Archive for August, 2007

The Woodland

1290126142_b339dadb37_m.jpgI finally got the chance to check out The Woodland for the first time over Memorial Day weekend. The kids were at my parents and The Wife and I could enjoy a dinner on our own. We headed down to South Congress without a destination in mind and after checking out the menu at The Woodland, walking by Enoteca/Vespaio (no web site, Claude?) and South Congress Cafe, and grabbing a few discounted games at the toy shop that was closing and moving into the new space with Cissi’s Market and Mars, we headed back to The Woodland.

The menu tends towards upscale diner / comfort food, something like Moonshine, but different enough to distinguish themselves. The decor and atmosphere are very inviting. They’ve got Live Oak beers on tap along with an impressive cocktail menu which I’ll get back to in a moment. The food was better than average. I had the Pepper Crust and The Wife had the Rueben. The consensus from reviews on various sites is that the oyster appetizer is the one to get…maybe next time. The desserts were especially tempting. Between the decor and the desserts, I got a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe. The place is relatively small, but there wasn’t a wait the two times that I’ve been there.

We returned for drinks last month and had good service from the bartender, Jeff, who’s responsible for some of the unique cocktails on the menu. I recommend checking out the SoCu, which is Hendrick’s Gin and cucumber muddled with fresh rosemary, served in a salted rim glass and sprinkled with cayenne.

They tied for best new restaurant in the Readers category of this year’s Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll. The Woodland is owned and operated by the same people that brought you Starlite Lounge on Colorade between 4th and 5th.

Get Your War On One More Time

email_gywo_philly06_6.jpgJust a quick note since I already plugged this on its last two runs and briefly reviewed it, but if you still couldn’t get yourself off the couch to check it out you’ve got another chance.

Rude Mechanicals presents Get Your War On

WHEN: September 6 – 22, 2007 | 15 performances only!
WHERE: 2211-A Hidalgo St., Austin, TX 78702 | MAP
Thursdays are Pay-What-You-Can | Fridays & Saturdays are Sliding Scale $12 – $30
Purchase tickets online or call 512-389-0315 or 888-512-SHOW

It’s still completely relevant since, like the crazed old man who picks fights with his neighbors, Bush and Co. seem bound and determined to repeat this whole Iraq fiasco or worse with Iran. At least we can laugh our way to Armageddon.

For walkers who’ve been wondering

Pedestrians will not be required to pay a four-dollar toll to walk over the bridge between downtown and South Congress. So says a source at the City, person number three reached by telephone today (the trail started at 974-7180, went to 974-5634, and then to a mystery number). There was nobody live at Roadway Productions (441-9015). Two- and four-wheel traffic (and emergency vehicles), however, must defer to the Bat Fest. Capital Metro detours have been posted.

A Stroll Through the Park

Austin Town Lake ParkAbout 9 last night I remembered that I’d seen that the fencing had been removed around Town Lake Park. So AJM and I walked down and took a stroll through Austin’s newest park. We were not alone. Couples lingered here and there under the full moon. We stood at the top of the observation mound and exclaimed our love for Austin. I don’t think Austin’s skyline has ever looked so beautiful despite the fact that the icons of my personal vision of Austin have been obscured by newer, shinier buildings.

This park is different than any other park I know of in Austin. The scale provides a sense of intimacy and the layout seems designed specifically for meandering, rather than active recreation. There are not soccer fields or hike and bike paths and only one small open space signed “No Team Sports”. Instead there are curved walks through Lilliputian hills and woods, walks just right for wandering here, there, and nowhere. Or maybe over to the pond with its large spray fountain and three docks (carefully railed to prevent you from sitting on the edge with your feet overhanging into the pond). Or to the map of Texas with mileage to other Texas cities and four points of the compass. Or to the large circle inscribed with the words: Release, Return, Receive. We thought there should be an accompanying sign to the effect, “Drum circles should form only in designated areas.” There is also a spiral sitting area with what looks like bubble jets; the perfect spot for young mothers to sit while watching their toddlers splash and run about. The steel planters with xeriscape plants provide a 21st century industrial touch. But the park needs more trash cans! We saw an plastic bag full of doggie poop and a soda can in the grass–and the fence had been down only a few hours.

Town Lake Park does not quite live up to the original vision presented almost 9 years ago. In July 2006, the Austin Chronicle detailed the cutbacks. Still it has been transformed into a wonderful space.

What other city can boast that rather than “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” that it tore out a parking lot and planted a park?

Austin an edible city

You’ve probably seen the first issue of Edible Austin, available at foodie locations all over town. Austin’s own Marla Camp, the editor and publisher, is quoted in today’s NYT. Somehow, I had overlooked the small print on the Edible Austin Web site. Edible Austin is just one of over thirty similar publications, each individual and local, all published under the umbrella of Edible Communications, Inc. The article provides details on the business aspects of the affiliated local and regional publications around the nation: “How to Eat (and Read) Close to Home,” byline Marian Burros (sign-in may be required). The feature implies that the quality of these publications is uneven, saying “Some of the magazines still have plenty of kinks to work out.” I wouldn’t say that the Austin version is one of them. There are even new discoveries to be found among local businesses taking out ads in the first issue. Each one of the articles contains at least one factoid that’s a revelation, and the opinions of the informed writers are entertaining, too. If all the Edible magazines were in a survival contest, I’d be willing to bet that Edible Austin would be the last one standing. It’s that good.

