Taste of TRIO

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Tasting’s are a new-to-me experience, an experience I wish I could partake in – eehhh, I’d say at least once a week.

My first tasting occurred a few weeks ago at TRIO at the Four Seasons Hotel.

When Jetté invited to try TRIO’s Prix Fixe summer menu, a 3-course meal featuring summer specialties for $36, my plans for kickboxing went right out the door. TRIO is on my seemingly never-ending list of ‘must try’ restaurants in Austin, and the summer tasting menu ended this week. So…flailing my arms aimlessly in a room with floor to ceiling mirrors would have to wait.

TRIO is hidden below the main lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, nestled against the ground level hill overlooking Lady Bird Lake, and their patio. My next visit will involve relaxing on the beautiful patio, with wine in hand.

We met in the downstairs bar (the upstairs bar is a recent addition to the Four Seasons). Our early arrival allowed us time to enjoy a pre-dinner glass of sparkling wine and 3 different Happy Hour “bites”. We ordered the Crispy Brussels Sprouts, with Sishito Peppers and Steak Fries, the Gulf Snapper Ceviche (served in a small mason jar), and the Torched Salmon Belly. Out of the three appetizers, the Torched Salmon Belly was by far my favorite – the soft texture of the fish, paired with the freshness of the relish, made for a very light and refreshing appetizer.

Taste aside, the presentation of each of the appetizers allowed them to create a unique identity of their own, before even allowing your taste buds to touch them. The Ceviche was served in a mini mason jar, lid and all, allowing this seemingly simple dish to transform into a fun (and quite tasty) experience. In addition to the Ceviche, the Crispy Brussels Sprouts were nestled artistically next to the Steak Fries in a petite silver bucket lined with brown paper. Food served in such an artsy manner much more enjoyable, if you ask me!

I was obviously too hungry to snap pictures before I ate. Bad bad Meagan.

After nibbling on our appetizers and chatting about the different ingredients Chef Macdonald uses in his Ceviche (we found that after the array of ingredients was revealed, we liked it A LOT more!), we were seated in the dining room with a beautiful view outside through the floor to ceiling windows.

While we scanned the menu, we immediately started strategically planning out a way for us to taste each dish that made our mouth water. We found this to be quite difficult, seeing as though everything on the menu seemed to have that effect on both of us.

Being the lover of sweets that I am, my eyes immediately zoomed in on the dessert section of the menu first, where I started to hear songs of joy in the background as I read the 4 little words that made my entire evening well worth the wait, “Pure Luck Goat Cheesecake”. It was pure luck, rather pure destiny, for me to run across this bad boy. My favorite cheese, paired with one of my go to desserts, was like Christmas morning. Halle-freakin-uyah!!

Before placing our orders, our waiter Naj gave us recommendations of his favorites on the summer tasting menu. While debating the wine pairing to go along with our meal, Naj interjected and insisted on us doing a wine tasting (which he waived at happy hour pricing, even though it was technically 7:04 pm), rather than the chef recommended wine pairing. I have never been one to turn down wine, so we agreed with no questions asked.

He returned with five different bottles of red wine, taking us on a ‘journey around the world’ from the vineyards of California, to Argentina, to Italy. All the wines were quite tasty, and he even taught us the correct way of smelling wine.

While we couldn’t exactly read Naj at first, his unique personality, which was marked with a serious undertone, and ever so subtle hints of oncoming smiles, ended up making our experience at TRIO very enjoyable. He was a team player with our never-ending foodie picture taking party of the different dishes, and our endless questions about his history in the food industry. He even brought us an extra scoop of ice cream with our dessert – more on that later!

For my meal, I ended up choosing the Seared Scallops to start off with. The scallops were cooked perfectly, and served with small chunks of ham, okra, peas, and chilies. The light and somewhat creamy sauce added a nice touch to the tender scallops.

