Sauntering the mountains of North Carolina on Halloween

I’ve heard many good things about Asheville, NC over the years and wanted to see for myself while I was visiting my daughter in Charlotte.  On the way, we stopped in picturesque Hendersonville for lunch.  I heard they dressed up for Halloween and that meant even the ubiquitous bears, sprinkled around the town square.

Asheville was only 30 minutes down the road, the “Austin” of NC, and indeed, they were keeping it weird.  There was music in the streets, the buildings were tattooed with murals and sometimes you couldn’t tell the costumes from daily wear.  As the hippy man pictured below said, “This is a day I blend in.”  I’ll cover some of the art in a blog post to follow that includes an exhibit from The Bechtler Museum in Charlotte.

I loved the Malaprops bookstore (open late even on Halloween) but the highlight of the evening  was a scrumptious supper at Cúrate  -tapas and small plates served in a vibrant modern aesthetic. Katie Button, the owner and executive chef has been a James Beard finalist several years running and the proof is in the well executed and temptation filled menu.  We were seated ringside, enjoying the camaraderie and the hubbub while the delicacies kept coming.  People were friendly, there was music, good food and lots of breweries to keep everyone happy.  I include a video postcard as my own small taste of the town.

Toast World Sauntering Day with a Lotus Martini

lotus-flower-martini
Lotus Flower Martini – 6 Parts Absolut Vodka • 3 Parts Lychee Liqueur • 2 Parts Violet Liqueur • 1 Splash Blue Curacao • 1 Flower Flowers (Edible) • 4 Leaves Mint Leaf

June 19th is best known as Juneteenth, the day we commemorate the end of slavery. Galveston, Texas claims the honor of being the city of origin for this celebration, which happened to be two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. I guess we like to saunter toward progress here in Tejas. When you think about it, sauntering celebrates the joy of living, freedom from the grind of our work a day lives.

From an article in Business Times by Hannah Osborne

To saunter, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is to “walk in a slow and relaxed way, often in no particular direction”.

Unlike other forms of walking, including prancing, strutting and ambling, sauntering involves walking slowly with a leisurely demeanour.

While the origin of the word is unknown, it was first used in its current form in the 17th century. A description of a saunter-er was popularised in Charles Baudelaire’ The Painter of Modern Life, in which he portrayed a flâneur – a man or woman who sauntered around town observing society.

“The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.”

However, Rabe said that while you can describe a saunter, it is a gift impossible to teach: “Those who are in the know on sauntering would say you’re born with it. There probably is a technique but it would be useless to describe it.”

So, cheers (it’s also National Martini Day) and may ambiance suffuse your day.

 

Austin Bucket list: Brunch at Fonda San Miguel

Stepping into the courtyard of Fonda San Miguel takes you into another time and place. Awash in rich colors and unique and sometimes unexpected art the setting is certainly a fitting tribute to the fresh and flavorful menu. Laughing_girl
I’ve battled crowds at Happy hour and somehow managed to find a cozy nook, but brunch is the signature dining experience at Fonda San Miguel. I knew it would be impossible to enjoy a light meal when we were greeted by the desserts, a delectable array of sumptuous confections spanning the north side of the table. Dessert We were fortunate to catch Chef Miguel Ravago holding court at the salad and seafood table. ChefMiguelHis running commentary was extremely entertaining, but my prime directive was to determine how I could taste as many savory dishes as possible before I paid homage to my sweet tooth. Savory highlights included the exquisite ceviche, roasted quail, spinach salad tossed in sesame oil, and the nopales. The usual suspects: tamales, guacamole, corn souffle, beans and veggies were all well represented. SeafoodSalad Chef Miguel’s primary residence is London with an eye to opening a restaurant in Paris. He presided over the table with a kind of terrible grace, knowing his power, yet choosing to be kind. Meeting him was certainly a highpoint. Veggies After breathing deeply and sipping my fifth cup of coffee, the moment had arrived. moredessertFortunately, my companions had expertise in the art of fine dining and brunch excess. Afterward, we strolled slowly through the Harry Ransom Center remembering family who had gone to War, so close, yet so far from the warmth and ambiance of Fonda San Miguel.

