Austin

by BiteSizedJonathan on May 17, 2016

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Austin is the capital of Texas. I didn’t realize this when we went there, probably because the only state capital I know is New York (NYC, duh) and also because I don’t know where any states are (although I’m begrudgingly learning since I’ve been looking at an atlas for 17 days. I still don’t know where Oklahoma is.).

The capitol building in Austin is the biggest in the country – bigger than the U.S. capitol building in DC! That’s because everything is bigger in Texas. It’s true! And it’s fun.

Nothing really funny or crazy happened while we were here, but we had a really good, chill time just exploring the city, eating some really fantastic food and buying some fun souvenirs. Here’s some pictures of where we went and what we ate!

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Above: Bangers. This great spot on Rainey street was our first stop in Austin and it was ideal. Inside was a long bar with tons of different local beers on tap. Outside were picnic tables lining a huge backyard. It was a Monday night, but it felt like Friday there. People were milling around, chatting, having their beers and intermittently ordering food. A few kids jumped around on the benches and the weather was a perfect 65 degrees. We ate a bison sausage with spicy mustard and jalapeno mac ‘n cheese. Maybe we should move here?

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Above: East Side King. Paul Qui’s food truck replaced my restaurant reservation at Qui on this visit. Austin just seemed like a place to eat and snack around, not sit through a 7-course tasting menu. You can see why this guy is doing so – well the food is perfectly snacky, the exact mish mosh of Asian fusion that you want when you just want to grub out. We had the fried chicken thighs with mint and lemongrass, the fried kimchee, and the pork buns. Fatty!

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Above: Mickelwaiths Barbecue. Best barbecued brisket either of us has ever eaten. Barbecue really is better in the south, it must be the air and the woodchips, I don’t know, but it’s just better. The crust of this brisket was insanely crunchy, seasoned and delicious. The meat had a perfect pink smoke ring and the fat slowly dissolved in your mouth like the a smoky lardo. The meat was tender and buttery…I gotta stop talking about it, it was so rich and good it makes me both hungry and nauseous at the same time. I loved the ribs also, and how they served everything with bread and butter pickles and raw red onions. Delightful!

 

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Above: Veracruz All Natural Tacos. These al pastor tacos were incredible. I bet all tacos in Austin are pretty great. Another food item that I believe just doesn’t compare in NYC – Mexican. Literally no taco I’ve had in New York even approaches this taco truck. The actual tacos were soft and a little thicker than usual which appeals to my carbo bread addiction. I also am big on all the sauces (authentic, unauthentic, don’t care, I want a variety of spicy and creamy sauces to adorn my tacos) and they had them.

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Above: Mckinney Falls State Park. We stayed in a great campground about 15 minutes from downtown Austin, in McKinney Falls State Park. They had great campsites and nice, easy hiking trails that circled the whole park. There were also an upper and lower waterfalls there, where we spent some early morning and twilight hours putting our feet in the water and taking pictures.

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Kayaking Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon

by BiteSizedJonathan on May 13, 2016

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This past Sunday, Jon and I found our way to Lake Powell in Page, Arizona. This was a part of the trip we had both been anticipating. Our plan was to rent kayaks, set up camp across the lake on Antelope Island, then kayak through the canyon to the lower entrance to Antelope Canyon, and hike to view the amazing slot canyon inside. No big deal!

We arrived at the kayak rental place and easily strapped the kayaks onto the car, arrived in the marina and packed the kayaks as sparsely as possible with only the essentials: wood, tent, sleeping bags, water, a freeze dried dinner, camera, and a change of dry clothes.

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As we kayaked out into the clear waters of Lake Powell, we grew bold in our desire to find the perfect campground. Let it be known that Jonathan was the driver in this cause and I was the innocent bystander, hauling our load of wood quietly as he pushed us further and further down the lake.

Eventually we camped at the first site we had scouted and set off on our trip into the canyon. Weather stations predicted a passing thunderstorm at 4 pm, our trip into the canyon began at 1. It took us 30 minutes to cross the lake, and another 30 to make our way through the canyon to the hiking point.

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Once inside Antelope Canyon on foot, we were mesmerized. The landscape kept changing around every bend and the rock formations became more incredible with every step we took. We saw an owl, perched high up and hidden in a little hole in the stone. We saw lizards everywhere and heard the call of whatever birds circle this area. The sky blazed a bright blue through the crevasse of stone walls and not a cloud was in sight. Rain seemed impossible and we continued our hike.

