Austin BBQ Mega Do

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Jul 5, 2012.

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA1260 BOS IAH 0845 1158 738 2B

    The PC was as usual nearly deserted. The banana bowl was
    completely deserted. Luckily for all, in the hour I was
    there both at least partially filled. Being somewhat bloated
    this day and not being able to take my medication for
    operational reasons, I ate, one by one, giving others a
    chance, which they did not take, every available banana but
    one, as I am tired of the Continental breakfast. I dawdled
    a bit, as I now choose aisle seats, and arrived midboarding.
    Had to put my bag a bit aft.

    My seatmate, who for various reasons, including a persistent
    failure to figure out the tray table, could have been pegged
    as an infrequent traveler, asked for his omelet to be made
    with EggBeaters, and the incredulous refusal was met with
    puzzlement and succeeding louder requests for EggBeaters
    (reminding me of the adage if you don't get what you want,
    just shout), which abated surprisingly promptly when I
    explained to him that the breakfasts were not made to order
    but were rather preloaded on the aircraft, having been
    concocted in a cross between a laboratory and a factory.
    He meekly ate every bite of his cholesterol bomb breakfast,
    seemingly enjoying or at least tolerating it.

    The guy on the aisle opposite had some similar request that
    my insufficiently Mrs. Kravitzlike ears couldn't quite pick
    up but whose denial was met with less good grace. I think
    it might have had something to do with fresh-brewed decaf.

    I passed on food, my tooth beginning to act up; a glass of
    Courvoisier came as a brimfull triple.

    Toward the end of the two-hour layover, the bananas lost
    their effect, so I had a two-piece dark at Popeye's - this
    came as two drummers. Bummers. Next time I have a craving
    for fried chicken at IAH I will ask for two thighs to
    correct. As I couldn't chew on one side, my tooth hurting
    something awful, tearing the chicken flesh off the bone was
    awkward and probably a sight to behold.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA1045 IAH AUS 1420 1517 738 2E

    The clever Hilton Website had booked me into the Garden Inn
    for January something, the day of the booking, rather than
    April something, the day I wanted to stay there. This meant
    a large no-show fee and no reservation for the proper day.
    Luckily, I was not the only one with this problem, and on
    communicating with the hotel I was forgiven the no-show fee;
    unfortunately at this late date, the only rooms available at
    this facility were going for more than I was willing to pay.
    So back to the Sheraton, which had hosted the previous
    Austin Do and still had rooms at a tolerable rate. Plus it's
    easy to get to, the #100 bus leaving the airport every half
    hour, taking a half hour, costing a buck, and stopping just
    a few blocks away.

    A corner room, nothing special, less attractive I think than
    the one I'd had at the Do before, when competition for good
    rooms was tougher.

    The #3 bus goes to the southern end of the Domain, whence it
    is a 15-minute walk to party central. This got to be rather
    daunting, as the Do schedule was of long hours, so I ended
    up punting the Sheraton and rooming with a friendly FTer at
    the Aloft at the Domain, which is pretty much like other
    Alofts, i.e., friendly, bright, trying a little too hard to
    be hip but, yes, still making me feel my geezerhood.

    Breakfast tacos were served on the bus by Starwood Lurker
    and Round Rock doughnuts by Mackieman, sponsored by the
    always generous Randy Peterson. My mouth was truly aching,
    so I passed on the chewables and was granted two gummables,
    one plain, one chocolate. These are very good examples,
    tender, Texas-size, and Texas sweet.

    A jolly bus ride, our first stop (hard to find, and we took
    a tour of various industrial parks before reaching our
    destination) the Austin Beerworks, a sort of microbrewery
    aiming to become a macrobrewery, making quite good beers
    with peculiar names that I forgot (as I was still attention
    deficited from my sugar high). I tasted a light lager, which
    I thought pretty ehh; their German-style black lager, rather
    hoppier than the ones I remember in Germany, but very nice;
    and an APA that was quite good, floral, with a substantial
    but not unmanageable 60 IBU. We got a tour of the operation
    followed by a lesson on shotgunning beer. I asked our guide,
    one of the owners, what the point of this was, and having
    been told that the point was to down liquid as quickly as
    possible, challenged him this challenge - he'd do it this
    pressurized way, and I'd do it out of a glass, and we'd see
    who was faster. He begged off and said he would find a
    colleague to sub for him; but before he did so it was time
    to reboard the bus for our next destination.
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  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Which was Black's in Lockhart, the consensus favorite of
    two years' ago's Do. Interesting conversations with
    carsonheim and blakefish en route.

