La Bodega Gourmet launches monthly paella event

Eric Paz hosts a monthly paella event at his shop, La Bodega Gourmet, in Bee Cave. Photo from @ericbodega.
Eric Paz hosts a monthly paella event at his shop, La Bodega Gourmet, in Bee Cave. Photo from @ericbodega.

Since we’ve been talking about Spanish food this month, I’m happy to mention that Eric Paz, who owns the new La Bodega Gourmet specialty food shop and sells a make-your-own paella mix, is now making his famous paella once a month at the new store at 11500 Bee Cave Road.

To be able to buy tickets to the event, you need to sign up for his Paella Club newsletter by stopping by the store or emailing him at eric.paz@sbcglobal.net. Only 40 tickets ($25 each) are sold for each event, and the next will be at 6 p.m. July 31.

He’s also preparing paella to-go on Fridays and Saturdays, which you can order ahead of time by calling 512-263-8844. You can choose from two kinds — Valencian (shrimp, pork and chicken) or seafood (shrimp, squid and mussels) — and they cost between $15 and $18 per person, with a 5-person minimum order.

Another local paella expert you should know about is Fer Candil, a native of Madrid who has been catering and teaching cooking classes in Central Texas for several years now. For her catering company, Paellas, Tapas & More, Candil makes gazpacho, gambas al ajillo, tortilla de patatas and, of course, paella for weddings, parties and business events. You can find out more at her website,paellastapasandmore.com.

Want to learn how to make patatas bravas at home? You can also hire her to teach private cooking classes by emailing chef@paellastapasandmore.com.

First taco emojis, now a taco art show

These flying tacos will be on exhibit at Jerry's Artarama next month. Photo from Brenda Armistead.
These flying tacos will be on exhibit at Jerry’s Artarama next month. Photo from Brenda Armistead.

Oh, tacos, how we love thee, let us count the ways.

We have a taco cannon, a taco cook-off, taco emojis and now a taco art show.

Starting June 5 at Jerry’s Artarama, 6010 N. Interstate 35, more than a dozen area artists will display their taco drawings, paintings and sculptures. Some of the featured artists include Haley Bonner, Shan Fannin, Rebecca Borrelli, Luis Hurtado and Brenda Armistead, who made the taco sculptures on the right.

The show, which runs through the end of June, will have a free opening event from 6 to 8 p.m. next Friday that will, of course, feature tacos that you can eat, and the artwork will be for sale. You can find out more on the Facebook page.

 

Shan Fannin's taco artwork that will be on display at the exhibit in June.
Shan Fannin’s taco artwork that will be on display at the exhibit in June.

Austin Bakes for Nepal set for May 23

Austin Bakes has raised money for victims of the Japan tsunami, Bastrop wildfires and West chemical explosion.

Austin Bakes for Nepal is a citywide fundraiser that will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 23. Photo by Nathan Russell Photography.
Austin Bakes for Nepal is a citywide fundraiser that will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 23. Photo by Nathan Russell Photography.

This month, local blogger Lisa Rawlinson is rallying fellow bakers for another citywide bake sale to benefit those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal.

The sales will take place at nine locations across Austin from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 23 with proceeds going to AmeriCares. (Click here to find out more about how the money will be used.)

Bakers will be set up at the following sites during that time:

You can donate to the cause ahead of time by going to the Austin Bakes for Nepal FirstGiving page. To find out how you can participate, send an email to Rawlinson at fullandContent@outlook.com or look for a post on the blog at austinbakes.com.

As downtown Austin Trader Joe’s opens, how do prices compare with Whole Foods?

IMG_7276The newest Trader Joe’s opened in downtown Austin this morning, and Matthew McConaughey was there.

OK, not really, but a cutout of his character from “Dazed and Confused” greeted customers at the front door with a talking bubble that says “Trader Joe’s in downtown Austin? Alright. Alright. Alright.”

» Take our quiz: Are you a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods shopper? «

IMG_7279That’s what many downtown residents and workers are saying as the third location of this California-based chain opened in Austin, less than a 5 minute walk away from Whole Foods Market’s flagship store.

When the first Trader Joe’s opened in Rollingwood, just a few minutes southwest of downtown, in September 2013, the store was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with shoppers who were familiar with this funky brand that is especially popular in California, but today, the store — the smallest of the three Austin stores, the second is in the Arboretum — was almost eerily quiet around 9 a.m. There were shoppers, but they hadn’t yet filled the aisles.

