Austin City Taco Co.

Every now and again, I make a sacrifice to demonstrate why I reign as OMG of the DFW, Second of My Name (was named after my Grandma Ollie), Slayer of Breakfast Tacos — and Mother of Panthera Onca Parvus (Mouse and Crazy).

Couple of weeks ago, I was scheduled to interview Juan Rodriguez, Austin City Taco Co. culinary director. Due to scheduling conflicts on my part, I ended up just popping into the Fort Worth taco joint on my own to see what all the hubbub was about (sorry we missed ya, Juan).

Let me be clear. I wasn’t there to try anything outside of the breakfast taco genre. Everyone’s already written a ton about their Austin-influenced combinations. What I was interested in was their non-traditional takes on the breakfast taco.

Would they eff up the basics, like chorizo and egg? Would my beloved potato and egg arrive as mashed potatoes and a squiggly line of black beans? Had I risen at the crack of dawn and driven 45 minutes from home only to return disappointed and in need of crafting my own breakfast tacos??? I would soon find out.

They tell you exactly who they are — an homage to Austin and their taco scene — which is sort of why I was a little worried when it came time to the tasting bit — because we all know how I feel about Austin’s breakfast taco game.

Gotta say, I loved the vibe. Plus, their assistant manager Drew and the morning crew at Austin City Taco Co. delivered the best-improvised tour of the joint. Even from my short interactions, I could tell they were huge fans of the product and the brand — which is always a good sign.

Their breakfast taco menu is short and sweet — thank God. Migas (which I’ve never understood but enjoy), Bacon and Egg, Chorizo and Egg, Potato and Egg, and the Midnight Craving, a kitchen-sink approach to the breakfast taco.

The Midnight Craving sort of reminded me of the “everything,” “hurricane,” or “suicide tacos” that I grew up with in South Texas — but fancier. Ain’t no one serving up “bacon jam” back home. However, I admit this was a glorious and winning combo of eggs, brisket, potatoes, queso fresco, bacon jam, buttermilk ranch, all nestled inside of a fresh, scratch-made flour tortilla.

The Migas taco arrived in a half blue corn and half flour tortilla set up, and it was pretty darn delicious.

The pop of lime from the fresh salsa paired with the creamy avocado perched perfectly above the mountain of migas was downright delightful. Not to mention, that half blue corn tortilla was the shiznit.

And, that Chorizo and Egg??? Well, they let the chorizo speak for itself, and it said, “Te quiero mucho, amorcito mío.” (issa good thing)

I think, though, my favorite part of the visit was getting a couple of slices of bacon just because. We didn’t order the Bacon and Egg, but Drew insisted we needed to check out the bacon.

Heavenly.

People, they candy their bacon lightly with brown sugar. Heavenly.

Look, I’m a stickler for traditional breakfast tacos, but the thing is, these guys aren’t pretending to be your local taqueria. If you didn’t like their tacos, then pay more attention.

Drew kept talking up the fact that all they want to do is serve good food. They’re upfront about the fact they’re not in it to set trends or serve up traditional anything — they simply wish to deliver hot, fresh quality flavors like “the cravings you want right now,” and that’s exactly what they served up.

So, while I still prefer the more traditional breakfast taco of San Antonio and South Texas, there’s no reason to hate on Austin City Taco Co. They’re not claiming to be anything but delicious — and I can attest that they are exactly that. Go get you some. It was definitely worth the drive.

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored in the social media post announcement. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.

Bahn Mi

Don’t ever go to the K-Roger when you’re hungry and they have a sale on pork.

Or, do.

This was delicious. I’ve had about what seems like 16 different meals from that little pork chop incident at the store. But, this was, by far, the best.

Ingredients

2 (6-8oz) pork chops, thinly sliced

2 demi baguettes or bolillos, horizontally halved

1 TBS fish sauce

1 tsp Truvia (use sugar if you roll like that)

1 TBS Sambal (sub Sriracha if it floats your boat)

3 large garlic cloves, peeled

2 green scallions, roughly chopped (are there other colored scallions? why do we say green?)

