Category Archives: Contributor

The Rum Also Rises

Written by Brian Bianco

Like any good (yet slightly irresponsible) 16-21 year old, the apparent virtues of rum were well known to me. Girls love that shit, so it was common practice to make sure someone got a bottle of Malibu for the party or social gathering, and then maybe something better to be mixed with soda for everyone else. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with rum, but as an adult, I’ve mostly narrowed my sights on the brassiest IPAs, whiskeys and bourbons I can find, which means everything is straight, filling and/or easily mixable with soda. This is a narrow and terrible view – especially as there are now dozens of bartenders around Dallas who can easily show you the wonderful possibilities of vodka, gin and all the other “non-bro” spirits being poured today.

Still, when Susie asked me to taste a sample batch from Papa’s Pilar, my first instinct was to outsource this to the first friend I could find from Florida, but after my calls were not returned, I realized it was time to teach myself how to really taste this stuff and see what I could find out. The rum is named for Ernest Hemingway (bet you love that clever title up there now), so I figured if anyone could teach me to give rum a chance, it’s a man who survived multiple plane crashes and was an all around badass who just happened to be pretty damn eloquent.

After doing some quick research, I learned rum tasting works a lot like wine tasting. You check the legs, you use your sense of smell, you swirl and you let it breathe.  I decided I would do both straight tastings and quickly mix a Dark and Stormy to evaluate the two samples and I’ve recorded my notes below. To reset my rum pallet, I tasted a few sips of a third brand of rum to make sure I had a baseline for comparison, and then I dove in.

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the really interesting packaging. From the wooden box to the ship style bottles, the presentation of even a simple sample was actually exciting to tear into. They provided background literature from their website that focused on their history, the distillery and the solera aging process they use for both types of rum. Even if you’re just a history nerd who plans to never drink a sip, it’s an interesting read. For more on how the rum is made, here’s one of the most direct summaries I found if you don’t feel like poking around the website.

Papa’s Pilar Three Year-Old Blonde Rum

Straight

This was very easy to drink, with a wash of fruit tastes on first sip (especially grapefruit), followed by a deeper vanilla flavor. White rum is usually not my thing, but this had just enough going on to make the sipping experience enjoyable – in fact, I ended up drinking double my planned amount after I made it through the tasting process.

Mixed

I didn’t do anything elaborate – just some Reed’s ginger beer to see how a simple recipe turned out. While I had only made a Dark and Stormy with darker rums in the past, this actually made a nice and refreshing summer drink I would happily revisit as soon as Texas decides to stop having random freezes in April.


Papa’s Pilar Twenty Four Year-Old Dark Rum

Straight

First, this rum took a double gold medal at the World Spirits competition in San Francisco (and the blonde also was recognized at the Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami), so my expectation to be blown away was high. As much as I tried to fight it, once I had the glass poured, my mind kept telling my mouth to get ready for bourbon. However, the first sip was excellent and I actually had that same rush I get from a good sip of the usual stuff, with complex flavors and a smooth finish. It was spicy, but not in an off-putting way and you could tell the impact of the solera-aging process (thanks, bourbon barrels) and the influence of the different casks.

Mixed

As good as this rum is neat, mixing it in a cocktail almost felt wasteful. I tried to only give it a few splashes of ginger beer, but even that was a waste. If you’re going to drink this one, neat or on the rocks is the way to go.

So, in summary, I enjoyed both of these rums immensely and recommend you start exploring cocktails with the blonde and keep the dark one on hand to be enjoyed by the secret rumelier hidden deep inside you.

To find a bottle in Dallas, just check out http://www.papaspilar.com/#/wheretobuy/store.

