Thursday, March 3, 2016

Austin for hippies

Hiya, I'm ixi, a quintessentially weird wedding photographer, original ATX local, and a self-described modern hippie. So if you're visiting Austin and you'd call yourself hip, hipster, or hippie, you don't care about sports and going to the state capitol, you're drawn to the wonderfully weird, and you want the insider's scoop on what you should eat and do, you came to the right blog post. Revel in the tacos and music and awesome! This blog is a constant work in progress and at this time is woefully empty but don't worry, it will be stuffed, just like your face after going to:


BBQ Revolution - $$

Vegan BBQ! Git it!
Photo credit: Yelp user Errol M.

Hopdoddy - $$

Gourmet medium-rare hamburgers, including grass-fed beef options and things like goat cheese and pesto and beer on tap
Location: SoCo and north central
TIP: For the love of gahd, do not go during peak lunch and dinner times unless you are prepared to wait in line for a good 30+ minutes.
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Photo credit:

Thai Fresh - $$

Seriously some of the best Thai food I've ever had, also with all grass-fed/pasture-raised meat options. Excellent vegan and vegetarian options. All the desserts are vegan, including the coconut-milk ice cream, and many are gluten-free too!
Location: South 1st/ S Lamar
TIP: Get the Pad Prik Khing or the Drunken Noodles, and maybe a local Wunderpilz kombucha or craft beer. This restaurant also doubles as a coffee shop so feel free to bring work! The staff attitude tends to be...ambivalent. They are about to introduce table service so we'll see how that goes! Don't expect it to be cheap, but it's excellent.
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Photo credit:

Thai Cuisine - $

The other awesome Thai place with the best Tom Kha I've ever had.
Location: Northwest
TIP: If you go during lunch, you can get an entire buffet of appetizers included in your meal! But go before 11:30 OR after 1, or you'll be waiting in line for a really, really long time. And get the King's Curry or Pad Woon Sen.
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Photo credit:

If you need to eat at 4 in the morning, this is your place. Basic cafe infused with great Tex-Mex options!
Location: South Austin
Photo credit:

Ramen Tatsu-ya - $$

Authentic, damn-good ramen. Vegan ramen available on Sundays (hey, it's a start).
Location: North and South Austin
Photo credit:

Torchy's Tacos - $

Always busy, but for good reason. Creative, tex-mex tacos with liberal use of avocado.
Location: Everywheres
Photo credit:


Peter Pan Mini Golf

BYOB, entertaining, amazing. Go at night if you prefer to avoid children. 
Location: South Austin
Copyright shawn mcharg

Graffiti Park

Ever-changing and awesome. Just go and bring your camera!
Location: Clarksville
TIP: Wear hiking attire (or just avoid sandals and skirts) if you want to climb to the top. It's kinda rough. Also, poison ivy EVERYWHERE.

Museum of Ephemerata

Super bizarre and wonderful one-room museum in the back of someone's house. They are super delighted in everything they've found and you probably will be too!
Location: East
TIP: Tours are on Saturday at 4pm, but you can call to arrange one with them. Also check out their website to see if there are any wacky special events happening!


Parts & Labour

Homygahd, this place is amazing. It's also the perfect place to bring home a souvenir that's not tired and cliched. I bought a local, hand-made unicorn headband there.
Location: SoCo


Similar to Parts & Labour, but a lot more weird goodness! It's one of those stores that just keeps going and going and going...
Location: North Austin (Burnet)



Amy's Ice CreamsLick Honest Ice Creams

TIP: All local, grass-fed milk and local, seasonal ingredients

Yeti Frozen Custard



Alamo Drafthouse

WARNING. I don't recommend their food. It's a bad value and I've given them feedback already. Consider pre-eating unless you want to spend $20 on lame food. Per person. BUT, they have beer and fantastic pre-show entertainment. Or go to a special quote-along or Rocky Horror every Saturday at midnight. If you just want to see a cheap movie, go to the discount theater in northwest Austin. If you want an experience and want to be surrounded by other moviegoers that take the experience just as seriously as you do, go here!



Gorgeousness. It's also huge, so if you ask someone where the greenbelt is you'll get 5 different answers. My favorite spot hands down is Sculpture Falls, which is a good 40-minute hike through the forest, but at the end of that rainbow trail is a hippie pot (of gold) complete with slack liners, guitars, and beautiful people half naked.
Location: southwest (edge of the hill country)

St Edward's Park

I call it my secret park.

