Walk into Post-Apocolyptic Austin at Ecopocalypse

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Photo courtesy of Ecopocalypse

There are only a couple of day until Halloween, so pay attention Austin!  You need to make some time tomorrow night or Wednesday night to bravely walk into the Austin of the future. But be prepared!  Ecopocalypse is not about shiny flying cars or date nights in space.

It’s about survival.  And it’s scary!

Food? It’s scarce — the shelves of HEB and Whole Foods empty. Clean water? No Texas Rainwater or Evian to be found. Medicine? Good luck finding that…Seton and St David’s are distant memories. Family pets?  Hide them!

This terrifying glimpse into the “Austin that could be” is the newest addition to how-to-get-scared on-Halloween here in town — if you’re brave enough, it’s the one you won’t want to miss.

Unlike the typical “walk through and watch” haunted house, the creators of Ecopocalypse pull you into the action. You enter in small groups of 5 or 6, and wander through the entire experience at your own pace, choosing where to turn (or when to turn back, if it gets too scary!)  You aren’t just a visitor…you become a part of the story, whether you want to or not!

Who should go:

This is a great choice for adults and teens, but the full immersion experience might be too terrifying for kids. I wouldn’t bring anyone under 10 or so, and even then it depends on how they handle near-complete darkness, scary realistic people interacting directly with them, and some pretty realistic scenes of gore.

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Loving Gloria’s for the food…and the patio

Glorias Restaurant in Austin Texas via Ais4Austin.comEvery time we went to the Domain, I would see the sign for Gloria’s restaurant and say “We have to try that place sometime.”  Well sometime finally came, and now the only thing we’re wondering is why we didn’t make time to try it sooner!

We were seated on their large patio, our choice for what was a perfect night of soft breezes, Then we opened our menus…the dinner menu for Lance, and the special vegetarian menu for me (yes, they have a complete vegetarian menu!  I was delighted!) As we browsed, we snaked on warm tortilla chips and a salsa with a definite (and much welcome) kick to it.

A little bit about Gloria’s history

In a city filled to the brim with Tex-Mex, the delicate Salvadoran touch at Gloria’s was very welcome. Owners Gloria and Jose Fuentes come by their cuisine naturally.  The two emigrated from El Salvador in 1978. After some difficult years in Houston, they moved to Dallas and soon were working with Gloria’s sister in her Salvadoran restaurant. A year later, they took over the restaurant, which they renamed Gloria’s.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Gloria’s has gone from one small location to 14 locations around Texas.  The business remains very much a family concern — according to our waiter, Gloria herself tries to visit each location once a week!

And then there’s the food!

Our daughter had the vegetarian combination, (which included Papusas (much like an Arepa), Plantano Frito and in-house made black bean soup), I selected the vegetarian fajitas, and Lance chose a beef and chicken combo (for the meat-eater among us),

Unlike many local restaurants where the food arrives smothered in a blanket of cheese, each item on the Gloria’s plates was allowed to shine without over-saucing or burying it. The veggies for the fajita were crisp and fresh…nothing greasy or soggy here.  The cheese was a tasty queso fresco, and the white corn tortillas were thin and warm and fresh. Lance loved the seasoning on the meats, and enjoyed the spicy chili con queso (a dish he usually refuses as it’s often too salty or greasy.)

Service was impeccable, even when I made a special request for something to be changed in my fajita.

This restaurant is a definite must-go-again, especially when the breeze is mild and we’re planning a date night.

Dogtoberfest comes to the Domain

Dogtober Fest Austin 2012

Dogtoberfest is one of Austin’s most popular annual canine festivals, featuring costume contests, breed rescue groups, and booths from the areas best dog care services and products.

When the Domain goes to the dogs, Halloween can’t be far behind. That’s because Dogtoberfest, one of the area’s most popular annual dog festivals is held there each October.

Sure,. the Domain is always dog-friendly.  But during Dogtoberfest, the upscale shopping and dining center is transformed into dog and dog-people heaven.

I lost count of the wonderful rescue groups there, each working to bring together people and pups (including my personal favorite, Austin Boxer Rescue (we have a rescued boxer mix, so we’re biased!)  Add to that dozens of booths offering information on training and boarding, another dozen or so more for gourmet dog treats and healthy pet food, and a bunch of places to buy really cool dog toys, collars and other accessories, and you have the perfect day for spoiling your four-footed family members.

And because Dogtoberfest is around Halloween, you even get to dress your pups up for the festivities, and compete for prizes. I saw everything from simple sweaters to elaborate team costumes complete with movable sets!  The “I Love Lucy” group won this year, but sadly my photo of that team didn’t come out

If you missed the festival this year, take heart!  There’s always next year’s festival — and now you have plenty of time to plan that perfect costume!

