Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blue Star Cafeteria

Blue Star Cafeteria.
Not quite a cafeteria. Blue Star is a sleek, clean cafe. A modern diner with retro lighting and deco that serves up ordinary food with a twist.

Our meals were decently priced but the dishes were nothing more than a-okay tasting. I guess it is a cafeteria after all.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Perfect Pumpkin Chip Cookies

Sorry dears, no picture this time. I hope you will still consider this recipe. In general, I strictly avoid recipes without pictures. I am rather visual and prefer to have something to serve as a guide and means of comparison, but I assure you these cookies (should) turn out a lovely golden brown with a hint of orange in color.

These chocolate chip pumpkin cookies truly are impeccable in their simplicity and spiced goodness. I went on a hunt to find a pumpkin cookie that still tasted like a cookie. I'm quite particular about my chocolate chip cookies. I want something chewy and gooey that still maintains it's freshness the next day and doesn't dry out and get hard. But when it comes to pumpkin cookies, I often find them to be cakey and taste more towards the likes of a muffin top. Every single recipe I found - and I did in fact venture out of my realm of trusted websites and blogs - presented recipes for such cookies and so none were suitable. I realized then that I was taking the wrong approach. I closed all of those windows and went back to basics. If I want it to taste more like a chocolate chip cookie, then well, I suppose it should have been obvious that I start with one.

Essentially I took this recipe for Guittard's Original Chocolate Chip Cookie - but really just take your favorite trusted chocolate chip cookie recipe unless you're making cookies for me, of course - and add everything that you find in pumpkin pie! The cookies were softer because of the pumpkin, but really lovely and with one bite, my friends and I drifted off to pumpkin heaven.

Perfect Pumkin Chip Cookies
- Fresh Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (You know, the amount that always says it makes several dozen, tiny cookies, but really makes about 2-3 dozen)
- 2/3 Canned Pumpkin* (I suppose you could try this with fresh pumpkin, but I can't tell you how this will change the texture of the cookie, could in fact help make to cookie less on the soft side and more on the chewy cookie side)
- 1.5 tbs. pumpkin spice** (a combination of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, allspice)
- 2 handfuls of pecan halves (make the cookie taste like Thanksgiving)
If you've got the chocolate chip cookie going in the kitchen, I say before you add the chips to make things easier for yourself, spoon in the pumpkin and the pumpkin spice, and work it in really well. If you're not frightened of raw eggs, give the dough a go and see if it's spiced and pumpkin-filled to your liking. Go easy on the pumpkin. If you add too much, you'll get a muffin and we are not baking for moose! Follow up with a bag of only the best packaged chocolate chips - Guittard semi-sweet - or venture into bulk foods or imported chocolates section and find yourself something you trust. Then nicely chop the pecans to your liking and stir the dough till everything is mixed in evenly.

Spoon out dough about two inches apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheet if you have it, otherwise leave the pan ungreased. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden turning around halfway. I find that not everyone appears to make cookies on cookie sheets. Seriously guys, it makes a difference in how the cookies turn out. I like my shiny silver cookie sheet that, no matter how bad it's been scratched, never fails to bring my cookies to that perfect consistency.

*There's now a company besides Libby's that cans pumpkin, and it's organic! Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin. I have seen it at Whole Foods, not sure where else you can find it.
**A word of advice. Buy your spices from the bulk foods section. It's definitely cheaper in the short run and the long run since you don't have to pay for packaging! Plus, spices taste better fresh. Who wants to eat ground ginger that's been sitting in your cabinet for God knows how long?

My friends enjoyed these cookies very much, one of whom was my best friend and coincidentally my best/worst critic. I know when it comes to sweets, if I have to ask her if she likes it, then the dessert is sub-par, but if she asks for seconds and tells me she likes it on her own repeatedly that it's a hit, and thankfully that was the case this time. Unfortunately the cookies did not live to see the next day - they did, however, make it to the 10 o'clock showing of Prince Caspian at the dollar cinema 'cross town - so I cannot tell you how they taste the following day or any number of days after. But when I make these again, assuming they last more than 2 hours, I'll edit this entry and let you know.

I also plan to experiment again and see if I can come up with a Pumpkin-less Pumpkin Pie Cookie that imitates a pumpkin pie but maintains more the of the chocolate chip cookie texture that we have all come to know and love. I think I'll try making chocolate chip cookies again, but only add the pumpkin pie spice or maybe toss in some dried pumpkin shavings if those exist.

