Product Review: Limoncello di Capri

written by Jim Hargreaves*

Limoncello is a difficult spirit to review … much like the glass it is often served in, it has an inherently narrow profile. Take some fruit, steep in ethanol, add sugar, and limoncello is born. However, it is exactly this singular focus — the lemon — which makes this liqueur such a challenge to create without revealing subtle flaws, and likewise, so brilliantly delicious to imbibe when made right

Limoncello di Capri is crafted using organic lemons strictly harvested from the Italian islands of Capri and Sorrento, using a cold infusion process, without artificial colors or additives. Long story short … it’s the real deal. In fact, the brand was the first to patent the term “limoncello”, using a recipe that was handed down from the drink’s original creator, Vincenza Canale. Canale, an innkeeper on the isle of Capri, first served the elixir to her guests in the early 1900s.

While the packaging appears generic compared to other premium spirits, the vessel belies the quality of the liquid contained within. Limoncello di Capri pours a milky, pale yellow, rich color, though not as brilliant as others. It’s a hue deserving of a hot summer day, though, quite frankly, drinking a good limoncello is just as enjoyable in the depth of winter. (Hey, you can’t sit around waiting for the weather to change to write a review!) The aroma is bright and fragrant, with a clear hint of alcohol.  Keep in mind, limoncello is often upwards of 60+ proof — a wolf in really delicious sheep’s clothing. There is a distinctly sharp citrus character in the nose, though the scent of sweet sugar and lemon oil found in some of the best examples is rather subdued. All in all, breathing in the vapor certainly entices one to take a healthy sip.

The taste, obviously of lemon, is lighter and crisper than many lesser brands, washing away cleanly and quickly prompting the next swig. A boozy burn comes through quickly as the spirit meanders down the throat. The flavor is long and lasting, with a noticeable bite and a slightly dry finish. Above all, there is the fruit, clean and striking and strong in a way as to make your cheeks salivate. Simple yet delicious. If you could squeeze a yellow sun until it dripped with nectar, one might imagine it to taste of good limoncello.

limoncello_01

For those seeking an entry into world of this famed Italian spirit, Limoncello di Capri is a more than a suitable offering. A bit bold, and lacking some of the subtleties of more balanced makes like Villa Massa, it is nevertheless mouthwatering, and like any good limoncello, unapologetically focused. Find a patio, some friends, and try a sip … and presto (as the Italians would say).

Serving Suggestion: Store in the freezer and serve cold, straight, in a cordial glass or small champagne flute

For recipes, visit www.limoncello.com/en/ricette_cocktail.html.

LIMONCELLO DI CAPRI
www.limoncello.com/en/
Ask for Limoncello di Capri at your local liquor store as it has only recently been imported in to the US.
*NOTE FROM SUSIE: Jim is my cousin who also designed my amazing logo.  Check out his other amazing work at www.hhargreaves.com!

Bahn ME

Bonnaroo.  Bon bons.  Bonfires.  The Autobahn.  There are a lot of awesome “bahn” things, but one of Dallas’ newer Vietnamese restaurants, BÁNH SHOP, is really “bon”.  (Good … in French.  Unfortunately, “good” in Vietnamese is tốt.)

Their food was deliciously flavorful and most of the portions were large enough to have a bit left for lunch the next day.  (At least for me … I don’t know your life.)  Get a couple items and share, because there are so many awesome items on the menu that you’ll probably not even be able to decide on one.

Check out their frozen cocktails–Ginger Margaritas and Passion Fruit Coladas–that are pretty dang strong.  (So much so that they’ll sneak up on you … I learned that the hard way halfway through a musical after eating here.)  They offer a practically full bar, draft and bottled beers, and some wines.

Eat there (order at the register and they deliver to your table) or order take-out.  They even have dedicated parking in their lot for their take-out customers, so take advantage of that!

Bánh Shop
banhshop.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
5629 SMU Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 890-9776

In Vivo (53) Veritas

I made the trek to Fort Worth, y’all.  I don’t do it often, so you must know it was because I knew something special (read: delicious) was waiting for me.  In this case, it was worth the drive.  #SDDContributor Amanda (covering Fort Worth) and I stopped into Vivo 53 in Downtown Fort Worth accompanied by a delightful representative from their PR company.  I threw my hands up and let the experts decide what to feed me, and that was a great decision.

