Eatocracy’s got boots on the ground at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, and we’re prepping for the third edition of our Secret Supper. While we're down here, we're immersing ourselves in the local tastes that not only “keep Austin weird” but also make it uniquely delicious.
Here’s what’s on the menu.
Despite only being available in about a quarter of the nation’s supermarkets, Blue Bell ice cream is consistently found in the top three best-selling ice creams in the United States. It offers year-round flavors like Cookies n' Cream and Homemade Vanilla, and seasonal or rotational flavors like Chocolate Covered Strawberries or Southern Blackberry Cobbler.
Breakfast tacos - The traditional taco - a corn, or sometimes flour, tortilla folded and stuffed with a mixture of meat, vegetables and/or cheese - gets a scrambled eggs and breakfast meat (bacon, sausage) filling.
Brisket - This is the cut of meat from the breast or lower chest area (between the two front legs) of a cow. Just as pulled pork is king in Carolina barbecue, brisket is the meat of choice in Texas. In the Hill Country of Central Texas, brisket is typically slow-smoked over post oak with a dry spice rub.
Carnitas – While the literal translation means “little meats,” carnitas are first slowly simmered until fork tender, before the chunks get crisped in their own fat for crispiness. The resulting meat can be served as is, or used as a filling for tortillas.
Unless otherwise noted, carnitas are typically made of pork shoulder.
Ceviche/Seviche – A dish of raw seafood and/or shellfish that is essentially "cooked" by the acid of a citrus juice marinade - typically made of lemons and limes. Depending on the regional variation, finely sliced onions, peppers or other vegetables and herbs are tossed with the seafood mixture.
Chili con carne - This hearty dish consists of chopped chile peppers, chili powder and chopped beef all stewed together. Some will vehemently argue that true Texas chili does not contain beans or tomatoes. Texas food writer Robb Walsh traces the origin of chili con carne to San Antonio, but the stew is seen on menus all across Austin.
Cowboy (Texas) caviar – No fish eggs in sight: this type of "caviar" is a black-eyed pea salad of diced onion, peppers and garlic that is tossed with Italian dressing. It is typically marinated in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then served cold. Some recipes also add black beans.
Enchiladas - A savory filling of beef, chicken, beans and/or cheese is rolled up in flour tortillas. The stuffed tortillas are then placed seam side down in a dish before being covered with a red chili sauce and cheese and baked.
Flautas - Flour tortillas are rolled tightly around a typically savory filling before being deep-fried. The finished product resembles a flute, hence the translation.
Kolaches – This lightly sweet Czech yeast bun can be savory, with a meat and cheese filling, or sweet, stuffed with fruits like prunes and strawberries and cream cheese.
Huevos rancheros – Fried eggs are placed atop warm tortillas and smothered with Ranchero sauce, a red chile sauce. Some adaptations include a layer of pico de gallo, refried pinto beans or Cotija cheese.
Machacado – Dried spiced beef, or beef jerky.
Menudo – This red chile-based stew of beef tripe and hominy is also a popular hangover remedy.
Michelada - This spicy beer cocktail of tomato juice (often Clamato), lime, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce and ice, with a salt and chili powder rim is an Austin wake-me-up staple.
Migas – In this popular breakfast dish, eggs are scrambled with tortilla strips (often leftover and stale), jalapeños, cheese and tomato salsa.
Mole – This long-simmered, laborious sauce is used to lacquer meats. The most recognized version is mole poblano - a deep, brown sauce of chiles, spices, seeds, nuts and chocolate. Mole (pronounced mo-lay) often contains more than 20 ingredients and comes in many hues, including mole verde (green), mole negro (black) and pipián (burnt orange coloring).
Nopales – These are the green pads of the nopal, or prickly pear cactus. The spines are carefully removed with a knife or peeler before the cactus can be consumed raw or cooked.
Queso fresco – This "fresh cheese" is a white cheese, made with cow's and/or goat's milk, with a somewhat salty taste. Its crumbly texture, similar to feta, is sprinkled on dishes as a finishing garnish.
Tamale – Various fillings of meat and vegetables are surrounded by a masa harina-based dough (a golden corn flour). The dough is then wrapped in corn husks (or sometimes banana leaves) and steamed until the dough is cooked through. Avoid a rookie mistake: the corn husk is not meant to be eaten.
Texas praline - Similar to the New Orleans praline, Texas pralines are sweet patty candies made with Texas pecans. Texas-style pralines are chewier and more caramel in nature, as opposed to their Big Easy counterpart which are a bit more grainy-textured.
Did we happen to overlook your favorite taste of Austin? Trot on over to the comment section.
Also – What's Next? CNN@SXSW