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!
Think Luke’s Diner (without the food). Or Central Perk (but definitely no Smelly Cat kitty litter). Maybe you flashed back—way back—to “Cheers.”
That friendly neighborhood place is probably the best comparison to Top Trip Rentals’ newest guest amenity, the Lounge at Littlefield.
From Loft to Lounge at Littlefield
Loft #705 has morphed into the Lounge. Top Trip Rentals owner Chereen Fisher described the welcoming space on the 7th floor of downtown Austin’s Littlefield Building as a “landing spot to interact with staff” and, laughingly, a place for the “temporarily homeless.” By that, she means Top Trip Rentals guests who are early for check-in or need a spot to hang before going out or heading out of town.
The Lounge features the same sleek decor of guests’ lofts, minus bedrooms. Sleeping areas have been converted to upstairs meeting space, which can be reserved for use. Those striking paintings with their distinctive style and iconic subject matter are originals by Cornelius Carter, an Austin artist whose work has been showcased at City Hall.
Stop by the Lounge on Friday through Sunday (11 a.m.–4 p.m.) and you’re likely to encounter reservations specialist Cara Thibodeaux. “I love being able to meet our guests,” said Thibodeaux. In her spare time, Thibodeaux writes a blog (The Great Full Girl, which includes pieces on food and travel) so it’s no surprise that she enjoys “offering some great local recommendations of where to go and what to eat.”
Thibodeaux is at the Lounge at Littlefield to put a smile on guests’ Top Trip Rentals stay. In addition to relaxing on the sofa or stashing luggage, try out an Urb-E (and helmet), host a meeting in the upstairs space seating four to six people, and pick up featured products from Top Trip Rentals’ local partners. A jar of queso (Austin Slow Burn), scented candles (Benjamin Soap Co.), hot sauce (Yellowbird), and caffeine fix from Third Coast Coffee are a few of the items currently available at the Lounge.
Did You Say “Happy Hour”?
Top Trip Rentals’ staff is truly interested in providing unique experiences, so Littlefield Loft registered guests should watch for texts and check out hallway signs announcing upcoming Lounge special events. A recent happy hour included impromptu live music, complimentary libations and snacks, plus a lot of friendly mingling. (Why does everybody always wind up in the kitchen?)
Among our guests that night: a bike messenger/clothing designer from Brooklyn, happy group of girlfriends from New Orleans celebrating one’s 30th birthday, and really big dog (plus his very nice owner).
Who knows what extra goodies Top Trip Rentals might choose to feature in the Lounge? During ACL Festival, for example, guests can stop by for some High Brew coffee and Voodoo Donuts as they make their way to Zilker Park on Saturday morning. At a recent staff meeting, there was talk of margaritas….
Whether it’s Cara’s friendly smile, a place to relax, or some tasty goodie, Littlefield Lounge is part and parcel of the Top Trip Rentals experience. We’re definitely doing everything we can so you’re always glad you came. Stop by and say “hi”!
Question: What do helicopters, flood victims, and medically-necessary breast milk have in common?
Answer: Austin runners.
Harvey Hits Houston Hospitals
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday, Aug. 25, bringing a wide swath of destruction to Texas’ coastal cities. Just four days later, the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin was faced with a crucial problem: four Houston-area hospitals desperately needed donated human breast milk.
At Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting, Executive Director Kim Updegrove explained the increased demand. While Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas in Ft. Worth had picked up evacuees’ needs, the Austin facility would cover Houston-area hospitals. Due to flooding, mothers couldn’t reach babies in NICU (neonatal intensive care units) and power outages had reduced stock. Donated human breast milk is usually delivered by Federal Express or other courier service, but roads were awash and routes impassable.
Board member Julia Weatherby listened, and she, Updegrove, and fellow BOD members weighed delivery solutions. Boats? Too problematic. Helicopters? Hospitals have helipads, so flying would be best…but Updegrove hadn’t found an Austin-based pilot with access to a helicopter. There was another problem: how the nonprofit would fund the emergency mission.
“The situation was becoming critical,” Weatherby explained. “The process of acquiring donor milk is very similar to donor blood. For inpatient recipients, the hospital manages their supply (they order in a big batch, usually not specific for a patient)…A small percentage [of donated milk] goes to outpatients, babies who are healthy enough to be at home but still need donated breast milk because they’re not healthy enough.”
Why not substitute formula? Those vulnerable babies have no choice. That donated human breast milk is medically prescribed.
Without appropriate nutrition–babies at different stages require breast milk with different components–these tiny patients couldn’t thrive. Without breast milk, they’re at risk of developing serious disease, like NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis, which damages the intestinal tract).
For these Houston-area babies, this milk delivery was a matter of life and death.
The clock was ticking.
Austin Runners to Babies’ Rescue
Weatherby pondered the Mother’s Milk Bank’s need. How could she help?
Now, members of Austin’s running community know Weatherby well. She’s a popular figure who’s combined her love of travel, running, triathlon, and technology in a variety of community services. Naturally, Weatherby thought to tap her local resources–perhaps a pilot friends was available? Some six of her buddies fly small or commercial planes.
Being social media-inclined, Weatherby turned to Facebook.
“I thought about tagging [my pilot friends],” said Weatherby. “But then I decided, tonight, I’ll just send a generic message and talk to people tomorrow.” She posted a simple status update at 8:18 p.m.