We started with Chicken Meatballs (free range, served with tomato sauce, rucola, and red onion) and they were hard to find in all of the greenery, but worth the search.  To go with our appetizers, the bartender brought us a round of their best selling drink, the Vesuvius (serrano pepper, 360 organic vodka, blood orange juice, strawberries, ginger beer, and organic agave).  It really had a kick to it, enough so that I was regretting that I’d forgotten my heartburn medication!  The flavor was strong and delicious, so I’d order this one again … but I’d try to be more prepared next time.  Their version of Bruschetta featured three crostini–corona fagioli (beans) with herbs, chilies, and sea salt, a smoked albacore tuna with peppers and chives, and a chicken liver pate with capers, prosciutto and lemon.  I really loved all three (and especially the pate), but the table seemed to like the tuna one best.  (Babies.)  You can order them by flavor or a trio of the three.

Drinks kept flowing and the table ordered  the North Texas Breeze, Italian Mule, and Aquila Artiglio.  The North Texas Breeze (Deep Eddy Vodka, St. Germain , Thai basil, lime, pineapple juice, honey, and prosecco) is their second best seller behind the Vesuvius, and for a good reason.  It was perfectly light and sweet, but with good body.  The Italian Mule (raspberries, 360 organic vodka, lime, balsamic vinegar, and ginger beer) was an interesting take on the traditional Moscow Mule and the balsamic vinegar gave it a bit of extra complexity.  (Oh, and they’d run out of raspberries, and when my friend ordered this drink, they had someone run out to get more. That’s service.)

I’m not even sure how to start my description of the dinner we had.  Suffice it to say that everything was delicious and the pasta dish haunts my dreams.  We enjoyed the Brussels Sprouts that were roasted just so with a nice bit of oil … and it’s too bad that I ate them all and didn’t leave any for my fellow diners.  Do yourself a favor and order their Vivo Truffle Fettuccine cause OMG.  I mean … I like truffles, but this stuff was beyond.  The flavor was just strong enough to be intriguing, but definitely wasn’t overpowering.

The 53 in their name refers to the number of recipes they attempted to get to the perfect pizza crust.  I’ll just say … it was definitely lucky number 53!  The crust on their “pizze” is perfectly crispy and has a nice mix of delicate herbs that give it a kick of flavor.  We tried the Bianca Pizza (mozzarella, sottocenere*, fontina cheese, parmesan, and sage) and the Burrata Pizza (bur rata, prosciutto, tomato, rucola, and grana padano).  I’d order the Bianca again in a second, but the Burrata pizza, while good, wasn’t what I’d expected.  The burrata is simple plopped on top of a cheeseless pizza with a pile of rucola on top.  (I’m just preparing you because I was surprised.  Friends look out for friends, ya know.)

Dessert, while difficult to find space in my completely full and satisfied stomach, was worth it.  The Torta Fritta (fresh donuts rolled in sugar) were ah-mazing.  The chocolate dipping sauce it’s served with was rich and warm.  I had to stop myself from eating them all … stupid half marathon training.  (Blame my sister.)  We also tried out their Dolce Crema Bruciata (vanilla custard with brûlées sugar crust and fresh berries) was good … but I’d suggest ordering a second Torta Fritta if you have the room!  Oh, and their bartender was nice enough to make me an off-menu espresso martini.  It was just the nightcap I needed and kept me alert enough not to call it a night and head home to put on my comfy pants.

Vivo 53’s feel welcoming, yet clean and modern.  The high ceilings make it feel much larger than it is.  The seating area is actually somewhat limited, which keeps it intimate.  A set of tables toward the back are separated by large walls, making each feel private.  There are TVs in the bar to catch a game or two, and seats around the oven so you can watch the magic happen.

They JUST released that they’ll be offering happy hour … both regular and REVERSE!  Stop in for the items below from 3-6pm and after 9pm EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK … that means Fridays and Saturdays.  Eccellente, miei amici.

