All posts by Tiffany Tran

Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour

Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a cocktail onion addict.

Whew! There, I said it. It was love at first sight – I remember that night so clearly: My friends and I were sitting in a dimly-lit corner of a New Orleans restaurant during Tales of the Cocktail and were primed to order our first round of drinks. Our local Absolut Elyx brand ambassador, Kyle Paris, was with us and suggested that I try the Gibson martini, and I’M SO GLAD I LISTENED TO HIM. (He knows things sometimes.) I love me a well-made dry martini, but when you garnish it with a crunchy, briny, house made cocktail onion? Game over. Take me away.

What I couldn’t believe was how long it took me to eat my first ever cocktail onion. In all honesty, I vaguely remember seeing the little pearls on various bar tops, but it never occurred to me that they were briny. I always thought they were raw, and I’m definitely not a fan of eating raw onions. Yuck. However, now that Kyle had set me straight, I had so many questions. Why have my bartender buddies been withholding this pickled treasure from me? Do all of my favorite bars back home have cocktail onions? If so, do they make the cocktail onions in-house? Am I the only one with whom Kyle shared this brilliance?

I needed answers.

My Dallas Gibson cocktail discovery mission had a rough start.  I had the unfortunate incident of receiving a Gibson that was garnished with cocktail onions from the bottom of a very large, very old-looking jar. (The bar name will be withheld to protect the not at all innocent.) To say the least, it was an unpleasant experience – the onions lacked the freshness and crunch that I enjoyed so much with my first Gibson. I learned a paramount lesson that night: Store-bought jarred cocktail onions be gone. Say it with me: House made garnishes only!

That’s when I partnered up with Kyle to organize the first ever (as far as I know anyway) Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour. We reached out to some of our favorite bartenders around the city to see if any would be interested in coming up with their own cocktail onion recipes. As it turns out, many of them were.

Five bars.
One night.
Six friends on average at each boozy stop.
Who knows how many Gibsons to consume.

The Absolut Elyx Tour was officially on.

STOP #1: VICINI

Our first stop was in the ‘burbs at Vicini Frisco. Barman Brian McCullough served up some delightful Elyx cocktails with his variation of the cocktail onion – pickled spring onion bow ties. I really enjoyed Brian’s version; it had welcome, grassy notes, the familiar brininess, and a touch of whimsy. What’ s not to love?

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STOP #2: BOULEVARDIER

From Frisco, the Tour braved Friday rush hour traffic all the way down to Bishop Arts District to pay Boulevardier a visit. This popular restaurant/bar is one of the few spots that already make their own cocktail onions. Ashley Williams made an excellent classic onion garnish; so excellent, in fact, that I enjoyed six of them. (Two onions per cocktail, carry the three … you do the math.)

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STOP #3: THE MITCHELL

After two delightful stops, the Tour was starting to hit its stride. From Boulevardier, we Uber’d our way downtown to The Mitchell where they offered not one but two cocktail onions to sample that night, one in a “garden brine” and one made with hatch chilis. I’m a bit of a spice wimp so I steered clear of anything marinating in a hatch chili situation, so I opted for the garden variety. Without hesitation, I popped the onion in my mouth, anticipating a deliciously briny vegetable medley. What I got instead was a mouthful of sharp, raw onion. Oh boy, that was surprising. No kissing for me that night for sure. I downed the rest of my Gibson to alleviate the biting flavor.

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STOP #4: MIDNIGHT RAMBLER

Without hesitation, the Elyx Gibson Tour soldiered on to a tried and true spot down the street, Midnight Rambler. They garnish their Gibson, The Silvertone, with a mighty fine and smoky chipotle onion, to which I was no stranger. The Elyx was flowing and skewers of golden brown onions perched on about half of the cocktails on the bar top for a solid hour. This was the 4th stop on the tour and the group was feeling gooooooood — and Susie had finally joined us. (A little tardy to the party.)

By the time we made it to the fifth and last stop of the night, most of our friends had already bid us farewell. So then there were the final four.

STOP #5: HIGH & TIGHT

We approached the bar at High & Tight, excited to see what our favorite bar-behind-a-barbershop’s man behind the stick, Austin Gurley, had in store for us, and I am so happy that we made it to the last stop. The cocktail onion was so surprisingly flavorful, with citrusy notes of grapefruit and a spicy, peppery kick. It was by far our favorite of the night!

