Category Archives: Date Ideas

bartaco in Preston Center

Bartaco may be new to town, but they’re not new to the game. Margaritas and tapas-style taco bites are their specialty, and they know how to do them right. With a uniquely Asian flair, bartaco has something for everyone.

We started with margaritas, specifically the Pomegranate Margarita and the Classic Margarita, both of which were delicious and smooth. The Pomegranate Margarita is actually part of their “Margarita March” promotion, but more on that later on (skip to the bottom if you really can’t wait that long).

I would suggest starting your meal with some salsa roja and corn tortilla chips, which you get to break yourself; and the duck quesadillas, which are tender and served in a blue corn tortilla. If you’re looking for something lighter, the tuna poke is a colorful and refreshing option.

Everything ordered at bartaco is served family style in small tapas form, so you can order as much as you want and not feel guilty about it at all! Each taco will run you $2.50 – $3.50.

We tried a ton of tacos—the baja fish, spicy chorizo, falafel, fried oyster, glazed pork belly, carne asada, and Brussels sprout. All of the tacos were delicious, but the crowd favorite was the Brussels sprout taco … which isn’t even officially on the menu! It comes with a sweet balsamic glaze and spicy carrot purée, which tastes more like a sweet potato mash and works beautifully with the other ingredients. This taco was so good that we ordered a second to share.

We supplemented our taco frenzy with a side of Asian slaw and black beans with sofrito. Sides are easy to add on at just $2.50 each!

Round two of drinks hit the table to help us finish our meal. We (greatly) enjoyed the Mojito Tinto (Flor de Caña silver rum, winter spiced sangria, lime, mint, and sugar) and, of course, the Smoke on the Water (Banhez mescal, Pisco, pineapple, lemon, bitters, and egg white), pictured below. bartaco also serves bottled and canned beers, wines by the glass, and sangrias by the glass or liter.

If you’re anything like me and need to end your meal with something sweet, then the platanos fritos are the way to go. They come with a side dish of a mayo dip, but I personally think they taste better dipped in chocolate gelato. If anyone has tricks for kicking a bad sugar habit, I’m all ears.


Now, back to the Margarita March news that we’ve all been waiting for. Each week in March, bartaco will feature a different specialty margarita, like the Pomegranate Margarita mentioned above (Liber grapefruit cordial, lime juice, lucardo marascino, and Libelula Joven Tequila*). The drinks are only around for one week each in March, so grab your friends, order some tacos, and get to living the #bartacolife!

Photo courtesy of bartaco

BARTACO
bartaco.com
6130 Luther Lane (Preston Center)
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*This tequila was selected specifically for bartaco by Destilladora Bonanza and is crafted in the highlands of Jalisco (obviously … or it wouldn’t be Tequila!)

Wine & Magic

Didn’t think wine night could get any more fun? Think again.

Checkered Past Winery, located in the Southside on Lamar building, is making sure your wine night is never boring. Their $20/person Wine & Magic nights happen once a month, and let me tell you, this isn’t your ordinary magic show.

I’m glad Susie sent me (because magic makes her uncomfortable), and I’m glad she did.  The magic host, Trigg Watson, puts on a modern and entertaining (dare I say frustrating?) magic show. His tricks kept us on the edge of our seats and scratching our heads in awe.

While our team has been longtime fans of Checkered Past, we were excited to visit in a new capacity.

With over 60 wines and 20 local craft beers, the last thing you’ll be worried about is running out of options. To compliment the wine, Checkered Past offers an array of spreads (all made in house), charcuterie, and pizzas. Don’t forget to end your evening with one of their delicious desserts!

Upcoming Wine & Magic nights are March 10 and April 14. Stay tuned to Checkered Past’s website or wineandmagicdallas.com for other events and future Wine & Magic nights.


