AUS MegaDo - BBQ & Business as UsUAL

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Mar 21, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    As I knew that I wasn't going to get upgraded, I decided to
    try for a decent tasty dinner to make up for that. So the
    adventure begins with a stop to Bistro Atelier, a newish
    eatery in the D terminal at Dulles. It's a long thin space,
    taking up too much of the width of the corridor I think - a
    lot of the airports are doing this, paring down what used to
    be a nice airy space to a congested unpleasant one, the
    trimmings fashioned into rent-generating property.

    Interestingly, as soon as I ducked behind the host station,
    I was transported to a brasserie if not in Paris, at least
    someplace less irritating than the D terminal at Dulles.

    The bartender/server was attentive and helpful and gave me
    samples of a couple beers I hadn't heard of (and didn't buy).

    I ordered a steak frites very rare. The menu describes it as
    strip steak, pommes frites, house made ketchup, celeriac
    slaw. Well, they didn't get everything right. What was
    served: a ribeye with a really dreadful bordelaise on the
    side, fairly tasty fries, and regular slaw, no celeriac.
    The meat was insufficiently browned on the outside but still
    not quite as rare as it should have been. It tasted pretty
    good despite the inexpert cooking and the what has become
    standard overdose of salty surface seasoning.

    Sweetwater 420 ale was your standard American pale ale, a
    bit hoppier than an ordinary brew but not quite as bitter as
    a proper IPA. It was classic citrusy and evergreeny but with
    a touch more sweetness than I'd like. It went okay with the
    food.

    UA1646 IAD SEA 1847 2137 739 8F

    My itinerary was a circuitous one for the mileage credit,
    involving an overnight in the airport. I'd booked it well
    before I found out that the concert I had signed on to play
    was filled with solos, some of them somewhat difficult. I
    decided to actually try to learn the part before rehearsal
    and so had to carry an unaccustomed extra carryon. How to
    do this: take your regular personal item and jam it into
    your thankfully softsided bag so it becomes a bloated thing
    that doesn't fit into the overhead except under considerable
    coercion. Then pretend the violin is the personal item (I
    think that this may actually be legal according to an act
    of Congress pushed through by the musicians' union that went
    into effect March 6, though this trip happened earlier than
    that.

    This route is a tough upgrade, so I threw a regional upgrade
    certificate at it, but it didn't stick, so I was stuck. As
    of a week later they still haven't refunded the certificate.
    [Subsequent note: I requested MP look into it still a week
    later, and it was redeposited a few days after that, with an
    appropriately extended expiration date.]

    As I wasn't up front and had a violin with me, I got in line
    to try to board as early as possible, which happened
    smoothly enough. I felt slightly but not unduly guilty about
    hogging the bin space.

    To ensure sleep on this flight I took Benadryl; it worked
    pretty much gate to gate.

    The plan was to hang out at the club until closing and then
    find a quiet place to continue my snooze until my next plane
    boarded 5 hours later at 0440. I looked forward to a cup of
    hot chocolate and a nourbon (not bourbon) or two. The club
    here offers the amazingly cheap-tasting McCormick American
    whiskey, but the price is right, so I had three, enough to
    get me to a state of sufficiently low consciousness, and
    went back downstairs half an hour early to stake out a
    napping spot; this turned out to be quite easy, because this
    airport offers six-foot-long benches, rather narrow and
    minimally padded in the style of the United business-class
    beds. I dragged one next to a bank of seats so I wouldn't
    fall off the side when thrashing around and sacked out.

    Seattle, as most airports do, features all-night PA
    announcements that mostly don't apply at oh dark hundred but
    continue to be played anyway, presumably as a disincentive
    for people to do what I was doing. These announcements seem
    not quite as loud and not quite as frequent as at many other
    airports, and earplugs help a bit as well. I slept okay and
    woke just as the first new arrivals started filtering in to
    the gate area. I washed up and appeared bright-eyed and
    bushy-tailed at the gate and planted myself at the front of
    the line for boarding, important as I was transporting a
    violin and needed that prime overhead real estate.
     
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  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA1497 SEA SFO 0520 0730 738 3A

    This flight featured scones, which I refused, and
    Courvoisier, which was available on special order.

