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The Number One Burger in Austin?

Taste is subjective, but that doesn’t keep us from talking about what food is best. We do it with desserts, bread, pizza, and here in Texas we are always comparing barbecue.

What about burgers?

I read not too long ago (okay, it was three years ago in Texas Monthly) that the second best burger in the state, and the best burger in Austin was at  Second Bar + Kitchen downtown. It is called the Congress Burger. Mrs. Greenbean and I met some friends from our college days and enjoyed a warm June day and tasted for ourselves.

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The meat was very juicy and tender in the extreme. The flavor was dazzling–combing the subtlety of hamburger with the complex sharpness of brisket. The tenderness caused the hamburger to break apart easily, which is fine by me because I like to dip the burger bits into kitchen and mustard, alternately. The ketchup wasn’t as spicy as I’d have liked. I found myself wishing I had some of that nice Whataburger spicy ketchup to dip the burger in. The mustard was fantastic. I think they make it homemade and I wish I could have bought a bottle to take home.

I added pork belly–because fancy bacon is always a good idea.

The bread was disappointing. First, it was insufficient to hold the juiciness of the burger, which toward the end made the experience soggy. Second, the bread was too small and didn’t really cover the bottom or the top well. I know it is nice to have some stuff hanging out and falling all over the place, but halfway through the burger was left with mostly meat, lettuce, and tomato. Third, the bread was bland, bringing no noticeable flavor to the party.

The other disappointment were the potato chips. These were homemade on site, but way too salty to enjoy. How salty were they? Lot’s wife is probably missing an arm.

A delightful treat were the fried pickles we ordered as an appetizer. These were not chips, but spears served with a nice gorgonzola dip. Delish.

I paired my burger with a cherry Coke because cherry Coke is the best beverage to have with a burger of any kind. It was served in a fancy glass with tiny crushed ice.

The service was excellent. The ambiance was okay but the music was too loud for me. The playlist was fine, but the loudness made pleasant conversation just a little difficult. The bathroom was clean, or as clean as I could tell because it was very dark.

The location was nice, but we paid to park in a lot right behind the building so factor that into the cost of eating there. After the meal we walked across the Congress Avenue bridge and did a little shopping, all the while trying not to get run over by people on Segways and scooters.

It made for a pleasant day, but I’m not certain our favorite little burger joint here in town isn’t comparable, and a lot more accessible.

 

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Tacos and Jesus

I don’t know whether I should file this one under food, preaching, or Bible? Probably it is a little of all.

Let’s start with tacos. There are few things in this world better than a taco. When I say taco most people think about the crunchy things you get at Taco Bell. That hardly qualifies, but it does indeed qualify. I prefer soft tacos–flour for most of mine but if it is a fish taco I prefer a corn tortilla. I also love breakfast tacos made with sausage, bacon, chorizo, or egg and potato. It’s all delicious.

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Most food can be described as a taco. This is really true of what we label as Mexican food. An enchilada is a soggy taco. A chalupa is a flat taco. Quesadillas are panini tacos. Nachos are de-constructed tacos. Chimichangas are deep fried tacos.

And for the record, there is no such things as a burrito. A burrito is just a pretentious taco.

But so many other foods are really tacos too. A sandwich is a taco with puffy bread. Think about it, Subway sells things called ‘wraps’ to substitute the fluffy bread, and a wrap is just a taco with different filler. The same is true of a burger–just a taco without the spices, but still a taco.

A hot dog is really a taco, too.

A gyro is a Greek taco.

A calzone is an Italian taco.

An egg roll is an Asian taco.

A kolache is a Czech taco.

I mean, if you get right down to it, a Twinkie is a Mid-Century American taco.

Eventually this gets me to Jesus. Jesus made seven of the apostles fish tacos for breakfast after his resurrection.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “bring some of the fish that you have caught . . . Come and have breakfast.” John 21:9-10, 12a

Tacos are resurrection food! I wonder if Thomas brought along some guacamole or queso? I doubt it.

Tacos are the universal food. One way or another people from just about every culture can relate to a piece of bread wrapped around something. Jesus offers this universal food to his apostles as he leads them to consider the universal neediness we all have to dine with him.

6 Things You Might Not Agree With

Lots of stuff going on around here. Tonight is Cajun food night at our church meal, and I got nothing, so I’m just gonna go get tacos from Taco Bell. I know, it is the lowest form of food, but I figure they have Taco Bell in Louisiana, too.

But here are some things that are on my mind, and I need to get them out. I recognize you will probably not agree with some of them, which is fine. Maybe It will stimulate some thinking.


