Austin


Fall Color

Since I have posted in past years about our Austin fall color I would be remiss if I didn’t jot some notes on this year’s display.

I’m actually writing this on New Year’s Day of 2019 and back dating this post but I’m trying to catch up on my notes here. Call it a new year’s resolution.

2018 fall colors came earlier than I remember in past years. In fact, if you click thru the link above I had noted last year that we usually see our best color around the solstice in late December. That was not the case in 2018. In fact, both the photos here were taken the weekend of Thanksgiving.

The red Oak leaves were shot in Hunt, Texas. And the shot below was just in my neighborhood here in Austin.

I wasn’t the only one that noticed the display of color this year. Here’s just one reference I recall running across late in the year.

Fall generally seemed to be wetter and cooler than I remember in past years and I gotta figure that was a factor. And maybe some perfectly timed sunny days.

Sunday afternoon in the hammock

So you might think that in Texas, lots of days would be ideal for just hanging around in a hammock. I mean, we get some pretty good weather year round and plenty of sun, but the reality is that there’s really only a few times a year that I think, wow, I have to take time out and get out there and just kick back in the hammock. The temp, the breeze, the humidity … it has to be right for me to want to [ideally] snooze in the hammock.

Today was one of those days.

At mid afternoon we had temps in the low to mid 80s and a light and occasional breeze that was just about perfect.

As I lay there gazing up into the Live Oak above me I was treated to some visitors. First came the woodpecker. Hard for me to tell what kind. It was very animated and jumping from branch to branch and pecking away. It appeared to have plenty to feast upon.

Then came the hummingbird that swooped in out of nowhere. Without the motion of its arrival I would never even have noticed it. At best, it was only 2 to 3 inches tall and once it lighted, it hung out on a branch for quite some time. It was practically invisible without the movement of flight.

The other visitor I noticed was a lizard shooting up the same tree. Again, hard to tell exactly what kind but there are so many Texas Spiny Lizards around here that’s likely to be the case in this instance too.

This warm and restful moment was accompanied by the scent of Star Jasmine. (see pic) My neighbor has some planted and over the years this vining plant has taken over a rock wall nearby. There’s nothing more evocative of late April and early May for me than this scent. It blooms in places around the city and central Texas and when I catch a whiff I just have to stop for a moment. It’s imprinted on me and as memorable as Lilacs, Bluebonnets and Easter Lilies.

yellow flower
Cactus

It’s that time of year in central Texas when things bloom and as it warms up in the spring in late April and into May, the yellows and reds seem to be more prevalent.

We’ve had a pretty good display of wildflowers this year. My last post here showed the bumper crop of Bluebonnets. Since then I’ve snagged a few shots of yellow flowers. My Instagram feed has, in fact, become a bit repetitious. Lots of flowers.

The two photos posted here though were a couple I didn’t post to Instagram. Both of these were taken on walks in my neighborhood.

I have no idea what the daisy-like flower is but we had a ton of them around here for a while.

As it’s warmed some more, the Prickly Pear cacti have really started to open up. This one here I caught shortly after a recent rain.

Click the photos for larger images.

It won’t be long now and it’ll start to feel a lot more like summer and only the hardiest plants will bloom around here. Even the birds seem to go somewhere else in the summer. But the cicadas … they always return. I have yet to hear them but they’ll begin to screech soon and that’ll be a sure sign that summer is upon us.

I mentioned the Bluebonnets in the last post so I’d be remiss if I didn’t post an obligatory shot of the Bluebonnets this year. We’ve gotten rain at the right times throughout the fall and through the winter and early spring and this year we’re seeing a bumper crop of Bluebonnets and other wildflowers.

I took this one just in the last hour or so on a walk at the end of the day. As you can see by the bit of light hitting the trees in the background it was before sunset but not by much.

I liked how this shot turned out. I captured one main Bluebonnet up front and in focus while you still get some perspective of how prolific the flowers have been this spring. There wasn’t much light left but – enough.

Spring arrived here in Austin weeks ago. The Bluebonnets and enumerable other wildflowers are and have been in bloom for weeks. The Live Oak leaves are fresh and bright green again and their old leaves are being blown or have been raked into piles and carted off.

That means that hot weather will be upon us in short order. You can sense it like a freight train coming around the bend. It may not be “Summer” here yet but hot weather is just around the next corner.

It has been sultry through the weekend and into the early part of this week. The breeze has been from southeast and temps have been near 80 and while not ‘hot’, it’s just warm enough and different enough to feel uncomfortable at times – particularly when at this time of year we tend to shut off both heat and AC and just open the window(s).

So it was very pleasant today to have a front blow through with a little rain late in the afternoon. I got home in time to throw open windows and door and let the low 60s temps flow in. Wonderful!