    DirecTV had a cooking show, which I sort of snoozed
    through, as it seemed a comfier seat than most of these
    Continental-specced ones, possibly because it was broken
    and wouldn't stay in the upright and locked position, so
    reasonably pleasant. We landed a touch early, and I had a
    chance to say hi and have a glass of juice at the San
    Francisco club, which is down a couple of creepy corridors
    off in the middle of nowhere between concourses E and F.

    UA 343 SFO AUS 0849 1419 319 2F

    I felt somewhat more guilty this time, but as it turned out,
    there was plenty of overhead.

    I have no words for how much nicer the United-specced
    first seats are than the Continental ones. Rather, I just
    can't describe the Continental ones in words fit for polite
    company. Breakfast was offered - an enhanced product, I
    understand: some eggish substance, of which I took a bite
    and chose to eat the garnish of three pencil asparaguses.
    Contrary to my general experience, the fruit appetizer was
    bad. I called for my Courvoisiers three.

    We landed reasonably on time, and I got to the hotel right
    around checkin time.

    Homewood Suites Austin Airport. As with many of the
    supposedly "airport" hotels in this town, this is six miles
    down the road; the complimentary shuttle is extra welcome.
    The accommodations are pretty much the same as at all other
    Homewoods - spacious, clean, comfy enough, somewhat dated.
    There was some kind of dance competition going on, so lots
    of early teens cavorting in the halls, but not too too
    noisily, as they were of an age to require chaperones, and,
    more importantly, of an age that the chaperones were
    nervously vigilant.

    lili came by and fetched me for an early supper; we went
    off to find Micklethwait Craft Meats, which turns out to be
    a trailer off in the nowhere that is east of Franklin, which
    we figured would be long closed. There are all kinds of
    offerings, from barbacoa to chicken, but as far as I am
    concerned, there is only one Texas barbecue meat, all
    others are impostors and johnny-come-latelies. There are
    those semi-sensibles who dispute that and point to the
    deliciousness of the Texas hot link, but I say that's
    charcuterie, not bbq. There are also crazies who accept
    poultry and pork as bbq, but they're crazies. When I lived
    in Texas, many decades ago, anyone who dared to ask for a
    baby back would have been laughed out of the state. Seems
    that enough did that the Texans, proud but entrepreneurial,
    started cooking ribs, and with the best of them, I admit.
    But like having an affair with your neighbor's wife, though
    it may be terrific, that doesn't make it right.

    We split a pound of quite good brisket, nicely smoked,
    treated as gently as Franklin's alchemy but we thought
    not quite so good a quality raw product - not a big
    surprise, as Aaron Franklin buys, so I'm told, his beef
    from only one ranch, which raises cattle to his specs,
    and he buys the whole production. Extra moist was perhaps
    a bit fatty for the general population, perfect for us.
    The quibble was mostly the texture - instead of a marble,
    the fat and lean were distinct veins, so that the protein
    was too "leany." Sauce was too sweet and ketchupy.

    On the way back we went past the Franklin. It was long
    closed.

    Drinks at the Homewood. Bud Light on tap tasted like
    plastic. The red was some forgettable thing from I believe
    the Gallo stable, the bottle on ice next to Sutter Home
    Moscato, which was actually better, as it tasted like a
    decent wino wine, as much sugar as alcohol but at least some
    of that orange-blossom aroma.

    There was chicken and dumplings to soak up the alcohol.
    It was actually fairly tasty though plain, reminding me of
    a Penn Dutch bott boi. At some point a kitchen worker came
    out to survey the surroundings. She allowed as she had
    cooked the stuff that morning and hoped I enjoyed it. I
    was quite honest when I said yes.
     
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  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast was very standard but very free.

    A big draw of this Do was yet another behind-the-scenes
    tour of an airport. We've all done these before, but some of
    us (lili and I) must have been wondering what this little
    nowhere outstation would offer that the big boys couldn't.
    We were scheduled to start at 10:30, pre-event formalities
    around 10 so had arranged for a shuttle to the airport for
    9:30, but when we came downstairs we were told that it had
    left a few minutes early because there had been a party of
    several that was antsy about missing their flight. The van
    eventually showed up, and we were at the appointed spot
    almost on time, well, 15 minutes late, but dead last.
    Luckily our visitor badges and gate passes were waiting for
    us, and after signing releases to the effect that United
    was entitled to use our likenesses in publicity materials
    without compensating us, we were issued the last of the
    hi-vis vests, though they had to scrounge one for lili
    that didn't say United Airlines on it.

