Archive for June, 2009

Garrido’s leisure-lunch

Garrido's in AustinGarrido’s is open and serving food continuously from opening to closing. In July, brunch will be added on Saturdays and Sundays, but otherwise the same menu is available all day long, with a soup special and a taco special each day.

We were burning some vacation time but it was mid-afternoon before we could consider where to dine. Garrido’s was humming and buzzing with activity even after the conventional lunch-hour. Today’s soup was a delightful shrimp concoction in a lobster broth. The oyster-lover at the table was more than pleased.

This was our first visit. We did not try the chips and salsa (these are not free) because we were interested in the lamb “pops,” which are delicious chops, frenched to make a handle of the bone, seared on the outside and just pink enough on the inside. The lamb was of the best. The ancho sauce was delicious and so were the tiny leaves of green dressed with a tasty vinaigrette that took a portion of the same plate.

The carnitas were the very best that I have ever tasted, better even than my former favorite version, served by Tula of fond memory just off the drag. That’s all I’m going to say about them, other than to recommend them highly. The tortillas are tender and made in house; the black beans and the lime rice are delicious. The espresso equals the best in town. The little dessert offering of cookies, chocolate mousse, and chocolate-coffee truffles makes great sharing.

The musica was tropical. The acoustics are busy but do permit conversation. Garrido’s deserves to stay just as busy as we found it today.

Austin a recommended retirement haven

Illustrated with the distinctive sun-and-moon sign of El Sol y La Luna, this year’s U.S. News 2009 top-ten list of best places to retire includes Austin. We’re placed in such company as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Loveland, Colorado, so I’m not sure it’s an honor.

We’re not included in the best places for diners-out to retire, though.

The criteria for this year’s selections are said to be affordable communities with strong economies and plenty of entertainment. We’re cited for our music venues and our “warm climate.” Coming in for special mention are the Lions Muny golf course, Barton Springs, and the nearby Hill Country.

Juneteenth on parade

Austin Juneteenth 2009

Once again I failed to capture an image of the H-E-B giant shopping cart. Half the time the toy camera isn’t on when I think it is, and the same is true for the FlipCam. But it doesn’t matter. No pictures of any kind are ever truly needed to establish memories of this annual event. Many were the elected officials to be seen in the procession. Police Chief Acevedo walked the route distributing goodies to children along the way. My personal favorites, as always, were the kids playing music (the Austin All-Star Band was out in force) and the fancy-gaited horses, all beautifully groomed and seeming to enjoy showing off as much as we all loved seeing them. Additonal photographs and short videos have been uploaded. Although we marched down Chicon with the All-Star band, it can be seen that most of the time we kept quite close to the Fresh Up Club.

Austin City Limits Taping – Okkervil River

ACL Okkervil River Program

ACL Okkervil River Program

The past year for Okkervil River has been full of some pretty big milestones. They released their latest album The Stand Ins only a few weeks before playing the Austin City Limits Festival last September. They played The Late Show with David Letterman this past January and were at both the Coachella and Bonnaroo (where they apparently “killed”) festivals this summer. Their latest achievement is an Austin City Limits taping last night for Season 35 to air later this year.

I’ve heard a lot about the band (pronounced “awk”-ervil not “oak”-ervil as ACL producer Terry Lickona did introducing them last night) over the past few years both in the media and from friends. Their sound is somewhere between folk and pop and they’re often lumped in with bands like The Decemberists and Arcade Fire. It was a decidedly local crowd last night. We ended up sitting next to bassist Patrick Pestorious’s mother and father. Jonathan Meiberg, former Okkervil member who left to focus on his band Shearwater which started out as a side project for both he and Okkervil frontman Will Sheff, was on hand for “Lost Coastlines”, a songn they had to┬ádo twice for the taping due to some mistakes in the first attempt. They also added a horn section and a string section to the normal 6 member line-up. Okkervil River have backed Roky Erickson, another local performer and recent Austin City Limits artist, and are slated to go into the studio with him later this year. (more…)

Iolanthe all-in-one entertainment center

Iolanthe: Gilbert & Sullivan Society of AustinAmong the delights of the current production of Iolanthe are a 15-piece orchestra, a singing and dancing cast of over 30 by my count, and delightful staging and costumes. The Gilbert & Sullivan Society has brought its annual grand productions to venues all over Austin; in the Travis High School performing arts center it may have found the best one yet.

Yesterday’s children’s matinee was so delightful that I hope to attend another performance of Iolanthe before the run ends. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (June 18, 19, and 20) at 8 pm and on Sunday (June 21) at 3 pm. There will be supertitle captioning on Thursday and Friday.

H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado are performed more often, and the opportunity to see a fully produced and laugh-out-loud production of Iolanthe is a precious one. When the peers of the realm (who are threatened by the possibility of competitive examination), along with other, lesser mortals, meet the fairy sprites of the woodland, merriment ensues. And so does beautiful music, vocal and instrumental.

Iolanthe is a true labor of love. I think that only in Austin is to be found the combination of multifaceted talent and concerted volunteer effort required to mount performances of such excellence.

Hwa Yuan quick-lunch

Hwa Yuan guardian of the gateTucked away unobtrusively in a small strip-mall center on Research, Hwa Yuan still attracts customers to its buffet, even on a Monday, as we discovered yesterday. Everyone was going through the buffet line and it was only later that we found that it’s possible to order from the menu.

Food comes to the buffet in small portions, straight from the kitchen. I thought it was unusual to find elegant little steamed dumplings at a buffet, and presented in a bamboo steamer. Many people were going through the buffet line and filling takeout containers to carry away. The posted rules for doing this were elaborate and arcane. I can remember only that at least three different items must go into the container and that there is a weight limit (although I saw no scale).

There are items for children especially, and everyone was enjoying the ribs, which seemed to have been coated in five-spice powder somewhere along the way. I thought that the hot and sour soup was particularly fine. There’s a darker adjoining room with a bar and a television. Some were dining there, and it appears that it would make a good place to adjourn after work. The Web site seems to list most of what I saw on the menu. We were happy with our lunch (buffet price $6.95, I think, but at any rate a good value). Find Hwa Yuan at 11150 Research Boulevard, Suite 201, Balcones Woods Shopping Center; telephone 345-9781, not all that far from the Regal Arbor Cinema.

Thai Passion quick-lunch

This is food for the famished; they won’t go away hungry. We hit the downtown Thai Passion, ground floor of the historic Capitol Hotel, in the middle of rush-hour. We walked over from Nueces, having found that Garrido’s wasn’t open, although it will be for dinner this evening.

Thai Passion was busy, but nothing felt rushed. Salad came to the table right away. We enjoyed spring rolls, a standard soup (tom-yum) that was not ho-hum, the curry of the day, and, my favorite, a ginger-chicken stir-fry. It was studded with countless delicate morsels of appetizing white-meat chicken, crisp celery and carrots, and much else from the vegetable realm. We polished everything off, but the portions are so generous that many resorted to takeaway containers. Nobody was leaving anything on the plate.

During the daytime, one room is brightly lit by the sun from above and the other is more dimly lit by a well designed electric lighting scheme (bright enough for reading the menu, but without glare of any kind). Restrooms are spotless. The staff is friendly and professional. The music is easy-listening instrumental and bright, not boring, allowing for conversation and permitting privacy for the diners. The napkins are cloth.

We paid lunch express prices for appetizing and restorative food in generous portions, a real bargain to be enjoyed in this serene location.

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