Tess and I decided to visit family in Austin, Texas, over the spring break. Austin has fast become the destination spot for superb music with the South by Southwest (SxSW) music festival, as well as everyday local talent in venues all over central Texas, but best known in Austin, itself.
The wine scene is coming along but not quite there yet in consistent quality or output. I have tasted about 20 wines from wineries around the Hill Country, LBJ Country, close to the charming town of Fredericksburg. For the most part, and I do not want to put a squash on sincere effort or good will, many of the wines seemed immature and somewhat dilluted. Others were over-oaked and there was a bit of microbial action in others. It could well be that I did not taste the better wines being offered and am keeping an open mind, as I do have great respect for anyone trying to make a living in a tough business. Believe me when I tell you that the wine business is a tough business even in the best of times and in the best of the world's viticultural areas.
The good news about this part of Texas is the food & wine pairing efforts, which have really been very successful in Austin. Austin has become very cosmopolitan in recent years, bringing in national and international business to this once-sleepy capitol. When I first visited Austin in the late 1960s, there were no high-rises, few foreign accents (including Yankee) and fairly one-dimensional dining (eating.) All of this has changed in a big way.
Today, the Capitol building at the edge of Congress Avenue has been dwarfed by very lovely, inspired high-rises, which are gracing the skyline of this wonderful city. There are those who say that "Old Texas" is leaving the Capitol in favor of gentrification, but the truth is that Old Texas and New Texas are blended smartly within the city limits and, if there is any clash, I could not feel it or can my family who lives in the city, itself.
This is a nice city to visit and let me give you a few gastronomic reasons to do so if you find yourself there:
- Taverna — This is a very lovely northern Italian restaurant in downtown. The wine list is extensive, in fact very broad with a thoughtfulness to just about every palate. The specialty of the house is the risotto, which is done superbly. Tess had the crab fettucine and our good friend, Dr. Steve Brummer, (attending a medical convention) had a very nice seafood pasta. A place not to miss.
- Enoteca Vespaio — Another fantastic Italian ristorante- enoteca. I had heard that the Italian food in Austin was some of the best in the country and both of these places confirmed the rumor. This enoteca sits next to the Vespaio restaurant and offers similar cuisine at a reduced price and every entree' was divine. The Caprese salad was fresh and clean and lovely, the gnocchi was cooked to perfection, as were the ravioli. A nice place.
- Malaga's — This Spanish Tapas bar in the heart of town was very special, with loads of inspired wine offerings, including some very nice Spanish treats. The ambiance is charming with an Old-World feel and the bar seemingly stretches for a mile with a very creative selection of hand-picked liquor.
- Artz Barbeque — Texas without barbeque? A very local favorite with brisket, ribs and the trimmings. Live music was there, as well as tons of local patrons. Very down-home and delicious! Their big rival, and equally fun and tasty, is Rudy's. Either place will take you to real Texas home cooking at its best!
Well, there you have it. See you next week!