Deep in the Heart of Texas Pt.2: Austin

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We were in Austin for two days and we wished we stayed longer! If Dallas was someone in their 30’s climbing up the corporate ladder, Austin would be it’s little brother that’s still going through college. Austin has a vibrant night scene and depending what you’re into, there is something for everyone! We wish we took more photos, but…we had too much fun!

Eat

Lenoir: Hands down the best meal I had in Austin.

Sour Duck: This is cool, lil hip place with a beautiful patio, great for kids and pets. The vibe, brunch food and pastries had us reminiscing Cali food.

Fleet Coffee: Great coffee with really friendly barista. Definitely check out the coffee and the space.

Cuvee Cafe: One of the famed coffee roasters in Austin. This place makes great cold brew coffee with milk. It has a patio and a large interior space if you need to drop in to get some work done.

Third Avenue: Endless selection of bars and clubs.

Rainey Street: This is like a street full frat parties, including a club made of giant containers!

Valentina’s Tex Mex Barbeque: We came for the breakfast tacos and they were so good and came in such large proportions that I couldn’t finish the pulled pork, beef brisket, queso and the list goes on. It’s cooked out of a food truck, but they have a patio for customers to eat in. Great last meal in Austin!

See

Bats on Congress Bridge: If you are around downtown Austin in the evening, head to the Congress Bridge near sunset. Swarms of people stop by the bridge to see this phenomenon of bats flying from under the bridge to who knows where they go to find food. It’s quite a scene - almost like a pandemic straight from a film.

Barton Spring Pools: It’s the place to be under the brutal southern sun during the summer. It’s a huge pool filled with natural water from a nearby spring that’s widely popular with locals. We chose this pool since we were in the city and didn’t want to drive far. There are plenty of other natural pools in and out of Austin!

Oasis: We momentarily forgot where we were from looking at the view of this place. Go chill at either a bar or a restaurant. Sit back and soak in that gorgeous view over Lake Travis. Maybe because we started the trip in Dallas, which is a flat city so when we arrived to the rolling hills of Austin, we also didn’t expect to see a place that reminded us of maybe, Lake Como? Maybe that’s an exaggeration - you tell us!

Graffiti Park: We passed by this neighbour on a hill and wondered what the commotion was with all the cars and people walking around this dead end street. It was this abandoned, industrial foundation that’s been covered with layers upon layers of graffiti paint. We left a view marks of our own - Asians represents! This establishment has been approved by demolition and the park has been accepting donations to reopen a building near the Austin airport. I don’t know what to expect, except this place was the original, that was not funded by anyone.

State Capitol: Free admission and one of the few attractions that was open during Labour Day. It’s a beautiful building, both inside and out with so much history!

Enjoy Austin!

Deep in the Heart of Texas Pt. 1: Dallas

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Is a week in Texas an odd trip? I'm not sure but the best reason is we wanted to visit a friend in Dallas and we wanted to see what the hype is about with Austin. Everyone asked how our trip went and I don't know why my response was always, "surprisingly fun".  Maybe there is this stigma affiliated with Texas: conservative, cowboys and just the simple, what is there to do? Rightly so, I had trouble searching for points of interest as a tourist.  But Texas, you were great and maybe it's the friends that I went with that make a place what it is.  I do encourage all the skeptics to give both Dallas and Austin a chance.  We didn't realize we ate so much, saw so much and did so much that we need divide our posts into 2 parts.  So if you're going to Dallas, give Bird or Lime  scooters a chance instead of renting car to explore the city centre - it's so much fun!  (If you need a referral to get a free ride, let us know!) And here is what we were up to:

See/Do

Fort Worth Stockyards: A national historic district that aims to provide visitors with a glimpse of the wild, wild west, and it was wild indeed. They have daily cattle drives at 11:30 and 4:00 and it's worth viewing, along with the heritage buildings that remain intact.  It's a great place to eat, see and shop for souvenirs. 

Topgolf: When I tell my friends that Topgolf was so fun and I played twice this trip, they ask - wow is Texas really that boring? No, it's not.  But when you're in 40+ degree weather, you don't want to dehydrate at a bar, you want to hydrate.  So, we played golf twice.  I compare it to bowling, except it's golf and I can't wait for it to come to Canada! 

Dallas Museum of Art: A collection of paintings and sculptures, right next to Klyde Warren Park. It's a great museum to spend the day with the free admission. 

Katy Trail: A trail that runs through Dallas - there's a pedestrian lane and a bike lane. If you're tired from the scooters and the cars, Katy Trail is an excellent place to move your legs, immerse yourself in the trees and bushes (yes away from the sun!) and you will walk by some bars, so that's a plus.

George W. Bush Presidential Library: Fan or no fan of George W. Bush, this presidential library was the first one we have ever entered and we liked it. You learn a lot about President Bush, and we were mesmerized by the building. We definitely want to check out more presidential libraries. 