Despite the current weather conditions, I kept feeling a certain apprehension as we hiked further. If the weather changed, we had a long trip back to our campsite. After seeing a gnawed-on bunny leg and hallucinating the sound of a growling animal, I insisted we turn back.

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Wed hiked for 2 hours in the canyon by the time we got back to the kayaks, and it was exactly 4 pm. No thunderstorm yet, but the sky was slowly turning a light gray and the blazing blue clear skies were gone. Still, we got in the kayaks in high spirits, thinking wed successfully used the weather report and our observational skills to make a good decision about how long to stay and when to turn back.

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Fast forward 15 minutes, when we were 1/3 of the way through the canyon and the winds had picked up to nearly 20 MPH. The water was choppy and the currents pulled us back into the canyon. Jon chose a rocky enclave to quickly regroup. The water was sloshing over the kayak, and it now felt urgent that we get out of there as soon as possible. Of all the things our rental dude had warned us about, unpredictable wind speed was #1.

For all the times I’ve felt fear, I would say this moment – barely tucked into this rocky enclave, amidst cold choppy waters without cell service, an hour from the shore – was one of the most scared I’ve ever been. The only way we were getting out of there was if we did it ourselves, and I really didn’t know if I could. But I wanted to, and I was willing to try.

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After a real struggle, we made our way to the mouth of the canyon, where the winds were still strong but much more manageable. We found our way back to our campsite. It had taken us twice as long to kayak the return trip as it did on the way in. An undercooked freeze-dried dinner of chickpeas and rice has never tasted so good.

I’m not sorry we took the risk we did. In the moment it seemed stupid and to be honest it sounds pretty stupid now that I read this. I don’t encourage anyone to go against the advice of a seasoned guide or trusted weather station. And we didn’t not intentionally. But, we didn’t listen very well either. This trip taught me something about myself that I don’t think I would have truly learned in my heart any other way that if I want something badly enough, I am strong enough to achieve it, even in the face of fear or doubt. I hope I can hold onto this earnest, truly hopeful feeling long after this trip is over.

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Gayle’s Country Ham

by BiteSizedJonathan on May 6, 2016


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As many of you know, Jonathan and I are on a cross country road trip. Were traveling for 6 weeks, camping, eating, visiting major cities and driving through some incredible American landscapes. Check out the map above to see our route!

Our first strange and interesting food stop was in Virginia, in a place called Penn Laird along Interstate 81. I had read about this place, Gayles Country Ham, in Saveur magazine a few years ago. The description of the ham sandwich sold there was so compelling, I put it on our list of must-hit spots along the way.

Before I write any more, let it be known that I am truly a New Yorker. I would say that I have grown up in a bit of a bubble, being born and raised in Manhattan. I don’t have much experience with driving, small towns, country roads, and American oddities.

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That brings us to Gayles. Gayles Country Ham is a small, old, slightly dingy road-side store selling snacks, some random dry goods and hardware, and a ton of ham products. Smoked hams, ham trimming, little ham nuggets from an unknown part of the pig, bacon, sliced country ham all these are packaged in vacuum sealed plastic and displayed on wooden shelving throughout the store, something that seems common in this part of the country but which I’ve never seen (I guess curing, smoking and vacuum sealing eliminates the need for refrigeration, we didn’t always have refrigerators but… we do now)

Keeping strongly in mind the rave review of this sandwich, I approached the slightly unapproachable woman behind the deli counter and awkwardly ordered two country ham sandwiches on white bread with cheddar, mayo and mustard. As she was making the sandwiches, this lady asked me at one point whether they had enough ham (they did). When we went to pay, they charged us by weighing each sandwich. Despite the fact that they each weighed about half a pound, they were $4 each.

We ate these monsters in the car out straight out of the plastic wrap. This was the American southeast in a bite. The ham was on the border of too salty, but was offset by the almost brioche-like 2 thick slices of white bread, the copious amounts of mayo and the quarter inch thick cheddar. This sandwich was delicious, but I also had a hard time eating it without considering the effects it was having on my arteries. Unsurprisingly Jonathan finished his in one sitting, whereas I guiltily snacked on mine throughout the rest of our day.

Overall Gayles was worth the stop, both for the (somewhat kooky) experience and the quality sandwich itself.

Follow us on instagram @jonnymeats and @jessicafaithmeter and stay tuned here on Bite Sized for more adventures to come!

#METERMERICA

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