Tasting at Nixtamal

Okay, friends. Ready for a history lesson? Yes? Okay. There’s this little suburb of Austin called Round Rock, Texas. It has a quaint downtown and is such a fun little area to explore. I actually lived in this city as a kid, but my former obsession with the local library aside, I still didn’t know much about this neck of the woods. Until my recent tasting at downtown Round Rock’s newest restaurant, Nixtamal.

nixtamel1

Nixtamal is the process of the preparation of maize, in which the grain is soaked, cooked and hulled. This eatery is appropriately named considering all of the tortillas at Nixtamal are homemade. But I promised you guys a history lesson and now we’re venturing into food science, so let’s jump back to this in a moment.

Back in the 1800’s, there was a gang member and train robber named Sam Bass. Sam Bass made his way to Round Rock and decided to rob the town bank, but this plan quickly went awry. When local sheriff A.W. Grimes confronted Bass and his gang, Grimes was shot and killed. Bass was shot as well, and died shortly thereafter. Both men were only twenty-seven years old. Today Sam Bass and A.W. Grimes are two of the most prominent street names in Round Rock. As for that bank? It’s now a restaurant. If you guessed that this restaurant is now Nixtamal, you would be correct.

nixtamal

With the gorgeous floor to ceiling murals and natural lighting of this spot, Nixtamal seems more like an Instagrammer’s dream that an old-timey bank. It’s only the vintage bank vault turned small dining area that gives it away. But let’s be real, that only completes the photo-worthiness of this lovely location.

nixtamel4

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about the food, because everything I devoured was absolutely impeccable. The white queso was rich and decadent, and the salsa flight took my taste buds on a journey of flavors and spices. The Mexican street corn was amongst the best that I’ve ever tasted, and had just the right amount of both creamy and tangy.

As for the tacos? Well, they’re just about 85% of what I’ve been daydreaming about for the past few days. I began with the barbacoa taco. The homemade blue corn tortilla paired with the beans, cilantro and juicy barbacoa instantly had me hooked.

nixtamal9

The next taco was carne asada with beans and guacamole. A kind waiter suggested I add queso to the taco, and I happily obliged. The flawlessly seasoned meat paired with guac, melted cheese and warm homemade blue corn tortilla? Seriously, I can’t stop salivating as I write this. It was everything a taco should be and so much more.

As wonderful as the first two were, I would have to say they saved the best for last. The Diego is baja styled fried fish with pico, cabbage and cream sauce. I’m not usually one for seafood tacos, but I was a changed woman after one bite of this one. The flakiness of the fish paired wonderfully with the crunch of the cabbage and luxuriousness of the cream sauce. I was stuffed after my other courses, but I simply could not resist engulfing this entire dish in just a few bites. No shame in my taco game, y’all.

nixtamal 15

I can’t forget to mention the drinks. They completed my feast but at the same time were in a league of their own. The Oaxacan Cure paired mezcal, fresh ginger, honey and lemon, while The Como La Flor combined hibiscus and mezcal. Where the Oaxacan Cure gave a light sweetness from the honey and a zestful kick from the ginger, the Como La Flor provided a refreshingly floral treat. With both of these cocktails, I loved the smokiness of the mezcal combined with the flavors of freshly homemade corn tortillas. 

It wasn’t just the amazing eats, the charming staff or the enchanting and historic interior that made this one of my new favorite places in Round Rock. It was little pieces of all of those things. Sam Bass and A.W. Grimes didn’t have a whole lot in common. But I’d like to think that if they came back to life for just a day, they might put aside differences to enjoy a taco or ten at their old stomping grounds.

 

Be More Pacific Tasting

Guys, I have a brand new obsession. Should I be more specific? Be More Pacific, which started as a food trailer in 2011, has just opened there first brick and mortar off of Anderson Lane.

bemorepacific

I recently blogged about Eldorado Café, a new Mexican comfort food joint that instantly went on my top ten of favorite in Austin. Be More Pacific is only a hop, skip and a jump away from Eldorado Café, and this Filipino soul food was another instant favorite.

