A cool retreat at Inner Space Caverns on Wordfree Wednesday

With summer closing in quickly on Austin, it’s a good idea to have a few cool destinations planned. If spending some time in a place that’s a constant 72 degrees sounds like a good idea when the mercury hits 100 degrees outside, I have just the place for you. Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown. It’s cool, it’s amazing to see…and, well, I’ll let the pictures speak for me.

01-DSC03922

02-DSC03925

03-DSC03931

04-DSC03932

05-DSC03938

06-DSC03940

 

08-DSC03945

09-DSC03946

10-DSC03956

11-DSC03958

12-DSC03964

Family friendly, although you’ll need to keep a hold on little ones. Snack bar and gift shop on the premises. No strollers in the caverns, and some slippery spots. Bring your camera, but tripods aren’t allowed.

The Specs

4200 S. I-35 Frontage Road
Georgetown TX 78626
512-931-2283

http://innerspacecavern.com/

Mon-Fri: 9am-4pm
Sat: 10am-5pm
Sun: 10am-5pm

Teo Equals Gelato, Latte and Belissimo

Teo Austin SignIt started when we spotted the sign on our way downtown. That enticing heart on the top of the cup. I immediately thought hot cocoa, my newest contributor said coffee (she was right, by the way.)  In either case, we knew we’d be making a stop on our way back home.

Vespa and Teo sign Austin

We pulled into the parking lot and I was immediately certain that this was NOT going to be a “we’ll try it later.” There, in front of the sign, was a bright red Vespa. La belle vita (the good life, Italian) was clearly calling us to take a break and leave the traffic battles on Mopac until later.

We walked past the inviting patio (yes, that is where we would enjoy our treats, of course!), and headed inside.

Teo Cafe Austin interiorThe bright cafe would be a wonderful retreat on a hot Austin day, but just as we planned, everyone else was sipping and eating outdoors on what was a wonderfully breezy and comfortable spring evening.

Gelato at Teo Austin

The cases were filled with tempting trays of gelato, including some dairy free and sugar free versions. But we immediately went for the chocolate.

Chocolate gelato at Teo AustinCan I use the word “orgasmic” on a family friendly blog? Oh, heck, I have to. Because it was. Every creamy spoonful was a perfect blend of chocolate, creamy, …. words just fail me. Trust me, it was that good!

latte at TeoAnd then there was the latte. Lance and I don’t drink coffee, so we had to bring on another contributor to handle those reviews. I know a lot of you here in Austin LOVE your coffee, so it’s only fair that we include the really good cups in our reviews.  (We’ll do a formal introduction soon, but for now, coffee-lovers, rest assured we now have you covered!)

Her comments? “OMG! This is the most incredibly creamy, rich coffee I have had in Austin.” I may have her add some more details later, but for now, I think that pretty much covers it. (I just liked the pretty designs on the top — but then again, I am easily amused!)

Cart on patio at Teo AustiNeedless to say, we will be back for more um, research and testing. Hey, it’s only fair! There were a lot of gelato flavors in that case. We wouldn’t want to miss something, now would we?

Gelato Cups at Teo in AustinThe Specs

26 Doors Shopping Center
1206 W. 38th St.
Austin, Texas 78705
512-451-9555

http://www.caffeteo.com/

Hours:
Mon – Thurs :: 7:00 am to 10:00 pm
Fri.: 7:00 am to midnight
Sat: 8:00 am to midnight
Sun.: 8:30 am to 10:00 pm

Patio is dog-friendly

Teo on Urbanspoon

See’s brings back memories, adds a sweet option to Austin

See's Boxed ChocolatesWhen I was in grad school in Salt Lake City, my budget was the classic starving-student tight. Most luxuries were out of reach…except one. Every week, there was a buy-one-get-one special at the See’s in the mall near my downtown work.

And every week, on that morning, I would be there for my double dose of their dark chocolate truffles. Two sweet treats in my tiny bag, I would head for my favorite bench and eat the first one. Slowly, savouring every bite. Then I would put the bag with the second one into my purse, and head for work. That sweet morsel was my lunch treat, the perfect end to what was usually an otherwise ordinary PB & J or cheese sandwich lunch.

See's Dark Chocolate Truffle

That small indulgence was my personal ritual, until graduation came and I moved away.

