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Hangin’ with Alton Brown

March 17, 2010

October 17-18, 2009. Our family trip to Austin, Texas to meet Alton Brown, and a few friends along the way.

We have been watching Good Eats on Food Network forever. We found this guy who was seriously funny (used all the same media references we loved – movies, Monty Python, books, etc., ) and used science to explain food – not just pour and dump recipe lists). The show wasn’t about cooking, it was about the science of cooking – thus we were hooked.

Flash forward many years later when we FINALLY had a chance to meet up with Alton Brown. He’s just released Good Eats: The Early Years (the 3.8 lb tomb of food science goodness that has to be serious because it’s so heavy, right?), and was doing a book signing at Book People / Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. We found out, and immediately planned our weekend!

First, we met up with some of my digital scrapbooking friends from Central Texas from Sweet Shoppe Designs!

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We had a great visit @ Might T Fine Burgers and the kids had a blast playing while we sat and gabbed. The husbands were sweet and chatted and watched kids so we could ‘play’.

Then, we’re off to Austin! Denise (DistyD from Good Eats Fan Page) had called to say that they were giving out wristbands to AB’s signing early, so we hooked it to Austin (with a small side trip to track down elusive Transformer toys for Russ), pulled up to Book People and found out we’d gotten the LAST red group wristbands (red group was the first group). PHEW!

Checked into Embassy Suites, scoped out our room and got settled with laptop up and ready, boys playing contentedly on furniture and found the wardrobe….could it be?!

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Nah – just a wardrobe.

Turns out, the three families having traveled from Dallas ended up staying at the same hotel w/o planning it – so I popped downstairs to meet Denise (DitsyD) and Marie (Coppertop) and her daughter had arrived.

We planned to go to Threadgills in Austin for dinner. I had the Grilled Ahi Tuna Salad (THE BEST SALAD EVER!) : Char-grilled Ahi tuna on fresh baby spinach with feta cheese, toasted almonds and dried cranberries, finished with pineapple pico and served a red wine vinegrette which was wonderful!
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Russ had fried oysters, fries and garlic cheese grits (which, surprisingly were pretty good!)

Aiden had grilled cheese (surprised?) and Connor chose Chicken Fried Steak, coleslaw and a dinner salad with jalapeno ranch dressing. He was REALLY disappointed that the chicken fried steak, wasn’t chicken, but really chewy and tough beef that was not Good Eats.

We ended the night with a ‘midnight’ swim at 9pm along with Denise’s husband and daughter.

Oct. 18 – ALTON DAY!
After a morning spent in front of the mirror trying to hide my racoon sunburn from the previous day (and lemme tell you, for a girl who doesn’t wear makeup, it was sure lucky that I tossed at least some base and blush in to my bag when I was packing…while not the best makeup for covering things up, it sure helped even out the burn…at least a tad), we headed down to breakfast where we met up with Dan (DanC) and his son Patrick to finish off the Briner group for the day (the Good Eats Fan Page name for members). Dan had already been by Whole Foods early that morning to check on lines, and there hadn’t been any, so we were trying to strategically plan our morning while just enjoying each other’s company. We all planned on meeting up at about 10, so Dan took off to do some shopping while the rest of us headed up to pack and check out.

We got to Whole Foods at 10 to find that there was no one in line which we found really odd. We went upstairs to the plaza level and saw that they were beginning to set up for the day, and were told to go back downstairs to wait (and my knees were NOT happy about that). We were planning on just wandering and shopping, but I went ahead and got in line behind a family who had driven in that morning, hoping that we had gotten the place right. In about ten minutes, a longish line had begun to form, but we still weren’t sure if this was the right place. I called the group to come on by to check in, and by the time Denise and Marie had arrived, the line was beginning to get long. Russ and the boys had already wandered off in search of Turkey Eggs and whatever other treats they could find. Then, one of those official type folks came to the top of the stairs and said come on up! Turns out, we were in exactly the right place! The couple in front of us had just purchased their books/wristbands that morning, and were told to wait in another area, while our group was escorted to the front of the line! It was SO strange to be first in line (and quite exciting!)
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We just spent the time chatting about stuff. We were then moved to another queue area to wait out the last hour….and the excitement was building! I had butterflies in my stomach at this point, and Russ was excited, too, but much better at holding it in.

Hey – there’s AB!
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After setting himself up, he said, ‘Come Forth’…and we did.