Barton Springs Pool

A mainstay for Austinites and also a good tourist spot. GREAT for people watching and acroyoga, but it's absolutely frigid.
TIP: Consider staying outside the water unless you're prepared to just jump in and scream. Also arrive fed; the food sucks. Bring cash!


Empire Control RoomPlushThe Parish


TIP: They don't really have a website or a social media presence. To stay in the loop, sign up for their newsletter!



Nancy's Sky GardenEnchanted Rock

TIP: This rock is a giant motherfuckin' lava bubble of pink granite. GO.

Krause Springs

TIP: You won't believe you're in Texas when you're looking up at this idyllic waterfall with dripping fairy vines. So refreshing!


Kerbey Lane

I know, it's total blasphemy for me to say this, but Kerbey Lane is an Austin institution that used to be delicious and funky and now I find it to be mediocre and a really poor value. Sometimes the food is decent but not $15+ decent. This is just my opinion. A better alternative is Magnolia Cafe!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tomato vinaigrette

I'm working on two posts that require a lot of research and time, so meanwhile, here's how to make the easiest and most delicious dressing I've ever had :) Well, if you have a food processor. I used to be food processorless and I dreamt of making things like this. It's a really good investment. Anyway, onto the tomato vinaigrette!

Things you'll need

2 small, heirloom tomatoes. So pretty!

Left: Purple cherokee grown by my boyfriend. Right: Heirloom variety grown by farmer with the beard  at the Triangle farmers market

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt (optional)
Black pepper (optional)
Small garlic clove (optional)
Dried oregano or basil (optional)
A small pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water


Rinse the tomato and then cut out the core.

Cut an X on the top where you cut the core out (this just gives you easy edges to peel the skin off later).

Boil a small pot of water. Once it's rolling, drop the tomatoes in (top down is best) for 12 seconds. I use tongs. Take them out and put them in a bowl of ice water for about a minute, or until you can handle them. They shouldn't have gotten very hot anyway.

Peel the skin off with yo' fingas.

Roughly chop and put in the food processor. This time I tried adding some fresh basil. It's all good. Put in about 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar and the salt, if you like. Sometimes I forego the salt entirely. You can also put in black pepper and a chopped garlic clove.

Puree for 20 seconds or so. It doesn't take long!

Pour mixture into an old salad dressing bottle and then add about 1/4 cup of olive oil. DON'T use coconut oil, or your dressing will become hard and will take an hour to "thaw". Olive oil may harden a bit in the fridge as well (but not to the extent that coconut oil does).

(I add the oil after processing it, because then it's a cinch to rinse all the pieces of my food processor!)

Put the top on and mix it up, then taste it. Add more oil, vinegar, or salt as necessary. It should distinctly taste like tomatoes and vinegar. So good :)


Monday, July 9, 2012

Schrödinger's sweet potato

This post's title is thanks to the brilliance of my friend, Peter.

My sweet potato plants have been, by far, the happiest thing in my new garden. Well, the lemongrass is also kicking butt. But anyway, the vines are beautiful, green, uniform, disease-free, and spilling over the bed. Some bugs have chowed down but not to any alarming degree. Plus, if nothing wants to eat my stuff, why should I?

I had read something mentioning I should trim the vines if they spill out of their contained bed...but I was like...huh, why? No explanation was given, so I ignored it.

Then my boyfriend was reading about growing sweet potatoes and said that if they are overly fertile, they won't produce tubers...just leaves. The tuber is a storage structure for when it's cold or the plant isn't getting enough water, so if its conditions are too good, there may not be a need to produce a tuber. Weird, right?
Suddenly I realized that I could possibly dig up my sweet potato plants on September 1 only to find that they never actually made sweet potatoes. At least the greens are tasty, but still, how disappointing would that be?

Why are my sweet potato plants possibly too fertile? Well, the wicking bed design I used called for layers of un-decomposed matter, even fresh horse manure, which is very nitrogen rich. Nitrogen is a fertilizer. Or maybe the soil to begin with was just so fantastic (thanks Lady Bug!). I have not overwatered these guys so that's probably not it. Who knows...I'm sure I'll learn as time goes on.

