Things to do in Austin: Whole Foods

While researching things to do in Austin before our trip, Whole Foods came up a lot on other people’s lists.  At first, I laughed at that. We already have plenty of Whole Foods in LA, why specifically visit a Whole Foods when traveling? Then I thought more about it.  I love going to super markets in different countries just to see what weird stuff is on the shelves.  Whole Foods started in Austin.  Someone on the food forums claimed that the barbecue at Whole Foods wasn’t half bad.  Sold!

The Whole Foods in Austin is huge. Not only is it almost Costco-sized, but there’s just so much stuff in it! Honey dispensers? Check! Lots of different types of made-to-order food and prepared foods? Check! Barbecue counter? Check! Wine and beer? Check! Walk-in beer closet? Check! Vegan donuts? Check! Luckily, our hotel was about a half mile walk from the market, so we visited it a couple times during our trip.

I was really curious to try the barbecue, but having just had dinner, didn’t want to order a whole sandwich. I asked the man behind the counter to cut me just a slice of moist brisket and he gave me a generous piece on a sheet of tin foil and said, “Here you go, on me!”  How nice!  I brought my slice of brisket to the eat-in counter, drizzled it with a little sauce and dug in with my bare hands.  It was moist, it was tender, it smoky, it was everything I wanted barbecue to be.  And if I had any doubts about the barbecue being made on location, a whiff of the barbecue smoke drifting in the downstairs parking lot cleared those doubts away.

This brisket at Whole Foods was surprisingly good! Best brisket I've ever had. Texas!

One thing I particularly liked about this Whole Foods is that there’s a basket of free fruit in the entrance for kids 12 and under to munch on!

So yes, when in Austin, make sure to visit the Whole Foods on Lamar.  Come with an appetite and you can get a pretty decent meal of barbecue and fixin’s.  Then, when you’re bored of that, you can walk across the street to Book People and browse the shelves and shelves of books.

Whole Foods Market
525 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
(512) 542-2200

Book People
603 N Lamar Blvd Austin, TX 78703
(512) 472-5050

Pok Pok (Portland)

What visit to Portland is complete without a meal at Pok Pok?  Although Los Angeles has more than a handful of well-known, authentic Thai restaurants, I had to try this one in Portland. At first, I was a bit skeptical about a non-Thai cooking Thai, but after tasting his food, Andy Ricker is legit.

Tamarind whisky sour and a limeaid.

We started off with some liquid refreshments to help us through the hot and humid weather.  Will got a lime-aid while I opted for a tamarind whisky sour.  The whisky sour hit the spot with a slight sweetness from the tamarind and a whole lot of tang.

Pok pok papaya salad

Next, we shared a vegetarian papaya salad.  While the papaya was crisp and fresh, there was a slight bitterness from the lime. It was also missing that characteristic funk I like with my papaya salad which usually comes in the form of fermented fish or small crab and fish sauce.  I would recommend getting this in its fishy glory instead of going for the vegetarian version.

Pok pok grilled eggplant.

I then had the grilled eggplant salad, which the waiter warned was quite spicy. This was perfect because I love a spicy but cold salad on a hot day.  The eggplant was charred perfectly and kept its smokey aroma.  The pungent and spicy dressing cut down on the rich, yellow, egg yolk from the hard boiled egg. The flesh of the eggplant was a wonderful softness that paired well with the crisp slices of raw onion.

Pok pok curry noodles

Will had the vegetarian curry noodle soup, which had a great flavor.  Slightly spiced from the curry paste, and a mellow sweetness from the coconut milk made up for the lack of meat taste in the broth.  He was tempted to come back another day and order this again. It’s such a simple and wholesome dish, I’m sad that no where in LA has it.

Pok Pok
3226 Southeast Division Street
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-1387

Focaccerias in Celle Ligure

On our way down the Ligurian coast, we stopped by another sea-side town to fill up on carbs. Really, with so many great focaccerias along the way, how could we not? We got off the autostrada at a sign that led to Celle Ligure.

Because of our hunger, we were lured into a cafe for a coffee and some focaccia.  The cafe looked bustling and there seemed to be a high turnover of slices of focaccia, but when we bit into the focaccia, something was missing.

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About a block of walking later, we found this little shop crowded with people and with a line going out the door.  I stepped in and saw people against the window waiting patiently with numbered tickets in their hand while other people at the counter were dictating their orders. I grabbed a number from their ticket machine and joined in the wait.

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This focacceria was Serious Business.  While waiting, we saw them bring out many trays of the freshly baked bread.  The one that spoke to me in particular was this pesto and cheese one.  Usually, I’m a fiend for cured meats, but even the thinly sliced meat on the adjacent focaccia couldn’t lure me away form this pesto one.

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One bite and I was sold. The cheese was soft and oozing. The pesto was fresh tasting, savory, and went perfectly with the bread. Now that I’m writing this, I’m sorry I didn’t smuggle some in my luggage.

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Will definitely missed out on the pesto and cheese focaccia, but he made out alright with a plain one and a potato one. The potato one had thinly sliced potatoes, lots of salt, and some rosemary.