Above is my first of about 8 from the weekend (Vanilla Banana).

RATING: ****

The Hyppo on Urbanspoon

 

Review: La Empanada Food Truck. Orlando, FL.

Today’s review is a parable about turning a negative into positive. The negative, in this case, was a cancelled flight to Jacksonville. The positive, was me eating at one of the best food trucks I’ve eaten at.

The family and I were headed for a weekend in St. Augustine, Florida. Our 7:30AM flight to Jacksonville had been cancelled and in turn we decided to hop on the 7:45AM to Orlando. Once in our rental car, we decided to make a quick detour through Winter Park for some shopping, which is where we stumbled onto La Empanada.

Looking at the menu, we decided our selection would be “One of everything!”  with the addition of a Mexican coke. This is a sadly common selection for the Roadrunner family, but we’re learning to embrace it.

There really wasn’t a hole in the menu. I even enjoyed the vegetarian offering (Curried Cauliflower) which is not something you here me say often. The picadillo and chicken pesto were both fantastic. The kale and apple salad was delicious. And the dessert empanada with banana and nutella oozing out was quite amazing.

All of it was so good, we went back up and ordered “One of everything Round 2!” Also caused by the fact that I had a quick phone call and by the time it ended, Mrs. Roadrunner had finished the nutella empanada.

If you’re ever in the area, this place is worth looking up. I promise it won’t disappoint. Please bring me back some.

RATING: ****
La Empanada Food Truck on Urbanspoon

 

 

Review: Il Cane Rosso Pop Up, Swiss Pastry Shop

When talking to any knowledgeable Dallas foodie type, and you start a sentence with “Il Cane…”, expect the phrase “Best Pizza in Dallas!!” to be injected into the conversation before you can ever finish your thought. There’s an unbridled enthusiam for Jay Jerrier’s (proprietor of Il Cane Rosso) product. Most of it comes from an open and constant acknowledgement of the standards, ingredients and process used to make their pies. He is also quite approachable on twitter, endearing him to the foodie-type following as well.

When I heard about the Pop Up in Fort Worth, I was excited. Visions of ironic mustache clad hipsters riding their fixies to get their taste of the metroplex’s premiere pizza immediately ran through my head. Pop ups these days seem to draw nothing but that ilk. This pop up however was much more low key than expected. And while it doesn’t challenge Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese as the gold standard for hipster pop up restaurants, it does in fact serve a great meal without any chicanery.

The set up was basically this: The famous  Il Cane Rosso mobile oven was set up outside the Swiss Pastry Shop. We were sat by an ICR waiter and waited on by him inside. If you wanted pastries from SPS, transactions were separate.

Mrs. Roadrunner and I went with our favorite couple to eat with. We ordered 2 apps,2 pizzas, 2 desserts and planned on splitting the bill. This is what the Roadrunners deem as “optimal set up”.

First up was the foccacia, a flat bread cooked in their high temp oven and delicious in its simplicity. Topped with olive oil and rosemary, the bread is wonderfully blistered on the outside. This stuff is goooooood.

Next up was the caprese. Really good as these things go, but I was ready for the pizza at this point.

The first pie was the Delia. This thing is a winner. I’m generally more of a red sauce pizza guy, but I supremely love this. Fresh Mozz, (amazing) roasted grape tomatoes, spicy bacon marmalade, topped with arugala. Wonderful. It’s worth the price of admission.

Next Up: The Zoli. Red Sauce, Mozz, Sorpressatta and Jimmy’s Sausage. The sauce is wonderful and the toppings pack a nice amount of heat. You really can’t go wrong with either of these pies.

For Dessert, we ordered an ICR dessert pie and the signature Swiss Pastry Shop Dessert, Black Forest Cake. The cake is wonderful, light and fluffy with a nice crunch. Nice almond flavor mixed with chocolate and cream.

Our dessert pizza, the bella mella, was nice. Caramel, mascarpone, sea salt and caramelized fruit. It was a nice way to finish the meal. Everyone was stuffed, but we still managed to finish this bad boy off.

Overall, this is a fantastic meal and the price point is great as well. It comes with a caveat, and one that I’ve learned over the last couple of years…. don’t expect to look at pizza the same way once you start eating at places like this. You can’t. It’s not the same.You will be ruined.

You’ll walk into random pizza shops and ask what type of flour they use for their dough. You’ll check around to see if you can tell what kind of tomatoes their sauce is made of and ask a pimply-faced worker what temp the pizza oven is set to (probably met with a pizzled look). It’s a curse, but also a blessing. You’ll know what good pizza, real pizza is all about. Coincidentally, you’ll also find yourself yelling “Best Pizza in Dallas!!” when anyone starts a sentence with “Il Cane….

RATING: ****

Cane Rosso on Urbanspoon

 

Review: Toro Bravo. Portland, OR.