It’s been years since I’ve lived anywhere near a See’s candy shop. But this week, all of that changed. See’s Candies is having their grand opening right here in Austin!

Tonight was the bloggers event to let those of us who share Austin area food news get an inside look at the new store.

See's Chocolates Austin 2

And taste. We got to taste…a lot!  All kinds of deliciousness I remember from See’s in Salt Lake. Boxes of chocolate were passed around. Samples were offered from the chocolate counter. Stories were shared of See’s memories from California or Utah.

See's Chocolate Austin 3

We checked out the newest offerings, especially all the colorful Easter choices (what a perfect time to open a See’s, right?!)

 

Foil wrapped chocolate bunny from See's

 

Sour candies for Easter

And then the fun started. All the bloggers and guests were invited to try their hand at packing a box of chocolates. But just like Lucy in that old TV series, we had to do it as fast as possible!  We even got to wear hair nets!  It was classic See’s fun…they always did know how to make something as simple as buying a box of chocolates into something fun and special.

Traci Shannon

Lee Ann

My box of chocolates and my Lucy hairnet

My very own packed-by-me box of chocolate…and of course, my hair net!

I know there are other candy stores in Austin. But when it comes down to it, there’s only one See’s. And I’m so glad they’ve landed here.Time to make some new See’s memories!

See's Dark Chocolate Truffle

 

The Specs

10710 Research Blvd
North Hills Town Center (next to the H-E-B)
Austin, TX 78759
Ph: (512) 372-1048
Hours:
Mon-Fri 10am – 9pm
Sat 10am – 9pm
Sun 11am – 7pm

 

Newest La Madeleine teams up with the Children’s Hunger Fund

 

La Madeleine Cedar Park Texas

Cedar Park’s newest gathering place

Bright and early tomorrow morning (before I will be awake!), one of the newest La Madeleine cafés will open in Cedar Park, just north of Austin.  But before the first galette or croissant will be rung into the register, they were already busing hosting a VIP party to introduce the new location. And yes, I got to be on hand for the festivities, from the samples and speeches, to the ribbon cutting. (Oh the perks of being a food and events blogger!)

Corporate and local management

Ribbon cutting at La Madeleine  Cedar Park Texas

And the ribbon is cut!

The official ribbon

Guests were invited to sign the ribbon…look for the Ais4Austin signature when you visit the cafe!

The event doubled as a fund-raiser for one of the company’s favorite charities, the Children’s Hunger Fund. This organization provides food for children who might otherwise not eat, especially when school isn’t in session (more about them in a another post soon!)  Guests were generous — all told, the event plus two training previews earlier in the week raised over $5,000 for the group — it’s wonderful to think how many hungry tummies that money will fill!

Childrens Hunger Fund

The café was crowded for the VIP party, as bloggers, staff families and local dignitaries talked with La Madeleine corporate leaders.

2014-04-02 19.11.37

Of course we all got to sample the café’s signature wares, from soup to dessert.2014-04-02 19.09.05

Two talented harpists from nearby Westwood High School provided musical accompaniment to the eventing, while cheer leaders from Cedar Park High School helped out with the charity ticket sales and donation collection. Miss San Antonio was also on hand to great guests, while outside of the store, Jollyville Volunteer Fire Company invited guests to explore a 1952 fire truck (loved that!)

1-2014-04-02 19.00.53 2014-04-02 19.02.40

So what does this have to do with Texas? 

I do try to keep this blog focused on Texas businesses…especially those based around Austin. And this is no exception. La Madeleine, America’s favorite French café, was conceived and launched right here in Texas!

It started with Patrick Leon Esquerré, a French immigrant from the Loire Valley of France who moved to Texas.  He soon discovered that there was nothing in his adopted city of Dallas that matched his memories of relaxing coffee houses and cafés. So he decided to re-create what he missed — but with an American twist.

DSC04256

 

To get that all-American spin, Esquerré asked Dallas women what they would expect in a French café. From the wooden beamed ceiling and the fireplace to the crusty bread, he listened.The result? A comfortable place that blends memories of the French countryside with Dallas, Texas style.

I won’t be there tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. when the doors open. But I know it won’t be long until I visit again, order an iced tea and a salad and find a spot near the fireplace to relax for a bit. It may not be France…but it’s Texas-style France. And for the Austin area, that’s just perfect.

