Tag Archives: austin

El Talisman Coffee

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

The Alvarados are a lot like any other typical Texas family—they work hard, they play hard, but the most important thing in their lives is each other. Yuri and Johanna Alvarado are political refugees from Nicaragua—they moved to the U.S. as teenagers, escaping the Sandinista revolution and Contra war that followed. They beat all odds and created a happy and successful life, plus, they’ve raised two children, Johanna and Fernando.

The next step of their dream involves one of my favorite things in the world—coffee. El Talisman Coffee, straight from the Alvarado’s farm in the mountains of Matagalpa, Nicaragua is absolutely incredible. Johanna and Yuri are fifth and sixth generation coffee farmers—who still plant, prune, clean, harvest, and process by hand—which used to, of course, be the only way.

When I spoke to Yuri Alvarado, he said, “My favorite part of the job is growing the coffee in Nicaragua. I love the level of involvement required to produce good quality coffee. We tend to each of our 50,000 coffee trees individually. We still do all the work by hand, like our ancestors did over a century ago. Growing good quality coffee is truly a labor of love and I love doing it.”

You can truly taste that “labor of love” in every cup. And it’s not just me that thinks so highly of the smooth taste—El Talisman Coffee has been selling out all over Central Texas! They’ve recently been a hit at the Kyle Market Days, Barton Creek Famers Market (find them here every Saturday, rain or shine!), the Downtown Buda Farmers Market, Plum Creek Front Porch Days, Ten Thousand Villages of Austin World Fair Trade Day, and the Kyle Public Library.

“Working with my family has been by far the most exciting part of this experience,” Yuri explained. “It has been amazing for me to see Johanna and Fernando connect at a very deep level, with something our family has been doing for five generations. It’s been wonderful to see the amount of passion and energy each has brought to this endeavor.”

If you’re not sold yet, I urge you to go meet one of the Alvarados at one of the aforementioned markets—they are the friendliest humans on the planet, I promise you. A smile from them and a sip of their delicious coffee will make your day. While they work on getting their online store up and running, they will continue with farmers markets every weekend. As Yuri said, “We absolutely love having the opportunity to meet every customer personally!” Next time you need your morning caffeine, support local Texan families and check out El Talisman!

 

 

Pink Gloves

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Originally written for and published by TLM 🙂

I absolutely love the idea of a) a female-only boxing class and b) supporting an amazing cause while I work out.Pink Gloves Boxing (PGB) on Burnet in Austin combines those two awesome things (and yes, the gloves are really pink). Pink Gloves offers a tier program, drop-in classes, personal training, and private classes — with a percentage of all proceeds going to breast cancer research. Their website boasts about the 3 F’s: fitness, fun, and female empowerment!

Brenda Hull, owner of PGB Austin, got her start in boxing by branching off from her normal fitness routines to try something new.

It can be intense on the first visit, but by the end you will want your own gear. Courtesy photo
It can be intense on the first visit, but by the end you will want your own gear. Courtesy photo.

“I have always been into fitness and working out. after working with a personal trainer for many years I needed something different,” Hull explained. “I found PGB and  took some classes and fell in love with boxing, then the gym closed and didn’t find any other boxing classes i enjoyed. A few years after that I was searching for fitness jobs and certifications and found an AD for Pink Gloves and how they would be in Austin for a training camp. I signed up and after a few meetings with PGB central I bought the license and opened Pink gloves Boxing Austin in 2013.”

Since its doors opened in 2013, PGB Austin has been met with eager Austinites wanting to give it a try, but sorry fellas — this one’s for the women.

“Women have mostly had positive experiences at PGB,” Hull said. “One member recently stated, ‘I was so very pleased with PGB class tonight! I am hooked! Can’t wait to go back! It’s such an inviting group.’ Many women have met their best friends, who later became their bridesmaids, at Pink Gloves Austin. That is our goal — to create a positive, comfortable environment that you spend with family! I have gotten several request from men, especially the PGB husbands and kids. We are working on something for men and the kids of our Austin community.”

Don’t be afraid to give this gym a try. You’re walking into a welcoming environment, not the gladiator area. There won’t be any fists flying at your face, but you will get a workout.

They really seem to be building a positive bond in the gym. Courtesy photo
They really seem to be building a positive bond in the gym. Courtesy photo.