  • $3 wells
  • $4 select wines
  • $3 American beers
  • discounted pizzas
  • 1/2 off small plates

VIVO 53
www.vivo53.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
525 Taylor St., Ft. Worth, TX 76102
855.202.1370

Hours of Operation:
Sun-Thurs 11am-9.30pm
Fri-Sat 11am-12am

 

*”Sottocenere al tartufo is a very pale yellow to off-white cheese with truffles that has a grey-brown ash rind” – Wiki

New From Skinnygirl

I am constantly flailing around with some sort of diet or disproportionately ambitious exercise plan. It’s just an unhappy fact of life. Unfortunately for me, I love food- and BOOZE- as much as the next gal (ok…possibly more than the next gal); an inconvenient truth at best. I hate undoing all of my hard work at the gym with liquid calories (even if they are delicious). In light of my recent introduction to Skinnygirl Vodka, I was excited to learn Skinnygirl has rolled out two new products for our guiltless imbibing pleasure: Skinnygirl Pinot Noir and Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita. I was even more excited when I was informed that I would be receiving a bottle of each, for my sampling pleasure.

photo 2First, let’s talk about the Skinnygirl Pinot Noir. I had never tried a “lightened up” vino prior to this occasion, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Skinnygirl’s pinot has the aroma of dark cherries and bursts with cherry flavor to match, along with notes of toasty oak and vanilla. This is a very smooth pinot with a soft, silky mouthfeel. I am not a great drinker of reds, but this one was light enough for me to genuinely enjoy – to the point where I would buy it for myself.  Let’s talk calories. (Wait – what? Buzzkill!) Skinnygirl’s Pinot Noir touts 100 calories in a 5oz pour. For comparison’s sake, a “conventional” 5oz glass of pinot noir contains about 125 calories. At first, you may think to yourself, “So, I’m saving 25 calories? Big deal”. But, think about this, friends: A typical bottle of wine contains about five 5oz pours. Multiply those 25 calories/glass you are saving by 5, and it totals: 125 calories. So, think of if this way:  if I were to drink the entire bottle of Skinnygirl Pinot Noir (not that…uh…I make a regular habit out of drinking an entire bottle of wine, or anything…), at a savings of 125 calories per bottle, it’s basically like getting a bonus glass of wine for “free”. Suhhh-weet.

I am a huge fan of cocktails with a “kick,” so I was super excited to try the Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita. This is a ready-to-drink product, best served over ice, with a wedge of lime, or even a slice of fresh jalapeno if you’re feeling saucy. Skinnygirl’s Spicy Lime Margarita, made with blue agave silver tequila and triple sec, actually exceeded my expectations.  These margs offer a beautiful balance of bright lime flavor, spicy chili, and that familiar tequila bite. This cocktail has an undeniable kick, but it doesn’t come close to approaching overkill. Really, it was just lovely. The margaritas paired perfectly with my little Monday night chips and guacamole fiesta, and my dude-fiancée repeatedly/unabashedly voiced his enthusiasm for his cocktail, “Skinnygirl” label be damned. He assured me that I can buy this one “any time”; I definitely see myself following through accordingly. Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margaritas contain 100 calories per 5 oz serving. Sugar-laden margarita mixes frequently served at Mexican restaurants can contain in the upwards of 750 calories in one cocktail, so Skinnygirl Margs are basically a steal, calorically speaking! No brainer here, y’all.

Skinnygirl Cocktails (Margaritas, et al)
Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita, 750-ml bottle, MSRP $12.99

Skinnygirl Wine Collection
Skinnygirl Pinot Noir, 750-ml bottle, MSRP $11.99

 

 

DFW Craft Beer Throwdown at Cambria Plano

Cambria Hotel and Suites has opened a brand spankin’ new Plano property on Parkwood Blvd, just steps from the suburban booze/fine dining/shopping wonderland  we call Shops at Legacy. This is most excellent news for out of town guests, business travelers, bachelorettes, and packs of prowling cougars alike.

