Taking Back My Twenties

Restaurant Experiences

A Rainy Hill Country Weekend

Posted on Apr 7, 2014 | 4 comments

This weekend, Matt and I traveled to Hill Country to use our free stay as part of the Marriott Rewards Ambassador Program (review of the program coming in the next month).

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We fell in love with the quiet Hill Country on our first visit, and decided we wanted to go back! The JW Marriott seemed like a perfect destination for a weekend away.

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We drove down on Friday evening. I sang country songs at the top of my lungs while Matt navigated the winding roads – I really wish I could play the fiddle…or the banjo.

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We arrived at Duchmann Family Winery just in time for a tasting and a picnic before the winery closed. I enjoyed all the wines we tasted, but liked the Vermentino white the best.

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We ordered a glass to split with our picnic. Wrapped in a million sweaters, we enjoyed dinner with strings of white lights and Italian music to set the scene.

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Dinner was a giant Italian sandwich and a snickerdoodle from Etzi’s.

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Etzi’s has the best bone bread and super strong mustard. Loved this!

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We got to the resort pretty late, and went to bed after sitting by the fire pit for a bit. I snapped some pictures of the resort and our room in the morning. It was massive and beautiful!

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We were upgraded to a resort suite – one of the many perks of the Marriott Rewards Program!

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There was a giant balcony with a view, but it was too cold and rainy to use it:( Overall, I’d definitely recommend the resort and the restaurant below (although I’m not sure I’d pay out of pocket to visit). It was also extremely family friendly with lots of activities for kids. There were pools and water slides for warmer temperatures too.

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We had high hopes of taking a hike and checking out the resort’s lazy river on Saturday, but the weather had other plans for us.

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We made the best of it though, and drove to a neighboring town for lunch: a salmon burger with lime aioli and some of the best sweet potato wedges in history.

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And then another winery visit! Dry Comal Creek is small and quirky and produced a lot of sweet wines – they weren’t extraordinary, but we bought a bottle because the service was great and we enjoyed chatting with the staff.

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The main event on a rainy night at a secluded resort is obviously dinner! There are two main restaurants at the JW Marriott, but we went with the more causal Cibolo Moon over the fancy steak house. We had a fantastic server – Jose – and a wonderful experience. Hotel restaurants can be hit or miss – but this one was a clear hit.

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We each had a spicy margarita – mine was made with pineapple infused tequila and Matt’s with raspberry-haberno infused tequila! We also received complimentary biscuits with a delicious strawberry-jalapeno jam.

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Matt and I shared three small plates and one entree and it was wayyy too much food!

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First, we had the fried oysters with tomato jam and bacon vinaigrette. I loved how this dish was prepared and the oysters were huge.

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Second, we had a salad topped with crab, lime chips, and avocado. This dish tasted a little bland, but was refreshing in contrast with the heavier items.

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Third, and the star of the show, was the smoked brisket ‘burnt ends.’ Both Matt and Jose had to talk me into this one because I just didn’t know what to expect. I’m sooo glad we got it. The brisket was sticky-sweet with crispy, charred edges.

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And lastly, the bison meatloaf with tangy bbq sauce and mashed potatoes. When this arrived, I really didn’t know if I could eat any more, but after one bite, I made room:) Needless to say, dinner was excellent, and I was thankful we didn’t have to travel far to get home afterwards.

Sadly, Sunday’s weather was worse than Saturday’s, so we had to cancel plans to check out a famous bbq restaurant on the way home because it had open-air seating. I was kinda glad since I had my fill of meat the night before. Plan B: find healthy, hippy cafe in Austin!

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I didn’t have to search very long on the internet to fine one because Austin is filled with them! We decided on a raw, vegan place called Beets Cafe. Despite planning to eat light, I absolutely couldn’t resist trying a raw cinnamon roll made with brazil nut meal, raisins, apples, and cashew cream sweetened with dates. Wow!!

