Doodle Dining Club: Justine's Brasserie

My friend Meagan recently started a dining club. I love an excuse to get dressed up and eat delicious food at new (to me) eateries. Naturally, I joined her club.

This weekend we got "summer fancy" at Justine's Brasserie.

Last month I got a few too-outrageous-for-work but perfect-for-going-out outfits and I was so excited about picking an outfit. I go out to eat often, but rarely to fancy places. And suprisingly, I don't even have a million weddings to go this summer.

After conferring with Meagan on what she was wearing, I went with summer sequins and NEON. I've been dying to wear my new BB Dakota skirt. I first spotted it on my birthday weekend at Maya Star, but they didn't have it in my size. I later found it on Gliks for only $37! I'd never heard of Gliks, but I'm pretty happy about their prices.

Somebody didn't include my shoes in the photo. Hi, random cars.

Here I am with Meagan and Roach.

There was a long wait and I stayed cool with a very apropos French 75. Meagan went with a sparking water and of course they had Perrier handy.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of the food because it was too dark to photograph. You're also missing out on the cute golden lab puppy that came in after dark and the ten or so mosquito bites I got from sitting on the patio.

What I had:

Cheese plate
Verdict: Tasty with fig paste and pistachios. One of the cheeses was really soft and difficult to eat without bread.

Salade de frisee
Verdict: Good, but pricey for the portion size

Side of ratatoulle
I read the Yelp reviews and this was better than expected, I'd increase this to entree size next time.

Creme brulee
Verdict: Tasty and bigger than expected

I didn't have a good photo of Roach's boyfriend Brandon but I promose he was also there. (Thumbs up, Brandon!)

Elizabeth St. Boulangerie Eclairs and Banh Mi

Last weekend, I met up with my friends Sam and Samuel for a brainstorming session to prepare for a big project coming up in the next few months.

Sam is a Sunday regular at Elizabeth Street Cafe - you know, the new fancy Vietnamese bistro not owned by Vietnamese people, and instead owned by the Lambert's of Lamberts (Fancy) BBQ and Perla's fame. 

I immediately fell in love with the clean design, bright Vietnamese-inspired color palette, and a French bulldog (I know!) who appeared in the adjacent patio section. We were all in love with the graphics and general design. There was a certain aqua window frame that made my heart skip a beat.

Having been to plenty of Vietnamese restaurants during my childhood and having visited Vietnam twice in my adulthood, it was surreal to be in a space that drew elements from the motherland while being full of non-Vietnamese people. The restaurant used colors remiscent of the less modernized areas of Saigon, but the ambiance was so quiet and clean comparatively. There were no motorbikes, no dust, no impoverished people. A French colonial dream, perhaps?

When it came time to make decisions, I ordered the lemongrass tofu banh mi and a pistachio eclair and nibbled on a few bites of a very tasty mango salad that was brought to Sam on the house. It pays to be a regular and the reward is paid out in shredded mango in a vinagrette with basil and green onion.

My lemongrass tofu banh mi was good. The bread was warm and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside as banh mi should be. I enjoyed the mayo which was blended with chili paste. However, the $7 price tag was high for the food of my peoples. Being from Houston, banh mi are usually $3-5. 

Sam ate not one, but two pistachio eclairs and a huge bowl of fried keffir lime fried chicken vermicelli (bun). I wish I would have photographed the bowl in front of her. She could have easily fit inside that bowl. There was much remarking of how good her dish was, but alas she was defeated by it's giant size and had plenty of leftovers that night. Sam had predicted her fate before ordering, telling us the bun portions could feed two.

Samuel and his lady each had the keffir lime fried chicken banh mi and shared the Nutella eclair (which by the way, was very chocolate-y).

Elizabeth Street's French pastries were far better than the majority of the Vietnamese places I've been to growing up. They tasted fresher and they weren't wrapped in plastic. The display near the hostess stand was quite beautiful, more like a dessert table at a wedding than a bakery case. These pastries were also 3-5 times more expensive than what's I'm used to, but I'd say in this case they're worth the splurge. I am a dessert girl, after all. Have you seen the cake pops portion of this blog? ;)

Overall it was a pleasant experience. Good food, great company and ideas. I do wish the banh mi was a little cheaper. I plan on coming back with my fancy camera and trying the veggie pho or mushroom and tofu vermicelli sometime and another dessert or two, of course.

Meat Fest: Franklin BBQ for Hieu's 30th Birthday

Hey everyone. I hope there's still people out there interested in my sometimes Phantastic life. It's been crazy busy as usual, but some of the busy has been been fun. At the end of February, my friend Hieu celebrated his 30th with what seemed like thirty pounds of meat.

