Onward…

Stiles BBQ in Austin

One thing vegans and vegetarians don’t have to worry about is going into a “meat coma.” But I do, as I’ve been in one twice during my week in Texas. On a previous trip, my friend Matt (who own Tèo gelato and espresso shop, in Austin – and is a must-stop) whisked me away from the airport and took me straight out to Lockhart, known for its excellent bbq joints. However since my free time was limited to little less than three hours, total, we decided to stay within the city limits of Austin (or at least nearby) and get my bbq fix there.

Stiles BBQ in Austin

Matt told me the two places that were more convenient, since I was pressed for time, and when we drove by Franklin Barbecue and saw what is said to be a three-hour wait (people were, indeed, lined up, sitting in lawn chairs, with coolers of beer), I said, “Keep going…” and we pulled up to Stiles Switch BBQ.

And once inside, I was glad we did. The super-friendly staff at the counter provided yet another Texas-style welcome, spending time telling us about the different kinds of meats, after they found out I lived in Paris. While I appreciated the introduction, I had already honed in one the brisket, the beef ribs, and the pork ribs. All were excellent, but the beef rib was especially good and if that had been my last meal ever, I would have been happy.

Hotel Breakfast

My first meals of the day during my trip had been less-successful. I stayed at a pretty fancy hotel in Dallas, which put free, fresh cookies out in the lobby each afternoon. However breakfast was a little too fancy for me and since I’m not really at my best in the morning, while I appreciated the attentive service, the $25 bagel I had (plus tax and tip) was a little hard to swallow. (I’m still perplexed how a bagel with a tablespoon of cream cheese and four slices of smoked salmon costs about 20% more than a breakfast of two farm eggs, toast with Vermont butter, three kinds of house made jam, a fried potato cake, and four slices of excellent bacon. Lesson learned!)

Hotel Breakfast

Once I moved on, breakfast moved downhill from there. I stayed in what is billed as a hip “design hotel” for millennials, offering power ports everywhere, and instead of a lobby, we were invited to congregate in the “Remix” area. Even though my bed had me questioning whether I should (or shouldn’t) hop into it later, it was just fine when I finally did. (And I survived the night.)

breakfast sandwich

But the next morning, faced with a refrigerated case of pre-packaged sandwiches in the lobby snack area, called “Refresh”, I opted for a more nourishing breakfast sandwich, and was handed a greasy microwaved breakfast sandwich, which begged the question: Is there anyone out there who really believes that bread should be microwaved, rather than toasted? If so, you are condemned to spend the rest of your life sleeping in beds filled with dubious lumps, and whatever other surprises lurk beneath the sheets.

hotel bed

During my tour, lots of people are asking me about some of the cultural differences that I write about between the French and Americans. I straddle both cultures, and find each one curious at times, and amusing. And because of that, a frequent question is: What do I miss from the States? Oddly, few ask what I miss about Paris, which I guess is because I’m back on my home turf, so to speak.

In answer to the first, my dream is that the European low-cost carriers (and some of the US ones as well) would adopt the non-scrum boarding process, and friendly service, of Southwest airlines? Honestly, I’ve never seen more well-behaved people (as in, the customers), obediently lining up by number – and passengers working together, en masse, to sit down, so that the plane take off as quickly as possible. That, mes amis, is the meaning of fraternité.

Even though no one asked, I miss easy access to good bread. True, you can get good bread in the States. But out here on-the-road, it’s a crapshoot and artisan bread hasn’t made it to the far (and near) reaches of this great land.

But I definitely don’t miss the startlingly graphic ads for toilet paper (which make me wince, but fortunately don’t show the actual “act” they’re so busy discussing – uh, yet..) and I’ve learned a lot about irritable bowel syndrome while sipping my murky morning hotel coffee in bed and watch with voyeuristic pleasure how couples come together in gauzy beach situations to ruminate over their wood-less love life. Although I had to look up what transvaginal mesh was, because the commercials made me feel like I might be missing out on something.