For me entrée, I chose the Dewberry Farms Chicken. The chicken itself was de-li-cious, but the presentation and delivery of the meal made it that much better. Before our entrées arrived, an empty dinner plate was placed in front of me. A server soon arrived with a small cast iron skillet in one hand, and a large spoon in the other. He then scooped a quarter chicken out of the skillet and onto my plate, where he then drizzled it with a lemon, thyme, and brown butter sauce. I could have licked my plate, if it were socially acceptable.

While the chicken was delicious, especially paired with the spread of sauces Naj brought out, the Flat Iron Steak Jetté ordered was quite delicious. I normally do not like steaks, however the different spices paired with the juicy center, caused my dislike for steaks to make a complete 180. The few bites I had of this steak were divine.

Both of our entrées were served with a potato puree and roasted asparagus. The roasted asparagus was sautéed to perfection with brown butter and lemon. We put a much bigger dent in the asparagus than the potatoes – probably due to the richness of our dishes.

Last, but not at all least, the time I had been waiting for since my eyes met the four beautiful words displayed on the menu: Pure Luck Goat Cheesecake. From the moment the cheesecake was placed in front of me, I was in sort of a trans like state of bliss. The presentation was like that out of a magazine – a small plump cheesecake, topped with port-roasted figs, and a crispy baked graham. The short moment of admiration was soon followed by many slow bites, allowing myself to savor each and every taste, texture, and burst of flavor this little beauty had to offer. This, paired with a cup of decaf coffee topped off a perfect evening.

La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival

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I have never considered myself to have a legit hobby. I know people who love fishing, mountain biking, playing the guitar (the things I classify as ‘legit hobbies’) – but I have never been able to find that one thing that I consider to be my hobby.

Last week, I was asked the inevitable interview question – “Tell me about your hobbies”. Up until recently, I would have more than likely laughed it off and said “I don’t really have any.” But this time, I looked deep down inside and realized one bases their hobbies off what they love to do…and I love to EAT and workout. So, there ya go, I DO have hobbies: eating and working out. I’d say those are the two best hobbies anyone could ever ask for.

So, when I was invited to La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival at Laguna Gloria this past week, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to exercise one of my two new-found hobbies: EATING!

La Dolce Vita is a food and wine festival hosted every year at Laguna Gloria on Lake Austin. If you have never been to Laguna Gloria, or seen pictures, you are definitely missing out. It is an absolutely breath taking venue.

This year marks the 23rd Annual La Dolce Vita Festival, and it also marks my first La Dolce Vita experience. Because I didn’t really know what to expect, when I walked in the entrance and they handed me a wine glass and a plate (that actually attached to your wine glass), I felt like I had just walked into the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. It was pure heaven. Unlimited food and wine as far as my little eye could see.

I wish I could have gotten more photos of all the food, but I found it quite difficult to balance a glass of wine, a plate of food, AND my camera. For my first La Dolce Vita experience, I opted to experience the event, rather than focus all my attention on my photos. Next year, I will arrive early, snap photos, then enjoy.

Though I didn’t capture nearly a quarter of the sips and nibbles I partook in, here are the snapshots I did get of this great event:

The amazing men of Spicewood Vineyards. They had the BEST wine at the entire event, in my opinion.

Spicewood Vineyards hands down won the best wine award in my books. Their Sauvignon Blanc is the best white wine I have ever tasted. They were even nice enough to give me a bottle to take home. This makes for one happy Meagan!

Spicewood Vineyards wine selection.

Grilled Texas Wagyu Hanger Steak Tostada from Tacodeli.

La Dole Vita

VIP area/Cocktail Lounge

LOVE his mustache! Cocktails provided by Midnight Cowboy.

The most beautiful bowl of delicious I have ever seen.

I love yellow flowers, so naturally I had to take a picture of these beauties.

Bubbles in the VIP area.

Told ya it was a great view of Lake Austin!

VIP area – with couches and all.

Oranges at the Drink.Well tent.

La Dolce Vita lit up on the wall of Driscoll Villa.

An awesome DJ makes for an awesome way to end the night: dancing!