New Mexican dining simply enchanting

Decades have whizzed by since I last sauntered New Mexico. In the halcyon days of my youth, camping and hiking, I wasn’t thinking about what New Mexican cuisine had to offer. The mountains called to me, horny toads bounded at our feet and the air was crisp and clean. The only pictures I have from those trips are in my mind’s eye, as reliable as my new love of photography but harder to share. These days my sensibilities are more bourgeois, and I look forward to the comfort and elegant aesthetic of adobe haciendas and fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The bright energy of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains infuses inhabitants with both a spark and sangfroid that’s truly revitalizing. I was very fortunate to have hosts in Taos (Lucky and Becky Tomblin) with exquisite taste who introduced me to some wonderful, very diverse dining experiences. I arrived in Taos on Thursday, in time for Music on the Square which attracted both tourists and locals for free family fun. Already the light had captured my imagination. Perfect weather demands patio dining, which we found at Antonio’s, a charming garden restaurant filled with hollyhock flowers. It didn’t hurt that tame hummingbird moths flitted about, entirely comfortable with diners enjoying guacamole salad made fresh at the table and many more and less traditional Mexican inspired dishes. I ordered the Huitlacoche and mushroom enchiladas with a smooth, slightly spicy green mole sauce. They tasted a little like wilted kale or spinach enchiladas, a very pleasing and aesthetically sublime supper in the Taos twilight with nary a mosquito in sight. Fresh fruits and vegetables were as vibrant as the mountain air. Honestly, who can argue with a land in which apricot and pinon trees grow wild? Another stand out for happy hour and lunch was the KTAO solar radio station’s daily bar and food truck outdoor get together. While the lemonade and rice and mushroom cheeseburger with sweet potato fries satisfied my burger craving, the friendly service and multi-generational Gemütlichkeit at the foot of Wheeler Peak was memorable. Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, every dish I was served included fresh sauteed vegetables. The Saturday Farmer’s Market was a testament to the quality of locally farmed produce. Accompanied by mariachis, we gathered peaches, apricots, plums and fresh greens to compliment the pasture raised chicken eggs we enjoyed for breakfast. Quirky, tasteful with a discerning clientele, restaurants in Taos jostled for attention and did not lack for an appreciative audience. The Love Apple, a repurposed yet not quite renovated organic restaurant (see link), provides the perfect window to the Taos food ethos. It was monsoon season, which brought the rain daily around 3:00 to keep things green. The apricots and plums were smaller than we’re used to seeing in Tejas, but sweeter in handy single bite servings. I left Taos with a firm resolve to return soon and took the High Road to Santa Fe, with only one day to see my friends and the city. I stopped at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant and had a delicious lunch of shrimp pesto enchiladas with a refreshing sangria blanca to put me in the mood for El Sanctuario de Chimayo. I’ll cover that more in a follow up posting, but suffice to say that the side trip to Chimayo was worthwhile. Arriving in Santa Fe, I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Poster Boyz of Santa Fe, my great friends Ralph Lopez and Daniel Link, both Austin ex-patriots. Danny’s pozole was a homemade delight so I only ate breakfast at one Santa Fe restaurant, the Plaza Cafe before heading back to Albuquerque. One of my favorite dishes on the trip was a short stack of blue corn pinon nut pancakes. Eggs cooked just right, homemade turkey sausage with fresh herbs and fresh fruit aside, don’t leave New Mexico without trying them. I will be looking forward to my return saunter to both Santa Fe and Taos, certainly something wonderful to explore in every season.

Vital Farms gets it eggxactly right

I love following my symbolic use of the egg in the Shell and Kernel post with the entirely somatic experience of Vital Farms, a kind of Elysian Fields for chickens. Humans flocked to the tour yesterday allowing us to mingle with pastured chickens and their protector humans and canines. Vital Farms uses moveable coops to ensure fresh fields for foraging and organic feed for optimum health and hen well-being. For those of us who remember the movie Chicken Run it’s confirmation that chickens really do win! For more information about Vital Farms and other organic and local foods initiatives visit their website and blog. Chicken and human flocks shown mingling below.

Crab-N between Rockport and Aransas Pass on Hwy 35

Sitting at the bar at The Lighthouse Inn in Rockport sipping a luscious Chocolate Martini, I happened into a conversation with two San Antonians who were determined to try Crab-N, a restaurant that several friends had recommended. I had some fresh, juicy oysters at the Boiling Pot that evening with a nice hot shrimp gumbo but I was ready to enjoy the inside scoop on locally preferred seafood that came in options other than fried, not that I object to the occasional crispy treat.