Papa’s Pilar Three Year-Old Blonde Rum – ~$30
Papa’s Pilar Twenty Four Year-Old Dark Rum – ~$40

Plucker’s: Addison

After much anticipation, we arrived at the Addison Pluckers “soft opening” to see a line that must have been a couple hundred customers eager for some wings and beer.  There is plenty of parking available around the restaurant in the Village on the Green Shopping Center sparing people from playing parking lot Hunger Games.  All the tables are good size and able to accommodate groups (i.e. plenty of room for multiple plates, Motherpluckers, baskets, AND drinks without feeling like you’re flying coach and have to keep your arms tucked to avoid getting knocked around).  The restaurant is loaded with large flat screens on nearly every wall, facing every direction, making it impossible not to get a good view of the game.  (Sorry, non-sport enthusiasts … yes, we’re listening to you even if we’re not looking at you.)

Being Pluckers virgins, we relied  on our waiters (one trainer & one learning the ropes) for recommendations.  They done good.  (Note, Pluckers doesn’t use table runners or bussers, instead these type of tasks are a basic expectation for all staff which translated into prompt and attentive service throughout your visit.)

We started off with a baskets of Magic Mushrooms, complete with their famous Dirty Bird sauce, and washed them down a signature Pluckers Lemonade for myself (a vodka Lemonade cocktail perfect for a sunny spring day) and a Psychedelic Frog (a 4 liquor, 3 mixer neon green drink) for Katie*.  Both drinks were served in mason jars, which is just cool.  Pluckers’s cocktail menu offers diners better-than-typical drinks you wouldn’t expect to find at a wing-bar, like Toxic Tea (a sweet tea, lemonade, vodka drink), the Batman (made with Austin’s own Tito’s Vodka), Effen Good Bloody Mary, and more.  The drinks were decently strong, and incredibly dangerous.  (Wait, there was a bunch of liquor in that? Someone call Uber.)

 

For the main event, we ordered a basket of boneless wings with spicy mandarin sauce and the buffalo chicken sandwich.  Among the plethora of places serving wings these days — most of which all I have frequented many times over — the wings really differentiate Pluckers from the others.  The wings themselves were hefty, providing considerably more meat than I was use to getting, and they are perfect glazed in the requested sauce and not drenched or dry fried batter nuggets commonly met with disappoint by wing lovers everywhere.  The wings and sandwich were enjoyed with our second round of drinks, the Batman and the Effen Good Bloody Mary (which seriously lived up to its name).

Bottom line:  This place has good food, GREAT wings, and some unique food options (like the fried Twinkie!) along with decent prices and attentive service.  Drink-wise, they have a variety of “specialty” drink options and plenty of beers on-tap (because: sports + beer = good).  Pluckers is making a (bigger) name for themselves in DFW with more locations opening left and right, and rightfully so! Needless to say, I know where I’m watching the NBA playoffs!


Pluckers Wing Bar – Addison
www.pluckers.com | @pluckers
5100 Belt Line Road, Suite 520 | Addison TX
(972)490-WING

Daily Specials (full list of this location specials here)
Monday – drink specials/All You Can Eat Wings (every other week)
Tuesday – Texas Tuesdays (drink specials on TX beers and liquors)
Wednesday – Pluckers Club Special (coming soon)
Thursday – Tijuana Thursdays(drink specials on Mexican beers and liquors)
Friday – Teacher Freebie Friday

*Note from Susie: Katie is his beautiful, new bride (of one month).  Send them your congratulations!!

Picture of Motherplucker borrowed from Pluckers!

This Place Doesn’t Bite

Being a Virgo, I don’t often step outside of my comfort zone, but one stop to Bite City Grill in Fort Worth changed that.

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Bite’s signature cocktails are all named after the twelve astrological signs. The menu lists characteristics and celebrity for each sign. Additionally, each signature drink comes with a eye dropper of the bitters that they suggest you add to the drink to your liking (the bartender said to experiment and only add a little at a time). I decided to try a Scorpio, Sagittarius, and a Capricorn.

