The Best Salad Dressing I Have Ever Had

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mother’s Café & Garden

Today I went to Mother’s Café & Garden, as I usually do at least once every two weeks, to check out their Happy Hour. To my surprise though, Mother’s does not have a Happy Hour! While this restaurant, located in the heart of what is considered to be one of the oldest neighborhoods in Austin, has an amazing Vegan menu, I was somewhat disappointed to find out they did not have Happy Hour.

Entrance to Mother's Cafe & Garden

In response to when I asked them what their Happy Hour specials were, the host told me they do not have Happy Hour, but that their drinks are “pretty reasonably priced to begin with”. While the host may feel this way, I would have to disagree. If he is comparing their drink prices to other restaurants in Austin who have Happy Hour, then the answer is no, the drinks at Mother’s are not reasonably priced. But if the host was comparing it to how expensive the meals are at Mother’s, then I guess the drinks would be considered somewhat well priced. All the drinks on the menu at Mother’s are around $3.25 to $4.50. If you are planning on only ordering one drink then this price is OK. But, this does not seem reasonable if you are planning on having more than one drink. If you are looking for a place to go and have a few drinks with your friends I would not recommend Mother’s to you for that specific occasion.

Nevertheless, because of the fact that I never really got to enjoy Happy Hour at Mother’s, instead I will give a basic review on the restaurant, since I do feel that Mother’s is definitely worth your time if you are looking for a good place to eat.

My roommates told me about Mother’s at the beginning of this year and would always say how good their salads are, in particular they would go on and on about the salad dressing that Mother’s uses. So I went to Mother’s for the first time in September 2010. When I got there I had no idea what to order so I got exactly the same thing my roommate got: the Garden Path Salad with the Cashew Tamari dressing to start and the Spinach Quiche for my main entrée, which comes with fruit on the side.

All the food I ordered was delicious, but I feel the need to go into the amazingness of the salad. I have never been a salad person. I would only order salad to force myself to be healthy, and I would usually go with a Caesar Salad, which in the end is not so healthy. The Garden Patch Salad at Mother’s Café & Garden, with their home made Cashew Tamari dressing is literally to die for. This dressing made me obsessed with eating salad. Luckily, if you want to buy the dressing to make the salad at home, Mother’s sells the dressing at Fresh Plus supermarket, which is located directly across the street from the restaurant.

While I could go on forever about how amazing and delicious this salad is, I will spare you the details and leave it to you to decide.

Now to get into the prices at Mother’s, which is definitely a sore subject to bring up after boasting about how great the food is. Mother’s is definitely on the pricy side. While this restaurant is pretty casual, the prices match up more so to a restaurant you would probably go to on a Friday or Saturday night. The appetizers or starters are usually around $3.50 for a regular size and $7.95 for a large size. While $3.50 may not seem too expensive for a regular size, keep in mind the regular size is pretty small. The entrées usually range from $7 to $10. However, in defense to what some may perceive as an expensive menu, Mother’s Café & Garden is a totally Vegan restaurant and they have their own garden in back of the restaurant where they use all of their specially grown lettuce and vegetables for the salads. So going back to the salad conversation, the salad is probably one of the freshest tasting salads I have ever eaten in my life so while $7 may feel a little pricy for a small salad, in my opinion it is worth every penny.

I give this restaurant a thumbs-up overall, but a thumbs-down for not having Happy Hour. I feel that if Mother’s would consider creating a Happy Hour, it could really create a lot more business for the restaurant.

Mother’s Café & Garden — 4215 Duval Street — Austin, TX 78751-4341 — (512) 451-3994

Dolce Vita’s Chill Happy Hour

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Happy Hour at Dolce Vita

Entrance to Dolce Vita

Located in the heart of what is considered to be one of the oldest neighborhoods in Austin, Dolce Vitais one of my favorite spots for Happy Hour.

Specials at Dolce Vita

Conveniently located around the corner from my house, my roommates and I have made it somewhat of a new tradition to go to Dolce Vita every Sunday.

The Happy Hour goes from 4 – 8 p.m. during the week and it goes all day on Sundays. Their specials are all Wines are $5 by the glass, White Russians are $3.75, Well High Ball Spirits are $2.75 and all Beers are 50 cents off. In addition, on Mondays, Dolce Vita has a Mystery Beer Special for $2.75 a beer.

