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Pizza Week

30 May

Love makes you do crazy things. In my case, it was eating pizza for dinner five nights in a row.

I am fairly confident pizza is my husband’s love language, so what better way to spend date night funds than to explore the pizzerias in Austin-town? We made a point to go to places we had never been before so, while delicious, Winflo, Home Slice, and Salvation Pizza didn’t make the cut. We also avoided chains, so Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Papa Johns were out.

Don’t bother consulting with your doctor before attempting to recreate this adventure, you already know what the M.D. would say.

Day 1: We went to aRoma, a brand new place a few miles from home. We devoured their pizza the second day they were open.

aRoma Pizza Austin

We ordered a pie with four cheeses, including gorgonzola, and added truffle oil (because what pizza doesn’t need more greasy fat?).

aRoma Tiramisu Austin

aRoma’s version of tiramisu was a personal favorite. It had the classic ingredients (which I am a stickler about) and a fun presentation. That is Kaluha granita melting on the side.

aRoma Tiramisu

Day 2: We wandered over to the Eastside and tried VIA 313: Detroit style pizza made in an Austin style eatery.

Via 313 Austin

The thick, meaty, square  pizza was comfort food to the core. Carb. Overload.

VIA 313 Austin PIzza

Day 3: Possibly my favorite of the five, Bufalina used fresh ingredients and baked its pizza in a wood-fired oven in the dining area. We arrived promptly at 5:30, Bufalina’s opening time, and there was a wait within minutes, for good reason.

I should have snapped a few images of the oven, the restaurant interior, and the delectable gnocchi we devoured while our pizza was prepared.

Bufalina Pizza Austin

Day 4: We ventured out to Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza in Dripping Springs.

Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza Pints and Pies Sign

Our Mediterranean pizza pie was topped with spinach, sundried tomatoes, olives, and feta.

Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza

I don’t think the pizza was worth the 45+ minute wait, but the outdoor-only dining allowed us to tote Nola around.  The atmosphere is also great for a large group.  In addition to the pizza, my favorite local brewery, Jester King, is located right next door.

Nola at Stanley's

Day 5: We headed to fabulous Rounders before going to a screening at the Ritz Alamo Drafthouse. The sign has been begging me to come in for months. Who can resist New York style pizza with a Vegas vibe?

Rounders Pizza Sign Austin

We had to go classic and ordered a plain ol’ pepperoni. We ordered the casino (small) size, and still brought home almost half of a pizza. Can I add that the garlic knots were the best of their kind?

Rounders Pizza Austin

Rounders is the place you want to have your birthday party as a kid or the place you might play endless arcade games on a first date.

Rounders Pizza Decor

Day 6: We mulled over the places that remained on our list, Eastside Pies, Pinthouse Pizza, Hoboken Pie, Little Deli and Pieous, and decided to save them for another day…

Thanks for reading,

♥ Dominique

South By so far

14 Mar

I ignored the warnings. “Stay away from South By,” and “Don’t go near downtown!” are phrases I’ve heard from many an Austinite regarding the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival that happens every year in March.

I ignored the warnings, and I am so glad I did.

Instead of a typical Gusto & Grace project based post, I am going to write about all the things I’ve been doing instead of blogging. O0000000ops!
Continue reading

Good Day Austin | DIY Wedding Invitations

25 Feb



I had a great time with Good Day Austin’s Anchor, Lauren Petrowski, talking about DIYing wedding invitations for their Make It Monday segment. I was thrilled to have the opportunity and am excited about the possibility of being a guest on the morning show again within the next few months.
FOX 7 | Good Day Austin: Make it Monday | DIY Wedding Invitations


The image above may be deceiving, as you can’t actually press the play button. Unfortunately doesn’t support FOX 7 videos. You can watch the video by visiting Good Day Austin’s website here: DIY Invitations.

The three minute segment really flew by, so be sure to check out my  six tips for DIYing your wedding invitation suite.

Thanks for reading and, now, watching,

♥ Dominique

How to Celebrate Christmas Like an Austinite

20 Dec

Austin Christmas GrafittiTraditions make a city feel more like home. When I first moved to Austin, I started thinking about why Fort Worth felt so much like home. After the obvious family and friend connections, and the sheer amount of time I lived there, I think it felt like home because of the traditions I had.

