Monday, May 3, 2010

Marble Falls and Burnet Spring Day Trip and Picnic

Tasty Touring's Jodi Bart organized another awesome foodie trip for a day of strawberry picking at Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls.  I originally signed up to go with the tour, but ended up creating a jam packed day trip itinerary that required me to arrive and leave earlier than the tour so I could check out other sites in the vicinity.

Marble Falls is an adorable small town an hour outside of Austin out in the Hill Country.  The city is known for the the 866-foot pink granite quarried and used in the construction of the Texas State Capitol.  You can see the enormous granite from the roads. 

Strawberry season is April-early May.  This was my first time at Sweet Berry Farm, and I'm already getting ready for my second visit in mid-May/June when blackberries are in season and ready for picking!  For $0.50, you get a cute cardboard box that holds up to 5 pounds of strawberries, and the strawberries sell for $2.75 per pound.  I had a fun and relaxing time picking strawberries.  It was the perfect quick escape from the stress of finishing five papers for school. 

Sweet Berry Farm


Mom and I picked 5 pounds in 30 minutes!

I'm glad I took note of Jodi's recommendation of Sweet Berry Farm's homemade ice cream.  It was the creamiest and freshest tasting ice cream, and that's why I am not ashamed to say I shared 3 cups (6 scoops) of ice cream with my mom.  I recommend buying a cup each of pumpkin, strawberry, and berry berry. 

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Strawberry and Berry Berry (Strawberry and Blackberry) Ice Cream

Black Cat; Baby Goat

After enjoying the yummy ice cream, we decided to drive towards Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet to search for a good picnic spot.  We took the scenic route down FM 1980 and CR 120, and it was so worth it!  The wildflowers were in full bloom and the bucolic scenery made me forget about the five papers I still had to write!
Very Bluebell Ice Cream Imagery from Marble Falls to Burnet

Sea of Bluebonnets and Brown Eyed Susans

The Texas wildflower season is short, so you have to take advantage of country roads when you start to see them along the highways in Austin.  Here's a nice guide to the names of all the wildflowers in Texas.

Indian Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets

We found out that Longhorn Cavern State Park was the best place for a picnic when we saw how the picnic area was full of bluebonnets.  I packed a refreshing lunch to go with the lovely spring scenery.

Bluebonnets-filled Longhorn Cavern State Park Picnic Area; Picnic Spread

Texas Hill Country Spring Picnic Menu
Crab Guacamole and Tortilla Chips
Organic Prosciutto, Black Forest Ham, and Uncured Ham
Cheeses-Bel Paese, Kase Jalepeno Havarti, Gruyere, and Menage (cow, sheep, and goat milk)
Rosemary Parmesan Bread (Whole Foods)
Pasta Salad Nicoise (Gastronomer's Guide)
Chilled Sauteed Shitake and Cremini Mushrooms
Barley Iced Tea
Crab Guacamole

Crab Guacamole Recipe
1 Can of Crab Meat
2 Haas Avocados
1 Roma Tomato (diced)
Small Handful of Cilantro (chopped)
1 Jalepeno (seeded and diced)
Salt and Garlic Powder

This is a super easy recipe.  I just drained a can of crab meat, and dumped it in a big bowl.  I scooped out the flesh of 2 avocados and added it to the bowl of crab meat along with 1 diced tomato, 1 diced jalepeno, and some chopped cilantro.  Season with salt and and garlic powder.

Cold Plate: Meats-Organic Prosciutto, Black Forest Ham, and Uncured Ham;
Cheeses-Bel Paese, Kase Jalepeno Havarti, Gruyere, and Menage (cow, sheep, and goat milk)

Pasta Salad Nicoise

I knew I had to try out this recipe when I first saw it featured as a blogger recipe on  I followed Gastronomer's Guide's recipe, and it was a success!  I sprinkled some parmigianno before serving.  This pasta salad has a more refreshing taste with olive oil, lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar instead of mayonnaise. 

Chilled Shitake and Cremini Mushrooms Sauteed with Shallots and Simmered in Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Chilled Sauteed Shitake and Cremini Mushrooms

Shitake Mushrooms (quartered)
Cremini Mushrooms (quartered)
1 Shallot (sliced)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar (I used the Vanilla Fig I had on hand)

This is another quick and easy recipe.  Thinly coat the bottom of a sauce pan with olive oil on medium heat. Brown shallot slices and add the mushrooms.  Stir while cooking.  The mushrooms will start to release water.  Continue to cook until the mushroom mixture starts to reduce a little, and add balsamic vinegar.  Cook until the mushrooms soak up half of the vinegar.  Let the mixture cool to room temperature then refridgerate until ready to serve.

Canteloupe, Prosciutto, and Bel Paese Cheese on Rosemary Parmesan Bread

If you go to Longhorn Caverns, make sure to go up the observation tower in the picnic area to see Falkenstein Castle.  You can not venture near the castle because it's on private property, unless you're a guest of a wedding held there. 
Longhorn Cavern State Park Observation Tower

View of Falkenstein Castle from Longhorn Cavern Observation Tower

The last cavern I toured was Natural Bridge Caverns outside of San Antonio years ago.  I definitely recommend the Longhorn Caverns tour, which takes about 1.5-2 hours.  This cavern used to be a 1920s underground speakeasy

Longhorn Caverns

Lone Bat in Cavern

"Queen's Watchdog" and Profile of Abraham Lincoln Natural Formations

Before heading back to Austin, I wanted to take a closer look at Falkenstein Castle, and the only option was to turn left fro Longhorn Cavern State Park on Park Road 4 and park right in front of the entrance of a private ranch.  That's the only spot in the vicinity to get a good glimpse, otherwise the hills and trees block the view the rest of the way. 
Falkenstein Castle

View of Falkenstein Castle from Park Road 4

On the way back to Austin, we stopped by a Thai Buddhist Temple in Del Valle.  A Buddhist nun greeted us and showed us around the grounds.  She did not understand English, and I didn't understand Thai, so we gesticulated and kowtowed thrice in front of the Buddha statue inside the temple.

Thai Buddhist Temple out in the middle of nowhere

Thai Buddhist Nun and Me

It has been a pain hitting the books again, but the semester will be over soon!


  1. Wow, Sandra! I'm impressed with how much you and your mom did and jotted down some ideas for next time I'm in the area. The folks who met at Book People ended up stuck behind a fatal wreck and it took us over 2 hours to get out to the farm. Once we got there, we loved wiggling our toes in the mud and picking some ripe berries!

  2. I've become a crazy-meticulous travel planner over the years after undergrad. Before my stay in Paris, I've been an under-achieving, passive traveler. Now, I create travel itineraries by first, plotting my path from point A to point B on a map and listing all the cities I would pass by, then I plug in the name of the cities into to find out things to do at each place, and I also search for photos of these destination, and finaly I search these places on to get even more must-see tips!

    I look forward to another Tasty Touring-led daytrip!