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Dining at Uchiko!

The fantastic Uchiko!

Ugh, I’m mad at myself for not posting this earlier, but a few weeks ago, I was able to cross off yet ANOTHER experience from my Austin Bucket List: dining at Uchiko!

I discovered Uchiko, after seeing the original “Uchi” on an episode of “Food Porn” right when I moved to Austin and I hoped that one day, I’d get the chance to devour some of their top-notch sushi. Austin is home to Uchi and Uchiko.

Well, fate was on my side because… you may recall a few months ago when my friend Corey and I WON a “Saved By The Bell” trivia contest. Part of our prize was a giftcard to… *drumroll* …Uchiko!

It was meant to be!

Uchiko is a farmhouse restaurant, and they focus on using fresh ingredients – flying in seafood everyday from Eukuoka and Tsukiji markets in Japan.

Naturally, I was too busy enjoying the food to recall everything we ate, but here’s some of the things we had:

  • Yokai Berry: Scottish salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian kale, yuzu
  • Coffee Bacon: peach, apricot, onion
  • Ham & Eggs: katsu pork belly, yolk custard, espelette
  • Brussels Sprouts: fish caramel, lemon, chili
  • Kokumostu: toasted and fried milk, cereal, chocolate mousse
  • Seasonal Ice Cream: I believe we had cinnamon… it was so yummy!

We had at least three other items… but I probably had too many glasses of wine to recall their names. I DO know that everything was fresh, delicious, and impeccably presented. It was really a fantastic experience!

Tyson Cole is a partner and the chef of both Uchi and Uchiko – here’s his story from the Uchiko website:

Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation 2011
One of the few American sushi masters, James Beard Award-winning Chef and Owner Tyson Cole is a passionate student of the Japanese tradition. Having trained for more than 10 years in Tokyo, New York, and Austin under two different sushi masters, he continues his path of study and experimentation each day at the restaurants in the Hai Hospitality family. Employing classical cooking techniques with a Pacific Rim perspective, Cole marries global ingredients with traditional Japanese flavors, resulting in inspired combinations of flavor, texture, color, technique, and style.

Cole became fascinated with sushi in his early twenties while working at an Austin Japanese restaurant and quickly dedicated himself to learning every aspect of the cuisine. Working his way up from dishwasher to head sushi chef, his dexterity with the knife led him to Austin’s top sushi restaurant Musashino. During an intensive traditional apprenticeship under owner Takehiko Fuse, Cole traveled to Japan to experience the cuisine firsthand while gaining technical skill.

Challenged by Fuse to learn the Japanese language, Cole moved on to train at Bond Street, one of the busiest sushi restaurants in New York City. In his last year at Musashino, Cole ran the restaurant in Fuse’s absence and began experimenting with new flavor ideas, influences, and ingredients. Opening Uchi in 2003 as executive chef and co-owner, Cole quickly garnered national attention, most notably a coveted spot on Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2005 list; a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Southwest” in 2011; and a James Beard Foundation semifinalist spot for “Outstanding Chef” in 2016 among many other accolades.

Citing the newly easy accessibility of ingredients and flavors from across the globe, Cole continues to push the envelope with every bite, stating, “The cuisine I create is playfully multi-cultural, mixing the Japanese tradition with tastes that inspire me.”

Impressive, right?

The even COOLER part is – Corey and I still have two more giftcard to burn as part of our prize. Doesn’t get better than that!

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These chefs are on fire!

When is it not an okay time to think (and write) about hot chefs? I can’t quite recall what spurred the need for this post – perhaps that one of my favorite chefs was on this season of Top Chef, and was sadly one of the first to go (there’s always “Last Chance Kitchen”, though, no spoilers!).

I used to have this crush (okay, if I saw him today it would still be real, let’s be honest) on a chef that worked near where I lived in Baton Rouge. He made delicious, impressive, modern food that I loved, and he had fantastic, distinguishing tattoos – a mark of the culinary world I secretly love.

Chefs – they cook, they eat, sometimes have tattoos, and are sometimes sexy. Let’s go!

Chef Roble Ali

Known to many as simply “Chef Roble”, I first became aware of him on his Bravo TV series, “Chef Roble & Co”, which debuted in 2011. The show was mainly about his catering company, which often catered huge events surrounding celebrities.

The show also touched on the fact that Roble is super attractive, and during the show’s taping, he had a long-distance girlfriend, but could basically have anyone he wanted.

