Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Reading

Since I am still rocking (f)unemployment and am possibly faced with a not-so-distant future of drastically downsizing my available reading time, I have been reading like a fiend. Most recently, I finished a book by Scott Westerfeld, Uglies, which is the first in a 3-book series. As you may have noticed, I added a bit to my blog seen to the right that shows you my most recent reads which I track on Goodreads.com. Here is the review I posted on Goodreads for Uglies.

Uglies (Uglies, #1)Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quick summary: The story of Tally who lives in Uglyville, for now. In this world, when you turn 16 you are given an operation that makes you pretty. Wide "doe" eyes, perfect teeth and hair, and of course, bone shaving. Everything you need to make you beautiful. The citizens of the city are all taught that the old way of life and thinking were the destruction of the world and this was all because there was too much competition based on appearance. The solution: make everyone pretty. Prior to the operation and after a lengthy "littlie" period, everyone is referred to as ugly. They even have nicknames for each other to highlight their worst features. But what if there was an alternative to becoming like everyone else. And, what if becoming pretty had other, more subversive effects than just wanting to be the same as everyone else.

I felt that this story was a little slow in the start, but was encouraged by some friends who also enjoyed the book to keep going. However, I was intrigued that the hero had already "drunk the Kool-Aid" and so badly wanted what you know as the reader you shouldn't want. I found myself getting bored with Tally and Shay in Uglyville, even with all the "tricking." I was happy when Shay finally left for the Smoke because I was irritated that she was so set against changing Tally's mind about becoming pretty. I was eventually very into the story as Tally takes on both the protagonist and partially antagonist role. There was a good bit of action the story as well which moved the second and third parts more quickly than the first

Biggest minus? Cliffhanger! I really dislike them, even if you know you are writing a series. There was clearly a place in the book when Westerfeld could have ended the book, leaving plenty of room for more plot to come, but not leaving the reader hanging in the breeze. Boo to cliffhangers. However, I am quite invested in Tally and her allies so I will eventually finish the series.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In search of the Holy Grail, aka Best Breakfast in Austin

The next stop on our Austin food tour took us to Kerbey Lane on Monday, August 1. Again, the trip was spurred by the gift card provided by Brandi and Tim and the promise that it is the best breakfast in Austin. Although we failed to make it out of the door in time for actual breakfast hour, our luck was that this 24 hour restaurant serves their breakfast menu all day. Point of order: I love breakfast! Any establishment that allows me to enjoy these treats any time I want gets extra points. The decor takes you back to the era of the Kerbey Lane’s establishment, with the twist of interesting local art on the walls. After a little research on their website, I found that the owners are dedicated to keeping it local community oriented. I love any place that takes pride in its heritage and customer-base. The servers added to the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

The breakfast menu consisted of a lot of traditional fare, but with a lot of vegan and alternative diet options, such as gluten-free. Off the summer seasonal menu, I ordered the Squash Benedict which consisted of two squash patties (think zucchini fritters, almost), two poached eggs, roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, and hollandaise sauce. I also opted to add prosciutto. My dish came with a side, of which I chose home fries. (NOTE: if you don’t know me, I will always choose a side that consist of a potato. It just seems like logic to me.)

This dish was SPECTACULAR! The egg: perfectly cooked. The squash patties: slightly starchy and full of great flavor. The hollandaise: creamy, smooth, tangy and absolutely delicious. The tomatoes: unbelievably smoky and sweet. The prosciutto: precisely salty and crispy. Every element had its place and they worked together harmoniously to excite my tastebuds.

The home fires. Here is some matter of contention. It is my thought that there is really 3 schools when it comes to breakfast potatoes. First, there is the hashbrown faction. There are people who like their potatoes on the crispy-fried side. Next there is the home fries group which prefer a baked option. Then there is my group, who simply loves all potatoes. These were of the baked variety and were a great complement to the Benedict.

Steve ordered the Harvest Omelet. Omelets filled with veggies are a favorite of his and this one did not disappoint. The egg was fluffy and flavorful and the veggies were perfect. His sides were a whole grain toast and mixed fruit which were also very good.

Now, again, for those of you who are not personally acquainted with us, we also love to mix our salty and sweet for breakfast. Although, really, who doesn’t?? Our sweet was the signature Kerbey Lane Gingerbread Pancake. I don’t even know what to say about this other than delightful. I am usually not a huge ginger fan and really only will eat gingerbread cookies if coated generously in frosting for the little men. However, in these pancakes, the ginger was definitely the main player, but not too strong. It was was also my favorite texture of pancake with the right balance of cakey-ness and fluff. (Side note: you can buy the mix for this and other Kerbey Lane pancakes at local grocers, such as H.E.B and Whole Foods so that you can enjoy these amazing treats at home... future post??)

It may be impossible to top Kerbey Lane as far as breakfast goes, making it deserve the  title of best breakfast in Austin. I will definitely keep looking, but will also make many future visits to this new favorite!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Texas BBQ

On July 25, 2011, we decided to take on the Austin area IKEA in Round Rock. Not only were we sincerely in need of shelving, but we were also ready to use one of our gift cards! Oh, wait - you wouldn’t know about that, would you?

FILL-IN TIME! Our dear friends from Pittsburgh, Brandi and Tim gave us a really thoughtful going-away gift: gift cards to the “best of” restaurants in Austin. We’re food lovers, so, you know, it was AWESOME.

Anyway, since were we headed north for the shopping excursion, we grabbed our gift certificate to The Salt Lick. During the drive, there are signs that say “You Can Smell Our Pits from Miles Away,” which made me giggle and gag at the same time. I don’t know about miles, but when we pulled into the parking lot, the aroma was mouth-watering. There was ample seating outside which would be awesome when not 104 degrees. Walking in the front door you are warmly greeted with some of the Southern Hospitality and an impressive view of the barbecue pit.

Steve chose to go with the Plate: your choice of three out of four meats (brisket, pork ribs, turkey, and sausage), potato salad, cole slaw, and baked beans. I opted for the seemingly smaller Pulled Pork Sandwich. That was possibly the most tender meat I have ever tasted and the barbecue sauce is unlike any others I’ve had. For dessert, we ordered the Blackberry Cobbler, which had good flavor, but was almost overwhelmingly sweet. I also have to mention that the sweet tea is always flowing!

I am so excited for friends and family to visit to take them to this classic Texan Barbecue.