Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Help out some totally awesome Austinites

Update from Steve Basil on Jan. 6th (great opportunity to help out with food): 

Some friends have insisted (over the protests of Jack & Veek) on establishing a Care Calendar, for people who might want to make a dinner for the family once in a while.  The plan is to aim for a delivered dinner every other day for a bit till things settle down, and use the interim days for tasty leftovers.  The care calendar is an online thing, so if you like to cook and feel like whipping up a casserole or salad or some such, it would go a long way to relieving some stress and making this getting settled period just a bit easier.  You can choose a date and a meal and fill in the blanks online:

To access Jack and Vicki Newton's personal CareCalendar site, visit http://www.carecalenda... and enter the following information in the appropriate spaces:

   CALENDAR ID      :   29459
   SECURITY CODE :   1809

Tears of joy are the rule these days, after waves of sadness in the immediate aftermath of the fire.  It's a roller-coaster of emotion for all to be sure, but you good people make certain that the ups are overpowering the downs in a big way.

Update from Jack on Dec. 30. :
Well folks, I have time tonight to sit down and write a short update.

We are currently in our second house since the fire on Christmas morning.  The first two nights we spent at the house right next door, the home of two of our best friends.  It was at that house we began to see the stream of people taking time from their family holidays to come and make sure we were ok.  We moved to a second home last night, a beautiful large home of  a family away on a vacation.  All of us, human and canine, are safe and warm.  Later this week we'll move back to the house next door to our now-burned home, and stay there for the weekend, hopefully with a firm plan of more permanent temporary housing (is there such a thing as "permanent temporary"?) in place for us to start getting back to normal.

On Christmas Eve we went to church and then to our traditional family dinner at Kobe.  Veek and I went to bed at about 11:30, and planned on sleeping late on Christmas morning and then opening gifts.  At about 4:30 a.m. we were awakened by the shrieking of our smoke alarms, and then very soon thereafter our son was banging on our door and yelling that the "deck was on fire".

We rushed out of bed and ran into our living room with the intent of sizing up the problem.  The smoke was thick but not unbearable in the living room, but it was obvious that it was getting worse by the second, so we yelled at the kids to get out of the house and we abandoned any efforts at opening windows and called 911.  Once outside on the front lawn, we did our quick head count and realized that our puppy Fenway was not with us, but was in fact in her crate in my office on the right side of the house (opposite of where the rest of us had been).  I ran back into the house and grabbed her crate and rushed back outside.  To tell you the truth, I violated one of the cardinal rules of fires - once you leave a burning structure, you are never supposed to go back in - but the smoke hadn't seem that bad.  Had I known what I would have found when I went back in, I most likely would not have gone.  In the office where Fenway was, the smoke was black and thick and had reached down from the ceiling to about my waist.  I bent down to try and minimize my exposure, and when I reached her crate, I could plainly see our family room completely engulfed in flames, from floor to ceiling.  The flames were about three feet from Fenway's crate, but the french doors and wall prevented us from getting burned.  Bottom line is that Fenway and I got out ok, and just in time.

In the five or ten total minutes from the moment we were awakened to the time we were all on the lawn, the fire progressed to the point where flames were shooting out the front door of our house.  A total of six ladder trucks were eventually called in, the fire burned for 45 minutes.
The incident commander told Veek and I that in his 15 years of fighting fires, he had never seen a fire of such intensity and at that time of the morning where everyone got out safely.  He was the first person to begin to drive home the message that we saved the only truly valuable items - ourselves.

We were all checked our medically, and except for some throat raw-ness and some irritation around our eyes and mouths, we were fine.

Within minutes neighbors began to flood the street and begin to care for us and the dogs.  Within an hour, friends  began to arrive to do the same.  We were repeatedly reassured that we were not going to be in the situation alone, etc.

Once the firefighters had battled the fire and then worked hard to make sure everything was out and safe, we were allowed to look at the house.  The commander suggested that I go first, as the damage would be shocking and he wanted me to be ready to support Veek when she saw it.  As it was, my knees buckled when I approached what had been our front doors.  Instead of seeing the hallway wall which used to be there, I could now see all the way to our neighbor's house on the other side of our backyard fence.  Our living room, our family room (Where I had seen the flames when grabbing Fenway), our office and kitchen had been reduced to ashes.  Very little recognizable items were left - every couch, chair, desk, television, table, etc. was just.... gone.