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I ordered the burger made with carrot, beets, sprouted sunflower seeds, celery, parsley, flax, olive oil, crystal salt, and spices, and Matt had a mock Rueben that was so full of flavor you’d think it was the real thing. Oh, and a vegan doughnut from Red Rabbit Bakery for the drive home.

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I promise we had plans to do more than just eat in Hill Country before the weather turned sour!! It was a wonderful and relaxing weekend nonetheless, and I feel stuffed energized for the week ahead!

Happy Monday friends.

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The Blind Butcher and Betty Who

Posted on Mar 31, 2014 | 2 comments

This weekend was such a good one, filled with food and other festivities! Friday, Matt and I tried a new neighborhood eatery called The Blind Butcher. The atmosphere (upscale pub/speakeasy), service, and food were fantastic. And we were quite pleased when the bill came to $40!

A mint julep and the soon-to-be famous pretzel bread with mustard to start:

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We ordered the pastrami egg roll appetizer, which was my favorite item of the night. It was crispy on the outside with salty pastrami and sour sauerkraut inside. Meat.is.so.good.

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There were a bunch of different sausages to choose from, but we went with the special since it sounded, well, special. Beef sausage over mashed potatoes with an apple bourbon sauce! All the meats are made in house btw. Sorry it looks kinda gross:)

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And bacon brussels on the side.

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The menu was full of other items that sounded amazing – can’t wait to go back!

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Saturday, we met friends for brunch at The Company Cafe. Despite the chilly morning air, we sat outside in the sunshine and it felt glorious. I had a local ginger kombucha and a to-die-for bacon and egg biscuit. I think I’m going to dream about this sandwich.

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Matt and I always talk about going to concerts and other performances, but we rarely get our acts together and, as you know, always just end up eating:) So I was excited when my friend Liz discovered a fun indie pop concert in Deep Ellum and organized a group! We rarely go out in Deep Ellum, but it’s such neat area with lots of live music and hole in the wall restaurants.

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We stopped in the famous Angry Dog for beer and bar food before the concert – fried mushrooms and the Angry chili dog!

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The concert was awesome! I LOOVED Cardiknox and Betty Who!!

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The songs were catchy and their dancing was quite entertaining. We had a blast.

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Sunday was also wonderful – we walked to the coffee shop for chai lattes, [attempted] to play tennis, and made fish tacos for dinner. Oh spring weekends, you’re the best.

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Lovwine + Barter

Posted on Mar 2, 2014 | 12 comments

I think I jinxed myself with the winter comment in my last post – it’s currently 22 with freezing drizzle! However, Friday and Saturday were glorious, so we still got to enjoy wonderful weather this weekend. On Friday, Matt and I stayed in and opened this lovely bottle of wine we purchased on our last Charlottesville visit. I remember tasting it and really liking it, but the second time was amazing! Seriously in love with this wine. Matt ended up having to work pretty late, so I enjoyed a glass and my novel on the balcony until the sun set. It was a great way to unwind.

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For dinner, I threw together an Indian inspired meal with the simmer sauce I love from TJ’s. We caught up on the bachelor (interesting episode….) and called it an early night.

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Saturday was breezy and 80, so we spent the afternoon hitting golf balls with one of Matt’s friends. I am terrible, but could definitely see improvement by the end (aka, I could actually come into contact with the ball…). My goal is to be ready to play a real game by the age of 50:)

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We continued to enjoy the weather by grabbing drinks on the patio of Barter, where we had a dinner reservation. The patio is small, but very cute and there are really comfy couches with pillows. I chose Dominic the Donkey: Jacob’s Ghost White Whiskey, Fresh Lime Juice, Fever Tree Ginger Beer, and Muddled Italian Basil. Our server suggested ordering it spicy, so I did… I loved the drink, but my mouth was somewhat on fire after I finished it!

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We moved inside for dinner and began with the carrot ‘home fries’ with fresno chilies and goat cheese. These were amazing!! We also enjoyed a big basket of cornbread and crackers. I ordered a glass of red wine with dinner, but because my mouth was reignited with the chilies, I couldn’t really taste it.

