Traveling to a Texas treasure
By Kristian Jaime
Texas has a reputation for being fiercely independent and, not surprising, its booze is strikingly similar.
Desert Door Texas Sotol, located in Driftwood, Texas, has taken up the mantle of creating a traditional Texas-based spirit using the Sotol plant. While the process to make the product is time-consuming as it is labor-intensive, the end result is a sweet and complex flavor palate with a mature finish.
The drive to the hills of Central Texas started with a trek up I-35 towards Austin. While the draw of the state’s music capital is undeniable, the solitude and space that opens up in front of you as you get closer to the distillery is peaceful and picturesque. The distillery is nestled in a sort of “Goldilocks Zone” where it is a reasonable driving distance from the bustle of the city, but far enough to provide a respite.
Arriving at the iconic water tower at the entrance of the tasting room is a reminder you enter a time warp. Since even before the state existed, natives of the region were making Sotol as a type of moonshine with basic ingredients and methods. Fortunately for patrons today, not much has changed. Every facet of the grounds are simple, yet sophisticated. The bar is an ode to the land from which the the product comes. Meticulously crafted cocktails include: the Desert Paloma, Desert Lady, Margarita, Fancie, Comanchero and Desert Fire.
Just off the tasting room, a clear window gives a view of the large barrels that turn the Sotol plant from its rugged root to the smoky and sweet drink making waves on the cocktail scene. A tour of the bottling floor gives customers a chance to see three large casks that are integral tools in making the Sotol beer. On this day, the small, but dedicated staff was proof that the business of booze is rooted in outreach. With a public event at nearby Camp Mabry, Desert Door was about to have its legacy grow one drink at a time.
Visiting where a spirit is produced gives new appreciation for the arduous process behind it. It is an opportunity to experience the full range of products Desert Door Texas Sotol offers. The amenities offered at the tasting bar includes the original and oak-aged variety. The menu runs the gamut from sweet to spicy drinks and even offers straight shots of the Sotol to appreciate the individual nuances.
Much like Texas itself, the scene is comfortable and unpretentious and the real star is still the spirit with literal and cultural West Texas roots. With guests always welcome, Desert Door Texas Sotol is sojourn to Lone Star hospitality.
For more information on the visiting the distillery, visit their official homepage.
The Juniper treatment a true gem
By Kristian Jaime
Sometimes a bar is more than a bar. It is refuge from bastions of pretension and side looks for ordering something not trendy enough.
Juniper Tar, a quaint but stylish purveyor of some of the finest craft cocktails in San Antonio, has found its niche and bustling location at 244 West Houston Street. While in the shadow of the forthcoming Frost Tower, the narrow streets are admittedly a challenge to navigate to find parking. But when you do, you enter a unique blend of a neighborhood bar and high end mixology.
The two concepts are not that far removed from one another and the bridge between the two requires just a little charisma and a menu as capable of a simple beer as meticulously crafted drinks with inspiration from Benjamin Krick, partner and general manager, and his travels.
“I teamed up with a silent partner in 2015 and transformed it into what it is today,” said Krick. “In terms of the vision, we wanted something that was going to set us apart and what our mission was. We decided an apothecary and ‘Great Gatsby’ feel that makes the old new again.”
As bars go, success is always tenuous at best. Yet Juniper Tar has already gained the type of notoriety and praise that has made it a destination for patrons across the globe. The credit could easily go to the creative concoctions that have become staples on the menu. But he is quick to point out the right people are paramount. Even with two menus a year, the process to create, test and recreate a single item is nothing short of painstaking.
Krick likens the 25 items as poetry with every element that finds its way into the glass. Calling the process passionate would be an understatement.
Little things like the volume of the background music and the micro conversations with each patron throughout the night is part of the focus on customer service . One would not usually associate staying ahead of the cocktail curve with genuine research. Krick is proof that it is. Synthesizing the inspiration from various locales and the recipes starts with a creative direction.
Editing ideas that fail to find a foothold is a start, but so is being open to revisiting concepts.
“The [most common problem] with most bars or restaurants is they don’t have a complete vision from the beginning of that they want to do,” continued Krick. “You need to know what separates you from anyone else. You can get an old fashioned from anywhere, but why would people come to your bar? They need to feel comfortable.”
