Ch-ch-ch-changes

Photo by Enrico Mantegazza on Unsplash

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C. S. Lewis

I learned a lot in 2018, much of it the hard way. I think I’ll remember it as the year I finally grew up. I walked next to my father as he transitioned out of this human life. My mother and I, with help from family and friends, are just coming out of the fog of exhaustion and grief, in time for a new beginning and a new year. My biggest takeaway from last year is that I don’t have it in me to do things that don’t bring me happiness. Except laundry, because there will always be dirty clothes needing to be washed.

My blog will be a little different than in the past. It will remain focused on Austin, and our food and beverage community, but I’m adding in more personal posts. This writing space was quite lonely last year, because each time I thought of writing it felt like a chore instead of a pleasurable occasion. I’m hatching.

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Anthony Bourdain

Post-filming of No Reservations at J Mueller BBQ (now LA Barbecue) in March 2012.

I’ve been a fan of Tony Bourdain’s since I read his 1999 “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” essay in the New Yorker. He entranced me from the start with his irreverent yet decidedly somehow still respectful voice. This line clinched it for me: “Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.”

As the years progressed, I avidly followed his television career. In March of 2012 the local rumor mill was rampant with breathless whispers of Bourdain’s advance team filming footage around Austin for No Reservations, and I was giddy with excitement. When I was quietly told that I would “want to be here on Saturday at opening” by JMueller Barbecue pitmaster John Mueller, there was no mystery behind the vague words. I knew it was my chance to see Bourdain up close and personal, but I had no idea just how up close and personal the day would become. If you view his Austin barbecue episode (Season 8), I’m the diner in the aqua colored blouse sitting next to Daniel Vaughn at the table with Bourdain, who is seated diagonally opposite me.  After filming wrapped, I broke my cardinal rule of never asking a celebrity if they’d take a photo with me, and Bourdain agreed readily, with a smile, even though he’d just worked through a long line of fans who’d waited to greet him. I can say that he was just as genuine, as sharply witty, and as warm in person as he comes across on tv.

Arguably one of the most influential chefs of our age, Bourdain was a sort of everyman’s bon vivant, but without pretense. He used his television shows to showcase not only great food around the world, but also the people behind the food, their lives, their humanity. Bourdain showed us the extreme poverty of some, and the extreme wealth of others. He opened a window to the culinary world and showed us that while we are all so very different, we are all so very much the same: we want good food, to be enjoyed with good people, in a moment of time that uplifts us both physically and spiritually.

Losing such a man to the blackness of depression is a tragedy on many levels. My heart aches for his young daughter, who will meet each milestone in her life with its appropriate joy, but also a continuation of grief for her loss. Bourdain’s death reinforces the sad truth that depression destroys lives no matter how well lived they may seem. For me, personally, I will take what Bourdain has taught me, and eat more mindfully, more in tune to the hands that prepared my repast, the story behind them, and the history that shaped the recipes. I will honor him, through the medium that gave him to the masses.

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Fancy Girl; Country Boy ~ Where to Eat?

 

Craft beer makes waiting for yummy food a whole lot easier.

One of life’s toughest issues for my husband and I is deciding on where to eat. Yes, I realize this is a first world problem, but when you are an uptown girl married to a no frills boy, it’s still a problem. My sweet man wants an uncomplicated menu, free of things he cannot pronounce, much less understand what type of edible animal/mineral/vegetable it may be, and to eat something delicious in a comfortable, casual environment. I want fancy. My heart (and stomach) yearn for fancy. The more fancy, the more I love it. Give me unique eats, artfully arranged, and flavor explosions that leave me in awe. I don’t have to know what I’m eating, as long as it tastes great.

Trust me, these wings tasted just as good as they look!

Luckily for us, when my husband’s birthday rolled around he already had a flavor craving and a place in mind: Chi’lantro BBQ, home of the original kimchi fries. I’ve been a patron of Chi’lantro since they started off with a food truck in downtown Austin, and began wowing the crowds with their Korean-Mexican mashup and turning even the most finicky eater into a kimchi-loving machine. The Kimchi Fries are legendary, and for good reason – they are just that good. Delectable, satisfying, this dish is a riot of flavors layered on a bed of crispy french fries topped with your choice of spicy pork, spicy chicken, soy-glazed chicken, tofu or ribeye beef (get the spicy pork), two kinds of cheese, onions, cilantro, magic sauce, sesame seeds and sriracha, and that amazing caramelized kimchi. If you’ve never tried it, you’re seriously missing out.

My husband and I split the Korean Fried Chicken Wings during his celebratory dinner. I love the Gangham sauce with its sweetly spicy flavor, complimented by the spicy Ranch sauce that’s served alongside the wings. I could probably have eaten the entire order, but I resisted. So.hard.to.resist!

Chi’lantro has 6 locations, with a 7th in the works, so no matter what part of town you’re in, you can find your Kimchi Fries easily. Go get ya some!

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