Category Archives: Aaron

Toyota 86 + Summer Grilling Experience

Let’s press pause for just a second on all the talk about great cocktails, new pubs in town, and all the other great things that revolve around … well, libations, and talk about cars.

I drive a 2003 Pontiac Vibe. The sister of the Toyota Matrix produced by a company that’s not even around anymore. It’s maroon with gray plastic trim and rear bumper. It does have a sunroof, which is hardly ever opened except in tilt mode when parked, and only to vent the horrific Dallas summer heat. Super-sexy right? Yeah … not so much.

So when you receive an email that says, “Do you want to drive a brand new Toyota for a week?” Sign.Me.Up. Such a cool opportunity, and one I had never driven one before. Little did I know, they weren’t assigning me a specific car, Toyota allowed me to pick between 6(!) of their models.

This is the 2017 Toyota 86. I have never been much for orange, but I love this color Toyota calls “Hot Lava”. I’ll get in much more detail, but it comes standard with 17-inch twisted spoke alloy wheels and front fender-mounted vortex generators. With its mean looking LED headlights and sleek, compact design, this is one sexy car.

Toyota also invited us to attend a BBQ meal and grilling lesson with chef Matt Pittman of TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters” and the owner of Meat Church. We started the day by picking out our own cuts of meat, too. (And I thought it couldn’t get much better.)

We started at Rudolph’s Market in Deep Ellum where we learned about different cuts of meat and were given the choice between a 6 week aged ribeye or a filet. I chose the ribeye but had a twinge of regret when this guy started cutting the filets. The meat was so tender, it actually appeared to split open before the knife even touched it.

Once the meat was wrapped we all got in our Toyotas and headed down to Waxahachie. That is where Matt Pittman lives and runs his company, Meat Church, where he makes and fulfills orders for his amazing seasonings and teaches classes. His outdoor kitchen is as big as the house that I moved out of about a year ago. It has 3 Green Eggs, a giant smoker, and what seemed like eight other kinds of grills. He also has more Yeti products than I have ever seen in one place outside of a sporting goods store. Above it all … is a Big Ass Fan. (Thank God.)

Matt showed and allowed us to taste the difference between 3 different methods of cooking a steak on our own: traditional (just throwing it on the grill), sous vide, and the reverse sear method. I have to say, I had reservations about eating a steak which most of the process of cooking involved water (sous vide), but out of the three, it was my favorite (by an extremely close margin).

Holy Cow Seasoning

Much of the class was spent describing the Reverse Sear Method. I won’t go into all the details here because you can find the entire process in detail on his website.

The quick and dirty process:
1. Kosher Salt to tenderize, sit, rinse.
2.Let the meat rest.
3. Place in oven at 275º (~40 minutes for medium rare).
4. Let the meat rest.
5. Sear it on really hot open flame (grill) if you want it sexy (his words), or his preferred method, a cast iron skillet for 1 minute on either side.

The key items that Matt claims make a huge difference when grilling:
1. USDA Choice meat. He says if you can’t afford a place like Rudolph’s, Costco is where he gets most of his meat.
2. A digital thermometer. Matt said he spent $90 on the one he uses, but the price is worth it so you don’t overcooking your steak.
3. If using a grill for indirect heat or to sear, use lump charcoal (wood). The briquets we have use ? Yeah, they’re crap.

The amazing cuts of meat were seared to perfection. When it was time to eat, we were treated to an appetizer of smoked tuna dip, and the perfectly cooked steak was accompanied by grilled asparagus.

Now. Back to the car.

**Disclaimer** What follows is the ramblings of a 34-year-old man that has only driven a couple of (moderately) fun/fast cars in his life.

All I have to say is this car is bad-ass. I read the specs before I got it, but compared to the cars that I have driven in the past, this 2.0L, 205hp Boxer 16V engine with 156lb.-ft of torque made me grip the 86’s leather-trimmed steering wheel a little tighter. This thing is FAST. For you gearheads out there, the exterior is “expertly crafted to help produce wind-cheating drag coefficient of .29 Cd.” (That just means that it’s literally built for speed.)

