Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wine Bars

Jen is a huge fan of wine bars and we go to wine bars often on dates. Below are some of the bars we have visited and my personal 2 cents.
Uncorked Great bar that overlooks downtown. 1 block east of I-35. They often have live music and events. $$$

Mulberry - in the bottom of the 360 condos downtown. Jen and I sat in the corner of the bar and had a great view of the chefs preparing food. Kind of like a live version of Top Chef. Really small and quaint. May only fit 25 people in it. $$

Vino Vino nice wine bar on Guadalupe. Have very reasonably priced bottles and a couple appetizers. Every time I have been it has been really crowded. $

House Wine Next to P Terry's on Lamar. Wine bar that use to be a house. Intimate setting. They also always have pitchers of white and red sangria available. Think of original Kerby Lane atmosphere. Plus they have a tasting class on Tuesdays. $$

Apothecary Off Burnet Rd. We went there on a night it snowed in Austin (which is rare). Basically had the place to ourselves. The wine was good and they had comfortable chairs to sit at. $$

The Grove In Westlake blocks from Jen's work. She goes there almost weekly. They have great Pizzas and nice outdoor Patio with huge tree. $$$

Fion Wine bar in Steiner Ranch. A cross between gas station and elegant wine bar. Plus they have a huge cigar selection. $$$

Whip-In Very Austin wine bar. Right off I-35 and pulling up you would think it is a gas station/Planet K store. Inside there are tables, a wide assortment of wines & beer, and a bar. $

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1 Year Anniversary Date

Obviously this is gonna have to be bigger and better than a typical date night. I opted for a weekend getaway in central Texas.  As discussed on previous blogs my wife is a huge wine fan. Also, we have a trip planned to Europe later this year so I wanted to do something to help lead into that.
It started out Saturday morning with a nice drive through the hill country and we had lunch at For those that have not been. This is a Tuscan style restaurant at the Mandola Vineyard. We went before on a wine tour and always thought it was neat. For reference the restaurant is about a minute drive from the Salt Lick. 
After lunch we headed to Bella Vista Ranch. This is Texas’ first olive oil company. It is about a 30 minute drive from the restaurant. They offer 3 different olive oil tours a week.  Sat. 10 & 1 and Sun 12 (noon). The owner gives the tour and more information about olives than you could ever imagine. I always find it fascinating to hear someone talk about subject matter that they are an expert on and passionate about. To be honest I never really gave olive oil much thought before the tour. After the tour there is olive oil tasting. I warn you they just put olive oil into small shot glasses and then have you shoot them. I was hesitant at first, but after all the other people in our class (12 or so) I followed suit.  Another nice benefit is that Bella Vista is a vineyard and produces wine also. They have typical Cabs and Syrah wines and also a Blackberry wine.
Following our olive oil tour we headed to our main destination The Lake House Bed & Breakfast at Canyon Lake. It is a small house on canyon lake. The owner actually was raised there and now resides down the street and rents out his home to lucky guests. There are 4 rooms available and for weekends they require 2 night stays. I called in advance and he told me if there was availability a week out he would book it for the 1 night. Luckily 1 room was open and I jumped on it. Some of the amenities – lake front property, pool, hot tub, breakfast, … We barely saw anyone the entire time we were there. We spent the afternoon enjoying a nice bottle of wine by the pool.
We headed to dinner at Lucky Sailor, Canyon lake’s only restaurant on the lake. Think a small scale carlos n’ charlies. We enjoyed some live music and drinks at sunset.
Heading back we to our lake house we spent the rest of the evening eating frozen wedding cake, sitting in the hot tub, and finishing the bottle of wine from earlier.  Breakfast the next morning was included and quite elegant. You could tell the chef made the same menu week after week and made it well. We headed to church in Canyon Lake and then headed home. All-in-all a great weekend and hopefully one Jen will cherish for a while.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frugal Dating

