AFBA RIO Happy Hour

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By Tiffany Young

As part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, we get to try a lot of really cool places that we wouldn’t necessarily think to try on our own. One such place is RIO Rooftop Lounge on Sixth Street, near Benji’s Cantina and 219 West (no longer on West Street).

For our day-before Halloween happy hour, the food bloggers were invited to check out the rooftop lounge to try some nibbles and wine. There weren’t many pescetarian options, but the wine was really good! The sliders looked good, but don’t really work with my diet.

But what I’d really recommend going to RIO for is the view! On a nice day, this place has a great view, not only of downtown, but of it’s own rooftop pool, which I really want to swim in this summer. I’m pretty sure it’s not actually for swimming, but that would rock in the heat of Texas.

The cabanas are nice for smaller groups, but since we are not a very small group, we lounged about the many couches and congregated around a few tables strewn about the deck.

RIO Rooftop Lounge
601 Rio Grande, Ste. 200/300
Austin, TX 78701

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SXSW: Foodie Day 1

By Tiffany Young

OK, OK. It’s not officially SXSW yet, but that doesn’t mean the free food and drinks have not already begun. Thanks to the start of TechMunch and Whole Foods and Forkly hosting TANGO con VINOS ARGENTINOS at GSD&M, I’ve already had a few glasses of wine, some food and a swag bag of goodies.

First, I tried the Argento Bonarda, a red wine, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Its description is “earthy dark fruit and rustic red berry notes, hints of violet and toasted oak.” I enjoyed this with some empanadas and tapas topped with fried asparagus … yum. The weather in Austin was beautiful tonight, as I strolled along the courtyard saying hi to a few people I knew.

I hope the weather holds up, but the forecast is calling for rain the next few days.

My next glass was the Crios Torrontes, a sweet white wine. It was lovely as well, but I ended up eating some cheese alongside it and it may have been too sweet to pair with a strong cheese. There were several more wines I abstained from as well as a meat buffet that I heard was delicious.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to catch some more SXSW festivities during my lunch break. Wish me luck!

Foodie Foto Featurette /// Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 North Boulevard
Richmond, VA

(804) 340-1400


Date Night: Sagra

On our second date, Antonio kidnapped took me on a several hour date that began at Sagra Trattoria and Bar, an Italian restaurant on San Antonio Street. He was trying to make a good impression after his mistake on date No. 1, where he cut the date short because he had other plans. He claims he was meeting up with friends for dinner, but it sure sounded like he had double booked dates to me.

This was a restaurant where he felt comfortable—after all he used to work there—and we had brunch on the front patio in nice weather.

That’s where I fell in love … with the Sagra pizza. He’ll tell you my love for him grew at a much slower pace, but he was on to something bringing me to a place with such great food. Since that fateful day in January 2011, we have been back many times for happy hour and date nights.

The Sagra pizza includes a classic Italian tradition—an egg atop the pizza. This may not sound like a good idea to you, but that just tells me you haven’t tried the Sagra pizza yet. For $15, you get a whole pie topped with tomato sauce, egg, grana padano, spinach, mozzarella and truffle oil. Their other pizzas are also delicious.

Last month we visited them and got the funghi pizza  for $14 with mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh herbs and fontin. It was good, but I still missed the Sagra pizza, which we returned to on our date night last night.

I also really enjoy their libation menu, which includes not just creative cocktails, but also apertivos—an appetite stimulator—and digestivos—which helps settle your meal. My favorite so far is the apertivo Perucchi Vermouth Blanc with flavors of chamomile, ginger, lemon, cinnamon and orange blossom for $5. It comes in a tiny, tiny cute glass that I enjoy slowly sipping on before my meal comes. The flavors meld together so amazingly.

We also enjoy the wine selection, which comes in three sizes: a glass, a quartino—about a glass and a half—and a bottle.

Outside of the pizza, we highly recommend the fried calamari and the arugula salad, although I can’t recall us eating anything we didn’t love at Sagra. Also, while we rarely eat dessert at most places, unless it’s a special occasion, we usually do ask for their dessert menu. They change their gelato regularly and have great custard-type desserts featuring fruit.

We hope to see you at happy hour some nice evening enjoying the front or back patio, which reminds me—all the seats in the house are quite romantic. Enjoy!

Sagra Restaurant
1610 San Antonio St. Austin, TX, 78701,

The Crown of The 2nd Street District

This weekend, I surprised Tiffany with tickets to see elBulli at the Violet Crown Cinema. Granted, we had seen a flick there a time or two before, but this was the first time we had the opportunity to enjoy the bar.

