The Peached Tortilla launched just two years ago, but since then founder and former litigator Eric Silverstein’s Southern-Asian fusion fare has garnered him and his catering director Mark Tamiso Eater’s 2011 Austin Food Truck of the Year award and, with shout-outs to their brisket and mini crabcake sandwiches, a spot on Food & Wine’s 2012 list of the best sliders in America.
Read More: 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2012
Their efforts also landed them a spot on The Daily Meal's 2012 list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America. If you're not familiar with The Peached Tortilla, they offer a fairly long menu of tacos and burritos among other options, including riffs on banh mi, Chinese barbecue, and pad thai. And to think, the first "aha" moment came to Silverstein when one of the partners in his former law firm recounted to him how he was telling his son not to go to law school. "If a partner is telling his son to go into a different field," Silverstein recalled thinking to Austinist, "am I going to enjoy this line of work 10 years from now?" Moral of the story? Skip the LSATS and just learn how to pass a health inspection.
In this interview with Silverstein, the truck's founder talks about his inspirations, keeping a level head when things get rough, a new permanent menu addition, and his plans for going brick-and-mortar.
When did you launch your truck?
We launched our truck in September of 2010.
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
There were multiple inspirations. I am passionate about food and wanted to create a concept that served food I would want to eat. I also felt that there was an unsatisfied niche for Asian and Southern inspired tacos in Austin, Texas, so I felt like from a business perspective, it made sense.
What's the story behind the origin of your truck's name?
I spent my youth in Georgia, "The Peach State." I wanted to incorporate that part of my life and the Southern flavors we were introducing into the name of the truck. However, we wanted our name to be playful and different. So instead of just using the word "peach" we switched it up and called ourselves "the peached tortilla."
How did you come up with your truck's design? Is there a designer you'd like to give a shout-out to?
Our logo design work was done by Christine Bielke, a friend of mine who is a designer based out of Wisconsin. I contributed to the layout and the other aspects of design on the truck.
Does your truck have a vanity license plate?
No, it does not!
What model truck do you have?
We have a Wyss Catering Truck (Chevy Step Van).
What's your signature dish? Is it also your most popular dish?
Our signature dish is our banh mi taco; it is also our most popular dish. It includes Vietnamese braised pork belly, pickled daikon/carrot salad, Sriracha mayo, and cilantro.
What's the inspiration for your cuisine and recipes?
I am inspired by the flavors that I have come across throughout my life. This includes the flavors I was exposed to as a child living in Tokyo and also those I came across while living in Atlanta. I am inspired by what I have tasted and the memories that have come with those different experiences.
What's the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
At the end of the day, you are a kitchen on wheels. There will always be problems when you have a mobile kitchen. I think the most challenging thing is keeping a level head while you run into problems on the road. The truck will inevitably break down and need repairs. It's just part of the industry.
Any tips on how to do that?
Put your business into perspective. Your health and family are more important. When your business struggles, focus on what you do have in life. Sometimes your business takes on too much of who you are as a person. That can be dangerous, especially if you cannot figure out a way to separate the two.
If you haven't already, would you ever go brick-and-mortar? And if you have, is there anything you feel gets lost in the transition?
Our plan is to go brick-and-mortar in the near future. I think the brick-and-mortar structure helps further legitimize your business.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
It's a hard knock life. It is not a business for the weak-hearted. You have to have true passion for what you are doing and be prepared to work very, very hard.
Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
We plan to introduce kim-cheese balls full time on the menu.
Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
Our brick-and-mortar plans are the biggest thing on the horizon.
Any update on plans, timeline, menu differences, etc.?
We are shooting for a fall 2013 opening. We are going to continue with the "peached" brand, but we are looking to elevate and diversify our food. We want to maintain our accessibility to all types of customers. I think our price points and ambience will reflect that. I can't give too many details, but we are looking at urban Asian comfort food.
Lots of things happen when running a restaurant, and that probably goes double on the road. As such, be it weird, funny, good, or bad, what's one superlative or particularly outstanding moment or story that's ever occurred with your truck be it with customers, in the kitchen, or just in general?
Our biggest moment for our company probably just happened when Formula 1 was in town. We had a truck at the racetracks (Circuit of Americans) and we also ran a huge promotion for the H&M store that was opening in Austin. Between the two events, we served more than 7,500 people. We're incredibly proud of that considering the limited space we operate our business in.
Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Follow Arthur on Twitter.
Kim-Cheese Balls and Brick-and-Mortar Plans for Austin's The Peached Tortilla - Recipes
Zoho, a global tech company, is moving its U.S. headquarters to 375 acres in Del Valle that includes a farm. (Zoho)
A jackrabbit hops across the field as an employee on break plucks and samples arugula straight from the garden bed.
