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Say “Cheese, Please” at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

February 26, 2010
Antonelli's Cheese Shop Business Card

Antonelli's Cheese Shop - the New Cheesemonger in Town

I love cheese in just about every possible incarnation. What’s better than a great bite cheese paired with a lovely bite of bread or fruit, or even a nice sip of wine? In Austin we’re lucky because we have good resources for cheese in both Central Market and Whole Foods. Not only are their cheese selections extensive, but they are dedicated to matching their customers with just the right cheese. And just when I thought being a cheese lover in Austin couldn’t get any better it did.

Enter Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.

A Couple with a Passion for Cheese

Back at the end of 2009 Alanna and I visited the Pure Luck Goat Farm on a tour set up by Jodi Bart of Tasty Touring. While we were there we met John and Kendall Antonelli, a couple deep in the throes of opening their own cheese shop. When I talked to them about their approach to cheese, they talked extensively about wanting to help Americans develop a love of American-made cheeses. It’s not that they don’t respect (and sell) cheeses from Europe, but they wanted to share the best American-made cheese offerings with Austin cheese lovers. Their plan was to open a shop in a small spot in Hyde Park, near Austin favorite Captain Quackenbush’s and Asti, a personal favorite of mine.

From that initial meeting, I (and my fellow Austin food bloggers) followed the build-out of the cheese shop with great expectation. When they hired Kelley Sheehan, the same cheese expert who helped me write my post on building a cheese plate, I knew they were setting themselves up to be one to the top sources for cheese in town. John and Kendall shared their adventures with us on Twitter and Facebook, and when they opened on February 11, Alanna and I visited them at the end of the first day. We arrived just before they closed, and it was very cool to be there as they celebrated their first full day of business. They let us taste a broad selection of cheese and worked with Alanna to understand what kinds of cheeses she likes and then patiently helped her expand her cheese horizons. A woman came into the store looking for some cheese for a basket, and they worked with her to understand the recipient’s personal style so they could craft a unique gift.

Before they opened I’d e-mailed them asking for some advice on building a cheese plate for a Mardi Gras dinner party I was hosting (more on that specific plate later). Not only did they give me great advice, they special ordered a cheese from Louisiana to have when they opened so I could have it for my party two days later. It’s that personal service and true passion for supporting cheese lovers that I think will make them successful. They are also truly nice and good people – just the sort of entrepreneurs that will make our community a great place to live and eat.

Not Just Cheese

In addition to carrying a wide variety of cheeses from around the US and from Europe, they also offer olives and charcuterie selections. They will special order any cheese and go out of their way to help their customers meet any cheese need. Their extensive cheese knowledge and their commitment to personal service make them an amazing resource for Austin Food Lovers. Next time you are in the Hyde Park area, stop by, say “Hi”, and taste their wares. I’m pretty sure you won’t walk away empty-handed.

What Others Are Saying

Antonelli’s has generated some good buzz among local food lovers. Take a gander at what others have to say about them:

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Food Trailer Friday: Old School BBQ

February 26, 2010
Old School BBQ & Grill Bus

Old School BBQ & Grill School Bus

Recently a whole slew of Austinites turned out for a Trailer Tour organized by Jodie Bart of Tasty Touring and Addie Broyles of The Statesman’s Relish Austin. I joined a group of my friends and we visited five trailers that some or all of us hadn’t previously visited. It was an interesting day because we had to be ready to try food from several different places over the span of several hours, so while I feel like I got a great taste of each spot we visited, I promised myself I’d return to each before I wrote about them in Food Trailer Friday. Without having a full meal at a given trailer, it’s hard for me to really decide what I think about it. I’m happy to report that of the five spots we visited I truly enjoyed four of them, so I’ll be adding them to my Food Trailer Friday collection in the coming weeks.

The first spot we visited, and fittingly my first post in this series, was Old School BBQ. Unlike many trailers that are in more-or-less permanent installations on their various lots, Old School is run out of a fully functional school bus. The staff drives the bus two one of two standard locations and they can actually smoke meat as they drive along (but not heat oil for the fryer). Old School is collaborative adventure for Danny Parrott and his father. Both have extensive restaurant experience and wanted to open a spot together. After looking at other locations in Texas, they settled on Austin and eventually plan to open a more traditional restaurant in addition to their trailer enterprise. Their BBQ is inspired by experiences in the south, Texas, and California, and let me tell you, they make some really tasty meat.

