Taverna Rossa Offers Pizza and Pasta with Personality

On the edge of a beautifully manicured pond, tucked away in a pristine strip mall in the Northwest corner of Plano, hides a hip rustic Italian gem. Taverna Rossa is a craft stone-fired pizza and beer joint that has tasty twists on classic Italian favorites. The ambiance is electric powered with beats by Bonobo and Phantogram with décor that’s Mediterranean meets modern industrial. The combination of sound and aesthetics (plus the bar on the lake towards the back patio) sets the perfect stage for an engaging experience.

According to Susie, you can pair just about anything with a cocktail … and TR’s drink list doesn’t disappoint! So, no matter what the meal, they have a boozy option to make it even better. TR offers some standards like their Rossarita (tequila infusion, orange juice, and lemon with a sangria float) and TR’s Award Winning Bloody Mary (Pop’s secret pepper-infused vodka, classic tomato mix, seasoning, and pickled veggies) that are always on the menu. They also bring out seasonal cocktails to keep things fresh.

If you’re not into cocktails, that’s just fine because they offer a well curated beer list and a great whiskey collection. Look for local beers along with crafts from all over. As for their whiskeys, you can find some incredibly unique options. Like, actually unique. Like their Maker’s Mark Private Select, which is a bottle from a barrel of Maker’s Mark that they created themselves.

The Orzo Caprese is the perfect way to start a meal here. Fresh mozzarella, chilled orzo basil, and baby heirloom tomatoes coated in cashew pesto, all drizzled with aged balsamic and finished with a pinch of sea salt. Another starter dish I enjoyed was the Nutty Grape, a mixed greens salad with sliced red grapes, prosciutto, and  goat cheese finished with a white pistachio balsamic dressing. It’s a surprisingly solid salad that pairs perfectly with the colorful collection of cocktails available at the tavern.

After exploring the lighter side of the menu and wetting the old whistle, it’s probably best to get some carbohydrates in your life. The pasta selection here is somewhat limited, but what’s available is delightfully satisfying. The Pesto Greek seems simple at first bite, but comes on strong once the pesto sauce mixes with the cheese, tomatoes, and olives. It’s delicious and balanced, and you can add a protein of your choice to beef up the dish. (Pun so definitely intended.) The Chicken Parm En Fuego is a fiery pasta slant on chicken parmesan—breaded chicken breasts under molten blankets of provolone cheese on bucatini shells in a house-made ghost pepper marinara sauce. This dish is hot, classic, and satisfying.

Obviously, you can’t visit a craft pizzeria without having some pizza! And my recommendation is to go out on a limb and try something adventurous…

The El Pastor is a stone-fired pizza with a roasted tomatillo habanero sauce sprinkled with braised pork, chorizo, onion, tequila-caramelized pineapple, and cilantro completely baked into a bed of house-blended mozzarella cheese, and served with a splash of lime crema. Some say that fruit on pizza is sacrilege (I am part of that many), however, I really enjoyed this pie! It’s an indulgence that can only be matched by a guilty pleasure like watching terrible reality television on a rainy winter day. The El Pastor is dynamic and luscious (the lime crema is a little rich, so if that’s not really your speed I would suggest requesting it on the side), and easily worth a trip to the tavern on its own.

 

All in all, Taverna Rossa pulls off a splendid hat trick. It’s a place you can go for drinks after work, on a date, to a hangover brunch, or a family night out. You’ll have a wonderful time, enjoy familiar food with M. Night Shyamalan-level surprises, and be surrounded sublime sounds all right in the backyard of suburbia. And make sure to check out their lunch special where you can get a salad and pizza for $10.95!

TAVERNA ROSSA
tavernarossa.com
Plano: 4005 Preston Road, Suite 512
Southlake: 1151 E. Southlake Boulevard, #300

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A First-Timer’s Guide to SACC

by Tiffany Tran

Guys, I finally did it – I made it to San Antonio Cocktail Conference, more familiarly known as SACC. Held every January in the heart of San Antonio, bartenders, brand ambassadors, bar owners, and service industry enthusiasts alike gather in the city to attend classes led by influential industry leaders, and you know, PARTY.

