Wild Wood Bakehouse does gluten free sweets, breads that taste like the real thing

Wild Wood BakehouseI have to confess. I LOVE bread. Crunchy loaves of French bread and rich tasty muffins. So when I was invited to meet some friends at the Wild Wood Bakehouse, a completely gluten-free bakery and cafe, I had my doubts.

I’ve tried some gluten free versions of baked goods and well, I was underimpressed. Very.

I was wrong. This place must have some kind of magic because everything I tasted, tasted like it belonged in a regular bakery.

cupcakesThese cupcakes? I couldn’t tell the difference. My toast? It was toast…made of bread. I swear. But they managed to do it without wheat. And for many products, without dairy either.

1-20140413_133114And not only was it delicious, it was affordable. No $7.00 cupcakes like I saw recently at a popular natural foods store. No $5.00 brownies. Even the prices were like a regular bakery!

3-20140413_133141The cafe is small but adorable, with regular seating in one section and a few high-tops towards to the front. The small space means there’s a line during peak cafe times like Sunday brunch but the wait wasn’t too bad.

4-20140413_133153I do need to warn my fellow vegetarians and especially vegans. The pickings for us on the buffet are slim. In place of the typical pastries, cereals and quiches we can usually find for brunch, there were lots of meat items. A vegetarian could probably do okay, but a vegan might leave hungry. This isn’t a criticism…just an observation. What the Wild Wood does, it does exceptionally well.

There’s a children’s buffet price, which makes this a good choice for families, too.

The Specs

3016 Guadalupe St., Ste. 200
Austin, Texas 78705
(512) 327-9660

http://www.wildwoodbakehouse.com/

Mon-Sat 10 am – 9 pm
Sun 9 am – 3 pm (Brunch menu all day)

 

Wild Wood Bake House on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

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

urban american grill: Who knew food like this existed in a chain hotel?

urban american grill in the Westin Domain

It was the Sunday morning after MomCom 2014, and I was exhausted. I had enjoyed the event, and my stay at the Austin Westin Hotel in the Domain –and I wasn’t quite ready to head back to the “real world.”  After sleeping in, and skipping breakfast, brunch was definitely on my mind. But where?

Walking across the parking lot to the Domain was an option, but I really wanted to stay put, so I headed for the hotel’s cafe, urban american grill. I didn’t have high hopes, but it was right there, and I was hungry.

As I walked in, I heard Bluegrass music, but I thought it was a recording. Nope. It was LIVE Bluegrass. In a hotel restaurant. In the morning. Awesome!

20140126_134142I sat down and took a look at the menu, expecting the typical boring selection of breakfast dishes for outrageous hotel prices. Wrong again!  There were all kinds of tempting choices, and the prices were less than some regular brunch haunts.

urban american grill menu

Instead of struggling to find something “okay,” I was torn among a whole bunch of delicious choices. This was getting better and better!

I finally settled on the Forager pizza, with pears, apples, gorgonzola cheese, pecans, and roasted tomato, topped with arugula. Again, I kept my expectations low…it sounded good, but…

urban american grill menuAnd then it arrived. It was large, and covered with deliciousness! I tend to be a light eater, and usually leave at least half an entrée. Not with this dish. I ate almost every bite, while sipping iced tea and enjoying the music.

urban american grill kitchenWhat had started out as an “it’ll be okay” turned out to be a great choice I’ll be happy to experience again.

The grill is located in the Westin Austin at the Domain at 11301 Domain Drive. There’s plenty of free parking, and there’s the added attraction of the Domain shops and the iPic movie theatre, too. Sunday brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm, but there’s also a weekday breakfast buffet, and a lunch and dinner menu, too. It’s family friendly, too.

urban american is open from 6:30 am to 10 pm, making it perfect for lunch while shopping or dinner before or after a movie.

Urban an American grill on Urbanspoon

Austin Diner rocks it for breakfast

Austin DinerIt’s cute. It’s kitschy. And it’s another diner here in Austin!

Those we’re my thoughts when we walked in the Austin Diner over the weekend. I immediately fell in love with the collections of vintage mixers and other kitchen ware from the 50’s and 60’s.

classic mixers

Then the waitress came over, and welcomed us to this adorable place. She was friendly — and once we told her it was our first visit, she her smile got even bigger. We felt like guests, instead of just customers!

The menu was just as inviting. Lots of delicious choices for our breakfast — and even after we had made our choices, we kept looking at the options for a later lunch or dinner visit, if the food was good.

Austin Diner insideIt wasn’t long until that “if the food was good” turned into “Oh yeah, the food is good!” I ordered Migas — my favorite food in Austin. And I wasn’t disappointed! The mixture was delicious, and it was topped with just enough queso.

Others in our group opted for pancakes, eggs, sausages and other breakfast classics. And by the time we left, every plate on the table was empty.  In fact, we were already talking about coming back again for the next weekend brunch. The diner has lots of vegetarian choices, in addition to classic diner food like chicken and dumplings. It’s a great choice for families, too. There’s a very limited, partial menu online, but the complete menu has a lot more choices.

I’m still in search of that real 24-hour diner somewhere in the Austin area (gotta know I can fill my eggs, potato and toast craving at 2 a.m.!), but the daytime diners I’m finding, like Austin Diner, are doing a good job of filling the void at breakfast time.

