Category Archives: Rachel P

The Second Floor Bar

I have visited the Dallas Galleria more than few times (women be shopping’, yo), and I’m kind of mad at myself that all along, I have been missing out on the greatness that is The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich.

Aptly named, this sleek, contemporary spot is nestled away on the second floor of the Westin Galleria, and just paces away from the interior mall entrance. I had a chance to belly up to the bar to check out The Second Floor’s liquid offerings. Let me tell you, they’ve got a lot going on here, folks. This is not your average hotel bar. It may be attached to the Westin, but the sippable menu at The Second Floor easily competes with offerings you would expect to find at some of the best watering holes in Dallas. If you haven’t discovered this spot yet, it could be a game changer.  Ladies, is that shopping trip you dragged your guy on taking just a liiiitttle bit longer than originally advertised? Sit him down at the bar, and you’re solid for at least another hour. Better yet, are the odds ne’er in your favor when swim suit shopping? Screw swimsuits … they have cocktails.

When I say they do things differently here, I’m not kidding; I was impressed to learn that The Second Floor actually makes their own hand-crafted aromatic tonic, infused with orange bitters and burnt cinnamon. The Second Floor’s creative and thoughtful cocktail menu offers seasonal features in addition to old standbys; one fan favorite is the Cucumber Sip (Organic cucumber vodka, elderflower, strawberry, & soda, $12),  which I’m told is The Second Floor’s most popular drink.  I had the opportunity to sample the House Sangria ($8), which was chock-full of boozy berries that I’m told spent a good amount of time hanging out in a cognac-lemon-elderflower concoction prior to taking a dip in my glass. (Is it rude to ask for a fork to get these leftovers from the bottom of my glass?) The sangria was rich and bursting with fruity goodness, and ultimately waaayyyy too easy to drink.

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A few new inventions that are featured on The Second Floor’s spring cocktail menu include:

  • GRILLED MARGARITA – Char-grilled orange, El Jimador tequila, Combier, lime ($12)
  • CINNAMON SIDECAR – Four Roses bourbon, Combier, lemon, cinnamon, bubbly ($13)
  • CHAPALA – Hornitos Black Barrel tequila, mole bitters, grapefruit infused agave nectar, ground Mexican chocolate ($13)

 

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Perhaps the thing I was most impressed with overall about The Second Floor’s fleet of beverages is their extensive whiskey menu. With more than 70 American whiskey offerings in total, and an equally impressive Scotch list, the menu runs the gamut from old standards to Texas labels to far more exotic options. (18-year Japanese whiskey, anyone? ) Intriguingly, The Second Floor offers a very nice variety of whiskey tasting flights. Oh, yes. Flights start at just $12, but if you’re feeling saucy, go for “The Big Spender”–this flight features three whiskeys each aged 21 years or better (Hello, 25-year Macallan), and it can be yours for a mere $100.

Additionally, The Second Floor boasts a comprehensive wine list with more than 80 offerings by the bottle, 20 of them by the glass. If you are a beer drinker, they’ve got you covered, featuring 12 premiums, 12 Texas craft brews, and 5 domestic options.  Pro-tip: With any food or beverage purchase, The Second Floor will validate your Westin Galleria parking, which is kind of awesome. Must remember this come holiday shopping.

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Stay tuned for another post soon about their new menu offerings for Summer 2015!
The Second Floor offers up some mighty fine happy hour specials.

Happy Hour- 4-6 PM, Monday- Friday

  • Specialty cocktail of the day (changes daily) $5
  • Domestic beer $4
  • “The Best $5 Wine in the City”- Honoro Vera, Garnacha OR Les Costières de Pomerols, Picpoul de Pinet

Various snacks and small bites, $2-5

The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich
The Westin Galleria Dallas, Level 2
13340 Dallas Parkway Dallas, TX 75240
(972) 450-2978

Grand Cercle: des Vines de Bordeaux (aka: a wholebunchawine)

I had the opportunity to attend an amazing wine tasting event hosted at The Tower at Cityplace: “Grand Cercle, des Vins de Bordeaux: From Barrel to Bottle”. As you may have guessed, this event featured wines from the Bordeaux region–34 wineries from the Left and Right banks were represented, to be precise. If you would like to learn more about the Bordeaux Region in France, and the fabulous wines it produces, here are some fabulous quick hits to bring you up to speed.

