Why do I always think of SXSW as some kind of Spring Break-level celebration of food and drink? Maybe it’s because I get to go to Austin, where they pass out micheladas as you get off the plane and trees pop pink confetti over the crowded streets. Or maybe because, when I come home to LA, the orange blossoms and jasmine have just started to bloom, drowning the city in this funky perfume that primes the tongue for cocktails.
The truth is, last week I may have done some of the best eating and drinking I’ve ever done in my life. I also wrote a few things that I really liked—see the connection? I do.
The week began in Chicago to see my adorable new relative Meghan and attend my friend Heather‘s bachelorette party, where her amazing future sister-in-law Erin curated an incredible deep-dish DIY pizza bar. We were able to pile our pies high with whatever we wanted and sipped (okay, gulped) wine as we waited for them to bake. I also had an incredible lunch at Coudal, where I surveyed the new Field Notes and met my elusive UnBeige co-editor Steve. And I also wrote a story about the fantastic visual art made by the fantastically talented musician Devendra Banhart.
Sunday, I made it to Austin just in time for several Mexican Martinis with old friends at the Driskill Hotel. I also had the now-famous Gelataco and wrote about the success of my favorite internet entertainment destination, Funny or Die. And then a few of us flitted away for a meal at Eastside Cafe, where our crudites came from the acres of garden surrounding the building, and egg salad was courtesy of the friendly resident chickens.
Now, the thing about SXSW, like any conference, is that you’re always scrambling to grab a bite between sessions, and often settle for mediocre meals. I swore not to do that this year, and planned ahead using Citizen Taco‘s SXSW meal guides. Me, Anya and Casey walked about a mile to the east to Las Cazuelas, which also lead us by my fantasy garden shop, several pinata stores and this guy. After this meal I watched what was possibly the most disastrous interview I’ve ever seen in my life, and wrote about it: Twitter Announces @Anywhere at SXSW. I’m lucky I didn’t lose my lunch.
The next day, me and Steve walked about the same distance in the other direction to Juanita’s Tacos, housed in a bizarre caboose-like building (although we were near the Amtrak station, so maybe not that bizarre). The tacos, served to us by Juanita, were probably some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. Steve and I shook off our raincoats, toasted our sweaty good fortune and folded over our crispy carnitas pillows with huge grins. I’ll never settle for convention center cuisine again.
I can’t say I remember all that much about this night, but these waffle fries I shared with Liz at the brand-new retro-fabulous wienery Frank’s are etched into my brain. I also happened to meet and write about some of the creators of the newspaper that was created, printed and delivered all at SXSW, and I also wrote a story on how infographics and data visualization have become so prevalent in our culture, we just might be a little too obsessed with numbers.
It doesn’t end there, believe it or not. I got off the plane to LA, smelled that sultry jasmine-orange blossom air and needed some gelato to properly welcome me back to town. I went to Mozza with a few friends where I got my usual squash blossom burrata pizza, and for dessert managed to convince everyone that we actually needed five desserts: Meyer lemon gelato pie, caramel copetta, butterscotch budino, a gelato trio of espresso, vanilla and peanut butter, and a kid size of olive oil gelato. That’s SIX types of gelato! I went home, collapsed into a heap of drooling joy and wrote nothing.
The next night—I know!—I had a funky Sardinian red, oozy-woozy cheese and cheddar-crossed apple pie with some of the fine folks from Architizer at Lou, LA’s finest wine bar. They had just thrown a party to celebrate the West Coast launch for their new site that’s like a Facebook for architects, so I wrote a story for Fast Company about why their idea was so welcome. Because, for the most part, architect websites suck.
I closed out the work week out at my favorite neighborhood joint, Speranza, with my lovely girlfriends and some killer housemade linguine with pesto. I also did my taxes.
And on the seventh day, I rested my internal organs. I piled in the car with sisters Sarah and Rebecca and headed to the unbuilt desert suburb California City for Obscura Day, a global exploration of weird and wonderful places that I wrote about for GOOD. On the way, we stopped at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, which I highly recommend doing this weekend for anyone who lives in LA.
The hills of traffic cone-orange poppies, while not edible, certainly looked good enough to eat.