Food

Walk through the produce section of your supermarket and you'll see things you'd never have seen years ago — like fresh raspberries or green beans in the dead of winter.

Much of that produce comes from Mexico, and it's the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA — which took effect 20 years ago this month.

In the years since, NAFTA radically changed the way we get our fruits and vegetables. For starters, the volume of produce from Mexico to the U.S. has tripled since 1994.

When you think about a scrumptious meal, airline food does not come to mind.

There are plenty of challenges to tasty airline meals, like the fact that many airlines now charge you for anything more than a tiny bag of chips and a plastic cup of non-alcoholic drink, at least on domestic flights. Plus, you can't cook on an airplane, so anything you're served has probably been chilled, then reheated. And flight delays certainly don't help with the freshness factor.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austinites got a taste of California yesterday with the opening of the city’s first In-N-Out Burger at 45th and Airport. The drive thru is known for made-to-order burgers and an ordering system that allows you to micromanage your meal. (Want your bun extra toasted? Just ask.) 

In-N-Out Burger has no freezers. No microwaves. No heat lamps. And In-N-Out has been quietly going against another trend in the low-wage, low-benefit fast food industry: they're paying their employees much more than the industry standard. 

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As Thanksgiving nears, attention turns to the kitchen. And as families across the country prepare their family meals for Thursday, a debate: whether to stuff the bird.

Field & Feast is a weekly feature airing Saturdays on KUT and KUTX. On the Field & Feast website, Cecilia Nasti wades into the stuffing debate and offers the following advice on how to avert dressing disasters and other Thanksgiving goofs.

What’s turkey without stuffing? That wonderful bready filling, saturated with the savory juices of your holiday bird is heaven – that is, until it makes someone sick. 

The challenges of cooking a stuffed bird is getting the stuffing to reach the food safe temperature of the cooked turkey: 165° F.

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A “healthy food zone” ordinance could be in the works for areas surrounding Austin schools, parks, recreation centers, libraries and child care centers. And that could potentially mean a prohibition on new fast food restaurants in those areas.

In an effort to battle childhood obesity, the City of Austin and Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services have developed a Community Health Improvement Plan. One of the priorities in the plan is creating healthier environments for children. To that end, the plan has an objective of creating “healthy food zones” around specific areas by June 2016.

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Update: And the results are in. Truck By Truckwest, Austin’s first ever food truck taste-off, has a winner. 

After 1,400 votes were cast, Texas-inspired sandwich joint Hey! … You Gonna Eat or What? and chef/owner Eric Regan took home a $10,000 prize. Over 60 food trucks, showcasing a wide array of culinary creations, took part in the five-day event.

Austin Food for Life founder Brian Stubbs will also be presented a check for $3,100. Ten percent of the event’s proceeds were donated to the nonprofit, which helps Austin’s food and beverage service community access health care.

Original story (Oct. 31): It seems like you find them on almost every street in Austin: Airstreams, buses and trailers surrounded by chairs and picnic tables – a movable feast tucked away in whatever alleyway, vacant lot or convenience store that can hold them.

A new trend is brewing in the coffee world: coffee prepared by a robot, able to be preordered via cellphone and picked up at an unmanned kiosk, perfectly adjusted to your taste and ready to go.

To some, this might seem lamentable: the beginning of the end of coffee shops as we know them. No more huddling around warm cups of coffee with friends or sipping a refreshing iced latte while reading.

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Fifty-nine percent of front-line fast-food workers in Texas rely on public assistance programs such as food stamps and Medicaid to support their families, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Nationally, more than half – 52 percent – of the families of front-line fast-food workers use at least one public assistance program, compared with a quarter of the total workforce, according to the report. The research was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Urban & Regional Planning.

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When Sunday of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival was canceled, concert promoters were widely congratulated for finding alternate venues for many of the day’s headliners.

But what about another collection of festival talent: the food vendors that kept crowds fed?

While Sunday headliners Atoms for Peace rocked a capacity crowd after a last-minute rescheduling – and Lionel Richie played for a lucky, select few – there were no rebookings for the nearly 40 food vendors at ACL’s Austin Eats food court. Instead, vendors were left to rely on their wits alone to salvage such a potentially devastating blow.