Each September or October I would go to the State Fair, I’d eat a mustard-covered Fletcher’s Corn Dog, and ride the Texas Star Ferris Wheel. Every November I would eat a gyro and chocolate baklava at the Greek Food Festival. Each December I would look forward to my friends’ Christmas In Black and White decade-themed costume Christmas party.

In an effort to make my new home feel more like home, I insisted on finding a few Austin events or activities I could look forward to year after year. If you’re looking to celebrate Christmas as an Austinite, here is what I suggest:

Trail of Lights 2013

1. Walk through the Festival of Lights in Zilker Park

Take a stroll through the light tunnels. Grab a cuppa hot chocolate. Get dizzy spinning under the tree. This year, there was a flip-book video booth and Anthony and I got an awesome memento our evening.

Zilker Park Tree

2. Buy your gifts from a local artist or store. 

Austin is filled with small businesses and local artists, buying gifts from these places is just the Austin way.

3. Go to a quote-along at the Alamo Drafthouse

I’m a believer. The Alamo Drafthouse is the best movie theater in the nation world. They have fun events year round, but during the holidays they host Elf Quote-Alongs and Home Alone All-you-can-eat-cheese-pizza parties. My husband and I learned of them too late to get tickets this year, so I scoured six stores before finding Home Alone on DVD, ordered plain cheese pizza, and had a party at home this year.

4. Decorate a tree on 360, or at least go and look at them

Before I moved here, Anthony told me how people would decorate trees on 360. I didn’t understand until we drove down highway and saw miles of trees decked out in tinsel and garland. My favorite tree was decorated like a reindeer. Next year, you’ll find me on the top of one of the hills, trimming a tree for all to see.

Hawaiin Tree Austin Texas

5. Go ice skating on the Plaza at Whole Foods downtown

The skating rink at the Austin-based grocery chain might be the closest thing to a white Christmas you will see in the capital city.

If you’ve moved to a new town and are missing home, I encourage to get out and try a few new things you can repeat at least annually.

Eat Here, Not There: A Dining Guide to Austin, Texas

9 Aug

Austin is a great place for a weekend getaway. The proof is in the pudding, or maybe in the fact that so many people I know have made the short trip south from Dallas-Fort Worth. This summer I have seen so many Facebook statuses asking, “What should we do in Austin?” or “Where should I eat in Austin?” I love answering this question. When people visit I want them to taste and see that Austin is good. I also am appalled at some of the suggestions their so-called-friends make. (It’s a joke, ladies and gentlemen, lighten up)

I certainly am not an Austin know-it-all, but  I may have a slight obsession with trying places I have not been before, which means I have been to a lot of places. And while the Facebook status suggestions are well-intentioned and not innately bad, there are so many places that go beyond average in Austin, often at the very same price.

What I hope to experience when I travel is the best of the local culture and cuisine.  This guide is far from comprehensive, but serves the purpose of directing you away from the mediocre suggestions, giving you enough options for a weekend full of great food.

An Austin Dining Guide *

Breakfast tacos are abundant in Austin. If you’re coming from Dallas-Fort Worth, I’d suggest you go to Tacodeli over Torchy’s, but only because Dallas-Fort Worth has Torchy’s Tacos. Otherwise I’d suggest Tacodeli or Torchy’s over all other taco stands. My husband’s favorite breakfast taco is Taco Deli’s Otto. He added, “refried black beans with bacon and avocado…drooooooooooool .”

Craving a sandwich for lunch? Noble Sandwich Co. or Royal Blue, not Thundercloud Subs, are two great options. Noble Sandwich Co., previously known as Noble Pig, was featured on Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives. Royal Blue, on the other hand, is an unassuming grocer that sells pressed sandwiches from their front counter. Note: Their Store on 3rd and Lavaca does not sell pressed sandwiches. Thundercloud is like Austin’s personal Subway. They make average subs that a working Austinite might grab for lunch because it is quick, cheap, and local, not because it is anything to write home about.

For ice cream head to Lick, not Amy’s. If you ask people where to go and they don’t tell you Amy’s I’d be shocked. Amy’s is fine and dandy and even “Austin,” but Lick is an experience. Lick is made using all local ingredients, and while they have standard flavors like chocolate, they also offer creations like Goat Cheese, Honey and Thyme Ice Cream, as well as vegan and non-dairy options.