We then went to the bedroom wing of our house, which had suffered severe smoke and heat damage, but not direct flame.  That  side of our house was more eerie than dramatically burned.  Every single surface was either  matte black or dark grey.  If you moved an item, it's "footprint" was left behind.  Fixtures had melted.  Smoke had gotten into every crack and crevace - closed  drawers, whatever.

Some one came to tell me that Veek was insisting on going in, so I went outside to try to prepare her.  Being in shock myself, I couldn't think of anything more eloquent than "Honey, it's all gone.  You have to understand me, it's all gone.", but like me, when she approached the front doors, she fairly collapsed into tears.

I can't describe the devastation any more than that.  Today I took some photos inside and hopefully soon I'll be able to get them off the camera to share with you.  Suffice to say, you couldn't have done a better job of torching a house if you tried.
As the news started to filter out, quite literally about 35 friends and their families started to arrive at the scene to offer comfort, money, living, food, etc.  This began what  has seemed to be an endless  stream of incredible generosity and compassion which reduces Veek and I to tears multiple times a day.  At no point did we ever feel alone, there were always people with us to hold us, to reassure us, to just let us cry.

People pressed envelopes into our hands stuffed with twenties and gift cards.  People brought bags of clothes and toiletries.  Then as word got out on avenues like Yelp and Facebook and groups from companies (exTivoli, exConvex), we started to see people we haven't seen nor spoken with in years.  I mean, I don't know how to describe the emotions we had repeatedly as folks from all walks of our life started appearing to offer whatever they could.  And incredibly enough, it has barely lessened now days later.

I thought a lot about people who don't get such support when a fire strikes them, imagining them in a public shelter, with very little comfort surrounding them.  I fought the urge to break down thinking of the loss we'd suffered - my grandfather's desk now gone, our videos of the children when they were small, etc.  I kept trying to focus on the amazing display of kindness and love which we were witnessing.  I cannot possibly come up with the hyperbole to describe the response.

There are a thousand little stories to tell - here's one.  On Christmas night someone showed  up at a neighbor's house with a bag of wrapped presents for our kids to have a Christmas.  Total strangers.  My son opened up the one marked "Teenage Boy" to discover a Wii system and games.  Now folks, you can't buy that on Christmas, you know they had to take that from their own presents to give it to our son.

We got literally thousands of articles of clothing in 24 hours, plenty to make sure that we could go outside and be warm and dry.  Strangely enough, not  one pair of shoes which fit my wide flat feet, so I wore a pair of cheapo fur-lined fake  crocs my daughter's friend bought at Walgreen's on Christmas day.  But we were brought to a friend's house that evening, where to our surprise about 10 families had cancelled their home celebrations to bring all their dinners to one place and share a communal Christmas with us.  Amazing.

 Posted Dec. 25th:
Jack Dn and Veek Newton are some Awesome Austinites.  Kind, generous, wise, supportive, and totally cool are just a few words I would use to describe them.  Jack and Veek are parents to Aly and Emmet and owners to very cute puppies.  Jack and Veek were a tremendous help to the Cupcake Smackdown1.0.  As you might remember, Veek was the woman rushing around getting cupcake samples to the judges.  Jack was behind his camera taking fantastic photos of the cupcake riot.

Veek at Cupcake Smackdown. Photo by Jack Dn.

Jack judging at the Chef Showdown. Photo by John Knox.

Fenway by John Knox

Unfortunately, Jack, Veek, Aly, and Emmet didn't have the type of Christmas that any of us hope to have.  Their home was caught fire, and they all (puppies included) managed to escape unharmed thanks to smoke detectors.  All members of the family are safe and have adequate clothing for the time being.  Additional donations (monetary or material items) can be dropped off at B.D. Riley's.