1 TBS cilantro, chopped + a few springs to top your Bahn Mi

1 TBS canola or coconut oil

1 TBS butter

Salt/pepper to taste

2 TBS hoisin sauce

Instructions

Place the fish sauce, Truvia, sambal, garlic cloves, green scallions (not the orange ones), cilantro, and oil into a mini food processor and zap until the ingredients create a loose paste/marinade. Set aside.

Place the thinly sliced pork into a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, season pork with salt and pepper. Add the marinade into the bag over the pork. Remove air from bag by carefully rolling up the bag a bit and then sealing the bag. Once the bag is tightly sealed, massage the bag with your hands or roll around on the counter until the pork is completely covered with the marinade. Set aside.

Heat a skillet to medium-hi temperature. Butter the interior four sides of the halved demi baguette and place the baguettes open-side-down onto a skillet to toast. If you don’t butter your bread, why are you in the kitchen? Get out. You don’t deserve this Bahn Mi.

Once the buttered baguette is toasted, remove from skillet and set aside.

Open bag of marinating pork and add to skillet to cook. Increase heat to sear pork on all sides, stirring infrequently to ensure browning occurs. For best results, use a cast iron skillet.

While the pork is browning, you can use this time to make a quick pickle of cucumber and carrot for the Bahn Mi topping. Super easy. Ready?

Slice matchsticks of one carrot and one cucumber. Add to a bowl, add 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp of Truvia, and season with salt and pepper. If you want, throw in a little cilantro. If you’re daring, throw in a few slivers of jalapeño. You’re welcome.

Back to the Bahn Mi. Once the pork is cooked through, remove from heat and set aside. Grab your BUTTERED and toasted baguettes, and smear some hoisin sauce on each side. Add a healthy amount of pork to the sandwich, top with your sweet and spicy pickled veggies, and don’t tell me I never brought anything good into your life.

Billy Can Can and Billy Did Did

The atmosphere is exactly what you’d expect at a “saloon extraordinaire.” Loud. Fun. Walls brimming with rifles. A community table with an ax in it. And a beautifully crafted bar where plenty of Dallas social climbers were firmly planted. Plus, there were plenty of fancy drinks among the expected whiskey options at Billy Can Can in downtown Dallas.

But, we weren’t there for anything but the food. And, they delivered.

Stellar service and sous chef Carolyn Treadwell locked down an rootin’ tootin’ good time, I tell you what.

– Roasted Snapper and Gumbo


– NY Strip Streak

– Lamb Duo


– Duck Pappardelle


– Scallops and Grits

Let’s not forget the apps …

The venison tartare alone is enough to get your ass down there. Seriously. Now, stop staring and go make a reservation.

They serve dinner Sunday – Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.

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Call 214-296-2610 or write to reservations@billycancan.com

2386 Victory Park Lane

Dallas, Texas 75219

Spatchcocked Rosemary Lemon Chicken

One of The Hub’s favorite meals is roasted chicken with crispy skin. So, for his birthday recently, I whipped this super simple recipe up just for him, and he loved it! I know you will, too!

Spatchcocked rosemary lemon chicken with garlic herbed roasted potatoes.

– 6lb whole chicken
– 1 small bag red potatoes
– 1 bunch parsley
– 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
– 3 large cloves of garlic
– 2 TBS olive oil
– 5 TBS softened butter
– 1 large lemon zested/juiced
– salt/pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Par-boil the potatoes in salted water, drain and set aside. Chop parsley and divide into two medium-sized bowls. Chop rosemary and add into only one of the bowls. Chop garlic cloves and add 3/4 to the parsley bowl and 1/4 of the garlic to the mixed herb bowl.

Add one (1) TBS of olive oil and two (2) TBS of butter to parsley and garlic bowl. Toss par-boiled potatoes into the parsley and garlic bowl. Season with salt/pepper. Set aside.

Add lemon zest and juice to the mixed herb bowl. Add remaining butter to mixed herb bowl and combine well. Season with salt/pepper. Set aside.

