Fishing Guide to the Stars starting 8.18.2011

“Happy in that we are not overhappy.
On Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.”
Shakespeare’s Hamlet [II.ii.231]

Leo: In a coffee taste test, this is my opinion, I’ve found that the Cafe Richard, in Paris, produced the best espresso and therefore, the best coffee I ever had. For home brew purposes, Pete’s Italian Roast is best, with an interchangeable second place, and third place is Starbucks Italian Roast (best logo, too). So the red, grocery store bag of Eight O’Clock Coffee is more genetic memory and childhood recollection instead of true, blue-blood coffee tasting. It’s not all about the bean. Part of the secret of really good coffee is the steps employed in preparation. Even Eight O’Clock brand coffee can make a superior cup of coffee. Depends on the method of preparation. All about how you use what you got. I use a metal “French Press,” or press-pot, and the beans are stored in an airtight container and those beans are ground fresh. Water’s been sitting in the kettle overnight, just tap water, but set out, allowed to breath. Then the brought to a rapid boil and poured over the fresh grounds. The metal strainer allows all the oils of the coffee beans, the full flavor gets infused in the hot water. Superior coffee from cheap, grocery store beans. Leo: think. Leo: there’s an easy way to coax royal treatment out of a simple process. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just has to be good.

Excellence isn’t always pricey.

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Virgo: Jimmy Buffett (Capricorn) wrote a song about it. I’ve waxed lyrical about it. Sometimes, the best is cheapest, too. Hamburger, the humble American dish. While I prefer a fast-food, local variation because when I order jalapeno peppers, they load them on, that doesn’t mean that my version is the best. Sandy’s. Malt House. Fran’s. All good places. One of my easy to reach preferred locations? What-a-burger. Turns out that’s not a national chain. Little did I know. Chain stretches across my horizons, all that matters. Used to be a place in Dallas, oddly enough, with excellent burgers. Or a place in the Hill Country, Llano, to be precise, with BBQ burgers. All good. Pick one. Pick a local favorite. From the marketing alone, In-and-Out Burger would suit my Left Coast friends. Or a good vegan burger.

Whatever floats that Virgo boat. Something. It’s about a good, to me, greasy hamburger. Something simple, cheap, and comforting, all at the same time. Local selection might vary. Vegetarians and VEgans need to adjust this as need be, as some bean curd burgers, slathered in chili-pepper mayo? Good stuff. Sandy’s, South Austin style – less than 3 bucks. Goes a long way to making life better in Virgo land, a good (cheap) burger.

Libra: The Number Two Platter, I’m sure this dates to a Spanish Land Grant, but the number two plate in a Tex-Mex Restaurant should always be, “Two cheese enchiladas covered with chili con carne, a tamale, a hard-shell beef taco, all garnished with rice, beans and a few sprigs of half-wilted lettuce-type salad.” There are local variations, and the Number Two Dinner can be adjusted, but basically, it’s way too much food. Given where Mercury is? Number Two Diner is best. Best solution. Best option. The number two plate, the #2 Platter, whatever its called, that’s the way to go. There’s usually a side of red grease floating in a puddle off to one edge of the plate, perhaps from the cheese in the enchilada, or it slid out of the chili con carne, laddled across the top. Eventually, the rice and beans soaks up some of the melted lard. It’s a kind of Texas TexMex Heaven comfort food. Can’t indulge in this often, but on infrequent however, high-stress Mercury-induced problems? Perfect. Number Two Dinner. Order by name.

Scorpio: One of the best steaks I’ve ever had, maybe the single, most stand out piece of meat, was in a little place run by a Virgo. I’m unsure if it was the meat, the preparation, the companionship, or if it was the spices with just the right amount of salt, and something else, but not over-powering. I complimented the Virgo on my way out. Frankly, I gushed. “I call that cut a loss-leader,” she explained, “don’t really make money on it, center-cut, grass-fed, free-range, but like you said, it’s good.” She smiled. I’d ordered it medium rare, it was served a little on the rare side of medium rare, and that was okay. About $6 an ounce, be my guess. The steak was that good, a tiny serving by my standards, and yet, perfect. Small, tasty, seasoned and served to perfection, the ideal comfort food. Done by a Virgo. That’s how to navigate turbulent Scorpio waters — find the right accomplice.