CHECKERED PAST WINERY
Checkered Past Winery
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Moviehouse & Eatery

Long gone are the days of “dinner and a movie”. There’s now a slew of dinner-movie combo experiences available, but my new favorite is Moviehouse & Eatery. It’s one of the newer movie/meal concepts and has locations in Flower Mound, McKinney, and Keller. Here’s why it’s awesome …

For starters, when you walk in, you’re greeting not by the ticket counter, but instead by a full sized bar. (Because that’s the best way to start just about any experience.) IMO, almost anything is made better with a great cocktail. Of the tipples I tried on my last visit to MHE’s McKinney location, the Stormy Weather (Bacardi 8 rum, Malibu rum, lime juice, bitters, ginger ale), was the stand out.

After sipping on your drink, you can head back to your theater and take your reserved seat in their special, fully reclining (oh yes), luxury leather chairs. (In fact, they’re so comfy that, if you weren’t there to watch a movie, I’d say you should take a nap in those bad boys.) Shortly after you sit down, a waiter appears to give you the run down and take your order. The whole menu is delicious (AND they have a brunch M-F 11am-12pm and weekends 11am-2pm!) and much better than one could expect from a movie/eatery. A couple of my favorites are the Big Jake Burger and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza.

The Big Jake Burger is a fresh-ground steak patty topped with pepper jack cheese, house-made bacon (yus), horseradish aioli, red pepper relish, and bourbon bbq sauce. They serve this bad boy with fries, topped with creamy queso blanco, and a whole pickled jalapeño.

The Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza is house-made ranch dressing with grilled chicken breast and house-made bacon. Then, it’s topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh green onions. I’ll say it … it’s surprisingly good for a pizza with so many qualifiers.

Even if you don’t have any problems eating wheat (like my butthead of a stomach does), you should always end your visit with the warm Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I promise you won’t even notice there’s no wheat, and they might end up being your favorite cookies ever. I’ve honestly never tasted such delicious cookies before and I’m quite picky about my cookies. So take that GF business and run with it.

People always love seeing movies with family around the holidays, so here’s a list of what’s playing after December 14th so you can plan your ultimate dinner-and-a-show experience:
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Pitch Perfect 3
Father Figures
Downsizing
Ferdinand
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The Greatest Showman

Moviehouse & Eatery
themoviehouse.com

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
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Antonio Ristorante – Tasting Tuesdays

If you’re looking for a new date night idea, or if you’re  constantly on the hunt for authentic Italian food (the Northern states have all the luck with that), boy do we have a treat for you.

Antonio Ristorante, nestled away in Addison Circle, will transport you to the Italian countryside with its food, wine, and atmosphere. Classically trained Chef Antonio hails from Calabria, Italy and brings a hint of French cuisine to his tables for their $20 Tasting Tuesdays. Guests are served three lightly-portioned courses and wine pairings for each course. Even better, they’ll send you home with a simple and authentic recipe to try out the dishes in your own kitchen.

Chef Antonio prepares the main dish in front of restaurant goers and explains the recipe over a microphone; a waiter then explains the wine pairing with the notes that are to be experienced. Reservations for upcoming Tasting Tuesdays can be made here.

All of Antonio Ristorante’s food is ordered often to ensure freshness. If a customer especially likes a certain dish, the Chef will take note of their email and phone number to let them know the next time they have that dish. They also offer a few wild game options for the adventurous. Wine bottle prices are 30% cheaper than at other Italian restaurants with bottles starting at $27 – which we all know means you can spend that extra money on more wine.

A new food special will be available soon, and it’s a doozy. Their #LateNightDateNight offers a free pizza with any wine bottle purchase. Coming next week (the week of 5/4) for your date night needs, Thursday through Sunday after 9pm!

Antonio Ristorante
Website
Facebook 
4985 Addison Circle (Addison)
(972)458-1010

Lunch Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-4pm
Dinner Hours:
Mon-Thurs 4pm-10pm
Fri 4pm-11pm
Sat 5pm-11pm
Sun 4pm-10pm

Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts

The holidays have come and gone, and that means the one gift you agonized over has been given. So … what can your go-to gift for the year be?  You know … for the person who has everything. Do your friends like to cook? Or as a minimum … do they like to eat? I have the perfect (read: delicious) solution for you: give the gift of a culinary education, with a little help from Chef Tre Wilcox and American Kitchen Cookware.

