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The Best Breakfast Taco in Austin, Texas.


I ask people questions. 
It's like a bad party trick. 





I ask people questions like:

Do you believe in God?
And how do you pray?
And what does it feel like to be young?
And have you been in love?
And what does that feel like?
And how many people have you kissed?
And where do you find the best breakfast taco in Austin?

Because I have wanted to know the answers.


I wanted someone to explain God to me.

And I wanted to be shown how to pray because praying confuses me. 
And I wanted to know what people thought youth was, so that I would understand my own lack of comprehension. 
And I wanted to know love like it was a fact.
And I wanted to know how many people you kissed because it's a fun question to ask.
And I wanted to know where to find the best breakfast taco because really that's the most important question of all.



I don't feel like asking these questions so much right now. 

Because here is the thing.
I have been learning how to love the question itself.
Because these are blessed unknowns: God and prayer and youth and inexperience and love, it is all just a perpetual question mark.
There is no definite answer.
No finite conclusion to come to.
Maybe time is the only real answer.
I don't know.

That said.
There is one conclusion that I have come to.
One unalterable, finite, perfect truth: Austin, Texas is the best place in the world to eat a breakfast taco.
Without doubt.
Without question.
Below are some of my favorite tacos in this gorgeous city. 
When it comes to this, there are no question marks.
Only full stops.

All my love,

m


Tamale House
5003 Airport Blvd
Austin, TX 78751
Phone number(512) 453-9842


Tacodeli 
4200 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78756
Phone number(512) 419-1900

Bouldin Creek Coffee House & Cafe


1900 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78704
Phone number(512) 416-1601


Counter Cafe

626 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
Phone number(512) 708-8800

Maria's Taco Xpress
2529 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
Phone number(512) 444-0261

Papalote Taco House
2803 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
Phone number(512) 804-2474


Torchy's Tacos
1311 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78704
Phone number(512) 366-0537

Dan's Hamburgers



5602 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78751
Phone number(512) 459-3239

Carrot Cake




Dear One, 

I haven’t been sleeping very well for the past few days. 
I’m anxious about what’s going to happen. 
Whatever it is that's coming next. 
The unexpectedness of life is overwhelming. 
Helen Mirren told Esquire Magazine that “The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous, and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening.”

So I don’t know what’s going to happen. 
And it’s got me a little frightened. 
But it’s ok. 

It’s really ok. 


I keep thinking about the past couple of years. 
And all these strangers who have become friends. 
And then I think about all the strangers I don’t know yet, who will someday be beloved. 
And all the things that have happened I could never have predicted. 
It’s overwhelming. 

But it’s been ok. 
Magical, even. 

For instance. 

This blog is five years old.
Five. Years. Old. 
And I only just realized. 
I never dreamed that it would last this long.
So I baked to carrot cake to celebrate. 

And on another note-- how the fuck did carrot cake happen? 
I mean, who decided to put carrots in a cake?
What a perfect example of something so surprisingly and unexpectedly dreamy. 


So for all the unanticipated collisions of wonder and pain and delight I have yet to have, for all the future stranger/friends I have yet to meet, for all the cakes I’ve yet to bake. 

I can’t wait. 
I really can’t wait. 

XOXO


Carrot Cake
from Stir-Ups
This is actually an heirloom recipe from an Oklahoman cookbook called Stir-Ups. From the 60's maybe? I don't know. It's really, truly grand and very, very simple.  And very, very worth your time. 
xo

For Cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
3 cups shredded carrot
1 teaspoon vanilla

For Icing:
1 stick butter
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 box powdered sugar*
best quality maple syrup, to taste

Combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, salt and oil. Beat in carrots and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Pour into two greatsed 9" cake pans, or a 9x13 inch loaf pan. Bake 9" ones at 350F for 30 minutes. Bake 1 hour when using loaf pan. Cool completely.
Icing: Cream butter with cream cheese. Add sugar, vanilla and several tablespoons maple syrup to taste. Beat until well blended. Slather cake. Eat. Immediately.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl


I keep comparing myself to who I was two years ago. 



Because when I was 18, I was pretty certain I knew what was up. 
I knew what I liked, and what I didn't. 
And I had a certain way of being and speaking and seeing. 
I thought I knew myself. 
Now two years have passed and I'm different. 


Go figure. 