B.D. Riley's Irish Pub
204 East 6th Street
Austin TX 78701

Paypal donations can be made through B.D. Riley's Website:  Their story will also be featured on Austin Fox News Today, Friday, Dec. 25th, at 5pm. Please help these Austinites as they have been a wonderful part of our community.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chefs under Fire an the Carillon's Tasting Menu

I had the opportunity to attend the Chefs under Fire event on Nov. 30th at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.  While I didn't have the opportunity to try the dishes made by the challengers, I did have the opportunity to sample some tasty bites from the Carillon by Chef Josh Watkins.  If you haven't been to the Carillon yet, here's your chance to give them a try.  From Wednesday, Dec. 16th - Saturday, Dec. 19th, Chef Josh Watkins will be offering a fabulous tasting menu for just $30.  This meal is a steal.  Judging from the chit chat about it on Twitter, you'll want to make reservations.  Menu posted below.  Other photos from Chefs under Fire by me, unless otherwise noted.

The candied garlic in this dish was simply fantastic.  It was sweet and nutty, and something that you wouldn't expect to with red meat. 

The Braised Beef Short Ribs with celery root, apricot glaze, and black pepper gastrique was amazingly tender.  This morsel has set the standard for fork tender in my book.  I had to eat about five of these, just to make sure they were really all that tender.  I think they are, but I might need more just for testing. 

Photo by John Knox.

Pineapple, cheese, and curry aren't usually served together, but I don't think the Carillon is the usual restaurant.
I tried to capture some photos of the flurry of chefs in the kitchen prior to the judging, but alas, most of them looked like a blur.

The main activity of the evening was the judging of the dishes by Celebrity Chefs David Bull, Tyson Cole, and Kent Rathbun.  While I was expecting an intense presentation, the judging was more entertainment than I had imagined.  The three celebrity chefs had jokes up their sleeves that kept the crowding laughing all night.  These photos are by John Knox.  More Photos here. Information and details about the Chef under Fire winners here

Busy chefs.

Tyson celebrates something.

Sharing chef secrets.

Martin Weaver, the creator of the pumpkin bbq sauce.

David, would you like some rosemary?

Loren Root wins!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Olive you too!

It is only recently that I've become addicted to olives.  Yes, I know, it is an odd addiction.  But a tasty one.  I didn't used to like olives.  I would eat them on pizza and in salads, but more often than not, I just pick them out.  The first time I ate a whole olive that I liked were the fried olives at Fino

A few weeks ago, I attended a charcuterie event hosted by Carla Crownover (@gardens123).   Among the many tasty bites that were served, there was a plate of herbed olives.  I must admit, I polished off that plate pretty quickly.  These olives were juicy, flavorful, and unlike most of the other olives I've had before.  Most of the olives I remember eating were on Papa John's Pizza (from my undergraduate days) or out of a can.  Needless to say, I've been converted.  In order to satisfy my olive craving and learn more about the delicious fruits, I made a visit to the olive bar at Whole Foods Downtown (@wholefoodsatx).  I met with Michael (@bepkoboy), Billie, and Forrest for an education in all things olives.  Before we start on the olive tour, I've got to show you the gigantic chocolate paradise near the back of the store.  For the holidays, Whole Foods has some chocolate houses (sorry, gingerbread), chocolate gingerbread men *insert "Do you know the muffin man?" line from Shrek here*, white chocolate snowflakes, chocolate reindeer, chocolate sleds, chocolate guitars, and chocolate trees.  Any of these items would make a perfect gift. *hint hint* Chocolate pieces are sold by weight. 

Are you drooling over the chocolate yet?  Wipe off that drool, and let's get down to business.  Olives are a processed fruit that are highly variable.  With at least 300 species of olives available, the possibilities are endless.  Each specie of olives is also high variable depending on growing conditions.  Terroir (soil conditions, climate, topography), altitude, and seasonality all affect the outcome of the olives.  One species of olive grown in Italy may look completely different and taste different from the same species grown in France.  They are a complicated and complex fruit.  In generic cans, they are just called green or black, but they are much more complicated than that.

Raw or cooked? You're not going to ever find an edible raw olive in Whole Foods, unless you like to eat rocks.  I think there are some rocks in the decor by the escalators. Raw olives are terribly hard and not at all tasty.  There are two basic methods of curing olives for consumption: boiling or drying.  Most of the olives in the bar were boiled, with just a handful of dried ones.  If boiled, olives are picked then immediately boiled (pitted prior if desired) in salt water.  After boiling, the olives are marinated with seasonings, oils, or wine.  That's where we get the variety of flavors in the olive bar.  Some olive are also stuffed with things like feta cheese, blue cheese, almonds, anchovies, peppers, jalapenos, or sun-dried tomatoes.  Most of the olive stuffing is done prior by the distributor (Whole Foods uses a local one), but the marinating in herbs is done at the store. 

