A fun luncheon with our granddaughter

Things worked out great for us to have a fun luncheon with our just turned ten year old granddaughter. As her school was out this week Sher and I could take her out to lunch. This has become somewhat of a tradition with her when we visit family in Austin.

Our daughter-in-law recommended that we dine at Mandola’s Italian Kitchen. There are several locations of this Texas original chain. We picked one reasonably close.  Our granddaughter had been there before, and approved of this choice for lunch.

Well stocked dessert counter, one of two!

Wine bar, vacant for the lunch crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

Not only is the food menu extensive, but in addition you’ll find wonderful desert counters and a well filled wine bar. You order your meal at the counter, pay there and get your order number sign. Drinks and tableware are self serve with plenty of take home containers also available. Once seated you are immediately served a traditional basket of fresh bread with olive oil sprinkled with spices for dipping.

Fresh warm bread with oil for dipping

That’s a lot for a kid’s meal!

Our meals were brought to our table in a very short time. The presentation was good and portion sizes were quite impressive. Our Granddaughter ordered the chicken fingers and fries. She got three huge “fingers” plus a stack of fries. There was enough there for an adult meal.

Loaded chopped Italian salad bowl

Gnocchi with meat sauce

Sher thoroughly enjoyed her Italian salad overflowing the bowl with greens, fresh mozzarella, green & black olives, and tons of other delectable veggies. I really liked the Gnocchi with meat sauce. (Little Italian dumplings with a tomato sauce of beef, pork , garlic and veggies).

Main dining area decorated with soccer club flags

While the meal was very good and filling, what made this lunch special was the fact that we could share it with our granddaughter. Time with family is so precious. When family is far away it makes time intervals between visits seem way to long! The pandemic sure messed up our travel plans, and hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time with our scattered out kids and grandkids even more in the upcoming months.

 

Austin’s Lady Bird Lake at night

The Colorado River runs through Austin’s vibrant downtown. Flanked by parks, bike and hiking trails and entertainment venues, the river also widens and slows, prompting the name Lady Bird Lake after LBJ’s First Lady.

Striking view at dusk

Groupon led us to Lone Star Riverboat cruises, offering a chance to enjoy a sunset cruise and beautiful views of the remarkable and interesting architecture of Austin’s skyline. Lone Star has both a double deck “paddle wheeler” style boat. Sher and I and our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter chose to ride the open air pontoon boat for our sunset cruise.

Center building is either an owl or a nose hair clipper: locals laugh about it

Curved building is the new Google Headquarters, far right is one that looks like a thumb drive

We thoroughly enjoyed our slow paced tour up and down the waters. Our Captain of the craft gave a most interesting running commentary of the sights seen from the vantage point of the water. One interesting anecdote concerned the heights of the buildings. Formerly no Austin building could be taller than the State Capitol. However, one rich Texan donated a building that would be taller. Money talked, and the impressive skyline continues to grow in height.

Our cruise was slightly over and hour, and was reasonably priced with special kid’s rates and a nice Senior discount as well.

Relaxing afternoon at Fall Creek Winery

Sher and I went with our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter to the Dripping Springs area west of Austin. There we went to the Fall Creek Winery, one of the oldest wineries in the state. Established in 1979, this winery was one of the first in Dripping Springs, and the owners were instrumental in 1990 in securing official recognition of the Texas Hill Country as a recognized and respected viticultural region.

The entrance gate to Fall Creek Vineyards

The tasting rooms at the winery are located in the original ranch house. Rustic decor and beautiful views from the decks and rooms add to the relaxing atmosphere of this establishment. We got a table, looked at the menu and discussed our options with our hostess. The tasting menu included five different wines, all from Texas, three of which locally from the Texas Hill Country.

Rustic seating areas

Cozy lounge area

Cheese and meat plate

Pimento cheese and crackers

We all wanted to have some cheese and cracker plates, and our hostess suggested some sampling techniques utilizing the cheese samples. We talked about the wine having “legs”. Swirl the glass, take a whiff of the bouquet, and then take a sample taste. The legs are the drops of wine that run down the inside of the glass. Sometimes called “tears” or “fingers” these droplets have been the cause of controversy as to what they tell you, or don’t tell you. Some say the thicker the “tear” the higher the alcohol content. Others say that is phooey.

Anyway, it was most enjoyable trying the five different wines. In addition to those five, we asked about any sweet wines. Fall Creek Winery has one, Gotas de Oro,  a mix of 49% Muscat Canelli and 51% Chardonnay. Sher is holding that bottle in her picture. We liked the wines. We bought the bottle Sher is holding, and we also bought a bottle of the Chardonnay and one of the GSM, a mixture of Greenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. This is yet another fun and relaxing winery that we have enjoyed. Plus we had the carry-outs again. Good times with each other and our dear family.

More on the Bent Oak Winery

We had a great tasting experience the other day at the Bent Oak Winery. Located in what apparently is an older commercial strip building, the winery has a rather small entrance lobby, but it opens up in length in the tasting room.

The entrance lobby

Another view of the tasting room

 

 

 

 

A variety of seating is offered. There are traditional tables and chairs, high tables with barstool type seating and several couches with coffee tables for your glasses. Our seating consisted of a beautiful heavy wood picnic sized table with individual cushioned bench seats. Our hostess, Joan, was a most helpful and friendly sommelier. For a tasting of five different wines the Bent Oak presents each one at a time, with sufficient time between pours to enable a true appreciation of each wine, leading to a very relaxing experience.

One of our pours.

The tasting list

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tasting of whites started with the ’18 Chardonnay CA Chalk Hill, followed by the ’19 Viognier TX High Plains. The 3 reds led off with the ’18 Pinot Noir Reserve CA Russian River. Next came the ’19 Sangiovese TX High Plains. We finished our tasting with an exquisite ’19 Aglianico TX High Plains.

Joan took our picture! See the actual oak branches on the walls? Bent oak, that is…

We enjoyed a bag of handmade sweet/spicy pecans for munching between our samplings. Across from us sat a couple of nice young men. We enjoyed talking with them, discussing what varieties of wines we enjoyed the best. Joan was taking part in our conversations, adding wonderful and informative details. Sher and I decided on a bottle of the ’18 Chardonnay CA Chalk Hill and a bottle of the ’19 Aglianico TX High Plains to take with us. As part of our tasting, we both received a complimentary wine glass with the Bent Oak logo etched on the glass. We will most likely go back here while we are enjoying our time in the Austin area.

 

Bee-licous Mead and treats

The winery at Walker Honey Farm near Temple Texas offered a wonderful variety of wines to taste and farm fresh honey products. The sparkling Mead in the Grouser is absolutely delicious. And the peanut butter and honey mix can only be described as decadent.