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.

bakedbyamys

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.

bakedbyamys5

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.

bakedbyamys50

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 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.

pretzel

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.

coffeeshark31

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.

coffeesharkbeer

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.

coffeeshark35

coffeesharkteam

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.

metasting

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.

shack5125

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.

shack51250

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.

shacklt5

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.

shacklaketravis

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.

Scoop and Score Ice Cream Tasting

scoopandscore

I love finding treasures in my neck of the woods, and I especially love when these treasures involve things that are delicious.

So you can all just imagine my delight when a blog tasting presented itself with the local-to-me ice cream/coffee shop that is Scoop and Score.

scoop1.JPG

If any of you are reading this and are from Ohio, Kentucky or (hold¬†up, about to use some Texan¬†terminology on¬†y’all)¬†somewhere up there, than you are lucky enough to have a Graeter’s Ice Cream in your general vicinity.

I had never been this fortunate until visiting Scoop and Score. See, the owners are Ohioans who now reside in Texas. Realizing how much they missed their Graeters ice cream, husband and wife duo Alex and Angie were able to strike up a deal with this family run shop. They are the only ice cream shop in Texas to sell Graeter’s, and this makes me want to do a happy dance.

scoop5

Because guys, after you taste this ice cream, there is no going back to the ordinary stuff. Welcome to the dark (aka delicious) side.

Upon walking in, I was immediately warmed by the inviting atmosphere. The interior is at once fun and friendly, with a variety of seating to meet all of your cozy needs.

Okay, okay. I’m trying to be patient but I just need to tell you guys about the Graeter’s ice cream now. It’s the only ice cream in the United States to be made in a French pot. This unique fact is immediately evident in the smooth¬†and rich divinity that is Scoop and Score’s selling point. I tried every single flavor, and they were all insanely and superbly delicious. But, friends? If you have to choose one ice cream to eat for the rest of your entire life, make sure it’s Graeter’s black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream. This is what lactose dreams are made of, y’all.

scoopandscore25

Let me brag about this place just¬†a little more. The cones at Scoop and Score are hand spun. The salted caramel affogato? What espresso ice cream dreams are made of. And the chocolate chips in the ice cream? Humongous chunks of heaven. This is no Hershey’s chocolate. It’s Peter’s, if you were wondering. We don’t have a Peter’s chocolate here¬†in Texas, so I’ll gladly just keep getting my fix from Scoop and Score. To make things even more spectacular, Austin’s famous Cuvee coffee is brewed here. Basically, all bases are covered. Score. (I’m trying to make a sporty pun based on their name but feel like I’m failing miserably. Humor me here.)

Another fun fact? Oprah’s favorite ice cream is Graeter’s Butter Pecan. Austinites, Oprah’s favorite ice cream is now just a short drive away. You get a Scoop and Score, you get a Scoop and Score, EVERYBODY GETS A SCOOP AND SCORE!

And how very lucky that makes us.

(Pst- Scoop and Score has some big community¬†goals and plans coming up, and to help with these they’ve started a GoFundMe account. Click here to donate!)

DeSano Pizza Tasting

I’m a picky pizza person.

desano1

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.

desano11

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.

desano5.jpg

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.

desano3

¬†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.

desano2

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 caf√© in Italy, whilst drinking wine on tap, sitting on a gorgeous wooden bench and getting¬†lost in good conversation.

cannoli

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.

desano25

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.

The Factory: Caf√© with a Soul

I knew as soon as I saw¬†photos of The Factory that it was something special – magical, even. I had an inkling that it might become one of my new favorite Austin treasures. I love it when I’m doubly right.

thefactory2

Walking into The Factory felt a lot¬†like stepping inside of a dream come true. I went from being outside of Northcross Mall to being transported to a land of swings and beautiful artwork and hanging lights and¬†unicorns. Okay, I’m totally lying about the¬†unicorns part. But it was so enchanting, I almost wouldn’t have been surprised. Co-owner Wendy’s talent for design is remarkable, especially when learning that¬†she originally created the¬†gigantic wall mural from her iPhone.

I could have been satisfied just staring at The Factory for hours, but the interior beauty was only the beginning.

factory8

I’m not somebody who often says sappy things like,¬†“I can taste the love in this.” But, y’all. At this tasting, I swear I could taste the love put into every sip and bite.¬†I think that’s¬†partly¬†because everything¬†about The Factory is a labor of love. I knew this as soon as I started chatting with Wallace, who owns the caf√© with wife Wendy.

factory32

When I asked Wallace to tell me more about how the café came to be, he launched into the love story of how he and Wendy first met. They were both attending college in LA when they found each other through mutual friends at a movie theater. Neither of them were fond of the other girl sitting nearest them, so they decided to talk to each other instead. And the rest is history.

