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These are a few of our favourite things that have opened up in Austin since March 2012…

For a city that knows how to enjoy one of its favourite pasttimes, these new bars do not disappoint. What we see are bars that are increasingly pushing the envelope – not stopping with Prohibition-era cocktails, but moving onto carefully curated lists of locally or well-sourced beer, alchemic cocktails and novel wines. And all this while paying attention to the fact that our hunger for great food  – whether a nosh over a happy hour or a late night plate – never seems to get satiated.

Midnight Cowboy

What bar doesn’t entice you to check them out with this opening: While our cocktails might loosen inhibitions and the building’s past might encourage licentiousness, we ask that you refrain from excessive displays of public affection and unwelcome advances towards members of other parties. Why yes, the house rules we’ve always looked for.

As it suggests, Midnight Cowboy has a storied past – a former ‘modeling’ or Oriental massage parlour upstairs from Dirty 6th that has now been turned into a Prohibition-era speakeasy. If the light’s on upstairs, take your (slim) chances at a walk-in by pressing on the rather anonymous buzzers downstairs. For a safer bet, just reserve online. It’s a bit of work since you’ll have to work around a 2 hour slot when you can get it, since Food & Wine among others have tagged it one of the best bars in America. But who says all enjoyment should be easy.

And when your cocktail comes prepared table-side – or at least when you know well enough to order the Smoke & Mirrors, it does – you know that enjoyment doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth it.

Weather Up – 1808 East Cesar Chavez

This is the first Austin outpost for NYC bartender, Kathryn Weatherup’s craft cocktail bar with others widely recognized in Tribeca and Brooklyn. The cocktail menu is outstanding, with a speciality ice program no less. Try a stalwart: the Manhattan absolutely will not disappoint; then go from there.  And a critical point for the Hobbyists, they have a great menu – from outstanding happy hour specials to proper features like oysters, mussels and charcuterie. Having trained as a bartender in Paris, it seemed Weatherup couldn’t avoid the inevitability of ensuring her clients are well satiated on all fronts. They have a great happy hour (4-7pm!) that not only serves Sunday Funday well, but more importantly is industry-friendly, running from Sunday to Thursday. And Tiki Mondays are a fixture, always.


Just to check out the taps alone, Banger’s makes it worth it. And striking out on a path different than elsewhere on Rainey Street is something that we respect….and then we learned that Banger’s makes its own sausages. Assuming this meant sausages for most, pretzels for the veggies in the house, we were absolutely stunned to learn that they make a couple veg options. Not to detract at all from the 100 taps that we first mentioned…

Truly a great addition to the Rainey St. scene and a mandatory destination for any beer lover in your group this year over SX. Whether a fledgling cicerone or not, Banger’s will get them at either the beer or the sausages, and take down the rest of us with the house-made pretzels and a surprisingly good pub-level wine list.

Craft Pride

More beer? Don’t stray too far from Rainey St. then til you hit Craft Pride, a pub that just opened in time for SX. With 54 local Texas beer on tap, you are bound to be able to do your due diligence here on our great state’s craft beer community. Oh and by the way, local resto, Bacon, happens to have a food truck out back. Be sure to grab one of their Bacon Flag T-shirts, after you’ve recovered from the power combo of craft beer and pork products.


Some bars have a food program, others may have a wine program. Freedmen’s has a barbeque program. And a serious one at that. Evan LeRoy mans the pit taking care to go beyond that and make his own pickles, jams and barbeque sauce reduced from turkey and beef stock, smoking beets and cooking offal beans as his sides. Oh and sorry, the bevvies? Yes…it’s a craft cocktail lounge that you can easily settle into its gorgeous, historic interior dating from the late 1800s and give some time to the menu. The cocktail ingredients are made in house, something we always respect. Sunday Brunch with a brisket benedict and a Bloody Swine. Oh and one of our favorites: Whisky Wednesdays all March – $3 Jameson’s.

