Ah…that morning cup of coffee. For a lot of us, no day starts without that ritual of grind, brew, pour. The resulting heavenly aroma elevates the barely alive to sublimely awake. How ’bout an afternoon pick-me-up cup? Or sharing a mug and catch-up with friends?
For many, a good cup of coffee is an integral part of daily life.
If you’ve basked in a steaming cup during your Top Trip Rentals stay, then you have Joe Lozano, owner of and master roaster at Third Coast Coffee, to thank for that caffeinated bliss.
Why Third Coast Coffee Is In Our Vacation Rental Homes
Third Coast Coffee is a quality, small-batch roaster, and Lozano brings a wealth of knowledge to this Austin-based company. He helped found one of the nation’s first fair trade coffee co-ops (Cooperative Coffees), and Third Coast Coffee imports its beans directly from this organization.
Lozano attributes Third Coast Coffee’s quality and consistency to strong bonds between his team and those co-op farmers. Achieving organic designation is an expensive process. Because an organic product is important to Third Coast Coffee’s quality, Lozano supports farmers financially.
“The way I protect my source is to make sure [coffee farmers] are well paid, even above market value. I do it because I can, and I pay them what they deserve.”~Joe Lozano, Third Coast Coffee
Lozano loves a roasting challenge: “I can take even a moderately scored bean and roast it to a much higher standard.” This coaxing is an art, one he and the other Third Coast Coffee roasters refine to bring out the best flavor in each batch.
And there’s a Third Coast Coffee roast for every taste. From the dark roasted Double French to Colombia Fondo Paez, a medium roast with a patina of caramel, each bag paints a story that can be traced to its unique farm of origin. [Literally. Find the farm by entering your Third Coast Coffee lot number bag on the Fair Trade Proof page.]
Have Another Cup of Austin’s Third Coast Coffee
Top Trip Rentals stocks Third Coast Coffee’s ground Guatemala roast in our vacation rental homes. You can also purchase whole bean Third Coast Coffee to take home in our Lounge at Littlefield (one of the lovely amenities with staying at downtown’s Littlefield Lofts–book your Top Trip Rentals stay!).
Call ahead to visit the Austin plant on S. Congress Ave., arrange a sampling, or attend one of the weekly “cuppings.” Any visit is like a religious experience, one that provides new revelations on the coffee process—and a heavenly buzz.
Each month, Third Coast Coffee features a particular roast. If you’re not in Austin, you can still elevate your coffee game by visiting Third Coast Coffee’s website to read about their beans and meet the co-op farmers who raised the crop.
Share Your Austin Morning Coffee with Us
How do you take your Third Coast Coffee? Show us your cup of bliss when you’re staying with @TopTripRentals (Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter–tag us, please!).
November: when families across America come together to eat. Yes, lofty reasons exist for gathering and tasty dishes are made for savoring but face it: no Thanksgiving table is complete without pie.
But what kind of pie?
Austin’s locally owned Tiny Pies owner and founder Amanda Bates answers that question handily.
“Thanksgiving really goes with the Tiny Pies idea, our whole business concept, which is that everyone can have their favorite. No one has to be stuck eating their aunt’s favorite pie….We’re in the best business, and our storefront says all–‘We’re baking up smiles.’ That’s truly what we do.”
Tiny Pies is Austin Grown
Tiny Pies founders and owners Amanda Bates and her mother Kit Seay have lived in Austin since 1976. Both women graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and this mother and daughter duo has always loved baking. Since 2011, Tiny Pies has been the family business and a labor of love.
Listening to Bates talk about pies reveals the depth of that love. Just try to nail down her preferences:
“My favorite pie changes seasonally, along with the local produce. Right now it’s cherry (I love how really bold and tart the flavor is). Pear cranberry is delicious, and I’m a pumpkin pie kind of gal, so there’s that. But year ‘round, coconut cream is one of my favorites. In the summer, I go for something that’s not too sweet, like our summer peach pie and the strawberry rhubarb.”