IMG_7298But to be honest, who wants to shop in a store with bumper-to-bumper carts? That’s one of the reasons shoppers will likely pop into Trader Joe’s instead of the nearby Whole Foods, but how else are the stores different?

Trader Joe’s, whose parent company is from Germany and also owns Aldi’s, prides itself on private label products, which fill 80 percent of the store’s shelves. Some customers are borderline obsessive over Trader Joe’s goods, but others find them more sparkle than substance.

Although the Trader Joe’s branding feels wholesome and there are no artificial flavors or ingredients in its store brand products, not all of the items are organic or sustainable and none are local, with the exception of beer. All of those qualities are a higher priority at the nearby Whole Foods, which carries products from more than 250 Austin food businesses and touts its partnerships with local farms, too.

For some shoppers, it will boil down to price. I compared 10 items at both stores this morning, taking care to make sure they were the same sizes and the house brand at both stores.  Here are the results, with Trader Joe’s prices listed first and Whole Foods’ second:

IMG_7281Jar of marinara sauce: $1.79 / $2.15

One red bell pepper: $1.19 / $1.49

Four pack of organic avocados: $4.49 / $4.99

Six-pack of Independence Brewing Co’s Power & Light beer: $7.99 / $8.99

Frozen waffles (non-organic at TJ’s, organic at WF): $1.99 / $2.15

Frozen cheese pizza: $3.99 / $3.99

Gallon of organic milk: $5.99 / $4.63

1 lb. organic ground beef (85/15 at TJ’s, 90/10 at WF): $7.49 / $9.99

Organic corn flakes: $2.49 / $2.63

Organic canned black beans: $1.19 / $1.29IMG_7285

As you can see, Whole Foods had a much lower price on milk, but Trader Joe’s had slightly lower prices on everything else. (Whole Foods did not have non-organic waffles, I  should note, but I decided to keep that one in here for reference.)

IMG_7291It’s also worth noting that Whole Foods has a store-wide 10-percent discount on its 365 products going on this weekend, and they’ve set up a large display of $3 and $4 wines (right) that seems directly inspired by Trader Joe’s notorious Two Buck Chuck low-priced wine selection. I also ran into a local food business owner who said that Whole Foods is doing a big sampling push this weekend to showcase their Austin vendors, something that Trader Joe’s doesn’t have (and won’t, as far as I can tell).

One more note: Parking in the garage underneath Trader Joe’s is similar to that of Whole Foods downtown, except that you have to have your cashier validate your ticket or else you’ll pay $4 for the first hour and another $4 for the second and third hours. The garage was far less crowded than Whole Foods’ garage, but I imagine that will change as stores open and residents move into the still-under-construction Seaholm development

Are you more of a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods shopper? Why? How do you think Trader Joe’s opening downtown will affect Whole Foods? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

A look inside Rabbit Food Grocery, Austin’s first vegan market

For the past few years, Jessica Morris and Gabriel Figueroa have been selling vegan goods through their pop-up market called Rabbit Food Grocery.

rabbitfoodgrocerystoreBut as of this month, they officially have their own store.

Rabbit Food Grocery, which by most accounts is Austin’s first vegan market, opened a few weeks ago at 2210 S. First St., next to Fair Bean Coffee, where they are selling grocery staples, snacks, baked goods, body care products, household and pet supplies, clothing, cards and gifts. (I say by most accounts because it’s entirely possible that there have been produce or other animal-free markets in Austin that qualified as vegan but weren’t identified as such because, well, vegan wasn’t a term until 1944.)

rabbitfoodtwinkiesThey have vegan Twinkies.

rabbitfoodinside

And some fresh produce.

rabbitfoodgroceryinside2

And lots of unexpected things, like queso and paper towels and ceramics and vitamins.

In coming weeks, Morris says they plan to add cookbooks, a refrigerated section and even cruelty-free accessories such as wallets, socks and jewelry.

The owners haven’t set official hours yet, but the store has been open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week since its soft opening in early February.

You can find out more about the store at  rabbitfoodgrocery.com.