In the culinary world, he’s known for his Brooklyn street food, and for being young, talented, and charismatic. He lives, and apparently skateboards, in Brooklyn.

Chef Michael Voltaggio.

Chef Michael Voltaggio.

Michael Voltaggio 

You may recognize this chef as the winner from season 6 of “Top Chef”, where he beat his brother, Brian. While they were very competitive on the show, the pair wrote a pretty serious cookbook together called “VOLT Ink“.

Although he never went to culinary school (!), he’s earned himself a Michelin star, after years of learning the ropes by working alongside top chefs for years.

He owns two restaurants in Los Angeles: ink. and ink.sack – where ink. is New American, ink.sack. is known for its well-priced sandwiches.

Sam Talbot

Sam is the chef that I was SO excited to see on this season on “Top Chef”, after he’d been on two previous seasons. He’s tall, dark, handsome, and lives in Brooklyn. Hells yes.

Although Sam is known for his cooking, he’s also known for the fact that he has diabetes, and he works to help others who have it, too. He started a non-profit called Beyond Type 1, which helps to raise awareness around diabetes and help erases the stigma.

He also has a cookbook, “The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries“.

He has served as executive chef at many impressive restaurants in New York City, but owns Pig + Poet in Camden, ME, along with The Surf Lodge in Montauk (which he supposedly left), and has a new restaurant, Pretty Southern, in Brooklyn.

Michael Chernow

I’ll be honest here, at first glance, I wasn’t sold on Mr. Chernow. But… he’s known for his fantastic meatballs. No, seriously. He owns The Meatball Shop, which started in New York City, but now has six locations spread across New York.

I’ve never eaten one of Chernow’s meatballs, but I do know him from the show “Food Porn” on the Cooking Channel. The show goes inside restaurants that are popular on social media to see what the hype is about, and gets the scoop on their most popular recipes and dishes. It’s how I found out about Hopdoddy and Frank’s, right here in Austin!

If you can’t get to New York any time soon, you can make your own delish meatballs with Chernow’s cookbook from The Meatball Shop.

…There you have it, my roundup of hot chefs. Got any you’re admiring? Or maybe doctors are your thing? Police officers?

The only downfall about a chef is… technically they work in the service industry, and it’s really difficult to date someone in that industry without also working in it. The hours, the stress, the workload… it’s a lot. But, a girl can dream!

BBC: ‘Black Heels to Tractor Wheels’.

Hey, hey! I am back at the office today, and wow is that whole come-down after Christmas ROUGH. It’s like this month-long build up for a single day and then, it’s over. It’s honestly how I imagine me meeting John Mayer for the first time, only on a 16-year scale, with devastating disappointment (don’t tell him I said that though).

The good news is, there’s another long weekend on the horizon, so there’s that to look forward to – wow, my life isn’t pathetic or anything.

But! I did get some reading done over my lil Christmas break, and I’m really excited to talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read, “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” by Ree Drummond.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile, but I sort of forgot about it until I stumbled upon it at the library when I was looking for something else. I couldn’t put off reading it any longer; I figured I could probably use a good (and TRUE) love story in my life. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

Wildly popular award-winning blogger, accidental ranch wife, and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) tells the true story of her storybook romance that led her from the Los Angeles glitter to a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma, and into the arms of her real-life Marlboro Man.

I came across Ree, or “The Pioneer Woman”, for the first time on Food Network, and I came to absolutely love watching her show, “The Pioneer Woman”. She lives on a gorgeous ranch in Oklahoma, and she makes fairly simple (yet delicious) dishes for her family and friends. I’ve made her enchiladas many times, and they never fail to delight!

Her husband, Lad, makes some appearances on the show, and he is very handsome, and he seems really genuine and kind. So, I wasn’t surprised when I read this book and heard the many times she described him as such, only she referred to him as the “Marlboro Man”.

In fact, the book reflected what I assume to be her real-life personality, because it was just how she acts on the show. However, true fans of this Pioneer Woman may have been just as surprised as I was to learn that she was once a big city gal, living in Los Angeles, working in corporate America, drooling over high-end designer clothes, and spending her nights out guzzling martinis. Who would have thought?!

But she did, until her life took an unexpected turn and she ran into this Marlboro Man one night in her home town. A month later, they went on a date… and they’ve basically been inseparable ever since. This is really a love story that touched my heart; one that I really needed to read.

