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SXSW con Queso: Picks & Minimal Recommendations From A Local

March 11, 2016

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We’ve seen an extraordinarily large number of unnecessarily complicated guides to Austin and SXSW this year…so so many write ups on the must-dos, must-sees, must-drinks, ad nauseam…most from people who don’t live in Austin. Most from people trying to be as “cool and as real as it gets”  and give you a list of 200 things YOU MUST DO in the 27 waking hours you are in town.

On the other hand, here’s a really short list adapted from a post we did a couple of years ago. Not much has changed but some things have…including our picks for SXSW 2016. Enjoy!

A few friends have asked what to expect from SXSW this year, what to do, who to see. And I say you’ll for sure see these people.   You should also get far away from that and go to our pick for Best Maker Event: SX CREATE presented by Dremel. And Best Empowerment Event: The #SpeakBeautiful Effect with Dove and Twitter. 

In addition, an exhaustive list of other official free events is right here. 

Beyond that, I don’t really care. But while you’re here, I would suggest that you look into a few, more localized activities. Things like this:

1. Get Some of The Best Queso in Austin. Here are my suggestions. I could talk more about this and I’m happy to. But you can’t really go wrong with most places in town so you’re probably fine no matter what. You’ll be especially pleased if you get your cheese from somewhere where there are no lines and whose name you can’t really pronounce.


2. Go See My Cousin’s Band. I’m not even kidding. That’s him right in the middle there. They are called Chasca, they are local, and they are awesome + beyond entertaining. Trust me. You won’t be sure what you are watching, but you won’t be disappointed.

There are two Chasca shows this first WEEKEND! Friday they play with girling at Hard Luck Lounge from 9-10 pm. Saturday they play with Alien Knife Fight at The Highball Austin at 11:30 pm. No cover. Have fun.

Photo of (from left) Keith Schmidt, Susie Schmidt-Franks, Chad Franks and John Fullilove courtesy of Rodolfo Gonzalez/American-Statesman.

3. Go To My Favorite BBQ Spot In Town. Don’t wait in a six-hour line for meat.  Schmidt Family Barbecue  is the cousin child of the legendary Kreuz Market and Smitty’s BBQ in Lockhart. Here’s more. To sum up, the new joint is from the next generation of cousins from the ultimate BBQ family of Texas. It’s closer to town, in Bee Cave. And it’s worth the drive from downtown. Go. (Also, PS, I’m not sure what you’ve heard, but The Salt Lick is in no way the best BBQ in town. Not even close. And Franklin’s is worth the wait normally…but not the wait this week.)

4. Go Outside. This is especially important if you are from anywhere north of Waco. But wherever you come from, get away from downtown. Go to Barton Springs. Or Deep Eddy. Or the Kite Festival. Or Mount Bonnell. Or just really anywhere that’s not a line flowing into a parking lot.

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5. Go to Mozart’s for Coffee.  Go to Hula Hut for chips, salsa and margs on the deck. Go to Taco Deli for tacos and to Matt’s El Rancho for enchiladas and to Maudie’s for anything else. If you want fancy food, go to Counter 3. Five. VII. or Lenoir or Uchi (or, even better, Uchiko). If you don’t want fancy food, go to Ramen Fukuya. Catch a movie at Alamo Draft House. Don’t go to any of those ridiculous donut places. If you need donuts, go to KC Donuts. And go to Lick for ice cream. You won’t be disappointed. An none of those places will have SXSW lines.

Enjoy our town. It gets better the further away you move from the convention center. Trust us on this.

Soundtrack: That’s Right. By this smart guy with really great hair from Klein, Texas. 

SXSW con Queso // Best Maker Event: Dremel Brings Makers and Motorcycle Fun to SXSW

March 11, 2016
Via CA Muire Instagram

It’s March in Austin, Texas, which means two things: rain showers and SXSW. And while we like both of those things quite a bit, it’s SXSW that has us really excited this year because of SX CREATE presented by Dremel.

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What’s SX Create, you ask? Why, it’s the hardware hacking and maker arm of SXSW! This year it’ll be held at Palmer Events Center on March 11-13, 2016 and they promise “more space, more fun and even more hands-on excitement” with activities like 3D printing, drones and biohacking. I’m not so sure what biohacking is, but I’m intrigued!