What made this event particularly unique was the fact that the wines we tasted were being poured not by their distributors, but by the winemakers or vineyard owners themselves, who came from France to be at the tasting. (Ooh, la la!) It made for a special opportunity to hear about what I was tasting directly from the vintner. While I certainly enjoy wine, the enthusiasm and expertise some of my fellow attendees appeared to bring to the table made me feel like a middle school kid who’d snuck into a high school dance. That said, I was fascinated listening to some of the super-fancy-pants Dallasites in attendance (some of whom donned an amazing array of bow ties, paisley suits, straw hats, and the likes) as they chatted up the super-fancy-pants French wine gurus.

Vintner

Yes, I may have been a fish out of water at this event, but I was such a happy fish. A warm, toasty, happy fish; nearly 150 varieties and vintages of wines were poured that evening, and I’m always oddly intimidated by the spittoon concept.  That said, it would be implausible for me to review more than a few of the wines I tasted (for several reasons…). While this event was definitely red-centric, I was pleased to see a handful of white Bordeauxs being poured throughout the evening. (After all, I’m a white girl…wait…I mean, I am a girl who enjoys white wines.) My favorite of the bunch may have been the 2011 Chateau Magrez Fombrauge Bordeaux Blanc, which was vibrant and lightly acidic, with hints of melon and citrus. It was perfectly drinkable. Maybe a little too drinkable. The 2010 Chateau Le Sartre Blanc was also lovely- medium bodied, with a juicy tropical citrus profile. That’s not to say I left this event without being blown away by an untold number of reds. Notably, I enjoyed the 2011 Chateau La Marzelle, which was rich yet soft and supple, with a hint of cherry and deep, peppery finish.

This event hosted a silent auction that took place throughout the evening, featuring a number of rare and hard to find bottles as well as limited releases. While I did not partake in the silent auction, I saw many guests enthusiastically scrawling down numbers that contained more digits than I personally have ever paid for a bottle of vino. What I did partake in was the tasty variety of hors de oeuvres that were made available throughout the evening, which were a vital component in maintaining the ability to walk in a straight line following this event.

This event gave me a new appreciation of wines from the Bordeaux region- excuse me, Vins de Bordeaux- and I’m pretty sure I’m like roughly 10-15% fancier now, having attended.

 

 

Amaro Lucano: She’s a Bitter Lady

I always enjoying expanding my horizons; particularly when those horizons just so happen to be sippable … and intoxicating. After all, variety is the spice of life, no? That is why I carpe’d that diem when I was presented with the opportunity to sample Amaro Lucano, a traditional Italian liqueur in the amaro category.

I am going to have to go ahead and admit that I felt inclined to do a little digging to find out what exactly, constitutes an amaro. In case you’re as clueless as I was, an amaro is a bittersweet Italian digestif, frequently served neat, chilled, or over ice. Here’s a well-written piece by Food and Wine, characterizing amaro in lovely detail that I won’t go into here.

Amaro Lucano dates back to 1894, where it was dreamt up in the back room of a cookie bakery. The secret recipe contains more than 30 herbs, most notably: Roman absinthe and absinthe woodworm. (Seriously, I want to visit this bakery…) But don’t worry, Amaro Lucano has an ABV of just 28%, so fortunately (?), that pesky green fairy won’t be accompanying your after-dinner nightcap. The good folks at Amaro Lucano recommend sipping this libation neat, chilled, over ice, or with orange zest … but also advise that Amaro Lucano makes a perfect base for cocktails.

Before I started dabbling in any cocktail creations, I decided we should probably try the Amaro Lucano neat, as an after-dinner tipple, because it’s just so damn continental. Since I consider myself a terribly sophisticated lady (hehehehe), I knew this was the drink for me. My first impression of the Amaro Lucano was that I couldn’t even think of anything to compare it to. The alcoholic powers that be aren’t kidding when they characterize amaros as bitter. The Amaro Lucano is unapologetically bitter, bold, and spicy. It would be difficult to describe the complexity of the flavor with mere words, but “peppery” and “minty” are two that come to mind. I believe this family of liqueurs is probably falls into the category of “acquired tastes,” and I believe I will require a few more trials before I can say I have officially “acquired” said taste.

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That being said, I decided it was time to embrace my uncouth American roots and try the Amaro Lucano in a cocktail.

Enter the…

Lucano Cobbler
1.5 oz Amaro Lucano
3 oz red wine
0.5 oz tonic water
0.5 oz sugar syrup

Mix the drink directly in the glass and serve with a slice of lemon and orange, a sprig of mint, fruits of the forest and ice.

