We had the most amazing little road trip with Matt and Anna last week. We started in Abilene and made our way through little TX towns to Austin and then back up. I’m going to post most of the text from our tumblr account written about the places we visited and then stick in the more “fancy” photos I took.
Perini’s in Abilene, TX
We had dinner at Perini’s, which the waitress cautioned us is a working ranch. From what I can tell, they raise cats! The wood fired steaks were wonderful (mine was a perfect rare), and the burgers lived up to the hype. The bread pudding had a great balance of whiskey and vanilla flavor, and was made how I always hope it will be (heavy on the sauce). More than anything, it was nice to be together again after so long! -Palmsey
Coopers BBQ in Mason, TX:
Cooper’s is known for their pork chops but have numerous other choices. We sampled just about everything and found the pork chops to be one of our least favorite. The meats that we felt we could repeatedly put in our mouth from this place were the brisket, chicken, jalapeño sausage, and ribs. On a side note, here’s a math problem: Palmsey’s age + Mrs. Palmsey’s age + Zatt’s age + Tiny Zatt’s age = the next youngest person in the dining area here at Cooper’s. Now, we are off to Fredricksburg! – (written by Anna)
We did a lot here and not much included bbq joints. We sampled olive oils, chocolates, wines and German cuisine. It was also Stupid Shirt Day. So here is a sampling of our time in and around Fredericksburg:
Example 1 of Stupid Shirt Day – Matt Ray
Anna’s milkshake brings all the boys to Fredericksburg
Matt’s home sweet home in this returning classic
What’s more patriotic than a Maltese?
Stupid shirt couple photos
Always out-hammed by the Zatts
A cute little bakery where we got muffins for breakfast for the next day.
After roaming around downtown Fredericksburg, tasting jams, dips and various salsas that 400 other people were trying, too, we headed out of town about 20 miles to Becker Vineyard. The grounds were beautiful and lavender fields spread out behind the main tasting building.
We all bought a tasting ticket and tried several varieties that I didn’t know Becker even made. Beyond our beloved claret and malbec, we sampled some great tempranillo, grenache, zinfandel, barbera and a reserve cabernet from a vineyard near our west Texas home. Unfortunately, many of these are only sold at the winery. If you get a chance, try their signature red blend, “Raven” – it is lovely and would have gone great with some of the steaks from last night!
So far Fredericksburg has been charming and reminds me a bit of Napa Valley. Except for the hundred degree heat!
The lavender fields behind Becker Winery
Dinner at the Auslander
For dinner in Fredericksburg, we ate at Auslander Biergarten Restaurant (across from the Nimitz Pacific War museum). You might ask yourself, “With thousands of German restaurants in Fredericksburg, why Auslander?” First, it sounds like Saveur editor-in-chief and Top Chef Masters judge James Osland runs the place (quite fabulously!). Second, a brochure promised those massive 64-oz. glasses of beer! (I never bought one…I chickened out.)
Feasting in the shadow of a wall of cuckoo clocks and stuffed moose/elk heads, we devoured several plates of meat slathered in red wine gravy. The ladies’ wienerschnitzel was crispy, Palmsey’s pepperwurst was the perfect accompaniment to spicy mustard and sauerkraut, and my rouladen (pickles, onions, and mustard rolled into beef) was fantastic…and I think it had some corned beef or pastrami inside it.
Many online reviews blasted the place for tasting like German cafeteria food, but we agreed that 1) it was exactly what we needed after a long day of travel, walking sidewalks with throngs of middle-aged tourists, and dealing with the Hill Country’s oppressive heat, and 2) let’s face it: it ain’t Le Bernardin and doesn’t pretend to be. Overall, I’d be willing to kinda overlook that whole Nazi thing due to the food being so tasty (I said “KINDA!)
Looking forward to Austin!
– Matt Ray
Weinerschnitzel, spaetzle and gravy. Can’t get much more comforting than that.
Me taking a pic of Matt taking a pic.
The pic Matt took as I took a pic of him taking this pic.
We’d read about the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe and how they have pies to write home about. We hoped to get to bowl to work off some awful calorie packing we’d done, but it was just for league bowlers certain nights of the week. The waitress was super cool and told us that we could go “behind the curtain” and look at the lanes. It was super awesome of her and really fun to see the ancient lanes!
Coconut cream pie – it was absolutely as good as it looked. Creamy, slightly warm coconut curd and fluffy as air meringue with toasted coconut on top.