    The group was split up into teams that rotated among the
    stations, so that everyone got to do a little of everything
    instead of clumping around one operation at a time and
    causing annoyance all day. This way we got to cause minor
    inconvenience in several places instead.

    Our team started off with an activity called Live Flights.
    First we were issued protective gear and strenuously
    admonished not to get underfoot; then we got to go down onto
    the pavement to have a worm's eye view of the flight coming
    in from Houston. We were entrusted to take a hand in such
    operations as guiding the plane in and the routine between-
    flight servicing - for example I believe one of us had the
    privilege of hooking up the lavatory waste outflow, what a
    treat.

    Then unloading and loading of bags. I got my stint in the
    pit of a CRJ, yay. It was not substantially worse than being
    a coach passenger on the same aircraft.

    I don't know if we were somehow to blame, but the flight
    pushed back a quarter hour late; then some of us (miffSC)
    got to wingwalk the flight out to the taxiway.

    I believe that normal rampers do not wave to the aircraft
    as it leaves.
     
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We were a tad behind, so our visit to Ops was a little
    rushed. No problem, as most of us have seen Ops before, at
    bigger more frenzied airports. Here, we arrived at a lull
    in the action, so the controllers got to impart a lot of
    information in a short time, before the next batch of
    gawkers pounded on the windows and shouted for us to
    vacate the premises so they could get their oar in.

    The next activity was Ramp Rodeo, where we were allowed to
    get hands on with some of the equipment (sufficiently
    isolated from the live flights, of course). Our guide here
    was a jolly fellow who kept us in stitches and could have
    a career as a standup comedian (if the airline industry
    contracts any more, he might need to use that talent); we
    also had specialists to show us their particular talents
    and let us have a hand trying some of their duties, which
    turn out to be not so straightforward as a passenger's eye
    view would indicate. I got to run the deicing gun (getting
    full marks for accuracy, oddly enough) and was offered the
    chance to drive the tug and/or the baggage tractor. As I've
    not driven a motorized vehicle in some years, er, decades, I
    declined, instead choosing to run the jetbridge (a bigger
    motorized vehicle, but at least attached to something), for
    which I also got full marks. These were all under training
    conditions, of course, not real life. Later and back inside

    at the gate, though, we were supposed to get to do real
    stuff, loading a plane, scanning boarding passes, and
    (something that seems unaccountably dear to our hearts)
    reading the PA announcements. Having spent almost 50 years
    getting paid for making noise in public, that doesn't appeal
    to me so much. The trip we were working, UA1746 to SFO, was
    delayed because of ATC on the other end. Bad for us and the
    passengers both. Paul, one of the gate agents on duty, gave
    a rundown on what normally is done to get a plane loaded and
    ready to go (i.e., the process that we would have helped or
    hindered as the case may be if the flight had been on time).
    The highlight for me was when he showed us the new front end
    for the ancient text-based system, complete with color-coded
    flags for the status of each passenger and notes about his
    or her reservation and itinerary. As I am vision-impaired to
    a degree, I crowded right close to the podium, so when,
    10 minutes or so before scheduled departure, it was time to
    do the upgrades (all who had elite status on United had
    already been accommodated, so there were Star Golds up at
    the top of the list by now), and he asked Who wants to play
    God, I was right there. With one magic click I upgraded some
    passenger with an Armenian name. Passenger with an Armenian
    name, be thankful that I didn't goof up and click on
    somebody else's record!

    Alas, both we and the flight were running so behind schedule
    that even though it was lunchtime, even if we'd forgone that
    the flight wouldn't have been ready for us to do anything,
    so we skedaddled onward. The flight ended up almost an hour
    and half late, and we were glad to have been out of there
    before it was time for the agents to do the real hard stuff
    - dealing with irate and inconvenienced passengers.

