Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine's Week, Things I Love! (sort of #sponsored)

Disclaimer: I received a number of these products for review purposes. Where necessary, I have stated which were sent for review. However, I would never share something that I didn't love and believe in!

Happy Valentine's Day Week, everybody! Valentine's Day was always in my Top 3 Favorite Holidays--first being Halloween, second being Christmas--growing up. Every year I'd hand-make Valentines for my entire class... even the years when I didn't quite get many in return (I was NOT a popular kid). But that never seemed to deter me the following year. I guess I just like spreading the love! 

For the occasion, I thought I'd give y'alls* a list of things I've been loving lately. Perhaps it will spark some inspiration when you're out trying to find that special gift for that special someone or need a date night suggestion in Austin ;) It's very close to Vday, but I'm sure most of these places will rush an order/make reservations if need be!

Disclosure: I received the chocolate and tea for review purposes, and am advising Millcreek promotion strategies.

First up, Millcreek Cacao Roasters. I had no idea what "farm-to-bar" meant before Millcreek, but basically it's exactly what the name implies: chocolate made from cacao sourced directly from the farmer. Millcreek uses single-source Arriba Nacional cacao beans from a farm in Ecuador. Arriba Nacional is grown in shaded cacao farms in Ecuador's coastal low lands where the climate and soil conditions occur exclusively. Not to mention, the flavor is incredible! I am typically not a dark chocolate eater, but the smooth, luxurious taste of Millcreek Cacao chocolate bars has me hooked. The raspberry is definitely my favorite! And to add a bit of quirk to their typical offerings, they even have cacao TEA. Now you can sip your chocolate, without all the calories and sugar of hot cocoa. I'm in love. Check out their full line of chocolate and tea (!!) on their website, and learn more about "farm to bar"! 

 Disclosure: Matt, of Full Throttle Bottles, is a friend of mine and sent me this lamp as a gift.

Doesn't this look like the perfect gift for your guy's "man cave"?? Full Throttle Bottles creates handmade liquor bottle lamps. I'm loving the look of the lights behind my favorite vodka's frosted glass, but Matt also makes traditional lamps with a liquor bottle base, and he's experimenting with remote-controlled LED light bases (which look KICK ASS if I do say so myself). This little lamp keeps making the rounds from being an accent on my bar cart, to hanging with my cookbooks. It's a great conversation piece and I love supporting handmade goods! Check out the Etsy shop now! P.S. he also takes requests.

I think the Universe just doesn't want me to go low carb just yet. Why else would it tempt me with RED VELVET OREOS? These things are not urban legend, they're legit. And they are actually the fanciest Oreos I've ever encountered. The cookie seems slightly softer than usual, with a light cocoa taste. The cream cheese icing is sweet, very soft, and tastes exactly like the traditional red velvet cake companion of choice. Thank goodness the sweetness becomes a bit overwhelming after the second cookie, it means that I can happily stop my snacking and savor these over a longer period of time. Strangely enough, I didn't really like them dunked in milk. These are best eaten on their own, slowly, and enjoyed.

Disclosure: I received the bag and mix as a promotional item from HEB

I've been working on a list of reasons why HEB is my favorite supermarket, ever, and one of the entries in that list is BEST STORE BRAND PRODUCTS EVER. I was lucky enough to receive a lovely bag of this month's HEB Promo Picks for February and this is my absolute favorite item. As a food blogger, I typically make from-scratch cakes, but I'll admit that when time is short I've been known to make a box cake. They've taken instant cake mix to the next level here, now you just have to pour this packet into a pan and cook! Great for a chocolate craving in a pinch. I am SO excited to have a chocolate cake instantly at my disposal, I plan on using a heart-shaped pan to cook one up for Valentine's Day! (don't live in Texas? Order the cake mix here!)

Disclosure: I received Yellowbird Sauce's new line of sauces for review.

