Breckenridge Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)

In anticipation of the upcoming Breck Trek nights in Dallas this week, I stepped in to the actual Breckenridge Brewery for a pint and a tour. The state of the art brewery recently moved to a brand new facility in the Littleton neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. The beautiful mix of industrial metal and rustic wood creates the perfect atmosphere for beer connoisseurs and curious minds alike to enjoy an afternoon learning about the beer making process. I may not know much about beer, but the smell of the brewery alone was enough to make me want to start home brewing.

I started the tour with a nice glass of the Bumps N’ Jumps Session IPA, which is an exclusive and limited collaboration between Breckenridge and Vail (two awesome CO ski resorts). It accompanied the tour beautifully with light bitterness and full hop flavor. We then learned about the German-engineered tanks that are used in the facility the process and some of the things that make Breckenridge Brewery unique. My favorite tidbit was the fact that all of the spent grain (grain that the brewery no longer needs, which has been separated from the sugary liquid that will eventually be turned into beer) goes directly to a local farmer to feed his cattle. Efficiency, people.

The best stop on the tour was the barrel room, where all of the barrel-aged beer is stored for a period of time to absorb the taste and smells of the barrels themselves (much like aging a spirit). This room smelled like HEAVEN. The aromas of wood and rum and vanilla all played so well together that I refused to leave. They have several beers on rotation through the barrel room, but one beer that they always have available is their Whiskey Barrel Aged 471 Double IPA with Citra hops, which gives off aromas of tropical fruits and citrus flavors. 

You may think that a brewery tour is all there is to do at the Breckenridge Brewery … EHHH! After the tour, I got to indulge myself in lunch at the Farm House, their on-site restaurant. Rustic rocking chairs, plush and comfy seating, and a stone fireplace provide for a mountain-esque ambiance. We started our meal with—what else—a flight of beer. Up for review was the Nitro Orange Chocolate Stout, the Break IPA, the Ophelia Hoppy Wheat, and the Whiskey Barrel Aged 471 Dry Hopped with Citra IPA. All were delicious and has citrus-y flavors, but my favorite was the Ophelia for its lightness and Mosaic hops. 

Up to the challenge of satisfying my hunger were several plates, which we shared as to try the most items. We chose the chicken pot pie, the venison chili mac and cheese, and the salmon with risotto and asparagus. I don’t know which I enjoyed more because I didn’t stop to breathe between bites … everything was that good. As for desert, and my stomach said “no” but my eyes and my head said “OH YEAH, BABY. You have months before bathing suit season.” Guess which won? We indulged anyway and ordered the Apple Galette, a warm apple pie/strudel served in a cast iron skillet and topped with house-made vanilla porter ice cream.

This experience was the perfect lead in to the Breck Trek tour, which will be traveling across the US to give the other states a taste of the Colorado lifestyle. Live music, beer education, and of course Breckenridge Brewery beer sampling will occur at every stop on the tour. The Breck Trek will hit Dallas the week of January 16th, check out times and locations here

BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY
breckbrew.com
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2920 Brewery Lane, Littleton, Colorado 80120
303-623-2739

Breck Trek | Facebook 

Everything’s Coming up Stillhouse (Moonshine)

When I was first told about Stillhouse Moonshine, I immediately stopped what I was doing, found this gif, then wrote the headline of my review. Once I got that out of my system (it took a couple of days), I turned my attention to the two bottles, er, containers of moonshine in front of me.

First, Stillhouse is extremely proud of their packaging, and rightfully so–the moonshine is house in a metal can … it’s a turpentine can with booze in it? Now I’ve seen everything. It’s a cool bit to stand out from the constantly expanding clear/white whiskey shelf at the liquor store and definitely begs to be taken on a camping trip, tailgate, beach outing or other activity that frowns upon glass. It’s also fun to get a non-whiskey drinker to watch you swig from the can, because their cringes are always worth it.

Courtesy of Stillhouse

The Stillhouse line offers a full spectrum of flavors–original, apple crisp, peach tea, mint chip, coconut lime, and red hot. Their website offers recipes for shots (they strongly recommend you chill the shots), rocks cocktails and punches.

