Whether you’re eating Beef Bourguignon and drinking a good Burgundy, or storming a prison to get at the gunpowder inside, I hope your celebration is a happy one.
Archive for the ‘Beef’ Category
This endorsement may be of limited utility to most of you, since Silvercar currently only operates in DFW and Austin. But I am hopeful that they will expand to other cities.
What are they? Silvercar is a car rental firm, but they’re different from your normal car rental company.
First of all, they only rent one type of car: silver Audi A4s. That’s not so bad, for reasons I’ll get into in a bit.
Second of all, their prices are reasonable: right now, they’re charging $75/day on weekdays and $50/day on weekends. That’s actually about what you’d pay for anything from Enterprise at the airport. (I just checked the Enterprise site: cheapest is $66.99 for a full-size car, going up to $127.56 for a “luxury” car.) That is with unlimited milage.
Thirdly, the experience is nowhere near as annoying as your average car rental agency is:
- They pick you up at the airport. You pick your car. You scan the QR code with the Silvercar app on your phone. You drive away with your rental. If you want, they’ll give you a briefing on how to use the navigation and audio systems. If you need help, they have some very pleasant people available to walk you through the process.
- Unlimited mileage.
- Fuel is charged based on what you actually use (at prevailing market rate) plus $5 if you don’t return the car with a full tank.
- They don’t get pushy about the “collision damage waver”. As a matter of fact, I don’t think they have such a thing.
- Those nice people they have on duty kept asking if we’d like a bottle of water or something while we picked up and dropped off the car. When’s the last time Hertz asked you if you wanted a bottle of water?
And the Audi A4s they rent are fun cars. Yes, they have Bluetooth. They also have WiFi. Seriously. You can use your rental car as a WiFi hotspot while driving. Most of this stuff is your basic Audi features, as far as I know, including the navigation and audio. But it is still really nice to have these features in a rental car, especially at this price.
I should note that I didn’t actually rent the car: Mike the Musicologist came up for a visit and handled the interaction with Silvercar. But I was along for the pickup and dropoff, and from what I saw it was the most friction-free car rental experience ever.
We drove the Audi down to New Braunfels Sunday night to have barbecue at the Cooper’s there (which I liked very much). Then we drove back through the city and stopped at the Buc-ees (yes, the one that won the “America’s Best Restroom” contest – and, yes, it is a darn nice men’s room). Monday, MtM and I drove down to Boerne and had lunch at a wonderful German restaurant called Little Gretel. I want to go back. Actually, what I want to do is take a long weekend, book a motel room in Boerne, and stay for a day or two, eating at Little Gretel, feeding the ducks in the creek across the street, and exploring the surrounding area.
We drove back to Austin by way of Fredericksburg (stopping briefly at the shop for the Nimitz Museum/Museum of the Pacific War) and the Audi never missed a beat. It felt like it was on rails even when I pushed it close to 100 MPH, and we got around 26 MPG for the entire Monday trip.
The one small issue I’d bring up with Silvercar, if they asked me, is that they only provide an iPod connector for the Audi MMI system. It’d be nice to have at least the Audi USB connectors as well. (I was unable to find a USB port in the car: the MMI system does have two SD card slots, though, as well as a SIM card slot.)
So, anyway, if you need a good rental car in Austin (or DFW), give Silvercar a try. And thanks to Mike for organizing this adventure.
I was out until late last night (having a very nice celebratory dinner at Bordeaux’s Steakhouse in Dripping Springs: thanks, Mom!) and wasn’t able to report on the latest Bell developments until this morning. That’s probably for the best, as I can link to the second day LAT coverage rather than the breaking news.
What happened? Briefly, hell broke loose in California.
As you may recall, the jury returned verdicts on some of the charges, but remained undecided on others. The judge sent them back Thursday morning to continue deliberations.
An exasperated Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy drew the case to a close after a bizarre day in which one juror asked to reconsider the guilty verdicts reached Wednesday. Then, an anonymous juror passed a note to Kennedy urging her to “remind the jury to remain respectful and not to make false accusations and insults to one another.” Kennedy refused to set aside the guilty verdicts.