Dark chocolate cream pie with that same incredible meringue
Tart cherry – it was the least “wow” but it was a great pie. Obviously no fake fillings in this joint.
Anna has a pic of us doing this same thing (I think)
Blanco has so much small town charm. They could really film a movie here as it seems stuck in the past. Oh wait, they did:
The courthouse where the Rooster trial was filmed. Unexpected find in beautiful Blanco!
On to Austin:
First stop, Home Slice Pizza. Austin wasn’t really an exploration of bbq joints. Sorry. It has too much to restrict ourselves. Home Slice has NY style pizzas with folding-size slices and incredibly high quality toppings.
Much like the rest of Austin, Home Slice is quirky. Down to the coloring projects for children – a “color Hall and Oates”, which we decided to make into a competition among the couples and had our waiter judge. Behold, two very different sets of Hall and Oates:
Matt and Anna’s. Quasimodo and Tom Selleck?
Mine and Matt’s: Hall and Oates or John Travolta and Lionel Richie?
My favorite comment about these pics came from Paul Hunton after Matt texted him this photo:
Anna Ray wins since she made him look like a sexual deviant (second drawing, Oates #1) I’m about 80% sure Alisa’s drawing is racist (Oates, or Lional Richie) Matt P. wins the silver medal and Matt R is 40 years too late. – Paul Hunton
Needless to say, we got tons of laughs from our first Sausage Fest competition. I guess the stupid shirts could be another competition – any votes on the worst?
This next part is going to be brief. I thought, in a completely sober state, that doing a baby shoot with Matt Ray would be near the funniest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was correct. We swaddled him with the hotel comforter. Here’s a pic of me in action:
And here’s the three best from our shoot. I did black and white as we weren’t exactly dealing with the greatest colors. I’m only posting three because I don’t want to disturb the readers TOO much:
There really is no good way to transition after those photos so…then we went to three food trucks later that night! That’s right, three.
Anna got the Trailer Trash (fried chicken, queso and green chilis), Matt Ray got the Dirty Sanchez (eggs, poblanos, carrots) and the American (fried chicken, pineapple slaw and bacon) Matt P also got the American and the Jerk (chicken, fried jalapeño, cilantro) and I got the Baja (fried shrimp, pico, and ranch) and the Fried Avocado (implied) and we all got some awesome green chili queso to share. Awesome late night snackery!
After Torchy’s, we went to a dive bar called Liberty because associated with Liberty is East Side Kings – one of the greatest food trucks around. They serve Asian style steamed buns filled with various, amazing things.
Mine was fried chicken, basil, cilantro and a Thai spicy sauce
Matt P got his with pork belly
“That was all my favorite foods rolled into one. A flavor-gasm. – Matt Ray about the peanut butter curry bun from East Side King.”
The last food truck stop (at 1 a.m.) was at the OTHER East Side Kings to try their bowl o’ ramen.
And here’s what Matt P had to say about the food truck experience:
We stopped by The Liberty Bar on east 6th street tonight. It was skeezy-looking enough that we had some second thoughts, but I’m so glad we went. Everyone was super nice, and as Stefan would say, this place has it all: cheap PBR, a jukebox, IPA on tap, teddy graham people, friendly pups running around, and the reason we came here, East Side King. This little food truck in the back of the bar serves up the type of food you might expect to find at a David Chang restaurant – pork buns, fried Brussels sprouts, curries, and in general a strange mix of Asian flavors and down home ingredients such as fried chicken, beets, and mayo. We had seen the place on the “Heartland” special of No Reservations, and I was excited to try anything that came with such a hearty recommendation from Anthony Bourdain.
The steamed buns filled with pork belly and cucumber kimchi were my favorite, and Alisa preferred the ones with fried chicken and spicy Thai mayo. Matt was very happy with the deep fried peanut butter curry buns. This place gives a while new meaning to “bar food.”
We even hit up another East Side King outpost in the neighborhood on our way home. The dressed up instant ramen and pork belly ssam were great, but it’s hard to compete with something as fabulous as the original location.
Tomorrow we visit the town that has become synonymous with Texas-style barbecue: Lockhart!
I’m going to stop here with this post. Because it’s already freakishly long and because the next installment has such mouth-frothing passionate views about Lockhart BBQ that it needs its own separate space. Stay tuned…