Eat chili, hang out at Jo’s, help people: what’s not to love?

jo's Coffee House Chili Cook Off PosterJo’s is one of the coolest spots on South Congress. Yummy meat, dessert and vegetarian menu choices, all kinds of coffees and teas, and a chance to people watch from a shady spot. It’s also close to the Pets Alive trailer, so I can get some puppy visits in (but that’s a story for another post!)

And now there’s another reason to love Jo’s.  I just found out that Sunday January 26 it’s going to be the site for the 8th Annual Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by Shiner. The cook-off benefits  the Sustainable Food Center, a wonderful local Austin charity working hard to make it possible for more people to have access to nutritious, affordable food through education, access to gardens and more.

So all in all, that means South Congress, Jo’s Coffee Shop, chili, music (live music will be provided by Jeff Hughes & Chapparal, the Jo’s House Band and DJ Ben Nuhn), beer for those who love it (and I know a LOT of Austin folks do!) and a chance to do something really good for people who are struggling to put healthy food on their family dinner table.

The festivities (including chili tasting!) start at noon and run until 3. And there are even prizes!  Yes, some of those chili chefs will walk away with great prizes, so not only do you get to eat, you get to vote and help your fave cooks win some good stuff!

It’s $20 to join in the event, and that includes samples of all 14 chili entries, plus all the great music and atmosphere you want to enjoy. Beer and other drinks will be for sale, so you can safely go ahead and take a bite or two of that habanero-spiked chili, then put out the fire.

Jo’s is located at 1300 South Congress in Austin.

Austin Food and Wine Festival frenzy begins early

Austin Food & Wine FestivalIt’s no secret that the annual Austin Food and Wine Festival has quickly become one of the highlights of the culinary year here in the Capital city. But I had no idea the fight for tickets to the coveted event started so early!

This year’s Festival will be April 25th-27th at Butler Park and Republic Square Park in Austin. The strictly 21 and over event attracts foodies and chefs from around the globe, who come together to sample amazing creations, show off their masterpieces and gather inspiration for feasts they’ll just have to make in the coming year.

Tickets for this year’s fest go on sale January 21st…that’s next week! That’s also when you can find out who’s going to be featured, and get a first peek at the schedule.

It’s gonna be a yummy weekend in Austin! See y’all there!

(This Taste of Austin Tuesday is making me hungry! Come on, April!) 

Hope Market offers freshest produce on “Find it in Austin Friday”

close up of okra in basket

Fresh okra….

Every Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm, Austanites can by-pass the tasteless, mealy textured produced served up by  grocery stores and experience the real thing at the Hope Farmer’s Market located at East 5th and Comal.

The Market began in October 2009, a challenge in a city known for stores selling organic and local produce. But almost four years later, it’s still going and growing, bringing Austin residents a weekly destination where they can connect with the farmers who grow the food instead of just a clerk who’s stocking it.

baskets of persimmons

Ripe persimmons….

Shoppers can find all sorts of fresh vegetable, fruits, nuts and herbs in season. Vendors also sell fresh milk and dairy products (including my favorite goat dairy products from Swede Farm), honey, syrup, eggs, meats and baked goods.

Radishes

Just picked radishes….

And while you shop you can also listen to live music, and maybe snack on some of the treats you just bought. If you go, please bring plenty of reusable bags — remember, no more plastic bags in Austin. Personally, I like using one of those old-lady folding carts, too. Hey, veggies get heavy!

Most of the stands accept EBT/SNAP and WIC benefits, making it easier for people in need of a hand to get the healthy food they really deserve. You can find out more about that at the Hope Farm Stand at the market. Most vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards, so if you’re not using one of the food assistance programs, do bring cash.

Kale

Fresh kale…

The Farmer’s Market is also a great place to take your kids shopping. Once they see all those brightly colored, tempting veggies and fruits you might have an easier time getting them to try them.

pecans in basket

Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, too.

Laugh through your date night at Austin Java

Austin Java Coffee House

No, I am not suggesting that you laugh at your date. But laughing together during your date? Now that would be a good idea.

That’s what we decided when we headed to Austin Java on 12th and Lamar for a late supper and their free comedy show.  And it turned out to be a good choice on both accounts.

First, there was the menu. Not your ordinary selection of tired sandwiches and boring soups. Not with things like a spicy African peanut soup, Avocadeaux Salad featuring Crawfish tails & greens or a Chicken Satay sandwich (yes, you read that right! Sandwich!) on the menu.  And everything was delicious!  I ordered the veggie plate, and was thrilled with my huge servings of red pepper humus, peanut soup, steamed veggies, tangy black bean and corn pico, fresh smashed potatoes, salad and crunchy french bread.  The Avocadeaux salad was pronounced “perfect!”, and well dotted with flavorful pieces of crawfish.

The show (no cover charge, by the way, so do be kind and order at least something to drink) featured about a half-dozen comics, ranging from polished to working on their act, but all of them kept us laughing.  A word of caution, though. Before we went, we called and asked about the show’s content, and were told it was PG-13.  Most of it was, but some parts were downright raunchy and clearly well into the adults-only realm, so I wouldn’t suggest it for families with teens (and certainly not for younger kids!)

The area for the comedy show is small, so do get there early especially if you want to have a table so you can eat while you watch. There’s table service in that section, too, so no need to order at the counter before you find your spot.