It may not look like the traditional U.S headquarters of a 9,000-employee international software company, but thanks to a pandemic pivot, a day at the office is also now a day on the farm for Austin-based employees of Zoho.
When three years ago Zoho purchased 375 acres in Del Valle off Highway 71, the global tech company intended to create a traditional corporate campus for its 85 local workers. But after employees expressed great satisfaction in working in a small garden they created on-site in February 2020, Zoho scrapped its plans and instead decided to embrace the land with a working farm. Rather than creating new buildings, the company is utilizing its existing structures, including an old farmhouse, as office space.
"We had met with a couple different architecture firms and design firms and they showed us super fancy beautiful renderings. It just really didn't feel like us," said Zoho Operations Manager Tom Philipps. "Why pay an architecture firm a ton of money to build a campus when we can build it ourselves? We have buildings we can renovate, we have spaces where we can build our own and, even better yet, let's do it all in the midst of a functioning organic farm."
The farm has expanded–it now includes five plots and an orchard–that Zoho recently hired two full-time staff members, Logan Pettyjohn and Brandon Connor, who are dedicated exclusively to working the fields.
"We've got to teach these tech guys what farming is and what it takes," joked Connor as he surveyed the orchard with his Blue Heeler, Eli, last week. "This is the right company to do it. Working with the people that have been around the farm has been incredible. Everybody just kind of pulled their community into it and it's just been a labor of love."
Brandon Connor, farm operations coordinator, and his dog, Eli, check on Zoho's on-site orchard. (Kristin Finan)
Zoho employees are still primarily working from home due to the pandemic but are welcome to visit the farm whenever they'd like, including to pick up produce, which is harvested twice a week and includes lettuce, beets, spinach, turnips, radishes, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, apples, pears, pumpkins and squash.
"We don't use pesticides, so you can pick and eat anything," Philipps said.
The farm currently yields about 40 pounds of produce a week and will yield more than 200 over the summer, Philipps said. Food that doesn't go to employees and their families or friends is shared with the Central Texas Food Bank and other community organizations.
Zoho's on-site orchard features a variety of trees, including peach, pear and apple. (Kristin Finan)
Prior to the pandemic, most Zoho employees worked out of a rented office space in southeast Austin. That lease will expire at the end of May, Philipps said, and headquarters will shift completely to the farm.
Under the direction of COO Raju Vegesna, Zoho has also opened satellite offices in cities including Bastrop and New Braunfels with a goal of empowering talent and offering increased technical job opportunities in more rural areas.
"We're finding tons of incredibly qualified applicants that told us point blank, 'I used to have to go to Houston or Austin to do this work,'" Philipps said. "We've coined the term transnational localism. You want folks to live a well-rounded life."
The farm has also opened up new avenues for employee bonding, from the recipes and photos that are swapped on the Zoho group chat—Philipps recently whipped up an apple crisp using fresh green apples—to the meetings that take place under the breezy outdoor gazebo adjacent to the farm. Employees are also encouraged to experiment with their passions on the land, Philipps said. He said one coworker is drawing up plans to create a playscape where employees' children can play while another is hoping to create a butterfly garden.
The gazebo adjacent to the farm at Zoho is available for meetings. (Kristin Finan)
"The sky's the limit in the future," Philipps said. "We're excited to see how it evolves, but we're also pretty proud of what we've scraped together in a little over a year."
As more businesses move to Austin, could this be a model that other companies embrace?
"Absolutely this is within a company's capacity to do," Philipps said. "It's just a matter of what your priorities are and what your employees are interested in."
A New Cookie Shop in the Central District and More Seattle Food News You Can Use: May 10, 2019 Edition
85°C Bakery Café
Known as the "Starbucks of Taiwan," this wildly popular Taiwanese bakery and cafe chain offering affordable pastries and sweets, including fluffy brioche and cream puffs, will have its grand opening next Friday, May 17, with free giveaways throughout the day.
Agave Cocina and Tequila
A new location of this local contemporary Mexican chain, which also has locations in Issaquah and lower Queen Anne, opened in the former space of West Seattle's Fresh Bistro in early May. The restaurant uses local and sustainable seafood, hormone-free meats, and fresh handmade tortillas.
