Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Apr 4, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    AA1124 SAN DFW 0625 1100 M80 3EF

    We loaded up on time, but then the word came out that
    owing to heavy winds at Dallas we'd be upwards of 90
    minutes late, with some chance of earlier or later. lili
    called the elite desk, which protected us on a 4 pm
    connection: the 2:30 was already overbooked.

    We eventually took off and eventually landed maybe an
    hour late, schedule padding being what it is. It was a
    moderately bumpy flight, not so much as to make us not
    eat our breakfast, a not horrid version of quiche Lorraine
    (though the bacon was ground a bit fine for my persnickety
    tastes. The side dish was sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus,
    not horrible, though the asparagus seemed as dried as the
    tomatoes if not more so. There was also the obligatory bowl
    of rubber fruit that would have done United proud.

    At the club we were informed that we had plenty of time to
    cool our jets; lili had already despairingly shredded her
    boarding pass and so was issued a fresh new one on real
    card stock, which pleased her.

    It was a quick ride on the train to the C gates, where our
    next flight was leaving right next to the station.

    AA1505 DFW AUS 1345 1445 M80 5AB

    A fairly pleasant though quite bumpy flight. They weren't
    kidding about those winds.

    We had plenty of time to catch the 1530 100 bus, which
    deposited us about 3 blocks from the hotel.

    We were on the early side to registration, which was a
    relaxed and beer-fueled affair. The bartender took an
    immediate dislike to me - good thing the organizers of the
    Do didn't - and refused me a glass for my Shiner Bock, and
    when I persisted with "but I'm not from around here, and I
    want a glass" gave me a lowball glass, saying that's all he
    had. I gave him a buck tip anyway. Eventually I came back
    for another brew, and he offered a chilled beer glass
    without my asking - which I refused, saying the lowball was
    enough. He must have been mighty confused by me.

    Anyhow, I rather enjoy our traditional Sheraton Austin
    Capitol, where we were issued a big room with two giant beds
    and a big bathroom. No couch surfing for me this trip.

    The club lounge, though staffed with friendly help, is
    rather short on Stuff, if you know what I mean. Not that we
    needed much - we'd be eating and drinking to capacity soon.

    jackal, whose job in life seems to be designated driver,
    came by to take a bunch of us to the Flying Saucer, a ways
    up north I think past the UT campus - it's hard to tell when
    you're sitting in the wayback. This is a smallish chain of
    brasseries that offers about a hundred drafts, ranging from
    the big brewers' best to famous rarities from exotic lands
    (mostly Belgium) to the pride of Texas.

    I had the Buffalo Bayou milk stout, because I like stouts,
    had my pills with me, and had gone to high school within
    walking distance of said body of water. It was coffeeish,
    not cafe-au-laitish, rather rich and smooth, enjoyable.

    Staying true to type, I next tried the 512 pecan porter,
    also nice and rich and smooth but with little of the nut
    character that I'd have expected.

    I donated my third ticket toward a bottle of wine that
    monitor was ordering but did not stay to taste it, feeling
    rather dragged-out and sleepy.

    Meanwhile, here was the food roster.

    Rather hot hot wings; rather monochromatic quesadillas;
    chicken fingers; soft pretzels with dips; some cheesy and
    cruditeish things that I took no notice of. I would rather
    have had stuff more representative of the area, but
    everything was pretty tasty. A beef is that the early birds
    got more worms than we did - we were among the last to the
    trough, being engaged in yapping about who knows what, and
    got only one go-round; apparently the more stomach-conscious
    got three or four tries.
    Newscience and gleff like this.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I took an early ride back so as not to oversleep for the big
    day. Well, beckoa overslept, or that's what jackal said.
    So we sped a little, but what's a mile or ten among friends?

    We arrived at Garrison Bros. about 15 late, as did several
    others. We missed the initial lecture, I guess, but joining
    the rest a small ways into the show and tell, we got a good
    grounding on the whiskey-making process, even getting to
    sample a bit of the poisonous gruel that gives its life for
    the water of life. And then the raw spirit, which in its
    white lightningness still bears aromatic traces of the corn
    from which it came. And finally the moment we'd been waiting
    for, a very, very wee dram of the costly and prestigious
    finished product. I've had this before, courtesy of Starwood
    Lurker, and found it complex and interesting but rather hot
    and green, which distracted from my enjoyment of it. A touch
    of water might have helped both then and now.

