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Food Trip, Austin

July 29, 2014 4 Comments

During my visit to Austin I have been on a grand and very festive culinary journey without traveling very much.  I discovered in the first couple of days how little I liked driving in this city.  Traffic is like Southern California, but there is no ocean view.  Knowing that, I investigated all the walkable and easy driving destinations to either buy groceries or enjoy restaurants and food trucks.  The only problem I have had is a complete inability to be hungry enough to eat everything I want to try.  Honestly, I don’t think they tolerate bad food around here.  At least I have not run across any.  This is the highest concentration of foodist festivities I have seen in my life.  I have been to Napa and the Bay area, and do like all the options in New York City.  However, I choose Austin, Texas as my own gourmet destination supreme.  I am here at a good time, with plenty of ripe peaches, figs, melons, peppers, okra, and all garden greens.  There are farmers markets on every day of the week if you choose to go.  Food trucks offer new kinds of fusion cuisine that you could not even imagine.  Naturally barbecue is big, but I don’t eat meat, so I stick to all the smoked veggies, cheese,and condiments.  They even smoke  hummus.  It is the creativity and dedication to pure unadulterated products that makes the difference.  I even tried beers that are 100% naturally fermented with yeast grown on the farm.  I have made some reviews in this blog to guide the gentle readers who might visit, but I would encourage anyone to just follow your nose and the menu that speaks to you.  There is an abundance of quality that will surprise you no matter what you like to eat.

During a museum tour I got hungry and walked out to find a bite to eat.  I went to the drag (Guadalupe) by the campus and was not favorably impressed. The area has become pretty dumpy with graffiti and garbage. This surprised me because next to campus was always a profitable active place for business.  It is now run down, tacky, and did not appeal to me.  I managed to find a restaurant right on the mall on campus operated by UT endowment that was lovely and when I was there, very off-peak.  This place is the best bargain in town. The Carillon Restaurant serves an all you can eat buffet at lunch for $17.00 that includes a 20% tip!!!!  The selection was outstanding, innovative, and prepared with skill and artfulness.  Servers were friendly and attentive, and the ambiance elegant.  All my selections were delicious.  The carrot ginger soup was much creamier ( as in half and half) than my own version which made it almost like a dessert.  The grilled romaine was tasty, as were the many grilled veggies on the buffet.  I splurged on a tiny raspberry tart and chocolate mousse before heading back to the museum.  I think if you only come to town for a day and will only have a chance to try one dining experience The Carillon is the place to go.  Bon Appetite, gentle readers.  Do you have a favorite food place in Austin?  Do tell.

 

Air bnb vs Hotel Throwdown

July 27, 2014 1 Comment

I came to Austin to attend a reunion party that was held yesterday at the Drury Inn. Although I am very happy in my Air BnB Airstream I decided to check into the hotel for one night to have the best experience at the party. I am glad I did because the festivities were extensive and the crowd big. By staying there I was able to visit and enjoy the group, drink alcohol, and then just fall asleep in my hotel room. I brought my bathing suit thinking I might go in the pool, but the party was the focus, so I never unpacked the suit.  I had a wonderful time and ate some amazing food that was brought to the giant potluck.  Someone even imported white cheese from Venezuela for the arepas.  I got so full I could not taste all the goodies, but I was impressed with the creativity of all the cooks.  There was a giant paella prepared, then some music and dancing after dinner.  All in all this was one of the best organized and entertaining parties to which I have been invited.  It was really fun to see friends from 50 years ago.

Today it took me less than 5 minutes (because it is Sunday) to move back to East Austin to the Airstream.  I like both hotel and Air bnb, but for different reasons.  My love for hotels will never die, but now I have a choice when I travel, so I do look for availability in the rental market to compare prices/value.  It all comes down to one thing for me..or, or if you are a real estate professional you could say three things..location, location, and location.  If I can situate myself in the exact spot I want to be I consider the Air BnB option to be the superior one.  You will be exposed to the local culture, have a chance to live like a native wherever you are when you rent a space from a private owner.   I have found my hosts to be very attentive to my personal needs, offering much information and guidance that makes the stay more individually crafted.  This time my host is out of the country and two very local managers handle anything I need.  My full of organic food and drink kitchen saved me both money and time upon arrival.  The two fancy bottles of wine for which there is a $15 charge if I decide to drink them are a super nice touch.  I have laundry facilities and plenty of parking off the street.