The Scorpio included tequila, mango puree, lime, jalapeño, and mint. It was described as “determined, powerful, magnetic, emotional, and passionate”. (Sounded to me like the guy in high school that had a crush on me but didn’t understand the word “no”.)  The famous Scorpio listed was Bill Gates.  The drink was presented with the jalapeño and lime on a toothpick as garnish, and I went ahead and squeezed the lime and dropped the jalapeño in for full effect. The first taste was great; not too sweet, the mango was non-existent, and the small slice of jalapeño provided a little bit of spice that this drink needed to kick me in the mouth. The Scorpio came with their fruit bitters, and I went all-in and squeeze the entire dropper in my drink. The bitters acted as a neutralizer and completely overpowered the sweetness of the original drink. Overall, the Scorpio was a new twist on the simple rocks margarita.

The best drink of the night was by far the Sagittarius, and if you’re a Bourbon drinker, it’s a must-try. It’s smoked bourbon, sweet tea, limoncello, and St.Germain, but will say the main attraction is the smoked bourbon. The drink was delivered in a mason jar with a lid on, which I thought was a bit odd; once I opened the mason jar, I quickly realized the logic of the lid. They use a special gun that smokes tea leaves to fill the mason jar with smoke. As soon as you unscrew the lid, a wave of smoke engulfs you. (This is some second-hand smoke I’m totally OK with!) The first taste is definitely a surprise … the drink truly does taste like it was smoked. As I mentioned earlier, this is a must for any bourbon fan.

Bite is tucked into the back corner of Montgomery Plaza, a place where several restaurants/bars have tried before, but not succeeded. The atmosphere at the bar is the perfect spot to unwind during happy hour (4-6pm) after a hard day at the office. And, to top it all off, the bar has a few televisions if you are interested in grabbing a few drinks during the big game.

Bite City Grill
2600 West 7th Street | Fort Worth, Texas 76107
(817) 877-3888
www.bitecitygrill.com
facebook.com/bitecitygrillFW | @bitecitygrill (Insta & Twitter)
Happy hour: Monday – Friday, 4-6pm

Current happy hour specials:  

$1 Off All Draft Beers…

$6 Zodiac Sign Of The Month…


White By The Glass

5   Arca Nova Vinho Verde, Portugal
5   Dr. Loosen Riesling, Mosel, Germany
5   Sterling Aromatic White, Central Coast, CA
5   Bouchard Aine & Fils Chardonnay, France
5   Zonin Prosecco, Veneto, Italy

Red By The Glass
5   Bouchard Aine & Fils, VDP Pinot Noir, France
5   Joseph Castan Cote Du Rhone, France
5   Trevinto Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
5   Pacific Sur Cabernet, Central Valley, Chile 

Small Bites…
5   Baba Ganoush / Caramelized Onion / Sour Cream / Fine Herbs / Naan Bread
5   Beef Jerky / Seasoned Beef Jerky
8   Lamb Meatball / Foie Gras Cream Sherry Reduction Sauce / Manchego Cheese
8   Charred Octopus / Peppadew Peppers / Ginger Aioli
6   Shishito Peppers / Sea Salt / Romesco Sauce
10   Braised Short Rib / Caramelized Onion / Horseradish Cream
9   Margherita / Roasted Tomato / Basil / Fresh Mozzarella Cheese / Tomato Sauce

Addison’s Fork & Cork Festival to debut in May

 

Move over, Taste of Addison, and make way for the Fork & Cork Festival to debut this May. Not only will this event be more intimate and support local organization Café Momentum, but it’s more centered on wine and other boozy items. (Now that’s my kind of shindig!)

This past week, I had the opportunity to preview the all-new culinary event, and it well exceeded my expectations. Stepping through the archways of foodie heaven, guests were greeted with a Ginger Basil Gimlet, music by local artist Kelsey Lewis, scents of food to come, and a picturesque dining scene. The gimlet had me hooked right away with its strong notes of ginger and artistic blend of gin. Those that aren’t very fond of ginger may have struggled with the drink, but it was right up my alley. I couldn’t imagine things getting much better, but then there was the open wine bar, signature Old Fashioned cocktails, and mixology lessons from Eddie “Lucky” Campbell. So yeah, it got better.