I snapped the photo included here out the back soon after getting home. We may get some more rain overnight. The skies sure looked like it. In the mean time, you can’t beat the cool breeze coming out of the North right now. A breath of fresh air.

If you search back in this blog you’ll find that it’s pretty typical for me to go out looking for fall color at the end of the year. Here in Austin what would qualify as our autumn and winter seasons can sometimes be counted in days so if and when we have some fall color I try to take notice and capture just a bit. Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons.

Like most years, fall color peaks in Austin, TX closer to the winter solstice rather than after September concludes as it does in the more northern climes. So these pics are of course recent and just prior to Christmas.

These three photos all come from a single end of year walk and in fact were probably all within 100 yards of one another. The office complex just a couple block walk from my place has some nice trees and landscaping so as I walked through the area I snapped a few pics. (I was of course under the watchful eye of some security dude in a pickup the whole time … which is kinda weird in a way but maybe something for another post.)

My favorite of the bunch was the still bright red Oak leaf juxtaposed alongside its siblings that had already dropped to the ground. It was the only one I posted to Instagram.

I like Cedar Elms and it’s typical of them to get a lovely yellow hue before the leaves drop completely so I think I caught this one just in time.

You can get a sense of the time of day as well as the kind of filtered solstice winter light at the end the afternoon in the last of the three pics. I think this is called Maiden Grass (it’s not full enough to be Pampas Grass). I have some at my home as well. It’s one of the ornamental grasses we have planted all over this part of the world. Looks good year round. It’ll get cut back and then reappear in the spring.

The Willamette Valley came to Austin – at least for one night. I’m a big fan of Oregon wines and have written here before about visits up there. So I was excited to see an event called “Pinot in the City” come up right here in Austin that showcased nothing but Oregon wines from the Willamette valley area.

First and foremost I appreciated that the organizers somehow managed to make the winery to taster ratio a very good one so that we weren’t all just packed in there like sardines and making it difficult to get a tasting. In fact, it was a pleasure to just take our time, have a bit of food and then go check out the next winery that looked interesting.

In the end, I made note of my two favorites. One white and one red. Perhaps not surprisingly these came from two wineries I have visited in the past. And while these I noted as my favorites, there was nothing that I didn’t like.

The first of these was the Pinot Blanc from Brooks. When I saw they had a white I at first assumed it’d be a Riesling. They make excellent Riesling! But instead it was this 2014 Pinot Blanc. Lemon lime with a round and reasonably full body. I’d love to find some more of this. I don’t see this particular year available on the Brooks website but they have the 2015 there. Might have to give that one a try.

My favorite Pinot Noir of the night, by a nose – because there were so many good ones – was the 2013 Lange Pinot Noir Reserve. If you click through to their website you’ll find tasting notes there which who am I to argue with:

“Bright and lively, the palate shows an array of red berry fruit layered with sweet herbs and hints of rich earth.”

Lange is a lovely little winery to visit I might add. I have been there at least a couple times and hope to visit again one day.

I’ve been wanting to try out Launderette in Austin for some time. Nothing really stopping me other than taking time to actually plan because the place is routinely booked up. And I can now see why.

For a change I touched base with someone at Launderette much earlier than I typically would and arranged for a table for New Year’s Eve. Having never been there I suppose it might have been considered a gamble on whether it’d pan out but reviews have been good.

Suffice to say everything – including the service and new year party atmosphere – were fantastic.

Ok, on to my notes. I snagged the menu off the website and I’m glad they had it there so I didn’t have to type it in. Let’s get started…

First Course

Choice Of:Rabbit Terrine
Boston Mackerel Crudo
French Onion Soup
Frisée Salad

I can have a salad anytime – and I make a good salad – so that was out as 1st choice. And I’m sure the French Onion soup would have been great but we went for things we wouldn’t normally find: the rabbit and the mackerel crudo.

The rabbit terrine was sort of like a pâté. Not entirely spreadable but close. Excellent flavor and particularly with the Langhe Nebbiolo we chose to go along with the meal.

The mackerel was a much smaller portion and indeed raw but it packed a punch. It was very spicy but in a good way.

A great start!

Second Course

Choice Of:Razor Clam
Truffle Gnudi
Boneless Sardine
Roasted Kabocha

Here I went with the truffled Gnudi. Had no idea what Gnudi was but the waiter helped and I know I like truffles and how can you go wrong as anything billed as a little dumpling? Click the above link for more on what Gnudi is.

Third Course

Choice Of:Duck Breast
Short Rib
Squid Ink Cavatelli
Loup De Mer En Brodo

We opted for the duck breast and short rib. Both were absolutely fantastic. Might be the best short rib I’ve ever had.

Neither were large portions but they were just enough. When the time came though, we were ready for the:

Fourth Course

Choice Of:Disco Trifle
Champagne Baked Alaska
Million Dollar Chocolate
Etherealmisu

We opted for the baked Alaska and the million dollar chocolate. Wow! These were both great. I especially liked the touch to add the gold leaf to the million dollar chocolate.

