Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reverand Bubba's triumphant return from the dark continent and more Hill Country shenanigans

As hurricane Ike threatened to destroy Houston, Mike Edmond and I made our way to Llano and Blanco for bbq, beer and croquet. It seemed like another great Trifecta.

Our first destination was Cooper's barbecue in Llano. We pulled up at exactly the right time, they had just loaded up for the lunch crowd and we were among the first there. By the time we had made it down the gauntlet a line was forming around the corner of the building. As it was a Friday there were many more locals than tourista filth like ourselves.

The place had the right smell to it, and these folks clearly knew what they were doing when it comes to searing and smoking the flesh of various and sundry hill country mammals and birds.

During our lunch we clearly asserted our place at the top of the foodchain, and partook of:
Beef Ribs
Pork Loin

Jalapeno Sausage

All of it was amazing, succulent and deserving of the accolades that have been bestowed upon them by others. Even though it was a larger operation than any of the other places visited, everyone was attentive, and clearly put pride in their work. The sauce was different than those that we had encountered on previous outings. They also opt for the choice of having your meet dipped in the sauce at the end of the pit instead of offering it on the side or at the table. Simple and exceptional!

The Beef Ribs were far and away the best that I have ever had, and everyone's pick for the #1 spot that day. It was one of the best servings of beef that I have ever had. It clung to the bone and had the taste of marrow that complimented the mesquite smoke. This is the only thing that we went back to for seconds.

Edmond and I gave #2 to the Chicken. It was half a chicken that tasted as if it had been fed nothing but butter for the last weeks of its' life. It was dusted in Cooper's rub and perfectly grilled. Moist and just the right balance of moisture, spice and mesquite goodness. The rest was all great, and is down to personal preference. It should be mentioned that the Sirloin was shockingly moist and a perfect medium. It was only my second time having cabrito, so I don't feel that I'm in a position to comment further than to say I liked it and would order it again from them without hesitation.

On our way to Blanco we decided to stop off in Johnson City (not named for LBJ, but his uncle) where we saw LBJ's boyhood home had an ice cream cone and got directions to the Benini Sculpture Ranch.

The Sculpture Ranch is one of the cultural jewels of the Hill Country and absolutely worth a visit. They don't only have over a hundred acres of land with sundry different styles of sculpture, they also have a gallery featuring Benini's paintings as well as a rotating group of other artists. Not only that they without fail offer a free cup of espresso to enjoy while you take in the art. Pretty civilized ladies and gentlemen. They don't take donations and they don't charge admission either.

After getting our quota of culture for the day we headed to Blanco for a tour of the Blanco Brewery. Every Friday they open their tasting room from 2-5 and give a brewery tour at 4. They generously poured a number of their selections for us to try, but it soon became clear that we needed to get the hell out of there as it was far too crowded and the rooms average IQ dropped significantly with the new arrival of each guest. If I heard 'like' to describe something actual I would be tempted to throw elbows. We asked the hostess where in town we could acquire their Sisyphus Barley Wine, and hit the road. About a half mile down the road we picked up our Barley Wine.

Mike then directed us to what was absolutely one of the most absurd and unexpected sights that I have seen in the Hill Country. A world class croquet court, complete with spectator stand. This is right in the town square and is behind a 10' wall to keep the riff-raff out. It could have been straight out of Alice in Wonderland. We made it to a restaurant across the square and when I inquired if they got much trouble from the croquet crowd, I just got a confused look. It quickly became clear that lifetime residents had no idea whatsoever what transpired on the other side of the walls in the center of their own town. Clearly a class-divide. We had a couple more beers before heading home to Wimberley.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Serious Coffee and Organic BBQ, The Sun can wait

I had planned on attending a workshop this past Saturday with Marc at Hubbert's Peak on designing a solar system, or a solar power system, I'm unclear which. At any rate things got delayed, and I ended up carting furniture, loading my pickup and wondering what the universe had in mind. Wimberley's market days proved to not be a dissapointment in the least as a consolation prize, and I ended up with an amazing cactus and a phenomenal plan B.

We decided to hit Austin maybe take some pictures, and find something to eat. We decided to hit Ruby's BBQ as our first stop. The placed reeked of intrigue and seemed to have been decorated in 1973, and left to rot since then, but in a slightly manufactured way somehow. The smell was right, and we plodded on and took the cashiers suggestion of a brisket plate with beans and slaw and a local beer.

Ruby's had the best beans I've ever had with a hint of habanero, the cole slaw had curry in it, and I couldn't decide at the bottom of the bowl if it was intriguing or godawful, on further pondering I choose the former and would be forced to order them again if for no other reason than to make a final judgement. The brisket was a bit dry but flavorful, and a distant cousin to any of the greatness experienced in Lockhart a few weeks previous.

After a few passes, we finally found a parking place near enough to JP's to make a run at it. JP's is one of the few homes of the $12k plus Clover Coffee Machine. It allegedly makes the finest cup of joe that can be had. Apparently it was a little too good, as Star*ucks has bought the company, refuses to sell to any other coffee shops, and service is apparently not quite as easy as it used to be.

We both opted for a cup of Ethiopian. It was absolutely sublime and the most complex flavors that I have ever experienced with almost no bitterness at all! Absolutely without a doubt the best cup of coffee that has ever passed these lips

Best Chinese Restaurant is a Grocery Store

Made it to Asian Market not too long ago for some of the best Chinese food that I've had outside of San Francisco or Sydney. It is somewhere in North Austin, and when we walked in I knew that things were promising as we were the only anglos in the place. Also as a small nod to the non-asian population, as a secondary gesture most items are also listed in English (but not all!).

Mike had been here before, and handled the majority of the ordering. We had the Cumin Beef, Eggplant with Pork, Sesame Chicken and Crispy Duck. Far and away the best Chinese food that I've had in the Austin area. Also if you make the journey, make sure to hit the Indian food market that is located in the same plaza.

The Best in Low Brow Dining

After months of bragging about the dish that I created, I was finally able to share what I claim to be a true culinary treat. Not only is it tasty, it's no doubt quite healthy. One afternoon while pondering my order at Inoz here in Wimberley, I couldn't decide whether to go with their nachos, or a burger with their curly fries, the only edible fries in Wimberley at the time. It was then that I jokingly asked the waiter if I could have their nachos with curly fries instead of corn chips. Before I could look up from my menu he had taken off to the kitchen to inquire with the chef. He returned and at that moment the dish was born.

It weighs close to 3 pounds, and is absolutely delicious! The aftermath however is a combination of the worst Thanksgiving with the unsettling feeling that you have a softball made of lead that is lodged in your stomach. It hasn't quite made it on to the menu, but I can't recommend highly enough asking for this treat. It is certainly enough to feed 3, but I suggest try to eat one on your own.

Looking forward to trying D'Blazios frito pie pizza later this month.

What I'm Reading


What I'm listening to lately

  • Ben Kweller-Changing Horses
  • Trojan Country Reggae Box Set
  • The Grand Archives
  • Sun is Shining- Bob Marley vs Lee Scratch Perry
  • A.C. Newman-Get Guilty
  • Justin Townes Earle-The Good Life
  • Bon Iver-Blood Bank
  • Breathe Owl Breathe-Ghost Glacier
  • Noah and the Whale
  • Conor Oberst
  • Frightened Rabbit-The Midnight Organ Fight

Smitty's Barbecue

Smitty's Barbecue