Old School BBQ & Grill Brisket Sandwich

Old School BBQ & Grill Brisket Sandwich

On our trailer tour visit and on my subsequent visit I tried the chopped brisket sandwich. The brisket is fall-apart tender and full of rich, smoky flavor. While it is tasty with their slightly sweet sauce, the brisket stands along beautifully. To go along with the brisket I can recommend either the fresh-cut fries or the macaroni and cheese wedge. The fries are crisp and perfectly seasoned. They leave the skin on for a little extra flavor. We missed the macaroni and cheese wedge on our trailer tour trip but started to see all sorts of Twitter noise about it after we’d long left. When I visited them again I made a point of trying the wedge and it lived up to its Twitter hype. A combination of creamy and sharp cheeses leads to a creamy mac and cheese that stands up to the rich BBQ. I suppose you could share the wedge with a friend, but I’d recommend hoarding it for yourself.

In addition to BBQ, Old School serves burgers, ribs, sausage, an Italian sandwich and a chicken breast sandwich. They have a collection of “Family Feedings” packages on the menu like a brisket basket that includes 2 lb. of brisket, two sides, and four drinks, or a complete BBQ basket that includes 1 lb. of brisket, ½ slab of ribs, four links of sausage, four sides of fries, and four drinks. Whether you want to grab lunch with friends or dinner on the way home, Old School has something for just about any BBQ need.

Word on the Street

This trailer is new enough that there aren’t many posts or reviews of it up yet, but there are a few to consider:

  • Thrillist offers a fun and informative look at Old School
  • Fox News Austin has a fun video interview with Dan Parrot that gives you a look inside the bus.
  • The Yelp reviews are looking positive thus far.

As I see more out there, I’ll add them to the list.

Know Before You Go

  • Because Old School’s school bus is fully-functional, they move about. They have two main locations so double check their spot before you visit them:
    • Monday 11am – 3pm
      3001 E. Cesar Chavez (in the East Side Lumber & Decking parking lot)
    • Monday 4p – 7 pm, Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
      MLK & Clifford Lane
  • Unlike many trailers Old school takes credit cards, but small merchants always appreciate not having to pay credit card processing fees, so cash is preferred.
  • As I mentioned earlier, they can’t drive around town with hot cooking oil, so it sometimes takes them a few minutes to get the fries up and going after they open. If you have your heart set on fries, visit them after 11:30 or so.
  • Danny and his dad don’t skimp on the portions. Bring a big appetite or a friend to share your meal with.
  • They don’t have a website yet, but you can become their friend on Facebook for updates on times and location.
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Making the Most of Austin Restaurant Week

February 23, 2010

Austin Restaurant Week LogoIt’s that time again when all Austin Food Lovers loosen their belts and get ready to experience some of the best dining our wonderful city has to offer: Spring 2010 Austin Restaurant Week. The group of participating restaurants includes some time-honored favorites as well as some wonderful newcomers. Because Austin Restaurant week is rooted in the belief that dining out doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s cost effective too. Every participating restaurant offers a 3-course prix fixe menu with dinners for $25 to $35 and some lunch menus for $10-$15 dollars. When you dine out during Restaurant Week you’ll also be supporting our local Sustainable Food Center, a non-profit dedicated to cultivating a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food.

Restaurant week runs for eight days total over two weeks:

  • February 28 – March 3
  • March 7 – 10

A complete list of restaurants, their menus, notes about special offerings like gluten-free or vegetarian, and information on how to make reservations is available on the Austin Restaurant Week site.

The Best of the List

If most of the restaurants on the are new to you, or you’re a visitor to our lovely city during Restaurant Week, I’d recommend three restaurants from the list of those participating as the standouts you shouldn’t miss. To me these spots represent what’s exceptional and unique about Austin dining right now and if you haven’t been to them yet, now is the time to go. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order because they are all equally great in my humble opinion:

  • The Carillon I’ve said before in many venues that I think Chef Josh Watkins is making some of the best food in town and I’ll say it again here. His menus are exquisite and his presentations unforgettable. While the Carillon is a bit of a hidden gem, located in the AT&T Conference Center at the University of Texas, don’t let the setting fool you. You’ll have a meal to remember when you put yourself in Josh’s hands.
  • Parkside – Chef Shawn Cirkiel combines fresh ingredients with simple yet refined preparations to serve up an amazing meal any time you visit. His raw bar offerings are extensive and his main dishes creative. Don’t forget to try the doughnuts for dessert.
  • TRIO – If you follow me at all on Twitter you’ll know that I love TRIO in almost unwholesome ways. Chef Todd Duplechan creates amazing menus and the entire experience from the time you leave your car with the valet to the last sip of wine expertly paired with your dinner by sommelier Mark Sayre (one of the most accessible wine experts in town, by the way) is all you would expect and more from the Four Seasons. Their view of the lake is beautiful, so if the weather permits, be sure to arrive early to enjoy a drink on the patio.