One theme that’s brought up a lot in this book is something I’m still learning and trying to understand about love: that it doesn’t matter how much you embarrass yourself, how silly you are, whether or not your mascara is perfect, or in Ree’s case, just how much you sweat through a gorgeous suit, the one you’re meant to be with is still going to LOVE you.

I’m really glad I got to read this lesson in this way – because Ree’s story is really beautiful, and the way she tells it is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

Another cool part about the book is that, of course, Ree talks a lot about food! While it doesn’t quite explain how she got involved in her cooking blog and her show, she discusses the meals she made for Lad when they were dating – many of which she flubbed due to nerves, or simply because she wasn’t an experienced home cook yet.

The back of the book contains recipes for most of the recipes she mentioned, but one stuck out to me the most – the Tagliarini Quattro Formaggi from Intermezzo in West Hollywood. Since angel hair is my FAVORITE form of pasta, I knew I was going to have to replicate this dish… so don’t be shocked if you see it on my social media feed in the near future. But, just in case you want to make it, too, here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 pound of tagliarini or angel hair pasta, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of grated fontina cheese, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese,  4 ounces of goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1 garlic cloved, halved.

DIRECTIONS: warm the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Prepare the pasta according to package direction, but undercook it just a little so it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot and add butter. Next, add the warm cream, and all of the cheeses. Stire gently, allowing the cheese to melt and coat the noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add the nutmeg. Stir to combine. Rub the bowls you’re serving in with the garlic, before scooping the pasta into the bowls. Yum!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Read it with us by following and chatting right here on the blog or on social media @OrangeJulius7. Happy reading, y’all!

Cookin’ up a Crush.

If you can't take the heat, stop watching Food Network Star.

If you can’t take the heat, stop watching Food Network Star.

I blame Food Network for my recent crush on local chef Jay Ducote.

He’s currently starring on season 11 of Food Network Star, where contestants compete to have their own cooking show on Food Network.

My crush on Ducote started like any other “stranger crush” — one where you know basically nothing about the person — and it developed because on the show, Ducote has shown his personality to be joyful and loving.

It probably doesn’t hurt that, as of writing this, he’s kind of killing the competition.

Even though he’s local, there’s still that TV barrier. I get to see him at his best every Sunday night, without anyone knowing I’m in bed with a bottle of wine.

I swear I’m not a creeper.

When you consider it, the guy is a catch. This isn’t the first chef I’ve swooned over, because let’s face it, what’s hotter than a guy who knows how to whip up something delicious?

Or maybe, I like him because I’m a foodie, too; or because we’re both writers. And hey, we’re both drinkers.

He’s also a creative type, if I had to guess, only his form of expression literally feeds people.

But, I don’t really know him, so perhaps his presence online and on TV is just an act.

This is the problem I have with “celeb crushes” — the dream very well may explode once you meet them in person.

This is why I (on some level) hope I never meet John Mayer (can’t believe I just said that). I’m terrified that he really is a complete douche.

The truth is, I did meet Ducote about two years ago, at Mestizo for a book signing event. He signed my copy of “Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde…” and he thanked me for reading his blog.

From that short exchange, sure, he seemed nice. But at that point, I merely thought he was a cool food blogger, and chances are, I assumed he had a girlfriend (Because… Baton Rouge).

I haven’t told anyone about this little crush, until now, mainly because I find it comical to have a crush on anyone on Food Network.

But you can’t help who you like, right?

The other night, I was folding a stack of tank tops at my retail job, when I overheard someone talking about Food Network Star.

I whipped around as if it were Justin Bieber — another celeb crush of mine — and blurted out, “I’m obsessed!”

The guy, who had this amazing swoop-y hair, gave me a once-over and said, “My sister’s boss is on it.”

It was a little salty, but I rolled with it.

“Jay?” I asked.

He nodded.

I felt like he also wanted me to stop eavesdropping, so I said nothing and went back to the tank tops.

It was awkwardly snotty and, no offence to Mr. Ducote, but it was a conversation that seemed out-of-sorts surrounding a self-proclaimed hugger.

I’ll just chalk it up to fame and BBQ sauce; it does crazy things to people.

So, what will come of my Ducote crush? Who knows. Maybe he’s emotionally unavailable. Maybe I’ll actually attend a Food Network Star viewing party. Or maybe I’ll just stick to cheering him on via my Twitter handle @OrangeJulius7 — he usually replies.