    Sadly, my tooth was really killing me, so instead of some
    great brisket, my fate was to make a field trip, courtesy
    of Mackieman, to Twin Liquors up the road for a couple
    bottles of Dynamite Cabernet for the boat trip and a quart
    of Rebel Yell for the tooth. We returned for the latter part
    of the meal, and I was granted the boon of some soft foods
    to nourish my body and soul: brisket fat from lili and
    creamed corn from SeeYa - both excellent, and seeming doubly
    so given my condition. A Shiner Bock rounded out the meal.

    On to Shiner and Spoetzl Brewing, where a short tour and
    Q&A were followed by a visit to the tasting room, where we
    were entitled to four half-beers each. I paired up as usual
    with lili so we could taste everything (at wine tastings
    we sometimes have had up to four people on a glass, which
    allows for a wider range).

    The light blonde was inconsequential; the regular blonde
    somewhat better. A black lager seemed truer to the German
    Schwarzbier style than the Austin had been though erring
    hopswise on the low side this time: I liked it very much.
    Wondered how they'd hopped the red to make it so citrusy
    but unhoppy, and it turns out it's made with real grapefruit
    and ginger, so there. A pale ale was lovely.

    They were also were pouring a Hefeweizen, of which I was
    offered a sip, but I don't care for the style; and there
    was no point sampling the Shiner Bock, as it and Rebel Yell
    constituted most of my sustenance for the day.

    On to Luling to visit the City Market, where the brisket was
    pretty tender and tasty, moist enough but not luxurious the
    way Black's is; its sausage was very moist but rather mild;
    of course with good meat, an overplus of spice isn't needed.

    As I pecked away at only small bits of food, I had time to
    nip across the street to check out the neglected Luling
    BarBQ - a completely different kind of operation, no smoke
    in smelling distance. Its sausage a bit dry but quite a bit
    pepperier than the one down the way; I can see the merits of
    both styles, but City Market's edges ahead in quality; with
    a bit more aggressive spicing, there would be no contest.
    The brisket, no comparison. Here, quite mediocre - tough,
    not succulent even though cut from the moist end, and way
    not smoky enough.
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    A big day, starting with breakfast at Snow's, a long haul
    away. Lexington is only maybe a quarter hour farther than
    Lockhart, but somehow it seems more remote - maybe a factor
    of the topography. Snow's, open Saturday only, is claimed by
    many as the best brisket in Texas and therefore the world,
    rivalled only by Franklin, the visit to which I'd missed.

    It's yet another unprepossessing shack with pits out back,
    emanating a compelling fragrance. You line up for a trip to
    the carvery, receive your bounty, pay, and then out the
    front and then around back to the picnic tables by the pits.

    The brisket - best of my trip - had good smoke; it was very
    tender and flavorsome with notable beefiness. Ordered moist
    it was just about perfect.

    Also excellent was the sausage - today's flavors were
    regular, which was regular, on the moist side, and jalapeno,
    just slightly spunkier but otherwise about the same.

    Beans, cooked with chunks of dried-out remnants of meat,
    are free and worth twice the price (actually, I thought
    them quite good).

    I was unaccountably thirsty and so got back in line; Bob W
    asked me to get him a Big Red; trusting his tastebuds, I
    got one for myself as well. It's bubble-gummy with a trace
    of unidentifiable perhaps tropical fruit: guesses on the
    Internet range from strawberry to citrus to who knows. I'll
    not be so quick to trust anyone else's taste in the future.