Even the philosophy behind staffing is rooted in expansion. With more accreditation available in the bar game, accruing those skills that travel with you to other employment opportunities are becoming standard. A career in anything without continuing education is unheard of for a reason. For those clocking in at Juniper Tar, that means the very likely option of opening their own bar in the future.
You would expect nothing less in the nation’s seventh largest city. While profit is ultimately the name of the game, the product and service must also speak volumes. For his part, Krick has not spent any revenue on marketing and the success that has precipitated since has been through word of mouth and partnerships with other individuals and events like the recent San Antonio Film Festival. The accolades that have rolled in over the past two years have been their own business generators and the national buzz it has garnered has also made it a hit in noted industry circles.
Juniper Tar’s latest identity as a destination bar has been purely accidental. The construction in downtown San Antonio has been far from accommodating with a number of street around the business either closed or reduced to traffic cone-ridden side streets. But despite that, it has stayed consistently busy with the future only looking brighter.
Romanticizing the life of a bar owner is a common. But Krick warns that the industry never sleeps and neither does the logistics of keeping doors open. The business of booze has as much to do with the minutia of e-mails and conference calls as it does with the flash behind the bar. In either case, it is a profession of passion and perseverance anyway you shake it.
“We attach our name to other names we believe in. We want to attach the Juniper Tar name with those things we feel represent our vision. Every time you see the name, I want there to be something beautiful and positive attached to it,” concluded Krick.
Trail lights way to Christmas spirit
By Kristian Jaime
In a tradition more than half a century old, Austin premiered it annual Trail of Light (TOL) in Zilker Park.
With more than 40 displays adding to the estimated 2 million lights in use, the walk along Austin’s flagship park boasts over 90 sponsors. The event, which runs from December 9-23, benefits the Central Texas Food Bank (CTFB) and the TOL mission to provide over 25,000 meals to needy families.
“Zilker park is an awesome location because its towards the center of the downtown area, many Austinites are familiar with it. It’s an awesome space and you get a great view of the skyline of the city, the trees are here and it’s great,” said Rachel Green, Austin Trail of Lights board member.
What started in 1965 as “Yule Fest” soon found a following and a plethora of community support. Since then, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department has seen only steady growth with an estimated 400,000 visitors.
Along with the brilliant displays, the 2017 iteration now includes a marketplace for holiday shoppers and a food trucks to highlight the eclectic culinary scene and a ferris Wheel. As for live entertainment, it would not be Austin without local music.
“So we start after the weeks of ACL, and we have an awesome team and event staff that puts this together in a couple of weeks,” continued Green. “Then we do an awesome event called the fun run, and at that point, most of the displays are up for the public to see. Its up pretty quickly, its a lot of man power and we have an awesome team that.”
Theme nights include UT Night and Night of Heroes which honors first responders on December 12. Music Night is slated for December 14 with the Zilker Stage presented by KUTX with the music presented by the Austin Chronicle. The event is free and open to the public with VIP tickets available.
Movie Night, on December 19, features the Christmas short “Prep and Landing” and the instant classic “Elf” with VIP tickets for sale.
“We really hope the families take away the spirit of the season, being together, being connected with other people in the community, getting to know one another. Enjoying the music, the local bites, enjoying and celebrating the year,” Green concluded.
Take a ‘Hiatus’ at The Pearl
After a long week, I took it upon myself to visit the new spa and retreat center at The Pearl to keep the stress at bay.
Hiatus Spa + Retreat, located 312 Pearl Pkwy Building 4, Suite 4112, recently opened their doors for guests to have the opportunity to enjoy: thirteen treatment rooms including a couples room, hydrotherapy, a nail therapy lounge with four zero-gravity chairs, an inviting relaxation area, skin care and separate men’s and women’s dressing rooms.
“The Pearl is one of the most exciting revitalization projects in the country, and we were honored to partner with a group that cares so much about preservation and sustainability,” said Sheila Garrison, Hiatus co-founder and managing partner. “We believed that Hiatus and our unique offerings would be a great complement to the vibrant culture and local community in San Antonio.”
Walking into this respite, I was greeted by two great receptionists who were preparing me for an hour of relaxation. First, they needed to know a little about what I wanted to get out of my session.
They then proceeded to show me to the locker room to get dressed into my robe and comfortable sandals. Once I finished, I was taken to the relaxation room and was offered strawberry water and catching up on light reading.
No more than five minutes later, my masseuse Cassandra, broke the ice once we got into the therapy room by asking me some questions about my lifestyle to understand the proper focus of the massage.