I’m going to go ahead and suggest that, if you are new to amaros, you consider starting here. Let me be clear: the Lucano Cobbler still packs a boldly spicy, bitter punch, as cocktails go, but from a newbie’s perspective, the red wine and simple syrup transition this experience from one you aren’t sure if you’re enjoying, to one that becomes increasingly enjoyable as you continue to sip. The blend of sweet and spicy is rich and heady, and lends itself to being an interesting digestif that doesn’t totally knock your socks off with a bitter assault.

Here are some additional dessert cocktails you might consider sampling, if you are an amaro rookie, like me:

Lucano Ice Cream
3 white sugar cubes
0.5 oz of still water
2 scoops of cream flavour ice cream
3 bar spoons of Amaro Lucano

Put the sugar cubes in the shaker and add 25 ml of still water, add two scoops of cream flavour ice cream. Then add three bar spoons of Amaro Lucano and shake. 

Espresso Lucano
1 long espresso
0.5 oz liquid sugar
1 oz Amaro Lucano

Pour ingredients into a glass. Mix and serve.

*Amaro Lucano generously provided me with a bottle of Amaro Lucano to taste and test.

New From Skinnygirl

I am constantly flailing around with some sort of diet or disproportionately ambitious exercise plan. It’s just an unhappy fact of life. Unfortunately for me, I love food- and BOOZE- as much as the next gal (ok…possibly more than the next gal); an inconvenient truth at best. I hate undoing all of my hard work at the gym with liquid calories (even if they are delicious). In light of my recent introduction to Skinnygirl Vodka, I was excited to learn Skinnygirl has rolled out two new products for our guiltless imbibing pleasure: Skinnygirl Pinot Noir and Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita. I was even more excited when I was informed that I would be receiving a bottle of each, for my sampling pleasure.

photo 2First, let’s talk about the Skinnygirl Pinot Noir. I had never tried a “lightened up” vino prior to this occasion, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Skinnygirl’s pinot has the aroma of dark cherries and bursts with cherry flavor to match, along with notes of toasty oak and vanilla. This is a very smooth pinot with a soft, silky mouthfeel. I am not a great drinker of reds, but this one was light enough for me to genuinely enjoy – to the point where I would buy it for myself. Let’s talk calories. (Wait – what? Buzzkill!) Skinnygirl’s Pinot Noir touts 100 calories in a 5oz pour. For comparison’s sake, a “conventional” 5oz glass of pinot noir contains about 125 calories. At first, you may think to yourself, “So, I’m saving 25 calories? Big deal”. But, think about this, friends: A typical bottle of wine contains about five 5oz pours. Multiply those 25 calories/glass you are saving by 5, and it totals: 125 calories. So, think of if this way: if I were to drink the entire bottle of Skinnygirl Pinot Noir (not that…uh…I make a regular habit out of drinking an entire bottle of wine, or anything…), at a savings of 125 calories per bottle, it’s basically like getting a bonus glass of wine for “free”. Suhhh-weet. To make things even better, buying wine online is now a possibility, so it’s even ultra convenient to enjoy your favorite tipple, guilt free, without having to move a muscle.

I am a huge fan of cocktails with a “kick,” so I was super excited to try the Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita. This is a ready-to-drink product, best served over ice, with a wedge of lime, or even a slice of fresh jalapeno if you’re feeling saucy. Skinnygirl’s Spicy Lime Margarita, made with blue agave silver tequila and triple sec, actually exceeded my expectations. These margs offer a beautiful balance of bright lime flavor, spicy chili, and that familiar tequila bite. This cocktail has an undeniable kick, but it doesn’t come close to approaching overkill. Really, it was just lovely. The margaritas paired perfectly with my little Monday night chips and guacamole fiesta, and my dude-fiancée repeatedly/unabashedly voiced his enthusiasm for his cocktail, “Skinnygirl” label be damned. He assured me that I can buy this one “any time”; I definitely see myself following through accordingly. Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margaritas contain 100 calories per 5 oz serving. Sugar-laden margarita mixes frequently served at Mexican restaurants can contain in the upwards of 750 calories in one cocktail, so Skinnygirl Margs are basically a steal, calorically speaking! No brainer here, y’all.

Skinnygirl Cocktails (Margaritas, et al)
Skinnygirl Spicy Lime Margarita, 750-ml bottle, MSRP $12.99

Skinnygirl Wine Collection
Skinnygirl Pinot Noir, 750-ml bottle, MSRP $11.99

 

 

DFW Craft Beer Throwdown at Cambria Plano

Cambria Hotel and Suites has opened a brand spankin’ new Plano property on Parkwood Blvd, just steps from the suburban booze/fine dining/shopping wonderland  we call Shops at Legacy. This is most excellent news for out of town guests, business travelers, bachelorettes, and packs of prowling cougars alike.

