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!

Holiday Gift Guide 2017!

It’s hard to believe it’s already mid December! This fall has flown by and it’s been an eventful past few months in Houston to say the least. From Hurricane Harvey, the Astros winning the World Series, and the first Houston snow in seven years, there’s been a lot going on here. I am very much looking forward to the holiday season, winter break, and 2018.  If you are still searching for gifts for Hanukkah, Christmas, or your white elephant gift exchange, here are some of my favorites for this year! Take a look at my 2016 gift guide too!

  1. Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 3.27.23 PMCast Iron Skillet (save) Le Cruset (Splurge) – If I could only use one pan forever, it would definitely be my cast iron skillet! It is highly durable and versatile and I love that I can use it on the stove and in the oven. It’s perfect for making a frittata, meatballs, steak, stewed chickens, and so much more. They last forever and get better over the years as the seasoning on the pan develops.

wine opener

2) Electric Wine Opener– Total game changer and makes opening wine bottles fun and easy for anyone. Simply press down and voila! Perfect for a white elephant gift exchange and you can find good quality options for $20 or less.

away bag

3) Away Carry on Luggage– For your friend always on the go, this is the ultimate carry-on that I’ve been eyeing for a while. It has a built in battery to charge a USB device anywhere, perfect for when you are held up at the airport. With various compartments to keep you organized, a TSA approved lock, and durability designed for life, it is in a league of its own. Tons of color options so your bag will stand out amongst a sea of black bags.

fitbit

4) Fit Bit Flex  – For your relative whose into fitness or looking to up their step game, the Fit Bit flex is the perfect motivator. I’m obsessed with mine which I received as a gift (Thanks, Brittany!). It reminds you to move every hour, can display your texts and calendar reminders, tracks your workouts and sleep, and even has quick workouts built in and meditation routines. Battery life is a plus over the apple watch, and I like that it doesn’t show you emails or more bells and whistles- it is the perfect amount so you aren’t overly plugged in.

5) luster-glass-candles-xHoliday scented candle– When you wish you have a fire place but don’t, a big candle with a wintery smell is the next best thing! I’ve been obsessed with the large silver luster candle from West Elm called “A chill in the air”.  Currently sold out online but can find it in some stores. It seems fresh and wintery and there is something gratifying about lighting a big candle that you know won’t burn out quickly. Anthropologie also always has a great candle selection and they currently have 25% off.

diffuser

6) Diffuser– What are the holidays without warm inviting smells? If you can’t have a candle in your office or want something that lasts longer, a diffuser is a great alternative. It also makes the room smell like a spa retreat. I’ve been enjoying using a lavender scented essential oil in mine before bed. My favorite brand is Saje, check out their Good Cheer festive collection. You can set a timer on your diffuser and leave it on while sleeping, unlike a candle!

cooking classes

7) Cooking lessons- Nothing is better than gifting an experience in the kitchen. It’s a great chance to relax with your loved ones and enjoy a meal together while learning new skills. This is a perfect option for your hard to shop for parents, aspiring chef friends, or a bonding gift for you and your significant other.

foodie chef1

If you are looking for a personalized experience my dear friend Morgan, The Foodie Chef, hosts private cooking lessons in your own home! She is so personable, talented, patient, fun, and creative. This is a perfect activity to do with your whole family to enjoy a special meal together while learning new cooking techniques.

well done cooking

If you are looking to earn a cooking certificate, check out Well Done Cooking Classes in the Heights. I have completed 17/20 courses for my cooking fundamentals certificate there so far and have loved the experience and new skills! It is much more affordable than other cooking certificate programs, the instructors are awesome, and I’ve enjoyed being able to go at my own pace over the course of a few months. They also offer social classes and date night cooking classes.

scarf

8) Blanket Scarf – Perfect accessory to stay cozy when traveling on a plane or headed to the snow. Love this color and texture. Great for friends or your grandma, or anyone who is always cold!

tile mat

9) Tile Mate- Anything finder. For your friend or sibling who is always losing their keys or phone…. this Bluetooth tracker attaches to anything you don’t want to lose so you can find it fast! Even if your phone is on silent and you can’t find it, the Tile mat will make your phone ring and will help you see where you had it last.

GRANOLA

10) My Favorite Indulgence Granola – The perfect hostess gift, stocking stuffer, or treat for your foodie friends. My sweet and talented Aunt Vicki created this delicious irresistible granola that is slow roasted and made in small batches with non-GMO ingredients. It is delicious on top of yogurt, smoothie bowls, or with milk. My favorite flavors are pumpkin-spiced and chocolate-mocha.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, and meaningful holiday season and new year!

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!