KUT News

Is a Pike Place-style permanent farmers market a perfect fit for downtown Austin? The Austin Downtown Alliance held a meeting this morning exploring the possibility.

David O’Neill with the Project for Public Spaces spoke about the concept earlier today. He tells KUT News that permanent farmers markets are cropping up all over the country.

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Update: The Associated Press reports a deep fried Cuban roll took top honors at the State Fair of Texas’ “Big Tex Choice Awards” this year: That's shredded pork, ham, cheese, pickles and sauce, rolled in dough and thrown in a deep fat fryer.

Another foodstuff profiled below – Fried Thanksgiving Dinner (which is exactly like it sounds) – took the prize for “Most Creative” entrée. The State Fair opens Sept. 27.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Some Austin fast food workers are joining a nationwide strike for higher wages. Employees from Wendy’s, Jack in the Box and Long John Silver’s gathered in protest this afternoon on Guadalupe Street near the UT campus.

Greg Lee works at Long John Silver’s. He makes $7.25 an hour.

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The price Americans pay for beef hit a record high last month, according to a federal report quietly released Thursday morning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly "beef values and price spreads" report shows a pound of beef at the grocery store averaged $5.36 across the country. That's an increase of more than a dollar over the past five years. 

So it's all because of the drought making feed ridiculously expensive, right? Well, that's part of it. But there's more to it, according to David Anderson, an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University. 

flickr.com/atmtx

Austin’s seen its share of boom-and-bust food cycles: Think the explosion of cupcake places, or proliferation of upscale burger joints. One of the newest beneficiaries of Austin’s irrational culinary exuberance is the pizza place. The last few years has seen a marked increase in the number of posh pie purveyors: Umami Mia, backspace and Winflo, to name a few.

Austin’s pizza scene garners some shine in controversial rankings from TripAdvisor – controversial, as Austin’s sixth place ranking puts it just two spots behind behind pizza mecca New York City. 

Minza Khan for KUT News

During the Islamic month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk. Austin's Nueces Mosque in West Campus hosts free iftar dinners, a communal feast where Muslims break their day’s fast after sunset. The iftars are open to all members of the community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Sabrina Khwaja, a University of Texas senior, said she frequents Nueces Mosque during Ramadan to engage with the local Muslim community. The location makes it easy for her to stop by. When she first heard about Nueces, Khwaja was relieved to find out she no longer had to break her fast alone.

It's not even noon yet but every table out front of the Pecan Lodge in downtown Dallas is filled with veterans with barbecue heaped on their plates, smirking at the gobsmacked newbies. First timers are easily discernible by the stunned looks on their faces when they walk in and see the line.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

What's Austin's most important export: its music, its technology ... or its breakfast tacos? 

The way author and Latino marketing consultant Mando Rayo sees it, the Austin breakfast taco is on par with the city itself in terms of significance. He should know – he’s eaten over 500 different breakfast tacos.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States. More than three times as many children are obese today compared to a generation ago. 

In Central Texas, some of the highest childhood obesity rates can be found in the Southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. The area has attracted the attention of social scientists who are looking at everything from the built environment, to the number of parks, to the socio-economic demographics, to the availability of healthy food.

It’s that last item – access to fresh produce in particular – that is the focus of an effort by Austin’s Sustainable Food Center. The non-profit has partnered with other groups to set up a temporary produce stand at the Dove Springs Recreation Center for three hours on Wednesdays for part of the summer.

Gefei Liu for KUT News

Herbs and vegetables are growing at the University of Texas’ student operated micro farm.

At the backyard-sized farm, located off of Manor Road, a green house is still under construction. But farmers have planted tomatoes and herbs, including lavender and mint. Workers have about three months until the farm is completely set up.

Update (4:30 p.m.): Austin Police are warning that I-35 southbound could be closed through the evening:

Original Story: Southbound Interstate 35 is shut down just past Riverside because a semi truck is on fire. 

Austin Police and Fire crews have moved southbound traffic to the access road.

AFD spokesperson Palmer Buck estimated the closures may be in effect until rush hour. Northbound traffic is also backed up because of onlookers.

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