Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Bar Cart Styling

I'm a little bit obsessed with my bar cart. As the only piece of furniture in our apartment that belongs to us, I try to make sure it screams "me". I wanted to give it a fresh update for spring, after it had been pretty vacant since taking down the holiday decor. I decided to go with one of my favorite color combos of mint, pink and gold, which is also vaguely reminiscent of our wedding day. You may be wondering why that mystery liquid in the dispenser looks a little creepy, but it's actually some very concentrated liquor muddling away in there... waiting for a hearty amount of Pellegrino to return it to a normal color. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gift Idea: DIY Margarita Kit

juicer and salt dish // bowl // glasses // straws // tray
On Saturday, some girlfriends and I celebrated the birthday of one of my oldest and dearest friends. During dinner, while reminiscing, we realized it has already been ten years since we met; I do not know where the time goes. I'm beyond lucky that Shannon has recently moved to none other than Austin, TX! I wanted to get her something special, preferably Texas-themed, and came up with the idea for a margarita kit. Every self-respecting Texan needs to master a good margarita, and what better way than with the cutest barware ever. 

I warned her that the gift wasn't exactly a conventional necklace or cute accessory, because I'm not capable of conventional. Luckily, she knows me. It all started with finding this juicer and salt dish, and I played off of the color scheme from there. Shannon's favorite color is basically the exact color of these glasses, so they just had to be purchased as well. It was a fun gift to put together, and any variation of this idea (with any type of cocktail) is a fun idea for an outside-the-box present.

Oh, and she loved it. The end.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Royal Hideaway Playacar, Mexico

In another rendition of TBT, I'm going way back (or what at least feels like way back) to Adam and I's very first beach trip together. Living in frigid Pennsylvania and Maryland, on a student budget nonetheless, didn't provide many beach opportunities, so this trip was a long time coming, but was so worth the wait. Adam had always reminisced fondly about a family vacation to a luxurious all-inclusive resort in Mexico, but the memories were one of a teenage boy, and neither of us were sure how the resort would hold up in semi-adulthood. As it turns out, The Royal Hideaway was an unbelievable all-inclusive, with fantastic restaurants, pools, tropical drinks, and of course a beautiful beach. 

I was dumbfounded by the cost of the resort, which I feel like was the best bang-for-your-buck I've ever had on a vacation. It was truly a hidden gem that literally everyone should look into immediately. If the pictures don't convince you, then take a look at the day bed above, which faced the ocean, and provided the most heavenly afternoon napping spot each day of the trip. I still dream about it often.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chipotle Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites

Remember that time I made guacamole? If not, it's literally right below this. Not only is this another guacamole-related recipe, but it's also another Z'Tejas ripoff. You can even make it with, I don't know, maybe my tableside guacamole. This appetizer is an amazing one for entertaining, because you can assemble them an hour or so ahead of time, and serve them at room temperature. Also, they're easy, especially if you use store-bought guac. For the "tostada" base, I used sweet potato tortilla chips from Trader Joe's; they were very yummy, and I was able to trick myself into thinking that they were also very good for me. This is win, win. I don't need you, Z'Tejas! (Yes I do).

Chipotle Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites

  • Small to medium shrimp
  • Chipotle or BBQ dry seasoning 
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Round tortilla chips or scoops
  • Guacamole
  • Creme fraiche 
  • Chipotle hot sauce
  • Cilantro

  1. Toss raw shrimp with chipotle seasoning (I used a mixture of chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, and Old Bay, but you can use any store-bought seasoning). 
  2. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute shrimp until just opaque and cooked throughout. Remove from heat.
  3. Top each tortilla chip with a dollop of guacamole, one shrimp, and a leaf of cilantro.
  4. Mix chipotle hot sauce into creme fraiche until desired level of flavor is achieved. Add mixture to a Ziploc bag and trim one small corner to pipe onto tostadas.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Z'Tejas Tableside Guacamole

Adam and I are fortunate/unfortunate enough to have one of our favorite Austin restaurants literally next door to our apartment. It's a dangerous location to be sure, but ultimately our close proximity to Z'Tejas is pretty great. Try as I might, I am just not an avocado fan at all (gasps from everyone who just cannot believe this, and yes that does include guacamole); however, Z'Tejas has made me realize that I can love guac, as long as it's doctored to my liking.

Their tableside guacamole is full of flavorful ingredients that are mixed fresh for you right at your table. The most important feature of this unbelievable dish is the addition of toppings: chipotle Tabasco, Cotija cheese, and pepitas. Yes, yes, and yes. Typical guac, in my opinion, is seriously lacking in flavor. After experimenting with replicating this version, I've realized that for me the inclusion of sea salt is an absolute must, and that hot sauce never hurts the cause either. This appetizer is now a staple in our house, especially when entertaining.

Z'Tejas Tableside Guacamole

Ingredients for basic guacamole:
  • 2 large Haas avocados, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1 - 2 T. diced red onion, to taste
  • 1 - 2 T. chopped cilantro, to taste
  • 1 - 2 T. diced jalapeƱo, to taste
  • Dash of fresh lime juice
  • Generous pinch each of sea salt and pepper
  • Roasted, salted pepitas 
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • Chipotle Tabasco
  • Cilantro garnish

  1. Combine all ingredients for basic guacamole in a medium bowl. Stir to combine, until desired consistency of avocado is achieved. This may be left chunky and just combined, or mixed to be more smooth.
  2. Transfer guacomole to clean bowl for serving, if desired. Top with crumbled cheese, pepitas, and chipotle Tabasco. Garnish with extra cilantro leaves.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster Truck

Texas and lobster don't exactly go hand in hand; but, there are exceptions to any rule. Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster is a food truck in Austin that flies fresh lobster in directly from Maine! When ordering, you have only two options, but this is more than enough. The Maine style roll is packed with cold lobster salad and just enough light mayo and seasoning, while the Connecticut style is served hot with melted tarragon butter. In both cases, the flavors are not overpowering, and the lobster is able to shine. To top it all off, both options are served on fresh, slightly sweet rolls from local bakery Sweetish Hill. 

You can also pick yourself up some clam chowder and chips to go with your roll, but we stuck with one roll each. Both were absolutely fantastic, though I preferred mine hot and buttery.  Check their site for locations, and try one (of each) for yourself.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Jameson Distillery {Dublin}

I've started to think of TBT as Traveling Back Thursdays; any time I look through throwback photos I'd like to share, they inevitably end up being of faraway places and experiences. The odd awkward childhood photo is also a favorite, but let's stick to travel. Today I'm thinking about reversing time back to the Jameson Distillery in Dublin. Going into this trip, I knew the Guinness Storehouse was a must, but I was blown away by how much we really enjoyed what Jameson brought to the table. The tour was interesting enough, as well as the inevitable whiskey tasting afterward, but it was the decor that really made the experience for me. Exposed brick and beams, chandeliers, and copper fixtures adorned the entire premises, and provided the perfect ambience for a stiff drink.