Before I went to Austin, Texas someone told me that Austin was just like a girl in a yellow summer dress.
All I knew about Austin was that my Friend Marla got married there while wearing a cowboy hat.
A girl on the plane, who happened to be wearing a summer dress told us that Austin was a city that always felt like a small town. I’m pretty sure she’s never been in a small town since I do not know any small towns that have two miles of bars.
My mother knows a few things about Texas from the cowboy movies of her childhood and from PBS.
I’ve decided Austin is like a glass of iced tea; sometimes it’s just what you need.
So knowing pretty much nothing about Texas, My mother, the baby and I headed south so I could speak at BlogHer Food. It’s a conference of food bloggers, cookbook editors, food photographers..
We arrived in Texas to a special kind of heat. After a run in with a particularly grumpy taxi driver we promptly headed out the door to Whole Foods, who were hosting a welcome party with a ton of local food bloggers including the only person I “know” in Texas, the lovely Kate Payne. Austin is where Wholefoods started, their flagship store is GIANT and a little bit incredible. It takes up an entire city block and even has a playground. They had the party up on their giant roof top patio and offered bites to eat and local brewed drinks from 30 local businesses. It was a great place to start our trip as it gave us a good idea of what restaurants to visit while we were there.
The next morning I snuck out while the baby was still sleeping and headed off to a knife skills demo with Hank Shaw. Hank is the Author of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and has written about food in a way I truly admire. It was great to talk with him about growing peppers and carrots and I’m very temped to buy a whole fish this week and see If I can remember what he showed us. I’ve been finding excuses to chop extra onions for a few days now but no one seems to need me to supreme oranges.
After an afternoon of attending panels about food writing, we headed out to a great dinner at Moonshine. Baby Robin is a very nice baby and was surprisingly well behaved on the plane and even nice to his babysitting grandmother. Yet he left a path of destruction through out the restaurants of Austin that amazed us. After spending the meal trying to smash things he finally succeeded in smashing my plate on the lovely stone patio floor. So to Moonshine; Thanks for the lovely Texas sized salmon, the popcorn and for cheerfully sweeping up the smashed dishes. Much appreciated.
Friday night I actually had two giant dinners. After the plate smashing incident, my mother took the baby to walk around while I headed back to whole foods for what I thought was an evening of tasting but was really an entire 4 course meal. 2nd dinner was great and everything was served along with a helping of information about the food’s origins and farming practices. We had chicken on Caesar salad from a co-operative of local chicken farms, sustainably fished salmon and halibut, and beef brisket along with local asparagus and mashed potatoes made with cashews. I have to say, that meal was one of the highlights of my trip. I’m partial to good conversation (thanks Brenda and Rose) and entire sprigs of thyme on my plate.
On Saturday morning I snuck back out on the baby who sleeps in, and headed out to another kitchen demo. I was really looking forward to this preserving demo and seeing Kate Payne, Sean Timberlake and Sara Tetreault in action. They didn’t disappoint and managed to whip through various methods of preserving eggs and peaches, dove into lacto-fermenting and finished off with a chance to taste a bunch of wonderfully preserved foods.
This was the first time I’ve travelled since being diagnosed with Celiacs and it went well. I wanted to be careful for lunch before our panel so I swung by the Udi’s booth in the exhibition hall for a recommendation. They knew exactly where we should go and we headed to 2nd bar kitchen where they had an entire gluten free menu. We liked it so much we went back again the next day.
So after all that, in the last sessions of the conference, it was my turn. I was part of a great panel headed up by Laura Williams of urbanspoon that included Mike Antares and Stephanie & Edie Goodwin. We had a great round table discussion and went over the ins and crowd funding. we had all used it successfully for our projects. Stephanie and Edie have a baking business that sells at Texas farmers’ markets, Mike organizes a local music festival, and I’m still buying this barn in the county. The whole conference has been transcribed and if you’re interested in crowdfunding you can get a ton of information in this link.
Since we’d travelled so far, My mother and I stayed an extra few days. We went swimming, ate some bbq, ran into the Pioneer Woman, ate the best tacos from La Condesa, and saw about 100 dogs swimming in the river. The baby continued to spill drinks, demonstrate baby led weaning with pulled pork and sleep through dinner all over Austin.
A big thanks to my extended family for working together to send me to Austin. It was a success and if you ever need to know how to go on a business trip with your mother and a baby I’ll gladly share.
So Cheers Austin! Thanks for the iced tea. It was delicious.