My husband Mark and I lived in Texas for 12 years, and sometimes we are nostalgic for our favorite Austin barbecue joints, tacos and Tex-Mex from every corner of the state, Texas honky-tonks or lazy river floats. One recent Friday night, we indulged in a three-hour staycation by ordering curbside dinner from Blue Oak BBQ and cuing up some of our favorite Texas music. (The country and folk portion of the evening featured Willie and Robert Earl Keen on heavy rotation and a little George Straight, too, but inevitably we ended up with music more our speed, like Los Lonely Boys, Spoon, Voxtrot, Faceless Werewolves, Groupo Fantasma, Ghostland Observatory and The Black Angels.) Mark had a few Shiner Bocks and I sipped a non-alcoholic beer (since I’m still in the middle of a 100-day alcohol free challenge), that I pretended was a bottle of Lone Star. We of course reminisced about our first visits to the famed barbecue haunts, Smitty’s Market and Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas, sweltering afternoons spent cooling off in the icy spring fed waters at Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs, Texas and evenings listening to live music at Austin’s Mean Eyed Cat or The White Horse. This was such a fun way to pass the time, that we vowed to do theme nights or weekends featuring not only places we’ve visited or lived (dining on Cincinnati chili while watching the Reds, anyone?), but also places we have yet to go.
For example, next up on our list is a French-themed day, in which we might begin the day with breakfast al fresco at our bistro table on the porch with house made lattes and croissants from La Bolangerie (the Spotify French Café Lounge playlist is perfect for this part of the adventure). For lunch, we could pack a hearty lunch with fizzy drinks, fruit, bread, cheeses and meats from St. James Cheese and bike to one of our favorite parks or greenspaces for a picnic. After lunch, meandering on our bikes through the French Quarter, Marigny and other neighborhoods in search of French and French Creole architectural styles will fill some time or, if we’ve had our fill of biking, a virtual visit to The Louvre is an option. That evening, we could get a to-go order from Lilette, La Crêpe Nanou or maybe Patois, since we have yet to try it. (Depending on our budget, we could also plan to try French recipes and cook all of our meals.) Dinner will wrap up and then it’s time to enjoy an evening of French cinema. I’ll likely push to watch “Amélie” (again), Mark will vote for “Haute Tension” (again) and we’ll agree upon “Paris, Je T’Aime” (again).
Of course, playing at France while in New Orleans is easy given the history. But for a challenge, we have Philly, Kentucky, “Beach night” (Mark loves listening to Jimmy Buffet while cooking shrimp dishes, which I find hysterical), Oktoberfest and Cuban-themed staycations on the backburner. Here’s a list of popular destination cities in the United States, if you want to play this game too, but need inspiration. Really, the sky is the limit and even just researching possible themes is a fun escape. Where will you “go,” what virtual tours will you take and how will you create the cuisine and vibes? Share in comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.