And the only reason this is exciting is because I've surprised myself. 
I mean, actually really surprised myself. 

I've done a lot of things I never thought I would do or could do or was even capable of doing. 

I think I'm braver. 
I think I'm also quite a bit dumber, but maybe that's the tradeoff for being "vulnerable" or "impulsive." 
I now appreciate Taylor Swift, who I was definitely too much of a snob for at 18. 
I've gotten better about saying thank you. 
I now have a very long list of things I've learned since 18 called "Life Lessons." 
It has some absolute PEARLS of wisdom on it such as, "Always keep tums on hand" and "Save money." 



Whatever. 

However, what brought about these scintillating ruminations, is that at 18, other than Taylor Swift, I had absolutely no interest in cheesecake or cheesecake related edibles. 

Oh how the tables have turned. 

These are raspberry goat cheese brownies. Basically cheesecake's cousin. 
And they are really fucking good, especially when frozen. 

What I am trying to tell you is, you don't have to wait two years to become the new, improved you.
 You can start right now. 
With these crazy cheesecake cousin brownies. 


"To change one's life; start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions."
                                              - William James

You're welcome. 

XOXO 

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl


via thekitchn.com



Makes about 30 small brownie squares
Raspberries
2 cups raspberries, lightly mashed
2 tablespoons brandy or Kirsch
Brownies
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl
8 ounces goat cheese, softened at room temperature for an hour
4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature for an hour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Heat the oven to 350ºF and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan (or any 3-quart dish, like the gratin dish I use here) with butter or baking spray. Place the raspberries in a bowl and stir in the brandy or Kirsch. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter until liquid in a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan over low heat. When the chocolate is completely melted, remove from the heat, whisk in the milk, and cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Stir in the eggs one by one. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and fold in until just combined. Fold in about half of the raspberries and spread this brownie batter in the prepared pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with hand beaters, or by hand with a heavy whisk) beat the goat cheese with the cream cheese, butter, egg, sugar, and almond extract until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the other half of the raspberries and their juices. Drop the goat cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter in spoonfuls, then swirl it through the batter with a knife. Bake for 30 minutes or until just barely set. The top will be just turning light brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Store at room temperature, well-covered. The flavor and texture of these brownies really bloom when you let them rest overnight.

Peas and Shells Alfredo

I write you from a distinctly uncool coffee shop. I'm people watching and admiring the faint outline of a sign that used to say OYSTERS. 

I feel quiet. 

I love it when you know that Life is Happening, and things are exciting. 
Life is Happening is events: the party where you meet someone new, or a conversation that changes you, or a new job or move. 
When Life is Happening it feels like the gears of a watch are clicking into place. 



You can almost hear it. 

I used to believe that the exciting, crazy "Life is Happening" moments, are when you become who you are, and know what you're about. 

Now I think, that maybe those moments are just the product of the quiet, thoughtful days where nothing is really going on. The days when you're quietly and slowly figuring out how to make the dial of your watch click forward on your own. 



I made this pasta with some of the people I love the most. 
We had a round of toasts and then ate and laughed together. 
I realized then, that maybe, becoming the person you want to be, can be as simple as eating the meal you want to eat, with the people you want to eat it with. 



Maybe I'm all wrong. 

But I swear, this pasta made me feel like all the gears in all my watches were clicking into place. 


Peas and Shells Alfredo
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman 

Yield: serves 2 generously or 4 petitely. (We made extra, so about a pound of pasta.) 

Salt to taste
1/2 pound dried small pasta shells
1 cup fresh shelled peas (about 1 pound in the pod, but we used canned peas because we're lazy)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cooking according to package instructions. Add peas to cook during the last 30 seconds of pasta cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and set aside. Drain the pasta and the peas together. 

Dry out the pasta pot and pour in the heavy cream. Bring the cream to a simmer, and cook it until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the butter, and stir it until it has melted. Generously season the sauce with freshly ground black pepper, add a pinch of salt as well as the lemon zest. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, and stir it until the sauce is smooth, then toss in the drained pasta and peas. Cook the pasta in sauce for 2 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened. Add the reserved pasta water by the spoonful if needed to loosen the sauce. 

Divide the pasta among bowls. Garnish with remaining Parmesan and the flat-leaf parsley. 

Note: We also added the meat of one rotisserie chicken, mushrooms and some shredded spinach. For extra goodness.