Tag Archives: Austin

Central Texas Foodie and Sightseeing Tour ~ Part 2

30 Jun
Wimberley Deer

Deer at my parent’s house in Wimberley

Next stop: Tubing the San Marcos River, just 20 minutes down the road from Wimberley. It’s a spring-fed river and a nice and cooling 72-degrees year round, as it was in the mid-90s. It’s also a great bargain for your money. Just eight bucks gets you a Lion’s Club float tube and a shuttle back to the parking lot. It’s about an hour and a half lazy float to the end, where you are greeted with three thrilling waterfalls to splash down… and hold on to your hat and sunglasses! Wow, what a blast!

San Marcos River Tubing

First falls on San Marcos River at Rio Vista Park ~ photo credit Jesse Knish

You can exit the river after that and walk back a short distance and go down the falls as many times as you want. I went down them twice, but the kids must have made 10 runs down them. We even got a personal lecture earlier in the float from some conservation folks who travel up and down in canoes to tell us about the endangered wild rice plants that are found only in that river, and to stop pulling them up and throwing them at each other. Whoops! There was plenty of wildlife to view along the float, including great blue herons, various hawks, ducks, and some other interesting birds I could not identify. My brother brought his underwater camera and caught lots of good video and photos, but he’s out on a film shoot this weekend so I don’t have any of his photos of the tubing trip. I’ll update this post later when he has a chance to send them to me.

As most of the relatives have now made it into Texas, we had our first formal gathering at my parent’s house in Wimberley for cocktails, and then headed off about 15 minutes away to Driftwood to an Italian Restaurant and Winery, called Trattoria Lisina. My daughter said, “Are we finally not having any Tex-Mex?? Is that all you eat here?” Well, yes, sometimes. 🙂

Arriving at Trattoria Lisina

Arriving at Trattoria Lisina

Upon arriving there you really feel you’ve been transported to another place and time. Beautiful scenery, beautiful restaurant, fabulous food and wine. We all ate delicious and finely presented meals and drank plenty of good wine, then toured around the place and even played Bocce Ball on one of their many courts on the premises. So many beautiful young couples were sipping wine at the various picnic tables scattered around the property, and I can only imagine how many proposals have happened there!

Wine and Laughs at Trattoria Lisina Fountain

My sister and family friend enjoying wine at laughs at the Trattoria Lisina Fountain

Big Family Reunion Day: This was the day we spent all day at 7-A Ranch just outside of Wimberley on the Blanco River. This is a once-private ranch that has recently opened up the to the public. Five bucks for parking gets you unlimited use of the river-side ranch park, Cowboy Town and the Pioneer Museum.

Floaters on Blanco River

Floaters on Blanco River

We got there early to grab some prime shaded spots under the trees, and enjoyed the day floating the river and eating deli sandwiches and such. So much fun! We even watched a kid pull in a huge fish from the river right next to us! The Cowboy Town was quaint and just what you would expect, and the Pioneer Museum came complete with a real-sized Jackalope and a mummified Indian. Only in Texas, I tell you.

Jackalope at the Cowboy Museum.

Jackalope at the Cowboy Museum.

We ended the day once again at my parent’s house, where we feasted on 20 pounds of Texas-style BBQ brisket that my mom had started on the grill, then cooked all day in the oven to finish it off.

Platter of BBQ Brisket

One of Several Platters of Mom’s BBQ Brisket

Pot of Charro Beans

Sister’s Big Pot of Charro Beans

My sister made some outstanding Charro Beans, and my sister-in-law made mounds of pasta salad and other side dishes. BBQ and Tex-Mex were definitely the theme of the week, the Italian restaurant aside. After all day in the sun, we all pretty much passed out by 11 pm to our various residences.

Last Day: We have to go shopping/sightseeing on South Congress! Our flight wasn’t leaving until 7 pm, so we got packed up in Wimberley and traveled back to Austin to do the hip tour of the various boutiques, thrift shops, and restaurants on SoCo in Austin.