Phuong, Wendy, The Redhead and I stood in line for 3 hours so Hieu could feast on his birthday meat. Funny enough, this is not even close to my first time at Franklin BBQ - it's actually my 4th. You can see the other Franklin post, and yes, I'm still vegetarian.

As others had their fill of BBQ, I had some potato salad, cole slaw, this tiny pie, and a Topo Chico.

There wasn't a moment when everyone didn't have BBQ in their mouth or on their fork. Except for maybe here when Wendy was trying to stab the potato salad

It was kind of intense

Phuong's nails looked fancy even when they were pouring BBQ Sauce.

Most people left with Meat Sweats, but everyone left happy and needing a nap.

Kidney Donor Cake Pops

In December of 2010, a close friend of mine was ready to give his mother the ultimate gift, that of life, with one of his kidneys. in honor of Alex' love and sacrifice I created these kidney cake pops. These pops were honoring the incredible bravery, courage, and dedication of person who I made (mostly good-natured) fun of on a daily basis and diamond sweaters for once.

Unfortunately, on the day of the scheduled surgery, doctors declared Alex's kidney was no longer a match. His mom's medication had complicated the situation, and her body would no longer accept his kidney.

I've been saving this post for over a yearwaiting, hoping things would turn out and Alex's mom would find a match. Now, after reading Bakerella's post about her year and receiving a kidney transplant (and the inspiring comments afterward), I decided to finally release mine.

Alex's mom is still on dialysis and is currently on a waiting list, hoping for a match. If he could have, Alex would have saved the day, sometimes, these things are beyond our control. I continue to keep his mom in my thoughts.

photos by Tina Phan

Valentine's Day Cake Pop Featured on Cupcakes Take The Cake

This just in from my friend Michelle from Foodie is the New Forty: kathyphantastic Love cake pop was featured on Cupcakes Take The Cake! Umm...I've kinda been obsessed with that blog for years. Big news in the world of kathyphantastic.

The kathyphantastic love cake pop was one among 10 Valentine's Day cake pops by food bloggers. One of my goals for the year was to get featured on Cupcakes Take The Cake. Maybe I can try to be featured twice?

via cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com photo by Michelle Cheng

I sent Michelle a Valentine's and Chinese New Year cake pop package the other year when I made my first batch of Love pops. This was a year when Lunar New Year and Valentine's fell within a week of each other. Being a food blogger, Michelle ate and blogged about it. I'm not sure in which order. I think ate then blogged.

Here's the post on Foodie is the New Forty and my original post on Valentine's cake pops and the kathyphantastic/Objects of Confection Valentine's cake pop class.

Thanks so much for featuring us! I'm so psyched.

2011 in review

*Where was this taken? Scroll to January for details...

2011 was an exceedingly busy year with lots of travelling, weddings, and travelling to and from weddings. I explored two countries I'd never visited and I found a new job that was more difficult than I ever imagined but also more fun that I could have hoped. My job switched from working with young people selling things to working with old people trying to sell things to young people - and them not understanding why those young people weren't biting. This is where I come in. Of course though, being closer of age to the young folks, the older people didn't understand where I was coming from either.

I made new friends, started mentoring students, collaborated on cake pops, suited up in Dallas Cowboys pads and crafted (not all at the same time). I became so busy with work, weddings, and crafts I didn't sleep, stopped exercising, continued eating, and gained weight. The nuptuals eventually subsided and I started working out again, turning some of that newfound fat into muscle. Unfortunately, my pants, like honey badgers, don't care - they can't recognize the difference and are unrelenting. Feel free to write to your congressman regarding my pants. This is most definitely a petition-worthy issue.

I stopped blogging and lost touch with good friends for a while, but reconnected over the holidays. I hope to blog somewhat more consistently in 2012.

I faced new challenges and learned new lessons and have a better understanding of where I want and need to be and where I don't.

In 2011, I lived, laughed a lot, ate maybe even more than I laughed, and moved forward towards bigger things. Here are some of the highlights. Ideally, I'll be able to turn some of them into full blog posts, but once again. It's been really busy (and wedding-y).

January

The redhead, my best friend Wendy and I started off the year right, in a foreign country where we were all illiterate.*

*except for the signage at MBK Center in Bangkok at the top of this post, which we had no problem reading

What was going to be a destination wedding turned into an international adventure to Thailand and Vietnam with my best friends, who aren't necessarily best friends with each other.