The team was sent the original and peach tea flavors to try out, so I started sipping the original moonshine neat and immediately noticed how smooth it was– almost like a vodka as opposed to a moonshine. It’s highly filtered with just a hint of sweet corn, which made it easy to drink, but it definitely seemed meant as a mixer, especially since it’s only 80 proof. The chilled shot also felt like drinking a good vodka, but the possibilities for infusions, punches and even replacing vodka in a lot of standard drink recipes (it paired well with ginger beer) allow for some unique experimentation. I also tasted the peach tea moonshine neat and it was even easier to drink, but not as sweet as a lot of the flavored whiskeys on the market. (Thank f**k.) It’s a nice 69 proof and could easily see myself drinking a glass or two of it straight. It made a great chilled shot and didn’t need to be dressed up, but adding lemonade made for a great shot or quick cocktail.

If the other Stillhouse flavors can balance capturing the intended flavor without a sugar rush (looking at you, mint chip), this is a really versatile base spirit for some interesting drink ideas and experimentation.

STILLHOUSE MOONSHINE
stillhouse.com
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~$25 / 750 ml
Stillhouse is available at most major liquor stores in the area

Salsa Limon – Fort Worth Centro

I’m pretty sure most Fort Worthians (I think that’s what we are called) will agree that Salsa Limon turns out some of the best tacos this side of Arlington. That said, I was really excited to hear that they opened a new location in downtown Fort Worth in the Tower building. This isn’t just a typical Salsa Limon … oh no … because this one serves liquor. Now you can get a margarita or a spiked agua fresca while enjoying the yummy tacos. Blessed be the taco gods.

Salsa Limon is trying to honor and preserve true Mexican taquerias–they use only the freshest ingredients. Their best selling taco is the El Capitan, which just happens to be my personal favorite. A buttery, toasted flour tortilla, Oaxaca-Jack cheese, pickled cabbage, onion, cilantro, and whatever filling you want. BRB I have to go wipe my drool real quick. I’ve always gone with my “safe” order of a Chicken El Capitan, but I got to experience some different meats that might have changed my order. I tried the Tripa for the first time last week, and to my surprise, I enjoyed this Mexican delicacy. If you want to just trust me that it’s really good, but not know what part of the animal it comes from … stop reading now. For those of you who are curious: cow intestine.

Now for the salsa. I may or may not be known to ordering large quantities of their amazing salsa and to keep it in my fridge … but let’s not spread that around. So the tomatillo (my favorite) and piquin are traditional taqueria salas, and the jalapeño and habanero are family recipes. Basically, if you haven’t tried all of their salsas, especially the jalapeño, you must. I personally believe that the range from mild to crazy hot goes a little like this: tomatillo > piquin > jalapeño > habanero. Salsa Limon says that piquin is spicer than the jalapeño, but try it at your own risk.

salsa-limon-2

The difference between this location and the others, as previously mentioned, is that they have booooooze to calm your fired-up taste buds. I would recommend the sour margarita as it’s as pure a margarita as you can get here. All the limes are squeezed by their fun orange juice machine regularly, so it’s fresh fresh fresh. Not into margraitas? You can also add rum, vodka, or gin to their agua frescas. I personally enjoy the hibiscus tea with gin.

 

Bonus- This location is perfect for late night. I have always felt that downtown Fort Worth was lacking in late night eats- problem solved. They are open till 3 am Friday and Saturday nights. Double bonus- they have a pretty great patio that looks onto the streets of downtown.

Salsa Limon- Centro
Website
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550 Throckmorton Street (Fort Worth)
817-615-9760

Hours:
Monday- Thursday: 7am-10pm
Friday- Saturday: 7am-3am
Sunday: 7am-9pm

 

Firestone & Robertson Debuts a Bourbon

While most people know Firestone and Robertson Distillery (F&R) for their TX Blended Whiskey, their original plan of creating a bourbon is FINALLY hitting store shelves. (Actually, it probably didn’t hit many shelves because of the high demand for the product … and it was sold out within 15 minutes on those shelves!) The first bottles of TX Bourbon were released at the distillery on December 10. People started lining up around 7am the morning of to make sure they were able to get their hands on a bottle. (F&R was only planning on selling to about three hundred bottles, yet they ended up having to cut the line at 750.) Leaving a few hundred people without as well as leaving few bottles for liquor store shelves. I personally know that a Spec’s store in Fort Worth had a line waiting for the shipment. (… leaving those of us with 9 to 5s to revert to signing up for a wait list and hoping for our phones to ring.)

