Love balls & unicorns in the Groover’s Paradise @emmajanzen

“Enchiladas and barbeque, oh baby whatcha gonna do?” sang the legendary father of Tex-Mex music Doug Sahm. The line comes from the title track of his 1974 release, “Groover’s Paradise,” an ode to the River City — Austin, Texas.

Today, in keeping with a long-running tradition of musician-friendly victuals, Austin has become the sui generis trailer park eatery capital of the world.

A few months ago, I visited the East Side Drive-In park (above) with liquid editor for our city’s paper of record, The Austin American-Statesman, Emma Janzen and her beau Zach Rose.

She posted this account of a wine tasting and pairing that I conducted for them.

What do loved balls and unicorns have to do with all of this? Watch the video and you’ll see…

Thanks again Emma and Zach! :)

Teutonic partytime: scenes from Wurstfest 2010, New Braunfels

Tracie P and our friend Austin jazzer Liz Morphis got their smoked-pork-chop-on-a-stick on at the behemoth 50th annual Wurstfest 2010 in New Braunfels, Texas yesterday night. Entirely delicious with a cold lager beer on the side…

I knew that Central Texans were proud of their German heritage… but, sheesh, these folks dig them some Teutonic party time…

The music tents were packed and pumping the oom pah pah. And the musicians were smoking hot… You could hear some of the traces of what helped to shape the Tex Mex sound of the 1970s, a fusion of German music with Spanish instrumentation, the tuba meets the 6-string (Doug Sahm would have been right at home here).

Got sauerkraut?

Where I grew up we called them potato latkes.

The great hall of the Comal County Fairgrounds was a sight to see, and the folks, however sloshed, were super polite and well-behaved… only good times here…

And, of course, there were hot German babes…

In other news…

Tracie P is blogging again… Check it out here

“Rock is no longer a dirty word in Austin”: The Armadillo at 40

Above: “On August 7, 1970, a new music venue opened at 525 1/2 Barton Springs Road in Austin. The city would never be the same. The Armadillo World Headquarters.” (“The Armadillo at 40,” KUT.org).

An article published by TIME Magzine on September 9, 1974, entitled “Groover’s Paradise,” recently came to my attention. Here’s the opening paragraph:

    Back in the good old days in Austin, Texas, say 1970, a guy could risk trouble for deriding country-and-western music, or merely hollering the words “rock ‘n’ roll.” This was, after all, the ancestral home of Texas Swing, where the Light Crust Doughboys had helped elect a flour salesman, W. Lee O’Danile, Governor in 1938. Even such talented native Texas as Singers Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter, blues rockers both, had been forced to head as far away from Austin as possible to make the big time.

That was just four years after the Armadillo World Headquarters opened in the Texas state capital, about a ten-minute drive from where Tracie P and I live now.

This week, KUT.org, the University of Texas at Austin radio station is playing every artist that ever played at the ‘Dillo (as it is affectionately known). And I’m here to tell you, people, that I’m glued to my radio, whether in the car or at home working on my computer.

You can find the stream by visiting KUT.org (9 a.m. – 3 p.m. local time).

My highlights for today were Jerry Jeff Walker’s version of “Mr. Bojangles” and his “London Homesick Blues” (and for guitar geeks out there, Eric Johnson’s early band The Electromagnets).

The title of the TIME Magazine article is culled from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite Cosmic Cowboys, Doug Sahm, and it ends with a quote from him:

    The Armadillo is filled each night night with a curious amalgam of teenagers, aging hippe women in gingham, braless coeds, and booted goat ropers swigging Pearl beer and swinging Stetsons in time to the music. Doug Sahm, a 32-year-old fugitive of San Franciso psychedelia, who sings there regularly, says that “leaving Austin now is like climbing off a spaceship from a magic place.” As he put it in a song, the whole town is a groover’s paradise.

O, man, I can almost smell the doobage wafting up Lamar Blvd.!

Corn porn: the best kind of smut (huitlacoche)

fonda san miguel

Above: The huitlacoche (corn smut tamales) at Fonda San Miguel are UNBELIEVABLY good. Pair that with 1998 Tondonia Rosado by López de Heredia (at a more than reasonable price) and you’ll see why I love living in Austin, Texas.

Tracie P and I love eating at the bar. We love talking to bartenders and sharing wines with our neighbors.

