Three Days In Marfa

Marfa Lights
{Last April JRF and I took a road trip to Marfa. It was magical. As we approach this holiday weekend, I am really ready to sit by a pool and enjoy a refreshing adult beverage but, alas, I have three papers to write, an exam, tons of reading, and a sermon to prepare. (All of which is wonderful and exciting so please don’t feel too sorry for me. Oh, you weren’t? Good. Anyway, I am taking a trip down memory lane. Come with me, won’t you?}

Our third annual girls’ trip couldn’t have come at a better time.  I needed a breath of fresh air in the midst of wedding planning and Jenny needed a break from her busy and wonderful two year old.  We are both city girls at heart but wanted something different.  A road trip seemed like just the ticket—a few days to unplug, see some beautiful country, read, and soak up a little sun.

We knew we’d come to the right place as soon as we got there.  The tables at Padre’s were full of people finishing beer and tacos and a few haphazard rows were set up in between.  A makeshift screen had been set up and the lights were dimmed.  And everyone was there for the same reason—to watch Marfa’s 60 Minutes segment airing that night.  Morley Safer and his staff did a great job of capturing the crazy juxtaposition of quirky artists and hipsters with cattle ranchers, border patrol way stations, and dust storms.  The best part was how everyone watching laughed at all the same lines and got excited together when a friend appeared onscreen.  When the segment ended, everyone applauded, the lights came up, and two bartenders started closing out tabs.

Morley was right about Marfa.  It has sparse beauty and small town charm.  The sunsets and openness of the land somehow make it easier to take a deep breath here.  And there’s something about the countryside that makes you want to create something beautiful.  I can see why artists are drawn here. There’s a semi-permanent Andy Warhol exhibit, Donald Judd’s boxes are scattered like cattle in a field near the Chinati Foundation, and a growing number of wonderful small museum spaces are here, too.  Ballroom Marfa is even building a drive-in movie theater and stage.

The food, when anyone feels like opening up, is surprisingly delicious.  I might have had the best cocktail of my life at Cochineal.  There are even some great places to stay. You can sleep in a real live teepee if the mood strikes and there’s not a hail, lightening, or dust storm.  And, of course, the Marfa lights are mysterious and amazing.  (My money’s on the aliens.*)  The Davis Mountains, hot springs, and the MacDonald Observatory are all within an hour drive.

But in the end it’s the people that make Marfa.  What we saw in those first moments was only reinforced the rest of the week.  It was fun to see locals of all ages hanging out and catching up wherever we went.  At Future Shark, old-fashioned (yet delicious) cafeteria food is served on long tables flanked with benches.  And nearly every one of them was full of people with wrinkles and white hair meeting kids in their twenties or thirties for lunch.  It made Jenny and I both realize how much we wish we saw that kind of thing everywhere.  Everyone was glad to be there.  And everyone we met, with the exception of one cranky store clerk, was super laid back and friendly.

I’d heard of Marfa before but couldn’t understand why anyone would want to make the eight-hour drive to get to a flat, dusty wasteland.  Now I get it.  Marfa is in the middle of nowhere but it’s full of people who love each other and their town.  And how could anyone not fall in love with that?

**We met a cute couple from Austin who watched the Marfa lights with us. She was a pastry chef and he a PhD student at UT. We got to see the moon and JUPITER through his fancy telescope=WIN.

dust storm 2013-04-15 14.35.23 2013-04-15 23.28.34

 

Austin French Fry Tour-W Edition

I pay attention to my health.  I try to be wise and eat right, exercise, and what have you.  The body is the temple of the Spirit, right?  So I work out, eat stuff like quinoa and kale, and take herbs and get acupuncture for my allergies and such.  I even went gluten and (cow’s) dairy free about a year ago.  I had lunch at a vegan raw food restaurant with a friend today.  You could definitely call me a health nut.  But that doesn’t keep me from loving a great glass of red wine or chips and salsa or French fries.  In fact, and I don’t like to brag, I’m kind of a connoisseur of fries.  So when a fellow expert/aficionado suggested we team up for an Austin French fry tour, we both knew immediately she’d stumbled upon an incredible idea.  We love fries. You love fries.  We can tell you where to find the best ones in town.  They’ll be presented in no particular order as we go.  But don’t worry: Jenny and I will tell you our top 5 when the tour is done.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenny and I got a chance to see St. Vincent on Monday.  The girl had definitely earned a night out after a grueling weekend with a sleepless teething baby and I was happy to tag along.  What can I say? I’m a great friend.

The W was a logical choice for pre-show snacking since it’s next door to ACL.  Capitalism working for the people is what that is.  Here’s the thing about the W:  It’s a little too swank and formal for Austin.  It seems like a place that would be more at home in Houston or Dallas than Austin.  I’ve got to be honest; I was really annoyed when construction began a few years ago.  I didn’t want to like it but I just can’t help myself.  The décor and design is so smart and well done.  The cocktails are incredible.  And I haven’t had anything to eat there that didn’t make me want to basically write a poem about it.  I love the W in spite of myself.

We decided on the album room because there were two majorly comfy chairs in the corner and the wall of vinyl seemed the perfect vibe for the music we were about to enjoy.  We promptly ordered the fries (obviously).  They are truffle oil and salt covered perfection.  The texture is just what I want in a French fry.  Not too thick and not too thin and crisp without making you feel like you’re going to chip your teeth.  They have a little bit of potato skin left on for texture and are finished with a hint of minced fresh herbs for color.

The fries come with two sauces.  One is a spicy barbeque sauce.  It has a sweet and subtle spicy flavor with a smoky undertone.  The other is a creamy chipotle aioli that has a similar subtle spice and smoky flavor without the tomato base of the other sauce.  Both were delicious on their own but I have to say they just didn’t match the flavor of the fries.  We were wishing we had the calamata olive aioli that Nordstrom serves with their fries.  (We’ll be talking about those fries soon, don’t worry.)

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right.  Those fries are a bit rich.  That’s why we paired them with the pulled pork tostados and a couple of cocktails.  After an hour or so of catching up without dogs, kids, or husbands, Jenny was looking like a new woman.  Great start to a great night!  I highly recommend the W for a date night or girl’s night out.  Either way, don’t forget to order the fries.  Public service announcement: This place is pricy and you’ll probably have to pay for parking even if you don’t use their valet service so you won’t want to make this a weekly stop off.  Which is probably a good thing for your health.

So what are your favorite Austin fries?

fries @ the W

st. vincent @ acl live