Tag Archives: Mexican

Remember The Alamo! (And to take romantic vacations to San Antonio’s Riverwalk – a better getaway than you’d think!)

For the past couple of weeks, Chris and I had been talking about having some sort of weekend get-a-way. Rather spontaneously, we ended up deciding Friday morning to leave in the afternoon for San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Once the work day was over, we ran home to pack and then drove south to Hotel Contessa.

The hotel was beautiful, and they even upgraded us to a king suite overlooking the water. The place somehow managed to be chic, trendy, yet super comfortable. After a long week, the relaxing atmosphere was much appreciated.

Once settled in our room, we decided to walk to a Tex-Mex restaurant that’s a hotspot among locals, called Rosario’s. It was a short distance, but somewhat of a dark path (we took a cab on the way back!) When we arrived to Rosario’s, a fun, Latino band played while the sound of a happy, tequila-fused crowd meshed with the songs. Before long, we were sitting at a table, washing down the spicy, yet smoky salsa with margaritas on the rocks. So good! Chris and I both loved our dishes – I highly recommend the mole sauce. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and very reasonable!

On our way back we grabbed a cab, who openly shared with us the three rules of day-trading: set limits to stick to in advance, don’t have hope, and don’t be greedy! Quite an interesting man.

The next morning we ordered a healthy room service breakfast of house-made granola and fresh-squeezed orange juice to jumpstart our day. With the sun shining and blue skies all about, we enjoyed a leisurely morning of walking up and down the Riverwalk and through the Alamo. 

After a while, we came back and grabbed cool salads and a hummus plate at the hotel, preparing our bodies for one of my favorite parts of the trip: a nourishing afternoon at the spa. Somehow, I convinced Chris to get a warm stone massage and facial with me; although he was a bit skeptical, he agreed to give it a chance and indulge my wish. It was only my second time to receive any sort of spa treatment, but I still had a better idea of what to expect. In the end, we both enjoyed ourselves. Chris found the experience to be pleasant but a little strange, while to me it was completely rejuvenating and relaxing. What a treat!!!

Before we knew it, dinner time was approaching. To begin the evening, we decided to stop by the historic Menger Hotel bar for a cocktail. Chris had been there before with a group of friends and was eager to revisit the Teddy Roosevelt “Rough Rider” collages and saloon-style ambiance.

Once we emptied our glasses, we walked to the Latin-fusion restaurant, Azuca. The place itself had an artsy flare, with its Picasso-inspired Mexican art and brightly-colored decorations. Known for its mojitos, we both tried a mango mojito, which proved to be delicious. Unfortunately everything else seemed to go downhill from there. Our fish entrees tasted bland, and the dessert was terrible. We couldn’t even eat more than a bite each of the banana goat cheese cake, and Chris and I each have a huge sweet tooth! Regardless, we still had a wonderful night.

Quite strangely, on our way back we grabbed a cab, only to be picked up by the same man of day-trading knowledge. He welcomed us grandly, remembering our plans and asking about our day. He told us more interesting stories about the life of a San Antonion.

 Now back in Austin, I am so thankful that we had this romantic weekend together. The trip reminded me to enjoy the small things in life. From our hand-in-hand stroll to breakfast in bed, I am so thankful for the collection of memories I now have, forever to keep, from this sweet little get-a-way.


Filed under Dining, Night Life, Travel

South Congress Cafe proves to be an excellent spot to lunch amidst the hip, bustling marketplace

For lunch today, Shannon, Sheridan (her younger sister), and I went to South Congress Café.  There was about a 30 minute wait at 1pm, so we killed some time at the nearby vintage shop, New Bohemian, where Sheridan found a Rastafarian belt and necklace, while I purchased a western-style shirt.  When we returned to the restaurant, there was still a short wait, so I enjoyed a pomegranate margarita in the bar area.  I usually don’t like to substitute a fruit (strawberry or watermelon, for example) into the margarita, as the sweetness tends to detract from the tart lime flavor.  But a pomegranate is just sour enough to accentuate the tequila and lime.  I’m a big fan, even ordering a second one after we sat down.

For an appetizer, Sheridan suggested the baked brie, and we readily agreed that sounded like a good way to start the meal.  The brie came in a puff pastry that was baked just right, with the crispy crust flaking off as you cut into it.  A habanero jelly accompanied the brie, and this proved an intriguing innovation to the traditional dish.  I usually like to enjoy my brie with a touch of honey, and the jelly provided that sweet element, while also kicking us hard with its habanero bite.  My mouth was still burning five minutes after we’d finished the plate.  But since we are all spice lovers, we agreed that the chef had chosen well in going for the five-alarm fire of the habanero instead of a milder jalapeno or serrano.

