93 Things To Do In Austin, TX This Summer

Fun Things for Adults to do in Austin, TX this summerFun Things To Do In Austin This Summer_Blues on the GreenSunset at Blues on the Green

It’s officially the first day of summer! And we’ve hit 100 degrees so needless to say, summer is in full swing here in Austin. There are 93 days until fall and here are 93 fun things to do in Austin this summer! Most of the lists I looked at were packed with stuff to do with kids or toddlers, which is great, but why should kids get all the fun? I mean they are already out of school for three months after all. Since I am always looking for random, fun things to do during summer, here is a list I always wish I had on hand! It’s packed with fun festivals, music events, frozen boozy cocktails and some cool things to do in-between!

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Summer Guide of Where to Eat & Play in Austin

El Alma Drinks 2Austin is always a pretty cool place to visit if you ask me but there is something really special about this city during the summer. It does get really hot but there are plenty of places to chill out at. You’ve probably heard of Barton Springs and trendy South Congress but these are few of my favorite local spots that haven’t been overrun by hipsters or tourists, yet! I haven’t done a guide or post about my hometown in a while so I teamed up with Thirdlove to show off some of my favorite hidden gems and under the radar spots that are perfect if you’re a local or just in town for the weekend! 

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12 Food & Wine Events to Attend in Austin This Spring

Natalie Paramore_Pretty Picture of TacosSpring has sprung in Austin! The weather has warmed up, well it didn’t really cool down for long, and the blooms are out and we all survived SXSW! Now it’s time to enjoy lots of wonderful food and wine this spring! There are literally hundreds of festivals and pop-ups and cookouts going on this season but here are few of my favorites plus some new ones to check out this spring!

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Take A Trip: Bermuda

Pink Sail Boats at Saint George's Island Bermuda_ Natalie Paramore

Good morning from beautiful Bermuda! Well, a very delayed good morning, from my trip to Bermuda back in early May of this year. Fun fact, did you know Bermuda isn’t actually in the Caribbean? I mean I always thought it was but it is actually way more north, more like due east of North Carolina. The island is surrounded by deep, blue waters that are colorful yet completely translucent. So beautiful! 

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The Oldest Festival in Austin + Mediterranean Recipes

Mediterrean Festival Food_Shish Kebab with Red Wine PairingI thought we should all start this day off by remembering the time that I noshed a chicken shish kebab from Phoenicia Bakery topped with lots of creamy tatziki like it was my job. My job. Yes! I love Mediterranean food! Maybe you remember that Lebanese dinner party!?! So fun. Or the greek gyro? Or the time my friend taught us to make lamb dolmas? Or the time I nailed a good homemade recipe for Grandma’s Hummus, yes THAT one! I love the freshness and herby goodness that often comes with Mediterranean food! In case you are as into this kind of food as I am, this weekend is the 83rd St. Elias Mediterranean Festival! You heard right that would make this the longest running festival in Austin. In town that loves it’s festivals, I think this one should get a little more recognition! So here I am to tell you about it!

I met up with Sandra Spalding from Twin Liquors earlier this week and she gave me a great tip for pairing food and wine at the festival this weekend, her favorite is a salty savory shish kebab, usually served with cooling yogurt pairs wonderfully with the full bodied elegant reds of Lebanon, specifically the Ixsir Red! Needless to say, I tried it out last night and indeed it’s delicious in case you were wondering!

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Emmer & Rye Preview Austin, TX

Emmer & Rye Preview ToastsI was lucky enough to snag an invite to a media preview of Emmer & Rye last night! Although the doors aren’t open quite yet, they are hoping for an October opening, that didn’t stop their team of chefs from delivering a delicious tasting of what is to come! I am thrilled at the thought of having more upscale eats on Rainey Street, truly making it a destination dining spot in downtown Austin. Of course, we all know how much I love and adore carbs, so I am excited and impressed with how Chef Kevin Fink and team are incorporating grains into the menu in what could be the height of anti-gluten cuisine. Can we start #BringBackGluten? I wouldn’t be mad about that! Anyways, scroll on for lots of food porn and my write-up for Austin Food Magazine!

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Take A Trip: Antigua

Antigua_ Dennis's Beach House Antigua_ Jolly HarbourI still can’t get over these pictures! How gorgeous is the scenery in Antigua? I mean just look! This summer I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Antigua courtesy of Visit Antigua and Barbuda.  Beyond the beaches, mountains and jungle, the people of Antigua were so kind and friendly, I felt right at home within minutes of deboarding the plane. I was visiting for the Mango and Pineapple Culinary Festival that takes place in Antigua every summer. Mangoes are one of the major fruits grown and sold in Antigua. Unlike the mangoes we get here in the States, Antigua is home to many different varieties! Like purple mangoes, I didn’t even know those existed! Plus the mangoes in Antigua are so much sweeter and bigger! Think mangoes the size of my head, seriously, see below for photographic evidence!

I’ve written a lot about mangoes in the past for the National Mango Board, so I was very excited to see where the mangoes are grown and how locals use them in their daily cooking! On the trip we got to meet with lots of local chefs and mixologists, visit several restaurants and even attend a cooking class in the home of a chef! It made for such a wonderful trip! I even talked about it so much on Instagram that one of my engaged friends even booked their honeymoon there this fall! Get ready for lots of photos and my guide of what to do, where to stay and most importantly what to eat on the island!

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Dove’s Luncheonette in Chicago, IL

Chicago_Dove's Luncheonette Lunch

I am totally wishing (hoping, planning and praying) that I was in Chicago this weekend! Seriously! I went to UT so my social media feeds are littered with friends who made the trip up there this weekend to watch the UT/Notre Dame game. College football season evokes a lot of nostalgic feelings for me. Back when I was in college (OMG I sound old haha) the Longhorns played some seriously good football. Like National Championship worthy football. Needless to say I spent many a fall Saturday planning my life around college football. Hook ’em forever!

I am not in Chicago this weekend, but I am still dreaming about my meal at Dove’s Luncheonette. Friends: if you are in Chicago you must go here! Seriously, do it. Go right now! It’s the ultimate in diner food. Think top notch ingredients cooked to perfection with nice kick of heat plus great cocktails and some scrumptious sweets to boot! It’s perfect for curing that Saturday morning hangover, or lunch, or late night after the game, or Wednesday, or… or you get the point! It’s great anytime!

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Take A Trip: 48 Hours in Chicago

Chicago_Sign Chicago_River

Y’all I am so excited about this next project I have been working on for the blog! It’s called Take A Trip! Every Thursday this month I am going to share with you some of my favorite trips I’ve taken. I have always let you guys in on my travels, but now I am just making it more official! For cases of this blog a trip can constitute quite a few things, anything from my favorite stroll down South Congress, What to do During a 7hr Layover in Miami and day trips and staycations around Austin and Texas are all things that are currently in the works! Of course, my bigger trips will make rock star appearances too! And all your favorite foodie travel posts from the past will still live on here on the blog!

I get so much of my food and recipe inspiration from traveling, so it is only natural that I share that here! This blog was always meant to be a bit of an evolutionary process, that as I grow as a person, it would grow with me! Hence it just being called NatalieParamore.com and not really having an official name. Thanks for hanging with me as I try to grow this little food journal 🙂 Y’all are awesome!

Ok now onto 48 Hours in Chicago! Which includes a guide on where I stayed, ate and had fun all weekend!

