Category Archives: Contributor

Essential Liquors for Your Summer Cocktails and Drinks

Written by Matt Smith

Summer is a great time to sit out in the garden, enjoy long, cool drinks, and get together with your friends and family. Many of us love having people over to sit in the garden, enjoy some drinks and food, and just spend quality time chilling out in the warm weather. Service up cold, refreshing drinks including cocktails is ideal for the summer months and will enable your visitors to enjoy a real treat as well as a refreshing drink. Even if you don’t have guests over, you and your family can enjoy sipping cold drinks outdoors as you soak up the summer sunshine.

If you plan to make cocktails and long alcoholic drinks with mixers, it is well worth getting your home bar stocked up. Of course, it wouldn’t be practical to stock it up with every spirit and liquor on the market. However, there are some key ones that you should invest in so that you can create some of the most popular summer drinks.

Alcohol Essentials for Your Home Bar this Summer

If you want to make sure you’re prepared when it comes to creating cocktails and summer drinks for your loved ones or for yourself, here are some of the top alcohol types of purchase for your home bar:

Vodka
From a relaxing vodka and tonic through to cocktails such as the Pornstar Martini cocktail, vodka is definitely one of the top choices for your home bar. This spirit will no doubt feature in many of the cocktails that you make at home. Even better, you can freeze vodka so when you serve it up it will add an extra touch of ice-cold refreshment to the drink you’re making.

Gin
This spirit is another summer bar staple if you want to be able to create sumptuous drinks for yourself or others. Of course, it plays a big part in the classic gin and tonic but you can also use it for creations such as the Tom Collins, the Rickey, and the Pink Lady amongst many others.

White Rum
If you are planning to make some exotic drinks to enjoy this summer, make sure you have a quality bottle of white rum on hand. Drinks such as mojitos and daiquiris are very popular during the warmer months so you will need a touch of the Caribbean to create one that is authentic and delicious for your visitors.

Tequila
Tequila Slammers, Tequila Sunrise, and Margaritas all require one thing to make them perfect—tequila! Invest in a bottle of good tequila for your summer home bar because there is no doubt you will be creating plenty of great summer cocktails that will require it over the course of the summer season.

Bourbon
One more excellent addition to your summer bar is a bottle of quality bourbon. Cocktails such as the Whiskey Smash are great for those summer evenings out on the patio. Or you can keep it simple and just add soda and ice for a cooling drink.

With all of these bottles to hand, you won’t go wrong this summer when it comes to cocktail creations and long drinks.

Scout & Cellar: Taking the Headaches Out of Great Wine

Over the years, I’ve had friends attempt to sell me a variety of products—leggings, skin care, oils, makeup, kitchen knick-knacks, nutritional supplements, weird nail stickers, and smelly candles. Sadly, I have never had a friend attempt to sell me anything I actually really want—or need—until I met Erin Gerner. Erin sells wine. Erin Gerner is a consultant for Celina based wine club Scout & Cellar.  Erin would love to help arrange for a box of wine to appear on your doorstep on a monthly basis. Erin is also my new favorite person.

Scout & Cellar was founded by local attorney Sarah Shadonix with a very specific goal in mind: curating an amazing collection of clean-crafted wine. “What is clean-crafted wine?”, you might ask. Clean-crafted wines contain no synthetic pesticides, no added sugar, zero added chemicals, and low sulfites. They are never mass-produced, ensuring quality control. Clean-crafted wines also remove one other thing from the wine drinking experience: the dreaded wine headache. Scout & Cellar, where have you been all of my (21+) life?

The great news is, you can choose to purchase from Scout & Cellar’s Clean-crafted wine collection without any membership, simply by shopping online. However, if you want, or, ahem, *need*  more wine in your life, you definitely want to consider a club membership. How does it work? When you sign up, you get to customize your experience; you decide what kind of wine you’d like to receive, and how often. Whether you want to receive all whites, all reds, or a mixture, and whether you’d prefer to receive shipments monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, they’ve got a plan for you. Members receive additional perks as well, like product discounts, and an invitation to visit the winery, which isn’t open to the public. Erin is an amazing consultant, and she will steer you towards wines you will love that you might not have tried on your own. I can personally attest to this, as she brought me two bottles she recommended, which were right up my alley … and as promised, no headache. Swoon.