    We stopped to provision at Spec's Liquors - I thought we
    would have time to change at the hotel, but we bypassed it
    though it was within a mile of our route. I got a bunch of
    the Austin beers (fair priced) and a couple bottles of
    water (free). I saw Starwood Lurker pick up a bottle of
    quite expensive whiskey, of which more later. And then
    on to Lake Travis, which despite drought conditions is still
    an impressive sight. A party boat had been arranged for us;
    owing to the lowness of the water line it was quite a hike
    across some pretty treacherous footing to get there, but
    eventually we did, with some Canadian stragglers (having
    gone to the wrong marina) arriving just as we cast off.

    It was a double decker, the upstairs capacity controlled and
    showing signs of having suffered some weight-caused mishap
    in the past. I mostly stayed on the main deck, thank you.

    The fun consisted of drinking, looking at the big lake,
    drinking, swimming, for the hardy, and a bit more drinking,
    to vary things.

    Garrison Brothers Texas Bourbon (94 proof), a very boutiquy
    prestige product, I found characterful, vanillary, a touch
    of maybe citrus and spice, but more than a touch of green,
    which I associate with lesser whiskeys. It also showed its
    proof fully and was rather hot to drink straight; bringing
    it down to 85-90 proof made it taste richer and easier to
    drink. The Rebel Yell that I'd been using to anesthetize
    my tooth was a better deal, same genre of thing if perhaps
    not so fine, at 1/5 the price.

    Dynamite Cabernet 08 was a much lesser wine than it was in
    vintages past: I think it's being sweetened up and dumbed
    down to cater to a different demographic. The price was
    right, anyway, and it wasn't bad for having been gotten in
    the wilds of central Texas.
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  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    After a couple hours of alcohol and frolic, it was time.
    The bus then took us to the height of land, where we were
    deposited at Uncle Billy's at Oasis, across the lake - a
    striking setting. I'd been worrying my rogue tooth, and
    finally it came out just before dinner, with the aid of a
    few extra surreptitious shots of Rebel Yell. I was quite
    happy with this outcome. I only wish that it had done so
    a day or two earlier.

    When the food started coming out I deliberately got in
    line early while most others were still chatting away so as
    to be able to comb through the brisket for the fatty bits,
    because despite the relief, there was still a substantial
    ache in that unhappy jaw. Ironic that the first meal I could
    actually enjoy physically was not one that I could enjoy
    much aesthetically.

    The fatty end of the brisket was not nearly fatty enough,
    not nearly tender enough, not nearly smoky enough, and had
    clearly not been cooked with the loving care and painstaking
    technique as at other places. It was good mass-market 'cue.

    The sausage was of fine grind and quite hotdog-like, not my
    favorite style, and a rib (my first this trip) was quite

    A tray of steamed carrots was the only such that I had ever
    seen on a bbq line, and I took a few just for the sake of
    the novelty. The novelty wore off soon.

    Though I was now chopperly equipped to eat more, I didn't
    see a need to do so, beer being the filler upper of choice.

    The much-touted sunset was beautiful, and our private room
    had a private balcony for the viewing, though there were a
    few poachers come in out of the economy.

    Final Do event: Salt Lick Round Rock, a very short distance
    from the Domain. I actually punted the bus in favor of a
    ride with sea777Guy, bk3day, and lili; we arrived 1 1/2
    beers before the rest.

    When the bus showed up, our room became almost unbearably
    noisy. Perhaps the younger generations equate the buzz with
    festivity; we grayhairs don't so much. Conversation was
    well nigh impossible at our table.

    On the docket: brisket, fairly moist, fairly tender, pretty
    good; sausage, rather garlicky, kielbasalike; ribs, in no
    way a contender. Our table also got some turkey, I think by
    special request. It had the texture of brined but wasn't
    overly salty; but nonetheless I do not go to a famous BBQ
    place to eat poultry. Beans were pretty decent.