On May 8, the Thompson Hotel unveiled Conversation, their new restaurant concept (replacing Scout, which closed in January). As the name suggests, the new restaurant aims to focus on human connection free of distraction from electronics, with features like cards with conversation starters at each table to encourage discussion. For the menu, executive chef Derek Simcik highlights international flavors, including influences from his upbringing in Germany, France, England, the Netherlands, China, and Japan, as well as French and modernist techniques. Dishes include stuffed quail and a pig's head on a platter with kimchi apples, ramps, and cherry ketchup. Pastry chef Kate Sigel provides fanciful desserts like a chocolate, honey, and black truffle fudgesicle, while beer, wine, and cocktails are overseen by bar manager Josh Haddock. Conversation will also serve their first brunch service for Mother's Day this weekend.
This healthy fast-casual restaurant offering customizable salads, grain bowls, and soups, with choices for grains, greens, dips/spreads, proteins, and toppings, opened last week and will have its grand opening in Tacoma this Friday, May 10.
Former Vendemmia head chef Erik Jackson and wife Alison Odowski, who also own Good Day Donuts in White Center, have opened this food truck near Future Primitive Brewing, with hearty German fare like bratwurst, currywurst, schnitzel, pickle dip, and grilled apple fritters.
This cheekily named new beer bottle shop from the team behind The Last Drop Bottle Shop in Maple Leaf, which is now open in Greenwood, sells local craft beer on tap and in cans and growlers, with a vinyl soundtrack and sci-fi flicks on TV.
The sixth location of the local Japanese fusion burger joint known for its deep-fried tonkatsu-style patties and unique milkshakes is now open in Federal Way.
Lowrider Baking Company
This cookie company christened in honor of owner Emily Allport's dachshunds, which previously operated as a pop-up and opened a trailer shop in Georgetown, will open its brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Central District this Saturday, May 11 in the former home of Street Treats. (The trailer shop will remain open.)
Zylberschtein's Delicatessen and Bakery
This highly anticipated Jewish deli from Josh Grunig, the owner of Standard Bakery, opened in Pinehurst on Thursday, May 8, and offers house-made bread, bagels, lox, a pastrami sandwich on rye, matzo ball soup and more, made with locally sourced ingredients and inspired by Grunig's family recipes. Standard Bakery's pastries, such as pies, cakes, tarts, and cookies, will continue to be offered at Zylberschtein's and at farmers markets under the Standard Bakery name.
OTHER FOOD NEWS
Canlis chef takes home James Beard award
On May 6, chef Brady Williams of iconic Seattle fine-dining institution Canlis received a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest, marking the first time a chef at the restaurant has received the prestigious award in Canlis's 70 years of existence. Canlis also won a James Beard Design Icon award in March for its distinct architectural elements.
Biscuit Bitch coming to White Center
The expletive-peppered, Southern-inspired brunch spot Biscuit Bitch, which just won the Reader's Choice for breakfast and brunch in The Stranger's 2019 food and drink guide, plans to open a location in the former space of the recently closed Brass Knuckle Bistro in White Center by the end of July. The outpost will be the chain's fourth location and its biggest yet, and may bring back some older vegetarian favorites that are no longer available at the other locations, like collard greens and black-eyed pea hummus.
Sichuan chain opening first location in Seattle
The popular Sichuan chain Chengdu Taste, which started in Los Angeles and has locations in Hawaii, Houston, and Las Vegas, plans to open its first location in Seattle in the International District's Publix building, which currently houses Dough Zone and the recently opened Hood Famous Cafe and Bar. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats once called it "the best Sichuan restaurant in America." Details about the opening timeline for the Seattle location are currently unknown.
Mr. West opening in U Village in July
Mr. West, the downtown bar and cafe from the owners of Bottlehouse in Madrona, will open a location on July 4 inside the former space of the University Village cooking store Mrs. Cook's, which closed in December after 42 years. The menu will include espresso, wine, beer, spirits, charcuterie, egg sandwiches, avocado toast, and more, while the space will feature a patio with a fireplace and a wine bar inside.
FRIDAY, MAY 10
Elysian Brewing Capitol Hill Grand Opening
The Capitol Hill location of Elysian has churned out some updates, including a fancy new brew system. Cheers with them on their 23rd anniversary by partying like it's 1996 (with $2.75 beer prices to match) with Ayron Jones.
MAY 10-11, 17-18
Mayfest 2019 at Queen Anne Beerhall!
In celebration of Mayfest, the spring counterpart to Oktoberfest, participate in a stein-holding competition and try a traditional Hofbräu Maibock. Lederhosen and dirndls are encouraged.
