It’s almost time for my favorite weekend of the year..that’s right- the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival. This year, the festival will be held March 30 – April 1, 2017. Tickets just went on sale, so don’t wait- or you will be sorry!
Here is a recap of last year if you need more convincing of how awesome this weekend truly is.
The chef and creator of Clay Pigeon has done it again. Piattello Italian Kitchen is now open in the Waterside development off Bryant Irvin and Arborlawn. This little piece of Italian food heaven features from scratch, seasonal dishes. Appetizers range in price from $6- $10 and entrees from $15- $44. The menu is fairly limited, but it changes frequently. You can’t really go wrong with anything you order–all of the breads, pastas, charcuterie, and cheeses are made in-house, and are made well.
The pictures of the food basically speak for themselves–every dish is outstanding. The pasta dish that crosses my mind about twice a day when I feel any sort of twinge of hunger is the most basic item on the menu is the Stozzapreti Cacio e Pepe (parmigiano, pecorino, and black pepper). So simple, but it is a must-order. A close second to that dish is the Spaghetti Pomodoro (San Marzano tomato, basil, parmigiano) that is also truly amazing.
They have figured out how to raise the bar on the most basic Italian dishes. Long story short- anything you order, you will come back for again and again (in my humble opinion).
I mean, the food at Piattello makes me drool just thinking about it, but those cocktails … yum. They have created well-balanced cocktail list with a little bit of everything. My favorite cocktail is the FunkyTown Punch (Tito’s, lemon, aperol, St. Germain, simple syrup). I could drink on a this all night long as it’s not too sweet and super refreshing. My other recommendation is the Goldrush (Four Roses Bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon). Again, this drink is super refreshing with a nice tartness from the lemon.
The current draft beer selection has a good mix, with something for every type of craft beer drinker with options from Rahr & Sons Blonde to New Holland Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout.
One word of caution: any choice you make from the bar will be pricey. They are worth it, but be warned–draft beers start around $7 and most cocktails are around $14, while wine ranges from $10-$16. Considering the entree prices, your one drink could cost more than your dinner alone.
I would highly recommend that you make reservations before you go; the handful of times I have dropped in for dinner, they were able to accommodate me, but I’m not counting on that to happen every weekend evening. There are a few seats at the bar, but that’s about it if they are booked up. (Reservations can be made on OpenTable.)
A great seating option at Piattello is the spacious patio along the Waterside Grove. The Grove is tucked back behind all of the retail so you aren’t looking at a parking lot, but rather a park with yard games and a community pavilion. So you have a chance of catching live music and some great people watching while enjoying dinner.
I’m pretty sure most Fort Worthians (I think that’s what we are called) will agree that Salsa Limon turns out some of the best tacos this side of Arlington. That said, I was really excited to hear that they opened a new location in downtown Fort Worth in the Tower building. This isn’t just a typical Salsa Limon … oh no … because this one serves liquor. Now you can get a margarita or a spiked agua fresca while enjoying the yummy tacos. Blessed be the taco gods.
Salsa Limon is trying to honor and preserve true Mexican taquerias–they use only the freshest ingredients. Their best selling taco is the El Capitan, which just happens to be my personal favorite. A buttery, toasted flour tortilla, Oaxaca-Jack cheese, pickled cabbage, onion, cilantro, and whatever filling you want. BRB I have to go wipe my drool real quick. I’ve always gone with my “safe” order of a Chicken El Capitan, but I got to experience some different meats that might have changed my order. I tried the Tripa for the first time last week, and to my surprise, I enjoyed this Mexican delicacy. If you want to just trust me that it’s really good, but not know what part of the animal it comes from … stop reading now. For those of you who are curious: cow intestine.
Now for the salsa.I may or may not be known to ordering large quantities of their amazing salsa and to keep it in my fridge … but let’s not spread that around. So the tomatillo (my favorite) and piquin are traditional taqueria salas, and the jalapeño and habanero are family recipes. Basically, if you haven’t tried all of their salsas, especially the jalapeño, you must. I personally believe that the range from mild to crazy hot goes a little like this: tomatillo > piquin > jalapeño > habanero. Salsa Limon says that piquin is spicer than the jalapeño, but try it at your own risk.
The difference between this location and the others, as previously mentioned, is that they have booooooze to calm your fired-up taste buds. I would recommend the sour margarita as it’s as pure a margarita as you can get here. All the limes are squeezed by their fun orange juice machine regularly, so it’s fresh fresh fresh. Not into margraitas? You can also add rum, vodka, or gin to their agua frescas. I personally enjoy the hibiscus tea with gin.
Bonus- This location is perfect for late night. I have always felt that downtown Fort Worth was lacking in late night eats- problem solved. They are open till 3 am Friday and Saturday nights. Double bonus- they have a pretty great patio that looks onto the streets of downtown.
