Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Austin Wrap-Up

We spent the weekend in Austin, Texas, and despite being tied down by business functions, were able to get in some good eating (shock):

--We had a wonderful lunch at Manuel’s, upscale Mexican food, with very refreshing (and potent) margaritas…nice tequila list. I had the chile relleno en nogada, a chile stuffed with pork, almonds and raisins with a walnut-brandy sauce, and Steve had the mole enchilada. We were totally stuffed after that, but bravely headed to the business event that night, dinner at:

--Threadgill’s, the music venue where Janis Joplin got her start (Austin bills itself as the live music capital of the world). We had chicken fried chicken breast (which is different than fried chicken!), and two sides: garlic cheese grits, and I went for the “light” fried okra, while Steve headed for “San Antonio squash.” I don’t know the exact recipe, but I’m pretty sure it involves a few slices of summer squash, corn, canned chiles, and lots of Velveeta. Who couldn’t like vegetables with all that camouflage? My peach cobbler was good, but Steve’s pecan pie was AMAZING.

--Fonda San Miguel had been recommended by us with such enthusiasm (thanks, LLD!) that we had to hop in a cab and try a late Sunday brunch. I’m not much of a brunch person, due to the tendency to eat like a pig with all that food spread out, but this was our only chance to get here, and it was nice to try so many wonderful Mexican dishes, including a deep-dark mole, and a spicy chicken with crema sauce. It was fun to try cactus salad, and there was a corn dish, sort of like a spoon bread that was so sweet and yummy that I added a second helping of it to my dessert plate. Steve was all over the tres leches cake. We waddled out of there and collapsed for a good long while.

--Later that night, we had the chance to sit in the beautiful western bar of the historic Driskill Hotel, built in 1886 by a cattle baron. I love historic hotels, and this is one of the most stunning ones I’ve ever been in. (You can find some great photos here.)

--We stumbled onto FRANK after we had already eaten lunch. But FRANK, with its hipster vibe and promise of housemade sausages and hot dogs lured us in, and we were not disappointed. In fact, we were in awe! We only had half an hour or so before having to leave for the airport, so we promised ourselves that we would share a quick dog and get out. Oh, haha. Our second “light” lunch began with a Manhattan made with bacon-infused Maker’s Mark, a drink called “redheaded stranger” that was a bloody Mary made with bacon-infused vodka garnished with a pepperocini, a jalapeno stuffed olive, a chunk of cheddar, and a strip of bacon (!!), and a half black pepper, half celery salt crusted rim (in a nod to common sense, I got the small version). Steve had the jalapeno cheese dog, which featured a homemade dog with flecks of jalapeno inside the meat (as well as scattered liberally on top) and I had one of the day’s specials: chicken fried hot dog. I defy anyone to pass this up; even one of the vegetarian servers claimed that this dish is what makes him think about going back to meat. It was AWESOME! An incredible, clean and natural-tasting hot dog deep fried in a very light batter, covered with cream gravy. Mmmmm…. It was beyond my expectations. (Oh, and I’m not crazy—I kept things light by not eating the bun.) We bought our bacon-chocolate chip cookies to go. If you’re anywhere remotely close to Texas, it’s so worth your while to make a beeline to this heavenly place.

--There was more than food, and some of the non-food highlights included the “spouse trolley tour”(hi, Jenny!) that showed me parts of Austin beyond the downtown area, including some mansions from old-time Austin, a too-quick visit to the Lyndon Johnson presidential library (he had huge, goofy ears as a baby!), and a good view of the GIGANTIC Jumbotron at the UT football stadium. And Steve and I found a fun, artsy music store called Wild About Music where we bought some Austin CDs. And if either Western Ghost House or The Sideshow Tragedy ever collect a Grammy…well, we saw them play live in Austin at The Ghost Room!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.