Category Archives: Restaurants

Where we ate: November 2016 edition

We just returned from a trip back to the States.  We spend two weeks in Minnesota sandwiched around a weekend in Iowa, then a week in San Francisco split between staying in the Union Square area, Nob Hill, and San Carlos down the peninsula.

In Minnesota, we went to some of our favorite places and some new places that have opened since we left.  In San Francisco, I was too tired to really hunt for good food, so we ate what was convenient and/or recommended by our friends, but it was all tasty in the end.

In Minnesota and Iowa:

In San Francisco:

I think that’s everything.  It was a crazy trip.  I’m exhausted and happy to be back in Canberra.  For not particularly focusing much on food, I’d say we had a pretty killer food trip.  AND to finish the trip off perfectly, my Asian vegetarian meals on our United flight from SFO to SYD were excellent (much better than the Asian vegetarian meals I got on our outbound flight from SYD to SFO, weird).

ANZAC Day with Fam in Sydney

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We didn’t get up as early as many people did on ANZAC day.  Those people went to the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial (a typical thing to do) and got to see the royals in attendance (a not-so-typical thing).  But Pretty Boy and I did get up pretty early enough that Friday to catch a Greyhound bus to Sydney.  It was a 3.5 hour ride from city center to city center.

The bus ride was nice in that we got to see more of the country side, including a lot of the elevation changes and we had wifi on the bus; but less nice in that the toilet in the back of the coach smelled like toilet cleaner and the driver made liberal and jerk-y use of engine breaking.  It was a good experience to have though, because we can now factor it in when, in the future, we make decisions about whether to pay more in money for plane tickets or pay more in time and comfort for bus tickets when traveling around Australia.

We arrived in Sydney in the rain at midday without rain gear or much of a plan.  My cousin from the States, O, was arriving with her friend, C (also from the States but studying in Brisbane), later that afternoon so we were planning on bumming around and exploring while we waited to meet up with them.  The morning rush to get to the bus station on time, the long bus ride, the rainy weather, insufficient bus snackies, and the holiday closure of most shops and restaurants in Sydney made me and Pretty Boy rather crabby initially.  We navigated the few blocks to get to nearby Chinatown and crabbed at each other until we found a good cup of Hong Kong style nai cha (milk tea) and some dim sum to eat.  Only then were we able to hug out the crabbies.

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Even though we hugged out the crabbies, the rain was really getting us down so we decided to walk over to the hotel to rest and just wait for O and C there.  By the time they arrived, the rain and our crabbies had completely cleared up!  The plan for Friday evening was pre-dinner drinks somewhere in Darling Harbor and then dinner on a harbor cruise.  The bars around Darling Harbor were pretty crazy and packed with partying servicemen and good smelling food to taunt us.  The cruise around Sydney harbor provided us with the iconic, nighttime views of the Sydney Opera House and surrounding Circular Quay, the Sydney Harbour and the Rocks neighborhood, and the North Shore neighborhoods opposite the Opera House.  And food.  And rocking Latin pop music.

Found this little lizard-y guy in our hotel room.

Found this little lizard-y guy in our hotel room.

Saturday, our moods and the weather were much more cooperative.  On multiple recommendations, O, Pretty Boy, and I decided to take the train to Circular Quay to grab a ferry to Cockatoo Island and see the 19th Biennale of Sydney.  Circular Quay is a hopping dock where many ferries stop.  Cockatoo Island was formally a prison and shipbuilding yard that has been preserved and turned into kind of an island museum.  It was really cool seeing all the old buildings and equipment for shipbuilding, but also terribly creepy since everything was quiet and still and huge and run down.  Pretty Boy loved it and said it would make an amazing Call of Duty level or giant haunted park location.

Ferry to Cockatoo Island and the Biennale

Ferry to Cockatoo Island and the Biennale

The Biennale is a “contemporary visual arts festival” where modern artists set up exhibitions mostly on Cockatoo Island but also at other locations around Sydney.  We just visited the Cockatoo Island installations.  We walked around and saw most of the 30 some exhibitions on Cockatoo (except for the videos because we just didn’t have the patience for that).  In typical modern art fashion, some of the exhibits were super cool and some were pretty strange and many were both.  We walked; we saw; O photographed; we breaked for snackies.  It was fun.  I definitely would recommend seeing a biennale if you get the chance.