    After trying the patience of brewmasters, distillers, and
    packagers (who are volunteers! on two-day stints, getting
    room and board and a bottle of booze at the end, and there
    is a 1000-long waitlist for this job), we piled into our
    respective vehicles and headed toward lunch.

    Instead of going straight to Blanco, our car decided to stop
    for lunch at Ronnie's Ice House in Johnson City, which I'd
    heard good things about. It looks and smells pretty much
    like a dozen Q houses I've been in: on one side the line for
    the meat, in back the beverages, the rest of the room the
    dining area, which was sort of empty when we arrived, but
    soon it was hopping. renard and bk3day joined us for this
    festive but unnecessary repast.

    Brisket - I asked for a half pound; the guy started by
    deftly slicing off the coveted strip of fat and - before
    lili or I could stop him - slinging it in the garbage to
    a chorus of NOOOOO! Unperturbed, he sliced into the middle
    and found us a few slices of the moistest, keeping the nice
    fat cap on. This was texturally wonderful and pretty tasty,
    but did I detect a whiff of gas? Yes, I did. Probably the
    unspicy rub on the outside allowed this cheating to be
    perceptible - a pity.

    Pork loin looked nice and not overdone, so I got a quarter
    pound; it was in fact overdone, but still moist owing to a
    judicious brining. Pretty good. beckoa found it too salty
    and didn't care for it.

    Jalapeno sausage seemed pretty standard; I traded a slice
    of it to bk3day for one of regular sausage, which was also
    pretty standard. No big problem there except for the waste
    of stomach space.

    We left pretty satisfied, a somewhat better than ordinary
    meal at a very ordinary price.

    It was a quick trip down the road to Blanco; we got there
    in about 10 without breathing hard and found a place to
    park and wait for the bus crowd to finish this leg of their
    adventure. Our spot just happened to be right in front of
    the Old 300 barbecue, which, despite what we'd just been
    through and were going to enjoy later, didn't smell bad
    at all, so beckoa wandered in for another meal. The rest
    of us just lounged around the patio greeting passersby.
    I decided a beer would be in order, so I followed him and
    found a Cow Creek Tex Mex dark (supposedly like Negra Modelo
    or a Viennese lager but in fact both heavier and hoppier
    than these) and, what the hey, a few slices of moist brisket
    to go with. I shared this around, as I'd just wanted a taste
    for curiosity's sake.

    Decent smokiness to the meat, which though not notably fat
    was flavorsome and juicy. Fat cap luscious, probably a bit
    thick for most, but perfect for me. Texture the best of the
    bunch, including Franklin. I was very pleasantly surprised.
    If I hadn't been looking forward to dinner, I'd have hopped
    right back in for another half pound.

    The Website claims that the proprietors trace back to the
    Old 300 (first whites in Texas) and the beef to Akaushi
    stock (whoa there, said I). Turns out according to Wikitruth
    "the largest purebred group of Wagyu outside Japan is a herd
    of Akaushi cattle located in Harwood, Texas, owned by
    HeartBrand Beef"; so I guess that explains that.
    Newscience and gleff like this.
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Our next event, a guided tour of the Real Ale Brewing Co.,
    just a couple miles down the dusty road, was in about as
    rural a spot as you could imagine, and as we made our way
    from the rugged parking area the question was heard from
    the distance as to whether we had to watch out for snakes.

    I've been to a bunch of brewery tours, and this was the
    only one where you get your samples before the tour as well
    as after, and you are allowed to sample as much as you can
    hold. Plus you get a beer en route.

    I started sampling with one that I knew I'd like, the Real
    Heavy Scotch ale, which was real, heavy, almost Scotch, and
    I presume ale. The nonscotchiness consisted in a heavier
    hand with the hops than I'd expect from this style. It was
    thick and malty and bitterish to go with the sweet.

    I also enjoyed the hoppy and citrusy Lost Gold IPA, which
    reminded me of Christmas.

    Firemans 4 is a pretty standard quencher, a little too
    Belgian-tasting for my preferences but also a little too
    Lite-tasting as well. Not my favorite.

    Iron Swan, supposedly brewed in cooperation with the rock
    band The Sword (I wonder how that works), is supposedly an
    English pale ale but I thought more American-style with
    the hopping, again with a touch of Belgian fruity yeastiness
    that the brewmasters here seem to encourage; other than that
    I thought it was pretty good.

    California Common is a robust Anchor Steamish brew, again
    hoppy and malty at the same time, pretty nice but I think
    I prefer the real thing by a nose.