I had a fantastic time at La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival and I cannot wait until next year. Hopefully next year I’ll be more prepared!

My first Mud Run: The Jailbreak!

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This weekend I went home with my sister and Diego for our first EVER mud run/obstacle course run! We have been excited for this for weeks, and boy was it an experience.

The Jailbreak is a Texas mud run that occurs all over the state including DFW, Austin, Houston, and Padre. Let’s just say I was prett-ay pumped. Insert muscle woman face here:

Unfortunately, Diego hurt his knee a couple weeks ago, so he wasn’t able to run the race with Lucy and I. He instead had the honor of being our photographer.

Pre-race dancing/flexing was necessary.

We raced in the 9:30 wave, which was a completely full group of runners. It was a really fun mix of people – something I’m not using to seeing at “normal” running races.

The course snaked through a beautiful field and forest-y area at the DFW Adventure Park. I love running on trails, so I was in heaven.

The race composed of 20 different obstacles, ranging from crawling through mud pits, to wading through creeks, to climbing over walls. One of my favorites was the HUGE inflatable slide towards the end.

I had to figure out just how I was going to make it to the top of the slide without falling down.

Diego got a good picture of Lucy flying down the slide!

After the slide, we had to run through a mud pit…

Then roll our way through a sand pit…

And we finished! Nice and DIRTAYYYY!

After laughing for a good five minutes about how dirty we were and how much fun we had, we made our way to the “shower,” AKA a guy standing on top of a shipping container spraying us with a hose.

What can we say, we are intense (or act like we are).

The Jailbreak was SO MUCH FUN!! I am totally hooked on these obstacle course races and I would love to do another in the future. Maybe I’ll run a Spartan Race next!?

Garrido’s Happy Hour

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When I’m having a bad day, I usually turn to not-so-good-for-me-foods, or its close relative, margaritas. Diego usually knows how to turn my sad face into a happy one, so he suggested we meet for happy hour after he got off work. I immediately jumped on the investigation of a late-happy hour restaurant near downtown Austin that served killer margaritas. After searching numerous Yelp and Google reviews, I finally decided on Garrido’s.

On Mondays, Garrido’s Happy Hour runs from 4pm to close, and Tuesday – Friday from 3-6pm, with half price appetizers, $4 house margaritas, $2 off specialty cocktails, and $1 off wine and beer. Diego and I both ordered a house margarita with salt, and let me tell ya, Garrido’s has one nicely made margarita – not too sweet, and just the right amount of lime. I will definitely be returning for another round of these babies!

House Margarita with salt of course

Since their appetizers were half off, we decided to try a little bit of everything. We started off with the Pork Tostadas (or what they call, Bocaditos – a much more cutesy name if you ask me).

Pork Tostadas (Bocaditos)

The crispy corn chip was topped with goat cheese, a good side hunk of moist pork, pumpkin seeds, watermelon, and drizzled with a chipotle glaze. This girl LOVES me some goat cheese, so I was all up in this dish!

Pork Tostadas (Bocaditos)

In addition to the Pork Bocadito’s we ordered the Crab Meat Guacamole – Garrido’s house made guacamole topped with crab meat and pico de gallo.

Gulf Crab Guacamole

I especially liked the way they served their chips in a cone-like display. The chips were thick and crispy. I usually like thinner, crispier chips when I eat Mexican food, but these are an exception. They were dangerously addicting.

Gulf Crab Guacamole and Chips

The third dish we ordered was the Roasted Chicken Quesadillas. The quesadillas were filled with roasted chicken and topped with asadero cheese, Mexican crema, tomatillo salsa, and queso fresco.

Roasted Chicken Quesadillas

Out of the three dishes we ordered, the quesadillas were my favorite. The chicken was moist and flavorful, which paired nicely with the cheese and cream toppings. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I liked it because it was so pretty too.

