West Pecan Coffee + Beer Tasting

I am simply nutty over the newest coffeehouse in town. Well, just slightly out of town.

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West Pecan Coffee + Beer is a brand new coffee shop slightly outside of Austin in downtown Pflugerville.

It is all things adorable and amazing and delicious and delightful.

Walking into West Pecan, I was greeted with the smell of strong coffee and the open and inviting atmosphere. You guys, the interior is absolutely gorgeous. Many pieces, including the breathtaking floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, were handmade by the owners.

As if I wasn’t already blown away by the design, a giant and gorgeous flower mural was being painted during my tasting. It felt like the quintessential and quaintest of coffee shop moments, and I was giddy to be there to experience it.

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The tasting itself was a caffeine and beer lover’s dream.

Each drink or eat presented to me offered something unique and lovely.

The hand shaken iced tea was refreshing, light and so perfect for a hot summer’s day.

The cortado was strong, smooth and ideal for a morning wake-up call or afternoon pick-me-up.

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The S’mores brownie was just the right amount of sweet, and the cheese Danish simply left me googly eyed. Ordering a cheese danish has never been something I do on the regular. But after trying the flaky, buttery, creamy piece of perfection at West Pecan, I will be ordering ridiculous amounts of them.

The Saison comes from Adelbert’s, one of my favorite breweries in Austin. It was slightly fruity and subtly tart and all things that I love about the best saisons.

The cheese plate, oh, the cheese plate. This one comes from Antonelli’s,  an Austin shop famous for its cheese. Prosciutto, olives and a variety of cheesy goodness graced said plate, making it a lovely arrangement of mouthwatering items.

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With its picturesque charms, sweet staff and stellar eats and drinks, West Pecan has easily made it to my list of top Austin area coffee shops, and is more than worth the trip to the ‘burbs. I’m currently and eagerly planning a trip back and am seeing a ridiculous amount of cheese danishes in my future.

The Lighthouse on the Lake

If you drive about fifty minutes out of Austin, there is a tiny town called Briarcliff, Texas. In this little town you will find a restaurant called The Lighthouse on the Lake.

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It’s appropriately named, as it comes equipped with a large red and white lighthouse. This lighthouse is indeed on the lake, and it all makes for quite the view. But this view was only the beginning of my love affair for this brand new eatery.

Let me tell you more about said love affair.

The first thing I was greeted with was a fun and friendly staff. I was guided to the spacious patio and made sure to take in those spectacular views before getting to work on the menu. Something you should probably know about me – I judge a restaurant on their queso. I don’t care what type of cuisine the restaurant serves, if they have queso on the menu, I expect them to deliver. I also judge restaurants on their ranch dressing, but I digress. The very first thing I ordered at The Lighthouse was queso, and they definitely did deliver. Rich and creamy white cheese with just the right amount of veggies, and I knew from here that I had so much more to look forward to.

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Next was the Squeaky Shrimp. This was shrimp wrapped in bacon and stuffed with jalapeno and coated with a homemade dragon sauce. Yum, y’all. The textures and flavors of the shrimp and bacon paired magically with the slightly tart, slightly sweet dragon sauce. The slight spice and crunch of the jalapeno completed this sumptuous dish.

The pina colada paired perfectly with my appetizers. The fresh and creamy coconut flavors were far from your typical bar-made pina colada, and made for an absolutely ideal lake-lounging cocktail.

The entrees came out all at once, leaving me with the best kind of sensory overload. Let me try to explain this feast without drooling. No promises, y’all.

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The Robin’s Nest is a burger topped with bleu cheese, a fried egg and a whopper of a house-made onion ring. This gorgeous combination of flavors had me ooh-ing and ah-ing out loud.

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I’m still feeling star-struck by the tequila shrimp. That tequila lime sauce was decadent and creamy and paired so perfectly with the cilantro citrus rice.

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The Shipwreck was one of the most insane things I’ve ever had the joy of eating. Fried chicken, homemade blueberry jam, bacon, lettuce, tomato and oh yeah, a patty of fried ham and cream cheese. See?! Insane. The flavors made for an absolutely mesmerizing combination. It’s like a Monte Carlo but even less healthy and more delicious. Oops, I’m drooling now.

The spaghetti and meatballs is the signature dish at Lighthouse, and I know what you may be thinking. Can a restaurant make delicious queso AND a delicious burger AND delicious spaghetti?! I wondered the same thing. I’m happy to report that yes, yes they can. I am extremely picky about my spaghetti and meatballs, and this dish more than lived up to my high expectations.

