This past week, we’ve been eating our way through Austin, Texas. We went on this fun trip with about a dozen other family members, to watch Ally’s cousin Townley swim in his final collegiate meet for the University of Texas. Townley is an amazing swimmer – he swam for Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and even won a gold medal! (Ally does not share his athletic genes unfortunately…) The NCAA swimming championship was a new, fun experience for us and was a great excuse to check out Austin – neither of us have been there before and Ally hadn’t previously been to the whole state of Texas!
As usual for our blog, we’ll focus on the food! We went fairly traditional/touristy when we were in Austin, but everything was delicious! Of course, we had some breakfast (and dinner) tacos, BBQ, and everything meat!
On our first night, we went alone on a dinner date to Contigo, which was recommended by our favorite Texas natives. We didn’t take any pictures here, but the food was delicious and the portions Texas-sized! The chicken liver mousse from the charcuterie menu was spectacular, topped with smoked maple syrup and chopped pickled green beans. This is a combination I certainly would never have thought of, but it was amazing!
And we did manage to take a few pictures on some of our meals and treats! See below:
Our yearly recap has become my favorite blog post to write each year! I’m still proud of us for keeping up with our blog for all this time. Now some of you may interject here… ‘What about the fact that this is the first Bon Appetit Baby! post since mid-November? Where have you guys been? We thought this blog was going to fall off the face of the planet, like so many others.’ True, true… but I promise we had a good reason for our absence! We’ll elaborate later. But meanwhile, let’s celebrate 2018 and look forward to 2019!
2018 has been a big year for us! Some of the biggest accomplishments of our lives happened this year. We completed our graduate degrees, graduated from the University of South Carolina, passed our boards, moved from South Carolina to Virginia, started new jobs, and are under contract for our first house! We had so many great times with our friends and family too! So many exciting things happened in 2018… we can only imagine what 2019 has in store for us!
But despite our absence in the past few weeks, we’ve still made a lot of delicious food this past year! Take a look back with us!
October has been kind of a low volume blogging month for us. Honestly, we haven’t made a whole lot worth remembering. This is a little sad because there are so many good food holidays we should have been celebrating in October. (We’ve missed Noodle Day AND Pasta Day – though why those are two separate holidays is beyond me! We also bailed on Dessert Day, Gumbo Day, Pumpkin Pie Day, Taco Day, Red Wine Day, and Chocolate Cupcake Day ☹️ So many missed opportunities! We were also at an event on World Food Day, which I was hoping to make a yearly celebration after discovering what it was all about last year (see: Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)).)
Enough about what we haven’t done this month. One thing we did this month was visit Selim’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. We love our visits to Cleveland for many reasons (family and friends chief among them 🖤), but we also always have excellent food! Cleveland is by far one of the most underrated food cities. Cleveland is definitely a city of immigrants, from the Central & Eastern Europeans of the 1900s to the Hispanic and Middle Eastern newer arrivers. And luckily, that creates a delicious melting pot of foods of all ethnicities.
We tried Brazilian food for the first time outside of those yummy, but kitchsy Brazilian steakhouses. Batuqui was delicious and definitely not kitschy, though Selim did have an amazing garlic-rubbed steak! We also stopped at Selim’s favorite Italian bakery, Presti’s, in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood. And to round out the culinary highlights of the trip, Selim took me on my first milkshake date to Tommy’s. The milkshakes definitely live up to their reputation 😍
So, in conclusion, no recipe today, but some pictures of Selim with his favorite Cleveland treats!
We’re going to have to update our Meet Us! page here soon. Right now on there, we described ourselves as “newlyweds… currently living in South Carolina.” Well for one, I’m not sure we’re newlyweds anymore. When does that end exactly? And secondly, we’re leaving South Carolina. We moved down here to attend graduate school back at the end 2015. Well, we finally finished our program and graduated from the University of South Carolina! 👩🎓👨🎓 When we moved down here, I wasn’t all that excited about my new town – I had never lived anywhere except for Virginia and was a littlevery sad about leaving my home state. Selim was (is!) a little more open to the change – he’s from Cleveland and has lived in Maryland and Virginia as well. Fast forward almost three years and we both love Columbia. To be honest, I’ve already shed a few tears 😢 at the thought of leaving our current home.