I liked my hotel stay because:

  • It was convenient, clean, and well managed
  • The staff was very helpful and friendly in every way
  • The internet was the fastest I have had in any hotel (often this is a problem)
  • They serve good coffee at breakfast (this is not always true)
  • The bed was excellent, providing full comfort when I crashed
  • There was room for our big party and they let us make paella in the parking lot
  • They have bathtubs and unlimited hot water (this was my favorite part..I took 3 baths during my overnight stay)

I am happy to be home in the Airstream because:

  • I am integrated into this neighborhood and know my way around
  • I have total privacy
  • I have a full (tiny) kitchen and lots of storage space in general
  • I am not right next to the freeway
  • My rent is about half what the hotel costs
  • My managers are on hand to answer all my questions and give me good advice
  • I live here as a part of the community rather than a pure tourist. I meet people who live here.
  • Now I can say I have stayed in an Airstream

I am not sure how you like to travel or what your priorities are, but check out Air BnB for the fun of it.  You can start a wish list if there are properties that strike your fancy.   Depending on where you want to be it may or may not be the best choice, but I think it is worth investigation.  The Airstream has no TV.  I do have Hulu, but I can only see the evening news 24 hours after it is broadcast.  These days there is so much tragedy in 24 hours, and all the news comes on twitter anyhow.  Being spared the ritual of news watching at the end of every day at this particular time has been a blessing.  At breakfast in the hotel the television was large and looming. CNN was showing us all the freaky horror going on in the world…over our morning meal.  This, I can certainly do without.  Home sweet Airstream, for 3 more days!

 

Empire Avenue, Social Media & Twitter Networking; Grade A+

July 26, 2014 2 Comments

mermaidcamp:

Empire Avenue, a game with distinct gains

Originally posted on Andy Kaufman's Kavalkade Krew Featuring The Wandering Poet:

If you all are not aware, Empire Avenue is a social media networking tool.

It presents as “gamified” networking, with a virtual stock market that evaluates your social media presence according to their own proprietary algorithm.

I am back on and doing well, with a “stock” price approaching 320 eaves, with strong dividends.

I lead the “recently listed” 6 week old accounts by nearly 100 eaves.

6 weeksCapture

@Twitter is of course my strongest network, and according to publically available metrics I am at least in the top 1 percent of social media participants.

It has been top .1 percent, but it appears to be variable based on recent activity levels.  I really don’t know.  I am happy with top 1 percent in any case.

Capture

Over the past 3 weeks, I have conducted my own experiment.

I have followed 133 Empire Avenue players, and #FF’d them every Friday,  and mentioned them with…

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The Ultimate Social Tool – An Empire Avenue Guide for Beginners #EAv-Blogathon

July 26, 2014 2 Comments

mermaidcamp:

Empire Avenue for beginners

Originally posted on Empire Avenue:

I had read about Empire Avenue but hadn’t tried it until a week ago, and now that I have, I wish I had signed up earlier. We all know how important social media is, but it has become considerably difficult to use effectively without spending a lot of time, and in some cases, money. Regardless, whether you’re a blogger, content developer, writer or marketer, you cannot afford to ignore social activity, connections and engagement, which is where Empire Avenue comes in.