Great way to bring in the new year and I’ll be headed back at the first opportunity. Photos here are a couple I took of neon sign out front and a shot of the restaurant from the parking lot. The place was literally a laundromat prior to its current state as a restaurant and I guess you can kinda tell that from the look. It’s had quite a transformation into a restaurant though.

Launderette, Austin, Texas

I created an instagram account back in 2012 and promptly didn’t actually do anything with it. It was no doubt a busy time. I didn’t really start doing anything with it until just over a year ago. Since then, I’ve posted every few days. And sometimes I post more than once a day, but rarely more than that. (Actually I think it can be irksome to find someone you follow posting more than that.)

So what changed? I’ve enjoyed photography since I was a kid, but in the last couple of years I have renewed interest and the digital cameras and editing software available these days are very good. I’ve also found it to be a fun distraction at the end of the day. I can get into rush hour traffic, or I can take to the street, get in a walk and snag a few photos along the way. Both the popularity and simplicity of the instagram app have made it interesting as well. We all have phones practically glued to us.

Below are the 2015 stats by the numbers. From virtually no posts at the end of 2014 to 246 posts as I write this. Stats courtesy of the https://squarelovin.com website.
Instagram Posts 2015
The photos you see along with this post are the ones that have turned out to be the most popular (at least by way of ‘like’ counts) during the course of the year. The bicycle shadow with leaves was the most popular. And it should also be obvious that Austin folks and myself really like the Austin skyline. We do have a beautiful city.

I’d like to keep the same pace of posting next year but time will tell. This is most definitely a hobby and then there’s the real life & job.

I had the pleasure once again of taking some time out late on a Sunday morning for the once a month ‘classes’ that are put on by Hudson’s on the Bend chef Jeff Blank and team. Always fun and as usual, the food was fantastic.

That’s chef Jeff Blank on the left. He supervises and comments along the way as his team makes all the food.

I quote ‘classes’ above only because it’s really more of a cooking demonstration. The team of chefs make everything right in front of you and tell you what they’re doing all along the way. Along the way the staff keeps you lubricated with wine as you enjoy the show. Lake Travis forms the backdrop when it’s outdoors like the day I was there.

The menu of the day varies and on this particular day it was in my opinion: awesome for the season.

We started things off with “Wild Game Chili“. This was probably some of the best tasting chili I can remember. Of course, when you see what they put in there you can see why:

  • venison
  • wild boar
  • onion
  • garlic
  • bacon
  • freshly made veal stock
  • ancho chilis
  • poblano chilis
  • + other seasonings and goodness

You can see a photo below of the big pot they made it in. It smelled as good as it tasted.

Next up after the chili came “New Orleans BBQ ‘big ass’ Shrimp“. They referred to them as ‘big ass’ shrimp because they special order them for their size. The term also reminds me of George Carlin’s quote about “jumbo shrimp”:

The term Jumbo Shrimp has always amazed me. What is a Jumbo Shrimp? I mean, it’s like Military Intelligence – the words don’t go together, man.

This dish had LOTS of butter along with garlic, and a tasty collection of spices: bay leaves, rosemary (freshly cut from the yard), oregano, basil, paprika, black pepper, cayenne.

We’re not done yet, then there was also “Espresso Rubbed Venison Backstrap with lump crab in Chipotle Bock Beer Blanc Butter“. This one was was done up in a stovetop smoker that you can also see to the right on the stove in the pic here. Smokey flavors were excellent.

And for dessert? “Brownie Bread Pudding“. Wow, this one was decadent. Chocolate chips melted down with butter, sugar, vanilla bean paste, eggs, flour. They first make up a batch of brownies with the main ingredients and then they go crazy and break it all up in a pan and add 2 quarts of heavy cream and a dozen eggs. Mix ‘er all up and bake. Holy smokes. A little of this goes a long ways.

After the demonstration everyone goes to the restaurant not too far from the demonstration at Jeff Blank’s home and the restaurant staff serves all of these great dishes up.

Don’t worry about the calories on a day like this. Just go and enjoy it.

I hadn’t been out to the Salt Lick in a long time. But, it’s the kind of place that doesn’t change that much over the years. With it being the Thanksgiving Day weekend it wasn’t like I was in need of a lot more food. I’ve been more than well fed in recent days. But with some out-of-towners saying they really wanted to go to the Salt Lick it seemed like a good day to go check it out again.

With weather wet and in the 40’s I would have figured there wasn’t a lot of folks that were interested in getting out and driving down to the Driftwood area to have a big meal of BBQ. But then of course I’d be wrong. Now as crowds go, they can be a lot larger at the Salt Lick. You can wait for hours. But arriving mid afternoon on a holiday weekend Sunday, we got in right away.