Lately, our guilty pleasure has been the bar at one of our favorite restaurants in the world: Fonda San Miguel in Austin. Especially because they’ve recently added López de Heredia to their wine list (at more-than reasonable prices, one of the weird anomalies of living in Texas where most wine is more expensive than elsewhere but certain otherwise-unknown-to-Texans wines are sold for less).

Believe me when I tell you that the huitlacoche corn smut tamales alone would be worth the trip to Austin.

fonda san miguel

Above: To our palate, López de Heredia wines are among the greatest food-friendly wines on the planet. They’re not for everyone (with their highly oxidative style and to-some off-putting nose). To us, they are near perfection in a glass. Paired above with the excellent tortilla soup at Fonda.

Thanks again, bartender James (below) and wine director Brad for keeping those wines in stock! WE LOVE IT!

fonda san miguel

In other news…

I had a really crummy day yesterday but my Facebook friends and family got me through it with a flood of thoughtful messages. I can’t say how much I appreciate it. THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT. IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME.

Jason, you know what’s playing on my jukebox today as I type away? Yep, you got it: DOUG SAHM.

I really cannot begin to explain how addicted I’ve become to the music of Doug Sahm. At first listen, the music may seem a little rough around the edges but once you scratch through its surface, you’ll find some real Texas soul and groove (“where the Cosmic Cowgirls play”).

My band The Grapes will be performing his ode to Austin, “Groover’s Paradise,” next Wednesday in La Jolla.

Jimmie Vaughan’s Gulf Coast picking and the best steak frites in Austin

From the “life could be worse” department…

louann barton

Last night found me and Tracie B at Austin’s top music destination, Antone’s, for a Doug Sahm tribute (Doug Sahm is considered by many the father of the Central Texas music scene). We were there to see legendary bluesman Jimmie Vaughan. Since I moved to Austin nearly a year ago, I still hadn’t see him play and it was a thrill to hear his Strat from the edge of the stage (one of the things that’s so cool about Austin is how the venues, even Antone’s, which is one of the largest, are just small enough that you can still hear the music directly from the amps on stage instead of through the PA). But the most amazing thing was that our friend Felice’s boyfriend Ronnie James is Jimmie’s go-to bass player and so Tracie B and I got to go back stage and meet Jimmie. Now, I’m all growed up and have met plenty of famous folks but I can’t conceal that I was downright star-struck to shake Jimmie’s hand last night. I couldn’t resist ask him about his right-hand pick-less picking and hammering technique (he’s flat-picking in the photo above with LouAnn Barton on vocals).

“That’s the Gulf Coast style,” Jimmie told me. It was created by Clarence Gatemouth Brown and was also used by Albert Collins (another native Texan and one of my personal favorite bluesmen), he said.

That’s a detail from a photo of Gatemouth, left: you pick using all your fingers on your right hand while you finger and hammer with your left hand. There is just so much great music in this town and you can hear a blues or country great on nearly any given night. Man, I love that Tracie B for bringing me here! Her cooking ain’t bad either…

In other news, the best steak frites this side of Manhattan…

Above: Steak frites at Chez Nous in Austin.

I’m dying to try the new Relais de Venise Entrecôte in New York (as reviewed by Sam Sifton in The New York Times), but there is no dearth of great red meat in Texas.

In what seems to be becoming a bad habit of mine, I played hookey again Friday after being shanghaied for lunch by my friend John. We headed over to Chez Nous with a collector friend/client of his and opened a few interesting bottles that “needed” to be tasted.

Above: The 1994 Trimbach was tighter than I would have expected but it opened up nicely with a little aeration. The pairing with the duck pâté was sublime.

Chez Nous is everything that you wish it would be: quiet, unassuming, and friendly, with solid bistro cuisine that may not win awards but never disappoints. Owner Jacques always delivers classic staples of French cuisine — the pork rillettes and duck pâté always excellent. (I don’t know where Jacques sources his bread but it’s probably the best I’ve had in Austin.)

Above: Duck liver pâté at Chez Nous — highly recommended.

The Gimonnet premier cru Cuis also paired deliciously with the pâté but then again so did the 2006 Les Palliéres Gigondas (which we tasted in honor of Kermit’s visit to Austin on Monday, since Kermit owns the winery together with the Brunier brothers).

Jimmie Vaughan and 94 Trimbach on the same day? Life would be rough if I didn’t have such a beautiful lady in my life. ;-)

tracie branch