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!

Svante’s Tasting

Svante’s Ranch Direct is located in the delightful downtown Round Rock. Home of the famous Round Rock donuts and some cherished childhood memories of mine. Add to this list of memories the treasure that is Svante’s.

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This month Svante’s celebrates their one year anniversary. I’m almost disappointed in myself for not having made it out prior to this tasting.

The interior of the restaurant is much like a Pinterest dream come true. Simple yet intricately decorated with knick-knacks, shrubbery and artwork. It was love at first sight. And sip. And bite. Oh yes, let me get to that good stuff now.

Round one started off with the Ancho Pama-Rita made with ancho chile, pomegranate and Dulce Vida Reposado. You guys, it was slightly sweet, a little bit spicy, just the right amount of tangy and all delicious.

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Now let me swoon over their steak salad a little or, okay, probably a lot. I never order steak or salads if I’m choosing from a menu, but this salad has converted me. I am now a believer of steaks and salads, especially if combined with fish sauce, peanuts and red wine vinegar. I am salivating just thinking about this perfect combination of flavors that happy danced on my tongue.

If I wasn’t already a believer, the steak skewers with pickled watermelon completely did me in. I’m a sucker for the sweet and salty combo, and with rich, melt-in-your-mouth steak as part of this combo? I’m a goner. A giddy goner.

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Next was the Space Jam Burger, beef broth, house-cured gravlax on potatoes with crème fraiche and the Persephone Sour.  The Persephone Sour, with pomegranate, Deep Eddy Lemon vodka and an egg white, was enough to leave me swooning. The beef broth, rich and perfectly seasoned, whetted my appetite perfectly. And the house cured gravlax? I’d never had salmon atop potatoes, and you guys, the combination was divine and mesmerizing. Yes, I was mesmerized by salmon. Almost hypnotized, really. Svante’s can do that to a person.

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Finally, the Space Jam Burger was a work of art. An edible work of art. Three words that will change your life: Bacon onion jam. BACON ONION JAM. A masterpiece, y’all.

If it’s not apparent, I have a new favorite Round Rock restaurant. It’s charming and delicious and rhymes with… Lvante’s.

It’s Svante’s, if you were stumped on that one.

Paige’s Bakehouse

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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.

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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 – The signature cake was the Tres Leches, which is a sweet cream soaked vanilla cake with a cheesecake filling. I just lost my own dare.

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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.

Tasting at Napa Flats

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I recently went to a blog tasting at Napa Flats Wood-Fired Kitchen. Guys, I was so smitten that I barely made it a week before returning for happy hour.

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There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about Napa Flats. I loved the interior, which combined Californian, Italian and Austin vibes gloriously. I felt immediately welcomed into the environment that manages to be friendly, sleek, comfy and classy all at once. I also loved the playground on the patio, as this would be a place perfect to bring my fam back to. My toddler could have a blast while my husband and I could enjoy an air of sophistication that many kid-friendly restaurants lack. Classy in the front, two-year old party in the back.

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But now let me get to my favorite part. The food. Oh, the food. You guys, I’m practically swooning just typing this. They started me off the wood-fired avocado, which was grilled with chimichuri sauce on top of a bed of corn salsa. Y’all, The mix of grilled avocado and salsa and olive oil all mixed together so perfectly. I was drinking the chardonnay on tap while chomping down on said avocado, and all of the flavors together felt just like a masterpiece on my tongue. Recounting this is a struggle because I want more right now but it’s midnight so I CAN’T.

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Next up the was the main dish. I asked my sweet waiter Chris for his recommendations, and he suggested  that I should try both the Mush N Spin pizza AND the Citrus Chicken. I was not one to argue with such a brilliant suggestion. The pizza’s toppings included mushroom, spinach, caramelized onions, whipped ricotta, mozzarella and fried brussel sprout leaves. Pst- Tossed in a white truffle oil. Is your mouth watering? Because mine is. I don’t think much else needs to be said here, except it was every bit as delicious as it sounds.

The Citrus Chicken was pan-seared, topped with a lemon white wine butter sauce and served with sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes. There is something magical about the combination of chicken and lemon. And butter, of course all of the butter. Napa Flats put together a divine combo of the three.