The good news is that SX Create is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Sorry for the all caps, but that’s kind of exciting since so much of SXSW requires a badge. Here’s the info:

SX CREATE

March 11–13, 2016 | 11:00am–6:00pm

Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Road)

SX Create is FREE with Guest Pass

SX Create presenting sponsor Dremel is a company built on a tradition of exploration, and they’re all about handmade artistry. After all, they invented the high-speed rotary tool in 1934, and since then they’ve been helping Makers make magic  with their full line of versatile tool systems like Multi-MaxTM oscillating tools, Ultra-SawTM and Saw-MaxTM multi-saws and FortiflexTM flex shaft tool, and the Idea BuilderTM 3D printer.

To celebrate the Maker spirit, Dremel is bringing a unique mashup of new technology and new partners to SXSW. They want to not only inspire, but to challenge Makers, via incentives, to leave their mark. And to show that, they have some majorly cool things going on at their booth (Booth #401 — write that down). Cool things like:

An Indian Scout Motorcycle sweepstakes!

Even if you don’t know much about motorcycles, you’ve no doubt heard of Indian. They were founded in 1901, and they’re  classic, beautiful bikes that pride themselves on craftsmanship. And for that reason, they make the perfect partner for Dremel. An Indian® Chief® Vintage motorcycle will be at the Dremel booth, #401 at SX Create, and noted Makers Hank Robinson of Hanro Studios and Paul Niemeyer will put a customized spin on the bike’s leather and metal parts with live, detailed etching and engraving. Seriously, look at this thing. I totally want to grab a helmet and head out on the open road until my kids are in their 30’s. Va-room.

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After the SX Create bike is finished, it will then be unveiled at the Indian Motorcycle display at the 2016 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. (Have you ever been to Sturgis? I have. Once, by mistake, in the family station wagon. Long story. We don’t ever talk about it.) The bike will then tour select Dremel and Indian Motorcycle events, and be displayed at Dremel HQ for all to drool over.

But wait! There’s more! You can WIN a bike!

Dremel and Indian are co-sponsoring a sweepstakes that grants one lucky winner the chance to own a one-in-a-million ride. Because they’re all about individualistic style, Hank the Maker will personalize an Indian® Scout® Sixty motorcycle unique to the winner’s own interests. Like, if you are a huge fan of Texas, he’ll engrave a Longhorn and/or Willie Nelson on it and then everybody you know will be jealous of you for the rest of your life unless you give them rides on it.

The sweepstakes runs March 11 through September 30, 2016, and fans can enter online once per day at www.dremelmakeyourindianmotorcycle.com (Note: site does not go live until March 11, 2016. Visit the Dremel and Indian Motorcycle Facebook pages for the other prizes up for grabs, too!)

More fun at Drexel Booth #401:

Make your own customized leather luggage tags! All SX Create visitors will have the opportunity to make their own however they like, then take it home with them to use on their next trip. Mine would either say, “BACK OFF, THIS IS MY BAG” or “PROPERTY OF RYAN GOSLING.”

SX Create visitors can also meet Dremel Chief Maker and Austin native Celina Muire talking about her work on Saturday. Celina is a “pyrographer,” which means she makes amazing things via burning wood, on purpose, in addition to gorgeous pieces of art like this:

Via CA Muire Instagram

Via CA Muire Instagram

 I totally want that in my house now. That is going to happen, Celina. Get ready for my phone call.

Dremel will also debut its newest 3D printer, the Dremel 3D40 Idea Builder, a part of their complete 3D printing ecosystem for the classroom and Maker workshops, at SX Create. Per Dremel, this “second-generation printer increases design flexibility and ease of use for students and techies with USB- and Wi-Fi-enabled printing, a larger building platform, and the new Dremel 3D app for iOS and Android, which enables users to design 3D objects remotely. The 3D40 Idea Builder is also compatible with HP Sprout, an immersive 3D scanning system. The synergistic technologies create an intuitive design, scanning and printing process that encourages communal problem solving and activates imaginative thinking. Fans can experiment with both systems live at the Dremel booth.”

Whew. I just need to know if it can print out a 3D Ryan Gosling for me so I can tell him I have his luggage.