She then proceeded to include purifying foot soak ritual and a signature hand and foot massage, and used a customized aromatherapy. I leaned towards The Signature massage for 60 minutes. This form of massage mixes Swedish techniques and customized aromatherapy to relax muscles, improve circulation, increase range of motion and stimulate the skin and nervous system.
After the massage with Cassandra, I had the opportunity to take a shower to remove the lotion throughout the session and used the face masks that were available in the locker room. I noticed there were also more amenities for clients.
Cassandra’s therapy created lasting results after the massage as well. My strained back was relieved and that tension that I felt throughout my day was reduced. The best advice is to drink plenty of water for two days to eliminate dehydration.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Consumer Survey, 78 percent of individuals claim their primary reason for receiving a massage in the previous 12 months was medical (50 percent) or stress (28 percent) related in 2015. A growing body of research supports the health benefits of massage therapy for conditions including stress, fibromyalgia, low-back pain and more.
Although sometimes people avoid receiving a massage due to financial issues, Hiatus carries an award-winning wellness plan the H-Circle, making frequent spa visits affordable.
“We are the first day spa in San Antonio to offer a monthly wellness plan with special membership pricing,” continued Garrison. “We believe regular relaxation is part of a healthier, happier lifestyle and that taking care of yourself should be easy, affordable and fun. By taking a regular ‘Hiatus’ we hope to give people a happy, balanced life.”
Hiatus Spa + Retreat was founded in Dallas in 2007 by Garrison and Peabody, along with partner Bill Garrison. There are also locations in Dallas, Austin, and Plano, with a fifth upcoming location in Houston.
With this in mind, Hiatus ultimately has found a regular customer in me whose ready to put my health first and reduce stress. If you are interested in taking the relaxation journey with me, please visit www.hiatusspa.com.
By Kristian Jaime
A farm can cultivate many things. Thanks to a new and invigorating take on yoga, you can count bliss among them.
For Claudia “Coco” Treviño, co-founder and president of Farm Yoga, what started as an interesting concept in earnest with her friend and co-founder Melissa Torres soon became an essential stop for those looking to combine the meditative practice and a return to nature. With four acres at her disposal, the native of Laredo, Texas and her husband went one step further collecting the staples for any farm.
Chickens, pigs, geese, turkeys, rabbits and goats have found their nirvana on Treviño‘s property all resting easy knowing they will live long happy lives in peace. Joining them is a growing number of yogis at Farm Yoga at their property at 290 County Road 386 San Antonio, Texas 78253.
“The idea came from one of my best friends, Kim Rocha, who told me about something [similar] in Oregon called ‘goat yoga.’ We had a collection of animals, so we just started calling it ‘Farm Yoga’ and that’s how it came together,” said Treviño.
With the help of yoga instructor Faith Amber, yogis made use of the ample space for moonlight yoga. While this was the first foray into an evening session, they have held previous events in the morning followed by a light breakfast. But this is more than a yoga class, it is reconnecting with nature and one another. To put it another way, it is building community–while petting baby goats and a rather fluffy rabbit.
For Treviño, the possibilities are endless as reception to Farm Yoga caught on quicker than expected.
“Our mission was to get people to come and reconnect with nature. We wanted them to see how beautiful it was to be around all sorts of animals. To see how they reacted to being here was amazing,” Treviño continued.
Yoga is a habit. It is a relaxing and cathartic one, but a habit nonetheless. It could also be intimidating considering the extraordinary contortionism of which experts are capable. Despite that, Farm Yoga is about inclusion and becoming enamored with the practice. Every breath yield just another inch further into a stretch. Every session is one step closer to a personal intention.
On the night of Farm Yoga, the crowd was a myriad of instructors, enthusiasts, novices and everyone in between. Those laying out their mats ran the gamut of the young to the more seasoned. Regardless of where one fell on the spectrum of age or ability mattered very little.
Yoga is versatile and adaptive making it as rigorous or relaxing as one chooses. In this setting, it cannot help but being nothing short of recuperative.
“People that come here see the animals for the first time and they’re like children again. Being out here adds to the calmness [of the exercise]. In the afternoons and evenings, the silence is so relaxing,” concluded Treviño.
For more information on Farm Yoga and to purchase tickets. Visit their official Facebook page.
Hill country boasts a ‘signature’ experience
Nestled in the picturesque Texas Hill Country, the La Cantera Resort is already a destination for those with discriminating tastes.