Roasted Chicken Quesadillas

All in all, I really enjoyed my experience at Garrido’s. The beautiful weather that has taken over Austin made for the perfect excuse to sit on their tropical outside patio overlooking trees and the trickling creek below. I will definitely go back to Garrido’s very soon, speaking of….its FRIDAY! Everyone go out and have a margarita there TONIGHT! Live a little, right!?

Healthy-ish Banana Bread

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After perusing Pinterest and other blogs, I finally decided to put my blackened bananas to good use. I modeled my recipe off Julie of Peanut Butter Finger’s Banana Bread Mini Loaf recipe, with a few minor changes. It looks thin, but don’t judge this bread by its thickness – it was delish.

The bread ended up being not too sweet, hearty, and the perfect snack.

While it wasn’t the best banana bread I have made by any means (healthy-ish versions tend not to hold up to my high standards for full fat, full calorie bread), it was a nice thing to come home to after a long day.

It may have been gone in two days….

Sweets just don’t last in my house!

Healthy-ish Banana Bread
Adapted from Banana Bread Mini Loaf recipe from Peanut Butter Fingers 

Ingredients:

- 1 and 1/4 c. all purpose flour

- 1/4 c. brown sugar

- 2 packets Stevia (or sweetener of choice)

- 2 ripe bananas

- 1/2 tsp. baking soda

- 1 tsp. cinnamon (I love me some cinnamon)

- 1 tsp. vanilla extract

- dash o’ salt

- 1 tbsp. chia seeds

- 1 full egg

- 1/4 c. vegetable oil

Directions:

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees

- Spray loaf pan with nonstick spray

- Beat together brown sugar, Stevia, egg, oil and vanilla extract in a bowl

- Once mixture is combined, beat in bananas

- In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt

- Slowly mix flour mixture into sugar mixture

- Mix in chia seeds (these little suckers tend to get STICKY – watch out!)

- Pour batter into loaf pan

- Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until the loaf looks golden brown (and your entire house smells of delicious bread)

- Let is cool, then EAT EAT EAT it (its delicious with peanut butter, butter, or jam – or my new obsession, Earth Balance Coconut and Peanut Spread)

Enjoy!

Mizu Tasting

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I recently had the honor of attending a blogger and media tasting at Mizu Austin, a Prime Steak and Sushi restaurant in the fancy pants ‘burbs of Austin, aka Lakeway. While the drive really wasn’t that far at all, the food was well worth the couple extra minutes behind the wheel.

We arrived a little early with full intention of taking advantage of the happy hour menu. Mizu offers a happy hour Monday – Saturday from 5 to 7pm (holla at a weekend happy hour!). I started off with an unpictured Skinny Girl drink concoction of Skinny Girl Coconut Vodka, bubbly water, and pineapple juice. It was very refreshing and quite tasty for a skinny cocktail.

After hearing woman at the bar raving about “the best drink they have ever had,” I proceeded to order one of what they were having (I can’t help but think of the scene from When Harry Met Sally). It ended up being a Vanilla Lemonade Punch. I enjoyed it, but a little too sweet for a pre-dinner draaank.

Vanilla Lemonade Punch

Starving as always, we decided to order the Spicy Edamame and Gyoza (a pork dumpling) to try out before our meal. When Kristi of Epicuriosities arrived, she ordered an Avocado Dynamite which I snatched a few bites from. Out of these 3 plates, I could NOT stop eating the Spicy Edamame.

Spicy Edamame (take one)

Gyoza

Avocado Dynamite

After admiring the beautiful views of a rainbow from Mizu’s outdoor patio, we proceeded to our tasting. Mizu’s Executive Chef, Jeffrey Hundelt spoke about the different dishes we would be tasting tonight. You could tell how passionate he was about his food from his shy smiles that snuck through his serious food talk.

The night started with another serving of the Spicy Edamame (which I welcomed with open arms), Calamari, and Miso Sea Bass. My favorite was the edamame, but the other dishes were quite tasty too. The sea bass had a sweet, tender flavor and the calamari had a thick tempura-like batter that I have never had on calamari before. It was like the State Fair of Texas with CALAMARI. Nom.

