Thursday, October 9, 2014

Discover Great Music While Stuffing Your Face With Bacon!

While I enjoy good music, I'm not sure I have the energy and mental capacity to go to ACL Fest for a full weekend! Besides, tickets are expensive. I would consider going for one day, but even the idea of dealing with crowds, lines and body odor is not my idea of a funfilled day. I'm a pooper. Micah would be an even bigger pooper.

I will, however, go to a party hosted by VH1, MTV and Pizza Hut! 

Pizza Hut traveling 18wheeler!

oink oink

This year, Pizza Hut was promoting their #baconstuffedcrust pizza. While I enjoy bacon, this obsession with bacon is out of control. I don't want bacon on everything! Micah doesn't even eat bacon (or any form of pork for that matter). 

Because it was all hail to the bacon, there was even a bacon drink. It was basically a margarita with vodka bacon -- which ended up being more smokey than bacony. 

You can see Jim filming on the far left.
My favorite VH1 host, Jim Shearer was also on hand to do interviews with the bands playing that night. 

The list of bands playing at the party. Sundy Best started off the night with some country twang. Bernhoft had to cancel for an unknown reason, he apparently cancelled his ACL show as well. 

Ludwig & Stiegler played sets inbetween the bands that were playing outside. While they're not a full time traveling duo, they do shows. The trumpist, Spencer Ludwig also plays for Capital Cities.


This team knows how to get a party started! The music is a fun mix of keyboard, trumpet and awesome beats! I can dance to them all night long! Plus, their outfits are ridiculously colorful.

The other band that had a fun crowd was the Kongos. You've probably heard their song "Go With Me Now" on a tv commercial -- well, that's how I came across them anyway.


They did fun a mashup of "Come Together" and a old school hip hop song. The last half of the video is their "Go With Me Now" song. If you're at ACL this weekend, check them out on Sunday!

I just loved these balloons some folks showed up with. I guess it's smart to have this as a marker if you're looking for friends in a large crowd at Zilker Park.

And I had to take a picture of a guy who is rocking an American flag tank. I mean...

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED. This traveling photobooth trailer is the coolest photobooth I've come across. The company, Amurica, is based out of Memphis.

It's the perfect way to end a jamming night!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Turning TABC Data Into a Map All About Beer

When Austin Beerworks started this whole 99-pack of beer thing, the story was pitched in my editorial meetings several times. I never even pitched it once! I thought it was genius marketing but I never brought it up in a meeting... and I'm known for pitching beer stories!

After two weeks, we finally did the story. You can watch it here:

While my reporter was working on the story, I wanted to know how many brewery and brewpub licenses were actually in our area. After some queries on TABC's website, I plotted this map:

I don't get to do fun data sets often, but sometimes I do! I think the last map I did was where Google Fiber asked for permits (nowhere near my hood).

These are all active and pending permits with TABC. Some places haven't even opened yet.

I didn't even know these places existed:

  • Bluebonnet Beer Company (Round Rock)
  • Bull Creek Brewing (Williamson Co.)
  • Solid Rock Brewing (Spicewood)
  • Strange Land Brewery (West Lake)
  • Last Stand Brewing (Dripping Springs)
  • Smoke'n Hops (Dripping Springs)
  • Sean Patrick's (San Marcos)
  • Aquabrew (San Marcos)
Here's hoping these new places have some good brews on tap!

Have you been to all of these places? Which new place are you most excited about?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recipe: Homemade Rice-a-Roni!

Micah rarely ever craves anything. The only thing he really ever requests is Rice-a-Roni. I guess it's a childhood thing? Because I'm awesome (and because I really like ANY rice dish) I succumb to his demands and make my version of rice-a-roni -- which is usually once a month.

If you buy the boxed version, stop! Stop, right now. The boxed stuff has entirely too much sodium! When you make it from scratch, you can control the sodium intake and make it even better! This dish is really easy and you can easily make it in 30-40 minutes.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 C. long grain rice (rinsed)
  • 30 g. thin spaghetti 
  • 3 1/4 C. chicken stock
  • 3 C. frozen broccoli florets (you can use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

To start off, heat a large pan with some olive oil and a pat of butter. I use this large frying skillet that has high sides so the rice cooks evenly.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and put it into the pan.

Cook each side for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is pretty much cooked through - it's ok if there is still some slight pink in the thickest part of the breast -- the meat will cook for a few more minutes at the end. Remove from the pan and let the chicken rest on a plate.

While you're cooking the chicken, heat up the chicken stock with the poultry seasoning and keep it warm. I always have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, but if you don't, just use a low sodium chicken stock or veggie stock (if you so choose).

Also take this time to rinse the rice until the water runs clear. You're getting rid of the starches that would make your pilaf gummy.

Mince up the garlic and dice the onion.

After you take the chicken out of the pan, add the onions and garlic with a touch more olive oil and butter. Saute until soft.

Then add the rice and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and toast the rice over medium heat. After two minutes, add the thin spaghetti.

I like to just grab a handful and then break them into 1/4 inch-ish pieces into the pan.

Add the tumeric and dried thyme and watch the color turn! The tumeric gives it the vibrant yellow color. Cook everything on medium heat for another 5 minutes or until the the pasta shows some color.