At dinnertime, the party settled down at a long, rustic farm table, which bolstered a communal, chatty atmosphere. Guests can look forward to this same ambience at the upcoming festival. It was a great feeling to have Addison Mayor, Todd Meier, thank us for our attendance when really it is all my pleasure. (I did have a date with Netflix that night, but if the city of Addison needs me to stuff my face with risotto balls, wood roasted mussels, grilled Texas Kobe skirt steak, sweet potato grits, wood fired pizza, and countless other delights, then I will gladly reschedule to lend a hand.)

Like I mentioned before, Fork & Cork is designed more to feature craft breweries, wineries, and spirit makers, so let’s get to the dranks. The highlight of the night was by far the presentation of a perfect Old Fashion by “Lucky,” who helped curate the drink menu at the new Vagabond restaurant on Greenville. Between his fiery personality and natural ease with the crowd, I felt like I was kickin’ it with one of the bros. His tips to a well-balanced drink make even someone like me feel like I could whip up a fine dining cocktail. (I am a connoisseur of cocktails and liquor, but ask me to make a drink and you may lose all faith in me.) Apparently, dilution can make the biggest difference in the flavor and strength of a cocktail. Don’t skimp on the ice or stirring because you are only selling your drink short. Another lesson is to use the freshest ingredients because it’s hard to go wrong when you have fresh flavors to work with.

Fork & Cork will take Addison back to its culinary roots May 16 and 17 with interactive cooking classes, bites from some of the best restaurants in the DFW area, cocktail tastings, wine and craft beer seminars, a cooking demo by Marcus Samuelsson (James Beard Award winning chef and current judge on ABC’s The Taste), and music from Texas legend Pat Green.

A portion of the proceeds from Friday night will benefit Café Momentum, a non-profit organization that teaches critical skills that allow youth to apply what they have been taught in re-release programs in a safe, real-world environment of nurturing accountability. Or, in Chad Houser’s own words, “Café Momentum helps teach kids to play with knives and fire…and the town of Addison approves.”

Buy your Fork & Cork Festival tickets here.

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Below you can find “Lucky’s” Old Fashioned recipe:

2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon

1 Sugar Cube

3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

1 Orange Peel (Squeezed)

Vanilla Mist

In a mixing glass:

Add sugar cube, Angostura, squeezed orange peel, and water. Smash ingredients with a muddle to break sugar cube. Add Buffalo Trace Bourbon and ice. Stir 56 times (or until sugar is dissolved). Strain over large ice cube in an Old Fashioned glass. Squeeze a new orange peel over the surface, wipe around rim of glass, and place in cocktail. Spray vanilla mist over the surface of the Old Fashioned.

Event Recap: Mount Gay Rum Dinner at Sissy’s Souther Kitchen & Bar


Not a big rum fan? I can understand where you come from… From my earlier drinking days in high school…er… college, rum has always seemed like this girly liquor that was infused with fruity flavors like pineapple then mixed with even sweeter mixers and topped off with a paper umbrella. (Really?!) I am here to help change this bad rep rum has received from said rum experiences we’ve all had.

Mount Gay Rum recently invited me in for an evening of gorgeous cocktails and delicious food at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar. Having gone to the event with an open mind about rum, I was more than enthused to be persuaded to join rum’s team. After receiving the first delicious cocktail from Sissy’s amazing bar staff using Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, fresh herb-infused ice, veggies and juices (shown being made in the video above), I was sold! It was extremely refreshing to enjoy rum without the excess amount of sweet or sour flavors.

Throughout the evening, I was honored to try more cocktails of various styles paired with some amazing dishes. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, so much so, Sissy’s offered to make an old fashioned-inspired cocktail using it! And yes, it was pretty amazing.

Next time you’re in the market for a new beverage, have your bartender whip something up using Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum. You have this bourbon-lover’s word that you won’t be sorry!

Partida Tequila: Product Review

I am Florida born and raised on vodka cocktails and rum punches, but when I moved to Texas four years ago, I found my true love for tequila was just undiscovered. Whether it’s swirled with hints of fruit in a margarita or straight up on the rock, I like it smooth with salt and lime. Naturally, Texans love Cinco de Mayo because it celebrates God’s gift of Mexican food and tequila. So, as my favorite holiday quickly approaches, I wanted to share my thoughts on one of my recent discoveries, Partida Tequila.

