TGI Friday’s Releases Its New Fire-Grilled Meats and Two New Cocktails

With their competition reinventing their menus with less items, there’s a new fire under TGIF’s behind. Their answer: do what they do, just better and for less cost to the consumer.

Friday’s is overhauling their entire menu, meaning new apps, entrees, sides, drinks, and more. TGI Friday’s new Choose Two menu dropped today and it’s all about fire-grilled meats … and good ones, at that. There are 15 different combinations for you to try, each for just $14.99.

First up: Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls and the Philly Cheesesteak Burger. We have yet to find someone who doesn’t love egg rolls (we held a poll in the tasting to prove ourselves right), so it only makes sense to American-ize them into a Philly Cheese-take (pun intended) appetizer.  The burger’s patty is juicy and topped with a cheesy pepper concoction that you’ll fork off the plate after it falls off the burger. Don’t worry – if you order the burger, you get an egg roll on top. (Because burgers are better with an appetizer on top.)

As for the new Grilled Meats menu … all of Friday’s meats are grilled fresh on the fire and never frozen, and they’re moving to higher quality cuts that give the guest a nicer amount of meat with less effort cutting around the less desirable bits. We won’t go through all the different meat and side combinations you can get—they’re all pretty damn good, so just pick your favorite(s). We will, however, tell you about all the juicy, fire-grilled meats you can now get …

Premium Center Cut Sirloin: 6oz seasoned with hickory smoked sea salt, topped with parmesan butter.
Dragon Glazed Salmon: Atlantic salmon fillet brushed with sweet and spicy Korean BBQ sauce, topped with mango pico de gallo.
Big Ribs: 30% meatier, bolder, tastier premium pork back ribs, cooked low and slow in house. (The new ribs launched in October and have been a hit.)
Parmesan Crusted Chicken: topped with a white poblano queso and toasted with crispy parmesan bread crumbs.
Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Shrimp: two skewers of three large jumbo shrimp, wrapped in hardwood smoked bacon and brushed with parmesan butter sauce.
14-ounce Bone-In New York Strip: this cut is ridiculously juicy and flavorful … not to be missed. It’ll give some steakhouses a run for their money.

New sides were also recently introduced to accompany these delicious meats—crispy Brussel sprouts, baked mac & cheese and giant onion rings. All of which were equally “souped-up” recently. Their standard mashed potatoes aren’t anything to shy away from, though … they fold in cheese to make them rich and they’re nearly impossible to hold yourself back from eating the whole pile.

The important thing to remember here is your eyes may be hungrier than your stomach, but that’s okay because they have to-go boxes for you to take things home.

Along with the new entree options, they’ve released two new cocktails, the Magic Lemon Drop Martini and their take on a Hurricane. They’ve been making efforts to move their bar to a “clean bar” concept—no fake colors or ingredients, just good, clean, quality ingredients.

The Magic Lemon Drop is cool on many fronts—visually, because of it’s greatly contrasting purple and yellow colors; experientially, because you get to be your own mixologist with the garnish by dropping it in and watching the color change; and Boomerang-worthy, because they use butterfly pea tea extract. The BPT extract is a new, trendy cocktail ingredient that makes a cocktail blue, and then changes color when some ingredients are added—purple with acidic ingredients, pink with a high pH ingredient. Less new, but still a stunner, their take on the traditional hurricane is fresh and delicious, made so partly because of the fresh passion fruit puree they use.

TGIF’s is stepping up it’s game again, y’all.


TGI FRIDAY’S
tgifridays.com
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Casamigos Cool Weather Cocktails

Generally speaking, you know you’re in for a good time whenever tequila is involved. If said tequila is Casamigos, just do yourself a favor and schedule an Uber and enjoy the ride … and the cocktails.

That the tequila brand itself was the brainchild of Randy Gerber and George Clooney, who simply sought to create a tequila that “they could drink all day and not be hungover in the morning” should be incentive enough to try it out. But at a time when every reality TV star has their own line of something, I was skeptical. Turns out I should have saved my skepticism for the D-list celebs peddling lip gloss, because these guys know their tequila. (Randy & George, if by some bizarre twist of fate you read this, I humbly and sincerely apologize). If all that isn’t enough, the recent sale to Diageo for $1B should lend the company some extra cred.