Speaking of Erin and her wine savvy: she is also available for tastings, and you could be her next host! As a Host, you arrange a Scout & Cellar wine tasting and handle the guest list; Erin handles the rest. You get to earn cool host perks, and you also earn cool points for throwing a “party” your friends actually WANT to attend. (Hint: overpriced eye serum does not a party make.) Also, Erin is sweet as pie; the consummate hostess. A fun evening is all but guaranteed!

Finally, if clean-crafted wine speaks to your soul, definitely reach out to Erin about becoming a consultant. Scout & Cellar consultants spread the good news about clean-crafted wine … all while making money in the process. They host wine parties, they explain the collections, and they manage a team of other Independent Consultants who do the same things.

Thank you Erin, for sharing your fabulous Clean-crafted wines with me!


SCOUT & CELLAR
www.scoutandcellar.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Erin Gerner, Scout & Cellar Consultant
eringerner@gmail.com
www.scoutandcellar.com/eringerner

 

A Four Seasons Las Colinas Staycation

Sometimes a girl just needs to get away. But with all the (shudder) responsibilities, it’s nice that you don’t have to go  TOO far. For me, the perfect answer to scratch the staycation itch last week was a one-night villa stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas. The drive from my Oak Cliff apartment to the resort was less than twenty minutes, but it felt like a world away. A world where I could just sit back in my plush terry robe and let the relaxation wash over me while I starfish the coziest, most comfortable king size bed.

 

Now, I had more reason to want a luxe getaway than just my own Calgon Take Me Away moment. It was also my boyfriend’s birthday weekend, so I wanted to make it special for him. Jackie, Samantha, and the room reservations team were so amazing and helpful with making sure our villa room was decorated and even had a birthday dessert surprise for him when we arrived.

The villa room we stayed in is separate from the main building, so once we unpacked and got situated, I used the Four Seasons app (more on this marvel later) to request golf-cart service to transport us back to the lobby so we could go to OUTLAW Taproom for a late lunch. Our driver was ready for us by the time we walked to the front courtyard. The drive was short and gave us a nice tour of the golf course and the main pool.

Lunch at OUTLAW was quick with friendly service. We were famished so we both ordered burgers to satisfy our hunger and then moved outside to enjoy drinks on the covered patio overlooking the resort pool.

After our lunch and cocktails, we returned to our room, and no shame, we got in bed and started watching “Fixer Upper” on TV. Before we knew it, it was four hours later and we hadn’t moved an inch, but it felt so good to relax in the room! So instead of heading back out to LAW, the steakhouse on property, we opted for room service. Using the Four Seasons app again, we ordered our hearts out like it was UberEATS, and within an hour, two attendants rolled in our feast on a mobile table.

I didn’t remember to take a photo of the room service table because we attacked it so quickly, but rest assured, it was delicious and very fulfilling! We ordered a tequila-poached shrimp cocktail appetizer, salmon, chicken, AND steak entrees (good grief!), as well as a New York cheesecake dessert that had a sweet happy birthday message scrawled around the plate.

That meal effectively put me to bed, and the next morning I enjoyed a nice cup of Nespresso coffee on the balcony … still in my robe of course.

Also, I mentioned the Four Seasons smartphone app earlier and said I’d say more about it: The app’s interface was so convenient to use, I have to make a point to sing its praises. I used it to check in a day early, and because of that, my room was prioritized on my day of check-in, and I was alerted that it was ready for me before noon, when standard check-in time is 3PM! I also used the app’s chat feature to request the birthday welcome amenity and every time I needed transportation from room to lobby (and vice versa). When it was time to check out, I used the app as well, and my folio was promptly ready for me to review. Everything was so easy to use, and I always received a prompt response. The app gets fives stars from me!

We didn’t rush to leave since we had a late check-out time and had the room until 3PM. So after a shower in the roomy marble bathroom, we made our way to LAW for its decadent mimosa brunch. One word: SEAFOOD. I’m talking shrimp, oysters, crab claws, mussels, ahi poke, smoked salmon, THE WORKS. For $59/person (which includes two mimosas), the price is so worth it on the seafood alone! But for those who aren’t as crazy about seafood as I am, there’s bountiful other options which include omelet and carving stations, pastas, salads, breakfast staples, pastries, sushi, and an entire room dedicated solely to sweets (which includes a station making fresh donuts).

Somehow, we didn’t eat ourselves into food comas at brunch and actually made it back home. It was a perfectly relaxing and quick getaway. I really felt like I was out of town for the weekend and came back rejuvenated. Thanks to the Four Seasons for providing a wonderful weekend experience! I’ll find another excuse to stay there again one day.


Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas
4150 N MacArthur Blvd, Irving, TX 75038
(972)717-0700
Four Seasons Dallas

OUTLAW Taproom
Off the Main Lobby
Mon-Fri: 3PM-1AM
Sat-Sun: 12PM-1AM
OUTLAW Taproom

LAW Restaurant
Sunday Brunch: 11AM-2PM, $59/adult, $24/child
Check website for complete service hours information.
LAW Restaurant

Feel Good About Lunch in Las Colinas

Eating healthy is haaaaard. I realized I could immediately end the sentence there and hit publish, but allow me to continue. As someone who has worked in the Las Colinas area off and on since 2005, finding a quick, cost-effective healthy lunch has basically been like searching for a unicorn. I can rattle off the calorie content of various chain sandwiches or bland salads and have double protein/replace rice with lettuce’d myself into more lunches than I can count. It has often seemed like everyone else can easily grab healthy bowls, juices, salads, and shakes quickly and not figure out to adjust their breakfast and dinner to keep from going overboard (or spend hours each weekend meal-prepping or whatever people more disciplined than me always do.)

That’s why when I saw the news that Original ChopShop was coming to Las Colinas/Irving (and is soon to open two more locations in the Dallas area), I felt a ray of hope. While there are some really good food options in the area, they’re either hard to get to, a bit on the slow side, or not cheap … and and all of which can make the work lunch run more difficult. ChopShop is right on Macarthur at George Bush, so it’s accessible with a quick-service counter and plenty of room.

Their menu covers a range of options, including protein bowls, sandwiches, salads (that can also be made into wraps), superfruit bowls, yogurt parfaits, fresh juices, breakfast items (millennial-approved avocado toast, bowls, sprouted grain bagels, and wraps along with coffee) and a variety of protein shakes. My coworker and I were able to hit the start of the lunch rush at 11:30am, order our items, eat, chat with a few staff members, and be out of the building in 45 minutes. That’s pretty great for a restaurant of any type operating in its first week.

The food itself was refreshing. We ordered two protein bowls (Thai Coconut Chicken and Teriyaki Chicken), two juices (Cool Down and Face Lift) and tried the Açai and Pitaya bowls for desert. It was a ton of food … but every item was good—the meat was quality, the veggies were fresh and the sauces were balanced with the meal, which is usually not the case at similar establishments.

 

The massive juice list was hard to whittle down, but Facelift was incredibly refreshing without being  too sweet. The superfruit bowls were also balanced, especially the Pitaya Bowl. I know açai is the cliché choice, but the Pitaya one was on par with some of the better bowls I’ve had anywhere.

My co-worker who joined me was new to the review game, but came back to the office informing the rest of our team we needed to all go back next week. We walked in to Original ChopShop expecting a pretty run-of-the-mill review, but instead, it looks like we have a chance to get a lot of people out of the same lunch rut we’ve been cursing at least a few times a week.

Las Colinas: rejoice.


Original ChopShop
OriginalChopShop.com
7300 N MacArthur Blvd #140, Irving, TX 75063

Pictures courtesy of Original ChopShop

3 Stacks Smoke & Taphouse Frisco

After a two-week closure in January, 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House is shiny and new with a renovated interior and an exciting rebooted menu by Chef Pete Rukes and Pitmaster Bryan Shanahan!

3 Stacks is now an all scratch kitchen boasting house-made sauces, jams, breads, and of course, sausage. I had never visited this restaurant before and didn’t know what to expect but let me just say, I was more than pleasantly surprised!

The meal started with a choice of a few of their impressive craft cocktails. We sipped on the show smoke, a margarita made with ghost tequila, cointreau, lime, agave, and and the Ol’ Barrel, a manhattan-style cocktail. The Ol’ Barrel was my personal favorite and we learned that the drink itself is barrel aged onsite giving it an extra special smokey char flavor. All in all, it was an exciting and tasty array of well-executed cocktails. It was nice to have that option at a BBQ  joint since what you usually find are mostly beer selections.

Next up, we were presented with a variety of appetizers: hush puppies, flatbread, and fried green tomatoes. My personal standout was the BBQ flatbread. It’s a tasty bite of sweet and savory that would work well on its own with a beer for lunch or dinner. It’s a welcomed change of pace to have a multitude of fabulous starters to accompany the mains which of course were the top notch smoked meats.

