Baked By Amy’s Tasting

You walk in, and are immediately hit with the smell of happiness. The sweet¬†warmth¬†of cupcakes and cookies fill your lungs, and there’s suddenly an extra bounce in your step.¬† It’s like magic. Beautiful, delicious magic.

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This is how I felt walking into Baked by Amy’s. I was immediately greeted with four seasonal macarons, two cookies the size of my face and three gigantic cupcakes.¬†They sure do know how to woo a girl.¬†I was also immediately charmed by the interior. Bright and merry and full of flowers and¬†gorgeously decorated chalkboards.

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I was so excited about all of the things that it took me a while to settle down and actually bite into anything.  But once I started eating, stopping was not an option.

The pina colada macaron had me from first taste. I had forgotten the description given to me by the time I¬†bit into it, but it might as well have been called “summer.” It tasted like¬†a first dip into a swimming pool, like the sweet smell of tropical suntan lotion, like a perfect vacation in the middle of July. Put simply, it was paradise to my taste buds.

Another source of pure joy? The lemon tart cupcake donned a light, whipped topping which was an¬†ideal¬†match for the crumbly,¬†curd filled cupcake. Another addition that pairs wonderfully with a hot, summer’s day.

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The rest of the baked goodness did not disappoint. From the Tres Leches cupcake full of fresh fruit and cream to the¬†blissfully sweet¬†cherry and berry macarons, every little thing Baked by Amy’s does¬†is magic.

The best part of all of this for someone as indecisive as me? I don’t have to choose between cupcakes, cookies or macarons before coming in.¬†They have ’em all! Not in the mood for any of that (you crazy, boo) either? There’s an Amy’s Ice Creams RIGHT next door.

Did I mention yet¬†Baked by Amy’s¬†is ten minutes from my house? Ain’t that the sweetest?!

 

Tasting at La Patisserie

I have macarons on my mind. ¬†Pistachio macarons, white macadamia macarons, rose macarons. ¬†All of the macarons.¬†Also¬†chocolate croissants,¬†lemon tarts¬†and various other French pastries. Who is to blame for my fixation, you¬†might ask? La Patisserie is the culprit.¬†Two weeks ago¬†I had a tasting at this French pastry shop and it’s roughly 75% of what I’ve been thinking about for the past¬†fourteen¬†days.¬† Obsessive? Maybe. Croissant crazed? Perhaps. Delicious? AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

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The rose flavored macaron, which was light and airy as a cloud, surprised me. I’m not usually big on floral flavors, but the delicately¬†delicious taste changed all of that for me. It was immediately a favorite, though the white macadamia was also in the running. Rich but smooth, this is a flavor that the masses will enjoy. The Funfetti flavor boasts sprinkles and sweetness¬†– I took this one home to my three-year-old (Okay, I took a bite out of it first. For the blog, of course.) and she devoured it and commented, “Mmmm! It’s good.” Food critic in the making, y’all.

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I can’t not mention the lemon meringue tart. Both tiny and regal, this little guy packs a big and beautiful¬†tart punch. This paired with the buttery¬†flakiness¬†that nearly melted in my mouth¬†have¬†me swooning while typing. And the Millefeuille?¬†Bliss.¬†Chocolate and butter loaded bliss. Need I say more?

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Actually, I do need to say a little more. Soraiya, the owner of La Patisserie, is such a joy.¬†¬†It was immediately evident to me both the love and care she puts into everything from her sweet treats to her equally sweet staff. She is an attentive, warm and¬†genuinely kindhearted individual. Speaking with her warmed my soul as much as the delicious Green Tea/ Coffee hybrid I was drinking.¬†In the time I spent at La Patisserie, we talked everything from our kids to travel to¬†the importance of women banding together.¬†All of this while I’m nibbling on the most heavenly of macarons. It was truly a lovely experience.

I’d love to tell you how the idea for all of the loveliness¬†began. After a childhood trip to France, Soraiya told her parents she would open a French pastry shop one day.¬†La Patisserie¬†now¬†boasts both a downtown and a north Austin¬†location on Burnet Road. They¬†are both¬†reminiscent of the quaintest of European cafes.¬†She is truly living her dream, and that is pretty inspiring stuff.

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Soraiya’s favorite thing about owning a pastry shop? Seeing people’s faces light up when they try macarons for¬†the first time. This was not my first macaron, but I know my face lit up just the same.

Tasting at Coffee Shark

I have a new favorite coffee shop in Austin. Maybe even new favorite coffee shop ever.¬† It’s called Coffee Shark, and it will change your life in the best, most caffeinated¬†way possible.