One of the many perks of working with Susie Drinks Dallas is getting to try different lines of liquor, spirits, and wines. Recently, Partida Tequila sent me samples of their Partida Blanco line.  From the production to packaging to blend of flavors, this tequila will have you feeling classy and sophisticated compared to the partiers throwing back shots at the bar. Disclaimer: I am not against tossing back shots, but that would just be a waste of the goodness that Partida has to offer.

All “tequila” must legally contain at least 51% blue agave, but the best contain 100%. Partida’s agave comes specifically from their estate, rather than multiple growers, which allows for consistency and control in the production process. After 7-10 years of cultivation, the agave is harvested by hand. (Talk about a labor of amor!) Most agaves are cooked “the old fashion way,” in stone ovens, which gives a bitter taste from soot that builds in the oven over time, but Partida uses state-of-the-art stainless steel ovens. The agave bakes over a period of 20 hours under precise temperature control and then the juices ferment slowly for 36-40 hours before distillation.

The unaged tequila is bottled as Partida Blanco and the rest is aged in one-pass Jack Daniels American oak barrels. (WHAT?! Did all my dreams just come true?) The barrel provides a rich, copper color with notes of cherry, almond, dried fruit, and allspice in addition to the peppery notes lent by the agave. One can sense hints of honey, chocolate, pear, and vanilla upon tasting. Reposado and Anejo are aged 50% more than required, which only enhances the flavor profile. None of the tequila contains additives or coloring agents.

Particularly, Partida Blanco makes me feel like I should be relaxing on the beaches of Cancun as the blend of blue agave, citrus, fresh herbs, and tropical fruit, are subtle and balanced. It lends a smooth taste that lets even those that swore against the powers of tequila to enjoy the flavors. It’s a great choice for cocktails and those looking to branch out from mediocre drinks. If you’re ever going to become a tequila sipper … this is the one to start with.

Vemma Energy Drink Review

On paper, Vemma’s Verve Energy Drink kind of reads like a dream come true. It is marketed as “insanely healthy energy,” and with the controversy over normal energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster being bad for your health, this seems like it could be a winner. Or is it?

Crack open a can of the bright orange Verve original, Bold, Partea (really?), or the Zero Sugar and you are greeted with a a nice aroma of citrus. The taste somewhat resembles a citrus blend of pineapple and orange juice that has vitamins added to it. There actually is no orange juice or pineapple in it, so I believe this is what the main ingredient, Mangosteen, tastes like. The citrus is somewhat consistent throughout the line of drinks, with the Bold being a little more…well…bolder, for lack of a better word, and the Sugar Free being a little less sweet. The Partea, being my favorite of them all, taste like orange juice and slightly sweet tea mixed together. It may not sound all that tasty, but it was delicious. There was no aftertaste at all to speak of which I am quite happy about. Overall, all of the drinks were crisp, refreshingly tropical in flavor, and had a hint of carbonation but not overpowering.

Now, looking at the nutrition labels, and you can see why it is labeled as a “healthy” energy drink.  The fact sheet says there are three products inside Verve. A “refreshing, fast-acting energy blend. An ultra-premium vitamin and mineral supplement. And a powerful super juice with mangosteen and aloe phytonutrients.” All of these are natural ingredients that come from plants and there are no artificial flavors or colors in the formula.

To compare to the equivalent 8.4 oz RedBull, Verve is packing less caffeine, (which is probably why I did not feel any buzz from it,) less calories, less sugar, and less carbs. All of which are by a margin of 9g or more, which may not sound like a lot, but it can make a big difference.

Just looking at the labels, it does indeed look like the Verve is a slightly healthier choice from the current energy drink dominators. The taste is pretty good, and the ingredients all come from nature which is a huge advantage. If you happen to come across one at the supermarket, and my guess would be that it would most likely be in a Whole Foods or Central Market, you might as well pick one up and try it for yourself.