Music Notes: SRV and Black Flag

Two music notes that are somewhat related:

  • Steve Crossland points out that today is the 17th anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death. I was driving from Dallas to Austin in a U-Haul truck that morning on my way to a rental house in Hyde Park to start my sophomore year at UT when I heard the news. Where were you?
  • At the other end of the music spectrum, but of roughly the same era, Tim League linked a post about hardcore shows in the early 80s at The Ritz theater he’s currently renovating for the new location of Alamo Downtown. The Left of the Dial post mentions the Idle Time fanzine, which has a ton of great photos from the punk scene in Austin at that time.

Austin bruited about

Our fair town’s name is out there in print a lot these days. It’s only to be expected in this season of college ratings (there’s always something to be said about UT-Austin and usually something about our academic neighbor in San Marcos, and no opportunity to mention keeping Austin weird is ever overlooked). Hapless Dell is in the headlines one way or another nearly every day, at least in the business section. Trouble with paint jobs on those new rainbow laptops is the latest, all apart from stories on (falling rates of) customer satisfaction, earnings restatements, and the like. My favorite feature of the week, even though it doesn’t predict the longed-for crash in real estate, is “Lure for Businesses: Inexpensive Real Estate” (byline Tina Peng; from the WSJ, August 22). The print-version subhead is “While home prices are stalled or flat in many parts of the country, they’re still rising in Austin.” It’s the caption for one of those views of the downtown skyline, but this one, as is true of so many, is old, lacking the Frost Bank tower. Two of the most interesting statistical claims are (1) that, over the past year, our rate of population growth was 3.5 times the national average, with labor-force growth more than double the national average; and (2) that our median home prices are up substantially (read for yourself) while home prices nationally have been in decline. The article claims that there’s no sign yet of a bubble or even mild downturn in the market for condominiums, again a divergence from what’s beginning to seem evident nationally. Those who have no intentions of flipping a house or selling for any reason long for appraisal relief from the Travis Central Appraisal District. No matter what happens to the market, however, history suggests that there will be no downward trends in appraisal valuations, although we may perhaps hope for a halt or slowing in their rise.

Sawdust and waste

A wide strip of the yard is blanketed by flakes of cedar; the entire yard is under a miasma of fermenting human urine and ordure. The olfactory effect is of an active pencil sharpener inside a large, untended privy. The 75-year-old trees were mature eastern red cedars (not Ashe junipers), the height of a three-story house. We understand that there’s an intention to build where they were. The perfume of their remains is pleasant to the nose where discernible, but sad to contemplate. The predominant odor emanates from a portable toilet dropped off on July 27. The contents have since been pumped out just once, after two and a half weeks, and then not again. Although various inquiries have been made, there seems to be no requirement for portable toilets to be set a certain distance from residences. There seems to be no law, ordinance, or rule to keep them from being placed within the minimal five-foot construction setback. There seems to be no law, ordinance, or rule requiring them to be emptied at any specified interval. At least, those who have responded are not aware of any protections for those “enjoying” the proximity of these conveniences. And then there are those who have not responded. I’m trying to think of them as having not yet responded. In the meantime, the nauseating soup becomes ever more pleasant in the late-summer heat, and the clouds of houseflies, greenflies, and bluebottles proliferate. We dine as far away as possible, keep the window fans on exhaust so as not to take in more of the accumulating noxious stench, and sport generous smears of Vicks VapoRub about the nostrils when we go into the yard. As soon as possible, I intend to write one by one to members of the city council imploring passage of ordinances to regulate placement and care of portable toilets if there are none and, if relief from such nuisances exists, beseeching enforcement.

Update: The response at last received from the City confirms that there is little recourse for the hapless neighbor of a too-close and unattended-to portable chemical toilet. Since there was no response to the additional question posed, one must conclude that there is not one member of the city council willing to try to remedy the lack of proper ordinances addressing such noxious nuisances.

Chez Nous not-quick lunch

Chez Nous matchbookChez Nous has been a favorite since it first opened, in a building with no air-conditioning at the time and in which other dining establishments had failed in short order. Chez Nous has been an never-failing oasis of civilized dining at fair prices. What’s more, at lunch-time, it’s always been possible to dine well and unhurriedly and within an hour.

Downtown was hopping this noon with those attending a convention of real-estate agents. Perhaps that accounted for the mysterious and extended delay between the first course and those following. The apologies were profuse and the espresso and other coffee orders were comped to make up for this first-ever roughness in the flow of service.

And the food was, as ever, delicious. I was so glad that I ordered the gazpacho, very chilled and very fresh and refreshing and very piquantly tasty. I’d order it again just like that. When at last they arrived, the seafood crepes were a delight and the fish was fresh and piping hot from the pan, as always. The chocolate mousse was the unanimous choice and one, again as always, that made us happy. The delay kept us from hitting our under-an-hour mark, extending it for fifteen or so extra minutes longer than the usual, the first experience of this sort in the quarter of a century that we’ve been thanking Chez Nous for existing. So it was a fairly quick lunch, just not so quick as usual, although just as good.

Tweety on wheels

tweety el piolinEscaping existence solely in the cartoons and the pages of comic books, Tweety first took to the highways as an ornament on mud flaps and splash guards, duly licensed. Then, the inimitable yellow bird was sometimes seen painted freehand as an embellishment for doors or rear windows of pickups. “ Posted in City Life | 2 Comments »

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