If you’ll be in Austin or at SXSW, be sure to stop by SX Create at the Palmer Events Center March 11-13 and visit where? That’s right, Dremel at Booth #401 to see all of the amazingly creative and innovative things they’re doing, and to enter to win that sweet Indian Motorcycle.

For more information about Dremel activities at SX Create, visit https://www.dremel.com/en-us/Pages/default.aspx and the Dremel Facebook page. To learn more about Indian Motorcycle and HP Sprout, visit www.IndianMotorcycle.com and www8.hp.com/us/en/sprout/home.html.

This post was sponsored by Dremel. All information provided by them, all weird, colorful commentary provided by me.

SXSW con Queso // BEST EMPOWERMENT EVENT: DOVE Raises the Level of Conversation & Brings Its New #SpeakBeautiful Technology to SXSW.

March 10, 2016
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It’s no secret that we are fans of Dove. They are long time partners in the Mom 2.0 Summit. And frankly, we just really like their mission, their people and their products.

We also like that they are actively working to raise the conversation about conversation online.

According to research commissioned by Dove, eight out of 10 women have seen negative comments in conversations about other women’s looks on social media. And four out of every five negative tweets about beauty and body image are written by women critiquing themselves. That’s why they teamed up to launch #SpeakBeautiful, a campaign encouraging women to be more positive when tweeting about beauty and body image. Well, that and because it’s about time. And it seems they are always the go-to group to make things happen.

“Ideas and opinions about body image are now fluidly shared every second through social feeds, and sometimes we do not fully realize the resounding impact of the words in even one post,” Jennifer Bremner, Dove’s Director of Marketing, said. “We can positively change the way future generations express themselves online.”

So that’s what they are rolling up to Austin with…a lot of smart women, positive vibes, good manners and beautiful words…all things SXSW could do well to embrace … and we say bravo! All around.

Dove has designed this SXSW event for those looking for a very cool, interesting discussion on women’s empowerment and online harassment with an inspiring panel of trailblazers.

Saturday, March 12, 1 – 3 pm. Trinity Hall. (See more details in the above image.)

We wouldn’t miss it.

RSVP to the SXSW event here. 

Find out more about the Dove campaign here.

Empathy Cards

February 4, 2016
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Emily McDowell makes really funny cards, but I believe my favorites of hers are those of the Empathy variety. Because it’s true that I am the worst when it comes to knowing what to say in a crappy situation. But then I listen to those talking in a crappy situation and often, they’re the worst too. Sometimes not. But often.

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I don’t have bad feelings for anyone saying anything though, because we’re all just trying our best to stumble through and most of us have no idea what we are talking about. We just try in different ways. I try to not say anything dumb.

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It seems our collective awkwardness gets turned up to 11 whenever someone is diagnosed with something terrible. Or is suddenly put in the hospital. Or well, there are like 5,000 other situations where we all get weird. And now, we have cards to proactively help us be less lame. Thank you, Emily McDowell.

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Today is World Cancer Day, an annual event that unites the globe in the fight against cancer. The campaign is designed to raise awareness and education about the disease, to encourage action to save millions of preventable deaths each year.

You can buy Emily McDowell’s Empathy Cards here. 

How To Make Limoncello

January 1, 2016
How to make limoncello

We travelled to Italy a few years ago, and were lucky enough to stay in the beautiful town of Positano very near Pompeii.  It is a town built on a cliff above a few beaches.  I think it was something like 250,000 steps from our hotel to the beach.  Ok, not really, but it felt like it.  We learned a little late in the game that you can take the local bus for very little and avoid all of the steps.  I highly recommend the bus. 

Everywhere we went in Positano, the lovely pottery for sale was covered in lemons. Every restaurant featured lemon sauces, lemon desserts, etc. all followed with little glasses of limoncello.  If you have ever had it before, at first taste it reminds you of lemon-flavored cough syrup with a kick.  It is meant to be a digestif after all of the pasta and such.  At first, we were not fans, but by the third or so we loved it.

