Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beet we 'undo' having eaten our way thru Austin, TX!

What do beet chips and our food fest in Austin have in common?

Absolutely nothing.  

Beet Chips do not resemble any of the foods we feasted on in that food truck populated, barbecue famous, college-town oriented city.

Traveling in a city known for culinary pleasures as a 'food-obsessed' oriented mother and a hungry 15 year old son has

...its consequences.

Expanding waistlines was the culinary take-home gift bestowed on us as hallmark tokens from Austin as we rolled (literally) back to Houston.

Beet Chips, among other revised caloric options, have become a mainstay snack for awhile as we regress back to a healthy more balanced lifestyle.

Crunchy, salty, and earthy...these are a great crispy side texture to put with our salads and soups.  

After a complete indulgence in the fabulousness of Austin's food offerings...beet chips, kale chips (coming soon!) and all sorts of healthier snack options are back on the table in our kitchen.

But, instead of lamenting the "after" effects of our Austin experience, more captured moments in the city need to be shared.

SoCo, known as Southern Congress, is a fabulous street to hang out for excellent people-watching, to stroll up and down for diverse and fun shopping, and for forming a straight path towards

... our first pod of food trucks!

Austin has a tag line that it considers an apt overall description of its urban personality.

"Keep Austin Weird" are the words found on T-shirts, bags, and signage all around the city.

Well, no kidding.  Rightly named, I say.

There is a definite "weird" vibe that keeps one amused, guessing, and intrigued by the residents of this Texan city.

But, I guess that is all from one's point of view, isn't it?  What is considered "weird"?  Is what is weird to some people normal to others?  

What we have here is the mixture of the southern Texan cowboy indicated by this young girl galloping down what would be the equivalent of "Broadway" in NYC. ON.A.HORSE!  Wonderful BBQ is their gift to the culinary scene of the Austin menu!

Then, there is the concentration of a "liberal" populace  that flock to this urban and suburban haven of what is an otherwise extremely conservative oriented state.  

Throw into that mix a humongous student population that attends U. of Texas and attracts some of the best scientific and engineering minds in the country.  They need to eat...and cheap...thus food trucks with delicious offerings.

Oh...and then there is the placement of the national headquarters of Whole Foods located in Austin.  Bring in the super health conscious populace that is shaking up and promoting the 'green' movement. (ignore the 'Hey Cupcake' truck above)

No...I wouldn't call it a "weird" population.  That has a negative connotation.  I would say is it....

a fabulously diverse, intelligent, artistic community of very dynamic people who are all living in what appear to be harmony with one another.

But, let's zero in on the 'food truck' movement in Austin.  Pods of food trucks are all over the city.  Big and small trailers, cute trailers, and ugly trailers are nestled in parking lots across varying parts of the city.

That is what R. and I were there to experience.  We had everything laid out carefully.  

"Hey Cupcake" was a must-do...or should I say "must-eat".  We sampled the 'red velvet' cupcake.  It wasn't the most earth shatteringly delicious cupcake that I have ever tried but it was ... like a homemade cupcake one would bake in a home kitchen.  Good...from scratch quality.

We had our food trucks mapped out and fortunately in between our food stops, great shopping could be enjoyed.  

The shops along SoCo are fun, edgy, and diverse.   I thought they would be more 'trinkety' but I had no problem finding items that I wanted to bundle up and take back home.

I found some really cute dresses...that if I just had NOT eaten that red velvet cupcake... I might have looked pretty cute in...

It is known here at "thyme" that I am a lover of all things "po-boy".  Cajun Oyster po-boys, shrimp-boys, it doesn't matter...pile good fried seafood into excellent french bread and I am happy, happy, happy.

When Diane, from "White on Rice" blog featured her favorite 'sandwich' called a Bahn Mi a few months ago, I just couldn't get that sandwich out of my mind.  I loved the story that she wrote about it because it mirrored how I write about the cajun 'po-boy' sandwich.

When I read some really excellent reviews on the Austin food truck "Bahn Bahn"...I knew this would be our lunch stop and my days of dreaming of this sandwich would be fulfilled with the reality of sampling one.

I have also been super intrigued by the Vietnamese "Iced Coffee" drink after watching this ADORABLE video here.

I just cannot stop giggling over the creativity of this video!

Well, I am now here to say that as soon as I sank my teeth into my first Bahn-Mi sandwich from the Bahn Bahn truck in Austin

...I was love...all taste buds were firing.

