Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eating My Way Through Austin: Days 3 & 4

[Note: The first part of this post was written Friday evening, 6/3. I had to stop writing because I was SO full that writing about food was making me feel ill. Piece was finished on 6/6.]

The ironic thing about this post right now is that I'm literally writing it while in the middle of the most ridiculous food comas I have ever been though in my entire life. I'm literally propped up in bed feeling so full that I can't even imagine ever eating again. But I have to tell you about the eating adventures I've had over the past 2 days in Austin!

First of all, sleeping in late on Thursday didn't allow me to have a breakfast even close to as awesome as at Juan in a Million the day before. It was a lot worse, in fact. It was a bagel from Starbucks (blech!) I scooped out the middle and toasted it well, then spread cream cheese all over it, but even that amount of description is too much. It was nothing special at all.

My morning session was with Shauna James Ahern better known as Gluten Free Girl and I have to tell you, it really was fabulous. She has been blogging for years about Gluten-Free living and I found her to be funny, approachable and incredibly sweet. This was one of the sessions I enjoyed most, and I met many other food bloggers during this session that was called "Blog to Book." I was also delighted to see Marge Perry in this session, who was my Food Writing teacher at the Institute of Culinary Education and the one who told me to join IACP in the first place.

When that session was over, I had just about 15 minutes to grab the free lunch before meeting with Lynn Woll, Sr. Director of International Marketing of allrecipes.com. As part of IACP we could choose to meet with a "mentor" for 1/2 hour, and I chose Lynn because she had marketing in her title and allrecipes.com is HUGE. Lynn was incredibly nice and we chatted about my career path, her career path and a few other things for the 1/2 hour. I chowed down on my lunch, some hummus and some chicken breast, but again, nothing special. These were really just rushed meals eaten quickly so I could speed off to the IACP events, including a demo with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser of food52.com, both of whom I admire and was excited to see.Jacques was adorable, Amanda was a great moderator/interviewer and we got to taste some of Jacques' food! Delish.The real treat came for dinner that night. The IACP had planned one fancy night with a reception planned at the famed Driskill Hotel followed by an awards ceremony at the Paramont Theatre. I had been planning to go to both, but Rev (Burger Conquest) asked around and some people told him that the reception was great but recommended to skip the awards ceremony. Since Rev's friends Julie and Ethan live in Austin, we made plans to meet them for dinner after the reception.

The Driskill Hotel was beautiful, everything I had been hoping it would be. The event was elegant and all the cocktails were made with vodka so I was a happy girl. We didn't want to eat too much at this event, so we only had tiny tastes of the offerings: duck (my favorite!), squab and venison. Yum! All three pieces of meat were very good, but the venison was definitely the best of the three.After a few cocktails and some lively chatter with fellow IACP members, Rev and I took a walk to a restaurant called Haddington's in downtown Austin.
(photo courtesy of Haddington's)
Julie and Ethan were there when we arrived, so we sat at a table for 4 in one of the small side rooms in the restaurant. Since Ethan is a chef (Second Bar + Kitchen), we let him order us some appetizers. He got us the Duck & Foie Gras Meatballs, the Sweetbreads and the Tomato & Burrata Salad. Unfortunately, he found a tiny piece of metal in the salad so we had to send it back, but the Meatballs and Sweetbreads were both addictively good.

As if Foie Gras in my meatballs wasn't enough, the waitress then brought out four small shot glasses filled with a mysterious yellowish substance.She explained it was Foie Gras Egg Nog, and I was instantly turned off by the thought. But, being me, I took a sip anyway just so I could tell you all about it, and my initial reservations were confirmed. It was truly disgusting. I've never liked any drinks that are creamy or rich before, so adding something as heavy as Foie Gras to the flavor was a major turn-off for me. Rev and Ethan both liked it, Julie and I did not.

We had a great time at the restaurant. This was my first time meeting the two of them, Rev & Julie have been friends for years, and I found them both to be incredibly fun, delightful people who were great dining companions. Throughout the meal I sipped on a crisp, light Sav Blanc and decided that an entree of Sea Scallops would pair with the wine quite well. I was right. The Scallops were huge, light and very flavorful.I tried Rev's steak (he ordered the Steak Frites) and thought the steak was also very good. Cooked just how I like it (which as you know by now, is bloody) I thought the seasoning was perfect and the meat was tender.