    Instead of lunch we went to the club. I guested in miffSC
    and lili (who is entitled on her own but couldn't find her
    card), and we made a beeline for the bar to demolish a bunch
    of glasses of wine, which real employees - one hopes - would
    not have been entitled to do, even if not (as we were not)
    expected to do any more work for the day.

    Scheduled up: a tour of Maintenance. This was outside. It
    was cold. Our stint here was minimal - we listened to the
    chief mechanic talk about the importance of his job and his
    station (Austin gets more traffic and more variety of
    equipment than many) and then we freezingly went away; I
    hope I remembered to thank him for his time and effort.

    On to Baggage Service, which was inside. We learned about
    replacement luggage, delivery services, and amenity kits
    for distressed customers (Delta has the best). Our final
    stop was the much more nitty-gritty Bag Room, outside of
    course but warm enough because of all the machine and human
    activity. The people at Service are the public face; down
    there amid the machinery are the real workings. The handlers
    were surprisingly enthusiastic and surprisingly public-
    relations aware and were, as all the employees we met, good
    ambassadors for the brand. We got to do more heaving of
    awkward objects - the United people took a picture of me
    being clumsy on a surprisingly heavy bag (ha ha, I never
    check one myself, good joke, United people).

    That was that. We gave sincere thanks to the employees -
    from corporate as well as the local station - who had taken
    time to accommodate us, said our goodbyes, and proceeded
    out to our next destinations.
     
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    For lili and me, it was the Holiday Inn Town Lake, which
    seemed to be a central location and right by the freeway.
    We hit some ugly traffic en route, though, and were quite
    behind schedule for the rest of the day.

    We were issued fairly nice digs that could have been at a
    more prestigiously-branded hotel but for a couple chronic
    and one acute thing. The chronic: it seems that the lower
    on the totem pole a place is, the worse the carpet cleaner
    smells. Sometimes the carpet itself is okay (this wasn't,
    with a slightly unpleasant foot feel), but at the less
    eminent properties they always use crummy carpet cleaner.
    Also, there seems to be a correlation between rank and
    light provision: here the best we could do with all the
    lights on was a sort of gloomy dimness.

    A great view of the river park in its gray drizzly glory
    from the 10th or 11th, anyhow the top, floor.

    The acute problem was no hot water, not a fine thing if
    you have recently been slinging luggage around in the
    United bag room. Called down a complaint; meanwhile I had
    an almost completely cold shower. The engineer came up in
    fairly short order, and by the time lili wanted her shower
    there was plenty. I don't know what happened or how the
    engineer fixed the problem, but it was quick and welcome.

    On the way out we asked the otherwise helpful front desk
    people for a recommendation on a place to buy wine and beer.
    They drew a blank; they were young but not all that young.
    Innocent, perhaps; the junior sophisticates must work at
    the Hyatt and the Sheraton. Eventually a slightly older
    colleague was called over; after puzzling for a while she
    gave us vague directions toward a store that turned out not
    to be there any more. We ended up cruising around a bit and
    not finding anything. The road to Spec's being a solid line
    of red on the traffic app and the one to the park being
    mostly green, we decided to throw ourselves on the mercy of
    our friends and colleagues, promising to make up later.

    Evening in the Park

    This of course was Zilker Park, home of some wonderful
    memories for me almost half a century ago. It was dim and
    going on dark when we arrived and parked at the far end of
    the pretty full lot. To get to the Clubhouse, we had to
    go past the food trucks, mmmpanadas and the much anticipated
    Slab BBQ truck, so food became the first order of the day.
    We ended up not superthrilled by the offerings at Slab BBQ.
    One issue was the limited choices - no bulk meat, for
    example, so we asked for brisket sandwiches extra moist. I
    emphasized and reiterated the moist part to the server,
    who said, oh, these are moist all right, and I envisioned a
    slab of fat between bread. But sadly to say, they actually
    came out not moist at all, with a little sliver of extra fat
    that wasn't cooked enough on top. The brisket itself was
    somewhat lackluster, but the sauce was decent. I should have
    gone back out for an mmmpanada (Reb I think had one, and it
    smelled pretty good), but it was easier to stay inside the
    relatively warm confines of the building. We'd been hoping
    for a beautiful balmy evening (at least I was, having spent
    much of the last weeks in snowy climes), but we got what we
    got. The Milepoint crew did their best, but there was no
    getting around the raw, blustery, close to freezing rainy
    unpleasantness outside. I did venture out for a couple hits
    from the keg of NxNW amber ale, which Mr. and Mrs. Mackieman,
    I believe, had providently brought in just in case.