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I asked a local about why everyone serves limoncello.  He said that most of the families there have lemon trees.  After the tourist season ends in October or so, they head home to harvest their lemons with their families.  They get whole grain alcohol from the government, and use the rind from the lemons for the limoncello.  It takes 95 days from start to finish, which means it is ready when the weather starts to warm up.  They use the juice from the lemons for their sauces throughout the summer as well.  It turns out that making limoncello is mostly just waiting and a little bit of making.  I can totally do that!  I found a recipe that included a vanilla bean, which really does soften it just enough.  If you drink limoncello, then be sure you are just serving it in little shot glasses.  Beware, it can get really easy to drink, and before you know it, you have passed the point of no return…and you are desperately needing a nap!  If drinking it intimidates you, I have also served it poured over a lemon sorbet topped with raspberries.  It makes for a really refreshing dessert.  The texture of the drink is syrupy and viscous, so it is best served very cold.  I keep my bottle ready to go in the freezer.  It gets more aggressive the warmer it gets.  Why do I bring up limoncello now?  Well, it is citrus season!  Hooray!  My Meyer Lemons are almost ready to pluck, but they don’t make for good limoncello.  That said, you can run to the grocery store, and grab big lemons right now.  Just be sure that you are only removing the yellow rind- leave the white pith behind.  I used my lemon “innards” in my juicer so that my 10 year old could make his lip-puckering homemade lemonade.  Enjoy!

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Limoncello

(this is a double batch)

What you’ll need:

One liter of Everclear

10-15 really nice lemons (the rind matters, friends)

5 cups of sugar

4 cups of water

1 vanilla bean

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What you’ll do:

First, after you have washed those lemons, you will zest them.  You can use the five whole zester, the microplaner or the carrot peeler.  Put all of the zest in the large sealable jar with the liter of booze.  Don’t do vodka- it’s not the same.  Let it sit for 45 days in a cool dark place.

After 45 days, you will need to make the syrup, and remove the peels.  You can simply pour the mixture through a fine mesh to remove the peels.  Put the lemony goodness back in the jar with one vanilla bean.  This will mellow it out just enough to make it irresistible.  Bring the four cups of water to a boil, and dissolve the 5 cups of sugar into the water.  Allow it all to cool, before you add it to the limoncello.  Once combined, store it back in the cool, dark place.  

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After the second 45 days, take your mesh, and line it with two coffee filters.  Put it over a bowl, and filter your limoncello into the bowl.  This will take a while as it should be thick and syrupy.  You can filter again if you want it to be more clear.  Finally, use a funnel to fill up the bottle or bottles of your choice.  Store in the freezer until you are ready to use.

Salute!

10 Reasons You Need to Go Watch “Man Up” Right Now

December 17, 2015
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If, like me, you are always tragically hoping for romantic comedies to meet their potential, this one’s for you.

Man Up is a just-about-perfect rom-com. I loved it. I wanted to eat it like a cupcake.  It does everything I ever hope a rom-com will do:  It tickles you with witty banter, churns along with great dialogue, hooks into the pleasure of romantic tension between two people, breaks your heart a little, puts the difference between “alone” and “together” into stark relief, and gives you all the delightful feelings of falling in love.

It’s in some cities in theaters right now–but it’s also for rent to stream on Amazon.  Watch it tonight.  I promise–you’ll be so glad you did.

Here are ten reasons this movie is now in my top rom-coms of all time.

  1. This lonely moment on the train.

OneThere are real stakes in this movie.  There are moments that linger on isolation, and disappointment, and feeling lost and alone.  Pay attention, movie world!  Romantic comedies should never just be comedies!  The story has to have moments of genuine sorrow to give weight and meaning to the act of finding love.

  1. This adorable man.

twoPossibly the cutest rom-com dad ever.  Celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary, he toasts his wife, and says:  “We probably won’t make it another forty years–” And she jumps in and says, “I bloody hope not!”  He concludes: “But here’s to spending whatever time we have left together.”

  1. Lines like:  “Congratulations on your massive pack of lies.”

threeGreat dialogue.  Great banter.  It’s a pleasure to hear, and it creates great chemistry.  Screenwriter Tess Morris rocks it out.  “Massive pack of lies” is my new favorite phrase.