I got the baby back ribs but had the luxury of sampling some of the brisket as well as the sausage. The ribs and the brisket were very enjoyable. Wasn’t as much of a fan of the sausage. BBQ aficionados from here in central Texas can sometimes pooh-pooh the Salt Lick. It’s touristy and this or that and doesn’t measure up to some other vaunted BBQ place somewhere in TX. But they’re popular and have been for ages for a reason. It tastes good. And the service is good especially considering the throng of people they deal with routinely.

These days, they also have a wine tasting place right on the other side of the dining room where you can find Texas wines that just happen to go quite well with a plate of BBQ. We opted for a bottle of Fall Creek Tempranillo sourced from the Salt Lick vineyard. Can’t get more local than that, and it worked well with the barbecue.

Sides were potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, jalapeños, pickles, onions and mounds of bread. I passed on the onions and bread but tried the rest. All fine if not exactly piping hot. I’m not as much of a fan of the sauces but that’s just personal taste.

All in all, can’t beat a trip out to the start of the hill country and some tasty BBQ. A nice finish to the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

With temps hovering in the low 40’s and everything looking wet and gray it wasn’t exactly an inviting day for my usual weekend pursuit of cycling so it was time to hit the trail. And since I’m routinely in search of fall color around here at this time of year it was a good opportunity to look for some colorful foliage.

Rusty Yellow

Many of the leaves this year have a kind of rusty appearance. Like the color just couldn’t quite take hold. I wonder if it’s because it’s been very wet – for Austin – this fall?

We don’t seem to get those big hillsides full of colorful trees around here so you have to get close to take in the color. Real close!

I spotted this little group of leaves shortly after getting on the trail. When I see three leaves together like this my first thought is always poison ivy but I don’t think that’s what this is. But who knows?

Wet Leaves

A bit further down the trail, I happened upon a section that was mostly leaves underfoot. The tree above was practically bare already. I really liked the colors though. This spot just off the trail hadn’t been trampled.

Red Leaves

This pretty tree was next to where the trail was covered by leaves. Loved the color. Here again though some of that rusty kind of color.

Can’t Quite Decide

The reds and greens together on these oak leaves were beautiful. But it’s like the tree couldn’t quite decide it was time to get colorful or not. Both brilliant green and brilliant red at the same time.

I think I have gotten my fall color fix in at this point but I may yet spot some more this year.

Just when I think our fall color for the year is gone I run across a bit more while out and about today. As my earlier note suggested, we can see spurts of color emerge from Oct to Christmas around here. It’s just rarely a whole lot at once. When I spot it, I admire it and if I’m lucky enough to have a camera handy I’ll snag a shot. Today was one of those days. I noticed this at the intersection of Hwy 2222 and Hwy 360 earlier this afternoon. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, but it’s one of the few species this year with brightly colored leaves. Can anyone tell me?

Fall Color

Our fall color this year in the Austin and central Texas area hasn’t been spectacular. I still hold out some hope we’ll see some bright trees between now and Christmas. The season change happens very slowly here and you might see some bit of color change as early Oct but more often now, around Thanksgiving, and up till Christmas.

It’s been pretty wet and cloudy on a regular basis here this fall. Great for filling up the lakes and creeks but doesn’t seem to do much for bright colors.

I happened by this little cluster of leaves last weekend out on the trail in my neighborhood. You take what you can get. You can find a few other pics of recent color if you paw through the Instagram photos in the righthand sidebar.

I was returning to Austin from Las Vegas and a work event, and happy to be home. Only one day of what was otherwise a few days conference.

Meanwhile, I had an errand to run upon arrival in the south end of Austin later but that meant I had time on my hands for a just bit – and for a change, my flight was on time – and all I’d had earlier in the day was some breakfast around 7 in Las Vegas. So… I was also hungry. Two hour time change and all.

It’s been a [very long] while since I’ve made my way to Winebelly on Oltorf just off south 1st street but for someone returning from the airport it wasn’t far off the beaten path and I’ve been meaning to try the place again. I pulled in around 5 and not surprisingly I had my choice of places to sit. It was a welcome respite from dealing with rush hour.

A few things:

First, the choices by the glass at Winebelly are excellent. I’ll be back to try again. I found Prieto Pricudo by the glass and it’s surprising I found it at all in my opinion. It was a ‘wine find’ during my summer visit to northern Spain this year and I’d never heard of it before that.

Snacks at that hour included Truffle Fries… come on… gotta have some of those fries. And I did.

The other pics here are of Ryan Fulmer, General Manager (based only on my reading) about Winebelly.

In the course of chatting, Ryan recounted a harrowing story of his son in the military recently in Afghanistan. While I won’t elaborate based on the personal accounting, it was a riveting story and no doubt he’s [still] breathing a sigh of relief that fate worked in his favor.

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