Seattle Beer Week 2019
Seattle’s craft-beer scene is always alive and bubbling with activity, but during Beer Week that geeky enthusiasm gets kicked into high gear, with a stacked lineup of beer dinners, festivals, socials, pub crawls, and releases galore. This year, the festivities will include Cask-O-Rama (12 casks from Seattle breweries on the bar top) at Beveridge Place Pub, Women in Beer (an annual celebration of female brewers that benefits Planned Parenthood), a cheddar sandwich competition at Hellbent Brewing, a beer-can derby at the Pine Box, beer and doughnut pairings, and way more.
SATURDAY, MAY 11
8th Annual Pine Box Beer Can Derby
Participate in an old-fashioned Cub Scout-style derby race with cars fashioned from beer cans. Build your car on the spot and try your luck.
Witness a clash of galactic proportions between food trucks Peach & the Pig and Wicked Good Grinders, who will duke it out to see who can turn out the best cheddar sandwich. The 501st Legion and Rebel Legion will come outfitted in full Star Wars regalia to aid fundraising efforts for Seattle Children's Hospital, and if you're looking to lob some hatchets, PNW Axe Company will bring their axe-throwing cage for an open axe-throwing session and "axe saber" throwing competition.
Spring Garden Party
Bottlehouse will unveil its garden for spring with a tasting of seasonally appropriate wines and live music from the Jazz Hands Trio.
Through the Years: A Time Travel Tasting Menu
Travel through the ages with this 20-course tasting menu, which will impart "important food stories and history" through food.
Wink Doughnuts Pop-Up Shop
Start off your Saturday with gluten-free, organic, and plant-based doughnuts from Wink and hot coffee from Sound & Fog.
SUNDAY, MAY 12
Comadre: A Chicanx Bakery Pop-Up
Scarf delicious pan dulce treats like conchas and puerquitos from Mariela Camacho's Chicanx bakery pop-up. This Día de las Madres edition will honor moms by donating select proceeds to Open Arms, an organization that works with low-income women of color by setting them up with a doula and offering support through the early stages of childcare.
MONDAY, MAY 13
Atlas Obscura Society Seattle: Drinking Your Chocolate
Get familiar with the world's oldest form of prepared chocolate—drinking cacao—and learn about its history as a drink for the likes of emperors and explorers before sipping some yourself from Intrigue Chocolate.
Western Standard Beer Launch Party with Noah Gundersen
The Washington State Bartender's Guild will host the launch of Western Standard Beer, with a live performance by local indie folk singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen.
Women in Beer 2019
At this benefit for Planned Parenthood celebrating women in the beer industry, sip the event's official beer, the Pike Morning After Ale, and try other craft beverages and local foods from women-owned and -run producers.
TUESDAY, MAY 14
Author Talk: The Peached Tortilla by Eric Silverstein
Litigator-turned-chef Eric Silverstein was born in Tokyo, then moved to Atlanta at the age of 10, where he became immersed in Southern and Southwestern cuisine. He’s combined the regional cuisines of his upbringing in his unique Japanese-Southern fusion at the Peached Tortilla, his popular Austin-based food truck, catering business, and brick-and-mortar restaurant. This translates to craveable comfort dishes like umami fried chicken, Korean short-rib pappardelle with smoked crème fraîche, and cult-favorite bacon-jam fries. The New York Times named it one of “Five Places to Go in Austin,” but you don’t need to shell out for airfare to try it: His new cookbook explains how to re-create the Peached Tortilla experience at home. At the Book Larder, he’ll explain the inspiration behind his food and sign copies of his book, and guests will get to sample a bite.
Musang Pop-up Fundraising Dinner
Bar del Corso sous chef Melissa Miranda will host a fundraiser edition of her popular Pacific Northwest-influenced Filipinx pop-up Musang, which will open as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Beacon Hill this fall. Proceeds will benefit Coyote Central's training program for budding young chefs.
December 20, 2010
Two trailers participating in Sip & Savor Austin
Former accountant and teacher Anthony Alaniz alongside his bride to be, Candy, are dishing out such authentic Mexican cuisine as Barbacoa, Tamales, Quesadillas, Nacho-dillas, Taco-dillas and Tostadas down at their trailer Colibri Cuisine. Check them out at their permanent location on W. 6th and Nueces in the trailer across the street from Little Woodrows. They are open for dinner and late night Tuesday - Sunday 7:30pm to 2:30am. Being from the Rio Grande Valley area, Anthony's roots in good food and hospitality come naturally. I'm also excited that Ellen and John of the Holy Cacao will be participating in the event with their famous cake ball trailer that also serves frozen hot chocolate and cake shakes. They have a rich publicity history including 'best dessert' from the Gypsy Picnic, 'best frozen hot chocolate in America' from Travel & Leisure Magazine and were featured on the Food Network's 'Kid in a Candy Store'. They are parked in the famous South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery (by Torchy's Tacos and Man Bites Dog) at 1311 S. 1st and are open for business seven days a week from noon til 8p, with two extra hours on Friday and Saturday.