The Elyx Gibson Tour proved a success, and what kind of cocktail onion addict would I be if I didn’t try to cover more ground? A few days after the tour, I visited Hugo Osorio at The Theodore to sample the onion batch he prepared. The onions were wonderfully balanced with crunchiness, brininess, and jalapeño spiciness … so yeah, pretty much cocktail onion heaven.

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This last Gibson falls outside of the Dallas area … like, really far outside. But, due to its Absolut awesomeness, it had to be included. A few weekends ago, I went to Chicago and had the pleasure of ordering the Elyx Gibson off of Vol. 39‘s brand spanking new cocktail menu at The Kimpton Gray Hotel. As far as I was concerned, it was kismet. The cocktail onion had bursts of Chinese five-spice and red wine vinegar. It sparkled atop my glass like a garnet jewel. If you ever find yourself in downtown Chicago, don’t think twice before visiting this bar. Thank me later.

I write this in hopes of drawing out existing Gibson lovers and converting the Gibson-ly ignorant into cocktail onion enthusiasts. And then, maybe one day, this particular tipple will experience a comeback of Old Fashioned’s proportions. A girl like me can dream, right? In the meantime, if you’re curious about trying out the Gibson for yourself, give me a call. I’m always down.

SPECIAL THANKS TO ABSOLUT ELYX FOR HELPING US MAKE THIS NIGHT HAPPEN!


Vicini: 7777 Warren Parkway #104 (Frisco)
Boulevardier: 408 N Bishop Avenue #108 (Bishop Arts District)
The Mitchell: 1404 Main Street (Downtown)
Midnight Rambler: 1530 Main Street, inside The Joule Hotel (Downtown)
High & Tight: 2701 Main Street #180 (Deep Ellum)
The Theodore: 8687 North Central Expressway #1804, inside NorthPark Center (North Dallas)
Vol. 39: 39 S. La Salle Street, inside the Kimpton The Gray Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)

An Evening of Agave at Stock & Barrel

A few weeks ago, Stock & Barrel Kitchen Americana in Bishop Arts District hosted its first spirited dinner with Don Julio, aptly named An Evening of Agave. I happily attended, albeit slightly worse for the wear since I had just returned from my first ever Tales of the Cocktail experience a few days prior, but hey … tequila. ‘Nuff said. The dinner was an intimate affair offering only 15 seats, at the bar and involved not only a four-course dinner paired with cocktails highlighting the Don Julio line of tequilas, but also an interactive educational experience led by none other than Senior Don Julio brand ambassador, the ever delightful and engaging Jorge Raptis.

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The dinner experience opened with introductions from Stock & Barrel Chef/owner Jon Stevens and Bar Manager Jeremy Koeninger before they gave Jorge the floor to tell us more about the history behind Don Julio as well as the thoughtful process that turned agave into the tequila that was before us. He spoke about the philosophy behind Don Julio that drives the manner in which they cultivate, harvest, and cook the agave, as well as distill, bottle, and age the tequila, and why production volume should never compromise the level of product quality.

The ambiance of the event was very casual and interactive, so the guests were encouraged to ask questions and have an open dialogue about the food and cocktail courses, as well as the Don Julio tequila itself. There were tasters of different tequilas for each guest, in addition to the cocktail pairings, so needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), our intimate group of bar guests became very fast friends.

 

Now of course, while the tequila was very smooth and enjoyable, Chef Jon Stevens was not about to let it overshadow the food courses. He made this clear by simply bringing out the first course: Wild Salmon Tartare with avocado cream, grapefruit segments, Yukon potato crisp, and lemon verbena. It was a bright flavor punch to my palate, tempered very well by the subtle fattiness of the salmon. The course was complemented by Jeremy’s cocktail creation dubbed Electric Love, which featured Don Julio Blanco, verbena, and Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine. The Blanco’s crisp, citrusy flavor paired with the tartare dish and its accouterments beautifully.

