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.

`

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.

2-2014-12-06 19.01.49

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.

5-2014-12-06 18.52.00

 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

Advertisements

Easy Tiger feels like Europe, right here in Austin

11-DSC04695

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.

04-DSC04684
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.

02-DSC04682

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

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

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

Silver Grill Cafe offers good food, friendly space and a playground!

Silver Grill Cafe Austin TexasThe other day we decided to attend a board games Meetup in North Austin at the Silver Grill Cafe.  Our goal was a geek-happy afternoon playing games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. But what we found in the process was a great little cafe with low prices and delicious home-style food (including my new favorite, Migas!)

We got to chat with one of the restaurant’s two owners, Rehan Awan, while we ate.  He told us the restaurant had been open for about 2 years, and that he had been involved in the restaurant industry for years. Their goal at Silver Grill, he said, was to make sure guests got food they loved in a place they were happy to be.  He succeeded on both counts with us.  From the large servings of fresh food to the all-you-want salsa and jalapeno bar (Yeah!  A place that doesn’t charge extra for jalapenos!), we feasted until game time.

Mr. Awan said that several Meetup groups have chosen his place for their events.  The large open floor plan and affordable food certainly made it seem like a natural to me.  We had about 20-30 game players eating and playing board games in the restaurant, and it never felt crowded or noisy.

The restaurant also has a patio for al fresco dining and a large play set for younger diners to run off energy until the food is ready.