While the rice is "toasting," put the frozen broccoli into the stock pot. This takes the chill off the broccoli.

Then add the chicken stock/broccoli mixture into the main saute pan. Stir everything together, bring it to a boil, put a lid on it and then bring it down to a simmer. Let it simmer for 15 minutes.

While the rice simmers, cut the chicken into cubes.

After 15 minutes, take the lid off, using a large fork, fluff the rice (don't use a large spoon!) and then add the chicken and all the juices on the plate -- don't waste it, that's the good stuff!

This is also the time to taste the rice. It'll still be slightly al dente. I usually add another splash or two of reserved chicken stock. Put the lid back on and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Once the last five minutes is done, fluff again and enjoy!

I also love this dish because it keeps really well and is perfect for me to bring to work and reheat!

See, it's not just the San Francisco treat!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Longer, Wetter and Slippier: Third Annual Slip-N-Slide Party

Longer, wetter and slippier (that's a word, right?). That's what we try to accomplish every year with our Slip-N-Slide party.

We started the shingdig three years ago and we've made improvements every year.

You can read about our first run here.

In our second year, we improved the slide holding mechanism slightly with some metal bars and stakes.

It's just a flesh wound
It held up well, but our friend Nate made the mistake of running across the slide and ended up with this gash. Another friend ran UP the slide and tore a big hole in it. That's what happens when people get a little tipsy!

Setup in 2013 thanks to Trung's help
The time it took to setup the slide was still pretty time consuming, not to mention you die of heat exhaustion while setting it up in the middle of the day. Thankfully we always have some great friends who are at our house EARLY (because they spent the night) to help out.

So, for our third annual party, Micah wanted to improve setup time even more! Since last year's party left the slide with a hole, Micah bought a new slide and he went for the 75ft. one! An extra 15 feet!
Micah also devised a new way to secure the slide: grommets. Genius.

The week before the party, Micah and I spent 5 hours taping the slide with heavy duty a/c duct tape and then punching in grommets every foot. Thankfully the World Cup was on while we were doing this back-breaking work!

On the day of the party, we put down a thin layer of foam padding, the old slide and then the new slide. The new slide was easily secured with landscape pins.

We also put up a bunch of moving blankets and an air mattress as a bumper. Extra insurance was needed since the fence came loose last year. We don't play around (or maybe we play around too much?)!

In years past, we would just put a sprinkler head at the top of the slide -- and while that worked well, it wasn't great. So this year, Micah got this hose.

It actually distributed the water all the way down the slide plus it looked really pretty at dusk!

For food, I had a nacho bar and grilled Mexican corn. The night before the party, I spent a few hours frying 200 fresh tortillas into tortilla chips. I smelled tortillas in my sleep that night, no joke.

This was also our first year of the Slip-N-Slide under the new patio. It was so much better with all the shade and fans. I think everyone appreciated that!

While it's a lot of work to get it all together, we love having this party because it's just grown ass people getting to act like a kid for a day. It's all sorts of awesome. And here is the proof that we're ridic.

Micah loves buying props for the slide. 

It's a bromance y'all.

This is what our lawn looks like after it takes a beating from the party. Thankfully it's supposed to rain this week. Until next year!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guten Tag Germany!

After drinking our fill of delicious sour beers, we made our way to the land of smoked beers!

Bamberg, Germany

After several trains and 6 hours, we finally got to Bamberg. When you mention Bamberg, most folks have no idea where it is... unless you're a beer nerd. It's in the Upper Franconia area of Bavaria.

The old medieval town is also an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The old town has the Regnitz River going through the middle of it.

They even have what they call their Little Venice. I hope these homes have flood insurance!

Because the city was left unharmed during World War II, there are some really old buildings in this town. This is the Bamberg Dom Cathedral, which was completed in the 1300s.

Inside the cathedral. I feel like that's all I do in Europe... visit Cathedrals.

There's also this really nice monastery in Bamberg as well. We didn't make it up to the monastery, but I saw the small vineyard they have on site!

What was the first thing we ate at in Bamberg when we arrived at 10 p.m.? Doner kebap, of course! There was a small shop across the street from our apartment and it was perfect for a late night meal.

We stayed in an apartment with Monello Apartments. The place is a 5 minute walk to the main train station and a 10 minute walk to the old section of Bamberg. Very large space for a good price!

Getting Rauched!

Bamberg is known for having smoked beers, Rauchbier (pronounced Rockh-beer).

In the states, you can usually get Schlenkerla. Schlenkerla is right smack in the middle of old town - you can't miss it! I mean, you even see their delivery trucks around town!

They have a great beer garden as well as a really large main dining hall. They only have two beers on the menu: Uecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier - Marzen and a Schlenkerla Rauchweizen (smoked wheat).

Micah would say that these were probably the best smoked beers we had in Bamberg. 

To go with the smoked beers, my sister and I also shared a plate of the pork sausage with sauerkraut and potatoes. The sausages were great! Perfect texture!

And, I accidentally ordered a schnappe. I thought it was cherry beer of some sort. Wrong. It was like a cinnamon cherry shot. It ended up being my belated birthday shot. Yay to turning 32!