Hunain

You can read more of Hunain Naseer’s blog post here 

This is an entry in  Empire Avenue’s Blog_a_thon which takes place on 25th /27th July

To enter your blog post simply join the forum here 

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East End Fourth Friday, Austin

July 26, 2014 4 Comments

 

My neighborhood (in Austin) had a party last night which I enjoyed attending. On the 4th Friday of every month many of the businesses around here throw a small festival to celebrate being here. I did not last long enough to go to the free BYOB movie, but I did check out some places I had not even seen during my time here. This neighborhood was once the true home of black music in Austin. Later there were significant crime problems, and some real estate devaluation. From what I hear this was as rough as any scary urban area for a while. Now it is the rising star of commerce of the hippest kind. There are very cool stores, bars, restaurants, and of course food trucks. I started at Hillside Farmacy for a couple of drink specials, then moved on to Sagra for a couple of very personally crafted cocktails and a fried pizza.  The bands were arriving and the whole place rocking when I walked home.  I kind of thought I might go back later for dancing and the movie, but was fast asleep full and happy shortly after I arrived at the Airstream.   I had a great time, and even had a quick dance with Mama Jewel on my way home.  Perfect evening.  If I had any ambition to develop real estate I would do it right here.  Since that is not the case, I will develop friendships for the future.  I think this hood has about 5 years before the rent goes way up.  It is where the action is.  I can only hope the attitude and the available parking will last until I return.  This is a neighborhood business scene with real community support and diverse flavor.  I love it.

Mama Jewel, Queen of East Austin

July 25, 2014 5 Comments

I am a visitor in the neighborhood of East Austin, Texas for a couple of weeks. On the first day of my visit I was walking down my street and met Jewel Thomas Lusk sitting on her front porch. She is the neighborhood watch, the historian, the social director, and godmother to some of the kids around here. If you live here you know her, or at least she knows all about you. I like talking to her about the way the neighborhood developed. She has lived here for more than 58 years, so she is well informed on the subject.  I wanted to interview her on video but she would not give her consent.  She has a strong accent and told me she does not want anyone making fun of her.  She also has a job working at a law office once a week and does not want any kind of publicity to mess up her deal with the lawyers.  I do understand, but I still wish she had agreed to talk to the gentle readers.

She is a Baptist who enjoys dressing up sharp and singing on Sundays.  This weekend there is some big to do a the Tabernacle that will include all the Baptist churches around here.  She is planning to wear a fancy green outfit with a brimmed hat.  I do wish I could see her all dressed up because I am sure it is impressive.  She also enjoys Coors silver bullets, which she informed me she was responsible for finally getting in this town.  We had a little difference of opinion about when Coors actually arrived in Austin, but sometime in the 1960’s is correct.  This beer was highly prized and personally imported ( that’s right, imported) from Colorado, which was the only state where you could buy it.   Jewel told me she used to buy it in Ft. Worth and bring it down here, but was finally able to convince the mayor of the city to help her bring Coors to Austin. I have no doubt that this story is true.  She can literally tell you everything about everyone who has lived around here.  I do hope somebody will talk her into recording her stories on video so that they will not be lost.

When I went to college here I was 17 and could not get into bars to hear music…with one exception.  The black clubs on 6th Street did not discriminate against the white youth, and let us into their clubs.  I got to see BB King and Bobby Blue Bland one night playing about 10 feet in front of us.  We were 4 or 5 teen white chicks in an all black club having a wonderful time.  No problem.  I can’t remember if they served us alcohol or not, because we were not really drinkers, just BB fans.  Jewel and I reminisced about those clubs and that music for a while, and I wondered if she and I had ever danced together back then.  She still likes to dance, but says for dancing she switches to Crown Royal because beer is not the thing for dancing.  She is a remarkable woman, representing a front porch attitude that has faded with time….but not on her corner of the world.  I am grateful to be her neighbor for a couple of weeks.  She is the essence of cool.

Austin Ashiatsu, Better than Your Average Bodywork

July 24, 2014 1 Comment

I had the deep pleasure (pun intended) of experiencing for myself the talented feet of Cathy Royder.  I can admit to being a bodywork pig.  But I am a picky and discriminating bodywork pig.  At home I am a patron of the “hospital spa”, Supportive Care for Healing at the U of A Cancer Center.  The public is welcome to use the facility, with or without cancer.  The very best therapists in Tucson give 1 hour treatments there for just $40, which is hog heaven for a bodywork pig like me.  I do patronize some therapists in their private practices as well, but usually I get those bargain treatments because I can afford more of them.