Now to Fort Worth’s newest shinning star–the bourbon. F&R prides itself on using local everything. They use Texas corn, Texas soft red winter wheat, Texas water, and Texas yeast. (The yeast strain they use was cultivated from a pecan tree in Somervell County.) Even the DNA analysis of the yeast took place in Fort Worth inside a TCU lab. (Go frogs.)

Courtesy of F&R

F&R is truly cultivating a Texas product. Once the mash is distilled, it goes into charred oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years. (Bourbon must be aged for 2 years by law). The oak barrels are what give the bourbon its color and flavor. The product that comes off the still is essentially moonshine, a clear corn whiskey. As temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, the whiskey interacts with the oak barrels, taking on some of its flavor notes. When hot, the oak barrel’s pores open up and the whiskey permeates into the oak. When cold, the oak barrel’s pores shrink and force the whiskey back into the barrel. This interaction is the key to making great bourbon. Without that interaction, the bourbon would not get the color and flavor from the oak. F&R barreled their first bourbon in March 2012. A long four and a half years later, they bottled that first batch.

I was honored to be one of the first people to sneak a taste of the bourbon. The first smell provides a soft hint of the oak barrel, and the first sip provided a hint of vanilla and a short, smooth finish. (The sweetness is what we’ve come to expect from F&R products, so we’re good with it.) As someone who enjoys bourbon, I was hooked from the first sip. It didn’t have a sting that I get from some other brands.

Courtesy of F&R

Now that we’ve gotten the fun out of the way, I’ll clear a little something up that may be lurking in the back of your mind … yes, it can be called “bourbon”. Some think that a spirit has to be made in Kentucky to be called “bourbon”, but not so. “The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) state that bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be: produced in the United States, made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred oak containers, distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, [and] bottled at 80+ proof.” (Thanks Wikipedia!) So there.

For those of you lucky enough to get a bottle of this first release, congratulations (I’m jealous). For everyone else, wait a few months and then you’ll get your turn … it’s truly worth the wait.

 

Firestone and Robertson Distillery – Bourbon
frdistilling.com
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901 W. Vickery Boulevard (Fort Worth)

Nose: oak, honey
Flavor: vanilla, honey
Finish: smooth, short
Aged: 4+ years
Proof: 82 (41% ABV)

They offer distillery tours on select Saturdays.

 

Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts

The holidays have come and gone, and that means the one gift you agonized over has been given. So … what can your go-to gift for the year be?  You know … for the person who has everything. Do your friends like to cook? Or as a minimum … do they like to eat? I have the perfect (read: delicious) solution for you: give the gift of a culinary education, with a little help from Chef Tre Wilcox and American Kitchen Cookware.

At the end of 2016, Julia Pearl‘s Chef Tre Wilcox (you may also recognize him from Bravo’s “Top Chef”, or impressively taking down Iron Chef Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America”) opened Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts: a beautiful event venue in Plano, featuring a state of the art demonstration kitchen with four cooking stations. Cooking Concepts offers everything from themed cooking classes, to team building events, to catering services. Cooking Concepts’ partnership with American Kitchen Cookware is a match made in culinary heaven, giving would-be Wolfgangs and Giadas the opportunity to experiment with some beautiful cookware that is actually affordable.

I had the opportunity to participate in a cooking class with Chef Tre and his crew, and here are a few things I can share:

