Clear Eyes, Full Tummies, Can't Lose

So first you withhold grilled cheese from me, Internet, and then you withhold queso? This simply won't do. I was almost twenty-seven before I'd had my first grilled cheese sandwich and I probably would have made it to forty-seven without trying queso, had I not spent last weekend in Austin attempting to break some sort of record for eating the largest amount of it in the smallest amount of time. 

I'm pretty sure I'm now the current champion, if anybody would like to challenge me.

I was in Austin for the SXSW conference, where I moderated a panel called "Secrets of Fake Twitter Accounts Revealed." I got to meet the geniuses behind @BPGlobalPR, @JasperSlobrushe, and @FakeAPStylebook, as well as the very lovely and forgiving manager of the real @APStylebook Twitter account, which made for some hilarious photo ops in the green room while we were all waiting nervously for our panel.

The other thing I did in Austin was eat. I ate my way through all of your marvelous suggestions---thank you so much for those; you all have fantastic taste---and then I Yelped a few more, just for kicks. We went to Kerbey Lane ("I don't even need a menu," I told the waiter, "the Internet already told me to have the gingerbread pancakes") and to the enormous flagship Whole Foods (they had a bar in the store!) and to Torchy's, where we had some damn good tacos, just like they said on the sign.

See? That is, like, the opposite of false advertising.

We didn't get out to Salt Lick, unfortunately, because there were so many conference-y type things to do, but we comforted ourselves with the fact that we could have it at the airport, and it certainly didn't disappoint. (Barbecue is another thing, by the way, that I didn't eat until my very late twenties when one of my Southern friends in San Francisco made pulled pork. All that time I lived in Charleston and I never so much had a slice of brisket!)

Of course, being in Austin, I did my best to drink the local beer:

And to match it to my cardigan, of course. What, like you don't? When in Rome!

I'd been to Dallas before, and to San Antonio, but I wasn't sure what to expect from Austin. In truth, it wasn't like I thought it would be at all. I guess that's what happens when the only frame of reference you have is a hazy recollection of Real World Austin from that one time you watched a marathon on MTV. 

Everyone had told me that Austin wasn't "the real Texas" but I thought it was still pretty authentic, even with the insurgence of tech geeks who descended on the city for SXSW. In fact, the unusually high level of hipsters combined with the regular population of rugged Texans meant I don't think I saw a man who wasn't wearing a plaid shirt during the whole weekend!

Including my husband, of course. He wore two. Plus a moustache, but only because it was a special occasion.

I have a ton more photos from Austin and about fifteen thousand more things to say about the queso (most of them are just sound effects, like mmmmmmmmm and whoaaaaaa), but I shall leave you here because I am currently working my way through a book called "Room" which is, as they say, unputdownable. In fact, I typed this whole thing with one hand while reading an entire chapter with the other. Not really. Well, maybe. It's called multi-tasking. You'll never be able to prove if I'm lying.

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1
Isobel
Mar 21, 2011

I'm confused! A grilled cheese sounds exactly like a very well buttered cheese toastie (made in a frying pan rather than a toastie maker), and how can you be English and not have had a cheese toastie?

I am however extremely jealous that you got to eat good Tex Mex all weekend - I love it.

2
Sarah
Mar 21, 2011

Isobel, I'm with you - how has Holly escaped toasted cheese sandwiches? We make ours on a griddle, but it's the same thing. And just talking about them makes me want one.
Well, six, if I'm honest.

3
All Is Optional
Mar 21, 2011

Love the cardigan (where might one score a similar one?) and boy, do I miss queso. New England doesn't quite have a handle on it or maybe I'm too afraid to try it here.

4
Kathryn
Mar 21, 2011

Doesn't everyone know about the rule that your beer should match your cardigan? Thanks for spreading the word on such an important issue. And Austin looks very tasty!

5
Nicole
Mar 21, 2011

Tacolicious in the Marina (and I heard they are opening one in the Mission) makes a mean queso.

6
Locusts and Wild Honey
Mar 21, 2011

This Salt Lick omission may come between us, I fear.

7
Min
Mar 21, 2011

Love the FNL reference. I don't want to say too much in case you're a NBC watcher, but I've already seen the last season on DIRECTV and, man, talk about needing a box o' Kleenex! (Yes, I use actual Kleenex (TM).)

8
Janssen
Mar 21, 2011

Isn't Room incredible? I never would have read it if a very good friend of mine hadn't ASSURED me it wasn't gratuitous like I was sure it would be. It's horrifying, yes, but not overly so.

9
Pfieffer
Mar 21, 2011

Yeah, how can you be English and never had a cheese toasty! Something smells cheesy! Fake Twitter accounts indeed...[I'm totally kidding. I've never had a cheese toasty either. Although Gruyere and caramelized onions makes a mean grilled cheese.]