And Vietnamese Iced Coffee!  I now can't get enough of this incredible concoction that includes a thick layer of creamy condensed milk at the bottom of a glass, a dousing of strong hot chicory flavored coffee, and a scoop of ice.

The drink is a satisfying mix of cold coffee creaminess that makes for the most refreshing balance to the spiciness of the Bahn Mi sandwich.

I wanted so much to savor this drink in small sips but I just kept sucking down huge mouthfuls of cold creaminess...(brain freeze!)

No Austin trip...straight to the Bahn Bahn truck.

Something about Austin made me feel very much comfortable in my own skin.  People love to sit and eat outdoors on the sidewalks.  

Misting Sprayers gently spray cool jets of fresh water to make the heat of this southern city more bearable.

After shopping more...well, that's not entirely true.  Only so much shopping can be accomplished with a 15 year old teen boy in tow.  

To be quite frank...thank goodness Madeleine and I hit the shops the afternoon before her orientation began and snatched a few finds.  

With Riley, shopping entails reluctantly entering a store, making a sweeping glance of the goods, eliciting a grunt or two of acknowledgement, and shuffling backwards towards the exit.

Well!  At least he's a cheap travel companion!

We headed to the Gourdough Donut truck in the afternoon for the gargantuan experience of this gi-normous indulgence.

Conclusion? NOT impressed.  The toppings loaded on top were ridiculous.  When we finally dug down deep to find the donut and pushed the overwhelming layers of toppings to the side...the donut itself was...delicious.  

The donut itself was fabulous.  Why the mounds of gimmicky cheap sugar infested toppings?  We didn't know that one could only order cinnamon sugar sprinkled only as a topping.  Next time...the donut = totally worth it. The toppings = ew...pass.

Madeleine and I wanted to see the city lit up at night.  From the campus of U.of Texas to the State Capitol Building, to the river, and then all the way down SoCo, the street flows in a straight line and is beautifully punctuated by the state capitol building high up on the hill.

The site is an impressive and unique one.  I must say, we were glad we kept our weary bodies out on the street into the night because it was a chance to see beautiful view of the city.

So much more to do and see in Austin.  Perla's Seafood Restaurant (frequented by A. Bourdain) will be featured on 'thyme' soon.

But, until then, we have dorm goodies to track down...bedding, lamps, wall art...all that fun stuff for any 18 year old.

Crispy Beet Chips:

3-5 Medium size beets
Oil of your choice...I used olive oil
flavored spices of your choice (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325˚F  

Cut the stems off each beet then wash and peel them.  Cut off the pointed ends so they are straight and smooth.

Using a mandolin slicer, evenly cut the beets into thin (but not the thinnest) slices (the more even they are the better). Lay sliced beets out on a paper towel and pat them dry. 

Coat the thinly sliced beets with oil of choice (about 2-3 tablespoons, depending on the amount of beets used). This can be done by tossing them in a bowl (**be sure to coat each beet entirely) or lay them out on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet, lightly coating each side with a pastry brush or with your hands. (warning: it's going to be a little messy as beets have a lot of juice)

Once the oiled beets are evenly placed on your rimmed baking sheet, use another matching rimmed baking sheet (with the bottom lightly oiled) and place it on top of the beets. This creates a type of "press", helping the beets to cook evenly and flat. You can do two sets of these at a time if you have 4 matching rimmed baking sheets. You will need to rotate the sheets part way through the cooking process.

Bake the beets in the 'press' on the center rack of the oven, for 15-20 min (depending on the thickness of the beets). Check the beets a few times during the cooking process. When the edges of the beets start to dry out some, remove the top baking sheet.

Continue baking the chips uncovered for another 10-15 min or until they start to turn lighter in color and brown slightly. Remove the chips as they look finished. Watch them carefully at this point because they will burn quickly.  Remove some of the smaller beets that cooked faster than the larger ones.

Allow to cool. Sprinkle with salt or any powdered spices you want to try.  Chips should become crisp as they cool. 


  1. Beet chips?? WOW..this is something I'm definitely going to have to try. And - love your description of your experiences in Austin. Such fun!

  2. yum...they sound delish! I've tried them store-bought and they are good! The Austin experience sounds wonderful. I think a few pounds gained would be worth it...and you can always loose them after! Wonderful photos. I especially want that sandwich...just seeing the cilantro on top and it was calling my name!