Something that really attracts me to Dolce Vita is the fact that you can decide whether you want to sit indoors or outdoors. This restaurant has both an indoor and outdoor dining area so on gloomy days it is nice to be able to sit inside, while on very sunny days, it is fun to sit outside for Happy Hour.

Going back to the prices of the drinks during the Happy Hours at Dolce Vita, while for some this Happy Hour may be considered a little pricy, I like to come here more for the atmosphere. It is one of those very “Austiny” feeling places. The restaurant is very chill and relaxing. If you are looking for a place that is crowded with an upbeat atmosphere I would not recommend this place for you. If you are in the mood for a Happy Hour that is laid back or a place that would be good if you are not in the mood to get very dressy, I would recommend Dolce Vita.

I really enjoy going to Happy Hour at Dolce Vita. I definitely would give this place a thumbs-up.

Dolce Vita Gelato & Espresso — 4222 Duval Street — Austin, TX 78751 — 512- 323-2686

DIY wine-based drinks

May 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

I LOVE WINE. Ever since I studied abroad last year in Italy, I’ve been obsessed. While I love a glass of wine with my dinner (or without, haha), there are times when it’s just too heavy for me. While I can’t guarantee you the best wine-based drink recipes, I’m going to share two of my favorite, both of which I got spoiled with while traveling in Spain afterward.

The first is going to be the the well-trusted Sangria. While I have complained more times than not that it just tastes diluted and flavorless, there are times when I find it incredibly refreshing.

Spanish sangria contains lots of oranges. | Photo by Thu Pham

1 lemon
1 lime
2 oranges
1 cup rum (or club soda if you don’t want to mix your alcohols)
1 bottle red wine
1 cup orange juice
1/2 white sugar

Make sure all of the liquids, rum, wine and orange juice chilled before you start. Cut up the fruits into slices and throw them into a larger pitcher. If you’re doing it with rum, pour the rum and sugar into the pitcher with the fruit. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Afterward pour the wine and orange juice in to serve. Mix first, of course.

If you’re working with the club soda, I would just chill everything separately and then mix it when you’re ready to serve it.

Like with anything else, adjust the ingredients to your liking. I really enjoy the taste of oranges in this drink, so I always add a ton.

Calimocho consists of 50% red wine, 50% coke, and is 100% tasty. | Photo by Thu Pham

My next drink is mind-blowingly easy. Calimocho is a spanish drink that’s just coke and red wine. Yup, that’s it. The drink is incredibly easy to make: 50% red wine and 50% cola. I used a $10 bottle of Chianti, and it came out great.

Making cocktails at home

May 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

This week, I stayed in my kitchen. My roommates and I like to play around with drink concoctions when we’re feeling too cheap or lazy to leave. With my final week of college right around the corner, I’m looking back on all of my favorite DIY drinks.

Tackling first is my favorite drink-of-choice: the mojito. The best one I’ve ever had was when I was in Granada, Spain this past summer. What made it so tasty, I think, is the raw brown sugar in it. It gave it a certain sweetness that regular sugar doesn’t. Here’s my favorite recipe.

My favorite drink of choice: mojitos. | Photo by Thu Pham

1.25 oz spiced rum (I like Captain Morgan)
10-12 mint leaves
1 tbsp sugar in the raw
0.5 oz fresh lime juice (heck, toss the lime wedge in there if you want)
2 oz club soda

Put all the ingredients in a shaker half full of ice, and shake! You might want to save some mint sprigs to garnish it with, but I usually scrap everything from the shaker into the glass.

Like with any drink, there are several modifications that can be made. You can use white rum instead of dark or spiced, vary the number of mint leaves (I like a LOT), add more sugar if you want it sweeter, or replace club soda with Sprite to give it more sweetness.

This next drink has no name because this happened when I was throwing leftover drink mixers together. I’m a big fan of strawberry cocktails, so when all I had left over was some red grenadine, Sprite, vodka, sweet and sour mix, and strawberries. So I made a vamped up version of a cherry vodka sour, but with Sprite and strawberries. It’s really fruity, but so delicious.

