Texas’ capital city is home of eclectic and iconic sights, vibrant music (culminated in the annual South by Southwest experience), and what Memphians refer to as the “other” barbecue. Austin’s aspects are booming in all directions, whether from a geographical or culinary perspective. Despite its density in new restaurants and recreational offerings, the opportunities to eat, drink, and indulge in the “Keep Austin Weird” culture are approachable and accessible.
SXSW, unsurprisingly, unleashed a whirlwind of unparalleled sights, beyond blog-worthy tastes, and memorable connections across all mediums--panels, parties, meals, and even social media hashtags.
Just as I packed my schedule to the brim with new restaurant trials, branding and tech discussions, and innovative keynotes, I opted to fill my bag with new apparel pieces and accessories to match the "Best Of" faces and places at SXSW.
Upon packing, I realized that my three-year-old Ray Bans weren't going to cut it, especially with Austin's sunny weekend forecast. I soon-after stopped into Eclectic Eye Memphis', a unique eyewear boutique in Midtown, for a wow-factor pair of sunnies. Naturally, I couldn't decide on just one pair...and with the store's superior customer service and high-quality recommendations of truly "art for your face," I walked out with three.
Each pair complemented the facets of my Austin agenda, from colorful meals and classic coffee dates to chic events. Similarly, the three eyewear brands represent a diverse offering of design and color for Memphis, whose vibes I intentionally brought along to my old stomping grounds. Which pair do you like best? Casual and classic, mod and black, or loud and bright?!
During the first full day of SXSW, I eagerly biked to the Whole Foods headquarters to try Tartinette, the latest Whole Foods test kitchen concept. My pop-up lunch of colorful veggies and tartine garnishes paired perfectly with New Orleans-based Krewe du Optic Josephine frames in blonde tortoise 24K. The chic cat eye literally mirrored a sophisticated yet approachable lunch: grilled bread topped with addictive ingredients such as crushed pea with parmesan and salmon; or avocado crema with assorted mushroom and shaved radish.
The super dreamy Camille Styles + Who What Wear party was a weekend highlight for every guest. We mingled over flutes of Veuve and passed bites from Launderette, nodding our heads to tunes by a local female DJ, who spun poolside overlooking the Austin hilly, golden and green landscape.
My panels and exhibitions throughout Downtown -- demanding detail-oriented attention among thousands of pedestrians -- called for a polished look during #SXstyle and #SouthBites tracks to a Neiman Marcus pop-up "School of Self-Expression." Thus, I brought along black oversized frames by Anne & Valentin, which seamlessly worked with every outfit from dawn at Café No Sé to dusk at Geraldine's (on Rainey).
Until the next Austin Caramelized critique, check out more SXSW snapshots on Instagram...
...and shop my SXSW wardrobe below!
[show_shopthepost_widget id="1472935"] This post is brought to you by Eclectic Eye Memphis. Thank you for being supportive of my sponsors!
Prior to a day of SXSW panels on food trends, creative capital and digital influencers, I clicked "accept" to an Uber Surge in order to properly kick off my day at Café No Sé in the heart of South Congress at the to-die-for boutique hotel. The refreshing experience was well worth the surge.
From an interiors perspective, the café masters textural elements, incorporating light oak tables, raw wood walls, curvacious chairs, and mint tile. An area of the space is dedicated entirely to coffee + pastries--the large countertop boasts piles of almond croissants, chocolate scones and butter croissants. Diners in a hurry can walk right up and order. A to-go cup of French Pressed coffee wonderfully compliments a late morning walk among the antique stores and boutiques on South Congress.
My waiter guided my ordering process since I (per usual) struggled to make a decision. The menu options are delicate, offering just the right number of ingredients per dish without overwhelming the concept. My café scramble, which I couldn't help but photograph from ten angles, folded in spinach and toasted pine nuts with a small dollop of fresh ricotta.
The side of avocado called my name to complement the eggs--Best decision of the weekend yet.
Alas, my plate was a sectioned dish from heaven: avocado slices, grilled whole wheat toast, arugula with a sea salt and olive oil, and the egg scramble. Breakfast has never been so good.
A refashioned laudromat, gracefully posed as Launderette, defines creative opportunity. Though neighborhood restaurants such as LaV and Qui boast top-charted menus and interior finishes, the repurposing of an existing structure (once used to clean clothes) adds an unmatched charm and modish mood.
The hot neighborhood cafe with a cleverly eclectic menu, new to East Austin this year, jumped to the top of my friends' "must try" list upon our return to the beloved capital of Texas. We booked the community table an upwards of six weeks in advance for the Saturday night climax of our reunion weekend. And from birthday cake ice cream sandwich bites (with candles, of course) to craft cocktails and worldly cuisine, our meal at Launderette was no short of exceptional.
Our table of ten essentially covered the entire menu -- every bite knocked it out of the park. Our initial complaint of small portion size turned quickly into a blessing when we were essentially rolled out of the restaurant at 10:30 p.m.