  3. We went to Austin last year and I fell in love with it, too! I didn't get to eat at many of the trucks, though, which was a shame -- though we did have a couple breakfast tacos, decent coffee, and iced cream out of a few! (And played miniature golf, and ate burgers at Hut's, and I got to run through the UT campus humming "Boomer Sooner" under my breath in honor of the OU / TX rivalry I am on the wrong side of while visiting the Lone Star state...)

    PS: Beet chips totally negate red-velvet cupcakes, calorically. They're the same color, after all!

    1. Meister! Why didn't I think of that!! The red velvet cupcake and the beet chips could easily be confused as the SAME food group. Perhaps the cupcakes were even MADE with beet juice...ahhhh...feeling thinner already. Thanks, pal.

  4. Oh what a fun city. I was drooling over that cupcake. I am back home, back in the heat, after a wonderful week in rainy, misty Cornwall. I'll be talking about it all very soon.

    1. Oh, misty Cornwall...I'll bet you just loved every minute. Can't wait to see photos and hear about that lovely, lovely part of the world. I believe my favorite series "Larkrise to Candleford was filmed in that area".

  5. This is fascinating, I never would have thought of the 'beet press' idea. It has lots of applications in the veggie chip arena, I'm sure.
    I have always heard that Austin is a great city, I'll look forward to exploring it along with you and your family.
    One piece of sheets for the dorm bed. Best decision we ever made!

    1. Black sheets! I love it Sue! I hadn't heard that one yet...

  6. GREAT photography! It looks like you had a wonderful trip!

  7. Do you have any idea how much I want a 'keep Austin weird' t-shirt?
    Beetroot chips are my all time favourite thing. LOVE.
    T xx

  8. Sarah, Seeing (and reading) your post is making it hard for me not to leap out of my seat right now and run to the nearest plate of food. Bahn-Mi and Vietnamese coffee would be the ideal bite, but it may have to be a Greek Salad for me;)
    By the way, the beet chips of course look tasty too! I think my whole family would love them.

  9. I know Texas well - have lived there and my uncle/aunt live in Houston so this was an awesome post reminding me how unique TX is to all the other states in the US. Lovely photography We love our root veggie chips here - beets, parsnip, celeriac all make great and healthy snacking!

    1. I should try parsnips next...I think those would be yummy!

  10. Austin (weird or no) seems like my kind of town. GREG

  11. Austin is my favourite city in the world (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a Longhorn). Perla's is so good - next time you should go to South Congress Cafe and have one of their famous bloody mary's. And I heard Foreign & Domestic in North Austin is pretty fantastic as well. I love discovering a new Texas blogger!

    1. Thanks! I love when I get recommendations from Texans...they are always the best!! Perla's photos are coming up next!

  12. Been to Austin a number of times and loved it to pieces. Amazing food and people. Even thought of moving there. One problem, weather. Heat and humidity. LA is bad enough heat-wise but add humidity? Eek. It's one of the reasons I left the midwest. Still, would visit there in a heart beat. Glad you're enjoying your visit!

    1. sentiments exactly. We dripped through our clothes until you could ring them out at the end of the day. You can't imagine how much I detest humidity and am a cold weather person. I am trying sooooo hard to have a positive attitude with this heat.

  13. I would love to try those beet chips. They look yummy and i could pretend they are healthy. Austin looks like a great place to be.

  14. The first batch of beet chips I ever made, I burnt them to a CRISP. Awful, haha! You have to be so careful with them. I learned the hard way. I've made them since and they've come out great every time. They're so beautiful looking. I love your photos of the dogs. You always manage to capture such beautiful moments. I love that about you! You have such a good eye.

    1. I burnt the first batch too! The tiny ones cook so much faster than the big ones that I was babysitting all of them and plucking the little ones out one by one so they wouldn't burn.

  15. Sarah, so enjoyed traveling to Austin in your post! Aren't you so happy your daughter picked a school in such a marvelous will make drop offs, pick ups and visits such exciting excursions for all! I have thought of you often this summer, and wonder how the college departure prep is going and all that accompanies the business.

    I can so relate with your shopping companion....I have to such shoppers...when I travel to shops with my certainly is cheaper :)

    Wishing you a lovely summer time with your family. Again, thank you for your wonderful is always such a destination of pure enjoyment!

