Hello, dear readers! As I mentioned last week, Oliver and I spent some time in Texas recently, and I wanted to share with you some of the fun stuff we came across.
One of our favorite finds was La Boite Cafe, a little pastry and coffee shop operating out of a repurposed 20-foot shipping container by Design Studio.
We love all varieties of macarons. There are the dense coconut macaroons typically consumed around Passover in the US, there are the Turkish versions, which are smoother and feature an almond on top, and, finally, the light, many-layered merengue-based French confectionary made famous by Laudree and Fauchon in Paris. Learn more about this complex little treat here.
Macarons appear to be sweeping the nation now, replacing the ubiquitous cupcake as the specialty dessert at weddings and events and they are popping up in cafes and bakeries all over. I've never met a macaron I didn't like, but I can't say I'm all that picky. Oliver, however, has an extremely acute sense of smell and taste. He has the capacity to discern distinct and subtle flavors in all foods and beverages ("do I detect a hint of cardamom?") while I just oafishly consume and make blanket statements like, "it's good."
Oliver, ready to dig in
Well, at La Boite, Oliver was rendered speechless by the culinary excellence of La Boite's macarons, going as far as to say they are the best he's ever had. That's big; he's had a lot. They were scrumptious. We were lucky enough to sample the lavender (Oliver's favorite), green tea, honey and pepper (my favorite), fleur de sel, and pistachio.
Remnant of a lavender macaron from La Boite
When we weren't eating or hanging around with our friends from Knifight or Akina Adderley and the Vintage Playboys (bands who's music you should buy, or check out a live performance if you're in the ATX area), we were poking around Austin's many wonderful shops. One standout was Uncommon Objects, a collective of twenty antique sellers under one enormous, seemingly never-ending roof.
Each seller carved out a beautifully styled "shop," complete with color stories and countless curiosities to look at. The prices are outstanding, especially from the perspective of a New Yorker. If you're into beautiful, unique treasures for the home, we highly recommend making time for this emporium.
On the same South Congress strip, we popped into STAG, an apparel and lifestyle store catering to the casual but well-appointed man. Talk about a well-curated shop. Oliver was convinced he needed just about everything in there (we walked out with a business card. We're trying to save money). But seriously, it's a gorgeous – in a manly way – store featuring rugged but classic clothing, outerwear and shoe labels, books and records, masculine trinkets, furniture, personal care and some fun taxidermy. My dear friend's men's clothing label, Life/After/Denim, is also represented. Go Alexis! Started by five stylin' guys, this is a shop not to be missed if you know a modern man with classic style.
Photos courtesy A Continuous Lean
One spot on North Lamar boasts three shops we enjoyed checking out. The first was Wildflower Organics, which was already bookmarked as a go-to when shopping for my own projects (lovely bedding, textiles and accessories). Next door, we happened on Jaya, which also has locations in Dallas and Houston. The East-meets-West decor was all well-priced and easy on the eyes. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures, but check out this video for an idea of the aesthetic. Our jaunt on N. Lamar concluded at The Khazana, another lovely shop with the most luxurious hand-picked rugs and textiles from India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afganistan, Uzbekistan, and more. Furniture (stocked, antique and custom) and accessories abound. But, those textiles were divine.
Photos courtesy All Things Austin
The last place I'll share is The Driskill, Austin's landmark hotel located in the heart of downtown. Built in 1886 as the showplace of a cattle baron, The Driskill is a magnificent architectural gem. In 1969 the hotel was saved from the threat of demolition by the Heritage Society of Austin and locals. What are people thinking when they crusade to crush such stunning buildings??
The lobby and various meeting rooms are well-appointed with historic details and peppered with whimisical accents like cowhide chair backs, stuffed animal heads, equestrian and cattle-related imagery that give a nod to the Texas location.
The Driskill does not skimp on details: their "D" emblem pops up everywhere, classic telephones sit at tables in the lobby, and art nouveau sconces flank the elevators.
The Driskill Bar
Oliver and I had a delicious breakfast at The Driskill's 1886 Cafe and Bakery, which felt a little bit like Balthazar in New York, but with decidedly Texas twists: stained glass complete with the Texas Lone Star and star-shaped chandeliers? Love! While I loved the hunter green tufted banquettes, the bistro chairs, however, were a bit of a departure from the rest of the look. They were oversized and cheap looking, upholstered in a weird "contemporary" pattern. But, let's try to ignore that, shall we? The food was delish and the whole experience was excellent.
Image courtesy 1886 Cafe and Bakery