After the typical, “Hi, I’m Alton.”, he said he’d hoped that we’d not been waiting long. I quipped, “only about 45 hours”. He stopped…looked up at me with the queerest look. When he looked over at Russ for confirmation he said “Nah, not really, we got right in”, and I burst out laughing.
AB said “Phew..you could’ve played that, you got me.”
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He signed our book, looked up at each of us, saw Connor and said, “Hey that’s a cool shirt you’ve got there. Do you want me to sign it?” (WELL SURE!) “Back here so you can’t see what I’m signing.” Connor threw Russ a questioning look and Russ told him “He’s probably writing ‘Kick Me’ back there”, and Alton chuckled, “No, I’m not I promise.”

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…and so did Aiden
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At that point, we said our thanks, and Connor remembered his question (we all got a little lost with our agreed upon script once AB asked about signing Connor’s shirt, so Russ never got a chance to thank him for how much he’s inspired us…and inspired Russ along his weight loss journey – some of those 114 lbs so far are due to AB). So Connor asked if AB ever watched Phineas & Ferb, to which AB replied with a guarded, “Sometimes, not religiously or anything, why?” Russ explained how we’d noticed his, ‘Whatcha Cookin’? sing-song question to all the cheftestants on The Next Iron Chef’s first episode, with the same inflection and cadence Isabella says “Whatcha doin?” on the cartoon. He did say, ‘Yeah, I might have borrowed that” with a bit of a smirk on his face. Of course, that made Connor like him even more knowing he probably watches it with his daughter, too – makes him one of the cool adults. Russ said a hearty thank you and shook AB’s hand, and we were off.

Dan was the good Briner and remembered to ask Alton about creating a full length DVD of the Good Eats Live show in Atlanta (instead of the kind of messy TV 30 min version that Food Network did), and AB confirmed that there would be a Director’s Cut version coming out in the near future, as well as a soundtrack of the music on itunes  since Patrick Belden’s music was one of the best things about the show (Patrick is the awesome talent behind all the theme music of Good Eats and Feasting on Asphalt).

Russ had walked off to the side with the boys trying to leave, and I was standing taking video for Dan and Denise’s family, and looked over at Dan and said how cool it was that his son had gotten a pick of Dan/Alton, so Dan said…C’mon! I tried getting Russ’ attention, but he couldn’t hear me, so we snuck back to where Alton was while he was waiting for the next fan to walk up and took a couple of shots with Alton and me. It was advertised as a no-pose photo event, but AB was very gracious to do it for me.
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While Dan seemed to be fiddling with the camera (which turned out to be taking multiple shots to make sure he got a good one for me), Aiden saw what was going on, and ran over to sneak into the shots, too!
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After a bit of decompressing together, Dan (Mr. Security Risk himself) and Marie’s families headed off to Lockhart, Texas for some good BBQ, while Denise’s family and ourselves headed into Whole Food to do some last minute lunch shopping before heading back to our respective homes.

All in all, it was a great time. We had a great weekend, getting away from home, meeting new friends, and meeting up with Alton – one of our favorite tv people ever. All that build up over the last month was gone in a flash, but we’re still so glad we went and enjoyed ourselves. Aiden thought it was much too short (as did we all) and wanted to hang out with Alton for awhile (as did we all). We had hoped, earlier, that AB might do a wee little talk beforehand, but it just wasn’t a good venue for even a few words to the crowd with the way they had it set up. Russ felt like AB was in great form, and seems in person just like the guy we’ve gotten to know on TV (sounds just like him, too – no weird vocal editing stuff to mar it up), and was very genuine during his time with us – no haughty TV personality stuff going on there. Knowing that there are at least two more books coming out and numerous speaking engagements in the works, we might get a chance to see him in that format down the road. Until then, we’ll rely on YouTube LOL.

Thanks to the Denise/Bob for the dinner shots (and extra shots of us with AB), the Bookpeople guy for the AB shots of my family, and DanC for the shots of AB and me (and Aiden).

And sweetie, thanks so much for being just as psyched (but much more composed) and wanting to do this trip, too. It made it all the more special to do it as a family!

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If you’ve gotten this far – check out our more recent meet up with Alton in 2010!

And even more recent meetup:

Alton Brown visits Big D (Good Eats 3: The Final Years Book  Tour signing in Dallas / Frisco, Texas)

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