While most people know Firestone and Robertson Distillery(F&R) for their TX Blended Whiskey, their original plan of creating a bourbon is FINALLY hitting store shelves. (Actually, it probably didn’t hit many shelves because of the high demand for the product … and it was sold out within 15 minutes on those shelves!) The first bottles of TX Bourbon were released at the distillery on December 10. People started lining up around 7am the morning of to make sure they were able to get their hands on a bottle. (F&R was only planning on selling to about three hundred bottles, yet they ended up having to cut the line at 750.) Leaving a few hundred people without as well as leaving few bottles for liquor store shelves. I personally know that a Spec’s store in Fort Worth had a line waiting for the shipment. (… leaving those of us with 9 to 5s to revert to signing up for a wait list and hoping for our phones to ring.)
Now to Fort Worth’s newest shinning star–the bourbon. F&R prides itself on using local everything. They use Texas corn, Texas soft red winter wheat, Texas water, and Texas yeast. (The yeast strain they use was cultivated from a pecan tree in Somervell County.) Even the DNA analysis of the yeast took place in Fort Worth inside a TCU lab. (Go frogs.)
F&R is truly cultivating a Texas product. Once the mash is distilled, it goes into charred oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years. (Bourbon must be aged for 2 years by law). The oak barrels are what give the bourbon its color and flavor. The product that comes off the still is essentially moonshine, a clear corn whiskey. As temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, the whiskey interacts with the oak barrels, taking on some of its flavor notes. When hot, the oak barrel’s pores open up and the whiskey permeates into the oak. When cold, the oak barrel’s pores shrink and force the whiskey back into the barrel. This interaction is the key to making great bourbon. Without that interaction, the bourbon would not get the color and flavor from the oak. F&R barreled their first bourbon in March 2012. A long four and a half years later, they bottled that first batch.
I was honored to be one of the first people to sneak a taste of the bourbon. The first smell provides a soft hint of the oak barrel, and the first sip provided a hint of vanilla and a short, smooth finish. (The sweetness is what we’ve come to expect from F&R products, so we’re good with it.) As someone who enjoys bourbon, I was hooked from the first sip. It didn’t have a sting that I get from some other brands.
Now that we’ve gotten the fun out of the way, I’ll clear a little something up that may be lurking in the back of your mind … yes, it can be called “bourbon”. Some think that a spirit has to be made in Kentucky to be called “bourbon”, but not so. “The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) state that bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be: produced in the United States, made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred oak containers, distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, [and] bottled at 80+ proof.” (Thanks Wikipedia!) So there.
For those of you lucky enough to get a bottle of this first release, congratulations (I’m jealous). For everyone else, wait a few months and then you’ll get your turn … it’s truly worth the wait.
In the wake of losing Kin Kin Urban Thai, the space has taken new life as Oni Ramen–it’s a super casual atmosphere that provides you with super quick service a la other quick serve restaurants at lunch and table-side service at dinner. One of the biggest bonuses Oni provides are its hours–Friday and Saturday night they stay until 4 am. I mean Whataburger is great, but fatty, rich ramen sounds like a way better late night choice to me.
Oni has a few speciality ramen options on their incredibly straightforward and simple menu, as well as their signature miso (my personal favorite). From there, you can build your own if those options aren’t doing it for you. Pick a classic ramen then add extra protein, vegetables, and spice of your choice. Toppings include pork belly, chicken thighs, tempura shrimp, soft or hard-boiled eggs, leafy greens, bean sprouts, corn kernels, and many more. But, choose wisely when picking your spice … this isn’t the time to show off in front of you buddies. If you order it too spicy- you’re SOL because they won’t remake your ramen. The “mild” spice is made with ichimi togarashi pepper, “medium” is made with Aleppo and Thai pepper, “hot” is made with habanero and ghost pepper, “fire” is made with ghost/7-pot and scorpion pepper … and then there’s “demon”–a mix of scorpion X and Carolina reaper pepper. I was scared to go beyond “medium” for my whole bowl, but my spice tolerance isn’t that high. From my experience, there is a huge jump in spice between the “medium” and “hot”.
I tried their signature miso–pork belly, corn, bamboo shoots, and sprouts–that was absolutely delicious. The broth was super flavorful and the pork belly was fall- apart tender. I want to go back to try different things, but I really just want more of this signature miso. Life is hard.
GF? Vegetarian? They are super accommodating to customers’ dietary needs. They have a gluten-free ramen item (salt ramen with shirataki-yam noodles), a vegetarian option (cabbage-soy broth topped with woodear), and all ramen is available low sodium.
Ok, what about the drinks? My favorite thing to order with my piping hot ramen is cold sake. Oni has a Gekkeikan Sake machine that pours delicious, cold sake that can be ordered by the carafe. They also have a handful of other sake available along with cocktails. For cocktails, my favorites were the Gomper-san and the Lychee Mule. Drink prices are great all the time at Oni, but for a really good deal, go during happy hour.
