Archive for June, 2010

Hope Farmers Market at Pine Street Station

Here’s a market in the shade, and on Sunday. Hope Farmers Market is under the trees; and adjacent to it is Pine Street Station, under a roof, and complete with indoor restrooms (some know it as Fader Fort).

Among those represented today were Engel Farms and McKemie Orchards from Federicksburg, Royal Indian Foods, Chaos Cards, Texas French Bread, Johnson’s Backyard Garden community-supported agriculture, and many more. The atmosphere was greatly enlivened by Christy Hayes and her Sunday Best, encouraging us to step lively to the excellent music in what seemed to be an alt-country vein.

We brought home locally grown celery (!), peaches, heirloom tomatoes, four kinds of squash, a baguette of Texas French Honfleur, fresh naan, fine yellow onions, potatoes, and more. Others were drawn to the orchids and herb plants. KO-OP radio was soliciting memberships (and KO-OP t-shirts make fine Austin–or Hornsby–souvenirs for your out-of-town friends).

The Chaos Cards people had inspired frame-worthy serigraphs on paper (just three dollars each–lone stars, playing-card personalities, Indian deities, famous Western masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and Boticelli’s Venus imagined in bold new colors) and also intricately silk-screened t-shirts that are beautifully imagined; step indoors to see these and the work of other artists and craftspeople. Don’t miss the handsome posters promoting Hope Farmers Market; these also make wonderful souvenirs of Austin.

Find all this at 414 Waller Street at East Fifth. Summer hours are from 10 am to 2 pm. See some photographs of the market today, taken before we looked in on the Mexico-Argentina partido. At Buenos Aires Cafe Este, those in attendance were elated; at Takoba (which had its large parking lot at Navasota completely filled), the mood was less jubilant. Even with all the Copa Mundial action today, it was easy for people to park near the Hope Farmers Market, and in the shade.

Juneteenth and battle of the bands

Today at the wonderful Juneteenth parade, we saw a small preview of tonight’s battle of the bands. The Austin All-Star Band was a hometown favorite, and the Houston All-Star Band was a very large aggregation and also a treat to see and hear.

Local politicians were very much in evidence. So were church groups and social and charitable organizations. It was a treat to see the Wells Fargo coach, drawn by four hourses. It seemed that there were more gaited horses than ever. We were too busy viewing and marching to get many pictures, but there are some. There are now five unedited videos on line; see the Austin All-Stars and the Houston All-Stars.

The Battle of the Bands is tonight at Nelson Field, 7200 Berkman Drive, beginning at 6 pm.

Baking for father

A party’s not really a party without a cake, and an event barely counts unless there’s a giant sheet cake at the center of it. Sure; there are those who bring their home-baked German chocolate cake with lots of native pecans, but a large gathering virtually demands a commensurate sheet cake, ideally one with the right theme and decorations.

Who can resist this one? It’s from the weekly ad supplement for our favorite local three-letter grocery (click on the linked image to see a larger version). It’s especially for the father who spends all his time recumbent in front of televised sports events, predominantly football and baseball.

Is Dad brandishing a remote control, as he appears to be? Is that a beverage in a cylindrical container in his other hand? Does this cake reflect the predominant view of contemporary fatherhood? I hope to see an actual example of this cake in the bakery case at the store.

Yeomen of the Guard

Only five performances remain for this Gilbert & Sullivan musical and comedic treasure, brought to us by our own Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin in a volunteer and amateur effort that’s completely professional.

There really are no bad seats at the Travis High School performing arts center. The 15-piece orchestra is a delight. Seven of the instruments are strings, and violins were never played to greater effect. The set’s a simple one, shown off to great effect by excellent lighting.

I’ve seen this comic opera performed three times, now, and I think that this is the very best version. The Yeomen of the Guard is unusual among G&S works in that only “I have a song to sing, O!” stays on the mental jukebox after the show, but there is a bounty of beautiful music beautifully performed, both instrumental and vocal. The singing is a treat, whether solo, duet, or any number of combinations of voices as ensemble. All roles are perfectly cast.

The performance that we attended was yesterday’s matinee for children. I was sorry that we arrived too late to see the juggling lesson. There are refreshments and souvenirs available in the lobby outside the auditorium.

Captioning is provided for all shows. Tickets at the door are $25 for adults, $20 for students over 18 with school i.d., and $8 for those under 18; tickets are available at a reduced price when purchased in advance, either on line or by calling 1-800-494-TIXS.

There’s a little less of the customary rollicking element and there’s a higher quotient of wistfulness, but you will laugh. This show will lift your spirits and brighten your day.


Peaches straight from the orchard may be found at South Lamar and Bluebonnet (where Rudolph’s Christmas tree stand sets up, next to the drugstore that’s next to Maria’s Taco Xpress).

Look for the white E-Z UP canopy. The season for cling peaches is almost over; soon the freestone peaches will be here.

These are peaches as they are meant to be.

El Meson quick-lunch

Look for the sign of the Horseshoe and find El Meson at 2038 South Lamar. We did yesterday after the morning World Cup match. El Meson has been open here for less than a month. Call 442-4441 for the latest information about hours.

