Hilton Anatole Staycation

Sometimes you need to just not be home.  (Come on … you can’t tell me you’ve never wanted to tell your friends you’re out of town, turn off your phone, and just disappear.  Ok, I’ve never actually done it, but I’ve thought about it.  Like … hard.)  I had one of those feelings recently, so it was perfect that I was invited to spend a weekend at the Hilton Anatole right here in Dallas’s Design District.

I packed up the car Friday before work and scooted over there from the office after dropping off the pup with Grandma.*  The valets were the perfect welcoming committee and helped me unload my box of birthday gifts without complaint.  (I had a really busy week after my big birthday party, so I thought taking my gifts on my staycation to enjoy opening them slowly would be a blast.)  I was welcomed with goodies, a lovely room, and a great view of Downtown.

The hotel itself is huge, consisting of at least four main buildings that sit on 45 acres in the heart of Dallas.  The complex offers 1,600+ rooms, multiple dining and drinking options, event spaces, a full fitness facility, spa, a VIP lounge offering snack and beverages for select guests, and 1,000+ art pieces thanks to the owners, the Crow family.

One of the restaurant options the Anatole offers is SĒR on the 27th floor.  This is one button I enjoyed pushing entirely too much.  But I pushed it … and I pushed it good.  My friend Tiffany joined me for dinner and we were absolutely blown away by each and every one of the courses presented by Executive Chef Kevin Spencer and the drinks by Colin Silva.

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SĒR offers reimagined versions of some basic options like their Steak Tar Tar that closely resembles a deviled egg, but brings so much more to the table.  The Caesar Salad was such a stand-out that made me visit SĒR again Saturday night for another plate of it.  The culinary and bar teams on the 27th at the Anatole are all top notch and you can expect innovative food and drink options to keep your taste buds disoriented yet delighted.   Check out my whole review of SĒR.

The weekend was incredibly relaxing, yet somehow I kept myself busy the entire time.  I kept my evening plans with friends, but spent the days relaxing in the fitness center, sauna, the VIP Lounge, and walking the grounds.

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As they always do, the Sunday scaries crept in while I was packing to leaves, so to spoil myself a bit more I ordered some room service.  (Because who doesn’t love waffles that you don’t have to make?)  The bacon was perfectly crispy and the coffee was exquisitely brewed.  (If you want snacks or specialty coffee options, they have a coffee bar in the lobby offering little goodies.)

The coolest part of this staycation is that I got a little preview of Jadewater, the $22M pool complex that opened this past Friday, July 22.  This isn’t your run of the mill pool complex.  Expect two water slides, a large children’s play area, a 23 seat swim-up bar (YESSS), new art pieces, private cabanas and daybeds, and, the kicker, a 630ft lazy river.  The pool will be for hotel guests only, but the cool thing is that you can get a couple rooms for the night and have full access for less than a night at Great Wolf Lodge.  That’ll get you howling.

HILTON ANATOLE
www.hilton.com/Dallas
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2201 North Stemmons Freeway (Design District)
(214) 748-1200

*Unfortunately, they aren’t dog friendly … yet.  They do, of course, allow service animals.

SĒR at the Hotel Anatole

During a recent staycation at the Hilton Anatole, I was delighted to try their steakhouse, SĒR Steak + Spirits, on the 27th floor.  This is one button I enjoyed pushing entirely too much.  But I pushed it … and I pushed it good.  My girl Tiffany joined me for dinner and we were absolutely blown away by each and every one of the courses presented by Executive Chef Kevin Spencer and every drink by Colin Silva.

The drinks kept us on our toes (and put us on our asses) thanks to the unique flavor profiles and the unexpected extras.  This is one of the places I’d suggest handing the reigns to the bar team; they’ll make you something intriguing and unique.  The scotch cocktail we were treated to (below) was delightfully smoky thanks to the peatiness of the spirit, but was still surprisingly light.  The preparation for the cocktails was involved and completely worth the short wait.

 

SĒR’s kitchen offers reimagined versions of some basic options and quite a few all-new dishes.  The perfect example is their Steak Tar Tar that closely resembles a deviled egg but brings so much more to the table.  Be ready for a rich mouthful here.