  16. Okay, wow. Let's talk about how stunning those beet chips are, shall we? The color is simply amazing! Loving this recipe :)

    And great trip to Austin! I keep hoping the food truck phenom will get kickstarted in Cayman

  17. The food looks so good and your beet chips are the perfect antidote to a little over-indulgence.

  18. I recently took an Austin food-trip, too! I didn't get to try Hello Cupcake this time around, but I adored Gourdough's. Did you try the Flying Pig or the Funky Monkey? Also, your beet chips look incredible.

  19. Sarah - absolutely stunning images! I have heard nothing but amazing things about Austin. Super diverse, eclectic, progressive, captured it all. And the beet chips..NICE!

  20. I haven't been to Bahn Bahn. I need to try it! Sounds like you had fun. The beet chips look like a great return to light and healthy eating. Wish I had some of those for an afternoon snack!

  21. Definitely a city I long to visit some day soon. I'm always eyeing those food trucks when they're shown on the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

  22. I've never been to Austin, there's so many places on my list "to see". And you write about this city in such a positive way, that I should definitely go there. Plus all this delicious food. And I really like, that they say it's a weird city, hahaha.
    I also like the idea for chips :)

  23. I could rival you in the 'love of po boys' category, and there is also a soft spot in my heart for bahn mi... although it's been a number of years since I've had one. Austin seems so filled with life, it's really a joy to see the people you've photographed, and the smiles on their faces. You'll be leaving your daughter in good (happy) hands!

  24. So glad I found your site today. Your photos are just amazing. I've made sweet potato chips but I've never tried beet chips. I wonder if my boys would eat them?! Either way they look delicious and I know I'll love them.

  25. Oh Sarah, this is so funny, I overdosed on sweet potatoe chips last night, not homemade!, and I don't feel so good today...I think it was all the salt, but I've been trying to eat healthier too, but being a I'm a crunch & salt-aholic makes that a bit the veggie chips have been slowly making there way in to the larder...I think making them might be the way to go, it sounds so easy (love the 'press' part, brilliant!), though I think the marble will have to be covered in plastic when attempting it! Kale chips sound wnderful too...looking forward to seeing how those are created.

    Wish we had food trucks galore here in the Northwest, though it would be a bit dangerous!
    Stay cool...
    xo J~

  26. I had so much fun reading about your trip! You have such a beautiful blog (I am now a subscriber!). Thanks for your comment on Cannella Vita.

  27. I love beats! I just wish they weren't so messy. I'm so paranoid about staining my entire kitchen, not to mention my clothes, whenever I make something with beets. :-) Lovely photos, too!

  28. 1. I love Austin. 2. Those beet chips look delish! 3. however, so does that red velvet cupcake!!!

  29. Thanks for taking me on a journey through Austin…looks like a fun place to visit! I love your beet chips…I can’t wait to give them a try…I do something quite similar to sweet potatoes…I love veggies in chip form! Have a great weekend, Sarah!

  30. Thanks for the kind words about our fair city. Now that you have a daughter here, if you travel in often, we should meet up sometime. I have yet to check on Bahn Bahn but will do so now. We're lucky to have no shortage of Bahn mi spots in Austin and most are quite good! You are exactly right about Hey Cupcake and Gourdough's- both are totally over rated. I don't think they're survive if it weren't for the novelty factor. Fabulous pics, as always. I love to see my city from other's eyes- such a neat perspective.

  31. OH, I love Austin. SO MUCH!! I think you've captured the funky feel of it perfectly. I love your heart-full posts.

  32. This is perfect. I grow my own beetroot and I'm always looking for something new to do with them. Thanks for sharing. Love your photos:)

  33. I am making these chips next time! I love beets and any new way to eat them is welcome.
    Looks like you are in love with Austin:) I love "weird" in a good way cities! :)

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  35. "I found some really cute dresses...that if I just had NOT eaten that red velvet cupcake... I might have looked pretty cute in..." <-- LOL. Story of my life! :)
    And I love food trucks! I tried the Nom Nom food truck that also sells bahn mi sandwiches in LA, just because the name was so cute.

  36. Brilliant!!! beet chips a 'must try' for me... :D
    Love all the 'Street' photoshoots...

  37. Another great post Sarah! Austin sounds like a really cool place. I like weird:) Beet chips are one of my faves - thanks for sharing your recipe:)

  38. Just thinking of you Sarah....your beautiful blog helped inspire an Italian dinner (and post) at our house. You make sharing a meal into a soulful experience full of love and memory. For this I thank you!


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