In addition to being an ideally located crash pad, the Cambria Hotel & Suites just so happens to be kind of awesome. The 129 room, 4-story hotel features comfortable luxuries (think spacious rooms with over-sized living areas, spa-inspired bathrooms, etc.) coupled with practical and useful features, like a multi-functional media hub for your undoubtedly excessive number of electronic devices. The Cambria Plano offers 2,400 square feet of meeting/conference space if that’s something you need … and, a full service bar and lounge area, if THAT’S something you need, in addition to a contemporary bistro. They also have a really sweet pool area, featuring a notably swanky looking cabana setup (complete with fire pits for the colder months, ThankYouVeryMuch).

Cambria 6 Poolside Cabanas

I was excited to attend the Cambria’s grand opening celebration earlier this month, for a few reasons, really; in addition to checking out this cool new property, I got to experience not only a sampling of the impressive cuisine Cambria Chef DeMaria dreamed up for this event, but also a series of beer pairings offered up by five of DFW’s very own local craft breweries. This wasn’t just any ol’ beer tasting event, though- oh, no. Each of the five breweries in attendance were charged with the task of presenting their finest suds to a panel of judges, led by former Plano Mayor Phil Dyer, in order to determine which of the five offerings would earn a tap behind the Cambria bar. The offerings of the evening, in no particular order, consisted of:

  • Lakewood LagerVienna Style Lager, 4.6% ABV- this has always been one of my go-tos- it’s just so darn drinkable with its light maltiness and balanced bitter hop. I felt this was a contender due to its versatility (but it doesn’t matter what I think, because I’m no former mayor).
  • Community Mosaic IPA, India Pale Ale, 7.5% ABV- If you haven’t tried this beer, it’s about as hoppy as this guy. If you love hoppy, well-balanced beers, you will love this beer. I felt this was a brave offering from Community, seeing as it makes such a bold statement.
  • Peticolas Velvet Hammer, Imperial Red Ale, 9% ABV- this smooth, malty red ale is slightly floral, lightly sweet, and moderately full-bodied. It will also knock you on your ass in a relative hurry. That said, it’s interesting and delicious. Nice choice.
  • Deep Ellum Brewing Company Dallas Blonde, American Blonde Ale, 5.2%- I hear it goes down easy (that’s a joke…remember this?). But, it’s true; this delicate golden session ale is exceptionally drinkable. For that reason, I considered Dallas Blonde to be another favorable horse in this race.
  • Franconia Dunkel Lager, Munich Dunkel Lager, 4.4%- it’s the bier from here, y’all. Brewed following the practice of German Purity Laws, this dunkel is toasty and malty, with a light, chocolatey finish. I have always enjoyed the straight-forward, no-nonsense approach these guys take to their craft. While this may have been the darkest beer offering in the race,  it was no dark horse, in my humble opinion (#jokes).

Deep Ellum and Food Pairing (2)_1

Five fine contenders, vying for one coveted tap behind the Cambria bar. While all five of these local offerings were winners in my book (or more accurately, in my belly…), there could only be one. And there was. The judges made a unanimous decision.

Drumroll please…

Are you ready?

Here it comes:

The Cambria will be serving…

Wait for it…

Community Mosaic IPA

There you have it. Community Mosaic IPA will be available behind the bar at the Cambria, in addition to three other craft handles, and twelve domestic offerings on tap. I did not correctly guess that such a bold offering would win the judge’s affection, but I loved the plot twist. I’m sure it was a difficult decision, but I’m not sure the judges could have gone wrong. To quote former Mayor Dyer, “I believe in beer”.

Because variety is the spice of life, Cambria’s bar and lounge features also an ample selection of liquor and wine. Featured cocktails include the Cambria Margarita $7, and the Blackberry Mojito $9. 

I would be remiss to wrap up this event re-cap without mentioning how delicious the food offerings were. We were able to sample a variety of creative and delicious dishes, ranging from Cambozola Mac n’ Cheese to my personal favorite, a Franconia Dunkel braised sausage, served atop mashed potatoes with pepper-onion tapenade and a mustard gravy. Yes. Featured menu items in Cambria’s contemporary bistro include inventive dishes such as the Pesto Drummies Appetizer served with blue cheese & butter ($10), Sriracha Glazed Salmon, featuring house-made Sriracha, served with green chile grits ($13), and the Flat Iron Steak with garlic spinach and Idaho fries ($19). I also hear tell that Cambria serves up a killer house-made Tres Leches Bread Pudding topped with lime zest ($7). Run and tell that, homeboy.