Spatchcock chicken. Spread mixed herb butter mixture under chicken skin and over all sides of the bird. Season with salt/pepper.

Lightly oil large heated skillet. Sear chicken skin side down in large skillet for 5-7 minutes. Carefully turn over chicken and sear on the underside for 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add herbed potatoes and all mixture into the heated skillet and toss potatoes. Using a masher, lightly press potatoes to break open but not mash.

Add chicken skin side up over the potatoes and roast at 375F for 90 minutes or until thickest part of the breast is 165F. Remove chicken from skillet, set aside and lightly cover with foil to rest. Return potatoes to oven and broil until golden brown and lightly crisp.

Tamales Tradition

I’m so thankful for my recent opportunity to help Verify TV during their search to find the best tamales in North Texas. While it’s always a fun adventure to participate with them, this particular assignment meant a great deal to me personally.

It’s not Christmas until the tamales are made. For my family, and so many others, it’s a tradition that involves participation from everyone — in many ways a rite of passage.

I remember very clearly the day I was first allowed to help. It was at my Grandma Ollie’s ranch, and I must have been around six or seven. Sitting around the long counter right next to my Ma, I was handed an oja (corn husk) and a spoon.

My job was to spread masa on as many ojas as I could. I recall my Grandma helping me figure out how to hold the oja in my little hand.

There’s a distinct way to gently use the spoon to smooth out the masa in swift strokes. I was so frustrated at first.

I recall feeling like each oja took FOREVER to do!

But, I was at the table. And, that’s what mattered.

An assembly line of family members laughing, working, and celebrating an extraordinary culinary experience rooted in my heritage — a memory that would imprint on my heart forever.

To be able to continue the tradition — right next to my Ma and with Grandma Ollie at 99 years and still in charge of the crew — means everything to me and more.

Merry Christmas. May your own family traditions during the holiday season be as special to you as mine are to me.

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*song used for entertainment only – no copyright infringement intended*

Holiday Happy Hour

If you’re anything like me, things are a little nuts right now. It’s the busiest time of the year. Fourth quarter craziness at work. Family, friends, holiday shopping (online or in person), and food preparations have you running non-stop.

So, why not have an impromptu holiday happy hour and volunteer to bring the food!?!?

Because that’s what I did!

Insane? Maybe. Fun? Of course, it was. And, here’s how I survived.

First, don’t cook. That’s right. I said it. You can still put together some elegant snacks without spending hours on end in the kitchen and then trying to figure out how to transfer everything. Plus, you even get to take a shower and get ready!

Smoked Salmon Stuffed Tomatoes with Chive Cream Cheese

1 package of plump cherry tomatoes

1 package of cream cheese

3 TBS chives, chopped

1/2 package of smoked salmon, chopped

2 TBS capers

Slice 1/8 off the vine end and 1/16 off the opposite end of each tomato. Using a paring knife, carefully hollow each tomato from the wider vine end without piercing the bottom.

Soften the cream cheese and mix with the chives. Set aside.

Fill the hollowed tomatoes with smoked salmon, add a few capers, then pipe the chive cream cheese over the top to cover.

Tasty Trio on a Toothpick

1 wedge of Manchego cheese

1 package of Prosciutto di Parma

1 small jar of pitted Castelvetrano Italian olives

Cut Manchego in 1/2 inch bars. Slice prosciutto into 1/2 inch slices and roll up. Remove olives from the brine.

Assemble with the cheese on the bottom, prosciutto in the middle and olive on top, and secure with a toothpick.

Congratulations! You’re a hero! And, if you’re feeling like an overachiever, make some deviled eggs and top with fresh dill and bacon.

Most importantly, have fun at your holiday happy hour!!

Independence Day Salad

Super easy summer salad for a sunny day!

Freedom from complicated recipes and hours in the kitchen is what this super simple summer salad serves up! (alliteration, anyone?)

This is one of the best salads to make using my absolute favorite Greek salad dressing, John the Greek Original Salad Dressing. I first saw it at a Texas specialty grocer, Central Market — a brand close to my heart since I used to work for them years ago. And, I fell in love!