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2015 #MMHBurgerChallenge Ranked – How I Ate 6 Burgers in 7 Days

MMH Burger Challenge_ JoHo Runny EggFor those of you who follow along on Instagram, then you already know that I completed the McGuire Moorman Burger Challenge! Whew, it was a doozy, but lots of fun. The gist of the challenge was to have participants eat burgers from all six McGuire Moorman restaurants during the month of August. Why? Probably because August is typically a pretty slow month in Austin. Between the heat and back-to-school stuff, most people aren’t eating out as much as normal. If you ate all six burgers during the month, then you got a $50 gift certificate to one of their restaurants of your choosing and a t-shirt. If you ate all six burgers in a week, then you earned a $250 gift card to one of their restaurants of your choosing and a hat. I thought it was a really fun marketing ploy, and to be honest, a lot of these places are some of my favorite restaurants that I frequent quiet often. I probably would have participated in the challenge even if there weren’t a prize, just because I love burgers and their restaurants so much.

So I grabbed two of my blogger friends, Kristy from 365 Things to Do in Austin and Jane from A Taste of Koko and saddled up for some fast and furious burger eating! Our goal was to devour all six burgers in seven days. I made the reservations and we were off! But first, The Beef.

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Austin Food & Wine Festival 2015

Rock Your Taco 2015_Austin Food and Wine Festival_Chris Sheppard_Natalie Paramore

Why hello there Chef Sheppard! This photo about sums up my marvelous time at the Austin Food & Wine Festival this year! Last year was so fun but this year was really cool because I was there repping Wu Chow (where I work) and while it was hot and I had to work a lot on Sunday, I definitely got to enjoy my fair share of the festival before then! This photo of Chris Sheppard, you might now know him from that little restaurant in Houston Underbelly, giving me a taco to the face is definitely showing how fun the AFWF is! I mean all the chefs really get into it and let loose which is so cool! 

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Wine Tips & An Interview with Twin Liquors for the Umlauf Sculpture Garden Party

Wine Rose pouring

Rosé season is upon us! Hooray! If you follow along on my Instagram account, then you are well aware of my love for wine and rosé in particular. You can imagine how excited I was when the Umlauf Sculpture Garden reached out to me about covering their Garden Party this year! Not only is it a wonderful event benefitting an amazingly special place in Austin, it is also an event that I have volunteered with in years past and is something near and dear to my heart. This year the Garden Party is really taking it to the next level with honorary chairs Paul Qui and Deana Saukum and Matt McGinnis as their VIP cocktail guru. Don’t worry there are still tickets left if you want to come! I reached out to Sandra Spalding, Director of Marketing and Events for Twin Liquors, for tips about how she paired wines for the Garden Party this year and some tidbits that we can all use when choosing wines at home or at restaurants!

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SXSW 2015 Recap

SXSW 2015_Patron Margarita

Hooray for SXSW 2015! It was a doozey, but a very fun doozey nevertheless. I am fortunate to live and work close to all the hoopla, so I get to experience it first hand. This year the entire festival took a few steps backwards and chilled out a little bit. I must say, it made it a little more enjoyable for me this year. I didn’t have nearly as much FOMO ( that is Fear Of Missing Out for you Pop Pop) and actually got to make it to a lot of shows and have more fun instead of worrying about what everyone else was doing.

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SXSW City Guide: Where to Eat Brunch in Austin #ATXBestEats

In no particular order, these are my favorite brunch spots around town! From patios and mimosas to queso and burgers, these are the spots me and my local Austinite friends find ourselves returning to weekend after weekend! As exampled by my Instagram feed, these are the spots you can kick back and dive into. If you’re looking to brunch like a local this SXSW, here are my favorite spots! Don’t forget to check out the hashtag #ATXBestEats for more food pics from local bloggers.

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JW Marriott Austin, TX Restaurants

JW Marriott Osteria Pronto

I had the chance to check out the new restaurants at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin a few weeks ago just before they opened. I was so excited to get a sneak peek at the new space and see what all the buzz is about. This place will no doubt be a mecca for action downtown during SXSW. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was wow this is big! Immediately when I arrived a lady walked up to me and asked how she can help and pointed me in the right direction. This is something I am really excited about that the Marriott brings that we lack here in Austin: service. Every single person I encountered during the evening was helpful, friendly, attentive and genuinely seemed happy to be there. That is something that often gets missed in Austin. So I was happy to see that!

There are three restaurants: Osteria Pronto, Corner and Burger Bar. We took a little tour of all three restaurants, starting out with Osteria Pronto.

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Buttermilk Biscuits in a Cast Iron

Buttermilk Biscuit in Cast Iron Biscuit Pan by Natalie Paramore

Things that are really exciting to me right now: biscuits. All of them. All the kinds, all the time. I could jump up and down with excitement about how pumped I am that Austin is finally getting some good ol’ biscuits up in this town! As I am making my weekend dinner plans, biscuits are definitely a high priority. Right now I am between going to Olamaie and Fixe, both are top choices because BISCUITS! It has been far too long of a dearth in Austin for Southern food and biscuits especially.

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Jacoby’s From Melvin to Austin

Cow lady at Jacoby's Ranch by Natalie Paramore

In case you were as unaware as I was, this is in fact #CowWeek. At least according to Modern Farmer magazine. Which happens to be on of my favorite publications. So I decided it was finally time to share the photos from one of my quick trips this summer. This one was a day trip from Austin to Melvin, TX and back with a bunch of media friends for my client Jacoby’s. Which if you haven’t already, you should totally go check out Jacoby’s for the patio alone. Scroll to the end of the post for some killer views. BUT back to cows. Melvin, TX is about 2 hours north-west-ish from Austin. More west than north. You might pass through if you were going hunting or maybe on a trip to West Texas. Out in Melvin. there is an amazing family, The Jacoby’s, who are doing some really cool stuff with ranching, cattle, feed and oh, yes they have this wonderful cafe. The whole premise of this, is that from this family and little town, came Adam Jacoby, who just opened his own version of Jacoby’s in Austin. Since a lot of you will hopefully make it to Jacoby’s in Austin, I thought I would share some of Melvin with you. First stop on the day trip was the cafe for some lunch. 

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Happy Hour at TRACE The W Hotel Austin

Spicy Cucumber Cocktail at TRACE The W Hotel Austin by Natalie Paramore

Happy Thursday! And you know what that means, happy hour! Heck yeah, it’s almost the weekend and definitely time to start thinking (if you haven’t already) about libations. One of my recent happy hour discoveries was at TRACE at The W Hotel in Austin. First off, I am huge fan of the Living Room. Great place to chill out, perfect party vibe and also a great place to clean out your wallet. BUT their neighbors next door at TRACE have a little different story, as in happy hour everyday. EVERYDAY. Happy hour on a Saturday afternoon? Why wouldn’t you? Exactly. They have crafted cocktails like this Jalapeno and Cucumber Lemonade, which was one of my favorites of the evening. The lovely people at TRACE invited the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance members in to try some of the specials during our monthly happy hour gatherings. If you want to check out more blogger happy hour goodness, follow the hashtag #AFBAHH on instagram and twitter.

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Blues on the Green & Why Done is Better than Perfect

Downtown Skyline at Blues on the Green Austin, TX by Natalie Paramore

Yesterday I was telling you how I’ve been fretting over getting photos just right, well that kind of goes for this post too. You see I took all these photos at the very first Blues on the Green (BOTG) this year. I wanted to capture a little of my friends and was planning to do a cute little picnic post with my new picnic basket and all the cute little snacks and drinks and dog treats, all spread across some brightly colored blanket that would make for the perfect little Pinterest picture. Welp, that didn’t happen. I mean, it still might. I still have the picnic basket and I could still figure out a way to make that photo shoot happen, but just not today.

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Khong River House Miami, FL

Blackberry Lychee House Punch at Khong River House Miami by Natalie Paramore

I’ve been slowly getting all the photos from my recent trip to Florida ready for you. They were just so pretty and I wanted to make sure that they looked as good on here as they did in my mind. So whenever a picture doesn’t come out quite like I remember it, I will fret and analyze and try to tweak it into perfection. Luckily, the photos from Khong River House turned out, well, really pretty! During my trip to Miami we were able to sneak out of the hotel and off to a wonderful dinner at Khong River House. It is an Asian fusion restaurant that is owned by the same people who do Yardbird, which is high on my list for my next trip to Miami. Khong River has a gorgeous bar that produces gems of cocktails like these.