Now, they can include the latest eatery, “Signature” to their to-do list with a setting reminiscent of an exclusive California vineyard and tasting room. Yet the food is the real star of the show under the watchful eye of Chef Andrew Weissman.
Overall, the 550-acre spread is already home to accommodations totaling 496 rooms and pristine golf amenities. It is perfect for the weekend getaway or a stay-cation here in San Antonio.
Yet the food is stellar. Scallops cooked to perfection join crafts cocktails and even an in-house sugar bar. The open kitchen design even lets you peek into the world of the chef himself as Weissman directs his staff with the precision of an orchestra conductor.
Texas favorites like the seasoned quail and venison are perfect with the drinks called “Topaz.” A large wood-burning fireplace adds the final, but necessary touch as patrons lament having to leave get back to the real world.
In short, Chef Weissman’s vision for the menu is upscale, surprisingly rustic and all Texas. Do not miss this jem of a restaurant in the Lone Star State’s own backyard.
Mala Luna electrifies Lone Star Brewery
An estimated 30,000 music lovers converged on the Lone Star Brewery for the inaugural Mala Luna Festival and the line-up did not disappoint.
The concert on October 29-30, organized by Austin-based Giant Noise, included acts such as: Kaskade, Travis Scott, G-Eazy, Steve Aoki, Jeezy, Tory Lanez, Rae Sremmurd, Kehlani, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Jacquees, G Herbo, Sango and Lunice to name just a few.
The Lone Star Brewery was selected as the location due to efforts by the city to revitalize the industrial site with numerous community events such as the Hot Wells Harvest Feast. It was not long before the expansive campus of buildings and corridors were transformed into a main stage, booth areas and VIP lounges complete with food and craft cocktails.
Fans also took advantage of a partnership with local artists and Centro San Antonio like Cruz Ortiz who designed a limited edition poster to commemorate the first year of the music festival.
As part of the charitable aspect of the concert, a portion of every ticket goes to the non-profit Network for Young Artists (NYA). It provides affordable music classes for youths between the ages of four and 20 years-old. Two such individuals, Chloe Delgado and Chase Sauer, were selected to perform in front of the massive crowd.
The two-day festival filled the gap left by the Maverick Music Festival which was previously held at La Villita in downtown San Antonio. As Southtown also experiences its own revitalization with an emerging arts and culinary scene, the addition of Mala Luna seems only natural.
This year’s corporate partners included the likes of Univison, 98.5 The Beat, Lone Star Beer, Downtown San Antonio and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. With a sellout crowd on hand, it is very likely the Alamo City will see a second year of the music festival and simultaneously raise the music profile of San Antonio.
Loma de Vida a utopia for rejuvenation
A new utopia to recharge with a massage and full spa facilities along with beautiful views has finally arrived in San Antonio.
Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness, at 16641 La Cantera Pkwy, have officially opened their doors this fall to give locals the opportunity to reconnect within. Carved into the hillside with a fresh panorama of the distant cityscape, Loma de Vida Spa claims 25,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor sanctuary with 15 treatment rooms including eight massage/body, three facial, two couples’ suites and two Sky Lofts.
The Gathering Place is a vibrant communal environment to revitalize with a regal fireplace, plush loungers and terrace with expansive vistas that can only be found in Texas. At this spa, your inner self is capable of emerging through the saline pools, individual experiences, private garden terraces and serene alcoves.
For Executive Director of Spa and Wellness for La Cantera Resort Maggy Dunphy, it was time to create a spa for the people of San Antonio. As a Pennsylvanian, Dunphy was drawn to Texas because of the beautiful skies and to enjoy nature.
“When I created this spa, I had a vision to give people an unforgettable experience by having great views all around and to give them the option to open the window and breathe fresh air,” said Dunphy. “This spa was inspired by nature and created for the people who enjoy the outdoors… As a Yankee, you hardly have these views in the north.”
As you walk into the spa, you will also see beautiful art pieces by local artist that resemble the experience you are about to have. Services also extend to a fitness area where you can work out or get involved in yoga, spinning, TRX suspension training and fusion of movement classes.
If you are hungry, the spa offers designed juicer, wellness eatery and barista to cleanse the body with nourishing food. Patrons can indulge in handcrafted cold-pressed juices, mood-enhancing Lotus Wei elixirs, boosting breakfast preparations and lunches that carry fresh and seasonal ingredients.
