Monday, April 20, 2009

Austin in Review

I hardly know where to begin to share all that I did with Lydia and Neelam this weekend! I'll explain this WAY CUTE card later, but I wanted to post it up front for those who want to see paper art and move on.

I guess a chronological blow-by-blow would be easiest, so grab a chair and a snack or a drink to sip. This is gonna be a LONG one. Here goes...

I arrived Friday afternoon just about 20 min. late, due to a thunderstorm in Austin. The weather had been forecasted to be quite treacherous, so I was grateful to get out of Atlanta on time and have only this slight delay. Lydia picked me up at the airport and took me home to freshen up. This ADORABLE top note box full of Bit o Honey candy (we both adore it!) was perched on my nightstand. This was her first, less than subtle attempt to persuade me that the Big Shot die cutting machine was worth the investment. That is a cute container, is it not? There's a slender acrylic box that is sided by the Top Note, which has that distinctive curvy shape.

The lavishing of gifts continued when I turned to my bed and saw a lovely gift bag full of...gourmet chocolate!, carmelized pecans!, truffles!, and a hanging toiletry bag! Lydia has a generous heart, and I was quite touched.

We didn't have long at the house because we had to make our way to Uchi for dinner. Those who read Lydia's blog have heard her expound on the marvelousness of sushi in general, and this dining establishment in particular. When we were setting up the weekend's itinerary, I told her I was not going to be denied experiencing the #2 rated sushi restaurant in the country, and Uchi delivered! It was Happy Hour, so appetizers were half price. John, Lydia's regular waiter, convinced us to get the maguro sashimi and goat cheese. This was AMAZING! Buttery raw tuna medallions, paper thin slices of Fuji apple, and goat cheese, drizzled with pumpkin seed oil.

The rest of the dishes were our individual selections--Lydia's zero sen (yellowtail tuna with avocado, crispy shallots, yuzu kosho, golden roe, and cilantro with a lovely chili oil), my hakujin (salmon with grilled asparagus, rolled in tempura flakes), and Neelam's spicy tuna (bigeye tuna, english cucumber, and black and white sesame seeds. We also had a wala walu, a hot dish of oak grilled escolar in an AMAZING citrus broth with yuzupon and myoga. I don't know what those last two things are, but they sound cool, so I wanted you to know I had them!

Dessert was a coffee panna cotta filled with a mango sauce "yolk", with white chocolate sorbet and coffee "soil". It had crushed coffee nibs, but I have no idea what else. Didn't stop me from putting it down the hatch!

Saturday the gastronomical tour of delights continued. Highlights were a stop for coffee at Summermoon Cafe, a great independent coffee shop with a peaceful, soothing atmosphere. The perfect start to the day.

Then we went driving around and saw the sites: the flagship store for Whole Foods (Retail Church), the University of Texas campus, the pink granite Texas Capitol building, a local artisan shop, as well as a lot of other eateries that we didn't stop by, but which Lydia casually mentioned as, "oh, that's a great place for [fill in the blank]." I was stunned by the LACK of national food chains present in this town. We drove by a Pizza Hut and a Chili's that had gone out of business. It was so refreshing to be in a town where food is celebrated, and where local businesses are fanatically supported by those with truly educated palates!

After all this, we stopped by Sugar Mama's, a local cupcake shop, for post-lunch dessert. Lydia had tortured her blog readers with her eye candy from this place as well, so I requested a visit. Oh my! Too many to choose from, but I turned a blind eye to the James Brown, chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, for a French Toast, a maple cupcake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Fantabulous! It was really hard to stop with just one! My friend Darcie would've loved this little offering--frosting shots, little cups of just frosting, for those who know purport that the cake is really just a holding device for the true piece de resistance.

After this sugar coma, we had to do something to wake ourselves, so we went back to Lydia's to make cards. This is the card at the top of this post. We didn't come up with this ADORABLE creation. Laurie Froehlich of Inspired Designs created this chickie, and Lydia and I had a BLAST CASE'ing it! Follow the link to see her details for materials. It uses quite a few punches as well as the Big Scallop Die for the Big Shot. This is the BEST baby card I think has ever been created! Hop over to Lydia's blog to see her bluebird of happiness and sassy cardinal.

Saturday night I took my camera but didn't take pictures of my plate! We dined at Lambert's, a BBQ place. I had Frito Pie and we shared family style side dishes of cheesy jalapeno grits and lemony spinach that were fantastic. I know I'm using many superlatives as I describe the food, but it truly was a treat for the tastebuds. It has been quite a culinary challenge, being away from Chicago.

Sunday morning, we again ventured out for coffee, this time to a place called Halcyon Coffee Bar Lounge. A coffee shop by day, a bar/lounge by night, this place had a lot of character, and fantastic tasting espresso. Yes, it was better than Sbux! When I asked Lydia what Halcyon means, it became clear why she wanted to visit. Halcyon means BLUE, and the sky was beautifully so! Hang with me, I'm almost done...

We finished up the day by making another card that I'll show you soon, and dined at Matt's El Rancho, a very good Tex Mex place. I didn't take my camera, but I had tacos al pastor, and the interesting ingredient in my dish was grilled pineapple mixed in with the pork. The guacamole salad was yummy too!

Rain bookended the start and end of this trip; my flight was delayed 1 hour in boarding. We sat on the tarmac for another 30 min, and this resulted in a 30 min. late landing in Atlanta. I was happily exhausted. What a fabulous weekend! Thanks gals, for a MARVELOUS time.


Amy said...

What fun! Aren't stamping friends the absolute best!

Maren said...

Jenn - You had me drooling! I'm glad you had such a great time in Austin.