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I was so impressed by the Lighthouse on the Lake, partly due to the fact that they were able to deliciously meld so many different cuisines onto one menu. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy at this restaurant, and the variety of choices does not mean that any area is skimped on. 

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When I asked owner Robin how they managed this, he replied that, despite the differences, many of the same quality ingredients were used again and again. Along with fresh ingredients and innovative recipes, it is this quality that is the main focus at the Lighthouse. Usually with lakeside restaurants I expect to go for the views and a mediocre-at-best meal. This is not the case at the Lighthouse. There was not a bite of this tasting (and oh man, did I taste a lot.) that did not blow me away.

The Lighthouse also has a coffee-bar area perfect for working or studying whilst drinking coffee, and a bar area great for locals (and appropriately named ‘The Local’) I can vouch for their tasty and refreshing cocktails, but didn’t get around to trying the coffee. Still, I’d be willing to be it’s as full of flavor, quality and personality as the rest of the menu. They don’t believe in serving anything less at the Lighthouse.

Crushin’ on my City

Hi, friends!

Did you hear that Austin was named the best place to live  in the US for the second year in a row? I have to agree. I feel fortunate to call this place my home and personal playground. Here’s what I have going on in this lovely city as of late:

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  • Along with my full time job, I am now a freelance blogger and social media editor for Free Fun in Austin and Austin.com. It keeps me busy in the best way possible.
  • I am also a fairly new member of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. I’ve been doing food tastings in the area for years now, so it’s amazing to finally meet up and feast with my fellow local foodies.
  • If you know me, you probably know that I love traveling and that I go somewhere new every chance I get. But this past January, I took my first completely solo trip to Chicago. It was liberating and inspiring and I already can’t wait to do it again. It’s also motivated me to go on even more solo-adventuring in Austin. Whether that’s a happy hour or a hike, I am finding all of this extra alone time to be both meditative and indulgent for my soul.
  •  Speaking of solo-dates, I turned 29 a few weekends ago and took myself out for an Austin goat-yoga date. (If you haven’t tried this goat yoga thing, I highly recommend it. I’m not the biggest yoga fan, but baby goats? They’re cool with me. Even the one who pooped on my mat.) I spent the rest of the day with friends who spoiled me, and the next day with my little family who spoiled me some more. There was a lot of pizza from Stanley’s Farmhouse and plenty of cocktails from Upstairs at Caroline’s involved. So yeah, I’m a pretty lucky twenty-nine year old. (I refuse to say almost thirty because, dangit, I’m claiming every last second of my twenties.)

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  • I’m on a mission to slowly but surely visit all of the pretty walls in Austin. There’s so many of them. Wish me luck. (This one’s on 101 W. 5th)
  • My husband and I recently learned that our house is worth almost 100k more than when we first bought it. Say what?! This blows my mind. Austin real estate is a force to be reckoned with right now. While we’re not looking to move out right this moment, it’s definitely one of those exciting future things to think about. There’s a few of those types of things on the horizon right now. (Definitely non-baby related exciting things, y’all. I feel the need to clarify that since I’m almost thirty now. Er… I mean, since I’m twenty-nine now.)
  • Hey, Austinites? Congrats to us for keeping it at #1. We may be famous for being weird, but we’re good at other things too. Like eating. And adventuring. And kindness. I’m proud to call you home, weirdo.

Tasting at Intero

I have a new love, and it’s called Intero.

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Intero translates from Italian to English to “whole” or “complete.”

This new Austin restaurant focuses on “Food, Chocolate and Family.” These are three of the things that make me feel the most complete, so the translation is fitting.

The environment at Intero is equal parts eclectic and inviting. The meals prepared are focused on sustainability and are locally raised and produced. These meals are also equal parts unique and comforting.  It felt like home, if only I knew how to cook, decorate and entertain like an absolute pro.

The incredible combination of flavors was amongst the things that had me most mesmerized. For example? Duck confit ravioli paired with caramelized cauliflower and golden raisins. Or grilled rabbit paired with creamy gnocchi, broccoli, pickled chile, feta and dill. Oh, oh and the whipped cannellini bean with house pickles, reggiano crackers and Texas olive oil. I mean, how?! How does one know how to take a variety of ingredients and turn it into a complete masterpiece? Because that is what comes to mind when I remember tasting these dishes. They are works of art. In presentation and taste, these dishes are exquisitely prepared.

