Category Archives: Rachel P

Studio Movie Grill: New Menu Items

Studio Movie Grill continues to think outside the (popcorn) box with their ever-expanding, evolving menu offerings.  With a lineup of seven new menu items to choose from, now is as good a time as any to liberate yourself from that $9 Coke and $11 box of stale Raisinettes.

Thirsty? Studio Movie Grill has added two new adult beverage options to the lineup:

You’re an adult, so you’ve clearly earned the right to enjoy dessert before dinner. That said, this frozen cocktail tastes like it’s straight out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The Bailey’s Cookie Butter features Kahlua, Monin Cookie Butter, Bailey’s, and Pepsi ($9). Yes, you can taste the Pepsi … and I assure you, it totally works.

The Fiery Apple is here just in time for chillier weather; this combination of Angry Orchard and Fireball ($9) will warm you up inside quicker than this season’s biggest Rom Com.

Studio Movie Grill’s five new edible offerings are sure to rival what’s on the big screen as the “Feature Presentation”:

Their Seared Ahi Tuna is mixed ruby greens, edamame, roasted peppers, avocados with wasabi lime drizzle. Surprisingly fresh and delicious, you can’t go wrong here. Unless you’re watching “Finding Dory” … then, you might try, ya know, not fish. ($12)

The Blackened Chicken Flatbread Pizza (Southwestern cheeses, roasted chiles, onions, cilantro) was delightfully spicy and seemed downright healthy. ($11.50)

Their Scratch Tempura Onion Rings are served with a zesty Creole dipping sauce which gives these hot, crispy, and dangerously addictive rings a nice zing. ($6.95)

While it’s a bit of a departure from traditional spaghetti and meatballs, even the Corleones would have to admit that the Blackened Chicken Pasta is pretty delicious; Blackened Chicken, cavatappi pasta, bacon, green and red onions, tossed in a Southwestern cream sauce. ($13)

I can’t really think of a cheesy movie-related joke to make about their Roasted Pepper and Garlic Hummus that’s served with fresh cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, and toasted flatbread. If you’re a hummus enthusiast, you may be interested to learn that there is an actual movie devoted to the topic of hummus that is purportedly sweeping the nation as we speak. Seriously, this is a real thing. ($8.25)

Studio Movie Grill Daily Specials: 

MONDAY: $5 House Margaritas, $5 Regular Popcorn
TUESDAY: Ask Your Server About Our $5 Food + Beverage Specials!
WEDNESDAY: $5 Big Beer Cans, Endless Pizza (One Topping, No Sharing)
THURSDAY: $5 Deep Eddy Handmade Vodka You-Call-Its, $5 Desserts
FRIDAY + SATURDAY: $5 Off Margarita Pitchers, $5 Betty’s Blend & SMG Cellars (Glass)
SUNDAY: $5 Betty’s Blend & SMG Cellars (Glass), $5 Ice Cream Sundae

STUDIO MOVIE GRILL
studiomoviegrill.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Click for Texas locations

A great, big “thank you” to Studio Movie Grill for having me out to try the tasty new menu lineup, and for creating a situation in which I was able to manipulate my 40 year old husband into watching Moana with me, which I’m pretty sure he secretly enjoyed. 

The Second Floor Fall Offerings

The culinary team at The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich always manages to keep things fresh and interesting–and most importantly, delicious. With new addition Chef Ryan Barnett (formerly of Stephen Pyles) at the helm, this certainly continues to be the case. I recently had the opportunity to pay a visit to Second Floor to check out a French-inspired “Classics” prix-fixe menu that ran for a limited time. From the first bite of French Onion Soup down to the last taste of Cambozola en Croute, each dish was flawless and exceeded my expectations. Other highlights of the evening included a beautifully seared Steak Diane, as well as a masterfully executed Rack of Lamb. Thoughtfully curated wine pairings were available for each course. Chef Barnett informed me plans for future prix-fixe menus are on the horizon, so keep on eye The Second Floor’s website for a peek at what’s to come.

