County Line delights with food…and turtles?

County Line
It’s bound to happen when you live in Austin. Company comes from out of town, and they want bar-b-que. As in piles of the ribs Austin is so famous for. But where can a vegetarian take someone for ribs…and still eat something beside a side salad and rolls?

The answer is County Line on the Lake. For our guest, the menu had an assortment of mouthwatering ribs, brisket and sausages. For me, a perfectly prepared vegetarian kabob. Add the housemade bread, plus a couple of sides and everyone at the table was happy and very full.

But as good as the food was, the high point of our County Line meal was the turtles. No, not on the menu! In the river!

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This location of County Line is on Bull Creek, a tributary to Lake Austin, which means the view from the patio seating is beautiful.

06-DSC04703My husband had been there before, so he knew there was something beside the view that I would love. A few steps down from the patio, to the edge of the river and I saw what. The water was FULL of turtles. Hundreds of turtles, of all different kinds. Big ones and tiny ones the size of silver dollar.

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And there was turtle food, too. For .25, you could fill a cup with turtle food and sit down at the water’s edge and feed the turtles!

07-DSC04706I’m such a little kid wihen it comes to things like this. And I loved every second of it. A beautiful setting, delicious food, and turtles!

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The County Line on the Lake also has an extensive children’s menu, so kids can enjoy lunch or dinner and feeding the turtles, too. The lovely patio on the river makes it a wonderful choice for a date night, too.

The Specs

5204 FM 2222
Austin, Texas 78731
(512) 346-3664

http://www.countyline.com/CountyLineLake.html

Sun-Mon 11 am – 9 pm
Tues-Thur 11 am – 9:30 pm
Fri-Sat 11 am – 10 pm

 

County Line on the Lake on Urbanspoon

Food, films and fun at Top Notch old fashioned drive in

classic car

You know the old fashioned drive in burger places you see in 1950’s movies? The ones with trays and great big burgers and piles of fries on trays? I always wondered what it would be like to go to one of those places with a date on a Saturday night. Guess what?  My partner-in-crime and I got to do exactly that — and it was here in Austin!

Tucked in among the businesses on a busy stretch of Burnett Road we found Top Notch.

Top Notch sign

This is the real thing, classic cars and all. Burgers, chicken and veggie burgers cooked over an open flame.

Open flame cookingShakes and fries, too, from 11 am to 10 pm every day of the week.

Top Notch menuAnd once a month, they add another classic touch. Drive in movies on their very own classic-television-screen on the side of the building. Local car enthusiasts come out with their classic cars and trucks. Families come out with lawn chairs. There’s live music until it’s dark enough for the movie to start, but no one is checking their watch. It’s too much fun sitting out there eating and checking out the cars. There’s even a photo op!

7-20140516_202913Oh, and the food. My veggie burger was cooked perfectly, and the fries were crisp and super hot. Lance’s fried chicken was the kind you usually find in a favorite grandmother’s kitchen, and his order of fried okra was crisp and tasty without a bit of mushiness.

This is a great choice for a date night or a family night out. Upcoming car and movie nights are listed on their Facebook page, so you can add them to your calendar.

The Specs

7525 Burnett Road
Austin TX 78757
512-452-2181

http://topnotchaustin.com/

Mon-Fri 11 am -10 pm
Sat-Sun 11 am – 10 pm

 

Top Notch on Urbanspoon

A very Austin date night — at Whole Foods!

20140301_220338Finding a place for a low-key, inexpensive date night can be a challenge. But the new Whole Foods in the Domain might be a very Austin answer to that challenge.

You know we love our Whole Foods here in Austin. But until last night, I never thought of it as a date night option. Grocery shopping just isn’t on my list of romantic activities (although come to think of it I did see a grocery store date night game on Dating Divas the other day.)

But this is something even better. The new Whole Foods has something I’ve never seen at a store…fire pits!

fire pit at Whole FoodsWe headed to the hot food bar and loaded up on things like veggie Samosas, sautéed kale and marinated roasted vegetables for me, and salad, Indian Chicken and vegetables for my hubby, then headed outside to enjoy our firelight supper.  Those who want to add wine or beer to their dinner can do that too…the store has a huge selection of both.

20140301_213855The setting was casual and relaxed, with lots of benches to sit on near the fire pits…plus additional seating off to the side if the fire pit area gets too warm.

20140301_221557The new store is within walking distance of the Domain, so you could combine your Whole Foods date with a movie at the iPic, too.