“We like to make everyone feel welcome so the trainers and members will introduce themselves and help you check in and get your hands wrapped,” Hull explained. “What has naturally happened is that a member will take the first-timer and go over what the class looks like and gives them a tour of our small space. Once class begins, a group warm-up begins where I tell my trainers to take this time to let your members know who you are. After warm-up, trainers go over each station and the punches and combinations are taught. Class begins and goes by WAY too fast! Class ends with abs circle. There is a question of the day that members answer and give the group an ab workout or stretch. This is the time where we hear from the members and gives them the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit more.

They also host an annual “Punch-a-Thon” benefiting Seton Breast Cancer Center. The Punch-a-Thon is not an actual fight (they say their real fight is against breast cancer), but rather, each team has to punch heavy bags for a certain amount of time. For every five dollars donated to your team, you have to punch for one minute.

If you’re looking for a new workout routine—something to spice things up a bit, get you in shape, and meet friends—Pink Gloves is for you! Give it a try—all levels are welcome (you do NOT need to know a single thing about boxing, I promise). Plus, there’s a killer Groupon deal right now—five classes for only $39! Get to punchin’ Austin ladies.

Brass Ovaries

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

Does your exercise regime need some spice? Treadmills can get really boring, elliptical machines can only do so much, and the same old same old gym scene can become monotonous. Brass Ovaries off East Manor in Austin is definitely NOT your run-of-the-mill workout. From “Twerk Fit” to “Pole Dancing 101,” your body won’t know what to think. You’ll reach muscles you didn’t even know you had. Plus, you’ll step out of your comfort zone, which is always a fun challenge!

The staff at Brass Ovaries really know their stuff. Courtesy photo
The staff at Brass Ovaries really know their stuff. Courtesy photo

“Brass Ovaries is a multi-functional aerial arts studio. We have been established for 9 years and have paved the way for every studio throughout Texas,” Bras Ovaries owner Haley proclaimed. “We are open to women, men, and trans-identified persons, no matter your age, shape, size, or fitness levels.”

I bought a Groupon to Brass Ovaries recently, mainly to defy my lame gym routine. Burlesque class was my favorite—kind of like a dance class (with a little more ooh-la-la). It was a blast—awesome instructor, fun music, and I left feeling sexy and empowered (I entered the room feeling nervous and embarrassed).

Pole class may have been difficult, but the results of persistence cant be argued. Courtesy photo
Pole class may have been difficult, but the results of persistence cant be argued. Courtesy photo

I hated Pole…but honestly, it was just because I have zero upper body strength. Seriously. I don’t think I could’ve lifted my body gracefully onto that pole if my life had depended on it. I was sore from trying though—don’t knock it ‘til you try it! It was an intense workout—I think it’d be fun to do with a group of girlfriends.

“We offer a wide range of services that include a world class training facility and staff, party planning, dance instruction, educational center, and a talented aerial performance group,” Haley explained. “We have an abundance of male students here at the studio. None of our classes are gender specific.”

All of the classes at Brass Ovaries are relatively small, which is great if you’re like me and need to watch or mimic the instructor 24/7. They offer such a wide variety of classes—there’s even aerial, yoga, belly dancing, and hoop!

It was a blast to get to workout with some of these fierce ladies. Courtesy photo
It was a blast to get to workout with some of these fierce ladies. Courtesy photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To describe Brass Ovaries in 4 words….’Stop signs fear me,’” Haley touted. “Something like pole can be very scary to beginners. Sometimes people talk themselves out of it. They tend to say things like ‘I am not fit or sensual or skinny enough.’ These are just stop signs that people put up for themselves. Brass Ovaries helps by destroying those stop signs. Pole is an equal opportunity butt kicker. ‘Stop signs fear me,’ of course, does not pertain to the pole. Stop signs get in the way of individual goals, dreams, and desires. But with a set of ‘brass ovaries’, one should blast those stop signs right out of their way and proceed with extreme confidence.”

Give it a shot—especially if you’re feeling apprehensive at the very thought (that was me too). I promise you’ll love the change in pace. If, for no other reason, sign up for a class just because of their name…Brass Ovaries. Love it. Don’t we all have a pair of those, ladies?

Blue Owl Brewing

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

Austin and its surrounding towns are becoming a mecca for small-starting breweries, which we are not mad about here at Texas Lifestyle. In fact, we are starting a monthly beer series! Know of an amazing brewery that we need to cover? Let us know!

Blue Owl is first up—tucked away off East Cesar Chavez, they create five sour-mashed beers, and they’re all pretty great. New to sour-mashed? I was too—don’t worry, they’re not eye-popping sour, just a bit more tart than your usual draft.