½ Cup of creamy or crunchy peanut butter
Stir these ingredients together. You may need to microwave the mixture for 10-15 seconds to blend smoothly.
½ Cup of old fashioned oats
½ Cup of crispy rice cereal
2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons of mini chocolate chips
Add these four ingredients and stir lightly until combined.
Broken blue corn tortilla chips (for bat wings)
Tube of white icing gel and extra mini chocolate chips (for eyes or candy eyes)
When forming the mixture into balls, carefully add a wing on each side. For the eyes, I squeezed out two drops of icing and put a chocolate chip on top. Or you could use this same method and place a candy eye on the icing drops.
This recipe makes about 10-12 bats. They won’t hang around long though. They are too yummy!
Happy Holidays and Thank You!
Hello fellow Spooky readers!
From your Spooky Middle Grade Team!
A little over a year ago, a bunch of us spooky authors came together to stage a Halloween giveaway. The contest proved to be so successful for us, that we decided to stay together on a regular basis. Now, when you have what is essentially a group of strangers come together, you really don’t know what you’re going to get.
Well, I’m going to tell you.
Over this past year, this group has become very close. We’ve become writing confidantes, an emotional support system, and most importantly, friends. For anyone who writes, you know how important it is to have someone who can do any of those things for you, and fortunately, we all now have sixteen other people who fit that description.
I’m writing this because at the end of the year, you take stock of everything. So, this is me taking stock.
First, I want to thank everyone in the Spooky Middle Grade Group for being friends and always being there to discuss writing. Talk fears and triumphs, giving support and giving advice. Commiserating and celebrating. All of you are always there, and thank you.
Thank you to the teachers, librarians, and students, who have been a huge part of our year. We’ve loved doing these group Skype sessions with all of you. We’ve appreciated your kindness, hospitality, and support. Because of all of your enthusiasm, this group has been very busy, and for that, we thank you.
But most importantly, thank you to all our readers. We love getting on these calls and have students ask us about our process, and even better when they ask specific things about our books, and tell us how much they’ve enjoyed them. It is not a lie or overstating truth to say how much it thrills us to see how we connect with readers.
To everyone, we wish all of you a very happy holiday season, a happy new year, and look forward to visiting, and chatting with all of your classes in 2020!
Jonathan Rosen and your Spooky Middle Grade team:
Josh Allen, Sarah Cannon, Samantha Clark, Lindsay Currie, Tania Del Rio, Janet Fox, Sheri Larsen, David Neilsen, Victoria Piontek, Cynthia Reeg, Lisa Schmid, Kat Shepherd, Angie Smibert, Kim Ventrella, Jacqueline West
Kim-Cheese Balls and Brick-and-Mortar Plans for Austin's The Peached Tortilla - Recipes
Valentine's Eats -- make a reservation!
-- The Carillon is offering 3 or 5 course meals with or without wine pairings on Feb 13, 14, and 15, featuring Hawaiian blue prawns, wagyu ribeyes, and chocolate terrine.
-- Due Forni is offering a 4 course meal for $60, featuring buffalo mozzarella, lobster ravioli, pizza with prawns, and cannoli.
-- Andiamo is offering a 4 course meal for $65 or $80 with wine pairings, with main course offerings such as porcini risotto and beef tenderloin, with many of the recipes coming from the owner's Italian family.
-- Peche Austin is offering a la carte choices, including roast bone marrow, and branzino with fennel and artichokes.
-- Liberty Tavern at the Hilton Downtown presents the Hater's Club, an evening for heart breakers and singles with a slow-roasted double bone pork chop and drink specials.
-- Chavez, the latest from Shawn Cirkiel, at the Radisson Hotel at Cesar Chavez and Congress. Modern Southwestern.
-- Porter Ale House and Gastropub, at 3715 South First (new apartment building just south of Ben White) owned by a trio who come from the Hyatt Lost Pines. menu looks fantastic!
-- The Hightower, at 1209 E. 7th Street in the former Karibu Ethiopian spot. Full bar. They will also hold monthly charity nights, the first Wednesday of the month. On February 5th, 20% of food proceeds will go to Austin Pets Alive.
-- Half Step Bar, at 75 1/2 Rainey Street, hand-crafted cocktails, petanque court and live music.
-- Diesel Foods is opening a brick and mortar shop at 2210 South First Street, where customers can pick up prepared meals, either just on a walk-in basis, or work with their staff to develop a nutritional program. They will also carry local produce and products like cold-pressed juices and protein bars.
