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Cooking apps for the holiday season; Zagat does Austin

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Foodies with iPhones can give thanks for menu-planning app

The Thanksgiving feast and holiday baking season present unusual challenges. Having to plan the menu, preparation, execution, of each dish can overwhelm even the calmest of cooks.

To soothe some of the cooking madness, Chow.com , winner of the 2010 "Best Website Focusing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, or Nutrition" award, has released its first iPhone application "The Thanksgiving Coach." The cooking companion is free to download.

"We wanted to do a service for anyone who struggles with this holiday," said Jane Goldman, tvice president of Chow.com. "Nobody likes new dishes on their Thanksgiving menu because it's all about tradition. Our application will guide you through the process."

The application includes a menu plan of nine dishes such as roast turkey, apple and sage stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and brandy apple punch. It also comes with a preplanned shopping list and a time line indicating steps such as when to thaw the turkey and when to pull the pie out of the oven.

iPad owners are also in for a rather sweet treat as well with the recent release of the Martha Stewart Makes Cookies application, just in time for the beginning of the winter baking season.

Callaway Digital Arts, Inc. partnered with Stewart to bring the mouthwatering appeal of Stewart's cookies from the pages of her magazines and cookbooks to the iPad screen. The application is $7.99 and comes with sharing options, instructional videos, a built in kitchen timer and links to shopping lists.

"We wanted to bring that to life from print by weaving all the media together and all the benefits of having video, still photography, shopping lists and e-commerce lists," Nicholas Callaway, the creator of the application, said. "You can't do that with a book or a magazine. Cooking is born for the app world."

- Layne Lynch

Step-by-step Cookbook caters to culinary newbies

For those who are more visual learners and prefer simplicity over fuss, feast your eyes on "What to Cook & How to Cook It," ($39.95, Phaidon Press). In addition to its no-frills, step-by-step guide through the cooking process, the 100 recipes are illustrated with more than 800 photos to walk the cook through each dishes preparation to its serving.

"I want to show that there's nothing be afraid of and that cooking doesn't have to be complicated. When I write, I imagine myself with the cook, talking them through the recipe, anticipating any questions and giving helpful tips," author Jane Hornby said. "We chose overhead photographs for the step shots so that the photos would closely replicate what people would be seeing in their pans at home."

In addition to providing visual aides through the cooking process, Hornby wanted to strip her book down to basic, simplistic recipes so anyone ranging from the fearful cooks to the chef de cuisine could follow.

There are so many chefs' books and TV shows out there now which focus on very high-end food. That's great, I don't want to knock them, but I think we are forgetting that not everyone knows how to cook," Hornby said. "I think it could be time to back to basics. Let's walk before we run."

-L.L.

Simple Herb Omelet

3 large eggs

1 handful fresh chives

1 Tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and put an oven-safe plate in the oven to warm. Crack eggs into a bowl or measuring cup. Beat with a fork until the whites and yolks are just mixed; stop before they become uniformly yellow. Season generously with salt and pepper. Finely chop the chives. Stir them into the eggs. Place a small nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the butter. Once the butter foams, swirl the pan to make sure it's covered with an even layer. Pour in the eggs and set a timer for 1 minute. As soon as the eggs hit the butter, they will start to set and sizzle. Using the fork, gently and slowly move the eggs around. Thick ribbons of cooked egg will start forming underneath the top runny layer.

Keep gently moving the egg around until almost all of it is set, with just a little runny egg on the top. Take the pan off the heat. For the best result, it's important not to overcook the omelet at this stage.

Hold the pan over the warmed plate. Shake the omelet out of the pan until half of it is lying on the plate. Use a spatula to help if you like. Now flip the other half over it. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

Uchi leads Zagat's top Five list for Austin

According to Zagat's "America's Top Restaurants" guide for 2011, Austin is still a little bit country and little bit wok 'n' roll. A barbecue joint is our most popular, but we like the food best at a Japanese sushi-fusion place. The guide is a cheesy collection of hyperbolic superlatives to some, but to others it's a sensible collection of reviews from real people. You decide. But every year, Zagat tallies observations from more than 150,000 consumers to find favorites in 45 markets. The guide breaks out the top five restaurants by food scores and for overall popularity. Here's how Austin shapes up.

Top Five for food: 1. Uchi. 2. Eddie V's. 3. Wink. 4. (tie) Torchy's Tacos. 4. (tie) Vespaio.

Top Five most popular: 1. Salt Lick. 2. Eddie V's. 3. Uchi. 4. Fonda San Miguel. 5. Chuy's.

- Mike Sutter

Want to let someone else do the cooking?