Sagittarius: Crispy Cream, and how I got there, here, from where I was. The doughnut company that bears the name? It has an unofficial title, “White Man’s crack.” Not exactly an endearing term, loaded with misanthropic terms, twice over. Probably piss somebody off. I’m sorry. Comment was funny at the time, in context, and that’s what matters. Those sugar-loaded, flavor infused, twice-dipped in confection goodies? Used to be the ultimate in comfort food. They were so good, made my teeth hurt. Just the glaze alone is a miracle of the confectioner’s art. I can’t have just one, used to get a box and it would be gone in a day. That’s comfort food, alas, with serious side-effects.

Capricorn: True comfort and solace can always be found in good chicken-fried steak. Straight up. “CFS” is the de facto, go-to, gold standard of comfort food. In Austin’s hallowed Threadgill’s, the Barton Springs location, the “chicken fried chicken” is really a better bet. Perhaps it’s because the location is newer, perhaps there’s a lack of grease and build-up on the walls and in the fryers, but the best deal there isn’t chicken-fried steak, it’s really “Chicken Fried Chicken.” However, a few short miles north, at the original location (Janis Joplin was “discovered” there, Stevie Ray, Ray Wylie, and Willie all played there), the Chicken Friend Steak reigns supreme. In a heart-smart, health-conscious environment, there are other options, but CFS is still the best. It’s also the best comfort food. I suppose, this is a regional issue, the comfort and where the best chicken-fried steak can be found. Look, Capricorn, maybe it isn’t Chicken Fried Steak that you need. Adjust this to suit your mind, and your location. What do they do in California? Sprouts with medallions of bean curd in a vegan dressing? One place in Austin — I thought it was a joke — did offer chicken-fried tofu. So this isn’t just carnivore thing. It’s a comfort food thing. Belly up to whatever it is that you like. I still find something chicken-fried as the ultimate weapon for dealing with Mr. Mercury’s mayhem. This week. Comfort food. Either you fry the food, or Mr. Mercury fries you.

Aquarius: I started buying these little oranges. The real influence, I can trace it back to a friend’s place, I was visiting, and she had a bowl of “tangelos,” of which, I would help myself. Good snack. Then, a local grocery store started carrying these little oranges, and I’d get a case, and that would last me a week or two. Really good metaphor as the oranges are smaller, I’m not sure exactly what they are, but the little orange-esque things are perfect. Looks like an orange, smells like one, are usually easier to peel and eat, and probably high in vitamins, that sort of thing. Small, though. Mercury is the smallest planet. Mercury is retrograde in Leo. Leo is opposite your Aquarius self. Small oranges are better than big oranges. It just seemed like such a perfect metaphor, and I’m over the obsession, now. One grocery store was selling these oranges, orange-like things, fruit, whatever, one place was selling them cheap. A big bag, one week is was by the carton, but the big bag only cost a couple of bucks. That was my main food for the next week, week and half. Anyway, the food, the fruit itself, that’s not what this is about. It’s the way I encountered them. Friend had them out. Pure chance. What’s funnier is my friend? She’d never eat those things. Bought them for her kids who never ate the healthy stuff. Small. Small and cheap. Small, cheap and fruity. Cure for the Mercury Retrograde blues.

Pisces: San Antonio (TX) is affectionately revered as the home of the puffy taco, which, in all actuality, is properly a gordita, but never mind that part. So comfort food, San Antonio (TexMex) style should be a puffy taco, or a similar type of platter. However, for true, culinary respite, I’ve found one place, a dive, even by the best of standards, a place that is almost on the wrong side of town, a spot that’s not very pretty on a hot August day, yet, even as Mercury slides backwards, there’s comfort to be found in the hand-made flour tortillas. While the staple should be a cornmeal-based product, this one spot has, without a question, the best flour tortillas. The secret is the lard. Or the love. Or the love expressed in the lard. The ingredients, I’m guessing, they are pretty simple, flour, water, and a little bit of that magic element, lard, to make the whole thing stick together. Any dish that’s served with two or three flour tortillas, my waistline got so I can only allow myself one, but they are good. The tortillas. I’ve waxed eloquent about them before. Warmed up on the griddle, then rolled and served too hot to touch, that’s part of what makes these the best. It’s a comfort food, too. Something, something as simple as a better, handmade tortilla. All it takes.