-- Crave Restaurant, a national chain with about 10 locations, is opening at 340 E. 2nd Street.
-- Local burger favorite P. Terry's is unveiling a food truck for events later this month.
-- Titaya's. someday!
-- Phonatic, the locally owned casual Vietnamese chain has opened in Cedar Park at 1468 E. Whitestone Blvd.
-- Bar 79 in Perry's Steakhouse at 114 W. 7th Street is being redesigned and will reopen later this month.
-- New food trailer park called The Picnic at 1720 Barton Springs Road coming soon.
-- Later this spring, aRoma, an Italian spot at 3401 South Lamar (new apartment building next to the Broken Spoke)
-- Mockingbird Domestics is hosting a chocolate and coffee pairing class with Houndstooth Coffee, Thursday, February 6th, 6 pm, $20/person.
-- RL Reeves of Scumptious Chef is hosting a pop-up dinner at Tamale House East on Saturday, February 8th, featuring exotic meats -- goose, alligator, yak and antelope.
-- Austin Food and Wine Alliance and David Alan of the Tipsy Texan collaborate on the Official Drink of Austin event, Thursday, February 20th, 7 - 10pm at the AT+T Conference Center, $65/person.
-- Food truck throwdown between Chilantro and the Peached Tortilla, Saturday, February 22nd, 2 - 5 pm, at the Draught House, 4112 Medical Parkway, $20.
-- The Edible Austin Bacon and Beer Festival will also be February 22nd, 2:30 - 5 pm, at the Marchesa Event Center.
-- Banger's will host a St. Arnold beer and chocolate pairing, with beers from the personal collection of St. Arnold's owner. Wednesday, February 26th, $50/person, ticket info here.
Kim-Cheese Balls and Brick-and-Mortar Plans for Austin's The Peached Tortilla - Recipes
Round Rock nurse and COVID-19 frontline worker Nhi Phan was among 7,500 vaccinated health care workers who watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Chiefs in person on Sunday night.
Phan, a specialty triage nurse at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, attended the Super Bowl as part of a thank-you gift from the Dallas Cowboys for risking her life in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nhi Phan (LinkedIn)
Phan was one of four selected by the Cowboys in a drawing that saw over 700 applicants. Although she told KXAN she was rooting for the Chiefs, the game was still a win for Phan, who had never attended a live football game prior to Sunday night.
The drawing was part of an initiative by the NFL to gift tickets to over 7,500 vaccinated health care workers around the country. Workers were recognized for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic multiple times throughout the big game and were even thanked by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in an ad that aired before kickoff.
While all of the winning health care workers were vaccinated before the Super Bowl, social distancing practices such as wearing masks were still enforced to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Alongside the 7,500 health care workers, 14,500 others attended the game, bringing the total attendance to 22,000.
You’d think this one wouldn’t need its own category, but the amount of times I’ve had to pack up a picnic because I was about to pass out is embarrassing. If you’re the one supplying drinks, make sure you have at least two per person (maybe three if you’re going to be there awhile)! Trust me, you’d rather be overprepared with multiple drinks than have to leave early to track down an overpriced lemonade.
Key Lime Pie (with a bonus at the end!) 0
Key Lime Pie is the ultimate symbol of food from Florida. Specifically, the Florida Keys. No one really knows when the first Key Lime Pies were made or who made them since there’s no documentation. However, according to historians, the most likely candidate is a ship salvager turned millionaire named William Curry. He had a cook known only as Aunt Sally. She supposedly created the pie in the late 19th Century.
Other historians believe that fisherman off the Keys, off to sea for long periods of time, created the pie as a way to help preserve their supplies, especially eggs.
Sweetened condensed milk was used because, until the Overseas Highway was built in 1930, there was a lack of fresh milk, ice, and refrigeration on the Keys. To this day, it is the key to making the pie so creamy.
The other main ingredient is, of course, key limes. The key lime tree is native to Malaysia and most likely arrived in the Keys in the 16th Century with the Spanish explorers. They are about the size of a golf ball with a yellow-green skin. Their juice is sweeter than the more common Persian limes.
As a fun little political aside, in 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr. introduced legislation calling for a $100 fine to be levied against anyone advertising Key Lime Pie that isn’t made with key limes. The bill didn’t pass.
(Some historical information from whatscookingamerica.net)
Of course, the purist, like Rep. Papy, would say that the only true Key Lime Pie is made with fresh key lime juice. And they would be right. However, many of us don’t have access to fresh key limes, or, if we do, the time to juice & zest about 20 – 30 to make this pie.
