I couldn’t be more excited to be heading back in Charleston after being away for more than four years. My first visit to Chucktown was life changing for many reasons, and not the least of which was thanks to their progressive food and drink scene. Thanks to my amazing friend Elise Cordell whose parents happen to live in Charleston, I was encouraged to attend Charleston Wine + Food … and here I am.
The Holy City’s culinary carnival is more than just tuck and tipples; the festival offers education opportunities (from tastings to hands-on classes), excursions, and paired meals rounded out by various wellness opportunities like yoga classes and aliment ambles.
To make us all feel better about stuffing our faces with great food and drink, it’s all for a food good cause. “Charleston Wine + Food is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports Charleston and the Lowcountry’s diverse culinary + hospitality community.” Cheers to that.
If you find yourself in the area March 6-10, join me for a drink or three at one of their 100+ events! Tickets for select events are still available!
Follow along on my social handles this week to see what trouble I get into!
Bartaco may be new to town, but they’re not new to the game. Margaritas and tapas-style taco bites are their specialty, and they know how to do them right. With a uniquely Asian flair, bartaco has something for everyone.
We started with margaritas, specifically the Pomegranate Margarita and the Classic Margarita, both of which were delicious and smooth. The Pomegranate Margarita is actually part of their “Margarita March” promotion, but more on that later on (skip to the bottom if you really can’t wait that long).
I would suggest starting your meal with some salsa roja and corn tortilla chips, which you get to break yourself; and the duck quesadillas, which are tender and served in a blue corn tortilla. If you’re looking for something lighter, the tuna poke is a colorful and refreshing option.
Everything ordered at bartaco is served family style in small tapas form, so you can order as much as you want and not feel guilty about it at all! Each taco will run you $2.50 – $3.50.
We tried a ton of tacos—the baja fish, spicy chorizo, falafel, fried oyster, glazed pork belly, carne asada, and Brussels sprout. All of the tacos were delicious, but the crowd favorite was the Brussels sprout taco … which isn’t even officially on the menu! It comes with a sweet balsamic glaze and spicy carrot purée, which tastes more like a sweet potato mash and works beautifully with the other ingredients. This taco was so good that we ordered a second to share.
We supplemented our taco frenzy with a side of Asian slaw and black beans with sofrito. Sides are easy to add on at just $2.50 each!
Round two of drinks hit the table to help us finish our meal. We (greatly) enjoyed the Mojito Tinto (Flor de Caña silver rum, winter spiced sangria, lime, mint, and sugar) and, of course, the Smoke on the Water (Banhez mescal, Pisco, pineapple, lemon, bitters, and egg white), pictured below. bartaco also serves bottled and canned beers, wines by the glass, and sangrias by the glass or liter.
If you’re anything like me and need to end your meal with something sweet, then the platanos fritos are the way to go. They come with a side dish of a mayo dip, but I personally think they taste better dipped in chocolate gelato. If anyone has tricks for kicking a bad sugar habit, I’m all ears.
Now, back to the Margarita March news that we’ve all been waiting for. Each week in March, bartaco will feature a different specialty margarita, like the Pomegranate Margarita mentioned above (Liber grapefruit cordial, lime juice, lucardo marascino, and Libelula Joven Tequila*). The drinks are only around for one week each in March, so grab your friends, order some tacos, and get to living the #bartacolife!
WARNING: THIS STORY ISN’T ABOUT BOOZE; IT’S ABOUT MY FAMILY AND HOW AWESOME SOUTHWEST AIRLINES IS. If you aren’t interested … scroll along. 😉
Being an aunt to two beautiful children is the most fulfilling thing in my world. Yes, sharing my adventures and drinking experiences with y’all is really fun, but knowing that I can help shape my niece’s and nephew’s lives brightens mine every day.
When my sister learned of her first child, Ten’s, severe peanut allergy, we were all greatly concerned and hoped we could find a way to help him live a normal life—because I don’t care what anyone says, a severe allergy to something common like peanuts can make a child’s life difficult. Thanks to a ton of research, my sister found a doctor in Dallas who offers exposure therapy for children. (This is a proven and safe treatment … if you have any questions, just ask!)