In the meantime, The Second Floor has debuted a new lineup of fall menu offerings that you won’t want to miss. Among them, the Texas Gold Shrimp & Grits with an anchiote tequila cream sauce ($14/$25), an Orecchiette Pork Ragu with slow-braised pork jowl ($15/$24), and a Lobster Risotto with roasted butternut squash ($14/$36). And, consider drinking your dessert; The Second Floor’s featured fall cocktail (created by Gina Gottlich) the Caramel Appleton, is made with Ciroc Apple, Bailey salted caramel, butterscotch, cranberry, cream and garnished with a caramel rim ($13). If whiskey is closer to your speed, check out the Cinnamon Whiskey Sour (Makers 46, cinnamon, cranberry, citrus, rocks–$13). See the full fall menu here.

The Second Floor Happy Hour:

  • Speciality cocktail of the day (changes daily) $5
  • Domestic Beer $4
  • “The Best Wine in the City”, Honoro Vera, Garnacha, Spain, or Les Costieres de Pomerols, Picpoul de Pinet, $5
  • Various Snacks and Small Bites $2-5

The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich
13340 Dallas Parkway (inside Galleria Dallas, Level 2)
(972) 450-2978

 

State Fair Treats & Walmart: a Marriage Only Texans Would Understand

The State Fair of Texas ends today, … didn’t get a chance to make it out there this year? (Or, you just simply weren’t in the mood to navigate a sweaty sea of humanity in the sweltering heat, intermittently pausing to open up your wallet and shake it until it’s empty?) Well, I have good news for you and your taste buds … but, bad news for your cholesterol count. A variety of deep-fried, State Fair favorites are now available, indefinitely, at none other than … Walmart. Yep, you read that correctly. It’s such a delightfully perfect pairing (and I do not think I need to elaborate as to why that is). State Fair Treats has opened up shop inside of the Coit Rd. location in Plano.

fullsizerender_1

Isaac Rousso, three-time winner of the Big Tex Choice Award for “Most Creative” deep-fried offerings, is the mastermind behind this amazing marriage of commerce and culinary delights. (You can thank Rousso for the imagining of past delicacies including the Fried Pop-tart, Smoky Bacon Margarita, and Deep-Fried Cuban Rolls.) State Fair Treats features a 45 snacks and treats from the requisites like corn dogs and nachos to indulgent sweet treats like Funnel Cake Fries, Fried Oreos, and the Texas Bluebonnet (a cream cheese-stuffed, deep-fried blueberry muffin topped with whipped cream and more blueberries). I may have had one two, and it was admittedly delicious. Rousso’s award-winning Cookie Fries will join the lineup of goodies this week.

While you won’t find any livestock or midway games at State Fair Treats, it’s definitely worth stopping in for an indulgent goodie or two … and bonus: you’ll still have enough cash left to buy whatever a goodie from Walmart on the way out.

State Fair Treats
StateFairTreats.com
Facebook
425 Coit Road., Plano (Located inside Walmart)
(972) 612-9637

Hours: daily, 7am (yes, they have breakfast) – 9pm

***Thanks to State Fair Treats for inviting us in to check out the fried goodness!***

Pakpao Thai Plano

Add another gem to Collin County’s increasingly impressive  lineup of Dallas hotspots making their way north because Pakpao Thai just opened their third location in West Plano Village. Highly accessible (located at Parker and the Tollway), plenty of parking, and a great patio situation; what more could a Suburbanite such as myself ask for? Well, great food, for one thing. Luckily, Pakpao delivers.

Pakpao and celebrity chef Jet Tila welcomed guests at a grand opening with some of their favorites: their take on the swirled margarita, the “Chula-Rita“- featuring premium tequila infused with lemon grass for 10 days ($9). With a cocktail menu featuring an array of fittingly exotic ingredients (think tamarind, lychee, and Thai basil), you’re sure to find something new to try (and love). Pakpao features an assortment of Thai beers (in addition to the usual suspects), and a nice assortment of wines, which are, well … not Thai. (This isn’t a bad thing.)

img_8822

We started out with an array of appetizers, including the Beef Jerky Trio–Salty Thai, Spicy BBQ, and Massaman Curry jerky–each paired with a local beer ($14). If there are two things Texans love, meat and beer and high on the list, so I don’t really see how Pakpao can go wrong with this offering. Personally, I was impressed by the Crispy Morning Glory Salad … because, speaking of things Texans love, THIS WAS BASICALLY A FRIED SALAD, Y’ALL. Crispy Thai Spinach, shrimp, shallot, yum dressing, and cucumber relish ($12) … I promise you, you are going to want this “salad” in your life.