An Austin Dining Guide *

Texas barbecue is an Austin must. But if someone suggests Salt Lick, head to Kruez Market instead. Both are a short drive outside of Austin, but Kruez Market has been around more than a century and their pits are built into their floors. It is way cool with more meat options than your average bbq joint. If you’re looking for barbecue within city limits, hit up Lamberts or Franklin. Here is the secret to Franklin: People wait in line hours before it opens and it only stays open till they sell out, but if you go around 1pm, you won’t have a long line and while they might be sold out of some options, there is a good chance they will  still have their melt-in-your-mouth brisket.

If you want some good Tex-Mex, I’d send you to Trudy’s, not Gueros. Guero’s is sub-par Tex-Mex in the right location. My favorite on Trudy’s menu is the stuffed avocado. If you want to sip a cocktail while you’re dining, they’re known for their Mexican Martini. Splurge a little and go for the non-house tequila.

If people suggest Hopdoddy for a burger or Homeslice for pizza, they haven’t steered you wrong.

Good food and vacation are like peanut butter and jelly. In the words of  comedian Jim Gaffigan, “Really, that’s all a vacation is… Us eating in a place we’ve never been. ‘Well, why don’t we eat something… then we’ll go and get something to eat. Then we’ll see that thing we’re supposed to see, they’ve probably got a snack bar there, right? After that, we should probably get something to eat, though.

So for that “thing we’re supposed to see,” here’s what I suggest: If you’re into sites and history, visit the Texas State Capitol and the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum. If you like art, visit the Blanton. If you want to cool off, take a dip in Barton Springs. And if you’re up for adventure, try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake. Explore South Congress for unique shops, and Rainey Street if you’re looking for a drink in a unique locale.

If you need more suggestions, I’d be happy to help; just consider this my version of Eat This, Not That.

Enjoy Austin!

A Scoop of My Favorite Ice Creameries and a Chocolate Hazelnut Recipe

13 Jun

I would eat ice cream in the snow. That is how much I love the milky, melty dessert.  I don’t discriminate between gelato, custard, or frozen yogurt either.

Walking through Anthropologie last week, I found these ceramic ice cream cones. I had to pick up a couple since I have been drooling over the Virginia Sin version, which cost three times as much, since I saw them. Then of course, I had to break out my ice cream maker and create something that would give my new dishes a purpose.

Gusto and Grace: Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

Since I have not made much ice cream, I searched for recipes from the best ice cream makers I know: Jeni’s and lick. My favorite local place for lunch, Royal Blue, introduced me to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in the form of a macaron ice cream sandwich. I was bewitched.  Anthony and I went to lick by accident when exploring Austin. If you find yourself in the Capital of Texas, GO! They had me swooning at salted caramel and melting over their Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey variety.

I could not find anywhere lick had given away their secrets, but I did find a recipe for Jeni’s Ice Cream Base. I used that, and flavored it chocolate hazelnut.

Gusto and Grace Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream
(makes about 1 quart)

2 cups milk
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (I used pralinutta since my crazy husband doesn’t like nutella)

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set aside. In a saucepan (3-qts was plenty big), whisk together the remaining milk, 1 1/4 cups cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in milk-cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk mixture. In a small bowl (in the microwave) or in a small saucepan (on the stove), melt the chocolate hazelnut spread and mix with the remaining cream. Mix the milk base and the chocolate sauce together. Pour the mixture into a large plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled. (You can also refrigerate it in the container of your choice, however using a bag in and ice bath is the fastest cooling method). Once cool, pour into an ice cream maker and mix per the manufacturer’s instructions. I had it in my KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment for about 20 minutes. Transfer the soft ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set. I let mine firm up overnight. Scoop. Lick. Repeat.

Maybe once I perfect Jeni’s base, I’ll swap the cream cheese for some goat cheese. And maybe Anthony and I can take a short roadtrip to Blue Bell. #icecreamdreams

Austin Nominations

10 Jan

Fort Worth offers a lot to miss, but Austin offers a lot to love. Leaving Fort Worth, my home for the last 12 years, when I marry Anthony in April will be bittersweet (but mostly sweet). I have enjoyed exploring the hometown of my future. Consider the following my Austin Nominations.

