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) sautéed 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 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.

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.

Delysia Chocolatier Tasting

Note: This post was written back in April. In between studying for finals and planning a trip to Ireland, I completely forgot to post it. Glancing at my blog drafts, I realized I have been withholding my readers from chocolate euphoria. My deepest apologies, dearest friends.

Hidden in an unassuming warehouse lot is a building that is half in Cedar Park, half in Austin. From the outside, you would never guess that this is one of the top ten chocolatiers of both North and South America. Walking inside, it’s not so hard to imagine. Welcome to Delysia Chocolatier, y’all.

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Delysia’s brings the taste of fine European chocolate to the Austin area, and the interior says as much. Simple but elegant, colorful but refined, the chocolatier immediately sets itself apart from its neighbors. Stepping into the doors of Delysia’s is what I imagine it must have been like for Hansel and Gretel to find the house made of candy deep in the forest. Except there is no evil old lady, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

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No, in this shop of chocolate you will find Nicole, the business owner and chocolate-maker who, in fact, does not eat chocolate. “It gives me migraines.” she tells me. Wait. Like, do you need a permanent taste tester? Just to keep you in the best of health? Because I’d totally be down for this gig.

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Nicole began dabbling in chocolate at eight months pregnant when her husband had an office party in need of food. She didn’t feel like leaving the house to buy groceries, and had recently been bingeing on Food Network. This is where her chocolate experimentation began. Years later, the divinity that is Delysia Chocolatier was born.

An engineer by trade, Nicole is now using her talents to design the loveliest and tastiest of chocolates. The exquisite flavors melted and danced in my mouth, and I somehow managed to fight the urge of jumping up and down whilst saying ‘OH MY GOD SO GOOD.’ But there is more to Delysia than just deliciousness. Nicole has turned the business of chocolate making into a work of art. The entire experience, from walking through the doors to eating little pieces of heaven to touring the facility, was like witnessing a masterpiece. I’m talking a fried chicken-baked potato-bloody mary-merlot chocolate (Yes, these are all actual options at Delysia) masterpiece. Excuse me while I go dream about bathing in truffles.

Pst-  For all my non-Austin friends, you can order Nicole’s chocolates online! They make a great gift if you can refrain from eating them all first. If you have the level of self-control that I do when it comes to delicious things, the empty boxes would make a pretty gift too.