However, since the event is five days with pairing dinners up to a week ahead of it, it may prove rather daunting to an unprepared SACC rookie. So, I’m here to help! Armed with my first full SACC experience, I’ve distilled it down to what I hope is a helpful guide  to navigate and fully enjoy the spirited waters of everything ext year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference has to offer.

STAY CLOSE TO THE ACTION
One of the best things about SACC is that almost all of the events take place in the same five or six blocks next to the famed Riverwalk. So, it’s in your best interest to book a room close to the action. I had the pleasure of staying at the St. Anthony Hotel with Ms. Susie Drinks herself, and we found that we never had to walk very far for classes, bar takeovers, or event-hosted parties, mostly because many of them took place inside our hotel. Yes, Uber and Lyft are easy options for quick rides to events, but if you’re there for the full five days, those rides add up. And whatever you saved by booking that AirBnB 15 minutes outside of the city quickly disappears when you add up the ride receipts. (And who wants to have to take an Uber at 2:30am?) There are plenty of hotel options along the Riverwalk such as the Hotel Valencia, Sheraton Gunter, and Hotel Havana that make excellent locations for home base.

PACE YOURSELF
Repeat after me: “I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink.” It’s your new mantra. Why? Because YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH EVERY DRINK. Friends. this is a COCKTAIL conference. As you can surmise, there’s no shortage of alcohol flowing during any of the five days you may be there, so take care of yourself. One glass of water for one alcoholic beverage. Remember to eat. Sure, chances are you’ll slam some snaiquiris with your people, but you don’t have to slam ALL of your drinks, right? Right. Also, get plenty of sleep. It’s a very full five days, so conserve your energy in order to ensure that you make it to the end.

LEARN
There’s no shortage of educational opportunities. Peruse the schedule and find one or four that speak to you. They offer classes for the cocktail enthusiast and the experienced industry members alike.

Speaking of pacing yourself, know that even in the seminars you’ll be served some tasty cocktails. Talk about incentivized education! I wish college was more like SACC classes; I would’ve learned so much more.

Yes, there’s plenty to do in San Antonio Cocktail Conference even if you don’t attend a single class, but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you don’t take advantage of what the classes have to offer. I had the opportunity to meet Ezra Star from Boston’s Drink in her class, “Building Culture of Hospitality”. It was amazing to hear her philosophy on the culture that drives her bar: “We serve people, not drinks.” And in more depth, how that philosophy drives how she hires people for her team, how they create rituals that drive their culture and inspires her team to take initiative to further their own education. The class ran for an hour, and there was plenty of time dedicated to a Q&A, a rare opportunity for class attendees to pick Ezra’s brain and learn from her expertise.

Classes cost ~$45 each and  run all day on the Friday and Saturday of the conference.

GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Not everything you do during the conference will have anything to do with the conference itself. While there are plenty of hosted dinners and grand parties to attend at night, like Waldorf on the Prairie, there’s still plenty of time to explore the city’s other offerings. Do me a service and check out a couple of spots that I discovered on my trip and totally fell in love with. Like …

I keep telling myself that I’ll go back to San Antonio just to stay at the charming and historical Hotel Havana. But, with so few rooms, availability is rare. I understand since there’s a wonderful restaurant and bar there that keeps people coming by to discover the hotel. During my stay, I met up with some friends at Ocho at the Hotel Havana for lunch, and upon first glance, I was hooked. The space is encased in a glass observatory and offers pan-Latin food and Cuban-inspired cocktails. Personally, I recommend the Cuban sandwich and the coffee. Take some time to recharge for a day of SACC here. It’s a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle, and the decor is both warm and whimsical.

Another San Antonio gem I had the pleasure of enjoying is the new bar Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern. Located beneath the historic Esquire Tavern downtown bar, Downstairs is directly on the Riverwalk, and boasts a well-curated back bar as well as dark wood and intimate lighting details. The drinks are expertly executed by friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the walls are adorned with a bit of Esquire’s trademark taxidermy touch. This is my favorite San Antonio bar for sure.