In addition to being an ideally located crash pad, the Cambria Hotel & Suites just so happens to be kind of awesome. The 129 room, 4-story hotel features comfortable luxuries (think spacious rooms with over-sized living areas, spa-inspired bathrooms, etc.) coupled with practical and useful features, like a multi-functional media hub for your undoubtedly excessive number of electronic devices. The Cambria Plano offers 2,400 square feet of meeting/conference space if that’s something you need … and, a full service bar and lounge area, if THAT’S something you need, in addition to a contemporary bistro. They also have a really sweet pool area, featuring a notably swanky looking cabana setup (complete with fire pits for the colder months, ThankYouVeryMuch).

Cambria 6 Poolside Cabanas

I was excited to attend the Cambria’s grand opening celebration earlier this month, for a few reasons, really; in addition to checking out this cool new property, I got to experience not only a sampling of the impressive cuisine Cambria Chef DeMaria dreamed up for this event, but also a series of beer pairings offered up by five of DFW’s very own local craft breweries. This wasn’t just any ol’ beer tasting event, though- oh, no. Each of the five breweries in attendance were charged with the task of presenting their finest suds to a panel of judges, led by former Plano Mayor Phil Dyer, in order to determine which of the five offerings would earn a tap behind the Cambria bar. The offerings of the evening, in no particular order, consisted of:

  • Lakewood LagerVienna Style Lager, 4.6% ABV- this has always been one of my go-tos- it’s just so darn drinkable with its light maltiness and balanced bitter hop. I felt this was a contender due to its versatility (but it doesn’t matter what I think, because I’m no former mayor).
  • Community Mosaic IPA, India Pale Ale, 7.5% ABV- If you haven’t tried this beer, it’s about as hoppy as this guy. If you love hoppy, well-balanced beers, you will love this beer. I felt this was a brave offering from Community, seeing as it makes such a bold statement.
  • Peticolas Velvet Hammer, Imperial Red Ale, 9% ABV– this smooth, malty red ale is slightly floral, lightly sweet, and moderately full-bodied. It will also knock you on your ass in a relative hurry. That said, it’s interesting and delicious. Nice choice.
  • Deep Ellum Brewing Company Dallas Blonde, American Blonde Ale, 5.2%- I hear it goes down easy (that’s a joke…remember this?). But, it’s true; this delicate golden session ale is exceptionally drinkable. For that reason, I considered Dallas Blonde to be another favorable horse in this race.
  • Franconia Dunkel Lager, Munich Dunkel Lager, 4.4%- it’s the bier from here, y’all. Brewed following the practice of German Purity Laws, this dunkel is toasty and malty, with a light, chocolatey finish. I have always enjoyed the straight-forward, no-nonsense approach these guys take to their craft. While this may have been the darkest beer offering in the race,  it was no dark horse, in my humble opinion (#jokes).

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Five fine contenders, vying for one coveted tap behind the Cambria bar. While all five of these local offerings were winners in my book (or more accurately, in my belly…), there could only be one. And there was. The judges made a unanimous decision.

Drumroll please…

Are you ready?

Here it comes:

The Cambria will be serving…

Wait for it…

Community Mosaic IPA

There you have it. Community Mosaic IPA will be available behind the bar at the Cambria, in addition to three other craft handles, and twelve domestic offerings on tap. I did not correctly guess that such a bold offering would win the judge’s affection, but I loved the plot twist. I’m sure it was a difficult decision, but I’m not sure the judges could have gone wrong. To quote former Mayor Dyer, “I believe in beer”.

Because variety is the spice of life, Cambria’s bar and lounge features also an ample selection of liquor and wine. Featured cocktails include the Cambria Margarita $7, and the Blackberry Mojito $9. 

I would be remiss to wrap up this event re-cap without mentioning how delicious the food offerings were. We were able to sample a variety of creative and delicious dishes, ranging from Cambozola Mac n’ Cheese to my personal favorite, a Franconia Dunkel braised sausage, served atop mashed potatoes with pepper-onion tapenade and a mustard gravy. Yes. Featured menu items in Cambria’s contemporary bistro include inventive dishes such as the Pesto Drummies Appetizer served with blue cheese & butter ($10), Sriracha Glazed Salmon, featuring house-made Sriracha, served with green chile grits ($13), and the Flat Iron Steak with garlic spinach and Idaho fries ($19). I also hear tell that Cambria serves up a killer house-made Tres Leches Bread Pudding topped with lime zest ($7). Run and tell that, homeboy.