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We also shared the striped bass tostadas with fish sauce vinaigrette, cilantro, serranos and…

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the chili crab fajitas with chili sauce (omg, why did I order more spicy stuff!!!?) and crispy basil.

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Everything was delicious! I’d highly recommend Barter for both the atmosphere and food. Our server was a bit impatient with us, but then again, the restaurant is new and we are annoyingly indecisive when it comes to food:)

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We made it to the coffee shop this morning for frothy drinks and computer time, and then I ventured out to the grocery store this afternoon. Who knew I’d need an ice scraper in order to drive home?! I’m exited to be cozy on the couch. The Oscars, a beer, and a burger are in store for this evening. I’m pumped.

See ya.

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Hunter Gatherer and Bday Desserts

Posted on Feb 24, 2014 | 6 comments

The weekend was lovely. I hadn’t really seen Matt in a while because of Key West and his weekend soccer tournament plus weekday travel for work. It was wonderful to go on a date! HG Supply has been on our list for quite some time, so we were both really excited to have dinner there. HG stands for hunter gatherer and the menu is Paleo-inspired; the food is simple and clean, and so was the space! I had a fabulous vanilla cinnamon Manhattan in the lively bar while we waited for our table.

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We started with the bacon wrapped pork shanks with chipotle-cider glaze. These were giant and delicious.

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HG Supply is famous for their bowls of flavorful combinations of meat and vegetables. Matt wanted to try ‘The Hunted’ bowl consisting of duck confit, sweet potato hash, spicy broccoli & bacon. We both loved it.

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We also shared the quinoa burger with olive tapenade and hummus. We will definitely be back to HG supply, not just because we liked the food and atmosphere, but because of the chocolate kettlebell that arrived at the table beside us. It was the size of an actual kettlebell and the server poured hot caramel over it to melt the chocolate and reveal a piece of cheesecake inside. It was insane.

After dinner we watched Blackfish, a documentary about killer whales in captivity. I really enjoyed watching it, but also felt really sad about the poor whales and trainers. I dreamed of being one of those trainers after my first visit to SeaWorld when I was little and had no idea that so much information had been kept from the public:(

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Saturday, I baked up a storm! A friend was celebrating her 30th birthday, and I volunteered to make the desserts for the party. I attempted a new recipe for brownie surprise cupcakes, and made an old faithful mint whoopie pie recipe.

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I wouldn’t recommend the brownie surprise – freezing the brownie batter was supposed to keep it from cooking all the way through so that it would remain gooey, but it didn’t work at all. The brownies still cooked until they were dry and cakey. They weren’t bad at all, but I’m just not a chocolate cake person and that’s basically what they tasted like on the inside. The peanut butter icing on top, however, was incredible!!!

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And the whoopies were good!

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The party was awesome – they had one of my favorite wines and a wonderful spread of Mexican food from a local restaurant. I could not stop eating the sweet potato chips with salsa verde!!

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Sunday was nice and relaxing. Matt and I took a long walk to the tennis courts, but were sad to find them packed because of the nice weather. We eventually gave up.

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I picked up some cajun turkey burgers for dinner and we sipped on rose to end the weekend.

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And another week begins.

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Pizza Friday & A Trinity Groves Outing

Posted on Feb 10, 2014 | 3 comments

Happy Monday! We’ve got freezing rain on the way here in Dallas:( I’m heading to the east coast tomorrow to visit my family, and I hope I can get out! For now, a recap of my weekend.

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Friday was cold and wet, so Matt and I opted to get cozy on the couch and not do a thing. We opened a bottle of Italian pinot grigio and watched Cloud Atlas, which was super weird. Loved Tom Hanks though!

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I made a glorious bbq chicken pizza with sheep’s manchego, Stubb’s spicy sauce, banana peppers, and cilantro. So satisfying.

