Bacon donut at Gourdough's, chicken fried steak at Hoover's Cooking, Whole Foods Market and Biscuits + Groovy in Austin, Texas
Behold the bacon donut. Imagine sinking your teeth into a fluffy donut, soft as a pillow, glazed with maple syrup icing and laden with strips of the crispiest bacon... that there is the Flying Pig donut from Gourdough's food truck in Austin, Texas.
Gourdough's food truck
We'd just finished eating the fattylicious smoked brisket from La Barbecue when we spied the vintage Airstream trailer that is home to Gourdough's. We'd been complaining about being stupidly full from barbecue, but it's amazing what the promise of bacon doughnuts can do to initiate an emergency stomach.
Gourdough's Big Fat Donut menu
Gourdough's had been on our Austin hit-list from the start, combining two parts excess with three parts humour. Who couldn't love a place that offered donut combinations like Son of a Peach (peach filling, cinnamon, sugar and cake mix topping) or Blue Balls (blueberry filling with blue icing).
Lining up for donuts
I don't even want to know how hot it would have been in that trailer frying donuts on a 35C day, but our server is unbelievably warm and chirpy. The notion of Southern hospitality does exist - it's like everyone really does love their job and want nothing more than to make sure y'all have a nice day!
Mother Clucker fried chicken strip with maple syrup butter US$5.50
We order the Mother Clucker, a crumbed and deep-fried chicken fillet served on top of a donut with a side of maple syrup butter. It's protein city here, and although some of the pieces are a little dry, a good dunk on the maple syrup butter fixes that.
Flying Pig donut with bacon and maple syrup icing US$5.50
The Flying Pig donut has us all grinning from ear to ear. The smoky crisp bacon is an unbeatable counterpart to the soft fluffy donut - and that bacon was the best we'd eat all trip.
Pop tea US$3.50
And what's a Pop Tea? We're delighted to find it's an ice block served submerged in a cup of iced tea. perfect for catching all those ice block drips. Eat the ice block first, or let it melt into your drink when you get brain freeze. You choose!
Spot the sugar-high photo bombers!
Hoover's dining room
We swing by Hoover's for some Southern-style cooking, lured by claims they offer some of the best chicken fried steak in the USA. The dining room is smart but casual with booth seating and tables. The menu includes everything from barbecue to po' boys to Southern fried pork chops, and you can upsize every meal (Hoover size) for a couple of bucks.
Chicken fried steak with macaroni and cheese, cowboy beans and creamed spinach US$9.79
What's a chicken fried steak? It's a tenderised steak that is crumbed and deep-fried steak, similar in preparation to schnitzel. In Texas it's usually served with peppered white gravy over the top, and you know what? It's actually pretty delicious.
Red, white and bleu burger with candied yams US$7.99
Suze orders the red, white and bleu burger, made up of a half-pound smoked hamburger with Aus-Tex wing sauce (red), Monterey Jack cheese (white) and bleu cheese (blue), with requisite lettuce and tomato on a sweet kolache bun. Kolache buns came from Czech immigrants when they arrived in Texas in the 19th century and are now hugely popular across the state.
Char-broiled catfish with black eyed peas, mustard greens and fried okra US$9.79
I order the char-broiled catfish and together we feast on sides of black eyed peas, mustard greens, fried okra (oh so crunchy!), sweet candied yams, macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach and cowboy beans studded with bacon.
Pecan pie a la mode US$5.44
Desserts are listed on the blackboard but we can't go past the pecan pie a la mode.
Peach cobbler a la mode US$5.44
And we order peach cobbler too, a wedge of pie filled with tinned peaches.
Tables and booth seating
Whole Foods Market
If you're a fan of Top Chef like I am, you know all about Whole Foods. It's where contestants are always filmed shopping for challenges, especially as they hurtle themselves towards the entrance pushing trolleys.
Local Texas peaches
What I hadn't realised until I started researching for our trip, was that Whole Foods started in Austin, Texas, opening its first store in 1978, then known as SaferWay (a play on Safeway). In 1980 the first Whole Foods Market opened.
Donut nectarines - these were unbelievably sweet
The Lamar outlet in downtown Austin is the flagship store for Whole Foods, boasting a massive 7,400 square metre supermarket.
