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

Zombies and 1988 Quintarelli Bianco Amabile

From the department of “unabashed umami blogging”…

Tracie B and I stopped by the Highball last night for an aperitif before the zombies closed up the bowling alley/bar/restaurant/karaoke club for their zombie party. 2009 seems to be the year of the zombie, doesn’t it?

Our friends Juliet and Michael Housewright had invited us to tag along to a Halloween party in the home of some collector friends of theirs. A lot of great wine was opened, some lovely older Gigondas and vintage Gimonnet in magnum, but the wine that blew me away was a Quintarelli 1988 Bianco Amabile.

Tracie B and I have become somewhat obsessed with the show True Blood (Juliet came dressed as Sookie, complete with a Merlotte’s t-shirt!). Between all this talk of zombies and vampires, I’ve been thinking a lot about the living dead and how we talk about the “life” of a wine and how we say a wine “has life” or “is dead” in the glass.

I’ve had the good fortune to taste a lot of Quintarelli over the years, in Italy and here in the U.S., but I’d never tasted his Bianco Amabile. This wine is a trace, a clue to the past, an almost forgotten oxidative style of winemaking that was intended to give the fruit of the vine remarkable longevity. I couldn’t help but think of the Romans’s love of dried-grape wine and their high regard for grapes that could stand up to long-term aging. Valpolicella, where this wine was made, and Soave were known for their production of fine dried-grape wine, acinatius, in antiquity. The wine was very much alive in the glass, a marriage of nutty overtones and apricot and caramel flavors.

I was certainly feeling very much alive last night with the lovely Tracie B on my arm: I revived my deceased character from my faux French rock days, Cal d’Hommage, pencil-thin mustache and all. And Tracie B was my number one groupie!

Thanks for reading, ya’ll. I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween! Tracie B and I are off to pick out some dishware… :-)