  1. Simon Pegg cries.Twice. 

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What does Brené Brown keep telling us about vulnerability?  “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”  It’s also the birthplace of all kinds of goodness in a romantic comedy.  Simon Pegg full-out cries for a long scene in this movie–snurfly, nose-wiping tears. And guess what?  It works.  I’m trying to think of the last time I saw a man cry in any movie–other than Adam Sandler, for yuks.  American rom-coms have been acting too tough of late: leaving out all the raw emotions, the vulnerability, and the bravery that should course through movies like this.  Man Up is not afraid to go all-in, and the tenderness makes the story matter.

  1. Lake Bell does NOT cry.  Much.  Okay, she cries a little.

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She holds it together most of the time–but the way she holds it together, despite disappointment after disappointment, makes you root for her.  You’re RIGHT THERE with her.  One of her goals is to “Put yourself out there.”  Man Up shows us just how hard it is for her to do that–and then she does it anyway.

  1.  The Best Bowling-as-Foreplay Montage Ever

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Bowling is the best. Why HAVEN’T there been more bowling-themed love montages?

  1. The Reflex

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Does this movie NEED a scene with a dance fight to a Duran Duran song?  Not really.  Is it a total bonus that it has one?  Yep.  It’s awesome because of Duran Duran–but it’s also so charmingly comic the way Nancy and Jack’s voices are annoyed but their bodies are having fun.  Plus, is this a real dance?  Is this something that everybody knows, like the Thriller dance?  The minute the song comes on, they both jump in, like, Of course.  Did I miss it back in the ‘eighties?  Doesn’t matter, I guess.  It works.  Plus, they’re singing the nonsense lyrics to each other like those lyrics mean something.  Just yummy all around.

  1. The way Jack watches Nancy while she makes up an imaginary sexual history for them in front of his ex-wife.

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His face just runs the gamut from concerned to surprised to amused to befuddled to titillated and back again.  Great face.  And he is really, really listening.  And who doesn’t love a man who listens?

  1.  The way it doesn’t insult you.

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This is not a rom-com that hates rom-coms.  This movie is unapologetically a story about people who would like to find love–and are trying to do just that.  These people feel like real people and the choices they make feel like real choices for the real world.  There are no jokes about boobies in this movie.  There are no pole dances.  There are no references to Jonah Hill masturbating.  It has a sweetness to it that in today’s movie climate feels very brave.

  1. The end.

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The movie opens with a long tracking shot through a party, and it ends with one, too.  The final shot floats along, checking in on all the characters we’ve just met before floating outside and stepping back.  The whole movie feels like a love letter to love.  It’s a dreamy way to end–tender and sweet–as everybody goes on with their lives.  It leaves you with a feeling not that things will never change and we must statically be Happy Ever After from this second forward–but more that life will move on, as it always does, and there will be sorrows and struggles, but there will also be moments of joy worth savoring.  For the moment, all is well.  I love those moments in life.  Don’t you?

Here’s the trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QgPlqoxu4M

Enjoy!

Katherine Center is the author of five novels: The Bright Side of Disaster (2007), Everyone is Beautiful (2009), Get Lucky (2010), The Lost Husband (2013)–just optioned for a movie!–and Happiness for Beginners (2015), with two more on the way.  Read more about Katherine here.  Or here.

Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle

December 8, 2015
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My friend Allison gave me this recipe. I made it for Thanksgiving and it was swell. I think it works really well for any December gathering. Check it.

December Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle

 1 – 14 oz. package gingerbread mix
1 – 5.1 oz. box “cook and serve” vanilla pudding mix
1 – 30 oz. can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 – 12 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 cup gingersnaps

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cinnamon in to the pudding. Crumble one batch of gingerbread into the bottom of the trifle bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle the top with crushed gingersnaps. Refrigerate overnight.

IMG_3812 (1)That’s it. It’s super easy, looks great and tastes so good. File it under EASY. Enjoy.

NYC: A Few of Our Favorite Spots

November 23, 2015
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Photo Credit: Karen Walrond

This month we’ve been highlighting a number of swell haunts in New York City, and related to that, we offer you a quick list of New York state of mind favorites from the Contributors con Queso. Check it.

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Wendi Aarons

I love just walking for blocks and blocks and blocks until my feet say “stop.”

 

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Jenny Lawson

My favorite thing in New York is Obscura Antiques and Collectables.  It’s a weird shop filled with taxidermy and exploded skulls and things that most people find in attics and are haunted by forever.  I bought a dead bird there once and they were very careful to give me a napkin to hold it with because it was covered in arsenic.  I highly recommend.