Narrowing the Options

There are ~60 restaurants participating in this year’s Spring Restaurant Week and only 8 days during which to take advantage of their special menus, so experiencing them all probably isn’t particularly practical. When faced with the dilemma of too many great restaurants and not enough time to enjoy them all, I narrow down my list with this approach:

  • Try new spots or old favorites I haven’t been to in a year or more. While many of my regular favorite restaurants are on the list this year (Eddie V’s, Truluck’s, FINO, and Bess Bistro just to name a few), I’m very familiar with their chefs and their offerings. Rather than go back to what I know well, I want to branch out. Most restaurants take a tasting menu approach to their Restaurant Week offerings to give guests a real feel for their style, so I’ll use this time to investigate new spots or re-acquaint myself with former favorites I’ve recently neglected. My short list for this year includes:
  • Don’t forget about lunch. A few of the restaurants participating in this event have special lunch menus in addition to their dinner menus. Lunch during restaurant week is more budget-friendly approach to trying a really great restaurant and it’s another dinning opportunity on any given day. I currently have these restaurants on my possible lunch list because I haven’t visited them before and they have lunch offerings:
  • Explore your own part of town. While many restaurants are downtown, there are several options in the Arboretum and Domain area (Cru Wine Bar Domain, Daily Grill, Eddie V’s Arboretum, McCormick & Schmiks Domain, Roaring Fork Stonelake, Truluck’s Arboretum). Both County Line on the Hill and at the Lake are featured as is Fortune Chinese Restaurant on North Lamar and Chinatown on Mopac, so if they are in your part of town, consider staying close to home. The standouts for me in my neck of the woods (Steiner Ranch/Lakeway area) include:
  • Go casual. Not every restaurant week experience has to be centered on find-dining. Austin has some incredible casual spots, several of whom are participating in Restaurant Week. As an upside, their menus are less expensive both during and after this event, so they are good places to get to know. A few I’m considering are:

Clearly I won’t make it to every place I’ve listed here, but at least my collection of possibilities is smaller now. I expect my waistband wll needto be bigger however before Restaurant Week is over.

How do you navigate Austin restaurant week? Which menus on the list are your favorites? Which experiences wowed you? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

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Austin Foodie Bits: Week of February 22

February 21, 2010

How exactly is it the end of February with March, and South by Southwest, looming upon us? It was a beautiful weekend, with the weather reminding us all why we live in beautiful Austin, Texas. But, as another reminder of the reality of living in Texas, there’s a threat of snow on Tuesday. Wait, what?

As SXSW and Spring Break find their way onto our month-at-a-glance calendars, food and wine events continue to ramp up. From fantastic regional tastings to cooking classes and the Chef Showdown, there’s much foodie fun to be had. Before you dive into the smorgasbord of events, I’d like to throw in two shameless plugs for projects of my own:

  • The upcoming re-launch of Fete & Feast: As I mentioned in my Bad to the Bone giveaway post, I’m hard at work redesigning my blog and creating a new space devoted entirely to Austin Food and Wine. Look for the new site and section next Monday, March 1, and between now and then, send me your best vibes as I work through the myriad details associated with relocating and redesigning my blog.
  • The Food Bloggers’ Guide to Austin: I’ve asked a handful of my fellow food bloggers to join me in the creation of a unique guide to good eats and drinks on Austin. As bloggers we spend a lot of time investigating food and wine in Austin, and I’d like to harness our combined experiences to bring you a unique view of eating and drinking here in Austin. We’ll have the guide ready just in time for SXSW and would appreciate your support in spreading the word about it once it’s live.
  • TECHMuch Food Blogger event at SXSW: I’ve been lucky enough to assist BakeSpace.com and SteamyKitchen.com in the creation of a first-ever food blogger workshop created for food bloggers by food bloggers. The goal of this half-day event is to gather food bloggers together for shared learning and idea exchange. If you are an Austin-based food blogger or a food blogger who will be visiting during SXSW, please consider joining us for this fun and enriching event.

And now, on with the events. Almost everything this week is new, so take a few extra minutes to see what great things are in store for all Austin food lovers this week.