  1. This is not one of those “cooking classes” where you sit back and watch someone else do all of the heavy lifting while you half-watch amidst socializing with your friends and sipping mediocre wine from a plastic cup. Oh, no. I have very few pictures from this event, and this is because I was constantly chopping, stirring, sautéing, or pan-searing something. You are going to earn your dang dinner.
  2. That said … you will not be thrown to the wolves. Each of the four demo stations were staffed with one of Chef Tre’s kitchen minions, who were A) extremely talented, B) extremely helpful, and C) REALLY INTO FOOD … kind of like that Central Market deep voice guy but remarkably less annoying.
  3. You may learn that you’re doing everything wrong in the kitchen. Just accept this heading into the experience. There can’t really be a “wrong” way to chop an onion, right? Oh, on the contrary. There is, and it’s the way you’ve been doing it all along. Get ready to make some adjustments, and you will learn some time saving (and injury saving and perhaps even watery eye saving … ) hacks you will want to use at home.
  4. You can cook a delicious, impressive, restaurant quality meal. Ok, so maybe it’s under the watchful eye of someone who is slightly more well versed in the kitchen than you are, but that’s a technicality.   Shrimp and grits … pan seared scallops … Thai coconut salmon … yeah, I created all of these dishes. (Me, the UberEats Queen.)
Picture courtesy of American Kitchen Cookware

Here is a list of upcoming cooking classes, with themes running the gamut from sushi, to Southern cooking, to knife safety.  Note: Cooking Concepts is offering a couples’ cooking class for Valentine’s Day, which is coming up quickly. So, make your plans! Online registration is available. Classes are small, and will fill up quickly!

If you’re going to surprise the aspiring chef in your life with a Tre Wilcox cooking class, you may as well give them the right tools to be successful once the class is in the books. Check out American Kitchen Cookware to peruse some of the cookware Chef Tre uses in his demo kitchen. You’ll want to take some home with you.

Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts
trewilcox.com
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8200 Preston Road, Suite 135 (Plano)
(214) 296-2168

A great, big “thank you” to Chef Tre Wilcox and American Kitchen Cookware for inviting me out to get schooled … and fed! It was so much fun!

Seaworthy at the Ace Hotel (New Orleans)

I am always saddened by peoples’ dismissal of New Orleans as a party town … I mean, it totally is, but there’s a lot more to it than the partiers who are laissez les bons temps rouler-ing.  I was delighted to get out of the French Quarter bubble on my last trip to visit the new Ace Hotel in the CBD (Central Business District) and dine at Seaworthy, the slightly “hidden” seafood restaurant marked by the eerie glow of a green neon sign.

The space is old school New Orleans, a little hipster and a little southern with elegant touches of brass here and … well, everywhere.  You can choose to sit at the bar by the entrance that is both for booze and oysters–both of which were fresher than expected in many ways–at a table in the dimly lit dining room, or on the patio.   Their patio is just about the closest thing as I’ve found to heaven in New Orleans (without being a tiki bar) thanks to the preservation of the building itself, the minimal (yet unmistakable) nautical decor, and the globe lights adorning every inch of the place.

The drink program here is very well done with bar director Lauren Schell at the helm.  (See what I did there?)  The cocktail list was a mix of classics (think Fishhouse Punch and Sidecars) and more “au courant” options like the Holywater (spiced rum, cognac, Green Chartreuse, almond syrup, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and angostura bitters) and the Good Ships/Wood Ships (the Tales of the Cocktail Daiquiri Seasonal Feature with El Dorado 5yr rum, Genepy des Alpes, pamplemousse liqueur, and lime).  The wine and beer list are respectable with very limited but well selected options in both categories.  (Really … there are only 11 by the glass options for wine making it a snap to choose which to order.)

As the name implies, the food menu is decidedly seafood-slanted.  The oysters on the bar beg to be slurped as much as the drinks, so who were we to deny them the joy of being dinner?  (Just ask for extra crackers if you’re into carb-loading your oysters.)  Also not to be missed is their ceviche (Gulf fish, lime, brunoise of habañero chilies, sweet peppers, herbs) served with unexpectedly delicious grit crisps.  The Gulf fish was surprisingly delicious and tender … and we may have ordered a second bowl of it.

Overall, the restaurant is worth a visit, if not for dinner for at least a happy hour with a couple (five) cocktails and a found of their fresh-as-they-get oysters.


SEAWORTHY at the Ace Hotel

seaworthynola.com
630 Carondelet Street (Central Business District), New Orleans
(504) 930-3071

Pappas Bros. Fall/Winter Cocktail Menu

The (arguably) cooler weather means bars and restaurants are bringing out their fall and winter offerings.  Pappas Bros, one of Dallas’s classic steakhouses, rolled out four fall-inspired options that are real stunners.

