Austin Bachelorette Party Guide!

When my best friend from kindergarten, Rebecca, got engaged I was over the moon and so excited when she decided on Austin to celebrate her bachelorette! Austin is a great bachelorette city for groups who want a combination of adventure, nature, live music and a great nightlife, all the tacos and amazing food, and a charming southern vibe. It’s central location was also perfect for our bicoastal crew as we had girls flying in from NY and CA. I highly recommend getting an AirBnB so everyone can be together and have it feel like one big slumber party.

We were obsessed with our colonial mansion that had tons of rooms, a great kitchen, was stocked with lots of supplies, and best of all an amazing location near Rainey St. Here’s the link.

While this guide is great for group celebrations, it would also make for an eventful weekend away with anyone special. Hope you enjoy!

Austin Itinerary:

Thursday 7 pm– Dinner at Fresca’s , casual Tex Mex and healthy options with an amazing patio vibe. Order the avocado margarita. It’s creamy and doesn’t particularly taste like avocado but it delicious and refreshing. Loved their rotisserie chicken, guacamole, brussel sprouts and street corn.

Thursday 9 pm– Drinks at Marriott Marquee downtown. Great rooftop bar at their pool.

Friday 10 am– Time to sweat to compensate for all the treats to come! We had a blast at knockout boxing, such a fun class, instructor, great music and activity.

Friday 1 pm– Lunch at launderette. We loved the food and vibe! Ordered some apps for the table and the food was trendy and tasty for a pretty good price.

Friday 3 pm– Time to cool off and people watch at Barton Springs pool! A summer must in Austin.

Friday 6 pm- Shop and explore South Congress St. Stopped for happy hour at Hotel San Jose. Get the frose’ and cheese board.

Friday 8:30 pm- Lounge at house, get ready to go out, and order BBQ/ Tex Mex takeout from Valentina. Their queso was amazing.

Friday 10 pm- Night out on Rainey Street filled with tons of cute bungalow bars.

Saturday 10 am- The BEST breakfast tacos ever at Veracruz All Natural. Get the migas tacos.

Saturday 11:30 am- Get ready to float the San Marcos river! Another summer must in Texas. Pack a cooler with beverages to enjoy on the river, lots of sunscreen, water shoes, and string to tie your tubes together so you don’t lose your friends! We all loved this adventure and was a highlight. We used ATXexcursions who were great and provided transportation, the tubes, and coolers.

Saturday 8 pm- After a nap and shower its time to keep the party alive! Grab dinner on the patio at Contigo. Afterwards go enjoy live music and an entertaining crew at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar on 6th street. Make sure you get your bride on stage!

Sunday 11 am- Farewell brunch at Jacoby’s. Sad to say goodbye but best weekend ever!

Tips: Book your airbnb 4-5 months out, they fill up fast! Book dinner reservations for large groups a month or so before. Order groceries for the house through Shipt who will deliver. Etsy has great bachelorette/ final fiesta decorations and we loved getting tattoos with our bride’s face on it. Matching pajamas from Jcrew really enhanced the slumber party vibe.

Primavera Pasta and Dreaming of Italy

italyfresh pasta in italy

Anyone else day dreaming of summer, Italy, and pasta? Eight years ago exactly I was in the middle of my spring term abroad in Florence. I had the chance to study art history, photography, and attempt to learn basic Italian phrases, while really getting an education in who had the best pizza and gelato in town.

pizza italy

I fell in love with the culture, art, fresh tomatoes and olives, discovered pecorino cheese,  and tried to converse with my host mom who made incredible pasta every night, but didn’t speak a word of English. Each night she would cook a new gourmet dinner and almost all included a pasta course, sometimes as the main dish but often as a side. Cooking to her was seasonal and effortless. I cherished our dinners together despite the language barrier. We would sit with the English-Italian dictionary on the table and point to words when we couldn’t communicate.

We mostly communicated through food and facial expressions and this experience truly taught me that food is one of the most powerful and beautiful languages.

One night my good friend and roommate, Anna, and I taught our host mom and her granddaughter how to make pancakes. The ultimate American food! I regret not asking her to teach us how to make pasta or for some of her favorite recipes. I hope go have the chance to go back and visit and learn how to make authentic Italian pasta with her or other Italian grandmas/chefs/experts.

italian host fam

This inspired me to enter a pasta competition I learned about through an upcoming Italian food event in Houston.pasta event

This blog post has been entered in the Pasta Blogger Competition (Houston 2018)”. You can learn more about the event here which will be a foodie dream filled with over 20 different Houston restaurants preparing their favorite pasta creations. Here are the details, it will be a delicious and indulgent evening!
Authentic Italian Table:
A Celebration of Pasta, Italy’s gift to the world!
Sunday, May 20, 2018
2-5 p.m.
Bayou City Event Center
9401 Knight Road
Houston TX 77045
$35 per person
Click here for event registration info.