    That really was enough beer! So I didn't have any after
    the tour.

    Our group was so big that we were split in two; I was in
    the half that got the second half of the tour first; so
    we started with the packaging line. Then we went to the
    cold warehouse, where the day's finished products are
    stored for pickup, as well as the day's seconds. We were
    encouraged to help ourselves to a bottle of the seconds,
    which might have been a misfill, creased label, dented
    cap, whatever. I picked up a bottle with no label at all,
    which turned out to be a wheaty thing that I didn't care
    for, but perhaps my satiety affected my impressions.

    While our guide was showing us the new bottling and
    packaging apparatus, to be installed the very next day,
    lili told me she was not feeling so hot, so I followed her
    out to make sure she was going to be okay. We made our way
    back to the front and sat at a table with a bunch of
    cheeseheads waiting for the next scheduled tour. While lili
    chatted with them (they offered various suggestions about
    fixing the problem) I went and got her some water to sip on.
    She recovered in time so that when the tour returned for the
    first half of the presentation, we could join.
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Finally, the Franklin
    Then back into the vehicle for the relatively quick jaunt
    to Austin in time to freshen up before the SPG reception
    downstairs, which turned out to be notable for a lack of
    presence by the Starwood people: apparently someone has
    learned about the perils of showing too much vulnerability
    and allowing too many impertinent questions. The catering
    too was modest, sensibly leaning toward the vegetable,
    considering our next stop.

    The main event of the whole Do, dreamed of and drooled
    anticipatorily at for months, was the Randy-underwritten
    private dinner at Franklin BBQ - all you could eat of the
    most famous BBQ in Texas and possibly the world, universally
    lauded in print and electrons. It takes some kind of pull to
    get Aaron Franklin to open up his store in the evening:
    normally, you line up starting at 9 or 10 for opening at 11,
    then the place closes up when the food's gone, typically 1.
    On this occasion we lined up as per procedure, only we were
    guaranteed all the brisket we wanted. Despite my having had
    two brisket meals already this day, my tum was gurgling by
    the time I hit the counter, where I ordered "a couple slices
    of moist brisket and one of regular, a few beans, and, uh, a
    rib." The guy piled on enough food to make the Chinet plate
    sag alarmingly.

    The good news: the food is very, very good.

    The better news: you can get about equally good food for
    less money and less time investment elsewhere.

    The bad news: even though I didn't have to deal with it, I
    checked out the price list, and sticker shock city. 25% more
    than any other I've seen.

    This was the only place I asked for any regular brisket,
    which was slightly stringy in a potroasty way but very soft
    and tender; it had a slight tang other than smoke and I
    wondered how long the meat had been brined and whether there
    was any vinegar in that brine. The moist was similar but of
    course immeasurably better.

    The (pig) rib, properly but not over smoked, was tastier
    than regular brisket but not so satisfying as the moist. I
    was told by Franny, next to me, that the smoked turkey was
    best of all. Her enthusiasm made her almost believable, but
    I had so much left on my plate that I didn't try to waddle
    the 25 feet back to the counter and ask for some. There was
    sausage available, also pulled pork (in Texas???), but I
    received no reports on either of these.

    The baked beans were surprisingly good, big kidneys cooked
    with pork trimmings and onions and a little cumin, not
    sweetened at all.

    With all this I had a Shiner Bock; later went back on
    someone's ardent recommendation to pick up a Bourbon banana
    mini-pie made at neighboring enterprise Cake and Spoon; this
    turned out to be oversweet and overdairied but nonetheless
    almost as swoonworthy as the meat had been.

    After I had eaten my fill, I packed my leftovers (remember,
    I had asked for just a couple of slices of moist and one of
    lean) into a 12-oz drink cup; they just fit.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Today's morning event was at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz -
    a private Hecklevision screening of Die Hard 2. I was not
    familiar with this mode of communication, which turns out
    to be a tame variation on what happens during screenings
    of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps appropriate for
    the all thumbs generation but an uncomfortable experience
    for mine, who are used to actual vocalizations and stuff.

    Nor was I familiar with the film being pilloried, though
    I had seen snippets of it on, of all places, the airplane
    many years ago.

    The format: you texted your witty or snarky commentary
    on the idiot movie to an address, and it showed up on the
    screen. If it was snarky enough or obscene, there was a
    house censor, and it disappeared in short order. If it
    was witty enough, it received laughter, whereupon, not
    being capable of reading small print, I would ask my
    neighbors (the blakefish on one side and lili on the
    other) to interpret for me.