So there we have it, my First-Timer’s Guide to SACC.
You’ll bump into friends everywhere you go.
You’ll get to know the city’s bartenders really quickly.
You’ll make friends with people from all over the country.
You’ll eat amazing food and drink delicious drinks.
You’ll avoid all hangovers while you’re there. (God willing.)
And you’ll learn so much from people who’ve been in the industry for years.

You’ll have an amazing time! See you next year at SACC 2018!


See also:
SACC 2015 Recap
SACC 2016
San Antonio Travel Guide
Saint Anthony Hotel Review

Miracle in Cowtown

Is there really anything better than too much tinsel and tacky sweaters? Holiday cocktails, of course! The Miracle Holiday Pop-up Bar made its way to Fort Worth at Proper. This festive pop-up will occupy the cocktail bar until New Years Eve. Last year Dallas saw its own in One Arts plaza, and Proper is hosting the only one in DFW to host the pop-up this year.

The famous Miracle Pop-up launched at Mace in New York City in 2014. This year, there are more than 50 of these pop-ups all over the world. Basically, you need to drop whatever you’re doing, put on a Santa hat, and go to Proper.

All the drinks were created by the Manager of Mace, Joann Spiegel, as well as the Mace bartender, Nico de Soto. All of these drinks are sure to deck your halls and get you in the Christmas spirit(s). The cocktails are served in Cocktail Kingdom’s custom Miracle glassware which all looks super vintage with anything from Collins glasses with Santa and his whole reindeer crew, rocks glasses depicting Santa’s downfall thanks to egg nog, and even mugs with Santa’s face and his pants … and all are available for purchase. (A perfect stocking stuffer, in my opinion.) Even better, 10% of the glassware proceeds will be donated to Action Against Hunger.

The custom menu has a cocktail for everyone and even a naughty or nice shot.  The Jingle Bell Nog and the Fa La La La La, La La La La were my personal favorites, and Susie loved the Bad Santa (a warm option). The nog is one of the best eggnogs that I’ve had made with cognac, sherry, peanut butter, almond milk, pandan, cream, nougat syrup, egg, and nutmeg. The Fa La La La La, La La La La (fun to sing to the bartender) is made with gin, aquavit, hazelnut liqueur, cardamom, vanilla, lemon, egg white, club soda. You really can’t go wrong with any of these cocktails … the only issue will be getting through the whole menu!

Proper will be decked out in its Christmas best from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to midnight Christmas Eve, and noon to 2 a.m. New Year’s Eve.

 

Proper on Magnolia
409 W Magnolia Ave (Fort Worth)

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MIRACLE

#miraclecocktails

Chills 360 Fort Worth

So we’ve all seen the facebook videos of rolled ice cream, right? Well, Chills 360 brought it to Texas. Currently, they have locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Rockwall—Houston is next on the list of upcoming stores.

This Thai-inspired ice cream is made to order right in front of you. Pro: it’s really fun to watch and they can write your name in chocolate sauce … if you ask nicely.
Con: it takes a little bit longer than traditional ice cream shops.

All of the ingredients are placed on the cold plate and are mixed together. Once it has frozen, the slab of ice cream is hand-scraped into ice cream rolls.

The Cookie Monster (shown in the header) is full of yummy Oreo deliciousness and was my favorite. The next one I want to try is the waffle taco, but it’s only available on Taco Tuesdays. [Must remember to visit on the right day.]

Chills 360
Chills360.com
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Fort Worth: 1005 Foch Street, Fort Worth

Monday-Thursday, Sunday: 1pm-11-pm
Friday-Saturday: 1pm-1am (perfect snack after a few drinks!)

Save the Elephants with Amarula Cream

At a time of year where cocktails are not only ubiquitous, but expected, it’s heartening to know that there are that leave us with more than a telltale hangover the next day. Case in point: Amarula Cream.

Amarula Cream is an authentic African liqueur, and the only liqueur, made from the hand-harvested marula fruit found only in sub-equatorial Africa. In addition to attracting curious and adventurous cocktail aficionados, the Marula fruit is also known for attracting African elephants during harvest time, which is why Amarula has partnered with WildlifeDIRECT as part of their global “Don’t Let Them Disappear” campaign.

