UT at Austin : Spoiled forever

I loved Austin, Texas. Loved it. Really, I should just leave it at that. I mean, what more is there to say? Plus, if I leave it there, I won’t have to narrow down the 340 pictures I took during those 5 days, and post only the 40 or so best photos. But, I know that’s why you’re here, so…

The flight from Burbank was fine, and stopped briefly in Vegas. I was like, “hey, I want to get off and gamble,” but since I wasn’t changing planes, I had to stay on board with no outlet for my nervous flyer energy. No matter; we were on our way again soon. And thanks to AEJ’s old issue of The New Yorker, I reached Austin with a lot more knowledge about Werner Herzog, and how Mapquest works. (Herzog : perhaps a crazy man, with the worst luck in all of Hollywood. How Mapquest works : magical kitties. Or maybe I’m combining that with a dream I had on the plane.)

I checked into the hotel in Austin — a Doubletree, complete with their famous Check-In Cookies! — and relaxed for a few hours until Jerry Junkin and his lovely wife Stephanie picked me up for dinner. Dinner that first night — Thursday — was at Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille. We started, of course, with cocktails. I had my favorite — a Grey Goose martini, dirty, up.

Next came the insane “Eddie V’s Hot Appetizer Combination Platter for Sharing.” This was no Ruby Tuesday appetizer platter. It included all lump crab cake (the best I’ve ever had), crisp calamari with two sauces (how would I choose?!), and batterfried cold water lobster tail.

Let’s stop for just a moment. Here I am, some dumb kid who wrote some silly song with a tango in it, and I’m being treated to this? I was kind of speechless. Well, until the martini kicked in, and then I started talking shit about lots of people. (That’s not entirely true. At least, not that I can recall… It all became a bit of a haze once the wine arrived…)

My main course was New York Strip. An excellent piece of meat. (Why does nobody ever describe me that way?)

Dessert? Oh, I couldn’t! Okay, what the hell. I present: White Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie with a crisp butter crust.

And for Jerry and Stephanie, my cake’s evil twin — its KARR, if you will — Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake with fresh cream and raspberry sauce.

The next day, I finally got to hear Jerry conduct “Redline Tango” with the UT Wind Ensemble. For those who aren’t “band folk,” this is one of the best wind ensembles in the country — and some would argue that it’s the best. Ever since I first figured out what the hell band was, I’ve wanted this group and this conductor to do my music. I’ve been incredibly fortunate over the 2+ years since I wrote “Redline Tango” — the quality and quantity of performances I’ve received are far more than I ever imagined — but I kept hoping this performance would happen. It was definitely worth the wait. (Plus, when Junkin decides to do something, he does it full out, as evidenced by the fact that he did Redline Tango a week ago with the Dallas Wind Symphony, then at UT on Sunday, AND he’s doing it twice with the Dallas Wind Symphony at Midwest. When it rains Junkin, it pours Junkin.) The rehearsal was incredible. I made a list of little things to change, and after the first run-thru, I read the list to the group — and because time was short, I was pretty speedy with the comments. The next time through, every single correction was incorporated. Articulations, dynamic requests, balance — everything on the second play was exactly how I’d asked.

To celebrate, how about dinner? And another martini? Oh, fine. Twist my arm.

This dinner — Friday night — is now up there with the most special dinners I can remember on any of my college trips, not just for food, but for company. My dinner back in 2004 at Rick Clary’s home in Florida — that was the first Hall of Fame inductee. Hudson’s on the Bend, September 2006 — welcome to the Dinner Hall of Champions.

Hudson’s on the Bend is a game restaurant. That didn’t really register going in — until I saw the deer head on the wall. I’m not the biggest fan of game. Venison, lamb — not yummy. Next time I eat at Hudson’s, though, I’m going to be adventurous and order some of the crazier stuff, like the Antelope with Cantaloupe. Everything I had was fantastic, and I suspect I’d even have liked the gamier stuff.

We started with appetizers. Was this the blackened rock shrimp and avocado quesadilla?

This, I believe, is the diamond back rattlesnake cakes in a pistachio nut crust coiled atop a spicy Chipotle cream. I was reluctant to try it, but I have to say — tasty.

This next one is crazy. (As if the others weren’t.) Smoked Duck Diablos! Duck breast, jicama, jalapeno, figs in balsamic, all wrapped in apple wood bacon with a red chili glaze dipping sauce. My only big regret about my time in Austin: somehow, I didn’t try one. There were 9 of us at the table, and only five of these to go around — and I’d been more than adequately appetizered. (That should totally be a word.)

Stephanie had been talking about foie gras all evening, and she finally got some. Here’s her appetizer: Seared Foie Gras atop a Spicy Venison Cornbread, drizzled with strawberry raspberry sauce and a red onion jalapeno marmalade. Can you say rich?

I’ve no idea what this was, but it was pretty.

I ordered the soup special — a corn chowder with crab.

My main course: Hot and Crunchy Ruby Trout, swimming in a pool of mango habanero aioli, splashed with ancho sauce, chillin’ next to herb polenta souffle. (Can you tell I’m copying this from the online menu?)

Before they prepared my fish, they painted it for me.

Dessert? Seriously? Have you seen what we all just ate?! Well, okay. Check out how they present the ice cream — in a glass, floating atop a bowl of dry ice. This photo doesn’t capture it, but there was dry ice smoke pouring from the edges of the glass.

Here’s my dessert : The Wild Turtle. Caramel Pecan Pie dipped in Belgian chocolate. Seriously. Caramel pecan pie : not rich enough. It must be dipped in chocolate.

That night — September 29 — was Jerry and Stephanie’s wedding anniversary! We all raised a glass of champaign to celebrate. Congratulations, kids!

I was in Austin for 4 days. These pictures cover only two of them. Coming soon… Watching the UT football game (from the field and the press box!), the concert itself, and my b
irthday dinner!


jim says

Incredible. Just incredible.

Oh, and you were correct: Mapquest is totally run by magical kitties.

John says

Hey John,

Next time you're in Austin, time permitting, you should stop in for a rehearsal of the Austin Symphonic Band, Dick Floyd's adult community band.

We would be thrilled to have you visit, and after having listened to Dick conduct Strange Humors with Baylor after our performance at ABA in Dallas back in March, we're just itching to play a piece of yours.

Add comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.