The idea was simple—every week for 18 weeks, Ten gets dosed up and monitored—but the execution was less than simple. Her beautiful family lives in Albuquerque, a full 650 miles from said doctor. My parents and I live in Dallas, so she made the choice to make the trip from Albuquerque to Dallas every.damn.week. With flight costs being what they are and most airlines’ cancelation policies and change fees being strict and expensive, it was a daunting idea. (Especially because, if there was any change in Ten’s heath 24 hour prior to the appointment, that week’s appointment had to be postponed.)
And then Southwest Airlines swooped in to save the day. Alice starting squirreling away miles, watching for fare sales, and setting up her weekly flights to make it happen. And, since Ten wasn’t yet two years old, he flew free. (Huge win.) Even more incredible, if Southwest is alerted that there’s someone onboard with a peanut allergy, they don’t serve peanuts that flight* and families are allowed to board early to get the wee ones settled.
My amazing sister made it happen. She schlepped her pregnant, nauseous self and her adorable, allergic boy on a weekly flight to Dallas to make his appointments where he progressed beautifully, winning over every nurse in the office as he went. And, just before his second birthday, he went to his last appointment. Ten could now eat peanuts, giving him the chance to enjoy what is now his favorite food (peanut butter, or “baya”) and his family the peace of mind that a rogue peanut butter and jelly sandwich wouldn’t take him down.
Over the course of what ended up being 22 weeks of appointments, he grew to love airplanes and, of course, Southwest. When he saw a heart, he’d point and say in a proud tenor, “Southwes!” (He had trouble with the second t for a while.) He loves watching airplanes and will tell you that the planes are going to “Dayas” or “Querque”. (He was also well-versed with the safety cards.)
To mark the end of his treatments and his second birthday, my family figured that the best way to celebrate the extraordinary process he went through was with a Southwest Airlines-themed party. The company being what it is, we made some calls and told our story to any employee that would listen—which was pretty much every one we spoke to—and were given little children’s games, pretzels, gifts, and such here and there.
Then, we started amassing extra napkins from flights along with pretzels and cups … and things like custom Southwest teddy bears and paper airplanes started to show up in the mail. A friend even sent him a branded t-shirt (that is now his favorite clothing item) and some other little gifts from their employee store! Apparently we’d struck a cord …
Living in Dallas, our family knows an employee or two, so we called in some favors. None were too busy to at least try to help. We were blown away by everyone’s kindness and generosity. In the end, we pulled together a pretty festive party for the little man.
We are all so appreciative of Southwest on so many levels—for being the airline they are so that my nephew could make his weekly appointments and for being so generous to help him celebrate two huge milestones. Thanks to EVERYONE who helped make it happen.
Blue crab and truffle deviled eggs.
Crispy shrimp corn dogs.
Maytag blue cheese potato chips.
These are just a few of the things you can find on Chef Kent Rathbun’s new menu at Lovers Seafood and Market. I recently had the chance to sample a little bit of everything from this new menu and hear all about their new weekly specials … and you’re gonna want to go check it out.
The tasting started off on a boozy note with the unveiling of their signature cocktails. The tasting lineup featured their Marfa Mary and Gypsy Wife along with a classic, the Corpse Reviver. Each of them were light enough to start the meal nicely without blowing out your palate. (They were also delightful to enjoy on their cute patio!) My personal favorite was the Gypsy Wife (Ketel One, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, grapefruit, basil and lime). This should be no surprise since I’m very into grapefruit-based cocktails lately.
These delicious cocktails are half priced during their happy hour which you can check out Monday through Saturday from 3-6pm. The happy hour also features half priced oysters … such a steal! It’s also very important to note that on Wednesdays they have half priced martinis all night long.
On the new menu, you’ll notice that they have added more grill-oriented items like the RoadhouseCheeseburger and tender kale salad. This is part of their strategy to re-brand as more than just a seafood spot. (Rumor has it that they will soon change their name to “Lovers Seafood + Grill”.) I love that there were multiple healthy options on the menu like the charbroiled burger bowl that was served over quinoa and sweet potato pieces.
The tasting wrapped up with a sampling of the desserts … and ohhhemmmmgeeeee. They have a key lime pie to die for. The graham cracker crust and raspberry coulis were so good that I would come back just to have dessert.(I seriously considered licking my plate clean. Calories be damned.) Don’t skip dessert when you go!
