Ah…food out of Airstream trailers. What could be better than gathering around outside a parking lot with dozens of other Austin hipsters waiting for a savory crepe, a slow roasted green chile pork taco, or fried chocolate chip cookies?
For my 30th birthday, I went to Austin to celebrate. In talking with my curly-haired travel companion recently as we reflected on the trip, neither of us really remember what we did. I vaguely remember the Texas History Museum, and learning more about settlers than I ever really wanted to. I remember seeing old friends and trying on expensive cowboy boots. I remember walking by the City Lake and seeking out those elusive South Congress Bridge bats. Other than that, we decided, we were basically camped out at various mobile food trailers around the city, thinking how much we wanted to bring a funky airstream back to SF and start ‘er up.
I’d almost fly back to Austin just to go to Torchy’s Tacos. It’s parked in the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery along with a burger trailer and a coffee/s’more trailer. Kinda like the county fair…for discerning adults who’re into food. The fried avocado taco was pretty exciting as was the “trailer park” taco made with fried chicken and ranch dressing. Mmmmm, ranch dressing. On the other side of town, the chicas at Flip Happy Crepes are gracious, the crepes rock (sweet and savory, you decide), the set-up is awesome (colorful picnic tables and umbrellas, lots of seating, packed)–it’s a true destination.
And then there must be dessert. To be honest, the cupcakes from Hey Cupcake really weren’t that great. I so wanted them to be. I traipsed up to that trailer around 10 p.m. hoping that magic was soon to be had. But alas… dry cupcakes and marginal frosting. If you’re looking for some bomb dessert in Austin, I do have some words of advice: the Whole Foods dessert bar. Yes, Whole Foods started in Austin so it has many options that your local Whole Foods probably does not. Case in point: a dessert bar. Now we’ve got the salad bar and the hot bar, but serve-yourself tres leches cake with fresh local berries? That my friends, we don’t have. So while it’s not mobile, it’s big-time noteworthy.
So what’s the draw? Why was there a line fifteen deep to order a crepe from an old trailer in an abandoned parking lot? Perhaps this trend reflects a zeitgeist that we’ve eased into: a sense that restaurants are pricey, that really good creative food is happening elsewhere, and there are innovative, energetic people out there that want to bring their creations to the masses. There’s something about gathering outside on a cool spring evening sitting around a communal table with people you don’t know, sharing tastes of a fried chocolate chip cookie. It’s cheap, it supports local businesses, there’s a thrill in the seek and search, and a satisfaction in knowing ya’ just can’t find it at home.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.