For my main course, I continued with the spicy theme, choosing the smoked brisket hash.  Tender chunks of brisket marinated in a chopotle adobe were accompanied by sautéed fingerling potatoes and corn.  This delectable concoction was then topped by two medium eggs, making it a hearty brunch.  A side of rajas salsa allowed me to adjust the spice level to my desired setting.

Meanwhile, Shannon chose the warm goat cheese salad, substituting the prosciutto for cherry tomatoes (although she asked for pear or strawberry, the cooks apparently decided that tomatoes would work better, and Shannon seemed satisfied with the final result).  The predominant feature of the salad, which consists of field greens, balsamic vinaigrette, and pine nuts, is the goat cheese.  The creamy, warm cheese is tucked inside a thin, slightly crispy layer of fried breading.

Sheridan picked the angel hair salsa fresca.  This pasta dish contained a wide variety of cooked vegetables, including: tomatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers.  Sheridan thoroughly enjoyed it, although she was slightly disappointed when she left her to-go box, as it would have made for an ideal dinner of delicious leftovers.

Especially on a beautiful spring day, South Congress Café is a great choice for lunch.  After taking a break inside, you can return to the bustle of South Congress with its quirky and eclectic array of local stores and markets.


Note: We’ll be taking a break from blogging for the next week, as we’re leaving for Cabo San Lucas tomorrow morning.  But we’ll take pictures and be back with some articles about the trip.  Have a great week and thanks for reading!

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Filed under Dining, Local Austin

La Condesa’s margaritas and tasty plates make for a pleasing addition to downtown’s Second Street District

To celebrate a job offer for Shannon’s roommate, Maggie, we went out to La Condesa for some celebratory margaritas and Mexican food.  While waiting to be picked up, we sampled a microbrewed brown ale, which was hand-crafted by my friend Ash, as part of his fledgling Robot Brewing enterprise.  The dark ale was delicious, with a sweet aftertaste that reminded Shannon of apricots (although Ash says that he didn’t put any fruit in this batch, and the sweetness may be the result of some of the chemicals that the yeast produces).

Upon arriving at the restaurant, located downtown on Guadalupe and 2nd Street, we ordered some margaritas.  Maggie used some of her business skills to determine that since the “La Clasica Margarita” was $9 per glass, while a pitcher could serve about 7 people at only $40, the pitcher would be the most economically sound choice for the table.  (Some company’s going to be lucky to have her!)  The margaritas, which featured El Jimador silver, Patron’s citronge liquer, and a sugar-and-salt rim, were excellent and addictive.

We ordered an appetizer of Queso Mixto nachos, which consisted of crispy tortilla chips covered in two types of queso, an avocado salsa, and black beans.  The chips didn’t suffer from any sogginess, and the dish tided us over for our other plates.  Shannon and I split an order of the Cangrejo Tostadas, which turned out to be the highlight of the meal.  Mounds of fresh, lump crabmeat covered three small tostadas.  This crabmeat was tender and flavorful; it reminded me of something Truluck’s or Perla’s would serve.  Underneath the crabmeat, a mixture of chipotle mayonnaise, green mango, and grapefruit brought a tangy element to the plate.  Prior to trying La Condesa’s tostadas, my favorite tostada appetizer in Austin was the shrimp-and-guacamole tostada bites at Z Tejas, but the Congrejo Tostadas surpass those in flavor and presentation.

Next, we shared the Taceteño Tacos, which are two small “fresh fish” tacos served on corn tortillas.  On this night, red snapper was the fish of the day, and it was lightly battered so that the fresh snapper provided the predominant flavor, as opposed to the fried cornmeal.  Chipotle-corn slaw and a mild salsa added a little zest to the dish.  As a side dish, we ordered the potato-poblano gratin, which represented a fusion of French and Mexican cuisine.  The cube-shaped gratin consisted of layers of cheese, potatoes, and poblano peppers.  The cheese and potatoes were cooked in the style of a French bistro, while the poblanos provided a mildly spicy kick.  As a sidenote, we all agreed that La Condesa delivers more spice in its dishes than most downtown Mexican or Tex-Mex establishments, but we would prefer the spice level notched up a bit.  Next time, we’ll probably make that request..

The dishes we ordered were all priced under $15, but the menu also contains some main courses that range from $20 to $32.  So, patrons have the option of going for the “fine dining” experience or just meeting with a group of friends for drinks and small plates.  And while Maggie was correct that pitchers of margaritas are more economically feasible than individual drinks, I found myself being an exemplar of the “Tragedy of the Commons,” whereby there’s an incentive to take more of something that’s shared by all.  But as Newton said, “for every action, there’s a reaction,” and I think I got my comeuppance when I awoke in the middle of the night feeling like someone had hit me on the head with a hammer.  Or, that may have been God getting back at me for breaking our Catholic-inspired Lenten week of not drinking alcohol (we rationalized that in a Sunday through Friday Lent, Wednesday functions as the equivalent of a Sunday Sabbath).



Filed under Dining, Local Austin