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.

Eldorado Café

You guys know that restaurants are a thing for me. Since becoming a more experienced food blogger in the past few years, I’ve learned how to wine and dine myself. I go to frequent food tastings. Basically, I eat a lot. So when I tell you I have a new restaurant to add to my Austin Top 10, you should know that this is pretty serious stuff. Eldorado Caf√© makes for some serious eats, y’all.

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This new Mexican Comfort Food eatery is located in a strip mall on Anderson Lane, but it feels more like walking into your best friend’s house. If your best friend is a tried and true Austinite who can make a mean Mai Tai and drool-worthy carnitas.

Truly.¬† I walked into Eldorado and one of the first things that happened was me being handed a slice of Mexican Pizza that the owners were taste-testing. I might have mumbled something about how good it looked. Next thing I know, “Here!” – and the tasty little Mexican Pizza slice is now in my possession.¬† So we were off to a good start.

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But, truth be told, I knew I would like owner Joanna before I even met her. She used the word “Yay” more than once in our email correspondence, and I was sold. After the tasting she titled an email with the word, “Awesomeness”, and I obviously knew from that point that she was just the best ever.

Joanna and her husband (fellow owner and head chef) Joel, longtime Austinites themselves, have created an atmosphere that embodies the goodness that Austin is made of. Kindness, for starters. Speaking with Joanna and Joel felt like chatting with long lost buddies. They were warm and funny and inviting and just the right amount of eccentric. My kind of humans. These two also know their way around the city, and have made friends with what seems like half of the ATX. In fact, Eldorado is up and running due to a slew of investors and backers in the area. On the ceiling you can note the name of many who helped make this foodie’s dream a reality.¬† The restaurant itself seems to tell its own special tale of Austin living and loving.

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The food has its own stories to tell as well.¬† Each dish and drink came with an anecdote of how exactly it came to be.¬† The Shiny Ribs, for instance. The name stems from the local band named, appropriately enough, the Shiny Ribs. Joanna and Joel both love said band and one member is even a backer of Eldorado. So the Shiny Ribs were lucky enough to have Shiny Ribs named after them. (Can we call the queso Christina’s Queso?! Pleaaaseeee?) The dish itself, inspired from many trips to visit Joanna’s step-dad in Hawaii, is slightly tangy and subtly sweet and a (non-vegetarians)¬† food-blogger’s dream come true. Joel noted that, while it seems to be a trend to keep ribs sauce-free as of late, he decided that, in modeling the Chinese sparerib, he would keep the sauce. Can I just tell you how much I highly agree with this decision? Because, guys. The sauce is pure divinity.

And divine is the word I would use for most of the Eldorado menu, Divine, but more importantly, unique. Esme’s Magic, for example. This is an enchilada stuffed with mashed potatoes and topped with ancho chile sauce. Mashed potatoes is a common theme for stuffing things with at Eldorado. I would be lying if I told you I thought I would love this from the get-go. I don’t love mashed potatoes, okay? I’m weird, ALRIGHT?! But I should be using past tense here. I didn’t love mashed potatoes. But Eldorado, in all their magical potato stuffing powers, changed my mind and my life here. I was blown away by how ingeniously they used their tots. Turns out, mashed potatoes inside enchiladas is a mind-blowingly magical experience. Thank you for carb-seducing me out of my ignorance, Eldorado.

If I HAD to pick a favorite dish (like if somebody was tickling me and told me to pick or they would keep tickling me forever which is my worst nightmare) I’d probably go with the Carnitas Cubanos. This is¬†Crispy Pork Roasted in a Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Mojo. It’s like it sounds, but somehow so much better. The pork is crispy on the outside but nearly melts in your mouth as you bite into it. Paired with one of their homemade corn or flour tortillas? It’s a mouth orgasm, guys.

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I know this is getting long, but I would be remiss to not mention the queso in detail. While I don’t consider myself a queso snob, I do have an intense obsession with good queso. So much so that I usually know if I will or will not like a place based on my first taste of their melted cheesy goodness. And y’all, I absolutely adored Eldorado’s queso.¬† It was creamy and smooth and mixed with just the right amount of veggies. Love from first bite. And until approximately my 150th bite because I basically licked that bowl clean. Oh, and if you want to spice up the chip you’re dipping, may I also recommend trying one of their FIVE amazing salsas? Avocado, salsa fresca, chileverde, salsa x, el scorpio. Yum, yum, yum, yum and more yum,

As I chatted and laughed with the owners and staff, sipped on tasty cocktails and indulged in dish after dish of bites that made me whisper-scream, “OH MY GOD.” about a million times, I realized I’d found something really, really special at Eldorado.

Joanna and Joel met at the late Electric Lounge, where they both bartended. They were just friends at the time, but met again years later. And now here they are. Owning a business and making people happy and full together. That is an Austin love story if I ever did hear one. I’m just feeling lucky that the rest of us get to be a part of that.

 

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.

Sad game, Good party.

As I’m sure most of you know, Texas lost last night.¬† However, it was still a pretty damn good night, for the following reasons:

1. One of the best friends tagged along to the party with me.

2. Lots of food.  I think my favorite was the meatloaf cake.Yes, you heard me right.  It looks like a cake, and tastes like meatloaf. I was in awe.  I think I told the dude who was awesome enough to cook this how amazing it was about a thousand times. Looked a little something like this, but with bacon instead of ketchup (I liked the substitute,not a big ketchup fan.)

3. Leading me to this….Have any of you ever heard of This is why you’re fat.com? This is where the ‘cake’ maker got the recipe and told me I needed to go check it out. He and a couple others were surprised I’d never heard of it before and mentioned something along the lines of two donuts being used as hamburger buns….WHAT!? I had to see.After seeing this amazing food-filled web site, I’m an instant fan. Go look, go look!

4. Betting with shots. Brittany and I held strong on the bet that if Texas got another touchdown, meatloaf guy takes another shot. It definitely happened. He had his first ever shot of jager. I took one with him but couldn’t finish mine. Ick. I got made fun of a few times by different people for nursing all of my shots that night.¬† My gag reflex sucks, okay!?

5. Marriage talk! I don’t get to talk about marriage with girls really, ever. No friends of mine or anyone my age is married and my older friends that are married got married years and years ago. There was a lovely couple there that got married the same day as Robby and I. We talked honeymoons,house-buying, and the fact that everyone and our mothers want to know when we’re popping a baby out. (hint, NOT anytime soon,dammit.)¬† It was nice to have someone to relate and laugh with marriage-wise for a few hours.

6. New people. I love people, I love anything new, I especially love instantly hitting it off with new people. I met a lot of adorable new people last night and was a little surprised how sweet they all were. Brittany and Deesh were the hosts and they’re still fairly new to me too.¬† You know when you can tell right off the bat that people are just…genuinely good? I get that vibe with them both.¬† Not to mention they’re a lot of fun and can host a really good shin-dig. Brittany also introduced me to Amaretto. I didn’t even know that was alcohol, I thought it was a lovely smell/yummy coffee flavoring.Well,It’s freaking good. Or, it was until the two of us stupidly decided to mix Everclear with it. Not such a good idea. It is a good idea (courtesy Deesh) to have a board game night soon though.¬† I made my Apples to Apples love affair known.

7.Yeah so, the game kind of sucked. But drinks were pouring, My best friend joined me, The company was lovely; Lots of high-fives and shot-taking and laughs.¬† Oh, and meatloaf cakes. So I say lose or not, the night was a success. One of the reasons I love football so much? It’s about the company just as much as it is the game. I call win on that part of the night at least.