From Cukes to Cakes

by Sarah on July 12, 2011 · 14 comments

Some of you might be wondering, “What ever happened to your friend that was visiting? You teased us with the excitement of her first afternoon and evening in Austin, even regaling us with many beautiful photos of your media tasting at Haddington’s, but then you snuck in a random posts about combination spoon-plus-chopsticks and French Dressing? What’s going on? Didn’t y’all do anything else in the five days she was visiting?

Um. Yeah.

We were so busy that I am pretty sure I need another week to recover. From a BBQ tour of Lockhart to a tri-taco taste test; from a brewery celebration to a lengthy walk around Town Lake; from movies and plays to grocery stores and farmers’ markets, we covered more miles in five days–and saw more of Austin–than I think I did in the past five months. (OK, at least the past five weeks. Since I was out of town for some of that time and all.) In time, I’m sure I’ll share everything, but for now…well, I’ll give you what I want. :)

I guess the whole cucumber quest started at the Barton Creek Farmers Market on Saturday morning.I would never have thought that of all edibles cucumbers would become a theme to the visit, but such is life. Amidst the bustling Saturday crowd at the market…
…with it’s comical kettle corn seller…
[Ice cold beer at 9:00AM? It took me a minute to figure out he was joking… ;)]
Buddha’s Brew Kombucha and homegrown natural margarita juice
(that spicy mango sure has a kick, y’all)

We sampled strawberry chipotle jelly……and some incredible breads that ranged from a millet with fruit-and-seeds to variations on rye……and a jalapeno cheese bread that had quite a nice heat to it.
Although I was intrigued by the Texas-made blackberry Greek yogurt (and talked to another farmer about my current dream of owning a baby goat)……and picked up two deliciously ripe melons from Johnson’s Backyard Garden (2 giant melons for $4! Now that’s a deal…)…it wasn’t until I looked past the beautiful little pattypan squash……that I saw the true gem of the day: Iranian* cucumbers!
*I did try to call them Uranian cucumbers, which caused everyone else a nice little chuckle at my expense. “Sure, they were flown in from Uranus for you,” said the vendor. “Cucumbers from another planet!” replied my (supposed) friend.

As is my prerogative to buy the most bizarre-looking item I can find at the Farmers Markets I attend (on a sadly infrequent basis), it was not surprising that I walked away with this giant beast of a cuke…nor was it surprising that I made Rebecca (who had joined us) take a number of pictures of me with it.Although this cucumber find was an exciting one indeed, all it did was spark a quest for what Liz called, “the only cucumber [she] ever buys now”: those of the ‘baby’ variety. We managed to get our fill of ‘regular’ cucumbers–Liz even made a separate container of salt-and-peppered slices for our picnic-in-the-park. (More on that later.)Having somehow successfully forced Liz to visit all of the surrounding grocery stores at least once (but most, twice), we could not find baby cucumbers anywhere. At least not until after I decided to take my food processor blade to be sharpened…

You mean every tour of Austin doesn’t include a stop at the knife sharpener?Talk about intimidation.

“Thank you sir. I cannot wait to make more nut butter with this.”

…and we wandered next door to the little gem of an international market I had not yet discovered–Phoenica Bakery & DeliKnown (by me) for the pita bread they make and sell at many a local establishment, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this market with its numerous varieties of feta-by-the-pound, extensive olive bar, and prepared hummus and baba ghanoush that proved extremely enticing.
I made an impulse by of pure hazelnut butter. [OK, if by “pure” I mean “contains added sugars and milk solids.” But no matter, it’s delicious.] We turned a corner, and underneath some shockingly beautiful mangos and apricots, I found the baby cucumbers we had been looking for!Of course, I had to by the deformed one.And I’m sure my comment that “Wow, they look just like pickles!” was the most insightful thing anyone had heard all day. [Don’t you call yourself Miss Smart?]
A little pricier than a regular old cuke*…but Liz was right: they do have quite an intense flavor and crunch.
*And yes, cuke does sound like puke. But for some reason, it doesn’t bother me like bloobs.
If size matters, though, these babies are out of luck. [Unless, of course, they attempt to stage a rendition of Goldi-pickles and The Three Cucumbers.]
From cukes….to cakes. Because that seems logical. [Right?] First, cupcakes. Sugar Mama’s cupcakes to be specific.As is often the case, I found myself saying, “I have a Groupon to use!”
There was a little confusion on the whole ordering process, but we managed to place an order for cupcakes on a day when all of the tiny cake flavors seemed unique and fun and ones that we just had to try.
I have tasted many a cupcake in my time here in Austin, and the Sugar Mama’s cupcakes are most notable to me for being sold at Austin Java.
I did almost make a splurge purchase to add to my ever-growing apron collection…
…or pull up a chair and investigate the contents of the fridge.
But Liz guided me quickly out to the car, box of cake-liness in hand.
Six cupcakes for $8 was the Groupon deal.
The seasonal Blackberry Lemonade, featuring a fresh blackberry buried on the bottom, and lemon curd inside, was probably my favorite of all.
I enjoyed the whimsy of adding a tiny straw to the Root Bear Float, and the cherry on top of the Pina Colada.
The others we chose were a vanilla cake with vanilla bourbon buttercream frosting called Marilyn Monroe (top right), a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese and salted caramel frosting called Odd Couple (the one with the pretzel)…
…and a banana buttermilk cupcake with peanut butter frosting called Elvis that—had I not been such a gracious hostess–I would have fought to the death over.
Instead we played nice and cut them evenly into quarters, each trying one…and slowly finishing them over the course of the following days, until Sunday night I polished off the remnants in a cake-craving frenzy.*
*That was actually quite calm.
That was not the end of our cake-ventures, however. I took Liz to Torchy’s at the South Austin Trailer Park as part of our miniature taco throwdown (more on that to come), and of course she was drawn to Holy Cacao and its promises of cake balls and cake shakes.
You might remember (but probably don’t) that this is the first place I ever saw or heard of such a thing as a “cake ball,” and upon arriving in Austin, forced Sister Smart to go ask about them. To this day, I’d only ever eaten homemade cake balls or those made by Austin Cake Ball at various local events.
But Liz was tempted by the Brass Balls, which are not made from cake at all, but rather peanut butter cookies, mixed with chunky peanut butter, and dipped in chocolate. It was almost like a more texturous (and less buttery) Ohio-state-delicacy Buckeye.
It tasted like amazing Girl Scout cookie peanut buttery goodness in a ball. On a stick. Using my giant-sized willpower (and the fact that it was kind of hot for something so rich), I managed only a little nibble. But don’t worry about us getting enough to eat. As you’ll see in further posts…well, we were VERY well fed.


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