And…moving on…I’m also surprised at how polite people are, insisting that you were in front of them in line (whoa!), and not being surrounded by clouds of cigarette smoke on the streets. (And even in my apartment, courtesy of my neighbors.) I guess Ségolène Royal, the new Minister of Écologie in France – and the President’s ex, is too. And in my absence has banned smoking in the courtyard and gardens of her building – along with low-cut tops for women in the office – which she denied.

Cockrell's Barber Shop in Austin

Texas also live up to their top-down image, and are very friendly. Everyone’s been super-nice. And at a book signing, one of them arrived bearing a battered vintage cookbook for me to sign. I was a little confused, until I saw that it was a copy of my ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, obviously very well-used. Confirmation that at my age, I guess I’m considered “vintage.” Equally considered vintage would be Tom, the owner and barber of Cockrell’s Barber Shop (806 Brentwood St, Austin), just next to Stiles bbq, who has been cutting hair there for fifty-one years, who gave me one of the best haircuts of my life, for only $14. If I let him do the flat-top he insisted would look good on me, it woulda cost me an extra buck. And probably a number of friends back home, when I came back looking like a drill sergeant.

(Although this means that I don’t get to visit my old hair cutter in San Francisco, the tough straight guy who works in a leather barber shop and wears chains, long leather skirts, and black leather boots to work, and who always leans over to kiss me on the lips when I arrive. I won’t tell you what kind of magazines they have in the waiting room, but let’s just say the fellows in them did a good job managing the hair below the neck – and below the waist, too. I think if I had told Tom about this, I would have hastened his retirement.)

Jam from Thai Fresh

The woman who brought the book was Jam Sanitchat, the chef-owner of Thai Fresh, a Thai restaurant and coffee shop that churns up their own ice cream in Austin. One of the sad things about traveling for “work” is that I’m on a tight leash and my schedule is so packed that I have little, if any, time to go out and eat at all the great places. But hers is certainly on my list for the next time. And since before I left, Romain confessed that Thai food is his favorite cuisine, I’m bringing him along with me.

Texas

And there will be a next time because the last night, I was gifted a lovely pin by a couple who came to one of my classes, who works for the governor, which I think makes me an honorary Texan. And not only do I have the pin, but also have “meat coma” on my medical records to prove it.

54 comments

  • Oh my, I don’t think “congregating in the Remix area” of “a hip ‘design hotel’ for millennials” is for me! (Just had to get that off my chest, David, before I could proceed with the rest of your post.)

  • Currently working in Argentina, I have been in a meat coma for the past 3 months. I love the asado here, but I do miss my Texas barbecue. My favorite part of Dallas were the road side barbecue stands, the equivalent of the California Central Valley taco trucks. I do hope you have time to eat your way through travel outside of work soon. Thanks for sharing! Always enjoy your insights.

  • My husband and I begin every day reading what “My friend David” has posted or noted. We have spent many cups of coffee together. I assumed, incorrectly, that during your tour you would not have time for all of us. I am amazed at your energy: signing books, flying around, eating BBQ and what looked like the worst breakfasts ever, and still writing today’s engaging blog. Thank you.

  • Interestingly, there is an ad on this post for toilet paper. Yes the commercials are way tmi.

  • David-
    I am so sorry to have missed your quick stop in Austin. I have been reading your blog for years and would have loved to have shared my well worn copy of “The Perfect Scoop” with you as well. Enjoy your stay in the states. I admit, I love Texas, but LA is a lot of fun!
    Kelly

  • Great meeting you at Central Market Austin yesterday. I love your book! Enjoy the rest of your journey and maybe see you in Paris this summer!

  • The photo of the bed made me laugh out loud.
    Also the ad for Quilted Northern Ultrasoft Ultrastrong that popped up below the bottom of your post!

  • Oh, David. I can’t stop laughing. Your next book should be a humorous take on travel. Enjoy your stay here in our strange land.