The food in Columbia was one of the main reasons, outside of all the wonderful friends we made here (see above ⇑⇑⇑ for wonderful friends), that we grew so attached to this city. Even though our time here has been brief, we’ve already realized that some other South Carolinians or Southerners in nearby states look down their noses at Columbia, thinking this city cannot compare to other nearby destinations. You hear about the Low Country charm of Charleston and Savannah, the hubbub of Charlotte and Atlanta, or how cool and up-and-coming Greenville is… We’re here to tell you not to skip Columbia. It may not have the reputation the other cities have, but your taste buds won’t be disappointed by a stop here. Selim always says he’d put Columbia’s best restaurants up head-to-head with the top spots in Charleston or Greenville. And we’d win!
So we thought for our last hurrah in Columbia we’d give a shout out to our favorite Columbia spots!
We’ve probably frequented this family-run upscale Thai restaurant more than any other place in town. This is not your average Thai take-out place, though who doesn’t love that? They offer an amazing combination of a small, intimate restaurant, the best Thai food I’ve ever experienced from the chef brother, and a stellar wine list with thoughtful recommendations from the sommelier brother! One of their soups, the Tom Kha Matz, is a fusion of tom kha & matzo ball soup and is Ally’s favorite dish in the whole city!
Ally’s Favorites – Tom Kha Matz, calamari, mussamun curry with sliced duck
Selim’s Favorites – three flavored duck, fried bananas, every wine Sam pairs for me, & whatever special protein is available that night (like the 36 hour sous vide pork shoulder)
This farm-to-table restaurant, in a gorgeous 1800s era historic brick building, never disappoints. The menu is different every night, but a few items reappear. Local ingredients are used to create Southern classics, as well as dishes with world-wide influence. Their wine list has been carefully curated and has won national awards from some of the top wine magazines in the country.
The War Mouth is helping to pull the Main Street revitalization efforts into the North Main corridor. The food here is heritage Southern and South Carolina fare with a few surprises here and there. The menu does change some – seasonally I think. Of note, there’s a new brewery next door and a great coffee shop around the corner; North Main is definitely up-and-coming.
Ally’s Favorites – Chicken bog, the pickle plate, the bread/biscuit basket
Selim’s Favorites – “All of the little snacks,” the pickle plate
The best reason go to Five Points! This gelato shop only offers are few flavors, but what they have is spectacular! The care and love this gelato-maker puts into each and every batch is evident in the deeply rich flavors. There’s always vanilla, chocolate, pistachio; usually two dairy-free sorbettos; and frequently a 21 & older alcoholic concoction. Trust us, you want your scoop in a homemade cone – there’s a surprise in the bottom!
Ally’s Favorites – Coca-Cola sorbetto (it’s like they know me…), peanut butter sorbetto
Lula Drake is predominantly a wine bar, as its name suggests, and those wines are unique and carefully curated. It’s a delicious oenologic learning experience every time we go. But the food is sneakily perfect here too, even though it isn’t the focus. If you want fresh handmade pasta, you won’t anything better than what Pierce makes every night. Probably, the most authentic pasta we’ve had outside of Rome, Italy. We love the story behind the name Lula Drake too!
Ally’s Favorites – Can Xa sparkling rosé, duck fat hushpuppies, the newest red on the menu, the pasta of the night
Selim’s Favorites – The opportunity to taste new and unique wine every time – where else would I try an inky Macedonian varietal?
This is our favorite stop for quick, cheap, filling, and comforting food. The bowls of ramen are massive, with flavorful broth. Conveniently located in the Vista close to the State House, this is also a favorite among USC students, politicians, and business professionals.
This cafe occupies an old house on a historic street in downtown Columbia. They have the best lunch in town in our opinion. The whole menu is great, but we seem to always gravitate towards the daily specials. Fried chicken sandwich Tuesdays and burger Thursdays are always good. We only wish they were open for dinner instead of just brunch & lunch.
Ally’s Favorites – the daily deviled egg, fried chicken sandwich
This Tex-Mex taco place has handmade tortillas, some unique tacos, and a salsa bar. It’s a great quick dinner with a group of friends. Plus, who doesn’t love queso? The owners are actually from Houston, TX. They had this restaurant there, but quickly realized that the market there is quite saturated. After a quick market analysis, they settled on Cola and have been making tacos here since 2016. We realize they might not be 100% authentic Tex-Mex tacos, but they make their tortillas in-house and the tacos are unique & made with really fresh ingredients.
Ally’s Favorites – Ball Park taco, Mr Piggy taco, The Big Hass taco
Selim’s Favorites – I go here for the variety. I like every taco. The three tacos I get each trip are my favorite that night.