To complement the speed and acceleration, the 86 has Front MacPherson® Strut and Real Double Wishbone Suspension, which, honestly, I had to get used to being accustomed to my loosey goosey Vibe steering. When you open it up on the freeway, you can actually feel the way the car’s exterior design actually pushes it down to grip the road and give it better aerodynamics. This is a dangerous proposition for someone to drives fast in crappy cars. (Yes. I am ashamed to say that actually is a radar detector in my windshield. C’mon guys, have you ever driven Hwy 114 in Irving?)

Moving on. The guy I took delivery from asked me if I knew how to drive a standard. “Of course!” I said. Seemed like it was a bit late to ask that question. Little did I know, the only standard that I had ever driven (albeit for 10 years) was a 5 speed, loose, crappy transmission. This short throw 6-Speed Close-Ratio transmission was INSANE. (Don’t tell anyone, but when trying to back out of my driveway, it took me 5 minutes of putting it in first gear before I finally had to pull out the owner’s manual. Turns out there is a pull-up mechanism on the shifter that puts it in reverse.)

As for the interior…

When you first sit in the car, the racing-style seats give your hips a comfortable hug. I’m a big guy (more on that in a minute), so many of the sport-style seats are too narrow for my shoulders. Not these. I could drive this thing cross country and still be comfortable.

Combine that with the Granlux (suede-like) material accents, extensive Bluetooth features (because, safety), 8-speaker Pioneer audio system, AUX and USB input ports, and 6 standard airbags to protect you, this car is (almost) as fun to ride in as it is to drive.

My friend Wes wanted to go for a ride in this impeccable machine. His statement perfectly describes the controls in the Toyota 86: “I love how simple it is. Even the touch screen display is simple to use.” As a UX designer, I was impressed. I hadn’t thought much about it because I was just using it, not trying to find all the controls.”

Oh, and the trunk is spacious enough to fit two large suitcases and a backpack, in addition to the “back seat” space. Let’s be real, to ride in the back seat would require the front passengers to be 3′ tall … the backseat passengers, too. (So use it for storage unless it’s absolutely necessary to take additional riders.) But, for real, four seat belts mean lower insurance rates, y’all.

Two things I feel I have to mention:

  • The Toyota 86 has a 4.9″ ground clearance and a total height of 50.6″ (4.22′). I am pushing 6’3″, but amazingly, getting into this beauty was no problem. The space inside was surprisingly roomy, even for me. However, when getting out of it in a parking lot, especially at work where most garage spots are compact car only, I felt like I needed an assist. By the end of the week, I had a system.
  • Again, this is a sports car. A sports car that has no overdrive. This means in 6th gear it does not operate at a lower RPM. When you push on the gas, there is no delay … it goes. That said, it is premium unleaded only and gets 21 city/28 highway.

All that said, neither of these would prevent me from purchasing this vehicle were I able. These are negligible to how much I absolutely loved driving it. The morning the car was scheduled for pickup, I got up early, (which I never do). I took it out for one last drive, grabbed some breakfast tacos, and received the call that it was time … they were about 2 minutes out from my house. I won’t admit to tears, but a hard sniff may have happened.

Now that I have tasted the sweetness of the Toyota 86, I kinda want to die when I get in my Pontiac. It is what I can only imagine it would be like to drive a school bus with donut tires meant for a compact car.

Toyota 86
2 door sports car
2.0 liter, 4-cylinder 205 horsepower Boxer 16V engine

Short-throw 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission
Front-mid engine, Rear-wheel drive
136mph top speed
0-60 in 6.4 seconds
21/28/24 mpg

 

 

Disclosure: We were provided use of Toyota 86 free of charge. Opinions all my own.

The Brown-Forman Scotch Collection

There is no doubt that the company owning names like Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester has serious insight when it comes to truly great whiskey and bourbon. When the opportunity comes to taste scotch from three newly acquired, iconic Scottish distilleries’ brands that date back to the 1800s, you take it. Period.