South Congress Austin

South Congress in Austin ~ photo credit overyonderlust.com

My daughter said she HAD to find a pair of white cowboy boots. After stopping in Allen’s Boots, nary a white boot was to be found. But just as well. They have pretty much every boot you can imagine (besides white), but after picking up a few pairs and glancing at price tags from $500 to $2,500, we quickly scooted out of there. No wonder they had a cop at the front door. But we ventured into a trendy thrift shop called New Bohemia, and lo and behold three pairs of white boots were staring us right in the face.

New Bohemia Austin

Vintage Boots at New Bohemia ~ photo credit amyinaustin.blogspot.com

One pair fit my daughter perfectly, and we left beaming with the new purchase on her feet and her sandals she was wearing in a bag. At another hip shop called Parts and Labour, I bought my one and only personal souvenir of a ceramic coaster with a photo of the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue taken at night along the Austin Town Lake park. My drink sits next to me on it now.

We walked up and down SoCo, amazed at how many people are out and about on a Sunday afternoon on a 95 degree day. What’s nice is many of the shops have water misters that cool you down as you traverse up and down the street. We wanted to stop for a slice of pizza at Home Slice, but the line at the window was about 15 deep. Then the burger joint HopDoddy across the way had almost 30 people in line just to get in to the establishment. Are their burgers really that good? I was wondering if a celebrity was in there dining.

We settled on grabbing a bite to eat at the Lucky Robot, some hip Asian-Fusion place where you order your meals from an iPad, which has serious warnings that the iPad will self destruct and robots will attack you if you leave the place with one of them. We didn’t. I sampled some of my sister’s Asian dumplings in a plum and cranberry sauce, while I ordered a big bowl of steamed edamame with Himalayan salt.

Jo's I Love You So Much Austin

i love you so much ~ Jo’s graffiti on South Congress, Austin

I had my daughter snap a photo of me on her iPod of me standing on the side of the iconic Jo’s coffee shop graffiti. This graffiti shows up now on everything from t-shirts to coasters, and wedding photographers use it as a backdrop. So Austin.

Darn, it was time to leave to the airport at this time for our flight back to Oregon. We missed the finale of the day of watching the bats exit out from under the Congress bridge at dusk, which most everyone else got to do. But I do remember that phenom from my college days, but I hear their numbers are 10 times more what they were back when I lived there.

So here I am back at home, back to the grind of work and every day life, but I’ll never forget that week in Central Texas. Oh, one last note: My daughter was able to tour the University of Texas at Austin campus with my sister while the rest of us watched a family reunion slide show.

UT Austin Campus

UT Austin Campus ~ photo credit University of Texas

UT is my alma mater, and she’s now expressing great interest in attending there. We’ll see how that goes in the next four years as she’s just entering high school this year, but I swear if she decides to go there and gets in, we are moving back to Austin! Woot!

Thanks for persevering these two long posts, but it was fun to journal this. Happy Trails!


Central Texas Foodie and Sightseeing Tour ~ Part 1

28 Jun
Blanco River in Wimberley

Blanco River in Wimberley

Warning: Long post. I did split it out into two posts, though, with another one coming soon. You’ll also notice in this first post that I don’t have many of my own pictures as I didn’t snap many photos until about half-way through the trip.

I had sort of promised a recipe from Texas in my last post, but decided instead to introduce you to some of the fine Texas fare we indulged in on our whirlwind trip for a family reunion, as well as some sightseeing tips if you ever happen to travel into that part of the country.

After the flight into Austin with my daughter (the hubby opted out of this trip), my parents picked us up and drove us 45 minutes away to Wimberley, a charming town on the Blanco River in the heart of Texas Hill Country. On our way out of Austin, I demanded to be brought to Taco Cabana, a fast-food Tex-Mex restaurant found all over Austin (and Texas) that was my cheap staple of late night cravings while attending college there in the early- to mid-80s. Hey, I was hungry!

Taco Cabana Salsa Bar

Taco Cabana Salsa Bar – photo credit Taco Cabana

I ordered a Carne Asada taco and a bean and cheese taco, and filled up several plastic containers with some of the six or seven fresh-made salsas they had at their salsa bar. They even had a pineapple chipotle salsa. It ain’t no Taco Bell, that’s for sure. You can find them by the bright pink signs off I-35.

