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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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This week’s menu…

I set several goals for 2017, and none of them included anything about being healthier or skinnier, or more fit this year. But I’m definitely trying to clean up my act after completely letting go during the holidays. I don’t eat out much (unless it’s going to be really, really worth it). I truly believe you can make delicious meals at home, and I love taking meals that might be a cheat and adding healthy twists to them.

Last week, I mentioned two things: 1. I’ve resurrected my Pinterest page, and 2. I have a long list of recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings” that I want to make.

Since then, I’ve kind of gone nuts on Pinterest – I check it daily, and have been pinning all sorts of ideas, from blog stuff to crafts, and of course, recipes.

Now, don’t get be wrong, I don’t pin the ridiculous stuff. I am realistic about the fact that I’m not hosting a dinner party any time soon, or getting married or having a baby. I don’t like to save stuff that requires unnecessary effort.

For example, when Pinterest first came out, I had a friend who pinned all sorts of crazy recipes even though she didn’t really enjoy cooking. One of these recipes was for “Lasagna Cups” – I think you boiled the lasagna noodles before putting them into muffin tins and filling them with traditional lasagna goods. “Or you could just make lasagna,” I thought.

On the one hand, if it gets you in the kitchen and excited to eat homemade things, then sure, make the lasagna cups. It’s just not for me.

One of the recipes I saved was for “Brown Rice Veggie Sushi” from the Minimalist Baker. I’ve heard good things about the Minimalist Baker – all of her recipes are 10 ingredients or less – from people I follow on Instagram. I decided that was going to be my healthy recipe for the week – I like to have at least one thing for dinner, and one thing for lunch (a perk of being single is that one recipe is usually enough for 4-6 servings).

I chose Chrissy Teigen’s “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” from her cookbook, as she said it was the most popular recipe, and it looked super easy to make, not to mention affordable.

So, off to the grocery I went! I have never really purchased Asian ingredients, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the ingredients I needed were available and inexpensive. The recipe calls for brown rice, rice vinegar, and nori (seaweed sheets), and basically any veggies for the filling. I got roasted red bell peppers (which have a very similar texture to raw salmon), avocado, carrots, and cucumber.

To make it, I followed her instructions exactly, only I doubled the recipe because I wanted to have plenty of leftovers to eat during the week. I didn’t have a sushi mat, but I found an inexpensive sushi-making kit on Amazon for next time. My sushi came out super yummy, and delicious! I have a few other sushi recipes that involve shrimp, and now I know I can actually roll it, so I’ll definitely be adding this into my recipe rotation.

For Chrissy’s spaghetti recipe, I tried to make it a little healthier by buying organic whole wheat pasta, and also folding in extra arugula. But yes, I know this recipe is a little bit of a treat – I need carbs for my six dance classes this week, right?!

 Other than that, I followed the recipe as listed in the book and it turned out pretty fantastic! It was spicy, cheesy, and the arugula was crunchy and spicy, too, yummy! Plus, it was very easy to make, and I have lots leftover.

What kinds of things are you cooking up this week? I’m sure you’ll be seeing lots of my homemade meals this year (not promising they’ll all be healthy) and I’d love to hear what’s on your menu!

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Some-kinda wonderful weekend.

No alarm clock: the definition of freedom.

No alarm clock: the definition of freedom.

Last week at work was quite a doozie – I don’t want to go into details, but let’s just say our staff is dwindling. All for respectable reasons, but it’s always a little sad, and hectic, when people move on.

I always look forward to Friday, but last week held an exceptional urge to get to the end of the week. And BTW, I did try some of my “tips” for not hating Monday last week, and I think it helped some. It will be an ongoing process.

Another process is the weekend itself. I want to have this balance of doing fun and relaxing things, but being productive as well, whether it’s cleaning my apartment or working on upcoming blogs for the week, or even just hitting the grocery.

Somehow, this last weekend, I felt like I was able to hit that balance. It was a simple little weekend, nothing too crazy, but I’m coming off it feeling good, and like I have a little energy to conquer the week. Here’s a little bit of what I did:

Friyay

6:00pm – Laundromat. Raced through two loads of laundry. I don’t have a washer and dryer, which is something I’ve always been provided at the apartments I’ve lived in. I thought I’d see how long I could last going to the laundromat before I hated it and bought my own units, but I actually don’t mind it. It only takes around an hour and about $5 to get all of my clothes and linens clean. I’ve found Friday evenings are the best time to go because there’s about no one there, except losers like me. Plus, it’s a good excuse for me to read; which is exactly what I did Friday evening.

8:00pm – Hip-Hip Master Class. I signed up to take a Hip-Hop Master Class with the very talented Dylan Cheek. I definitely got worked, but it was pretty cool. He was a really nice guy and taught us an advanced hip-hop routine to Future’s “March Madness“. It was a tough routine, but it made for a good challenge (and a good workout), and it was a switch from the things we usually learn in class. Expanding my horizons one dance at a time!