The night with Brown-Forman started off with specialty scotch cocktails designed by the Global Brand Ambassador of their Scotch Collection (more on him in a minute) and a little talk so we could get to know the Brown-Forman team. 



Honestly, before this night, I had never tried (or even heard of) a scotch cocktail. The though in my mind was that just isn’t done because it would be a waste of a great spirit. When I asked the ambassador (who is from Scotland, naturally) if it hurt him that we were drinking scotch cocktails, he laughed and said, “Of course not! I designed them myself, and when you complement the flavors of the whiskey, there’s nothing wrong with mixing.”

We began with a traditional scotch cocktail, the Penicillin (BenRiach 10-Year, lemon, ginger, honey syrup), which is a stout cocktail with the perfect balance of bright flavors with the smokiness of the scotch. We then had a couple of less classic options like the Highland Game Changer (GlenDronach 12-Year, vermouth, cherry brandy, dash of absinthe) and the Bobby Burns (GlenDronach 12-Year, orange liqueur, and vermouth).

Once everyone was sufficiently lubricated, we moved into the tasting portion of the evening. The tasting was led by Stewart Buchanan, a Scottish native and Global Brand Ambassador of the Brown-Forman Scotch Collection. Stuart has been involved in the Scotch industry since 1993.

He has worked in virtually every position within the industry from production to warehousing, office work to hosting tastings and management. In 2004, he helped to restart the BenRiach Distillery, one of the sampled brands in the tasting, after it had been closed since 2002.

Needless to say, he is a world-class sommelier of Scotch (whatever the word is for that). With his production background, Stuart gives a unique insight into the different process techniques and what makes a whiskey individuality by using different styles of casks in maturation. All that said, he has an incredibly outgoing personality and is a dangerous drinking companion.


Now to the whiskey…

GlenDronach 12-Year-Old Original
Rich sherried, 12-year-old single malt matured in a combination of Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Proof: 43% ABV
Nose: Sweet aroma with creamy vanilla and hints of ginger and autumn fruits
Taste: Creamy and silky smooth taste with rich oak and sherry sweetness, full mouth feel, raisins, soft fruits and spice
Finish: Long, full and slightly nutty finish
Distillery: The Glendronach Distillery, founded in 1826 in the valley of Forgue deep in the East Highland hills and one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Characteristics of this distillery are heavy and robust using mastery of sherry cask maturation with a deep color and rich flavor profiles ranging from sweet and fruity to dry and nutty.


BenRiach 10-Year-Old
Fresh and smooth single malt Classic Speyside. It is unpeated, fruity and matured in American Virgin Oak wood.

Proof: 43% ABV
Nose: Crisp, green orchard fruits, stem ginger and tangerine mellows to creamy vanilla with a delicate note of mint and a twist of citrus with a barley back note.
Taste: Warm toasted oak spices through green apple skins and dried apricots with hints of peach and soft banana. Touches of aniseed and lemon zest contrast the fruit and add to the crisp barley finish.
Distillery: The BenRiach Distillery was founded in 1898 in Northeast Morayshire that uses 100% Scottish Barley sourced from farms across Speyside and Northeast Scotland. They are known for using a wide variety of casks for maturing and finishing. BenRiach is one of only two remaining Speyside distilleries to seasonally produce whiskey using malted barley from its own traditional floor maltings.


BenRiach 10-Year-Old Curiositas
Peated single malt distilled from heavily peated malted barley giving this scotch a fresh, peated expression with smoky-sweet notes.
Note: Peat is a traditional source of fuel that is taken from the land and consists of compressed, decaying plant material. Different processes in sourcing and the varying locations of Scottish distilleries give varying flavors of smokiness unique to where the Scotch is distilled. BenRiach uses Highland Peat that is taken from the top layer of soil and has charcoal and campfire notes, unlike the salt-water infused peat used in coastal distilleries that have a medicinal and iodine notes.

