Food Matters: A whole lot more of Whole Foods, Ask Addie, Torchy's Avocado Sauce
The number of Whole Foods Markets in Austin is about to double, starting with a store that opens Wednesday at the Hill Country Galleria.
On June 19, another similar-size store will open in the former Haverty's space in Arbor Trails, 4301 W. William Cannon Drive, but for now, the focus is on the 36,000-square-foot Bee Cave store, which is located in a new building near Dick's Sporting Goods.
In addition to traditional grocery goods, bulk items, fresh produce, baked goods, meat, seafood and cheese, the store has several areas to sit down to enjoy some of the ready-to-eat prepared foods or freshly made items such as sandwiches and pizza.
Upstairs, you'll find the Buzz, a bar with all-local beers and wines on tap as well as a seasonal menu that will change throughout the year. (On the debut menu? Soft pretzels, grilled cheese, tomato basil soup and a flatbread topped with arugula, prosciutto and melon.)
Three upstairs balconies, as well as a large patio on the ground level, provide plenty of seating for lunch dates or happy hour. There's even a firepit on the patio for when the weather gets cooler, and they plan to have live music every Thursday night.
The store feels open and easy to navigate, and a few Bee Cave-inspired touches (brightly colored honeycomb panels on the wall, photos from the 1930s and '40s of students at the old Bee Cave school) give it a sense of place. For the first five days the store is open, Whole Foods will donate 1 percent of each day's sales at the store to five local nonprofits: Lake Travis Education Foundation (today), Friends of the Bee Cave Library (Thursday), Bee Cave Arts Foundation (Friday), KDRP Public Radio (Saturday) and RED Arena (Sunday).
Spokeswoman Rebecca Scofield says that each of the new stores will have about 200 employees, some transfers but mostly new hires. (A full-time "healthy eating specialist" will split her time between the two stores to work with customers who are looking to improve their diets.)
Next year, the Gateway location, which was the second to open in Austin, will close and relocate to the Domain.
Ask Addie: Why shuck corn in the grocery store?
What's up with people shucking corn in the produce section of the grocery store before they buy it?
I'm asking myself the question this week. (Got a food-related question? Email me at email@example.com.)
I've been noticing more and more lately that grocery stores are placing trash cans next to corn in the produce aisles so that people can shuck the corn in the store. I'm not an in-store shucker. I like having the ears of corn in their individual wrappers so I don't have to bag them or worry that the kernels will pop or get damaged en route home. The kernels dry out more quickly as soon as the husk is gone, and because corn is rarely, if ever, sold by the pound, it's not cheaper to shuck in the store.
So, I asked around on Facebook and Twitter, and I was surprised to see how many people insist on shucking at the store. "I do it to see if the ear is fully filled out and free of blemishes," wrote Austinite Connie Prater. "Don't want to discover this AFTER I buy or get home." Others like to just go ahead and get the messy part over with instead of doing so in their own kitchens. I can see the reasoning, but it also makes me wish that I could somehow dig into every melon, apple, peach or avocado I get to make sure it's not flawed before buying it.
Speaking of corn, I tasted some of the sweetest corn I've ever had last week at Boggy Creek Farm, where farmer Larry Butler laughed when I asked him how he cooked it. "You can cook corn?" he said, inflecting that near-famous ornery tone of his. He has a variety called Fantastic, which is so juicy, you better have a napkin nearby when you bite into it. He says that in coming weeks, they should have two more crops of corn come in for the Wednesday and Saturday morning farm stands at 3414 Lyons Road.
Have your cake and eat it, too — as ice cream
¦ It's always fun to see what seasonal flavors Blue Bell comes up with, and to ring in ice cream-eating season (which, let's be honest, is year-round, but consumption always goes up in the summer), the Brenham creamery has released Red Velvet Cake. The newest flavor follows several successful cake-inspired ice creams, including Birthday Cake and Strawberry Banana Pound Cake ice cream. Other summer specialty flavors include Key Lime Pie and Southern Hospitality, which has chunks of pineapple, pecans and a strawberry swirl ribbon.
¦ Since 1975, Central Texas bakers have flocked to the North Austin cake store formerly known as All In One Bake Shop. Last year, owners Jennifer and Randy Bartos, who bought the business from founders Jean and Jim Palla in 2002, changed the name to Make It Sweet, and a few months ago, they relocated the store just a mile up U.S. 183 to the Crossroads Shopping Center, 9070 Research Blvd. The new location more than doubled the retail space and tripled the classroom space, which Jennifer Bartos says has been particularly helpful because the teaching part of the business has grown so much in recent years. This weekend, they are hosting an open house from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday that will feature product demonstrations, decorating workshops and tastings. 371-3401, MakeIt Sweet.com.
¦ Every third Thursday, Slow Food Austin hosts a happy hour for members and nonmembers. Some months, they meet at a restaurant that uses local ingredients, but other months, they take their party to a farm. From 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Boggy Creek Farm, 3414 Lyons Road, enjoy bites from local chef Matt Taylor, cocktails from Bad Dog Bar Craft Bitters owner Lara Nixon and wine selected by sommelier Dirk Miller. Suggested donation of $15 at the door. On June 21, they'll take the party to Olive & June's newly renovated third floor event space. slowfood austin.com. For more upcoming food and wine events, check out the food section in Thursday's Austin360.
Mr. Orange joins new additions at Torchy's
Last month, for the first time in three years, Torchy's Tacos, the rapidly growing Austin-based restaurant company that now has about a dozen stores, with almost as many in the works in Dallas alone, added a number of new tacos to the menu, including the Mr. Orange, which is filled with blackened salmon, grilled corn and black bean relish, queso fresco, cilantro and avocado sauce. We persuaded owner Mike Rypka to let go of the recipe for the avocado sauce, but the rest of the taco is up to you to re-create.
Torchy's Avocado Sauce
2 cups oil, divided
1 jalapeño pepper
1 serrano pepper
4 tomatillos, husked
2 tsp. diced garlic cloves
1/4 cup lime juice
2 avocados, peeled and seeded
2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 cup diced onions
In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 cup oil to about 350 degrees. Fry whole jalapeño and serrano peppers for two minutes or until golden brown. Set aside on paper towel.
Put remaining ingredients in large blender or food processor and purée. Add peppers and blend until mixed well. Makes 1 quart. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
— Mike Rypka