    We lingered for as long as possible, then said plenty of
    heartfelt hasta la vistas, many of us having had our fill
    of Q for a while, but some of us not so much, so thereon
    hangs a brief coda.
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  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Afterward we went off with sea777guy and bk3day again in
    search of more food, which I will refrain from describing.
    We dropped bk3day off at the hotel and at lili's urging went
    to find the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which was
    more interesting than I anticipated. It was a good
    explication of the first lady's beautification product, in
    words and examples, with examples of most of the native
    flowers, herbs, grasses, shrubs, and cacti that one finds
    along the Texas highways and byways. There was also a
    really nice temporary exhibit of paper sculptures on
    botanical themes done by Shou Ping, a Taiwanese now
    resident in Texas, Houston I think.

    sea777guy dropped us off at the car rental so we could start
    on our appendix to the barbecue adventure. But we were sort
    of bbqed out, plus we had a big styro container of sausage
    from the ever-generous Salt Lick, so further explorations
    would have to wait until tomorrow!

    The Hampton Austin Airport South is hard to find approached
    from the east. From the west, you just take the first exit
    after 35, and boom, you're there. It took us half an hour to
    get there from the airport, curling around labyrinthwise.

    We were damned if we were going to try that again, and it's
    lucky we had provisions and some Austin Beerworks beer, so
    that was that, and we retired to our rooms to ponder the
    rest of the trip.
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  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    One thing that was supposed to be up was a special visit to
    the Bending Branch Winery along with monitor and Franny and
    a few others. Unfortunately, lili got the news that our
    contact at the winery had gotten sick. Plan B was to head
    west anyhow and take a look at the hill country. The Hampton
    breakfast duly ingested, we were on our way. The first hour
    on 290 is pretty unprepossessing, Dripping Springs (a
    country music mecca, I'm told) notwithstanding. You sort of
    go from prairie land to hill country somewhere west of here,
    but until you get to around Johnson City the hills are kind
    of hard to notice. Johnson City, by the way, is really by
    the way: though a county seat, its population is well under
    2000, and bump in the road is a good description of it. Just
    past that is the Garrison distillery (closed for tours this
    day, not that I'd have been inclined to pay $10 for one).

    The LBJ Ranch is right off the highway. There's a state park
    - public - and a national park that is accessible only by
    prereserved bus tour. We stayed in the state park, watched a
    movie that humanized that president, poked around the local
    artifacts and presidential memorabilia, and called it a
    morning. We continued westward past quite a number of
    wineries, only the most desperate of which were open on a
    Monday forenoon, and all of which we passed up.

    The bluebonnets were mostly just over, and the wildflowers
    showed mostly yellow and orange, accentuating an impression
    of dryness and warmth.

    We took a quick detour to Luckenbach, for reasons unknown,
    and met a bicyclist couple of about our age who were here
    from El Paso (no, they hadn't cycled the whole way but were
    doing day trips from a camper).
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  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The Alamo Springs Cafe green chile cheeseburger with grilled
    onion and fresh avocado, all piled high on a jalapeno
    Cheddar roll, was featured a couple years ago on the cover
    of Texas Monthly and rated #3 best burger in the state, and
    we were within 5 miles of it - despite numerous claims on
    the Internet that the place is difficult to find, we decided
    we had to seek it out.

    It was easy to find. You turn left at the bat tunnel, and
    there it is in its anticlimactic plainness.

    When we arrived, an overwhelming aroma - they were just
    making a batch of their famous roast garlic. We sat down and
    were encouraged by the cashier to go find us some beers from
    the cooler; I picked two unfamiliar ones, both of which
    turned to be lightish and unchallenging, okay in the context
    of a big meal in a warm climate, but kind of disappointing
    adventurewise. St. Arnold Lawnmower is said to be a Kolsch,
    but aside from being a bit green and a bit fruity, it was
    pretty much like generic beer, though good for that; the
    Alamo golden ale had little character - seemed to be more
    like a Weisse with its citrus and notes of spice. When the
    waitress came to take our order, the titillating thought of
    a huge burger with half a dozen toppings had faded; lili got
    a plain hamburger, and for me the marinated pork tenderloin
    sandwich seemed to appeal. The burger was standard but good;
    it was very much like what I'd have made myself back in the
    days when I believed the food police and cooked ground beef
    to 160F. The tenderloin was not what I expected at all. Of
    course it was not a tenderloin but rather a large cut of the
    sirloin; but in appearance and taste it had nothing in
    common with any pork sandwich I'd ever had. First, it was
    jet black almost to the core of its moderately thin self.
    No breading - it had been griddled rather than fried. The
    marinade was salty and tart, I would guess a mixture of soy
    sauce, A-1, ginger, and vinegar. Not a symphony on a bun,
    exactly, but more like Stomp on your tongue.

