Design Sponge Southern Book Tour

6 10 2011

We all love our Design Sponge. The crafts, ideas, and just general things of interest I gleaned since adding Design Sponge to my reader program years ago has been incredible.  Grace Bonney and her crew, being the crafty and super smart people that they are, published a book this year.  The book is simply amazing. Seriously Martha Stewart better watch out, Design Sponge is the heart beat of the people!

In case you are lucky enough to live in or close by any of these great southern cities, make sure you stop in to buy your book, or get your book signed. Many of the cities are also hosting crafts as well, but you must RSVP (I know all of our southern ladies will of course).

Have a blast out there and craft away!

October 13Dallas, Texas

October 15Austin, Texas  

October 24Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina 

October 25Asheville, North Carolina

October 26Charleston, South Carolina 

October 27 – Savannah, Georgia

November 1 – Birmingham, Alabama

November 2Athens, Georgia.  

November 3 – Atlanta

Austin Dining Guide

8 06 2011

On vacation I am known to scout out restaurants and eat for days. It is vacation, right? My recent trip to Austin included a lot, and I mean a lot of food. I think I only skipped one meal and it was only because I was still so full from a previous dining adventure. Here are some of the restaurants we visited.


Besides home style, southern cooking I crave meals originating from Asia. Something about all of the textures, flavors, salt and just pure genius calls to me on a regular basis. On my last trip to Uchi restaurant I about died and went to food heaven, so I knew that upon my return that this was one place worth another visit. Uchi has a wonderful happy hour that includes a tasting menu. Served from 5-6:30, even on Saturdays, you cannot pass this opportunity to order such a wonderful assortment of food.  We feasted on 9 dishes, includes two repeats, and one from the regular menu.  The pictures above included all of our orders from the tasting menu and below is the order we received them: hama chili (yellowtail sashimi, thai chili, orange), uchiviche (salmon, striped bass, yellow bell pepper, tomato, cilantro), crunchy spicy tuna hand roll (with avocado, cucumber, tempura flakes), machi cure (Maplewood smoked hamachi, yucca, asian pear, marcona almods, white soy), walu walu (seared escolar, yuzupon, yuzu marmalade), kakiage (sweet potato-onion fritter), shag roll (salmon, sun-dried tomato, avocado, squid ink sumiso).  Nine tastings, 4 glasses of wine and 2 hours later our total bill was only around $100 with tip. As I said, this is so worth the trip, especially during happy hour. Of course, the menu is just as fabulous during regular dining hours, but you are going to pay quite a bit more.  Also, sit at the sushi bar if seating is available!

Food Heads

For a quick lunch one day and to beat off starvation we stopped at the every so cute and comfortable Food Heads. This breakfast and lunch spot is a great place to grab a table outdoors and enjoy the afternoon. You might see a few students studying or those coming off the trails refueling for the day or friends catching up over a good meal. The sandwiches are plentiful.  You order at the counter and they bring your food to your table.  Make sure you try the pickled sides!

The Backspace

After a long flight/layover and a visit to The Ginger Man pub, three of us took a rickshaw (it was so much fun), and headed to The Backspace for dinner. This relatively new and absolutely lovely restaurant with seating for around 30, including seating at the bar,  and smelled ever so wonderful upon opening the door. The smells of cooking cheese, both on pizzas and their homemade ricotta made the fifteen minute wait complete torture but the meal was worth every moment.  We feasted on appetizers, a carne plate of prosciutto and sopressata, as well as, baked ricotta served with poached tomatoes, olive oil and lemon, and roasted sprouts, paired with pancetta and pecorino romano.  Feeling the needs to continue the dining experience we also ordered a bianca pizza topped with arugula, mozzarella, ricotta and pecorino cheese.   Decorated with what I assume are old church chandeliers and the tall, red votives traditional to catholic churches, this warm and inviting space makes the carb and dairy lover in all of us rejoice and ask for more!

East Side Show Room

Old fashioned drinks, a piano player, movies on the wall, industrial lighting and a menu on the beams. Love the décor, love the vibe and the clean food. While flavor was a bit lacking in some of our dishes, the collard greens were spectacular. Truthfully, I believe that you will be so impressed by the décor that you could sit at the bar, admire the atmosphere and have a cocktail and an appetizer and be perfectly happy with the world.

Visitor Friendly Austin Home

12 05 2011

Older homes just have so much character, and of course, southern homes are just precious. I NEVER tire of seeing older homes lovingly cared for and restored.  This little house in the Clarkesville area of Austin, Texas is home to Mary.  She has an excellent eye for decor and the many windows (old, of course) create excellent light, which in itself is art. However, she and another house mate are excellent painters as well.  I am in love with the older table and bench in the kitchen. 

