Heat an' blue sky...
And a road that goes forever...
I'm goin' to Texas!"
Chris Rea, Road To Hell album (buy it! unbelievable album)
Just got back from a 10 day vacation to good ole Austin, Texas. Went down for my cousin's daughter's wedding where Stella was the beautiful flower girl in a dress that mama made for her. Stayed with our good friends Wayne Beamer and his wonderful wife Sandy Travis where they did their very best to uphold the fine southern tradition of hospitality. Not only did Wayne-o act as our own private chaufeur and drive us all around Austin but he also "cowboyed up" when it was time to put on the feed bag!
One week before leaving on our trip Sandy (my wife Sandy not Wayne-o's) and I were up late watching tv and I came across the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food program. I asked Sandy if she'd ever seen it. Nope. I said it was a good show and showcased a lot of restaurants that I myself would love to eat at. So what city do they highlight on this particular episode on this particular night? Yep, you guessed it...Austin, Texas! Serendipity!
So we watched and drooled as the "man" took on the finest cuisines and we also took notes determined to get to at least one of these places they highlighted. And yes we did my friends.
Yes we did.
The Salt Lick. One of the world's most famous barbeque joints that features one of the only open woodfire bbq pits left in Texas (if not the only). You walk into the most amazing smell and the first thing you see is the meat on the pit sizzling and popping away. Instantaneous mouth-watering begins. My stomach actually lurched with anticipation. I was giddy! I was happy! I frantically searched for the waiter to find us a freakin' seat!
We quickly ordered up our food with me and Wayne-o and cousin-in-law Dave ordering the all-you-can-eat option.
The beef brisket is evil. I ate about 1 1/2 pounds of that alone. And as the host of Man vs Food suggested I ordered the "burnt ends" of the brisket where the flavor is at its most concentrated. And just like he did on the show when he bit into it I had "a moment."
Best brisket I've ever had. Period. It made me cry.
The sausage was also outstanding and this is coming from a guy whose dad is a World Champion German Sausage Maker, folks! I ate about 3/4 of a pound of that. Nice smooth smokey flavor. Robust but not overly so. Juicy but not greasy. Very nice.
The ribs were good. Not great but very good. A couple pieces were a little on the dry side but I'm sure they were downgraded in my opinion after being so overwhelmed by the brisket. If I probably only had the ribs not knowing how delicious the brisket was I'd've probably been very pleased.
The BBQ sauce is a family recipe and very unique. It gave the meat a nice carmalized glaze that was a bit sweet, a bit hearty and just a wee bit vinegary almost...but vinegary in a good way, trust me.
We pretty much ignored the filler...the potato salad, cole slaw, bread, etc. I mean really, what's the point? I nibbled on those items just to clear the palate between meats.
Best BBQ experience I ever had. And the severe weather that rolled in almost killed the trip. Man, when Wayne-o gave us the weather report the night before I was bummed. I actually could not get to sleep I was so disappointed. This was to be the highlight of the trip (aside from the wedding of course.) and now he was telling us it might not happen as the roads literally get flooded out during severe rainstorms and become unpassable! But it worked out. We fed. And fed. And fed. I was home. Oh god, here I go...I'm crying again...
The Bat Bridge is also a highlight of Austin. Unreal. 1.5 million bats fly out every night from under a downtown bridge where they nest. You get there with the throngs of other onlookers just before dusk and you wait as you start to hear the chirping get louder and louder. Then you start to see them drop. One by one they start dropping. then dozens. Then hundreds. Then you witness a stream of thousands and thousands of bats just pour out in a line out into the southern sky. And it goes on for 20+ solid minutes! It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
Wedding was great. Margaux and Aaron had a beautiful wedding, reception and dinner. Great fun was had by all.
We also got to stay with my older sister Karin up in Chico for a few days before the wedding so getting to visit her and her kids also made the trip an all-around wonderful experience.
And Oh Yeah! If you're ever down in Austin you'll also want to visit AUSTIN BOOKS & COMICS on 5002 N. Lamar Blvd. Owner Brad Bankston has one of the most impressive stores I've ever set foot in. Loaded with comics and one of the largest selections of TPBs and graphic novels I've ever seen. I wish I could have spent hours, nay, DAYS looking through every rack but, alas, time was not on our side. Austin Books & Comics also had a nice selection of my own books. I happily signed up the copies they had, bought a hefty stack of books, and vowed to one day return to that store!
And so we're back in WI. We knew we were officially back when our teeth started rattling. No, not from the cold (although it was cold when we got back), from the friggin' freeway! We have the worst roads in America. Bar none. The whole drive was smooth other than in Wisconsin. And yeah I realize our severe weather fluctuations cause the damage but come on, they're constantly repairing and repaving these damn roads. You'd think by now they'd come up with a better pavement, right? Methinks they have such a pavement but choose not to use it.
And I kid you not, we were but a mile across the border of Illinois and the big orange construction cones started! Yep, they're gearing up for another road construction season. Yippee!! Three years from now they'll be out there on that same stretch repaving it again.
I may be Goin' To Texas again soon. Chris Rea forgot to mention in his song that those roads that go forever were also pretty darn smooth.