Bates and Seay developed Tiny Pies to solve a problem: how to pack pie in school lunches (truly, this is a family of serious pie lovers). Answer: handheld pie. Production started small but grew exponentially in 2012 after national exposure (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine). Tiny Pies moved out of Austin’s farmers markets, into retail locations (Burnet Rd. flagship and production facility, plus South Lamar shop), and expanded their offerings.
Still, Tiny Pies remains a family business. “‘Mom and I do pretty much everything,” Bates said. “I’m marketing and business development, and I oversee catering. Mom makes sure we’re on track—she’s involved in so much it’s hard to list it all.” Regular staff numbers about 20 employees, though ranks swell somewhat during busy times.
“We’re still a very hands-on shop,” Bates explained. “Nothing goes out of the kitchen without me knowing about it.” And if you’re arranging a catered event or corporate-branded gifts, that’s Bates on the Tiny Pies end.
“This is the time of year when we’re shipping pies all over the country for businesses to say ‘thank you’ to their clients. Working out those details (selection, shipping, price point, dates, etc.) is a very back-and-forth process. I do tons of that,” said Bates. “And I love working with customers; if I could, I’d work the store every day.”
Pie Beyond Thanksgiving
December is a busy pie time, too. According to Bates, “we try to bring in more rich and hearty flavors,” tastes that pair well with a hot chocolate or a nice after-dinner toddy on a winter day. She mentioned a Christmas-y chocolate cream pie with peppermint whip is in the works. One of her favorite fruit pies, cranberry pear, and cherry are traditional choices for festive tables.
Don’t forget Pi Day (March 14). This national math-focused celebration is like Tiny Pies’ Super Bowl. “Pi Day is even harder than Thanksgiving, because it’s all compressed down to one day, “ Bates explained. Tiny Pies gets into Pi Day in a big way; each pie sports a pi cut out, perfect for that photo op. While stores normally carry 12 to 15 flavors, Tiny Pies adds some additional flavors so every pi lover can find the perfect treat.
What’s New at Tiny Pies
Not into sweets? November’s featured savory tiny pie is the Texas Pete (vegetarian chili and cornbread). How ‘bout spinach ricotta empanadas (half-moon filled pastries)? Or there’s the 5-inch veggie potpie, full of whatever seasonal goodness local resource Johnsons Backyard Garden has produced. At that size, potpies are a hearty solo meal or nicely shared by two.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re full-on lunch and dinner,” explained Bates. While the Burnet Rd. store is primarily for pick-up, the South Lamar location has indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for lingering.
The Tiny Pies team keeps baking up new ideas. “Oh, yeah, we take requests,” replied Bates when asked if customers ask for specific flavors.
Though the November menu is locked down, Bates pointed out that’s not usual: “ If people want to start seeing something in store or need a specific flavor for a party, sure.” She quickly added a caveat: Tiny Pies won’t compromise quality, so “everything has to be vegetarian, locally sourced when possible, and meet standards.”
Though Bates herself eats gluten free, there’s not currently a gluten free Tiny Pies option. Why? Too much flour flies around and Bates would hate to risk kitchen cross contamination. But in January, Tiny Pies hopes to add cups packed offsite with gluten-free pie fillings and cookie crust as an option.
How to Build the Perfect Holiday Pie Platter
Austin’s Tiny Pies provided tips for a tasty no-fuss pie platter.
Provide an assortment. Bates says to choose an assortment of nut, fruit, and cream pies: “Everyone’s going to have a favorite; this covers your bases.”
Think about transport. Cream pies need refrigeration, so if you’re traveling for 30 minutes or more, these have to be kept cold. Tell the shop staff about your travel plans so they can assist with selection and packing (boxes work well for flights).
Choose size. Lots of tiny pies or a few big ones (Tiny Pies has 9-inch pies, too)? This Thanksgiving, pick up a box of 6 or 12 in-house assorted tiny pies Monday through Wednesday; you can pre-order selected assortments until Nov. 15. Would you like a bite? Tiny Pies has pecan pie bites for those who just “want a taste.”
