Texas Pecan Pie

IMG_1963 Corsicana, Texas (fifty miles south of Dallas) holds a treasured tradition that, believe it or not, has been around for over one century. Yes, the quaint, family-owned Collin Street Bakery has been shipping pies and their infamous fruitcake since 1896. While I cannot fully comprehend the depth and breadth of this well-established company, I will tell you that they make a mighty fine pecan pie. Hence why I declare today not Wednesday, but Pieday.


Will, one of the owners, shipped a pie and fruitcake to my apartment this past weekend to receive my opinion. He attached a hand-written letter with thoughtful suggestions for serving and enjoying the handmade desserts. Southern hospitality does wonders.

Well, Will, when you literally provide a pie for my kitchen table, you don't have to do much convincing.


I cut a slice (maybe two) and heated it in the microwave for 20 seconds. The molasses melted and created the oozy-gooey texture few can master. Upon the first taste, you'll immediately notice the pecan-sugar blend. I loved it. Plus, the roasted pecans were extra sugar-coated, reminding me of my favorite Billie's Pecans blend. The crust, while thin, proved extra flaky and buttery. Hello, heaven.

Order your own baked confection (or send to a special someone) with the code "41CARA" and I promise you will not be sorry! Did I mention the bakery also makes cookies, cheesecakes, cakes, and anything you could ever dream of? Did I also mention the bakery specializes in shipping special orders, especially if you do not live in Corsicana? It's true - a Christmas miracle!


This post is in partnership with Collin Street Bakery. Thank you for supporting our sponsors!

Second Bar and Kitchen (Austin)

If you have seen yesterday's Facebook post, you most likely laughed at the length of restaurants I intentionally squeezed into my epic three-day visit to Austin, Texas. It was absolutely wonderful from start (at Clark's) to finish (at Juiceland) with seventeen of my best friends. The coffees, afternoon snacks, and dirty martinis were not taken for granted, either. I don't know how I managed to consume that many calories (Was the Easy Tiger pretzel really necessary? Yes.), but I'm still standing. So let's continue. 10372765_10203348004560131_5603877245741812188_n

For our first dinner, thirteen of us took a piece of the vast Second Street heated outdoor patio at a favorite, Second Bar and Kitchen. The long table provided enough room to pass and share plates among the group. So that's just what we did!

Unfortunately, we dug into the appetizers too quickly to photograph, but the variety was perfect for our party size. The baked brie with sweet currant-apricot mostado and spicy basil was crowd pleaser -- melted cheese spread onto a toasted crostini like butter. The garlic gnocchi with winter squash was excellent and super seasonal, considering its light and simple disposition. Pumpkin seed-flecked ricotta salad added a slightly rich component. If only the gnocchi was a large plate instead of a small one! We also enjoyed the avocado fundido (think guac and queso combined), bite-sized veal meatballs, and a margarita pizza.


For my entrée, I about died over my vegetarian mushroom carbonara. The combination was smoked and raw mushrooms was fascinating, and the housemade linguine melted amongst the grana padano cheese and crispy arugula. The above photograph shows only half of the portion (since I split with Risa), so be aware of the mighty large portions. I could've eaten two, this was so unbelievable!


The flank steak with chimchurri had a colorful presentation with fresh chiles and cilantro. Others enjoyed the infamous pizzas and raw kale and carrot salad with jumbo grilled shrimp. We were impressed with the efficient service and attention to detail, even for a large group. And while I had already experienced Second Bar and Kitchen twice -- once for an afternoon cheese plate and once for a Sunday night dinner -- I loved the weekend patio vibe. I can't wait to revisit!



Qui (Austin)


IMG_5591 I feel a subtle sense of intimidation right now. How am I, a food blogger and chef-wanna-be, qualified to "critique" and conjure up dining details of Austin's hottest restaurant? Frankly, I'm not. Therefore, this post will not be filled with expert judgments of typically mispronounced ingredients or attempts to portray the culinary brilliance of Top Chef winner and Food & Wine Best New Chef Paul Qui. The menu was a spectacle, the food was magnificent, and the restaurant's decor was completely out-of-the-box. . .obviously. Would you expect anything less?

I was most impressed by Qui's customer service, which is the primary reason I feel entitled enough to share an opinion of the place. Three of us managed to grab a 9:15 reservation on a Friday night; so we eagerly saved up our appetites and entered the minimalist establishment right on time. The hostess walked us to a patio area, inviting us to order a drink while our table was prepared. We enjoyed "the official drink of Austin" -- Chef won the city-wide contest with his bold tepache and honey cocktail. Yes, it was a winner.

Thirty minutes later, we had not yet been seated -- the time flew due to awesome people-watching and funky, eye-drawing patio decor. Before an opportunity even arose to ask the hostess for an update (i.e. complain), the manager arrived at our cocktail table and offered four appetizers on the house to apologize for the delay! I knew it would be a fantastic night. . .and it was.


Chef Paul Qui expresses his witty character in every dish. We were instantly enthralled by the menu, which our waiter explained in detail and with such passion. We tried eight dishes or so in total, but our table began with a play-on version of cheese spray and ended with an aged cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich. Interesting, right? Chef is deeply rooted in Filipino tradition, yet he cannot pass by the Texan influence; his Texas wagyu and Filipino curry marry without question. The smoked short rib (first photo) was my very favorite of all that we tried.