We also checked out Brauerie Fassla and Spezial. The two breweries are right across the street from each other. Talk about stiff competition. Fassla had a country-type feel to it and the beers there were mediocre.

But Micah and Linda still chugged that beer like nobody's business.

At Spezial, the brews were definitely better. I mean, they've been making beer since 1536, so they should know wassup.

I really did like their Weissbier. Cheers!

While we were sitting there, we saw a nearby table order a huge chunk of meat. My sister and I had to have it, so we ordered our first schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) at Spezial. It was served in a pool of brown gravy along with this dumpling. The pork was great but the dumpling was not tasty at all. It reminds me of a tapioca ball but with zero flavor.

We snacked a lot in Bamberg (and by snack, I mean that big pork knuckle up there), so I don't have that many food pictures.

But we did have a nice breakfast at this place. It was kind of hard ordering in German, not going to lie.

My sister got this hash type dish after she saw a man eating it when we walked in.

I asked the waitress for the traditional German breakfast and this is what I got. A boiled egg, cold cuts and some cheese. It was actually just the right amount of food!

We also bought some fruit at the market that was held near the town square. I also thought these white asparagus looked AMAZING. I mean, so fat and white!

And how amazing do these linzer cookies look? I didn't get to eat one though! I fail at life.

And this is what happens when you drink too much beer in Bamberg. You grow Fu Manchu moustaches. I would say that beer in Germany is much more boring than beers in Belgium. They stick to the usual Reinheitsgebot rule -- which means beer can only be brewed with water, barley and hops (I guess they forgot the yeast part). So no added flavors, spices, etc. If you love German beers then this great, but for me, I prefer Belgian beers, for sure.

Last stop: Munchen!

You know what's cool about traveling on trains in Europe? You can bring along your own beverage! Beer for the road? I'm down with that.

Most people know Munich as the home of Oktoberfest! I can't even imagine coming to this city during Oktoberfest. That would be INSANE. Can't handle it. We did however, stay at Pension Westfalia, which is located right across the street from the festival fairgrounds. That I'm ok with.

When we got into town, we walked around Marienplatz, which to me is just a lot of high-end shops. I can get that anywhere!

We did stop off at the oh-so-popular Hofbrauhaus. We ordered a couple of steins but their beers were definitely not memorable. Pretty generic, really.

On our first night, my sis had an itch to check out an EDM fest going on on the outskirts of Munich, so she left us old folks to fend for ourselves!

We ended up having a rotisserie chicken dinner at Gaststätte Lindwurmstüberl. It's actually a an Augustiner beer restaurant.

I also had a great spatzle there! It paired well with the chicken and the side of gravy was a perfect accompaniment. Micah also had Augustiner's maibock - which he really liked. Funny enough, when he tried to order the Maiboch the following day at the Augustiner brewpub, they wouldn't serve it because it was June! They're strict about their beers in Germany!

On our last full day, we decided to rent some bikes at Frankie's Bike Rentals and cruise the city. The City is super bike friendly, so it's no problem riding around.

We decided to ride through Englischer Garten, much to Micah's allergies dismay. But we had too! During the spring and summer, some folks like to go topless or sans bottom. We only saw naked dudes on our ride. The craziest guy we saw was one the locals dub "Robo Cock." He apparently always has some weird silver contraption on his dangle. It's cray. I didn't get too close, but I saw enough.

We saw these crazy kids surfing in the Eisbach. Brrrr. I'm pretty sure this is where Schlitterbahn gets there surfenburg ideas.

We also made a pit stop at the Chinese Tower for some pretzels, beer and more schweinshaxe!

This one was extra crispy and sans gravy! Gotta get some salad to balance out all that fat.

When we dropped off our bikes, we also came across the owner of the shop, Frankie and his interesting group of friends. 

Frankie was moving his business to a new location so he basically invited us to some beers, then shots and somehow an impromptu jam session happened. It was hilariously crazy but awesome. We ended up spending 4 hours at his shop.


I even make a vocal appearance in the jam session above! There's also a special appearance by Paul Walker. Did you see him? Ha!

After that, Frankie went with us to dinner at his favorite Vietnamese restaurant, An Nam. That food was just what I needed. While I enjoyed German food in all its starch and pork glory, I needed some sweet, sour and spice in my life!

I ordered the tofu vermicelli bowl and it was actually one of the best bun bowls I've had anywhere. I think it was because of the different textures in the bowl that aren't usually there: sweet potatoes and mango. The veggie eggroll was also perfect!

The owner of the restaurant and our waitress were both very inquisitive about Viet-Americans visiting Munich. At least we have a common language in Vietnamese! Because my German was not so great.

How did we end our last night in Munich and the trip? Ordering some beers at Paulaner. It's a great way to end our whirlwind European vacation! On a side note, can you tell Micah is high on allergy meds in this pic? Poor fella.

While I enjoyed Germany, if and when we go back, I will definitely fit in more castles. I would also like to catch a legit futbol game over there. Bayern Munchen had just ended their season a few weeks before we got there. Next time! Until then... Auf Wiedersehen!