To get in the Italian and pasta spirit I made a recipe that represents the colors of the Italian flag while focusing on seasonal produce from the farmers market, and Italian cheese from Central Market . I was excited to discover fresh pasta from Casetta Catering at the Memorial Villages Farmers Market. The pasta is handcrafted by Italian Chef Francesco who imports his flour from Italy. This is the real deal and we are lucky to have access to authentic fresh Italian pasta here in Houston.

italian pasta

I sautéed asparagus, zucchini, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green peas in Bellucci Italian olive oil.

While this was going, I added the fresh pasta to boiling water for just under two minutes. Another perk of fresh pasta is it cooks super fast and you want to make sure you keep the perfect al dente texture.

Once I combined my fresh veggies with the pasta, I topped it with toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of pesto, and lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese!

To continue with the Italian celebration, I served a cheese board with cheeses from the incredible Italian cheese section at Central Market. These included: fontina fontal which was my favorite, a pecorino romano which is a classic salty Italian cheese, and the wildcard was a ubriaco di raboso cheese which is a semi hard cheese from Trevisio with a deep violet color and a fruity finish. I am obsessed with castelvetrano olives, the bright green delicious ones that come from Sicily, so this had to make it on the cheese board as well. To give Texas a shout out I had to use my Texas shaped cheese board.

Lastly, the finishing touch of our Italian celebration included blood orange Italian soda with gin and rosemary. The perfect refreshing cocktail to enjoy with all the pasta and cheese!

This is the perfect meatless Monday pasta dish and was a big hit with my friends. I can’t wait to try all the pasta dishes at the upcoming pasta celebration on May 20th, hope to see you there!

Matzah Madness

How’s everyone’s Passover going so far?! This is the final stretch and wanted to share some classics with you in case you are in need of some inspiration or looking to try matzah recipes for that first time! It’s often my non Jewish friends who are most intrigued by matzah creations so I hope everyone will enjoy!

The assortment above is matzah crackers made with my friend Danielle who is always game for food styling with me. She invited me over for Grey’s Anatomy + matzah with goat cheese, pears, pistachios and honey! Yum. We added wine and played around with other combos including avocado matzah “toast” with tomatoes and everything but the bagel seasoning. Dessert was matzah chocolate and raspberries.

Nothing beats matzah pizza for a quick, versatile, and always delicious matzah meal. This is perfect for lunch or a snack or when you just need hot melted cheese (me all the time). The best matzah for this is classic salted or unsalted, manischevitz brand is my go to . Try to avoid egg matzah for this as it can get soggier which is not what you want for a crisp matzah pizza. Start with tomato sauce or pesto, any sauce will do! Then add your favorite shredded cheese and toppings. Some of my favorites include: mini peppers, Basil, three cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, and mushrooms! It’s a DIY canvas.

Matzah brei is a classic Passover breakfast that is delicious any time of year! You can make it savory or sweet. The sweet variety is sort of like a play on French toast. I love topping it with jam, cinnamon sugar, and a dollop of sour cream. Hoping to make a savory Mexican styled matzah brei migas this is weekend. For a classic matzah brei recipe you need: 1.5- 2 sheets of matzah, 2 eggs, a generous splash of milk, dash of vanilla or if you’re going sweet, add a pinch of salt. Break the matzah up in the egg and milk mixture and coat for about 1-2 minutes. Don’t let it sit longer! Heat up a skillet with butter and add the matzah brei mixture stirring quickly as if you were making scrambled eggs. Once eggs set to your desired consistency, serve immediately and top with your toppings of choice. This raspberry jam has been the real winner this Passover for me. I found it at the Blue Field Farmer’s market in Eado and am now hooked. Would order online too and easily say it’s the best raspberry jam I’ve tasted which can really elevate your breakfast!

If you only have 1 minute for breakfast, matzah with cream cheese and everything but the bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s is the answer. Could also skip cream cheese and do this with avocado, yum!

No Passover is complete without matzah crack! Basically matzah toffee that is seriously addictive. I’m partial to this Smitten Kitchen recipe, but you can’t go wrong with any Carmel chocolate combo on here. Warning, it gets sticky so use parchment paper plus foil!

