Thursday, December 30, 2010

Late Lunch At Westside Tavern

Barbie had to go to Nordstroms. We had to eat. The result?
Short Rib Crostinis with caramelized onions and creamy horse radish. Shiitake Mushroom Asparagus Flatbread with bacon and truffle oil.

Coming back SOON.

(Posted live from the phone.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Austin, Texas, December 2010, Day 4

Today is the final day of our short excursion to Texas.  Fortunately we do not fly home until 6:40 PM, which allows us to make something of this day.  And the group has taken pity on me and is allowing the day to essentially be built around getting lunch at a place that was on a list of restaurants recommended to me by a friend whose culinary opinion I completely trust, Mike.  You see, Mike is a professional chef and not listening to your friends with expertise is plain dumb.  When Mike came to Austin a while back, he generated a google map of the five best BBQ restaurants in Austin.  He shared the map with me, and today you shall be seeing pictures of what promises to be some fine barbecue at Lamberts Downtown.
Rainy day.  Then again, when the day's agenda is eating and shopping, who cares about rain?

Before lunch, we spent a while in St. Bernards, a sports clothing store.  Barbie got an awesome jacket and vest, both of which are as soft to touch as one of those super-plush toys people give to babies.  And I got a hat that you will see in detail near the end of today's Waste.  Patience, my friends.
Alexis, Barbie and Josh are ready to enter Lamberts Downtown Barbecue.  Steve saw a chocolate store to the right, and zipped in that direction, followed by Bryna who likely wanted to prevent him from getting lost.  In his defense, he needed to buy chocolate for people back home.
It is always refreshing when the menu is completely honest with you about where your meal originated.
They brought us cornbread with jalapeños.
Barbie and I shared the special soup, which was crab meat with vegetables and rice.
Beer Battered Florida Rock Shrimp, with Texas ginger honey glaze.
Crispy Wild Boar Ribs, with honey & sambal, Cabrales blue cheese, celery and Daikon slaw.
For me, the Brown Sugar and Coffee Rubbed Natural Brisket, with baked mac & cheese and ranch style baked beans.
For Barbie, the Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwich, with BBQ sauce on wood grilled ciabatta.
My brisket was close to, pretty much the, best brisket I have ever had.  Barbie agreed.  I love nothing more than shots that feature foreground focus.  And that piece of brisket on the fork deserves to be looked at very closely.

We were all fairly full, but Barbie had spotted a dessert on the menu that combines my two favorite things in the world, peanut butter and chocolate.
Peanut Butter Cup, with chocolate and caramel sauce.
This was so good that, even though I had agreed to share it with everyone, after the first bite I picked up the plate, turned my back to the table and started eating it away from the drooling crowd.  Sanity soon returned and I placed it back in the center of the table for everyone else to enjoy.
There is history to this picture.  Steve has made a habit of licking dessert plates over the years.  Alexis is always disgusted, while the rest of us shake our heads and begrudgingly laugh.  I also learned something today.  I normally do not put people on the Waste, and Steve has been able to get himself onto the Waste this trip by doing visually silly things.  My code has been cracked.

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue was, in a word, fantastic.  Every dish was simply delicious.  Many thanks, Mike.
Josh's wallet is on the left, mine is on the right.  Can you guess which of us makes an effort to travel light?
The fine kitchen staff of Lamberts Downtown Barbecue.  Many thanks, loyal staff.
Two doors down from Lamberts sits Teuscher Chocolates and Coffee.
Originating in Zürich, Teuscher calls the guy on the right Sinterklaas.  How incredibly cute is that?
Between Lamberts BBQ and Teuscher Chocolate, one finds the Lofty Dog.  Since everyone we are with has pets, we went inside.
Good thing we did.  The owner of Lofty Dog had the keen eye to pick up this statue, and the kindness to place it in the store to share with the public.  This statue is a fantastic, over-the-top mixed media piece.    There are so many elements glued together here that it borders on ridiculous, except that the elements work together brilliantly.
Yours truly, doing the Colbert Point with the statue.

UPDATE: The young man working next to this statue gave me a business card and asked me to email this picture to them.  The next day (December 29) I received a reply from Lofty Dog, thanking me and adding, "We love our Barnabus!"  Therefore, I now know his name.  I will share more as I learn it. 
Please note the rubber bat on his shoulder, the Roman helmet, and the sombrero.
Please note the circular saw blade in his hand, as well as his purple grass skirt and red holiday bow.  I am telling you; I could have taken twenty shots of Barnabus and devoted a whole Waste posting to him.