These are different notes than the ones members of the jury sent on Wednesday, by the way.
What does all this mean?
1. “Prosecutors declined to comment because of the upcoming trial of Robert Rizzo, the former city administrator alleged to be the mastermind of the corruption. But an official said no decision has been made about retrying the defendants on the remaining charges.”
2. “[Former council member George] Cole’s attorney, Ronald Kaye, said the jury’s behavior suggested ‘coercion and intimidation’ that throws the guilty verdicts into question.
Attorney Shepard Kopp, who represented Jacobo, said the jury’s conduct is ‘tremendous legal grounds for motion for a new trial.’”
Basically, the jury verdicts stand, but it sounds like the defense has a chance to get them thrown out on appeal, if they can prove jury misconduct. My recommendation: buy popcorn futures.
Investigators said that they believed that the dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, hired two men to accost Mr. Filin outside his apartment building late on Jan. 17. As Mr. Filin punched in an entry code, the police said, a masked man called his name and tossed the contents of a jar of sulfuric acid at his eyes.
The NYT says one of the men has confessed: the LAT says both men and Dmitrichenko have confessed.
“I organized the attack, but not to the extent of the damage that happened,” Dmitrichenko said, stone-faced, to Russian news Channel One. The dancer, who has performed such roles as the Evil Genius in Swan Lake and Russia’s brutal ruler Ivan Grozny in a ballet of the same name, planned the assault for “personal resentment related to his work,” police said, according to Russian media reports.
Roy Brown Jr. has died. Mr. Brown was a car designer for Ford. This was one of his designs:
On Monday, the New Braunfels location of [Buc-ee’s] the mega-convenience store and travel stop won the 11th annual America’s Best Restroom contest, which is sponsored by Cintas, a company that “implements full service restroom programs” (i.e. provides thrones, sinks, and sanitation services).
I don’t think this would be a good SDC destination; while I’m sure you can get food at Buc-ee’s, it isn’t really an SDC sort of place.
However, we’ve had conversations about going to the Cooper’s in New Braunfels, so we could kill two birds with one stone…
Also added: Mick Vann’s “Gustidude”. Mr. Vann is one of a small number of local food writers I trust: I would say that even if it were not for the fact that he did a nice profile of the SDC many years ago.
And Gustidude came to my attention because he has a blog entry up about eating at Franklin’s BBQ with Raichlen.
You know, if I had it to do all over again, I’d seriously think about becoming a food anthropologist.
It doesn’t seem like this is a profession that rakes in the big money. But I think it’d be kind of fun to figure out how they made beer 9,000 years ago, or what the Anasazi indians ate, or how teosinte became corn. Why is meat inside some form of dough common across so many cultures?
What prompts this thought? Tuesday night, my mother and I went to see Steven Raichlen’s “Man Food Fire: The Evolution of Barbecue” lecture at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. (We had a very nice meal at Lambert’s beforehand. I had forgotten how much I liked their charcuterie plate.)
I hadn’t really thought much about the relationship between evolutionary biology and cooking. Part of Raichlen’s lecture was that we went from this:
(Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis. Note the large jaw and the protruding attachment points for jaw muscles.)
largely due to our ancestor’s use of fire to cook meat. I may be glossing over some subtleties here, but the short version is that cooking meat (and other foods) allowed our ancestors to use their food more efficiently, leading both to the evolution away from the large jaw and large jaw muscles, and to an increase in cranial capacity – thus, larger brains to fill the space. And that’s how we got to modern man.
(It isn’t that I don’t trust Raichlen, but I’d really like to sit down and talk about his ideas with someone like LabRat, who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do. By the way, that linked post over at the Atomic Nerds site is well worth reading.)
Some other highlights:
- Raichlen (and, I assume, his escorts) hit three barbecue places for lunch: Franklin Barbecue, John Muller’s (“email@example.com”, “texas”), and…Stiles Switch. I still haven’t made to Franklin (I’m waiting for the circus to die down), and I need to try Muller’s. But Stiles Switch is probably my current favorite barbecue joint (at least in the Austin area) so it fills me with delight that it earned the Raichlen seal of approval. Here’s a review of the Switch from the Statesman.
