AUSTIN, TEXAS: STEAK OF THE CHICKEN FRIED KIND AND MEX OF THE TEX KIND
A frighteningly early flight this morning saw me wave “tatty-bye” to Michigan and “wotcha” to Texas as I arrived at Austin airport, picked up my rental car and headed to the fabulous and funky, Austin Motel.
My room was not quite ready so I wandered the short hop down the road to Threadgill’s, a local institution, for my first, and probably last Chicken Fried Steak.
With its origins in the schnitzel’s of German immigrants to the Midwest and Southern states (so I am told) it involves pounding a cheap cut of meat and then dredging in flour or batter before frying in shortening.
Traditionally, it is served with a gravy made from adding cream to the pan juices, cornbread and any one of a number of artery clogging side dishes. In my case, collard greens with bacon and some steamed broccoli just in case my body went into lard shock.
Was it any good? It tasted just as you imagine a piece of battered, cheap beef fried in animal fat should. I kinda liked it, which probably says more about me than it does about the inherent quality of the dish. But, I am told it is a decent example of its kind.
Much better though, was my evening meal which was taken on the porch of my new good chums, Jane and John who, along with some other local food fanatics, had invited me to join them for some real Tex-Mex cooking.
First though, a little Tequila tasting which saw us try three types of varying qualities with the prerequisite companionship of Sangrita, a tangy combination of chilli, tomato and orange juices.
After that little heart starter, we began in earnest with some “armadillo eggs” which involved jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese flavoured with avocado and cayenne wrapped in bacon and then baked until crispy. Extraordinarily moreish and I found myself scarfing down half a dozen of the buggers just as I did the Chilli Con Queso, a dip of melted cheese and ground beef.
Not subtle food, but comforting and incredibly tasty. The sort of thing you can imagine being chomped on while watching a game of football ( their silly one with padding, not our proper one)
Main courses, too were of the hearty variety with enchiladas baked in a fresh tomato sauce after being stuffed with a chunky pulled pork and beans being cooked with onion and coriander leaf.
A sharp pico de gallo helped refresh between sizable mouthfuls of the other dishes.
This was my second visit to Austin and returning to this laid back city that implores its citizens to “keep it weird” it was easy to feel right at home.
The locals like to say that “Texas is just a state of mind” and, on the porch of my new chum’s home, sitting on a rocking chair with a glass of tequila in one hand and pleasantly full of Mex of the Tex kind, I can begin to understand what they mean.