Steak Tar Tar
Steak Tar Tar

The Caesar Salad was such a stand-out that I ended up visiting a second time in just one weekend to have it again.  It’s perhaps the coolest salad … ever.  This thing is a slab of leafy greens with “deconstructed croutons”, flowers, and even Pop Rock-like crystals that keep your mouth more than entertained.  The best part of this salad was the dressing.  Through some sciencey process, Chef Kevin creates egg yolk-like pods of dressing so you control your dressing to lettuce ratio.  I like being in control.

Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad

The entrees were just as enticing.  The seafood was fresh (the fish was light and flaky) and the steak was as tender as it could be.  The Texas Caviar accompanying the steak we were served gave it a delightful, spicy snap.

Dessert was just as unique as the preceding dishes.  One dessert (not yet on the menu) boasted grapes prepared three different ways accompanying ice cream and a buttery crumble.  The Millionaire Pie was also a delight with the perfect balance between the tartness of the raspberry sorbet and the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream.

SĒR Steak + Spirits
sersteak.com
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2201 North Stemmons Freeway (Design District)
(214)761-7479

 

Blaze Pizza

Last week Blaze Pizza opened in Fort Worth and The Colony. Each restaurant is set up like a Subway … you can order off a menu or build your own and pick everything from the crust to the toppings. All of their pizzas are built on made-from-scratch dough using artisanal ingredients. Once you’ve decided on the toppings, each pizza is fast fire’d in 180 seconds.

Oh, and for those of you who need gluten free: they’ve got it!

Build Your Own Pizza from crust to toppings!
Build Your Own Pizza from crust to toppings!

Here is a tip: if you want more toppings, just ask; they won’t upcharge or tell you to stop. I have to say I wasn’t super satisfied with the amount of sauce or toppings on my pizza, but after talking to management, they let me in on that little secret.

Ok, Ok, Ok- I’ve talked about the pizza, but what about the drinks?? Each location serves beer from somewhat local breweries–the Fort Worth location had (512) Pecan Porter and Dallas Blonde. (I don’t know about you, but I think this is a total plus for a fast food pizza joint.)

Not only does Blaze have great food and drinks, they’re also super committed to giving back to the community. They offer local charities and groups the chance to do fundraising nights; once they approve an organization, they print the flyers and donate 20% of net sales from that designated day straight to that group. Pretty awesome, right?

BLAZE PIZZA
www.blazepizza.com
@BlazePizza | Facebook | Twitter

5925 Convair Drive (Fort Worth)
5050 SH 121 (The Colony)

Sunday-Thursday (10:30am-10pm), Friday-Saturday (10:30am-11pm)

***Blaze Pizza invited our team in to try out their (delicious) goods.***

National Daiquiri Day

Tuesday is a glorious day, my friends … a glorious day indeed. July 19th is National Daiquiri Day. Personally, I think it may as well be called Tiffany Tran Day given how much I love this cocktail. I’m very fortunate that my experience with the daiquiri on the whole has been delightful, but not without encountering a few landmines along the way. (And I mean truly odd and off-putting interpretations.) However, none were consumed in vain since I can now provide you with a list of some of the best places in D/FW to enjoy my favorite cocktail.

By no means is this compilation comprehensive since I’m still discovering new bars and hidden gems every week, but for the casual drinker who just needs a nudge in the right direction, here are several of my recommendations. Oh, and if you hit up every spot tomorrow to celebrate, I applaud you. God speed, and Happy National Daiquiri Day!

Midnight Rambler (Downtown)

My friends often ask me where they should go for a daiquiri, and without hesitation, my first answer is always, “Midnight Rambler. Ask for Zach Smigiel.” I credit Zach for converting me from a staunch whiskey neat drinker to the daiquiri devotee I am today. His version sticks to the classic recipe, but the magic is in the ice and the shake. Zach makes the cocktail using a large format cube which produces a much tighter foam bubble structure and thus, a creamier texture.

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Black Swan (Deep Ellum)

The first time I went to this watering hole, I walked right past the door because there’s no sign over the unassuming façade. What I discovered once I stepped inside is that bar owner Gabe Sanchez makes freakin’ awesome daiquiris. Wait until Wednesday if you want to order from him though since he’s off on Tuesdays. (Womp womp.) They’re also closed on Mondays.

Parliament (Uptown)

Known to many as my home bar, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this cocktail den is on the list. The best part about ordering a daiquiri here is you can have confidence in ordering it from any of the guys behind the bar; each one will make you an excellent one. The fun of it is trying out each bartender’s version and deciding which one is your favorite. I’ve played this game before and it’s a really good time because 1) it proves how versatile the daiquiri is, and 2) you get to drink a lot of them. Start with one by Drew Garison or Colin Phillips and go from there … just not on Sundays (they’re closed).

