Tuesday, August 5, 2008


So, our dear friend, Melissa Gale Reynolds, M.D. had a couple of weeks off from her residency and decided to spend one of them with us in Austin. We showed her a charming time, of course. Kicked things off at Guero’s, like you do. Mango margaritas to die for. Actually, now that I think about it, I embarked on this epic lap of drinking. After that margarita, their custom Bloody Mary caught my eye, so I had that and then we went to see my buddy Dr. Skoob play on a patio overlooking a Fry’s Electronics (picturesque!) and I had a Guinness, then a Bloody Mary, then one of THEIR mango margaritas, then maybe back to the Guinness. Which all seemed perfectly logical to me, but it blows the Wife’s mind, she calls me Cast-Iron Stomach.

That was Saturday. On Wednesday, we went to Stubb’s to see Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. (encoring with some James Brown music, here). Serious stuff. I bought a 45, an experience that I thought would never happen again. Thursday, the lovely Emily Lea drove down to join us, as did Mother, who was in town for the Democratic State Convention. Took all those women to Mandola’s, which is just about as good as you can do in Austin for dinner, certainly for Italian. Incredible.

The next day, Ma went to stump for Barack and the three women and I saddled up to tour the Texas Wine Country. Now, as it was sold to me, we were catching one winery on Friday on the way to Fredericksburg, crashing there for the night, then hitting another one on the way back. Do you believe, Faithful Reader, that I was thrilled to learn that we were in fact visiting one TOUR per day, meaning that we actually hit FOUR wineries per day? Of course I was.

We started out with Texas Hills, which kind of slanted the entire experience, because the guy was so friendly and the wine was so good (and cheap!).
We each got four tastes for free and then could pony up an additional $3 for an additional four tastes in a Riedel glass challenge. A mandatory expense.

So, eight tastes to the good, we continued down the road to a couple of more forgettable wineries. They were all right, and they gave us wine in exchange for $5, but they were no Texas Hills. Our last winery of the day, though, was Becker.

And that was happening. You got eight tastes there, and the lady pouring was just hilarious. I really can’t replicate her banter, but suffice to say she was a bit salty, and we dug her. But then Henri came over. He was this manic Frenchman rocking about every cliché that he could with the exception of being snooty or a dick. He was just like throwing his arms up and so happy that we were all there and that he could pour us wine and that all of our paths had led to each other. Kind of like that chef from THE LITTLE MERMAID, guy who sings the Le Poisson song, except instead of cooking, he just poured wine.

And he was taken with the ladies. Hoh, hoh! Lots of hugging and kissing of the cheeks. Kept saying how Miss and Em could have been French, his cousins, maybe. Then he’d hug Catherine and look into her eyes and say, “You are not my cousin.” And he kept going on about why I was keeping my Pringles can under wraps, which we thought was just gibberish madness until we realized that it was in reference to my being the only male in the party. On our way, he told me to give him a call when I got tired. Henri was a lovely way to shut the day down.

Except, then we got on the two-lane highway leading into Fredricksburg and not ten minutes later everything stopped. No motion. In either direction. Then a paramedic helicopter landed a half-mile in front of us. Bad scene. Did we let that sober us up? Hell no! Just as we were about to open one of the bottles that Emily bought at Texas Hills, Catherine noticed a Wildlife Reserve to our right, just sitting there on the side of the highway all by its lonesome. So, we went to look at flowers. But they were having a wine tasting! This pleased me. This time it wasn’t any of that “pay x bucks for x tastes”, there was just this nice old lady at a stand with about two dozen open bottles of wine pouring as fast as you could tell her, and I have to say, we ran her for about ten minutes there. And I would have kept going, but when Miss and Em backed off, it seemed in poor taste. Closed it out by buying something called a winearita, which was pretty incredible, frozen wine margarita.

I think that came to 35 tastes of wine, not counting the winearita. Wonderful, considering the sun had yet to set.

Then we went to The Hilltop Café, this gas station turned restaurant, owned by an old guitarist from Asleep at the Wheel. About 12 miles northwest of Fredericksburg. In the middle of nowhere, and you needed a reservation to get a table. He’s Greek, his wife’s from New Orleans, split the difference. Incredible food. I had the Chicken Fried Steak; we crushed each other. Then we went back to our lovely motel room, the girls passed out, and I read the first half of THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES by Alan Moore, great old English serial from the 80s, which I recommend if you’re a fan of his (or, hey, comic books).

Woke up, killer breakfast in a beautiful courtyard, and three more wineries.

The second one was Driftwood, real beautiful place where it would be nice to go and just kill an afternoon.

Our last one was the Mandola’s winery, which was by far the most gorgeous.

And how do we follow all that up? Fajita night. We whipped up Paul’s Famous Margaritas (1 can of Limeade, 12 oz. of quality tequila, 3 Mexican beers) and for some reason started playing a drinking game, which resulted in two more batches being made and everyone getting sauced enough that Paul and I had a go at the piñata that Emily’s sister-in-law Kristen brought to the fiesta.

Catherine eventually destroyed it.

And you’d think that would do the trick for the weekend. I mean, my God.

But Sunday night was Lobster night.

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