    Moonlight Social is a good band, and though lili and I had
    planned to stay for only a couple songs (country/rock is not
    our kind of music - she enjoys the country part, I enjoy the
    rock part), we ended up listening to two sets before setting
    out for some food - no offense to the hosts, but we did feel
    the need for more deliciousness after the event.

    I understand the event raised a good bunch toward the
    Austin Pets Alive animal shelter.
     
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We wended our way northward to Freedmen's, which despite
    being more bar than barbecue, is said to offer some of the
    best food in town. We had our doubts at first. It was hard
    to figure out where to park, for starters - we found an
    unlit lot on one side that had signs (unlit) saying that
    Freedmen's customers would be towed. While puzzling this
    out we noticed another car hovering suspiciously about but
    that made way when we exited that lot; then we found another
    unlit lot with no signs - I think there were five spots, of
    which two smalls were empty. It was a little disconcerting,
    but the car did about the same thing as we did, though we
    overshot and had to make a youie at the light and come back,
    and by the time we did this the other vehicle had parked and
    left just a tinyish place where we could barely pull in. I
    got out before lili (carefully zipping my wallet into my
    jacket) and checked out the car we'd had encounters with.
    Turns out to have been occupied by an attractive 40-ish
    couple, both female, both half in the bag, giggly, heading
    for the Bourbon bar (same as the barbecue of course). We
    entered together and plopped all of us down, both parties
    having determined that the other was harmless, at a table
    that we were quickly informed was reserved, so we had to
    squeeze in to the bar, and there were three stools only for
    all of us. I offered to stand, which was refused (as we were
    decades older than they), so I got squished between lili on
    one side and the cuter thinner of the two, standing, on the
    other. Not a bad deal. At some point some guy down the way
    vacated, so we all got to sit. lili had a glass of okay I
    think Norton or Catena Malbec, and the other three of us
    had various Bourbon iterations - mine a Buffalo Trace (good
    bang for the buck) neat, the girls cocktails of some sort.
    Despite the brick-plants-and-oak aspect (who coined this
    term, and why isn't it used more, as it's a perfect
    characterization of such places) and the pick-up-barrish
    aspect, the smells were tantalizing, and remembering the
    reviews, we ordered a pound of moist from the energetic
    bartender, who seemed to be doing everything in the place
    short of sweeping the floor, and he might have been doing
    that as well while we weren't looking. What came: superior,
    borderline world-class meat, well smoked, nicely marbled,
    tender at that perfect stage between toothy and falling
    apart, with good fat top and bottom; odd-tasting almost
    Indianish pickle spears; bread (untasted); and a murky and
    we thought kind of superfluous sweet-sour sauce flavored
    with mustard and celery seed. The big issue was that the
    rub included a surplus of coarse salt as is the fashion in
    BPO places these days, but once that was scraped off, the
    meat was well-nigh perfect. The kitchen had cut us a most
    generous pound, and there was enough food for us to give
    tastes to our new-found friends. After a pretty jolly time
    it was time to find our way back to I-35 (easy enough) and
    then to the Holiday Inn, whose beds were lumpy but quite
    sleepable.
     
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  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We'd heard great things about Brown's food truck in the
    south part of town, so off we went, skipping any breakfast
    that might have been offered at the hotel. The joint is
    supposed to open at 11, but this day, owing to the weather,
    the pit people had been prevented by icy roads from getting
    in to prep and so were delayed by two hours. Ah, well. At
    least they were going to sell no brisket before its time.
    We have subsequently received very favorable reports from
    friends who were lucky to get there late, and it's now at
    the top of the list for the next trip.