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Finally, DESSERT. I devoured the salted caramel gelato and the wood-fired Ghirardelli brownie with peanut butter gelato. Oh, and a side of sangria. The gelato was creamy and decadent and nostalgic of gelato hubby and I had in Italy back in 2014. The brownie was gorgeous and rich and the wood-fired aspect gave it an enticingly unique taste. And let  us not forget the sangria. Napa’s Signature Red Sangria was refreshing and fruity and made with whiskey! I’ve never had a whiskey-based sangria and it was surprisingly smooth and just the right amount of sweet.

If you can’t tell, I have a new found crush on Napa Flats. They spoiled me with their heavenly eats, amiable staff and welcoming atmosphere. I’m attending grad school right across the street from my new crush, so I may or may not make it to sangria stalker status soon.

Leave it to me to make a food blog creepy, y’all.

360 Uno Trattoria Tasting

I walked into 360 Uno Trattoria and for a moment I was back at a little café in Italy.

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Overflowing with charm and wine, sitting down for a food and vino tasting at this quaint restaurant was an experience to be had. I immediately loved the option of sitting near the wine and coffee bar for a casual feel or of going into the next room for more of a fine dining experience. I chose the casual seating as I figured it would be easier to chat with the staff and write down notes like the nerdy blogger chick that I am. But I’m already planning a return with the hubby, because this is the perfect spot for a romantic date night.

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The sous chef at 360 Uno was kind enough to spoil me with a five course tasting, and his tasting portions were generous in that each was actually a full meal. My stomach was ready to explode from overeating and pure joy by the end of said tasting. But I can honestly say that not one bite went into my mouth that wasn’t absolutely phenomenal. I am part Italian, but my taste buds won’t accept that I’m not full-blooded because my mouth just wants all of the Italian foods all of the time. My poor husband is not a huge pasta fan but he married me and thus has to eat spaghetti and meatballs roughly once a week. I would live off of the stuff if it wasn’t for him. So eating pasta in Austin is no new thing for me. That being said, I think I have found my new favorite Italian restaurant. In Austin, definitely. But 360 Uno was also on par with many of the incredible bites that went into my mouth in Milan, Florence and Venice back in 2014. Seriously. It was that good.

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Where do I start?

The shrimp scampi appetizer was lemony, buttery goodness and is what food dreams are made of. I wouldn’t let the chef take the leftover sauce away because I just wanted to dip it into all of things. Like I could have dipped it into cardboard and gone to town, y’all. The antipasto misto was a refreshing blend of cheeses, olives, salami, and other goodness. It’s left me constantly longing for the interesting (but incredible) combo of fresh goat cheese, beans and eggs ever since.

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The Di-Lisch, deriving from the sous chef’s last name Lischko, was probably the most intriguing pizza I’ve ever tasted. Toppings included fig spread, arugula, prosciutto, crushed red pepper and walnuts. It was spicy, succulent,  sweet and salty all at once. I can’t stop thinking about it because it really blew my mind that much. But in the best way possible. The pepperoni pizza— oh the pepperoni pizza. The pizza of the gods. Soft and cheesy and exploding with flavor and nearly melting in my mouth. If melting in one’s mouth sounds odd for a pizza, you may have just not done pizza right yet. 360 Uno does pizza right.

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The pasta didn’t disappoint either. Carbonara is always a classic favorite of mine, and this “breakfast pasta” was a mouth-watering addition to my mind-blowing meal.

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For dessert I was given crème brulee and the profiterole. The profiterole was a heavenly combination of chocolate and vanilla laden cream puffs. As for the crème brulee? It was amongst the most divine of desserts my mouth has ever had the honor of devouring. Fresh vanilla bean and caramelized sugar make for a decadent mixture, y’all. To pair with the desserts, I was treated to a white port. I didn’t even know white ports were a thing! It reminded me slightly of Crown, but without the intense aftertaste and oh-so-incredibly smooth.

OH. Did I mention they have wine on tap?! WINE ON TAP. Can I please just live here? I’ll clean up after myself and everything. From buttery chardonnays to rich cabs, I was handed the perfect pairing of wine for each dish. Basically guys, I was in my own personal paradise. I’m head over heels and feeling a little heartsick that I haven’t had the chance to go back yet.

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I didn’t have a moment (aka I would have exploded had a drop of any other delicious thing so much as touched my lips) to try their coffee, but I hear it’s superb. And this wouldn’t surprise me. From the super fun and friendly staff to the delectable eats and cozy environment, everything about my night spent at 360 Uno was an experience to remember. And uh, to relive again and again.

So worth the food coma, y’all.