Photo credit: Kara Edwards

The Standard Pour (Uptown/State & Allen)

A sub-two-minute stroll from Parliament, this spacious cocktail spot proves to be high quality even though they are high volume. They excel at classic daiquiris as well as funkier versions to keep your palate excited. If you want a tried-and-true version, you can’t go wrong by asking for Sean Taylor, and if you want something funky, go to Tristan Price. Neither of these guys will steer you wrong.

Citizen (Uptown)

Ah … the Jekyll & Hyde of Uptown. It’s a beautiful space that’s open Wednesday to Saturday, and by no means a hidden gem. The spot blows up every night around 10pm going from a chill cocktail spot to an unce unce club illuminated by red lights and crowded with bandage dresses and bottle service enthusiasts. My tip: Go between 5-10pm, grab a seat at the bar, and order a daiquiri from Jermey Elliott. He’ll make you top notch drinks and honestly, he’s just fun to hang with. Then hit up the photo booth … it’s good times.

Atwater Alley (Highland Park)

If it’s Thursday-Saturday night after 8pm, head straight up to the dark wood-paneled speakeasy down the alley by Henry’s Majestic (also an excellent bar) and let Ricky Cleva, Angela Montesclaros, and Ryan Frederick mix up their classic daiquiris for you. The atmosphere is dark and sexy with cozy and quiet booths, but if you can snag a seat at the six-seat bar upstairs, I highly suggest you do so. (BONUS: check out the unique daiquiri Alex Fletcher just developed, the Cubano Daiquiri. Pictured in header)

Photo credit: Tiffany Tran
Photo credit: Tiffany Tran

Vicini (Frisco)

I can’t forget my suburbanites’ drinking needs. This restaurant and bar is one of the only places in town that you’ll catch Dallas barman extraordinaire Brian McCullough behind the stick. He prides himself on his daiquiri-making abilities, and it’s not without merit. The kicker: the Vicini daiquiri is just $5 on the happy hour menu (every day, 11am-7pm).

The Theodore (NorthPark Center)

Some have an issue with this bar being in a mall, but trust me, once you try a daiquiri made by Kyle Hilla’s team here, you’ll find that being at the mall isn’t all that bad. (I mean … shopping after two cocktails is kind of the best thing … ever.) It helps that The Theodore itself was built to be an oasis from the typical mall hustle and bustle anyway, and the bar is manned by creative and able cocktail makers who make you feel welcome as soon as you arrive, one of whom is Hugo Osorio. Just a heads up: his garnish game is strong. Tell him I said so and see what he comes up with for your daiquiri.

Picture courtesy of The Theodore
Picture courtesy of The Theodore

Stock & Barrel (Bishop Arts District)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have yet to really tap into the food and cocktail scene down in the Bishop Arts District, and a part of the “problem” is that once I find a place I like, I quickly become a repeat customer (thus delaying my discovery of other places in the area). S&B is one such bar that I enjoy frequenting. Bar manager Jeremy Koeninger makes one hell of a daiquiri, and the food menu is excellent, too. Order the crispy okra as a bar snack to share with friends … and it goes really well with daiquiris, as most things do.

Proper on Magnolia (Fort Worth)

This cocktail den on West Magnolia is one of the standouts in Fort Worth.  They offer classic cocktails (including a traditional daiquiri), but also have seasonal and weekly specials.  Grab a seat on their patio and order food from one of their neighbors, Fixture or Spice.

Picture courtesy of Proper
Picture courtesy of Proper

Craft Cocktails Go Mainstream at Houlihan’s

Houlihan’s is bringing craft cocktails to the chain restaurant scene with their new 10-drink menu. (At least as much as a chain of its caliber can.)  Houlihan’s introduced new drinks for our tasting pleasure at the Prestonwood location in Addison over a week in May. Using unusual techniques and unique spirits, Houlihan’s new drink menu looks more like something out of a hipster speakeasy than a suburban chain restaurant.

Take, for example, their Oak Aged Manhattan.  This cocktail is aged on-site, using a mix of orange peels and oak staves for a barrel-less aging process. Houlihan’s mixologists claim this technique gives a smooth, subtly nuanced spirit in less time. When I tasted it, there were undertones of maple and vanilla. It is a simple but well-balanced cocktail–just as it should be. Mine came served with a salty, fatty, perfectly candied bacon.

