And P.S. if this is Austin, I still love you

Austin, Texas

Although the previous week through Mississippi and Louisiana had been a lot fun, we both felt that it was time to set down our forks full of catfish/crawfish/deep-fried everything, and find ourselves a bit of innovative, interesting, fresh food to really get excited about.

After having dropped Neil at New Orleans airport, we drove for 7 hours to Houston (thanks to a very long traffic jam in Louisiana swamp territory), and rolled into our motel at around 11pm.  Waking up at the crack of dawn for a much needed barre workout and virtuous lunch (wait for the next Bitches be Balanced post), we then jumped back in the car and drove the relatively short 2.5 hours to Austin.  We were greeted at our Airbnb by two kittens (for all of you who thought that Laura was a cat-hating emotional stone – think again), and a cute mouse in a tank which, after I had exclaimed “ahhhhh cute pet mouse”, found out that it was actually the pet snake’s dinner.

With huge cravings for food that hadn’t been within 100 metres of a deep fryer, we headed off to Elizabeth Street Cafe, a seriously cute Vietnamese cafe and French patisserie in South Austin.  Deciding to have a dry evening, we sipped on delicious housemade vinegar sodas (watermelon and thai basil for Laura, celery for me) which were slightly sweet and incredibly refreshing.  We shortly tucked into a little appetiser of rice paper rolls stuffed with ginger marinated tofu, radish, thai basil and serrano chilli, with 3 different dipping sauces (the peanut definitely coming out on top).  We followed this up by splitting a pho (noodles in broth) and bún (rice vermicelli salad bowl).  Our pho had the addition of white miso and came crammed with cauliflower, bok choy and toasted seaweed; it was absolutely delicious.  It’s always easy to forget how filling and comforting something so simple can be.  However the star of the show was definitely the bún, which came piled high with roasted mushrooms, grilled tofu, herbs upon herbs, perfectly julienned veggies and vegan nuoc cham (a perfectly balanced sweet, sour, salty, savoury and spicy Vietnamese dipping sauce) to drench it in.  We had to switch from our chopsticks to spoons to scoop up all the last scraps from the bottom of the bowl.  IMG_1713

elizabeth

Elizabeth Street Cafe: Vegan Bún (l) and Pho (r)

Even though I could have happily fallen straight to sleep with my belly full of noodles, we drove over to Sweet Ritual, a vegan ice cream store inside the JuiceLand in Hyde Park, in honour of it being National Ice Cream Day.  I opted for a mint chocolate chip with spirulina for added greenness, whereas Laura went for a scoop of both salted caramel and toasted coconut.  A great introduction to what was about to be my best four days of the trip so far.

sweet rituals

Sweet Rituals: Mint Chocolate Chip (l); Salted Caramel & Toasted Coconut (r)

The next day after barre & breakfast, we donned our bathing suits and headed over to Barton Springs, an outdoor pool fed from natural springs in the heart of the city.  After a couple hours sunning ourselves and cooling off in the bracing waters (Laura got yelled for taking her rubber ring in with her), we drove around the corner (because we’re that American now) to Casa De Luz, a health academy cum yoga studio cum cafe, heavily focused on community.  Over their fixed price macrobiotic lunch we attempted to practice our best mindful eating skills that we learnt at NGI, and left very proud of ourselves for having had the most virtuous morning.

This was quickly ruined by the lovely Michael at By George (a gorgeous boutique in South Austin), who offered us a beer from the ice bucket which was built into the cashier desk (FYI Austin Beerworks‘ American IPA is now my favourite ale).  He sent us in the direction of Launderette, a trendy restaurant in East Austin, located in a renovated Launderette and gas station.  With a bottle of Gruner Veltliner sitting chilling in a gorgeous marble cooler on our gorgeous marble table, we poured over the menu which had one of the most overwhelmingly delicious vegetables section I’ve ever seen.  After sending back the server countless times while we made up our minds, we settled on Pei Mussles in white wine and chilli, parsnips with apple butter, mustard seeds and salsa, and grilled broccolini with a romesco pepper sauce and almonds.  I just looked over their menu again and nearly dribbled on my laptop.  Laura then finished off with a cheddar apple pie with salted beer caramel, clothbound cheddar and sage ice cream.  The barman whipped me up an espresso martini so it wasn’t too shabby my side of the table either.

Wah gimme

Wah gimme

Following a heavy night drinking with Laura’s friend JD (who also happened to be in Austin that night) and feeling incredibly sorry for ourselves, we made our way over to Clarksville (having removed the parking fine off our window), to Josephine House, a stylish yet casual restaurant set in an adorable clapboard cottage.  The menu is split into two sections; ‘On the Marble Counter’: a selection of breads, cheeses, pastries and salads that are sitting out in the dining room (how I wished my kitchen looked all the time), and “From the Kitchen”: food made to order by the chefs.  Having downed the most delicious and incredibly strong cold-brew coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice, we settled on splitting the avocado toast with a fried egg, hot sauce and lime zest on sourdough (yes, Instagram is full of avocado toast BUT THIS ONE WAS REALLY GOOD), and the ‘Josephine Rice Bowl’ (black rice, poached farm egg, roasted local vegetables, avocado, radish & salsa verde) which, hungover or not, was bloody delicious, and due to it not being dissimilar to what I would normally make myself for lunch when I have the time it was a real home from home.

Josephine HouseOther notable meals we had in Austin that, quite frankly, I’m too full to write about:

Magnolia Cafe | Serving some of the best comfort food 24 hours a day.  Super friendly staff.  The fish tacos are a must.

Torchy’s Tacos | Taco truck that helped start the booming food truck movement in Austin.  Try the deep fried avocado.

Lick | Ice cream shop serving the best vegan Ice cream I’ve ever had (coconut and avocado curd, uhhhh HELLO).  Also serves huge range of incredibly inventive dairy-laden flavours that Laura assures me are amazing.

Wild Wood Bakehouse | 100% gluten-free bakery with cafe.  The cookies are to die for.

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Written by George.

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