COLUMBIA RIVER FIZZ | Strawberry Infused Aviation Gin, André Clouet Rosé Champagne, Giffard Vanilla, Becherovka, lemon, egg white, orange blossom water

This delightful fizz doubles down on the fluff with an egg white and champagne, giving it a generous head that makes the whole drink rich.  The strawberry infusion offsets the herbaceousness of the Becherovka.

ARUGULA GIMLET | Wheatley Vodka, John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum, lime, arugula

RIVAL SIBLING | Larressingle V.S.O.P. Armagnac, Navarre Rosé Pineau des Charentes, Amaro Nonino, angostura, flamed orange

PAPPAS BROS. IRISH COFFEE | Jameson Black Barrel, Amaro Montenegro, dark sugar blend, coffee, lightly whipped cream

It’s easy to go wrong with an Irish coffee, but Pappas Bros got it right.  The whipped cream was the perfect texture and the coffee was rich.

In addition to these four seasonal cocktails, Pappas Bros. has a full menu of classic cocktails with a twist and bartenders that can whip up whatever you fancy.  And, as always, they have a generous whiskey selection along with other high-end spirits.

PAPPAS BROS STEAKHOUSE
pappasbros.com
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10477 Lombardy Lane
(214) 366-2000

Now Open: Smashburger in The Colony

Smashburger, the quality-obsessed, Colorado-based, “better burger” chain, is spreading like wildfire. In November, they opened their most recent Dallas-Fort Worth location in The Colony on State Hwy 121, just east of Josey Lane.

If you’ve never experienced Smashburger before, you’re not doing it right. Smashburger’s commitment to building a “better burger” starts out with high-quality ingredients. Fresh, never frozen, natural Certified Angus beef is “smashed” for exactly ten seconds on a 385º buttered grill top. The burger perfectionists at Smashburger have the “smashing” down to a science; this time and temperature has proven to be the secret to locking in that juicy goodness, while crisping the bottom of the burger to a crispy, caramelized shell. Hungry yet? Your burger is then nestled between a soft, buttery artisan bun, and topped with fresh, high-quality ingredients.

What kind of ingredients, you might ask? Well, that’s up to you. With burger offerings that include spinach & goat cheese, spicy jalapeño Baja, and buffalo blue cheese, the sky is (more or less) the limit. Feeling inventive? Take your shot at BYOB (that’s building your own burger), instead.

If burgers aren’t your thing, Smashburger also offers delicious chicken (grilled or crispy) sandwiches, as well as a black bean burger in their lineup. If you’re inclined to ditch the bun altogether, try indulging in one of Smashbruger’s fresh, plentiful salads. If you’re looking for a little something on the side, four equally tempting varieties of fries are available: Traditional French Fries, Smash Fries (seasoned with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic- my personal recommendation), Spicy Buffalo Fries, and Sweet Potato Fries. Also available: Onion Rings and Fried Pickles. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, try the Veggie Frites- a flash-fried side of green beans and carrot strips.

If you do opt to demonstrate remarkable discipline and choose the Veggie Frites for your side, I think it’s only fair to reward your responsible decision with a delicious hand-spun milkshake. (That’s how this works, right?) Smashburger handcrafts all of their shakes with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, in a range of irresistible flavors like Nutterbutter, Salted Caramel, and Chocolate Oreo. I highly recommend stopping in for their seasonal shake offering, the Belgian Cookie Crumble- sweet cookies blended with vanilla ice cream and notes of cinnamon and caramel, topped with cookie crumbs and whipped cream. Holy yum.

Smashburger serves a variety of rotating local craft beers from the likes of Deep Ellum Brewing and Rahr and Sons, to name a few. You will want to keep this in mind, come warmer weather. Conveniently located just a stone’s throw from Lake Lewisville, I’m hard-pressed to think of a better way to conclude a day on the water than indulging in a juicy Smashburger, a piping hot stack of Smashfries, and an ice cold local craft beer on Smashburger’s new patio. Note to self: This is happening.

SMASHBURGER – The Colony
smashburger.com
214-618-0880
-multiple locations- & 4940 State Highway 121, Suite 125 (The Colony)

Open  daily 10:00 AM- 10:00 PM

 

susie knows all things boozy in dallas …