    Verdict: pretty good food, friendly service, very peculiar
    location. Would I go back? If I were in Fredericksburg or
    Kerrvile, sure; not worth the trek from Austin, though.
    Plus I should have gotten the fried avocado.

    As it's next door, we took a look at Old Tunnel State Park,
    which is pretty woodland and notable only when the bats come
    out at dusk, or so the signs and guidebooks said.
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  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Fredericksburg is supposed to be quaint and Germanic and
    cultural, and ten times the size of Johnson City. As far as
    I could tell, it was none of the above - a nice town with
    a main street with a bunch of restaurants; the one we
    checked out was the Altdorf Biergarten, where the menu is
    as much Mexican as anything else, and the only German
    touches are a sausage plate, a few beers, and some odd
    knickknack decorations. As the Alamo burger had been half a
    pound and the peculiar pork tenderloin at least that, food
    was not calling. lili had a glass of Rex Goliath Pinot Noir;
    I wanted to compare the two head to head, so I got a pint
    (bottled) each of Paulaner Salvator and Spaten Optimator.
    Short version: they're both fine, malty, sweetish, rich;
    I find the Optimator too appley, though, in contrast to the
    dark rich fruitcake of the Salvator. Could have been bottle
    storage or variation, or perhaps the fact that I'd recently
    downed two liters of the stuff at Starkbierfest, but this
    time Paulaner wins.

    The rest of Fredericksburg, from our very brief wander,
    appeared as un-Germanic as it could be - a typical southern
    town, no more than that.

    Half an hour on a fast road brought us to our next sample
    of the Hampton line, this in Kerrville. I don't know what
    was going on in this metropolis of over 20,000, but we had
    to share a room and though greeted in a friendly way were
    issued a large room much of which was taken up by a hot tub
    and not enough beds; it also reeked. A huffy trip down to
    the desk yielded the information that our reservation had
    miraculously changed from two beds nonsmoking to one bed
    smoking with a hot tub. Luckily (said the desk clerk), they
    were sold out of smoking rooms but had a couple nonsmoking
    ones. Attempt #2 yielded a slightly smaller I think room
    also with a hot tub, the appropriate number of beds, and
    no tobacco odor. Yay.
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  10. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    lili said she had a special treat for me, the most visited
    tourist site in the hill country, and don't look it up on
    the Web first. So we braved rush hour in Kerrville, turned
    right at the light, and were soon at the Hill Country Arts
    Foundation, where, L I B ... Stonehenge, intact the way its
    designers had intended, and I just roared with laughter when
    I first spied it. Closer investigation shows that this
    version is only 2/3 the size of the original and made of
    plaster and other modern materials. We also ducked into the
    gallery of the arts foundation, where nothing so laughworthy
    was on display, and some of it was kind of good.

    Dinnertime, so we went to Billy Gene's for sunset over the
    Guadalupe and what is said to be the best homestyle cooking
    in town.

    It's sort of like an expanded diner but a little more
    permanent-looking. As the reviews mentioned, its river's
    edge location makes for very pretty sunsets, and this was
    a perfect evening for it.

    Food was pretty decent. I had a somewhat overgrilled
    rainbow trout, a large serving, over half a pound, fresh as
    could be but needing a squeeze of lemon for moisture; you
    get two sides with the meal, so I had the very southern
    pairing of corn (from frozen) and okra (fried nicely but
    also from frozen). I would have had chili and chili as my
    sides, only it's out of season! being served only to warm
    you up in the chill wintertime, when the days don't much
    exceed 60F and, at night it can get to almost 0 on the
    Celsius scale.

    The drink special: very weak margaritas, 3.99. I had two and
    got no perceptible buzz. Of course, I'd had beer with lunch,
    and there was the further issue of the pints of Doppelbock
    at snack time, so perhaps limiting my alcohol might have
    been a fortuitous good thing.