My inner diner lover is happy!

breakfastOne of my favorite parts of living in Pennsylvania was the diners. Those wonderful, comfortable,  friendly eateries where you can get eggs and biscuits at any hour, and the regulars are seriously there almost every day.

Austin is short on classic diners,  but I keep finding worthy substitutes,  thanks to locals who share my taste for real grits and ice box pie. Today,  I added another top contender to my list….Frisco’s on Burnett.

I opted for eggs, grits and biscuits,  my daughter chose migas, her friend ordered biscuits and gravy, and my hubby went for meatloaf.  And not one of us regretted our choices!

Not fancy, but good diner food never is. We finished the meal with their award-winning coconut cream pie and chocolate cake, while words like “amazing” and “yummy” were bantered around.

Coconut Cream Pie at Frisco

Service was personal, welcoming and fast. But there was no sense that they were trying to hurry us through our meal…in fact, the manager spent some time at our table chatting, and giving us the history of this Austin landmark restaurant. It’s a story well worth checking out, especially in these days of here-today-gone-tomorrow restaurants.

No it’s not open 24 hours like my fave northeastern diners. But for now, it’s a diner experience I’m very happy to repeat sometime soon.

Frisco

Breakfast Tacos, Hippie Church meet at Maria’s Taco Express

Maria Taco Express June 2012

I kept hearing people talking about Austin’s “Hippie Church” and imagined some sort of New Age gathering. I had no idea breakfast tacos were involved, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about the vibe.  Ten minutes on a Sunday morning at Maria’s Taco Express and I discovered exactly what they meant.

The music? A mixture of amazing blues and gospel, with a classic rock edge.  The people? Lots of people who were probably around when “hippies” were something new and controversial.  The food?  Big servings of classic homemade Tex-Mex served on a mixture of plastic and wood picnic tables.

And the setting?  Pure Austin unique.  Part dive bar feel, part old west/old Mexico theme (don’t miss the old “village” down the outside wall!), part someone’s backyard patio.

There’s no table service at Maria’s and the line to order is long, but please don’t let that keep you away.  You’d miss the chance to dance to blues with some of Austin’s most unique residents. You’d miss some truly amazing tacos, chicken stew and other Maria’s favorites. And you’d miss sitting in a plastic patio chair and listening to some of the very best gospel and blues for no cost beyond your breakfast.  (Of course, the tip jar beckons, so do contribute generously!)

Space downstairs near the live music is limited, so get there early (the music starts at noon) or be prepared to share a table with some of the other friendly diners (we have, and it’s fun!). There’s more seating upstairs (super hot in summer!) and indoors.

Maria’s is open all week, but so far it’s the Sunday Hippie Church that’s drawn us in again and again.  Once we finally do check it out on another day, I’ll update this review.

Pets are welcome on the patio, although it’s crowded so make sure they’re very well-behaved! Prices are low, so this a great place to go with little kids — there’s lots to choose from without breaking mom and dad’s budget.

Blue Baker brings a fresh take on bread, sandwiches and breakfast to Austin

The Blue Baker Austin Texas

I was in the mood to try something new for lunch the other day, and I remembered that my husband had brought   home a menu from a new place called “Blue” something opening in the Arboretum.  I’d just come from the gym, so I was hoping for something tasty and healthy…no use undoing all that time on the elliptical, right?

A few minutes later, and I was walking into The Blue Baker.  The first thing I noticed was that it was really, really blue.  From the ceilings to the fixtures to the walls, this place was an oasis of blue-ness.  But the second thing I noticed kept me walking further in — the smell of wonderful, fresh, yeasty breads.  Right there on the counter there were big baskets of sample breads (you have to try the rye!  Trust me on this!)  I skipped the brownie sample (the gym, remember?), but they looked so rich and so delicious….if you try them, please tell me how they were!

I grabbed a menu while I sampled.  Not a lot of vegetarian options, but I decided to ask.  The woman at the order area immediately jumped into action, offering me a veggie sandwich they had at one of their other two locations.  When she mentioned artichokes, spinach, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and a balsamic dressing, I was ready to order.  When she said a price UNDER $6,00, I was thrilled.  She also told me I was free to create my own masterpiece from their menu of veggies, cheeses and freshly baked breads — a definite option for future visits!

The sandwich was amazing.  The veggies were crisp and abundant, the dressing was light but flavorful.  And the bread…no premade dough from central distribution.  This family owned three-location restaurant (the other two are in College Station) believes in making everything from scratch.

After I ate, I talked with Sarah, the Marketing Manager, (and sister-in-law of the owner), about the restaurant.  She told me about their family standard for the freshest ingredients, with all batters and doughs made daily — now I understood the wonderful smells that had greeted me when I walked in!  “This is a family place,” she said. “We brought down some of the staff from College Station to get things started. We want to keep the standards the same for all three places.”

On the way out, I stopped to buy a long baguette, a few bagels and a cookie for my daughter.  All of those were as good as my lunch. 

The Blue Baker also offers hand-crafted pizza, boxed lunches, party platters and office/meeting catering.  They’re open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and they do have WiFi.  Seating is indoors or on the patio out back, and there’s plenty of room for larger groups for lunch or a breakfast meeting.