Road Trippin’ from Austin: Port Aransas

Texas is a big state, but you can easily road trip to the beach for a weekend’s worth of fun. Recently, I packed my family up in a brand spankin’ new 2016 Chevy Malibu, graciously loaned to me by the company, and steered toward Port Aransas. I used Onstar for turn-by-turn directions, and we requested a route that would take us through Rockport and Aransas Pass, in order to ride the ferry. Because what’s a trip to the coast without a ferry ride?

I didn’t know what to expect with the Malibu, but man, oh, man, those seats are comfortable! It’s a hybrid, and ultra quiet on the road. I’m rethinking my car choices now, after enjoying it for the weekend.

2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid. Photo credit: chevrolet.com

2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid. Photo credit: Chevrolet.

I have to tell you, I absolutely love the technology that comes with this car. The car I’m driving now, affectionately known as The Mamawagon, has the standard cd player and radio, with the ability for me to plug my cell phone in and stream music. The Chevy Malibu came with all the bells and whistles: Sirius radio, bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and text messages, and much to the delight of my son, built in 4G LTE wi-fi. This was the most pleasant road trip in a while, with my kiddo happily Minecrafting, playing Roblox, or watching videos. The wi-fi allows you to connect up to 7 devices, but since it’s bluetooth, there no wires everywhere. Love that!

Happy. Very, very happy.

Happy. Very, very happy.

We did torture my son a bit, singing along to songs. My husband is a musician, and sings well. My voice is best listened to in a karaoke bar, where everyone has had way too much to drink. We would stay on a station for a while, then shop for the next hot tune. I discovered the controls on the backside of the steering wheel, that allow you to switch stations without having to reach over to the touch screen. Safety first!

Slow Ride

Classic road trip music!

We love to stop at little locally-owned gas stations and convenience stores on road trips. I’d never driven a hybrid, and it was a happy surprise to go all the way to the coast and halfway back before needing to fill up. And even then, it was only 8 gallons. Eight! Still, we made a few rest stops before the coast and I indulged in tradition and bought a lottery ticket at each one. Sadly, I’m still not a millionaire. I did, however, find out how to check my tire pressure without getting my hands dirty.

I never did well with those tire pressure gauges. This is much easier.

I never did well with those tire pressure gauges. This is much easier.

I had a few prerequisites for our weekend abode. It must have a kitchen, and it must have at least a view of the ocean. We stayed at the Sandcastle Condos, on the beach. I love being able to wake up before anyone else, make coffee, and savor it while watching the sunlight dance across the waves. The view from our balcony was perfect, and I was able to relax and recharge.

Beach

My son and husband played Pokemon Go in every small town, since the reduced speed made it easier. When we hit Port A, we stopped for dinner at Virginia’s on The Bay, and hit the jackpot with Pokemon stops. As soon as the food hit the table, though, all devices were off. I’m still thinking about the hushpuppies the restaurant served. Savory, with bits of green onion, these little flavor bombs were the best I’ve ever eaten. Their seafood is tasty, and they seem to easily handle large groups just as ably as tables of two or three.

The day we checked out, we adjusted our route home to go through Corpus. Once there, we explored the USS Lexington. My father served on a ship like that one, and I was texting him like crazy the whole time, telling him what I had seen, and asking him questions. I’ll have to arrange a trip for my parents sometimes soon, so he can visit the ship. There were thunderstorms rolling in, and the wind coming across the flight deck was strong.

Ryder hopping around on deck.

Ryder hopping around on deck.

The size of the ship is astounding. There were at least 8, maybe 12 planes on the flight deck, and it wasn’t packed at all. On one end is a “walk the plank” observation deck over the water. I went all the way down to the end, but got a little spooked, with the wind blowing so hard. I made my husband stand for pictures, though, machismo and all that jazz. Never show fear!

Hanging on for dear life, at the end of the plank.

Hanging on for dear life, at the end of the plank.

On our way home, we talked for a long time about the spirits that are said to still linger on the Lexington. We googled, found a few videos (thanks, wi-fi!) and pretty much decided that any ship that’s seen as much action as the Lexington is bound to have a few things that go bump in the night. I highly recommend visiting it on your next road trip. If you’re lucky, it’ll be in a Chevrolet.

Disclosure: Chevrolet loaned the fancy Malibu Hybrid to me free of charge, and in return I’m giving my honest opinion of it. It’s a fun car, affordable, and great for the environment. 

 

 

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Fancy yourself a pitmaster? Smithville BBQ spot on market again.

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An acquaintance who lives out near Smithville passed on the tidbit that Smithville Pit BBQ is for sale. ‘Cue aficionados know the restaurant’s location as that of award-winning Zimmerhanzel Bar-B-Que, which closed in January. The building sold, and almost immediately re-opened as Smithville Pit BBQ. And now it’s back on the seller’s block, a mere five months later. The barbecue biz is a tough one, not only because Central Texas has a host of stellar spots, but also because of the almost 24/7 requirements of running that type of restaurant. Fancy yourself a pitmaster? Check out the craigslist ad for the sale of Smithville Pit BBQ.

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Delysia Chocolatier ~ Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

Today’s guest post is a recap of Chef Nicole Patel‘s adventures with Delysia Chocolatier at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, well-known as one of the best food festivals in the nation.

The FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen is one of the most influential festivals in the industry. Every summer, food lovers, wine drinkers, and anyone with an appetite, gather in the heart of Aspen, Colorado to sample some of the country’s greatest food and wines. Delysia Chocolatier was honored to be a part of The Classic for a third year in the Grand Tasting. Made up of two large tents, the Grand Tasting becomes home to over 500 exhibitors during the weekend. This busy weekend of cooking demos, tastings, and private parties is a weekend we look forward to all year.

