BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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The Revolution Will Not Be Carnivorized

There’s a tremendous, unfathomable difference between barbeque sauce and real-deal barbeque, period. Having been repulsed by the sticky sugar syrups laced with all manner of offending spices and artificial flavors, I had written off the entire genre for the better part of my young life. BBQ Revolution, a humble trailer based on Manor Road, is most definitely serving up the genuine article, and has changed the way I think about barbeque altogether.

Possessing intense smoke flavors completely unlike those found bottled and stored in your local mega-mart, each bite of protein is a transportive experience. You can taste the full depth of the fire, the kiss of the flames caressing the blend of mesquite and pecans responsible for the resulting rich nuances, infusing their essence into those toothsome meatless morsels. The whole campfire might as well be roaring right at the table, and I swear it’s even possible to taste the glow of the embers as the sauces linger and slowly burn down. Sweetness is the most subtle seasoning of all, applied as a careful finishing touch much like one might regard salt, to balance out those rich nuances built over so many hours of smoking.

Side dishes undeniably play second fiddle to these stellar attractions, as well they should, but that’s not to say that any are left wanting. Creamy, not gooey nor particularly saucy, the subtly peppered mac and cheese is another revelation. Soft noodles readily surrender themselves into the comforting melange. Potato salad is delivered in the form of a slightly chunky mash, bearing the light twang of vinegar. Attention has clearly been paid even to the lowly, pale slivers of white onion. Appearing for all the world to be merely sad bits of garnish, they are in fact fabulously crunchy accompaniments, surprisingly not the least bit sharp or harsh. They were almost overlooked and left behind in all my excitement- what a terrible mistake that would have been.

If there was just one opportunity to eat out in Austin, I would have to recommend that BBQ Revolution be the destination of choice. No one else, near or far, is creating vegan food of any similar sort. The only difficulty is getting there before the hungry hordes descend; it’s not uncommon to arrive well within their narrow window of open hours, only to find that dreaded “sold out” sign already plastered over the menu board. Come early and come often; your perseverance will be rewarded, because there’s no other way to get these essential Texan eats.


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Gems That Rock the House

Inspiration comes in many forms, often unpredictable and unexpected, without any apparent relation to the innovations it may produce. Broadening one’s horizons is the most effective way to home in a completely different creative venture. This is the best explanation I can provide for why I ended up in a metal shop, torch blazing away, for the better part of my spring semester. General craftiness and a penchant for beading runs in my blood, so it seemed criminal to overlook the burgeoning jewelry and metal arts program offered while on campus. With no prior experience, it was exhilarating to literally forge a new path, turning scrap metal into something to treasure. While my wearable work is still quite amateur at best, I found that subtle touches of color can make a world of difference. Thus, it was a stroke of pure luck that House of Gems reached out to me prior to my first class and offered me an opportunity to sample their wares.

Beads and findings of all materials, shapes, and sizes glitter even from the glow of the computer screen on the immense online catalog. Choosing would have been impossible if not for the basic guidelines of JEM 110- Only natural stones or gems would do, as plastics would certainly melt under the temperatures that soldering demands. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my selections would prove to influence a sizable portion of the work to come in the following weeks.

Dubbed “The Crimson Cloud” due to its deep red carnelian rain drops, those stunning faceted beads were the cherries on top of this patina-ed brass sundae. Though time constraints prevented me from completing the pin back as I had envisioned, the possibilities now remain open for turning this midterm submission into a magnet or pendant instead.

Just a simple whimsy made to blow off some steam, silly little side projects like this tube ring were welcome distractions when more complicated techniques eluded me. Admittedly, these beads here are merely glued in place and then lacquered over for security, but I simply couldn’t resist incorporating those brilliant purple sugilite in any way possible. Besides, the copper ring band would need some sort of veneer to become truly wearable, I reasoned.

Making samples of various new concepts as they were taught was an essential component of the class, and I must admit that I went a bit overboard at times. All that was required in this case was a basic example of any functional earring wire, capable of being fabricated in about two minutes, but I couldn’t leave those bare sterling silver strands alone. Very simple textured nu-gold teardrops gleam in the sunlight with the addition of a few smoky, pearlescent labradorite beads. As far as everyday jewelry goes, these unassuming earrings may quite possibly be my favorite creation of the semester.

