Austin, Texas – Shipping Box Pastries and Tacos Served From a Truck
To be honest, I’m really not sure where to start with my description of our time in Austin and, in a way, I’ve been avoiding this post because of it. I know that it’s more than a bit cliche to say that I’m hardly ever left speechless after a great experience, but with Austin, it’s just true.
‘Meeting Austin’ was a lot like running into someone who’s strikingly familiar and gives you a weird, intuitive sense that maybe I’ve met them before? Simply put, Austin was too familiar. The food? Fresh, locally sourced and prepared in a variety of styles by the coolest, most passionate people on the planet. The wildlife? Diverse, beautiful, and scattered throughout the city. The music? Let’s just say that more than a few of my favorite musicians are from Austin. The people? As cool, laid-back, and unbelievably friendly as they come. Pardon the personal depth, but for the first time in my life, I felt like I actually belonged in a city.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I just can’t find the words to explain why I love something. Words lack the meaning and depth to translate the feeling, the connection. Even the most impassioned of efforts come up inevitably short. As one of my favorite lyricist, Jeffrey Foucault, writes, “the finest pen could never hold a butterfly.” To me, it goes to show that there’s something about beauty that’s above words– above silly adjectives and washed out clichés. It must be experienced. It must be felt. In it’s simplest form, it just is. To me, Austin just is.
After a night camping in the McKinney Falls State Park about 20 miles south of Austin, we headed to La Boite, a local eatery serving high quality french pastries, coffee, and other breakfast goodies out of a shipping box on the side of the road. Pretty cool, huh? A lady and fellow customer inside remarked that the pastries were as beautiful and tasty as any she had in Paris. Now, I’m a skeptic so I’m going to take that with a grain of salt until I make my way to Paris, but I do know that La Boite serves food as beautiful and tasty as anything I’ve ever eaten.
We had really just planned on ordering their famed Almond Croissant and a Cafe Mocha to satisfy Brittany’s insatiable appetite for coffee, but upon seeing the range of food they offered, I couldn’t help but satisfy my insatiable appetite to to try as many delicious-looking things as possible.
Amidst chatting with the remarkably tattooed and helpful (both common traits among Austintonians) young girl at the register, I pointed out that I’d like to try every macaron they had. See, I consider myself somewhat of a rube in the world of desserts. I’m more of a savory food lover, choosing to endlessly gorge myself on as many salty and fatty foods as I can cram into my mouth. Because of this, macarons are completely new to me. So much so that I pronounced them ‘mackaruune.” Which is just plain embarrassing. Though, I quickly learned through my keen observational skills that it’s actually pronounced ‘mackaRON’. Though, after some detective work, there may be more to it than I ever imagined (see discussion on Chowhound – “Macaron vs. Macaroon”)
Whatever the case, these delicious little cookie-like contraptions are beyond delicious. I had heard of them, seen them, and read recipes to make them before trying them, never with the intention of actually doing so because I falsely imagined them to be rock hard little cookies with filling in the middle. As it turns out, they’re perfectly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside with a melt in your mouth filling that leaves you craving just one more bite. If I could only eat one cookie-like-thing for the rest of my life, it would be a macaron with a drop of hesitation.
“Left: Pistachio with chocolate ~ Middle: Lemon and ginger ~ Right: Fluer de sel salted butter caramel”
Since I’m not a huge coffee fan, and Texas is frankly the hottest place I’ve had the pleasure to step foot on, I decided to quench my thirst with a cup full of lavender lemonade. Lemonade– an already perfect combination of sweet and tangy was only heightened by the slightly floral qualities of the lavender. It wasn’t too far off from a recipe for honeysuckle lemonade that I was tinkering earlier in the summer.
Tochy’s is an Austin institution, famous for it’s creative and extremely delectable Tex-Mex tacos served out of a spruced up catering truck. It goes without explanation that when you stop in Austin, you stop at Torchys, likely more than once.
It’s hard to decide what to eat as you’re perusing the chalkboard menu littered with selections like slow roasted pork simmered in green chilies, onions, and cilantro, hand battered shrimp topped with cooked cabbage slaw, pickled onions, and jalapeños, and the ever-famous fried avocado taco with pico de gallo and a poblano ranch sauce.
Okay, actually, it’s not that difficult of a decision, being that no matter what you choose it’s going to be delicious and all. There certainly could be worse predicaments, I’m sure.
To satisfy this new found hunger for great Tex-Mex, we chose a heavily spiced seared albacore tuna taco with cilantro, slaw, and the always appropriate lime wedge.
Along side that, and my personal favorite, was a taco filled to the brim with chunks of slow-roasted chicken, grilled jalapeños, gently roasted mango, sour cream, cilantro, and a spicy, spicy, spicy Diablo sauce, which is okay, because I like it spicy.
More on Austin to come!