Play Me, I’m Yours: Austin Edition

10 05 2011

Bringing music in the form of street pianos to the neighborhoods, parks and everyday places where people meet and enjoy life is one of the goals of the Play Me, I’m Yours movement. With a recent installation in Austin, Texas, from April 1 – May 1, 2011, there are over 400 pianos in cities worldwide.  Often local artists decorate the pianos and while some scheduled performances exist, most often they are available for any passerby to enjoy and thus share the music. 

I was able to see several street pianos on my recent trip to Austin and the picture below exemplifies exactly why they are installed….people just stopping to play the piano. I love it all so much. Play Me, I’m Yours is an incredible idea and I wish they were in my city!!!

Ginny’s Little Longhorn and Chicken Shit Bingo

5 05 2011

Ginny’s Little Longhorn, self proclaims they are “the honkiest, tonkiest beer joint in town.” This humble bar is removed from the downtown area of Austin, Texas, and many of the establishments frequented by the younger crowd.  There is always plenty of cold beer, live music and my favorite part, people watching. Oheeeee, the people watching is stellar.  It has been there for years and is notorious for locals and visitors alike. 

Sunday afternoons draws a big crowd and while the inside is small, the parking lot is large, large enough for the party to extend outdoors.  Trucks and hybrids pull up and quickly unload their chairs for the day and go inside to buy a beer (cash only here).  I noticed lawn chairs, rod iron formal, garden variety chairs, folding chairs, and the typical football tailgating chairs.  In a way, everyone is tailgating for the afternoon’s main event, chicken shit bingo.  (I know mom, I just cussed).  

The proprietor, Ginny, has a couple of hen’s off the back of the property where they are cared for and well fed. On Sundays they make their weekly appearance inside the bar for chicken shit bingo.  While the band sings for tips and another order of beers is passed around a line begins forming near the front door.  The line is long but the tickets are few, and as I recall there are less than 60 tickets available and each person can only buy one.  Anticipation builds, and elbow to elbow the crowd waits for the chickens to arrive and the festivities to begin. Cameras are pulled out, necks strained and once Ginny and the chickens enter, the fun begins. 

Now, I should probably clear up one issue. The chickens are not required to get so many letters across, down or any other normal bingo combination. All they need to do is “use the facilities” on the pre-made number board (which covers the pool table I might add) and if one happens to “go” on your number, you win!  The odds are decent but the fun is in the build up and cheering on of the chickens. 

(Can you see the numbers at the bottom of the cage for bingo?)

If you should worry about the health and care of these chickens, please do not worry. I expressed some concern prior to arrival, but you can tell these chickens lead happy lives. 

This is an Austin cultural experience that is not to be missed. When they say, “Keep Austin Weird.” They really mean it and this can be joyfully experienced at Ginny’s Little Longhorn.

 (This is my Tina Fey lookalike friend. We get stopped everywhere.)

Screen Door Series: Inside Austin

4 05 2011

It is always so lovely to be invited into someone’s home, especially when the home is absolutely beautiful.  Here is a peak at the screen door from inside an older Austin home nestled in the Clarksville area. 

Screen Doors never lose their style.

Austin, Texas Farmer’s Market Experience

3 05 2011

One of the highlights of visiting a city like Austin, Texas is the enthusiasm over food. However, we are not just talking about any old meal which might come off the assembly line in other cities, but rather produce, and protein from the farm to the table. All of this enthusiasm develops a demand for organic food, and restaurants unable to supply simply do not survive in Austin.  Even the countless food carts in Austin offer a listing of all of the farms from where their ingredients originate. 

With all of this in mind, just imagine the downtown farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. Folks prepared with grocery lists for the week track down their favorite produce or beef or chicken stand or grab a bite to eat at one of the many tents offering hot food.   It is a madhouse and a rush to ensure you do not miss out on the limited quantities.  After an hour or so of hustle and bustle you will find groups enjoying live music or performances, maybe even a couple of people dancing, children running across the fields, a one man band, and trash bins organized and watched to ensure that your garbage goes to either, trash, compost, or recyclable.

Like my last visit to Austin, I was on a mission to make it to the Dai Due tent at the market.  Knowing the menu ahead of time (because I get their weekly emails), I had nothing on my mind but Nopales, Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Garlic Salsa.  Your mouth is watering, right? Nopales are made from a prickly pear cactus and delicious!!!  Dai Due is an interesting business. It is not quite a restaurant because they are just a tent at the farmer’s market, and they host supper club dinners at various outdoor locations throughout the city. It is not a culinary school either, even though they offer culinary courses throughout the year.   Their diverse business plan just fascinates me. I had a taco, purchased grapefruit worcestershire sauce to take home, and ohh’d and ahhh’d over their country pate, and salt pork available for purchase.

Overall this is a great people watching spot and a good way to grasp the energy of the city.