    As if she hadn't had enough meat this week, lili had the
    small sirloin medium-rare; it came medium (duh) and would
    have been much better rare. It was actually quite a nice
    little chunk of beef. Her two sides were beef-black bean
    soup (with a little cumin it would have been like chili)
    and mash and gravy, both of which tasted made in house.

    Messina Hof Cabernet - quite oxidized, the fruit character
    gone and replaced by an "old wine" aspect - not bad.

    For afters I ordered pecan cobbler to see what it was: it
    was merely your standard extremely sweet pecan pie, only
    baked in a rectangular pan, so there was more gooey
    translucent stuff and less crust to cut it. I still almost
    ate it all.
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  11. Sedosi

    Sedosi Gold Member

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    Good report. As with anything Texas Hill Country is hit or miss. I've drank a LOT of bad Texas wine to find some good Texas wine for example. BarBQ is a hit or miss proposition, as there are people who swear by Chisolm Trail in Lockhart while I think it's of poor quality. At least you didn't go by Fredricksburg winery. AVOID.

    Thanks for the write-up, always nice to see how foreigners view us. ;)
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  12. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    You're welcome.
  13. violist
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    We had decided that Bastrop, though absent any culinary
    (or other) attractions of its own, was a nice central
    location for our continued investigations; this required
    a long drive past San Antonio and then up on farm roads.
    Coincidentally, the route as plotted took us right past
    McMahan, the home of the fabled R&G Bar-B-Que, known as the
    hideout of Roy Jeffrey, formerly pitmaster at City Market in
    Luling, who had been hired away to perform the same role at
    Luling City Market (no relation) in Houston, and who had
    sought redemption for his apostasy by retreating hermitlike
    to a shack in the middle of nowhere. It was said that he
    cooked only when he felt like it, which might well be true,
    as when we arrived, there was a sign tacked up that said
    "closed"; lili opined with her superior eyesight and
    perceptiveness that it appeared not to have been open for
    quite some time. A mild disappointment, blunted by the fact
    that my choppers were working again without overmuch pain,
    and we were just ten miles from Black's, which made a fine
    consolation prize, as as before the moist brisket was smoky,
    tender, and delicious.

    Next on the agenda was Elgin for its two sausage places. We
    started off at Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse, a dim and dingy
    venue whose brisket was somewhat undercooked though properly
    moist; its sausage was considerably moist, loose, and meaty
    flavorsome, but not spicy at all. No beer, so I had an RC,
    a sweetish Pepsilike substance with ample caffeine.

    Southside Market is just up the way; it's much more tourist-
    friendly, well lit, clean, decent bathrooms. I liked the
    food less, though - its brisket was a sad thing, hardly fit
    to eat; in keeping with the unmoist philosophy, its sausage
    was drier but much more highly seasoned and saltier. It
    didn't serve anything properly called beer either - I went
    back behind the counter to check out the situation, which
    alarmed one of the workers there until he saw me squinting
    at the cooler, whose wonders I couldn't see. I remarked to
    him that the pickings were slim (mostly A-B and Miller
    products), and he sort of snickered. I had iced tea instead;
    it came from a massive drum trucked in from God knows where.
    On the whole not a stellar visit, and truth be told, Elgin
    is easily missed.

    A quick trip through town (unprepossessing) and a backtrack
    to Bastrop, where the Hampton desk person apologized for no
    upgrades being available, which was fine with me; more
    troublesome was that there was no fridge for my beer and no
    nuke to render my leftover sausage palatable. So I filled a
    trash can with ice and made my own fridge, and lili
    volunteered to go down to the lobby and find a microwave,
    which it turns out is not in the breakfast room but rather,
    peculiarly, off near the side door.