 

We sampled a variety of entrees, including the Chicken Pad Thai ($12), which I heard more than one diner proclaim to be their favorite pad thai in DFW. The Drunken Noodles ($12) were also a big hit, with just the right balance of Thai basil and a savory sweet sauce. If noodles aren’t your speed, try the Short Rib with Massaman Curry, with tender braised short rib, sweet potato, tamarind, peanuts, and massaman curry sauce ($19), definitely a hearty meal worthy of sharing. I would be remiss not to mention an unassuming little side dish that was unceremoniously placed our table, the Coconut Jasmine Rice ($5). Holy crap, you guys. Get this. It was one of the most talked about dishes of the evening, with its perfect creamy texture and mildly sweet flavor; a total crowd pleaser.

Save room for dessert, because the Thai Donuts ($7) are pleasantly reminiscent of delicious beignets; except for the accompanying plum jam and condensed milk, which as it turns out are perfect for dipping.

Pakpao Thai also features a brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The brunch menu is really interesting, and definitely a departure from your requisite Eggs Benedict. Pakpao offers a happy hour Monday-Friday, 4-6pm, featuring $5 Chula-Ritas, Thai beer, and house wine, in addition to select appetizers available for just $5.

Pakpao Thai – Plano
pakpaothai.com
3310 Dallas Pkwy (Parker & the Toll Road)
972-378-1224

VDKA6100: Call it Whatever You Want.

I want to start out by confessing: I’m still not sure how to pronounce the name of this vodka. VDKA6100 even devotes a section on their website to explaining how they got their name–it’s the distance between the territorial waters of New Zealand, from which the product is sourced, to those of the United States, where the brand was born, is 6,100 miles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give any clues as to how one might pronounce it. Ultimately, I concluded it doesn’t really matter; you can call it whatever you want, and it’s not going to change the fact that this is a damn fine vodka.

VDKA6100 is made in Reproof, near Lake Taupo on the North Island of New Zealand. Their vodka is produced using fresh, seasonal whey sourced from the Bay of Plenty Region. That whey is fermented using a rare strain of yeast, imported from Ireland over 30 years ago.

Given the purity of the ingredients, VDKA6100 requires limited distilling in order to ensure the character of the vodka is retained. VDKA6100 is filtered through carbon “rockets” (I hope these are half as cool as I’m imagining) and blended with locally sourced New Zealand spring water. The result is a vodka that is sugar-free, gluten-free, lactose-free (because …. vodka), and free from chemical additives.

Before experimenting with any cocktails, I decided to try VDKA6100 straight up in order to form a real opinion on the quality of the vodka. Right away, I noticed the lack of that all-too-familiar burn that accompanies so many lesser vodkas. VDKA6100, on the other hand, was silky smooth with a very soft mouth feel. I initially noted a crisp citrus flavor and a faint but pleasant hint of vanilla with a kick of peppery spice on the finish.

VDKA6100 is perfect for crafting the classic martini. (I think James Bond would agree.)

VDKA 6100 Martini
2.5oz of VDKA 6100
0.5oz dry vermouth

Glassware: Martini glass
Garnish: Lemon twist

Combine VDKA 6100, dry vermouth and ice in a cocktail shaker, Sitr until cold,  Strain into a martini glass. Top with a lemon twist.

VDKA6100
www.vdka6100.com
ABV: 40%  / 80 proof
Price: $38/1L

 

California Pizza Kitchen: the Next Chapter

Once upon a time, when I was  starving college student, I worked at the mall. Upon clocking out for my 30 minute lunch break, my M.O. was to pick my sad granola bar from my purse or maybe grab a kids meal from Chik-fil-a (in my defense, it did come with a fun toy), because we all know $128 text books don’t pay for themselves. But once a month or so, when I was feeling particularly saucy, I would splurge and spring for a BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. I’m pretty sure in some instances that salad was the highlight of my month.

