The 1st visitor!

Another awesome thing about Austin is that now that it’s become such a tourist hot-spot all my friends are eager to visit. The only problem is scheduling them all! Over my time in Austin, I’m going to catalog what I do with each guest to give you all ideas of what to do and where to take out-of-towners!

Besides a brief visit from my friend Rachel who was in town for work (happy hour at Licha’s Cantina), one of my very best friends from home was the first to visit. Her name is Kristen and we have gone to school together from kindergarten through high school and still remain extremely close.

Kristen arrived late Thursday night and we hit Dirty 6th Street like college kids. We started however at Firehouse Lounge, a classy hidden (behind a bookshelf!) cocktail bar in the Firehouse Hostel. The bartenders there are awesome and the music was total throwback which was perfect for us because it brought back all kinds of middle and high school memories. Then we ended up at Nook to dance and drink.

On Friday, we explored the South Congress area. But first- breakfast tacos (and queso!) from Torchy’s. Then we fueled up with delicious coffee at Jo’s (home of the “I love you so much” wall). For a great weekend splurge, you have to try their Iced Turbo or Belgian Bomber coffee (but only if you like sweet)! We worked our way down South Congress hitting up all the good stores- even if it was just to browse. Maya and The Impeccable Pig are two of my favorite boutiques in the area but Uncommon Objects is a fun place to get lost in.

image7
Torchy’s breakfast tacos

After being fully exhausted from shopping, we stopped for a quick drink at South Congress Cafe and then got lunch and margs at Hopdoddy’s (one of the best burgers in the area). Then we relaxed for a little at home. Unfortunately the weather was a little iffy the entire weekend so it rained on and off, blunting some of our outdoor plans. It cleared up by Friday night, and I introduced Kristen to the East Side, starting at Whisler’s and barhopping west until we hit home. We ended at Violet Crown Social which meant we HAD to get Via313  (genuine Detroit style pizza out of a truck, which if you don’t know what Detroit style is- it’s like Chicago deep dish but with a thin, buttery, and flaky crust). The Cadillac is the way to go hands down. Hey, we hadn’t had a proper dinner!

Cocktails at Whisler's
Cocktails at Whisler’s

On Saturday, we fueled up with Mexican coffees (the best thing ever) at Tamale House East (also has very good breakfast!). But we had other things to consider than migas and breakfast tacos that day. We were tackling BBQ! The rain was back but that was not going to dissuade us- we stood in line for the famous La Barbecue (thankfully under tents). Brisket, pulled pork, potato salad, coleslaw- it was all so good. And the guy cutting our meat gave us a taste of the brisket RIGHT out of the smoker- simply melts in your mouth. We brought it all home and devoured the spread at home. I don’t even normally like sides (unless it’s mac and cheese) but the potato salad was more like smashed potatoes and the coleslaw was super spicy. I would give it an A rating.

The La Barbecue truck
The La Barbecue truck

image2(8)

After that gluttonous display, we pretty much lazed on the couch and watched television all day. Nothing wrong with that! Got to have time to re-energize so you’re ready for the next activity. Which was more food-clearly the main focus of this weekend’s agenda. We finished the Texas food trifecta and got Tex-Mex (BBQ and breakfast tacos are the others in case you were wondering). Fajitas and flautas and margaritas at Polvos- filling, yummy, and fairly inexpensive. Then a night out on Rainey Street, which because of the rain was restricted to just Bungalow (probably my most visited bar here).

image8

Finally to cap off the weekend, we had brunch at Hightower. We originally wanted to go to Josephine House but because of the rain, their seating was cut by 2/3 so without a reservation we were SOL. If you don’t get the chicken and waffles at Hightower, you’re just doing life wrong.

Plus a side of Build Your Own Bloody Mary
Plus a side of Build Your Own Bloody Mary

And then off she went to the airport! It was bittersweet but I can’t wait to be home for Christmas to see all my friends. My next visitor is in a week so stay tuned to see what we do then. Now, I’m off to Charlotte for the weekend, so will come back with a full report. I love exploring new (to me) cities!

image5(4)

Advertisements

Fall Things

So Autumn in Austin is crazy different than the Northeast- and not just because its still 80 degrees in November. There’s no fall foliage and there isn’t apple picking unless you want to drive 6 hours- the horror! To make up for the lack of apple picking (and therefore the lack of apple cider and apple cider donuts), I dragged the BF to Barton Hill Farms for pumpkin picking and a corn maze.

image2(7)

This place is ideal if you have children- which we do not. There are tons of activities for them. But we still had fun, playing corn hole, listening to the live band, getting lost in the corn maze, and picking out our pumpkins (however, they are not in a field, they are pre-picked). Oh and the barnyard animals! Come on, seeing little squealing pigs is always fun.

