My dad turned 70 last weekend on the Ides of March, so without much consideration, I flew down to visit and help celebrate the occasion. I had forgotten that Austin was currently hosting SXSW, but since mostly the plan was just to hang out with family, SXSW turned out not to matter. Travel was a bit more crowded than a normal flight to Austin, but my plane was only 1/3 filled with hipsters. Like the two girls in front of me, who consumed at least 10 drinks each in the 3 hour flight, and discussed, with ever increasing volume their plans. I was amused to hear one admit that she was just going to leave her suitcase in a friend’s car, and keep a change of clothes with her as she found an evening companion. More power to her, I was young once. Her friend never once put her iPhone down, not even during the sacrosanct take off and landing times. The frazzled flight attendant just ignored this transgression.
Arrived on Thursday night, and after a moment, went to The Grove Wine Bar. We started out in a table seating four, then moved to a table holding six, then as more family arrived, reclaimed the original four top. More family arrived, as did the worried looking manager of The Grove. After a brief discussion, he moved us to a slightly jammed-in table that sat sixteen. We were too close to the bus trays, but by this time, wine had been consumed, and delicious bruschetta, we made do. The crowd didn’t seem to be very hipster-oriented, perhaps because Austin public transit is pretty lame, and the Grove Wine Bar is a bit off the beaten path. Highly recommended however, as we had a good time.
Friday, I awoke at the ungodly hour of 7 A.M.-ish, my body not yet adjusted to the Daylight Savings Time adjustment, nor the wine from the night before, and accompanied my mom to H.E.B.’s wonderful Central Market. Too bad Chicago cannot support a full throated competitor to Whole Foods, and ironic that the home of Whole Foods HQ is also where H.E.B. has multiple Central Market stores. We bought 9 lbs of freshly trimmed beef from the friendly butcher, 17 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, olives from the south of France, fruit, salad fixings, and so on. Oh, and three cherry pies which happened to emerge fresh from their ovens just as we approached the bakery counter. Yumm.
Later that afternoon, I visited the PackIt Gourmet Corporate HQ out in its mysterious location with no name, and walked around the corporate campus, exploring their expansion plans. Lunch was at Senior Buddy’s on the way back to town; I tried the Tacos Encebollados – steak tacos dusted in Oaxacan coffee grounds. Interesting. I wonder what different coffees would taste like?
Dinner was at my parent’s house, with beef stew as the main course, and a new-to-me dish called Vegetable Tian as a secondary course (plus salad, brie, olives, yadda yadda). I helped a bit, as always, but my mom is the maestro of dinner parties. The Vegetable Tian came out great, with the exception of the potatoes, which needed more time in the oven. No matter, a crunchy potato is not a deal breaker. When I make this later in the summer, I’ll probably omit the potato, and substitute red onion.
Saturday morning around ten, a bunch of us left for Fredericksburg. First stop, The Pink Pig, a fairly new restaurant opened in a 19th century log house by Dan Rather’s daughter, Rebecca as it turns out. Fairly good, albeit a bit pricey. Not sure it would be worth the drive unless you were already in the area. Fredericksburg itself was hopping, at least on Main Street.
Next stop: Messina Hof winery. Apparently, there was a special Aggie only list that we were not privy to. Also, to be honest, Texas wine is not advanced enough to challenge California wine. I tasted five in-house wines, and none were worth purchasing. On the plus side, we sat outside and soaked up the afternoon sun.
After a tour of Wild Seed Farms, a gardening and trinket store that also hosted a weekend rare animal petting zoo, we made our way to the Garrison Brothers Bourbon Distillery. Very educational, in fact, and well worth our time. One complaint is that Texas has goofy alcohol laws, and distilleries are not allowed to sell whiskey directly to citizens, only corporations, so we could not purchase a bottle after our tour.
Sunday was spent out at our collective near Hamilton’s Pool, aka Land of Many Names, aka Upper Yurtistan and Lower Yurtistan, aka Marfa East. A good, and exhausting time was had by all, including eating and drinking our fill, baseball, 4 innings of very competitive kickball at the newly created and mowed Field of Some Dreams, tennis, basketball, and capping off our day with a juried Nature Photo Contest.
Everyone voted for their top three, with a weighted scale (3 points for 1st, 2 points for 2nd, 1 point for 3rd). I didn’t get many first place votes, but I got a lot of second place votes, and ended up winning the grand prize of large bags of arugula, green onions, kale and so on from our (organic) community garden.
The award winning entry…
Home early the next morning. My flight left at 8:15, about 30 minutes before I normally even wake up.