- This one goes out to our great and good friend Carol: grilled ice cream, an Azerbaijani recipe that I’d like to try. (Azerbaijan has TV chefs? I wonder if there is Azerbaijani public television, and if it has pledge drives.)
- This one goes out to our brother-in-law. Raichlen on ceramic cookers (like the Big Green Egg): there’s really not much difference between them, so go with the one that matches your patio furniture best.
- Packaged charcoal briquets actually originated with Henry Ford, as a method of recycling wood scraps from the Model T. Ford started converting them into charcoal, packaging them, and selling the bags; this venture became the Kingsford company.
- The Statesman pretty much f’ed up their coverage of this event. The first article I saw on it said it was free, you just had to call and RSVP. A few hours later, they amended that to “free for museum members, $4 for everyone else“, and blamed the museum for the error. I can tell you we were not museum members, and nobody was collecting money for admission. (They were selling Raichlen books, and he did do a signing after the talk.)
- Raichlen seems to me to be a pretty swell guy. I was impressed not just with his presentation, but his willingness to stay and answer questions afterwards. I think we would have been there all night long if the museum staff hadn’t cut off the Q&A (and he was still answering questions during the signing). My biggest surprise of the night: he has a degree…in French literature. Hmmmm. Maybe there’s hope for my food anthropology dreams after all.
- Raichlen’s blog, though he hasn’t put up anything from Austin yet. There is stuff in his Twitter feed.
Edited to add: Let me throw this in. The patron saint of barbecue and barbecue pitmasters? Saint Lawrence. This explains much.
Obit watch: Nora Ephron.
Oh, gee: “business leaders” are threatening to move their firms out of the notoriously corrupt city of Vernon, claiming the cost of business has become too high. Vernon has raised taxes and electricity rates, due to “the recession and a series of ill-fated investments that have cost the city millions”.
Among other bright ideas:
- The city spent $431 million on a hedge for a long-term supply of natural gas. Under the terms of the hedge, the city locked in supply at $7.50 per unit. Last year, natural gas sold for $4 per unit; currently, it is at “just over” $2.50 per unit.
- The city has issued over $1 billion in bonds “to pursue new projects and refinance existing debts”. Vernon has lost more than $130 million in net assets in the past six years, and county auditors say the city has consistently run $20 to $25 million in debt.
- “During the same period, Vernon increased its spending on employee compensation. Between 2006 and 2010, four officials took home annual pay of more than $750,000, including Eric T. Fresch, who made as much as $1.6 million in 2008.” Those same four officials were responsible for the natural gas deal.
- And, in a nice rich irony, many of the “business leaders” who are unhappy now were responsible for torpedoing last year’s legislative effort to disincorporate Vernon.
In other news, Stockton, California plans to file for municipal bankruptcy.
- The ability to make lemonade is genetically inherited, rather than learned? This might explain why my lemonade isn’t very good. (Then again, it could be that I make mine with bottled lemon juice. Yeah, I know, but I mostly make lemonade so I can mix it with iced tea and make Arnold Palmers; why use fresh lemon juice for that?)
- Lemonade isn’t sweet until you add something like sugar to it. What does Rev. Williams propose to add to the lemonade of bankruptcy?
One of the great barbecue related stories of the past quarter century was the Kreuz Market feud. In brief, when the family patriarch died, he left the Kreuz Market building to his daughter; he’d previously sold the business itself to two of his sons. This led to a family fight, and ultimately Kreuz Market moved into a new building on the highway, while the old building became Smitty’s.
What’s news? Well, the owner of Kreuz and the pitmaster at Smitty’s, along with another family member, are opening a new barbecue place: Schmidt Family Barbecue in Bee Cave. I am morally certain we will be going out there for an SDC, as soon as they’ve had time to shake out.