February

Jessica from Objects of Confection and I taught a Valentine's cake pop class, hopefully, the second of many more lessons in cake-poppery.

March

I went to my first SXSW interactive with a badge(!). I found myself drinking cocktails mixed with Monster Energy Drink and reuniting with an old friend over hotdogs and leapfrog. It was crazy times.

photo by annie ray

Oh and I started taking sketchnotes.

April

photo by Nathan Russell

photo by Aimee Wenske

In an effort to raise money for Japan earthquake victims, I made a whole bunch of Sanrio cake pops for Austin Bakes for Japan (using Objects of Confection cake balls, of course). Hello Kitty was a best seller at the bake sale.

I celebrated a birthday, and I celebrated a reason to have birthday cake.

May

The redhead and I went to Mexico and did not get beheaded. His parents kept talking about beheadings before our trip. Luckily, we kept our cabezas intact.

Our main purpose for this trip was for a private destination wedding. The bride wanted to keep wedding-related posts under wraps until her big ceremony and reception in the US. I'll post more once I get her permission.

Michelle Savage-Mena wrote about me and my cake pops in the Austin Post.

June

This guy turned the big 2-9 and ate a bunch of barbeque.

I also had my 10-year high school reunion. It was in a small banquet room of a hotel with open iced tea, and incredibly awkward. At least I didn't get really fat.

July

Work sent me to the NACUFS National Conference in Dallas and my work partner-in-crime Meagan and I found ourselves in the Dallas Cowboys' locker room during the lockout.

The redhead and I ate cheese and drank champagne with our friends Dee and Ryan who always guarantee a hilarious time. We love these guys, but rarely get the opportunity to laugh (and eat) with them in person. They're Dee-lightful.

I went on the "East Coach (sic) Tour" with my family. It was a Chinese-language bus tour that somehow covered seven states and two countries in eleven days. This wasn't really a highlight, as much as an extremely bizarre life experience I don't ever want to relive, but the memories will last a lifetime. Luckily, the tour didn't.

August

The East Coach Tour continued through the first week of August including my favorite part, The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. I'd like to visit Canada again without a tour bus.

The Fall semester started, which everyone at work - old and young - refers to as the "crazy semester." I hired a bunch of new interns.

September

photo by annie ray

My work team and I planned (and marketed) our first big event - Mexican American Cultural Dinner and it was a huge success.

Texas Football started again. Meagan turned 30 and continued to look 23.

I was in put in charge of a banana suit that was accidentally shipped to a different state. Luckily it was later found. On me.

You can now call me Commander Bananasuit.

We went to ACL, one day of it anyway, and found a few old friends. You might not guess which one of us found Kanye's performance life-changing. HINT: Here's a picture of that person from 2009.

kathyphantastic donated cake pops to Objects of Confection's Sweet Relief bake sale raising money for the Central Texas fire victims.

On our way to yet another wedding in New York, the redhead and I visited our friend Fran in Philly and ate a lot.

Here we are eating Bassett's Ice Cream.

Fran convinced me to start using my Instagram account, so there's another place to follow me, if you please. I'm kathyphantastic there.

October

I was reunited with my good friend Katy who I worked with at IKEA. In NYC, we ate veggies, talked clothes, and I finally met her dude. Our dudes talked about their digidevices. One day, I'll be able to afford to have Katy design some furniture for me. Maybe a replacement chair for the one the redhead broke in 2011?

The redhead and I went shopping, ate doughnuts, explored Brooklyn, ate more doughnuts, and Jitneyed over to Montauk for Amy and Justin's nautical wedding and visited a lighthouse while we were there.

photo by Minnow Park

My workplace entered an intense Whole Grains Challenge. It involved a lot of (Whole Grain) pizza costumes.

photo by Jane Ko

I styled a bridal shower, went to a burlesque-themed bachelorette party, helped set up a La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival booth, and made a bunch of Halloween and dia de los muertos cake pops for Austin Chocolate Festival.

November

My best friend Phuong got married to her Hieu. I toiled away in a 3-day-long sweatshop leading up to the event, but it was worth it. Man, am I glad it's over though. 2011 was pretty much the year of Phuong. (Hi, Phuong, I love you.)

I'm the red one.

kathyphantastic and DottiePop did our first craft show at Craft Riot - unfortunately on the same day as Phuong's Vietnamese Catholic wedding and reception with afterparty immediately following. Needless to say, I wasn't there, but the crafts and Lauren Blazic from DottiePop sure were.

photo by Jane Ko

Ade and Robert also got married in a fake tiny town outside of Austin - not a Mr. Rogers train model-sized town, but one some people decided to create as an event venue. I'd never seen so many Asian people in a country setting nor had I seen a fake tiny town.