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Miami Day 2

VIP iHeartradio Pool party Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

On day two of my amazing iHeartRadio trip, I woke up to another completely gorgeous day in Miami. I was ready to get going and finally got to wear my tie-dye swimsuit bottoms I picked up during my last trip to LA. We started the day off by grabbing brunch at VIDA at the Fontainebleau, which was perfect because it was a buffet and located in the hotel. It was really crowded so I would suggest getting there earlier rather than later. We walked right out to the pool and this is what we saw:

iHeartRadio Pool Party Miami Natalie Paramore

Pool at Fontainebleau iHeartRadio Natalie Paramore

Ice Chairs at iHeartradio pool party Miami Natalie Paramore

We took a stroll around the entire venue just before things started to get crowded and found these amazing ice chairs! How fun! I came back at the end of the party and these were definitely melted. Glad I got a chance to snag a seat earlier in the day. And yes, it was really cold and did leave my butt wet haha.

Pool at Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

 I was ready to jump in! But then we saw one of the girls walking around and she had the most gorgeous braided updo. We all complimented her only to find out that Caress was sponsoring a booth and that we could all get our hair done. We walked over to the booth and it was already starting to get crowded so we had to wait a while in the heat.

Caress Hair at fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

Caress at Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

As you can see, I was already starting to get really sweaty but the end result was totally worth it. It was great not having to worry about my hair all day.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach Natalie Paramore 2And yes, I did take a beach selfie haha. Now if only I figure out how to do this braid myself!

Poolside lunch at Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

Next up was lunch. They a had great little cabana available to us with lots of fresh veggies, salad and fish, chicken and beef tacos. And of course gluten free tortillas, because why not? I was feeling really hot and humid by this point, so I went with a super light salad and a little fish. I actually didn’t really feel like eating because I was so hot, but knew that I needed to get a little nourishment in since I was sweating so much.

Mojito Fontainebleau Miami Natalie ParamoreAfter lunch and hydration, it was time to dive into my 1st Miami Mojito of the trip. SO good. Tons of fresh mint and lime really made this refreshing, the perfect Miami drink. I am usually not a huge fan of mojitos but this one really hit the spot. Later on the in day I tried one with passion fruit and really liked the extra sweetness later in the afternoon.

sandcastle at Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

Fontainebleau Miami Beach Natalie Paramore

Beach at Fontainebleau Miami Natalie ParamoreBefore calling it a day and heading up to my room, I had to check out the beach. It was so calm compared to the pool. And I must say much cooler! The ocean breeze made being in the sun and humidity much more bearable. The tall hotels block most of the breeze from the ocean. We were told that this season there was a lot more seaweed than usual, but we were easily able to find a several spots to walk into the water.

Soda Pimpinkski with jalapeno foam FB Steakhouse Miami Natalie Paramore

After the a long day in the sun but before the concert got going, we went to dinner at FB Steakhouse at the Fontainebleau. I had the Soda Pimpinski, which was their take on a Pimm’s Cup. It had a kick of jalapeno foam, so of course I wanted to try it. It was actually more refreshing that I had thought it would be and not too spicy at all. They get the heat in this foam just right. Most of the time I can only handle about one spicy cocktail a night, but I definitely could have gone for two of these!
Hamachi Ceviche FB Steakhouse Miami Natalie Paramore Hamachi Ceviche FB Steakhouse Fontainebleau Miami Natalie ParamoreThe special that night was the Hamachi ceviche. I really hope this one gets a permanent place on the menu! A mound of fresh fish and onions lies beneath this super fresh avocado drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

FB Steakhouse Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

FB Steakhouse Dinner Fontainebleau Miami Natalie ParamoreThe next course arrived with lots of steaks, salads, greens, potatoes and of course mac ‘n cheese! I really enjoyed the churrasco steak, wedge salad and duh the mac ‘n cheese. The broccolini also had a really great char on it that I enjoyed. I will have to add that to my growing list of vegetables that I want to grill.

Fontainebleau Miami Chandelier Natalie Paramore

iHeartRadio Pool Party Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

Then we headed down to our VIP cabana with Visit Florida! These are other lovely bloggers that I got the chance to share this fun experience with: Jessie Rosen from 20-Nothings, Angelic Sinova from Simply Sinova and Kirsten Alana from Aviators and a Camera.


Then we were all given these bracelets that light up and pulse with the music. Fun fact, the Visit Florida people found these bracelets during SXSW!


Next we moved down to the lawn to really get into things with the crowd. You can feel the bass.


The finally Miss JLO herself joined us!


And it wouldn’t have been quite the night has she not done Jenny From the Block!

All I can say is wow! JLO is about 100x better than I ever could have imagined! She is truly impressive live. I was really blown away. I can see why she is such a superstar. She puts on an A List performance. And omg, I don’t even know how she can possibly by 44 and have two kids, her body is incredible, just sayin.

Fontainebleau Miami Natalie Paramore

The saddest part was saying goodbye to such a gorgeous hotel and great times with my new friends. Now I am off to the next leg of my adventure. Stay tuned for more fun pics and posts from Florida!

This post was sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA but all opinions and shenanigans are my own, per usual.

iHeartRadio #Ultimate Pool Party Miami, FL

NP iheart radio pool party Fontainebleau Miami

Gooood Morning! I am coming to you live from Miami, FL for the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party! When I rolled up from the airport, this is walked I into. I mean hello gorgeous! I got the amazing opportunity to come down to Miami and cover the party just for all of you. You may have noticed from my Twitter posts that last night had quite the lineup and today and tonight only get better. Don’t worry, I have plenty of foodie adventures planned for this trip and those will most definitely be shared. I am really excited to be sharing more music on my blog like I have before and promised I would do more often! I can’t tell you how massive and gorgeous every inch of The Fontainebleau Miami is. I mean wow, it is so Miami in all the best ways. first off there are 11 pools and I’ve already gotten lost like twice here. Ok maybe not really, but I’ve definitely gotten turned around, eerrr turned up I believe is what we are calling it this weekend haha.

NP iheart radio pool party pink carpet

We walked the pink carpet and were whisked into the VIP to enjoy the show last night. I was thrilled to find out that the lounge was sponsored by none other than good ol’ Austin local Tito’s Vodka! I was feeling right at home. I wore heels to dinner but was thrilled when the other girls on the trip were like be comfortable so I was happy to toss on my flats and bebop around the party.

NP iheart radio VIP cabana

Our bungalows awaited but I was content to walk around and see all the different parts of the party. There is a huge lawn in front the stage, a bar with misters and charging stations and plenty of other nooks with drinks and lounges. I wanted to check them all out to see where will be best to watch all the big shows tonight!

Of course I wanted to give you all a peak at what you will get to see when they broadcast the show after the event! Here are some videos I grabbed on my iPhone last night.

NP VF_PoolParty_Graphic_062314 Twitter #2

Follow me on Twitter today at 3:30pm Austin time to get all the details about the party and a chance to win an autographed guitar from all the artists playing! Tonight Neon Trees, J.Lo and Magic! Get excited, I know I am!

And of course, here is a sneak peak of my dinner at Khong River House. It was delicious and there will be a bigger post later 🙂

Khong River House Miami

This trip and post were sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA and iHeartRadio. All opinions and shenanigans are my own, per usual.

I’m Going to Miami!

Get excited y’all, I am about to go on a trip to Miami and I am taking you (via this blog) along for the ride! I got this great opportunity through VISIT FLORIDA. They reached out to me to come and attend the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party on June 27th & 28th at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. I mean what kind of awesome planet am I living on that I get to attend this party? I am not really sure, but I do know that I am totally stoked about it. I’ve have told y’all before how much I love music and want to share about that more. So this was the perfect opportunity to get to do that! I will be participating in a Twitter chat while I am there, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen me chatting about it last week. During the Twitter chat on Saturday June 28th, you can follow and get the chance to win an autographed guitar from all the performers at the show!