Cambria 1 Sriracha Salmon

Cambria’s bistro is open for breakfast from 5:00 AM- 10:00 AM. Dinner is served from 5:00 PM- 11:00 PM. The bar and lounge is open nightly from 5:00 PM- Midnight.

Cambria Hotel & Suites Plano – Legacy
7500 Parkwood Blvd., Plano, TX 75024
(972) 473-9010
Online Booking

 

Hutchins BBQ Media Dinner featuring Grapevine Brewery

BBQ and BYOB; Two acronyms Dallasites get pretty dang excited about.

With a plethora of BBQ heavy hitters in Dallas proper, I’m here to implore you not to forget about a seriously solid purveyor of pig that has been serving Collin County (and wise visitors from beyond) since 1978: Hutchins BBQ. The senior location is located in historic downtown McKinney, and the Hutchins family opened up a secondary Preston Road location in Frisco just last year. And here’s the marvelous thing about the McKinney location: it is, in fact, BYOB.  Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I was lucky enough to attend a media dinner at the McKinney location earlier this month. (Thanks, Susie … I’m not trying to squeeze into a wedding dress or anything). Tim Hutchins (GM and son of original owner Roy Hutchins) and co-owner Dustin Blackwell were our gracious hosts for the evening, and their passion for the fine art of smoking copious amounts of meat was evident with every (frequently excessive) bite.

Their BBQ process really is a labor of love. As we stuffed our happy faces, Tim described the 15-17 hour smoking process executed on a daily basis in order to produce the perfectly moist, tender slab of Heaven that is Hutchins’ brisket. The flawlessly executed smoke ring speaks for itself and seemingly doesn’t warrant an explanation, but Tim explained the importance of the wood selection in the smoking process; the Hutchins family uses a one-two punch of oak, followed by pecan. Hutchins uses predominantly Prime grade beef (subject to availability) that is free from hormones or antibiotics.

Chef Tim and his smoker
Chef Tim and his smoker

Let’s talk sausage. Hutchins makes theirs in small batches, using a 50/50 ratio of pork and brisket. Their jalapeño cheese sausage is made with jalapeños procured from a local market. (And for the record, the portion I sampled on this particular evening packed a serious punch of heat.) The ribs, which fell off the bone, were perfectly charred, with a lightly sweet brown sugar glaze. I was surprised that one of the most enjoyable things I sampled all night ended up being the fried catfish. I usually don’t even like catfish, but I felt it was my duty to take at least one bite, for science. Dang, ya’ll! Perfectly crisp, not remotely greasy, with a beautiful cornmeal breading- and most importantly, no trace of that all too familiar “earthy” taste to be found. So, I guess I like catfish now?

If you’re like me, you might suffer from ordering induced anxiety when you first visit an establishment such as Hutchins. (Ya know, one where everything looks, smells, and sounds amazing, and you’re terrified you’re going to miss out on a special snowflake and then see a Foursquare tip after your order that has an off-menu gem that gives you serious FOMO?) Hutchins solves that delicious problem for you, by offering an All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE- hey look, another acronym!) option for just $18.99. As if you might actually have extra space in your abdominal region after you get done sampling allllll tha meatz, that price includes sides (pinto beans, potato salad, green beans, corn, coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, and potato casserole), AND dessert (peach cobbler, banana pudding, soft serve and toppings)! Here’s hoping your post-meal itinerary includes one stop: bed. But, don’t worry: if you aren’t feeling brave (or if you need someone to set limits for you because you are well aware that you are incapable of exercising self-control … not that I can relate to that scenario or anything …) you can certainly order off of the traditional menu (meat plates, et al.).

Meat Fiesta
Meat Fiesta

Since this event was BYOB, Grapevine Brewery was kind enough to B some B for us. I was excited to try two Grapevine craft beer varieties that were new to me: Sir Williams English Brown Ale and NightWatch Oatmeal Stout. The Sir Williams English Brown Ale (4.9% ABV), as it so happens, was the recipient of the Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal in the English Brown Ale category. One sip, and I understood why. Sir Williams, you are a gentleman and a scholar, with your lovely, roasty malt and your smooth finish. The Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout (6.3%) is on the lighter end of the stout spectrum, with a subtly malty chocolate note that feels like it is giving you permission to drink it year round. I’m a fan.