On holiday now I am in exotic splurge mode because that is what holidays are intended to be.  Lucky for me Austin Ashiatsu is literally right down the street from my temporary home in the hood.  A quick check of the map, an easy to navigate appointment made on the website….and voilá….I found myself under the very capable feet of Ms.Royder,L.Ac, MAOM, LMT.  She asked me what kind of pressure I wanted and I replied that she could go all the way.  After a couple of minutes I had to tell her to lighten up a bit. I was astonished how such a small person could exert so much pressure.  We arrived at the perfect pressure for me, and I drifted into happy land for the next hour.  The treatment was lovely and I feel very balanced and refreshed as a result.   If you live in Austin, make yourself an appointment for a super mini holiday at 1306 E 7th St.  If you are visiting the city I recommend this experience to make your time here extra special.  I recommend this service to anyone who likes to feel good.  She will whip out the tuning forks in certain circumstances…I might need to return for that!!!  Tuning forks on acupuncture points is a very powerful way to treat the body.

 

Pleasures and Politics of Whole Foods Market

July 24, 2014 2 Comments

Whole Foods, the behemoth distributers of the natural lifestyle, started in Austin. A visit to the flagship store is both awesome and creepy. The produce, no matter where you are in the country, comes mostly from California. Right there you have strike one against the concept that by shopping at the store you support happy, healthy, local organic growers. Get real, folks. Whole Foods is responsible to the shareholders of the corporation. Their mission (and their mandate) is to make maximum profit for those shareholders.  I think that is all good.  I do not begrudge any healthy business a healthy profit.  When I enter the door I expect to pay more for what I buy, but I also expect a vast selection and very high quality products.  In history, before the rise of the hipster class, hippies managed the distribution of health food and natural products, often by forming cooperatives.  I was always involved with a coop in my youth.  This meant that you actually had to contribute some kind of labor to the cause.  We saved money on our healthy foods, but most importantly, we provided a source that did not exist in the retail market.  I am still a member of the Food Conspiracy, which I actively helped found in Tucson, but I am also the poster child for the Whole Foods Market customer.  I now have more disposable income and less inclination to organize a group buying effort to obtain what I want.  I am still a hippie, but a lazier one.

This is how I look at the whole picture at Whole Foods.  I do grow food in my garden, prepare many products at home, and shop extensively at farmers’ markets.  I would be pleased if all my food could be obtained locally and make some effort to keep my purchasing power close to home.  I visit my Tucson Whole Foods about 10 times a year for the specific purpose of buying certain items I can only find there, as well as to go on a splurge.  When I arrived in Austin I went directly to the flagship store to buy supplies because I am on a holiday, which implies I will be splurging in any way I please.  I did not travel here to save money.  I am here to enjoy the cultural delights of the city.  I love to be able to buy interesting things I do not find where I live.  The Whole Foods does not disappoint in that regard.  They carry everything from clothing to cosmetics, local brews to baked goods…it is all available for a price.  Speaking of price, I generally ignore the cost and just realize that it is not a place to buy day to day items, but is the ultimate shopping heaven for natural products and foods.  I can’t help but notice that there are three very large skyscrapers being constructed in the vicinity of the store at 12th and Lamar.  I believe they will fill with tenants very quickly when they are finished simply because of the proximity to all that highly sought after merchandise.  This is what they call the trickle down effect, I think.  Money will trickle down from those buildings right into the Whole Foods cash registers.  Bon Appetite.