NP VF_PoolParty_Graphic_062314 Twitter #2

What am I most excited about it? Well first of all, Tiesto will be there and umm I love him! I was so lucky to see him at The Blackheart during SXSW, really small venue on Rainey Street, and now I can’t wait to see him again in Miami! Other performers that I am excited about are JLO, Neon Trees and Iggy Azalea! You can get the full lineup here.

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I am really excited about this trip but I am also a little nervous. I am traveling there by myself, which is fine, I have traveled by myself many times. But when I get there I won’t know anyone. I think it will probably be fun, I’ve never really met a stranger, but there are a few other bloggers attending, which is great, but also a little intimidating. I think there is potential for a few awkward moments, but hopefully it will be more fun than anything!

After my time in Miami, I will be heading up to the northeast Florida to visit St. Augustine and Jacksonville. I know that those cities will be lots of fun as well. I have heard that they have some really great distilleries,  restaurants and an up and coming music scene… hmmm sounds like a city I know! If you have ant tips or places I must try while I am there, please let me know. I can’t wait to share all my trip with you. But first tell me where some of your favorite spots in Florida are!

This post was sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA but all opinions are my own.

Austin Food & Wine Festival 2014

Austin Food and Festival_Natalie Paramore

This was my first year to attend the Austin Food & Wine Festival and it was deeeelicious! I was so excited to get to try all the food from some amazing chefs! We went to Rock Your Taco and The Candy Land after party at The W, which was SO fun btw. It got really hot this weekend but that didn’t keep us from enjoying all the fest had to offer like wine slushies and alllll the cheese from Kerry Gold!

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Cracked Shell Egg Dyeing

finished
Last week marked the official start of spring! So I decided to get crackin’ on some Easter eggs a little early this year! The cracked shells make a really fun design on the eggs. Some people think they look like dinosaur eggs, I think they are just cool. Super simple and easy to do with kiddos or friends!

DSC_1050
Start by boiling the eggs. Place eggs into a large pot of cool water. Make sure they completely submersed. Bring water to a boil. Then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let sit for 8 minutes.

colorsAdd one tablespoon white vinegar to 3 cups of water. Choose your food coloring, I got super bright neon colors.

dropAdd 10-12 drops of food coloring to the vinegar and water.

swirl
Stir it all around.

spoon
Make sure the eggs are cool before handling.

cracked
Gently tap the side of the egg onto the counter. Causing the eggshells to be cracked but still on the egg.

dipped
Dip the egg into the dyed water. The longer you let the eggs sit, the stronger the color will be. Let eggs sit in the dye in the fridge. Let it over night for super rich color.

peeled
After about three hours, the eggs looked like this. Gently peel the shell off.

Dyed eggsAnd there you have it, super simple dip dyed eggs!

SXSW 2014 Recap

Welp, it’s definitely taken me a few days to recover from all things SXSW this year. The interactive, film and music festival has now turned into a crazed 14-day fiasco that takes over the entire city. This was the first year I actually had to work during the festival, but actually that made it all the more fun. There was lots of food, entirely too many free adult beverages and some crazy shows. All in all, the marathon of all festivals, was a fun and exhausting experience. Not to mention, I had to move out of my house for the first five days because we rented it out, nothing like a little spring cleaning on top of my adult SB2K14. Whatever, we survived, and best of all I finally got to see Willie Nelson live for the first time. I know, I know everyone collectively gasp that this is my first time, but SO happy that I got to see him. Best of all, I got to see him at his ranch! It was the first time he has played the #Heartbreakers banquet. AND Shovels & Rope was there, the dynamic duo can really steal some hearts with their twisted twang. Check out the pics for my crazed SXSW 2014!

rum fashioned

I started the week off with a sneak peek into Garage, a new bar that is literally inside a parking garage. Probably one of my new favorite haunts. You check out more on this in my post (coming soon!).

wrecking ball

I found it only appropriate to swing on this wrecking ball during work hours. I mean somebody’s gotta twerk it. Want more wrecking ball? See this video of the rendition by none other than the Dixie Chicks.

 [jwplayer mediaid=”9421″]

We got our GirlTalk on at Stubb’s for the Spreadfast party!

nerds rock

Moving into the weekend, I got up close and personal with Aloe Blacc at uShip for the annual Nerds Rock party. Good lookin’ nerds, dontcha think? Umm yall, Aloe Blacc… is even better live and in person. He really is the man!

Cherub

A little Sunday couldn’t keep me from seeing one of my favorites from last year, Cherub!

Stubbs

There would be no SXSW if it wasn’t for BBQ… here is a little spread at Stubb’s.

st paul

I had the pleasure of seeing St. Paul and The Broken Bones for the first time. The are hands down the best Southern Soul band right now. I just can’t get enough of them. These guys are going places!

Cheer Up Charlies

I got to check out the new Cheer Up Charlies! The new stage is such a great spot, definitely will be a new favorite venue in Austin. It’s intimate, still enough space to rock out and you get a little nature in the background. It’s a win-win. I’ve been following the Royal Teeth now for a few years, also an insanely talented bunch. I particularly like the drum banging by the two lead singers.

juicebox

Mid-week I had to take a pause and regroup with some juices and smoothies from my fav neighborhood joint, Soup Peddler. I like to call in my orders to the Mary St. location to avoid waiting.

hot dog and beer tasting

I was lucky enough to snag a spot in the Rachael Ray House for a tasting of some Park’s Finest Hot Dogs and Blue Moon. While I didn’t make it to the big show at Stubb’s on Saturday, the Rachael Ray House was a nice little refuge amongst the SXSW craziness.

gourdoughs

Not to mention, there rows and rows of Gourdough’s doughnuts to be eaten there!

swing

Next I swung over to the #Heartbreakers Banquet at Willie Nelson’s Ranch! This is a magical place yall!

oysters

And they were shucking fresh oysters straight from Boston! Thanks Island Creek! They little guys tasted so fresh I swear I could taste the seawater!

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Shovels & Rope!

heartbreakers

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And then there was Willie… ahh sigh. Loved every second of this show. I can’t remember which was my favorite song because it all seemed just a bit like a dream.

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Who doesn’t love a little house music during the afternoon?

Four Seasons

I capped off Friday with this spread at the Four Seasons.

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I also got to see the American Authors and sing along to “Best Day of My Life”, which is totally taking off! Love them!

taverna

Saturday called for a hearty breakfast before venturing out into the wilderness again. Fresh pasta and a fried egg from Taverna.

tiesto

My friends and I got lucky enough to stumble into an insane DJ set with Tiesto. You can feel Alex’s enthusiasm in this photo once we saw the paper line up posted!

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TIESTO!!!!!

liz street

Sunday brought heavy struggles and called for a large and in charge recovery brunch with my fav festie gals at my fav place Elizabeth Street.

Hope your SXSW was amazing, here’s to many more!

So Fresh and So Clean (Clean) in 2014

Is it just me or is 2014 already zooming by? Over the holidays, which were like a long time ago, I decided to give myself a little mental creative break. I did a little redesigning, what do you think? Like the layout? Endless scroll, how you feeling about that? I wanted to freshen things up a bit. Keep it real for you, and me too. That is one thing I felt like I had gotten away from… keeping it real. SF Trolley

I was finding myself making recipes that were good, sure, but they weren’t what I normally would eat. It was starting to feel a little forced. And when it’s forced you don’t really feel like doing it anymore. That’s kinda how it goes with everything, right? Besides, my life had a changed a lot. I wasn’t (and still am not) eating the way I was before. I have a lot more events going on and I eat out a lot more for work. Which is great, but completely changed the way I ate. So naturally, the blog would change too.