Dry cured olives are usually dried with salt then marinated with oil.  These look like big raisins, but I assure you, they are super tasty.  Below are photos of some of the olives available at Whole Foods Austin Downtown.  The selection does change daily, and the cheese stuffed olives are usually prepackaged. 
After my olive education, I posed a question to Michael, Billy, and Forrest.  "What is the most unusual olive pairing you've done?"  They had made some of the typical items such as casseroles with olives, olives in salads, and pasta, but Billy had one that was new to me.  Olives.  Cheese.  Chocolate.  Billy sliced up some Locatelli Pecorino Romano, dipped it into the chocolate fountain, and scooped up some French dried olives (photo below).  It sounds weird, but this combination of salty, sweet, and fat was fantastic.  All components were well balanced, and the chocolate covered cheese almost reminded me of a crumbly cookie in texture.  I'm serving this combination at my next foodie gathering along with some olive oil flat bread (photos at the very bottom).  Another weird thing to do with olives is chocolate olive cake.  That recipe will be coming soon. 

Before we leave, I must rave about the flat bread. I tried the plain (flavored with anise) and the almond flavor.  It is simply delicious.  The ingredients are simple and not overly complicated.  The crunch combined with just a bit of sweet caramel-y flavor is addictive. These flatbreads are located on the shelves just to the right of the cheese case.  Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Locatelli Pecorino Romano, chocolate, and French olives (dry cured).

Just one side of the olive bar.

Olives in chilies. 

These are amazing olives. Watch out for the pits. 

Dried Olives.

Seasoned with chili flakes.

Addictive Flatbread.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brooklyn Brewery meets Olivia: A Dinner to Remember

Written by guest blogger: John M. P. Knox  Photos by John Knox (click for more photos)

I am a lucky man. Not everybody gets to enjoy not only the flavor of his food and drink, but also a lavish pairing of beverage and dish. If pairings aren't luxury, I don't know what luxury is.  In my mind, pairings are the luxury of bank robbers, workaholic investment bankers, and Bond villains. Consider some typical American meals. At McDonald's, do the patrons match their soft drink with their burger? Not that I've seen. Do the busy college students at Starbucks consider their muffin choice when ordering their flavored latte? What about diners at Outback Steakhouse, will they eye the beer selection to find the mate for their Bloomin' Onion? Sadly, they're more likely to choose a beer to match the decor of the restaurant.

I'm not complaining though. Sometimes you just want to relax and eat a meal without thinking too much. And pairings are dangerous. Just like driving a Ferrari will ruin your enjoyment of a Honda, enjoying good food and good drink paired could ruin your enjoyment of the average meal.  Olivia Restaurant (2043 S Lamar Blvd Austin, TX 78704 (512) 804-2700) presented the a Brooklyn beer pairing event as a multi-course dinner on their garden patio. Between each course, a new beer was served, and Garrett Oliver or Executive Chef James Holmes would talk a little about the pairing, the food, the history of craft beer in America, and the story behind the beer.

Before the first course was presented, each guest sipped an unusual aperitif: a half glass of Brooklyn Lager. The Lager had a very clear amber color, a short head, and light carbonation. The flavor finished lightly bitter, a quality which matches many more traditional aperitifs. The beer left the palate feeling scrubbed clean and ready for the first course.

As the first course arrived, Garrett stepped from behind his table to tell us a little about his experiences with beer. He spoke of the complementary nature of brewing beer and making wine. "It takes a lot of good wine to make a good beer." Olivia Manager Jerry Reid countered that it takes lots of beer to make a wine. If not true, it should be.

Garrett spoke of how he grew up in the post World War II era of industrialized, uniform food and beer. At some point, Garrett moved to England, where he was bowled over by the world of flavorful European beer. Nothing in his experiences with industrial American beer was comparable, and so he became obsessed with bringing those flavors back home with him. Garrett explained the Lager as being made in the style of a 19th century Viennese beer, but with the addition of a dry hopping step to enhance the aroma. As the number three draft brand in New York City, Garrett considers this his flagship beer.