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Don’t let the name fool you. Coffee Shark serves far more than just coffee (also there’s no sharks), my friends. They’ve also got an amazing array of beer, sandwiches, (may I suggest the Pesto Mozzarella Tomato? Because I’m daydreaming about that cheese and pesto filled ciabatta bun right about now.)¬†soups, pizza (from East¬†Side Pies!),¬†and so much more. I’m going to make a suggestion. Order the soft pretzels and the cheese plate and proceed to immediately dip the soft pretzels into the brie. GUYS. I am salivating thinking about this right now.

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The inside dons the open,¬†industrial vibes that¬†I am learning is¬†something¬†that I like a lot in my coffee shops. Games like cornhole and giant Jenga grace the back patio, which is perfect for drinking a cold beer on a hot, summer’s day. As far as beer goes, the¬†flirty and¬†fruity Hye-Biscus had me hooked from first sip.

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The best part?¬†All is¬†served with a heaping side of LOVE, y’all. Okay, I know that sounds super cheesy, (Speaking of cheese –¬†Coffee Shark’s all¬†comes from the local Antonelli’s Cheese Shop) but it’s true.¬†Both the staff and clientele at Coffee Shark made me feel like family. I spent over three hours at this tasting, and when I wasn’t eating I was probably laughing or lost in good conversation. I hit it off with one group of customers so well that I made them take a picture with me and the owner joked that he had hired them for the day. After that, I spent another hour and a half¬†chuckling and chatting¬†with the Coffee Shark team.

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Though mine was more of a beer and food tasting, I can’t not mention the coffee. I had a regular drip coffee but this was far from¬†any¬†‘ole¬†regular drip coffee. Coffee Shark uses a steampunk coffee brewer. This is a hybrid (trybrid?) of the French press,¬†siphon and pour over. They make their delightful drip coffees by using temperature, time, volume and water agitation.¬† So basically this coffee is pure MAGIC.

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I almost wish I could keep this place a secret, but that would be nearly criminal. I must share this good with the world. So, here you go, world. Coffee Shark is where it’s at.¬†¬†Prepare¬†to eat good food, drink good drinks, and make new friends.

Nate’s Coffee & Cocktails

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Last week¬†I had a cocktail and cake ball tasting at Nate’s in downtown Buda. I’ve worked in this¬†Buda once a week for years, but have only recently become smitten with¬†the downtown area.¬†Nate’s only made me fall so much harder.

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Before Nate’s was a cocktail bar, it was an auto part’s store.¬†I¬†adored the open and airy feel that was leftover from the past, and that they’ve¬†kept some of the rustic warehouse vibes¬†too. ¬†Oh, and have¬†I mentioned the¬†spacious wooden patio?¬†All of this goodness¬†makes for such¬†a¬†charming¬†environment, friends.

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The cocktails just put the cherry on top of all of said charm. Nate’s has this drink-making stuff down pat, y’all. Strong? Check. Unique and magical¬†flavor combinations? Check. Delicious? Check, check, check. Probably my favorite drink was the Main Street Smash, which consisted of Deep Eddy Ruby Red, Starlite vodka, fresh lemon,¬†cucumber and mint, St. Germain.¬†Sipping on this was refreshing and delightful and reminiscent of the perfect summer day.

Nate’s also offers an extensive beer and wine menu, coffee, sandwiches, snacks and CAKE BALLS which, if you can’t tell by my all caps there, are amazing. Their coffee¬†comes from the local and loved Cuvee and their eats from the delightful¬†Crema Bakery. ¬†The in-house¬†created meat and cheese plate is also delightful and was the perfect match for my cocktails.

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Being at Nate’s solo was wonderful, but this is such an ideal spot to laugh and chat with¬†people you like a lot.¬†Living in North Austin,¬†this¬†is a bit of a drive for me. But, man, oh man. It’s worth the drive. I would more than happily daydream about cocktails and cake balls for the entirety of this little¬†road-trip.

This Right Now

Hello, friends!

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It’s been a hot minute.

Grad school is cray, but guess what?! I graduate in THREE months. I’m currently¬†on a short (but much needed) break, and when I start back up it will¬†be for my last semester. I’ll spare you the that-makes-me-a-little-weepy-because-I-love-my-cohort-SO-MUCH-and-what-the-heck-where-did -the-two-years-go, but really I won’t because there it is. HA.

What else?

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So far this year¬†I’ve traveled to Seattle, Vancouver, DC, Maryland and Marfa, Texas. I somewhat unexpectedly fell in love with West Texas and am already trying to plan a trip back. Think the culture of Mexico/New Mexico but with the hippie/artsy vibes of Austin. I was instantly smitten. I’m lucky my little fam rolls with my whims and was down for a quick weekend trip and, you know, fifteen hours of driving in three days. They’re champs, my people.

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For our Capstone in this last semester, our cohort has been assigned the task of becoming consultants for a local¬†Austin¬†business of our choosing. ¬†It’s quite the undertaking, and I am¬†slightly terrified but mostly excited for how this program is helping to shape my future.