Hope you enjoy! What are your favorite recipes with matzah?

Fajitas A Go-Go

As a loyal Tacos a Go-Go fan I’ve been anxiously awaiting the newest addition to the a go go family, Fajitas a Go-Go!  I was excited to get invited to a special tasting lunch to sample their menu and learn about their concept. My friend Rachel and I had a blast spending the afternoon on their patio sampling their menu highlights and left full and happy.  It’s safe to say it’s my new favorite spot in town when I’m craving Mexican food…I’ve been back 3 times and have been telling everyone I know to check them out.
Their central location in West U has a spacious parking lot and outdoor patio with picnic style tables, twinkle lights, and they are dog friendly. You order at the counter and if you are dining in, they will bring your food out to you. If you place an order to go, they will offer you free beer while you wait! I highly recommend grabbing your besties and a bottle of tequila and pairing it with their homemade agave lime margarita mixture on their patio. Don’t forget the chips with addicting green crack tomatillo salsa.

My Australian baking rockstar friend Lisa loved the rotisserie chicken quesadillas, these were no ordinary quesadillas. The quality of the cage free antibiotic free chicken and rotisserie flavor really made this an exceptional quesadilla. Their home-made tortillas also make a world of difference. Share this as an appetizer with friends, or it is satisfying as a meal when you are craving some comfort food/cheesy goodness.

My favorite fajita combo is the beef and veggies. Their vegetables are far from the ordinary peppers and onion fajita classic. Theirs include spaghetti squash, zucchini, oyster mushrooms, green onions, and asparagus. A great option for vegetarians or anyone looking to round out their meal. The top quality certified Angus Beef sirloin is minimally seasoned to bring out the natural flavors. They serve fajitas on cafeteria style plates instead of a sizzling traditional platter because their meat is already perfectly grilled over mesquite. I also loved their guacamole, charro beans, homemade flour and con tortillas, and varied salsa options.

So many tasty options!  Lauren , my nutritionist friend/ inspirational runner, loved their grilled shrimp taco salad, it was a great healthy yet hearty option served with guac, pico de gallo, black beans, and corn tortilla strips. We also tried the house made wild boar sausage which was a hit.

I can’t wait to cater from here and come back for more fajita and margarita nights on their patio. Definitely check them out if you are looking to mix up your Tex-Mex options in town, this is the real deal! Friendly service, authentic food, incredible quality, and BYOB tequila…I mean c’mon.

The Union Kitchen- Restaurant Review                   

It’s been a few weeks since I visited The Union Kitchen for an epic tasting experience and I can’t stop dreaming about their food! Life has been crazy with recent travels, but I’ve been dying to return to my new favorite restaurant in town for all occasions. The Union Kitchen offers a relaxing and delicious dining experience from start to finish. Their patio is a nice oasis from the city and it is temperature controlled during both the winter and summer, a Houston necessity. They have great wine deals throughout the week, nearly bottomless boozy brunches, and ridiculously sinful chocolate martinis… Need I say more?

Whether you are looking for a date night spot, have friends in town who want to enjoy some of the best Houston food beyond Tex-Mex, or want a place that can cater to a wide range of palettes, this should be your new go-to restaurant. We dined at their Bellaire location, but they have additional locations in Memorial and Kingwood. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier and we felt truly pampered.
I invited Zoe, my famous empanada making friend, to sample their menu. It was a special night for us as it was our last girls night in Houston, for now at least 😦 So proud of her as she’s off to an exciting new adventure in Florida, but going to miss my partner in crime. We decided we needed to go big and The Union Kitchen staff was so sweet and generous throughout our meal. It was the perfect farewell dinner and we were too full and distracted by the deliciousness to be tearful…phew!


Zoe and I enjoyed the beautiful outdoor patio and fountain. We felt like we were on vacation!

We started with a bottle of Ano Verde Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. It had a medium body and fruity finish, perfect pairing for our diverse tasting. The Union Kitchen offers half off wine bottles on Monday nights…score!

First up in our food marathon were these glorious brussel sprouts.  We LOVE brussel sprouts and are always looking for the best ones in town and these are currently our #1 favorite. They are crispy, tangy, and perfectly charred. They are dressed with a homemade balsamic dijon sauce and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. You MUST order them!

Next up were sriracha Asian chicken lettuce wraps. They packed a punch but were not too spicy. The marinated chicken was especially flavorful, and I liked that it was served with crunchy cashews, water chestnuts, and fresh sprouts as toppings. Definitely a nice lighter appetizer option and it was a great portion too.