I use a combination of fresh lime juice and bottled key lime juice. The most common brand of key lime juice is Nellie & Joe’s. However, if you can find fresh key limes, and have the time to prepare them, by all means, use them.
Another question is what kind of crust to use: pastry or graham cracker? My own personal preference is pastry. More specifically, cookie. Which is what I do in this recipe. And, because the crust recipe here is essentially a cookie recipe, it isn’t going to behave like a regular pie crust.
Meringue, whipped cream, or plain? Again, it’s up to the baker. I like meringue. It’s also most likely the original topping since heavy cream wouldn’t have been available in the Keys before the 1930’s. In this recipe I use an Italian Meringue. It’s made with a hot sugar syrup as opposed to granulated sugar. It makes an excellent, stable meringue that is almost reminiscent of a fluffy cake frosting.
One more thing. True Key Lime Pie doesn’t have green food coloring. The color of the pie should be a light yellow-green color. If you see a pie that has a fluorescent green hue, walk away. It’s most likely a pre-made mix.
Also, I prefer a more tart pie than many people. Many of the key lime pies I’ve tasted really put the emphasis on sweet rather than lime. I feel I’ve remedied that here. It’s more of a sweet-tart flavor.
Shortbread Cookie Crust
1 tbsp. citrus zest (optional)
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Key Lime Filling
2 cans sweetened condensed milk (don’t use non-fat. Yuk.)
1 1/4 c. lime juice (I use a combination of fresh Persian lime & bottled key lime in this recipe. However, you can use all fresh of one or the other)
2 tbsp. light corn syrup (keeps the syrup from “sugaring up” or solidifying)
6 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (if you don’t have this, it’s all right. However, it does act as a stabilizer for the whites)
1. Make the crust: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. If you’re using the zest, toss that into the dry ingredients as well.
Zesting the limes. The Microplane is a perfect tool for this. It takes off the outer peel while leaving behind the bitter white pith. If you don't own a Microplane, go get one.
The dry ingredients and zest mixed together.
2. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
The butter & sugar in the bowl.
Beating together the sugar & butter.
You want a fluffy, aerated mixture. This will help with the texture of the crust.
3. Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the flour mixture.
Adding the flour to the butter & sugar
Keep mixing until the flour is completely incorporated.
4. Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a slightly flattened disk. Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and chill for at least 3 hours.
The dough ready for the refrigerator
Note: At this point, you can simply use this dough for cookies. Delicious.
5. After you’ve let the dough chill, take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 15 – 20 minutes to let it soften slightly. When you roll out the dough, you want it to be firm but not rock-hard.
6. Unwrap the dough and lay it on a floured surface and lightly sprinkle the top with more flour. Alternately, you can sandwich the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap.
7. Roll the dough out, starting from the center and working out to the edges. Turn the dough a 1/4 turn each time you pass the pin over it. This will help make a more even thickness as well as, especially if you’re using a floured surface, keeping the dough from sticking. Use more flour if you need to, but try to use as little as possible. Too much flour will make the crust tough and dry.
Note: Again, remember, this is a cookie dough. It is not going to behave the same way as a regular pie dough. Because of the high butter content, this dough will get very soft, very fast as you work it. If the dough cracks while you’re rolling, just press it back together. If you give up on trying to roll it out (and believe me, I have a couple of times), you can simply take pieces of dough and press them into the pie plate. Trust me, though, the results are worth a little frustration.
Getting ready to roll the dough.
8. When you’re done rolling, take a 9-inch pie plate and measure the dough. There should be approximately 3 – 4 inches of extra dough around the outer edges of the pie plate.
9. Now for the fun part. Carefully flip the dough onto the pie plate and shape the dough into the plate. Trim any dough overhanging the edges to a 1″ overhang. (if you don’t have any overhang, it’s all right.) Use whatever scraps you have to patch up any holes, tears, or spots and the edge that are a little short of dough.
Save the scraps for cookies.
Getting ready to flip the dough
A not entirely successful flip
If your dough looks like this after you've flipped it into the pie plate, don't despair. All will be well.
After a little repair work. See? I told you it all comes together.
10. Tuck under the overhang around the edges. (If you have any. The most important thing is that the crust is as even a thickness as possible.). Finish the edges as you like. Use a fork to prick a few holes in the crust and place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
Pie crust ready for the freezer. Freezing the crust will help to keep it from melting & burning in the oven when you par-bake it later.
11. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a piece of foil or parchment paper on one side with spray. Set aside.
12. Take the pie crust out of the freezer, place it on a baking sheet, and press the foil or paper down into it. Fill the foil or paper with pie weights (i.e. dried beans, lentils, or rice) and place the pie crust in the oven.