Coming soon - Call of Duty: Cockatoo Island

Coming soon – Call of Duty: Cockatoo Island

Our ferry was attacked by a passing pirate ship. We successfully fought them off.

Our return ferry was attacked by a passing pirate ship. We successfully fought them off.

After the Biennale, we returned to Circular Quay and went to the Sydney Opera House.  I never realized that the opera house was yellow-cream colored and not blue-gray colored as pictures had always lead me to believe.  I also never realized that the roof of the opera house was tiled and not smooth and continuous, also as pictures had lead me to believe.  It really is quite stunning, and as C aptly observed, it can look completely different depending on the angle its viewed from.  I think that’s awesome.  We ate a tasty and huge late lunch at the Opera House Cafe underneath the boardwalk, with live music and a view of the harbor.

Pirates in the harbor

Pirates in the harbor

Pretty Boy had his first Australian fish and chips at the Opera House Cafe.  I shared his chips; they were delicious.  I had Turkish bread and dips and some side veggies.  The dips included holiday/winter-spiced pumpkin, Mediterranean-spiced eggplant, and raisin and beet chutney.  Beets seem quiet popular here and I am happily enjoying beets in all their incarnations.  Still making the adjustment in my mind that we are heading into winter so winter produce and spices, like pumpkin and nutmeg, are becoming prevalent.

The Royal Botanic Gardens (different from the Australian National Botanical Gardens) are right next to the Sydney Opera House, and we took a brief stroll around a small part of the gardens before encountering a huge spider and then saying goodbye to O and C, who were headed to the airport to fly back to Brisbane.   The Royal Botanic Gardens are more like a public park with big grass lawns and some signage about the flora and fauna, while the National Botanical Gardens is much more of a botanical exhibit with different geographically sections and lots and lots of plants.

Royal Botanical Garden

Royal Botanic Gardens

Royal Botanical Garden resident

Royal Botanic Gardens resident

Pretty Boy and I still had a few hours before our bus back to Canberra so we walked around the Rocks neighborhood on the opposite side of Circular Quay from the opera house before heading back to the bus station.  The Rocks is super cool and swank and appealed to all my high-end, cute-boutique culinary, fashion, and lodging tastes.  We didn’t patronize any of the establishments there, but its definitely high on my list for when we go back.

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After the first day in Sydney, Pretty Boy and I weren’t so sure about it: its struck us as a travel destination but didn’t pull at our hearts like the places we’ve really grown to love, but after the second day, I think we really got to experience some of the charm of Sydney and we both felt like it was a place we could love.  It was at times like all of the places I/we already love: kind of like the Twin Cities and kind of like San Francisco and kind of like Europe and kind of like Hong Kong, in the best ways.

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Summer Pie and Pastry Tour

Regardless of whether or not I have personal time to make pie, I still always have a desire for good pie, and I always love the hunt for good pies out there.  This summer has been a hodge-podge of pies that weren’t exactly planned as a tour and didn’t all happen at the same time.  First, there was the mini strawberry rhubarb pies from Yum! Kitchen and Bakery in St Louis Park, MN.  Then the rhubarb crumb somethings from A Baker’s Wife in Minneapolis, MN.  A 2 Gingers Irish apple pie from Sara’s Tipsy Pies which I ordered online and picked up at the White Bear Lake Friday farmer’s market.  Donuts from Bloedow’s Bakery in Winona, MN.  And lastly, two hand pies from Brick Street Coffee in downtown Mt Carroll, IL.

I heard about the mini strawberry rhubarb pies from an online announcement and thought it was an excellent opportunity to leave school early, have my sweet tooth satisfied, and be judge-y.  After trying one, I decided I wouldn’t actually consider it a true pie and would therefore judge it in a non-pie manner.  The bottom crust was strange and more like a biscuit cookie than pastry, and I felt it didn’t really impart any flavor to the whole dish.  The top was a butter-based (not oat) crumble.  Aside from a bottom crust that I barely noticed, I really liked it.  The filling was set nicely, and tasted sweet and tangy and summery.  I would have liked the crumble with a little more texture, but I still ate it.  I’ve liked a lot of other offerings I’ve had from Yum before too, but I just wouldn’t go there looking to satisfy a pie craving or trust something labeled as pie.

