Food Finds in South Austin

I begin to wonder if there is a typical dining day in Austin.  I started out at one of the best Mexican breakfast options in town, El Meson on Burleson Rd in SE Austin. There is something mysterious about this spot, but the food isn’t it. Great tacos, red hot but very flavorful hot sauce (you have to get there early for the really spicy one) and the best nopalitos and egg taco I’ve ever had. Bill swears by the chorizo and potato tacos. It’s self-serve and unvarnished, but home cooked goodness permeates the atmosphere. On a more pedestrian note, Dottie and I ate lunch at Scholtzky’s on South Lamar after walking Addy (the chihuahua with a Napoleon complex) around Lady Bird Lake. I wouldn’t mention it, but mid-way through my salad a magnificent rooster strolled by looking for a lunch snack. The staff said he comes by every day to visit, making out like a bandit I’m sure. I’ve seen some chickens loose in the woods by Lady Bird Lake before, so my guess is he makes the rounds; who knows where he has dinner?

After washing my car on Manchaca Rd., I noticed signs along the street for fresh, organic produce and eggs. I saw that a new cafe had opened with a large 78745 tag. Upon further investigation, I discovered Full English an English breakfast cafe and bakery that also serves high tea during the holidays. Their baked goods are all natural, mostly organic as are their eggs and bangers and their homemade chutney. What a find! I haven’t eaten there yet but did make off with some hearty raisin shortcakes that were delicious. They sell their baked goods at two South Austin Farmer’s markets. I knew about the Sunset Valley Market but the Austin Urban Farmer’s Market is one I will need to visit. The next time I’m out and about I will bring my camera.

Sauntering around San Antonio

Bill and I had fun in San Antonio, staying at the Hotel Havana on the Riverwalk. I was given a membership to the McNay Museum as an early Christmas gift, signaling the start of a new series of photo abstractions. I’ve included a few, but most are in development. Friday evening we dined at the famed Liberty Bar in its new location in the King William district (housed in a former convent). A lovely meal, nice appetizers and a particularly tasty Cotes du Rhone, easily 3.75 stars. Apparently, Black Friday was cause for celebration and a river parade, adding a little glitter to the experience and a lot of traffic. The Havana Bar was a fabulous dungeon with underground cellar or hotel elevator entrances, good drinks and quaint alcoves. While it was busy, Bill, Carol and I managed to take over a sitting room with little fanfare. On Saturday we visited the Pearl Brewery farmer’s market, had a drab cup of coffee and a questionable taco. Off to La Villita looking for blankets then back to the King William district for an outstanding breakfast at Tito’s. For a convenient overnight trip, this was a lot of fun. I recommend everything but the Hotel Havana for a quiet night’s sleep. Charm trumps comfort there.

Dining Recommendations

The East Side King food trailer at the Liberty Bar lived up to its press. While the menu sports a number of fried items, the brussels sprouts and beets were lightly dusted, not crusted. Cilantro, fresh jalapeno and a smattering of spicy condiments made for a tasty snack. The chicken was tender and fresh 3.25 stars.

The Bombay Bistro Restaurant in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center brings more savory Indian fare to South Austin. Tarka offers great Indian food to go and a slightly noisy, modern ambiance. Bombay Bistro offers decent music to accompany a diverse menu and very attentive service. The lunch buffet, served every day, does not disappoint. The variety of dishes, wonderful sauces, “street food” and delicious desserts make me want to go back again this week. They have a full bar and comfortable, tasteful decor for a pleasant dinner experience.  It’s not hard to ignore the TV when your taste buds have so much to decipher. 3.5 stars.

East Austin Studio Tour 2010

Perused several art complexes in East Austin: on Smith Road, Bolm Rd and Shady Ln then back to the Eastside Showroom for good food but alas,  poor service. Off to the Davis Gallery for an opening, and the Saxon Pub to see a classic performance by Miss Lavelle White.  Be forewarned, at the Saxon the headliner plays at 8:00 (WTF) so we missed seeing Malford Milligan.  Live and learn, even a well-worn path holds surprises.

Seeing life as art finds beauty in odd places.  I include a few random objects in the gallery below.  Makes for fun sauntering.

19th Austin Pow Wow

Austin’s 19th Annual Pow Wow

I’ve been going to the Austin Pow Wows since they began.  The grand entry begins with the color guard (military veterans) who are followed by the gourd dancers, another group of warriors.  First, the eagle staff is carried into the circle, followed by the American, state and tribal flags. Then, chiefs and headmen enter, followed by head dancers and royalty (i.e. honorary Powwow Princesses)

Other invited dignitaries are next to enter followed by the men: traditional dancers first, then grass dancers and fancy dancers.  Women enter next: traditional dancers, fancy shawl dancers and jingle dress dancers. They’re followed by junior boys, traditional and fancy dancers, and the little girls, traditional and fancy shawl dancers. The dancers dance clockwise, around the arbor.  The people coming together, uniting heaven and earth in a sacred spiral.

Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival

Circle the food wagons, are the days of restaurants numbered?