Sour-mashing is a much faster process than barrel-aged sour beverages, so the product is a taste that’s closer to their natural state.

OK, OK, onto the beers. Blue Owl makes 1) Spirit Animal- a sour pale ale, 2) Little Boss- sour session wheat, 3) Professor Black- sour cherry stout, 4) Van Dayum!- sour red ale, and 5) Dapper Devil- sour raspberry Belgian strong, their winter seasonal.

I’d definitely recommend stopping in for a brewery tour and scratch-off tasting card—it’s an awesome deal and allows you to figure out which sour-mashed is for you. The brewery is super cute, too. I know, I know, breweries aren’t supposed to be “cute,” right? Well, whatever, this place is cute—quaint seating, tiny decorative plants, owls everywhere (not live owls…yet). I’m especially a fan of the small, lit-up patio area.

However, there’s good news for those of you who’d rather enjoy a drink at home—Blue Owl is now canning their concoctions. You should be able to find them at any grocery store, but they sell fast!

Put a new spin on your typical after-work happy hour, weekend BBQ, or nightcap. Blue Owl’s sour-mashed beers are so fresh and unique—you’ll love the change from the ordinary.

Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

This past rainy week in Austin served up some of the most amazing comedic performances—were you able to catch a show? If not, make sure you get a ticket (or fan badge) next year—you won’t be sorry. Four days, ten venues, and over 90 performers—wow.

Headlining this week at the Paramount Theatre was Martin Short, Maya Rudolph, Anjelah Johnson, Kevin Smith, and David Cross. The big-timers sold out pretty quickly but were still a steal at about $40 per ticket on average.

I was more interested in the smaller venues—I wanted to sit as close as possible to the laugh-creators and honestly, I’ve found that less-advertised performances are usually the most amazing experiences. That definitely proved to be true.

First up was Stars in Bars at Antone’s Nightclub on East 6th Street. Local comedian Matt Bearden hosted, and the night started off strong with Martha Kelly, also Austin-based, who’s known for the FX show “Baskets.” Her dark, hilarious anecdotes about her beloved cats passing away were perfect.

Jon Rudnitsky, who’s new to the SNL cast, added not one, but two “dance routines” to his stand-up. If you love Chipotle, you’ll love his burrito-maker moves. Another SNL cast member, Colin Jost, wasn’t on the original line-up, but decided to make a guest appearance I guess! His and Jon’s eight to ten minutes were way too short for me, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s because they were terrific (they were) or if they were both drop dead gorgeous. Something to consider.

Brendan Walsh, Greg Liedtke, and Dana Gould added their own quirky witticisms—the entire night was honestly a blur of sidesplitting laughter, including the closing act, The Sklar Brothers (Wild Hogs, Entourage—trust me, you know these hysterical twins).

But the person who absolutely killed it? Arden Mylin, known for her many panelist contributions to the Chelsea Lately roundtable. She SLAYED (and I would usually never use that word, because it reminds me of the students I teach, but it works here). I especially loved when she called out the obnoxious couple in front of me (who sits in the first row if they’re going to loudly talk the whole time?) and lamented about wearing Spanx. Then she commented on my Instagram post. Then she quoted my tweet. Ok, I’ll stop gushing now.

Next was the Goddamn Comedy Jam at The Parish on Dirty 6th, a place I tend to avoid, but I’m glad I didn’t that night! Josh Adam Meyers hosted, and might I add, made his entrance by grabbing a man in the front row and kissing him, rocking out with the two “roadies” (whose job all night was just to jam out and get the crowd pumped),  and forcing another man in the third row to admit what race he hated the most. Quite the first three minutes.

Goddamn Comedy Jam is all about mixing comedy with music—which is genius, especially since this is the Live Music Capital of the World. Each comedian has to perform their stand-up and then perform a song of their choosing! Such an amazing idea. Joe DeRosa sang the hell out of a Queen song and Janeane Garofalo went with The Monkees—both were more than “funny”  beforehand as well of course.

Matteo Lane stole the show for me—his jests about being gay, Italian-Mexican, and single in New York were hilarious. Plus, he sang Whitney…in the original key!

Brad Williams was the headliner for a reason—he absolutely won me over (I stereotypically thought at first that all his jokes were going to be about being a little person…I know, I’m the worst). You may know him from Comedy Central, but now I’ll forever know him as astounding an entire venue with his sex advice and Kid Rock performance. After Williams’ killer version of “Bawitdaba,” Meyers made all the comics come back on stage to do a final performance together—“Hey Jude.”