This can't-miss restaurant completely surprised my palette and surpassed my expectations of customer service. Chef Paul Qui is truly something else, and I cannot wait to revisit his newest namesake.


featured image via qui austin

Lick Ice Creams (Austin)


IMG_6516 Need to cool off during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend? I have just the right suggestion for this unbearably hot, spectacularly sunny Austin weather. Opened just this past year, Lick Ice Creams is already making its mark for homemade local goodness in every bite.

First of all, Lick's location is prime. Situated right next to my favorite lunch and dinner spots -- Henri's Cheese Shop and Barley Swine, respectively -- you won't be able to resist a scoop after a delightful meal. However, if you're not eating at one of the two neighboring restaurants, no worries! The drive down the funky, foodie-centric South Lamar is always an enjoyable one (after passing Whole Foods/Fifth Street traffic).

The ingredients are gourmet, and the flavors are distinctive (Texas sheet cake!?). The texture is smoother than most competitors', and the store has mastered the perfect-sized scoop that neither overwhelms nor underwhelms. Might I add that there is also an awesome t-shirt selection!

I'm sure you can't go wrong with any flavor option, but I personally recommend the Strawberry Basil if you're in a fruity mood, or the Caramel Salt Lick if you're feeling super sweet.

Please share your favorite Lick flavors!


Noble Sandwich Co. (Austin)


IMG_6434 In an effort to eat more healthily during a mid-day lunch outing, I tend to steer clear of heavy sandwiches and, instead, choose a salad. A gorgeous salad ignites the feeling of, "Yes Cara! You ate your veggies and do not need to feel guilty....until dinner!" But obviously, there are few exceptions to this choice of mine. I have a fairly high standard of sandwich options that beat the leafy lunch while avoiding pangs of guilt.

Meet the Noble Sandwich Company.

High-quality ingredients, fresh breads and rich flavor combinations inspire this restaurant's attempt at mastering the art of sandwich making. I believe these guys have it pretty down pat. The 15-person line out the door of the Burnet location proves this true...wouldn't you say?


Jennifer and I ordered with much deliberation (as always), and we found ourselves waiting in an adorable picnic table area on the back patio. We sipped Topo Chicos in the sunshine, anticipating our sandwiches and hoping they were worth it. It = calories.

My Knuckle Sandwich arrived on a lightly toasted hoagie, piled with roast beef, horseradish, caramelized onions, and cheddar. I accidentally ignored the au jus on the side, which would have basically identified this sandwich as a glorified Philly Cheesesteak. Much better than most cheesesteaks, obviously.


Jennifer's Thai Chicken sandwich was ideal for the non-red-meat persona. The flavor was bold. The bread was toasty and fluffy. The jalapeño cabbage slaw (which I ordered separately as a side) provided crunch and color. Both of us would have substituted the potato chip side, had we known they came with our sandwiches. I've heard their housemade fresh pickles are a winner!

Friends, here me out: Save the salad for another day and bite into a Noble Sandwich. It's well worth it; in fact, you'll feel more guilty for missing out on the indulgent opportunity.

Elizabeth Street Cafe (Austin)

IMG_6508 It's true: You will not find Elizabeth Street Café's eclectic menu of French and Vietnamese fusion anywhere else. And it's a good thing, cause no other attempt could beat it. The mint house welcomes an immediate sense of comfortable delight. The trendy waiters, in floral dresses, bring pinot grigio in small glasses and welcome any questions on the commonly-mispronounced pho or bun. Basically, once you try this café once, you'll keep coming back. I have been coming back for years and still cannot get enough!


After a round of drinks, we ordered a colorful array of dishes and house specialties. My new pink sunnies and Hannah's hot pink nails seemed to match the vibe and color scheme well! Unless you're sensitive to spice, you cannot go in any wrong direction with this menu.


I absolutely loved the tofu and avocado steam bun special with red chili flakes and cilantro (top photo). I'm a sucker for fluffy steam buns, and the avocado/tofu combo was light and airy for a breezy spring night. Above, Hannah and Hannah stuck with a usual Elizabeth Street delicacy -- vermicelli with a lean yet bold flank steak and all the fixins. With an extra spoonful of plum sauce, you'll be in heaven, too.


Jennifer's rice paper spring rolls are, in my opinion, the best in the city. I always go back and forth between the poached shrimp or jumbo lump crab options. Each serving comes with a sampler of three tangy sauces to mix together or enjoy separately: classic peanut, ginger-jalapeño (go easy on this one), and sweet chili vinegar.


This past dinner at Elizabeth marked the third time I have ordered the green mango and cucumber salad -- the underrated appetizer is awesome. Beyond the gorgeous colors and textures going on, there's a unique contrast of sweet fruit, savory beef jerky pieces, and herbal thai basil. I recommend ordering this salad with spring rolls or steam buns for a lighter meal -- sometimes, it's difficult to delve into the intense bowl of pho (especially when you're saving room for Gourdough's next door...).

I hope you pop on over to this unforgettable spot soon!