All posts by Susie O

Hosting the Perfect Dallas Garden Party this Summer

Written by Matt Smith

With summer just around the corner, many people in the Dallas area will be thinking about enjoying some leisure time such as taking a vacation or entertaining at home. If you enjoy having friends and family over to your home, one great idea is to host a daytime garden party where you can all enjoy the great weather as well as a range of food and drink.

Hosting a party such as this at the weekend is a great idea, as it means that many people will be off work so you have more flexibility with regards to the time you have your party. You also need to make sure you plan your food and drinks menu properly so that you cater for all needs.

Some tips that can help with your garden party planning:
There are various tips that can help when it comes to planning a garden party for the summer. When it comes to drinks, creating delicious chilled cocktails is perfect for this sort of event. The first thing you need to bear in mind is that not everyone will be drinking alcohol. Some people may be driving and others may prefer to stick to soft drinks. So, although you can create sumptuous alcoholic cocktails for those that are able to drink, make sure you also have the ingredients to make some virgin cocktails (or “mocktails”) for those that are not drinking.

The next thing you need to consider is the food that you will be serving up. As it is summer and the party will be held outdoors, it is best to stick to buffet food that can be enjoyed cold rather than go for hot food. Of course, you can also consider a BBQ if you prefer but depending on the weather it may be a little too hot for someone to be slaving over a hot grill all afternoon. If you opt for bugger food, go for simple options that are likely to appeal to most people and are simple to make and serve up. Also, don’t forget about people that may have special dietary requirements such as vegetarians or those with certain food allergies.

Biscuit Bar

Entertainment for your guests is also an important consideration when it comes to your summer garden party. You can’t go wrong by having some music by way of entertainment and these days you can just go on music streaming sites to download the perfect summer tracks for your garden party. You can then use a Bluetooth player to play the tune directly from your smartphone, which makes finding the right entertainment a breeze.

If you want to push the boat out or the garden party is for a special occasion, you may even want to consider hiring a marquee where guests can go to get some shade. In addition, you can put tables up in the marquee to set up your food, which will keep it free from insects and pests.

**Pictures by Beckley Co.**

Driving, Not Drinking: Toyota Prius Prime Plus

I’ve gotten three speeding tickets in my life—one on the way to get my braces off (I mean, can you blame me?), one in a company car, and my most recently in a Prius. That’s right … I got a freaking speeding ticket in a Prius. Whoever thinks these babies don’t have any get up and go, is wrong.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to drive a Toyota Prius Prime Plus for 10 days, and it’s the second time I haven’t wanted to give the car back after a media loan. It was much more exciting than expected. (Yes, I had a little bias against the Prius before experiencing one myself.) The car had a luxe feel without sacrificing the looks. I mean … the non-hatchback version is so much nicer.


The plug-in hybrid vehicle had the usual trappings of the 90s hipster-before-we-knew-what-they-were favorite, especially the incredible fuel efficiency. Not only did I not have to fuel up the entire time it was in my possession, but I had a bit of fuel left when they collected it!

The interior was delightfully roomy, and the seats were comfortable (enough so to enjoy the short road trip I took it on) and cradled my body nicely. The standard 11.6″ media and navigation display was so big that I felt, at times, like I was driving a spaceship. However, it was incredibly nice to have such a large map to keep me on track and the display was very intuitive and user-friendly.

Beyond being a lovely car, it handled like a dream … if your dream is a seriously responsive, nimble car with some nice pickup. I felt in control every second driving it. As previously mentioned, the TPP wasn’t slow, though it took a bit of time to accelerate.

For the price tag, it seems a bit of steal for this luxe hybrid. So, if anyone wants to gift me one of these babies, I’m all in.

Starting at $27,100
Seating capacity: 4
Range: 25 mi battery-only
Horsepower: 121 hp

***All pictures taken by Aaron Hendrickson***

Must Visit Dallas Food & Drinks Events in March

The month of March is full of different activities and events all over the world. From the widely-observed International Women’s Day to series of other festivities, every country has its own local food events that are celebrated with pomp and of course, an abundance of food. We decided to put the spotlight on a well-known city for this year’s list of early spring food/drink carnivals.