We came in here the first time for the coffee, but came back for the sandwiches. This is a lunch spot where you’ll find USC students studying and politicians getting a quick afternoon pick-me-up. They roast their beans in the basement in an really small roaster, and the first time we went here Selim got to help with the process (pulled a lever to spread the toasty beans).
Ally’s Favorites – Scott’s Chix Salad, Turkey Green Apple
The market is our favorite Saturday morning activity. You can’t quite call it a farmer’s market because the prepared food options outnumber the farm-fresh veggies, though you can get those there too! Ally has to walk the length of market at least twice before making a decision. This market is expanding too; it was only 2 blocks when we first moved here and now it’s 3, with special events frequently taking up a 4th. This place gets packed, and we always run into people we know.
Ally’s Favorites – beef empanadas & fried yucca from Los Bellos Portales, bean & cheese papusas from Papusas Salvadoreñas Sandrita, samosas from Indian Palace, dumplings from Fuperman’s Potstickers
Selim’s Favorites – BKeD donuts, the fact that there’s food from a variety of ethnicities every week
This, of course, is not the all-encompassing review of the Columbia restaurant scene. These are the places we found ourselves coming back again and again and that contributed to our love of the city. There are SO many other places in the city worth visiting!
Thanks for the food and the memories Columbia. We’ll miss you and your people! ❤ ❤ ❤
I’m not going to lie… 2017 wasn’t exactly my favorite year of all time. It was an exhausting year of school/clinical work. The news cycle was like 99.9993457245999% negative. And don’t even get me started on our “president.” We try to keep it positive around here – so we’ll move away from all of that. After all, this blog is our creative outlet and happy diversion!
So let’s focus on all the wonderful things that happened this year! For starters, we’ve successfully completed another year of school! (We graduate in 🎉 🎉 129 days, in case you want to count along with us… We’re not excited at all 😉) Ally’s sister, the last of the kids, graduated from UVA in May. We had great, albeit far too short, visits to Washington DC, Cleveland, Virginia, and a few spots around the state of South Carolina. (Selim also visited Seattle… Ally’s still a little bitter about being left behind.) We watched the total solar eclipse down here in Columbia, which was pretty awesome. We were happily able to attend quite a few weddings of friends and family. Selim grew his hair out, which was a big change for us all. And we had some great times with our friends down here in SC.
You know what else we did this past year…? We made a lot of delicious food! This past summer, on our one year blogiversary, we shared some statistics and favorites from the first year of the blog. We’re going to shift that round-up to the end of the calendar year from now on (long live the blog!), because of the way that WordPress keeps track of statistics – it makes way more sense this way!
Location of Blog Visitors: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Romania, France, Namibia, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Netherlands, India, South Korea, Germany, Philippines, Ghana, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Spain, Vietnam, Hungary, Antigua & Barbuda, Greece, Singapore, Poland, Egypt, Ukraine, Bulgaria, South Africa, Morocco, Ireland, Belgium, Estonia, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, Bahrain, Indonesia, and Qatar!!
Today is the Friday of Hanukkah for 2017. We’re not Jewish, but always have thought that this blog was a great excuse to cook and sample foods from all of the world’s countries, cultures, and religions… Holidays just seem to be the logical place to start.
Selim loves Jewish food. He grew up in Cleveland, which has a melting pot of European immigrants and their descendants. Lucky for Clevelanders, that means that their city is full of a variety of delicious foods. I think he mostly loves Jewish food for it’s delicious desserts, but those are just a gateway. I’ve been working nights and off-shifts this month, meaning that there a quite a few days when Selim’s gone all day. Which has allowed me to cook all day and have quite the surprise waiting for him when he got home this afternoon! We usually do pizzas or something easy out of the freezer on Friday night, so I think tonight’s dinner will be quite the upgrade.
“The best part of life is when your family become your friends and your friends become your family.”
I love that “Friendsgiving” is a thing now. I just learned that while obviously friends have been gathering for meals for a long time, “Friendsgiving” became a thing, marked by its entrance into the Urban Dictionary lexicon in 2008. The sentimental part of me, of course, loves our relationships with our friends. But let’s not lie… I also really like eating Thanksgiving dinner twice!
We’re so lucky that we found a new friend-family group to be a part of down here. Being in the challenging program that we’re in is hard enough, but these people (plus some missing from this picture!) make school and the distance from our families so much more bearable!