Ethan ordered a few desserts, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Cocoa Panne Cotta, neither of which I had any interest in, but those who did eat them said they were good. I got myself my usual Espresso and was truly satisfied by the meal. Julie was incredibly generous and paid for the meal (thanks Julie!) and off we went. I decided not to go out that night since I had a full IACP day on Friday, so I went to bed that night with a full tummy and a happy feeling that often comes after a good meal spent with great people.

Now on to Friday, the day of the food coma I mentioned earlier. Again without time to grab a decent breakfast, I went to my morning IACP sessions and dreamed of lunchtime when Rev and Julie were planning to take me to Smitty's, a BBQ joint about 30 minutes outside of Austin. As soon as my sessions were over I met the two of them a few blocks away from my hotel and we piled into the car to head out on our BBQ adventure. Rev is somewhat of an authority on both Austin and food, so I was going to trust whatever he told me. And while I had only just met Julie, something told me she also really knew her stuff.

After a 40-minute drive out of Austin, we arrived to a cute, old-fashioned town called Lockhart. It looked like the towns in old western movies and I was instantly charmed. We pulled up to Smitty's and I could hardly contain my excitement. What kind of BBQ heaven awaited me inside? I truly couldn't wait to find out.
I'm a big fan of Texas, don't get me wrong, but dang, it's HOT! It was up around 100 degrees almost every day I was down there, and for me, that's really just too hot. When we walked in the front door of Smitty's, I was expecting a blast of AC, which is what happens anywhere else you walk into in Texas. But not Smitty's. It went from hot outside to an absolute inferno inside. It was so hot in there I almost couldn't breathe! I then realized the cause of the intense heat: the smoker. All the workers stand around the smoker to sell the meat and I'm telling you, I just about passed out. We ordered pork shoulder, brisket, pork ribs and a hot ring (sausage) with about 6 slices of white bread. I was in hog heaven! Pun intended.We took our food into the dining area which was thankfully a chilly 68 degrees and ordered iced tea and pickles (for Julie & me) and beer and cheese (for Rev.) We took our meat over to a big picnic table, took the usual photos of our food and went to town on the huge pile of pig. It was nothing short of incredible. The ribs were absolutely phenomenal. The smoky flavor permeated every inch of the meat and I couldn't get enough. Trust me, the brisket and pork shoulder were great, but these ribs! Out of control good.Once we finished all the meat, I made the ill-advised decision to go back out into the smoker and order two more ribs. The kind people of Smitty's gave me two very generously-sized ribs and as I carried them back into the air conditioning, I knew I was making a poor decision eating more but how often am I in Lockhart, TX at a BBQ joint like this? I carried on.Speaking of ill-advised... now I'm not usually an ice cream person, but at a mere $1 per cone, I couldn't resist. Julie and I, who are both lactose intolerant, each had an ice cream cone, knowing full well what it would do to us. Oops.We finished our ice cream, got back in the car and drove back to Austin for the rest of the IACP panels. I can't deny it, I was FULL. I sat in the back of the room wanting to be upstairs in my bed. I had eaten way too much. And to add to it, I had dinner plans with Patrick's cousin Brian and his fiancé Tanya later that night. As I said before, oops!

A full 4 hours later, as Brian and Tanya were picking me up for dinner, I was still incredibly full from lunch. I had been hoping I'd get hungry again, but no such luck. We drove 20 minutes from the hotel to a place called County Line BBQ.
(photo courtesy of County Line)
While it is a chain restaurant, I'd heard good things and they apparently had the "best bread ever" according to several reputable sources.

I ordered the Lite Plate with BBQ Chicken and a Beef BBQ Rib, Cole Slaw and a Salad.We also ordered a loaf of the famous bread, which was as good as everyone told me it would be. The loaf had to weigh at least a few pounds, and it was warm and delicious.I stuffed myself to the point of no return, which put me into the food coma I was in when I began writing this post. When they dropped my back off after dinner, I tried to meet some people out at a bar and I literally couldn't do anything but moan and clutch my stomach. I had clearly eaten too much, and it was time to go to bed. I went back to the hotel and called it a night. It was a true food coma, but it was absolutely positively worth it.

Have you ever eaten too much of one kind of food? What kind was it? Did you regret it, or was it worth it? Leave me your comments, I'd love to know I'm not the only one.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

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