The appetizers kept coming out!

Pepper calamari with feta, green onions, and pepperoncini peppers were a delightful combination of unique flavors. I normally don’t eat calamari but these were quite addicting.

We had to take a pause to enjoy our wine and the weather before gearing up for our entrees…

First up was this melt in your mouth braised beef short rib. It was so tender you could eat it with chop sticks! It is braised slowly for 6-8 hours and served with a natural reduction over a creamy butternut squash puree. The flavors were well balanced and we both loved this dish. All of their sauces and marinades are made in house which makes a HUGE difference.

Our favorite entree was the Gulf Red Snapper served with a zesty lemon risotto, grilled asparagus, and a lemon butter sauce. It was incredibly fresh and flavorful and a very high quality fish. The lemon risotto was equally delicious and would even be tasty on its own. We had to box up some of the food to save room for dessert which we couldn’t miss out on!

Hello Beautiful

I can’t stop thinking about this chocolate dessert martini (yikes). Their in house mixologist surprised us with this concoction and it was my favorite part of the meal! It was made with Baileys Chocolate liquor and marshmallow fluff.  It was served with a decadent yet light chocolate mouse which we were convinced to eat because it was National Chocolate Mouse day and it would be rude not to celebrate…

While we were stuffed and already had our to-go boxes packed, their friendly manager told us we couldn’t leave without trying their banana bread pudding. It is made with their in house sourdough bread which is made fresh daily. It is then topped with boozy banana deliciousness.  Zoe who normally doesn’t even like bananas said “There are literally no words to describe how good this is.”

Special shout out to their incredible manager Rob. He was so personable and fun to chat with, his passion for their food and restaurant was contagious. Our waiter Marshall was also great and attentive. Zoe and I were both were blown away by the entire experience.

We decided our next girls date needed to be a workout, but we couldn’t have asked for a better celebratory dinner. I can’t wait to return!

South by Southwest 2016- Austin

I’ve been dying to go to South by Southwest since moving to Texas and I’m glad to have now experienced and survived my first ACL and SXSW in one year! I think this may bring me one step closer to being a Texan? That along with wearing my cowboy boots to the rodeo last week. This is truly the best time of year to live in and visit Texas with so many events going on, and our small window of perfect patio weather. So if you’re reading this and intrigued, get your booty and boots on a plane and I’ll be waiting for you with queso…you’re welcome.

My weekend in Austin started off with a delicious dinner at North Italia at the Domain. I’ve been to their Houston location once and loved it, so I was excited to try their Austin location and sample more dishes. We started off with this epic chef’s plate filled with 3 artisan cheeses, olives, macrona almonds, grilled asparagus, marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, an apricot jam, and grilled bread. Holy yum it delicious! One of the best chef’s plates in terms of quality, variety, and generous portions. Also a nice balance between sweet and savory. It was just what we needed to recharge after a 3 hour drive from Houston and went perfectly with my delightful vanilla ginger vodka cocktail.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted meatballs or salad for dinner (normal I know), so I decided to get two appetizers, a win-win.

This Kale salad is no ordinary kale salad. It even will make kale haters reconsider their feelings for this often overly chewy leafy green. Once it’s marinated in a Parmesan vinaigrette it’s topped with apples, pistachios, charred grapes, and breadcrumbs. The kale is just a vehicle to get to all the other deliciousness while also getting your dose of greens.

Next up were the marinara meatballs served with crunchy grilled cheesy bread.

They were seasoned perfectly and a great portion for an appetizer. We even ended up with some leftovers. The service was on point and the atmosphere was lively. I’m glad we have a location in Houston and will definitely be back for that chef’s board and cocktail. After dinner we enjoyed some live music and the fire pits at the retro  Lone Star Court right near the Domain.

The next morning we were ready to take on SXSW! We had registered for the Rachael Ray Stubb’s BBQ event and were grateful to get in as press.

It is open to the public but the lines can be quite long so I would recommend getting there early.It’s so worth it though with two stages of live music all day, multiple open bars, and amazing Southern comfort food.

This was the main lunch. Grits with a fried chicken wing, slider and slaw, corn salad, and upside down Frito pie. My first Frito pie experience and all I can say is oh my…

This was the Blue Moon Stage. Favorite performers of the day were Jenny Lewis and Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals. Rachael was dancing on the stage during the last show and she’s got some moves! Was hoping for a selfie with her but she was on the move. Here’s hoping for next year.