French Legation Museum, Austin

July 23, 2014 7 Comments

There is only one foreign diplomatic residence in the United States outside of Washington, DC. It was the home of the French government’s embassy to the Republic of Texas.  The Republic only existed between 1836 and 1846.  The city of Austin was a town of about 800 people, including slaves.  The French wanted to trade with the Republic because they built ships and wanted the wood in Texas.  They believed the Texans, with a long shoreline, needed ships. They also thought the people on the frontier would buy French wine.  They sent a young man in the diplomatic corps from Washington, DC to Galveston to do a study to determine the feasibility of setting up a relationship with Texas.  This man was Alphonse DuBois.  He came back with  glowing report, and landed the job of charge d’affaires to the Republic of Texas for himself.   His diplomatic skills, or his ability to adjust to life on the frontier, were lacking.  He bought a giant piece of land above the town and built a grand Creole style home for himself.  He got into a serious altercation with a local about some pigs who broke into his corn.  This became the Pig War, and was the downfall of Mr DuBois.  He left for New Orleans, supposedly for his health, but when he returned to Austin Sam Houston was carrying on most of the Republic’s business in Travis County.  His career was never the same after that.  He was eventually recalled to France.

A visit to the French Legation Museum is well worth the time.  The guided tour, which is done very professionally, is only $5, which hardly pays for the air conditioning while you are there.  On the second and fourth Sundays of the month real French people show up to play pantenque and have a potluck.  The public is invited to participate.  The park’s outdoor spaces are open to the public.  They have an agreement with a group of sculptors who maintain a high quality display of local artists’ work on the grounds.  It is a very special place to visit. The front porch has a protected view of the capital building, which is pretty sweet.  Nobody can build anything that blocks the view.

Tamale House East, Austin

July 22, 2014 6 Comments

Juan, happy camper

Juan, happy camper

chilaquiles breakfast

chilaquiles breakfast

busy kitchen

busy kitchen

sweet

sweet

daily tomato use

daily tomato use

la tamalera

la tamalera

the kitchen

the kitchen

Another day in Austin, another fabulous place to eat!!!! My brunch experience at Tamale House East today was out of this world…. or at least out of my normal world.   I cook Mexican food and have made plenty of tamales myself but there is always a regional and personal style to every dish. I have a world wide competition on the best preparation of huevos rancheros (classic), chilaquiles (subject to MUCH interpretation), and nopalitos.  The contest got started when some of my friends in Tecate were bragging that they made the best nopalitos.  I said, “Well, let’s see.”  They would bring me different versions of their specialties, all delicious. I would declare a tie (what kind of fool would declare a winner when the nopalitos were still flowing?).  The tie in nopalitos continues, just in case some of my commadres read this.

They are not big on the nopalito thing in Texas, but the other two are to be found in abundance. Taking my landlady’s advice again I went to Tamale House East. This old establishment is popular with the hipsters.  When I arrived they were playing Mexican music.  When the hipster busboy arrived he switched to obscure rock, and the student clientele started to stream in the door, around 10 am.  Lots of places around here do not open until 11 because methinks the collegiates are still sleeping until that time.  The plates are large for the breakfast specials, and include some very good beans and a couple of hot flour tortillas.  I could have gotten corn tortillas, but did not request it, so I enjoyed what I had.  They gave up lard, like most restaurants these days, because most people are no longer into it.  They still make one pork tamale with lard, but vegetarians will not be ordering that anyhow.  The place is spacious, comfortable  and colorful.  The staff is friendly and attentive.  The real reason to come here, though, is for the food.  The tomatillo salsa was just right with my chilaquiles topped with an egg.  I tried both of the house salsas on offer because that is how you know if you like the place.  Both were outstanding.

I went to the kitchen to give my compliments to the ladies who made my food and was met with a very warm reception.  I discussed tamales with the tamalera, who is from Guerrero (the state where Acapulco is).  She was very cool and told me she makes green corn tamales at home.  This is a Sonoran specialty not often found outside our zone.  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone.  If you have never tasted tamales, this is a great place to start.  If you are like me, very selective about your Mexican food, you will be more than pleased with the authenticity, the ambiance, and most of all the cuisine.  Y’all come. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

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