The crowd favorite was debatable; I would attest that the toast duo (reminiscent of ABC Kitchen in NYC) of crab and soft egg were undeniably awesome. The crab toast was topped with avocado and fennel aioli on semolina bread. The soft egg toast (my personal favorite) holds asparagus, tallegio, truffle vinaigrette, and bottarga.
The creamy burrata appetizer also stole the hearts of many with its cashew and black mission fig medley and brown butter base. The accompanying grilled bread was so simple yet so satisfying. A few ordered the burrata for an entreé, simply because one bite wasn't enough.
Starters were stronger than entreés, in my opinion, though the housemade bucatini with shrimp and uni corn butter that I shared with a friend was richly rewarding. Sticky brussels sprouts almost challenged Uchiko's world-famous rendition, and the roasted cauliflower with mustard vinaigrette was wildly addictive.
Of course, we ended with the whimsical birthday cake ice cream sandwiches. I am so grateful I do not live in close proximity to this dessert, which could succeed on its own as a business. The cookie layer reminds me of childhood nights during which I'd sneak a bite of raw dough before placing on the baking sheet; the vanilla ice cream is speckled with colorful baby sprinkles. It's a true delight.
I'm feeling extra nostalgic on this throwback Thursday, commonly dubbed as "TBT." As I cloak myself in a Parisian trench to avoid the Southern spring rain, I am whisked back to two summers ago, when I experienced a dreamy six weeks abroad without managing to gain one word of French vocabulary nor one pound of weight. Miracles, I tell you. Upon visiting Austin last month, the sought-after dinner spot on my and Jake's itinerary is a new bustling Eastside French restaurant, laV restaurant and wine bar. It opened right before I moved to Memphis, and I never found a moment to sit and enjoy the French fare and wines. Yet throughout this past year, I've watched laV's fame grow, with national publications rewarding its incomparable wine program, and Eater Austin repeating its must-try menu month after month.
While I wish I could call myself a wine connoisseur, I am not. Luckily for laV guests, you're paired with a sweet sommelier, who will pair you with a sweet bottle of French wine. We gave her our price range and preferred palate; and boom: pure bliss in a bottle. Jake and washed down multiple baguettes (almost every menu item manages to include its housemade loaves) with the vin de bourgogne.
Jake and I were more impressed by the small plate selection than the entrées on our February menu (which changes monthly). So, naturally, we ordered four small plates, and one entrée.
The classic, buttery, garlicky, basil escargot was a no-brainer. The crispy yet creamy composition was irresistible. laV has this French rustic recipe perfected, so please order it. I don't remember a better version since sitting on a Provence patio two years ago.
My favorite dish was the surf and turf. Rather than an expected filet and lobster, we enjoyed sweet scallops with crispy fried sweetbreads (a pork that Hog & Hominy in Memphis similarly masters). The contrast was divine, and the bright green pea salad was simply beautiful.
The short rib whole wheat garganelli provided a fantastic 1:1 ratio of tender beef and buttery housemade noodles, sprinkled with pine nuts. Mussels were light and fragrant of garlic and curried spices, though the crusty bread brought light to heavy very quickly as we soaked up the remaining broth...Rustic and refined, as the restaurant identifies.
I was impressed by the eastern halibut's complexity without the need for a major carb component. The fishwas placed atop a mix of saffron crispy chick peas, clams, onions and peppers. The fish and peas were both buttery to the taste. The colorful ingredients were delightful to the eye.
I'm dying to go back -- if not to France, to the next best place: laV!
I placed Olivia on the Brunch section of my Austin city guide because, case in point, it has mastered the "New American," French-inspired brunch menu. Sweet or savory, light or rich, hot or cold; you'll find what you want here.
Our larger party ordered quite the variety on the patio and practiced the good 'ole taste-and-pass method so that everyone could get a bite.
I ordered the spinach florentine with prosciutto. Hello, beautiful presentation! The spinach overwhelmed the biscuit a bit, making it soggy rather than flaky and buttery. But the poached eggs were perfect, and the side of grapefruit brûlée was divine (Think crystals of sugar glazed atop juicy grapefruit segments). I will buy a torch just for my future grapefruit halves at home.
You can't go wrong with the vanilla french toast, lightly sugared with a vanilla syrup. The thinly sliced green apples were a nice crunch atop the pillowy toast halves. The sides of bacon were less crispy than I prefer, though the portions were mighty generous.
The salmon plate was the winner in my book! A gorgeous wood tray held smoked salmon, capers, whipped cream cheese, and the works. The lemon zest sprinkled atop the platter was my favorite part; It brought out so much flavor in the other components. The toast was crisp and dense enough to carry the salmon. Delicious!
I heard from across the table that the soft shell carb benedict was as tasty as it was perfectly presented. Radishes, carrots, and greens from the restaurant's garden studded the plate with just enough pops of color.