I don’t know what John put in that dressing, but it’s zippy and makes my tastebuds happy. Plus, it’s sugar free — another plus in my book. Here’s the quick and easy recipe to enjoy on any summer day.

12 Petit Cucumbers, 1/4 inch sliced
2 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1/4 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 TBS Fresh Dill, chopped
3/4 Btl John the Greek Original Salad Dressing

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate in a covered bowl for at least one hour. Serve as a side salad or over grilled meats and veggies.

Last night’s dream

I woke up on my own at five til six this morning.

I’d had a dream that I was in France under a tent in the warm summer sun. I was with a rather chatty older French fisherman who wore thick glasses — short, bald with wisps of hair decoratively peeking out from under his black beret.

I was trying to get oysters, cockles and clams from him. The longer it took for me to wrap up the talk and get the tub of scrubbed shellfish, the more humorous it became. Finally, in a moment when he bent over to grab another bucket, I slipped away my tub of delights and entered another tent.

There, I placed the tub over a low fire and immediately began adding in slices of garlic, crushed tomatoes, handfuls of basil and parsley, plus seafood stock straight into the tub. When I looked up, there was Anthony Bourdain.

We spoke for a moment. He was wearing a comfy-looking long sleeve black and white striped cotton shirt with jeans — sort of pirate-like, really. Tall and sun-kissed from the French beaches — we sat under the tent waiting for the shells to open.

After a short while, I had to leave. I decided to hug Tony on my way out — at first an uncomfortable embrace for both of us. I’m not a big hugger myself and could tell he wasn’t either.

I felt compelled to tell him it was okay.

Suddenly, I was somehow behind Tony — observing a genuinely friendly hug between two people who understood the moment without need of discussion. My view was slowly being drawn back until I was outside of the tent.

Then, I woke on my own at five til six.

Beto and Son at Trinity Groves

Pre-Happy New Year! It’s the end of 2017, and before we hop on a plane to begin our foodie adventures in Europe (follow me on Instagram for frequent moments of food envy), I wanted to share my last DFW restaurant meal of 2017 — Beto and Son at Trinity Groves — you’ll want to check this out. Continue reading “Beto and Son at Trinity Groves”

Meso Maya

So, I’m late to the game — Meso Maya has been around for a while now. I’ve driven past and even called to ask a few questions about the menu. And, honestly, based on its early reviews and the lackluster love received over the years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try it. That was until it inched its way across the loop and into my neck of the woods. Meso Maya had planted its huarache where I could no longer ignore the smells of handmade corn tortillas and mesquite grilled meats. Continue reading “Meso Maya”

Happy National Taco Day!

In honor of National Taco Day… may the tortillas be perfect, the fillings be flavorful, and the salsita be perfectly picosa! ¡Viva! Continue reading “Happy National Taco Day!”

Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa

Last week, Chef Rick Bayless posted a challenge to create a personalized version of Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa and a dish you’d use it in. I’ve always been a sucker for a good salsa. And, when he announced this salsa contest, I armed myself with fire and tongs. Continue reading “Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa”

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Let’s just cut to the chase here. If you’ve ever tried to blindly create anything with coconut flour, it’s highly likely you ended up angry, frustrated, confused, and most definitely hungry. Continue reading “Coconut Flour Pancakes”

REPOST: Texas Breakfast Taco Battle

Verify Road Trip’s Breakfast Capital of Texas show was back on the air this week, and we’ve started up the conversation again. So, here’s a repost of the original Breakfast Taco Battle post right before the original air date – with an edit to remove the original air date from September 2016. Catch my submission video and behind the scenes info, too! Most importantly, pick up a breakfast taco this morning. You need one. I’m frying up some bacon right now. Continue reading “REPOST: Texas Breakfast Taco Battle”

The Importance of Life

I’ve been on blogger vacation (aka too dang busy to post to the blog).

Recently, I picked up a project that has been fantastically challenging, incredibly fulfilling, and friggin’ back-breaking.

I love it.

However, making #betterchoices has been a bit of a challenge — both food and life choices.