Chef Stevens’ second course (my favorite of the meal, without a doubt) was Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio with tangerine, radish, and honey pimento. The thinly sliced octopus had hints of smoky char that I loved, but by its very nature of being carpaccio, it was an ethereal deliciousness that I kept chasing. The next thing I knew, I had devoured my second course, wishing I could have a second helping, maybe even a third. My friend Paige expressed a similar sentiment, with a wistful face when she found her plate empty as well.

Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio

The cocktail pairing for the octopus course was an Ancho Bravo, made with Don Julio Reposado, demerara syrup, and Ancho Reyes. The Reposado coupled with the demerara brought a slightly cinnamon-y warmth that lent itself well with the smoky, meaty octopus, and the Ancho Reyes provided a welcome spicy kick. It was pretty boozy, so I took my time to sip and savor it.

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We bounced back pretty well though when the third course arrived: Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with creamy Brussels sprouts and preserved cherries. Chef Stevens had prepared us well by having the first two courses whet our palates, leading us to this wholly satisfying and deliciously unctuous pork belly dish. The creamy Brussels and dark berry tartness of the cherries ensured that the dish would satiate our taste buds without being too heavy.

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The third course paired with The Oleroso Agave, a cocktail with Don Julio Añejo, Oleroso sherry, and Luxardo syrup served up in a coupe glass. It was a spirit-forward concoction that accentuated the savory notes of the pork belly, and the sherry played well with the preserved cherry sauce. I especially enjoyed this pairing as Añejo is typically my favorite tequila expression, with the extra time the tequila spends aging in barrels.  The flavor comes out with honey and caramel notes that I just love.

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Our fourth and final course was the Butterscotch Pot de Creme, served with vanilla cream, sourdough crisp, and sea salt. This dreamy and delectable dish was served with a taster of Don Julio 1942. The butterscotch pot de creme was silky and light, and the sprinkle of sea salt elevated the dessert to another level of deliciousness. The sourdough crisp offered a welcome crunchy texture to the dinner’s velvety finale, and the deeply caramel and chocolate notes of the Don Julio 1942 brought this particular Night of Agave to a definitively beautiful conclusion.

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Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests after the Don Julio dinner, Stock & Barrel hopes to keep the spirited dinner series going every other month, with each one featuring a unique spirit.  For more information, check out stockandbarreldallas.com or follow Chef Stevens (@stockbarreltx) and Jeremy Koeninger (@jeremykoeninger) on Instagram for any event announcements and updates.

STOCK & BARREL
stockandbarreldallas.com
316 W. Davis St. (Dallas)
(214)888-0150

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

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.

Chefs For Farmers Mix-Off/Yes Chef! Event

This past Sunday I had the honor of being a judge for the Chefs For Farmers‘ sold-out Mix-Off/Yes Chef! event at Design District’s event space, DEC on Dragon. What did that entail, you ask? Well, I got a wear a big ol’ fancy sash that read, “CFF JUDGE” as I walked from table to table, sampling food bites and cocktails from some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.

Small Brewpub, FT33, The Joule, The Grape Restaurant, Patina Green Home and Market, Independent Bar & Kitchen, Uchi Dallas, and The Blind Butcher all had sous chefs in attendance to battle it out for best food. As for the cocktails, bartenders from Top Knot, Armoury, D.E., Parliament, The Theodore, Filament, Henry’s Majestic, Midnight Rambler, and Rapscallion came armed and ready with tins, spirits, syrups, and garnishes to wow the crowds and the judges … even this one who got caught picking pepper out of her teeth by an event photographer. Why am I so awkward?

My life sounds hard sometimes … I know. Especially when I showed up at 5PM really hungry. I think I sampled offerings from half  of the the competing chefs before the event’s moderator, Jimmy Contreras, came up to me smiling and said, “You know you have to try all of the dishes at the Judges’ Table upstairs at 6pm, right?” *Blink blink* “Well, I do now!”

Luckily, I made sure to attend the event in a flowy dress that allowed for over-consumption. With my newly gained knowledge I set aside my dishes in-hand and went to the rooftop to focus on more important things–the cocktails. The temperature was in the high 80s, so I was really looking forward to some icy concoctions featuring sponsored spirits, Patrón and Makers 46. I managed to sample half of the cocktails before being sitting down for the official judging portion of the event. (This is one situation where “slow and steady wins the race” isn’t a thing.)