Casamigos mixes well, is smooth enough to sip on the rocks, and every recipe we made during the event at Jaliso Norte I attended recently was surprisingly tasty. (I say “surprisingly” because until then, I lived in a world where tequila’s only time to shine was with salt, lime or grapefruit juice. How sad my life was.) Consider me educated.

We were treated to a class where we learned to make tequila cocktails with thyme, whipped cream, apples and cloves … all were all delicious and unexpected. 

CASA BLOOD ORANGE
2 oz. Casamigos Blanco
1 oz. blood orange juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
2 serrano slices
½ thick rim of sugar, salt, tajin mixture (equal parts)

Combine all ingredients into tin shaker. Muddle fruit. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Fine strain into rocks glass. Add fresh ice. Garnish with blood orange wheel.

CASA PUMPKIN SPICE
2.5 oz. Casamigos Reposado Tequila
1 oz. Agave Nectar or simple syrup
1 oz. creme
.25 oz. almond liqueur
2 heaping bar spoons organic canned pumpkin (or fresh)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon

Combine all ingredients into tin shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Strain into Irish glass mug. Add dollop of whipped cream and lightly sprinkle nutmeg over top.

CASA CIDER
2 oz. Casamigos Reposado
1 oz. apple cider
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. ginger syrup
.5 oz. agave nectar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 pinch cinnamon

Combine all ingredients into tin shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain into rocks glass. Add fresh ice. Garnish with thin apple slice, thyme sprig, star anise and cinnamon sprinkle.
If served hot: add 1 oz. water and heat up contents. No ice needed.

CASA AMAGO
1.5 oz mole-infused Casamigos Reposado
.75 oz cocoa nib-infused Campari
.75 oz Carpano Formula Antica Vermouth
orange peel garnish

Combine above ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice. Stir for 50-60 revolutions or until well chilled and properly diluted. Garnish.

 

The venue matched the spirit of Casamigos perfectly—Jalisco Norte is stylish but down to earth, like that friend who dresses like an off-duty model but doesn’t just eat fries for likes. If you assumed that the last thing Dallas needed was another Mexican restaurant, set your assumptions aside and pay them a visit, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to pair your esquites and tuna tartare tostada with a Casamigos cocktail … even if it is a classic margarita.


***ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF N BARRETT PHOTOGRAPHY***

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

Highland Park Hygge + Magnus Glogg

Since it’s a bit north, Scotland has shorter days in the winter; and the Winter Solstice, which we saw on December 21, is the shortest day of the year. With so much darkness, I’m sure it makes one want to cozy up next to a fire with a drink that will warm you from the inside. Scandinavians call this feeling “hygge”, which is their concept of coziness.

I’ve been a little of a Scandinavian fanatic this winter because, for some reason, I decided to reimagine my holiday decor. I went from over-the-top “Christmas threw up in here” to minimal with hints of gold and plenty of live garland. (And don’t get me started on live garland. My poor Roomba is exhausted from picking up after it.) What I loved about their holiday decor is that it’s simple and SHOULD feel cold, but it all felt cozy. I wanted to harness that feeling, but it’s hard to do when it’s 70º in the afternoon in December. So, when it finally dipped below 35º this week, I jumped on the chance to cozy up with a traditional Scandinavian warm cocktail to go with my decor.

I was excited to try my first glögg, which is a kind of mulled wine—warmed wine with spices—and curl up on a 33º night … because that’s what we in Texas call “cold”. Instead of the traditional base alcohol, wine, I opted for whisky and used a recipe from Highland Park Whisky that features its newest expression, Magnus.

The drink did its job. It warmed me up and gave me a just the right amount of alcohol to lull me into a bit of a daze. I’ll just say that I ended up taking an unexpected nap, but it was the best hour I’ve seen (or not seen, as it were) in months.

MARTIN’S GLÖGG (recipe by Highland Park Brand Ambassador, Martin Markvardsen)
1 bottle of Highland Park Magnus
1/4 cup simple syrup
2 lemons, juiced
Fresh ginger
Almonds
Raisins
Cinnamon sticks
Nutmeg
Star anise
Orange slices

Warm up the whiskey, then add the simple syrup, lemon, and ginger. Right before boiling, turn down to simmer and add the rest of the spices and ingredients. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes on low. Strain and serve warm with an apple slice garnish and a cinnamon stick.

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

susie knows all things boozy in dallas …