Proof: 46% ABV
Nose: Aromatic peat smoke with hints of honey, fruit and mellow oak
Taste: Pear front followed by a complex hint of fruit, heather, nuts, oak and wood spices.


Glenglassaugh Evolution (my favorite of the evening)
Distinctive whiskey matured in ex-Tennessee Whiskey barrels which gives it a unique flavor compared to other Scotch whiskeys.

Proof: 50% ABV
Nose: Combination of sweet barley, pineapple and vanilla with deep oak spices and caramelized pear.
Taste: White peppery oak through crisp green apple with hints of salted caramel and ripe banana.
Distillery: Glenglassaugh is an award-winning distiller founded in 1875 on Sandend Bay on the Moray coast of Scotland that is on that Highland and Speyside border. Their Scotch, both peated and unpeated is matured in beach side warehouses that gives it salty notes, but uses Highland malt that creates a unique flavor of three regions. They are known for innovation of their newer whiskeys, but have old stocks going back to 1963.


Brown-Forman created a truly amazing and educational evening. Due to the recent acquisition of these distilleries and their commitment to knowledge and quality, this scotch whiskey is currently available in limited quantities in the United States. Specifically, in the Dallas area, you should be able to find them in Total Wine and Specs. If you are looking to sample, we were informed that the Standard Pour and Whiskey Cake in Plano were the only two watering holes that were mentioned to have stock. Not to worry, though, the Brown-Forman team said they would be more widely distributed later in April and May. Save up your money and go grab a bottle … or three.

NOLA Brasserie Valentine’s Day Menu

Need Valentine’s Day plans but are looking for something just a bit different from the usual steak dinner/flowers/sparkling wine? You may want to check out the Valentine’s Day menu at NOLA Brasserie to spice up what looks like is going to be a cold and rainy Valentine’s. Located in downtown Dallas, NOLA Brasserie brings the Cajun and Creole taste and exuberance of New Orleans to Dallas.

On Tuesday, February 14, Chef Ryan will be serving a special prix fixe menu just for you and your loved one. At $69 per person for four courses, guests will experience authentic Cajun and Creole comfort food, southern hospitality and live music by noted jazz musician, Carlos Guedes. Dinner begins at 5 PM, and the last seating will be at 10 PM. Carlos will begin his live set at 6 PM.

Guys, if you “just don’t have time” (lazy…) to get your significant other flowers, the night starts off with a red rose and a champagne toast. But really, for this to work you(!) have to plan the evening … meaning you just have to make one phone call to make a reservation and one call to ask your S.O. out.

The first course is a delicious, pan-seared Crab & Crawfish Cake with Jumbo Fried Shrimp for the table. The cajun seasoning and crystal aioli made it better than many of the crab cakes that I’ve had before.

The second course has three choices between a Strawberry & Walnut Salad or their popular Louisiana Gumbo. If you aren’t looking for the lighter side of things, get the gumbo. It is a dark roux gumbo with chicken, andouille & rice topped off with a crawfish fritter.  

For the third course, you have the difficult choice between Cajun Filet Steak, Chicken Florentine, or Redfish Acadia. Each comes with garlic mashed potatoes. I went with the redfish and Whitney, my lovely wife, went with the chicken. Personally, I would stick to what they are known for: the cajun-inspired dishes. The redfish was topped with their famous crawfish Etouffee that set off the dish with bold flavor. If the garlic mash isn’t your thing, you can add asparagus, crawfish mac & cheese or cream spinach a la carte.

As if all of this isn’t enough to make you feel like you are going to burst, you get a choice between NOLA Bread Pudding or Chocolate Strawberries for the table for dessert. I’m a huge fan of bread pudding, and theirs is studded with pecans and topped with a house-made rum sauce, which made me fall more in love with it … because, romance.



In addition to the sparkling wine toast, their full bar of hand-crafted cocktails, as well as a varied wine list and beer, are available. Whitney and I were able to try a couple for you … for, you know, research.