SF Seafood

I decided to take a self-imposed creative break. All artists and creatives take breaks it seems. Time to just think and clear the head, which seems to lead to a lot more creativity and refreshed interests. So, I am back! Ready to get back into the swing of things. I’ve got a lot more restaurants headed your way and lots of simple recipes, because well, that’s all my schedule seems to allow. Ok, maybe a few fun and challenging ones 🙂

SF Mushrooms

 Expect to see more travel and music, because those are things that are taking up more and more of my time. In my little free time, I dropped the boring gym membership and finally got a on regular schedule with one of my favorite things, hot yoga. Makes me feel a little more sane in my crazy life. After one roller coaster of a year in 2013, I feel super excited for what all 2014 is going to bring. Finally feeling funky fresh and back on top of my game… well most days at least!

SF_Natalie Paramore

BBQ Taste-off: La Barbecue vs Franklin vs John Mueller Meat Co.

This summer a friend of mine finally decide tosolve one of Austin’s little mysteries: who actually has the best barbecue in town? Is it really worth three hours to wait in line for brisket? Really? Let’s be honest. Peter, who is ever the entrepreneur , finally set it up, priced it out and got us all together for a little friendly backyard barbecue taste-off. We all paid $35 for brisket, ribs and sausage from each of the three Austin barbecue beasts: Franklin, La Barbecue and J. Mueller. Oh and there was a keg to wash it all down. While all three were sweaty, juicy, meaty goodness, there was a clear winner for each category. Here is how it went down: we each got a huge plate, each piece had a colored toothpick. No one besides Peter knew which toothpick belonged to which meat house. Whatever tasted the best, we put the that toothpick in the winner’s cup. It was pretty unanimous about the brisket. Hands down we all agreed, the blue toothpick was indeed the tastiest.

BBQ-tasteoff Flyer

Big BackyardDSC_0518 DSC_0514 DSC_0515The Man, The Myth, The Legend.

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DSC_0526Lucy joined the party, what a lucky dog!

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DSC_0529And the winners were:

Brisket: La Barbecue

Ribs: Franklin

Sausage: La Barbecue

I have to admit, I thought Franklin was going to take the cake, but side by side there was no competition for me as far as brisket was concerned. Everyone else agreed too. You can read another review of the event here. And if you don’t have time to wait three hours in line, I recommend the free beer and El Sancho at La Barbecue.

#CupcakesandCocktails plus Friday Favorites!

Get excited for the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance biggest event of the year Cupcakes and Cocktails! This year we

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are raising money for the ARC of the Capitol Area ! I will be there along with lots of other bloggers and friends. With cupcakes from Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, SugaPlump Pastries and Delish to name a few! What would a cocktail party be without cocktails! We’ve

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Treaty Oak Distillery, T1 Tequila and Hops and Grains on board to keep the libations flowing! There will also be a silent auction as well. Come hang out at the swanky Le Cordon Bleu next Friday July 19th and your weekend started off right! Buy your tickets here!

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Photo from last year’s event care of MadBetty.com

Looking for a way to dance the night away? Look no further than this wonderful find!

Also, come to find out my Coconut Curry Lobster Bisque is paleo! Who knew? #FlashbackFriday! Enjoy!

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Dylan’s Power Brownies

Over Memorial Day weekend, a friend was involved in a terrible accident. He suffered extreme electrical burns. On a few good notes, he is going to eventually be ok and is able to recover at one of the best burns centers in San Antonio. During his recovery, he needs a high-protein, high-calorie diet. Doing the only thing I know how to do, I made up a recipe that makes eating all those calories a little sweeter.

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Get well soon Dylan!

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Dylan’s recipe is based on this healthier version, for those of watching your calories.

For Dylan’s recipe, you’ll need:
1 can black beans (rinsed)
3 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons chocolate flavored whey protein powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

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Begin by blending the black beans into a paste. Use teaspoons of water at a time as needed until smooth. It will be thick- that’s ok.

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Next whisk dry ingredients together.

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Add eggs, butter and black bean paste. Mix until smooth. I used a fork, break out the hand mixer if you need to. Mix on medium speed for one minute.

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Stir in chocolate chips.

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Bake in a small baking dish. Be sure to grease the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

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Now enjoy some brownies!

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Come home soon Dylan.

My Recipes on Cooking Planit

One of the projects I’ve been working on hard lately is developing some recipes and menus for my friends at Cooking Planit. My recipes are always easy but teaming up with Cooking Planit, they helped really break them down step-by-step. Best of all, Cooking Planit helps the novice cook get all the menu items ready to be served at the same time! I put a few sneak peeks at my menus below. Download the Cooking Planit iPhone or iPad app or use the desk top version to get my recipes. Happy Cooking!

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Cold Asian noodle salad and spicy edamame are perfect for summer! Full recipes here.

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Try this simple salmon with spicy black beans and cilantro rice.

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For the ultimate summer picnic, try this fried chicken, lettuce and tomato sandwich with crispy green beans and herb-y pasta salad.

As Seen on Good Day Austin: Watermelon Gorgonzola Salad

I’m so excited to share with you my very first cooking demo! It was such a fun experience getting show off my recipe and hang out the very fun Addie Broyles and Keri Bellacosa! You can check out the clip here:
MyFoxAustin | KTBC | Fox 7 Austin | News Weather Sports

Tomorrow at BookPeople, the AFBA will be hosting an event so be sure to come on down and learn more about how the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook came to be!

Where: BookPeople 603 N Lamar Blvd
When: Saturday May 11th at 4pm

The Austin Food Blogger Alliance has team up with great people at Cooking Planit to help promote our cookbook. Cooking Planit helps home cooks everywhere get dinner prepared on time, every time. You can find step-by-step directions to my recipe on Cooking Planit’s website here !

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Watermelon Gorgonzola Salad
image via Monica Riese

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Be sure to stop by BookPeople tomorrow!

Lunch at The Slanted Door in San Francisco

I feel like I need to walk around with a sign that reads: “Will travel for food”, like seriously. Traveling and food are my two loves. Well besides my love bug Mimi of course. I think I’m so in love with travel and food because I’m obsessed with trying new things. I love adventure and the feeling that I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I get this feeling stresses some people out, but I thrive under that stress. I love meeting new people. I love it when someone tells me something I’ve never heard before. I rarely make the same thing twice because I’m always ready to try something new.

This weekend I went to San Francisco, which I happen to think is a very magical place. I mean what else could you ask for? Crazy city, lots of different people from all over the world, throw in an ocean and some of the best restaurants in the world… well, let me just make myself at home.

After several visits this year, I finally got around to trying The Slanted Door . Nestled right in the Ferry Building, it’s a gorgeous location on what was a sunshine-y Friday.

It was bustling, but we were able to snag a table right away at around 1pm.

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We started off our ladies lunch with cocktails. Left to right: Gin Fix, French 75 and Piña Colada. I had the Gin Fix. Refreshing and perfect with Vietnamese food.

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Next up were the Slanted Door Spring Rolls. Perfect peanut sauce, not too sticky and not too sweet.

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Fairly generous serving size if you ask me. Definitely enough for three.

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My favorite was the Spicy Monterey Squid. Ahhhhhmazing. Perfectly spiced, light and refreshing. I’ve come to love stir-fry squid. We even got our non-adventurous foodie friend to try the squid and she loved it! Victory all around!

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Everything is served up family style. The side of asparagus was delicious. Slight crunch and well-seasoned, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I recommend this side.

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For the meat lovers, the Pork Meatballs and Pork Belly noodles were fabulous. Rich tasting without being terribly heavy like a lot of pork belly dishes. I would order this again.

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Until next time fair City by the Bay, until next time.

Austin Restaurant Week Photoshoot with Melissa Skorpil

I’ve been up to a lot of fun things lately, including assisting on my first ever professional food photoshoot! I had the pleasure of assisting Melissa Skorpil, of Skorpil Photography, on a shoot for Austin Restaurant Week. We shot at TRIO at the Four Seasons.