Admittedly, I haven’t visited California Pizza Kitchen much since my mall days ended. No real reason; I guess I just sort of forgot about it. Fast forward double-digit years: I recently revisited California Pizza Kitchen at their Willow Bend location to check out their new “Next Chapter” menu. I was excited to revisit an old favorite (but also anxious to see if they still served my coveted salad), and to see what their new menu was all about. I won’t make you wait in suspense: CPK did indeed still have my beloved salad along with several other familiar salad selections. The pasta and pizza selection also appeared relatively unchanged, with classic offerings like the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza and Thai Chicken pizza still gracing the menu.

So, that said, what’s in CPK’s “Next Chapter?” California Pizza Kitchen has recently updated its menu to focus on high quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients, and *most importantly* (OK, maybe that’s a matter of opinion, but barely) hand-crafted cocktails, and locally brewed beers.

Speaking of those craft cocktails; I’m going to go ahead and admit I was pleasantly surprised (if somewhat skeptical) when I looked at the new menu, which billed CPK’s cocktails as “unique and spirited”. The new cocktail collection features premium spirits paired with fresh fruit purées and herbs, with an extra surprise of unexpected ingredients. One such cocktail I sampled was the California Roots, (fresh avocado, shaken smooth with Svedka vodka, mint and lime, garnished with a fennel salt rim, $10.29). While I wouldn’t characterize the avocado flavor as identifiable in this imaginative cocktail, it definitely gave my drink a pleasantly rich and smooth consistency. I loved the zippy lime and mint, and the fennel salt rim was an awesome touch.

We also tried the  Blueberry Ginger Smash (fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Domaine de Canton Ginger, $10.89). This one was packed with berry flavor, and about as summery as a whiskey drink can get. Most notably, the cocktails we sampled packed a rather surprising punch. I have tried my fair share of “fancy dranks” that look pretty and taste good but seem to be characterized by a relative lack of booze, but rest assured, this was not a problem we encountered. (I’ll note that it’s a dangerous thing to get mall-drunk … drunk shopping is real, y’all.)

image007
Picture courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen

 

CPK has also added a stellar sangria flight to their lineup. It includes Orchard Sangria (white wine, St. Germain Elderflower, Monin Stone Fruit, orange and cranberry juices), Red-Berry Sangria (red wine, Rémy VSOP, Monin Blackberry, raspberry purée, cranberry juice, lemonade), and the seasonal Harvest Sangria (Bacardi Superior Rum, St. Germain Elderflower, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay with muddled grapes, basil & fresh agave sour), all three for $10. In additional to being a pretty amazing value, all three varieties were very nicely balanced. Additionally, CPK has a variety of wines available in 6oz or 9oz pours as well as by the bottle. And they offer a “Wine Adventure Guarantee”, encouraging patrons to be adventurous and try a new wine … and if it doesn’t thrill you, they will replace it with your regular favorite.

IMG_6659

Their craft beer selection is also slowly expanding with offerings from the likes of Chimay, Rogue, and Goose Island gracing the menu. Additionally, CPK has added a selection of local favorites, currently including Lakewood Hop Trapp, Lakewood Temptress (yum), and Nine Band Pale Ale.

IMG_6678

After sampling so many drinks, it was a good thing CPK invited us to try several of their new menu items, too. They have a new collection of small plates and flatbreads, ranging from Crispy Mac ’n’ Cheese to White Corn Guacamole. We sampled the new Bianco Flatbread (whipped truffle cream, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella and fresh sage, $6.99), and the truffle cream was approximately as outstanding as it sounds, and the fresh sage was dee-lish.