The Sazerac (Sazerac Rye, Peychaud bitters, Herbsaint rinse)
This traditional New Orleans cocktails is served in a Herbsaint-coated rocks glass and is garnished with a lemon twist.  If you’re going to have a drink to make you feel like you’re in the Big Easy … this one will take you there … and maybe even make you a little easy. 😉

The Original Cosmo: a traditional cosmo with freshly muddled cucumber.

Lavender Lace: Yeah…it is a secret. But the menu says it is a Lavender Champagne cocktail served with a lavender-scented sugar cube. Whitney loved it because it was simple and delicious.

Cucumber Collins (Hendrick’s Gin, fresh cucumber, lemon juice, a hint of sugar)
As far as clear liquors go, gin is my go-to. Ask for them to go light on the lemon as it was a bit too citrus forward for my taste.)

If you have never been to this area of downtown, I would suggest grabbing an Uber or be ready for an $8 valet ticket. Otherwise, you can park in the Westin garage for $5 (with restaurant validation) self-park in the Westin Tower garage for free (4pm Friday through Sundays).

Overall, Chef Ryan put together a pretty great menu that will be a great addition to your Valentine’s Day festivities. Charm your love (or, ya know, your friend) and make a reservation on OpenTable or call 469-872-1820.

NOLA Brasserie
nolabrasserie.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
1201 Main St. (Downtown)
469-872-1820

Next Door “Proper Brunch”, Uptown

Brunch in Dallas is a thing. You will wait as long in line for brunch as the one you probably waited the night before to get into a new club. The main difference is you’re more likely in the early stages of a hangover waiting for brunch. And that’s rough.

On the usually quiet little street of McKinney (ha), there’s a little place that, up until recently, was known for its dinner, cocktails and booming club beats on weekend nights. (I mean, they have an entire wall of speakers upstairs.) Next Door’s environmental design is what every loft owner wishes his or her apartment could look like. Behind the bar, the wine and spirit bottles are arranged between stacks of vinyl on wood shelves. There’s no shortage of leather and filament bulbs, and the downstairs patio and upstairs balcony make what is a small venue seem open, airy, and large.

Next Door, Uptown Dallas

Executive Chef Paul Niekrasz’s dinner menu is already far ahead of most of the culinary options in Uptown, and now he’s throwing his new “Proper Brunch” menu in the mix on Sundays. The menu is wonderfully small but creates an incredibly difficult choice because everything sounds amazing. If it’s your first time, I suggest either the Steak & Eggs or the BFFT (Best F**cking Fried French Toast).

As a person who prefers savory brunch options, I go more for the protein and bold flavors. The filet mignon in the Steak & Eggs was perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked and fork-tender. Topped with a sunny egg, it is set off nicely by a red wine-roasted garlic sauce and paired with zesty hash browns.

Steak and Eggs

On the sweeter side of brunch, it’d be tough to find a comparison to the BFFFT. It goes without saying that it is deliciously rich, but it was not as sweet as expected from a French Toast. (Thank the brunch gods.) Reading its description, I was wondering how much any one person could eat, but it was fantastic. You guys … it’s cream cheese-stuffed cinnamon-raisin bread that’s pancake battered and fried topped with fresh berry compote, maple syrup and whipped cream. Even if it’s not your cheat day, ORDER IT. The BFFT does not disappoint.

Best F*ckin Stuffed French Toast

On the lighter side, the Skinny Omelette was surprisingly delicious. From the menu description, I didn’t hold out much hope (farm eggs, asparagus, goat cheese, tomato, roasted red peppers, pesto). The goat cheese, roasted red peppers and pesto really flavor up what I thought was going to be a bland dish. Good news for those of us already working on our bikini bods. (Yuck.)

Skinny Omelette

For me, the Smoked Salmon Sandwich was a bit on the rich side. It was delicious and the flavors were delightfully refreshing, but I just couldn’t eat it by myself. Also, it was served “deconstructed”, which threw me off, but I was into it.  I’m a sucker for smoked salmon, though, and would suggest ordering this for the table for everyone to get a bite or three.