Smooth and creamy, slightly nutty, and the perfect amount of sweet, you could easily swap out your Bailey’s for Amarula and mix up your cocktail routine (after work or with your morning coffee, no judgement here.) If you want to take something different to a holiday party this year or you’re just looking for something new to try at home, Amarula Cream is incredibly versatile liqueur that’s equally enjoyable by itself over ice or mixed with coffee, hot cocoa and brown sugar for something more festive. 

One elephant is lost every 15 minutes for its ivory, and through December 31, Amarula will donate $1 of every bottle sold in the US to help raise awareness and to support conservation efforts to protect the African elephant.

Tis the season for drinks with friends and family, so while you’re getting your holly jolly on, try something new and help to conserve the African elephant at the same time. Visit Amarula online for cocktail inspiration, recipes and to find out more about how you can help save the African elephant.

Amarula Cream
amarula.com

17% ABV
~$22/750mL

Dough Bro’s Italian Kitchen

Admittedly, I tend to be a little bit of a pizza snob. I’m from South Florida—the land of New York and New Jersey transplants. In other words, I grew up surrounded by hole in the wall pizzerias owned by guys with names like “Vito,” and “Nicky”. Since moving to Texas over ten years ago, I have been on a tireless quest to find pizza that lives up to my seemingly impossible standards. A few spots have come close, but I hadn’t found “the one” … until now.  Enter Dough Bro’s Italian Kitchen. I never would have guessed that my new favorite pizza spot would be located in The Colony (ok, they have a Dallas location, too). 

I recently visited Dough Bro’s location in The Colony where I had the opportunity to sink my teeth into some of their pies, and they were phenomenal. The crust, made in-house daily (secret ingredient: locally sourced honey!),  is delightfully chewy yet crispy. Dough Bro’s marinara sauce is perfectly balanced with fresh tomatoes, basil, and a hint of sweetness. The mozzarella on our pie was plentiful, and fresh. I was really sad I didn’t have leftover pizza to eat for lunch the next day, because … we ate it all. Oops.

In addition to pizza, Dough Bro’s features a variety of shareable starters, wings, salads, sandwiches, and calzones, as well as a lineup of entrees. The Deconstructed Fresh Lasagna is said to be a favorite of regulars, featuring house-made noodles, a sausage and beef blend, fresh spinach, and mozzarella. If red sauce and cheese isn’t what you’re after, Dough Bro’s offers a variety of “modern classic” entrees, such as a grilled pork tenderloin served with risotto and asparagus, and wild salmon served with zoodles and a whole grain mustard sauce. Be sure to save room for dessert.  The Lemon Butter Cake … ye-um.

Dough Bro’s features an impressive collection of rotating craft beers and microbrews—the beer list is well-curated and offers options locals beyond the “usual suspects”.

Additionally, they also offer an impressive cocktail list featuring seasonal inspirations. On my recent visit, I tried the Basil Gimlet (Bombay Sapphire, fresh squeezed lime, basil, simple syrup) and I am happy to report this is the best version of this cocktail I’ve found since the closure of Hibiscus (RIP). And that’s high praise in my book. We also sampled a Red Pepper Martini (Deep Eddy, fresh squeezed lime, Tabasco, simple syrup, muddled red bell pepper), which was equal parts smoky, spicy, and smooth.

And of course, vino is available, by the glass or the bottle.

Dough Bro’s offers a happy hour Monday-Friday featuring $6 specialty cocktails and $1 off liquors, beer, and wine. Additional drink specials are featured on Tuesdays, with Ziegenbock and Fireball on special for just $2. For additional offerings, specials, and events (including live music!), check out Dough Bro’s Facebook page.

Dough Bro’s Italian Kitchen
doughbro.com

The Colony
2851 Plano Pkwy #270
(469) 353-8182

Addison
5181 Keller Springs Road
(469) 248-0058

A special “Thank you” to Dough Bro’s for a delicious meal! An instant favorite, in our book. 