Feral, a DIY butcher shop, adds hunting excursions

 

Feral is a new workspace that you can rent to make sausage or break down animals you've hunted. They also offer hunting excursions that include butchering lessons. Photo from Feral.
Feral is a new workspace that you can rent to make sausage or break down animals you’ve hunted. They also offer hunting excursions that include butchering lessons. Photo from Feral.

If you’re a novice or experienced hunter, or maybe just interested in butchery and sausage-making, you’ll want to know about Feral, a “wild food workspace” at 2002 Southern Oaks Drive in South Austin.

It’s a commercial kitchen built with an emphasis on butchery, so hunters can bring in cleaned carcasses and use Feral’s meat grinders and mixers, sausage stuffers, smokers and vacuum sealers to help turn that doe into dinner.

This fall, the newly opened facility is offering culinary-driven hunting trips. For $750 per hunter (21 and older only, with a Texas hunting license, education card and rifle), these three-day, two-night deer and hog hunting excursions at the Bar W Ranch in Calvert are followed by butchering sessions at Feral. Owner Chris Houston says that as more people become interested in hunting, especially in pursuit of local, sustainable meat, these guided tours and butchery sessions can help hunters get the most out of their experience.

For more information about the hunting packages, email Houston at chris@feralaustin.com. To rent the kitchen space or equipment ($20 an hour or $200 for four, four-hour sessions), go to feralaustin.com.

10 Things I love about Austin: From farmers markets to Freddie’s Crutch

In today’s Austin360, my fellow staffers and I wrote an extended love listicle to our dear city, naming 175 places, people and even ideas that we love about Austin.

Here are a handful of the things that make Austin so special to me:

175thingswelovemarket

With more than a dozen farmers markets taking place on just about every day of the week, it’s easy to find yourself sampling some of the most interesting locally produced food products Austin has to offer, from kimchi and kombucha to kolaches from a food truck and some of the best tamales in Central Texas.

thingswelovecarolann

This thriving local food community wouldn’t exist without pillars, including Boggy Creek farmer Carol Ann Sayle and her urban farming brethren, market managers Suzanne Santos and Carla Jenkins and smiling Saint Arnold’s rep Frank Mancuso, Edible Austin publisher Marla Camp and indefatigable cheerleader Carla Crownover.
thingswelovewholefoods

Whole Foods’ flagship store downtown isn’t the only place you can sip on a beer while you shop, but it’s the most interesting. From blind dates taking place at the juice bar to sampling brisket from the barbecue restaurant in the back, it’s a spectacle that people who like to pop into grocery stores when they’re traveling should see.

thingswelovebaylor

Just up Lamar, up on a hill behind the original, you’ll find the Baylor Street Art Wall, an unfinished construction site that has become a destination for graffiti artists, some who have created their work legally in partnership with the landowners, and countless others who have not. For now, it’s a popular place to explore, read, write, take photographs or, in a handful of cases, propose, but unclaimed views like that won’t last for long.

thingswelovefreddies

Sipping on a Jack and Coke, otherwise known as a Freddie’s Crutch, under the live oaks at Freddie’s Place on South First Street, while all the kiddos in the neighborhood run around the playground and the best washer players in 78704 convene.

thingsweloveannas

The childlike joy housed within the gently loved toys, games, dolls, puzzles and figurines at Anna’s Toy Depot on South Lamar Boulevard. There’s no better place to buy a last-minute birthday present in South Austin.

thingsweloveginnys

Betting — and maybe just winning — chicken (expletive) bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon, formerly Ginny’s. Consider yourself lucky if it’s a slow Sunday and you can squeeze onto the dance floor for a two-step to Dale Watson.

thingswelovemeza

Getting a handshake from Juan in A Million’s Juan Meza. The smiling business owner likes to greet every guest who walks out of the restaurant, no matter how busy the breakfast service.

thingswelovefoodcontests

Austin might be best known for its hot sauce contest, but there’s also Paella Lover’s United, Quesoff, Bacon Takedown and one of the longest running vegetarian chili cook-offs in the country. It’s a good place to be if you love food contests, and not the kind that challenge how fast you can eat something.

thingswelovemartini

The Mexican Martini. Go to Trudy’s, Opal Divine’s, Cedar Door or anywhere else that serves this briny beauty of an Austin twist on the traditional margarita. If you drink alcohol, you can’t call yourself in Austinite until you have.