Sunday, February 19, 2012

Things I love about Austin, Texas...

Alex and I recently made our first ever trip to Austin, Texas with a group of friends.  Having never been to Texas before (or at least never having stepped foot outside of the airports in Houston and Dallas Fort Worth) I wasn't really sure what to expect except that I had been warned that we would be eating a LOT of barbeque and drinking a lot of beer over the course of our long weekend.  But I didn't realize that in addition to the barbeque (and more on the bbq later because we had a TON of it), Austin actually has a really good overall food scene.  We had really great ice cream at Amy's Ice Creams and a phenomenal meal at Uchiko.  For those of you who aren't Top Chef fans or just haven't been watching closely this season, Paul Qui (my favorite contestant) is the executive chef at Uchiko.  The meal we had there was better than anything I have had recently in New York City.  That's how good it was.  We did the 10 course tasting menu and there were a few courses that just blew me away - the jar jar duck (duck confit and crispy duck skin in a jar with candied kumquats, endive and rosemary smoke), the uchi salad (baby romaine leaves crusted with a bit of sea salt, served with an edamame-based dipping sauce/dressing) and the fried milk dessert (pictured below).  I wish Uchiko were in New York so we could go all the time.

More (including pictures) after the jump!

And then there was barbeque.  Lots and lots of Texas barbeque.  While we didn't hit up every single barbeque restaurant that Austin is known for, we certainly hit quite a few of them.  Our first dinner in Austin was at a place called Rudy's.  I was a little skeptical because the location that we visited was behind a gas station.  But the jalapeno sausage we had there was my favorite sausage of the entire trip - it was spicy and flavorful, with a great snap to the casing and a nice firm texture to the sausage.  They also had delicious smoked turkey breast, creamed corn and banana pudding.  Day #2 of our barbeque extravaganza involved a trip out to Lockhart, Texas to visit all three BBQ heavy hitters over the course of one extended lunch - starting with Kreuz Market, followed by Smitty's Market and then Black's Barbeque (first picture of the post).  By the end of that extended meal I was beyond full and positive that I was never going to eat meat again.  But man oh man, was it totally worth it.  My favorites from the Lockhart BBQ expedition included the pork ribs, brisket and prime rib at Kreuz Market, the coleslaw from Smitty's (which was really the only thing I liked there), the beef rib and the side dishes at Black's (with the exception of the mac n cheese, which I thought was better at Kreuz's).  Actually I would say that Black's was my runner up for the two main Texas BBQ items - second best spare ribs and second best brisket.  Smitty's was by far my least favorite of the three.  If I had to do it all again I would just go to Black's and Kreuz's and I would hit Black's first.  I felt like a lot of us were so full by the time that we got to Black's that we couldn't enjoy it as much as we enjoyed Kreuz's (which was our first stop).  I wonder how that would effect my rankings...

Our last BBQ meal of the trip was at the The Salt Lick (their BBQ pit is pictured above) and their food is pictured below.  I would say that the BBQ there was quite good, although not my favorite of the trip, but I really loved their BBQ sauce.  It's mustard-based and a little sweet, which I generally don't like, but somehow it really worked for me.  Alex's complaint about the sauce was that they served the BBQ drizzled with sauce, so the flavors of the sauce and not the meat itself dominated.  I thought everything there was really good and I loved the atmosphere there, but nothing quite lived up to the bests at the BBQ joints in Lockhart.

I wish I had more pictures to commemorate all of our BBQ adventures, but I forgot to charge my camera before we left for Austin and once we got there, the camera took two pictures and then died.  So all of these pictures are from my iPhone, which tried its hardest, but can only do so much...

Kreuz Market (in case you can't read the smaller sign below it says "No Barbecue Sauce, No Forks, No Salads, No Credit Cards, No Kidding)

A pile of meat from Black's

Fried milk from Uchiko

Salt Lick BBQ

Alex's victory discount doublecheck after finishing Salt Lick

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