Leslie Ate This – Frito Pie, Austin, TX

Mark and I have been enjoying the sights and sounds of SXSW in Austin, so this week’s entry will be a little different.  In lieu of cooking a new recipe, I’m reporting on a new recipe that I ate.

The basis of Austin dining is the food truck.  There are very few restaurants in Downtown Austin.  And of those few, most are overrated, overpriced and/or overcrowded.  Mark and I went four days in Austin before we used actual silverware, and that’s not an exaggeration.

Technically, there are trucks for all food types in Austin – including extravagant donuts.  However, Austin’s two main food groups – BY FAR – are tacos and BBQ.  Normally, these are two of my favorite foods, but when you’ve had nothing but tacos and BBQ for days, it gets a little old.

It was in a “please don’t make me eat tacos again” frame of mind that I decided to try something new: Frito Pie.  My knowledge of Frito Pie was limited to what I had read in the New York Times.  (I know, I know, that’s such a New Yorker thing to say.)  All I could remember was that it involved Fritos and chili – two things I like.  When I saw it on the menu of Momma T’s food truck, I knew what I wanted for lunch.  I walked right up to the truck and was told they were temporarily closed to restock.  Nooooo!  Tacos it was…

The next day, I was a woman on a mission.  I promised Mark I would bring him lunch at the convention center in between film sessions, but only if he requested something near the “Frito Pie truck.”  This time, thankfully, Momma T was ready for me!

The woman behind the counter was super friendly.  She asked me if I wanted everything, to which I replied, “What’s everything?”  I was informed that fritos, beans, chili and cheese was the standard.  Onion and jalapeno could also be added.  I ordered the full experience.  The truck being small, I was able to watch the process.  The Fritos came right out of the bag.  The chili and beans were added separately from side-by-side slow cookers and the cheese was poured over top.

As she prepared the food, the woman turned to me and said, “I’m sorry.  Do you mind if I take some pictures of this?  It looks so good.”  I wasn’t sure why she was asking, but I admitted that I was planning on taking some photos of my own.  As she “posed” the food, another woman came from behind the trailer shaking her head.  “That’s my sister,” she said.  “I own this truck, and she thinks I should hang up pictures of my food to attract more people.”  I admitted it was a good idea and told her I was super excited for my pie.

When the photo shoot was over, the onions and jalapenos were sprinkled on top by Momma T herself.  Then, I was handed a hot, steaming paper bowl of amazing-ness.  It was time to meet Mark for lunch, so I stuffed Mark’s bag of tacos in my purse (carrying pie was a two-hand operation), grabbed the pie and snapped one quick photo with my phone while walking – I couldn’t help myself.

I found a bench outside the convention center (seating is a hot commodity when there are hundreds of thousands of people in town) and dug in.  I tried to be polite and wait for Mark, but it didn’t work out.  It was delicious.  Truly.  The chili alone was good, but the Fritos added a nice texture.  Some were still crunchy, while others were melted and cheesy and….yummmm.

I was glad I went for the full jalapeno treatment, but they were SPI-CY.  Luckily I had a full bottle of water – which, incidentally, I had picked up for free at the Bing tent.  (Did I mention that companies love giving away free stuff at SXSW?)

On our last day in Austin, Mark and I passed Momma Ts after our final concert.  I noticed that the sisters had indeed spruced up the decor.  And, sure enough, there was MY frito pie (pre-jalapeno and onions) on the wall.  It seemed only fitting that we take one last picture before heading to the airport:

All in all, Mark and I had both lows and highs in the food department in Austin.  The Frito Pie was the all-time high for me on this trip.  I’ll definitely be experimenting with Fritos and my own chili recipe when I get home.

See “y’all” back in my own Brooklyn kitchen next week, readers!

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