For the first course, the Brooklyn East India Pale Ale was paired with Oyster Diablo. The ale arrived before the meal, delivering a nice hoppy punch. In contrast to the lager, the East IPA had a dryer, less malty flavor. Hops were the dominating character, although as Garrett explained, these hops offered a less fruity flavor than the typical American IPA. I found that the East IPA's flavor ended cleanly, with a short finish instead of the lingering bitterness found with many other hoppy beers.

The Oysters Diablo arrived on the half-shell, each mated with Olivia-made bacon, spicy tequila butter, and a golden crust of parmesan cheese. The food alone seemed well balanced to my taste. The spice, cheese, and bacon flavors each balanced and complemented each other. The crunchy texture of the cheese and bacon helped give the oyster structure without dominating the plate.  Paired with the East IPA, the dish tasted sensational. The hoppy beer and the spicy oysters fought delicious battles in my mouth. As Mr. Oliver pointed out, "Spice and Kick go well with bitter hops." I agree. I felt torn between sadness and anticipation as I finished the crumbs of the last oyster.

The second course featured the Brooklyn Local 1 paired with thinly-sliced yellow fin tuna carpaccio and black truffle aioli under a bed of arugula salad with black lava sea salt.  The Brooklyn Local 1 beer was served in wine glasses. The tart, fruity aroma was backed by a fantastic fluffy head of foam resting on the gold-colored unfiltered ale. Mr. Oliver stood up and told us how he bottle conditions the beer using an unusual refermentation process. In a typical beer, the same yeast used in primary fermenbation is re-activated for bottle conditioning. For the Local 1, Garrett pitches a second strain of yeast to condition and carbonate the beer. Extravagant!

A table-mate, Justin Kasulka, described the tuna carpaccio as "A bite of delicious." I don't have better words. The tuna possessed a smooth texture and creamy flavor which complemented the sweet and fruity flavors of the Local 1. To keep it interesting, the arugula and black lava salt offered crunchy textures and a touch of salty with bitter adding a little complexity.  Sadly, the sun set before this dish was delivered. I'm not sure that most people were able to appreciate how colorful this dish was. The fresh green arugula on the raw pink of the tuna looked nearly as delicious at the taste.

The third course, orecchiette carbonara with guanciale (cured pork jowl) and Texas quail egg yolk, came paired with the Brooklyn Local 2. The Local 2 features two interesting ingredients: caramelized Belgian syrup and raw wildflower honey. Garrett informed us that he uses 120 pounds of honey per batch of Local 2. All of the honey ferments out to feed the yeast, which must make it incredibly happy.  The Local 2 has a lovely dark color and a decent head of foam. It is lightly hopped, sticking to the malty end of the beer spectrum. The flavors were warm, sweet, and a hint of dark bitterness. I would describe its consistency as thick and sticky.

I enjoyed the pairing of the orecchiette and guanciale with Local 2, but it didn't quite live up to the earlier pairings. The dish and the beer tasted fantastic, but the combination didn't explode in my mouth like the East India Pale Ale with the Oysters Diablo. I'm not complaining though, it might be a lower cloud, but I was still in heaven.

The fourth course was South Texas antelope petite filet au poivre with apricot demi, feta cheese, and smashed potatoes. This was paired with the Brooklyn brown ale. The ale produced spicy caramel flavors to counter the antelope's gamey and peppery flavors. In fact, I found the Brown Ale spicier than the antelope, probably owing to the antelope's fantastic apricot demi-glace. The spice of the beer complemented the sweet and spicy flavor of the dish, a glorious combination.

Like the carpaccio, I found the plating of the antelope notable. An otherwise boring brown meal of meat and potatoes was rescued by the addition of colorful apricots and bright feta cheese. I also appreciate that some thought was given to the details: the antelope was placed atop the potatoes and the feta finally sprinkled on top. Despite the sea of delicious sauce, nothing was soggy. The dish must have been freshly plated.

For the final course, we were presented with dessert. Unlike the previous courses, this dish actually boldly combined the beer with the food. This was a Brooklyn Chocolate Stout Float. What floated in the stout? Créme fraiche ice cream. In addition to the float, dishes of candied beer nuts were placed on the table.