(At this point, I am thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have had so many samples before sitting down. Oops.) When all of the samples of food and cocktails were assembled on the table in front of me, it all looked a bit daunting, but obviously I kept my cool.

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Or not.

I attacked the cocktails first as it was a hot day and all iced drinks were diluting at a rapid pace, and any drinks that did not feature ice was warming up just as quickly. You know my priority: SALVAGE THE DRINKS. Once I marked down my cocktail vote, I forged onward with the food bites and hoped that none of the many photographers crowded around the table would catch an unsavory photo of my chipmunk cheeks stuffed with food.

Winners were announced at the end of the event. (You didn’t think I was going to say who I voted for, did you?)

  • Returning champion, Brian Bell from The Blind Butcher, took People’s Choice Sous Chef again with his sausage and bone marrow BBQ dish
  • Sarah Green from the Joule took home Judge’s Choice for her Frito Hand Pie
  • Ryan Frederick from Henry’s Majestic won for Best Makers 46 cocktail
  • Jesse Powell from Parliament won both Best Patrón cocktail and overall People’s Choice Bartender

All winners’ dishes and cocktails will be featured at the three-day Chefs For Farmers 2016 festival, September 23-25. Tickets for the main event go on sale soon. Check the CFF Facebook page or website for more information as it is released.

Chefs For Farmers 2016
www.chefsforfarmers.com
September 23-25

Matchbox – Preston Hollow Village

It’s officially patio weather, y’all.

We all know how much Dallasites love drinking their booze on patios on a beautiful day, and 2016 is shaping up to be a good year for dining and drinking al fresco. (Hold the rain and hail, please.) And wouldn’t you know it … there’s a new spot for just that; Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit opened up its first Texas location in Preston Hollow, just in time for all of us to eat, drink, and get a nice base tan, all at the same time on its roomy outdoor seating area.

When I arrived, I had my eyes on the prize–the cocktails (obviously). I ordered the Southern Charmer (bourbon, peach nectar, and black pepper-ginger syrup), which is shaken and poured over ice then garnished with a lemon slice. (And so continues my lemon obsession. 🍋) From what I could tell (and taste), there are also a few dashes of Angostura bitters on top, but it’s not listed on the menu. Try it out and let me know if I’m off the mark. Ahhh … it was the perfect patio cocktail–refreshing, boozy, with the sweetness of the peach nectar balanced out by the bite of the pepper and ginger.  I could/did drink many of these bad boys–charming or not.

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Southern Charmer (note: not Tiffany’s hand.)

NOTE FROM SUSIE: Make sure to peruse their entire cocktail menu along with their wine list.  Matchbox has private label wine that isn’t half bad! Their Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita packs a bit of spice to keep things interesting and their Patio Pounder Lemonade made with house infused watermelon vodka is everything summer is made of.

Of course, if I’m going to commit to drinking all of Matchbox’s cocktails, I needed some food to do so. (It’s a marathon, not a sprint, guys; remember that.) Fortunately for me, there was no shortage of delicious appetizers from which to choose. Given my penchant for a well-stocked charcuterie board, that’s where I daintily voraciously started my culinary adventure.

Heaping mounds of prosciutto, wedges of creamy brie, quince cubes, overflowing plates of gherkin pickles, grain mustard, and briny olives … oh my. The portions were more than satisfying, and it’s not typical to find the sweet quince offering on the boards I’ve seen in Dallas thus far, so that was a tasty addition to the usual charcuterie spread. I overdid it on the prosciutto and cheese (as one does), so the rest of the appetizers are nibbled, but nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed.

Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie Board

 

The spread consisted of standard (albeit, high-quality and well-executed) crowd-pleasers. The Mini Meatballs are a combination of angus beef, veal, and pork, and were wonderfully tender and are served in pepperoni sauce and topped with pecorino romano cheese. I (somehow) managed to keep my intake of these to just two. (I should get a ribbon for that.)

If you look REALLY closely, you’ll see 3.6.9 Mini Burgers peeking out from a mountain of crispy fried onions. The trick is to extract a mini burger from the plate, grab a small mound of crispy onions, add it to the burger, and have at it. Let me just say, these are definitely mini burgers and not sliders. The buns aren’t made of sweet rolls; they’re toasted brioche, and the patties are substantial and individually cooked to a perfect medium.