The city of Dallas, Texas is usually acknowledged as the cultural and commercial hotspot of the northern region of the state. It is no surprise, then that a host of eye-catching food events would hold here. They go further to prove the fact that one can discover a ton of things to do in Dallas.

This year’s celebrations, particularly those in March promise to be colorful, exciting and food-packed for all occasions. Here’s a few must-visit, food-related events to look out for during March:

Red Mare Wine Dinner

March 1st

The III Forks Steak place will be hosting an exclusive wine dinner in partnership with the Red Mare Winery. This exclusive wine dinner will feature a host of exquisite courses along with the finest wine, plus an appropriate dessert to seal the event. It will be held in the evening hours of the day.
Tickets: $125.

Texas Independence Day

March 2nd

The Oak Highlands Brewery is proud to announce an all-open celebration of the 182nd Texas Independence Day with a cold beer and BBQ ribs Dallas style. The event will also feature the brewery launch their new brown ale brand, made from pecans grown exclusively in Texas.

Festival of Colors by Radha Krishna Temple of Allen

March 3rd

Better recognized as the Indian cultural festivity of ‘Holi’. This event serves as a commemoration of the oncoming spring. Celebration involves lots of colors, cultural music and Indian street food at all its spiciest! Get your taste buds satisfied with the feel of garam masala spices you’ve never tried before! The Festival of Colors kicks off at noon.
Entrance is FREE

Dallas Bites! Best Tacos & Margaritas Tour

March 3rd

Are you a lover of hot, spicy Mexican food? Then this food festival is for you. Food Tours is glad to host the March version of their Best Tacos & Margaritas Tour this year. For $64 you get to experience a bus adventure through the best gourmet and street taco places in East Dallas. Participants are allowed to bring their own drinks while savoring the tastes of award-winning margaritas across the city.

Poke & Sake

March 22nd

This event will be sponsored by the Dallas Fish Market. It will feature an unforgettable night experience as participants will search out unique poke cuisines. Each poke dish will be paired with the perfect sake tasting.
Tickets: $55

Dallas Arboretum Food & Wine Festival

March 22nd

Won’t it look like a great idea to taste all the dishes available in the world without traveling? This food and wine festival is designed to do just that. The event will feature an assorted choice of cuisines from four regions. You can also enjoy the finesse and expertise of chefs from some of the fun places to eat in Dallas.

Between the Buns

March 24th

This outdoor food event will feature the best sliders Dallas has to offer, alongside with fried chicken, burgers and many other bun-related cuisines. There will also be music and of course, cold drinks at cash bars. The food event is set for a kick off in the second half of the day.

Bacon and Beer Classic

Date TBD

This event features everything with bacon and beer. Nothing sounds more appetizing than cheesy bacon fries or bacon mac ‘n’ cheese inside a baseball arena. It is a cross-country festival, which is held in major baseball playing grounds across the USA.

To the tune of a host of interactive games plus exciting music, participants get to experience the evolution of bacon-inspired recipes. These foods will be made by the best local restaurants in the area. Although the date for the Dallas version is yet to be revealed for this March, our friends at Edubirdie recommend the experience and advise us to look out for this year’s date. It promises to be quite the gathering.

Without a doubt, a lot of other food events will be announced with time. These are our must-attend picks. We believe you will find an event suitable enough for your taste buds among the ones we picked. Have fun!

**Crystal Roman, the author of the post, is a blogger and a freelance writer for She is currently exploring the most fascinating places and events all around the globe to share her experience with readers.**

The Botanist Gin

The Botanist is a new way to gin.


The only gin made on the island of Islay, this artisanal expression by the Bruichladdich Distillery presents 31 botanicals—nine classicly found in gin, and 22 of which are hand-foraged locally (and responsibly) on Islay. Since 2011, this “progressive exploration of the botanical heritage of … Islay” prides itself on a forager’s spirit.

The distillation process is equally as unique as the botanicals. They slow simmer in a pot-still at low pressure for 17 hours to release the most flavor from the ingredients. The “slow burn” results in a unique and complex flavor.

One of my contributors, Aaron, and I were lucky enough to be invited to a celebration of this expression. First, we were walked through a quick bartending demonstration where they showed us how to make the Red Lady (this an all recipes are below) by the brand ambassador.