The new Whole Foods is located at 11920 Domain Drive in Austin. They’re open from 8 am to 10 pm everyday, although I would recommend waiting for twilight to head for the fire pits.

Oh, and just one more thing…the fire pits go off as soon as the store closes for the evening, so it won’t work for conversations late into the night. We found that out the hard way, as our cozy fireside supper was suddenly not so fireside!

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urban american grill: Who knew food like this existed in a chain hotel?

urban american grill in the Westin Domain

It was the Sunday morning after MomCom 2014, and I was exhausted. I had enjoyed the event, and my stay at the Austin Westin Hotel in the Domain –and I wasn’t quite ready to head back to the “real world.”  After sleeping in, and skipping breakfast, brunch was definitely on my mind. But where?

Walking across the parking lot to the Domain was an option, but I really wanted to stay put, so I headed for the hotel’s cafe, urban american grill. I didn’t have high hopes, but it was right there, and I was hungry.

As I walked in, I heard Bluegrass music, but I thought it was a recording. Nope. It was LIVE Bluegrass. In a hotel restaurant. In the morning. Awesome!

20140126_134142I sat down and took a look at the menu, expecting the typical boring selection of breakfast dishes for outrageous hotel prices. Wrong again!  There were all kinds of tempting choices, and the prices were less than some regular brunch haunts.

urban american grill menu

Instead of struggling to find something “okay,” I was torn among a whole bunch of delicious choices. This was getting better and better!

I finally settled on the Forager pizza, with pears, apples, gorgonzola cheese, pecans, and roasted tomato, topped with arugula. Again, I kept my expectations low…it sounded good, but…

urban american grill menuAnd then it arrived. It was large, and covered with deliciousness! I tend to be a light eater, and usually leave at least half an entrée. Not with this dish. I ate almost every bite, while sipping iced tea and enjoying the music.

urban american grill kitchenWhat had started out as an “it’ll be okay” turned out to be a great choice I’ll be happy to experience again.

The grill is located in the Westin Austin at the Domain at 11301 Domain Drive. There’s plenty of free parking, and there’s the added attraction of the Domain shops and the iPic movie theatre, too. Sunday brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm, but there’s also a weekday breakfast buffet, and a lunch and dinner menu, too. It’s family friendly, too.

urban american is open from 6:30 am to 10 pm, making it perfect for lunch while shopping or dinner before or after a movie.

Urban an American grill on Urbanspoon

I found my Vietnamese food home at King Noodle!

King Noodle Austin on A is 4 Austin

When I lived in Salt Lake City, there were lots of great Vietnamese noodle houses…and trust me, I tried them all. But State Noodle House on State Street and Cafe Trang on Main Street were my weekly stops.  And then I moved to Lancaster, PA., an are known for lots of great food, but Vietnamese?  Not really. Another move took me back home to Florida. Again, wonderful food. But no good noodle houses.

And then we moved here.  And while searching for somewhere new to try, I searched for “noodle houses” and found King Noodle.  And now I have a new noodle bowl home.

This place is everything I had been missing for years.  Great big bowls of rice noodles and veggies, served with a huge plate of table salad (bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro and lime wedges) to top my noodles.  Bottle of “Rooster sauce” (officially, Sriracha) and chilli bean paste to kick up the heat.  And other choices with rice vermicelli and still more veggies with crispy fried chunks of tofu on top.cityguide_afba_badge (1)

For the meat-eaters among us, like my blog partner and hubby (Lance, the guy in the SCUBA gear on the sidebar), there were tons of choices, from chicken to beef to seafood.  And his contented expression told me that those dishes were just as tasty as my veggie versions.

Their menu also features a great assortment of sushi, plus appetizers and Bubble Teas (my daughter’s favorite part.)

Best of all, the prices are low enough to allow me to indulge almost as often as I did in Utah.  That’s a very good thing!  That also makes King Noodle a great choice for Date Night, when we want to go out without breaking the budget.

Yes, I know Austin is the home to Mexican food and bar-b-que.  But sometimes a girl just has to have a great big bowl of noodles!  Feeling the call right now…..

PS…Usually the photos on this blog are mine, but today’s post features photos by Rachel , a very talented photographer and life-long Vietnamese food fan.  Oh, and also my daughter! Way to go Rory! (Sorry, inside joke!)

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More information about King Noodle

500 Cypress Creek Rd.
Cedar Park, TX 78613
(512) 219-0006

Open daily 11:00a – 10:p
Reservations: No
WiFi: Yes
Dog-friendly: No
Website: King Noodle Cedar Park

Austin Diner rocks it for breakfast

Austin DinerIt’s cute. It’s kitschy. And it’s another diner here in Austin!

