This is the second post in our new regular series, Five Finds, in which Texas Monthly editors and contributors share favorite discoveries from our coverage of the state’s style, design, travel scenes, and more. From off-the-radar boutiques to design trends that inspire us—and everything in between—we’ll share these gems with you every other week.
1. Charm and charcuterie in Fredericksburg
La Bergerie, an inviting artisanal market, was one of our finds in our recent roundup of what’s new in Fredericksburg, and we can’t stop thinking about it. This white-stucco charmer on a quiet block behind Main Street opened at the end of 2017 and is filled with delights for every sense. Fresh flowers greet guests upon entry; sturdy white-oak shelves holding German, Austrian, and Texas wines handpicked by owner John Washburne line one wall, while another is packed with gifts for the host and home cook, like 19th–century George Jones oyster plates and handsome live-oak cutting boards. The meat counter exudes tantalizing aromas and houses the likes of salami bresaola and Ibérico ham, made in the bungalow out back. This is the third business for Washburne along East Austin Street. He also owns the much-beloved German bistro Otto’s and its casual sister restaurant, Tubby’s, which serves up delicious Caribbean fare, has an impressive range of beers on tap, and hosts spirited games of bocce ball. Washburne and his wife, Evelyn, have created the most happening block off Main Street.
2. Hollywood’s “It Couple” with Texas ties
This awards season, we haven’t been able to get enough of following the glamorous globe-trotting adventures of University of Texas grad Elizabeth Chambers and her movie star husband, Armie Hammer, as they celebrate his Oscar-nominated movie, Call Me by Your Name. Is he on Twitter, or is he off? What color track suit will he wear next? Together, the couple owns the wildly popular Bird Bakery in San Antonio’s Alamo Heights neighborhood and a second location in Dallas’ Highland Park Village (their “Elvis” cupcake, a banana cake filled with chocolate chips might change your life). Chambers was inspired by her maternal grandmother, Maureen Carnathan, who ran a successful catering business in San Antonio for years. Follow along with their pre-Oscars adventures here.
3. Art for the cool kids
Austin-based photographer Alexandra Valenti is far from one-dimensional. She’s worked as a high-fashion photographer for the likes of Adidas, Urban Outfitters, and Nordstrom, created strikingly beautiful fine art photography of landscapes with painting over the photos, and now, she’s about to have her first solo show, selections from over 70 collage paintings she made in 2017. The exhibit, “Present Primitive,” will be held at the Preacher Gallery on Saturday, February 17th from 7-10pm. The gallery is a part of the impressive downtown Austin headquarters of full-service creative agency Preacher, which was started in 2014 by three friends, alums of big agencies in New York. With major clients like Crate & Barrel, Samsung, and Squarespace and their fingers on the pulse of seemingly everything, they regularly host well-curated art shows (often featuring the work of Texas artists) in their gallery space attached to their offices.
4. Summer’s coming
Houston sisters Erin Breen and Katie McClure’s line Mirth is inspiring us to start shopping for the next season even if it might be too soon. Exhilarated by their travels in India and the country’s beautiful textiles, the creative duo decided to start their own line of caftans and resort wear using textiles from the country they fell in love with. They work closely with the artisan communities and donate a percentage of proceeds to education initiatives in Jaipur, India. With modern cuts and easy breezy fabrics, these pieces are sure to be a summer staple.
5. Big Bend’s boutique hotel
In October 2016, the Willow House quietly launched its Instagram account for the “one step above an AirBNB and one step below a boutique hotel” owner Lauren Werner had dreamed of opening. The first photo was captioned “Land hunting. Let the journey begin.” That journey included searching for the right piece of land, which they eventually found on Highway 170 between Terlingua and the entrance of Big Bend National Park. The five casitas and separate community kitchen and living spaces will sit on 250 acres of private, raw land that offers unobstructed views of the Chisos Mountains. Werner says: “The Willow House will be a special place that encourages its guests to enjoy the national park, cook awesome meals, get to know other like-minded individuals, build a fire, have a cocktail, and enjoy the wildness that is far west Texas.” Willow House broke ground in January and is projected to be finished by November.