Archive - October 2017

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Blonde Biscotti Reigns in the World of Biscotti
2
MsIndependent Hosts GNO Houston Strong Event
3
Staycation at Mountain Shadows

Blonde Biscotti Reigns in the World of Biscotti

Lisa and Toni, Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

IMAGE BY: Trevor Gerland Photography

When it comes to biscotti, the mother-daughter duo, Lisa and Toni, know a thing or two about the usually crunchy treat. While looking for a new local coffee shop to go to, on my birthday actually, I saw the Blonde Biscotti on my Google Maps feed. I was in the Montrose area, so I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did. Not only did they have my favorite drink- Matcha Latte, but their soft baked biscotti are unlike any others that I’ve seen or tasted; in fact, they were literally the BEST I’ve ever tasted! That day, I was actually somewhat flustered, but as I sat drinking my latte and nibbling on the biscotti, my mood shifted to a calmer state. I feel like the monochrome space with potted succulents, and the treats really helped. It’s hard to explain, but hopefully, you get somewhat of an idea.

I was able to chat with co-owner Lisa about what got her into baking, and general thoughts the shop. We chatted for awhile, so I’m going to narrow it down to an abridged version.

She recalls that when she was about seven years old, she remembers her mom filming while they were both baking together in the kitchen (as she was really into creating home movies). “{Baking} was our time; on the weekends, after the school rush and the studying was all done. Mom would let me pull all her baking books. We would go through them, and I’d say, ‘Mom, let’s bake this!’ She taught me everything. She taught me how to measure, how you don’t pack flour, how you pack brown sugar. She had learned from her Mom. It was one thing we both loved doing.”

When she was seventeen, she remembers her grandmother calling and saying, ‘Hey, what are you, your mom, and sister doing this summer?’ Lisa wasn’t sure. Her grandmother responded, ‘I signed us up for cake decorating classes.’ So they started taking cake decorating classes. Soon afterward, she started making cakes for friends. Then her mom and she got into wedding cakes, and so on.

Some years went by, and she went off to A&M and studied nutrition, which sort of ties into what they are doing now. Her mom would make her a batch of (natural blonde) biscotti as she knew she’d starve during midterms and finals, and needed something to eat. “I would eat half of them on the way to school. and the other half throughout the week. They were the perfect snacks. I remember her saying, ‘Ah, just baking a batch of biscotti makes me happy. I just want to do that for the rest of my life.’ Lisa let’s that ponder… She’s studying nutrition, thinking she’ll be a dietician somehow in that realm. “So I’m studying and learning, and she keeps saying this bakery thing and I wanted to make her dream come true. and I thought well maybe I can do mine and then help her on the side. I graduated with student loan debt in 2008, I knew opening a shop wasn’t a reality… I was doing a study abroad program in Italy with NYU… I was flying home from Amsterdam. I sat next to one of the corporate managers for FMC Technologies…which kicked my career in oil and gas.” Throughout her stint in oil and gas, she had always had the idea of her mom’s bakery hanging out in the back of her mind. One day, she and her mom talked about it. What are they going to sell? Cakes, cupcakes, etc.?

About a year into getting her MBA, she filed for the business name, and they narrowed it down to just the biscotti, and the perfect complement to it- coffee. She moved to CA for her job, where the coffee culture is more advanced. She spent two years studying coffee in between her job, and drew inspiration from Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia. June 2016, she quit her job in corporate to join her mom in the baking industry. She has not looked back.

They officially opened June 2017, and have been going steady ever since. Toni has over 50 recipes on hand, and the duo comes up with more every day. “Every month has a new flavor rotation. We absolutely love it.” Toni is always experimenting. They have a gluten-free option (which is AHmazing), and are also looking into ways of doing a vegan version. The coffee gets brewed with her La Marzocco espresso machine. “While in Italy and studying the Mediterranean diet and we went to the La Marzocco headquarters in Florence, where they build espresso machines. It’s Italian made… I couldn’t believe that almost 10 years later, I’d be buying a La Marzocca myself.”

The shop’s decor is more of Lisa’s personal style. “I remember being out in California. I lived in Irvine, but Newport Beach was a ten-minute drive… I had a friend whose family owned a beach house. I went to their beach house one day and it was beautiful. They had a boat at the end of the dock… I just remember the white, clean fresh look. I also remember growing up, my mom always kept the walls white. Think fresh white linens. The greys and the white tones remind me of the whitewashed brick walls.”

When asked what her favorite biscotti flavor is? “All of them have a special place in my heart. The Natural Blonde was the one that got me through A&M, and it reminds me of my mom because she’s the natural blonde. The Nutty Brunette’s fun, because I’m the nutty brunette; as well as the Rich Red- our three signatures. People will ask, ‘well, what’s your favorite?’ I try to understand the customer’s preferences because each biscotti is baked with that in mind. I’m the recipe follower, whereas mom’s the recipe inventor. The Birthday Cake is also pretty popular (with not only kids, but with the adults).” I, personally, have tried quite a few of different flavors and haven’t had a bad experience yet. Each flavor brings its own uniqueness to the table. Since they are the only coffee shop in town with a full biscotti bar, they do recommend starting out with the Natural Blonde first, and then working your way around.