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How to explain a meal like this? The succulence of the duck mixed with the sweetness of the raisins made for a divine duo.  The decadent gnocchi seemed like it was destined to find the tender grilled rabbit all along. I can’t say that I’ve ever tried whipped cannellini beans before, but they reminded me of a thinner, richer mashed potato. It sounds a bit odd to say then that these whipped beans had a small puddle of olive oil in the middle. And that we dipped homemade pickles and crackers into said beans and olive oil. And that, somehow, this strange little combination of things was completely incredible. I’m convinced it takes a genius to realize how to mix all of these random ingredients into something so flawless. So, yes, I am fairly certain that the team at Intero is made up of culinary geniuses.

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I haven’t even made my way to the chocolate yet. Y’all. They make homemade truffles. They were all enchantingly good, but my favorites were the hazelnut and the sea salt. I’m a sucker for anything sweet paired with just a little bit of savory, and these beauties more than satisfied that craving.

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Every once in a while I’ll have a food tasting where I just feel very strongly that the food was created with a lot of love. My experience at Intero gave me that inkling from start to finish. It was an evening that left me reminiscing on strolling amongst and dining at little cafes in Italy. Not only was every dish both original and superb, but the entire staff was warm, funny and kind. By the end of our dinner, both me and my plus one decided we needed to become best friends with co-owner Krystal.

The folks at Intero take their name seriously. It was an experience that truly left me feeling complete.

 

Mouton’s Southern Bistro

Years and years ago, I had one of my very first blog tastings at a little Cajun café in Leander, Texas named Mouton’s. I was treated like family and feasted on course after course of Southern delights. Since then, I’ve partaken in more food tastings than I could possibly count. But I still smile with nostalgia thinking back to that early tasting. It will always be one of my first memories of my history with food blogging, and it’s such a delicious memory to have.

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Fast forward six years later and Mouton’s has opened a second location in Cedar Park. Owner Ben greeted me when I walked in, and it felt a little bit like coming full circle.

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The new location has a cozy patio perfect for the beautiful weather we’ve been having. So I pulled up a chair and mused over a menu that made me very happy indeed. Of the many appetizing additions made since my last visit was a cocktail menu that had me swooning.

I started off with Rachel’s Greyhound, a stunning mix of Deep Eddy’s Grapefruit, Elderflower Liquor, lime, lavender, vanilla and soda. The lavender was made in-house, and by that I mean I was sitting right across from the lovely little pot of lavender. This immediately made me fall even more in love with this strong but subtly sweet concoction. Speaking of strong, I ordered the Frozen Hurricane next and y’all, they do not play with the drinks at Mouton’s. They use quality ingredients and do not skimp on the alcohol, and this made me feel momentarily like I was on vacation in paradise.

The crawfish dip arrived next. Bell pepper, onion and cream cheese mixed heavenly with the crawfish, and dipping all of this goodness into the buttery French Bread was pure joy. I don’t know that I’ve ever had crawfish dip before, but it immediately tasted like a comfort food to me anyway.

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The Grillades and Grits followed up that joyful introduction. Let me break this down for you, Cheesy grits with tenderized flat iron steak mixed, braised gravy, tomatoes and the Trinity of Cajun food. What is the Trinity of Cajun food, you might ask? I asked too. It’s onion, bell pepper and celery. And, guys. These three seemingly innocent vegetables make for a deviously good addition to the best of Creole meals.

The Catfish Jambalaya gave me a little taste of the best of Cajun cuisine. This was blackened catfish combined with chicken and sausage jambalaya and topped with a cup of shrimp etoufee. This mesmerizing mix melted in my mouth while the flavors danced on my tongue. I’ve adored Cajun food since I met my Boudreaux of a husband, but this meal just made that adoration grow even stronger.

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I finished off this feast with homemade key lime pie that was decadent and creamy with just the right amount of tang. The crumbly crust was the tastiest way to end a flawless four-course meal.

Pair all of this down home, delicious eating with great conversation and good company of Ben Mouton and team, and you have yourself one gem of a restaurant.

If you happen to find yourself in the North Austin area and feel yourself craving quality Cajun eats, I can now vouch for Mouton’s two times around. It’s a place to make memories, to enjoy a happy hour with good friends, and to dine like Southern royalty.

 

Black Sugar Caffe Blog Tasting

There’s a new eatery in my neck of the woods, and what a tasty one it is.

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Black Sugar Caffe recently opened its doors in Cedar Park, and it’s making for an absolutely perfect addition to the neighborhood.

Featuring coffee, pastries, tapas, beer AND wine, Black Sugar offers a variety of culinary delights.

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Owner Judy Lu brings pizazz and soul into every part of her café. Whether it be a blue frap with edible glitter or feeding the homeless, this is a place that has as much heart as it does yum.