  • Perfect Scoop is my one and only ice cream book that I cook out of. It would definitely be the book I brought to a signing, which is why I’m sad you aren’t making it to Chicago on this tour. There’s always next time, right? Can I put my vote in for Chicago now? (And, like a good Chicagoan, I’ll keep voting for a Chicago visit!)

  • The bed lumps: Tribble infestation perhaps?

  • Please tell me that the bed lumps were some kind pressure massage thingy.If not-name and shame that hotel!!

  • I, too, am fascinated by the ‘dubious lumps’ on that bed. I’m not into the hipster boutique hotels that are so popular now. I know that it’s a sign that I’m getting old, but I just want a place that’s clean, comfortable (no dubious mattress lumps please!) and quiet. I don’t need all the ‘new and improved’ additions to what is a relatively simple transactions – I pay you money for some place safe and comfortable to stay when I’m far from home. I wouldn’t say no to freshly baked cookies, though…

  • Hilarious way to start my Sunday here in NorCal! Never disappointed to hear about David’s humorous interpretations of his adventures. Vintage, maybe – cutting edge and modern, I definitely would say so.

  • David, I’m so glad Texans were welcoming to you and glad to hear you are coming back to visit (soon I hope?). It’s funny you should mention our bread since today I am making your multigrain bread from your cookbook and hoping it will become a staple in my house. I’m so glad you included the recipe in your book — I remember asking you for a bread recipe a few years ago on your blog and you said you didn’t make bread in Paris because there was no need to. So thanks for including a great bread recipe. You’re right — good bread is hard to come by here.

    If you come to San Antonio Thai Dee is the best (!) — Thai cuisine is my favorite too!

    Hilarious picture of your lumpy bed — must have been an “egg crate” foam mattress like they use in hospitals? Hope you have a good trip and come see us again soon.

  • I really enjoy reading your blog. These last few especially since we live just outside Austin, TX. My son is a chef student finishing up at C.I.A. Hyde Park, NY. He hopes to do some work/travels in France before finishing his last two years. I frequently send him your blogs as inspiration.
    Enjoy your visit to our Lone Star State. I’m glad you found us so friendly and polite. We try to be that way to everyone. Where else can you get a friendly wave from a pickup driver at a stop sign?

  • I really enjoy reading your blog. These last few especially since we live just outside Austin, TX (Round Top, TX). My son is a chef student finishing up at C.I.A. Hyde Park, NY. He hopes to do some work/travels in France before finishing his last two years. I frequently send him your blogs as inspiration.
    Enjoy your visit to our Lone Star State. I’m glad you found us so friendly and polite. We try to be that way to everyone. Where else can you get a friendly wave from a pickup driver at a stop sign?
    Oh, and B&Bs are a better option in Texas than Hotels. Try one next visit.

  • As Lyle Lovett says, ‘That’s right you’re not from Texas,but Texas wants you anyway’.
    You are welcome here ANY time <3

  • I was so happy to attend your cooking class in Austin and to finally meet you. Thank you for signing my cookbook. Glad you enjoyed Tejas. We aren’t called “The Friendship State” for nothing! I’m leaving next week for two weeks in Paris and will use many of your recommendations for food, drink, and pastries. And I’d already planned to bring back as much butter and fleur de sel as possible, even before you’re recommendation at cooking class!

  • What in the world was up with that lumpy bed? Have never seen anything like it.
    Is it a Texas thing?

  • It was really great meeting you, David. Hopefully next time I’ll get to go to your cooking class! Glad you enjoyed Texas for the most part.

  • Love that Jam is who brought The Perfect Scoop! She makes incredible ice cream, much of it vegan and made with coconut cream/milk. Now I know why she’s such a skilled ice cream maker! Her Thai food is pretty awesome, too.

  • Wow, 25 dollars for a bagel!
    Does that price come with a discussion – with the bagel – on the merits of sustainable fishing? ;)

  • I’ve gotta say that the wait at Franklin Barbecue is WORTH IT. (Though I totally understand you didn’t have the time.) Best brisket I’ve ever had.
    I’m super sad to miss you in Seattle this Tuesday, wishing you all the best on your book tour! Can’t wait to get my hands on a signed copy from the Book Larder after you pass through!