Since this IS susiedrinksdallas.com, we’re going to offer the obligatory cocktail recipes to use Verve in the most boozy (and delicious) ways.  We tried out a couple, and our favorites were definitely the Citrus and the Orange.

Verve! Caribbean Passion
1 Can Verve! Bold Energy
2 Ounces Raspberry Vodka
2 Ounces Malibu
2 Ounces Cranberry Juice
Splash of Sprite

Verve! Orange
1 Can Verve! PARTEA
2 Ounces Orange Vodka
1 Ounce Peach Schnapps
Splash of Sprite

Verve! Cosmo
½  Can Verve! Zero Sugar
2 Ounces Vodka
½  Ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce Cranberry Juice
1 Cup Lime Juice

Verve! Creamsicle
1 Can Verve! Original
2 Ounces Captain Morgan
2 Splashes of Sprite

Verve! Citrus
½  Can Verve! Low-Carb Shot
2 Ounces Citrus Vodka
1 Ounce Chambord Liqueur
½  cup Grapefruit Juice
A splash of Sweet n’ Sour mix

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Toast to Spring with a Crabbie’s Spiced Orange

The Dallas beer scene is poppin’ right now, and Crabbie’s Ginger Beer is about to make a big splash with the start of warmer spring weather. (Pun kind of intended.)

There is no doubt that Texas loves its beer. You have your local craft man that totes his personalized growler everywhere he goes. There’s the Bud Light guy that bleeds red, white, and blue for his country. Next up, are the cider sippers that know the location of every city beer garden (even if cider isn’t technically a beer … we let them get away with it). The list goes on, but what about the people throwing back a couple of hard ginger beers? (Who are these guys and what’s a hard ginger beer?) That’s what I found myself wondering this past week before I was introduced to the magical wonders of Crabbie’s.

Long ago in the land of Edinburgh, Scotland, merchant-explorer John Crabbie set sail for the best drink ingredients, including ginger and exotic spices. Once selected, the goods were transported by elephants from the markets to the ships, which then set sail for the port of Leith. Over 200 years later, the Crabbie’s adventure is making its way across American soil. Its elephant logo reflects this search for the drink’s four secret fruits and spices, which are steeped with ginger for up to eight weeks. Last year, Crabbie’s debuted its original recipe in Texas and received high praise for its smooth, refreshing finish. (You can read Susie’s thoughts about the original recipe Crabbie’s on her review!) A cross between a hard cider and ginger soda, the drink is the perfect combination of spice and sweet.

Back for round two, Crabbie’s teamed up with The Ginger Man to roll out their newest flavor profile, Spiced Orange. During their debut event, Crabbie’s Spiced Orange was served chilled over ice with a slice of citrus. This is the perfect drink to double-fist poolside or even drink casually out with friends. The flavor profile is similar to the original, but offers a lighter ginger kick and zests things up with a tangy orange twist.

The Ginger Man teamed up with its neighbor Crushcraft Thai Street Eats to offer guests the ultimate experience of drinks and sweet dough pretzel bites, served with two Thai-inspired dipping sauces curated by Chef Paul Singhapong to pair with the Spiced Orange. The grub mixed the open patio of long picnic tables made for a prime social drinking atmosphere. The Ginger Man is a team of great minds because there are very few things better than (ginger) beer and pretzels.

That is unless you tried one of the Crabbie’s floaters. Imagine a large scoop of Vanilla Hagen Daaz combined with the zesty powers of Crabbie’s, and you have yourself an adult version of an Orange Julius.

If the floater doesn’t get you (who the hell are you?), try blending the beverage into a variety of ginger beer cocktails, such as a Dark and Crabbie or a Moscow Mule.

But let’s be for real … Crabbie’s has been killin’ it the past two centuries, so why mess with perfection?  Crabbie’s offers something for every kind of drinker. Give it a try and it’ll be hard to stay away.

Crabbie’s is currently available in Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin and Waco where it is distributed by Favorite Brands.  For more information on Crabbie’s, please visit them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@CrabbiesUSA) #icewithaslice.