Archive | February, 2012

Think Inside the Box

21 Feb

I have been on a French kick lately.  Right now, anything French is cool.  I have this grandiose idea of living in Paris,  I want to learn to speak French, I want to eat French food, I want to bake French pastries, I am currently reading My Life in France by Julia Child – the list goes on and on.  Not sure where all this originated, though I have a suspicion it started after watching Midnight in Paris, which now reminds me of the time I had a very strong desire to live in Spain after watching Vicki Cristina Barcelona… don’t put shiny objects in front of me, I will follow them. 

So I was quite excited to go to La Boite, the French eatery on South Lamar that is housed in a shipping container.  Boite is a French word that literally means box and that is exactly what the place is – a rectangular box.  I love that they have taken the “Reuse Reduce Recycle” motto to heart and used an object that was built for such a specific purpose and repurposed it into something quirky and fun.   Sometimes my imagination can go in all kinds of silly directions and I started wondering:  Where has this shipping container been?  What exotic places has it traveled to and how did it arrive here?  By boat?  By rail?  What precious cargo did it contain?

Well I can tell you what it contains now – a whole lot of yumminess!  And will someone please tell me how I have been alive for 40 years and just now have tasted my first macaron???  Oh my, those little French cookies are like fluffy pillows filled with pure sweetness.  I tried two flavors – Pistachio with chocolate ganache and salted caramel.  If my life depended on it, I still couldn’t tell you which one I liked more.  They were both divine.  I also enjoyed the almond croissant, which was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and absolutely wonderful.  In fact, while I was there a person called in to ask if there were any of those croissants left.  Since they only had two, the caller asked to please please please hold them – they would be over immediately to grab them!  So they must be in high demand.

La Boite also serves great coffee, teas and sandwiches, so I plan on making a trip over there during lunch.  Since the box is tight on space (though so cute), the seating is located outside under a shade canopy.  If you’d rather just pick up something to go, the parking is convenient and easy.  They open at 7:30 am on the weekdays, 8 am on the weekends and close at 4:30(ish).  They have also just opened up a second location at 1006 Congress Ave.

So my French obsession has been reinforced, thanks to La Boite.  Hopefully I will one day find myself in France but until then, I intend on eating every macaron flavor they make.  Bon appétit!

 

La Boite Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Easy Does It

13 Feb

East Sixth Street is not a place I frequent often – too dirty, too wild and too young for my taste.  But I know the city has been trying to revitalize this area in recent years – Sixth Street is after all what Austin is known for.  I’m happy to report that a great new addition has just opened up on this iconic street and I think it’s exactly what this area needs.

The place is Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden.  When I first heard the name, I thought “Mmm…beer and baked goods??  That’s an interesting combination.”  Interesting combinations usually get my attention, so of course I had to see it for myself.  It is located on the south side of east 6th, just west of  I-35.  The store front is very inviting and classy, something this street desperately needs (they don’t call it “dirty six” for nothing).  When you walk in, you are immediately greeted by friendly staff and an array of baked goods on display.  Behind the glass wall, you can see the bakers hard at work – like little elves!  This is a great place to order a coffee and pastry to go.

However, take a look to your right and you see a brightly lit arrow, beckoning you down a staircase to where the real action is.  Down here in the basement is the beer garden part of the equation – a tavern surrounded by painted brick walls with one very long bench seat along the perimeter of the space and plenty of wooden tables/chairs.  You could fit a lot of people down here.  There is also an outdoor patio that steps out to Waller Creek.  The much neglected Waller Creek, which begins at the UT campus and meanders its way through downtown, is about to get a serious facelift through an exciting revitalization project that is just in the beginning stages, with the goal of turning what equates to 20 city blocks into a useable, urban green space.  After this project is complete, Easy Tiger will be on prime real estate.  If  you are at all interested in this huge undertaking,  you can read about it here.

Mmm...wonder what's down here??

They have a great selection of beers on draft, as well as a few wines.  This is a great place to hide away with a few (or many) friends to put back a few cold ones – it has the charm of an old tavern that has been here for years.   Most likely you will have worked up an appetite by now.  No worries, Easy Tiger has that covered – as in awesome sausage made in-house.  I tried the sausage of the day, which was made of lamb.  And it was awesome.  I ordered it as a sandwich and it came on this fantastic baguette that was a cross between a soft pretzel and french bread.  Really good folks.  I also tried their homemade beer cheese with a pretzel – pretty tasty.

I had to take a bite - couldn't wait

My impression of Easy Tiger?  I like it.  It’s comfortable, it has a fun atmosphere, its good for an intimate one-on-one date and it can also handle a large gathering.  The food menu is not extensive – basically if you don’t like bread, cheese or sausage, you’re out of luck (however, make note that they do serve vegetarian sausage).  I did not see any evidence of a happy hour, but the place has only been open 4 weeks, so that could change.   As far as I can tell, Easy Tiger gets the “bake shop” part right and with the “beer garden” part, you can’t go wrong.

Easy Tiger on Urbanspoon

Hugo is the Place To Go

5 Feb

It’s a beautiful, clear evening in Austin, Texas – warm enough to enjoy the outdoors (gotta love Texas winters).  The perfect environment for, you guessed it – happy hour!  I felt the calling of a margarita in my near future, so I gathered up a group of friends and we headed over to Hugos Restaurant Y Tequila Bar, located on Lamar Blvd, just south of the river.

Hugos has several things going for it.  First is the easy parking available in the parking garage next door – and it’s free.  Second is the large outdoor deck – just what we needed to take advantage of this awesome weather.  And third, but definitely the most important item on this list  – great margaritas.  Happy hour runs 4 to 7 pm Monday – Friday and includes $4 select appetizers, $2 Dos XX, $3.50 well drinks and $4 margaritas.  Not only were the ritas great, they were cheap too!

puts the "happy" in happy hour (photo by Melissa Skorpil)

I also had my fill of a couple of appetizers.  First up was the Tres Queso-dillas – your standard quesadilla that was quite tasty, but nothing unusual.  The second appetizer I tried was the mini empanada slider – and these were delicious.  Crispy pastries filled with pork, topped with a little pico and a wonderfully sweet yet tangy mango mustard sauce.  The house margaritas, I prefer mine on the rocks, were a little tangy, not too sweet and perfectly refreshing.  If you are a tequila connoisseur, then this place is right up your alley because Hugos has a very extensive list of the agave concoction to choose from.

empanada sliders (photo by Melissa Skorpil)

I  think what can really make or break a place is the wait staff and I found the wait staff at Hugos to be excellent.  Our poor waiter had the packed outdoor patio all to himself at first and he really had to hustle to keep all of us happy – which he did.  Soon others came to help out and they were all on top of things – our glasses were never empty for long!  Want to know another thing, other than ritas, that makes me smile?  Cute puppies!  And Hugos has those as well, since they allow dogs on the patio.  So bring your pups, your appetite and your thirst for a good time, because Hugos delivers on all of the above.

Hugos Restaurant Y Tequila Bar on Urbanspoon

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