With the tostadas came two fresh and delightful made-in-house salsas, one red and one green and both complex, along with a beautiful escabeche that contained cauliflower florets and carrots, among other ingredients, picante and lightly pickled. All this is not free, but the modest charge is well worth it. The person who ordered the guacamole, which was chunky and beautiful, couldn’t rave enough about its virtues.

Our main courses, accompanied by rice and a choice of pinto or black an order of chilorio. The mole was delicious, without a trace of sweetness. The chilorio (in guajillo sauce, as I recollect; there’s no takeout menu yet) was a sort of stew, made of fall-apart braised pork chunks beautifully trimmed. It was so delicious that it would be difficult not to order it again instead of tasting some of the many other tempting items on the menu, including carnitas and tacos al pastor. The delicate corn tortillas are also made on the premises.

There’s an extensive selection of tequilas, which we haven’t yet sampled. El Meson has an open kitchen and a bar with a big-screen television (the sound was off). It is so spotlessly clean that it almost sparkles.

I don’t know whether there’s a separate dinner menu. What we saw yesterday can keep us busy trying new dishes for quite some time to come. El Meson is a very welcome addition to the land south of the river.

World Cup: watching in the morning

This morning it was Mexico matched against South Africa. Those of us without home-viewing possibilities who wanted to see it all, and in the company of others, found the guide in this week’s Austin Chronicle invaluable.

The spots we hit were Buenos Aires Cafe Este, Justine’s, Brixton, and the find of the day, Takoba. We watched post-game activities at El Meson, which deserves its own separate entry.

As promised, Justine’s offered croissants, coffee, and booze, not necessarily in that order. It’s true: the French were in attendance.

Buenos Aires will be saved for the Argentina show, but even early on there were viewers for Mexico’s turn today.

The Brixton was dark in the daytime and very busy, with wall-to-wall standees. There’s a cigarette machine. Need I say more?

The real discovery of the day was Takoba (1411 East Seventh; telephone 628-4466). It also was wall-to-wall people indoors and shoulder-to-shoulder outdoors. Many were wearing tokens in support of today’s favorite, Mexico, and Spanish was to be heard everywhere. The kitchen did not appear to be open at that hour of the morning, but we can hardly wait to try it. The crowd is genial and prosperous. This was where true excitement and fervor were to be found today. Takoba plans to replay the days’ games beginning at 5 pm.

We didn’t check out Copa (217 Congress downtown; telephone 479-5002) this morning, but the last time around for the World Cup we enjoyed the company there very much.

We wound down with after-game shows and a wonderful meal at El Meson, a newcomer to South Lamar.

“Human Bodies” Exhibit at the Stark Center

I just heard about the Human Bodies exhibit at Stark Center. It’s basically real preserved human bodies and organs stripped down to show the underlying muscles and such. It’s an artistic anatomy lesson that they say is appropriate for all ages.

So whether you want to know what your muscles look like while kicking a soccer ball, or what what someone might look like if flayed alive by an evil witch (gratuitous reference for all you BTVS fans), then check it out! I know I will!

Trash cart into smash cart

I was nearly done in by our trash bin or at least suffered a very good imitation of a close call. Following are a true-life cautionary tale and a plea. Everyone knows enough by now to take special care with the large-capacity blue recycling carts, but it’s best to be mindful when dealing with the mid-sized carts as well, particularly if you’ve been allotted one of the top-heavy ones.

The original carts were squared off all the way down and quite stable. After our first one was destroyed in the street, we were issued one, allegedly of the same capacity, that had a square mouth but was cylindrical nearly immediately below the square collar, and not well balanced. After that one was destroyed in the street, we were issued one that is square on top, but that below has rounded corners on the front edge and quite a short axle. This one has had wheel replacements at least twice.

Thanks to the lovely people who treat themselves to the convenience of depositing their dog by-products in the trash carts of other people (including the large blue carts for recycling clean paper, metal, and glass), our mid-size cart was stinking to the heavens, detectable for some distance when we arrived home on last week’s collection day. The dense and copious redolent gift within had enjoyed the full benefit of our premature summer temperatures.

No mishap occurred when the cart was upended and the stinking and noxious contents were dumped. But when it was time to dump the not-large quantity of water and dish soap and unhygienic residue after an attempt at cleaning, the unwieldy cart on the hilly street suddenly tilted in an unexpected direction.

This is the first day since then that it’s been possible for me to use a keyboard. A watch served as a wrist-guard. No bones were broken, but the swelling was a sight and no fingers could be bent at all for some days. All from knuckles halfway to the elbow remains discolored and there’s still a big egg or knot at the point of impact. I’m thankful that I’m almost ambidextrous (or in this case “ambisinistrous”), from playing musical instruments and sports mostly the right-handed way.

I’ve learned a lesson from this experience and it’s that the smaller carts can be just as much a menace as the Big Blues and require just as much mindfulness. And the pet by-products? They just keep on a-coming. This week, the filthed-up receptacle was the recycle bin. “But it was in a plastic bag” is no excuse.

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