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Low key Fridays make for the best Saturday mornings! I was up bright and early and enjoyed breakfast and tea before bootcamp. Matt and I ventured into the warmer temps with an afternoon walk, and I scored a pair of black dress pants for $14 at the Loft.

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We headed down to the new Trinity Groves development to check out Local Urban Craft Kitchen (LUCK) for a beer before dinner. The beers on the menu are exclusively from Texas and all $5 (prices for high abv craft beers seem to really be rising these days). I enjoyed a cherry chocolate double brown stout from Deep Ellum Brewing Co. It was heavenly.

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For dinner, we tried at Resto Gastro Bistro, a few doors down from LUCK. The space was dark and elegant with exposed brick and a wooden bar and tables. My camera died at this point, so I had to use my phone for the pictures:( We started with the above tempura rock Shrimp wraps with vermicelli noodles, black truffle aioli, and ponzu vinaigrette. I didn’t expect them to be fried, but they were pretty darn good that way!

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Matt and I shared two entrees! The pan-seared lemon sole with piquillo pepper hummus, and the oven roasted pork shank with lemon goat cheese polenta, crispy pig, and balsamic-pomegranate glaze. The sole was tasty, but a little plain, but the pork was incredible! I’m not a huge pork rind person and there were a boat load of onions to get rid of, but the actual meat with the glaze and lemon polenta were a killer combination!

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Unfortunately, our waiter was very short with us, and definately didn’t want to answer questions about the wine list or the food. I ended up with a lovely cabernet, and the waiter cleared it from the table when I still had some left – that’s the worst! So, overall, I’d highly recommend the food, but I’m not so sure about the service – will have to try it again some day.

Sunday involved a little bowling action with friends at Bowlounge. I wish I could say I’m getting better, but I’m not quite yet! Soon, though:)

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Have a happy week.

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Grub, Origin, & Football

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 | 8 comments

Lots and lots of good eats and fun with friends with weekend! Friday was warm and beautiful outside, so I met my friend Liz and her new pug (!) for a drink on the patio at Common Table just as the sun was setting. I love dusk!

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I had a hearty brown ale. Matt met up with us, and after saying goodbye to Liz, we continued on to dinner at new burger bar. Grub is in a bit of a random location in the bottom of an office building, but it’s cheap and the menu looked great, so I wanted to give it a try.

I can highly recommend the burgers and the service, although I would skip the four dollar rita next time – tasted like mellow yellow with no trace of tequila!

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Matt and I shared the Texas luau burger, which was topped with braised pulled pork, a grilled pineapple slice, jalapeños, and teriyaki & BBQ sauce, as well as the Ahi tuna burger with sprouts, arugula, pickled ginger, and wasabi-teriyaki dressing. Both were fantastic!
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Saturday involved my usual bootcamp class, laundry, watching the [sad] Duke game with Duke friends, and a wonderful date at Origin Kitchen. I had heard great things about the coffee shop/healthy cafe turned restaurant and was excited to try it. I ordered an interesting Zinfandel, but there was a great cocktail and beer list as well. We started off with the wild caught salmon belly bloody mary ceviche! This was awesome, especially since I finally like bloody marys.
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The menu was great and we had a hard time deciding, so we ordered the mussels in white wine as well.

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We shared the pork tenderloin entree and it was heaven. The pork was served with a mango and cranberry chutney over sweet potato hash with giant grilled plantains. I think this was one of the best entrees I’ve ever had!!
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On the side, we had a warm shaved brussels salad with toasted walnuts and mustard poppy seed vinaigrette.
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I’ve declared Origin my new favorite neighborhood eatery!
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We were invited to a Superbowl party on Sunday, so I obviously baked. I made cookie cups because I’m so obsessed with Earth Balance butter cream. I also made a mexican inspired quinoa salad to add something healthy-ish to the buffet. It was not a hit, but the cups were.
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Our friends had a ridiculous set-up, so I spent the evening in this recliner:)

Hope yall had a good one too. See ya.

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