1. President Trump is right to question why good financial news, like more people working and higher wages, causes the stock market to go down. Probably points to the reality that Wall Street and Main Street have two completely different sets of priorities.

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2. As a Seahawks fan, it is extremely rewarding that the man who cost us a Super Bowl victory also cost the Patriots a Super Bowl victory to a team wearing green. Thanks, Malcolm Butler.

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Seeing this picture still stings.

3. Yesterday was Ronald Reagan’s birthday. He would have been 107, if my math is right. It made me a little nostalgic to remember a time when conservative Republican presidents advocated for walls to be torn down, not built.

4. I have an almost uncontrollable desire to buy a red Tesla Roadster. Watching that launch was amazing, and really made me miss when NASA use to do great things.

5. I’m watching a lot of Oscar movies right now, which means I’m eating a lot of popcorn. I will blog about them all when I’ve seen all the best pic nominees, but for now I will tell you that The Shape Of Water was a terrible disappointment. I mean, it was almost unwatchable at times, but it did make me miss The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

6. I’m preaching about the Holy Spirit right now, and finish the series up on Sunday. I think the smartest thing I’ve said in a very long time is something I tried to point out this past Sunday.

The reason we have so many different churches and kinds of churches is a strength, not a weakness. The Holy Spirit takes pleasure in diversity, and this diversity makes it possible for there to be a spiritual home for all different kinds of people.

 

Okay, that’s all I got for now.

Update, while writing this, I decided to go with KFC and a bucket of chicken. Everyone loves chicken, right?

Vegetable Soup

Over the winter I’ve been perfecting this vegetable soup recipe for our #meatlessmondays.

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This is an actual picture of this vegetable soup that I made all by myself.

Start with half a red onion and four celery ribs. chop them very small. Heat them in the bottom of your soup pot with a splash or two of olive oil. I generally use my large dutch oven. Throw in a little kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. If you want, you can dash a bit of Tabasco sauce. I also add a dash or two of garlic powder. I don’t find that fresh garlic works well in this recipe, because it doesn’t always blend as easily. Many vegetable soup recipes will call for thyme and oregano as well, but I don’t like them with this soup. The flavor comes from the ingredients here, not the spices. You’ll want the fire up on high at this point.

So to summarize the base: olive oil, red onion, celery, salt, pepper, garlic and if you want a little Tabasco for punch.

Once that sweats out well, ¬†reduce the heat on your stovetop burner to low. Start adding other delicious chopped veggies. I have found the more the merrier. There are three I always use are tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage. The tomatoes I use are stewed frozen tomatoes from my mom and dad’s garden. However, any canned tomatoes would work. I wouldn’t use fresh ones. I have put as many as six different veggies in if I have them. This is a great recipe for clearing out fresh veggies that are on the downward path toward rotting in the crisper. Other good veggies to add are green beans, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, and cauliflower. All of them are delish. Here is some advice, though. Stay away from potatoes and corn. These things always end up as filler in these kinds of soups, but this is not a chowder. Corn brings an unsavory sweetness and potatoes bulk it up too much. Stick with the skinny fresh veggies.

Once those are in the pot, add enough broth to thicken, but not enough to cover it. Right now we just want to cook up the veggies with a little more direct heat. Bring the pot to a simmer, and let simmer for about three to five minutes. take out the toughest veggie at three minutes and see how done it is. If you are using carrots, those are a good tester. Broccoli can be tough too, so that is a good bellwether for how ready the veggies are. What we are looking for is soft enough to bite but still a little firm. Once they get to this point, add enough broth to cover the veggies completely.

Throw in a bay leaf or two. Let simmer about ten minutes, stirring three or four times. Taste the soup to see if it needs more salt or pepper or garlic. This is completely subjective.

A big question here is what kind of broth. To keep this recipe truly meatless and vegan, you’ll need to use vegetable broth. However, chicken broth brings this soup to an exceptional level of flavor. You can’t lose either way, though, unless you use water. DON’T USE WATER OR BOUILLON CUBES. Can you hear me shout that? The only water you should use in this recipe is to wash the veggies when you clean them.

For best results, after simmering the soup for ten minutes, let it set for about an hour. The next day it will taste even better. That’s just the nature of all soup and chili type foods. After an hour, it might still be hot enough, but if you need to raise the temperature.

If I am in a particularly enjoyable mood, I will use that rest time of an hour to make homemade croutons to serve with the soup. This is simple. Just take a loaf of French or garlic bread. Cut it up into blocks (whatever size you want your croutons). Splash them with olive oil, salt, and garlic then bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, or until they have that nice golden color.

Put the croutons in the bottom of your bowl and label the soup over them. Top with Parmesan cheese if that is your jam. Enjoy.