Smoked Salmon Sandwich

Don’t think I have forgotten the beverages … we know why you come here. They have the go-to mimosas and bloody marys, but Next Door is known for their wide range of modern classic and hand-crafted cocktails, so you know they have some random s**t in store. I am a sucker for Revolver Blood and Honey. It has become a staple in my beer line-up. Next Door livens it up a bit in their Blackberry Summer Beer with Deep Eddy Lemon, Monin Syrup with muddled blackberry. I was worried that it would be too sweet, but it was just right.

 

If a hangover cure is what you’re looking for, coconut water is said to be one of the best ways to rehydrate after a long night. They thought ahead and made it the key ingredient in their Coconut Water Mojito. (The name kind of gives it away, no?) The Captain Morgan White, Strawberry, Mint, and coconut water is perfect to cure what ails you.

All in all, if you are looking to hit up a great brunch spot this Sunday (yes,ONLY Sundays, 11am-3pm), head over to Next Door and take advantage of the softer, way more laid back side of their venue.

NEXT DOOR
nextdoordallas.com
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2908 McKinney Avenue (Uptown)
888-381-1411

*Thanks to Next Door for inviting us in and treating us to a meal!*

Del Frisco’s Grille Kicks Off New Happy Hour Menu

By Wednesday, after a long few days at work, I was ready for an adult beverage. (I had just started a new job and getting the lay of the land in a new place is always stressful.) Fortunately for me, Del Frisco’s Grille is celebrating summer by introducing a new happy hour–Monday to Friday, 4-6:30pm. So I headed over to the Dallas location on McKinney Avenue to check it out.

You guys … they have a Sip and Share menu with $6 cocktails, wine, craft beer ($5) and food. The menu includes some of their top signature drinks like the VIP and Tennessee Peach and new and old favorites in the food department.

First thing’s first: food. One of the classics and my favorite is their classic Cheesesteak Eggrolls. These things are amazing.  Other items include Deviled Eggs, Pulled Pork Nachos, French Onion and Parmesan Spinach Dips, flatbreads, and the best corndogs you’ll ever have, the Wagyu Corndogs.

Now let’s get to the real reason I was there. First, if you have never had one of Del Frisco’s signature cocktails, head over ASAP. I am a whiskey drinker, so, my personal favorite is the Tennessee Peach (Jack Daniel’s, Fresh Peaches, Local Honey, Fresh Lime Juice, and Peach Bitters). This whiskey cocktail is perfect for summer; it’s refreshing and light, but it’s definitely on the sweet side.

I also tried the Grille Margarita. I asked the difference between the Grille Margarita and its Hand Crafted Cocktail counterparts; I was told it’s the Margarita 160 (skinny margarita: Sauza Silver Tequila, Triple Sec, Agave Nectar, Fresh Lime Juice) without the “skinny.” It was not too sweet, and just an excellent, classic margarita.

2016_7_27_DelFriscos-0238

In addition to these, they also include their Red and White Sangrias on the Sip & Share.
Red: Malbec, Stoli Razberi, Cointreau, Sweet & Sour, White Peach Purée, Fresh Lime Juice.
White: Pinot Grigio, White Peach Purée, Peach Schnapps, Strawberry-Peach Popsicle.

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If you’re in the mood for the classics, they included premium spirits on the happy hour menu, including Tito’s Vodka, Bulleit Bourbon, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Bacardi Rum and Milagro Silver Tequila.

Needless to say, the summer happy hour Sip & Share at Del Frisco’s Grille will be one of my new go-to happy hours. The best part? The new HH is available at all locations! Head on over and take advantage of this $6 Sip & Share (with $5 craft beer) happy hour menu while it lasts!

Del Frisco’s Grille
delfriscosgrille.com
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Big Taste of Fort Worth 2016

Gourmet cuisine from Tarrant County’s best restaurants, premium wines from local wineries, an open bar serving one of THE BEST Texas whiskies, and rubbing elbows with some of the most influential members of the Tarrant County community … and all for a good cause … that’s what makes a great night.

