Last weekend I traveled to Austin, Texas for my first inline marathon of the season. Usually for this type of travel, my diet is more bland than glam not just for the sake of performance, but to accommodate the various tastes of traveling companions. Thanks to our generous hosts who are also fellow food lovers, I ate very well during my stay. In fact, I had so many great meals that I so wanted to stay behind in Austin for a few more days!
Upon arriving in the city without our checked luggage (thanks Continental for the big bottle of hairspray in your toiletries kit), we dropped by TacoDeli for a late light lunch. This local mini-chain may not serve the best-of-the-best Mexican food Austin has to offer but I certainly enjoyed my lunch tremendously. The lack of good Mexican food in Toronto means my palate may not be sophisticated. However, my choice of al pastor (diced and trimmed pork marinated and cooked in homemade adobo sauce using chipotle, ancho, and guajillo peppers, garnished with cilantro and onions) and PapaDulce (roasted sweet potato, roasted corn, roasted red pepper, topped with plenty of roasted pepitas) had me in taco heaven. I love the depth of flavour in both the pork and vegetarian filling but the caramelized sweetness of the vegetable had a slight upper hand. The warm and soft corn tortillas were of course mandatory. If only I had room to try a few more from their extensive menu! I washed everything down with a cup of refreshing watermelon agua fresca. Such an appropriate start to a nice hot weekend in Texas!
Boy, am I glad I did not spoil my appetite because dinner was a feast of Japanese farmhouse cooking and sushi at uchiko. I heard so many great things about this restaurant so my expectation was high. Between the five of us, we sampled a great portion of what the menu had to offer. With the sake and beer flowing, I did not keep track of every dish that we ordered. However, a few memorable dishes included yokai berry (Atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian pear, yuzu), karaage (fried marinated chicken, sansho pepper, seasonal pickle), ao saba (Norwegian mackerel, bluefoot mushroom, onion, juniper, huckleberry), gyutan toro sushi (grilled beef tongue toro, fish caramel), hamachi sushi (Japanese yellowtail, pickled green apple, jalapeno), ham & eggs maki (katsu pork belly, yolk custard, espelette), and sunchoke dashi (spring vegetables, arugula, noble sherry, bottarga). Alas, we did not save room for dessert! Fortunately, my friends had a little gift for me so I can still enjoy a taste of the dessert back home. They gave me a copy of the uchi cookbook. All those mouth-watering photography and recipes are really inspiring. Uchi and uchiko truly take fusion Japanese cuisine to the next level.
The feasting did not stop when we got home because the night was still young. Before we called it a night, we sat poolside over glasses of sake and Estrella Damm Inedit of El Bulli fame. Even for a non-beer drinker like me, the beer of barley malt, wheat, coriander, orange peel, and liquorice was absolutely delicious. My friends like the beer so much that they bought a few more bottles the next day. I would have gotten one myself if not for the lack of luggage space!
Thanks to time zone change, I woke up uncharacteristically early the next morning. Racing did not begin until late afternoon so we had plenty of free time. My friend had a few errands to run at the local farmers’ market, Whole Foods, and Central Market. Of course I begged to tagalong! The Saturday morning market at Lakeline Mall was vibrant with a good mix of farmers and ready-to-eat goodies. As soon as I got the ok from my friend about contributing to our dinner menu, I went to town. Those tiny strawberries just picked the previous night! Gorgeous varieties of lettuce of every colour and size! Alliums ranging from spring onions to garlic to leeks! Juicy beefsteak tomatoes! I was absolutely in my element. In addition to some fresh vegetable, I also picked up a bag of assorted thinly sliced dried fruit, bourbon praline, and goat milk feta. If only I didn’t need to race in the afternoon, I would totally eat a second breakfast of tamale and paleta (Mexican popsicle).
Austin is home to Whole Foods Market so I was super-excited to visit their flagship store. The scale and variety is incomparable to all of their outposts I visited previously in other cities. I can easily spend a whole day there shopping and dining to my heart’s desire. I bought some of the liveliest locally-grown thyme and cilantro. Also picked up a huge creamy avocado, Jasper Hill clothe-bound cheddar, a piece of Jura raw milk mountain cheese, a disc of Taza salted almond chocolate mexicano, some French lentils, Larabar in blueberry muffin flavour (oooo new product), a few KIND bars, and a set of Bambu cutlery that I’ve been eyeing for a few months.
Our morning of shopping did not end just yet. Central Market is another one of my favourite haunts though it is more intimate in comparison. While my friends were off browsing the aisles of craft beers, I filled my shopping basket with all kinds of goodies. Siggi drinkable skyr! Askinosie bean-to-bar chocolate! Olympus strained yogurt imported from Greece! Lucky Layla drinkable yogurt in guava flavour! Somebody’s Mother’s White Chocolate Poire William dessert sauce! Cypress Grove midnight moon aged goat cheese! My name is Candy and I am a supermarket junkie.
After an intense morning of market hopping, we deserved a good brunch. We stopped by Galaxy Cafe and I promptly ordered a plate of Mexican breakfast. Migas is an Austin specialty so of course I did not let the opportunity pass by. The pile in my photo may not look terribly appetizing but I can assure you it was breakfast comfort food done well. The scrambled eggs were tossed with softened pieces of fried tortilla strips, sweet pepper, cheddar cheese, and served with refried beans, avocados, salsa, and soft corn tortilla. Despite being delicious, it was not my wisest choice of fuel before the afternoon elimination race…
We stayed in for a mellow evening since the marquee racing event would have us waking up at 5:30am the next day. Our host grilled some spatchcocked cornish hens marinated in lemon vinaigrette and grilled zucchini while I put together a simple warm lentil salad studded with grape tomatoes, red onions, tender greens, and goat feta.
My race went alright on Sunday and everything fell within expectation. It is still early in the season and my body continues to adapt to the rigour of outdoor racing. I was a little reluctant to race but now that my memory is refreshed, I cannot wait to race again!
The official name of the race is Texas Road Rash but I like to call it the Barbeque Race because the post-race picnic included chopped beef sandwiches from Rudy’s. As far as barbeque goes, chopped beef sandwich is pretty low on the totem pole. I only ate half of mine so by the time we arrived at the airport for our flight home, I was hungry again. Thank goodness the Austin Airport has relatively good food! I was going to join the line-up outside Amy’s Ice-Cream but the sliced beef brisket sandwich at Salt Lick beckoned. I couldn’t possibly leave Hill Country without filling my belly with barbeque brisket! With that, I concluded a whirlwind weekend of traveling and racing.
Austin, next year, we shall meet again!