Now, if anyone has any recipes calling for cherry preserves, I'll be off to the kitchen. And as they say in Kenya, tigara buya (stay well)!

Cheaper by the cheesecake?

That's right. Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake. One Dolla Fiftee.
In celebration of the Cheesecake Factory's 30 Year Anniversary they served up $1.50 slices (normally about $7 or $8) to dine-in customers. Yes, we all know the cheesecake is great but the food here isn't even worth mentioning. The Cheesecake Factory can't do food right. Karina's salad was gross. My grilled cheese on egg bread was lacking that buttery crunchy toast and the cheese wasn't even melted. The Rachels thought their Four Cheese Pasta was alright, but the others didn't even bother ordering entrees. Food here is always terrible. Their partner restaurant Grand Lux at least can do food right.
Our selection of cakes:

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cheesecake with Caramel - White chocolate cheesecake is nice if you're not look for an overload of milk or dark chocolate, but I'll have to say the whole macadamia nuts doesn't seem to fit in well with the cheesecake. It's like they tried to jam the wrong puzzle piece in just 'cause it kinda sounded nice together. It really does make a much better cookie.

Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake - My favorite. I prefer the delicate, light texture and the smooth blend of chocolate and the cheesecake.

Oreo Mudslide - The only one that was actually too bothersome to eat. It took forever to muddle through one spoonful. Just way too rich.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake - Essentially cheesecake atop traditional cookie dough. You get exactly what you ask for.

I don't really have anything to say about the Tuxedo Creme other than it was good and well-decorated on the plate.

Another friend ordered banana something or the other. It was blah-tasting. That whole banana creme flavor tastes artificial to me. I think my friend Shyam put it well. It tastes like Laffy Taffy. It also didn't look very appealing on the plate. That cake needs some work!

On the whole, Cheesecake Factory has good cheesecake. Lots of choices. Just pick the best ones! Be ready to cough up eight bucks a slice (they've upped the price, and dropped in size) except on what we all hope will be a yearly celebration of $1.50 cheesecake.

Baked Butternut Penne

Baked Butternut Penne

My take on this recipe: I guess this is what happens when you buy all the stuff to make lasagne and forget the noodles! For as long as I spend making grocery lists and analyzing recipes, when I get to the grocery store I get distracted by all of the different foods shouting out to me. Shopping with me is like setting a little kid loose in candy store. And with all the good stores sampling out delightful desserts on the weekends, I do indeed walk out with a sugar-high (and a money-low). As far as this recipe goes, that butternut tastes good alone!! It would make make an excellent side dish. Especially if you add a little green spinach for color. Dad and I kept snacking on it throughout all the cooking. Bad idea though it's sooo filling. I felt a little full before I even served dinner haha. 

But if you have time, this baked penne is a breath of fresh air when all those store-bought-jar-sauce-pastas start to run together. It's colorful - red, green, white and yellow - and the butternut gives a nice sweet-salty combination. Using freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano makes this dish so I beg you- do not pick up Kraft packaged Parmesan and take the easy way out. I loved this dish because it has a lot of texture with the soft squash and pine nuts that give it a bite. Often you'll find lasagne and baked pasta dishes overrun with marinara. The Baked Butternut Penne has a nice white sauce for a change, but tomatoes are so good I'd rather use diced ones to maintain that taste of light freshness in the baked penne.  Well, I hope you can sit around the table one evening and enjoy this penne with your family and friends!

For squash filling
3 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to season 
salt-free Italian seasoning

pine nuts


For sauce
3 cloves teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
salt-free Italian seasoning
salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

For assembling casserole:
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (5 oz) 
15 oz wheat penne, cooked al dente
diced tomatoes
fresh spinach


Make filling: 
Cook scallion in butter in a deep pan or wok over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Add squash, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Italian seasoning and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks: 
Cook garlic in butter in a large, heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour into melted butter, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and black pepper and remove from heat. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble casserole: 
Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large mixing bowl mix penne, ¾ of the parmigiano, squash filling, diced tomatoes, and fresh spinach. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish and cover with all of penne mix. Pour over remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining parmigiano. Sprinkle Italian seasoning. Bake for 15 minutes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

Sometimes it's not just about the food. Sealing the deal on a home-cooked meal is topping off your deliciously prepared food with a pitcher of a complementing beverage. It is always nice to give the drink a personal touch even if it's not completely home-made by adding something special like fresh fruit. My indian family drinks the same thing with every meal: a glass of chilled water with a slice of lemon to kill the germs and no ice to save your throat...possibly even to prevent unsightly chewing or sucking of ice cubes. 