I’m happy to report I have not gone completely off track with the food. No weight gained — two more lost. (But, that may or may not have been due to my living off coffee and Cheez-It crackers for at least a few days out of the three weeks.) No major disasters though.

Life choices have also been tough.

Calculating time. Figuring out how to balance — especially in the midst of unexpected events. Grandma Ollie happened to have a hospital stay — all is well now. Our place had some issues. Bear’s schedule has also been nuts. Life has just been a little trying.

And, today, I got a huge dose of “ah-ha” by way of my nephew.

At noon, my brother called to invite me to eat lunch with the family. I was ear deep in work. (I’d live-streamed church earlier. Okay? THAT kind of caught up in work.) Completely misaligned and already in a “gotta get it done” rhythm.

At first, I was kind of irritated because I’d already communicated how busy I would be today. Then, he offered to bring me food. I hesitantly agreed — until he decided he and my nephew would pick up food and come eat with me.

No way!

I had two laptops up, papers blanketing the tables — not possible. I already knew I was leaving later to visit Grandma. Ain’t nobody got time for this! (I know. I’m a horrible person — I promise it gets better.) So, with one of my oldie-but-goodie classic teenager-y sighs, I huffed out a, “Fine. I’ll hurry up and get ready and meet you there. But, I have to hurry back!”

Rushed a shower. Slicked the hair back in a bun. Cat screaming at me to hurry up (even she knew I had a poor attitude). Finally, I get in the car and head over to Rock Fish in Plano.

In I walk. And, I’m greeted with a giant, Kermit the Frog-like, frantically happy wave from the back of the restaurant.

It’s my nephew.

He stands up, gives me a big squeeze, pulls out my chair, and immediately begins to fill me in.

He’s ordered my tea. He’s going to have catfish. Do I need any sweetener? His daddy (my brother) is drinking Dr. Pepper. And, French fries and applesauce will be eaten today.

Immediately, my hard candy shell begins to crack. He’s going full-speed, and like or not, I just have to catch up!

We have an awesome meal — Ahi Tower — perfect. Service spectacular.

And, then my brother, knowing I was on my way to see Grandma, tells my nephew he should go with me to see his Neny (the name my nephew calls Grandma Ollie).

Immediately, the tides change.

“Why!? I thought we were going to go to the comic book store first!?”

Knowing this kid and how much he loves his Neny and spending time with her, I said, “Hey? What’s going on here? What’s more important? People or things?”

After a few patient rounds, we got to a place where we were talking about finding balance and the importance of spending time with the people we love. My nephew is autistic but high-functioning, and his heart is so full of love and joy. All I had to do was find the right analogy of “always going to be there” comic books versus “not always going to be around” family and friends.

I told him that I also had made a choice that day.

He was more important than the work that had to be done that day. That’s why I’d stopped what I was doing to have lunch with him (which was immediately countered by a lecture about being responsible for doing my work so that I don’t lose my job and he doesn’t have to worry about me). But, he got the picture. And, in that moment, I realized I was actually speaking to myself. I needed a reminder.

Life is important. We only get one shot, and what we do with it matters.

The two hours spent eating, laughing, and visiting Grandma Ollie with my nephew by my side was necessary. It was like feeding my soul — my well-being — my life. Nourishment.

Then, it got me thinking about the earlier online service. “Talent needs a team to be terrific.” In other words, you need a team in your life to live it fully (your faith, your family, your friends, your hobbies, your passion, your purpose — balance in all things — a team to give you balance). Living fully is a culmination of many things, including connection, gratitude, forgiveness, knowledge, appreciation of other perspectives, worldly vision — that balance of all things is what gives importance to life.

And, I needed a reality check on that front. My nephew rocks.

I’m home now. Just got back and ready to dig back in with work with a fresh view. But first, I needed to share this with you.

I needed to share it because you are also important in my life.

I started this blog because of my love of food and my love of writing. And, you’ve been along for the ride the entire time! So, please forgive me for my absence. I promise I’ll have something more to say next week.

Have an awesome week, and make better choices — balanced choices. It’ll be on my radar for sure.

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.

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