2014-04-01 08.04.06

Maoz is vegetarian heaven — and Kosher to boot!

Maoz Falafel sign black and whiteDid you ever find one of those restaurants that looks so simple that you don’t expect much, only to find fresh ingredients and tons of flavor? That was my experience with Maoz.

We were meeting there for a planning session for the Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off. The simple store front in a strip mall setting at the back of the Triangle (Lamar and Guadalupe) looked perfectly ordinary.

Maoz Austin Texas

 

When we stepped inside, I started to think I might have been wrong. In front of me was a falafel topping bar like I hadn’t seen since I feasted at a tiny, incredibly delicious place in Adams Morgan (a lesser-known area of D.C. filled with great ethnic food and I-could-get-lost-in-here bookshops.)

Toppings bar at Moaz

The drooling started when I saw this!

There are boards to help the Moaz beginner order…

order board at MoazAnd more to help you pick the right size…

How big a meal at Moaz

Go for the big one. Seriously!

The food at Maoz is vegetarian (a big plus for me!) and it’s even certified Kosher (another plus for us and for anyone who keeps Kosher, Halal or just wants a guarantee that the “Vegetarian Lentil Soup” on the menu isn’t made with chicken broth!)

07-DSC03700

There’s inside and outside seating, so Maoz is dog-friendly, too. They even brought out a falafel ball for my dog, saying all their guests should eat well!

There’s only one thing wrong with my visit….my decked out falafel looked so amazing that I ate it — all of it — before I remembered that I was supposed to take a picture of the food for my blog!  Oops!

Oh, no wait!  That means I have an excuse to go back soon for another!  OK, not on purpose at all…I get to go back for more. So watch this space for an update. Maybe this weekend….?

The specs:

Maoz Austin
4601 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
Tel: 512.323.2259

Hours
Monday – Thursday 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Friday 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Saturday 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Maoz on Urbanspoon

Austin castle hides a wealth of classic sculpture on Wordfree Wednesday

 

02-DSC03663You may have seen it while you were driving or biking around town…a castle up on a hill above the city . Surrounded by adorable, quirky houses, this seemingly out-of-place castle is more than an odd architectural choice. It’s actually home to some of the most amazing sculptures I’ve seen outside of the world’s fine art museums.

The art is the work of Elisabet Ney, who worked in Austin in the late 19th to early 20th century. You can ready more about her and her work on the studio website. But since this is (nearly) Wordfree Wednesday, on to the images.

01-DSC03662 03-DSC03665 05-DSC03667 06-DSC03668 07-DSC03669 08-DSC03671 09-DSC03672 10-DSC03679

And one last set of images. Lest you get overwhelmed by her artistry….a very human piece of the collection.

1-DSC03674

A work of fine art? A treasured family heirloom? Read on….

2-DSC03675

The Specs

304 East 44th Street
Austin, 78751
Phone: 512-458-2255
Fax: 512-453-0638
Hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Closed: Monday and Tuesday

 

 

SXSW 2014 in Pictures

Szkojani Charlatans

The SXSW experience is a lot of things.

It’s the sounds of music coming out of ten bars, and still being entranced by a busker playing on a street corner. It’s the smell of pizza and tacos and bar-b-que and something sweet right out of the oven as you walk past a row of food trucks. It’s free t-shirts and more can holders than anyone could every need (but you can’t help taking just one more.)

But most of that is impossible to capture on the page of a blog. So I’ll have to settle for sharing pictures.

I’m starting this post today, but I’ll be adding more pictures throughout the week. If you’re here, I hope you’re having a great time. But if you’re not, here’s a glimpse into the insanity that is SXSW.

(Oh, and one more thing…a new mascot is joining A is for Austin. Or rather a few mascots. When I was a kid, I loved trolls. So when a few showed up during a recent trip, I decided to make them a part of my blog for now. So look for Wanda (a pink haired troll) and a few other friends in some of my pictures, at least for awhile.  I hope you like the new addition!)

A line of guitar cases

monster drink truckunique guitar playing styleMable the dog chilling in AustinFree food A SXSW traditionBecause I believe in unicorns too20140309_182636Peruvian Creole Food TruckBuilindg the Vans venueNo badges neededRobot at the Game Expo SXSW 2014