  • Those damn bears must have come on. Next time, I do hope you make it to New Orleans. We’ll bring you good coffee and bread (or beignets) for breakfast, no conversation necessary. Would barbeque oysters work later too? Kitchen Witch or the Southern Food and Beverage Museum would host you, I’m sure.

  • Hi David-
    What’s the deal with that lumpy bed? I’ve never seen anything like that! lol

  • So sorry we missed you at Central Market in Houston, tried to get into the class but alas were wait-listed and apparently no one wanted to miss the evening.

    We are faithful followers of your blog and look forward to opening up the email with the latest addition. Our copy of “The Sweet Life in Paris” has traveled with us in the U.S. and in Paris, we love your sense of humor about life in Paris. We actually made the chocolate mousse (raw egg version) in a tiny cabin in Colorado, it is now a favorite, delicious! Already cooking the great recipes from “My Paris Kitchen” — the leeks with mustard bacon vinaigrette is wonderful, as is the mustard chicken. Many wonderful meals ahead, thanks for sharing these great recipes.

    Glad you were able to stop in Texas and enjoy the great bar-b-que, please return!

  • ThaiFresh is delicious, and, worthy of note, Jam teaches fantastic Thai cooking classes!

  • Ooooh! My best friend lives in Austin, and when my husband and I visited this spring for SXSW, the first place he took us was Stiles Switch. A local favorite (and close to Black Star Brewery, where he is a brewer), and no crazy lines like Franklin. Well played, David, well played!

  • I loved the class at CM Austin. And it made me even more ready for my trip to Paris in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for the tip on the markets for farm producers and the very lovely evening.

  • David,

    Be sure to try the pastries at Crumble and Flake during your Seattle visit. The pastry chef/owner Neil Robertson is heaven sent and these pastries are as good as any Paris has to offer

  • I lived in Texas for 10 years and Texas barbecue (along with Tex-Mex Mexican food) was just about my favorite thing to eat. Haven’t been back in years, but still miss those amazing flavors. Thanks for the memories :)

  • That slogan, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” … Well, I’m ashamed that you wound up with Texas-sized bedbugs, cuz those were outlawed when DDT was banned.

    I fear that I know where old mattresses go, and it ain’t heaven. Too bad you can’t post the name of the offending establishment. There are a few of us that would welcome phoning the front desk at 3:00 a.m., you know, just as a polite way of seeing how your room was…..

    Seriously, I want your money refunded. This is no way to treat a friend. Right folks?

    Yep. We’re getting your money back. You didn’t name them, but you can certainly forward my words onward.

    Generally I’m a nice person to deal with, but customer service, Texas-style, just ain’t done this way.

  • Meat coma – looks like a fabulous reason tome to go to Texas for…

  • That bed ! I am going to keep it in case I ever get complaints about the beds in my holiday apartments.

  • It’s too bad you couldn’t have stayed in a better hotel in Dallas. I recently stayed at ZaZa Dallas and you would never find a lumpy bed there and breakfast was fabulous….

  • I hope your next trip to the good ol’ USA includes Chicago! C’mon, David: we’ve got some the best food in the country! I’m sure our hotels will gladly sell you a bagel & lox for the low, low price of $20…and with the city taxes, you’ll only be in for an additional $15 ;) It’s only fair as Parisian waiters love to up-sell me on my small bottle of Perrier every.single.time!

  • OMG you need to switch rooms with that mattress. I suspect the foam is falling apart.Southwest is the best. The regular egg meal is “normal” affair for Texas and the US but the bagel and lox is a special meal requiring it to be overprice.

    Good bread is not easy to come buy it seems in many areas of the Midwest. Even where I live which is 45 minutes from a major baking school. I just make my own here.

    I do love Texas and Texans. They are very friendly although Kansans come a pretty close 2nd. Next tour you might want to try Kansas City for great BBQ.