There is also a salon ready to spoil anyone looking for a transformation appearance. Hairstylists are ready to customize blowouts, cuts and coloring from root to tip with luxe Davine’s haircare products and luxury day spa treatments.
The spa also features natural, healing nail and hand care products. The Dazzle Dry Nail System at the salon is non-toxic (no formaldehyde, DHP, Tolene, or Camphor), vegan, chip-free that lasts for up to 4 weeks and requires no UV lamps.
A salon that looks out that promotes health in their clients and products is the one that keeps your day filled with peace and joy. Loma de Spa is ultimately a place of extended paradise.
“I did not want to make a simple spa that included the usual massage and swimming pool,” continued Dunphy. “I wanted to make a world-class spa that promotes the beauty of San Antonio both inside and outside the spa as well as food, exercise and a time to have fun with your family friends or a loved one.”
Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and the fitness center is also opened daily from 6:00 AM until 8:00 PM. For more information and to book an appointment, call 210-558-2252 or visit http://www.destinationhotels.com.
Float Fest in review
Music festivals are as much a part of summer as tubing in San Marcos, Texas.
So when organizers finally combined the two, Float Fest was born and it has only grown since. This year’s line-up featured artists like: Chromeo, Rick Ross, Bleachers, Metric, Big Gigantic, Santigold, Slim Thug, Bone Thugs n Harmony, Kongos, Rooney and Yeasayer along with a host of regional acts.
This year integrated a series of carnival rides and the obligatory shuttles to and from the river for tubers wanting the best of both worlds. As up-and-coming festivals go, the headliners are much more diverse and accomplished and ticket sales are also on the rise.
Since the inception of Float Fest, the little festival on the river has become a staple for music lovers in South Texas and an unofficial start to summer.
Anticipation for next year’s festivities is already building with the intimate, but lively tradition already garnering a loyal following. Only time will tell how organizers will outdo themselves in 2017 and beyond.
Garner State Park
By Kristian Jaime
Two hours outside San Antonio, towards Castroville, Texas, there is a gem for campers and hikers alike–Garner State Park.
The Lone Star State boasts 54 state parks along with a handful of other natural areas that run the gamut of the arid Big Bend National Park to miles of coastline. It is a unique quality for Texas and makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It also gives people numerous options for a quick weekend getaway.
A four-day vacation was perfect for traversing the Frio River. Its contours alternate between shallow, gentle streams to fast-moving, boulder-laden rapids. The elevation changes in the terrain make trails challenging and crowned with breathtaking vistas and caves dotted throughout.
The Hill Country is known for more than its share of great tubing docks replete with the families on vacation or college students on spring break. For those willing to take on the rugged trails that try your stamina, there is solace to be found. Prime examples include steep grades to attractions like the Crystal Cave, Old Baldy Peak and The Bridges Trail.
With campsites situated less than a two minute walk from the babbling Frio River, there was no shortage of places where a quick swim is possible. The picturesque setting can be as relaxing or as busy as you like. Sunbathing the day away on warm, smooth stone shores is not what most associate with camping, but that is just one more advantage of the Texas Hill Country.
Day two meant finally hitting the trails and finding treasured swimming holes. The Blinn River Trail provided massive boulders to overlook the calm waters of the river. Closer to the river itself, the clearing gave way to large, flat stones in every shade of ivory. The Texas sun had made them nature’s own lawn chairs to swim and sunbathe the days away. Despite wanting to do nothing more than indulge in the serenity, it was time to conquer the Old Baldy Trail. At 1800 feet above sea level, it was formidable for casual campers.
The glimpse from the top allowed a bird’s eye view of the entire valley below and miles of undisturbed country under the watchful eye of the red-tailed hawks that flew overhead. Not long after the hike back down, it was on to see the famed Crystal Cave. This proved more grueling than the hike to the top of Baldy Peak. Footing was loose and hiking gave way to climbing at some points. As one might imagine, the footing left much to be desired, but it was to be expected.
Once at the cave, the droplets of the filtered water fell through and pooled along glistening limestone and crystal bedrock. After a day where many a hiker would feel a sunburn coming on, slipping into a cave at least 20 degrees cooler was a welcomed change of pace. After returning to the trail head again, it was clear that there is no more restful sleep than that which is earned.
With 53 state parks to go, this will be just the beginning for the sojourners of March Magazine.