As you can see by my overflowing enthusiasm about this past week, Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival is something you simply can’t miss next year. I’ll be smiling about these shows for weeks to come.

Losing a Passion

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I haven’t been writing, guys. At all.

Well I guess that’s a lie–I’ve written a few shitty poems. I’ve written a few magazine articles. But anything of real substance, vulnerability, skill? Nah.

I even thought about giving it up. Yeah, as in, giving up writing. Forever. Not the normal “I’m not good enough, I’ll never amount to anything, I’ll never be a famous author, fuck writing” thoughts that make you a writer. I’m talking black hole depression “I vow never to focus an ounce of energy on stringing words together ever, ever again.”

There are a few reasons for this disaster. I won’t go into those, but let’s just say I’ve been bumbling around for awhile now, and it’s starting to bug the hell out of me. Realization: I’ve never written “to be good enough, to amount to something, to be a famous author”…I’ve written to be true to myself as a person, to stay sane, to feel OK. I have not been any of those things as of late.

Anyway, I won’t allow myself to lose a passion. I may not ever self-publish again, I may not ever even finish another novel…but I’ll keep writing. Even if that means forcing myself to show up to Shut Up and Write! meet-ups at local coffee shops…the only girl in a private room full of old men writing memoirs.

[Sidenote: the group that was using the room before us was a “mens group”…I had to Google that shit. There are men who are emotionally secure enough to admit that they could use friends, mentors, advice, guidance…?! Whaaaaat? That’s badass. But you have to wonder…are they getting much accomplished without a woman in there, telling them what they’re doing wrong? Haha I kid, I kid…]

More on my new writers group. First of all, let me take back what I said about them all being old men. There is one who is not old, but rather, drop dead gorgeous. He is married. Of course. The rest are my grandfather’s age, with the same cranky jokes and wheezy laughs. Ron writes with a pen in a binder full of blank paper. Erwin talks about Chinese-Americans and the pressure they feel to succeed–so much pressure that two of his friends have committed suicide. He’s unsure whether this is short story-worthy. My eyes widen and I assure him it is. I want to read it NOW, actually.

This is going to be great for me.

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Cantine

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Originally written for and posted by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Cantine Italian Café and Bar: The Upscale Side of Pasta

By Alysha Kaye Mendez

 

I don’t know if you fellow Austinites have noticed, but there aren’t very many solid Italian places here in the capital city. Pizza, sure. But I’m talkin’ homemade risotto, handcrafted bucatini, perfected spaghetti…you get the idea.

Cantine Italian Café and Bar, fairly new to the South Lamar main strip, is that missing element. Although the menu is small, each plate tastes like your long-lost grandmother from Tuscany whipped it up especially for you—slaved over the stove for hours, in fact, concocting each noodle to absolute excellence.

With the deliciousness comes a bit of a price tag—Cantine is definitely going for the upscale, fine-dining look. The wine list is extensive, the wait staff is super formal (in a polite, elegant way), and the décor is chic, modernly minimalistic. However, I was there on a Monday, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mondays are Happy Hour all day! Hooray!

We started off with fried goat cheese—they were so different, really unusual and tasty. They were served with red onion jam and honey. The calamari was standard, but the sauce they serve with it, mojo picon, was not—it was a bit too spicy for me. Amazingly, the chef prepared a simple red dipping sauce for me upon request—much better in my opinion.

Then the main courses—spaghetti carbanara and bucatini amatriciana (added sausage to this one). Both dishes were mouth-watering in appearance. The presentation is lovely and your taste buds will agree with your eyes—YUM! I can’t stress enough how much care every item seemed to have taken—every bite tasted equal to the last in flawlessness.

My only complaint? You have to request and buy your own bread. Call me cheap, call me an Olive Garden girl, but you shouldn’t have to pay for tortillas at a Mexican restaurant or bread at an Italian restaurant…am I right? That being said, the olive sourdough with whipped lardo was suberb.

We topped off the fancy late-night stop with dessert—polenta cake with vanilla custard, Amarena cherries, and cherry coulis! So, so, so good—but we couldn’t even finish it since we’d already stuffed ourselves with various forms of divine carbs.

Set a date night or girls’ night out soon—Cantine is wonderful. It’s location is fantastic as well—afterwards, you can walk to Alamo Drafthouse for a movie or Barlata for a drink.