Although I checked a map for the Crab-N, I didn’t see it until I was headed back to Rockport from Port A on the south side of Hwy 35. They are open for dinner from 5:00-8:30 or 9:00, depending on the day. I arrived around 5:30 and by 6:30 the main dining room was full. I immediately noticed the music -gypsy guitar- melodic but not overbearing, a nice compliment to the white linens and fresh flowers. My server, Kim, was knowledgeable about which fish was fresh, and what was locally farmed, and gave good suggestions about the various entrees, wines and salads. When I return I’ll make a meal of the appetizers and try the Crab and Shrimp Bisque, but I only had eyes for the Lump Crab Meat (sauteed) with Crab and and Shrimp Butter cream Sauce. Sound decadent? Ahhhhh. It was surprisingly light and delicately delicious, nicely offset by a side of long grain and wild rice with roasted pecans. Crab and shrimp morsels languished seductively in the butter cream sauce while the rice had great definition and texture with a decidedly nutty flavor. This luscious main course was preceded by a very nice salad of fresh greens with homemade blue cheese dressing. Fresh mixed greens might be more of a rarity than the hunka burning crab love, a welcome relief from southern fried cuisine.

I heartily recommend a stop at the Crab-N if you are staying in Port Aransas or in Rockport/Fulton. The menu is posted on their facebook page, linked above and offers tantalizing crab, fish and meat options (for those unfortunates who eschew bottom feeding). There are vegetarian plates at the Crab-N and a plethora of gluten-free options as well. My trip to Rockport would have been much less satisfying without the fresh oyster and crab delights I enjoyed, all locally caught. While Kim was kind enough to serve me a glass and 1/2 of Sauvignon Blanc, I spied a full bar just around the corner. I was too full for dessert, but word is the key lime pie is worth leaving room for.

Wifebiz for your Lifebiz

Tis the season for errands galore but who has time to work, shop and cook?  Then there are the inevitable gift returns, holiday meals and care for children, pets and parents.  Calgon, take me away! I don’t know what happened to Calgon, but in its stead, let Wifebiz offer you the support you need during the holidays and beyond. “What can Wifebiz do for me?” you ask. These days, who has time to cook nutritional meals? By the time you finish making a shopping list, grocery shopping looms, wedged between small grabs at sanity like yoga or working out. What if someone could put it together for you?

As I perused the web looking for wifely material, I discovered that nutrition has come a long way from the 70’s. Give babyboomers props for surviving:

The Gallery of Regrettable Food
and from the Institute of Official Cheer we are reminded of some of the more psychologically compromising effects of interior design, correctly identified as Interior Desecration in this lovely site. I just can’t stop myself now, how about making a fashion statement? See what you missed? Is it any wonder we turned to drugs?

Wifebiz consultants offer value pack errand services but are not offering fashion consulting or interior decorating tips at this time. Take a moment and “like” Wifebiz on Facebook. And consider giving yourself or a loved one the gift with no calories, a gift that makes everyone’s life a little easier: Call or email Paloma or Amy at: 512-222-WIFE (9433) mail@wifebiz.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Castroville and the Orient Expressed at the McNay in San Antonio

Tasty tour of Castroville, the charming Alsatian village with the ever enticing Old Alsatian Steakhouse and Ristorante. Tito’s tip of the day: 2010 Victor Hugo Viognier from the Paseo Robles region (yelp reviews), paired with flounder – resonant! The old world charm of this unique village is understated enough to provide a welcome reprieve from the standard issue box houses that line the I-35, 410, I-10 corridors. Historically strategic during the civil and Indian wars, the city has kept many historical dwellings intact along with the French/German (Alsace) heritage that distinguishes it from the Germanic dorf of Fredricksburg.

The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio took us back into the tine of Japonisme and its influence on Art Nouveau and Impressionism in Europe in the 1890’s and 1900’s with drawings of Mary Cassatt featured. While no pictures of the exhibit were allowed, I include a few whimsical shots below.

Autumn comes to Tejas

Finally, the weather has lightened up and Hell’s fury is spent. Rain would be sweet, but nary a drop dots the horizon. Walking and bike riding bring back so many memories, years in the saddle and on the hike and bike trail. My fall garden is in, giving much pleasure with tangy greens, red peppers, herbs and dwarf eggplants. I may be a flaneur, roaming the city, seeking to slake my aesthetic appetite, but it’s the bios that soothes my soul.