Opt for seasonal. Bates gave November-specific recommendations. “Fruit, go with pear cranberry and cherry; someone always wants apple. We have two pumpkin varieties: chai whip and pumpkin cheesecake. Nut, choose Sweet Texas Pecan or the Texas Two-Step (pecan with brownie). And for cream, coconut and chocolate cream are always crowd pleasers.”
Top Trip Rentals Recommends
Austin’s known for its wonderfully Instagrammable spots. Stop by the Burnet Rd. store to experience the original Tiny Pies vibe. Savor wonderful pie smells, pick one out, and snap an iconic Austin pic against the “Measure Up Strong Man” wall.
New to town? Naturally, you need to find a great place for food. Austinites love to eat out, and the city is chock full of possibilities.
One of our pleasures at Top Tip Rentals is cutting through the noise to recommend uniquely Austin places. Destinations that go above and beyond in providing that special taste of the town that keeps people coming back. That’s why it’s always a pleasure to direct Top Trip Rentals visitors to Parkside and the various Parkside Projects family of restaurants.
Introducing Chef Cirkiel’s Parkside Vision
Chef Shawn Cirkiel is a nationally known and celebrated chef who brings simple yet artful, good, fresh food to the table. In Austin, he’s also known as an innovative restauranteur with an impressive array of businesses.
After years of honing his craft in famed restaurants on the East and West Coasts, Cirkiel returned to his native Austin to run (and eventually own) the popular Jean Luc’s French Bistro. That experience led him to envision Parkside Projects, an investment properties concept based on bringing people together through great food and authentic atmospheres.
“We cook what we like to eat,” explained Cirkiel, “and provide a space for people to celebrate and enjoy life.”
Meet Parkside Projects
At a time when others were masking downtown’s noise, Cirkiel created a space to embrace and enhance that hustle and bustle. His first project, Parkside (301 E. 6th St., just two blocks from Top Trip Rentals’ Littlefield Lofts), broke new ground with its vibrant city scene embrace.
“Downtown is loud, energetic, and exciting, “said Cirkiel. “We are that beacon on the corner that celebrates it.”
And celebrate Parkside does—with really good food: “You feel like you are a part of the action, so it’s the perfect spot to soak in the atmosphere, grab a great martini and oysters before a show, or stay longer for dinner.”
Several other properties comprise Cirkiel’s project, each in a unique location.
Inspired by his childhood love of matadors, Cirkiel transformed his grandfather’s former gas station and body shop on Airport Blvd. into Bullfight (4807 Airport Blvd.), a Spanish tapas bar. Go for paella; enjoy the daily happy hour; have wine and cheese on the patio.
Other Parkside Project businesses include The Backspace, an intimate pizzeria in downtown, near 5th and San Jacinto. A short drive from downtown Austin, upscale Italian restaurant Olive & June features more refined dining (think pasta, pork meatballs, and hamachi crudo) on a large terrace under one of Austin’s signature oak trees. In addition to the restaurants, you may encounter Parkside Projects’ event venue, 800 Congress, where Austin’s warehouse aesthetic meets chic style.
The latest Parkside Project venture is Jugo, a “grab-and-go destination” where busy, hungry people can pick up quality, healthy juices, smoothies, sandwiches, and more–all with that signature emphasis on fresh, organic, local, and seasonal ingredients.
Take a Parkside Seat
People like fun and flock to it, so Parkside can be bumping. Reservations are always recommended. Should you have to wait, stroll down 6th St. to see what’s shaking (you can always stop at the window in front of Esther’s Follies and take part in the comedic shenanigans). Another option? Go casual and enjoy your food at the bar.
Top Trip Parkside Pick
The raw bar at Parkside has us raving. Oysters! With as many as 16 varieties to choose from, Top Trip Rentals recommends a little of each to hone your palate.
Share Your Food Porn!
How many of native Austinite Shawn Cirkiel’s projects did you visit? Show us at @TopTripRentals what flavors you ingested and which atmospheres you soaked up at these signature spots: Parkside, Olive & June, The Backspace, Bullfight, and Jugo. Go ahead; take a picture of that amazing food and share!