Raw crust filled with pie weights ready for the oven.
13. Par-bake the crust for 30 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven, carefully remove the foil or paper and the weights. Wrap the edges in foil, if needed, and bake an additional 8 – 10 minutes.
Note: There will be a bit of melting of the crust, especially the outer edge. It’s inevitable given the fact this is cookie dough. When the crust comes out of the oven, it will be very soft and fragile. Hence, the cookie sheet.
14. Take the crust from the oven and let it cool completely. At this stage, of you like, once the crust is cool, you can carefully wrap it in plastic and place it in the refrigerator.
15. While the crust is cooling, you an make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up. Add the condensed milk, lime juice, and zest. Whisk until you have an even, well combined mixture. The filling will thicken upon standing. Set aside or cover and refrigerate.
After adding the lime juice
After adding the sweetened condensed milk. Yummy stuff.
16. Once the crust has cooled completely, wrap the edges in foil (to prevent any further browning)
Carefully pour in the filling.
Place the filled pie on the baking sheet (if you haven’t done so already) and put the pie back into a preheated 350F oven for 35 – 45 minutes. If your oven has a hot spot, and most ovens do, rotate the baking sheet about halfway through the initial baking time.
The center should be a bit wobbly when you take it from the oven. It will firm up as the pie cools.
Note: This is a very important thing to remember. When you are making ANY type of cream pie, you must pay attention to the baking time & doneness of the filling. I didn’t the first time around when I was making the pie for this post.
I had workmen in my house that day and became distracted. So, here is what happened:
What you don't want to see. An overcooked cream pie.
The overcooked proteins have basically squeezed out all the liquid causing the filling to separate.
So, what you’ll end up with, if you aren’t paying attention, is essentially sweet-tart scrambled eggs. And I’m fairly certain none of you will be going for that. The pie will still taste good, but the texture will be, well, funky.
Eat the pie yourself or dress it up and give it to someone you don’t like very much.
Here is what you want to see:
Let the pie cool completely. (I usually cover it once it’s cooled and place it in the refrigerator overnight.)
17. Make the meringue: Separate the eggs using the 3-bowl method (see my blog post “Mom’s Favorite” on how to do this). Place the egg whites & cream of tartar in a mixer bowl and set aside.
Egg whites & cream of tartar ready to go.
Make the sugar syrup: In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil.
Sugar syrup getting ready to boil
18. Once the syrup reached 240F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage):
begin whisking the egg whites on high speed until they are frothy:
19. Once the sugar syrup reaches between 245F & 250F (firm ball stage), remove the saucepan from the heat.
Syrup at 250F. You don't want it to get any hotter than this or the whites will too stiff to work with later.
Turn the mixer down to medium speed. CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY pour the hot syrup into the whites, avoiding the whip.
Carefully pouring the sugar syrup into the whites.
(A hot syrup burn is really, really painful. There’s a reason pastry chefs call this stuff napalm. Do not give this to the kids to do, be sober, and pay attention.)
Once you have poured in all the sugar syrup, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and continue whisking the whites until they are firm and shiny. The bowl should be just warm to the touch when they’re done.
Whisking the egg whites after all the syrup has been added
The finished egg whites. These could be used as a cake frosting at this point.
20. Turn your oven on to broil (you may want to take a rack out) or have a torch ready to go. I usually set my oven on “Broil” setting and turn the temperature to 450F.
21. Pile the meringue on top of the pie. Spread it all the way to the edge of the crust and smooth or spike it out as you like (there will be A LOT of meringue).
An almost comical amount of meringue.
Place the pie in the lower part of the oven and let the meringue brown. Watch it carefully, though. It can burn quickly. About 60 – 90 seconds is all it will take.
If you have a torch, brown the meringue with that if you like. You can direct the heat more directly and make the browning more even.
A cross section. It was really, really good.
Store any uneaten pie, covered, in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for about 3 – 4 days.
P.S. Remember what I said about saving the scraps for cookies?
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have your oven preheated to 350F.
2. Roll out the leftover dough into a 1/8 – 1/4″ thickness, depending on how crunchy or soft you like your shortbread cookies.
3. Cut the cookies out into your desired shape.
4. Place the cut cookies onto the baking sheet about 1″ apart. If you like, sprinkle them with a little turbinado (raw) sugar before baking:
5. Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes. Depending on the thickness and how brown you like them. Turn the baking sheet about halfway through the initial cooking time.
6. When the cookies are done, let them cool slightly on the baking sheet then transfer to a rack. The cookie yield depends on how much leftover dough you have and how thick you make the cookies.