One night I decided to surprise my parents by serving them America's favorite summery drink: Lemonade. My lemonade of choice is Simply Lemonade. It's a great natural taste at a good price. To spice things up, or more appropriately sweeten and color things up, I pureed a pint of fresh strawberries and added that to the pitcher of lemonade. The strawberries give this drink a bright red, happy color and delightful twist on regular lemonade. I like to leave a few small chunks in the lemonade to keep the drink a little exciting, but to give a completely smooth look be sure to puree the strawberries a good while keeping an eye out for chunks of strawberry.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quiche Queen Goes Florentine

Quiche Florentine

Mmm, mmm, mmm. Quiche is so good. Especially when that crust is done right, buttery and flaky, it can really complement that savory egg flavor. Naturally, when it came time to make quiche I consulted my favorite gal pal, Martha.

Before we get started here, I'm just going to say when you approach a Martha Stewart recipe, you can either follow it exactly... or what I like to do when I'm feeling a bit lazy is take the easy way out and try to substitute with already prepared items i.e. PIE CRUST. I hate making pie crust. In fact I refuse to make it unless my Daddy is around to roll it out. I'm usually too tired from all the rest of the cooking going on in the kitchen to get to that part. Finding a healthy, tasty pie crust can be quite the task, and your best bet is head straight to Whole Foods or Central Market and pick up some frozen pie crust made without corn syrups and hydrogenated oils. You will also want to watch out for the Prepared Time! Some of the recipes can be quite long or use ingredients that have to be prepared in advance. I always investigate my recipes a couple of days in advance just to be sure I'm well prepared for any surprises good, old Martha might throw me.

Here's the recipe I used to make my Quiche Florentine. I suggest half-ing it unless you're planning on feeding a lot of hungry people. One quiche was plenty for my family of five and we definitely had leftovers. Keep in mind, I did serve it with a side dish. As for the recipe, as usual I did not follow it exactly. Dad couldn't find gruyere cheese at the store and picked up swiss instead, but honestly a strong cheese is the key to a flavorful quiche. I like to try any cheeses I haven't tried before if I'm going to rely on it heavily for the success of my dish, and the deli workers are usually willing to give you a taste.

I love how the leaves of spinach swirl in the egg on their own. The quiche becomes a canvas for dancing flowers, and the best part is YOU CAN EAT THE FRAME!

In the end, Quiche Florentine is a buttery delight perfect for breakfast or for dinner. It's so easy if you've got the frozen pie crusts ready to go. If you're a home-made elitist, this recipe for Basic Pie Dough is kid-tested, mother approved. I'm eager to give the quiche recipe another go, but with individual sized pie crusts making it easy to serve guests. Bon appetit!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kyoto Japanese Restaurant

Kyoto Japanese Restaurant
315 Congress - Austin, Tx
Meal: Veggie Sushi($3), Veggie Tempura($3.50), Edamame($2) - Happy Hour: 6:00-6:45, Mon-Sat

The Happy Club reconvened this week at Kyoto Japanese Restaurant, a sushi bar down on Congress. For whatever reason, I get a kick out of places with a staircase entrance and actually reside on the second level of a building. Maybe I subconsciously feel better about the calories I'm about to if I count calories.

For half of us, this was our first time to experience sushi. I always steered away from sushi as a vegetarian, which need not be the case. Obviously, there was a much smaller selection on the Happy Hour menu for the 2 Veg-Heads at the table, but it was quite sufficient (Other than what we ordered, miso soup, seaweed salad, and one other thing I can't remember were also offered). The atmosphere was pleasant for dinner conversation and the meal was enjoyable, although the traditional low tables were not as comfortable for the very, old 20-somethings at the table. I recall going to a Japanese restaurant when I was younger where they had built drops below the table for those who cannot handle sitting Indian-style (I think as an Indian, I am still allowed to say this... I'm not sure what they are teaching kindergartners to say these days). Our server happened to be a friend, and he was patient with our inexperience.
While most of my other friends ordered out the wazoo, I split 2 sushi plates and edamame with my fellow vegetarian friend, which naturally left us feeling in need for a later small dinner. I did not care for the edamame. I was told it served the purpose of cleansing the palate in between different sushi plates. The veggie tempura struck me as far better than the other 2 dishes - batter fried sushi with carrot and green bean - but I did also enjoy the veggie sushi made with avocado, cucumber, gobo root, shitake, and kanpyo (As for the traditional sushi, I've asked my friends to leave comments with their impressions on the meal).

