Pressed Juicery – Freeze
Sweet Ritual – Caramel Shake
Chilaquiles Factory – Vegan Flan
Project Pollo – Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake
Gati Ice Cream – Cookie Monster
Tellus Joe – Iced Strawberry Matcha
Prized as a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, avocados have been cherished since the early Aztecs first harvested the wild fruit over 10,000 years ago. While that’s an impressive history, proving its long term staying power, I’m disquieted to imagine any point in time that this most precious, indispensable stable didn’t exist. Rarely does a day pass without some form of avocado appearing on my personal menu, and often more than once. I hate to play favorites when there are so many incredible fresh finds out there… But I know avocado is the one I couldn’t live without.
Once the underdog of the produce world, avocados have enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity only during the later half of the 20st century. Now ubiquitous, Americans alone account for over $2.6 billion in avocado sales annually. No wonder millennials can’t afford to buy houses anymore. The buttery flesh may be green, but its really worth it’s weight in gold.
As National Avocado Day looms ever nearer on July 31st, the whole event seems curiously redundant. Don’t we already pay our respects at the shrine of the ahuacatl more religiously than most conventional deities? I don’t really need to suggest a celebratory round of guacamole, as if it wasn’t the most obvious serving suggestion in the book? Besides, you have a whole separate holiday to rock out with your guac out, on September 16th.
There’s no wrong way to eat an avocado. In fact, my favorite method is to scoop it right out of of shell with a spoon, gilded with tiny pinch of flaky salt over the top. If you’d like to pull out all the stops for this party and try something special, however, I do have a few more ideas that are sure to make any avocado lover swoon.
While so many of us are redoubling efforts to support small businesses in this particularly fraught moment in time, some of those small businesses are actually doing the same. Literally starting from the ground up, sourcing from local farmers is part of the puzzle that those in the dining room don’t see, but when it goes missing, it’s obvious when the bigger picture doesn’t look right. An essential, core element of the community, Counter Culture is weathering the storm of the pandemic without ever losing sight of that crucial aspect, among many others.
To discuss Counter Culture without mentioning their outreach and impact across all of Austin would do a terrible disservice to all that it stands for. Food is a form of activism here as a way of positive reinforcement, making environmentally-sound, cruelty-free options an easy choice. Inclusivity has been part of that compassionate approach from day one, which means that there’s something for everyone at the table, offered at affordable prices that still allow employees a living wage. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, if not an impossible compromise to strike between ethics and business, which makes the past decade of success all the more inspiring. If every meal is a battle, they’re winning this war.
At the end of the day, it’s the food that keeps customers coming back, after all. Approachable, comforting classics are menu mainstays, but that’s not all. You can also find raw specialties like zucchini noodles and raw cheesecakes for healthier cravings, or on the flip side, strong mixed drinks if you’d rather re-tox than detox.
Sandwiches are the stuff of deli dreams, layered with thick, hand crafted and cured seitan pastrami, or sweet apple jam with “bacun”. Though few people would rave about a green salad, the BLTA salad deserves such praise, sharply dressed in creamy ranch with lavish piles of buttery avocado, smoked tempeh, and hemp Parmesan. Show up for happy hour to get a smart discount on their crowd-pleasing buffalo mac & cheese balls, or the towering plate of east side nachos that could feed an army.
Visitors should put it at the top of their itinerary and plant-based residents should be regulars. Counter Culture is the kind of cornerstone establishment that any city, big or small, would be lucky to host.
In the same spirit of equally amorphous concepts like salads and curries, basically anything you throw on top of tortilla chips can be considered nachos. In fact, many further blur the lines with alternative bases like pita chips or potato chips, deftly dancing across cultural boundaries with ease.
Unlike the aforementioned culinary abstractions, nachos can trace their lineage directly to one single innovator. Mr. Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, maître d’ of Club Victoria in Piedras Negras, Mexico was not even a chef, but a tirelessly hospitable host. When, in 1943, a group arrived at the restaurant and the cook was no where to be found, he leapt into action. Piling up what scant ingredients he could find, the towering plate of tortilla chips topped with sliced jalapeños and melted cheese was an instant hit. Named for the man of the moment, the Nachos Especiales, would forever change the way that Mexicans, Americans, and the world at large, ate their chips.
There’s no one “right” or “best” way to make nachos; they’re the ultimate blank slate, infinitely adaptable to your personal tastes. Though it defies the conventionally accepted definition, even the chips are variable, if you’d rather a base of fries or tots. Personally, I must insist that some form of cheese or queso is mandatory, but from there, just a few ideas for toppings include…
That’s not even the half of it. Think about the possibilities for a breakfast variant, and even sweet options for dessert nachos! Given the endless choices, what are your go-to’s?