Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quality Seafood

Another delicious find: Quality Seafood.

Review by Aeran Shabi:

Quality Seafood Market
5621 Airport Boulevard
Austin, TX 78751

Dish: Fish Tacos

            $2 Tuesdays is reason enough in this town to head to Quality Seafood Market for their $2 fish tacos and $2 domestic beers. I like places like Quality Seafood where the restaurant shares a space with its store which sells the very ingredients that you find in their food. It evokes a certain level of honesty and transparency that gains trust with their clientele, almost as if they’re saying, “come judge our ingredients for yourself before we cook them for you.” I walked in and despite all of the raw fish about, the place barely had any fishy smell at all, which I’ve learned is a great sign. Promising sign number two? The place was packed. From the parking lot being full (I had to park in a tangential lot), to the line that ran almost to the door, in my experience if a place is having no trouble getting business, there’s usually a good reason why. Luckily for me, the line moved quickly and I had to make my taco choices quickly, though it was hard to settle for tacos with all of the classic gulf seafood cuisine choices on their menu. But, I had come with a mission, and that mission was cheap tacos. They offered three types of seafood filling, mahi-mahi, shrimp and catfish, with three choices of preparation, either grilled, fried or blackened. Lastly, I had to choose from a short paragraph of sauces to top each taco. I ended up with blackened mahi-mahi with avocado pico de gallo, fried mahi-mahi with fire-roasted salsa roja, and fried shrimp with salsa verde. I got myself a pint of Live Oak’s Big Bark, and found myself a table near the basketball game on TV until they brought my food to me. The three tacos sat in a paper-lined red basket with the three different sauces in their own brim-filled ramekins simply stuffed on one side of the basket; no frills. There are times and dishes that demand special plating in order to convey the relationship and delicacy of each ingredient. This was not one of those times. Gulf seafood should be at once dirty and hospitable, inviting but with attitude. Each taco had a colorful pinch of cabbage salad on it for texture and visual appeal, simple and to the point. The blackened mahi-mahi taco was first to the firing line and upon taking the first bite, I tasted something that seemed to execute at a 7 out of 10 level for what it was going for. Fortunately it was an easy fix. I simply put a bit of both the other sauces I had ordered, which filled in the flavor gaps quite nicely. Normally I’m not one to tout overloading food with ingredients, or as my high school drum instructor used to call it, “trying to stuff five pounds of crap in a four pound bag,” but in this case it proved to be a good call. All three sauces had a tangy and slightly spicy profile and when combined, formed a well-rounded condimental flavor that nicely complimented the pillowy chunks of fish. The fried mahi-mahi proved to be even softer and fluffier than the previous taco, as fried fish is wont to be. Texturally, this taco was my favorite because the entire taco was incredibly soft except for the ultra-crispy cabbage. Nothing helps bring out an ingredient’s features like contrast (think white lettering looks whitest against a black background and vice versa), so I really appreciated the contrast of fish vs. cabbage the most with this taco. Lastly, I ate my classic fried gulf shrimp taco, and since it was the last one, I loaded it with all the remaining sauces that I had. Let me just say, there is nowhere in Austin to get fresher, more plump and explodingly juicy shrimp for the price. Quality Seafood has a spot-on seafood batter that holds in the natural moisture of the meat while still getting crispy enough to have that slight pop of juicy flavor when you break into the first bite. Having tasted all three tacos and sauces, I determined the fried mahi-mahi to be my favorite all around item, though each was delicious in its own way. A seasoned food warrior, I left not a morsel of food on my plate, and not a sip (not even the last half-backwash sip) of delicious local beer left in my glass. The atmosphere here was excellent, and on Wednesdays there’s a Gulf ragtime band that can cook better than the kitchen. I’m definitely going back, but be warned, though I thought I was being clever, Live Oak does NOT count as a domestic beer on $2 Tuesdays (it was only a dollar more though). 

Graham Avenue Meats & Deli

Going through the archives, I stumbled on a mouth watering photo taken in Brooklyn, NY. Graham Avenue Meats and Deli is a delicious find and I highly recommend going there when you have a craving for a genuine Italian Sub. Here's the photo and a review from my writer friend Aeran Shabi. Enjoy!