For 37 years, The Barrett Havran Memorial Big Taste of Fort Worth has been creating these great experiences. Every year, they partner with the best of the best Tarrant County has to offer, including a VIP wine tasting, and an incredible auction to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. This year’s event was hosted at the beautiful Omni Hotel, in Fort Worth.

The live auction had several luxe packages including a seven-day stay in Tuscany, a Capital Grille dining experience with former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson (also a celebrity tasting judge at the event), and a luxury Fort Worth weekend including dinner for two at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, tickets to Bass Performance Hall, along with a night stay at the Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel complete with use of a new Lexus LS460 during the stay.

The silent auction included Pulsar Watches, various wines (oh, so many wines, including Champagne Taittinger, Robert Foley Vineyards, White Rose Estate) along with art, books, electronics, and clothing.

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The food tasting featured an all-star lineup of Whiskey & Rye our of the Omni Fort Worth, Del Frisco’s, The Capital Grille – Fort Worth, and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood.

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All the chefs brought their A-game to provide countless samples for guests to eat. There was absolutely no excuse for anyone to leave hungry … or sober, for that matter. (Thank you, Uber.)

About that … guests were invited to enjoy multiple open bars serving beer selections and Robert Mondovi Private Selection wines.

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The most amazing part was they were also featuring one of my new favorite whiskeys, Texas Silver Star.

This stuff … is amazing … and local. The artisans behind this concept are Mark Lusignan, Ben Alexander and Don Alexander of the Trinity River Distillery located in Fort Worth. This small-batch whiskey is distilled from select corn, barley and rye, and aged in new charred American white oak barrels for around 2.5 years. In addition, the team collects and stores rainwater in two 13,000 gallon steel tanks that they process and filter using reverse osmosis for use in their products. This event featured the Spirit Whiskey and, my personal favorite, Texas Honey. (Go out and find some. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.)

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In all seriousness, being a part of this event was completely amazing. The Barret Havran Memorial event supports Big Brothers Big Sisters’s mission to help at-risk youth graduate high school, avoid juvenile delinquency and prepare for college and job readiness. Seeing the outpouring of support from some of Fort Worth’s most influential community was incredible to witness.

The Fort Worth chapter of BBBS currently has 700 children on their waiting list. If you would like to learn how you can help impact these children’s lives, you can donate or volunteer at www.bbbstx.org.

Keep an eye out for next year’s Big Taste of Fort Worth event so you can be part of the change!

Old Chicago Mockingbird Station

Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom celebrated its first birthday in Dallas since its opening on December 8, 2014 in Mockingbird Station. On December 11th, they hosted a birthday bash with live music, giveaways, and more for the attendees. On December 13th, I attended a media luncheon, where media supporters of Old Chicago were invited to experience their full menu and really extensive beer selection. Additionally, they invited us to experience their limited run of Blue Moon’s Gingerbread Spiced Ale and Martin House’s Pretzel Stout.

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Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom’s Dallas location boasts 36 beers on tap–some unique, some usuals, and some locals–and a menu of handcrafted appetizers, salads, entrees and amazing pizza that will satisfy any craving.

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I first discovered Old Chicago in Arizona with my wife and was immediately hooked. In the three months that we lived in there, we consumed more of their pizza than was socially acceptable. (It didn’t stop us.)  It seems Susie’s had a similar issue avoiding their Italian Nachos.

There are some of the things that make Old Chicago unique:
1) SERVICE: they have excellent service and you’re always greeted kindly at the door.
2) QUALITY: their pizzas are handcrafted and made from scratch every day.
3) LOCAL CONNECTIONS: it always feels like a local pizza joint though there are quite a few locations all over the United States. Their selections of local craft beers really emphasize a connection to the community. Some of the Dallas location’s taps include selections from Lakewood Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing and Revolver. (Their Friday happy hour beer special is always a Texas beer of the week.)
4) LATE NIGHT: they’re open until 2am every night!!!