The Stout Float was an unusual concoction. The sweet and creamy ice cream floated in the sharp and bitter dark chocolate beer. Despite the name of the beer and the chocolate-like flavor, this beer (and most non "double chocolate" stouts) contains no actual chocolate. The flavors entirely come from the use of roasted malts; they most closely resemble the flavors of a dark chocolate with a high cocoa content.

I felt that the dish was more fascinating than delicious. The combination created an abundance of bitter and creamy tastes which, while flavorful, seemed to obscure the complexity of the beer. I would have preferred the ice cream served on the side. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll confess that I usually prefer other desserts over ice cream. Someone who craves ice cream floats might have felt differently. Again, the pairing was good, but I felt the direct application of ice cream to the beer cheated me out of the complexity of the beer's flavor.  The candied beer nuts worked wonders with the float. The salty and sweet nuts both complemented and contrasted with the bittersweet float. I found the combination quite addictive.

I'll remember this night as setting a high bar for beer pairings. Certainly the oysters diablo with the East India Pale Ale and tuna carpaccio paired with Local 1 both get gold medals from me.  I have experienced some good pairings at the Great American Beer Festival, but tasting a bite of food with an ounce of beer hardly compares to entire dishes and meals mated to full glasses of beer. To really get an appreciation of a dish with its beer pairing you need time and enough food to contemplate the interaction. After five courses, you will understand the harmony of beer and food.

I'm serious about the pairings spoiling my appreciation of ordinary meals. I find it difficult to eat anywhere and not contemplate what beer might go well with my meal. I feel despondent when faced with a restaurant stocked with only yellow fizzy lagers or wines. To understand my problem, you really need to try a beer pairing event for yourself. Just don't say that I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beer and Dessert Meet up - Be there or no chocolate for you.

Beer and Dessert Meet up is Tuesday, Dec. 15th at Uncle Billy's.  The idea of this meet up evolved from boozy cucpakes that I usually bring to meet ups and bleet ups.  After the last meet up where I brought 512 Pecan Porter Brownies, @g_ack decided to make my @BrookylnBrewery Chocolate Pumpkin cake.  Even @thecedardoor had some of my brownies at their Face-Lift party (photo coming soon).  Needless to say, a meet up was in order.

The line up so far is:

I haven't let the cat out of the  bag of what I'm making yet, but it will most likely be a brand new recipe.  Feel free to join us!

What: Beer and Dessert Meet up
What to bring: Some type of dessert made with beer.

Time: 7:00pm
Place: Uncle Billy's 1530 Barton Springs Road (park in the self-park lot just down the street past Chuy's and ride the complimentary shuttle or street parking)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Best Little Gas Station in Texas

My beloved Giovanni's moved into the Valero kitchen (2900 S. Lamar at the intersection of Barton Skyway) recently.  That's what brought me into the store.  Giovanni's Pizza stand used to sit just outside of this Valero, and they served up some of the most delicious pizza in Austin.  I highly recommend the white pizza, margarita pizza, and penne arrabbiatta.  The white pizza has a creamy and sauce that is pretty unbeatable with such a crispy and perfectly browned pizza.  The penne is wonderfully smoky, nicely spiced, and full of tomato flavor.  After placing our order for a pizza and a pasta dish last week, @windaddict and I decided to check out the beer selection.  Note: Giovanni's is cash only.

We were in for a surprise.  We had found the Best Little Gas Station in Texas.  The first fridge had the typical generic beers, but beyond that was a craft beer lover's paradise.  Dogfishhead, Ommegang, Chimay, Harpoon, New Belgium, Delirium, Brooklyn Local 1 and Local 2, The Great Divide, Brooklyn Brewery 6 packs, Stone Brewing, Breckenridge, and Lagunitas lined the rest of the fridges.  Additionally, the prices were fairly reasonable.  Some prices were middle of the road (9.19 for Brooklyn Local 1 & 2, typical range is 8.62-9.99), and some were definitely cheaper than even discount liquor stores (10.99 for Delirium, 11.80 at other places).  Additionally, this Valero had Dublin Dr. Pepper - made with imperial sugar instead of corn syrup.  

Most tiny gas stations like this one usually only carry big brand beers.  A gas station with a wide selection of quality craft beers is pretty unusual, as is a gas station that is price competitive.  The next time you have a craving for beer and pizza, hop on down to the Valero in South Austin.  Order your pizza and then lose yourself in a beer wonderland.