    As I don't have the requisite kind of phone and am familiar
    only with more primitive but still effective kinds of
    hecklevision, I didn't participate in this, which strikes me
    as audience participation for those who don't really like to

    The movie: wretched, in a bad sort of way. Plenty to
    heckle, though.

    The food: bar food, not bad for that, and an a la carte
    bar, not bad for that. I don't remember what fancy stuff
    was available - I just stuck with old reliable Bulleit
    with a Shiner Bock chaser.

    I traded a bit of my triple pork burger for a bit of lili's
    regular burger with bacon and Cheddar, dragged through the
    garden, which was fine, though mine was more interesting -
    ground pork, chorizo, and bacon, topped with cilantro, white
    cheddar, chipotle mayo, red onion, and tomato, on a
    negligible bun.

    Fries were abundant and actually not too bad.

    Bottomless popcorn was available as well.

    After the movie, we hightailed it out of there and got a
    ride with monitor and frantic to the Rainey St. Pub Crawl,
    getting there quite a while before the other partygoers.

    1:30PM - Craft Pride
    As the name would imply, a craft beer bar along
    with a bottle shop giving you more than 150
    different options.

    The four of us staked out an area at the back, which
    eventually filled up with more of the vanguard. I suppose
    that we were way early, as we never encountered the main
    crowd during our wanderings.

    I tried a pair of local stouts whose identities have
    merged into the mists of oblivion. I don't mean bad, just
    nothing notable enough to especially prefer over a dozen
    equal offerings.

    2:30PM - Banger's Sausage & Beer
    Artisan sausages and good beer. What else could
    you possibly want?

    The problem with this place was its success. It was hard to
    get service, so we just wandered around a while, chatting
    with friends as we found them, and left without eating or

    3:30PM - Clive Bar
    Don't let the fact that their website plays music
    on page load turn you off; it really is a nice place.

    I felt the need for something completely different after a
    replay of the 512 pecan porter and got a glass of Zubrowka,
    extra chilled, which seems a little tame compared to what I
    remember from the last century but still had a ghost of that
    herbal vanillary goodness. It was nice to see it at all.

    4:30PM - Lustre Pearl
    The bar that put Rainey Street on the map in Austin. A
    fitting end to a wandering afternoon.

    As we were the early birds, Lustre Pearl wasn't open when
    we arrived, and as we'd had enough to drink, we just
    wandered around the premises (looked like a partially gutted
    and unrenovated house in a slum - Piney Point in Houston -
    with which I am familiar) and then headed off home.

    We missed the Livestrong event and instead got some more
    moist brisket at Ironworks, which was also excellent,
    I believe rivalling both the Franklin and the Old 300 in
    texture and almost their equal in taste.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    fond farewell to AUS at oh dark hundred
    We needed transport to the airport and so forwent breakfast
    in favor of a schmooze with the air crews out front. In the
    past, the Sheraton had provided an early shuttle for the
    crews; I inquired with the little knot of flight attendants
    (Southwest, damn their eyes) and was politely discouraged
    from pursuing the matter. Apparently my appearance doesn't
    inspire confidence; I was tempted to try again when the
    shuttle (now provided by an outside contractor, so maybe
    that has something to do with something) arrived but was
    loath to travel, if successful, in a hostile crowd. Perhaps
    if I'd deputed lili to do the inquiring the result might
    have been different. Anyhow, we got a taxi and were back at
    the Admiral's club in 20 minutes, counting the ride, getting
    boarding passes, and security.

    AA1190 AUS DFW 0645 0750 738 5EF

    We had nearly an hour there, as we'd practically flown
    through town and to the airport. Odd breakfast offerings
    didn't appeal, but at least the orange juice wasn't from a
    can, and there were bananas.

    Our flight took off a bit late and landed a bit early,
    dropping us off right near one of the four clubs, which
    welcomed us something approaching genuine warmth.

    On Sunday, the bar opens at 10. We hung around doing e-mail
    and enduring the ubiquitous Fox news for a long parched time
    and hit the bar right on the hour with just time for a slug
    of McCormick whiskey before leaving. It was worth twice the
    price, the first sip serving to anesthetize the taste buds
    for the second sip, and so on.

    AA1344 DFW SAN 1055 1210 M80 21AB

    No upgrade :( but the exit row is perfectly okay, offering
    the extra legroom that it does, and the cabin staff keep
    their Executive Platinums and their companions happy, giving
    them all the booze and snacks they could want.