Graham Avenue Meats and Deli
445 Graham Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Dish: Willie’s Italian Special

Every now and then a dish confounds me. I have no problem telling you if something tastes awful and in exactly which ways it falls short. But this type of word loss comes from a sensory rush that speaks on levels well beyond what you see in front of you. To eat Willie’s Italian Special sub at Graham Ave. Meats and Deli is to ingest history, passion and deeper gastronomical love. The sandwich is the grand finale to an experience that begins when you walk in the door. Like a scene that was plucked right out of a Scorsese flick, I walked in to find a small corridor-like shop covered in memorabilia of Brooklyn life. Pictures and news clippings of Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Old Blue Eyes drowned out the old and peeling pinstripe wall paper. A young man covered in tattoos had his back facing the counter as he was hard at work on a customer’s sub, so he called out to his father who was busy in the back. Out steps a middle-aged, balding and black-haired Italian mobster archetype, complete with a wall-matching pinstripe button up that he left open at the chest to show off the gold chains that hung from his leathery neck. Perfect. He stuck his head through a wind chime of hanging sausages and asked what I wanted to order. I ordered the well-recommended Italian Special in between bouts of laughter over the man in a sausage forest standing in front of me. The father turned and relayed the order to his son, then went over to him to check his progress. As if the father had read the secret wish in my eyes, he began to yell at his son in a too-legit-to-quit Brooklyn born, Italian accent, “You’re eh-slicing the tomatoes eh-too eh-thick! Can’t you eh-do anything right around eh-here?!” The son began to argue back in Italian as the father walked into the back hall while shouting Italian obscenities and gesturing with three pressed fingers toward the kid. I had hit the motherland. I had been waiting for this sandwich shop my entire life. Despite the father’s critique of his son’s craftsmanship, this man painstakingly shaved each tomato, each slice of provolone, each layer of homemade meat paper thin. He took time to lay each ingredient on the fluffy roll with detail and precision, even going back to adjust a slice of tomato that had slipped out of place. Fifteen minutes later and my mouth was watering profusely. I ordered a few stuffed Sicilian olives and mozzarella stuffed peppers to go on the side, thanked and tipped the artisan thoroughly for his care, and set out to find a park where I could begin my religious experience.
Upon finding my shady niche, I unwrapped the monster of a sandwich and just stared at it for a bit. It was a piece of art. The reds of the meats and tomatoes right up against the white of the cheese and green of the peppers formed a Warhol-like contrast that looked as pleasing as it smelled. My first bite was nirvana, only to be outdone by the second and third bites. The cheese had a wonderfully musty tang that complimented the spicy meats and peppers, and what’s better is that it had a slight crumble to its texture rather than the gelatin feeling of cheap deli cheese. The Italian Special features a harmony of meats including prosciutto, capicola, and a special type of salami that the owner Willie picked out himself, all sliced so thin that they bathed your tongue with spicy flavor and then dissolved before you even had a chance to try and chew. The inside of the sandwich was lined with a black olive spread that wasn’t made with bland olives from a can, which I very much appreciated, having grown up eating fresh olives. The vinegar and olive oil dressing was spicy and sour and nothing short of delicious, which is why I didn’t feel shame in licking the wrapper. It took me all of about fifteen napkins to finish the sandwich, after which I sat there dazed and in disbelief that I had never experienced a true sandwich until then. At $8 for a much-bragged-about 1.25 lb. weighing sub, I’d say that Graham Ave. Meats and Deli is offering religious enlightenment at a reasonable price too.

- Aeran Shabi

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 Highlights

I shot some weddings:

It snowed in Austin enough to shut down the city for a day
I joined a Samba Dance group (Brazilian style of dance) and performed at the biggest carnaval in the US!:
Capoeira, a Brazilian Street fighting group at Ruta Maya:
Then she graduated and these two moved in:
And sadly this one moved out:
I shot for Buenos Aires Cafe here in Austin (amAZING food, check em out!)
Buenos Aires:
Visited the botanical gardens:
Saw some live music:
Went camping a bunch:

As I reflect on this year, 3 months shy of ending, it has been a very good year overall.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wow, it's been quite a while

Holler if anyone actually still reads this thing. Here's a pre eclipse photo I saw through my window.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wow I need to update

Ok, lately I've been into reverse macro.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Fall!

How adorable is she? (shot for RonParks Photography)
Leaves at the greenbelt
branches are bare
and the water is back!!!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Found this at 6:30 am on my way to the wonderful Tamale House

Shot for Ron Parks Photography