Judy was kind enough to take a few minutes to share with me her vision for Black Sugar Caffe. That vision is to give back to her community, especially those who are often forgotten, and also to make everyone who walks into her caffe smile. When she shared this with me, I looked around. And I smiled. Because everyone around me was smiling.

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It’s not hard to imagine why there is so much smiling involved at Black Sugar. An open and inviting café filled with love and homemade pastries? What’s not to love!? Judy travels the world to find the finest ingredients and to find inspiration for the most creative of recipes. Take the cotton candy latte, for example. This doesn’t just have a cotton candy flavor. There is, in fact, a pile of cotton candy placed on top of the latte. It’s a beauty to look at, especially considering all of said beauty is actually only one teaspoon of sugar.  It dissolves into a coffee with only the slightest bit of sweetness. The crème brulee latte is another source of happiness and entertainment. A small blow torch is brought out to create the brulee topping, making for the most fun and delicious of caffeinated treats. May I suggest asking for a green tea latte with the crème brulee topping? Judy suggested this to me and it’s my new favorite pairing.

I simply can’t wait to introduce my three-year-old to the Galaxy. This blended drink is a mesmerizing  purplish blue and is topped with edible glitter. It tastes just like a marshmallow in drink-form and had the essence of a hyper unicorn. I’m not sure whether my inner child or my food blogging self liked this one more.

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As captivating as the Galaxy was, it still might not have been the most fascinating treat I devoured. The Potted Plant dessert is an eight layer cake that looks exactly like…well, a potted plant. Though it definitely appeared that I was eating dirt, I was actually enjoying layer upon layer of butter pound cake with cream cheese, Oreo cookies, and raspberry preserves. Not only would this be a great prank to pull on friends, it would also be one of the most appetizing pranks you could ever pull. Everything at Black Sugar is homemade in their kitchen, and this potted cake and all of its rich layers left me swooning.

The tapas were just as swoon-worthy. The Firecracker is Wonton wrapped, cream-cheese filled, melt-in-your-mouth salmon and this combination makes for the most beautiful of mouth explosions.

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The coconut shrimp tacos nearly made me weak at the knees. The crunch of the shrimp and the tangy slaw paired with the soft taco was happiness in each and every bite.

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Last but definitely least was the chorizo and bacon wrapped dates. One of my favorites of the day, the saltiness of the meats and the sweetness of the dates was a match made in a food blogger’s heaven.

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Judy explained the name to her café to me. Black symbolizes authority while sugar stands for sweetness and love. And using power to make the world a sweeter place? What a delicious statement that makes.

 

 

Still Austin Whiskey Tasting

A whiskey distillery has officially arrived in Austin, y’all! Still Austin is the first since the Prohibition to arrive in our great city, and I was all too happy to partake in a tour and tasting of this new establishment.

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To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of straight liquor, nor did I have much knowledge of whiskey prior to this tour. I’m still far from being a connoisseur, but after a lesson in this sophisticated spirit, I have a newfound respect for whiskey.

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The tour was informative and fascinating. I don’t want to give away all of the fun facts, as it’s really better if you go experience it yourself, but I was blown away by the knowledge of the staff and the intricacies (and the machinery) that go into whiskey making. I will say this – Knowing that this whiskey is made from scratch and aged in wooden barrels right here in Austin had me instantaneously smitten with Still Austin.

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The tasting followed the tour, and gave an idea of the variety that Still Austin has to offer. I am not usually much of a straight whiskey sipper, but I definitely didn’t mind making an exception in this case. Each of the four samples offered a unique and distinguished taste, and allowed me to appreciate the art of the drink. The New Make whiskey was the regular, non-flavored of the four, and surprised me in being clear. Made from corn, wheat and barley, I swear I could nearly taste the Austin-style love put into this. Then came the flavored whiskeys. The Daydreamer Whiskey is made with citrus and had me daydreaming of summers in this great city ; the Mother Pepper is made from three different types of pepper and provides a satisfying slow burn paired with a light smokiness. Finally, the Old Fashioned was a slightly sweet and oh-so-tasty rendition of a classic.

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Bonus – Cocktails are also available in their tasting room, and although a distillery, they have made the space into an inviting and modern spot for sharing drinks with friends. Outside there is a food truck and a spacious patio with games like giant Jenga. I have a slight giant Jenga obsession and cannot wait to go back when it’s warmer out!

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All in all this is a fun and unmatched experience that we Austinites are lucky to have the chance to explore. My only regret is visiting right after Christmas – Still Austin whiskey would be a perfect gift to both give and receive. I already know what I’m asking Santa for next year, y’all!