 

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Laura Mayes

The spots I have to hit change every year, but right now I’d want to start the day at Two Hands for breakfast, and then I’d just walk forever….west on Grand for 10 blocks to Thompson street north, through Washington Square Park, that turns into 5th Avenue and keep going north 100 blocks through the entirety of Central Park. Then I’d probably hang in the park, read and people watch all afternoon and head back down, stopping at the Richard Rodgers Theater at 5:55, when I’d go to the Ham4Ham show and no doubt win $10 tickets to see Hamilton that night. After the show, I’d go to Roberta’s in Brooklyn for pizza. Then back over to Pearl Street and Fraunces Tavern for a gin & tonic. The end. Amen.

 

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Photo Credit: Elizabeth McGuire

Elizabeth McGuire
The Irish Hunger Memorial (in Battery Park City). A lovely, thoughtfully designed piece of Irish countryside right in the middle of the city. Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park near a dog park. It feels very relaxed and local, and if you are a tourist missing your dog at home it’s nice to get a little fix here. The courtyard at the MOMA. A beautiful, tree-filled escape when you’ve been walking in and out of museums all day.

 

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Kristin Paull
I always ALWAYS plan lunch for myself at the top of Bergdorf Goodman. I feel like a fancy lady, and treat myself to a glass of champagne.  I buy a scarf, a Christmas ornament or a lip gloss to take home my purple bag.  Bonus if the Holiday windows are up! I grab a coffee and breakfast at City Bakery before hitting ABC Carpet and Home.  I love the first floor, and always feel inspired there. We do brunch in Brooklyn at Talde- best brunch ever…anywhere! Our current favorite dinner spot is Red Farm.  Go early and eat lots! Of course, I love the MOMA, a walk through Central Park, shopping in SOHO and a show on Broadway.

 

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Photo Credit: Karen Walrond

Karen Walrond
The High Line is a 1-mile long linear park in New York City, built along — get this — a long-abandoned, defunct elevated railway. It’s an amazingly beautiful pathway, filled with lush vegetation and colourful wildflowers, as well as musicians and other buskers, art installations, and some of the coolest views of the lower west side of Manhattan. Read more here.
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Photo Credit: Laurie White

Laurie White
New York…Everything, that’s all. The top of the Empire State Building at night. Super touristy. Perfect. Walking out of Penn Station from the train onto 7th Avenue is like the first time, every time. Anything can happen now. Walking for hours and never seeing the same great thing I’ll try never to forget twice.

 

So what about you? What are we missing? Go old school and leave us a comment here on the blog like it’s 2006. What is your favorite thing to do in NYC?

TBT: The Recipes of Thanksgivings Past

November 19, 2015
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Over the past few Thanksgivings, I’ve been channeling the ghosts of Thanksgivings past…specifically their recipes. And while I’m living in the house where enormous Thanksgivings were held, I feel like I need to live up to the traditions. The awesome food traditions. Most especially the awesome old-school Texas Thanksgiving food traditions.

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This is a bit tricky for me because I’m not an awesome cook at all, but I can follow directions, and I have a few, different yet simple Thanksgivingish recipes. So I’m going to throw down a few throw backs that have worked well in fairly recent Thanksgivings past, and maybe you’ll find them catchy.

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Pumpkin, barley and sage soup with green apple garnish. I like the idea of having soup at Thanksgiving. We never did this as I was growing up, but I think it’s a solid start. I’m bringing this soup this year.

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Kale, quinoa salad with grapes. I’m also bringing this salad. So I can then eat more pie. That’s just math.

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Ancho chilis stuffed with sweet potatoes, pecans and garlic. This is so Texas Thanksgiving. Like the traditional UT/A&M game, oh wait…except these chilis still happen.

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Pork tenderloin with pumpkin seed sauce. If you’re over the other other white meat, try the other white meat.

Photo Credit: Pork Be Inspired

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Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes. This photo does not do these justice. Trust me. It’s like mashed potatoes’ cool Texas cousin that you really want to watch the UT/A&M Baylor/TCU game with.

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Butternut squash and blue cheese risotto (whoa). This is my favorite. It’s like mashed potatoes’ cool New York cousin that won’t shut up about Hamilton.