Then we were invited to join the Botanist Gin team for a four course meal—all made with as-local-as-possible ingredients  that complimented the flavors in the accompanying Botanist cocktails. Each cocktail was extremely unique and brought out the complexity of the botanicals.


Fruit of Thyme
1.5 oz The Botanist Gin
4 oz Tonic Water
1 slim Ruby Red Grapefruit wedge

Squeeze grapefruit wedge in glass and leave in glass. Add The Botanist Gin, then ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Red Lady
2 oz The Botanist Gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 strips julienned red bell peppers
3 drops orange bitters

In a shaker tin, muddle red bell pepper. Add all remaining ingredients, then shake without ice vigorously. Add ice and shake briskly. Double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a julienned red bell pepper.

Smoke Show
2 oz The Botanist Gin
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz ginger syrup
0.25 oz Mezcal
4 drops orange bitters

Add all ingredients to shaker. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain to a coupe glass and garnish with pickled ginger.

Gin for All Seasons
1.5 oz The Botanist Gin
0.25 oz Suze
0.25 oz fresh squeezed red grapefruit juice
0.75 oz simple syrup
3 oz soda water
1 pinch sea salt

Add The Botanist Gin, Suze, Fresh Squeezed Red Grapefruit Juice and Simply Syrup to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an iced highball. Top with soda water.

1.5 oz The Botanist Gin
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Cocchi Dry Vermouth

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 20 seconds until chilled. Strain and pour over large ice cube in rocks glass. Garnish with a sweet pepper circle.


ABV: 46%
Price: ~$30/750mL

***All images by Aaron Hendrickson***
Thanks again to The Botanist for inviting us to join in on such an amazing evening with such unique spirit(s).

The Annual Holiday Party + White Elephant Gift Exchange

I absolutely love to entertain. But, it seems my generation has lost the desire (and, honestly, the aptitude) to do so, and I find myself being one of the only shows in town to roll our the red carpet and don an apron and sparkles to make a fun evening for friends, neighbors and family. And the holiday season is no exception. That said, every year for the past seven, I’ve gotten a motley crew of friends together to share some holiday spirit(s) and entertain ourselves with a slightly outlandish white elephant exchange. (Exchange rules are listed below!)

Every year the party gets a little bigger, but some of the cast of characters remain the same, as do some of my favorite (and my guests’ favorite) recipes. The staples for years have been my bourbon meatballs (I’m asked for the recipe so often that I put it on a letter board this year!), sausage cheeseballs, Neiman Marcus Dip, and my Cool Weather Punch. I also always am sure to keep plenty of cheese on the table for easy snacks. All of these recipes are below!

My main bar (usually set up in my kitchen) always has at least one batched drink—usually my cool weather punch, base liquors (bourbon and rye whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, scotch, etc.), a bottle of bitters, simple syrup, mixers, and citrus. I also ice down bottles of beer, cider, and splits of sparkling wine and leave them on my porch. Needless to say, no one ever has to look too hard for booze at my parties. I was once told by my badass boss, Flip, “No one cares about much at a party if there’s plenty to drink and great music playing.” … it stuck with me, so I sweat the details a little less now.

A fun twist I add each year is having a “make your own” bar of some sort. This year it was a hot chocolate bar that was a HIT. The base hot chocolate I made (if I do say so myself) was incredible. So good, in fact, that I may have to make it a new staple. The recipe is below, but the fun part was outfitting the table with plenty of goodies to add so each person’s drink was different. Giving guests plenty of options for creativity is key, but make sure to have things that just make sense. My favorite of the boozy additions was the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist vodka, which made for the perfect peppermint hot chocolate!!! (I may or may not have moved the rest of the bottle beside the stove … just in case I get a craving.) I also ordered plain coffee cups with sleeves so people could write their names on their cups. (And you also know who doesn’t throw their cup away. 😏)

While I learned how to entertain from the best (my mother threw some of the most amazing events when I was a child and I was always in awe of her ability to make everything from scratch and entertain everyone at the same time), I have found, much to my chagrin, that I can’t do it all. My wonderful mother always makes an item or two for the table, and I sometimes go for items I can pick up to save a little of my sanity. I love getting cupcakes from Trailercakes, cake balls from Savor Pâtisserie, and this year I went with some of the absolutely adorable iced and Linzer cookies from La Madeleine.  Store bought doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel!

