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A Weekend Getaway

29 Jul

Lately, I’ve had a bad case of wanderlust which can only be satiated with adventure. With impending plans for a December getaway,  going far simply isn’t in the cards.
Sometimes something as simple as exploring a new part of Austin or going to a new restaurant can sooth the travel itch for a short while, but that wasn’t cutting it this time.
I have been proposing a day trip to Fredericksburg or Gruene to Anthony for a few weeks now, but when some friends invited us to spend the weekend at their family lake house in Burnet, we jumped at the chance to get out of town.
What beats a tree full of hammocks?

Lake Buchanan, Burnett Texas | Weekend Getaway from Austin

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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

Uchi Inspired Chopstick Holders

21 Mar

Forgive my absence for the second Tuesday in a row. This week, my husband told me I wasn’t allowed to blog “work” because of my birthday.

I got spoiled rotten for my birthday this year. This has truly been the birthday that never ends.

On Monday night, my husband took me to not one, but two, restaurants I have been wanting to try in Austin: Uchi for dinner, and Qui for dessert.

Which brings me to the easiest dinner party DIY. Don’t you love simple brilliance?

One piece of paper (2×3.5 in.)

One medium circle hole punch

One pair of chopsticks

Uchi Inspired Chopstick Holders www.gustoandgraceblog.com

You can make this easy, disposable, chopstick holder using any plain or patterned cardstock, to match any color scheme. You can write your guests names on them in calligraphy, or stamp, emboss, or print them.

Easy as birthday cake.

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!
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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 www.gustoandgraceblog.com

 

The image above may be deceiving, as you can’t actually press the play button. Unfortunately WordPress.com 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 *www.gustoandgraceblog.com

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 *www.gustoandgraceblog.com

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

Playing House: DIY Ombre Barstools

7 Jun

Like just about every nook in our house, our kitchen/dining room is undergoing a slow makeover. The dining set replacement and reupholstery did wonders, but the room was still bare and colorless.

In the market for barstools, our search was not as fruitful as we had hoped. Anthony and I wanted backs on our barstools, but liked the look and style of most backless ones more. I have been swooning over barstool benches but after seeing their hefty price tag, we both agreed if we were going to spend that much dough, we would rather have a  new couch.

While perusing Target, I pitched an off-handed idea to the husband after eyeing these snoring things:

Gusto and Grace Boring Barstool

The pitch: What if we bought three of those cheap-Os and painted each one a different shade of green? He did not even harass me for saying we can paint anything this time! His response: Let’s do it.

Green? Because my absolute favorite piece of our furniture sits in our dining room and it is (partially) green.

Gusto and Grace Alphabet Chest

The alphabet chest is amazing for kitchen organization. D is for Dishcloths, M is for measuring cups, N is for Napkins, T is for Towels. OCD much?

The same night, we loaded up three barstools in our car and within a week, this:

Gusto and Grace Bar Before

Turned into this:

Gusto and Grace Bar Makeover

The pot rack was a wedding present from our registry and we picked up the EAT from Target.

The ombre effect is what I was going for. If you’re going to try this at home, here’s what I learned:

1. Spray paint comes in very limited colors (Lowes, Michaels, and Wal-Mart have the widest selections).

2. Spray painting is the easiest way to achieve a smooth even coat.

I painted two with spray paint in the closest colors I could find to what I wanted (emerald and mint) and hand painted the middle one with Valspar’s Pine Green and a brush.

Now I am on the hunt for some curtains to hang on the swing arm curtain rods we got awhile ago. We also ordered new kitchen cabinet pulls to spruce up the area even more.

I see some jadeite in my future…

Throwback Thursday: That Old Couch

30 May

One of my favorite parts of my new life is nesting. Since Anthony and I started dating, what I’ve recently dubbed “The Estate” has changed dramatically. Since we have been married, The Estate has changed even more. Take the old couch pictured below as an example. Anthony had not one, but TWO of those poufy, tan guys in the living room.

Image

Then

One of Anthony’s old roommates now has the couches and we inherited Anthony’s parents’ old couch (pictured below) and moved it down from Fort Worth when my furniture migrated. Upgrade!

Image

Now

Of course eventually, Anthony and I want to choose couches of our own (I’d like something with tufting and a style similar to this, this, or this), but we are incredibly grateful for how much hand-me-downs and wedding presents have helped make our together home cozy.

I want to make our home into a safe place filled with love. I want the things we bring inside our home to be beautiful, practical and reflective of us. I hope everyone will come stay in our guestroom and share our version of home with us. My new brother, sister-in-law, and nephew will be coming in town this weekend and will be our first houseguests!

Maybe because I shifted from wedding blogs straight to home decor blogs, or maybe because I am nosey and in need of inspiration – I wonder how home-making is going for all of my newlywed Fort Worth friends… (Or even those who have been married for a while. Or even my single friends with adorably decorated apartments and houses).

Be on the lookout for more upgrades we’ve made and others we have in the pipeline.

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