Culinary Staycations

Travaasa Austin Is an Unexpected Culinary Destination

Cuisine is at the forefront of this sought-out Hill Country escape.

By Layne Lynch October 14, 2016

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The pool at Travaasa Austin overlooks the pristine Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

Tucked away in the scenic, rolling hills of Lake Travis, so-called "experiential resortTravaasa Austin has become one of Texas's most sought-out weekend escapes. Guests of the upscale, Hill Country resort can participate in activities such as archery, cooking classes, yoga and poolside chats during weekday and weekend visits, but unlike many health spas and resorts, Travaasa has fostered a reputation far beyond refreshing facials, deep tissue massages and guided hikes.

What is perhaps Travaasa’s most surprising and unexpected feature is the integrity and quality of the resort’s farm-to-table cuisine, a large portion of which is sourced from the on-site, 3.25-acre farm and surrounding farms and purveyors, including places like Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Farm to Table and Alma de Mujer.

Four years ago, shortly after Travaasa Austin opened, Kim Grabosky joined the staff to manage the ground’s fertile farm, and in the years since, the New-Yorker-turned-Texan farmer has done far more than plant produce and pick fresh eggs from multi-breed hens. Grabosky and the Travaasa team also assist guests in engaging the land through instructor-led tours and classes in the 2,300-square foot activity garden in topics like fall harvesting, composting, seeding, chicken keeping and more.

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Kim Grabosky is Travaasa's farm manager.

“I love to see people come here and learn something about Texas farming they didn’t know or understand before,” Grabosky says. “I think we’re in a time when individuals want to understand the world they’re in now more than ever, especially in places like Austin.”

In addition to planning farm-based curriculum, Grabosky also collaborates with Executive Chef Benjamin Baker to source ingredients for The Preserve Kitchen + Bar, the on-site restaurant. Earth-grown provisions like butternut squash, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, collard greens and spinach are just a handful of the fall, Travaasa-grown ingredients featured on Preserve’s multifaceted menu.   

And though Travaasa embraces a health-focused approach to many of their activities and practices, Baker makes it a point to utilize a preach-free approach to the daily-changing menu; instead of swaying the menu in one direction, the chef caters to diners’ varied dietary needs and lifestyle choices. 

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A lamb strip loin at The Preserve

While guests peruse guilt-free options like a grilled vegetable ensemble, roasted beet and fennel salad and gluten-free entrees, they’re also going to behold more filling, hefty options, such as Wagyu beef sliders and pork chops. Guests devour a host of fare in the rustic Texas lodge, surrounded by the beauty of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

“I like the menu to address our different audiences and not dictate what any one person should be eating. It’s nice to dance around a lot of different choices, but the diner always knows what’s right for them. That’s not my place,” Baker says.  

Even while working with veggie-centric dishes, Baker makes it a principle to utilize varying flavor profiles, textures and ingredients to impress even the most fervent carnivores. “I like our vegetarian options to have a certain richness, texture and flavor profile to them, and I’m always playing with new ways to do that, like using hemp seed oil. I’m not only trying to win over the vegetarian. I want the meat-and-potatoes guy to be impressed, too,” she admits.

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It would be easy to spend all your time taking cooking classes and wining and dining at The Preserve Kitchen + Bar, but Travaasa also boasts a full-day schedule of events, which includes themes ranging from adventure, culinary, culture and health & wellness. Think: herbal medicine classes, hatchet throwing, equine encounters, cocktails and crafts, scotch tasting, trail rides and much more.

Travaasa Austin13500 Farm to Market Road 2769, Austin, 877-261-779. Rooms start at $300 per night.

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