Spicy Edamame (numero dos)

Miso Sea Bass

Calamari

The second round of dishes included Hamachi Crudo, Tuna Tartar, and Usuzukuri Hamachi. Each dish had very distinct characteristic. The Tuna Tartar was served with a plate of colorful fruit, which paired nicely with the tuna. The Hamachi Crudo was served atop a ginger pear puree, with jalapeno and kumquat, leaving you with a sweet and zesty flavor. Lastly, the Usuzukuri Hamachi served with plum ponzu, serrano, cilantro and a hint of lemon had a unique flavor – starting off with one flavor and transforming in your mouth into a different one.

Hamachi Crudo

Tuna Tartar

Usuzukuri Hamachi (with the GOLDEN BACON!)

While I thoroughly enjoyed each of these dishes, the best part was our discussion about the oh-so-mysterious  “golden bacon” ( seen on the dish directly above) that topped the Hamachi Crudo. After several attempts at figuring out what the golden bacon actually was, Kristin of Epicuriosities took one for the team and tried it. Sadly, it wasn’t bacon. I decided at this point that Kristi does in fact have quite the epicuriosities (insert courtesy laugh here).

The next round of dishes included a selection of sushi rolls. When I eat sushi, I tend to choose rolls over hamachi, so I was quite excited for this round. There were 4 different rolls including the Fenix, a roll with escolar, tuna tartar, cream cheese, lime gastrique and tobiko. The Chorishi Fire was filled with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, “crunchies”, tobiko, avocado, and spicy mayo. The Mustang Roll had panko crusted soft shell crab, avocado, tobiko, blue crab, wasabi caramel, and sweet miso. The wasabi caramel was unique but delishhhh. The last roll was a Baked Roll, filled with cream cheese goodness.

Fenix

Chorishi Fire

Mustang Roll

Baked Roll

And finally. The moment I had been waiting for ALL night long: dessert. Of course this was by far my favorite course of the tasting, serving up a variety of sweet treats including Banana Nutella Cake, Warm Brandied Bread Pudding, Vanilla bean Cheesecake, Chocolate Chocolate Cake, and House Spun Sorbet.

Banana Nutella Cake with Banana Coconut Ice Cream

Warm Brandied Bread Pudding

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Chocolate Chocolate Cake

House Spun Mixed Berry Sorbet

Three of the desserts tied for my first place. The Banana Nutella Cake was served with a scoop of banana coconut ice cream that I could eat an entire gallon of. The Bread Pudding was moist, aside from its beautiful presentation, and the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake was the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. I am still dreaming of these desserts.

Overall, Mizu prepared a delicious meal from start to finish. Mizu is a great date night spot, evening getaway with the girls, or family friendly restaurant for those relatives that want a great experience.  I highly recommend taking those few extra minutes to drive out to Lakeway, not only for a great meal, but also to enjoy the great views of Austin (and the desserts)!

Morning smiles

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I have a love-hate relationship with aging bananas. I love them because they have reached their peak for baking and I hate them because they have evolved to the dreaded gooey, baby food-like texture I can’t seem to make myself enjoy.

I woke up this morning to find that all my bananas, both the bunch I bought GREEN (as to save for after the YELLOW ones I bought), and the already ripened bunch, were resembling that of a severely spotted Dalmatian.

While I was bummed to not have a banana to enjoy with my breakfast this morning, I saw this as an invitation to bake a delish banana concoction. So, as any 21st century food-lover with a craving may do, I turned to Pinterest and the good ol’ blogosphere.

After looking for recipes, then getting distracted by a pretty dress, then looking for recipes, then getting distracted by a home decor idea, then looking for recipes again, I found a few that intrigued my hungry belly.

Option 1: Oatmeal and Banana Scones from Lite Bite

Option 2: Whole Wheat Banana Waffles from Lauren’s Latest

Option 3: Banana Bread Mini Loafs by Peanut Butter Fingers

We’ll just have to see what the morning brings…