A friend ordered Fried Purple Potato to go. Purple potato tastes almost exactly the same as russet with perhaps a softer squash-like texture. My friend appeared to enjoy these, but I did fancy the fried purple potato.

For dessert, I snuck a bite of the red bean ice cream. I am not sure why anyone would eat this. It's incredibly dull. Why eat red bean ice cream encased in dough when I can easily drive to Mandola's or Central Market for gelato. Needless to say no one but our friend who'd lived in Japan previously was compelled to order anything off the dessert menu. We found ourselves not much later at Mozart's for dessert. Choices galore, but I was not ready to spend $6 on dessert just for myself. Everyone else shelled out the cash because, of course, the desserts are delicious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dessert-aster: Vanilla Cupcakes & Chocolate Trifle

I am not feeling lucky... I've had two consecutive a-okay desserts. I hope this won't be the start of a streak! In general, desserts tend to be one of my specialities, but earlier this month I made two rather lovely failures. Even worse was the fact that both were served at get-togethers putting my culinary disappointment on display! I blame myself for being too cocky and serving never tested recipes to non-family members. At least, they looked delectable. 

Vanilla Cupcakes with Tri-colored frosting: White Vanilla, Cherry Preserves, and Dark Chocolate

The recipe I used for the cupcakes came from the usually disaster-proof The Vanilla Cupcakes turned out rather dense instead of the light, fluffy cupcake kids quickly devour. The cupcakes left everyone feeling overly full and tasted closer to muffin or pound cake. I knew there was no hope for this recipe when my dessert-loving friend Amira put her half-eaten cupcake to rest on the table. I am definitely open to suggestions of better vanilla cupcake recipes. My cooking friend Brady suggested that either this recipe is awful or perhaps the baking powder lost its rising agent. I wouldn't doubt that the baking powder could have "died" in the Texas heat.
I will say, however, that these cupcakes were frosted well! This frosting recipe for Mix-and-Match Cupcakes I will definitely use again. I used dark chocolate instead of bittersweet to intensify the chocolate frosting and Central Market Organic Morello Cherry Preserves to make the pink frosting as seedless raspberry jam is quite expensive. The frosting was more than enough to make 24 cupcakes so I would make plans to use the leftover frosting or make additional cupcakes. 

The frosting recipe gives several suggestions for "tip-top toppings," but I used whatever tiny, delightful things I could find in my portable dorm room spice cabinet: Pecan halves, Red sugar, Ghirardelli Chocolate Hazelnut Drinking Cocoa, Cinnamon, and Shredded Coconut.

Conclusion: I'll probably pick out a new cupcake recipe to try out, but stick with this buttercream frosting recipe.

On to the next dessert...
Individual Chocolate Trifles

My best friend had me over for a family dinner and made quiche especially for me so when she showed me this mouth-watering recipe for Chocolate Trifle, I jumped at the chance to surprise her with it. I'm assuming had I followed the recipe, the trifle might have come out better...

Instead, I used the recipe as a guide so that I could do things my own way. My chocolate trifle consisted of brownies, chocolate pudding, and white chocolate mousse. I wouldn't be caught dead serving anything with Cool Whip so I replaced it with white chocolate mousse. The trifle was just one layer after another instead of mixing in a fluffy whipped cream to the pudding layer to make it light, which is really the point of a trifle. Yes, I know I messed this one up!

I never use boxed brownie mix, which the Chocolate Trifle recipe calls for, because I refuse to eat/serve anything with hydrogenated oils and would rather not buy an $8 box of natural brownie mix. I usually work with imported chocolate blocks found on display at Central Market and Whole Foods, but I went to the grocery store with no recipe in hand and ended up with Nestle Toll House Cocoa, which happened to have a "Chewy Cocoa Brownie" recipe on the back. These brownies tasted alright. I would definitely call them dull, chewy and sweet, but dull. I think I'll have to blame the Nestle Toll House Cocoa... don't plan on using this stuff again... or at least this brownie recipe! My best friend definitely thought boxed brownies tasted better. 

To make the chocolate pudding, I just used JELLO Instant Pudding Mix and followed the recipe on the box. This was probably the only thing that came out well. I can't say I'd recommend this as I am not a fan of the ingredients used in the instant pudding mix.

The White Chocolate Mousse was the worst layer. I think I miss being able to pick up my white chocolate mousse from Marks & Spencers for 45p when I lived in Scotland. It simply did not taste like chocolate mousse at all. I used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips instead of Lindt, which taste fine themselves, but the mousse never got the right texture and honestly, tasted a little funny. The poor texture was probably due to the fact that I accidentally put all of the whipping cream in the melting chocolate at once instead leaving part of it cold to beat while the chocolate cooled as the recipe instructs.