(I’d like to meet someone who doesn’t agree with the above. … actually, I don’t think we’d get along, so NM.)
Street’s Fine Chicken sent out a press release, and they have the right idea: fried chicken + sparkling wine. The pairing is classic, and one of my favorite things in the world is to pair haute elements with food that comes in a cardboard container of some sort.
So, of course, I HAD to do some “research” to verify that their fried chicken did, in fact pair nicely with sparkling wine. And, research I did. (Not like I didn’t know what the research would return, but it’s best to do your due diligence.)
Luckily, my results were correct. Using bubbles to mitigate the richness of the chicken is just about perfect. Acid can act as a palate cleanser, which is why you’ll often see pickled items served alongside fried items. Since sparkling wines usually ring in 2.5 to about 4.5 pH, their acidity helps to cut the richness and greasiness of the chicken. Choosing a dry sparkling wine helps to push through the fat, and makes for a delightful experience.
Street’s Fine Chicken’s signature fried chicken is “brined for 24 hours and fried in herbs from various French Provinces.” They take their time to do it right, and they get it right. They also offer sparkling starting at just $5 a glass and $18 a bottle, so you can try out the pairing for yourself. (Enjoy.)
STREET’S FINE CHICKEN streetsfinechicken.com
3857 Cedar Springs Rd. | 469-917-7140
5211 Forest Lane, #108 | 972-803-5181
Dallas is no stranger to Mexican food—I mean, there’s practically a tex-mex place on every corner. But, about a year ago Jalisco Norte opened on Oak Lawn next to the Zyn22 and I thought to myself, “oh a new tex-mex spot. Cool. I need to check it out.” And I filed it away in my mind but never got around to actually trying it.
BIG.MIS.TAKE. … and not just for missing out on amazing food, but for assuming it was “just another tex-mex place”. Last week I finally went to check out Jalisco Norte to taste Chef José Meza Arróyave’s new menu and I learned that nothing about this restaurant is like a typical tex-mex spot. You won’t find massive plates of greasy enchiladas or a combination plate that you need a separate table to eat—but don’t worry, there is still queso and guacamole! Instead, you will find a refreshing menu of agave-inspired cocktails and uniquely assembled dishes. Overall, the restaurant’s vibe heavily relies on all of Chef Meza’s experiences growing up and cooking in Mexico City. (In fact, there were the coolest masks covering the walls and each and every one of them was hand-picked by the owners in Mexico City.)
During our tasting, the chef said his goal for when people dine at Jalisco Norte is for his food to give them a sense of nostalgia—they wanted diners to know the dishes they grew up with. So he uses everything he has learned all over the world as a guide and uses local ingredients to compliment his expertise.
The tasting started off with three mini tostadas that were unlike any tostada I’d tasted before. There was a tuna tostada with avocado puree, the De PataTostada with pickled pork terrine and the fish ceviche tostada with fresh chile powder. All the flavors were fresh and paired together in a way that I would have never thought of – but it worked magic on my tastebuds.
But wait … let’s not forget about the cocktails! I started the evening with the Crafty Paloma and my friend had the Bring the Heat, which is their take on a spicy margarita. I’m a wimp when it comes to spice but she loved her cocktail so much that she convinced me to try it and I kind of wanted to steal it.
Next on the tasting menu came the Coast Chile which I was a little nervous about because of the aforementioned aversion to spicy stuff. But I’m not afraid to admit it – I inhaled this dish. The hatch chile was perfectly cooked and stuffed with lump crab and then topped with baby tomato chips and jalapeño dressing. So, so good!
The second and third tasting was the Osso Bucco and the Veracruz Branzino. The sauces on these two dishes were incredible. The Osso Bucco was packed with so much juice and flavor.. I could’ve eaten four tacos full. The Veracruz Branzino was served with a plantain sauce which I was skeptical about – but was the perfect companion for the fish. I would have probably dipped tortilla chips in that plantain sauce if the table wouldn’t have judged me for it.
Obviously I had to have a cocktail break (or two) with all this food! I tried the Ranch Water which was tequila, lime, Topo Chico and served in the Topo Chico bottle (love that). It was super refreshing and if you’re still sticking to your healthy New Year resolutions—it won’t ruin your diet.