A glorified cherry vodka sour..with strawberries. | Photo by Thu Pham

2 parts vodka
2 part Sprite
1 part sweet and sour mix
A splash (or a part if you want) of grenadine
4 halved strawberries

Just throw ’em all in there and mix! Like with any other drink combination, it’s up to you how you want to modify it. I find that measuring drinks is a bit cumbersome, so I tend to just throw things in until I get to the flavor I want. And for the vodka, I would just use Svedka. Sure, Grey Groose is good, but we’re not ballin’ over here.

Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill: Old times, Good times

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Monday – Friday: 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Popcorn instead of chips

I think that one of the reasons I enjoyed going to Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill as much as I did was because of the unique atmosphere it has. The restaurant feels extremely old timey and the idea of southern comfort comes to mind when dining and drinking here. Rather than placing bread or chips on the table, Moonshine gives its patrons buckets of popcorn and serves water in mason jars.

Initially, I worried that Moonshine would also be somewhat pricey. Their happy hour specials were quite reasonable, however, with deals on both drinks on appetizers.

The Ruby Slipper, Hard Lemonade and Silvermoon Margarita

The majority of the drinks are specialty drinks, or popular drinks with Moonshine’s own personal touch added to them. I was able to sample several and found them all to be quite tasty, such as the Ruby Slipper and their version of Hard Lemonade. Their specialty drinks are only $4 each, and they also offer Lone Star beer for $2 during happy hour.

Moonshine offers all of their appetizers for half price during happy hour. Though neither of my friends and I were particularly hungry when we went, we would have liked to try some of their appetizers, since they all looked extremely interesting and different from the appetizers we had seen offered at any other restaurant.

Because Moonshine was such a different experience, I think I would definitely recommend this restaurant to others and I plan to return here in the future.

Baby Acapulco

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Monday – Friday: 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Though their happy hour specials were similar to those of Z Tejas, I found that I enjoyed my experience at Baby Acapulco more. Something about the dim lighting and the sports games playing on TVs around the restaurant made the setting considerably more comfortable than it had been at Z Tejas. I also appreciated that their happy hour lasts for as long as it does.

Baby A's Frozen Strawberry Margarita

During happy hour, Baby A’s margaritas are $1 off and wells are only $3, in addition to daily drink specials. A handful of their appetizers are also offered at half price during this time.

When I went, I had a margarita and, though I often do not like margaritas very much, I thoroughly enjoyed mine. Also, Dos Equis are offered for $2 on Mondays. As one of my favorite beers, I can confidently say that I will probably return just for this deal.

Extremely filling sliders

I also was able to try their sliders, which was the first time I had ever had a slider before. They were extremely tasty and also extremely filling, especially considering that I split them with a friend.

Though I had to drive in order to get there, parking is not too much of a problem because they have a parking lot. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Baby Acapulco’s, and I plan to return (especially on Mondays to get my beer).

Z Tejas: Good Grub, Slow Service

April 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Monday – Friday: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

When I think about Z Tejas, I usually think of a relatively upscale restaurant with prices to match. Unfortunately, I was right about this and even more unfortunately, their prices for happy hour are not extremely different from their normal drink prices.

The happy hour specials only include $1 off margaritas, mixed drinks and house wines, and only 50 cents off all beers. This was also a bit of a disappointment in light of the fact that the service was incredibly slow. Most of these drinks range in price from $6.50 – $8.50, so the 50 cent to $1 discount is not particularly impressive.

A variety of drinks from Z Tejas

Despite the meager change in pricing, the drinks still tasted great and Z Tejas has a pretty expansive drink selection. They have a large variety of margaritas and mojitos in addition to many other kinds of drinks, like cosmopolitans and martinis. I tried the Sparkling Saint, which was a beverage I had never tried before, so I was a little hesitant about it. It turned out to be quite well made, though, and I ended up enjoying it.

To make up slightly for the unfortunate pricing, Z Tejas has a variety of appetizers ranging in price

Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites

from $4 – $6 during happy hour.  We ordered the grilled shrimp and guacamole tostada bites, which were extremely tasty and sufficiently filling as appetizers for four people. If anything, I think I would return for the cheaper appetizers rather than for the drinks.

Although Z Tejas is located on 6th street, it is on a less crowded section and parking can be found in the neighborhood nearby. The atmosphere, like many other restaurants, is relaxed and comfortable as a result of the location. If the drink prices were better, I would be more likely to return.