    At the little parking lot we met a couple who were likewise
    disappointed; they said that they had first gone to LeAnn
    Mueller's and been put off by the long lines and the cold
    weather and were hoping to recoup here, only to find this.
    They said they were going to lick their wounds at Terry
    Black's (run by nephews of the Black from Lockhart Black's)
    and suggested that we would do well to follow their example.
    I'm glad they did. It's just a mile away from the truck,
    off on Barton Springs Road, a hokey overgrown building that
    could easily be a Cracker Barrel or something. You dish out
    your own sides at 1.89 per 5 oz tub (though I guess you can
    pile it on as far as gravity will allow), which we didn't
    do, and go to the pit guy who cuts your order. We got moist
    brisket and sausage.

    The meat here is first rate, close to Franklin quality,
    better than what we got at the real Black's at our last
    visit not so long ago (even the stuff we got as replacement
    when we had to get our order fixed), and the help cheerful.
    Light but attractive smoke, good marbling. Beer was 50c more
    a bottle than at the real Black's, but who's counting.

    Three sauces on the table a pretty standard regular, a
    hugely sweet and wimpy sweet, and a hot that surprisingly
    had more in common with the sweet than with the regular. As
    usual, after a taste of each we ignored them; as with all
    first-rate brisket, the meat spoke for itself.

    There is also excellent sausage from what appears to be
    the family recipe. Maybe a little fattier than in Lockhart,
    but that is a good thing.

    Independence Brewing Co.'s Austin amber, a well made but
    undistinctive beer, didn't hurt the food.
     
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  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    John Mueller has another truck at the boundary between an
    unprepossessing industrial park area and an unprepossessing
    residential area. Despite the aching cold and the spittle
    bordering on sleet, there was a bit of a line. Our turn came
    in about ten minutes, and I ordered a sausage link and some
    moist brisket. The people behind the window set about
    putting together the order, and to amuse us for a couple
    minutes while it got ready, we were handed a sample of a few
    shreds of very nicely done moist, somewhat light on the
    smoke, but quite tasty. This only set up our mouths for a
    letdown. What we ended up getting, when the order came, was
    run of the mill, rather lean, cut in stringy chunks to
    highlight the second-rateness of the meat. I take this to
    signify that the guy filling the order (John? I don't know)
    figured he'd never see us again, so we ended up getting
    whatever.

    This came with a little condiment tub of very oily spicy
    sauce, more like a Mexican salsa on steroids, that I liked
    enough to drink by itself.

    The sausage was quite good, rather coarsely ground, pretty
    peppery, but on the whole, we had figured out why LeAnn
    Mueller had fired her brother! There's an underlying
    dishonesty, perhaps from a sort of kleptoid mania. The guy
    was right, he'll never see us again.

    After that disappointment we decided to mend our misguided
    ways and brave the lines at La Barbecue, LeAnn's fashionable
    stand, so we drove over there only to discover that the
    queue was longer than one would have dreamed possible,
    perhaps as long as Franklin's. The wind was blustery, too,
    and we thought we wouldn't be inclined to brave the weather
    for a pound even of the best, despite the famous custom of
    the place to hand out free beer to the faithful. Fourth down.

    I'd heard about Sam's a mile or two away in a somewhat less
    attractive neighborhood, and as it was light out, no problem.
    This turns out to be a ramshackle building with a raggedy-
    painted slogan outside "You Don't Need No Teeth to Eat
    My Beef" (often quoted as "teef"). Inside is dim and rather
    dingy, with idiosyncratic decorations featuring numerous
    photos of happy diners and a few Martin Luther King
    tchotchkes. But still it's an inside dining room, points in
    favor. We got our order of sausage and moist brisket to go
    anyway, choosing instead to dine in the comfort of the
    Holiday Inn.

    It was pretty good BBQ, nicely smoked, but perhaps not of
    first-rate meat. One remembers that Sam too got in hot water
    a few years ago with the authorities for buying stolen
    property, and the newspapers painted lurid pictures of
    people staggering out of the local H-E-B with briskets
    stuffed down their pants. At least it was reasonably moist,
    so this man was honest at least with his customers. I didn't
    care for the tomato soup-like sauce that came alongside.

