around austin

Around Austin (Birthday Edition): Uchi

Yesterday I turned 22, which is surreal and wonderful. It sounds so much older and more mature than 21 does to me, and I feel like I have big strides to make to fill the number. But I do feel like this is the only birthday where I could honestly answer "yes" when people asked me if I felt any older -- the year prior had been one of such growth and development and adventure, and I can feel the ways that I've changed from where I used to be. There are a few traditions for my birthday, the biggest one of course being the birthday dinner. Since we moved to Austin, dinner has almost exclusively been at Uchi, save for last year when we deviated and went to Qui. This year we returned to our norm and I have to say, nothing feels like home on my birthday quite like Uchi. The food is always delicious and beautiful, the service is always wonderful, and it's one of the top places I recommend for dining in Austin when you visit. I want to take you through our meal, so you can get a feel for what to expect when you go there yourself! Some of the photos are blurry, as the lighting is dark in the restaurant, but I hope you still enjoy the journey.

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Spider Roll

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Zero Sen Roll

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Unagi Sushi

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Foie Nigiri

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Mackerel Nigiri

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Eiko Fuji Sake

Around Austin: A Human Experience: Beyoncé

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Last Friday I got dressed up and went with one of my best friends to TEMPER's launch event and art show -- A Human Experience: Beyoncé. TEMPER is a start-up film and arts production company here in Austin, co-founded by Illyana Bocanegra and Breanna Granzow. Their mission statement is to "explore mediums in various perspectives and showcase people."

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This was the first of a series of art shows entitled "A Human Experience" and focused on Beyoncé, or Queen Bey. If you're wondering why they picked Beyoncé, they said this on their event page:

Beyonce, or Queen Bey, is a growing, universal symbol of equality and sisterhood as well as a world-renowned, powerful pop icon inspiring others. She’s an inspiring leader with talent and grace and she’s influenced so many artists to create work that is both important and captivating.

Also, because Bey. 

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The event featured work from Anthony Miles, Allie Heffernan, Allie McCleary, Brittany Laurent, Deanna Crane, Kelley Pettus, Lauren L'Amie, Lauren Belmore, and Netanya Bomani. Each artist showed a different perspective on Beyoncé, which was incredibly interesting to see.

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I loved seeing so many different mediums and reading all of the artist statements to learn more about their thought process while creating the pieces. My friend and I had a lot of fun talking about all of the art and exploring various meanings and interpretations. 

It was also super fun to see how everyone interacted with the art. The mirror prompted a lot of selfies and people took photos of the art / the people with everything from DSLR's to iPhones.

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I had such a great time at the event and can't wait to see what else TEMPER goes on to do! They are onto something special and have so much tangible passion for what they do, it's contagious. 

 Photographs taken by Alec Wyman

Around Austin: Ramen Tatsu-Ya

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For my last Around Austin, I felt it only right to save my FAVORITE restaurant in Austin for last -- Ramen Tatsu-Ya. A small, intimate, warm ramen shop in North Austin, where I'm on friendly terms with most of the staff (& they recognize me and talk about more than what I'm ordering because I've been there so much), have a Usual Order, and always leave with a full stomach and a smile on my face.

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The menu is limited, but literally everything I've ever had is absolutely delicious. And more than worth the wait to get in. Did you see the line in the above photograph?! I think the longest I've ever waited for a bowl of ramen was an hour and even the friends I was with, who had never been before, agreed that it was worth how long we had to stand in line. Tatsu-Ya is open for lunch and dinner service, they offer gluten free options, and have a vegetarian/vegan friendly bowl on Sunday nights during dinner service. You can customize your bowl pretty much however you want, omitting different ingredients and adding others.

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Tatsu-Ya also features a good sized drink menu, and each drink is shown on this staircase display with the price, name, and description on a white card, and there are various types of Japanese candies available closer to the cashier. I usually stick to the Oolong Tea when I go, but I have tried the UCC coffee with milk and the Calpico on the end.