    Some of the best Thai food can be found in Amsterdam. People in Holland or at least Amsterdam are for the most part nice too.

  • I also loved my trip to Texas, even though my time was tied to a conference and I had little time to experience the local food scene. What I did try I loved, and I have to agree:everyone was just so nice there (Austin).

  • I just stumbled across your website looking for some eating recommendations in Paris when I go in a couple of weeks. I was thoroughly enchanted and read for a couple of hours. Then I thought to read your most current post to see what you’ve been up to lately. And here you are in my hometown of Austin! I could kick myself that you were here doing signings and I had no idea. Well, at least I have a new barber to recommend to my husband. Enjoy Texas! (Although it’s much easier to do in Austin rather than Dallas, what with their overpriced bagels and such.)

  • Sadly, my dad is one of those people who believes in microwaving bread rather than toasting it. He makes the world’s worst peanut butter and jelly sandwich (microwaved after assembly so its moist and oozy in the worst possible way). Toasted bread is one of life’s simple pleasures, if you ask me.

  • I don’t get the serving of white bread with BBQ.

    Meat, meat…and more meat.

    If one must have carbs then eat pasta…with MEAT SAUCE.

  • Good lord. I hate to think of you sleeping in that hideous bed.

  • Just had to say Mazel Tov——YOU deserve the recognition….the first week debuting at 13 on the NY Times Best Books List. (Advice, How-To and Misc.) Category.

  • That hotel bed is literally unbelievable.

  • Jam is the best! My fiancée and I take the cooking classes at Thai Fresh and Jam is such a great soul!

  • You MUST make it to Thai Fresh when you are next in Austin. Their condiments alone are to die for.

  • p.s. Artisan bread is plentiful here in Tucson these days. Who ever would have thought?

  • Franklin’s is pretty superb, though I’m still not sure it’s worth the wait. A place that has both a shorter line and better brisket than Franklin’s is La Barbecue in Austin. I’ve never had another piece of meat so perfectly fatty and moist.
    I’ll have to give Stiles Switch a try next time I’m down there!

  • Lovely post, very jealous of all of Texas right now! Have you ever tried low temperature slow cooked beef ribs – I first heard of them from Thomas Keller but I cooked them recently over at timedeating.co.uk a couple of times and they’re phenomenal. With honey and orange as part of a Persian meal (a bit like Khoresht). Takes a while though, 72 hours at 57 degrees is a bit of an ask for a regular thing.

  • Echoing Lisa’s comment above, please do come to Kansas City, Missouri on your next tour! Rainy Day Books would surely be delighted to host you. :)

  • David,
    It was great to see you at the Hollywood market last week- got me remembering about the fun days at Chez that suddenly seemed like yesterday. Thanks for your generous comments on the bread. Let us know the next time you’re in LA.
    Robert

    • Yes, I remember how much fun we had as well…although it didn’t always seem so at the time ; )

      Glad you are thriving and making such excellent bread in LA. Next time, would love to come visit!

  • GREAT to meet you at Central Market in Austin! I also met Jam (owner of Thai Fresh) at the book signing and enjoyed speaking with her. I ate at Thai Fresh tonight. Her food and ice cream (I had orange blossom with salted caramel sauce) was exceptional. Love that you came to Austin and love the new book!

  • Just had to say David I just received My Paris Kitchen and I am loving it – both the laugh out loud commentary and the recipes. I have a place in SW France and was thrilled to see the recipe for duck fat cookies. I always have a jar or two of the stuff in my fridge and one can only eat so many roast potatoes so I will be making those cookies tout de suite. Also, knowing you like honey, there is a sweet Musee de Miel in Gramont (in the rural Gers) where there is every type of honey making implement plus a great shop selling a great variety of honeys ( except for buckwheat – ahem). So if you are in that vicinity it is definitely worth a visit. I travel to eat too and just returned from a fantastic weekend in Amsterdam. All the food was gorgeous and much less expensive than London or Paris. Really friendly people too.