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.

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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.

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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.

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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 La Patisserie

I have macarons on my mind. ¬†Pistachio macarons, white macadamia macarons, rose macarons. ¬†All of the macarons.¬†Also¬†chocolate croissants,¬†lemon tarts¬†and various other French pastries. Who is to blame for my fixation, you¬†might ask? La Patisserie is the culprit.¬†Two weeks ago¬†I had a tasting at this French pastry shop and it’s roughly 75% of what I’ve been thinking about for the past¬†fourteen¬†days.¬† Obsessive? Maybe. Croissant crazed? Perhaps. Delicious? AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

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The rose flavored macaron, which was light and airy as a cloud, surprised me. I’m not usually big on floral flavors, but the delicately¬†delicious taste changed all of that for me. It was immediately a favorite, though the white macadamia was also in the running. Rich but smooth, this is a flavor that the masses will enjoy. The Funfetti flavor boasts sprinkles and sweetness¬†– I took this one home to my three-year-old (Okay, I took a bite out of it first. For the blog, of course.) and she devoured it and commented, “Mmmm! It’s good.” Food critic in the making, y’all.

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I can’t not mention the lemon meringue tart. Both tiny and regal, this little guy packs a big and beautiful¬†tart punch. This paired with the buttery¬†flakiness¬†that nearly melted in my mouth¬†have¬†me swooning while typing. And the Millefeuille?¬†Bliss.¬†Chocolate and butter loaded bliss. Need I say more?

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Actually, I do need to say a little more. Soraiya, the owner of La Patisserie, is such a joy.¬†¬†It was immediately evident to me both the love and care she puts into everything from her sweet treats to her equally sweet staff. She is an attentive, warm and¬†genuinely kindhearted individual. Speaking with her warmed my soul as much as the delicious Green Tea/ Coffee hybrid I was drinking.¬†In the time I spent at La Patisserie, we talked everything from our kids to travel to¬†the importance of women banding together.¬†All of this while I’m nibbling on the most heavenly of macarons. It was truly a lovely experience.

I’d love to tell you how the idea for all of the loveliness¬†began. After a childhood trip to France, Soraiya told her parents she would open a French pastry shop one day.¬†La Patisserie¬†now¬†boasts both a downtown and a north Austin¬†location on Burnet Road. They¬†are both¬†reminiscent of the quaintest of European cafes.¬†She is truly living her dream, and that is pretty inspiring stuff.

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Soraiya’s favorite thing about owning a pastry shop? Seeing people’s faces light up when they try macarons for¬†the first time. This was not my first macaron, but I know my face lit up just the same.

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.

This Right Now

Hello, friends!

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It’s been a hot minute.

Grad school is cray, but guess what?! I graduate in THREE months. I’m currently¬†on a short (but much needed) break, and when I start back up it will¬†be for my last semester. I’ll spare you the that-makes-me-a-little-weepy-because-I-love-my-cohort-SO-MUCH-and-what-the-heck-where-did -the-two-years-go, but really I won’t because there it is. HA.

What else?

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So far this year¬†I’ve traveled to Seattle, Vancouver, DC, Maryland and Marfa, Texas. I somewhat unexpectedly fell in love with West Texas and am already trying to plan a trip back. Think the culture of Mexico/New Mexico but with the hippie/artsy vibes of Austin. I was instantly smitten. I’m lucky my little fam rolls with my whims and was down for a quick weekend trip and, you know, fifteen hours of driving in three days. They’re champs, my people.

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For our Capstone in this last semester, our cohort has been assigned the task of becoming consultants for a local¬†Austin¬†business of our choosing. ¬†It’s quite the undertaking, and I am¬†slightly terrified but mostly excited for how this program is helping to shape my future.

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It’s hard for me to not constantly be asking myself, “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?!” This is a monumental point in my life, and I’m aware of that. But I’m also aware of the fact that I’ll never be twenty-eight again. My daughter will never be three again.¬†She won’t sing herself to sleep or ask for my help finding snails for too much longer. My husband and I will only celebrate nine years of togetherness, just this one month of this one year.¬†I’ll only be¬†sitting in a classroom, laughing with my cohort fam¬†and¬†sometimes sneaking in¬†boxed wine for one more summer.¬†This is the last bit of time that I’ll take weekly walks through the gorgeous campus that has now¬†become my¬†second home.¬†It’s a special time, this right now.¬†I’m just trying to remind myself to slow down and cherish the heck out of it all.

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.

Reviewing 2016

Two weeks into the¬†new year and¬†I still can’t quite believe 2016 is over.

What a whirlwind of 365 days, y’all. I originally spelled that whirlwine, so you all know what’s on my mind.

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I have to smile when I reflect on the adventuring and the milestones marked this last year.

I road-tripped Ireland with two of my cousins and kissed the Blarney Stone. We drove through rolling hillsides full of spotted cows, drank¬†more than our fair share of¬†Guinness in many a pub and stood at the edges of the Ciffs of Moher. We¬†frolicked through the Hills of Tara, climbed on basalt columns at¬†Giant’s Causeway¬†and wobbled in awe down the crickety Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. The beauty and history of this country is something that I feel so lucky to have witnessed firsthand and with people that I love a lot.

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Months later, cousin Shannon and I were checking off another shared bucket list item by whitewater rafting in New Mexico. I almost fell out within the first five minutes and had to be yanked back onto the raft by my lower body. It was exhilarating.

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Summer road trips to Oklahoma and New Orleans left me feeling grateful for long drives, adventures and the loved ones that made these things all the more worthwhile.

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My husband and I spent an anniversary trip in the¬†enchanting Caye Caulker, Belize. We snorkeled with stingrays and sharks and that was slightly scary¬†but mostly¬†delightful. We bought a brownie from a stranger and¬†laughed the night away.¬†I took a group yoga class on¬†a Belizean rooftop, and clumsily moved my limbs as the sun set. We sipped on four for one drinks and devoured the¬†freshest of lobster and rode bikes through sandy, narrow streets. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to celebrate seven years of marriage with my best friend.

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2016 marked my first completed year and halfway point of grad school. It marked a year of development within my career and the blogging world. And it marked my one year of attending counseling, which has proven to be a turning point for my personal growth.

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There were a few times this past year¬†where I noticed history trying to repeat itself in¬†detrimental ways. The difference this time was that I didn’t let it. Can I just tell you how empowering that is? I¬†found my voice, and I learned when and how to use it. I learned how to stand my ground, and I realized that sometimes this can¬†and should be done silently.¬†It was a year that taught me to openly make mistakes, to¬†firmly disagree with those I love and to proudly show off both¬†my victories and my scars. I wasn’t always right, so it was also a year that taught¬†me how to be wrong.¬†It was¬†a year that¬†left me feeling strong,¬†brave and inspired.¬†2016 wasn’t perfect, but¬†it taught me to roll with and even¬†to sometimes revel in the imperfections.

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It was a year of discovery, of both things big and small, gentle and wild.

Happy 2017, friends.

Let’s be unapologetically¬†flawed and untamable this year, shall we?