Every year, our involvement in The Classic grows and our preparations increase. For weeks leading up to the festival, press releases and emails were at an all-time high as we made final arrangements for the parties we would be attending. But the most important arrangement to be made were the chocolates. Over 10,000 chocolate truffles were created for The Classic- more truffles than we’ve ever made at one time. Every truffle flavor was created specifically for an event in mind, not reusing a single recipe.

Getting the opportunity to talk with amazing guests.

Getting the opportunity to talk with amazing guests.

Two days of driving later with anxious little boys in the back seat, we arrived in Aspen. My husband and children immediately took to the hiking trails near our place while I made final arrangements and scheduled meetings to be had throughout the week. We kicked off the festival on June 16th by premiering our chocolates at Aspen Magazine’s private party. We wowed our audience with unique flavors that fit into the Asian theme. We featured truffles with flavors like Wasabi raspberry, Honey Sriracha, and Seaweed salad chocolate truffles. The excitement on the guests’ faces when they tried our truffles are one of my favorite parts of this job. It is our passion to astonish people with inventive flavors that show the range in which chocolate can be enjoyed. Along with this kick-off party, I also attended a Welcome Reception at the St. Regis and a party hosted by Boisset at Limelight Hotel. That evening alone, there were over twenty parties taking place in Aspen. The weekend had no shortage of entertainment.

Gochujung chocolate truffle at the Aspen Magazine party.

Gochujung chocolate truffle at the Aspen Magazine party.

Friday we began the Grand Tasting. Before noon, the tents were filled with thousands of attendees. We showcased truffles and a bark inspired by Southern cuisine. Many of our loyal Austin customers are already fans of the Southern flavors so we extended the selections to include new truffles. Each session of the Grand Tasting was a different meal including an entrée, side dish, dessert, and beverage. We began with Frito Pie, Baked Beans, Red Velvet, and Mint Julep chocolate truffles. An extreme number of truffles later and a meeting with Zac Brown, we had completed our first Grand Tasting of the year. Now it was time for another party. We made our way to Nello Alpine to setup for Patron Tequila’s Summer Switch Up Party where they featured classic cocktails with a tequila twist. We sampled truffles to guests all infused with Patron’s tequilas and spirits -Mango Habanero, Orange Blossom, Key Lime Pie, Spicy Maple Pecan, and our award-winning Jalapeno Tequila chocolate truffles. The party guests danced until midnight to an incredible DJ and violinist.

Meeting Zac Brown was definitely a highlight!

Meeting Zac Brown was definitely a highlight!

 

The view from the Patron Tequila Summer Switch Up party overlooking the ski lifts.

The view from the Patron Tequila Summer Switch Up party overlooking the ski lifts.

Saturday would be our longest day during the weekend starting with the Grand Tasting where our Southern meal included Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Banana Pudding, and Hurricane chocolate truffles. We saw old and new friends including Andrew Zimmern, Gail Simmons, and Mike Gulotto. Andrew has been a fan of our Cricket chocolate bark after meeting him at the 2015 Food & Wine Classic. Gail always has the kindest words of encouragement and is a huge fan of our Ghost Pepper bark (though we learned that her father-in-law might actually be a bigger fan!). Mike and I had the pleasure of cooking together last year at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, as well as at Cured in San Antonio for a charity dinner. During lunch, we quickly headed to the Grand Hyatt for Patron Spirit and Dauo Vineyards’ High End party that catered to fifty of their biggest national clients. We love the more intimate environment of the private parties as it allows us more personal time with each guest. For this party, we showcased four truffles created exclusively to pair with the high end wine and specialty tequila being served – Cigar Smoked Salted Caramel, Black Current, Honey Apricot, and Cherry Espresso chocolate truffles. The very sophisticated lounge made a great pair with our chocolates. After the party, we made our way back to the tasting tents where we displayed Brisket BBQ, Baked Potato, Peach Cobbler, and Coke & Peanut chocolate truffles. Tim Love made a stop at our table along with Zac Brown. A few hours later, we spent the evening discussing strategies and lessons learned as we ate steaks with our Ghost Pepper chocolate bark melted over the top until falling asleep on the couch. We were more than exhausted. It’s often funny how even when time seems to be going by so quickly, your body can’t catch up. But we only had one day left.

Grand Tasting with Andrew Zimmern.

Sunday morning, we had a late breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants down the hill from where we stayed called Big Hoss Grill in Snowmass. We began our way to the Grand Tasting to display all of our flavors created for the weekend. On our way to the merchandise tent (it doesn’t count if you don’t have a t-shirt, right?), we ran into Jacques Pepin having brunch just outside of our tent. We made a quick hello to allow him time with his family and friends. Sunday was the shortest day as it only lasted a few hours then we loaded out. In the evening, we celebrate over Italian and had a champagne toast to another great year at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen.

Jacques Pepin on our last Grand Tasting day.

Jacques Pepin on our last Grand Tasting day.

FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen continues to be one of our favorite events that we attend. Despite the lengthy preparations, being surrounded by people who are passionate about what you do, is a rejuvenating experience that reignites my own passion for Delysia. I’m incredibly lucky to spend every day doing something I love, and enjoy any chance to share that with others.

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Chef Nicole Patel at the 2016 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

Thank you, Chef Nicole, for your recap of food, fun, and the festivities at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Find her artisan chocolates online, or enjoy a sampling before purchasing at the Delysia Culinary Center & Chocolate Boutique, 2000 Windy Terrace, Suite 2C, Austin, TX 78613 (check website for hours).  Delysia Chocolatier has been a friend and chocolate ally to ATX Food News since the early days of the business, and we’ve enjoyed watching Chef Nicole’s culinary star rise.

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