To be totally honest, Be More Pacific was my first time trying Filipino food in Austin, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I’m happy to report that it was better than my wildest dreams could have conjured.

bemorepacific85

I was smitten nearly as soon as I walked through the door. A staircase led to the restaurant, but along the wall of said staircase was an array of photos and a sign that read, “This Is Us.” (Coincidentally also the name of the television show that I’m currently binge-watching and ugly-crying over.) These pictures of the owners and family members throughout the years had me smiling as I made my way up the stairs.  That smile only got bigger as I reached the top and my eyes were instantly drawn to the spacious rooftop patio.  I made my way out there as soon as I could, and my friend Becca joined me minutes later. And then, we feasted. We feasted so hard, y’all.

Mark, who owns Be More Pacific alongside his wife Kristine Luna and Gia Cuchapin, explained to me that Filipino food is the melding of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and American cuisines. But because the Philippines were colonized by Spain, Filipino food is also Asian food with a Spanish influence. As if this isn’t a unique enough offering to Austin, Be More Pacific is extra special because it’s Filipino soul food. And I swear to you, I could taste the soul in every single bite.

bemorepacific15

One of my absolute favorites was an appetizer called Sisig. This is crispy pork with onions finished with an egg, lime garnish and house made chips. Mark explained to me that, in the Philippines, this is a social dish that you eat while drinking beer with friends and family. Each person takes a turn with beer pours while all enjoy good conversation and dig into the Sisig. This sounds like my ideal night. This savory, decadent appetizer is definitely great as a drinking buddy, but I couldn’t help thinking that it would also be perfect for a hangover. At twenty-eight, I try really hard not to be hungover. (Because it never goes away. Like ever.) But next time I am, I know I’m going to make my husband pick me up about seven orders of the divinity that is Sisig.

Another dish that left me captivated was the Kare Kare. This is brisket with bok choy, long beans, and – wait for it – eggplant in creamy peanut sauce with a side of shrimp paste. Underneath all of this magic is the white rice that perfectly complements all of it. The shrimp paste seems like a small addition, but adding tiny bites of this to the rest of the dish accentuated every flavor exquisitely. Writing posts like this at night is so dangerous because I make myself so hungry thinking about the food porn and have to make an effort to not drool all over my computer. That is what is happening right now. I really do wish I was exaggerating.

The SCCLBFR is an acronym that make for the loveliest of dishes. Want to know what those gorgeous letters stand for? Spicy Curry Coconut Lime Bacon Fried Rice. Yes. And all of these things combine into a subtle yet striking array of perfectly paired flavors. What a time to be alive, am I right?

I could go on and on, and I will. (That’s a Taylor Swift lyric. I sneak those in any chance I get.) The chicken in the tangy Adobo fell off the bone and just about melted in my mouth, and the Longanisa Tots were perfectly crispy and covered in queso and Spicy Banana Sauce. Speaking of Spicy Banana Sauce, this striking combination of sweet and spicy also made for one of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever tasted.

bemorepacific32

Dessert was the Halo-Halo, which you can find plastered all over basically ever food blogger’s Instagram feed in the Austin area. This gorgeous delight features Ube ice cream which is homemade purple yam swirled with Amy’s ice cream. This is specially made by Amy’s for Be More Pacific, and the taste is truly one-of-a-kind. Also in the Halo-Halo is shaved ice, fruit, jellies, flan and evaporated milk.  It’s what Austin never knew we so desperately needed. Hats off to Chefs Salvador “Buddy” Melgarejo and Tony Dominguez for being the culinary saints that they are.

Dish after dish was presented and each was unique, delicious and big enough for two or more people to stuff their faces with. The dishes are all family-sized, so lucky for me I came prepared (and by prepared I mean hungry.) I am so glad Mark advised me to bring a plus one, as my food coma would have been a food coma and about fifty food babies otherwise. It was a food coma that I cannot wait to relive again and again. I’d even take the fifty food babies.

Be More Pacific is the best of additions to the Austin food scene. You’re going to hear a lot of hype about this place, and every single word of it will be true. Now excuse me as I go dream about creamy eggplant sauces and fried rice acronyms.