Those we’re my thoughts when we walked in the Austin Diner over the weekend. I immediately fell in love with the collections of vintage mixers and other kitchen ware from the 50’s and 60’s.

classic mixers

Then the waitress came over, and welcomed us to this adorable place. She was friendly — and once we told her it was our first visit, she her smile got even bigger. We felt like guests, instead of just customers!

The menu was just as inviting. Lots of delicious choices for our breakfast — and even after we had made our choices, we kept looking at the options for a later lunch or dinner visit, if the food was good.

Austin Diner insideIt wasn’t long until that “if the food was good” turned into “Oh yeah, the food is good!” I ordered Migas — my favorite food in Austin. And I wasn’t disappointed! The mixture was delicious, and it was topped with just enough queso.

Others in our group opted for pancakes, eggs, sausages and other breakfast classics. And by the time we left, every plate on the table was empty.  In fact, we were already talking about coming back again for the next weekend brunch. The diner has lots of vegetarian choices, in addition to classic diner food like chicken and dumplings. It’s a great choice for families, too. There’s a very limited, partial menu online, but the complete menu has a lot more choices.

I’m still in search of that real 24-hour diner somewhere in the Austin area (gotta know I can fill my eggs, potato and toast craving at 2 a.m.!), but the daytime diners I’m finding, like Austin Diner, are doing a good job of filling the void at breakfast time.

Lasagna Meets My Favorite Dip (Taste of Austin Tuesday)

2014-01-022I was browsing Pinterest this morning, when I spotted what I knew HAD to be my supper tonight. It was a recipe from blogger Megan Brewer for Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Bundles.

Lasagna AND Spinach-Artichoke Dip?  Oh, yeah! I’m there!

It had a lot of ingredients, but it sounded so incredibly delicious I had to try it.

Usually when I try a completely new recipe, I try to follow the directions pretty much as written. But for this one, I had to make one change. The recipe called for old-fashioned lasagna noodles, but all I had in my pantry were the oven-ready ones. I stopped at the store, but unless I wanted to pay for fancy imports ($5.99 for noodles? I think not!), all they had were the oven-ready, too.  So I adapted — the roll up directions became a stack. I also added some delicious zucchini and some fresh basil from my herb garden.

thin sliced zucchini

The result? Delicious!  Certainly messier than the recipe that inspired me…but the taste was all there, just as I imagined when I read the recipe.

So here’s my take on Megan’s recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini, scrubbed and sliced thin, long ways
  • 2 large cloves garlic, pressed

heads of garlic

  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or 6 fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small

chopped onion

  • 4 cups chopped spinach leaves (fresh, not frozen)
  • 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts (I used marinated…next time, I would use plain ones in olive oil or water)
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese

Fire-roasted tomatoes

  • 1 can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, strained, with the liquid reserved
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil

  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan/Romano cheese, blend
  • 8 oven-ready lasagna sheets

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Lightly grease a large glass baking pan with olive oil
  • Place 4 lasagna sheets in the bottom of the baking pan
  • Set aside
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan.
  • Add zucchini, garlic and basil and saute for 3-4 minutes until tender
  • Remove cooked zucchini from pan, and keep warm on a plate
  • Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan, along with the diced onions.
  • Cook the onions until they become translucent.
  • Add the spinach and artichoke hearts and cook them until the spinach leaves shrink down and become limp
  • Add the salt, pepper, and 3 cloves of garlic, and toss the spinach-artichoke mix together.
  • Strain off any excess liquid, then add the cream cheese and stir until it has fully melted into the spinach mixture.
  • Place 1-2 thin slices of zucchini on each lasagna noodle
  • Top each with one-quarter of the spinach-artichoke mixture
  • Add a second sheet of lasagna on top of each stack
  • Top each row with 1/4 of strained diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese
  • Pour the reserved tomato juice around the edges of the noodle stacks
  • Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil, add additional cheese and broil the top of the dish for an additional  2-3 minutes or until the cheese browns, bubbles and melts.

Serve hot, with a salad and crispy bread.

Baked Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

Messy, yes. But oh so delicious!!!

Would I make these again? In a heart beat! My family loved it, too. I made a double recipe, and it’s all gone! But next time, I’ll wait until I can find regular lasagna noodles so I can roll them up. Thanks, Pinterest…and thanks Megan!