One of the fun things about a road trip is the food. While we are not averse to grabbing a cup of coffee or a coke at MacDonald’s on driving days for the sake of convenience, we are trying to mix up our culinary experiences. This means trying to hit some of the local favorites wherever we are. Here are some of the highlights so far….
In Austin, the order of the day, of course was barbecue, at Blacks BBQ. As I mentioned in a previous post, perhaps the best brisket I’ve ever eaten.
Believe it or not, one of my brother-in-law’s favorite eateries is Waffle House. They are ubiquitous in the South, but he often laments that the closest one to The Cities is in Kansas City! On our drive from Austin to New Orleans, we stopped in for a pecan waffle! He was one happy camper!
After consulting the site for off-beat places to eat in New Orleans, last night we settled on a place called Rocky and Carlo’s a non-descript little place across the street from an oil refinery.
It’s claim to fame, as noted on a local website, is “fabulously oversized portions of Sicilian dishes and New Orleans classics including veal parmesean and the most popular item on the menu, baked macaroni & cheese, served with brown or red gravy.”
In this case “red gravy” is marinara sauce!
I have never in my life seen such a large portion of food for a single order. That’s THREE pieces of veal parmesan, which in our case fed three people!
My brother-in-law and niece, who have a more adventurous culinary spirit, opted for shrimp and oyster Po’ Boys respectively.
Our main reason for going to Austin on this trip was to visit my niece, who has fled the Minnesota winter for warmer climes. When not working at her day job teaching ESL, she and her boyfriend spend all their time on a business they started called Lost Pines Yaupon Tea.
Made from the Yaupon tree, a member of the holly family, it is the only caffinated plant/tea native to the U.S.
Here’s how the tea is described on their site:
Yaupon (YO-pawn) is naturally caffeinated. It’s also rich in the related stimulant theobromine (from Greek “food of the gods”), the pleasure molecule familiar to lovers of dark chocolate. While yaupon contains less caffeine than coffee or tea, it contains more theobromine. This more balanced ratio gives yaupon its focused, jitter-free buzz.
Former coffee drinkers Jason Ellis, Heidi Wachter, and John Seibold launched Lost Pines Yaupon Tea earlier this year. Ellis had been experimenting with and enjoying the naturally sweet beverage for several years, but it wasn’t until the other partners tasted it for themselves that the group realized they were on to something. North America’s only caffeinated plant, yaupon (pronounced YO-pawn) is a cousin to South America’s guayusa and yerba maté. Known as “black drink” to Native Americans, yaupon tea was brewed strong and consumed on a daily basis for centuries. But with the end of the Civil War, and lifting of naval blockades, imported Chinese teas and coffee resumed their status as the beverages of choice.
After three “shorter” road trips this year (Oregon in April, Kansas in July, and Montana in August), we’re finally getting around to our annual epic road trip. Being that it is November, we decided to make a swing south, with stops in Austin, New Orleans, Panama City Beach, and Memphis, visiting relatives and taking in some of the sights.
The first leg of our journey was a 2-day drive on Interstate 35 (I-35). We got on the freeway in Roseville, MN, and got off 1200 miles later in Austin. Just one highway (except for a detour to avoid a crash in a construction zone between Waco and Austin).
I-35 cuts through the heart of the country, from Duluth, MN to the Mexican border in Laredo , TX, traversing 6 states along the way. (Note: most descriptions of the highway have it starting in Laredo and going north; I, obviously, think it’s the other way around.)
While there is, to be honest, a certain monotany in driving 1200 miles along one highway, it is an interesting way to watch and experience the variations in geography, climate, and language as you make your way south. We left behind corn fields being harvested in Minnesota for the “home on the range” terrain of central Texas, with a few cotton fields thrown in for fun. Bare trees in Minnesota slowly gave way to ones that were still colorful to the still-fully green trees of Austin.
And somewhere along the way the accent of American English shifted from the nasal whine of “Minnesotan” to “southern.” Based on my numerous trips up and down the interstate I would say that the shift begins to take place at about the Iowa-Missouri border. What I’d love to do sometime is stop at every truck stop along the way and ask a clerk to read a short sentence to see if I can plot the shifting of the vowels as I move south. Another time.
I-35 is an important part of life in the Twin Cities with 35W going through Minneapolis, and 35E going through St. Paul, so it’s easy to forget that it is not “our highway.” This also means that it is strange to go to other cities that give pride of place to the highway. I find myself wanting to say, “hey, that’s OUR highway, not YOURS.”
But maybe that’s the point; it doesn’t belong to Minnesota, or Texas, or any of the other states along the way. It’s Middle America’s Main Street!
Many of you have written asking for a list of the 11 books I mentioned in the last post, that the four of us knocked off on our road trip. Here it is. I will leave it to you to figure out who read what!
And just like that our epic road trip comes to an end. We finally rolled back into town Monday evening after a LONG drive across northern Wisconsin. We drove 5655 miles (just 40 shy of what we drove on our trip to Alaska 2 years ago) through 7 states and provinces.
It was a fantastic trip, and we all left a bit of our hearts in Newfoundland. I’m already plotting my return.
On our last day on the island we drove through the fog to visit the Rose Blanche Lighthouse, at the end of the highway that runs east from Port aux Basque. We were not disappointed.
If you ever have a chance to visit Newfoundland, do it!