Be Spontaneous: This Week’s Events

  • [VALUE] February 23: Tour Through the Rhone Valley Featuring the 2007 Vintage – Join Chris Thomas of Vineyard Brands on a tasting tour of the 2007 vintage from the Rhone Valley. You’ll enjoy six different wines and experience this acclaimed vintage year. Heavy appetizers by the Trading Post. 6:30 – 8:00 pm. $20/person or $30/couple. Twin Liquors Marketplace at the Galleria. Buy tickets online.
  • [FREE] February 23: Healthy Cooking 101 – Wondering how to cook all those vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy foods that you know you should be eating? Join Mary, the Whole Foods Healthy Eating Specialist for a special mobile class on how to easily choose and prepare the most nutrient-rich and health-supportive foods. 10 am. Whole Foods Flagship Store. Meet at the Healthy Eating desk in produce.
  • February 24: Lemoncello and Wine Dinner at Siena – Enjoy a five course Tuscan dinner paired with offerings and favorites from Paula’s Texas Orange and Paula’s Texas Lemon at the lovely Siena. 7:00 pm. $65/person. Call 349-7667 to reserve.
  • [VALUE] February 25: South Africa Evening – Elizabeth Bray, Cape Classics representative and connoisseur of all things South African wine, will present an evening of South African wine. Learn all about this amazing region from Elizabeth who has an uncanny knack for bringing it to life. You’ll taste six wines representative of the region and most likely fall in love with it just like I did a few years ago when Elizabeth first introduced me to it. 6:30 – 8:00 pm. $25/person or $40/couple. Twin Liquors Marketplace at Hancock Center. Buy tickets online.
  • February 26: International Wine and Food Bordeaux – Paul and Robert are at it again, bringing you a whirlwind tour of the food and wine of a specific region, in this case Bordeaux. Enjoy Robert’s culinary stylings paired with wines expertly selected by Paul. You’ll feel like you’ve been to France and back for a mere $60. 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Reserve online.
  • [GREAT VALUE] February 27 – 28: Capital Confectioner’s Cake and Sugar Art Show and Competition – Austin’s annual cake and sugar show promises to be a fun and informative event. Check out beautiful and edible creations entered into the competition, enjoy demonstrations from confectionary professionals, and shop for hard-to-find tools. If you enjoy decorating desserts or just want to enjoy the works of those who do, this event is a great place to start. The Crockett Center. $8/day.
  • [FREE] February 27: Parm Cracking – The scene is set: three tables, three Whole Foods Team Members, three wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s the ultimate cheese smackdown! Join Whole Foods in their Specialty Department to watch as their cheesemongers go head-to-head to see who has the best time in hand cracking a giant wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano in the traditional way. When the wheels are cracked, you’ll get a chance to taste some of this delectable cheese! 2:30 pm. Whole Foods Flagship Store.
  • [DO GOOD] February 27: Bad to the Bone Celebrity Chef Competition – Stubbs Bar-B-Q is taking culinary competitions to a higher level by combining star chefs, audience text voting, and live music. Their Bad to the Bone even series launches with a competition featuring three of Texas’ youngest and most acclaimed chefs: David Bull, of Bolla at the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, who was named as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Top Ten Best New Chefs in 2003; Shawn Cirkiel, executive chef of Austin’s Parkside Restaurant, recently named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the “Hot 10 New American Taverns”; and Paul Petersen, star of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters, author of Keeper of the Flame Interactive Cookbook, and former executive chef of Café Cenzio at the Gage Hotel. They will battle it out, each choosing a preferred ingredient to stump their competitors’ culinary prowess. Audience participants and a panel of noted culinary experts will sample the dishes and use live text voting to determine the winning chef. Ticket sales will benefit the Sustainable Food Center which helps more than 20,000 Central Texans access healthy, affordable and locally grown food annually. $35/person. Purchase tickets online.
  • [VALUE] February 28 – March 3: Austin Restaurant Week – It’s time again to sample the best of Austin’s dining establishments. Try a new spot (or two or three) or visit and old favorite for a new take on their menu. Either way, with menus in the ~$30 range, it’s a deal you can’t really afford to pass up. I’m not wholly sure where I’ll be going yet, but make your reservations soon before the good spots and times are full.

Eat Well, Do Good

  • February 27: Art Night Austin – Venture alongside fellow culture enthusiasts through Austin’s in-the-know spaces on this art and culinary trek. Experience and acquire never before seen works and taste complimentary chef-prepared bites paired with select wines. Featured local restaurants include Café Josie, La Condesa, and Kenichi. Wines from wonderful vintners including Liberty School, Treana, and Camelot. Begin at any participating space and hop on and off continuous chauffeured transportation. 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm with an afterparty to follow. $75/person for the main event. $25 for the afterparty. Purchase tickets online.

Plan Ahead: Events in the Next 3 Weeks