    Oh, we'd checked out the town before settling on leftovers
    for supper - it's not much, and downtown was closed for a
    party - the Houston Chamber of Commerce had rented it for
    the evening. I suppose we could have crashed the party,
    but it didn't look all that interesting. There's a Spec's
    in town, anyhow, which had all we needed, which was mostly
    a bottle of Clancy's (which since Peter Lehmann has left off
    day-to-day management of his winery has fallen a bit).
  14. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Hampton breakfast - why do we keep subjecting ourselves to
    greasy pig products, reconstituted eggs, sugary but
    tasteless rolls ... even on days when we are scheduled to
    go off and find more stuff to eat? At least the breakfast
    room was nice, with a really high ceiling.

    Stop 1, Giddings Meat Market, is just half an hour east, and
    my belly was full of bananas and orange juice; still, we got
    our usual order. Interestingly, at breakfasttime there was
    a sizable bunch of people come here for their morning dose
    of 'cue. You go past the meat market (deserted), past the
    picnic tables (well populated), and back to the pit, where
    the guy, sweaty from the fires directly behind him, carves
    and weighs your order (meats all the same price), and you
    go off a few feet to eat. The brisket reminded me of Kreuz
    only better - as with Kreuz, even the fatty end was too
    lean and harsh textured, but here the smokiness was well
    developed without the meat being dry and burnt. The pork
    sausage the gamiest of the trip - I wonder if it was quite
    fresh -, but it was also pretty smoky, so pretty decent.

    We were now heading into the home stretch as we approached
    the sleepy (moribund?) town of Taylor, home of two renowned
    brisket houses.

    The Taylor Cafe is down by the tracks; it's dim and dark and
    sort of offputting at first, with neon advertising for
    brands of beer that you wouldn't be caught dead drinking.
    The bar is u-shaped - apparently in segregation days there
    were two parallel bars, and at some point a connection was
    made. The waitress-bartender is grumpy but sort of warms up
    eventually. lili and I having eaten recently and about to
    eat again decided to have a couple beers and split a lunch
    plate, pleading elderliness. This had pretty good brisket -
    good texture and flavor but not very smoky, unfortunately
    drenched in a tomato salsa-like sauce; if you go here, ask
    for the sauce on the side; also some kielbasaish sausage.
    For an extra buck one can get a couple ribs, but as I feel
    that Texas pork ribs are somewhere between an abomination
    and a blasphemy, we refrained. Beans and yellow potato salad
    were nonpoisonous, and we refused the white bread that
    comes, preferring our carbs in the form of Shiner Bock.

    Our server, finally showing some attention and perhaps a
    grudging pride, came by with a copy of a newspaper that
    contained an article featuring the pitmaster, Vencil Mares,
    who is about a million years old; his picture had been
    autographed in a scraggly old hand. It was represented to
    us that he comes in every day to supervise and was in fact
    over at the other end of the bar, so on our way out we went
    by. The guy, actually only 88 1/2, was asleep. Some of the
    regulars told me to nudge him, and eventually one of them
    yelled at him to wake up, which he did; we chatted a minute,
    and I made mild compliments about the food, and he fell back
    asleep, and the other patrons said to come back soon.

    Louie Mueller is two blocks away, and the waddle didn't make
    much more stomach space, so we just got half a pound of moist
    from the very young pit man, who offered a taste so we could
    be amused while we waited the 30 seconds or so while our
    order was being prepared. The brisket had excellent texture
    and good flavor but very little smokiness; the bark was
    extremely peppery, which I thought weird. Even weirder was
    the fact that their beer license is on hiatus, so we had a
    quart of mediocre lemonade instead.

    It's a half-hour jaunt back to Austin, and a few more
    minutes to the airport, where we had rooms at the Hilton. I
    got a nice room away from the elevators, just as requested.
    Dinner was leftover Louie Mueller's and leftover wine.

    Early to bed and early to rise.

    CO1032 AUS IAH 0640 0742 738 3B

    I had put in months ago with an RPU, maybe they were called
    CR1s then, so as to be assured of sitting with lili on this,
    what is it, 20 min flight. Saw her off at her gate and went
    to the club for orange juice, bananas, and such potassium-
    rich delicacies.

    CO1732 IAH BOS 1119 1612 738 21A

    This leg never cleared, and I had to content myself with the
    exit row, which was substantially uncomfortable, and I ended
    up with a crick in my neck that lasted for days.


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