10
Starla
Mar 21, 2011

Is grilled cheese like Halloumi? I only just discovered that last year, and I now obsessed with it. I don't know how I spent my life not knowing about this amazing cheese!

11
Christy
Mar 21, 2011

Ah Austin - it's an awesome town. I grew up in rural East Texas, went to school at Texas A&M, then went to Austin for 2.5 yrs working for a big firm. It's a fabulous, fun town but it is & isn't real Texas. In some ways, it's like the countries at Epcot - it's a highly concentrated dose of cultural icons and most of the people there were not born there. And like most large cities, the inner core has retained most of the city's personality, while the suburbs are a ring of generic-ness - highways & big box stores. But I love Austin because it's lively - thanks in large part to UT and it's kept a large part of the city green, as opposed to Houston or Dallas. The Hill Country is gorgeous & different from any other part of Texas. If I'd know you were going, I would have recommended Chuy's, TexMex with an Austin twist & the best, best jalapeno ranch dressing - originally created for salad but awesome eaten with chips. Cannot believe you were deprived of queso for so long & glad you finally experienced it. You know how some people will rank resturants by the bread brought pre-meal? That's what we do with salsa & queso here. TexMex places with sub-standard salsa do not last long. :)

12
Aleya Bamdad
Mar 21, 2011

Anyone else here hungry? Grilled cheese, bbq, mmmm. Oh and love the picture with your husband!

13
MelissaOklahoma
Mar 21, 2011

Yeah for Austin! I love Austin and how could you not eat your way through that city and all its deliciousness?!? Such a special place...

14
shan
Mar 21, 2011

I'm SO jealous. Not over the queso, mind you, I've known about that deliciousness for ages now. No, about reading Room. I've had it on hold at the library for a really long time and it finally came in. . .while I was on the other side of the country for vacation! Boo. :-(

15
Megan
Mar 21, 2011

Oh, Room! I haven't read it yet, but this year it won my favorite book award (Alex Award, given by librarians): "books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults." Librarians are so super cute!

16
Traci
Mar 21, 2011

You should also know it is pretty easy to make your own delicious queso. In a crockpot, you melt a block of Velveeta, mix in a can of Rotel, and enjoy. Sometimes, I also add ground beef, cooked in taco seasoning.

17
SuzRocks
Mar 21, 2011

I can't believe you just tried queso! You Brits...maybe you should import some Mexicans to England, and then this travesty will not befall any more of your countrymen.

I just read a book review of Room, and I'm super excited to read it!

18
Julie
Mar 21, 2011

I just finished Room for my online book club. So, so good! I am heading to Austin for the first time in a couple of weeks. I am dieting like mad in preparation.

19
Isobel
Mar 22, 2011

I feel I should make clear that I was being facetious with my 'how can you be English and not have had a cheese toastie' comment - I'm not doubting Holly's nationality! Tone doesn't always carry well in writing, apparently.

20
Marcheline
Mar 22, 2011

Um.... "queso" is the Spanish word for "cheese". So... how hard can it be to get/make anywhere? There are probably a gazillion recipes for it on the 'net.

Duh - WINNING!

21
Robin
Mar 22, 2011

OH man, Room. It's great. I also could not put it down. Even as a sleep-deprived mama, I stayed up to read it.

22
jennifer
Mar 22, 2011

OMG, Holly, I can't believe I didn't mention the queso! I, too, had never heard of queso until I moved to Austin... and as you probably realized, it is pretty much liquid crack. warm, melty, gooey, cheesy, salty deliciousness.

looks like you had an amazing time. glad you enjoyed it! xo

23
silverblue
Mar 23, 2011

So... what's queso? (I'm Australian; don't hurt me!)

24
Heather B.
Mar 23, 2011

Hi. I'm happy I got to see you if only for the length of one beer. But that's ok because I tend to drink a lot at weddings so that will be fun for the both of us.

Whoo!

See you soon.

25
Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 23, 2011

Silverblue, queso is basically warm melted cheese mixed with chili peppers. You dip tortilla chips into it.

26
elz
Mar 23, 2011

Like I tweeted, I can NOT believe you just now had queso. It's shocking and sad. Queso is one of the top 10 reasons I will never move away from Texas again. Also, I have traveled the world (though not as extensive as you) and queso is quite possibly the world's most perfect food. Amen.

27
elz
Mar 23, 2011

Oh, and another thing- queso with venison in it is divine. Tell me you tried queso flameado?! Oh Lord. YUM.

28
brandi
Mar 24, 2011

Austin not the real Texas? Austin is the BEST Texas! I love it there so much.

29
S.
Mar 29, 2011

You know what's funny (to me anyway)? I just started watching Friday Night Lights so I "get" the title of this post. And the reason I started watching Friday Night Lights is because I remembered that you recommended it once in a blog post long ago and I thought I should check it out. And I love it. I love it so much I've started thinking in a Texan accent.

I also love your yellow cardigan.

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