A restaurant Thanksgiving opens up possibilities for nontraditional foods to sneak in. Here are two options for turkey with a twist. On Monday in a special Food & Life section, we'll print a handful of places where you don't need reservations. See the big list at austin360.com/forklore .

• Cannoli Joe's (4715 U.S. 290 W., 892-4444, www.cannolijoes.com ): Brunch and dinner buffets, with turkey and fixings alongside Italian standards. Highlights: turkey cacciatore, turkey-and-stuffing calzones, sweet potato gnocchi. $19.99, $9.99 for children 4-12, free for 3 and younger. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 3 to 7 p.m.

• European Bistro (111 E. Main St., Pflugerville, 512-835-1919, www.european-bistro.com ): Four-course fixed-price menu. Highlights: Stuffed turkey, lamb, jagerschnitzel, wienerschnitzel, European torte. $37.95. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Available Nov. 25-28.

- M.S.

Openings, closings and coming soon

• Open: Sobani, a midpriced bistro drawing on chef Jon Gaboric's three years of Michelin training in Europe. In an atmosphere he calls `casual fine dining,' Gaboric turns out dishes such as stuffed veal with dried figs and Swiss chard, roasted snapper with parsnip purée and fried oyster dressing and grilled shrimp with risotto. Sobani is pouring more than 70 wines, with 30 by the glass, and 15 beers. At lunch, the menu includes creative variations on grilled cheese and salads such as spicy shrimp with melon and toasted almonds. 1700 N. RM 620, Suite 110. 266-3900, www.sobani620.com . Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays.

• Open: In a cruel, ironic twist, the Wildfire Cafe in Bastrop County's Alum Creek Center burned to the ground in a massive wildfire on Feb. 28, 2009, caused by a downed power line. Last month, the owners of the Wildfire opened the Comfort Cafe at 111 N.W. First St. in downtown Smithville. Like the Wildfire, the Comfort offers gourmet salads, sandwiches and entrees, plus breakfast all day, Thursdays-Sundays. 512-321-8336. Cash or checks only.

• Open: Soleil, the Lake Travis Mediterranean-Italian restaurant from Houston chef Robert del Grande's Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group. 6550 Comanche Trail near the Oasis. www.soleilaustin.com

• Set to open late this week: A second location of Phil's Ice House, the burgers-and-fries extension of the Amy's Ice Creams family, at the Austinville 78704 development. 2901 S. Lamar Blvd. 707-8704, www.philsicehouse.com .

• Set to open late this week: Another location of Amy's Ice Creams, right next to the new Phil's Ice House at 2901 S. Lamar Blvd. 447-2697, www.amysicecreams.com .

• Closed: Mulligan's, the sports bar and grill at 900 S. RM 620 in Lakeway.

• On the way: A Carl's Jr. burger franchise at Bee Cave Road and Walsh Tarlton Lane in West Lake Hills.

- Michael Corcoran, M.S.

Food and wine briefs

• Lovers of wine and social media have two reasons to celebrate this week:

- From 6 to 7 p.m. today , national wine buyers for Whole Foods Market will taste about six of Whole Foods' top 10 holiday wines, posting notes on Twitter as they go at the account @WFMWine, hash tag #WFMWine. See the list of wines to buy and taste along at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/wine .

- Also starting at 6 p.m. today , Trio at the Four Seasons Hotel sommelier Mark Sayre will help lead a guided Twitter tasting of three wines (Loosen Bros. Dr. L riesling, Paraiso syrah and Chappellet Mountain Cuvee) via Twitter at the hash tag #FSWine. Follow at home or at Trio (98 San Jacinto Blvd.), where Sayre will present the wines along with food pairings from schef de cuisine Todd Duplechan. $18. 685-8300.

• Home Slice Pizza will hold its Carnival O' Pizza from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at the restaurant at 1415 S. Congress Ave. The free event will feature music, food, contests for pizza-eating, dough-throwing and the famous "Hands on an Eggplant Sub," where contestants try to keep one hand on a sandwich longer than anyone else in a bid to win a year of free pizza. A $5 raffle ticket will earn a chance to make reservations at Home Slice for a year, or a Collings guitar and other prizes, benefiting Habitat Young Professionals. Details at www.homeslicepizza.com .

• Dozens of celebrity bowl-makers and Austin restaurants will participate in the Empty Bowl Project from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. Buy a handcrafted bowl for $15 fill it with soup and catch some live music. www.austinemptybowl.org

• Fall Creek Vineyards will host `It's a Fall Creek Christmas' from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 27, with shopping for fine art, books, wine-and-food baskets and more. A $24 buffet lunch runs 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 1820 County Road 222, Tow. 325-379-5361. - M.S.