While I may not have access to the same equipment anymore, I do still have a wealth of stunning stones to spur new jewelry inspirations. This is only the beginning of my metal crafting experiments. With the help of House of Gems, I would love to spur that same drive and ability to create some something beautiful in all of you! All orders over $25 automatically qualify for free shipping in the US, for anything that captures your crafty imagination amongst their vast selection of wares.

No matter what you create, you can’t go wrong with such a vast selection of impeccable craft and jewelry-making supplies to draw inspiration from!


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Beyond the Deafening Silence

Ending one of the longest hiatuses of BitterSweet‘s nine year history, completely unplanned and unannounced, allow me to state the obvious by saying that it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin. Posts that ramble on about how much the writer regrets being away, how ashamed they are of their negligence and obvious deficiencies as a blogger irritate me to no end, so let’s skip all that needless bellyaching, shall we? Traveling around the country, learning from each new day, eating nearly everything in sight, I have no remorse for living life offline for a few brilliant weeks.

Austin has truly welcomed me with open arms, hosting the third and sadly final Vida Vegan Conference in the last days of May. It was an incredible honor to have spoken not once, but twice, in this crowning gem of VVC’s illustrious legacy. The experience was so overwhelming, in the best way possible, that I have a feeling I’ll still be digesting it for quite a while to come.

Nopalito and Tofu Scramble Tacos from The Golden Spike Rail Cart

Seared Radicchio with Blistered Tomatoes, Green Lentils, Crisp Rice Cakes, and Peach-Balsamic Sauce from Bistro Vonish

Veganized “Donna Summer” (three biscuits, white pepper gravy, tofu scramble, meatless sausage and vegan cheese from Biscuits and Groovy

Speaking of digesting, the vegan food scene out here in the middle of Texas has wildly exceeded all expectations, and I’ve only just scratched the surface on the endless options that litter the urban landscape. Everywhere you turn, tiny trucks and carts sprout from the sidewalks, overflowing into open parking lots, peddling cruelty-free cooking with all the flare of any traditional restaurant. The street food culture is deeply rooted here, largely unencumbered by the laws that rein in all stripes of innovators in most big cities, creating a genuinely open playing field for any food-obsessed dreamers with initiative. Air conditioning is non-existent in the summer heat, rough wooden picnic tables replace white linen tablecloths, and I couldn’t be happier to scrape the pretentious veneer off of fine dining.

Life moves at a different pace around here. It’s far from the maddening crowds, yet always right in the heart of the action. Easily hitting the mid-90’s even in these early days of June, the heat and humidity simply prevent anyone from rushing around too fast. No, you might as well take your time, crawl slowly from one shady spot to the next, chatting and slurping down ice water wherever the two might be found. Austin has effortlessly become another place I’d like to call home, which is a good thing since I’m sticking around for another few weeks to take in the sights, sounds, and flavors all around.

There’s still much for us to catch up on, from recipes and reviews to more travel tidbits from San Francisco, but as I’ve learned from unhurried clip of the daily routine out west; all in good time, my friends.


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Silent Sunday: Morning Dew

Click the photo above to download the full size version. If you’d like to enjoy it as your desktop wallpaper, right click the large photo, select “Set as Desktop Background,” and choose the “Stretch” option to fit to your screen. Start up with a fresh new morning every time you turn on your computer, and enjoy.


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Gather Together

Gather is much more than a place to eat, more carefully sourced, passionately created, and openly hospitable than the average eatery. Explicitly conceived as a means for connecting farmers, cooks, and diners with every bite, local and organic ingredients aren’t mere buzz words tossed around these vaulted ceilings, but honest mantras held in the highest regard. A certified LEED Platinum building in downtown Berkeley provides the foundation for this mission without missing a beat.

Guests are invited to take a look into the open kitchen and watch the chefs in action, meticulously crafting dishes at a steady but brisk pace. The great outdoors are welcomed inside, with a comfortable sundeck seamlessly connecting the two spaces, while large-pane windows allow daylight to readily flow throughout. Even the menu itself exhibits this very same openness, boasting plates for every imaginable dietary constraint all in the same breath. Most impressively, the inherent depth of flavor found in food itself doesn’t suffer one bit for all these extraneous considerations. Impeccably fresh produce sings on stark white plates, imploring eaters to join the song, whether they’re vegan, gluten-free, omnivorous, or just plain hungry.

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