3 repeated layers of brownie squares, chocolate pudding, and white chocolate mousse & topped with chocolate shavings

I topped the trifles with chocolate shavings I made from scraping a knife against a bar of Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate. There is probably a better method for making chocolate shavings, but I was losing patience by the end of this cooking experiment, (The heat from my hands melted most of the shavings as I scraped the chocolate).

Conclusion: It looked pretty, but didn't taste so. Sadly, I think my friends would've appreciated a much easier to make and less work-requiring Dirt-in-a-Cup. 

Monday, July 14, 2008


1500 Barton Springs Rd.
Meal: Margherita Pizza ($5.00)

Romeo's has found her Juliet, and it's my stomach.

Before heading out to the annual Zilker Park Musical, my friends and I stopped at Romeo's for an early dinner. The Romeo's website proudly boasts their $5 at 5 special, which includes a variety of wines, pizzas, and appetizers all for $5 each on weekdays from 3 to 6pm.

For the quality and amount of food and great service, this $5 deal is a must! With a special like this, one might worry that the level of service must drop at happy hour, but this was not the case. We found our waiter to be attentive and amusing. I had been to Romeo's once before. At night the atmosphere truly changes. During the day, expect a much more casual ambience, but equally good service.

As for our meal, each of us ordered a different pizza off the Happy Hour Menu: Margherita, Tomato Artichoke, Chipotle Chicken, and Four Cheese. I won't say the pizzas were on par with La Taverna or North, but for $5, I was more than satisfied. None of the girls at the table could manage to finish an entire pizza in one sitting, (Can't say the same for good, old Joe who couldn't risk his masculinity by leaving his plate unpolished) but our leftovers were perfect for sharing with our friends who we met up with to watch the musical a while later.

As opposed to the awful crème brûlée we tried at Chez-Zee, this dessert prepared at Romeo's delighted me at my original visit. I expect I'll be coming back to Romeo's soon to try out other items on the menu!

Monday, July 7, 2008


5406 Balcones Drive
Meal: Chicken Gorgonzola Focaccia Pizza (1/2 price of $5.00)

Two words for Chez-Zee. DON'T GO.

Now I try my best to avoid ruling out a place based on one visit, but this restaurant has received 3 visits too many, and that's based on 3 times I can recall going. I visited this restaurant on 4th of July with a few friends for their special happy hour event advertised on their website. Naturally, when I arrived Friday I was taken aback when the hostess had no clue about their special event. This could have been excusable except for the presence of a 4th of July Happy Hour poster hanging directly on the door across from the hostess stand.

Once seated, we discovered that the waitress was also unaware of the specials despite the small table signs put up on each table and special menu printed for the day. I asked the waitress to suggest something vegetarian, and she highly recommended the Chicken Gorgonzola Focaccia Pizza, obviously without the chicken. I am not a fan of jalapenos so I asked if could taste this in the cheese sauce described on the menu. I was promptly told by the waitress that most of the customer base was old so that most of the food was bland. Shocking, I know! I was positive the meal would only go downhill from here. The pizza could not have been more of a disappointment. The cheese sauce despite supposedly containing gorgonzola, a strong-tasting blue cheese, was indeed bland and in dire need of seasoning. It was laden with shredded mozzarella and tasted like a bad frozen pizza. I much prefer the traditional Italian thin crust, and this was thick and unpleasant. As this is referred to as a "Chez-Zee Signature" on the menu, one can only imagine what the rest of the selection is like.

My friend, having missed protein at our breakfast earlier at La Madeleine, ordered the Chicken Beignets: Marsala wine-marinated chicken breast strips, breaded and fried. He described the dish in a text message later: "Failure. The technique was great. Light, crisp batter and moist chicken. However, it tasted like nadadelicious. The flavors were tired and unrefined. Seemed like they used pre-packaged processed ingredients and oafish seasonings that were baffingly bland."

Another friend tried the "Southern" Maryland Crabcakes, which she found to be "decent" and "probably better than Cheesecake Factory." She particularly liked the tomatoey sauce served on the side to be good. However, she was not impressed with the advertisment for 1/2 price appetizers, which turned out to only be at a reduced price listed on their specially printed menu.