 

Toro Bravo
120 NE Russell St
Portland, OR 97212

Toro Bravo is a small tapas restaurant in Northeast Portland. It is the brainchild of Chef John Gorham (as well as the brunch darling Tasty n Sons). It is in a small building next to the Wonder Ballroom, a local music venue. The day I went, there was an indie electro-pop concert happening, so hipsters walking around were in no short supply.

The interior was a nice open set up. There are some individual tables and some communal ones. We got placed on the edge of one of the communal tables and since it was a tuesday night there was no wait.

First up I had a charcuterie board. All the charcuterie was made in house and was fantastic. The chorizo (top left) was amazing. It was topped with Sherry jelly, which was more interesting to me than enjoyable. The duck liver mousse terrine with morels was absolutely amazing as well. I may have found a new fungus love in morels.

Next up were the salt cod fritters with aioli. Yea, I took a bite before I took a picture. I love aioli! These were good. The salt cod was pulled apart before it was fried, making the resulting fritter much smoother than expected.

After that I ordered squid ink pasta with anchovy syrup, hazelnuts and egg yolk. The pasta is made fresh in house (of course) and is amazing. I was asked afterwards if the squid ink added anything to the pasta and I answered that I wasn’t sure, but the pasta was really good. I’m not sure my palate is sophisticated enough to pick up on the squid ink. I thought the hazelnuts were a bit unnecessary and ended up not eating most of them.

I was still hungry after the pasta, so I ordered one more plate. For those not familiar with the concept of Tapas, it’s basically a set up in which you order a bunch of small plates and make a meal out of it. This is a concept I can totally get behind.

I ordered the spicy merguez sausage on grilled flatbread with French fries and buttermilk cheese. The flatbread was amazingly good, if you go here, please get a flatbread dish. The sausage was insanely hot and while tasty, I had to labor to finish it. The fries were good, but nothing special.

For dessert I had the churros in chocolate. A group at our (communal) table got some and they looked good (as you can see from the photo), so I went for it (with a side of ice cream for good measure). Sadly, they were a bit of a disappointment. Not quite sure what was off about them (I think it was amount of nutmeg). The chocolate was good and so was the ice cream.

Overall, this is the kind of local, everything-made-in-house, from-local-producers-and-farmers, that you come to expect in Portland. This is a seriously great restaurant in the middle of a city full of them.

RATING: ****
Toro Bravo on Urbanspoon

Review: Riffle NW. Portland, OR.

Riffle NW
333 NW 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

“There’s not a lot of good seafood in Portland.” This is common rhetoric you get from Portland locals when talking about the food scene of their beloved town.

It took this Texan by surprise and no one had a good reason for it. After I suggested that maybe Portland wanted to differentiate itself from Seattle a bit and focus on something different, everyone replied “Maybe.” No one was quite sure.

All that being said, there is an obvious hole in the market. A seafood restaraunt for the locals. One that can hang with all the amazing places Portland has to offer. Enter Riffle NW.

Riffle sits in the building where another restaraunt used to be (50 plates). Having never been there, I wasn’t terribly sad that it was gone (a friend I met for dinner was). I on the other hand was quite excited as the reviews for this place have been outstanding.

The menu looked amazing. (Side Note: I’m a complete sucker for typography on menus and good typography in general. Riffle hits all of these out of the park. Attention to detail was phenomenal on their print and interiors).

After reading about their ice program (seems like a weird thing to say), I knew I had to order a cocktail. An old fashioned is generally my drink of choice. The ice cubes are carved down daily from a solid block of ice (with a chain saw I believe). They’re pretty amazing. And the old fashioned was quite good as well.

The first food I ordered was a quail egg and sea urchin shot. I had seen it on their menu online and knew that it was something unique that I wanted to give a shot (no pun intended). For some reason I didn’t expect the quail eqq to be raw as I’m not a big fan of raw eggs. But that in mind, the sea urchin was awesome and the quail egg didn’t take away from it too much. I would probably enjoy it more the next time, knowing what to expect.

Next I had some shrimp ceviche. It was quite tasty as these things go. Very clean tasting. Nice citrus and pepper flavors. Can’t go wrong.

The main course was octopus and potatoes in a chorizo cream sauce. It is seriously one of the best seafood dishes I’ve ever had.

Chorizo and octopus are one of my favorite combos. Olympic Provisions has a small plate of baby octopus and chorizo that I love as well.

I could have eaten 3 of these plates, and sorta wanted to. I say that as a bit of a knock on the portion size, but I realize that a huge portion would probably cost $100.

For Dessert, I had the whiskey chocolate cake. Honestly, it was the only down note of the meal. A bit bland and didn’t do much for me.

The coffee was great. It came out in a mini bodum french press from which the server poured the glass. The coffee itself is from Sterling Coffee Roasters, a local portland roaster. I’ll make it a point to stop by one of their shops and give them a review. This cup definitely earned it.

Overall, I’d say this place is definitely the spot if you’re looking for a great cross-section of an amazing bar, great seafood and terrific ambience. I can guarantee this will be one of the best seafood joints you will ever eat at. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt with the dessert.

RATING: ****
Riffle NW on Urbanspoon