Hutchins BBQ – McKinney
1301 North Tennessee Street, McKinney, TX 75069
(972) 548-2629

Sun-Thurs: 11am to 9pm
Fri-Sat: 11am to 9:30pm

Hutchins BBQ –  Frisco
9225 Preston Road, Frisco TX
Store: 972-377-2046 | Catering: 972-540-1920
Email: catering @ hutchinsbbq.com

Wed-Sun: 11am to 3pm (or til sold out)

Hiro Sake

I will be the first to admit … I don’t have a long-standing relationship with sake. While I am well-acquainted with the sake bomb, something tells me most establishments aren’t in the habit of preparing that deceitful duo with hand-crafted, premium sake. (Just a hunch … reinforced by my regular Thursday morning hangovers after Wednesday night sushi night.) This is why I was super excited to have the opportunity to expand my boozy horizons when I found out I would be receiving two bottles of Hiro Sake in the mail.

First, a little background on sake in general, in the event that you’re a total noob, like me: Sake is a Japanese rice wine, representing an integral part of Japanese culture for more than 2,000 years. The fermentation process is not unlike the brewing process for beer; if you are interested in learning more about what that process is like, go here.  Sake is a versatile spirit; it can be served chilled or warmed, and can be enjoyed straight up or in any number of cocktails. It pairs well will Japanese food (DUH), but also cheese, chocolate, and a wide assortment of other foods.

photo 3Now, let’s talk Hiro Sake. Hiro Sake is brewed in the Niigata prefecture, which is apparently the premier sake producing region in Japan. Hiro Sake is a great option for anyone seeking a “lighter, cleaner” cocktail option; Hiro Sake contains only 39 calories per ounce, is gluten free, and contains no preservatives, additives, sulfites, or histamines. Hiro Sake has 1/3 the acidity of wine, making it easier to drink (read: no headache, no heartburn).

Hiro Sake generously sent me two bottles to sample, and the first one I was tried was Hiro Junmai Sake, otherwise known as Hiro Red (which I find slightly easier to remember, but maybe that’s just me). The Hiro Junami (not Jumanji) is brewed using the traditional method, and can be served chilled or warmed. I decided it would only be fair to try it both ways.

First, I opted to try Hiro Junmai warmed. While instructions can be found online for warming sake in the microwave (*wink*), this is apparently not the preferred method for preparing warm sake. Here is what you are SUPPOSED to do:

Place the opened bottle in a pot with water that has almost gotten to boiling point and removed from the stove. Leave the bottle for a couple of minutes until the desired temperature is reached. Serve.

The ideal temperature for hot Japanese Sake depends on everybodys taste, running from 85ºF to 130ºF. Japanese Sake should not be heated above 140ºF or boiled.

So, how was it? Smooth, clean, and light- as promised- with an appealing, mildly bitter edge. Surprisingly easy to drink. This was a great accompaniment for the giant pile of sushi I ordered in honor of my sake tasting party*.

Next, I sampled the Hiro Junmai in a cocktail (again … it’s only fair to do so):

Hiro Sunrise
2 oz HIRO JUNMAI Sake

3 oz orange juice
0.5 oz ounce grenadine cubed ice

Fill a glass with ice. Add HIRO JUNMAI Sake and fill with orange juice; stir. Slowly pour in grenadine and let it settle before serving.

The verdict: this cocktail was delicious (and pretty!), but I have to say that I felt as though the OJ overpowered the delicate flavor of the sake. If you want to experience the sake, experience the sake! I would actually recommend drinking it warmed with no mixer.

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The next sake I sampled was Hiro Junmai Ginjo (aka Hiro Blue). Hiro Junmai Ginjo purports to “bridge the heritage of the past with the way we drink today”. Produced with rice that is polished or milled to remove at least 45% of its original weight, Hiro Junmai Ginjo has added character and body that enables it to be served chilled, on the rocks, or in a cocktail.

After the OJ experience, I decided I really wanted to try the Hiro Junmai Ginjo chilled with no mixers, so I could really experience the flavors of the sake. (Side note: while I was doing my homework online, I read that higher quality sakes are best enjoyed chilled, and lower quality sakes should be reserved for warming. The Junmai Ginjo definitely fits the premium bill.)

I found the Hiro Junmai Ginjo to be exceptionally crisp and light. I was surprised at how delicate the flavors were; just the slightest hint of sweetness with a clean finish. The Junmai Ginjo is delightfully easy to sip. This was my favorite of the two.

If you still insist on enjoying your sake in a cocktail, here are two additional recipes to try (though I strongly encourage you to try it straight up first!):

Super Hiro
2.5 oz HIRO JUNMAI GINJO Sake

1 oz vodka
1 Japanese cucumber cut into rounds for garnish

Pour HIRO JUNMAI GINJO sake and vodka in a cocktail shaker over cubed ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of Japanese cucumber.