Pigs

Despite the lack of fresh picked apples, I was not going to be deterred from making apple-based deliciousness. However, I’m trying to be as healthy as possible so I found this recipe for a low-cal version of apple pie- apple pie trifles (from Dashing Dish) that legit took ten minutes to make (just cut the apple pieces fairly small). It was awesome and got the BF’s seal of approval despite him not being the biggest sweets fan.

image3(4)

Other notes:

  • If you actually get large apples, I only needed 3 to make the 4 trifles
  • I used agave as the sweetener
  • I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice, so I doubled the cinnamon
  • I didn’t add any extra sweetener
  • I cheated and used Cool Whip (my grocery store is a little less than health-focused)
  • I used crushed low-fat graham crackers as the cookie layer

For the first big fall holiday (Halloween obviously), we carved the pumpkins we got at Barton Hill Farms. At first, we weren’t going to pick up kits- we were just going to go at them with knives and pretty basic designs. But the kits were super cheap at Wal-Mart and I’m glad we did. If you’re carving two pumpkins at the same time, definitely get a double kit or else it won’t be very fun waiting for the tools. We also both attempted pretty intricate designs- I did an owl (my sorority’s mascot) and he did a Day of the Dead sugar skull. I was always so intimidated by these kinds of designs but as long as you have some patience it’s not so bad! Our biggest rookie mistake- we carved them way too early (due to friend visits and his business travel plans). The humidity in Texas (coupled with a couple crazy storms) sped up the process. Next year, I will definitely be using bleach to make them last longer!

image4(4)

The last Halloween DIY I subjected the poor BF to was also Halloween related- making our costumes! We decided to go as Andy and Brandon from The Goonies- a movie we both love and grew up with. His costume was pretty simple- and mine just included some cutting of felt and gluing! Voila- a comfortable, cute, and not-slutty Halloween costume.

image5(3) image6

Stay tuned for more fall fun- I plan on making some more low-cal (and not) treats, subjecting the BF to more fun fall dates, surviving Thanksgiving without gaining weight, and navigating my way through my new ATX life (in my new car!)

Odd Duck Brunch Review

One thing Austin isn’t lacking in is brunches. From breakfast tacos to high-end fare, it has you covered. A couple of weeks ago the BF and I decided to go the high-end route and try Odd Duck’s brunch. We had gone there for dinner on Valentine’s Day and still talk about how amazing the meal was.

What sets Odd Duck apart from most brunches is that it’s small plates- thereby it is more expensive than your usual brunch. Whereas you would normally need around 5-6 plates at dinner to fill you, at brunch 3-4 will do it. They do plate their dishes so nicely though you at want to order extra just to admire.

We made a reservation (definitely a must-do) and ended up getting seated in the same spot we did for Valentine’s Day- at the bar with a prime view of the kitchen. We think it’s the best seat in the house but it’s also kind of distracting- our conversation rotated a lot around what they were doing so if you’re trying to have a real serious conversation, maybe opt for outside on their beautiful patio. There’s lots of oohing and aahing and “oh we should have gotten that!”s when you look into the bustling kitchen. I also may have picked up a cooking technique or two.

We each got a pastry from the tray they carry around (shameless upsell by them) but then we really got started with their raisin toast topped with pork belly, peanut butter and jelly, a fried egg, a sprinkling of chunky blue cheese and what I believe was apple or pear slices. It was out of this world. I am a huge proponent of putting peanut butter on basically everything- burgers, ice cream, you name it. So this twist on a classic open faced egg sandwich had me raving.

Get in my (pork) belly
Get in my (pork) belly

Then we had a hash with a perfectly poached duck egg and cornbread plus some jalepeno for a little spice. We followed that with grilled quail accompanied by a fig relish and chile hollandaise. All superb. We rounded out the meal with something sweet- their vanilla bean French toast (soaked in coconut milk) with brown sugar syrup, a coconut crumble and a scoop of butternut ice cream. I don’t even like coconut (something about the texture gets me) and I loved every bit of this dish.

Perfectly poached
Perfectly poached
Quail- it's what's for breakfast
Quail- it’s what’s for breakfast

Sweet goodness

We hated it.
We hated it.

We pretty much can’t stop raving about this meal now either. If you have a special occasion to celebrate, do it at Odd Duck. If you just can afford to splurge on a good meal, do it at Odd Duck. We want to go back and get everything we didn’t get on the brunch menu now. Our waistlines and wallets, be damned.