Cambria 1 Sriracha Salmon

Cambria’s bistro is open for breakfast from 5:00 AM- 10:00 AM. Dinner is served from 5:00 PM- 11:00 PM. The bar and lounge is open nightly from 5:00 PM- Midnight.

Cambria Hotel & Suites Plano – Legacy
7500 Parkwood Blvd., Plano, TX 75024
(972) 473-9010
Online Booking

 

Dallas #BoozeNews: March 20, 2015

BOOK IT
Booker’s® Bourbon released an inaugural batch of its limited-edition collection celebrating founding distiller Booker Noe’s legacy as the father of small batch bourbon.  It’s bottled straight from the barrel, so it will only be available in limited quantities in 2015.
The download: 128.7 proof, aged 7 years 2 months & 16 days, has vanilla notes

The Virgin Tart Shake from Hopdoddy
The Virgin Tart Shake from Hopdoddy

LIKE A VIRGIN
Hopdoddy’s
newest shake special is the Virgin Tart Shake made with Vanilla Ice Cream, Local Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Biscotti Batter, Whipped Cream.
Offered:
through March 29
Price:
$6

LEGEND … wait for it … DARY
Stop into Hard Rock Cafe Dallas to try out their newest burger offering, the Legendary™ Burger, a half-pound Certified Angus Beer® patty, brushed with Rebel IPA barbecue glaze and topped with picadillo meat, Monterey jack cheese, baby arugula, a tomato slice drizzled with balsamic glaze and crispy onions. It’s  the first of their line of burger and beer pairings, so try it with a Samuel Adams Rebel IPA.
Offered: March 23 – April 30

Eureka!’s Creole Benedict (photo credit: Kevin Marple)
Eureka!’s Creole Benedict (photo credit: Kevin Marple)

Eureka! is now offering brunch!  Check it out weekends from 11am-3pm and enjoy bloody Marys and Mimosas for $5, their extensive craft beer offerings, and deliciousness like Bananas Foster Crunchy French Toast and Creole Benedict!

HAPPY AS A CLAM CRAB
Get some beach time under your belt at C’Viche on Lower Greenville with their new happy hour.  Enjoy the following specials Monday-Friday from 3-7pm:
– $4 house cocktails (Pisco Sour, Margarita, Mojito, Caipirinha), featuring creative tequila, artisan rum, pisco and cachaca cocktails using fresh ingredients and house-made bitters
– $4 Mexican and local draft beer
– $6 house wine and sangria
– Complimentary chips and salsa

Hutchins BBQ Media Dinner featuring Grapevine Brewery

BBQ and BYOB; Two acronyms Dallasites get pretty dang excited about.

With a plethora of BBQ heavy hitters in Dallas proper, I’m here to implore you not to forget about a seriously solid purveyor of pig that has been serving Collin County (and wise visitors from beyond) since 1978: Hutchins BBQ. The senior location is located in historic downtown McKinney, and the Hutchins family opened up a secondary Preston Road location in Frisco just last year. And here’s the marvelous thing about the McKinney location: it is, in fact, BYOB.  Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I was lucky enough to attend a media dinner at the McKinney location earlier this month. (Thanks, Susie … I’m not trying to squeeze into a wedding dress or anything). Tim Hutchins (GM and son of original owner Roy Hutchins) and co-owner Dustin Blackwell were our gracious hosts for the evening, and their passion for the fine art of smoking copious amounts of meat was evident with every (frequently excessive) bite.

Their BBQ process really is a labor of love. As we stuffed our happy faces, Tim described the 15-17 hour smoking process executed on a daily basis in order to produce the perfectly moist, tender slab of Heaven that is Hutchins’ brisket. The flawlessly executed smoke ring speaks for itself and seemingly doesn’t warrant an explanation, but Tim explained the importance of the wood selection in the smoking process; the Hutchins family uses a one-two punch of oak, followed by pecan. Hutchins uses predominantly Prime grade beef (subject to availability) that is free from hormones or antibiotics.

