Tasting at Treaty Oak

The weather is FINALLY getting cooler here in Austin. Cooler for us does not mean cold. It just means not miserably hot. Think 75 degrees-ish. So why it might not feel exactly like fall, it is beautiful and the ideal time for sitting outside to eat, drink and be merry. This is one of the many reasons that Treaty Oak is currently one of my go-to spots in the Austin area.

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Treaty Oak is known for being a distillery and for making some of the tastiest cocktails around.¬† Whether you’re wanting gin, rum, vodka or bourbon, they’ve got it. And pitchers of the stuff, if your heart so desires. (No pitchers of bourbon though, kids. Because, uh, bad decisions would be made.) Pitchers of cocktails! As if that doesn’t already sound enough like paradise, Treaty Oak rests on 20+ acres of gorgeous land in the Texas Hill Country. With benches and games and twinkle lights galore and even a playground for the littles, this is one of the most magical places to spend an afternoon in the greater Austin area.

But, wait. I haven’t even made my way to the most exciting part yet. Treaty Oak has recently started serving culinary delights at their new restaurant, Ghost Hill. While Treaty Oak has always served tasty snacks, they now offer a chef-prepared BBQ menu that is absolutely divine.

Executive Chef Chris Andrews is something of a culinary genius with the combinations and flavors he has created in the dishes at Ghost Hill. The ribs were some of the best ribs I have ever had the chance to devour. Ever so lightly fried and with a sesame bourbon glaze, pickled carrots, Asian herbs and lime. I might be trying not to drool while typing this. I might also be failing.

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Truth be told,¬† barbeque is usually my least favorite type of food. This basically makes me a terrible Texan, I know, but there’s the truth. BUT Treaty Oak had me second-guessing my standpoint on BBQ.¬† Partly because the meats were all so perfect. The brisket, for example. Smoked to perfection and equal parts juicy and tender, this stuff quickly had me becoming a barbeque believer. And the roasted pork shoulder? Y’all. We’re talking achiote, cilantro, onion, cotija, lime and corn tortillas to pile all of this goodness onto. Obviously, this visit quickly had me converting into a BBQ believer. But another major factor in my newfound love were the sides. Chris and I both agreed that many popular BBQ places do great with the meats but slack on the sides. The sides are usually my favorite part about BBQ, so I am thrilled to report that they are most definitely not skimped on at Ghost Hill.

The potato salad was amongst my favorite of sides to devour. It’s both mayonnaise and mustard based, and this combo of flavors paired with the smoked brisket and lightly fried ribs left me swooning hard. But what equally impressed me in regards to each side was the care that was so obviously put into each. Chef Andrews knows that a meal is made extra special when every little detail is taken care of.¬† So, to my delight, every side dish could stand alone as its own delicious meal.

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Even the queso, though not exactly a typical bbq appetizer, was divine. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to judge a place based on how good their queso is.¬† To be fair, I wouldn’t have judged the queso quite as harshly at a barbeque joint, but Ghost Hill got so many extra brownie points (cheese points) for their decandently creamy, dreamy, cheesy goodness.

I can’t write a post about a distillery without giving a shoutout to at least a couple of drinks, I have to recommend the Dark & Stormy, which is Treaty Oak’s take on the Moscow Mule. Instead of vodka, they use rum! I absolutely love this substitution and now want to forever drink my ginger beer with rum. Not on their everyday menu is the seasonal spiked apple cider, which comes complete with an in-house made apple chip. Just the right amount of sweet and spice and everything nice. It was like drinking a cup of fall.

Oh, wait, wait, wait. How have I not mentioned the ice cream yet? Because, y’all. Homemade ice cream. I tried the strawberry basil and was absolutely blown away by the way the basil so elegantly complemented the strawberry. Chef noted that he has always loved adding herbs to ice cream flavors, and this is definitely a skill he has mastered. If you’re looking for sweets with a little aromatic kick, look no further than Ghost Hill.

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Treaty Oak is always working hard to make their space the best it can be, and it shows with every sip, every bite and every glance around their property. Though the distillery is only opened on the weekends,¬† the Ghost Hill hours have been expanded to also be opened on Thursdays from 4-9. May I suggest visiting the restaurant on one of these Thursdays? I may or may not have the inside scoop that the most unique of recipes are always being cooked up on this particular day. Chef Andrews has also started catering events for 10-500 people, so naturally I want to have every event ever in my life catered by Treaty Oak. But truly, whatever day and for whatever reason you decide to visit,¬† you’re going to feel like a kid in a candy store. Or an adult in a distillery store, if you will.

I could rave for another fifty paragraphs or so about the happiness I found at Treaty Oak. Whether it be the gorgeous property or the exquisite tastes, the good company or the bounty of libations, this spot has been added to my list of treasures. So I’m sending out an open invitation for all¬† reading this. Come for the BBQ. Or if you’re one of my vegetarian pals, come for the sides. Stay for the views and the pitchers of cocktails. And second helpings of barbeque.

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.

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.

Delysia Chocolatier Tasting

Note: This post was written back in April. In between studying for finals and planning a trip to Ireland, I completely forgot to post it. Glancing at my blog drafts, I realized I have been withholding my readers from chocolate euphoria. My deepest apologies, dearest friends.

Hidden in an unassuming warehouse lot¬†is a building that is¬†half in Cedar Park, half in Austin. From the outside, you would never¬†guess¬†that this is one of the¬†top ten chocolatiers of both¬†North and South America. Walking inside, it’s not so hard to imagine. Welcome to Delysia Chocolatier, y’all.

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Delysia’s¬†brings the taste of fine European chocolate to the Austin area, and the interior says as much. Simple but elegant, colorful but refined,¬†the chocolatier¬†immediately sets itself apart from its¬†neighbors. Stepping into the doors of Delysia’s is what I imagine it must have been like for Hansel and Gretel to find the house made of candy deep in the forest. Except there is no evil old lady, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

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No, in this¬†shop of chocolate you will find Nicole, the business owner and¬†chocolate-maker¬†who, in fact,¬†does not eat chocolate. “It gives me migraines.” she tells me. Wait. Like, do you need a permanent taste tester?¬†Just to keep you in the best of health?¬†Because I’d totally be down for this gig.

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Nicole began¬†dabbling in¬†chocolate¬†at eight months pregnant¬†when her husband had an office party in need of food. She didn’t feel like leaving the house to buy groceries, and had recently¬†been¬†bingeing on Food Network. This is where her chocolate experimentation began. Years later, the divinity that is Delysia Chocolatier was born.

An engineer by trade, Nicole is now using her talents to design the loveliest and tastiest of chocolates.¬†The exquisite flavors¬†melted¬†and danced in my mouth, and I somehow managed to fight the urge of jumping up and down whilst saying ‘OH MY GOD SO GOOD.’ But there is more to Delysia than just deliciousness. Nicole has turned the business of chocolate making into a work of art. The entire experience, from walking through the doors to eating little pieces of heaven to touring the facility, was like witnessing a masterpiece.¬†I’m talking a¬†fried chicken-baked potato-bloody mary-merlot¬†chocolate (Yes, these are all actual¬†options at Delysia)¬†masterpiece. Excuse me while I go dream about bathing in¬†truffles.

Pst-¬† For¬†all my non-Austin friends, you can order Nicole’s chocolates online! They make a great gift if you can refrain from eating them all first. If you have the level of self-control that I do when it comes to delicious things, the empty boxes would make a pretty gift too.