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I had so much fun learning all of Melissa’s tips for taking the perfect food photo. If you want to learn more, Melissa is hosting food photography classes at Precision Camera .

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I mean, how gorgeous is this photo? Pork anyone?

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And for dessert…

A big thanks to Melissa and Austin Restaurant Week for letting me assist. I had a blast! If you want to see all of Melissa’s stunning Austin Restaurant Week photos, click here.

What restaurants are you hoping to check out for Austin Restaurant Week?

Ridiculously Colorful Cookies and an Exciting Announcement!

I have some exciting news! I am now contributing to an amazingly creative site Brit+Co. ! It was started up by a fellow Longhorn and I couldn’t be more giddy to be creating some fabulous content for this fun site. That being said, if you have any fantastically colorful or delicious recipes or DIYs you’d like to see, please let me know! I want to hear from you.

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My first original piece for Brit+Co. are these Ridiculously Colorful Sugar Cookies . They are perfect for your next spring soirée!

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Want to find out how I took this to…

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These little cuties? Just click here for the full tutorial!

Happy spring everyone!
Enjoy!

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and Jordan Winery

SXSW has been good to me this year. Like really good. Seven days of events in a row with five more to go, I have to keep reminding myself that SX is a marathon not a sprint. Do you ever find yourself complaining about how good your life is? Insert girly voice here “Omg I’m sooo tired. I have three events for interactive tonight and I’m on the list for this private show at the W at 1am”. I’m completely guilty of this. I think a lot of Austin dwellers actually are. Life is good here and I’m happy to be living it to the fullest.

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Speaking of amazing foodie events, like this wine and cheese tasting event last night at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop with Jordan Wine. It was a private event in their cheese house. Jordan Vineyard and Winery brought the wine and it was interesting to me to learn more about wine. I learned a lot because I have never been to an official wine class before… or cheese class for that matter. I kept taking notes the whole time because there were so many fun little snippets and facts that I wanted to be sure and share with you all!

Sidenote- I’ve totally been in my Mecca all week because I’ve been surrounded by other bloggers and techies who completely encourage social sharing… aka no one yelled at me for snapping pics and tweeting/instagraming/facebooking at the table!

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Check out this pairing list! Dreamy huh?

I learned that Jordan Winery only makes two wines: Chardonnay and Cabernet. They focus on making wine that pairs perfectly with food. In fact, the Jordan’s started their winery because they were such foodies and wanted an American wine that paired well with food!

For their Chardonnay, the insist on used (aged) oak barrels. That way the oak flavor does not over power the Chardonnay.

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This Red Hawk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Marin County, CA is one of only five cheeses imported to France from the US. It’s that good y’all.

I learned that this is a washed rind, triple creme cheese. Meaning that even though this cheese may smell stinky on the outside, it’s soft and buttery on the inside.

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The Red Hawk pairs well with Salumi. I also found myself eating this one all by itself.

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This is an Ossau-Iratay or erotic cheese according to the cheesemongers! The strawberry jam served with it was to bring out the strawberry flavors in the Cabernet. I actually enjoyed this drizzled with a little of the olive oil from
Jordan Winery. I liked the salty savory flavors it brought out in the cheese.

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Another fun fact, have you always wondered why people smell their wine so much? It’s because the tongue can only taste five flavors, but the nose can decipher over 800 scents! You can smell, err taste, so much more by taking a deep sniff before you sip!

That brings me to my next fun fact, why do you swirl the wine? Because it helps the scents of the wine evaporate into the tiny holes of the crystal glass, and you are then able to experience so many more of the flavors. This is also why you decant or let wine breathe.

Also, that’s why there’s a difference between wine crystal and regular glass. That high pitched ding of crystal can tell you a lot about the quality of the crystal which can enhance your experience of the wine. Fascinating!

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This is a Cabot Clothbound cheese from Vermont. It pairs nicely with chocolate, if you like that. I, again, preferred with the olive oil from Jordan Winery. I must get my hands on some of that olive oil!

Fun cheese fact: I learned that cow’s milk cheese is the most versatile and can take on the most flavors. Young goat’s milk cheeses are commonly paired with white wines. Aged sheep’s milk cheeses go best with red wines. Keep that in mind for your next party!

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Antonelli’s Cheese Shop regularly offers Cheese 101 classes, who wants to go to one with me?!?

A huge thanks to Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and Jordan Winery for such a wonderful event. It was a great experience and I hope to visit both places soon!

The Smoke Experiment at Clive Bar

Yesterday I got the chance to attend The Smoke Experiment at Clive Bar. A foodie event at one of my favorite bars in town on a gorgeous day? You bet I was in.

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The place was jam packed but we got to taste a lot of fun food. Every dish had to have an element of smoke in the taste. That’s a smoked corn chowder.

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Brooklyn Brewery was on hand serving up their finest.

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The Holy Smokers were there cooking for a cause. Check them out!

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That’s Mary Makes Dinner rocking out some amazing smoked cherries, chocolate ice cream and marshmallows!

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And Jennie Chen of MisoHungry doing her thing!

It was a fun event and I’m glad I got to attend!

My Favorite Cocktails for SXSW

Who else is up to their eyeballs with SXSW madness? It’s an exciting time to be in Austin… although the traffic alone will give anyone a headache. No worries here though, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite cocktails in town to help you let loose and enjoy the ride!

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The Devil’s Bowtie from Papi Tino’s . I love the heat and sweet of this drink. Be sure to stop by after you make the rounds at FaderFort.

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If you want to chill out a little, take a walk around Town Lake then head to the amazing patio at Paggi House. I love this Basil Chili Pepper Margarita!

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Don’t forget to check all the amazing eats on Austin’s ever popular South 1st Street. Cool down with a Shady Blonde at Elizabeth Street Cafe . It’s only my favorite restaurant in town!

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For the ultimate in Tex-Mex, go to Maudie’s and grab a Prickly Pear margarita. The bright fuchsia color of the cactus flower packs a punch in this

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marg! Order a bowl of the Diablo Sol queso. You won’t regret it.

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If all the SXSW activities leave you with a hangover, get over to Hillside Farmacy for this Wasabi Bloody Mary. Hair of the Dog y’all.

Happy SXSW! Hope to see you all out and about over the next 10 days!

Blue Plate Santa Monica

I stopped byBlue Plate in Santa Monica, CA last weekend on a recent trip. It’s a fresh walk up cafe. It was bustling when we arrived. The host was friendly and took our phone number to call us when our table is ready. So a few friends and I strolled around and did a little shopping. Of course the weather was perfect for this, bright sunshine and a cool breeze.

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And that my friends is a Mac n Cheese Pancake. Say what? Yeah, I said the same thing. I obviously had to try it to see what it was all about. It’s basically pancake batter mixed with shells and cheddar. It’s different. I think my tastebuds where confused, but at the same time I couldn’t quit eating it because I wanted to understand it. If it’s your first time to Blue Plate, I would give it a try simply for the novelty. However, next time I might order something else.

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The chili was delicious and quite filling. It was a tad sweet. If you order half and sandwich and a bowl of chili for lunch, you won’t walk away hungry.

Blue Plate also makes all there own turkey sausage and patties. Which makes their food all the better.

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We opted for some truffle fries to share. They were quite fragrant from the truffle oil but didnt add much else to the meal.

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I opted for the Turkey Reuben on a spinach wrap. Their thousand island dressing was quite delish. The swiss was thick and melty.

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We totally splurged and got some sweet potato fries with a pesto aioli that was quite addicting. I loved the shoestring cut of these potatoes.

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If you love a good Cob Salad, this is where it’s at. I love salads, but they can easily be done poorly. This was perfect with super fresh produce and creamy blue cheese. Blue Plate also makes their own dressings, which is a total must for any good salad in my opinion.