CPK has added a variety of new entree options to their menu, emphasizing “globally inspired” seasonal ingredients. We sampled the Hearth-Roasted Halibut (wild caught from Alaska and roasted on a cedar plank with butternut squash farro, grilled asparagus and baby kale, $19.49) that was incredibly flaky and tender, and the butternut squash farrow was one of those dishes that just warms the soul. Even my husband, who tends to be somewhat of a “fish snob”, gave this dish two thumbs up. We also tried the Roasted Garlic Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables (a crispy-skin chicken breast in lemon-garlic sauce, with a medley of the seasonal vegetables) that was amazingly decadent and moist, bursting with buttery lemon garlic flavor. CPK is also featuring a new Fire-Grilled Ribeye (house-made pinot noir sea salt, topped with creamy bleu cheese butter and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic wild arugula salad, $25.99).

Overall, I was quite impressed with California Pizza Kitchen’s “New Chapter”, and I think this may be a “New Chapter” for CPK and I, as well (mall job not included).

California Pizza Kitchen – Willow Bend
CPK.com
Facebook | Instagram Twitter
6121 W. Park Blvd., Sp.D-126, Plano (South Side of Mall, Next to Crate and Barrel)
469-366-0060

 To view menus or find other locations, visit cpk.com 
Our team was invited in for a meal on the house.

Dugg Burger Plano: Now Open!

Lately, every time I turn around, another popular Dallas eatery or watering hole seems to be setting up shop in Plano. Being a person who doesn’t love detests Dallas traffic, this trend is more than OK with this Collin County resident.  Along those lines, I was super excited to learn Dugg Burger had plans to open a second location in Plano (my ‘hood!), especially after hearing Susie talk up the Dallas location.

Dugg Burger Plano features the same ingenious burger crafting concept developed at their Dallas location. Your custom burger experience starts out with Dugg’s bun prepping system, resulting in a hamburger bun that’s as clever as it is delicious. The top half of each bun is “hulled out” using a fancy-pants, custom designed bun hulling tool, and then toasted on a magical, stainless steel, magnetic dome. This keeps your bun from falling apart (and also results in warm, toasty goodness).

IMG_6851

Now that your bun has been sufficiently hollowed out, it’s time to choose your cheese (cheddar, Swiss, American, or pepperjack), and then stuff that sucker to the brim with your choice of 13 ingredients. Dugg offers 12 amazing toppings on a permanent basis–lettuce, grape tomatoes, dill pickles, Dugg sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted jalapeños, caramelized onions, crispy onion strings, and hickory-smoked bacon–then they offer an additional topping choice called the “Lucky 13,” and this one rotates regularly. The Lucky 13 ranges from mild to wild; during my visit, it was a habanero sauce prepared with a secret ingredient. (I’ll give you a hint: it was “magically delicious”. Yup, I’m dead serious.) You can check out the current Lucky 13 on Dugg’s website. The best part about the topping situation? Cheese, plus ALL of the toppings, are included in your Dugg Burger’s $7.75 price tag. Uhh-mazing.

IMG_6856

 

While you are deliberating over the topping situation, Dugg Burger already has your juicy and delicious burger patty sizzling away on the grill, so you won’t have to wait long before sampling your masterpiece. You’ll definitely want to add a side of fries to your order; Dugg’s are perfectly golden and crispy, and served hot, fresh, and delicious.

IMG_6863

But really, why stop there? Dugg Burger serves thick, decadent milkshakes prepared with the best ice cream on the planet, Henry’s Ice Cream. (EDITOR’S NOTE: it’s quite good if you weren’t born with a spoon or Blue Bell in your mouth like us normal Texans. ☺️) And, in case you’re wondering what happens with all of the “hulled out” bready goodness from the buns, well…you might want to save room for dessert. Yup, once you’ve polished off your burger, you can enjoy the rest of your bun in the form of warm, sticky, bread pudding.

IMG_6873

Dugg Burger had a total of seven local craft beer offerings available during my visit,  including labels from 903, Revolver, and Deep Ellum Brewing Company. They are also serving up wines by Times Ten Cellars. With summer bearing down on us, I must add Dugg’s Plano location has a great little patio perfect for enjoying your perfect burger.