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It’s hard for me to not constantly be asking myself, “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?!” This is a monumental point in my life, and I’m aware of that. But I’m also aware of the fact that I’ll never be twenty-eight again. My daughter will never be three again.¬†She won’t sing herself to sleep or ask for my help finding snails for too much longer. My husband and I will only celebrate nine years of togetherness, just this one month of this one year.¬†I’ll only be¬†sitting in a classroom, laughing with my cohort fam¬†and¬†sometimes sneaking in¬†boxed wine for one more summer.¬†This is the last bit of time that I’ll take weekly walks through the gorgeous campus that has now¬†become my¬†second home.¬†It’s a special time, this right now.¬†I’m just trying to remind myself to slow down and cherish the heck out of it all.

Tasting at Shack 512

Entering Shack 512 made me feel as if I was instantly transported to a luxurious vacation.  The drive out was a bit of a road-trip, albeit a beautiful and scenic one. But I knew as soon as I was taking the trolley ride down to the restaurant that it would be more than worth the miles.

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Breathtaking views of the lake paired with a relaxed yet stylish environment made me giddy for the rest of the evening. The eats and drinks I was served after, and the service that made me feel like I was part of the family only confirmed my giddiness.

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Shack512 has recently undergone¬†a few¬†alterations, this including name and ownership changes. Speaking with the owner Ashley, it was so clear to me the love and consideration that has gone into preparing each new dish and decision. As most Austinites will attest too, many of our lakeside restaurants are more about the location and less about the food. At Shack 512, the location and food compete for first place. The culinary creations here are unique, flavorful and fun. Take for example the pulled pork nachos that come topped with pico and smothered with queso blanco. Or the dipping sauce that perfectly accompanies this (and many other dishes), the Bourbon Glaze.¬†Said glaze consists of (get ready for your mouth to water)¬†saut√©ed garlic and onions in a sweet Kentucky bourbon and brown sugar reduction. It’s DIVINE, you guys. And let’s not forget the Mexican Martini,¬† which is spiced up with jalapenos and served in a HUGE shaker. It’s just as magical as it sounds.

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Really, I just loved being there. I loved sipping my Mexican Martini as the sun set. I loved the open, outdoor seating and feeling the wind through my hair as I laughed with other guests. I loved stuffing my face with bacon wrapped shrimp and Texas chicken alfredo. The whole evening was just so very enchanting. It was hard to believe that I had never been there before, because it felt like an evening spent with friends.

Did I mention yet that I was delivered a make-your-own-smores buffet with my own personal fire? Because that also happened. And it was just as amazing as it sounds.

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Shack 512 is something special, you guys. They’ll make you feel like you’re at home. But a home with gorgeous¬†¬†and the biggest and the best Mexican Martini you ever did taste. So like, the best home ever.

Going Places

Hi, friends!

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You may have noticed I’ve made a couple of changes? After nearly eight years as christinadoesitall, I am now christinagoingplaces. Bittersweet. Bitter, because I’ve made so many happy memories and friends as christinadoesitall. Sweet, because I’m slowly finding my niche and place in this world. After years of dabbling in a little bit of everything and loving every moment of that, I am beginning to¬†realize my¬†passions. I’m both¬†an MBA¬†student¬†and a girl who just really loves to¬†explore the world. Education and travel are both so very valuable to me.¬†So in¬†more than one sense of the term, my goal is to be going places.

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So here I am! Doing things! Going places!

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Later this week¬†I’ll be heading to Virginia and¬†Maryland to visit my best friend of sixteen years. Because of Meg and her family, this part of the world has become much¬†like a second home to me.¬†I can’t wait to hug and laugh and dance and¬†adventure with one of my favorite human beings.

When I return to Austin, it will be the beginning of crunch time. I graduate in five months, y’all! Part of me is so ready and the other part just wants time to slow down. The past¬†year and seven months of grad school has been a blur of hard work and magic. I’m not¬†ready for another semester of grueling coursework, but I’m not quite¬†ready for it to all be over yet either.

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Speaking of not being quite ready for things. This month I¬†turn twenty-eight. Like what? When? HOW?! I wonder where all the time has gone, but then I remember. It’s been spent doing really great things. Like building a home and a family with¬†the¬†dude I love the most.¬†And getting lost in happy hours and good conversation and captivating reads. Chasing big dreams, and catching many of them. Trying new things and facing fears head on.¬†(Unless this fear involves getting my blood drawn and then I will definitely turn my head away and also¬†possibly pass out.)¬†Driving through states and boarding lots and lots of airplanes.¬†And learning.¬†Always learning.

And all of that? It makes twenty-eight sound way¬†less scary and¬†much¬†more like a wonderland of possibility. I can’t wait to see where I’ll go next.

Pst –

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By the way, I’m way blonde now! It feels fun and right.