Which brings us to star of the meal, the outstanding smoked St. Louis ribs, USDA prime beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey, shrimp & grits, and house made jalapeño cheddar sausage. The ribs and brisket were stellar and my personal favorite. I’m talking fall-off-the-bone, exceptionally flavored, lick-every-single-one-of-your-fingers good. At $14 for a half a rack of ribs and $9 a pound for the brisket, it’s an unbelievable caliber of bbq you’re getting for a reasonable price. Along with the smoked meat, were were treated to a sampling of their BLT sandwich which is a delightful combination of house smoked pork belly, fried green tomato, greens, and bbq crema.

Normally, you go to a BBQ joint for the smoked meat and the sides are an afterthought. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the sides at 3 Stacks. We tasted the white cheddar mac and cheese which was a table favorite and the roasted garlic mashed potatoes that had me reaching for seconds and thirds.

And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly eat anything more, they bring out the show-stopping desserts. There was a warm donut and maple bread pudding and my very favorite–I will drive up to Frisco to pay money and eat this again favorite–was the caramelized banana crème brûlée. If you love banana pudding, banana cream pie, or bananas foster, this is the dessert for you. It’s a decadent twist on traditional creme brûlée that will have ordering it first to ensure you don’t run out of room.

3 Stacks’ newly revamped interior coupled with their fabulous service, cocktails, bites, and BBQ is sure to keep you coming back time and time again. I know I certainly will be!


3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House
3stacksbbq.com
facebook | Instagram
4226 Preston Road (Frisco)
(469) 287-9035

Pictures courtesy of 3 Stacks

Bar & Gardens St. Patrick’s Day Yoga

This past Saturday, Bar & Garden teamed up with Outdoor Voices, Gather Kitchen, Roots Juices, and VITAL Fitness to give Dallasites a chance for a St. Patrick’s day detox before they retoxed with all that green beer and Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey. If you’re anything like (most) of us writers on “staff” here, it was kind of necessary.

After a revitalizing yoga class taught by VITAL’s Bobby Candelas, we got to enjoy some treats by the various vendors.

Bar & Garden in East Dallas is known for selling all organic wine, which comes from chemical-free vineyards, as well as spirits that are free of anything artificial. Their focus is on transparency and passion products. Even better, the store sells everything you might need for a chic at-home bar. (Because you can never have enough cheeky bottle openers.)

Every Saturday they have complimentary product tastings so you can try before you buy. Paired up with Roots Juices, Bar & Garden provides you with options for better-for-you booze options and cocktails.

Gather Kitchen has only been open for 6 months, but they’ve completely mastered the art of delicious AND healthy food. The classic American recipes took two years to develop, and the entire restaurant is dairy free and gluten free. (Cue singing angels.) Most items are also vegan or paleo. We got to try their vegan and paleo matcha muffins (green for the holiday!) and they were not only better than expected, but quite delicious!

Outdoor Voices gave us a nice green preview of their collection. They offer men’s and women’s “athletic wear for recreation”. We’re not quite sure what that means, but if it makes drinking in yoga pants acceptable, then we’re all for it.

Stay tuned for more events like this by following the Bar & Garden social updates. Namaste, y’all.


Bar & Garden
BarandGarden.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
3314 Ross Avenue, Suite 150 (East Dallas)

Gather Kitchen
GatherKitchen.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
1601 Elm Street (Downtown in Thanksgiving Tower)

Outdoor Voices 
OutdoorVoices.com
4539 Travis Street (Knox/Henderson)

Roots Pressed Juices
RootsPressedJuices.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
multiple locations

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.**

Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival 2018

For Fort Worth foodies, the most wonderful time of year is quickly approaching. The Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival celebrates food and drink from Fort Worth and beyond, as well as benefits the Festival’s Foundation.

April 5-8 will bring Fort Worth burgers, beer, cocktails, wine, and so much more! Expect well-executed events that give you the best Cowtown has to offer … just make sure you wear comfortable pants.

This year, FWFW weekend will kick off with Tacos and Tequila on Thursday, April 5. On Friday, The Main Event and my personal favorite, Deserts after Dark. Saturday begins with Rise and Dine and then on to Burgers, Brews, and Blues. Pitmasters Picnic will close out the weekend on Sunday.

Tickets are on sale now!

Here is a recap of last year’s events:

Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival
April 5-8, 2018