Another thing I LOVE about this place- they only source ingredients from local Texas vendors. Since Lisa has a background in nutrition, using fresh and local ingredients for the coffee, milk, and biscotti are very important to her. “If I won’t eat it, it’s not going into the cookie.”

They also do catering. They are also looking to do mailers. For example, a tea package would include a tin of tea, a brewer, and a Biscot-Tea. It’s a great gift idea, and an experience. Definitely follow them on Facebook and Instagram as well, to see when different things are happening. Lisa is usually at the shop, so if you have questions about coffee and biscotti pairings (or anything else coffee or biscotti related), she’ll have great recommendations for you.

Have you been to the Blonde Biscotti yet? If so, what are your favorite biscotti flavors? Let me know in the comments!

Keep scrolling down for more photos.

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

Blonde Biscotti, Montrose, Houston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MsIndependent Hosts GNO Houston Strong Event

MsIndependent founder and Houston influencer- Erin Creeks, recently hosted her fourth installment of a dessert-themed  #GirlsNightOut event at the luxury apartment complex, Marq 31. Erin originally launched the event in hopes of building a collaborative community among women influencers, business owners, creatives, etc., while also providing entertainment for the guests, and supporting local women businesses. Though due to Hurricane Harvey, she turned this event into a fundraiser and donation drive for deserving families that were affected by the flooding. The event ended up raising $2,500, while donated surplus items went to the Houston Food Bank, Houston SPCA, and Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

I was happy to have been able to have volunteered that evening. I worked the card signing table, along with a few other Houston influencers. We helped with greeting guests and made sure they were able to sign Thank You cards (sponsored by Postable) for first responders.

Guests were able to shop local women-owned small businesses, such as: Hotel Ylem, Luca Love, Hollywood Hippie Cosmetics, Rodan + Fields, La Verte, Burdlife, Thinking Boutique by Alicia, Shop Stevie Apparel, and eSBe Designs; grab some light bites that were provided by Ultimate Creations and Designs Catering (the pasta was delish), and have dessert at the dessert bar. Now I may be biased, but that dessert bar was so visually appealing to me. Plus, I finally had the chance to taste treats from Sweets by Belen, whom I’ve been following on IG for some time. I also sampled goodies from Cocktails & Cupcakes, LLC, Legally Sweet Treats & Confections, Sugarmomo HTX, Today She Loves, and Brookies N’ More. Kroger also sponsored a DIY ice cream bar, which featured Low Cow Lite ice cream. I also had my eyebrows touched up, thanks to Waxing the City, and a quick chair massage from WWAM Massage.

For more information on the participants of the event, go HERE. For additional images during the event, check out Si Creative Photography.

Scroll down for more of my photos from the event.

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

#HoustonStrong #GNO Girls Night Out, Houston, Houston event

 

Staycation at Mountain Shadows

Doorway at Mountain Shadows resort in Arizona

Nestled against the reigning silhouettes of Camelback and Mummy Mountain, in the heart of Paradise Valley, lies Mountain Shadows. The resort first opened its’ doors in 1959, and gained instant success through the likes of international clientele, Hollywood stars, and traveling families alike. Over the years, the resort changed developers, including Del Webb and Marriott. In 2004, the resort officially closed. In 2014, it was bought out by its’ present day developers- Westroc Hospitality and Woodbine Development Corp., who decided to rebuild it from the ground up. The resort was reintroduced earlier this year.

I took advantage of the low summer rates, and booked my staycation. Upon my arrival, I handed over my car to the valet and made my way through the incredible wooden doors with sleek mountain designs on them. Check-in was a breeze, and before I knew it, I was comfortably taking in the atmosphere in the Immerse room. It was such a bright, contemporary room with hints of mid-century modern features throughout. The walk-in shower was roomy, and featured full-size bath amenities by Red Flower. The king-size bed was cozy, with plenty of outlets within reach. The reason why the room is named Immerse is that there is a luxurious soaking bathtub that overlooks Camelback Mountain. The balcony, which overlooks a good-size portion of the surrounding mountains and desert landscape, was oh-so-lovely in the evening and morning. Take a tour of the room by checking out the slideshow below.

I had dinner and breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant- Hearth ’61. The restaurant was named after the year of the Paradise Valley’s incorporation- 1961, as well as the hearth of the stone oven in the kitchen. Most of the ingredients for their dishes are sourced locally, and the waitstaff is exceptionally courteous and knowledgeable of the menus.

Hearth '61, Mountain Shadows, Arizona, restaurant, food

Beluga Lentil Soup + Noble Bread

Hearth '61, Mountain Shadows, Arizona, restaurant, food

Banana Ricotta Pancakes + Vanilla Latte

Scroll down further to see more photos from my stay.

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, lobby

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, pool area

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, lounge, retro-inspired

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, lounge, retro-inspired

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, hospitality

Have you guys stayed there? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

Mountain Shadows is located at:

5445 E. Lincoln Dr.

Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

WEBSITE

** I received a complimentary room upgrade and waived resort fees in exchange for an honest review. **

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