The great thing about going to a conference in Austin was that we got to see old friends again and to hang around for a few days after SXSWi had finished. These days quickly devolved into a “food, guns and ink” tour of Austin.

Food

We came, we ate, we sat back in our chairs too stuffed to change the channel from Fox News. Never doubt that Austin is an absolutely amazing place to be from a food point of view.

BBQ

The most obvious delicacy (if it can be described as such) is of course barbeque. Having heartily enjoyed our original BBQ at Ironworks on the first day of SXSW, imagine our shock when we were told that this was “crappy, tourist barbeque”!

On a previous visit to Austin, I had been taken out into the countryside to visit both the Oakridge Smokehouse and the Salt Lick, but this time around we didn’t have quite enough time to travel out to either. So, we went for the local option, the sublime John Mueller’s BBQ. It was very very good. I had ribs, but based on the brisket taster that everyone gets slapped down on their plate, I probably should have gone for that. What I really love about BBQ in general in Austin is the casual way it is treated — you’re eating some of the best food you’ve ever tasted … with a plastic knife & fork (or just your hands!) off a paper plate on a plastic tray.

Mexican

As previously mentioned, we also went to El Chile Cafe, an absolutely excellent Mexican place. Personally, I’m always quite wary about Mexican food. It’s very different from both the South African fare I was brought up on and the blander British food I’m now used to — not to say that’s a bad thing, just that I’m never quite sure if I’ll love or hate something. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the special I had was (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was tho!) and others around the table seemed to especially enjoy the prickly pear margheritas they were sipping on.

Italian

Since we were lucky enough to be staying with friends who own an Italian deli, they felt they just couldn’t let us out of the country until we had experienced the produce from Pasta & Co in all its gastronomic glory. And glorious it was — the table groaned with everything from pumpkin & walnut ravioli through to fresh egg pasta with vodka sauce. Following this with lamingtons and other hedonous desserts was too much for us, but some not only managed to eat their tiramisu, but also to serenade it.

Remind me of this next time I complain my life is uneventful, OK?

Ice-Cream

Is ice-cream really its own category? I hear you mutter. Of course it is! Especially when you have the wonders of Amy’s Ice Cream to experience. Since we first came across it on St Patrick’s day, Simon partook of Guinness ice-cream, whilst Elly and I chose some slightly more conventional but no less delicious options from their normal menu. There was also a little mini-version at the airport, where we saw the best tip jar sign ever:

Sign reads:

Guns

The day before we left for home, we managed to get out to Red’s shooting range with a variety of guns lent to us by a friend. I thought that most of the excitement would be in shooting 3 handguns, 2 assault rifles and some other smaller weapons, but in fact most of the entertainment came from watching Si & Elly discover the joys of gunpowder:

Simon Willison holding an HK-45 assault rifle

Elly looking very happy as she reloads a small calibre rifle

More can be found over at my Flickr guns tag

Ink

Last time I was in Austin I had a tattoo of a wolf done (which you can see here) which was the first I had designed for me. The designer & tattooist was a lady called Karen Slafter at SouthSide Tattoos. She is the best tattooist I’ve ever seen — fast & light of touch, but very creative and inventive with her use of colours and movement. This time I had a mountain lion done:
New Mountain Lion Tattoo

It was amazing — she took about half an hour (with her various animal encyclopaedias and so on) to design it and only 45 minutes to ink it. If you’re ever thinking of having ink done, she’s absolutely brilliant and I couldn’t recommend her more highly. Elly got a new tat as well, a fish to accompany her existing one, as you can see here.