This is going to be more like a collection of random notes towards an AA report than an actual report. I do plan on a longer more thoughtful blog post later; probably this weekend, if everything works out the way I want it to. (I’m waiting for something to come in, and I need to go out to my mother’s place to take some pictures.)
- You can do blog posts from the Kindle Fire. I wouldn’t recommend it, and there are some issues with the WordPress interface on the Kindle, but in a pinch it can be done. And it is better than trying to post from a smart phone.
- On the other hand, I was at dinner one night with some friends. One of them was talking about a new gun he’d bought, but wasn’t sure what variant it was. He (and several other people at the table) were very impressed when I whipped out the Kindle Fire open to the appropriate section of the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson 3rd Edition. At least one person said, “That’s it. I’ve got to get one.” Yeah, I like having the Kindle Fire.
- Speaking of books, I started and finished The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl on the way up. Tam has written about this book previously, and anything I could add except “go read it” would be superfluous.
- Supposedly, according to the TSA, you no longer have to take out your laptop if it is under 12″. At least, that’s what I was told by a TSA agent in Austin (too late to do me any good) and the first TSA agent I spoke with in Boise. The second TSA agent in Boise apparently either didn’t get the memo, or the other two were wrong. Good old government ineptitude.
- I feel obligated to link to this Oatmeal comic.
- I had a lot of good food in Boise. Other than Bar Gernika and the Moxie Java on Chinden, I had a fantastic breakfast (as in, one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had) at a small place called Goldy’s in downtown Boise, and a very nice meal off the prix fixe menu at Chandlers Steakhouse.
- Speaking of Chandlers, some folks have been talking about martinis, so I thought I’d post this: Chandlers calls this “The ’33 Plymouth”; it is, of course, made with Plymouth gin and Nolly Prat vermouth. They do warn you that it takes 10 minutes to make one; I consider it worth the wait.
- There was a restaurant near the hotel that I (sadly) did not make it to, but was notable for the carved wooden sign out front stating “Famous Prawns”. I am sufficiently geeky that whenever I saw that sign, all I could think of was “No prawns at this altitude!”
- I find that what gets under my skin about travel these days is mostly the minor annoyances. The $3 bottled water in the room. (A buck or $1.50, maybe. That’s gas station price. And what do you suppose the gas station’s markup on bottled water is?) The lack of notepaper and envelopes. (Remember when hotels used to supply those? I know, everyone emails now, but an envelope is still useful to hold receipts and other bits of important loose paper.) Annoying WiFi networks. Etc.
- Minor annoyances aside, I did like the staff and the facility at the Riverside Boise. (And at least the WiFi was free.) The cookie and milk/coffee break provided by the hotel on Friday was a particularly nice touch.
- Anyone ever read Lawrence Block’s short story about Keller the hitman, “Answers to Soldier”? I understand how Keller felt about Roseburg; I feel much the same way about Boise. It reminds me a lot of Austin twenty years ago. (And, much like Keller, I have fantasies about moving almost every place I travel to. And then I end up going back to Austin…)
- I was reliably informed that on Thursday (the first full day I was there, when we spent much of the afternoon tramping around the Old Idaho Penitentiary) the high was 92 degrees. Balmy by Austin standards, but the humidity was 6%. That would explain why I was drinking water like it was going out of style the whole time I was there…
- As small town as Boise feels, it is big enough to have at least three gun stores. (There may be more, but the show host recommended three specifically.) I was able to visit two: the folks at Boise Gun Company were really nice, and have a huge selection. Cliff’s Guns, Safes, and Reloading seems to be a great place for reloading supplies; they didn’t have quite the new or used selection of Boise Gun Company, but did have a couple of interesting used guns. (On the other hand, $2,000 for a Model 16-4 strikes me as high. But I didn’t try to talk them down, what with being an out-of-state resident and all.) And the staff at Cliffs was perfectly pleasant to me, thankyouverymuch.
- Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to search for used bookstores in Boise. I did look for bookstores in Ketchum and along the route between Boise and Ketchum, but didn’t see any. Oddly enough, I also didn’t see any gun stores along the route. (They probably would have been closed on Sunday, but I was specifically looking for both gun stores and book stores, just to satisfy my curiosity.)