Moviehouse & Eatery

Long gone are the days of “dinner and a movie”. There’s now a slew of dinner-movie combo experiences available, but my new favorite is Moviehouse & Eatery. It’s one of the newer movie/meal concepts and has locations in Flower Mound, McKinney, and Keller. Here’s why it’s awesome …

For starters, when you walk in, you’re greeting not by the ticket counter, but instead by a full sized bar. (Because that’s the best way to start just about any experience.) IMO, almost anything is made better with a great cocktail. Of the tipples I tried on my last visit to MHE’s McKinney location, the Stormy Weather (Bacardi 8 rum, Malibu rum, lime juice, bitters, ginger ale), was the stand out.

After sipping on your drink, you can head back to your theater and take your reserved seat in their special, fully reclining (oh yes), luxury leather chairs. (In fact, they’re so comfy that, if you weren’t there to watch a movie, I’d say you should take a nap in those bad boys.) Shortly after you sit down, a waiter appears to give you the run down and take your order. The whole menu is delicious (AND they have a brunch M-F 11am-12pm and weekends 11am-2pm!) and much better than one could expect from a movie/eatery. A couple of my favorites are the Big Jake Burger and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza.

The Big Jake Burger is a fresh-ground steak patty topped with pepper jack cheese, house-made bacon (yus), horseradish aioli, red pepper relish, and bourbon bbq sauce. They serve this bad boy with fries, topped with creamy queso blanco, and a whole pickled jalapeño.

The Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza is house-made ranch dressing with grilled chicken breast and house-made bacon. Then, it’s topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh green onions. I’ll say it … it’s surprisingly good for a pizza with so many qualifiers.

Even if you don’t have any problems eating wheat (like my butthead of a stomach does), you should always end your visit with the warm Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I promise you won’t even notice there’s no wheat, and they might end up being your favorite cookies ever. I’ve honestly never tasted such delicious cookies before and I’m quite picky about my cookies. So take that GF business and run with it.

People always love seeing movies with family around the holidays, so here’s a list of what’s playing after December 14th so you can plan your ultimate dinner-and-a-show experience:
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Pitch Perfect 3
Father Figures
Downsizing
Ferdinand
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The Greatest Showman

Moviehouse & Eatery
themoviehouse.com

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
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Truly Spiked and Sparkling

I, like the rest of the world, seemed to be on a La Croix kick this summer. Light, sparkling water with a subtle flavor—sound like the perfect drink for hot weather, right? (And since our fall has been so warm, I’m still guzzling away.) Well, I might have found something even better than La Croix. (For real.)

Truly is not only a really delicious tasting sparkling water … it has an added bonus: alcohol. That’s right, booze. When I first tried, it I knew I wanted to use it as a mixer in my pool and tailgating cocktails, but I tried it on its own to start because, science. (Or something.) I had no idea that I was drinking spiked sparkling water. And this can be a good and bad thing—each Truly is 5% ABV, so be careful!

I am a Moscow Mule lover.
Reason one: they’re easy to make.
Reason two: they’re super refreshing.
I thought this would be the perfect cocktail to make with Truly Colima Lime. And after going through Truly’s website, I found that they had the same idea. I used their recipe to make my cocktail. It turned out really nice—not too sweet and just the right amount of fizz.

6 oz Truly Colima Lime
1 oz Vodka (I used Deep Eddy)
2 oz Ginger Beer (I used Reed’s)
Fresh squeezed lime
Lime slices for garnish

Visit their website for quite a few more Truly cocktail recipes (including ones that will take you into the cooler months).

All flavors of Truly have just 100 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and are naturally gluten-free. Flavors include: Colima Lima, Grapefruit and Pomelo, Pomegranate, Sicilian Blood Orange, Lemon and Yuzu.

 


Truly Spiked and Sparkling
trulyspikedsparkling.com
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#LiveTruly
Find Truly at Target, select grocers, gas stations, and liquor stores, or use their product locator

Disclaimer: I was given samples of Truly Spiked and Sparkling for editorial purposes.

susie knows all things boozy in dallas …