I heard about the strawberry rhubarb things at A Baker’s Wife from Bearface who said they were amazing.  I got there late in the afternoon and snagged the last two off the tray.  They were in mini dishes shaped like pies but without a bottom crust and only a small sprinkle of butter crumble on top and the filling was runnier than a traditional fruit filling.  That’s why I’m not sure what to call them, and again, definitely not what I would consider a true pie, so I’m using an alternate judging criteria.  I’m going to give A Baker’s Wife and Bearface the benefit of the doubt on these because A Baker’s Wife makes really delicious stuff and Bearface only encourages me to eat really delicious stuff.  I think the two strawberry rhubarb things I got were flukes, because for whatever reasons, they seemed off and I didn’t like them.  The crumbles were mushy, the fruit was also cooked to complete mush, but the filling felt almost grainy to me – like the thickening agent hadn’t been full cooked even though the fruit was.  Sweetness level was good; fruity, summery, tangy business was good; I just didn’t like it that much.

The pie from Sara’s Tipsy pies ended up being the only true pie entry on this tour.  I found out about Sara’s from a recent Heavy Table shout out.  I was predisposed to not like the pie because I generally feel like good pies don’t need fancy-ing up with caramel or booze or nuts or the kinds of things people are so interested in adding to pies these days.  But I forced myself to keep an open mind and ordered a whole pie made with 2 Ginger’s Irish whiskey.  Bearface met me and Pretty Boy and we picked up the pie along with two hand pies.  I don’t remember the flavors but I didn’t like them as much as Bearface and Pretty Boy.  The crust was too soft and crumbly and the filling flavor not predominant enough for me.

After the hand pies, we stopped into Caribou Coffee for coffee and forks to attack the pie.  And did we ever attack the pie.  We probably ate two thirds of the pie right there, before I even thought to take a picture.  Probably a good sign.  The crust was real pastry and held up well, though like the hand pies, was still on the crumbly side for me.  I was surprise by how strong the whiskey flavor was in the filling.  I liked the consistency of the filling, both the apple juices (good thickness) and the apples themselves (cooked but still with some texture).  Now, a month later, I’m still undecided if I liked the whiskey flavor.  Bearface and Pretty Boy again were fans but it was almost too much whiskey for me.  My personal tastes aside, if you like whiskey, I’d recommend the pie.  Not one of the best pies I’ve ever eaten and a little gimmick-y with the booze, but still a strong offering and actually one of the best available that I’ve found in the Twin Cities metro area.  Next time I’ll have to try one of the ‘sober’ pies.

And then there was Bloedow’s.  Bearface told me about Bloebow’s after WCCO listeners voted it the best donut shop in Minnesota.  I’d never heard of it but was ecstatically excited that they fry their donuts in lard.  Lard!  For all my vegetarian leanings, I do love real lard.  Pretty Boy and I stopped into Bloedow’s just before closing and were happy to find the donut and cookie and other cases full of treats.  We tried a few donuts, the Bloedow’s version of a paczki, and a cookie.  All were spectacular!  We just really loved them.  The donuts were pretty classic in terms of texture, sweetness, crust, and color (i.e. no crazy crunchy crust like maybe I would have liked but isn’t typically found on a classic donut), but in this case, it was a good thing.  My one observation is that the Bloedow’s paczki did not match what I think of as a paczki.  Bloedow’s version was pretty much just a jelly filled Bismark donut.  Tasty, but not what I think of.  I’ve only ever hard paczki around lent and made by Eastern Europeans.  Anyway.  I’d rank Bloedow’s up pretty high, so if you really love a good donut and food adventures, maybe it’s worth the drive.  I probably wouldn’t ever drive all the way to Winona just for the donuts, but if I was in the area, I’d definitely stop.

Pretty Boy and I found the last entry on the tour by accident in Mt Carroll, IL.  We had been at the motocross track in Mt Carroll all day, huddled in the trailer, avoid the heavy, heavy rain.  Damp and rather cold.  When there was a tiny break in the rain, late in the afternoon, we hopped in the truck and headed to Brick Street Coffee to dry off and heat up.  They had an interesting array of baked goods which included a number of flavors of hand pies.  We picked a cherry and an apple.  The crust was plan and crumble-y, texturally similar to something like Perkins but not quite as processed tasting.  The filling seemed like canned filling.  It was rather plebeian but by no means offensive.  We ate them both and warmed up with lovely cuppas until the rain cleared off enough for us to head back to the track, light up the grill, and get in a hot dinner before bed.