I trimmed my sweet potato vines back considerably after reading that ideally, they should be 8-10 inches long and have 5-6 leaves in Garret's Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening. I was shocked...mine had probably at least 20 leaves per vine, which of course had split off several times with their own set of leaves. I'll be sautéing these babies up this week for sure!

I'll definitely have to continue cutting them back in hopes that the plant will go "aaack, must store energy!" so if you want some greens, seriously, email me at They are really nice to sauté.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I used to hate tomatoes

I was cool with tomato products...tomato sauce, tomato puree, tomato paste, EVEN sundried tomatoes, but never a chunk of raw or cooked tomato. I claimed it was a texture thing. The slimy part that encases the seeds even grossed me out when I touched it. I've been claiming it's a texture thing my entire life! But the year of 2012, as with several years before it, has seen a slew of taste-horizon-broadenings. So far summer squash and eggplant have made the list...and now....tomatoes.

I will still say that it's mostly been a texture thing...if it tastes like cardboard. But when I popped a sunburst cherry tomato in my mouth the farmers market, I had a revelation: those things taste awesome!!! Sun = yellow/orange and burst = what they do in your mouth. Amazing. As I am wont to do these days, I had started experimenting with making my own salad dressings, and I decided it was time for me to try the tomato vinaigrette I'd been eyeing in my cookbook for a few months. I bought two heirloom tomatoes (the ones with the pumpkin shape) at the farmers market, pureed the heck out of them with some garlic, and then combined the puree with white wine vinegar, dried oregano, and olive oil. Oh my GOD. Suddenly, I was opening up the bottle every day just to get a whiff of...get this: not the vinegar, but the beautiful and unique aroma of a FRESH tomato.
My boyfriend's heirloom Cherokee tomato ripening off the vine, otherwise things eat it right up (left) and an heirloom tomato variety from the farmers market, so ripe that I better use it fast (right)

Now I really wish my tomato plant wasn't barely surviving.
Mr. Cherokee Tomato Plant 3 months ago, before it got planted into an environment it is clearly unhappy with.

Well, today I stumbled across this article, which explains why supermarket (read: conventional, industrialized) tomatoes taste like cardboard. Scientists have modified a protein in conventional tomatoes that makes them ripen evenly (ya know, in the truck across the border after being blasted with gas), but prevents them from photosynthesizing as effectively...thus removing much of their flavor (sugars and acids). I'm going to guess that it probably removes some beneficial nutrients as well (the two tend to be related).

I think I'm healing my relationship with tomatoes in whatever form they happen to be in, and the texture is just becoming a non-issue because they now taste like heaven to me. Maybe it's because the few times I had tried raw or cooked tomato chunks in the past is because they were most certainly conventionally grown.

And remember, fruit sugars locked into the fibers of fruits are not evil. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"What is a granola?"

The Internet has failed me in my search for the movie in which someone yells in frustration "What is a granola?" but I hear it in my head pretty much every time I think about granola.
Granola is a delicious collective entity. There is no such thing as a granola. It was interesting for me to assemble this collective because I had to acknowledge its individual parts. 

Unbaked granola mixed together by hand (fun!)

Here are the parts of my granola:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped almonds (easy with a sharp knife, rock the knife or keep the tip pressed down while you change the angle of the bottom of the knife with each chop)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (suuuper easy to chop)
  • Some flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (only works if ambient temperature is 76 degrees or warmer, or if you warm up the oil first)
  • Dash of molasses
  • Dash of vanilla
  • Dash of salt (1/2-3/4 teaspoon or so)

What's interesting is that these simple ingredients are often not what make up the granolas you buy in a box at the grocery store. Making your own processed food really makes you conscious of what utter crap is in most commercially processed food. If you want "purer" granola from a store, look for it in bulk at a health food store, but if you're trying to avoid GMOs, only go for "100% Organic", since most commercial cereals use canola oil. Ok, onto the instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds, and brown sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, molasses and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.
  4. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl, then store in a glass jar for up to 4 months or freeze for 6 months.
Granola spread out on the baking sheet (batch #1)

This recipe is actually adapted from an Alton Brown recipe. You can do whatever the heck you like. Just note that if you add fruit, don't bake it; just mix it in before storage.

Is it good? Yes, it is. Try it! DON'T burn it! It'll totally suck.