The next day, we got up early-ish and set out for Houston to have lunch with my Aunt and Uncle on the other side of the family, one of my brothers, and several childhood friends I grew up with in Houston. Although the mileage is 175 miles, I made it to Houston in record time, as the speed limit is 75 mph there on I-10. Considering the max speed limit in my area is 55, and only 45 in town, I felt I made it there twice as fast. I might have, in fact, since my speedometer was pushing 85-ish most of the time lest I get run over by all the trucks. It felt strange driving so slow back in Oregon.

Chapultepec Lupita Restaurant in Houston ~ photo credit to christao408

Chapultepec Lupita Restaurant in Houston ~ photo credit christao408

We met at Chapultepec Lupita, which my Uncle promised was The Best Houston Tex-Mex place to eat. It’s located in the middle of an old downtown neighborhood in a dive of a building, but it was charming! I’ve mentioned before that my litmus test of a good Tex-Mex restaurant is by ordering the chile rellenos, which is exactly what I did. The tortilla chips they served before the meal were a bit disappointing because they were stale (boo hiss) but my chile rellenos, beans, and rice were done to perfection. Good job!

After a mediocre dinner with my daughter and Uncle at an unnamed tavern, we retired for the night and then got up the next day to travel to Pflugerville, north of Austin. Again, record time. My dear Uncle told us we HAD to stop at Buc-ees in Bastrop, a truck stop on the way back for lunch. He said they have THE cleanest bathrooms anywhere around. I had to check that out.


Buc-ees ~ photo credit Robin Jerstad, For The Express-News

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sure was interesting. It was the size of a department store, with everything from ordering food at computer terminals, to souvenirs up the yahoo, to a complete grocery store, a camping/hunting section, and about 50 gas pumps out front. Very surreal. I had me some BBQ brisket sandwich, with pickles and onion. Not bad, really. They made it right there in front of you. And, the bathrooms were spotless.

We then spent the afternoon with yet another brother and his wife and their daughter in Pflugerville (I love saying that name), then left my own daughter there to spend the night with her cousin a year older than her. Apparently they shopped at “The Domain,” a trendy outdoor mall in Austin, while I then traveled 20 more miles north up the road to visit a dear high school friend in Georgetown. We quaffed more than a few beers and she made us some yummy taco salad for dinner. Can’t have enough Tex-Mex while in Texas!

Chuy's Carne Guisada

Chuy’s Carne Guisada ~ My cell phone takes horrid pictures!

The next day, we lazily got out of bed and decided on Chuy’s for lunch in Round Rock. Chuy’s is an iconic Tex-Mex restaurant that has its roots in Austin near Zilker Park, and has branched out to other areas. I adore Chuy’s with their funky atmosphere and to-die-for Charro Beans and light, crisp (and fresh!) tortilla chips. Lucky me, their Carne Guisada was on special, so of course had to get that along with the Charro Beans. I swear I swooned eating my meal. Just. That. Good. I also bought the hubs one of their t-shirts for a souvenir, because every time I go to Texas he gets a new one. This time he got the funky tie-dyed fish on black. Cool.

Chuy's Fish T-Shirt

Chuy’s Fish T-Shirt ~ photo credit Chuy’s

Onward back to Austin! Now I’m at my sister’s then brother’s house in East Austin (they live a block apart), and most of my relatives are now showing up from Oregon. My brother has a bunch of chickens and chicken paraphernalia around his house. He loves his chickens, and so do I!

Chickens in the Window

Chickens in the Window ~ My brother’s chickens love to check things out in the kitchen!

My parents then showed up with with massive containers of family-sized take-out from Trudy’s Texas Star Cafe, another iconic Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin just off the UT campus. I worked the late shift there in college, and was so happy to have some of that food even if I didn’t make to the restaurant. We chowed on various tacos, enchiladas, beans, and rice. My sister made an awesome homemade guacamole to go with it all. If you ever make it to Austin, this is another great restaurant to stop in for some Tex-Mex.