The cold pressed juices were a refreshing necessity between Frito pie and trying to gear up for the night ahead.

We stopped by Fukumoto Sushi and Yakitiri Izakaya for  happy hour.

These tempura green beans were light and crispy with a zesty dipping sauce.

I also highly recommend their tofu. I’m not one to order tofu often, but this melted in your mouth and was the best tofu I’ve ever had, hands down. The sake cocktail was delicious and just the right amount of sweet and boozy.

Next we wandered around 6th street which was packed with people walking around and free giveaways.

Afterwards we stopped by Hole in the Wall near UT’s campus which has a great divey feel, live music, and dirt cheap drinks. We were fooled by this band that they were Third Eye Blind doing a secret show…le sigh.

Our night ended at Weather Up with this amazing burrata and strawberry mint rum slush drink. Apparently they have a NYC location too which I hope to check out!

The next morning we had brunch at Salt and Time, a rustic cafe in a butcher shop.

The Miga’s were tasty with crisp tortillas, veggies, and savory n’duja. A round of beer was sent to our table on this clever carousel, but none of us could really stomach much  beer at that hour. Afterwards we checked  out their impressive butcher shop on the other side of the restaurant. I love their farm to table approach.

Before hitting the road, we walked around UT’s campus which was a perfect way to end the weekend. Until next time, Austin…

 

Austin Eats         

Just returned from a weekend away in Austin with some close college friends who flew out to Texas to enjoy a weekend of Southern fun aka eat all the tacos. We had a blast and I was excited to try some new spots while also showing them some of our favorite Austin establishments.

We started our weekend with a delicious migas and mimosas brunch at Magnolia’s which was much needed after our 3.5 hour drive! Normally we can get from Houston to Austin in a little over 2 hours but there was an accident. Needless to say we arrived hangry! Luckily our friends had already put our name down on the brunch list, this place is quite popular and gets packed! I was excited to see migas on the menu  and these were some of the best I’ve ever had. Perfect combination of creamy eggs, cheddar jack cheese, jalapeños, and tortilla strips. Everyone loved their food and the location on South Congress is ideal for walking around the fun shops and boutiques afterwards.

We stopped by Allen’s boots after brunch which is like Disneyland for boots. So many fun and crazy styles that you have to try on when you have friends from the East Coast visiting. I’m always tempted to add to my cowboy boot collection but don’t  wear the two pairs I have nearly enough!  
After shopping, some of us settled in for football and pizza which was a good plan to escape the rainy afternoon. We had a hard time deciding where to order from, who knew Austin had so many great pizza spots?! We ultimately decided on East Side Pies and ordered a Moon Dingo pie which is a white ricotta sauce pizza with all sorts of cheesy deliciousness (ricotta,feta,goat,fresh and whole mozzarella) and mushrooms. I don’t even like mushrooms usually but couldn’t say no to this pizza because I’m such a huge cheese lover and this combo was insane! The other pizza we shared had a chimichurri sauce and had a fun combination of red onion, pineapple, and cilantro. We also shared a Greek salad to get in some greens and it was delicious. I highly recommend East Side Pies. Most of us had all lived in New York at some point or another so we have high pizza expectations and this blew us all away!


Afterwards we met up with some friends for cocktails at Rio Rita lounge. It totally looks like a dive bar but they have wonderful drinks and lots of infused liquor a. I had the Sal- strawberry vanilla vodka, fresh lime, and ginger beer. It was delicious and sweet. If you’re into  drinks with heat, my friends loved the Spicy Knees which is gin, hot sauce, honey, and fresh lime soda.


Next we went to The Liberty which is a bar with a great outdoor space with tone of picnic tables, twinkle lights, and my favorite Austin food truck (East Side Kings) in the back. Priorities in choosing a late night spot.


  Brussels sprout salad, tongue buns, and their new fried chicken sandwich.  
My favorite is always their Brussel sprouts salad and makes me feel slightly less guilty in the morning. It’s  basically all veggies at least! They were excited to tell us about their new after midnight only chicken sandwich but I wasn’t blown away. It was good for $5, but I still prefer the salad or their buns which are like pilowy clouds of deliciousness.

The next morning we went to Taco Deli which is always on our must-do Austin list. Their breakfast tacos are the best in Texas in my opinion. Lots of combos or you can build your own. I always add avocado to whatever I order. I also tried their watermelon agua fried a for the first time which was super refreshing. Afterwards we walked around the nearby creek and enjoyed the sunny day! 
It was a great weekend with old friends, new friends, and full bellies. Now ready for a week of cleaner eats!