History that has, thankfully, brought The Factory to Austin.

factory4

Everything about the caf√© had me smitten, so it’s hard to begin listing¬†the things that left me swooning. But I guess the drinks are a good place to start. The Viva Matcha Latte was one of the creations I was most antsy to try, and it did not disappoint. Made from premium matcha harvested from Aichi prefecture in Japan, this latte was hands down the best matcha I’ve ever had the chance to sip on or look at.¬†Visually a work of art,¬†it was the perfect amount of sweet, foamy and delicate to taste. It warmed my soul, y’all.

If the matcha warmed my soul, the Marymint Monroe refreshed it. Freshly picked mint leaves and concentrated cold brew over ice make for a heavenly and mojito reminiscent combination. I was convinced this drink was mixed with mocha, but the intense and divine flavor just comes from the high quality of coffee that is standard at The Factory.

thefactory

I’m not done raving yet, guys.¬†The Factory’s¬†chicken and waffles is my new favorite brunch item.¬†(A brunch item that tastes great all day,¬†and pairs¬†amazingly with the¬†prosecco on tap.)¬†¬†The classic side of syrup has been traded in for an egg tartar sauce and coleslaw, and the result is completely¬†exquisite. I could have¬†easily devoured a bowl of the egg tartar sauce alone,¬†and the eleven spices mixed into the chicken¬†batter made for a savory and distinct flavor. Juicy and tender with just the right amount of crunch, the chicken paired wonderfully with the soft and decidedly anti-sweet¬†waffle. This dish made a statement, and its a statement that I simply¬†cannot stop daydreaming about.

factory25

The Factory, in and of itself, seems like the best of daydreams. The creations here are not just something to sip or nibble on, but something to take the time to enjoy and savor. Wallace explained to me that he had never really enjoyed coffee until he realized there was an art to making it. This art is one that he and Wendy have mastered. They have traveled the world looking for the finest ingredients, and the pride and joy they put into their work is immediately apparent. The café itself is devoid of WIFI, and is meant to be a place to relax and get to know friends and strangers alike. Walking inside is like a gentle reminder to slow down, to be fully present and to enjoy the magic that every moment brings.

factory50

The Factory is something really special. I told my best friend that I was having a hard time writing this post because, for me, the caf√© embodied everything I¬†adore about Austin.¬†And that’s a lot of love to try to fit into one post. But I’ll try. The Factory is¬†a little wacky,¬†a lot lovable¬†and above everything else, so very¬†welcoming. When my first matcha got cold over the course of¬†chatting, ¬†Wendy insisted on bringing me another. When I reached out my hand to shake Wallace’s on my way out, he¬†requested a¬†hug instead. This is what spending time at The Factory feels like. A big hug. A hug that includes coffee, and swings and waffles and good vibes. Austinites, rejoice.

Paige’s Bakehouse

paige1

Paige’s Bakehouse is pure happiness in the form of little square cakes, y’all.

A couple of weeks ago I sat down to do a tasting with Paige, and my taste buds still haven’t recovered from overwhelming elation. If you don’t think your taste buds could be elated, you haven’t been to Paige’s yet.

I adore hidden¬†gems and this is the very definition of a tucked away treasure. I found Paige’s¬†down a small, unassuming road in Round Rock, Texas. It isn’t hard to find if you know what you’re looking for (which is heaven in a square), but¬†the location¬†would otherwise be easy to miss.¬†But, here’s the thing- Once you taste these little cakes they¬†are impossible not¬†to miss, so people continue having no problem seeking out Paige and her bakehouse time and again.

paige4

Before owning the bakehouse, Paige went to school and traveled for the culinary world. She’s a lady who¬†knows what she’s doing, and it’s noticeable in each and every bite. Though I should admit I had to stop and stare and take pictures with the Texas-sized¬†petit fours before engulfing them. They’re just SO pretty, guys.

Paige gifted me a feast of  treats, and I felt just like a kid in a cake store. I dare you not to salivate at this one РThe signature cake was the Tres Leches, which is a sweet cream soaked vanilla cake with a cheesecake filling. I just lost my own dare.

paige10

From Dreamsicle to Red Velvet, all of the other mini-cakes were equally great at making me swoon. These bites of perfection were just the right amount of rich and decadent. They were sweet but not overbearingly so, each with their own uniquely exquisite flavor. Just holding the platter made me feel a bit like royalty.

To make things extra sweet, Paige and staff are both welcoming and kind. I really felt like I could taste the love in every bite. Paige has owned her bakehouse since 2008 and it has been successful mostly just through word of mouth, and uh, cake in mouth.

I was nice enough to share the leftovers with my husband and he fell in love at first bite too. Paige’s Bakehouse¬†also makes everything from cookies to pies to¬†regular-sized cakes, so I know where¬†we’ll be¬†hightailing it to for¬†our slew of sweet tooth needs. Pst- It’s Paige’s Bakehouse.