While I’m sad paper invitations for informal events have gone by the wayside, I’ve found a decent replacement is Paperless Post. It gives a nice user experience, is relatively inexpensive (check RetailMeNot for coupons to purchase credits), and it allows you to track RSVPs. There are also some damn cute designs to use!

For entertainment, I make sure to have music playing (as mentioned above) and I’ll put a Christmas movie on TV on mute for a little extra texture. I’ve been compiling a Christmas party playlist for years with some slightly unconventional holiday songs. Find it on Spotify and give it a listen.

I hope that my party lives on, though every year it seems to get harder to find a date to make it work. The gift of hospitality is so important, and I hope you’ll join me in trying to keep it alive!


1 pound frozen meatballs (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
½ cup ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon whiskey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients except meatballs in a bowl. Pour over the meatballs in a crock pot. Heat on high for about an hour (then turn to warm) or low for at least three hours.

2 cups Bisquick
1 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound hot or medium ground sausage
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients together with your hands. Ball up a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes at 350º.

1 part white rum
1 part ginger ale
1 part apple cider (non-alcoholic)
a heavy dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients, stir. Garnish with a thin slice of apple and cinnamon stick if desired. This recipe can also be served warm.

5 green onions, chopped
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup Greek yogurt
6+ slices of crispy cooked bacon
½ cup slivered almonds

Combine all ingredients and chill for at least two hours. Serve with Ritz crackers.

¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
10 cups whole milk
2½ cups heavy cream
12 ounce can evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt
topping ideas: marshmallows, chocolate shavings, soft peppermint sticks, peppermint snow, sea salt, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, cookie sticks (like Pirouettes), whipped cream (homemade if possible), toffee crumbles
boozy additions: Smirnoff Peppermint Vodka, Disaronno, Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, coffee liqueur

Either in a crock pot or a large pot, whisk cocoa powder with hot water until mixed. Add in chocolate, milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, and pinch of salt.
If using a crock pot, cook for 4 hours on high OR low for 6 hours and stir occasionally. Keep on warm to serve.
If using a pot on the stove, heat for about 15 minutes on medium and stir often. Then, keep on simmer and continue to stir occasionally.
Makes about 20 servings.


Over the years, we’ve fine tuned the exchange … and we’ve seen gifts anywhere from booze (so much booze) and live lobsters to unicorn Snuggies and phallic paraphernalia.
– All attendees are asked to bring a gift with certain specifications. Some people choose themes like booze or food, but I keep it open. This year the price cap was $35.
– Everyone gets a number. (I usually just count the number of people participating and write them on little bits of paper and allow people to draw out of a bowl.)
– The person with 1 begins and opens a gift. Then, go through the numbers consecutively, and each person has the choice to either open a new gift or steal a gift that is already open.
– Continue until all the gifts have been opened.
– After this is done, the last person who has the chance to steal or open is able to steal ANYONE’S GIFT, whether it’s frozen or not.

– Each gift can be stolen twice. (Meaning, the third person who has in his hands is the final owner.) Anyone whose gift is stolen cannot steal the same gift back immediately; they must wait for their number to come back up.
– Encourage everyone at the beginning to nice. Some people think that their gifts are clever and other may think they’re stupid, so encourage people to be kind.

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All pictures by Aaron Hendrickson
Special thanks to Smirnoff, Amavi Cellars, and Segura Viudas
Hair and makeup by BAM Blowouts + Makeup

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
Cinnamon sticks
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.

Hennessy Paradis Impérial + Josh Henderson | Made of Precision

Discerning drinkers, rejoice. Well known cognac label Hennessy recently released a new expression, Hennessy Paradis Impérial, an exquisite, ridiculously smooth, and beautifully  balanced liquid in an almost-as-perfectly-crafted vessel.

Hennessy has one of the most extensive collections of eaux de vies (a brandy made from fruits other than grapes) in the world. In 2011, Hennessy 7th Generation Master Blender, Yann Fillioux dipped into the library to craft this recently-released expression, giving only 10 of their 10,000 eaux de vies the chance to be in this beautiful spirit. The ultra-precise selection of eaux de vies along with a unique maturation and blending makes this one of the most beautifully crafted liquids I’ve ever had the chance to try.