Oak Aged Manhattan
Oak Aged Manhattan

My second drink, the Houdini, took a decidedly sweeter, fruity direction despite the high-proof spirit used. Henry McKenna Single-Barrel Kentucky Bourbon mingles with maple syrup and homemade ginger-peach syrup. This is refreshing cocktail is a perfect patio drink.

The Houdini
The Houdini

The rest of the new drink menu really has something to suit all tastes. One of the more classic additions is a slightly remixed Dirty Martini, shaken up with the addition of huge olives stuffed with pungent gorgonzola cheese and some delicious candied bacon. They even offer a tiki drink–the Blue Taboo. It looks like a sugar rush in a glass, but it’s more than just that; the drink is undeniably sweet, but it is well-balanced by the addition of Owl’s Brew Coco-Lada, which is a handcrafted black tea brewed in coconut water with chai spices and pineapple juice. Now I didn’t sample it, but the Bleeding Rose is definitely one of the more original creations offered on the new drink list.  St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Absolut Hibiskus and fresh sour mix create the base of this cocktail which is poured over an Aperol-tea ice cube. The melting Aperol, a blazing orange-colored bitter Italian aperitif, will change the flavor profile of the Bleeding Rose over the course of the drink. And on another positive note even the ice is made of alcohol –so it’s the drink that keeps on giving!

Let’s not forget the food, because drinking on an empty stomach rarely ends well.  I tried out the avocado toast with burrata. This summer special has a ton of fresh avocado smeared on top of toasted rustic bread and is seasoned with jalapeño, cilantro and garlic, to give it a bit of kick.  A sweet, creamy burrata cooled the heat and added to the overall decadence of the dish. The portion size was generous enough to make for a light summer dinner. And not letting an opportunity get away to try something else from the limited time menu, I went with the Mahi-Mahi salad, complete with jumbo lump crab and a sweet and tangy citrus and pineapple salad.

The 10 new cocktails are only available at the Prestonwood location, but eventually they will roll out to Houlihan’s restaurants around the country.

… I guess, for now, we are the lucky ones.  Cheers!

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar
www.houlihans.com
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5225 Beltline Road #220, Addison

*Thank you to Houlihan’s for picking up the tab and inviting me to check out the new menu items!*

 

Sourced Craft Cocktails Delivery Service

My prayers have been answered: There’s finally a cocktail delivery service in Dallas. I know what you’re thinking, “But, Tiffany … what about Lash Delivery, MiniBar, TopShelf, or any of the other many booze delivery services already in town?” Let me finish. Granted, there’s no shortage of alcohol delivery services in Dallas; the biggest difference is that Sourced is only one that’s delivering a cocktail experience rather than dropping off handles of vodka in brown paper bags. (Which, if that’s your thing, cool.)

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Picture courtesy of Sourced

The company launched in Austin in October 2015 by founder and CEO, Tim Angelillo, who enlisted the help and cocktail expertise of Brian Floyd, who earned his bartending chops under the tutelage of revered cocktail great, the late Sasha Petraske.  With these two at the helm, the delivery service has seen success in the Austin market and launched in Dallas in April 2016. The company prides itself in sourcing the highest quality ingredients and products from local vendors from Dallas and Austin, and is working to take on Houston by the end of the year.

OK, so here’s the premise: you want to throw a party, and you want to offer a legitimate cocktail rather than just beer and wine.  Problem is, you don’t have the tools, glassware, time, or know-how to actually make this work. (So is life.) That’s where Sourced comes in.  They will deliver everything you need to assemble, execute, and serve the cocktail of your choice, all in a nifty barrel complete with recipe card by knowledgeable cocktail specialist to teach you how to make it. (All within three hours of your order request.) Then, after your party is over, all you need to do is put all of the empty bottles, used glassware, and tools back into the barrel and Sourced will come by and pick it up from your front door. You don’t even have to wash anything.

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Peruse the website or mobile app to see the current cocktail offerings as they offer a rotating menu of at least a dozen available options.  Depending on the cocktail you choose, you can purchase in drink packs of 6, 12, 24, and so on, and the site breaks down the price per drink. I can tell you now, the prices are hard to beat.  This is coming from someone who frequents many a cocktail bar, and unless you’re ordering off of a very good happy hour menu, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a premium cocktail for less than $10.  Sourced cocktails break down to be about $6 on average.