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During this event, I sampled the Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls (amazing and very highly recommended) and my personal favorite, the Double Deckeroni Pizza. This pizza is the reason I fell in love with Old Chicago in the first place. It has all the cheese, pepperoni and hot sauce you could dream of in a deep-dish pizza. Other samplings included the Ale Crust Italian Grinder pizza, Hand-Tossed Chicken Wings, and more.

This was an excellent experience, and I want to thank the General Manager, Dan Childers, and their local marketing coordinator, Esther Hirsch, for inviting our team to join. If you haven’t already done so, head over to Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom and experience the great food, atmosphere and staff for yourself! Beer selections and pizza choices, along with other dining options, can be found at Old Chicago’s online menu. Also ask about the World Beer Tour, which rewards members for enjoying 110 of the best craft beers locally and across the globe.

Cheers!

OLD CHICAGO PIZZA & TAPROOM
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Mockingbird Station (5319 Mockingbird Lane, Suite 100)
214-821-5700

This event also featured a new amazing bakery in town, Tricia’s Treats, who surprised us all with a personalized cupcake for each attendee. I know we will be seeing great things from them in the future!

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Event Recap: Herradura Tequila Dinner at Mesero

The best place to be on July 23rd, the day before National Tequila Day, was in the upstairs private room at Mesero by Mico Rodriguez, located on Henderson Avenue. Guests at this private event donated $1,000 per couple to the Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities to attend.

The night started with the Russ Hewitt Trio playing music while Tequila Herradura cocktails and brisket nachos, chicken flautas, and shrimp ceviche were passed to the hungry attendees.

Once the guests were called to be seated, Emmitt Smith was introduced to welcome everyone and speak briefly about his wife’s and his charity and what the evening had in store.

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“Thank you guys for supporting Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities,” Smith said, addressing the intimate crowd before the dinner got underway. “The work that we do couldn’t get done without the help and support of people like yourselves. Tonight is an opportunity for everyone here to get to understand and learn about the Herradura culture.”

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Smith continued to explain his experience traveling to Guadalajara and learn the entire process of how Herradura makes the tequila, and how “it is one the cleanest tequilas out there, and that makes the taste itself very pure.”

 

After the introduction, guests were guided through the dinner and tastings by global brand ambassador for Tequila Herradura, Ruben Aceves.

 

He began the dinner explaining the concept of a tequila dinner. “We are going to have dinner like we do in Mexico–where we drink tequila before dinner, with dinner and after dinner with desert.”

Before the salad course, Jose Cortes, a third-generation Jimador demonstrated the harvest of an agave plant while Aceves explained the process.

Each course consisted of a tequila margarita pairing that included Herradura Tequila–Silver, Reposado, Ultra or Selección Suprema.

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As each tequila was presented with its course and Aceves described their qualities and how each was made.

The Cazera Salad was served with the Meserita cocktail, made with Herradura Silver, Cointreau and citrus.

The second course sampled a cheese tomatillo enchilada, pollo brasa with chipotle cheddar grits and the Mico “12” a la Mexicana. The La Dona cocktail (Herredura Reposado, Cointreau and citrus) complemented this course.

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The Pastel Cinco Leches was the final delicacy of the evening. It was paired with the El Santo (frozen Micorita made with Herradura Silver, house Sangria and Herradura Ultra). Herradura Ultra is the most recent addition to the Tequila Herradura family. It is an traditional Añejo tequila blended with premium Añejo tequila that creates a very smooth, subtly sweet tequila.

To cap off the evening, guests sampled the Extra Añejo, Selleción Suprema de Herradura, which is Tequila Herredura’s highest quality tequila.

This event raised $25,000 for the Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities, which provide educational opportunities and experiences to underserved children.  If you’d like to donate or learn more, visit www.emmittsmith.com.

If you want to sample these cocktails yourself, you can visit Mesero and experience your own tequila dinner!