Hi Hat Public House

Duck confit nachos? Why yes….Oh are we blocking again on the great food that our Austin bars are offering? Sorry, it’s becoming a regular fixation. This East side joint had us at the name, after having one of our group being an early percussionist. Giving that up for a cocktail glass years later, finding spots like this are a great nostalgic moment. Hi Hat has a great beer list, great food and is a spot that you’ll be happy you found with a great atmosphere. Reverse Happy Hour & Half off Wine Wednesdays are to be checked out here! Hi Hat’s closed Mondays…likely not over SX, but just a heads up.

The Workhorse

This is a great spot that’s opened up on the North Loop strip in what everyone will tell you is the old Parlor spot (an Austin stalwart that has focused on its off-Guadalupe location). Focusing on great local drafts, the Workhorse also has locally produced or well sourced spirits and wine. They keep a newly tapped list of beer going that you can check out on their site. And best of all perhaps? A rare bar trying its hand at strictly locally sourced wine, they also do pairings with plates from our favourite, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Once you figure out just where to start on the North Loop crawl, this will be on the hit list.

The Chicago House

A new downtown craft beer spot to check out with  a great list and the care that comes with craft conditioned ale. Easy to get to from most SX haunts, the Chicago House is situated in an old 1880s historic building where you can grab a delicious pour and re-group.

508 Bar

Situated behind Pelon’s at 8th & Red River, you’ll find this spot focusing on cocktails and margaritas. With a solid happy hour from 2-7pm with $5 house margs, we’re sure that you will find not shortage of satiation to set you up to take on your evening!


This lovely husband/wife duo, Mike & Jessica Sanders, have just celebrated their 1st anniversary. So in truth, they were just cracking their doors open when SXSW12 hit last year. All the same, they are part of the renaissance that is North Loop that deserves some love here. Great spot, great cocktails, great beer selection, great pubbing wine list and…wait for it…great homemade bar snacks. We’re good. Check it out on your North Loop pub crawl that we’re setting up for you – you won’t regret it.

Casino South Side Lounge

Little brother to Casino El Camino downtown, this lounge is worth the trek deep south if you have wheels or a nice local friend to take you on a bit of a crawl. Casino downtown is known for its real vibe and world famous burgers  that have long attracted the attention of the Food Network among others – naturally making Casino South Side well worth the drive. And a session there. Open noon til 2am throughout SX.


Hmmm….so what could possibly go better with a happy hour than wine? Positively nothing, except perhaps some great company & olives. For any oenophile, happy hour can sometimes be a wasteland of options…unless you’re strategic about where you plan your happy hours that is.

Vino Vino

We personally love this happy hour and make it one of our regulars…The wine selection is so carefully curated, and turned over often enough that you never risk getting wine list fatigue. The staff is fantastic with a great level of knowledge that never wains in spite of their ever changing list. And the food is fantastic. During happy hour, they have $6 appetizers that range from their ridiculously good flatbread pizza to addictively marinated Castelvetrano olives and they offer $2 off all glasses of wine. It’s a great atmosphere that is truly styled for a wine lover – with a decor of stacked wine racks that can entertain any oenophile for much longer than a mere happy hour.

House Wine

Where to even start with the happy hours available at this South Austin spot? Every day they have great selections for $5/glass with specials Monday to Saturday 3-5pm, reverse happy hours at other times, along with wine tasting classes on Tuesday night. Great patio tucked away off of South Lamar that definitely is worth checking out!

Cork & Co.

If you happen to find yourself downtown and needing a laid-back space and a solid glass of red to carry you through the rest of your day at SXSW, Cork & Co. will be your place. Perfectly situated for everything going on at SX at Congress & 3rd, it will be hard to avoid stopping in for their happy hour. $3 off their glasses of wine…you can’t say no.

the backspace

This is a little gem just off Dirty 6th that we hope stays just that way! Brought by Chef Shawn Cirkiel and his team from Parkside situated just in front, it’s a great, intimate little spot that belies where it’s located. Their happy hour (every day til 6:30) is amazing with 1/2 off all wine on their great, representative Italian list as well as 1/2 off all of their delicious appetizers. Of course, being focused on classic napolitano pizza with a wood-burning oven, just try not ordering one.