    It took a while for the parking shuttle to arrive, but in
    due time we were comfortably ensconced in lili's snazzy
    beemer and westward to the relatively fabulous 3rd Corner.
    Which embodies a pretty interesting concept. It started
    out as a wine store and then decided to put some tables in
    and serve food as well. Now it's a full-service restaurant
    with wine displays in the middle of the rooms, from which
    you choose your accompaniments to a fairly standard upscale
    menu. The wine is not too overpriced, and the food is of a
    good standard at a good price. There's a prix fixe that
    didn't look too interesting on our visit, though it was very
    reasonable; it comes with a pairing of shortish pours of a
    white, a red, and a dessert sparkler, each in the 10-20 a
    bottle retail range - this, $10 or so extra, is a bargain,
    available separately.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    And so it went
    Mazzoni Vermentino 2011 was a pleasant, light-to-medium
    bodied citrus-scented Mediterranean-style white; not
    particularly distinctive, and I wouldn't be able to pick it
    out, or even its varietal again, out of a lineup.

    Banfi Centine 2011 was much more interesting to me, despite
    its bargain price ($10ish) - black cherries and berries;
    vanilla, a long fruity finish with a bit of pucker at the
    end. If I'd tasted this before doing my reconnaissance, I
    might have chosen it to pair with my meal.

    It had taken a ten-minute wander among the wine displays to
    choose the Justin Cab 11 for our meal wine. I thought of
    splurging and spending twice as much on Isosceles, but the
    budget having taken a beating this week and the taste buds
    being still in a state of overload, the anise-and-pepper
    scented regular offering won out and in fact went nicely
    with the food. I could have done with something just a hair
    drier, though. Whoosh!

    lili of course got the house burger rare, which was quite
    good but not standout, worth going back for given the price
    to performance of the wines. It came as I recall with decent
    cheese, a small garden of lettuce, tomato, and onion, and a
    totally supernumerary sauce. I forget if there were sides.

    I love short ribs and will order it on the slightest
    provocation. This was, as always, chuck, but not near enough
    the bone to merit the title: so of course it was a bit too
    lean for my tastes and of course without the connective
    tissue bits that make ribs ribs. Let me get for a moment on
    my usual horse and complain about what has become a natural
    food evolution: something that is notably unctuous or fiery
    or possessing of a certain distinctive flavor or texture
    gets discovered and written about in the (now proliferating
    in a distressing way) media, and so there's a run, and the
    prices rise dizzyingly, but then the customers, who are, it
    seems, always wrong, go, hey, this is too fatty, too hot,
    too gamy, too gristly, and the restaurants make the food
    unrecognizable by taking away whatever distinguished it in
    the first place. So we get short ribs that are stew meat,
    three-star hot food that wouldn't challenge the palate of a
    small New England child, and that greatest of abominations,
    "lean pork belly."

    In this case, the meat was almost tender enough though not
    nearly fatty enough; it tasted pretty good, with a sweet and
    sour oniony red wine reduction, a pretty standard version.
    Garlic mash and brussels sprouts were respectable, quite
    good, in fact, the mash noticeably flavored but not so that
    the wine was interfered with, the sprouts sweet and buttery.

    Innocent Bystander Sparkling Moscato Rose Victoria 13 -
    the sweetie on this flight seemed like a bit of a weak
    sister, sort of generic perfumy Moscato, with harsh bubbles;
    on the list I found something more to my taste, the

    Royal Tokaji Mad Cuvee 10, which was apricotty and
    deliciously semi-sweet, with great acid; no madness to this
    wine or from this drinker. Interestingly, the claim is made
    that this grape is the same or similar to that of the first
    wine we had (Furmint, Vermentino, get it?).

    When I'd called the place to make a reservation, they told
    me that they were closing at 6 or 8 or something so they
    could get an early start on remodeling or something. Not a
    big deal for us, but I thought the rooms looked fine
    "before," but whatever.

    UA 573 SAN EWR 2138 0532 752 2A

    I like redeyes, largely because I get my Courvoisier and
    conk out before they accost me with the weird nighttime food
    offerings. This time, whatever they were serving smelled
    pretty okay but not enough to justify disrupting my slumber.
    We got in a little early owing to tailwinds; there were a
    couple earlier connections available, but nothing in first,
    so I just stuck with my original flight -

    UA 676 EWR BOS 0830 0944 752 5B

    which was a pleasant enough half hour flight, no catering.

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