How can you be a local business and make recommendations to guests without knowing the town? Top Trip Rentals loves Austin and, whenever possible, we’re out and about, discovering what’s special about our city.
We’ve collected a few images and comments from our most recent #toptripping experiences. Check out what the Top Trip Rentals staff recommends:
Parkside’s Summer Social Series
Top Trip Rentals owner Chereen Fisher loves to get the group out to make connections, sample offerings, and glean ideas for guest experiences. She suggested Parkside’s Summer Social Series: “I want to go because it sounds fun, yummy, and the event is something worth knowing more about.”
Purchasing admission to Parkside’s Summer Social Series grants what could be called the “Pick Your Parkside Pleasure”: choice of one each from three specialty cocktails, three courses from Chef Nathan Lemley, and three courses from featured guest chefs (different dates feature different chefs).
“It was a great experience being able to try creative collaborations from Parkside’s chef Nathan Lemley and Crossroads owners Danielle and Wayne Van Steen.
The cocktails were colorful, and the food was light and flavorful. Parkside’s rooftop patio is a lovely gem in Austin’s 6th Street entertainment district.” ~ Cara Thibodeaux
Interested in Parkside’s Summer Social?Put August 2o, 2017 on your calendar. The next event features chef Nathan Lemley and guest chef Lyle Bento. Learn more and buy tickets.
Mattie’s at Green Pastures
Austin’s locals remember many, many years of wonderful dining and event experiences at unique home-turned-restaurant Green Pastures. Recently, this piece of history was renovated and reopened by new owners as Mattie’s at Green Pastures, and we were eager to see how the traditional had been transformed. We’re happy to report that original charm has been preserved (peacocks, the house itself) and lovely modern updates added (decor and menu).
“Because I’m a gluten-free eater, previewing the menu is important. I never want to sit there, nibbling on the garnish from my drink, while everyone else chows down on fantastic looking but I-can’t-eat-those appetizers. Not only were there gluten-free options, but our server was very knowledgeable about all of Mattie’s various dishes and their ingredients. I recommend the Kale Salad.
The little details at Mattie’s impressed me. The cocktail menu was extensive, and including the photo of Mary Faulk Koock and her husband Chester, who established Green Pastures Restaurant in 1946, was a sweet touch. My Green Pastures Mint Julep was a perfect combination of classic cocktail with a modern update, just like Mattie’s.” ~ Leah Nyfeler, Communications
“Every dish we ordered here at Mattie’s did not disappoint. My absolute favorites, however, would have to be the Biscuits and Butter as well as the Crispy Cauliflower.”~Cara Thibodeaux
In addition to her role as Reservation Specialist at Top Trip Rentals, Cara has a personal food blog, The Great Full Girl. Visit “Mattie’s at Green Pastures” for more in-depth information about her experience.
Interested in trying Mattie’s at Green Pastures?Be sure to make a reservation. Once the weather’s a bit cooler, we recommend enjoying the outdoor tables on the porch and on the grounds. Maybe you’ll spy one of the white peacocks.
When it came time to create a specialty cocktail for 410 E. 6th Street, our historic Graeber Home, Top Trip Rentals chose Barmadillo partner and mixologist JR Mocanu. His mission–to merge traditional and modern elements to accurately reflect the downtown Austin building’s historic significance and modern updates.
Presenting The 410
With these requirements in mind, we present a mix of locally-sourced spirits that looks sweet but tastes substantial (it’s the bitters).
In keeping with the historic provenance of the building, The 410 in made of ingredients available to barkeeps in the 19th century. The combination, however, is a modern celebration of the home’s mid-20th century remodeling and renovations.
When you book your Top Trip Rentals stay at the Graeber House, request a batch of “The 410” to get you in the spirit.
In the “blink and you missed it” category, none is changing more rapidly in Austin’s food scene than the offerings for brunch. Every good restaurant in town now has some kind of option for this Sunday meal that is better than breakfast and more important than lunch. It’s a verb. It’s brunch.