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This is my usual: the Tonkatsu Sho-Yu (number two on the board) without scallions and an extra ajitama egg. Now, I can't stand eggs. Somewhere a couple years ago I went from really enjoying them (scrambled, sunnyside up, hard-boiled, etc) to not being able to stand the taste or the texture. But these eggs? I can't get enough of them. And they taste extra delicious with everything else all in one bite.

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Nezumi, one of my best friends and who I went with for my last bowl before I leave Austin for four months, and I have a tradition of Instagramming every time we go together. To show you all how much I've been, (and honestly I feel like this isn't even all of the times because there are instances when I forget to get my phone out and snap a photo) I thought I would share all of the photographs we've posted from Tatsu-Ya:

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Around Austin: Adore Salon

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For my birthday this year (waaay back in September, when did that happen?) my aunt gave me a gift certificate for a makeup lesson at Adore Salonwhich I didn't have time to use until two days ago -- after the craziness of finals was over for good and I'd moved back home.  My mom and I went (she went to learn as well and to be the one-woman paparazzi), taking all of the makeup I have. Rhea, the makeup artist, and I talked through my current skin care regime, what makeup I use on a daily basis, etc.

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Rhea used the makeup I brought and a few items she had at the salon to teach me how to create a wearable day look and how to transition it to an evening look. I've been teaching myself for about a year about makeup, playing with different things, learning new techniques, watching different YouTube videos. It was really nice to get a proper in-person lesson, to feel like I was getting more of a hands-on experience when it comes to learning about how to apply makeup.

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Rhea was super lovely and a joy to meet. She explained everything in terms that were very easy to understand, teaching me in a way that didn't feel like it was a formal lesson. At the end, she created a face chart for me so I can successfully recreate the looks she taught me. The lesson ended up lasting an hour and a half but it didn't feel like it was that long at ALL, which is crazy. I had so much fun being in the chair and talking with Rhea and my mom.

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I would DEFINITELY recommend going to see her if you're interested in a make-up lesson and live in Austin! I'd never heard of Adore Salon before my aunt gave me the gift certificate, and spending an afternoon in the quaint house-turned-salon was a wonderful experience.

[lightgrey_box] All photographs taken by my wonderful mother![/lightgrey_box]

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Around Austin (Birthday Edition): Qui

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The Saturday before last I turned 21 and to celebrate, my parents and I went over to Qui for dinner. Normally, the birthday tradition is to go to Uchi for dinner, but as my dad and I have an affinity for Paul Qui's food (especially at East Side King as well), and Qui opened after he won the most recent season of Top Chef, it seemed like the logical choice to venture there for dinner this year. The restaurant is designed very crisply, clean lines and a warm minimalism both in the exterior and the interior (which I actually forgot to photograph -- I was so focused on documenting the food).

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My parents and I were a bit overdressed for the vibe of Qui, but it was a little more fun than going in casual gear for us. Overall we had a fabulous time and enjoyed venturing into the unconventionality of Qui's menu. The portions were smaller than we expected, but Qui seems to be pulling from Uchi's philosophy of smaller bites on a plate instead of overflowing dishes with food. It was good though, because it meant my parents and I had more room to try a larger number of dishes than we might have otherwise. Below is a visual guide to our meal, with descriptions quoted from the menu. The first dish is a Marcona Almond Gazpacho with foie gras, sherry, and churned sea shore honey.

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I had the Rock Cod as my entree, which came with buttered toast puree, blistered leeks, and matsutake.

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My dad had the Chawanmushi which is made up of ham egg custard, american caviar, peas, latke, wild striped bass, and country ham.

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My mom ordered the Hen Rice, which comes with double hen stock, crispy chicken skin, and gremolata.

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We also ended up having the Ode to Michael Bras brought to our table, which is a chilled eggplant dashi and a selection of vegetables from Austin farmers.

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For dessert I tried the Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich which consists of crispy waffles, goat milk cajeta, peanut praline, and aged cheddar ice cream. It sounds a bit crazy but it was absolutely divine!

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Thank you again Qui for such a wonderful experience on my birthday!

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