Hi y'all! Thanks for your patience while I recently jetted south for SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas. This was the second year that I attended the tech/marketing/social media conference, but unlike last year, I did not stay for music. (Which is fine--I'm too busy planning my next amazing event to take that much time off!) This year my trip was on behalf of Mission Data, a Louisville-based web design firm churning out exciting web and mobile solutions such as uncard.me and Tasting Table's To-Go app.
I was hoping to gain insight into the latest social media/marketing/content strategy trends, and to be sure, there were some nuggets--the introduction of group texting apps such as GroupMe, influencer-based marketing from companies such as Klout, and the evolution of networking apps, such as Hashable. But mostly, from my experience, the thought-leaders at SXSWi had more questions than answers--or if they had the secrets to the future, they weren't sharing them. Overall, the conference was best for networking and inspiration, just like last year.
At any rate, I made sure to check out Austin's cocktail scene once again while I was there--and I'm happy to report that it's in damn fine shape.
Newcomer Haddington's is a sprawling Freemans-like American tavern with an excellent cocktail menu created by Bill Norris (formerly of Fino). [Side note: Wish I had made it to Fino this year!] Try the Duck Fat Sazerac (duck fat-infused rye, Peychaud's bitters, absinthe rinse), the Devil's Mustache (mezcal, cynar, lime, orange bitters) or the off-menu Corpse Reviver #69 (Tenneyson Absinthe, St-Germain, lemon juice, orange liqueur).
Another solid newcomer is Bar Congress, with the adjacent Second Bar & Kitchen whipping up cocktails as well. We only managed to visit Second Bar & Kitchen since Bar Congress was closed during the afternoon, but we were not disappointed. The Oaktown Beat-Down (Appleton Estate Rum, Mount Gay Extra Old Rum, lime, orgeat and Luxardo Triplum) was a dangerously addictive twist on the Mai Tai. Be sure to check out the food menu if you go.
As for dining, Austin of course offers plenty of BBQ options, and this year I went to Stubb's (tender brisket) and Ironworks (finger-licking good ribs, but the brisket was disappointingly dry). When we weren't in the mood for BBQ or tacos, Haddington's offered rustic American cooking such as duck liver mousse, scotch eggs and rabbit fricassee. We were blown away by a dinner at Parkside, where I was bold enough to try a beautifully presented veal tongue, as well as ceviche, blond pate with strawberry relish and a fall-off-the-bone pork shoulder with pickled pear. Other spots we popped into were Peché (solid cocktails but the staff seemed annoyed by the SXSW crowd), The Ginger Man (great Austin beers from 512 Brewing), Halcyon Coffee Bar & Lounge (a chill setting for spicy bloody marys) and Frank (airy coffee shop/gourmet hot dog restaurant with seasonal cocktails).
I'm glad we brought the warm Austin weather back to NYC with us--and I'm definitely dreaming of the day I'll return to my favorite southern city that keeps it weird.