The redhead and I saw Green Day on a school night for $20 each.

I relaunched my Etsy store for the Holiday season and did a few giveaways on my kathyphantastic Facebook page.

December

I added a bunch of new products to the kathyphantastic Etsy store with fab photos by my friend Aimee Wenske.

kathyphantastic's second booth at a craft show - Austin Flea Holiday Show feat. Kathy Phan. I again shared the booth with my friend Lauren from DottiePop.

This led to a lot of dog and cat drawings on mugs to cap off the holiday season.

I took the opportunity tag along on a brief trip to Denver and see my friend Courtney while Chris went to work meetings. It was cold.

The redhead and I went to a bunch of Holiday parties over the course of a weekend. We checked in at 4 events on one Saturday.

We stayed in Austin for Christmas with Chris' family. I decorated ginger cookies to look like the redhead for his family's Christmas presents. The day after Christmas, Boxing Day to some, we drove to Houston for a brief visit with my parents who generously gifted the redhead this generous (in fabric) Nassau, Bahamas t-shirt. We also had dinner and drinks with some good friends.

Austin Flea Booth with DottiePop

Hello blog friends. It's been a while. I hope you forgive me. I've been quite busy crafting for the kathyphantastic Etsy store and a recent wedding (and all the intensity that comes with being in a wedding).

This Saturday, December 3rd, 2011, kathyphantastic and DottiePop will be sharing our second booth together at Austin Flea. This weekend's Austin Flea will be at The Highball from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm.

Photo by Aimee Wenske

I'll have quite a few hand painted plates and mugs for sale including a few pieces from the new Austin, Texas series. Blog post coming soon, promise.

Austin Texas I Love You Plate, kathyphantastic on Etsy, $30

Photo by Jane Ko

Lauren Blazic from DottiePop's half of the booth will be full of plumage for humans. She's been crafting some GORGEOUS hair accessories. I have my eye on a bright pink headband.

My friend Jessica from Objects of Confection will also be at the flea with delicious desserts including salted caramel jars, homemade graham crackers, and cake balls (of course).

Stop by and see us.

The Highball
1142 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704
11:00 am - 6:00 pm

The Highball will have drink specials to accompany all the crafts. Here's their short and sweet Austin Flea post on their events page. So yeah, shop, have a cocktail, shop even more. Don't forget to stop by kathyphantastic and DottiePop twice. Sound like a plan?

Proof that kathyphantastic will be at the Austin Flea. Ha.

PS Don't forget to like kathyphantastic on Facebook. There may be a giveaway leading up to the flea. (*hint hint)

Odd Couple: A Hot Double-Date at Austin Trailers

On a bright hot early summer day, the redhead and I had the pleasure of dining with our friends Jason and Jenny who were in town visiting family and trailers. J&J aren't just any friends. They are foodie friends. They were foodies before it was cool. I mean, they got engaged at WHOLE FOODS after all...

In addition to agreeing to marry a man in an avocado aisle, Jenny blogs about eats and the making thereof at Spoonraider.

They wanted to enjoy the trailer part of the trip with us (thanks guys!). This particular Friday trailer excursion included the near-South Lamar two-step: Odd Duck and Gourdough's.

Man was it tasty. I ate my way through an heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad and a broccoli rice pilaf at Odd Duck and moved onto a Gourdough's donut so sweet that it gave me a sort of amnesia - I can't remember which one I had; there are no photos documenting the donut. Maybe there was an extended Hangover-like episode where what happened was so good it had to be deleted.

Jenny and Jason were so excited and, with their mouths full of trailer food, they explained Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill doesn't have much of a food trailer scene.


Jenny and her well-documented Porky's donut.

Apothecary Wine Bar with Striped Men

A few weeks ago the Phantastics and the Kap-Rochs met at Apothecary Cafe and Wine Bar for a catch-up session full of wine, small plates, and bubbly. It's always a great time when we get together and it usually involves cheese.

The dudes were on the same wavelength and showed up wearing black and turquoise stripes.

Ryan seemed perplexed by this and then angry. The redhead was simply terrified.

 

Luckily the anger and confusion subsided when this delicious cheese plate from Antonelli's Cheese Shop* arrived at our table.

*I've been trying to take one of their cheese classes for six months.

I love how they identify the type of milk with cow and goat stickers.

Dee would probably skip a meeting in the name of cheese. Actually, so would I. My Wednesday 10:00AM? Consider yourself cheesed.