Me and Sister with Trudy's Plate of Food

Me and Sister with Trudy’s Plate of Food

We stayed the night at my sister’s house, then again lazily got up and walked approximately two blocks to experience The Best Taco Truck in Austin, called Veracruz All Natural. It sits next to a Shell Gas Station and Piñata store in a parking lot. Seriously! My sister said I had to order the Migas Tacos, so of course I did. WOW! I can now say I’ve had the best breakfast tacos ever in my life. And the homemade salsa was divine, served in an authentic molcajete bowl.

Veracruz All Natural Migas Taco

Veracruz All Natural Migas Taco ~ photo credit ginnysaustin.com

The next most amazing thing I had was their Watermelon Agua Fresca. I didn’t order it at first because I’d brought a bottle of water with me, but then tasted my sister’s and fell in love. Ever “drink” a watermelon?? It comes in this ginormous styrofoam cup, and didn’t think I could handle that much liquid, so ordered a small. “I’m sorry, it only comes in one size.” I looked over at my daughter’s smoothie she ordered in a small styrofoam cup, but let it go. My taco order wasn’t out yet, and who am I to complain with the one making my meal? OK, large it is. And yes, I drank every last drop of it!

Next stop: Tubing the San Marcos River… to be continued later this weekend!

Tangy Squash with Onions and Tomatoes a la Threadgill’s

13 Feb
Tangy Sauteed Squash, Onions, and Tomatoes

Tangy Squash with Onions and Tomatoes

This is a delightful side dish, with subtle flavors that don’t overpower the squash but give it a nice tang. Squash is the star of this show, and you don’t want to overwhelm its delicate flavor. I know it’s winter, but yellow squash is typically available year round, in varying degrees of size and freshness. Yesterday the store had some fairly nice looking ones, so picked them up on a whim during my half-hour quick-trip to the grocery that’s nearby my daughter’s piano lessons while she continues to perfect that craft. The original recipe for this comes from Threadgill’s, a restaurant that was my mainstay while in college in Austin (oh that and Trudy’s and Chuy’s.) I usually try to get in a dinner or lunch at any of those whenever I visit.  I have a copy of Threadgill’s cookbook from 1996 which was written by the proprietor at that time, and immediately went to it to replicate this side I  almost always order with my main course there. (Which is either chicken-fried steak or chicken-fried chicken livers. Oh yes.) I was tempted to add more Worcestershire and Tabasco than the recipe called for, but I pulled back and trusted the recipe. I quartered the original recipe as it said it made enough for eight large servings,  and with only three of us it came out the perfect amount, with a tad leftover. Would serve four easily as a side dish. We had both chicken and steak leftover in the fridge we needed to eat, and wanted something new for a vegetable in these winter months. I also whipped up some couscous, which is another nice quick side to pair this with. My adaptation to this recipe was to add a half a tomato, not only for color but a bit more flavor, and substitute a nice dry Chardonnay for the Chablis it called for.  And ground black pepper! Gotta have that spice in most everything. I did restrain myself this time and left out garlic.  I hope you enjoy this tangy take on an otherwise bland side dish!

Chopped Squash, Onion, and Tomato

Chopped Squash, Onion, and Tomato (Bad yellow lighting, I know!!!!)

Tangy Squash with Onions and Tomatoes a la Threadgill’s
Adapted from Threadgill’s, The Cookbook

1 pound yellow squash, chopped
1 tablespoon butter or substitute
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup white wine, you choose
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 small tomato, chopped
Ground black pepper, to taste
Parsley for garnish, optional

Note: The above recipe is the quartered version. Double, triple or quadruple as needed.

Start by chopping up the yellow squash into 1/4-inch or so slices, then cut the larger slices in half. In a large-ish skillet, heat the butter or substitute on medium and add the onion. Sauté for about 3 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the wine, water, Worcestershire, and Tabasco sauce until mixed, then dump in the squash. Stir it around in the juice, then cover it up and simmer for a few minutes. Uncover and give it a good stir again, grind some black pepper over it, then stir again and cover. At this point keep an eye on it. You only need to cook it maybe a total of 1o minutes more, stirring occasionally, depending on your heat. You don’t want the squash to be too mushy, but not overly hard either. Just eyeball the doneness. Last, tell your family to get in the kitchen and dinner is served!

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