11 June, 2011

Oh What A Difference A Little Break Makes! (Austin, TX Part 1)

Me at "Lake" Austin.
To my treasured and loyal readers, I want to thank you for sticking it out with me through this dry spell and coming back 'round to The Eatable Life! There have been many a trial in my personal life lately and although I am on the mend, there are some things in this world that will just never shine as brightly as they did before. But that does not mean I plan to sulk and stagnate! Quite the opposite I'm afraid! I am ready to try new things, eat too much good food, be grateful for how much yumminess there still is in the world, and continue to put one foot in front of the other as I search out all the zest I can get my hands on! So how do I plan to do this you might ask? Well, for starters, I need a little road trip to open up my mind a bit. Okay, so in actuality I had already planned a road trip with my mother that will start in Cincinnati, Ohio (where I was born) and end in Berkeley, California (where I currently reside), but now it will take on greater dimensions. PS, I will also be almost exclusively shooting with my iPhone 4 that is attached to a nifty device called the OWLE Bubo that adds stability, tripod accessibility, an external microphone, and (best of all) a removable 37MM wide angle/macro lens!

The bell tower of the main building on UT Austin's campus.
We will cross through Denver, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, the south-eastern Arizona side of the Grand Canyon, the Mojave Desert, and all sorts of fun places along the route back to Northern California. Several stops along the way will also serve as inspiration for a new blog I recently started called The Gringa Eats Brazilian. It is an interactive, companion site that will go with my upcoming senior thesis starting in the Fall that looks at Brazilian cultural heritage preserved through food. Before arriving in Cincinnati, however, I will make a detour through Austin, Texas where I will visit a friend, check out University of Texas, Austin's campus (a candidate for graduate school), soak up the heat that I so rarely experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, and eat as much of what Austin's food scene has to offer as possible. Oh wait! I already made that leg of my journey, so I guess you are going to have to just sit back and enjoy how good life was for this Foodie in that liberal-misfit-of-a-city-in-the-conservative-country-of-Texas! And since I ate so many tasty morsels, this post will be broken up into two parts.


Let's start with a cuisine that you would expect from a border state: Tex-Mex. I went to a well-known spot called Polvo's where I had one of the best salsas of my life! I am serious! I wish I could tell you the proper name for this smoky/seedy/chocolatey/BBQ-esque/textured-flavor  concoction of slightly-sweet love, but I cannot (folks who know this place, help me out). Instead I will show you a photo and let you draw your own conclusions as I just reminisce and salivate! 

The sign on the restaurant says that its food is "interior Mexican" but I think that label is only a marketing ploy. No matter. As case in point of its Tex-Mex foundations though, let me show you the cocktail that I endulged in. It is called a "Mexican Martini" and contained more than just your staple tequila, citrus juice and sugar. It also had gin and green olives (including juice) mixed in and brought to the table as an empty martini glass with an entire shaker full of cocktail! Then there was the shrimp fajitas that did not limit itself to the standard of curvy crustaceans, some under-seasoned grilled onions, and soggy bell peppers - no sir! Their nicely proportioned prawns sat on a mountain of corn, white and red cabbage, onions, spinach, tons of garlic, and a secret sauce that saturated the still-crisp vegetables. And black beans, guacamole, rice, and flour and corn tortillas accompanied all of this too.



Moving right along, but sticking to the category of Fantastically Adulterated Mexican-Style Food, we have the crowd favorite that is Torchy's Tacos. It employs Hipsters but draws in every kind of demographic with its eclectic menu. I ordered the "Democrat" on a corn tortilla, which is barbacoa pork, Cotija cheese, cilantro, and avocado. I washed it down with my new favorite mineral water (yes, you heard me San Pellegrino) called Topo Chico. My lovely friend Harley ordered both the "Brushfire" on a flour tortilla, which is Jerk chicken, mango, and friggin' SPICY hot sauce, and a Migas taco consisting of eggs, fried tortilla strips, salsa, avocado, cilantro, and cheese on a flour tortilla. House-made salsas and flavored Ranch dressings were on the side. Life is good! 

The "Democrat" taco.


(Left) The "Brushfire" and (right) the Migas tacos.






Hey Cupcake on a lot is on South Congress Avenue.
We will end this section of the tour with a look at one of my favorite food-culture phenomenons - the food truck/cart/trailer! Now, I am going to confess something here. I did not get a chance to actually sample anything from the plethora of trucks found permanently parked around the city because my eating excursions always seemed to be booked elsewhere. I was at least able to get a few of the mobile restaurants on film. Besides the ones here, some popular ones that have been mentioned to me are Odd Duck Farm to Trailer, with their 100% locally sourced produce, cheeses and proteins, and Gourdough's colossal donuts. There are so many delicious options that a website was even started to wrangle them all into a central database!


Self-serve seating to accommodate an amazing amount of patrons.


The Mighty Cone. This ain't no ice cream stand.


"We don't say 'fried"...we say 'deep sauté'"

So stay tuned for the second installment of what Austin's culinary world has to offer, but do not come back hungry or else your parched taste buds and rumbling stomach will never forgive me!