What better way to reunite with college roommates than with good food, beer, music and exploration in Houston and Austin (home of one of the largest colleges in the U.S., University of Texas)?
We started our long weekend in Houston, where I got to catch up with my uncle (he’s technically in The Woodlands, but close enough for us to have generous, comfortable, free lodging).
Our first day began with a meal at the Hobbit Cafe, where we had delicious (and insanely large) sandwiches, smoothies and guacamole. (I recommend you share a sandwich, if you visit.) The place does manage to have a Shire feel to it, even though it’s tucked back behind a somewhat busy street with a other restaurants and businesses nearby, and swanky cars in the parking lot.
We also got a heaping dose of art, starting at the Art Car Museum, which is a gallery but also home to few “vehicles.” (The city hosts an annual art car parade each year; it’s supposed to be a blast).
We moved on to Rothko Chapel, Cy Twombly Gallery, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel. (The fresco chapel will soon be fresco-less; the paintings have been on extended loan from Cyprus, and they’ll return to their native land in March.) Leslie was stir-crazy in Rothko chapel; apparently giant black canvases are not her cup of tea.
The next morning, we drove to Austin and stopped to eat at a smokehouse.
We shared a sandwich and sides (two thumbs up all around — look at that meat!) because we needed to save room for our next stop: the Blue Bell ice cream factory. I was unfamiliar with the brand; — it doesn’t ship as far north as Chicago, apparently. We got to peer into the rooms where they were mixing lots of flavors (strawberry cheesecake that day, and ice cream sandwiches, and cookies and cream…). I sampled a flavor that they don’t sell in grocery stores, some kind of caramel corn crunch ice cream that was excellent. (You can buy it in restaurants or cafes that serve Blue Bell, I think.) We had to pose with the cow statue outside the factory, of course.
Oh yeah! And we saw this guy on our drive. We had to pull over to get a few photos.
We arrived in Austin, where we ate Tex-Mex, explored Book People, and stopped at the first-ever Whole Foods (we bought a six-pack of Texas-made beer). The next day, we went to botanical garden/nature center, explored a few neighborhoods by car, went to see a great show, stopped at a popcorn cafe, and ate a chain called Taco Cabana, which is what Taco Bell might be if they served good food with a salsa bar, and free chips, and brisket tacos.
Finally, we finished our time in Austin with a show at Skinny’s Ballroom, by the White Ghost Shivers and Clyde and Clem’s Whiskey Business. If you can catch either of these acts in your neighborhood, I highly recommend them. Clyde and Clem’s has a song called “People Suit” that’s an homage to Silence of the Lambs, and the White Ghost Shivers have one titled “Toot Your Whistle, Blow My Horn,” if that helps you get a feel for the acts. The door-man was a dead ringer for the Dude in Big Lebowski, but he was elusive and hard to photograph. You’ll just have to see him in person.