Hen in the Woods mushrooms and fresh morels
Supermarkets are awesome wherever you are, but we were particularly struck by the neatness and organisation of the entire store. Stock merchandising, most notable in the fresh produce area, was mesmerising, with every fruit and vegetable stacked tidily but in such a way as to suggest freshness and abundance. There are also clever cross-category promotions, like putting tubs of fresh whipped cream next to the strawberries.
Arctic Char - Top Chef challenge anyone?
Prices aren't terribly cheap - for a long time Whole Foods battled a "Whole Foods, Whole Pay Check" moniker - but we marvelled at the range of products, in particular the items we don't see on our shelves like fresh morels, ostrich eggs and Arctic Char.
Raw and sprouted cereals
The bulk section, where you can buy as much or as little as you need with minimal packaging, is also staggering.
Bulk sweeteners and oils
Mid-shop snackage? Yes, please
But what gobsmacked us most was the presence of in-store dining. Getting hunger pains while doing the grocery shopping? Just park your trolley and pull up a chair at one of several food-court style dining stalls.
Seafood and wine
You could have seared salmon at 5th Street Seafood, summer citrus quinoa salad at Good Greens or a stack of ribs at Bowie BBQ.
Beer and wine bar
And then there's the beer and wine bar!
I'm so intrigued by the creation of 'hanging out at the supermarket' as a new social norm, by adding on drinks or a casual meal to your grocery shopping.
Self-serve salad bar
The pre-prepared food section is also phenomenal, taking up about a quarter of the store.
There are half-a-dozen self-serve food bars, including raw salads, vegetarian sections and cooked meats. There's even a self-serve cookie bar in the bakery section!
Wood-fired pizza oven
You can get a freshly made wood-fired pizza, order a fresh burger and shake (Suze got an Elvis milkshake with peanut butter, banana and fried bacon and it was amazing!), pick up sushi, tacos and everything else in-between.
Everyone's favourite aisle!
But our favourite aisle had to be this one: hummus, cookies and chocolate. What more could you want?
Post-checkout dining area
A huge post-checkout dining area allows shopper to eat any purchases straight away. They have condiment stands with all kinds of sauce (soy, chilli, tomato, mustards etc) plus cutlery, serviettes and water.
Free fruit for Kids Club members
And I was also impressed by the generosity of this healthy eating incentive - free fruit for kids!
Driving around Austin involved some pretty spectacular freeway flyovers. There is so much car traffic in the USA it's incredible.
But I was enamoured with the buses here, fitted with biker carriers at the front. We also spotted these in LA.
Biscuits + Groovy
Our last meal in Austin was all about biscuits. We call them scones, but in the South, they're known as biscuits, eaten as part of a savoury meal and usually smothered in gravy.
Biscuits + Groovy trailer
Biscuits + Groovy initially opened in 2010 as a vegan/vegetarian truck (Jon Lach, the owner is vegan) but has since expanded the menu to include meat items. The trailer is notoriously busy on weekends, with queues stretching around the block.
Biscuits + Groovy US$6
Biscuits in white pepper gravy with sausage and chives
Southern biscuits are richer than English scones, made with shortening or lard and often incorporating buttermilk.
The Johnny Hash US$8
Biscuits with white pepper gravy, cheese, sausage, bacon, potato and chives
They're fluffy but also quite rich, especially when laden with all manner of sausage, bacon, gravy and cheese.
The Gloria Gaynor US$9
Biscuits with gravy, three scrambled eggs, two cheeses, bacon, sausage, jalapeno and chives
As they say at Biscuits + Groovy, "for the young of artery only". You've been warned.
And where are we off to next? New Orleans, Louisiana!
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Biscuits + Groovy
5015 Duval Street, Austin, Texas, USA
Tel: +1 (512) 373 6031
Monday to Friday 9am - 2pm
Saturday and Sunday 8.30am - 2pm
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Gourdough's Big Fat Donuts
1503 S 1st Street, Austin, Texas, USA
Tel: +1 (512) 707 1050
Monday to Thursday 10am - 12 midnight
Friday 10am - 3am
Saturday 8am - 3am
Sunday 8am - 12 midnight
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2002 Manor Road, Austin, Texas, USA
Tel: +1 (512) 479 5006
Monday to Friday 11am - 10pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am - 10pm
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Whole Foods Market flagship store
525 N Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas, USA
Tel: +1 (512) 542 2200
Monday to Sunday 7am - 10pm
>> Read the next USA 2013 post: Fried chicken & beignet - New Orleans, Louisiana
<< Read the first USA 2013 post: Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC
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8/19/2013 12:51:00 a.m.