Austin Adventures in Food

The Happy Couple
I’m back, still reeling, from an amazing trip to Austin, Texas and my daughter’s stellar wedding.  
It’s fortunate that Lola and Jameson found each other, for they are both thoroughly adventurous foodies.  Together they have embraced the Austin food scene ― from charcuterie to cheese and Hatch peppers to hot sauce.
They joyously clink their glasses over the most exceptional beer and wine while supporting the impressive array of locally grown fruits and vegetables made possible by the robust farm to table movement there.
So, of course, this trip could only be described as adventures in food on steroids.  We began our ten days of celebration with a quiet family brunch “for the mothers”.   Jameson would not share our destination, but we were forewarned when grandson Nick was advised to step it up a bit and change out of his standard workout gear.  
Nick admiring Pizza
The captivating complex of Soleil hangs on a bluff overlooking Lake Travis with a cool ambiance of re-purposed architecture and design.  The Italian-Mediterranean menu ranges from trout to soft-shelled crab, but since I was still on west coast time, I opted for something ‘light’:  a crusty wood-fired white pizza of prosciutto, figs, taleggio and gorgonzola cheeses, all lightly drizzled with honey and piled with arugula tossed in a lemon based vinaigretteWas it the view?  The company and occasion?  It was all an utterly sublime welcome to Austin!  With a hallmark beginning such as this, I had a hunch I’d best fasten my seat belt and hang on for a wild ride.
There was a whirlwind day of shopping in preparation for a pre-wedding ladies gathering.  Jameson was again leading the way and brought us to Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop.  Yes, one could cry out of sheer happiness:  a shop solely dedicated to the thrill of locally made hot sauce.   Tongues hardly recovered, we blasted on to Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, where we literally got in line for a flight tasting of legendary cheeses and first rate smoked products.  On top of our selection of aged gouda, creamy gorgonzola, goat cheese, chorizo and prosciutto, we added ciabatta, crunchy caramelized walnuts, and a little tupelo honey for ramdom drizzling. 
We were forewarned about a planned storming of the downtown food trucks.  Apparently there are two favored locations, and we opted for the smaller site:  a wise choice.  Right on the colorful old town city strip, as the searing sun finally shifted below the skyline, we jostled between Thai food, snow cones, mega cupcakes and other delights.  At The Mighty Cone, I struck a somewhat conservative choice with venison sausage in a cone, with mango slaw and horseradish mustard sauce.  What’s not to like with that combination?  The bread was eliminated and cleverly served in the cone-like cup with a bed of crunchy mango-jalapeno slaw, the perfect foil for spicy, juicy sausage, and topped off with the sweet-hot horseradish mustard sauce.  
A volume could be written on the wedding: it was unforgettable, stylish, and hilarious.  The reception took over three floors of the mythic Steiner Ranch Steak House with delicious flowing hors d’oeuvres, specialty wedding drinks, and a fabulous sit-down dinner.  Best part: a stunning bridal cake complete with a surprise layer of pineapple upside-down cake.
Another trip highlight which deserves mention was a visit to nearby Georgetown and a re-connect with high school classmate, Rory.  We smartly made no further plans and were happy to talk, laugh, and roam the historic downtown square of shops that surround the stately courthouse.  Situated in tree-covered foothills and home to Southwestern University, the surrounding community is classically charming― but still trying to find its way in the shadow of Austin and other threats.  Restaurants and shops seem to rotate in and out without much warning and the challenge of competing with invasive malls is taking its toll.  
We found our way to the Monument Café and Market.  In spite of hardships, they have managed to prevail and expand their operations.  In a new, larger location, they have added a garden to continue their philosophy of fresh organics.  Since they have long been supporters of local farms and suppliers, there’s also a beautiful well designed market on site for artisans and producers.
Shannon’s Kobe Burger

There was another brunch; this one a farewell with close family members.  Lola suggested the Roaring Fork, which proved to be the perfect ending, as folks went on their separate ways.  Somehow I never had an occasion to try Kobe beef, and this was it.  A rare burger with thick slabs of smokey bacon, arugula and avocado, seemed the right over-the-top note to end on.  And so it was; like dreamy buttah. 

I could go on, and likely I will continue to make mention of the amazing food scene in Austin.  It’s important to note that while there, the temperature managed to stay at a record breaking 107 degrees, with no reprieve in sight.  Under severe drought conditions, the ground is blistered and cracking and fields are dead and brown.   Buildings are shifting and house foundations are sinking.    But, in true Texas spirit, they take it all in stride, and know they’ll get through this one, too. That’s how they roll.

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