Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bangers and a Biergarten

Whether rain or shine, sun or snow (although snow is not too common in Austin), Bangers is an all-season hot spot. Sit outside when the weather is nice, or alternatively, cozy up inside.

Start ya off with some Beer and Boiled peanuts. Classic.

Now with a name like Bangers, you guessed it... Sausage is their specialty.

There's the classic Brat, but watch for the punch in that spicy mustard!

The Boudin is off the charts. Heads up folks, you don't eat the casing on this one. Slice it open and eat as is, or on top of some good old Saltine crackers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Top Secret Guacamole

In college when I first met my husband-to-be, I was your typical Midwestern gal when it came to food.  I didn't eat much outside of your basic meat and potatoes. Spice?  Forget about it. Nowadays my in-laws crack up because sometimes I want things spicier than they as Texans do! And, I try to eat just about anything and everything I can get my hands on. Needless to say, I've come a long way...

So back to those college days and courting into a family of Texas heritage, I shortly learned how to make Guacamole, and over the years I believe I have finally perfected my approach.

Mind you, there are really two ways to make Guacamole in my book.  One way, the tastier way, is to put some effort into it, but there is always the easy way, which is pretty tasty in and of itself without having to have any labor intensive chopping.

Whether you approach it the quick 'n easy, or the labor-loving way, there are a few star seasonings that should always show up to the table. These key ingredients make for a stellar Guac, every time. And with this, I divulge my secret ingredients...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Benji's Mexican Cantina

* UPDATE: As of August 7, 2016, Benji's is no longer open for business. *

Austinites, as you know, you've got your classic Tex-Mex down right - El Rancho, Guero's, Maudie's, Trudy's, Chuy's, etc. But then there is fine Mexican dining, where they tweak traditional dishes into contemporary upscale tastings. Recently opened Benji's is a quality Mexican Cantina.

Grab a cocktail on the rooftop before dinner. There's always a classic Margarita on the rocks, or try the Chupacabra - Tequila, jalapeño, blackberries and fresh lime - yum.

And, if you're lucky enough to get a table up there, quickly snatch up a seat. It's the perfect place for outdoor seating with large rooftop with views. 

The Guacamole is made and served tableside. Yes, it is a bit cliché, but it is still always a good bit of fun for everyone.

The Fajitas are overflowing - definitely fit for two.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Newport Mansions

When it comes to Newport, the first thought that comes to many minds is that of big houses.

The Newport mansions were all initially built as summerhouses to the wealthy (must have been nice, huh?). Among some of the more popular Gilded Age mansions open to the public for tours are The Breakers, Marble House, and Rosecliff.

The Breakers was constructed in 1895 for a member of the prosperous Vanderbilt family and is known as the grandest of the Newport mansions. The mansion is five-stories with 70 rooms; suffice to say that the tour does take some time. 

Marble House was built in 1892 for another member of the Vanderbilt family and was a 39th birthday present to his wife. I wonder what she was expecting for her 40th - way to set the bar high!

Rosecliff was a summer home mansion for non-Vanderbilts. It was built by a silver heiress and her multi-million shipping business husband looking for a place to suitably entertain during the summer months. Its exterior was constructed with terra cotta tiles, which have given the mansion a pinkish hue.

Yes, it may be touristy, but if you haven't already, next time your in Newport, you have to at least just take a drive along Bellevue Avenue to marvel at these spectacular abodes.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


After taking the trip up to Martha's Vineyard and spending a few lovely nights on the island, we were itching for a visit to its sister island, Nantucket.

First and foremost on the top of the list of places to see and things to do after grounding ashore from the ferry was a stop at the original Murray's Toggery Shop.  We stocked up on East coast essentials like the Nantucket reds (both in shorts, pants, and skirts), cable knit sweaters, nautical themed ties, and a little bit of this and that. 

Nantucket is smaller than its neighboring island, but the down town area is nothing short of expansive.  There were plenty of places to stop in and stimulate all the important senses, like seeing (shopping), tasting (food and drink), and smelling (the salty ocean breeze).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Deep Eddy a.k.a. the oldest swimming pool in Texas!

It's the history of this swimming pool that really makes it what it is. This from the Friends of Deep Eddy website:

"Deep Eddy began simply as a swimming hole in the Colorado River that flows through Austin. Cold springs rose from the river banks and people swam in the river where a large boulder formed an eddy. In 1915, A.J. Eilers, Sr. bought the land surrounding the swimming hole and built the concrete pool. The pool served as the centerpiece of a resort, the Deep Eddy Bathing Beach, which featured cabins, camping, and concessions.

 Lorena’s Diving Horse was one popular attraction. As seen in historic photographs, a ramp led to a 50 foot tall diving platform over the pool’s deep end from which the horse and rider would dive. Other pool amenities included a zip line across the pool and a tall slide, while other attractions included a diving baby and a Ferris wheel."

While the pool doesn't host as many attractions as it once did back in the day, it is still a beloved swimming hole for many Austinites.

Deep Eddy by Day...

Deep Eddy by Night...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Corn on the Cob

Now's the time of year where it's fun to pop a few stalks of corn on the grill and enjoy this summer vegetable in its true natural goodness. It's easy, fresh, and tasty.

Some people like to eat their corn around, I call it The Merry-Go-Round...

While others will eat their corn straight across in a row, Typewriter style.

I prefer the latter. How do you corn?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pico de Gallo, or Homemade Salsa

So many wonderfully fresh fruits and vegetables peak in season during the summer, one namely being the tomato. The right climate can produce tomatoes that are so plump and juicy, you can eat them like an apple. There are tomatoes on the vine, cherry tomatoes, heirloom, beefsteak - just to name a few.

According to Bon Appetit, the redder, the better, as the deeper color indicates more of the cancer-fighting antioxidants, so head for the red!

There are so many different things you can do with a wonderfully ripe tomato. Here, I decided to make some Pico de Gallo and Homemade Salsa.

It's really easy to make freshly homemade salsa, and homemade means that you can make it as mild or spicy, chunky or smooth, as you would like, depending upon your preference. This simple recipe makes for an enjoyable guilt-free dipper.

2 Tomatoes
1 Large Shallot
1 Large Garlic Clove, or 2-3 Small Cloves
1/3 cup of Cilantro
1 Jalapeño
1/2 Lime

To make Pico de Gallo...

Chop up the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Squeeze in the lime juice and then toss. That's it!

To make Homemade Salsa...

Saturday, August 3, 2013