Hennessy Paradis Impérial has notes of jasmine and orange blossom with a delicate smokiness. It’s smooth, rich texture makes it almost too easy to sip. And that’s exactly how you’re meant to drink it—sipped neat.

The liquor itself is a work of precision, but the bottle holding it is also a work of art. They commissioned Baccarat designer, Stephanie Balini, to create a unique crystal decanter that’s a take on the traditional Hennessy shape and is finished with an 18-carat gold and silver piece adorning the collar. Since limited bottles were created, each is numbered.

Thanks to the amazing flavor and smoothness, it was easily enjoyed, and so good that we asked for a second (and third) dram.

Hennessy teamed up with Josh Henderson of “The Arrangement” and “Dallas” for the brand’s first global campaign, Made of Precision. To launch the campaign, he joined some lucky media representatives (one of which I was lucky enough to be) at NOBU for a private dinner pairing their amazing sushi and fresh fish with Hennessy Paradis Impérial. Henderson and Hennessy ambassadors spoke about the precision of the spirit and joined us for a delightful dinner.

Nose: floral freshness of jasmine and orange blossom blended with the subtle herbal notes of freshly cut grass
Flavor: a fine, light structure. The floral notes of the bouquet are also present in the flavor, tinged with a smoky, spicy accent that leads into a subtle persistence
Color: light amber
Price: ~$2,800/750mL

Images by Clark Cabus Photography

Bartenders You Should Know: Anna Pereda

The historic Adolphus Hotel has been a mainstay in the Dallas hospitality scene since 1912 and has recently reinvented itself with extensive renovations, a new restaurant, City Hall Bistro, the revitalization of the iconic French Room, and a brand new beverage program thanks to its new beverage manager, Anna Pereda Warren.

Since she began with the Adolphus just less than a year ago after time with Consilient Restaurants, Pappas Bros., and Bob’s Fort Worth, she has worked to give the beverage program the same fresh face as the hotel itself. Her most important charge from the hotel was to respect the hotel’s history. With a century of guests’ memories, the hotel asked that she pay homage to its past while employing new techniques and bringing in cocktail trends.

While Anna was up to the challenge, she knew she had to create a program she could be proud of that could still be digested by the everyday consumer. Even more challenging? She has three completely separate concepts to bring up to snuff, and each had to be unique and extraordinary in its own way.

City Hall Bistro offers twists on classics and some new concoctions from the Aromatic 1912 (their Old Fashioned) to the Renard Spiked The Punch (brandy, Amaro Averna, dry Curaçao, lemon, rosé). Alongside tapas-type options, Anna’s cocktail menu, while short, has a little something for everyone. Her favorite option on the list is Lilly’s Tonic, something she sees as a great representation of a London Dry Gin that pulls out the flavors of the cinchona bark in the house-made tonic.

The rooftop pool (only open to hotel and spa guests) was the most fun of the three (obvi). She used the menu to express what SHE wanted to drink by the pool—think matcha, strawberries, and summer takes on whiskey cocktail. Her favorites are the Matcha Do About Nothing and the Strawberry Fields. The latter started as a tequila cocktail, but Anna wanted something lighted, so she subbed Lillet, so it’s a surprisingly low ABV.

A little more challenging for Anna was the reinvention of The French Room‘s cocktail menu. She decided she needed to go above and beyond to change peoples’ minds from swizzling champagne in the traditional French restaurant—she simply hopes that guests will opt for a drink before or after dinner—so she started looking into new, crazy techniques that aren’t seen many places just yet. Beyond a great menu, she knows that knowledgeable team members are the key, and some new team members were brought on board. Since I haven’t been in to check out the new menu (tisk tisk), stay tuned for a full report on its exemplary options.

While I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what Anna has up her sleeves in The French Room, I’m wildly delighted by what she’s done with the menus at City Hall Bistro and the rooftop pool. Stop in for a cocktail this holiday season and steep yourself in the history of the hotel beside the crackling fire in the surprisingly cozy lobby.

The Adolphus Hotel
1321 Commerce Street (Downtown)
(214) 742-8200

City Hall Bistro
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @cityhallbistro

The French Room
Facebook: @thefrenchroomdallas
Instagram: @thefrenchroom_