With only one true pie offering, I don’t know if this really constitutes a “pie tour,” but it iss what I ate.  I always love donuts and, while I don’t always love the pie that’s out there, I’d serve a pie from Sara’s at a dinner party if I needed to serve pie, so that’s a good find.  We’re heading to a race in Michigan this month which means more potential pie tour stops coming soon.

Pi Day in Boulder, CO

I celebrate both Pie Day (January 23rd) and Pi Day (March 14th), not that I ever have needed an excuse for more pie.  And while there are nerdier ways to celebrate the latter, I usually just stick with eating pie.  So that’s what I did last week when I was visiting the University of Colorado at Boulder.  This is what Boulder looks like, really beautiful, pretty much all the time:

mountains

I had one whole day to myself in Boulder before the events at the University started, and I took that time to go on a six mile walkabout which covered what the internet told me were the pie options in Boulder.  I went to the downtown location of the Walnut Cafe, Shamane’s Bake Shoppe Cafe, and Breadworks Bakery and Cafe.  After the University visit, I was in dire need of some quiet alone-time and took myself to dinner at Amu Sake Bar.

Walnut Cafe

double crusted cherry pie and a cup of coffee

walnut cafe pie

Thank goodness for the coffee.  The coffee was really good.  Maybe I should just stop there.  Especially because the menu says something like: “Don’t leave here without trying some of our famous pie.”

I tried it.  I didn’t like the crust.  I didn’t like the filling.  Both seemed like the mass produced, over processed stuff one would find at a grocery store.  And not like a Lund’s grocery store with a nice bakery department, but a more generic Rainbow or Cub Foods.  The coffee was really good and I’ll leave it at that.

Shamane’s Bake Shoppe

apple cranberry galette

shamanes galette

I didn’t call ahead and as a result, by the time I made it to Shamane’s, they were sold out of pie.  I was sad and disappointed but had secretly been fearing that I would be forced to buy a whole pie from the small bakery, so was rescued from that fate.  Not that it would have been the worst thing…  Anyway, Shamane’s did still have two flavors of galettes left, though I inquired and was informed that the crust for the galettes is not the same as the crust for the pies.

My galette was quite tasty.  The filling had good texture and flavor, strong on the fruit.  The crust was firmer and sweeter than usual pie crust and had a liberal sprinkling of large granule sugar on it, but it made a good base for the galette and allowed for utensil free eating – I cut the thing up like a pizza and ate it with my hands in slices.  Definitely the highlight of my pie walkabout.

I wanted to talk to the baker more about her pies, and it might have been possible if a large group of people hadn’t squeezed their way into the bakery right as I was leaving, swamping the counter.  From her website and the variety on the menu, I projected that pies were not her specialty and might not been on par with the other offerings, but after the galette, I take it all back.  I’m guessing the pies are pretty good and I hope I’ll get back to try them someday!

Breadworks

double crusted peach pie

breakworks pie

Why?  Why do people insist on sticking pies in the refrigerator case?  The crust almost had potential that was made tough and soggy by a refrigerator case.  And then I didn’t like the filling at all.  Although the overall flavor seemed really mild, something about how it was spiced made it feel almost astringent to my palate.  It was a rough conclusion to my walkabout which I didn’t even finish, but it was obvious that pie was not the focus.  There were so many different breads and baked sweets and a wood pizza oven and hot lunch options and homemade granola that all looked really good, I think pie might have just been a thrown in addition, something a bakery should have.  If only they hadn’t stuck it in the refrigerator case.

Amu Sake Bar and Restaurant

natto, marinated sliced vegetable salad, agedashi tofu, yaki onigiri, cherry blossom ice cream mochi

I was first introduced to Amu years ago when I was in Boulder to see my younger brother, Big Bad Max, graduate from college.  He worked at Hapa Sushi as a sushi chef for most of his college years and had developed quite a sophisticated palate for Japanese food.  So he took us to Amu when he graduated to introduce us to izakaya long before izakaya became a popular food trend.  And it was delicious.

So when I had one free dinner and a list of restaurants featured on food television shows and a belly full of mediocre American food as provided on my University visit, I decided to go to Amu.  It was quiet, peaceful, beautiful, and vegetarian and low-gluten friendly, as Japanese things usually are.  I was so struck by the art on the walls, I almost took a bunch of pictures to send to Pretty Boy, but then I restrained myself and turned my focus to food.