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I would like to note that this only half of a Club Sandwich. You’ve been warned.

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If you’re ever in Santa Monica, be sure and stop by Blue Plate!

AFBA Cookbook

Lets talk about rain.

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I happen to really like rainy days. Like really. Why? Because rain sure can be a rarity in drought-plagued Austin, TX. Something about this rare event makes me cherish these days. There is something cleansing about rain too. I love to go on long runs in the rain. Especially when its sticky hot and the sky finally breaks to give the heavy clouds a release. When I can’t tell if it’s sweat or rain running down my face. The sounds of the rain falling and my feet hitting the pavement drone out even my ever racing mind. That is one thing I love about rainy days.

Other things I love about rainy days? Eating full plates of spaghetti that your friends bring to your house just because they want to share a meal with you.

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It was good. Thanks friends!


Another thing? Discovering this song on Pandora. It’s quite catchy and soothing. Perfect for a rainy day.

Best thing about a rainy day? Getting great news! The Austin Food Blogger Alliance is publishing a cookbook!

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And yours truly is going to be in it! How awesome is that? I’m SO excited.

Get a sneak peek of my recipes here and here. They have been re-photographed so get excited to see how they turned out!

You can order your copy of AFBA cookbook here!

Oh! And Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook Event

Last night the Austin Food Blogger Alliance hosted a kickoff event for our community cookbook. I’m so excited and happy to be a part of this not only this fabulous group but also this amazing project! This event was hosted at Olive and June which was the perfect place on a balmy January evening. The food was excellent and the place was packed!

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I felt so lucky to have so many amazing friends there supporting the AFBA!

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The group had a great time and I was happy that I could share even more of passion for food blogging with them! It means the world to me to have such an amazing group of friends!

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The night was a huge success!

Read all about the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook and how to purchase your own copy here!

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And I’ve been busy cooking and dishing up with Kitchen Concotions! Go give her some blogger love!

Thank you so much to everyone who came out last night! Y’all made me feel so special!
Xoxo

Happy New Year!

Oh hello there friends!

Did you have a wonderful holiday? I hope so! I’ve been busy traveling, brainstorming and generally gearing up for the new year. 2012 really ended with a bang for me and I’m hopeful that 2013 will bring about lots of refreshing change. I wanted to share with you all about a few fun things I’ve been doing and working on. Just reflecting and appreciating all the little things. I definitely want to hear what you are looking forward to this year!

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First and foremost, over the holidays I was super busy whipping up jars of fresh pesto to sell to friends and family. With the encouragement of a few friends, it was a great success! I’m thinking about taking another round of orders soon, does this interest anyone?

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We enjoyed a white Christmas back home!

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Then I was off to the west coast where I saw not one, but TWO double rainbows! I think that’s a very good omen!

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I spent last Sunday driving up Highway 1 along the California coast. Omg… How gorgeous! If you ever get the chance to make this drive, you should definitely do it. It’s very wind-y but the views are breathtaking.

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I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the cutest place ever, Presidio Social Club . This gem is nestled in the Presidio of San Francisco, which is basically a gorgeous national park in the middle of the city. George Lucas also has his studios in Presidio. Stop by if you’re ever in the city.

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I recommend the Chicken and Arugula Salad. The avocado vinaigrette was amazing, I’m considering recreating this!

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I gobbled up the Chicken Sandwich. The jalapeño aioli is delightfully spicy.

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I rang in the New Year with my favorite guy.

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I loved rocking this brass knuckle clutch with my sparkly New Year’s dress!

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I snapped this blurry picture of the gorgeous sunset as I sat in traffic on my return trip to Austin yesterday. Love those Texas sunsets.

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After years of staring at this blank wall, I finally decided to try my hand at a little wall art.

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My dear friend Claire is constantly inspiring me. I finally decided to try my hand at her DIY Picture Frame Gallery .

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It’s still needs a few more personal touches, but I was so excited to hang these frames that I lifted off my grandmothers. My grandparents are slowly becoming my own personal Vintage store haha. I’m hoping to enhance and grow my personal style this year, and this wall was just the beginning!

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And I was excited to be back at home snuggling my little love bug Mimi.

What are you hoping this year brings? What challenges and intentions are you setting for yourself this year?

The Waverly Inn

Happy Friday everyone! This gorgeous weather is making me extra antsy to get outside and enjoy the sunshine! Last Sunday at about this time, I was enjoying a delightful brunch in the garden room at The Waverly Inn. This cozy spot is nestled in the West Village in NYC. This celebrity hotspot has calmed down a little and real people can actually get a reservation. The inside of the restaurant is dark and warm. The garden room was light, and I sat next to maybe the cutest fireplace ever, adorned with stone laden forest creatures.

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We ordered up Spicy Bloody Mary’s, which came packed with fresh horseradish. Like gets-stuck-in-the-straw-and-you-can’t-drink-it lots of horseradish. I loved it. My partner in crime wasn’t as thrilled about it.

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House made sausage with polenta and a fried egg was delicious. The sausage is strong, almost like a chorizo. The omelette was packed with cheese, thick bacon and avocado. Bacon and avocado is one of my favorite flavor combinations.

They were not listed on the brunch menu, but the truffle fries are to die for! After reading several reviews, I knew to ask for them. The chef and waiter were so kind as to serve them up for us early on in the day. In my opinion they are a must order! Super crunchy on the outside and light on the inside, with just the perfect touch of truffle oil.

If you’re ever in the West Village, grab a reservation at the Waverly Inn.

Frozen Hot Chocolates and NYC!

Some days are just meant for sharing a few things. Others are for venting, eating, creating, recreating and celebrating. Today is a sharing kind of day. I spent a lovely weekend in New York City and wanted to share a few snapshots of the fun with you all. I mean, how can you not

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have in NYC during the holidays?!?

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These are some fantastic Frozen Hot Chocolates from Serendipity in NYC. There was a wait of 2.5 hrs to get one of these… And it was worth every minute! Thick and delicious, not too sweet but scrumptious none the less! The whip cream is to die for as well!

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I didn’t waste one second waiting in line, I headed down to Central Park for a stroll. Who knew Taylor Swift was there at the same time! Too bad I didn’t know that until afterwards, dangit!

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We had a delicious (and cramped!) dinner at Frank in the East Village. It was loud and fun and filling. Great thing about NYC? All your friends are there! Even besties from ATX!

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Try this Bloody Mary from Waverly Inn for brunch. Ask for it spicy and it comes loaded with fresh horseradish. More to come on Waverly Inn…

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Don’t forget the best part of all! The tree at Rockefeller Center! So gorgeous!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend too!

Guest Blog: Food for Thought

Happy Monday! I want to formally introduce you all to Meredith. She is a great friend and has made several guest appearances on the blog. Check out all the awesome things she’s been up to!

Hello Food Fetishers! My name is Meredith, and you may have seen my beautiful, humble smiling face in several of Natalie’s posts. Nat has been a busy lady jet-setting all over the USA, so I’m taking this opportunity to do a guest blog!

I’ve recently been put in charge of one of my company’s charity program, Help on Wheels. Help on Wheels is uShip’s cargo RV which we use to help out non-profits in the greater Austin area. Last week we helped Communities In Schools of Central Texas bring supplies out to the Circuit of the Americas track for their annual fundraiser, Food for Thought Luckily for me, the team at Communities in Schools gave us some tickets to Food for Thought as a token of their appreciation.

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uShippers, Communities in Schoolers and Help on Wheels at the COTA track.

I didn’t even think of all of the wonderful food that I would be tasting at the event, but I texted Natalie after my first bite. I asked her if I could do a blog post to showcase all of the goodies!

Food for Thought featured 22 of Austin’s top restaurants and bakeries, from Congress in the heart of downtown, all the way to Hudson’s on the Bend out by Lake Travis. The food varied from tiny tacos to creative desserts. They were all great, and I definitely went back for seconds for several of them.