Uncorked Tasting Room & Wine Bar

Certified Wine Professional, Ron Wright, has put together a great selection of wine and a great team to help you seek a moment of calm from the storm. Set just off I-35 on the east side with a patio looking west over the city profile, the spot always seemed like a curious one – til we got out there to enjoy the profile of our great city while getting off our feet one day. Only to learn that Ron practically loves to give away his wine on Mondays when all glasses are 50% off…

The Aviary

We love this place. What more to say? It combines our love of wine, delicious cheese, great company…and fantastic design over excellent 80s music. Done. Marco has put together a great list of wine that you can enjoy on its own, maybe with the odd surprise bottle being offered or alongside an outstanding cheese plate.


And what happy hour list could close without a reverse happy hour? After 10pm all of the healthy pours at this new North Loop joint are $5. What more does a girl need to say? They have a great wine list, which is something we would like to see more of at local pubs – a pub doesn’t need a wine program, but it wouldn’t hurt to get with the program a little. So, all that to say that we have managed to taste a few wines up here that have caught our eye at Spec’s – and for $5 as a follow-up to a great dinner at Foreign & Domestic or to change things up from a Brown Sugar Snow at the Tigress across the street, yes! Oh, and did we mention they have homemade Chex mix?

There is something about Dorothy and Herbert Vogel that gets to the heart of what collecting art should be and truly is at its most honestly pursued incarnation. But this something is such a stark contrast to what we see in the art market daily that you can’t help but be caught off guard and struck so strongly by it – that it brings you to gasps in looking over their near four decades of collecting. This is the point in the post when we flag that there is an emohobbyist post ahead, if you haven’t caught it already. But never more warranted.

The Vogels collected each in their own right up to their meeting in 1963, but only around that period did they begin in earnest to collect art. Herbie had just purchased a Picasso lithograph prior to meeting Dorothy, which they followed up with a Picasso vase during their engagement and off they went. Throughout their working lives, Dorothy worked as a reference library in the New York Public Library system and Herbie at the Postal Office. Herbie took a graveyard shift so that he could take art history and painting classes at the Institute of Fine Arts during the day. They lived on Dorothy’s salary and devoted Herbie’s entirely to collecting art. They live in a rent controlled apartment throughout, saving enough room for a bed, a small kitchen table and chairs, devoting the rest of the apartment to storing their collection.

What is extraordinary for collectors goes truly beyond even that. They forged relationships, strong indelible friendships, with artists that endured throughout their lives. They devoted their lives to these friendships, to becoming engrossed and truly understanding the movements of art that were burgeoning around them. Herbie had a Saturday afternoon phone date with Sol LeWitt until the artist’s death as he had with several close artist friends. Christo and Jean-Claude credited Herbie and Dorothy with the ability to catch them up on six months of the New York art scene over one dinner, devoting as they did all of their spare moments of the day to thinking about art.

And think about art they did. They got at the core essential sense of art, that some likely never do. But without breaking it down to something esoteric – instead talking about their engagement and their quest to understand it in common sense terms. And yet they collected some of the least tangible, the most inaccessible art that has been produced in the modern period. Minimalism, conceptualism, post-conceptualism – and abstract expressionism, when it wasn’t so widely accepted by the art market.

Over time the Vogels came to be recognized for what they had amassed – a collection that has become one of the most truly spectacular collections in history. They have collected several artists’ work in depth as has not been done elsewhere – such artists as Richard Tuttle and others look to the Vogels’ collection for their own retrospective sense of their oeuvre.

