January 31, 2011

Pedernales River Idyll

from the river 
from the house
Opting for the scenic yet rather circuitous route between San Antonio and Austin a couple weeks back, I spent Friday night at the halfway point... the family ranch of a dear friend just outside of Johnson City. Never you mind that halfway made it twice the distance.  The occasion was a cherished and all-too-rare evening in the company of men. We satiated ourselves with braised pork ribs and queso, whiskey, poker and Texas TV (if you don't know what that last one is I'll give you a hint... to turn it on you have to build it first, and it only has one channel, and it'll keep your ass warm when the Hill Country wind kicks up).  

I grew up hunting just north of there in Round Mountain. It's blissful, this rugged smattering of hills and oak trees and mesquite, with a river that, when it runs, can give you falls and deep pools of water that provide refuge from the summer heat. Unfortunately the gap in hunting seasons coincides disastrously with the lull in sports seasons, so all we could shoot off was our mouths. Nothing presidential about that but it makes for good stories. 

About a half mile outside the gate I regained tower service, catching the front-end of KUT's Folkways; it kicked off with four tunes from the ever-gravelly and oh-so-lovely Lucinda Williams. Then Hank Williams, then Robert Earl Keen, and I was home... 

January 26, 2011

Gruene Hall

I don't know how much cigarettes cost but it looks like the prices on this machine are more current than the latest permit ('86). That's one of the few things updated at Texas' Oldest Dance Hall, built in the late-19th century. Z and I saw Charlie Robison over the New Year and got re-acquainted with the lax smoking laws one is afforded in small town Texas. Not that I appreciate it, but I agree with it. In principle, you know. If you don't like it, grab your hat and go someplace else.

Gruene Hall
1281 Gruene Road
New Braunfels, TX 78130

B&W Photos Courtesy: Newman Photography.

January 19, 2011

Monte Carlo

I asked him to pour me something brown,
It mattered not if rocks or up.
A drink that left me be to drown,
At the bottom of my tumbler cup.

Nothing neat,
Is all I ask;
And not too sweet (his Manhattans are so damned sweet).

Oh and Not Too Dry.
Without hesitation, equal to task,
He added Rye.

And on and on,
He shook and shook,
And then it was: 

A Monte Carlo! He said,
When he was done.

                    Not neat, 
                    Not dry,
                    Not too sweet... 
                    And I imbibed.

It was almost as good... 
As the Second one.
I figured that since we all seem to be looking for ways to work more rye into the rotation you'd appreciate the story. And the direction...

Monte Carlo
2oz rye whiskey, preferably 100-plus-proof
3/4oz Benedictine
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Maraschino or brandied cherry, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice. Add the rye whiskey, Benedictine and bitters. Shake well for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the cherry.

4901 Broadway
San Antonio, TX 78209

Recipe and "Up" Photo Courtesy: The Washington Post. 

January 13, 2011

Virtuous Gluttony

The Monterey is the manifestation of what bon vivant trio Stacey Hill, Chad Carey, and Erick Schlather envisioned when they struck out to open a restaurant like home. Where folks can “dig in, talk shit, and smoke cigarettes.” Where the food comes out in the order that it comes out. Have another glass of wine. Have another bottle. Still hungry… more fries.  An extra dollop of Sriracha for my garlic anchovy mayo please, and onto my fried chicken shall it be slathered… liberally, and with feeling.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Benton’s Bacon, Beef Cheeks, Chicken Liver Pate, Duck Fat Toast & Pickled Pear, and so on and so forth… there is something very elemental about The Monterey, but scratch a bit and you’ll find forethought and high-quality at every level.  These are the raw ingredients that shape the whole issue of how we perceive its flavor (or “flava” depending on what you’re referencing), from the aesthetics to the music and ultimately to the drinks and eats. 

Yet for all the care that went into its creation, the Monterey seems to get the merit in not being too earnest. Dinner (or brunch, on Sundays) is an experience devoid of the pretentiousness you’d expect to find in such a cool place.  And by cool I mean that if the Monterey were a magazine it would cost $16 and be guest-edited by Sofia Coppola.* 

I don’t think it’s disingenuous, this attitude of ‘Problem? What problem?’ It’s refreshing actually, even sincere… a simple formula, difficult to achieve, which the Monterey executes with style.

1127 S. St. Mary’s
San Antonio, Texas 78210

*Lifted from Jason Gay at the WSJ. It was, quite simply, too good a line not to plagiarize directly.
Certain Photos Courtesy: San Antonio Express-News .

January 10, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Capitalism

If you've got a better tag-line let me have it...  

January 8, 2011

Contemporary Art...house

Over the holidays the Z and I, taking a short break from over-consumption, heeded the cultural call and decided to check out Arthouse, the recently re-opened contemporary art space in downtown Austin. It was as much an opportunity to broaden the ol' horizons as it was a mission to check out the competition (only so many benefactors to go around, you see).

The building, mid-19th century, just underwent quite the renovation: a $6.6 mil capital campaign and a tripling of the useful space, including a pretty swell members only rooftop.  They did it right, LTL Architects, forward-looking but with a nod toward the building’s considerable history.

The space is incredibly versatile – a wall-less, column-free second story allows for an exhibition to be sprawled out in to-tal. 

As a lover of merriment in general I really took to Jason Middlebrook's More Art About Buildings and Food.  It literally captures the essence of the renovation, incorporating salvaged materials and repurposing them into tables, benches, chairs, etc. These pieces, in addition to a recipe-adorned 15-ft high wall running the length of the floor, made for an enjoyable exhibit.

700 Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701

Various Photos Courtesy: Arthouse.