IMG_6852


Dugg Burger- Plano
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
4701 W . Park Blvd #110, Plano

 

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

I am a Native Floridian (though this year will mark my 10th living in Texas … at what point does one become a Naturalized citizen?), and I am nothing short of delighted to discover that one of my favorite Florida lunch spots finally made its way to Dallas. In fact, Tropical Smoothie Cafe now has three locations in the Metroplex; one in Dallas, one in Frisco, and one Fort Worth along with new locations coming soon to Plano and Lewisville.

The name “Tropical Smoothie Cafe” might lead one to believe that this spot specializes in smoothies- and well, you’d be right about that. But, In addition to more than 25 smoothie creations- with an assortment of 16 supplements and add-ons you can choose to add to your sippable masterpiece- Tropical Smoothie also features a pretty awesome food menu. Tropical Smoothie’s Dallas location gave us a sneak peek to check out some new menu additions- and I was relieved to find many of my old favorites remain on the menu, as well. Whew.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe has always offered a great variety of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Their ingredients are chef-inspired and far from mundane; for instance, wrap options include a Thai Chicken variety, with wontons, carrots, sesame seeds cilantro, scallions, and Thai peanut dressing, and a Jamaican Jerk Chicken variety, prepared with southwestern rice, corn, black, beans, asparagus, read onions, mozzarella cheese, and of course, a zesty Jamaican Jerk sauce (each $6.99). Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s best selling sandwich is the Rustic Turkey & Apple Club, which consists of turkey, cheddar, gorgonzola, bacon, dijon honey mustard, and house-made kale and apple slaw piled high on a thinly sliced seedlicious bread ($6.99). 

New menu offerings include a lineup of Tacos with creative varieties that include Korean BBQ Steak (steak, house-made cucumber & kale slaw, sweet and spicy Asian BBQ sauce) and Smoked Jalapeño Chicken (grilled chicken, bacon, cabbage, tomatoes, red onions, smoked jalapeño spread; 2 for $5.49 or 3 for $7.99). Also new to the menu are a lineup of toasted flatbreads with offerings like the Tzatziki Steak (steak, red onions, sliced tomatoes, romaine, cucumbers, tzatziki sauce) and the Chicken Pesto (grilled chicken, tomatoes, parmesan, mozzarella, pesto; $4.49). 

Yes, the food menu at Tropical Smoothie Cafe is greatness, but, I can’t possibly go on without saying a bit more about the smoothies they’re serving up. TSC’s smoothie lineup includes a variety of classics (the Jetty Punch– strawberry & banana, and the Sunrise Sunset– strawberries, pineapple, mango, & OJ are two guest favorites), “Superfood” options (ingredients like açai juice, goji berries, pomegranate, kale and ginger), and “supercharged” options featuring added boosts of functional ingredients like protein, fat burner, or energizer. (Smoothies range from $4.49 to $5.49all smoothies are 24 oz.) TSC sweetens their creations with Turbinado (a raw sugar) unless otherwise noted, and sugar substitutes are available on request.

Tropical Smoothies Cafe4

My favorite part about Tropical Smoothie Cafe is the variety of supplements and add-ins you can toss into your smoothie creation for a small up-charge. Feel like you’re coming down with a cold? No problem; Add a shot of Vitamin C immune to your smoothie. Not enough time to sit down and eat a real lunch? Toss in a shot of whey protein, and suddenly you have a well-balanced, sippable lunch.  Most importantly, I asked owner Robert Causey what he would recommend to nurse me back to health after a long night of, well, Drinking Dallas. He recommended an antioxidant rich Superfoods Smoothie like the Acai Berry Boost (acai, pomegranate, banana, blueberries, strawberries), with a shot of naturally energizing Vitamin B-12, for good measure. I will definitely be trying out his recommendation…probably sooner, than later!

Tropical Smoothie Cafe features a “Happy Hour” of their very own, with half-price smoothies from 6:00 AM-9:00 AM and 6:00 PM-8:00 PM.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe – Dallas
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
4560 W. Mockingbird Ln., Suite 118, Dallas
(214) 351-7037

A great big thanks to Robert Causey and Tropical Smoothie Cafe for having me out. I’m so glad to see a little slice of Florida here in Texas!