As they started to engender more interest in their collection, Herbie and Dorothy remained committed to donating it to a public institution where people could see it for free since they amassed it while earning salaries working for public agencies. Herbie’s vote for the ultimate recipient, the National Gallery, also happened to be because that was where he took Dorothy for their first date – and her first lesson in art history. They ultimately donated the collection to the National Gallery – in what took a series of five transport trucks to deliver the works from their tiny apartment. To this day they make twice yearly pilgrimages to the Gallery to see their collection in what Herbie describes as trips to go see the kids who’ve gone away to college. The Gallery didn’t have the space to house the entire collection, which led to the beginning of the 50 Works for 50 States project. Together with the Gallery, the Vogels selected 50 works to go to a museum within each of the 50 states. The Blanton in Austin was privileged enough to receive the 50 on behalf of the people of Texas, which were shown in The Collecting Impulse: Fifty Works from Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, which closed last month.

And such a truly beautiful gift it is. The Blanton had previously received a Tuttle as a gift, with these further works by giving such a breadth to his collected work. The entire 2500 works can be seen together on, along with additional details about the Vogels. Without a doubt, the clearest glimpse into their lives is through the 2008 documentary by Megumi Sazaki, giving a glimpse into this lifelong pursuit by such a pair to surround themselves, to get at art and let it get into them.

Following up on our Smoked Salmon recipe from last week –  -  here is another favourite recipe of ours, which we have learned to make with the great fisherman, Murman, in Terrace. This is the perfect key to last minute hobbying and a great way to make sure that you have delicious smoked salmon in the house long after the salmon stop running.


delicious, fresh salmon
1 cup brown sugar*
1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup thai red chili sauce**
several large grinds of black pepper


*In order to make the essential core of the brine, you must keep a 4:1 ratio (brown sugar to salt). Use this ratio to ensure that you have enough brine for the amount of salmon that you have. As long as you keep the ratio in mind, you can built out this recipe to accommodate as much fish as you are lucky enough to have!

**Siracha or sambal oelek would work as well if you would like a spicier brine or were trying to be somewhat mindful of the additional sugar going into this brine.
Cut the salmon into filets according to the size you choose. We like to use filets that are about 10″ in length, with the width depending on the size of your catch!

Mix the brine together. Place the salmon filets side by side in a glass casserole dish and layer the brine overtop. Layer any remaining filets on top and coat them with the brine, ensuring that no salmon remains uncoated. Leave the salmon covered in the fridge overnight in the brine. Preheat your Big Chief smoker at 150 degrees. Rinse off the brine, then pat the salmon dry with a paper towel or clean towel.  Smoke the salmon for 4-6 hours at 150 degrees. While your salmon is smoking, sterilize your jars and prepare your lids and rings. We recommend using either 4 oz. or 8 oz. jars.

Carefully remove the salmon from the smoker. Then, portion the salmon into the sterilized jars so that the salmon comes up to the bottom ring of the jar. Place the lids and rings onto the jars, only very loosely tightening the rings. For hot water bath canning, process your jars for 4 hours. For pressure canning, process your jars for 90 minutes at 15 lbs pressure.  Remove carefully – and enjoy your delicious canned smoked salmon for up to a year!

We love to serve this as is on fresh sliced  bread or flatbread with cream cheese, red onion and capers. It also makes a delicious appetizer for last minute hobbying in no time – simply mix with cream cheese (low-fat or no-fat works great), some fresh dill, a couple grounds of coarse black pepper and serve as is, or cool in the fridge until you can roll it into a ball and coat with your favourite chopped nuts.

Since the salmon are running and can be found fresh on the docks and at markets throughout B.C., it seems like the best time of year to pass on this recipe. We just returned from a great trip home to Terrace, B.C. (yes, Vancouverites, that’s past Hope) where we fished the Skeena River and caught some delicious sockeye. More on the stunning scenery on the Skeena (shown above) and around Terrace in another post…for the time being, we were intent on getting the sockeye fileted and brined, and into our dad’s smoker. Since first learning this recipe years ago from our dad, the great Murman, he has had to replace his Big Chief smoker. Certainly not the most p.c. name of smoker, but it produced spectacular smoked salmon for years…and learning on this new one was certainly not the same. At any rate, find a corner of your yard or deck in the city where you can safely put a smoker or barter for some real estate in a friend’s yard as we’re doing in exchange for some smoked salmon and you’re set. Murman’s recipe is meant to be enjoyed and tweaked as you make it your own – so keep us posted with your variations!


delicious, fresh salmon
1 cup brown sugar*
1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup thai red chili sauce**
several large grinds of black pepper


*In order to make the essential core of the brine, you must keep a 4:1 ratio (brown sugar to salt). As long as you keep that in mind, you can built out this recipe to accommodate as much fish as you are lucky enough to have!