Strolling Ladybird lake anticipating the first annual trailer food festival.  Music, foods from around the world, kids, people of every stripe.  Classic Austin, all ages no holds barred Auditorium Shores – we’re in the dog park don’t you know.  I’m not sure I will go to Pick up Stix any time soon (the only line that was less than 2o minutes long) but I’ll be on the lookout for new and exotic trailer food in South Austin and on Rainy Street.  I do recommend the Fish trailer on South Congress and 2nd.  Fun to sit curbside and watch the zoo pass by or, alternatively, to be exhibit A.

Sauntering around Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead  sauntering around Austin

A classic outing, beginning with breakfast  at Sazon on South Lamar.  Aside from the red bordello patterned wallpaper, the migas tacos were good and the coffee decent.  After a walk at Ladybird Lake, where a rowing regatta took center stage, we headed to the  Mexican American Cultural Center for their day of the dead celebration.  Since we arrived early, we wandered down to Rainy street for a beer and a trailer taco that had more flavor than substance.  Enjoyed the Icenhauer patio, shown above.  I’m sorry for the inconvenience to the denizens of Rainy street but I like the new development there.  It’s fun and somehow reminiscent of old Austin.  There are some who will disagree but playing ping pong over cocktails . . . .

Dia de los Muertos was just beginning at MAAC when we arrived; parking was already at a premium.  The altars, uniquely appointed with memorabilia and  favorite foods of the dearly departed, reminded me of my own loved ones. I would like to make an altar next year. The harvest cycle, death and rebirth, threads through every generation,  Honoring the past, acknowledging death as a part of life is more restoring of sanity than yesterday’s parade I’m guessing.

Sad farewell to Club 21

Club 21 cannot be replaced.  I took these pictures of the Lucky Tomblin Band playing there last October and set them to one of Lucky’s tunes.  A classic dance hall since the late 1800s.  If those walls could talk . . .

Hiking the Tetons

Hiking in the Tetons

Getting up early to hike through the woods brings memories of the morning light as it casts long shadows down the mountains, brings fire to the aspen leaves and makes globes of dew gleam in the sun.  Smells of pine needles, boggy creek grasses and tumbling water under rocky outcrops begin to fade in my mind, sooner than the sound of the wind through the trees.  Clattering aspen leaves and rustling pines sprinkled over a deep, muffled mountain roar, the voice of the Tetons, writ small on the trail to Inspiration Point.  We saw quite a few people, an international collection taking two forks of a several mile hike up the mountain.  The only animal who made contact was a grouse, almost invisible until she stepped out onto a log and walked daintily by me, a gentle, lovely little being.  Her trust and friendliness were surprising and she melted into the underbrush as quickly as she emerged when a young couple came up the trail.

It was good to work out on the mountain, not knowing what was around the next bend, wondering “am I there yet?” stalking the next nature shot.  I was tired when I got to the bottom breathing deeply the clean, pungent air, knowing how long it had been since I went to the mountain and felt its strength.  I hope it will be sooner than later the next time.  It has been liberating to explore this new terrain, see the ancient movement of the earth over time and share a few moments with the animals who taught me much about tribe and community.  A wonderful, if brief journey North and West.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park

Going to the Tetons without seeing Yellowstone was not an option, although tourist attractions held no real allure.  Traveling through the Teton National Forest was scenic; more fabulous road pictures of the Tetons offered themselves at almost every bend. Off we went, trailing a fluorescent green VW hippie van (sporting a peace sign and putting along at weed speed) through the forest.  Entering Yellowstone lacked enchantment, the mountains balding with acres of trees lost to fire or disease, hard to tell.  By this time we were used to the alternating speed limits popping up for no apparent reason – 25, 45, 35 – one rarely knew why or when.  We crossed the Continental Divide at least 10 times on the trip, six times in Yellowstone alone.  I couldn’t keep track of east or west unless it was clear which way the streams were flowing.  Yellowstone held a certain fascination for me since childhood. My grandparents spoke of it and PBS lit a “great lodges of the West” fire in my imagination.

The lodge itself was monumental, a log cabin to dwarf all (and there were many) others.  The shot I took inside the lodge does not do justice to the balustrades and massive stair railings, an odd marriage of Grimm’s fairytale meets cowboy campfire.  Tourists of every age and stripe covered the ground like ants, scouring the mounds of holy smoke for that perfect shot, a camera safari at one of the West’s great wonders.  Bill and I took to the boardwalk for a several mile hike around the main geyser area, waiting for the scheduled eruption of Old Faithful, watching the earth come and then rest for another 90 minutes.

The vivid colors, mineral smells and smoking, bubbling mud and water make for an atmospheric photo and sensory rich experience.  It was not hard to imagine a time when this ground was hallowed, a place where the earth’s arteries spill precious minerals, whispering secrets from the deep in plumes of steam and mineral rain.  I will not soon forget the sounds, smells and terrain of Yellowstone.

Aside from the crows, who were lured over to us by almond apricot treats, no animals were to be seen.  On the way back to Jackson a small herd of elk stood regally by the side of the road but it was not until our hike to inspiration point the next day that we had any sightings.  Tomorrow:  hiking the Tetons.