Howdy from Austin

I’m here in Austin — stop number one on the two-week world tour. (Or, tour of Texas and Arizona.) Fortunately, with all of this flying and hauling of luggage, I have a fancy new light-weight laptop! (For the tech geeks, I got the SSD model, not the hard drive model. The computer — running off of a flash drive instead of a disk drive — is weirdly silent.)

I arrived on Tuesday night, and had rehearsal with Harvey Pittel (sax professor here at University of Texas at Austin) and Jerry Junkin and his wind ensemble. I only snuck a few pictures at rehearsal, and none of them are very good, so you’ll have to take my word for it. (I’ll try to get more pictures in rehearsal tomorrow and Saturday — and at the concert on Sunday afternoon.)

I had a nice dinner last night with the Floyd’s. Cheryl Floyd is the band director at Hill Country Middle School, the group for whom I’m currently writing a piece. Cheryl realized that I was going to be free today, and she invited me to the school to hear the group rehearse.

It’s a great band, and it’s hard to believe they’re middle school students. This is a middle school band where every percussionist learns to play with four-mallets! In middle school! Seriously — what do they put in the water in Austin?! It made me think that maybe the piece I’m writing should be a little more difficult… (Don’t worry; it won’t be.)

Before rehearsal, Harvey Pittel took me to hear the rather spectacular sax choir at UT. It kind of made me want to write a piece for sax choir — someday. I still need a little sax break…

Tonight, Jerry Junkin took me out for dinner to a great sushi restaurant in Austin called Uchi.

We went nuts and ordered the “omakase” — the thing I wrote about in the blog entry about the recent dinner in Japan, in which the chef selects each course for you. As such, I won’t remember what some of these courses are. I believe the first course was:
“hirame usuzukuri” : thinly-sliced flounder, spanish olive oil, smoked sea salt, yuzu zest, daikon, and crispy quinoa. It was excellent.

Course number two: I may get this one wrong, but I think it was:
“cobia crudo” : caribbean black kingfish, shiitake bacon, toasted sesame vinaigrette. The “shiitake bacon” was kind of amazing. How the hell did they make a mushroom taste like bacon?!

Next, I think, was:
“hotate tomorokoshi” : maine diver scallops, miso-corn pudding, yellowfoot chanterelles, and black truffle vinaigrette. Basically scallops served two different ways — one was basically ceviche (in the foreground with the corn — my favorite thing all evening…

… and the other was more traditionally cooked but with chanterelle mushrooms.

Next up was perhaps the greenest-looking soup I’ve ever had:
“mame tamago” : soft-boiled farm fresh egg, English pea soup, mint purée, perigord black truffles. It was very good. It tasted as green as it looks, if that makes sense. It seemed extremely… fresh. Thumbs-up all around.

It turns out that Jerry and I both love yellowtail, so this next dish was another keeper:
“hamachi cure” : sugar-cured maple wood-smoked baby yellowtail, yucca crisps, asian pear, garlic brittle. It was something. The yellowtail was very smoked-tasting.

Next was one of the few cooked courses:
“shun no sakana” : Australian turbot, smoked sofrito, basil picada. Tasty, but it still had the bone in it and the skin on it, and that made it rather awkward to eat with chopsticks, and also a little trickier to share. I would have preferred that it be de-boned.

Next up: something I didn’t expect in a sushi restaurant. Fois gras. I’m not huge on fois gras, but it was admittedly very tasty. And rich. Lordy.

The last big course: “wagyu yaki” : oak-grilled wagyu toro, French bluefoot mushrooms, uni butter, mustard greens. This one, surprisingly, was a little disappointing. It tasted amazing — just incredible flavor — but the texture wasn’t right. Instead of melting, like wagyu beef should, it instead seemed a bit fatty. I think that great wagyu should barely need to be chewed; it should be like eating beef-flavored butter. (What’s better than that?!) This, though, was quite chewy of the “fatty beef” kind. This place obviously has great sources for fish (some of it is flown in from Tokyo), so maybe this was just an off-cut. Again, though — the flavor was fantastic.

So — awesome dinner. The sushi chef was a really nice, interesting guy, and we enjoyed chatting with him a bit. (He was a real foodie.) The next time I’m in Austin, I’ll definitely go back to Uchi. It’s not quite as “greatest thing ever” as Jinpachi in LA, but for a few thousand miles from the coast, it was pretty damn close.


Cathy says

I guess I'll see you on Sunday, then. :)

Kevin Howlett says

You got the SSD version of the MacBook Air? You sir are a baller.

Connie Miller says

I just finished lunch, yet your photos make my mouth water! You have some serious food photography skillz, son.

AJ says

It was so good to see ya'll again! Come back soon (hopefully for longer :-) )
P.S.- Madam! Your Grey Goose!

Kevin Collins says

Loved playing KingFisher with the 5A Symphonic Band here in Texas! I wonder when the next season of 24 starts.. I hope it hasn't started yet!

Jonathan Rush says

Holy cow, thats pretty weird about the kids and 4 mallets... although with a private teacher and a kid willing to work, anything's possible. Hey, I had to learn a bit to handle Under the Rug when you came to SYSO, and I was only... was that 9th grade? Don't remember. 8th or 9th. I think 9th. Anyway, do make it challenging for them; if they're like me, they'll be up for it!

Nice new Mac by the way, just... careful not to sit on it. It might erase your hard drive as well as any evidence you even had a computer that thin.

clumpton says

So...who's to say a private lesson teacher is responsible for those little kiddies?

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