Ramen Tatsu-ya  is nothing like the 15 cent package of noodles many people associate with the word “ramen.” With marinated eggs and pork belly, this unassuming restaurant gave me a few surprising firsts.  The soup’s pork broth is said to stew for up to 60 hours!  No wonder it is currently only open for dinner.  Before you go, be sure to check out their website.  There are some important “rules” for eating ramen that one should read up on, lest your friends ridicule you for being a ramen rookie!

Parkside Calamari 1

Chef Shawn Cirkiel owns two of my favorite restaurants: Parkside and Olive & June . Go at happy hour for their half off specials. Parkside offers the best calamari I have ever eaten, so lightly breaded and crisply fried, served with a garlic aioli. Olive & June is an otherworldly experience, with a menu designed for up to five courses, Anthony and I skipped the high dollar entrees and sampled several of the “Piccoli Piatti,”  which are two to three bite plates. We also ordered an antipasti offering, and shared a pasta dish and dessert. Everything we tried was amazing: pork meatballs, swordfish spiedini, testaroli, suppli, short rib ravioli, and chocolate hazelnut panna cotta. Did I mention they serve fresh bread with ricotta instead of butter? Go directly to Olive & June, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

If I am craving a sandwich I’ll head to Noble Pig, featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If I am looking for a sandwich downtown, I will head to Royal Blue Grocery for one of their hot sandwiches. My favorite is the Reuben, Anthony’s, the Cuban. If I want a splurge while at Royal Blue, I will savor one of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Macaron Sandwiches.  Open until midnight, this Grocer has the added perk of being a great late night spot.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar is the burger joint of Austin. The ordering system is unique in that you order from a counter but must pick out a place to sit before ordering. With choices ranging from your standard cheeseburger to a lamb burger or a Texas Akaushi Beef burger, inventive, delicious and fresh hamburgers define this spot.  A location has recently opened in the Dallas area, so be sure to check it out if you’re craving a meaty meal.  

Gordough’s Public House is both indulgent and delicious. They serve, wait for it…. doughnut burgers and doughnut sandwiches. They also have a selection of dessert doughnuts. Anthony and I altered the menu a bit and shared their cheesecake stuffed doughnut with salted caramel sauce.

Bangers, a sausage and beer joint,  is located on Rainey street, a corridor of old homes that have been converted into businesses. They offer links such as Duck, Bacon and Fig, Chicken, Tequila and Habanero, or classic English Bangers. If craft beer is your thing, Bangers has the largest selection of beer on tap I have seen, claiming 103 different taps. 

Franklin Barbecue

Texas at its finest, Franklin Barbecue is a place you have to go (at least) once. Since Aaron Franklin solely slices and serves the meat the line is long,but the brisket is the best. The line forms before they open, and they close when they sell out. My advice is to go later in the afternoon around 1 or 1:30, the line will have died down, and they will be sold out of everything except their melt-in-your-mouth brisket.

Doc’s has a Stuffed Avocado I crave. While there is a location on South Congress, Anthony and I frequent the Doc’s further south, with a more laid back atmosphere. This is a good spot for game watching. 

South Congress Cafe, otherwise known as SoCo Cafe, more closely resembles an upscale dining experience than a cafe.  When Anthony and I went for dinner on one occasion, I ordered and enjoyed the delectable coffee braised short ribs.  This South Congress staple is also a hot spot for brunch, though I might consider its Italian neighbor, Vespaio, my go-to for brunch fare.

Home Slice Pizza, also on South Congress, is another Austin favorite.  Grab pizza by the slice to go or get a table inside and order a piping hot pie.  Anthony and I enjoyed the Sausage and Ricotta white pie.  As quirky South Austin goes, we took advantage of a special they were running by impersonating a celebrity, to get 10% off!

Salvation Pizza has the most amazing garlic bread.  It is a loaf of sourdough bread sliced across the top with garlic butter and cheese inserted between the hot slices making it brilliantly melted and delicious.  The variations of pizzas and pizza toppings also make this an excellent place to enjoy a pie.

Justine’s is on the far east side. If French food is what you’re craving, Justine’s is the place. Ignore their weird website and go try their food.

