How do you entertain a visitor without a weekend at your disposal?
Ava requested three things during her visit to Austin last week: good food, physical activity and live music. I am extremely proud to say that in the first 24 hours of her presence, I tackled two out of three of those requests. And it was one of the best Sunday/Mondays I’ve had here.
Upon arrival, Ava’s horrific travel day called for a nice little table somewhere with good wine and even better food. With the Rainey Street bars on the to-do list anyway, I decide to take her to No Va, the neighborhood’s New American restaurant that delighted me with mac n cheese and gnocchi and brussel sprouts a few weeks prior. As luck would have it, No Va serves a “Sunday Supper,” a 3 course meal (complete with a glass of wine!) for $30/person.
I love a good prix fixe. Aside from tasting menus (how I would eat all the time everywhere if money were not an issue), I think they are the best way to enjoy a restaurant. The stress of ordering is severely minimized and you have the opportunity to try multiple elements of what the restaurant has to offer. You sacrifice variety for simplicity and are forced to trust the chef, and I’m ok with that.
No Va’s prix fixe had me at “wine included,” but the menu options leave us equally giddy. To start, they bring out a simple salad of arugula, parmesan and black pepper for the table along with a basket of their housemade bread. You know how you can tell when something is homemade just by looking at it? That is this bread, imperfectly shaped with a crumbly crust and an almost cakey texture. Perfect.
The next course involves your choice of protein and 3 shareable sides. The pork cutlet is simple, well-seasoned and not at all dry; the sides are LARGE—no bean splitting here, folks—and mouthwatering.
After obnoxiously insisting that there were “too many vegetables” on the table, I am shocked by how delicious the cauliflower turned out to be. I’ve never thought to add capers to the less-than-exciting vegetable, but I just may start. They add character, tang and saltiness to the cauliflower’s bland backdrop.
We are so full by the end that the lackluster dessert (a shortbread cookie with warm strawberries and whipped cream on top) came and went unnoticed. Having eaten far more than necessary in true Sunday dinner fashion, we stop by Clive Bar for a Moscow Mule before calling it a night.
My maiden voyage to Barton Springs happened the following day. With lines running hours long on the weekends (especially in the July heat), Monday proved to be the perfect time to climb up a grassy hillside, take a dip in the freezing cold natural-spring-turned-pool and allow my sister to work on her already-ridiculous tan.
Heavy sun exposure had us craving smoothies, so I brought Ava and Mandy to my favorite little Austin health food spot, People’s Pharmacy, after the Springs. Ava ordered something that tasted like a blended salad (the women behind the counter DID warn her, to be fair) but mine–an antioxidant-boosting, blueberry-packed delight–proved just what I needed.
We followed up with my Monday crossfit class, one that involved a seriously dehydrating stint in the roof of my building at 6 p.m. (great view of the Greenbelt though!) After torturing my physical therapist sister with 45 minutes of aggressive overhead shoulder presses and endless squats, it was time for yoga.
You can find free yoga just about anywhere in Austin, but I haven’t found something quite as great as Wanderlust’s Monday yoga at Barton Springs. Just as the temperature starts to cool and the dragonflies start to swarm, what seems like hundreds of people gather on a shady hillside for an hour of sweaty stretching and core building… and it’s glorious. The class itself is comprehensive and just challenging enough that it’s worth the bug bites. And afterwards? Free smoothie samples, kale chips, protein bars, Smart Pop popcorn and even kombucha for everyone in attendance.
As I laid in chevasana, watching the clouds jump from tree to tree, I felt pretty damn good about my hosting skills.
Ava’s first 24 hours (ok, more like 28 hours ) in Austin ended with a need for cheap, tasty and filling food. So we went to Chilantro. Because that’s my move. You come to Austin, I buy you kimchee fries. It’s that simple.
Obviously 24 hours is not enough to fully enjoy Austin. And we did much more in the days that followed. But think of it this way: if a full week or two weeks or a month here is equivalent to a three course meal, 24 hours can and should be a really, REALLY delicious spoonful.