Saturyay

8:30am – Finally got up after my devil cat had been bothering me since 7. Made coffee and eggs. Ate breakfast on the patio with said devil cat. Decided to thoroughly clean the kitchen while catching up on an episode of “The Real Housewives of Dallas”. Still not really liking this show.

10:30am – Folded laundry. Conquered three baskets of laundry while watching episodes of “Watch What Happens Live”. Realize that in order to put laundry away, I’ve got to clean my wreck of a closet. So, I do – even vacuuming and then decide to hang my nail polish organizer. I got it for Christmas; it’s like the ones you see in nail salons, with the little clear shelves. I hung it, and loaded it up with all 100 bottles of my nail polish, in color order. I then continue the cleaning sesh to clean the bathroom and take out the trash.

Perfect for cocktails.

Perfect for cocktails.

12:00pm – Feeling accomplished. Make a grapefruit margarita (Hornitos silver + grapefruit juice + grapefruit LaCroix + squeeze of lime) and watch a few episodes of “Jersey Shore” – the ones when they are in Italy.

3:00pm – Head out. I started at Goodwill, just to see if they have anything interesting. Found a pair of blue and white polka dot shorts, a plastic mason jar cup with an “H” on it, and a Christmas coffee mug that has gold foil stars and matching lettering on it. I cannot pass it up for $.99. If you’re new here, just know that I love to bargain shop. I head next to Big Lots (a place that always makes me happy). I find a beach-themed jarred candle collection that smells exactly like it sounds – buy the “Sun Tan” and “Beach Bonfire” scents. No, seriously. These smell amazing! I also found a bubblegum pink pair of aviators for $6. Win.

4:30pm – Walk to Half-Price Books. Start search looking for a book I heard about on a podcast a few weeks ago, “The Coincidence of Coconut Cake”. Realize I forgot the little notebook where I keep everything, so I Google the title to find the author. Find it, get to the right aisle and start my search. Crouch down to reach the “R” authors, and simultaneously get hit by a 3-year-old girl running full-speed down the aisle. Fall over, drop my phone. The mom, who was chasing after her, drags the brat back over and says, “Apologize to her, she dropped her phone”. “I’m sorry,” says the girl. Roll my eyes, and collect myself. She hit me pretty hard, and I feel like her mom is equally a shit bag for not also apologizing. Find the only copy of the book I’m looking for. Hit the checkout and wish I would have flipped that little shit off.

5:30pm – Head to the grocery. Grab my weekly needs: organic apples, almond butter, yogurt, and protein bars. Okay, and wine. Checkout, and head next door to the sushi bar. Order $30 worth of raw fish to go. Read more of “The Silkworm” while I wait. Get food, head home.

7:00pm – Decide to eat sushi dinner on the patio with Blanche. Pour a glass of wine. The weather is beautiful, my patio is nice and clean (and has a working little fountain thanks to last weekend), and I’m just taking it all in. I listen to the latest Manrepeller podcast, “Monocycle”. It’s one of those moments that just feels great. Isn’t it crazy how these little things can just completely change your mood? It’s not like I went out and bought a car or saw an inspirational movie. I just had a simple little day, where I got lots of things done but also had a little bit of fun.

Sunyay

2:30am – Wake up to an armful of mosquito bites (I’m allergic). Find Caladryl and Benadryl. Spray myself with bug spray; turn on all the lights looking for the blood-sucking bastard. No luck. Watch two episodes of “The Vanilla Ice Project”. See the little sucker fly by the TV. Kill it. Back to Vanilla Ice until I fall asleep and let the West Nile Virus spread throughout my veins.

9:50am – Wake up and get up. Coffee. Eggs. English muffin. Hit the couch for hours of TV and blogging.

2:00pm – Drop-off rent check & head to P.Terry’s for fries and chocolate shake, despite the fact that I looked absolutely horrible in shorts the day prior.

4:00pm – Nap. 

6:00pm – Meal prep for the week/cook a few Green Chef meals.

10:00pm – Back to the couch for all the wondrous Sunday night TV until my eyes close…

The drink: Pom-cosmo.

Kona Grill's Pomegranate Cosmopolitan... Yum!

Kona Grill’s Pomegranate Cosmopolitan… Yum!

The classic Cosmopolitan — a tart elixir focusing on cranberry — will never go out of style. But leave it to Kona Grill to give this cocktail more than just a lime twist.

Kona Grill offers the Cosmopolitan in watermelon, grape, and pomegranate flavors. I opted for the pomegranate (don’t worry, watermelon, I’ll be back) and I was pleasantly surprised.

Made with vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, a squeeze of lime, and pomegranate syrup, this cocktail is light on the tongue and dangerously easy to swallow.

The extra perk? During happy hour, it’s only $5, which means you can try all the flavors for under $20.

There’s a twist you can’t refuse — bottoms up!

Grab a seat in the bar or on the patio for Kona Grill’s happy hour, Mon-Fri 3pm-7pm, Mon-Thur 9pm-11pm, Fri & Sat 10p-12am, Sat 1pm-5pm, and all day Sunday.