    The sausage, one link, was the size of two of anyone else's
    and had to be snapped in half to fit into a butcher-paper
    wrap. It was fine-ground, fatty, and soft, with a bit of
    andouille-like tang that not everyone would like but that
    I didn't mind at all, just so long as it didn't make me
    sick, which it didn't.
     
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  9. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A big old party at Stiles Switch right off the freeway north
    of town, sponsored by milepoint.com, with fifty of our
    nearest and dearest, plus some of the United staff who had
    entertained us earlier in the week - this time it was our
    turn to entertain them.

    It's a plainish restaurant with good, plainish food. This is
    irrelevant to this report, because we had a function room
    out on the side, which is even plainer.

    A bunch of long tables, but by the time we arrived there
    weren't any seats unclaimed, odd for a pre-counted group.
    Eventually we were found chairs, which got put at the end of
    a table right by the door. Which was chilly at first but
    turned out fine, because all those bodies generate plenty of
    warmth, not to mention the hot air that we create.

    Happy hour was fun enough, and talking about such subjects
    as mistake fares is edifying enough, but barbecue was the
    focus, and when the food was ready, there was a big crush
    at the trough.

    Brisket came a bit on the resilient side; no consensus among
    the diners at our table as to whether it was overdone or
    under; I tend to think the latter, as the fat had not had a
    chance to melt and was still sort of crunchy. What there was
    agreement about was that the pit had been overtaxed by our
    rather large group and didn't give the meat their full
    attention. This was augmented by a fairly standard sweetish
    sauce with a bit of mustard - a mix of Salt Lick and Black's
    if you will.

    Quite good sausage, I guess maybe the spicing stolen from
    one of the Lockhart places or City Market.

    I heard that the ribs and turkey were very good, but I have
    written earlier about my attitude towards these meats - in
    short, when in Texas, do as the old 300 would have done.

    Sides were quite good. lili swore by the potato salad and
    slaw. I liked the exceedingly rich and dairyful corn
    casserole - after my decent-sized taster was down the hatch,
    I went back and bypassed the meat department! and got a big
    plate of it.

    A confession: we were (lili was) tired of several days of
    no wine or bad wine, so we semi-smuggled in a rather nice
    Langmeil Shiraz, which made good music with and moistened
    up the meat but not enough. And shared with friends and
    relations in partial atonement for not having brought
    anything to the clubhouse. I made up for this by buying
    enough Shiner Bocks for two at $4 a pop.

    After this, a raffle that featured mostly United/Continental
    memorabilia; this benefited United We Care.
     
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  10. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    The sad but not unanticipated return to reality

    Checkout from the hotel was delayed by an irate customer
    ahead who claimed that a hold had been placed on her card
    for thousands of dollars, which had had a cascading effect,
    causing untold damage to her professional reputation, and
    blah blah. To add insult to injury, said she, there had been
    no hot water the first day. Eventually we got out of there.

    Kent Black of the original Black's has opened a store in
    north Austin as direct competition to Terry Black's, which
    is run by his nephews. Ooh, can you see another family feud
    going, like the Muellers? The place is half the size but
    offers almost the same quality and maybe slightly better
    bang for the buck.

    The help here were more accommodating than the ones at the
    original; the welcome was almost as friendly as at Terry's.
    A good thing; I get tired of grumpy or worse dishonest
    crews.

    As expected, we feasted on good brisket expertly done, but I
    thought Terry's had sourced better meat. From what I read on
    the Internet, this is not to be expected, but nonetheless
    it's my experience. Black's original sausage is rather more
    smoked than Terry's but otherwise pretty identical - it
    seems a tad moister than what I remember from Lockhart.

    Four hot sauces were available - a pleasant though sweetish
    vinegar sauce; chipotle mustard (mostly mustard); habanero,
    appropriately spicy and rotten-fruitish; and ghost pepper,
    which is quite hot indeed and not as objectionable-tasting
    as the habanero - this last served well to cut the cloying
    nature of the regular BBQ sauce.

    Cheap beer.

    This was a fitting finale to our trip and left us eager to
    come back for more 'cue in the not distant future.

    I had this nice mile-earning itinerary going, so off to the
    airport, where more adventures ensued.