My waitress was super cute when I ordered natto and she looked at me and asked, “Are you sure?”  Natto, or fermented soy beans, can be intimating, but I’ve developed a taste for them and was excited they were on the menu.  Everything was excellent: clean, crisp flavors and textures that left me feeling refreshed after all the other food I’d been eating.  And it was the perfect place to sit and be quiet and enjoy food and watch the chef behind the counter as she mesmerizingly prepared small dishes and cuts of raw fish.  I wish we had someplace like it in the Twin Cities.  I think the closest would probably be Tanpopo in St Paul, but their focus in on noodles, not izakaya.

It was an exhausting trip to Boulder.  More traveling after already too much traveling, early flights, forced extreme socializing when I was already socialized out.  But I got to try some pie and have a wonderful dinner at Amu, and seeing the University, which is very different from all the other schools I’m considering, helped me realize some things which will ultimately help me make the decision of where to go for my PhD.  And that decision is going to need all the help I can get.

Eating in Austin, TX

Pretty Boy and I went to Austin, TX two weekend ago to visit the University of Texas, Austin and eat.  Online research and food television lead me to Sweetish Hill and Sugar Mama’s for pie, Gourdoughs and Round Rock for donuts and Uchiko for ‘farmhouse’ Japanese.  The amazing Masa, head sushi chief at Uchiko, pointed us to La Barbecue for, what else, barbecue.

Sweetish Hill Bakery

single slice of apple pie

sweetish hill

This was the only thing on the list that I ate before Pretty Boy arrived.  I walked about a mile to get to Sweetish Hill and was pretty taken by the cleverness of their name.  The pie, not so much.  The apple filling was strongly spiced and acceptable.  The crust was crunchy at the edge which I liked, not flake-y which I didn’t like, well seasoned (read salty) which I liked, but nondescript on the bottom which I didn’t like.  Overall borderline acceptable.  As can be seen in this and all pictures from Austin, the sun was bright down there!

Gourdoughs

son of a peach, baby rattler

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Pretty Boy in front of the shiny Gourdoughs food trailer.  Isn’t he cute!?

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I was pretty excited about trying Gourdoughs after looking at the menu online.  I picked the son of a peach and Pretty Boy picked the baby rattler.  The son of a peach was a bismark style donut (no hole) filled with peach syrup, topped with cream cheese and more peach syrup.  The baby rattler was the traditional torus shape topped with chocolate frosting something, chocolate syrup something, oreos, and a really long (like over 1 foot) gummy rattle snake.

Sadly, we were disappointed and mostly by the fried dough part. The insides were strangely somewhere in between a raised donut and a cake donut.  It was crumble-y but with more leavening than a regular cake donut.  And dense.  And greasy.  Which I don’t think worked well next to all the rich toppings.  They were fresh out of the fryer and has a very interesting crust, crustier than most standard donut offerings but thinner, if that makes sense.  Like a superficial crustier crust.  Normally I am all about the crust, but somehow the slight crispy, thin, greasy, crewy crust on these was not my cup of tea.

The toppings were what made the desserts palatable.  The son of a peach was not quite how it was described on the menu but it was out favorite of the two.  The donut was still warm while the peach stuff was cool and it made a nice balance.  Everything on the baby rattler was warm-ish and the combination made it hard to finish.  I ended up scraping some of the chocolate off the dough and just eating the dough and oreos, and finished only a bite or two of the gummy.

Overall, we mostly enjoyed them but won’t be rushing back.  I don’t think I would put these treats in the donut category.  The donut is not what these things are about, its about the toppings and the crazy, over-the-top combinations.  And that part we enjoyed.

Uchiko

edamame, brussel sprouts, roasted golden beet salad, avocado sushi, tiger cry sushi roll, tori no su (bird’s nest vegetable and sheep’s milk mousse), firecraker squid, sorbert trio (yuzu, ginger, elderberry), fried milk, takara nigori unfiltered sake, Japanese green tea

I don’t even have words.  This place was amazing.  And I attribute a substantial part of the amazing experience we had to Masa, the head sushi chef, whose station we were lucky enough to sit in front of at the sushi bar on a busy Saturday night.