As soon as they brought out the Spicy Tuna Tartare Tacos, I knew these were a best-seller. Their fresh, cool tuna’s delicate texture  juxtaposed with the crispiness of the fried wonton taco shell … it’s a classic for a reason. And don’t skimp on the Sriracha mayo.

And who doesn’t like a good chicken strip? These bad boys, dubbed Ted’s Tenders,  were huge! Did I eat one all by myself? Yes! (Shut up. I have NO regrets.) It was the way I like my chicken strips: not overly breaded and still juicy and flavorful on the inside. I don’t know who Ted is … but I like him.

My overall take away from my Matchbox experience?  It’s a fun spot with a cool vibe, and the food and drinks aim to please both the masses and those of us (ahem) with a bit more of a refined palate.  If I worked nearby, that’s where you’d find me after 4PM most weekdays. I wouldn’t be alone; Matchbox is already hoppin’ with the business happy hour crowd. The patio was teeming with business people in suits, all eating, drinking, and being merry when I arrived, and they were still going strong when I left. Cheers to them! They know how to marathon it, too.
Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit
matchboxrestaurants.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
7859 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 140
Dallas, TX 75230
(844)712-2369

Mon-Thurs: 11AM-last seating 10:30PM
Fri: 11AM-last seating 11:30PM
Sat: 10AM-last seating 11:30PM
Sun: 10AM-last seating 10:30PM
Sat-Sun Brunch: 10AM-3PM
Mon-Fri Happy Hour: 3PM-6PM

CiboDivino Dinner ft. Puleo Wines

“I love this place.” That’s the text I sent to Susie as soon as I finished my first dinner experience at CiboDivino Marketplace.

As this was my first event as a Susie Drinks Dallas contributor, I went into it with the belief that there was no such thing as being too prepared, so I brought along a fellow foodie friend (so I could pick his brain) as well as a brand new notebook in which I could take many a note about the dinner. (I was tempted to bring a voice recorder just in case there was a guided tour of the space (which there was), but I decided against alienating strangers with that level of intensity. Yes … I was that kid in school.) Furious writing in my composition book would just have to do. Since the evening was relaxed and enjoyable with great company and delicious food and wine, the note taking was downgraded from excessive to thorough.

The special five-course dinner was hosted by CiboDivino owners, Daniele and Christina Puleo, as well as Executive Chef, Ryan Olmos.  I was enthralled by the passion and knowledge that the team has for all aspects of the meal: a fervent dedication to responsibly-sourced ingredients, simple, yet articulate preparation of the food, a thoughtful selection of Italian and Californian wines that are hand-picked by Daniele himself, and the crafting of a space that promotes breaking bread with friends and family. By the time we were done with Daniele’s tour of each unique part of the marketplace and cafe, my appetite was ready to tackle whatever delicious goodies he and Ryan had to offer.

Before food, of course, there was wine (as it should be), and Daniele and Christina were very excited to introduce their new private label Puleo wines, currently available in Pinot Grigio and Chianti varietals. The Pinot Grigio is quite surprising–not as watery as I’m used to with most Pinot Grigios. Puleo’s expression is quite flavorful on the nose with stone fruit notes that round out into flavors of green tea and chamomile. As I would find out, this white wine paired very well with the first three courses of the meal. As for the Puleo Chianti, the wine was ripe with cherry flavors and dark fruits, and had a depth of flavor indicative of a Chianti without veering into a residual bitterness. I enjoyed this red with the meat course as well as with dessert. FUN FACT: all wines at CiboDivino are available for purchase at retail prices and can be opened and enjoyed on-premises at no additional charge. Personally, the option to enjoy a high-quality wine at a restaurant without the usual restaurant markup makes the wine taste that much better.

Wine

The appetizer course included a variety of Neopolitan-style pizzas fresh from the wood-burning Stefano Ferrara oven (flown in from Italy), quite possibly the most impressive charcuterie board that I have ever seen, and a smoked Tasmanian salmon appetizer bite that I swear encapsulates everything that CiboDivino stands for, which is “divine food.” I sampled two of the flatbread pizzas, one with a classic Margherita preparation and another with fig, arugula, and Gorgonzola cheese.  Neopolitan-style is my favorite kind of pizza, and the crust was perfectly crispy on the outside with just the right amount of chew on the inside.  While both were delicious, I was partial to the Margherita. (Pretty sure that I could eat a whole pizza in one sitting … I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.)