    Security was a snap, and as usual I had plenty of time to
    sip bad whiskey at the former President's Club and pretend
    I was in old-time cowboyland. And the club was supposed to
    stay open until my flight's departure time, how cool is that.

    UA5532 AUS LAX 1928 2054 CR7 2A

    Well, this was two hours late. Luckily, I built a huge
    layover in. Unluckily ...

    UA1476 LAX EWR 2324 0730 738 4B

    this flight ended up cancelling, and they booked me on an
    itinerary through Chicago to Baltimore getting me in late
    next day in coach, with a deal-breaking overnight at the
    LA airport.

    Luckily I got the e-mail just before the delayed boarding
    time of 2042, and even more luckily agent Haney at the club
    - who had kept the club open past closing time for the
    benefit of the passengers of three delayed flights - was up
    for a challenge, and I got a great rate at a hotel and then
    next day passage up front on the nonstop regional jet to
    Dulles. Unfortunately, this meant that instead of 4300 miles
    I get credit for only 1290, but I'll work on that.
    [Note some weeks later: I ended up getting the LAX-EWR
    mileage credit and kept the nonstop credit for paid first
    on AUS-IAD but didn't get the AUS-LAX or EWR-DCA, so I'm
    down about 600 or 700 miles, but who's complaining.]

    The Wyndham Garden, which is six to nine miles from the
    airport, depending on what mapping program you ask, has a
    free shuttle, which comes more or less on demand, and that's
    a good thing. Also a restaurant, open late, and the Rewind
    bar, open later and with the same menu as the restaurant.
    What happens: you ask the cute bartender for food, she calls
    it in on her computer, and maybe 15 minutes later she
    vacates the bar and trots off to the restaurant and gets
    your order. Not the most efficient system, but it saves the
    hotel the cost of a runner and the bartender the cost of a
    visit to the gym. She is very fit-looking.

    The place is supposedly famous for its wings and its burgers
    so that's what I got.

    The wings (asked for with sauce on the side) were large but
    slightly overcooked but tasty. I believe I got one fewer
    than the menu said, but given the size and my state of
    hunger I didn't complain (which would have given the
    bartender another couple hundred steps). The medium-rare
    burger (okay, I usually get rare rare, but this is a hotel
    bar, for crying out loud, and a nearly deserted one at
    that, and contrary to popular belief I value my digestion
    and my survival) was surprisingly truly excellent. Tasty
    meat, done as ordered, sturdy bun (mostly left uneaten),
    fresh fixings. The fries were mediocre. By the way, the
    hotel literature says that there are over 12000 ways they
    can do your burger. Given the permutations of meat, bun,
    doneness, garnishes, I'd guess that most places could make
    similar claims but are not obnoxious enough to actually do so.

    A Deep Ellum double brown stout or two went well - nicely
    smooth, moderate hops, chocolatey and malty, maybe a bit too
    sweet to be drunk by itself but good with food. After that,
    though, I had a blonde ale on tap (so described by the
    bartender) to cleanse my palate. Maybe my taste buds were
    reset funny, but this seemed excessively sour with a bit too
    much citrus and maybe clove for my taste. I guess it was too
    Belgian for me. I said to the bartender, this can't be from
    Deep Ellum, can it, and only then did I find out that it was
    Fireman's 4 from Real Ale Brewing, an honorable concern but
    one whose beers are just not my type.

    By the way, the hotel literature also claims that the Austin
    Museum of Art is the "fifth largest art museum in the
    country"; I was surprised that I'd missed this! Fifth
    largest in the county, maybe? Even so. I did a little bit of
    Internet research. Not only is it not the fifth largest in
    the anything, it doesn't, per se, exist any more, as it had
    been subsumed several years ago into the Contemporary
    Austin, which itself is not exactly huge. No great harm,
    one doesn't come to this town for the museums.

    Bed was welcome after this long and strange day.

    As I couldn't get late late checkout, I took the shuttle
    at 2 and spent a good long time commiserating with my good
    friend McCormick before my departure.

    0302 UA3793 AUS IAD 1638 2037 CR7 1C

    I totally slept through this flight, though the seat was
    frozen in a position that was neither fully reclined nor
    fully upright.
     
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