Update Two:  Here is the story of Barnabus, as told by Veronique Michalik, proprietor of Lofty Dog.  "He’s really a mystery.  We found him at a used fixture store, and the story was that he was in an art gallery, then a restaurant in Houston, then another restaurant locally, until he ended up at the fixture store.  The owner didn’t want to sell it to me, but I wore her down.  She finally agreed only if I kissed it flush on the month.  I got on my tippy toes, stuck my hand up his skirt, and gave him a big kiss.  Then off he went to Lofty Dog.  He’s my keeper of the animals, and homage to Leslie, our famous cross-dressing transient who ran for mayor several years ago and walked away with over 7% of the vote.  Ahh, ya gotta love Austin!"

As it turns out, a lot of Barnabus' accoutrement was added by his current owners, which means that part of his genius is theirs.  Also, I should stick to Waste tradition and share that St. Barnabas was one of the earliest Christians, so early that they are historically known as Jewish Christians, who fought with the other early Christians who wanted to to prevent non-Jewish converts to Christianity.  In other words, without men like St. Barnabas, Christianity would have remained a small Jewish sect and would not have become a world religion that sought converts throughout Rome and eventually around the world.  Consider we just wrapped up another Christmas season, stick that knowledge into your Christmas stocking to wow family and friends next year.

After visiting Lofty Dog, it was time to drive around the University of Texas campus for a bit and then head to the airport.
The Tower, completed in 1937 and made famous by a shooter in 1966.  And get this.  Alexis shared with us that her mother was a student at UT at the time of this tragedy, and was within the shooter's range that day.  People next to her were shot as she ran for cover.  Frightening.
Public art.  From some angles, this piece probably looks like your basic abstract steel sculpture.  From this angle, there is no denying that it looks like a man holding his arms over his head who is very glad to see you.
The University of Texas Tower is right THERE.

We headed to the airport, said our good byes, and made it through security and to the gate.  At the gate, I took a minute to share with you my wonderful new purchase.  You see, with Barbie's help, I have learned to always be prepared.  In my winter jacket, there is always a scarf, a knit hat for cold, and a baseball cap for rain.  Sit back and enjoy the following photo essay, The Hat Hybrid.
The knit cap that lives in my jacket in case of cold.
This baseball cap that lives in my jacket in case of rain.
Voila!  Both of the previous caps are now replaced by the new cap, the best of both words.  There is nothing that I love more than replacing two items with one.  Efficiency is purity.

And that, my friends, is the story of Jeff's new cap.
Austin Airport Candid.  December 2010.
Austin to Los Angeles In-Flight Candid.  December 2010.
The lights of Los Angeles.  You know that I love shots of city lights, and that I love shots of airplane wings.  I am kind of certain I have never combined these loves until now.  I declare that the above photo embodies the same spirit at the new cap.
Looks like home.
Sometimes you get a blurred picture from a moving vehicle that is better than the sharp picture you intended.

And with that, loyal Wasters, we are home.  See you next year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Austin, Texas, December 2010, Day 3

We awoke today in Austin, but the aim of the day is to visit San Antonio.  Why?  Every year three million people visit the Alamo.  We know it is going to be small.  We know the shops around it are going to be cheesy.  We know that almost none of the original building remains.  Still, I agree with all my compadres that this will be a fun little tourist trap excursion.
Due to a fire at a local mall, we had to go out of our way to get from the highway to the Alamo.  But I got this sweet shot of the street sign, which made it all worth it.
Alamo Candid, December 2010.  My first look at the Alamo.  Because I caught this gentleman unawares, the rules of the Waste state that I must make it an official candid in black and white.

It took a while to find a parking lot, but after that it was smooth sailing.  Except that we had to hop into a Marriott so that everyone could use the restroom.  Outside the restroom the hotel's designer had hung this massive concentric circle mirror on the wall.
You probably need to right-click-open-in-new-window for this, as there are maybe 40-50 different reflections of me around that mirror.  I could have done a little math to make a more accurate estimate, but 40-50 will do.
There it is, the Alamo.  I think the reason that people find this place, this building, compelling is because it is a symbol.  How many buildings are a symbol?  Most tourist trap buildings are, at most, symbols of national pride.  The Alamo is a symbol of war.  A symbol of resistance.  And, at the time of Texas' war for independence, a symbol of General and President of Mexico Santa Anna's cruelty.  Had he ordered the men garrisoned at the Alamo to be captured instead of killed, the people in the Mexican territory that eventually became the State of Texas might not have fought so fiercely for their independence.

For the record, historians refer to this territory as French Texas from 1684-1689, Spanish Texas from 1690-1821, Mexican Texas from 1821-1836, the independent Republic of Texas from 1836-1845, a state and member of the United States of America from 1845-1860, technically a member of the Confederate States of America from 1861-1865, and finally a member of the USA again from 1865 to present.  I am not sure if any other state in our union has such an elaborate pedigree.  Texas is like Estonia in Europe.  (You may have to read an older Waste post from this summer for that to make sense.)