Can we just take a moment and appreciate this charcuterie board? Have you ever seen one so beautiful? It has three kinds of house cured meats, all smoked in-house: lamb pancetta, brown sugar and Serrano ham, and beef bacon (that’s right, you heard me, BEEF BACON). The lamb pancetta, which was aged for a whopping 70 days, had a soft gaminess to it that I loved, and the beef bacon was something I’ve never experienced before. To call it delicious would be a disservice, and apparently I’m not the only to think so. Ryan told us that it’s hard to keep the beef bacon in the display case because it sells out so fast. It was perfectly savory with a familiar unctuousness that I love about bacon, except it was unmistakably beefy and very satisfying.

charcuterie

The highlight of the appetizer course for me, however, was the smoked Tasmanian salmon bite with cucumber cream, caper berry, and a dusting of espresso. The salmon, also cured and smoked in-house, was a tender and salty punch that was balanced by the cool cucumber cream with a kick of briny freshness from the caper berry, and the espresso dust on top added an earthy note that rounded out all of the flavors. I easily ate five or six, since I clearly don’t understand the concept of an appetizer course. (Whatever.)

salmon

Pasta was the star of the second course was the Caserecci alla Norma, served with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and eggplant two ways on pea puree. The dish was light and flavorful, with the pea puree serving as a fresh, delicate sauce that complemented the natural flavors of the fresh vegetables beautifully.

rustica

The third course highlighted a different kind of pasta, Fettuccine al Limone. This was my favorite of the two pasta courses; the perfectly al dente ribbons were enveloped in an ethereally light and creamy marscapone cheese with fresh zucchini, leeks, fresh mint, and fragrant lemon zest. The flavors were full and satisfying without being overly filling. (I’m also a huge supporter of lemon on everything, so I loved every bite of this dish.)

linguine

Then came the fourth course, the crown jewel, which was brought out on a large wooden meat board.  CiboDivino proudly serves 44 FARMS meats, and our group was lucky enough to sample the perfectly seasoned coulotte cuts served alongside caramelized onions and arugula. The marketplace is the only spot in town where you can go in and buy raw cuts of renowned 44 FARMS beef, and they will even grill it for you (free of charge) if you decide you’d like to enjoy your steak at one of the many communal tables inside or on the spacious dog-friendly patio.

beef

Needless to say, by the end of the fourth course, I was stuffed. At this point, I was chastising myself for going HAM on the appetizers. That didn’t stop me from partaking in something sweet, though.  For dessert, Daniele and Christina served bite-sized dessert offerings from their cafe. I, close to a food coma, still managed to snag a Raspberry Lavender Truffle, because no matter how full I am, a meal does not feel like it has concluded until I’ve had something sweet. This two-bite flavor bomb was a wonderful ending to an unbelievably delicious meal. The truffle was deeply chocolate with lavender lending an assertive floral note that cut through the richness beautifully.

Picture courtesy of CiboDivino Marketplace

Everything about dinner at CiboDivino was delightful.  The marketplace offers so many unique goods, some of which are available exclusively there.  Daniele and Christina, as well as Ryan, were all gracious hosts with evident love and passion for what they’ve created together.  It’s rare to meet people who are doing exactly what they love to do, and then for them to do it well, and humbly. It was an honor to be a part of the entire experience. I personally cannot wait to visit again soon.

  • CiboDivino also has a wrap-around indoor/outdoor bar with 11 local beers and one Italian import beer on draft.
  • Paciugo gelato is also available at the cafe, along with Lavazza coffee.
  • Food menus are generally not published on the website, as dishes are determined by the freshest produce available at the farmer’s market on any given day.
  • The marketplace is open 7 days a week, from 8AM – 10PM daily.
  • They also host occasional wine and beer dinners and are currently prepping for their one-year anniversary party next month.


CiboDivino Marketplace
www.cibodivinomkt.com
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1868 Sylvan Ave., Suite #D-100 (West Dallas in the Sylvan 30 Complex)
(214)653-2426