Hiro Spritzo
1 oz HIRO JUNMAI  Sake
1 oz prosecco
1 oz Aperol or Campari
1 1/2 oz. soda water

Combine all ingredients. Pour over ice, and serve in a Collins glass or large wine glass.


HIRO SAKE
720 ml and 330 ml bottles
          Hiro Red – $29.99/$15.99 (SRP)
          Hiro Blue – $39.99/$19.99 (SRP)
To find out where you can purchase Hiro Sake, or to purchase online, go here.
*Said party may have consisted of my fiancee and I on the couch in our pajamas, eating take out, trying to catch up on “Game of Thrones” on our HBO Go. But I assure you, it was festive. 

Kenny’s Burger Joint – DIY

I am a huge fan of Chef Kenny Bowers and his growing family of seriously delicious restaurant concepts, otherwise known as Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill (Addison), Kenny’s Italian Kitchen (Addison), Kenny’s Smokehouse (Shops at Legacy), and Kenny’s Burger Joint (Frisco and a NEW Plano location!). That said, I was super excited when I received an invitation to check out the aforementioned, brand spankin’ new Kenny’s Burger Joint location in Lakeside Market in Plano. Kenny and his awesome team hosted a holiday-centric event highlighting some fun and festive appetizers, and some seriously tasty cocktails.

If you’ve visited Kenny’s Burger Joint before, it’s no secret Kenny Bowers serves up a mean burger; quite honestly, probably my favorite burger. Kenny perfected his juicy, 8 oz. patties over a natural hickory wood-burning grill, and the availability of delicious topping combinations to follow said grilling extravaganza offers something for everyone. If you aren’t feeling a burger (excuse me, what?), Kenny’s menu features a variety of other tasty options, ranging from the black angus Big Dog, and the Steak Bomb  (Kenny’s take on the classic Philly cheesesteak), to lighter options, like the fresh and delicious Ahi Tuna and Asian Chicken Salads.

2 Apps

Hopefully, if you’re a Kenny’s Burger Joint fan, you’re already aware of the greatness that is Kenny’s cocktail menu. Kenny’s well-rounded drink menu is thoughtful and creative, and includes indulgent additions such as the famed “Adult” milkshakes (I got to try the Chocolate Grasshopper (Crème de Menthe, White, Crème de Cocoa, and Oreos) and OhMyLanta, it was good. Additionally, Kenny’s Burger Joint offers a reasonable wine list and a respectable craft beer selection. Oh, and they offer Grey Goose on tap. So, there’s that.

9 Chocolate Grasshopper

I got to sample a variety of particularly delicious cocktails on this occasion, and today, you are in luck: Kenny’s talented bartenders were kind of enough to share some of their delicious cocktail recipes, so you can try your hand at recreating some of these beauties at home!


 

**Here’s a tip before you get started: Kenny’s standard for mixing cocktails demands no fewer than 25 “shakes” when mixing cocktail ingredients in a shaker. This results in bruising of the alcohol, which in turn creates a nifty sheet of ice atop the drink when you pour. (The more you know.)

4 Sapphire 75
Sapphire 75

Sapphire 75
2 oz Bombay Sapphire
Splash lemon juice
Splash simple syrup
Splash Prosecco

Shake first three ingredients. Top with splash of Prosecco.

Under the Mistletoe
1 1/2 oz. Stoli Blueberry
3/4 oz. PAMA Liquor
1/2 oz Pineapple juice
Slash Prosecco

Shake and pour, then top with a splash of Prosecco.

Frenchie
Frenchie

Frenchie
2 oz Grey Goose (consider using orange, for extra flavor)
½ oz Chambord
1/2 oz Pineapple juice
Splash Prosecco

Shake first three ingredients and top with splash of Prosecco.

Silent Nyquil (heh)
2 oz Stoli Vanilla
Small shot of whipped cream
½ oz peppermint Schnapps
½ oz simple syrup
Splash crème de Menthe
Splash Blue Curacao
Splash Prosecco

Shake first four ingredients and pour into martini glass. Drop crème de Menthe and Blue Curacao gently along side of glass (they will sink) and splash with Prosecco.