Chef Tim and his smoker
Chef Tim and his smoker

Let’s talk sausage. Hutchins makes theirs in small batches, using a 50/50 ratio of pork and brisket. Their jalapeño cheese sausage is made with jalapeños procured from a local market. (And for the record, the portion I sampled on this particular evening packed a serious punch of heat.) The ribs, which fell off the bone, were perfectly charred, with a lightly sweet brown sugar glaze. I was surprised that one of the most enjoyable things I sampled all night ended up being the fried catfish. I usually don’t even like catfish, but I felt it was my duty to take at least one bite, for science. Dang, ya’ll! Perfectly crisp, not remotely greasy, with a beautiful cornmeal breading- and most importantly, no trace of that all too familiar “earthy” taste to be found. So, I guess I like catfish now?

If you’re like me, you might suffer from ordering induced anxiety when you first visit an establishment such as Hutchins. (Ya know, one where everything looks, smells, and sounds amazing, and you’re terrified you’re going to miss out on a special snowflake and then see a Foursquare tip after your order that has an off-menu gem that gives you serious FOMO?) Hutchins solves that delicious problem for you, by offering an All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE- hey look, another acronym!) option for just $18.99. As if you might actually have extra space in your abdominal region after you get done sampling allllll tha meatz, that price includes sides (pinto beans, potato salad, green beans, corn, coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, and potato casserole), AND dessert (peach cobbler, banana pudding, soft serve and toppings)! Here’s hoping your post-meal itinerary includes one stop: bed. But, don’t worry: if you aren’t feeling brave (or if you need someone to set limits for you because you are well aware that you are incapable of exercising self-control … not that I can relate to that scenario or anything …) you can certainly order off of the traditional menu (meat plates, et al.).

Meat Fiesta
Meat Fiesta

Since this event was BYOB, Grapevine Brewery was kind enough to B some B for us. I was excited to try two Grapevine craft beer varieties that were new to me: Sir Williams English Brown Ale and NightWatch Oatmeal Stout. The Sir Williams English Brown Ale (4.9% ABV), as it so happens, was the recipient of the Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal in the English Brown Ale category. One sip, and I understood why. Sir Williams, you are a gentleman and a scholar, with your lovely, roasty malt and your smooth finish. The Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout (6.3%) is on the lighter end of the stout spectrum, with a subtly malty chocolate note that feels like it is giving you permission to drink it year round. I’m a fan.

Hutchins BBQ – McKinney
1301 North Tennessee Street, McKinney, TX 75069
(972) 548-2629

Sun-Thurs: 11am to 9pm
Fri-Sat: 11am to 9:30pm

Hutchins BBQ –  Frisco
9225 Preston Road, Frisco TX
Store: 972-377-2046 | Catering: 972-540-1920
Email: catering @ hutchinsbbq.com

Wed-Sun: 11am to 3pm (or til sold out)

Dallas #BoozeNews: March 13, 2015

You better have your green ready … because this weekend is St. Patrick’s Day!  Check out some great recipes and local events to celebrate.

SPORK THIS
Apparently North Dallas has a new restaurant called Spork that they boast as “a chef-driven roadside eatery”.  I’m not even sure how to feel about the name … but I’m super curious to know what John Tesar thinks about it!  Visit this fast-casual establishment for burgers, salads, sandwiches, cocktails, and desserts.

TO THE MUSIC FACTORY!
The new music-centric lifestyle center in Las Colinas has announced two of the restaurants that will open once it’s complete–Gloria’s Latin Cuisine and Kabuki Japanese Restaurant.

THAI PIE
Fast-casual pizza spot Pie Five will now offer a Thai-inspired pizza.  It’ll have a “sweet chili sauce, sliced grilled chicken and a mix of fresh veggies, topped off with crushed red peppers, carrot sticks and cilantro.”

2015-03-12_11-09-35FORK & CORK, UNCORKED
Addison’s foodie festival, Fork & Cork, has announced the dates for this year’s event–March 15 & 16.  This year, they’ll have tastings from Chef Tim Byres, Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, Chef John Tesar, Chef Richard Chamberlain, and more.  See what they’ll have to offer this year and buy your tickets on their website.

NEW BUDA
Buda Juice will open at Mockingbird Station later this month!  Stop in for their nutritious juices and soups served in their 100% recyclable glass bottles.

susie knows all things boozy in dallas …