Some of my top picks were the tenderloin from Hudson’s on the Bend, the stone crab from Truluck’s, the short rib from Trace and the bisque from Congress.

And while the food tasted amazing, I was also impressed with the presentation of some of these bite-sized portions. While you cannot taste or smell them, I’ll let you drool now at my attempt to create some food porn.

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Z Tejas’s tenderloin
The Driskill’s duck
Fireman’s 4 beer

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Trace’s short rib
Malaga’s pork belly croquettes
Chez Zee’s crème brulee French toast

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Congress’s bisque
El Alma’s taco

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Hyatt Lost Pines’ s’more dessert

I was glad to have this opportunity to help out with a great cause and enjoy some fabulous food! I’m also impressed that I remembered all of these different dishes and where they were from! Go me!

If you are interested in learning more about uShip’s Help on Wheels program, feel free to email me at meredithc@uship.com. You can also follow Help on Wheels on its adventures on Twitter and Instagram!

Monday Monday

I was going to make you some really cute Christmas cookies. I really, really was. But then I got stuck in traffic on I-35 for 5 hours yesterday, and decided that cute cookies were not happening. Sorry kids. I am still planning to make you cookies though, just not today.

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I spent sometime at my moms house this weekend. Isn’t her street just gorgeous during fall?

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My grandparents brought me back some vanilla beans from Cancun. I’m so excited about these!

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I watched a lot of Home Alone. Seriously, is there an Alamo Drafthouse quote along? Because if there is, I’m totally in.

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I also made a big batch of cilantro pesto for my mom. Yumo.

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And then I cut my thumb pretty bad. I’m not sure if you’ve ever sliced your thumb while simultaneously slicing a jalapeño, but I do not recommend it.

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I firmly believe everyone should own at least one fuzzy hat. Even if you live in Texas and your winters consist mostly of days that are 70 degrees and sunny.

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Mimi loves the big windows at my mom’s house. They are the perfect height for her to rest her chin while playing guard dog.

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I roasted chestnuts for the first time!

I CANNOT get enough of this song! Been on repeat all weekend. #musicmonday

Enjoy!

Friendsgiving

Last night’s Friendsgiving was a huge success! Almost 40 fun people headed over to share lots of food and lots of vino. Oh and did I mention there was milk punch?

I, as someone who tries to practice my photography everyday, am terrible at remembering to take pictures during events! I can take a million pictures of random food or birds in my yard or try different lighting. But when it comes to having friends over for dinner or going out, I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to snap pictures. Luckily, most of my friends are Instagram pros, so I can look forward to reminiscing from those pictures.

Last night was a classic example of my getting caught up in the moment. I made my Granny’s delicious Broccoli Cheese Casserole but completely forgot to snap a picture! Good thing she is making it tomorrow and I will post the recipe along with some pictures from her house.

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One fun thing I did add to this years Friendsgiving, was a butcher paper table top. I covered our table with butcher paper and put out a cup full of Sharpies. I implored the help of my roommate to help me write out “I’m Thankful for…”, then we left the rest to our guests.

I wasn’t sure how it would go over…

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But everyone loved it!! I love doing little things like this at group dinners. I think it’s great conversation starter. Just gives the night a little something else. Especially if you’re like me, and have a group of eclectic friends, it always helps everyone bond.

It’s a super easy thing you can add to your family’s Thanksgiving table! Or maybe the kids table… Whatever suits your fancy.

I am so thankful for all my friends who turned up last night. It was a great time!!

F1 Weekend in Austin,TX

Besides whipping up a little of this, I spent my weekend soaking up all of the F1 race hoopla in Austin this weekend.

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Thanks to a lucky turn of events and few good friends, I got to attend the VIP F1 party at Swift’s Attic. The drinks were flowing, it was packed and there was a DJ. Then I walked around FanFest for a bit before calling it a night early, so I could wake up and head here!

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Yeah, that’s a sweet panorama pic I took using the new iPhone 5.

The weather made for a gorgeous day. I couldn’t believe it, but there was hardly any traffic! I mean seriously, it took me less than 30min to get there and home. Props to COTA and City of Austin for pulling that off so smoothly.

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We had a great view of the start and finish!

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Soaking up the sunshine and some Shocktop beers.

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Oh, I did I mention Fletcher’s Corny Dogs was there! What a great surprise since I missed out on my corny dog this year because I was at ACL.

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I felt so American eating my corny dog, drinking a beer and looking at the red, white and blue track.

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Vroom Vroom!!!

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I finished off my weekend by adding something a little extra in this batch of Vegan Pumpkin Bread for someone extra special. Chocolate and pumpkin is a tasty holiday treat!

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Wrap it up cute and send this loaf of love to someone special!

Grandparents are Fun!

I took a fun trip two weeks ago to visit my Grandparents in Cancun. No, no, no we didn’t go out and party. Sorry kids. But I have to admit, I think I like the grandparent version of vacation. It felt like an actual vacation! Lots of good food, rest and beach time! It was great. My grandparents are great at vacationing. They been what I like to call “professionally retired” for 35 years haha. I am aiming for that!

I’ve been nonstop with work, blogging, volunteering and just keeping up with life. All good things, of course, but it seems the lack of sleep and terrible allergies has left me with a nasty cough. Please send me your remedies. That being said, I haven’t been doing much in the kitchen. I decided to share a few photos from my trip instead. I hope you enjoy them!

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The gorgeous view from the resort. I’d die to be back there right now!

Each morning my PopPop would wake up and make a little breakfast for me and my Grandma. He would even go down to the beach and lay out our towels so that we could get the good chairs. He is so sweet! I think these little things are what make for lasting relationships.

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PopPop is looking good for 81!

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I feel so blessed to have such healthy and fun grandparents!

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We enjoyed lots of fresh mango and strawberries margaritas. Guess what? Their frozen margs are made with fresh fruit! No icky syrups here. No ma’am, just fruity, tequila-y, deliciousness.

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For Halloween, we enjoyed flaming coffees prepared table side. Yes, all the servers dressed up, it was really cute.

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Spooky Halloween moon.

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Not all Mexican food is greasy tacos, beans and cheese. My grandparents fed me well! I am very thankful for that!

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Chocolate covered orange peels instead of mints after dinner… I do like this so much more!

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My grandparents really know how to live the life! We had after dinner drinks each night… And we were on a flaming coffee roll. Each restaurant prepared them a little differently but all consisted of coffee, sugar rimmed glasses and table side prep. I loved the presentation show.

I hope you all get a chance to hang with your grandparents this holiday season!

Local Austin Foodie Gift Ideas

Recently I participated in a food swap with Austin and Boston food bloggers. It is such a fun idea! Each blogger is paired with a blogger from the other city and send local food items to each other.

This is the basket full of goodies I sent off to my partners in Boston. There was a $30 price limit plus shipping. I used a “if it fits, it ships” box from the post office. I wanted to share with all of you because I think these would be great holiday gifts for your family and friends from out of town! What a fun and tasty way to share a little bit of Austin with your loved ones. There are so many great, local food companies to choose from! My partners are vegetarian and I wanted to be sure I sent items that wouldn’t spoil or get ruined in during their journey, so those were my parameters.

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My goodie basket items:

Good Flow Honey

TexaFrance Bluebonnet Honey Mustard

Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce
It’s vegetarian and gluten free! Perfect for BBQ tofu tacos or over eggs!

Austin Nuts Sweet Wasabi Mix and Texas BBQ Peanuts

Sweet Leaf Tea
Wouldn’t be Texas without Sweet Tea!

Central Market Hatch Chile Green Salsa

Praline Pecans from HEB bulk section
I can’t eat enough of those. Soo good!

I think these are great ideas to use for holiday hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, and secret Santa!

What are some of your favorite local foodie gifts?

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