8 Silent Nyquil7 Bartender

You’re likely to work up an appetite after all of that cocktail shakin’. So, it’s a good thing Kenny shared a variety of recipes for you to try at home- and just in time for your upcoming Christmas festivities, or fleet of non-negotiable house guests!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos
10 fresh Jalapenos, whole
1 c. pepper jack cheese, shredded
10 strips of bacon, raw
20 toothpicks

Cut a ¼” divot in each pepper from just below the stem to just below the toe. Set the divot aside. Gently scoop out as much of the seed and white membrane as possible, and discard. Be careful not to break or tear the jalapeño.

Form enough cheese in your hand to fit in the interior of the pepper and gently stuff (approximately 3 Tbsp). Replace the divot over the cheese. Gently squeeze the pepper in your hand, and compress to close.

Place bacon on a cutting board. Place the jalapeño on the bacon, just above the toe where the divot begins. Wrap bacon at an angle, overlapping on each wrap to make sure the divot is completely covered. Gently squeeze to help bacon adhere. Secure each end of the bacon with a toothpick. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cooking. Cook either using grill method or skillet/oven method:

GRILL PROCEDURE: Place cold jalapenos on medium heat grill, and close lid. Cook until bacon is slightly crispy and cheese begins to ooze. Carefully remove toothpicks. Serve with ranch and BBQ sauce for dipping.

SKILLET/OVER PROCEDURE: Preheat oven to 400 degree. Place cold jalapeños in a lightly oiled hot skillet over medium high heat. Lightly brown on all sides. Move skillet to oven, and finish at 400 degrees for approximately 10 minutes.

5 Kenny1 Jalapeno Poppers and Tots

Bud’s White Queso
1 ¼ lb. White American cheese, shredded
1 c. Whole milk
1 c. Yellow onion, sliced in paper thin strips
½ c. Cilantro, chopped
¼ c. Pickled jalapenos, finely chopped
2 tsp. Cumin

Can be prepared in microwave or crockpot, as described below:

MICROWAVE: Combine all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until hot, stirring occasionally.

CROCKPOT: Place all ingredients in crockpot, stirring occasionally, until everything is incorporated and queso is hot.

Juicy Lucy Sliders
8- 2 oz. Burger patties
4 slices American cheese, folded into 2” squares
4 King’s Hawaiian Mini Hamburger Buns
4 tsp. Ketchup
4 tsp. Yellow Mustard
4 Tbsp. Onion, raw and chopped ¼”
4 Tbsp. Pickles, chopped ¼”

Place on square of cheese in the center of one of the burger patties, folding the corners of the cheese so there is a ½” gap between the cheese and the edge of the meat. Place a second patty on top, and crimp the edges together (like making a ravioli), making sure there are no holes. Repeat with remaining patties. Put patties in refrigerator to firm.

Season both sides of burger patties with salt and pepper. Gently place burger patties on an oiled, flat grill or standard grill.

Cook approximately 3 minutes per side over medium high heat until browned on each side or cooked through. When you flip the burgers, do so gently to prevent cheese from oozing out.

Place ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onion evenly on each bottom bun. Place finished burgers on top. Cover with top bun, and enjoy!

Note: Be very careful when biting into the sliders as the cheese can be very hot!

Kenny shared one more thing with us that certainly bears mentioning, and that would be the infamous EL JEFE GRANDE CHALLENGE. This slightly larger than average burger, priced at $50, features:

11 El Jefe GrandeAn impressive 3 lb. patty of the finest beef stacked on two ENORMOUS pieces of Texas Toast (made especially for this sandwich) topped with:
· 10 oz. of French fries
· Chili
· Queso
· Sliced jalapeños
· ½ lb. of bacon
· Lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and your choice of 1 c. of mustard or mayonnaise

It is a sight to behold. Guests who complete El Jefe Grande in less than one hour will receive the burger for free, plus a $100 dining certificate for a future meal, and their picture displayed on a special wall of honor in the restaurant. Plan on signing a waiver before tackling this Big Boss. (Not kidding, actually.)

If you haven’t checked out Kenny’s Burger Joint yet (or, if you have!), I would strongly suggest paying them a visit on a Monday. Why, you might ask? Martini Mondays, my friends. Kenny’s Burger Joint features a  collection of speciality martinis and cocktails for just $5, all day long, every Monday. Yes.

Happy Hour | Monday-Friday, 2:00-7:00
$1 off draft beer
$2 PBR
$3 premium wells
$4 hour wine
$2 Carboard-o (that’s boxed wine, y’all!)

Kenny’s Burger Joint
PLANO: 5809 Preston Rd, Ste 588 | (972) 378-0999
FRICSO: 1377 Legacy Drive, Suite 120 | (214)-618-8001

HOURS:
Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 10pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am – 11pm