After the show, we checked out the rest of the place. The cozy setting was full of people eating, talking, working on computers or just enjoying a coffee or beer for a low-key Austin Saturday night.  We will definitely return, and also plan to check out their location on Barton Springs Road.

Zilker Botanical Gardens invite you to build a Faerie House and Garden

Zilker Botanical Gardens Faerie House WorkshopCalling all lovers of imagination and whimsy! Zilker Botanical Gardens is inviting you to design and build your very own Faerie House and Garden, in Zilker Park!

That’s what I discovered when I was playing around online, looking for cool images to pin to my Secret Garden Pinterest board. So of course, we had to head over on Sunday to check this out.  Could it be?  Could we really indulge our creativity and my love of all things Faerie and magical and build an actual space in the garden for everyone to see?  (Okay, so I’m an overgrown kid…everyone who knows me already knows that!)

Yes!  It’s true!  It turns out that I had stumbled on the very First Annual Faerie Home and Garden competition in Austin. We went to the free workshop on Sunday, and learned some Faerie lore (for instance, did you know that every time a flower blooms, a Faerie is born? News to me!)  We also got a chance to talk to the people in charge of the whole series of Faerie-focused events at Zilker Botanical Garden now through May.  (The poster for the events is below, or you can download the Fairy poster PDF to print yourself.)

Anyone can enter the competition to build their very own fairy house and garden (and yes, our family is already registered!).  The fee is $25 for families and $45 for designers and architects. In return, you get a 4′ by 4′ space to construct your own vision of a fairy dwelling.

The rules are simple. You’ll be assigned a space in the garden. You have to construct the dwelling using natural materials gathered from the designated area of the garden, or from your own home or favorite natural spots. You can build a home, add furniture (made of twigs and other natural materials faeries are likely to find, or you can create an entire faerie wonderland with multiple buildings. The choice is up to you and your family!

The masterpieces go on display in March (with setup the weekend of March 9th) , and will be in the garden until May. The deadline for registering is February 9th.  Download the forms from the Zilker site, then mail or fax in your registration and fee.

I was so excited, I’ve already gone to Michael’s to buy a little fairy figure to use as the scale for our creation! And it’s not just me. My daughter started her sketches for the furnishings, and my husband has been brainstorming design ideas to keep our creation true to fairy-lore.  This is going to be fun!

Zilker Park Faerie Homes and Gardens Poster

Citywide Garage Sale is Vintage, Collectible Heaven!

Austin Citywide Garage SaleI’d heard about it. I’d even walked past it on the way to another event.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend when someone dragged me to it that I actually went into Austin’s Citywide Garage Sale.

And I think it took all of about 30 seconds from walking in the door to be absolutely hooked!  First, there were the tables piled high with vintage linens, from quilts to hand-embroidered pillowcases.  Then there were the primitives…furniture, metal wheels, and so much more, all rich with patina and worn with use. And as if that wasn’t enough, there were the kitschy collectibles, that just begged me to stop and look.

Everything was tempting…and yes, I do mean EVERYTHING!  It took a lot of willpower to keep my wallet safely tucked away (well, most of the time!)  But even browsing and chatting with the vendors was a blast.  Even kids I saw were having a great time checking out the “old stuff”, and asking questions.  And if they find something they like, it could be a chance to start them on a collection of their own.

Best thing of all?  This is not a once a year event!  It happens every month! And with the low admission fee ($5.00 and kids under 12 are  free!), it’s a guilty pleasure I can afford over and over again.  Want to make it even cheaper?  Sign up for their e-mail list, and you’ll knock a dollar off your admission!

 

 

BurgerTex find proves a tasty (accidental!) discovery

Buger TexWe were heading to Buffalo Exchange for some vintage shopping when it happened.  We realized that we’d forgotten to eat lunch!  Oh, no!  That would NOT do!  But we didn’t want to spend a lot for lunch — the budget is tight and we wanted to save as much as possible for sweaters and boots.

And then we made a wrong turn, and ended up in a parking lot that said “BurgerTex Parking Only”.  Should we move?  Or might this little burger place have something cheap enough for two vegetarians on a budget?  We headed inside, and found a wonderful mix of Korean food and burgers, all at prices perfectly in keeping with thrift shopping.

Veggie burgers, fries and tea ordered, we wandered around, and looked at the place and talked to the manager. (Sadly, we were the only customers inside…but it was almost 3 pm on a weekday, so we probably missed the lunch crowd…I hope!)  The rolls, we learned, were not from a restaurant supply package…they are baked fresh daily right there.  And we had no worries about toppings…there was a topping bar filled with ripe red tomatoes, crisp lettuce, fresh onions and lots of sauces.

Our food was served quickly, accompanied with a pile of crispy, hot fries.  We filled our tea,  topped our burgers and sat down to enjoy our late lunch — and one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had so far in Austin. I do love these kinds of accidents!

I would love to tell you more about the food beyond the veggie burger…especially their Korean speacialties. But the menu at Burger Tex is almost all meat items.  But without the meat-eating member of our family along to test those, we have no way to evaluate the rest!  I guess we’ll just have to go back! (And yes, I will update this review when we do!)

PS…Lunch was great…but no so much the racks at Buffalo Exchange.  Today, we left empty-handed. Oh well! Another excuse to return for shopping…and burgers!