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My Great Grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing Recipe. This is the quintessential Texas Thanksgiving must have. Also, it’s so so simple.

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Sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue. This is like Charlie and the Chocolate factory Thanksgiving dessert without the chocolate and all the whimsy. Just trust me on this.

And finally…no Texas Thanksgiving would be complete without…

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A Simple Pecan Pie. You just have to have it.

So Happy Cooking! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Boxed Set: Coterie Sampler

November 18, 2015
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We love this new trend involving things being sold in boxes. After all, anytime you can pay a little less for something to be delivered straight to you, I’m in. Add in the idea of not having to shop for anything and/or make any decisions at all, SOLD!

Now I get this concept is not for everyone. A ton of people are not into surprises, and not interested in paying for things that they didn’t have any say in selecting. And for those people, I say this is not for you. But it might be for someone you are wanting to gift something…and ’tis the season after all. So in our Boxed Set series over the next weeks, we are going to profile some different boxes that we think are well done. And we’re going to start close to home with Coterie Sampler, an Austin-made surprise package, delivered monthly.

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Coterie Sampler is the brainchild Chelsea Staires Sun, who founded Coteire Market to make it easier to buy locally in Austin. The market features products from business owned and operated in the Austin area, most handmade with locally-sourced materials. It delivers around Austin, but if you’re not in the delivery area, then you were sort of out of luck. But no more, now they have these monthly box of single-run, chef-made food options. And it comes to you in a white box, stamped with their logo that reminds me of old school stuff my grandparents used to get delivered. It has a vintage dairy or butcher shop quality to it. Plus, great fonts.

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There are two options. The Mark, has 6-8 items and goes for $60 and The Standard, 4-6 items for $40. I get the Standard.

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This is what it looks like when it comes in the mail.

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The first month featured fancy finishing salts from Lenoir, elaborate kale chips, lavender mosquito spray (which totally worked AND smelled good), posh rosemary gin & juice tea biscuits (I loved these), ginger pear preservers (seriously yes) and fruit-infused Sway water (that was really, really, really good).  $60+ worth of stuff that I would have never heard of or tried for $40. Not bad at all.

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I want to say it was almost worth it for the Lenoir Finishing Salt.

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Or the ginger pear preserves, which start a day (on toast) in such a good way. 

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The next month brought natural soap,  salted butter caramels (whoa), seasoned feta, chai latte mix, Gardner hot sauce and chili powder. So five items, $52+ for $40. Not bad.

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This month featured gingerbread meringue cookies (what?!), nutty autumn granola (yum), toasted almond and pecan breading (I have no idea what to do with this, but I’m looking forward to discovering the what what), Austin Honey Company candles, and togarashi caramel sauce & sprinkles. None of these are listed on the site yet, so the only way you can get them is through the box and I’m not sure how much these five items are worth.

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But I’m exceptionally excited about the togarashi caramel sauce from Counter 3. Five. VII. Because despite it’s ridiculously overcomplicated name, it is my newest favorite restaurant…the food and the whole experience is exceptional, more on that later. But this sauce is from its pastry chef Sarah Prito, who as far as I can tell is a freaking genius.

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Each month, the whole bit comes with an overview. For instance, the info they give on the Togarashi Caramel Sauce & Sprinkles: “Sarah’s Togarashi (Japanese 7 Spice) Caramel Sauce has flavors and infusions of orange peel, red chili, sansyo, and ginger, along with miso. The Sprinkles feature nori, black sesame, and white sesame. With warm, bright flavor that leaves just a hint of heat, this sauce is the perfect pairing with rich, fall desserts.

I don’t even know what most of that means, but I feel fancy just typing it.

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Besides the monthly subscription option, they have specific, singular boxes that you can purchase for singular, specific things and occasions. Check it. Or you can buy specific items as well (in case you fall in love with one specific thing and/or just want that.)

This is obviously the ultimate gift for the ultimate foodie. On the other hand, I love it and I don’t consider myself a foodie at all. I mean, I like food, yes, but I don’t even know what most of this stuff is when I get it. However, it opens my mind and my perspectives and it gives me a really good excuse to try new things. And that is worth $40 to me. It’s a nice treat for yourself or someone you love…Austin delicacies straight to you. Check it out.