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!

DeSano Pizza Tasting

I’m a picky pizza person.

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I’ve always been particular about the width of the crust paired with the amount and taste of sauce, and the ratio of said sauce to cheese and other toppings. It’s a tricky business, y’all. My husband and daughter both love Little Caesar’s. Just the name makes my nose involuntarily turn up, so they share a father-daughter pizza night during my grad school classes on Tuesday nights. So really you could argue that my pizza snobbery has started a cute tradition.

But I digress. I recently was lucky enough to have a blog tasting at DeSano Pizerria. Please know that I do not take it lightly when I tell you I have found my new favorite pizza place, or that this was amongst the best pizza that I’ve had in the United States.

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In fact, everything about this fast-casual restaurant was reminiscent of Italy to me.

This might have been due to of all of the ingredients transported from Italy to Texas. Or possibly the four brick ovens from Naples. Or the Italian wine sold by the bottle, crazy affordable yet noticeably high quality. Maybe it was the fact that all of the inventory is placed in the front, so that the authenticity became apparent as soon as I walked through the doors. Perhaps it was the charming and welcoming staff, who could toss some mean pizza dough to boot. Or maybe it was the moment my eyes met their first Italian fork mixer, which spins the dough as delicately as would a person’s hands.

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Speaking of quality, this might be the word that describes DeSano Pizzeria best. Owner Jimmy Fitzgerald, whom I had the honor of sitting down to dinner with, knows a little something about this noun. He’s opened and worked in restaurants all over the world, and does so with both integrity and pizazz. (A coincidence that pizza and pizazz are so close in spelling? I think not.) Every single ingredient put into the pizza at DeSano is so clearly of the highest caliber. The world is literally searched until the absolute best is found, and this fact is evident in every bite. But more than anything for me, it was simply Italy at first bite.

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 Take the mozzarella di buffalo, for example. This is the cheese that is added to all but one pizza, and is also found in the best caprese salad I’ve ever had the honor of tasting. It comes from not a cow, but a water buffalo. A water buffalo! Jimmy explained to me that this is the “secret” ingredient of DeSano. Upon tasting, I immediately understood why. It is richer, creamier and more decadent than cow-based caprese. It also made me want to invest in a water buffalo. Let me know if y’all have any leads for me there.

Can I just rave a little more about the pizza? Because it was everything. The crust was thin but sturdy and perfectly charred. The mozzarella di buffalo, in all of its glory, paired magnificently with just the right amount of tomato sauce. This pizza passed my picky-pizza-test with flying colors, guys. I’m talking head of the class, teacher’s pet, A+,all-the-other-pizzas-are-annoyed-but-secretly-jealous kind of passing.

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As my conversation with Jimmy continued and course after course appeared, the more deeply I fell in love with DeSano. I swooned with adoration and mouthwatering happiness over the Nutella pizza and the homemade meatballs and the pistachio cannoli. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when the sweet and spicy flavor of peppadews danced in my mouth. All the while, I felt as if I had been transported to a café in Italy, whilst drinking wine on tap, sitting on a gorgeous wooden bench and getting lost in good conversation.

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DeSano started in Nashville and has, thankfully, just found its way here to Austin. This pizzeria is so authentic that born and bred Italians often visit for comfort food. As for us Austinites? Until we figure out how to create a transportation device, this might just be our next closest thing.

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I’m already itching to take my little tribe back to my new favorite and family-friendly pizzeria. Bryn can play with pizza dough while I sip on red wine and Robby enjoys a draft Peroni. Then we’ll all feast on a Margherita pizza made with the exquisite mozzarella di bufala. That’s my kind of family tradition.