Yes, Austin loves its dogs…and this festival is just one more fun, silly piece of that!

 

Pecan Street Festival v2.0

Old Pecan Street Festival Fall 2012After our over-heated experience at the Pecan Street Festival last time, we decided to try it again on a cooler day. But this time, our objective was different. Sure, we would check out the stands and booths, and the scheduled acts. And there were foods to taste — it wouldn’t an Austin event without the great food!

But what we were really there to see were the street musicians who use the Festival to display their talents to a larger audience than a typical evening on 6th Street provides. And we were not disappointed.

As we walked along, we saw singers and guitar players. People drumming on plastic pails and on wooden bars over gourds. We heard incredible a Capella groups with amazingly tight harmony, and we heard a young emo/punk group shouting out their pain.

There was jazz and rock, classic melodies and new creations. And what’s most amazing about it all, is that none of these acts were planned by the festival promoters.  They were not on the programs, and sadly, I wasn’t able to get the names of most of them (if anyone can fill in the blanks for the musicians in my photos, please do!)  But each of these acts, and the combination of all of them in one place, made the Old Pecan Street Festival something extra special.

Sure Austin has ACL (this weekend, as a matter of fact).  And then there’s SXSW. But without a single dollar for a ticket, or a fight for a parking space, a festival like this is one of the best ways to hear great Austin music, block after block.

There IS great Italian food in Austin!

Reale Pizza and Cafe on www.Ais4Austin.comWhen we moved to Austin, we were told there were a few things we would have to give up. One was the beach, and the other was really good Italian food.

While the beach is still no where to be found, we have proven the other half of that pronouncement wrong. It started with a gift card to Reale’s Pizza and Cafe I received for doing some online work for the Austin Family History Center.

We looked up the address, and discovered that it was only a few miles away, so we headed out for lunch.  The plan was to get a pizza.  But when we walked in and the smell of real Italian cooking reached us, that plan was scraped. In a place that smelled this good, pizza would have to wait for another day.

And oh what a great choice that was!  From the spinach lasagna stuffed with a delicious blend of cheeses and fresh spinach, all topped with a lick-your-plate-its-so-good marinara sauce, to Lance’s chicken cacciatore rich with peppers, mushrooms and onions, it was hands down one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot for someone who has eaten in great Italian places in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Miami.

Owner Bob Reale was on hand, and stopped by to chat with us while we ate, making us feel more like guests in an Italian home than customers in a restaurant.

No, this place is not fancy. The location is in a strip mall just off 183 in northwest Austin. But fancy won’t get me to eat every bite of a lasagna (I usually eat far less!).  And fancy won’t have the three of diving into our dessert canolli, and declaring it “just right”.

In just one lunch, Reale’s quickly went from a way to use a gift card, to a place we plan to return to again and again. And maybe next time, we’ll even try the pizza.

South Congress is great even after hours

South Congress Shops when they're closedSouth Congress is one of the coolest places in Austin. The combination of shops like Uncommon Objects and Tesoros make shopping a lot more fun, while Guero Mexican, Home Slice Pizza and the food trucks are perfect for lunch, dinner or a snack.

Sadly, most of the shops close way too early for late evening shopping (by 8 pm on weekends, almost everything is shut down.) I’m not sure what’s up with that, but we still have fun.  How?

Even after the shops have closed, a wander down South Congress after a late dinner has become one of our favorite ways to end the evening. We stop at look in the Windows at Lucy in Disguise and check out the latest costume offerings.  We peer into the thrift stores and consignment shops to see what the hipsters will be sporting next. We look at the antiques and collectibles in Uncommon Objects and the other “junque” shops. There’s usually at least a few “mystery objects” that we spend some time trying to identify.

We look in the art gallery windows and critique the paintings, and in the bookstore window and try to count the books on display that we DON’T have on our own bookshelves (faster than counting the ones we do! Yes, I am a  proud biblioholic!)

And towards the end of the walk, there is often one lone shop open…the Big Top Candy shop with its “Open Until We Close” hours offers an after-walk treat of licorice or chocolate before we head back to the car.

No, it’s not as exciting as 6th Street, but it’s a good choice for a low-key, low-cost date night or a family stroll or a walk with the dogs. And for us, that’s good enough to keep us going back, even after the shops shut down.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You

Stepping away from my format for a few minutes.,..this was too good to pass up! I have always suspected that look in my cat’s eye meant she was planning my demise. On October 24th at BookPeople, I will get to find out from the expert!

BookPeople

He gets high on catnip and then looks at me like this. It can’t end well.

(Meg’s plotting cat, Cash)

For more tips on how to spot a feline with a sinister plot, be here Wednesday, October 24 at 7pm when Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) talks about his new book, How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You.

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