You all know my love for Yellowbird, but I feel like I just have to give them the shout out again. Spicy goodness with three different levels of spice (my favorite is the habanero!). They go beyond typical chili sauces--you know the one--and they're a small family-owned company from Austin, Texas. The sauces are made from nine all-natural ingredients. Seriously, check the label, there's nothing you won't recognize! You can see some recipes I made with the sauces here and here, and I cannot WAIT to dig into that Habanero Hot Salt. See full line of products and purchase here.

Cory's aunt who we lived with our first few months in Austin is a true foodie, and Hudson's on the Bend is one of her favorite restaurants in the city. Though the restaurant tends to specialize in game (next time we're totally trying the rattlesnake sausage!) we had snagged a Groupon to get a 2-for-1 deal on the Chef's Tasting Menu. The three course meal, plus amuse bouche, was a great way to get a sampling of what Hudson's on the Bend has to offer! And, thanks to the Groupon, I could afford the $25 wine pairing add-on, which was a great way to really make the flavors of each course pop. I can safely say that the prime rib was the most tender, most delicious cut I've ever eaten, and paired with the homemade hollandaise it was just incredible. My squash-hating fiance even enjoyed the Browned Butter Butternut Squash soup, though he let me finish it as he was saving room for his Turtle Pie! I got the Pumpkin Creme Brulee, since if a restaurant has creme brulee I MUST get it. Overall, it was a FANTASTIC meal, and we're going to save up to treat ourselves again sometime soon!

Shiner Beer is big in Texas. Obviously because it's a Texas beer! I love their summer brew, Ruby Redbird, because fruit flavored beers are my favorite, but typically I'll opt for a cider over a beer when I'm hanging with friends or out at a bar. However, I took a chance at grabbing a Shiner Birthday Beer for the BYOB show at Coldtowne Theater, and I am SO glad I did! This is a beer that tastes like cake. Delicious chocolate cake that gives you a buzz. I'm going to be scooping up all the birthday beers I see until they run out. It's limited edition, so get it while you can!

New England Austinites: are you struggling to find a decent lobster roll? Did you visit the Gulf expecting to find one, only to be bombarded with nothing but shrimp? Do you miss the fresh, sweet, delicious lobster meat of home? Well, Dock & Roll Diner will be your hero. I've sampled nearly every lobster item I can find in town and while some are perfectly acceptable to curb a craving, none of them has had the fresh, sweet meat of the Northeast... Until I tried Dock & Roll Diner! The lobster was fresh and delicious. If I closed my eyes I felt like I was home again, perhaps enjoying a summer day on the Cape (Cape Cod, that is). I opted for the Massachusetts roll (duh) and was not disappointed. I prefer the "Maine" version to the "Connecticut"--Maine=mayo, CT=butter--but luckily, they offer both! Plus a ton of unique variations. My ONE wish is that they'd use a toasted buttered roll, but

Finally, I am LOVING the weather in Austin. While my friends back home are getting buried under snow (stay safe, guys!!) I am sipping a Cool as a Cucumber cocktail at Uncle Billy's BBQ wearing a springy backless shirt and enjoying the sunlight from the wide open patio area. 75 degrees in February? I'll take it. I love it here!

*I still feel weird saying "y'all" even though I've always used it in conversational writing... I feel like native Texans know I'm an impostor! :P

What are your favorite Valentine's Day goodies? And who is looking forward to February 15th, aka HALF PRICE CHOCOLATE DAY??


  1. so jealous. I WANT ALL THE THINGS! esp. that chocolate

  2. CHOCOLATE TEA. Also, that birthday beer. I wonder if they distribute it here. It's a rare day that Ruby Redbird makes it here unless I want to buy a huge sampler pack, but that sounds too delicious not to try!

  3. Bookmarking Dock and Roll Diner! We're moving about an hour from Austin (Fort Hood) in a couple months and I will be heading to Austin for the food as soon as we get there! Also, I ate an entire package of Red Velvet Oreos. No Shame.

    Okay, a little shame.

  4. I love the red velvet Oreos! :)