- Speaking of Ketchum and the general area around it, can you say “yuppie heaven”? I suspect if you planted magnets on old Ernie’s body and placed him inside a coil of copper wire, you could provide enough power to light all of downtown Ketchum at night.
- On the other hand, the stretch of 51/20 between I-84 and 75 is an amazing drive. This is basically 82 miles of…well, nothing, except high desert country, farms and ranches, mountains, and lots of curvy mountain road. I have a track of the route I took, and may post it later so folks can get a feel for what the country looks like.
- I haven’t been a big KIA fan, but the rental company gave me a KIA Forte, and it turned out to be a pretty swell car. It handled well on the road, got close to 30 MPG, and felt pretty stable at 85 MPH. Plus, it had two 12V sockets, an aux input, and a USB plug up front. I haven’t checked the Consumer Reports repair records, but the Forte might be worth looking at if you’re in the market for a 4-door sedan.
- Boise seems to have nearly as many thrift stores as Austin, Mom. I didn’t see any Goodwill stores, though; the majority of thrift stores seemed to be affiliated with the “Idaho Youth Ranch“.
In that vein, I wanted to point out the lengthy Statesman profile of John Mueller, grandson of the legendary Louie Mueller. This is pretty much your standard “scion leaves the family business, strikes out on his own, struggles for a while, and starts making a comeback” story. Also, a considerable amount of this story was already covered in Texas Monthly’s “Of Meat and Men” (which also covers the story of Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s Barbecue), but I think both articles are worth reading. Ideally, with about a pound of good brisket and maybe some sausage and beef ribs.
(I checked BugMeNot: the “firstname.lastname@example.org”, “texas” user ID/password combo works fine.)
Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.
I’m sure this study is going to be extensively analyzed, refuted, the refutations refuted, and the refutations of the refutations themselves refuted. I don’t expect any clarity on this before I die in a supermodel’s bed at the age of 115.
However, as soon as I read that headline, the first thing I was reminded of was “The Dread Tomato Addiction”, the essay that taught me “Correlation does not equal causality” before I could even pronounce “correlation” or “causality”. (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But I still commend the essay to your attention. Please note the original publication date.)
(For more about Mark Clifton, you could start with this Wikipedia article. You might also, if you ask Glen real nicely, get him to weigh in on They’d Rather Be Right, “perhaps the most contentious novel ever to win the [Hugo] award.” He’s the only person I know of who has actually made the effort to find a copy and read it;
I’m not sure Lawrence has done that, but he can correct me in the comments if I’m wrong Edited: see comments.)
A. G. Sulzberger is covering the Midwest for the NYT.
A.G. Sulzberger is a vegetarian.
A.G. Sulzberger wrote a piece for the NYT food section about how hard it is to be a vegetarian in the Midwest.
So, yes, I’ve “eaten” at some of these famous restaurants. There was the meal at the Golden Ox steakhouse (baked potato), Stroud’s fried chicken (rolls) and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, where, searching for vegetarian options on the menu, skipping over the lard-bathed French fries, pausing to consider the coleslaw, I ordered the safest option (a mug of Budweiser).
So, you’re a vegetarian, and you went to a steakhouse, a fried chicken restaurant, and the single greatest restaurant in the world (according to Calvin Trillin, anyway). Good planning, guy.
I never liked meat. And when I learned, while eating a burger at the cafeteria of the American Museum of Natural History at age 5, that “meat” was actually a euphemism for — and even dedicated carnivores hate being reminded of this — muscle, I felt my preference had received a hearty endorsement from common sense.
“Common sense” my ass. And as a dedicated carnivore, I’m no more bothered by the fact that meat is muscle than Mr. Sulzberger seems to be by the fact that tofu is coagulated soy milk.
This is the kind of thing that makes me not just agree with Anthony Bourdain, but wish that Mr. Bourdain and Mr. Trillin meet up with Mr. Sulzberger face to face one day and have a frank and open exchange of views.
(I do love the caption on the photo at the top of the article, though.)