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You don’t have to take my word for it; check out what Sourced is all about at sourcedcocktails.com. Throw a party, learn about cocktails, wow your guests, and take all of the credit. You don’t even have to do the dishes.

SOURCED CRAFT COCKTAILS
sourcedcocktails.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
512-650-6246
Current service areas: 75204, 75214, 75205, 75206, 75219, 75226, 75201, 75270, 75202, & Austin

*Header image courtesy of Sourced.

VDKA6100: Call it Whatever You Want.

I want to start out by confessing: I’m still not sure how to pronounce the name of this vodka. VDKA6100 even devotes a section on their website to explaining how they got their name–it’s the distance between the territorial waters of New Zealand, from which the product is sourced, to those of the United States, where the brand was born, is 6,100 miles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give any clues as to how one might pronounce it. Ultimately, I concluded it doesn’t really matter; you can call it whatever you want, and it’s not going to change the fact that this is a damn fine vodka.

VDKA6100 is made in Reproof, near Lake Taupo on the North Island of New Zealand. Their vodka is produced using fresh, seasonal whey sourced from the Bay of Plenty Region. That whey is fermented using a rare strain of yeast, imported from Ireland over 30 years ago.

Given the purity of the ingredients, VDKA6100 requires limited distilling in order to ensure the character of the vodka is retained. VDKA6100 is filtered through carbon “rockets” (I hope these are half as cool as I’m imagining) and blended with locally sourced New Zealand spring water. The result is a vodka that is sugar-free, gluten-free, lactose-free (because …. vodka), and free from chemical additives.

Before experimenting with any cocktails, I decided to try VDKA6100 straight up in order to form a real opinion on the quality of the vodka. Right away, I noticed the lack of that all-too-familiar burn that accompanies so many lesser vodkas. VDKA6100, on the other hand, was silky smooth with a very soft mouth feel. I initially noted a crisp citrus flavor and a faint but pleasant hint of vanilla with a kick of peppery spice on the finish.

VDKA6100 is perfect for crafting the classic martini. (I think James Bond would agree.)

VDKA 6100 Martini
2.5oz of VDKA 6100
0.5oz dry vermouth

Glassware: Martini glass
Garnish: Lemon twist

Combine VDKA 6100, dry vermouth and ice in a cocktail shaker, Sitr until cold,  Strain into a martini glass. Top with a lemon twist.

VDKA6100
www.vdka6100.com
ABV: 40%  / 80 proof
Price: $38/1L

 

French 75 Popsicles

I recently turned 30, and I wanted a little extra something to booze my guests up at the big celebration.  My party was outside … in June … in Texas, so I thought that boozy popsicles would be ideal.   And what better drink to freeze than a French 75.

Traditional French 75 cocktail was first documented in 1927, but an iteration of it was mentioned as early as 1867 (and by Charles Dickins!) and, once named, was named after a French field gun.  The first recipes called for bubbly, sugar, citrus, and gin, but newer recipes have introduced cognac as an alternative.

I had to make sure the popsicles were easy to eat (since some of the guests would be wearing white), so I did a bit of research and found the perfect solution: Zipzicles!  They’re the tubes you grew up with, but with a convenient zip closure … so no scissors are required and no melty stickiness on my guests’ hands.

sw pops

The recipe was easy enough and filling the tubes only required a funnel. (And an extra set of hands made it MUCH easier.)  It took about 12 hours for them so solidify completely, and since there was gin in them, it was a soft freeze.

FRENCH 75 POPSICLES
12oz sparkling wine (I used Mia Moscato)
4oz cognac or gin (I used Bulldog London Dry Gin)
4oz simple syrup (I used ginger simple syrup in half of them)
3oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

Makes about 12 popsicles

Needless to say, these were a hit!  I ended up making about 65 of them, and the only trouble was keeping them cold.  (My suggestion would be to use an ice bucket (or galvanized bucket) filled with a layer of dry ice (on the bottom) and top it with regular ice.)

If you need suggestions for more boozy popsicles, check out a popsicle cocktail recipe book that I reviewed a few years back, Poptails!


Header picture courtesy of Madison Mentesana.

Zipzicles, Bulldog Gin, and Mia Wines gifted these items gratis.

susie knows all things boozy in dallas …