This is a quick little tidbit on going on a good date without breaking the bank. When I was younger and single I never wanted to use coupons or discounts in front of my date because she might think I was cheap. That being said now that I'm married it's always nice to save a buck or 2.
In Austin there are quite a few ways to get more bang for your buck.  This is a good place for high end restaurants. Typically pay $10 for a $25 off coupon on purchases over $35. Right now use the coupon code PLATE and get 80% off. That's $25 off a $35 meal for a $2 coupon. I have used coupons from there for Paggi House, True Grits, Cafe Bleu, Austin Land n Cattle, and more Deal a day websites. This one has all the sites that offer deals a day. For instance $20 for a $40 coupon for a restaurant. ,,, and others
Entertainment passport book - This use to be an awesome resource for buy 1 meal get 1 free coupons. Still some good deals, just more get $25 a $75 meal. 
For you cedar park folk coupons
Also, no need to go somewhere and pay for a drink when a lot of times on a date you just need to be with the other person. There is not much better than taking a nice bottle of wine, 2 glasses (don't forget cork screw and bug spray) and sit by the lake. There are parks all over Austin. 
Some of my personal favorite spots are the Aboretum, Emma Long Park, Sandy Creek Park, 360 Bridge Park.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Austin Wine Class

For those unaware my wife is a huge wine fan. This past week we went to our first Austin Wine Class. The classes are very affordable - ranging from $10-$25 (ours was $15) based on what wines you are drinking. Our class was held at Whip In Parlous & Cafe (cross between gas station/bar/bistro). It is a neat Austin original location.

Our class had 8 people and our instructor Ray. She went over the wines, general wine info, and answered any questions we had. Some tidbits I learned:

Difference between Old Vine (Vine over 50 yrs old) and Ancient Vine (Wine over 75 yrs old).
California locale and how the weather affects the wines.

We had a glass each of all 4 wines being sampled. Our class was from 7-8:30. All around a lot of fun. We followed that up by a quick dinner at Eddie V's downtown and headed home.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Valentine's Surprise

Valentine's this year we decided to split the day in half - I would be responsible for the 1st half of the day and she would plan the second half. Valentine's day landing on a Sunday allowed me to let her sleep in while I started the day off with breakfast in bed.

Not being a Chef by any sense of the word I found a simple recipe for Crepes style pancakes online, bought fresh fruit, nutella, and made coffee. Served to her directly in bed.

After that we went to church and headed to my main event which is a called Painting with a Twist.They have pre-designed artwork that professional artists help you recreate. For Valentine's day there were two painting - One with a heart and key lock and the the other with a Key. The twist part is that you can bring in your favorite snack and beverage. I brought in a bottle of red wine, dried sausage, sharp cheddar cheese, and dark chocolates. All being Jen's favorites.

This was not the painting by numbers project I had hoped for. You actually paint everything from a blank canvas and a palette of paint. The Heart design with key lock (Jen's) the instructor said was a simpler design and key had several more components (Mine). With the instructors giving hints and suggestions were painted some wonderful master pieces. You can adjust the picture in anyway you want and many people tried to have it match the color scheme in their house.

Jen and I are the top two on the left. 

They have a calendar on their website with paintings and prices for artwork. 
Range from $35-$45.

Texas Hockey Date

For those unaware Cedar Park, Texas is the home to the Texas Stars. You have probably heard of the Dallas Stars NHL team - the Texas Stars are there minor league team. Being from Texas my closest exposure to hockey was the Austin Ice Bats. The Ice Bats resembled more of Ice Boxing than hockey with melting ice, fights, and obnoxious fans. 

The Texas Stars were a pleasant surprise. They play at the Cedar Park Event Center - a state of the art building. The players are mostly NHL quality players with quite a few having been placed on the Texas Stars following injury or are prospects still awaiting a chance to be promoted to the Dallas Stars. 

There are constant promotions going on their website We went on bring in an HEB canned food product and get half off ticket price.  Most concessions are your typical peanuts, hot dogs, and beer options, but there is also a full bar in the front corner of the event center that serves any mixed drink. 

This was the first hockey match Jen had ever been to and had a great time. 

Ticket Price: Lots of promotions - anyware from $5-$50
Food Price: $10-$20 for hotdog and beer
Additional Charges: Parking $10

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cheap, Easy, and Fun

Spec's Monthly Wine Tasting Event. For those unaware - Spec's is a grocery store sized liquor store with several locations all around Austin. All locations have a once a month Wine Tasting Event. The Brodie Lane location has there the first Tuesday of every month which Jen and I attended.

For only $10 you get a Riedel wine glass and a ticket for tastings of 20 different wines.  You get a punch card and head around the store to 10 different locations designated with number, balloons, and kiosk with wine distributor. They give you quick info on the wines and pour you a wine tasting. Also, throughout the store there are several food/snack kiosks setup for samples. I remember a salsa kiosk, pecan pie kiosk, several cheese stations, and even sweet leaf tea. It lasts from 5:30-8:00 and they stop promptly at 8:00. We got there right at 7:00 and were just able to get through all the stations.