Milcampos Tempranillo is our new fave!

Conveniently, located in the Second Street District, the atmosphere at the Violet Crown is simple, yet chic. If you are worried about parking downtown, the Crown will validate your stub—up to 3 hours—for the AMLI parking garage directly behind the venue.

While we have other dine-in movie theatres in Austin, Violet Crown falls in an exclusive niche for independent, documentary and international films. Granted the ticket price is a couple of dollars more but, upon purchase, you reserve your specific seats in the theatre.

At first glance, the menu above the snack bar seems traditional—candy, popcorn and hummus and pita bread. However, the real gem lies in the bar menu. Here you will find an array of drinks, everything from ginger pork tapas to cake balls. I let Tiffany take the lead in ordering and we got the avacado spring rolls. The rolls were fresh, the penut sauce was delightful and the presentation was far more than I expected.

This particular evening, they were hosting a Spanish wine promotion to coincide with elBulli. We had the opportunity to try the 2009 Milcampos Tempranillo. Our hearts lept for joy, as this wine was remarkably easy to drink. This tempranillo drinks with dark fruit first followed by a smooth finish. The best part is, you can pick this up from most wine vendors for roughly $12 a bottle. A wonderful recommendation by the staff at the Crown.

Avacado Springs Rolls at the Royal Crown

While you can order food at the bar, keep in mind that the wait staff will not deliver your meal inside the theater. You can bring the food in the theater with you, where lecture-style table tops are attached to nice, leather seating. The tops are small, thus creating a balancing act if you have wine, water and food.

I do need to mention, the Violet Crown has amazing service. Everyone on staff seems excited to show you to your seat, pour a glass of wine or simply give you your ticket. It seems hard to come across great service in Austin and VC stands out from the pack.

Overall, each experience at the Violet Crown has been  pleasurable. The service is always great and has such a unique selection of films, I would highly recommend making a trip out!

Now I just need my friends at the Crown to pick up this film!

Royal Crown Cinema
434 W 2nd Street, Austin, TX
(512) 495-9600


Fin – Newport News, VA

Tasty Seafood Puff

I truly enjoy stumbling across new places to eat. And this was literally the case.

Recently, I had been traveling through the greater part of Virginia for work. Being conscience about my weight, I decided to hunt down a smoothie for lunch. I bought said smoothie and began to walk across the street back to my car. In doing so, I picked up my phone to find my next appointment, when suddenly I ran into a sidewalk sign for a restaurant called Fin, “3 Tapas Dinner with wine pairing – $25.”

Organic, Herb Roasted Pork Shank

Was this God’s way of telling me, “Here is where to have dinner, my son?”

I am not sure, but who am I to give up such a great opportunity!

That evening, I sat at the bar and began my adventure in food.

The first course began with a 3 oz. pour of the  2010 A to Z Pinot Gris.  This Pinot Gris is simple, brilliant and elegant.  The apple and pear overtones were delicate—a perfect compliment for the seafood puff, a pastry puff layered with brussels sprouts, octopus and topped with lobster.  A splendid beginning.

Next came the organic, herb-roasted pork shank, served on a bed of polenta, a side of sauteed spinach and plated with an orange ju. This course was accompanied by a Kenwood Old Vines. Sadly, I did not get the varietal or the year. However, I can tell you that was, by far, the best Kenwood I have had. Maybe, I will just try a few bottles from their collection to reassure my findings.

Beef Wellington

My night came to a close with a beautiful beef wellington.  The beef was presented at medium rare and served with creamy mash potatoes, organic baby carrots and finished with a red wine demi-glace. However, the A to Z Night and Day would not be outdone by the wellington. With an arsenal of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, sangiovese and syrah, this bottle may become my new party wine.  At a $15 market price, I feel that it may be likely to find this gem for as little as $12. And let me tell you, this bottle drinks at a greater value that that. So drink up before A to Z realizes they can get more dough for this one!

After my time at the bar, I got to know Scott, the bartender.  He mentioned that the 3-course tapas feature only happens on Tuesday nights.

What were the chances that I would stumble upon such a great meal, at a great price on a Tuesday evening? Who knows?

Whether it was God’s intervention or not, I was pleased with stumbling upon this great find!

3150 William Styron Sq N
Newport News, VA 23606-2691

(757) 599-5800