At 10:05 p.m., Jill Beardsley was checking Facebook from her bed and breakfast on Lake Bemidji in Minnesota. Beardsley and her husband Dick (that’s right; Dick Beardsley, the famous American marathoner) moved to Minnesota a few years back, but they’re near and dear to the Austin running community and maintain those friendships. She saw Weatherby’s post and immediately thought of more Austin running royalty: John Conley.
“I know John is taking flying lessons. I figured he would know someone or, at the very least, someone who could take it one step further to finding [a pilot],” Beardsley modestly commented. She tagged her good buddy (and John’s wife) Stacey Conley.
The Conleys have been pillars of the Austin-area running scene. Through their company Conley Sports, they managed many classic road races and events before retiring in 2016. Stacey and Jill are fast friends and past running partners. At 11:19 p.m., Stacey responded to Jill’s tag.
Stacey connected Weatherby with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Special Operations Captain Steve Bush. Bush, the owner of Lone Star Helicopters LLC.,had helped the Conleys for years with the Austin Marathon support.
“I gave Julia Steve’s number and thought, if it’s meant to happen, it will. I was thrilled when I heard Steve would help out. I assumed he’d be swamped with other rescue efforts and wouldn’t have any free time at all (which, for all I know, is probably true),” Stacey explained.
“Out of all the volunteering and donating I’ve done, this is by far the most satisfying.”
Less than 24 hours after Weatherby’s post, Bush and his team had delivered those crucial life-saving and health-enhancing milk deliveries.
It wasn’t until another running friend posted–“Love you and our friends!”–that Weatherby made the connection. Her Austin running community had come through for those babies and their families.
“I never even got to my pilot friends,” Weatherby mused with a smile. “It’s funny because everybody’s so humble (‘All I did was post a message’) but having that link is so crucial to getting what you need.”
Since 1915, Austin’s Paramount Theatre has been a shining beacon to central Texans seeking exciting and eclectic performances. Its gloriously restored blade and distinctive marquis blaze forth, announcing that magic is about to be made.
Paramount Connections Across Generations
From comedy to music, theatrics to political commentary, classic films to cutting-edge cultural events, the Paramount and neighboring sister, the State Theater (or “Stateside”), transcend the past.
“No strictures to what we can or can’t do,” said Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of the Paramount and Stateside, as he sat in the original 1935 film projection and vault room and chatted with Top Trip Rentals. “[The Paramount’s] a connector.”
Ritts recounted a special time when he experienced the power of the Paramount.
The scene: the Paramount’s performance of Mark Twain Tonight, Hal Holbrook’s one-man show since 1954.
That night, Ritts met a father/son duo attending the show. That night was the boy’s 13th birthday. The father’s father, Ritts learned, had taken him to the Paramount for the same show on his 13th birthday.
That generational continuity carried an emotional wallop.
“I choked up. This place is truly the fourth character in every performance; it’s what is central—the Paramount, Holbrook’s Mark Twain—and the river flowing through connecting a grandfather, father, and son.”~Jim Ritts
Artists who perform here also attest to the theatre’s impact. Ritts pointed out that many—he mentioned Lyle Lovett, specifically—were inspired here, and subsequently chose the venue to kick off tours and new releases. Lovett’s not alone. The theatre estimates that some 10,000 performers have graced the stage throughout the Paramount’s storied life. And every year, more than 200,000 audience members experience the Paramount’s magic.
Engaging Austin’s Theatre Community Beyond the Show
The Paramount opens minds, hearts, and doors through a variety of outreach programs.
“Literacy to Life” introduces third graders to stagecraft. Professional “Story Wranglers” help students learn techniques to improve skills and build confidence while they write an original theatrical production (you can see finished works online at the Paramount’s website).
The Summer Classic Film Series Family Film Festival introduces young and old alike to the wonder and joy of iconic movies. With discounted prices and matinee times, the weekly series is a wonderful way for adults and kids to pass the dog days of Austin’s summer months.
And did you know that the Paramount Theatre plays a role in SXSW Edu? That’s right; the Paramount staff has promoted the importance of arts education at this annual Austin conference (here’s the 2018 SXSW Edu schedule).
Top Trip Rentals has your vacation rental home just like you’d like it, and KEY Concierge further enhances that stay. Technology helps their tea of hospitality experts develop and deliver customized itineraries in advance for out-of-towners.
Founder and CEO Kim Shrum created the app-based service to provide “next level” services for discerning travelers and staycationers.
“We’re in a rewarding business,” explains Shrum. “We’re creating memories for our clients through unique experiences you can’t buy out of a box.”
These special itineraries involve tapping into the local community to identify unique adventures (arranging day trips to Marfa or catering intimate dinner parties) as well as satisfying everyday needs.
Our Top Trip guests find that KEY Concierge is a big help with services such as pre-arrival grocery delivery, bar stocking, and airport transportation. No matter what’s on the agenda, KEY Concierge infuses its services with personable and thoughtful attention to detail.
Check This Out
Enhance your Top Trip Rental stay by booking one of KEY Concierge’s popular tours in Austin. Try the Brewery + BBQ Excursion. Outdoor lovers won’t want to miss KEY’s private Hill Country Ride or A Day on the Lake (so many ATX adventures to arrange!).
Tell Us About Your Experience
How has KEY Concierge enhanced your Austin stay with Top Trip Rentals? Add your comment here or show us on Instagram (@toptriprentals, #toptripping). Did you get the complimentary breakfast?