And after that, I just HAD to try their take on the Frosé and it did not disappoint! This cocktail will definitely be added to my rotation of warm-weather patio drinks when the time comes. And how amazing does the fresh mint look?
Believe it or not, I still had room for more of Chef Meza’s delicious food and it was a good thing because the carne asada was perfectly cooked and worth every bite. It came with a molcajete sauce that was a bit too spicy for my taste but everyone else loved!
One of the highlights of the whole evening for me was the dessert.. but that’s really no surprise. The light and airy ‘Carlota de lemon’ has a cool story. The Chef explained that this dish is very common in Mexico and is essentially a Mexican ice box cake. It’s something many families would throw together because they had all the ingredients on hand and leave in the freezer for it to come together. It was light, sweet and I 100% wanted seconds.
The morale of the story is don’t be like me. Don’t wait to check out Jalisco Norte and don’t for a second think that it’s your average tex-mex spot. And don’t forget to save room for dessert! All the dishes that Chef Meza has put together with his contemporary approach are something you must try.
I don’t know about you, but I like to know the history behind what I drink. Call me a booze dork, but knowing the story behind each drink makes it seem to taste that much better.
Chateau Tanunda is located in South Australia—about an hour outside of the town of Adelaide. It was built in the late 1880s and is home to some the oldest vines in the Barossa Valley. The Chateau is the largest and oldest wine Chateaus in Australia. The Gerber family purchased the Chateau in 1998 and continues to revitalize and restore the buildings to keep its history alive. If I ever make it Australia, this for sure will be on my bucket list of wineries to visit.
Chateau Tanunda recently sent me a bottle of their Grand Barossa Dry Riesling, and I was eager to sip, smell, and enjoy it. This fresh, crisp wine has aromas of citrus fruits such as lemon and lime. When most people (myself included) think Riseling, they think sweet, because the higher the acidity of the wine, the more sugar can be in the wine without leaving the sweet taste. If you haven’t had a riesling in a while, or have always been turned off due to the sweetness, you should try a dry riesling. You will be pleasantly surprised.
P.S., I loved reading that most of the grapes in this variety are from old vines that were planted on the estate in the 1920s!
Tasting Notes Grape Varietal: Riesling Color: White/clear Aroma: Lemon and lime Palate: Bright citrus flavors with a slight acidity ABV: 11.5%
I recently had the privilege of welcoming Smithworks Vodka into the Lone Star State with an amazing Blake Shelton concert at the famous Billy Bob’s Texas!
Smithworks Vodka was launched in early 2016 and I’m happy to say that Smithworks has recently expanded its distribution to Texas. Over the next few months, Smithworks will be available in twenty- four states.
Smithworks is an American-made vodka that is made with corn from Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and water from Lake Fort Smith. Smithworks is distilled three times and charcoal filtered for a smooth taste and clean finish. It’s finished and bottled with pride in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and named after the dedicated team there and their hardworking values are symbolized through the tractor icon. They say, “Born and bred in the traditions and values of America’s Heartland, Smithworks embodies the values of the place in which it comes from – local pride, simplicity and hard work.”
Blake Shelton is part of the Smithworks family. He said that he had been waiting to partner with the right brand and he found his home with Smithworks; Shelton said he shares the same values and mission as Smithworks (Vodka. His favorite way to drink Smithworks is with diet lemon-lime soda garnished with a lime. Simple enough.)
Shelton is quoted as saying, “I grew up in Ada, Oklahoma and was raised on the values of hard work, humility and an appreciation for the simple things that make up a good life. As part of the Smithworks family, I’ve been involved in the development of the brand and I’m excited for everyone to finally taste what we’ve been crafting. At its core, Smithworks celebrates that moments in life are better spent with good people and great drinks.”
For the rich mouthfeel and smooth (lack of) flavor, we were surprised by the low price tag—just under $20. A great price for this smooth, clean vodka.
We’re eagerly awaiting distribution in the great state of Texas … a note from Smithworks: For now, you can find Smithworks Vodka in AR, CO, IA, KS, LA, MI, MO, NE, OH, OK, TN, IL, NC, and PA. If it’s in your neck of the woods, ask your favorite local spot about us—it’s usually the personal touch that gets it done.