BONUS: Tag #MyOniBowl for a chance to be featured at Oni as the Ramen Bowl of the Week where other diners can order, eat & enjoy your ramen customization process.
To me, it always seemed that tequila was the shot you ordered after you had a few too many and needed an excuse for eating late night pizza. After my night of tequila tasting with Milagro Tequila, the spirit is so much more to me.
The night was an in depth look into the smells and tastes of different types of tequila. Before tasting anything, we were given an aroma kit with samples of all the different notes you get from tequila. (I think of doing this when tasting wine, but not tequila.) The twelve aromas ranged from lemongrass and pineapple all the way to black pepper.
Now, Milagro is no ordinary Tequila. When the owners tasted the final product, they said it was a miracl (hence the name Milagro). The owners wanted to pay homage to the heritage of tequila, and it shows in the process. This tequila is made from 100% blue agave tequila from the Jalisco Highlands. (Blue agave is sweeter and creates a more fruity and aromatic tequila.) The master distiller employs a century old cooking method using a traditional hand built brick oven. The agave is slow-roasted for 36 hours. That is a long time in the tequila world, but it creates a much better tequila. Once the agave is roasted, it goes into Milagro’s two pot system for the distillation, a pot still and a column still. The column still creates the smoothness found in Milagro.
Curious as to how good Milagro really is? Milagro entered the San Francisco World spirit competition in 2007. The Select Barrel Reserve Repasado was awarded best of show. Not only did it beat out other tequilas- but rums, gins, and vodkas. Milagro currently has more awards than any other tequilas. Milagro ranges from $37 for Milagro Silver to $102 for the Select Barrel Reserve Anejo. My personal favorite is the Milagro Añejo. It has been aged in American oak barrels between fourteen and twenty-four months. This aging process gives this tequila a spicy and savory taste.
Last week Blaze Pizza opened in Fort Worth and The Colony. Each restaurant is set up like a Subway … you can order off a menu or build your own and pick everything from the crust to the toppings. All of their pizzas are built on made-from-scratch dough using artisanal ingredients. Once you’ve decided on the toppings, each pizza is fast fire’d in 180 seconds.
Oh, and for those of you who need gluten free: they’ve got it!
Here is a tip: if you want more toppings, just ask; they won’t upcharge or tell you to stop. I have to say I wasn’t super satisfied with the amount of sauce or toppings on my pizza, but after talking to management, they let me in on that little secret.
Ok, Ok, Ok- I’ve talked about the pizza, but what about the drinks?? Each location serves beer from somewhat local breweries–the Fort Worth location had (512) Pecan Porter and Dallas Blonde. (I don’t know about you, but I think this is a total plus for a fast food pizza joint.)
Not only does Blaze have great food and drinks, they’re also super committed to giving back to the community. They offer local charities and groups the chance to do fundraising nights; once they approve an organization, they print the flyers and donate 20% of net sales from that designated day straight to that group. Pretty awesome, right?
Cold Hammer Stills moonshine is Texas to the core … with a bit of a sweet side.
All of the CHS moonshine flavors are all takes on popular candy bars. Of the three flavors I tasted, none had the harsh burn of a typical moonshine and they were all surprisingly sweet and tasted exactly like their name. I can honestly say that I am not a moonshine drinker at all, but CHS might have converted me. Here is the good/bad part: it can get you in trouble … and can do so quickly. I wouldn’t believe that something that smooth and sweet could be 70 proof!
Since it doesn’t have that typical, harsh moonshine kick, no mixer is needed, just pour over some ice. I could also see it as a great addition to a specialty cocktail. CHS Moonshine just might be the perfect addition to our tailgate drinks for 11am kickoffs. (I mean … it would definitely pair well with breakfast pastries.)
I got to sample the three flavors that will be in their first release–Almond Enjoy, Chocolate Cappuccino, and Peanut Butter. It was difficult to pick my favorite flavor–but I think I would have to pick Almond Enjoy. (I tend to lean towards anything vanilla and that is the main flavor I get from it.) Any of you coffee lovers out there (not me) need to taste the Chocolate Cappuccino. You first get a chocolate taste, the coffee flavors follow.
It hasn’t made it down the production line and to liquor stores just yet and the official release date hasn’t been set, but they’re hoping it will be available in June or July. (Stupid TABC and licensing laws.) The company is also hoping to release food and cigars once they begin selling the moonshine. Right now, they are playing with different recipes that work for each flavor of moonshine. (I got to taste cake balls made with Almond Enjoy. Talk about a guilty pleasure–I could have gone back for seconds… and thirds … and fourths!)
As Cold Hammer Stills say, “This ain’t your typical shine, grab you a bottle and let it take you for the ride.”