**Siracha or sambal oelek would work as well if you would like a spicier brine or were trying to be somewhat mindful of the additional sugar going into this brine.
Cut the salmon into filets according to the size you choose. We like to use filets that are about 10″ in length, with the width depending on the size of your catch!
Mix the brine together. Place the salmon filets side by side in a glass casserole dish and layer the brine overtop. Layer any remaining filets on top and coat them with the brine, ensuring that no salmon remains uncoated. Leave the salmon covered in the fridge overnight in the brine. Preheat your Big Chief smoker at 150 degrees. Rinse off the brine, then pat the salmon dry with a paper towel or clean towel.  Smoke the salmon for 4-6 hours at 150 degrees, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees and smoke the salmon for two hours. Remove carefully – and enjoy! To have the salmon keep, use a vacuum sealer to contain each individual filet and store them in the fridge. While this photo below does not do our gorgeous smoked salmon justice, the vacuum sealed package does keep away the hordes while we try to ration our last few filets before our next visit!

Cormac McCarthy - All the Pretty Horses

Although it’s a McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses, doesn’t necessarily break up the list of coming of age / first romances that seems to be unfolding on this list – but it does so in a characteristically McCarthy way. I read this on one of my first trips to Austin and couldn’t put it down – except to think about hitting the road south for Mexico. If you have seen the film, try to leave it at the door and let this novel take on a life of its own. His prose is often without par, making you stop short and re-read sentences with a respect for his skill level. His characters are dense and raw, taking on a real presence with you as you read it that is not often attainable for many writers.

The duo who have pushed the envelope and succeeded in developing Frieze into the successful art fair that it is today, taking over London each October, have expanded across the ocean with Frieze New York, which launches today. Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, with artist, Tom Gidley, founded Frieze magazine in 1991 and launched Frieze Art Fair in London in 2003.

Having just missed Frieze last fall in London, and now missing the launch of Frieze New York, we are understandably green but coping through the help of great art fair online material these days that allow you to live vicariously. For now. Frieze New York is taking place on Randall’s Island with 180 of the leading contemporary galleries worldwide as exhibitors, an impressive Sculpture Park curated by Tom Eccles and Frieze Projects, which launches annual artists’ commissions for the fair.

Art Newspaper estimates that art worth a total of $2 billion has been brought to the city for Frieze New York, falling quickly on the heels of the sale of Munch’s The Scream on Wednesday night at Sotheby’s NYC, creating an auction record at $119 million. Signs that the art world is the canary in the gold mine, as this market appears to be rebounding to pre-recession highs? Perhaps. But what it does do is push the increasingly loud debate of investment vs. obsession to the fore, which often distinguishes the rise of art investment as distinct from the acquisitions by art lovers. As Barbara Kruger’s 2012 work, Too Big To Fail, queried the financial system’s stability, so too can the same question be poised at the secondary art market for art masters. Across the Frieze exhibitor list, it is by far the secondary market pieces that will be making up the biggest portion in terms of dollar figures of works brought to New York this weekend. In this, Frieze will take its place amongst the list of international art fairs where the same level of deals take place in what may be one of the only truly burgeoning markets at the moment.

Feeding one of our favourite trends in the art world, Frieze has a virtual component, of course: Frieze Virtual New York 2012, where you can search by terms such as the artist’s age,  price, etc. amongst 1560 artworks represented by galleries at the fair.

