How bad of me to skimp on recounting my recent visit to Austin and the charming Diane von Austinburg. We had a lovely, lovely time. Our definition of “lovely” might not match up with other’s, but do we care? No, we do not.
Essentially the visit consisted of us visiting many of the finer thrift stores in town and canvassing their aisles while keeping up a running diss of their merchandise. Or “merchandise.” To quote myself from several previous times “This all looks like the leftovers from a bad garage sale.” But that’s the best part. We examine a mind numbing array of the chipped and should-have-been-discarded, items of dubious function, and what we were sure was the contents of hundreds of dead grannies’ homes, shoveled into the Goodwill maw by their undeserving heirs and then we don’t buy a single thing.
I did fall sort of in love with a love seat upholstered in a velour Union Jack. Fortunately, Diane was there to quietly steer me away even as I was scheming how to ship it here, to an apartment where there is absolutely no room for it.
And then we went out for enchiladas. Oh, such good Mexican food. High class fare from interior Mexico, low class Tex-Mex in a joint that had started out life as a laundrymat, and a great place we love with such delicious tortillas.
Of course it was not all beat up Pottery Barn rejects and guacamole. After all, there has to be some low point. Who would have dreamed it would turn out to be pasta?
I was staying the very fancy Fairmont hotel. It was excellent. When I made the reservation, I signed up for their benefits program, which I always do wherever I stay. Usually it’s not much, maybe a free bottled water (Whoo-Hoo) but this time it turned out to be a goldmine, baby. From a private registration desk (oh, right this way, Mr. mrpeenee,) and this cool concierge lobby with snacks of a most delicious nature (a dessert bar at night with these adorable miniature French pastries. Another six cream puffs? Why, I think I will.) And a big, comfortable room. What more could you ask for?
Well, that’s where the pasta comes in. Diane works nearby and had come to meet me after I checked in. We hit the Happy Hour snack bar and should have just stuck with that, but instead decided to slide downstairs to their real restaurant and have real food.
The dining room had a theme, which in my experience is never a good idea. If you’re a restaurant, your theme should be “food.” Instead, this place had the walls lined with fake facades of an old timey Texas town. I think? It was hard to tell. It was very Disneyland. I was willing to ignore it and hang with Diane, but I ordered pasta carbonara and that’s where the real trouble came in.
Perhaps you are familiar with pasta carbonara? It is one of the simple dishes that is not easy. It consists of eggs, bacon and cheese over pasta. The secret is how you add the ingredients, but I’m not here to give away my culinary secrets, I am here to gripe.
We both got our dinners eventually and started in while chatting. After a few bites, i realized my pasta was missing the bacon. Called the waitress over, explained, she took it back to the kitchen, reemerged with (possibly) a new plate, which I poked around in and announced, “This is the same thing, there’s no bacon is this either.” She valiantly offered to make another run at it, but she had a look on her face, a look I have myself worn at times, a look that said “The chef is a screaming, egomaniacal lunatic, please don’t send me back in there.” So I just said never mind, take it off the check, we’re fine.
Despite that, before I could finish stealing most of Diane’s excellent Asian pot thing, a manager type slithered over with a third bowl of the pasta. You’ll never guess what was not in there! As she was standing there, I demonstrated my now honed technique for bacon hunting. “The chef says it’s called ‘pancetta’ and he slices it very finely.” The whole “pancetta not bacon” pushed my blood level up a few notches and I offered her 20 bucks if she could find any of this finely sliced pancetta. Sliced on a microscopic level, I don’t know. I did explain the dish only had three ingredients, it seemed difficult to overlook one of them.
I waved it away. Diane approved, noting that by then, one of the ingredients no doubt included spit. She went home and I went back up to the fancy guests’ lobby and to wait for the dessert bar.