Tasting at PS 35

Let’s talk pizza, y’all.

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More specifically, let’s talk pizza at PS 35.

This is new the spot in my neck of the woods that is creating quite the buzz.

After visiting, I completely understand said buzz.

PS 35 is located in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin. But there is nothing suburban about the vibes of this joint. PS35 explodes with personality and pizazz, from the graffiti-laden walls to the classic video games inside and the patio foosball. Walking inside is an experience all its own, both a throwback to the 70’s and a tribute to New York public spaces.

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The beers on tap are a-plenty, and I found myself getting happily lost¬†with the chalkboard menus. I’m one of the few and far between that absolutely loves sour beers, and they had not one but two choices for me here. So, before a bite had ever entered my mouth, I was sold on this place.

But then food did enter my mouth and TRUFFLE TOTS and HOT HONEY PIZZA. Excuse the word vomit. PS 35 has been the word on the street lately and those two things alone could justify this joint being the talk of the town.

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The truffle tots boasted just the right amount of crunch and seasoning, and the truffle salt complimented this combination in the most toothsome of ways.

The Hot Honey pizza is like crack for honey addicts. My friends, I have a confession to make. I AM¬†A HONEY ADDICT.¬†I shriek and run every time a bee gets near me (Don’t ask me how I ever took beekeeping classes. This is still¬†a mystery to me.), but I love those terrifying little creatures for the miraculous substance that¬†they create. Okay, I digress. The point here is that the sweet and salty combo of Mike’s hot honey, ricotta, pepperoni, sausage and tomato sauce was joy delivered straight to my taste buds.

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Another favorite was the Harlem Chopped Cheese. I was a little hesitant to try this one as it reminded me just ever so slightly of a Philadelphia Cheese Steak, which I have a strong aversion to.  In my undergrad years, I performed in a short play in which I was required to eat a microwaveable Philly Cheese Steak for all rehearsals and performance nights. By the end of this experience, just hearing the word Philly Cheese Steak made me want to vomit. It takes a strong sandwich to reverse this feeling, but the Harlem Chopped Cheese did just this. It was juicy and cheesy and filled with fresh veggies and just the right amount of hot sauce, mayo and oil and vinegar. Is your mouth watering?! Because mine is. The sesame seed bun simply perfected this work of sandwich art.

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I cannot forget the New York Sour. This frozen drink stars bourbon, lemon and a red wine float. It was strong but smooth, just a little fruity and absolutely ideal for pairing with pizza or tots. I would go back just for this cocktail. But I could say that about most things on the menu.

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One of the owner’s and head chef of PS 35 Clint¬†Elmore¬†has a story that adds to the uniqueness of this pizza joint. After attending law school and practicing law for a bit, he decided it wasn’t the life for him. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to New York to pursue his dreams of creating art through food. From there, he travelled to Italy for a month to become a culinary expert. Fast forward years later, and Austin is blessed with PS35.

It’s a beautiful and delicious story, but the ending is definitely my favorite part.

Welcome to Austin, PS 35! I will be seeing lots of you. And your honey pizza. And those truffle tots. And your… Okay, y’all get it. I’m obsessed.

Vivel’s Blog Tasting

I’ve never been a big pancake fan. A few bites in, and I’m bored. But crepes? Crepes I adore. Their thin texture paired with their versatility makes for a winning combo in my book/blog.

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Despite this founded adoration, my experiences with crepes have been few and far between. In fact, until yesterday, I had never tasted a savory crepe. I know, I know, such a food blogger fail. Luckily, my tasting with Vivel Coffee and Crepes changed all of that and opened my eyes (and mouth) to the beauty and variety of LIFE.

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But, really. The word Vivel translates from Latin¬†to mean “Life.” Owner Ali noted that he thought of this name during construction. While looking at the hills and greenery that Vivel is surrounded by in Lakeway, Texas, the name just seemed to fit. And it does.

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Because, y’all, these crepes gave me life.

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Ali spoiled me with all of the crepes. Like, all of them. I could have taken a crepe bath, and the bathtub would have been full. Of crepes. It was magical. Before I get into serenading my favorites, let me tell you¬†a little story about meeting Ali. As we were emailing back and forth, I assumed Ali was a¬†female.¬†Hear me out. I SWEAR,¬†somewhere I read that his name was “Ally” and not “Ali.” Obviously, the pronunciation in my head was completely wrong. When I met Ali the man in person, I was confused enough to stumble with my words and feel the need to explain myself. “I um.¬†Sorry. Thought you were going to be a woman.” So yes, my first words to this kind¬†gentleman were that I thought he was going to be the opposite gender. Typical smooth talking Christina, y’all.

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Back to crepe talk now.¬†Ali the man spoiled the heck out of me with these beautiful creations. A gorgeous combination of French, Italian and Mediterranean, I found myself swooning over each and every one. It’s going to be tough, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top five so that this blog doesn’t turn into a¬†short novel.¬†Ahem.

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  1. Smoked Salmon Crepe – This was my one request at Vivel’s because I have a slight obsession with smoked salmon with all the fixin’s. It was everything I dreamed of and so much more. The lightness of the crepe paired with the decadence of the¬†cream cheese, capers and salmon was DIVINE. I’m salivating just writing this. Sexy, I know.
  2. Citronade – Are y’all ready for this?! Lemon reduction, brown sugar, whipped butter and vanilla gelato. I know, right?! Butter and lemon are two of my favorite things in life, and this pairing was pure happiness. The creamy, homemade gelato perfected¬†an already heavenly masterpiece.
  3. Cannelle –¬†This is simplicity¬†at its finest and most delicious. Cinnamon, brown sugar and whipped butter. That’s all it took to leave me with a crepe crush.
  4. The Marrakesh Express – I’m a firm believer in putting an egg on it. This crepe did just that sunny side up, and added some shredded spiced lamb, cumin and extra virgin olive oil. That runny egg matched with the tender lamb and the light, airy crepe? Words cannot even express the¬†feelings of elation I felt biting into this one.
  5. The Nutty Nutella – Okay, so it’s hard to go wrong with Nutella but Vivel somehow made it¬†taste more right than ever before. The walnuts and toasted almonds made the Nutella feel¬†perfectly at home in the crepe¬†paradise that¬†it so rightly deserves.

Special mention also goes out to the Vivel Latte with the lavender infused milk. I knew by my second sip of this strong and slightly sweet concoction that I had found myself a new beloved latte.

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Vivel know how to put life into crepes, you guys.¬†Every¬†single bite of every single crepe that¬†I bit into was exquisite. Ali is a worldwide and longtime expert¬†of the food industry, and this is evident in the¬†mesmerizing combinations of flavors he so masterfully creates. Forget pancakes, guys. Vivel’s will have you¬†exclaiming ‘Holy Crepe!’ in no time.

 

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 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.

Scoop and Score Ice Cream Tasting

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 caf√© 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.