To finish things off, crème brûlée was ordered. I'm generally quite fond of this dessert, but definitely not when it is served completely blackened! The sugar was far too burnt and the custard beneath appeared to be missing vanilla. The poor quality dessert was the last straw and left me feeling embarrassed for bringing my friends to the restaurant, especially since I had raved about the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake I had tried there previously.
All in all, Chez-Zee is one restaurant to which I will never return. If I'm ever hungry again in the area, I'd be willing to drive to H-E-B to pick up yoghurt and a Clif bar instead of going there.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Galaxy Cafe

47th at Guadalupe - Austin, Tx
Meal: Veggie Burger & side of Mac & Cheese ( $7.25 +$0.50 for Smoked Gouda)

The Happy Club hosted its inaugural dinner at the newly opened location of the Galaxy Cafe situated in the charming luxury apartment complex The Triangle. Across from one of my beloved eateries Mandola's Market, Galaxy Cafe is a delight of its own from the spacey decor (reminiscent of the futuristic dining in Disney's Tomorrow Land and Epcot Center) to the wholesome items on the menu. Expect to be served La Madeleine style by ordering first at the register and taking your seat at table where your order will be brought out to you.

Although this may be a diner, don't expect greasy dishes attacked by salt and pepper shakers. All of the menu items will leave you with a light, satisfying feeling. I ordered the Veggie Burger(and added the smoked gouda, which I highly recommend) with a side of the highly acclaimed macaroni and cheese. Now, I normally think twice about ordering veggie burgers as I am well-acquainted with the undercooked veggie patties served daily at Kinsolving dining call on the UT campus. Of course in restaurants a much higher standard is used, but more times than not, I've ended up with a once frozen Gardenburger or something slightly worse. Galaxy Cafe makes their own homemade veggie patty, the taste of which reminded me of a falafel and not surprisingly, produced the same feeling of being well-fed. The burger was not overly moist since I prefer not to eat Mayo. I left it off and was tempted to add the avocado, but stayed away because of the $1.25 price addition.

As for the macaroni and cheese, I can't vouch for its nutritional qualities, but each spoonful of macaroni was coated in a creamy mixture of cheese. All of my friends enjoyed their meals, burgers and wraps - nothing shockingly innovative, but delightfully pleasing nonetheless. A remark could be made about the rather pinkish Tuna Steak, which tasted "fine" to my friend. I'd definitely say this place is a step up from Kerbey Lane in presentation, taste, and atmosphere. However, at Kerbey Lane you can count on a more entertaining server, yummy pancakes, cheap prices and the ever reliable 24-hour service.

Overall Galaxy Cafe is a quick, casual spot perfect for sharing breakfast or lunch with a friend. The hostess kindly arranged for several of the tables meant for 4 to be placed for our party of 8, which gave us plenty of room but left us feeling awkwardly far distanced from one another. Not to worry though, there is plenty of booth seating that lines the wall if you ever end up at the Galaxy Cafe with a dozen of your friends.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Happy Club

After very little deliberation, I decided to create dining club with some fellow food-loving friends in Austin. A single girl's got to find a way to keep her expensive, dining habit in check so The Happy Club is dedicated to such: Weekly, and when I say weekly I mean almost 4 or 5 days a week, we visit various hot spots (and a few undiscovered gems) in Austin's growing restaurant scene to take advantage of their happy hour specials or everyday great dining prices.

It all got started when a few of my friends went out to Mangia's on The Drag for some pizza to fill up time on another humdrum summer day. Of course, I've always known about Happy Hour, but it wasn't until I saw that sign among their tacky decor that a light bulb turned on in my head: Why can't it always be happy hour? And so I set out to find a way for all of us stuck in Austin for the summer (while the other half of our friends are off in Europe and South America on adventures) to enjoy our evenings without zero-ing out our savings accounts or resorting to PB&J and EasyMac. So here's a toast to Mangia's (even though I hate their pizza) for inspiring me to start making the most of my summer!

This blog will likely turn into something of a restaurant guide so that I may keep track of the fun, delicious places to eat for those dire times with no idea of where to go - Why is it that when my friends and I are starving, we can't ever seem to think of nice, affordable place to end our empty stomach misery? Or when my parents make their surprise visits, it would be nice to have a few places up my sleeve. Naturally, there will be intermittent entries containing recipes gone well (and surely some gone wrong) for the few times I'm allowed to take over the kitchen of a friend's apartment. Well, all this food-talk is making my stomach growl so I better get to it - this time, however, I won't be sinking in the red as I'm off for home-cooked, italian dinner in Round Rock with my second family. Arrivederci!