What I find most interesting is that Mexico fought a revolutionary war against Spain to gain independence in 1821, and only 15 years later Texas fought a revolutionary war against Mexico for independence in 1836.  And 25 years after that came the Civil War.  This was definitely an era of revolution.
How could I not take an Alamo shot and give it the sepia treatment?
I need to turn this into an animated gif, so that you can see Steve's head rising between us.  He claimed that he was just trying to see the image on the iPhone, because the forward-facing-camera trick had him dazzled all trip.

Alamo panorama.
Just in case you thought I was taking pictures of a scale model.  
Barbie models the roach cap at the Alamo.

Okay.  We have done the Alamo thing.  I enjoyed it.  I like anything that makes me think about history.

Off to the River Walk for lunch.
A lot of people talk about San Antonio's River Walk.  My apologies to all who enjoy it; it is not for me.  It feels too artificial for me, as it is actually a man-made river bypass channel lined with shops and restaurants.  Again, I am sorry.  It is me.  I am the one who looks at this lovely public space and wants to run the opposite direction.  The bizarre thing is that pedestrian-only public spaces is my thing.  I love nothing more than such spaces in cities around the world.  Maybe it is the boats filled with tourists gliding by with guides on loudspeakers mentioning which restaurants have great margaritas?
Barbie adds another to the collection.

We had to choose our lunch destination carefully.  For one of us had a very unhappy digestive system today.  Our search for a mild-on-the-stomach lunch option took us to an Italian joint, Paesanos.
It was funny.  We ordered an appetizer that was described as parmesan crusted artichoke hearts, and forgetting that we were in the South neither Barbie nor I expected it to be fried.  Oops.
Baked-a egg-a-plant-a.
San Antonio manhole.

After a stroll along the River Walk, we headed back to the car.  To really live out the American Experience, we are going to be hitting the outlet mall between San Antonio and Austin.  Sure, this could be a worst nightmare for me, or it could be an opportunity.  An opportunity to be a part of something wonderful.  Something special.  Post Christmas American Bargain Hunting.

Surprise.  I did not take pictures of the outlet mall at I-35's exit 200.  However, at the games and calendar store, they had one of those kaleidoscopes with a glass ball at the end that allows you to look through it and can see the person in front of you kaleidoscope-ized and such.  What did I do?  I whipped out the iPhone to see if I could get a cool shot or two while the cashier rang up a purchase.
The first shot pleased me.
The second shot pleased me even more and made me think, "Maybe you should buy this little kaleidoscope?"  But by then the cashier was handing me a receipt to sign, and I set the kaleidoscope back into the bin.  Not today and not tomorrow, but someday I am going to buy one of those kaleidoscopes and for the rest of my life beat this concept to death.

Back in Austin, Barbie worked while I napped.  Soon enough, it was dinner time.  The locals demanded that we eat Tex Mex, and they all felt that the place to go would be Chuy's.
I like any restaurant that features the ¡ symbol.  If there is one thing that English should have stolen from Spanish, it is the ¡ that precedes a sentence, as well as the ¿.  It just makes sense to know that a sentence is an exclamation question when you begin that sentence.
You know, the words Tex Mex had been thrown at me so many times this trip that, when I saw it on the wall, I thought that I would throw it at you.
The Queso Compuesto; chili con queso with ground sirloin and guacamole added.   I am not sure that more fat could be squeezed into that little skillet.  The I realize that they could add bacon bits.
Barbie's salad.
I ordered the Classic Tex-Mex enchiladas.  This features the Tex Mex sauce, which is ranchera sauce with chili con carne.  Veni, Vidi, Texi-Mexi.

Interestingly, this dish is quite a bit like the dish at Los Angeles' 80 year old institution El Coyote that is named Enchilada Howard.  Not named after me, but after one of their first customers who asked for an enchilada with chili con carne on top so many times that they added to the menu named after him.  I believe that Sting would call my ordering the equivalent of the Enchilada Howard at an Austin Tex-Mex restaurant a synchronicity.  Because Sting is a boob.
Steve ate so much spicy Tex-Mex that he began to sweat profusely.  Seriously.  No joke.  That is, in fact, a spice induced sweat.  I think that most Texans would be pleased to see a native California boy sweating over their spices.

After dinner we headed over to Josh and Alexis's pad.  We had planned to play a game, but instead we just talked for a while, ate some chocolate, and headed home.
This candle holder is, literally, a cat coven.  I looked at it and said, "What is that, a coven of cats?"  Josh replied, "Yes.  In the store, it had the title Coven of Cats."  I imagine that when the lights are out and the candle is lit, you can see the stone cats start to move, as they are no doubt possessed by Satan.
Due to public demand, I share with you a look at the Waste's new cyber-vehicle.  I replaced the Hackintosh'd Dell netbook last week with this super-lightweight 11.6-inch Macbook Air.  Yes.  I am experiencing intense levels of tech joy every time my fingers touch it.

Time for bed.