Fort Worth Modern Museum of Art: There are places to visit in Fort Worth! This is an exceptional building, and if you're an art lover visiting the Fort Worth area, it is a must-see!

Cidercade: With over 100 arcade games and an in-house brewery for ciders - this was a fun, Friday night out bar.  I love quick games and I love cider.  That's it - check it out. 

Dallas Farmers Market: The farmers market consists of two buildings, one is The Shed which offers local produce and products, and the other is a food house with restaurants from Cajun to Tex Mex. It's great for the family.  I highly, highly recommend the etouffee. 

Eat

Sons of Liberty Coffee:  A spacious coffee shop in Fort Worth.  After a day full of cattle and cowboys, it was great to drop by and rest. They have chocolate milk on draft too. If you sit by the window, you can drink your coffee and appreciate the architecture of the post office across the street. 

Houndstooth Coffee: The Knox/Henderson location is great for some quiet time to work. For us, it was the perfect time to pick up some iced coffee to freshen ourselves up, and the cold drink saved us from the 40 degree heat outside. 

Magnolia Sous Le Pont: By Uptown Dallas, this is a cute and quiet cafe to hang out.  They have monthly drinks and for the month of September, they have a tumeric latte.  I substituted milk with oat milk and the latte was extra creamy.  Alert though - there is a shortage on oat milk. 

Shake Shack: In my opinion, the best burger joint I have tried.  I know, I know, I'm in Texas - why am I eating the Shack burger?  Because there are no locations in Toronto, and there are no lines in Dallas.  So go and have the best burger ever! 

Whataburger: This is a Texas institution and only available in this state, so go give it a try. Still not at Shake Shack level, but their fries remind me of McDonalds and their spicy ketchup is addictive. 

Cattleack Barbeque: The best barbeque in Big D.  We waited 1.5 hours when we arrived at 10:30 and of course the lines are long. This place is open only on Thursdays and Fridays and on the first Saturday of the month.  Honestly, the sides are the best: mac n cheese and jalapeno cheese grits. 

Commissary: A grab and go bakery/cafe in downtown Dallas.  Super cute, and you walk into an aroma of baked goods, fresh salads and lots of coffee options.

Lá Me: Richardson is the Markham of Texas, or so I have heard and most people in Texas tell me Vietnamese food is the best here.  And they're not wrong - perusing through the menu, there are dishes that I've never heard of and not served in Toronto, such as the banh beo.  A savoury pudding with croutons, shredded carrots served on tiny saucers.  You add a bit of fish oil, and eat it out of a spoon.  I highly recommend the banh beo. 

Crooked Tree: What can I say?  This coffee shop is a 5 minute walk away from where we were staying.  The coffee was good, the environment was quaint with a homey vibe. 

Truckyard: Literally a truck yard with converted old cars to tables and low hanging dimmed lights.  This space offers live music on the weekends, food trucks to serve up your appetite and lots of booze.  It's busy but the ambience of the lights, the old trucks and the cute dogs hanging around make this a place like no other. 

Brewed + Pressed: This cafe serves up coffee and pressed juice, which is the perfect combination for me! Somehow, I always end up at Brewed + Pressed on the final day of my trip, which then causes me to order a pressed juice instead of a coffee.  I mean, after a week of binging on fried food, barbecue and lots of bread, drinking pressed juice seems like a healthy option, right?

Mike's Chicken: We love fried chicken.  There's something so comforting after a long day's work and to eat fried chicken after. Mike's Chicken was our dinner after a long 3+ hour drive from Austin to Dallas and it was delicious. We had a combination of thighs and legs with a creamy corn as a side. The great thing about Mike's Chicken is they fry it fresh and if you're already impatient about waiting ~15 minutes, I'm telling you, it's worth the wait! 

Have fun in Dallas!

Peach, please!

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When it comes to summer, I have a list of to-do's: hiking, go for a picnic, sunbathe at the beach, have a backyard barbecue, head up to Muskoka for the cottage and pick fruit and cook something up! Happy to report that I accomplished most of this list.  I haven't been to the beach yet, but nonetheless, I'm very happy with my summer.  For the picking fruit part, last year, we picked blueberries, and this year we picked peaches in Niagara! 

There was an ongoing discussion on what we would make with peaches.  I was all for the peach galette because I love baking, however Ken was inspired by Antoni's grilled peach salad from Queer Eye.  We searched for his "recipe" online, but to no avail so we ended up with A Couple Cooks' Peach, Heirloom Tomato, and Burrata Salad. We replaced burrata with bocconcini.  It was the quickest food we ever made.  There was lots of cutting involved, but when the chopped peaches were plated with basil and bocconcini, it was such a pretty dish, and more importantly, delicious. All in all, we're going to give ourselves a pat on the back for picking fruit in the sweltering heat, rewarding ourselves for the hard work with ice cream at Avondale and ending the day off with a salad with what was harvested! 

- Robyn