We took our meal really slowly, ordering only one or two things at a time, pouring over the menu weighing our next options and remaining available stomach space.  And talking to Masa.  I liked how simple so much of the menu was but then interspersed with very complex and complicated dishes.  We tried dishes at both extremes and liked them all.  The edamame, brussel sprouts, avocado sushi, firecracker squid, and sorbert were presented simply but executed wonderfully and with great finesse.  The beet salad, tiger cry roll, tori no su, and fried milk were complex and layered, full of different textures and preparation methods and flavors.  We ate everything but I think our favorites were the brussel sprouts, avocado, firecraker squid, tori no su, and fired milk and our least favorites were the beet salad and sorbert.

Masa was particularly amused when we ordered and finished the sorbert trio and then ordered the fried milk.  He gave us a quizzical look and I explained that the sorbert was our first dessert and the fried milk was our second dessert.  He laugh and said he liked us.

I don’t know if I’d be willing to wait an hour again to get in, but with a reservation for a seat at the sushi bar right in front of Masa, I’d definitely go back!

Sugar Mama’s Bakery

mini triple berry pie

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The triple berry mini-pie was the only fruit pie offering at the bakery that day.  The counter staff disturbingly boasted that they had just taken the pies out of the oven and put them in the fridge case.  I can’t shout it enough: don’t refrigerate pastry crust pies!  Don’ do it!  Don’t sacrifice crust like that.  So we rescued one mini-pie from a soggy, refrigerated fate and ate it later that evening.  The filling was really good, and the crust was tasty, though on the crumble-y and biscuit-y side.  I like it enough to be curious how they would do with a whole pie, but not enough to really have much more to say about it.

Round Rock Donuts

raised glazed, raised chocolate with sprinkles, apple fritter, blueberry cake

round rock

blueberry donut

I wish I could convey the strangeness of the glaze on these donuts.  I wish the true florescent orange color of the glaze stood out in the pictures as strikingly as it did in person.  Maybe look at the glaze remnants inside the bag in the first picture and magnify both the color and amount.  The glaze was all over all the donuts and even underneath and around the chocolate glaze.  I still can’t quite get over it.  Not that it tasted bad.  The glaze tasted pretty much like the standard donut glaze I’ve had on a great number of other cheap donut, except maybe greasier, which makes me wonder about the strange color all the more!

The donuts themselves were also rather interesting.  The raised donuts were super chewy and airy.  Almost like a dense popover.  The blueberry cake was pretty good, super blue inside, and Pretty Boy’s favorite.  I honestly can’t remember the fritter it was that nondescript.  I can remember the long lines and fat people and praise Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman gave the place.  Not worth it for me.  Not worth the drive or the lines or the strange atmosphere and company and neon glaze for me.

La Barbecue

chopped brisket sandwich, pulled pork sandwich

Thank you, Masa!  Thank you for recommending some amazing BBQ which ended our trip on a super high note!  This food trailer had a line that took up half the parking lot when we got there.  But, trusting in Masa, we waited and I’m so glad we did (and so glad I temporarily suspended my vegetarian tendencies!).

We were in a rush to get the rental car back to the airport before 1pm otherwise we would be charged for an extra day.  So we waited anxiously, ordered quickly, packed up, and hit the road.  Pretty Boy was particularly amused by the free beer cooler and the satisfying sound the meat made when it was unceremoniously plopped onto a customer’s awaiting tray.  We ordered sammiches, thinking they would be best to eat on-the-go.  That was until we say them.

The sammiches were huge!  And amazing looking.  And the guy assembling mine called it a mean sandwich to which I replied that I’m a mean eater and he giggled and threw a sausage link in next to my sandwich.  So awesome!  We ended up eating our sammiches on a bench outside the Austin airport.  Pretty Boy’s brisket was the best, super flavorful and fatty and tender.  My pull pork was good too but not as flavorful.  It necessitated dunking in the provided sauce which I like so much I could only make noises while wildly gesturing to the sauce after my first bite.  We liked the sausage link that sneaked in with my sammich too though not on the same level as the other meats.  The sausage seemed tougher and drier and heavier spiced next to the other meats.

So worth breaking vegetarian and risking getting charged and extra day for the car!  It was more animal fat than I’d had in a long time and was worried it might upset my stomach, but I came through like a champ without even a grumble.

It was a fun trip, though I think my opinion of things suffered because I read so much hipe about how amazing Austin is and how great the food is.  We found good food and liked the city, but it never quite lived up to my expectations and that’s all on me.  So now, with the limited sampling of Austin we had, I will soon be faced with the unspeakably hard task of deciding where I want to finish my Ph.D.