One of the best, but sometimes overlooked, aspects to any art fair: the lectures. On this, it doesn’t look like Frieze NY will miss the mark. Of course, no art fair lecture series would be complete these days without a nod to the man, Gerhard Richter, having just had his retrospective at the Tate Modern. Sunday afternoon’s talk, On Land Occupation, should be a relevant discussion about art and practice moving beyond the walls of institutions with artists and writers looking at land occupation and different ways to reimagine borders. It will be interesting to see what reviews follow Friday’s Expanding Museums discussion about the contemporary art museum’s role in the way that we experience our cities and cultures which is to be held by a panel of directors and a chairman of only the biggest stalwarts in the NYC scene. Being francophiles though and avid readers of Andre Malraux’s work, we are green with envy to be missing Georges Didi-Huberman’s discussion of Malraux’s Le Musee Imaginaire.

And for the celebrity car crash that no one seems to be able to turn their eyes away from already? Courtney Love’s first ever art show entitled And She’s Not Even Pretty by Frieze exhibitor, Fred Torres Collaborations. While her watercolours and works on paper are said to be surprisingly good and even giving Frieze darling, Karen Kilimnik, a run for her money, is it necessary for her to clutch a photocopied Art and Culture by her great-uncle, Clement Greenberg as her invitation into this world, as she apparently did at Wednesday’s opening. We are not entirely sure what the granddaddy of modern and contemporary art criticism would have thought of her work and, perhaps her most notorious work, her life – but we’ll see what the critics continue to say at least of Love and the fair.

Zadie Smith - White Teeth

Smith made herself noticed instantly with this amazing first novel. It offers you a view into South London and the ethnic melange of cultures that is contemporary England. Exploring the lives of two kids from very different cultures raised in an area of South London, falling in love and dealing with the fallout, White Teeth enraptured me with its characters and their backgrounds, while doing so with a sense of humanity and insight into the struggles of  many immigrant communities, all framed in the context of a universal story of coming of age and first romance.

Eden Robinson - Monkey Beach

For anyone travelling up the Northwest Coast – either on a fishing trip or an exploration of the Haida Gwaii, this book is for you. Robinson, a young Haisla/Heiltsuk writer from Kitimat, B.C., received several well-deserved accolades for this stunning novel, including a Giller nod. Set in Kitamaat Village, it’s an enthralling story of two youth growing up in this remote setting and all that comes with that – dealing with getting older, falling in love, grief and loss.

After a SXSW hiatus – and, admittedly, a post-SX recovery hiatus – our Travel List series is back to help you toss around ideas about just which book will make it into your suitcase this Easter weekend. Post-SX, what better kind of author to consider than a music writer? Rob Sheffield has written for SPIN and most recently pit out two musically grounded memoirs of diffthirst periods in his life. While we missed meeting him at SX where he was signing books & getting some love, we still love him and think this is a truly great read.

Rob Sheffield – Love is a Mix-Tape (Life and Loss One Song At A Time)

For anyone with the slightest nostalgia for the ’90s, Sheffield can instantly take you back with this great tribute to both that decade’s music and his wife who he lived the music with. Framed in the context of the mix tapes that these two music lovers, and eventual music journalists, made for each other, the book will have you wishing you never threw yours out years ago. Each chapter starts out with a scrawled out cover of a mix tape that either he or his then girlfriend, soon to be wife, made for each other and for distinct moments of their lives, Sheffield takes you into his relationship as they experience the 90s opening up a whole different era of music as first Pavement and then Nirvana changed everything.

Sheffield’s book is, at the same time, poignant and heart-wrenching, with the risk of a few tears as Sheffield takes you back to this moment in his life – but which leaves you looking ahead with him and with no shortage of music to unearth. Full disclosure…This book holds a special place in my own memory today, having read it on my first trip to Austin almost two years ago, only to discover that Pavement was playing the last night of their reunion tour (after a 20 yr bitter musical divorce) on my last night in a city I was fast falling in love with, admittedly at a velocity something less than the guy I was falling in love with here. Tickets bought instantly, it would be my first of many concerts to catch at Stubb’s. And Sheffield’s mix tape lists have stirred a lot of sessions of digging up old 90s albums, our own tapes sadly having long been tossed out.