I learned about Holy Cacao, a food truck on South First, from Tory Burch’s blog. Skip the cake balls and go for the Frozen Hot Chocolate, inspired by both Serendipity III and City Bakery in New York City. The Frozen Hot Chocolate is the perfect hot chocolate for winter Texas style.

big top 1

Big Top is an old fashioned candy shop and soda fountain.  This narrow store is filled with traditional and classic candy and chocolate offerings, as well as some rare and odd candies that you will not find in a grocery aisle.

Overpriced but well curated, uncommon OBJECTS is a fun store to browse. Wandering through its aisles is an alternative to standing around while waiting to dine at any of the South Congress restaurants. A few other shops worth mentioning are JM Dry Goods/Spartan and Aviary.

My movie-loving fiance and I have gone on many dates at the Alamo Drafthouse, a cinema with great shorts before the movies, a local menu, and, in true Austin fashion, non-disposable dishes.  But be aware, this is a no-nonsense theatre.  Late comers will not be allowed in the theatre. Nor will children under the age of six, unless the movie is a kids’ movie. Talkers and texters WILL be kicked out! 

If you are seeking a history lesson, I love the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. I am excited to re-visit after the recent renovations.

Sometimes I think that Anthony and I live like tourists, exploring and adventuring through our own cities as if we had never walked them before.

Adventures in Austin City Limits

16 Oct

This past weekend, Anthony and I attended ACL Festival, or Austin City Limits Festival, a 3-day music festival in Zilker Park, with over 120 bands playing on 7 different stages. We watched somewhere around 22 of them. If I had to play favorites, The Colorfeels, Ben Howard, Gary Clark Jr., and Florence + The Machine would be at the top of my list. Finish reading this post, then go immediately and check them all out.

ACL Fest 2012

ACL rules say you’re not allowed to bring in cameras with a removable lens, so we broke out the old Polaroid camera my uncle gave me and my siblings when we were small and ordered some of the Impossible Project‘s Film.  I also thought it would be an appropriate time to download Instagram. We saw so many people with DSLRs, and overheard people tell the gate guards that the lenses didn’t come off. We decided to stick to the rules and have our fun by documenting our time with our instant camera and Instagram. If my scanner wasn’t boxed up in Austin, I’d upload the Polaroids.

The first day, we found a no-hassle, free parking spot 1.2 miles from Zilker (yes, this can actually be considered a great spot for the fest). We returned there each day. That was where our adventures began. Friday, we walked past different tents handing out sodas and goodies, and scored some more shades; this time, in a fun blue hue.

When gearing up to go we had a dilemma: bring chairs and lug them around all day or a blanket that could squeeze into the backpack? I’m very much the “travel light” type. This question was easily answered as we conducted our own “social experiment”. Friday we brought one inexpensive folding chair that would not be missed if lost or stolen and placed it at a stage near the festival entrance. We proceeded to stage hop and left the chair. In the end, our chair was safely resting where we left it. Anthony said that  leaving the chair was like leaving your dinner plate at a buffet restaurant. That made me giggle. While the blanket was great, it poured on Saturday, so chairs were a much better option for the mud. We picked up a second chair for Sunday.

Sweet Leaf Tea Smiles

With a crowd of about 80,000, ACL is people watching at its prime. Can you say gold lame leotards? If outfits didn’t make you stand out in the crowd, many people made “flags” so they could easily be found by their group. It felt a bit like ESPN’s College Game Day. Anthony and I stuck together the whole time, so we didn’t need a flag, but when meeting up with some friends it was easier to find each other by saying fun things like, “We’re to the left of the giraffe, in front of the tie-dye.”  My favorite flag was an upside-down turtle with a speech bubble that said, “This is awkward.”

When we needed to re-energize ourselves, we found plenty of food options at the festival. Booths lined the edge of the grounds with mostly local selections. Everything from food truck tacos to local organic salads and tamales were available. Fort Worth’s Tim Love even made an appearance with two booths (Love Shack and Woodshed)! I think the selection was a reflection of Austin as it was very “foodie” for a festival. Truffle Pomme Frittes from Second Bar + Kitchen, and Boomerang’s Australian style hand pies were among our choices over the weekend. I wanted to try Watermelon with Goat Cheese and Pop Rocks, but never did get around to it. After the festival Friday and Saturday, Anthony and I decided to grab a late night bite to reflect on the days’ events and discuss our favorite acts.
We sure are glad we chose ACL over the Red River Rivalry game this year…
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