The coffees, sweets and treats of Italy at Lavazza Expression

Coffee cup and Texas State Capitol

What drew us in was the bright red decor. Well, that and the smell of chocolate and pastries and herbs. What they filled that little cup with made us stay.

The first sip of real European chocolate had me swooning!  No powdered cocoa mix in that cup…it was the real thing! And then there were the case of gelato. And Italian pastries.

Lavazza pastries

And there were sandwiches, too.

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Each sounded amazing…but they looked and smelled even better (we’ll be heading back to sample the sandwiches sometime soon!  I’ll update this section when we do.)

Inside, the space was a perfect mix of European modern and coffee house comfortable.

Expression Lavazza

Oh, and did I mention the coffee? Now, I’m not a coffee drinker, but I had someone along who was.

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And she prounouced it the best coffee she had ever had!

But that should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the history of Lavazza. Since the 1895’s. Lavazza has been making fine Italian coffee from their headquarters in Turin, Italy.  And they’re still considered the leaders in Italian coffee for home, businesses, and now, their coffee shop/cafe in Austin.

This is a perfect place to stop in for a weekday lunch or drop by on a day of sight-seeing or shopping downtown. It’s just down the street from the Capitol, and near the museums.

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 The Specs

914 Congress
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 505-8784

Mon–Fri 7:00 AM–6:00 PM
Sat–Sun 9:00 AM–6:00 PM

https://plus.google.com/105946016824851638008/about?hl=en

Lavazza Espression on Urbanspoon

Easy Tiger feels like Europe, right here in Austin

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Europeans know their bread. And pastries. And they know there’s no connection between the real thing and what passes for bread in grocery stores and big box discounters.

Thank goodness Austin isn’t condemed to live on mass produced bread. Nope. Because we have Easy Tiger.

But Easy Tiger isn’t easy to pin down.

Yes, it’s a bakery in the best tradition of bakeries in Germany, Italy, and France.

06-DSC04686Not only can you smell the wonderful breads, croissants and pastries baking as soon as you walk in, you can see it. A big glass window lets you peek at all the wonderful baking in process. And oh how wonderful it is.

Big, chewy loaves with real substance instead of air and chemicals.

10-DSC04693Flaky, sweet croissant and other treats baked with real butter.

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But turn around and head down the stairs, and Easy Tiger is something else entirely.

07-DSC04687Yes, you can order those luscious pastries downstairs with coffee and tea. But you can also order lunch or supper, or head to the beer garden just off the dining room/pub.

Like I said, Easy Tiger is hard to pin down. But as long as they keep making Pan au Chocolat, I’m a happy (and frequent) visitor.

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The Specs

709 East 6th Street
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 332-1122

http://www.easytigeraustin.com/

Bakery
Sun-Sat 7 am – 2 am

Beer Garten
Sun-Sat 11am – 2 am

Easy Tiger on Urbanspoon

County Line delights with food…and turtles?

County Line
It’s bound to happen when you live in Austin. Company comes from out of town, and they want bar-b-que. As in piles of the ribs Austin is so famous for. But where can a vegetarian take someone for ribs…and still eat something beside a side salad and rolls?

The answer is County Line on the Lake. For our guest, the menu had an assortment of mouthwatering ribs, brisket and sausages. For me, a perfectly prepared vegetarian kabob. Add the housemade bread, plus a couple of sides and everyone at the table was happy and very full.

But as good as the food was, the high point of our County Line meal was the turtles. No, not on the menu! In the river!

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This location of County Line is on Bull Creek, a tributary to Lake Austin, which means the view from the patio seating is beautiful.

06-DSC04703My husband had been there before, so he knew there was something beside the view that I would love. A few steps down from the patio, to the edge of the river and I saw what. The water was FULL of turtles. Hundreds of turtles, of all different kinds. Big ones and tiny ones the size of silver dollar.

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And there was turtle food, too. For .25, you could fill a cup with turtle food and sit down at the water’s edge and feed the turtles!

07-DSC04706I’m such a little kid wihen it comes to things like this. And I loved every second of it. A beautiful setting, delicious food, and turtles!

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The County Line on the Lake also has an extensive children’s menu, so kids can enjoy lunch or dinner and feeding the turtles, too. The lovely patio on the river makes it a wonderful choice for a date night, too.

The Specs

5204 FM 2222
Austin, Texas 78731
(512) 346-3664

http://www.countyline.com/CountyLineLake.html

Sun-Mon 11 am – 9 pm
Tues-Thur 11 am – 9:30 pm
Fri-Sat 11 am – 10 pm

 

County Line on the Lake on Urbanspoon

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

Food, films and fun at Top Notch old fashioned drive in

classic car

You know the old fashioned drive in burger places you see in 1950’s movies? The ones with trays and great big burgers and piles of fries on trays? I always wondered what it would be like to go to one of those places with a date on a Saturday night. Guess what?  My partner-in-crime and I got to do exactly that — and it was here in Austin!

Tucked in among the businesses on a busy stretch of Burnett Road we found Top Notch.

Top Notch sign

This is the real thing, classic cars and all. Burgers, chicken and veggie burgers cooked over an open flame.

Open flame cookingShakes and fries, too, from 11 am to 10 pm every day of the week.

Top Notch menuAnd once a month, they add another classic touch. Drive in movies on their very own classic-television-screen on the side of the building. Local car enthusiasts come out with their classic cars and trucks. Families come out with lawn chairs. There’s live music until it’s dark enough for the movie to start, but no one is checking their watch. It’s too much fun sitting out there eating and checking out the cars. There’s even a photo op!

7-20140516_202913Oh, and the food. My veggie burger was cooked perfectly, and the fries were crisp and super hot. Lance’s fried chicken was the kind you usually find in a favorite grandmother’s kitchen, and his order of fried okra was crisp and tasty without a bit of mushiness.

This is a great choice for a date night or a family night out. Upcoming car and movie nights are listed on their Facebook page, so you can add them to your calendar.

The Specs

7525 Burnett Road
Austin TX 78757
512-452-2181

http://topnotchaustin.com/

Mon-Fri 11 am -10 pm
Sat-Sun 11 am – 10 pm

 

Top Notch on Urbanspoon

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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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