Aries: I was digging through a tackle box, cleaning out rusted hooks and hopelessly tangled gear, and mostly, just throwing away the crud that collects in the bottom of the tackle box. The smell, the aromatic blend of fish oils, salt water, lake water, dead bait and old lures tickled a memory. It’s my father’s father, my paternal grandfather, the one who taught me to love fishing. Not old spice cologne. Not coffee and cigarettes, although, there’s a hint of that in my grandfather’s memory, the biggest smell, it finally hit me, it’s the way that a musty old tackle box smell. Sun moves into Virgo, Mercury is retrograde like a big dog, and there’s a memory tickled. Touched. Touchstone. In my example, it was smell. Could be anything that touches that sensitive Aries nerve. Is this bad? Hardly. Don’t dwell in the past, though. That’s a temptation with this Mercury RX, and no, can’t dwell in the past.

Taurus: Comfort food is hard to find. No, see, there’s a specialty food I’m looking for, a special kind of corn tortilla. When old East Austin got plowed under and “renovated,” urban-fried, if you ask me, I watched as a great tacqueria became a wine bar. Yawn. Given a choice between wine and good tacos, I’d opt for the tacos. Just the way I am. I have one Taurus client who prefers the wine bar to the taco joint. I don’t, but that’s me. Not much further up the road, though, I’ve discovered where the cook from that now-defunct taco joint all went — couple of miles, up the road. Amaya’s Taco House. Whatever you get, make sure you get the corn tortillas. Round, thick, like a pancake, almost, not fluffy, but in its own way, yes, delicate. There’s a special flavor, I’m unsure of its origins, perhaps the masa, perhaps the lard, perhaps the course-ground corn meal. Maybe the mamacitas in the back room, patting out the tortillas. Something. Perhaps it’s a combination of all the elements. Anyway, that’s what will help ameliorate the effects of Mercury Reotrgrade. A special kind of comfort food, like those handmade corn tortillas from old East Austin.

Gemini: I’m not much of a drinking man. Long story, not going into it here. However, I had some friends who’d just come back from a wine-country trip. Sonoma, CA, (the Peoples’ Republic of) Northern Cal. I listened to their tales. Wineries and insouciant merlot, and whatnot. I was talking about this, and I mentioned, in passing, some friends had just got back from Sonoma. “Cool, that’s, like, close to Las Cruces, (NM)?” Relative to what, would be my question. Sonoma is closer to Cruces, than, say, its relative proximity to Austin. Spiritually, Austin and Sonoma might be closer. Distance, though, now, and never mind. It was a simple case of mistaken identity. As a Gemini, you’ve got a long tale that will get misinterpreted. Yes, there are real wineries in southern New Mexico, but is that really the point?

Cancer: I was looking at Mr. Mars, in Cancer even now, and then, Mercury, backwards in Leo, even now. Then. Now. Mars. Mars is like libations the other evening. Friend of mine ordered a margarita, nominally tequila and lime juice, sometimes a variation on Mexican Martini. My friend tasted the tall, frosty beverage, then asked for a couple of olives. Waiter, barkeeper brought a couple of olives and some olive juice, in a shot glass. I watched, in horror, as the lime-green margarita was garnished with olives and a splash of olive juice. A dirty margarita, I think, that’s what those are called. Horrible. Awful. Assault good tequila with olive juice, a good margarita, with olives? Insult and injury, I’m sure. However, not being a drinking man, I can’t say for sure, not something I was willing to taste. The combination struck me as two shades of awful. However, for my friends, remember, I’m tad eccentric myself, the odd combination wasn’t odd, and just one “dirty” margarita did the trick for that girl. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

About the author: Born and raised in a small town in East Texas, Kramer Wetzel spent years honing his craft in trailer park in South Austin. He hates writing about himself in third person. More at KramerWetzel.com.

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