At the end of 2016, Julia Pearl‘s Chef Tre Wilcox (you may also recognize him from Bravo’s “Top Chef”, or impressively taking down Iron Chef Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America”) opened Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts: a beautiful event venue in Plano, featuring a state of the art demonstration kitchen with four cooking stations. Cooking Concepts offers everything from themed cooking classes, to team building events, to catering services. Cooking Concepts’ partnership with American Kitchen Cookware is a match made in culinary heaven, giving would-be Wolfgangs and Giadas the opportunity to experiment with some beautiful cookware that is actually affordable.

I had the opportunity to participate in a cooking class with Chef Tre and his crew, and here are a few things I can share:

  1. This is not one of those “cooking classes” where you sit back and watch someone else do all of the heavy lifting while you half-watch amidst socializing with your friends and sipping mediocre wine from a plastic cup. Oh, no. I have very few pictures from this event, and this is because I was constantly chopping, stirring, sautéing, or pan-searing something. You are going to earn your dang dinner.
  2. That said … you will not be thrown to the wolves. Each of the four demo stations were staffed with one of Chef Tre’s kitchen minions, who were A) extremely talented, B) extremely helpful, and C) REALLY INTO FOOD … kind of like that Central Market deep voice guy but remarkably less annoying.
  3. You may learn that you’re doing everything wrong in the kitchen. Just accept this heading into the experience. There can’t really be a “wrong” way to chop an onion, right? Oh, on the contrary. There is, and it’s the way you’ve been doing it all along. Get ready to make some adjustments, and you will learn some time saving (and injury saving and perhaps even watery eye saving … ) hacks you will want to use at home.
  4. You can cook a delicious, impressive, restaurant quality meal. Ok, so maybe it’s under the watchful eye of someone who is slightly more well versed in the kitchen than you are, but that’s a technicality.   Shrimp and grits … pan seared scallops … Thai coconut salmon … yeah, I created all of these dishes. (Me, the UberEats Queen.)
Picture courtesy of American Kitchen Cookware

Here is a list of upcoming cooking classes, with themes running the gamut from sushi, to Southern cooking, to knife safety.  Note: Cooking Concepts is offering a couples’ cooking class for Valentine’s Day, which is coming up quickly. So, make your plans! Online registration is available. Classes are small, and will fill up quickly!

If you’re going to surprise the aspiring chef in your life with a Tre Wilcox cooking class, you may as well give them the right tools to be successful once the class is in the books. Check out American Kitchen Cookware to peruse some of the cookware Chef Tre uses in his demo kitchen. You’ll want to take some home with you.

Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts
trewilcox.com
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8200 Preston Road, Suite 135 (Plano)
(214) 296-2168

A great, big “thank you” to Chef Tre Wilcox and American Kitchen Cookware for inviting me out to get schooled … and fed! It was so much fun!

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
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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. 

Bowen House

I went through a vintage phase in college.  So where did I shop?  My first stop on a shopping trip was always Ahab Bowen, a little vintage shop tucked inside a historical house smack dab in the middle of Uptown with a smattering of clothes with that have already lived a full life, but still had more to give.  While I was sad when I heard the news that it closed years later, I was also excited about the potential of the establishment taking over the quaint, little house–a serious craft cocktail bar, Bowen House.

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The space was completely reinvented with a bar spanning the facade and a handful of intimate white marble tables.  The chandelier above the bar gives the space a decidedly haute feeling, but the atmosphere is anything but stuffy.  Oh … and this is a perfect date spot.  (They even joke that they host Tinder Tuesdays because so many blind dates show up.)

Thanks to owner, Pasha Heidari, Bowen House put together a killer lineup of some of the best in Dallas’s food and drink talent.  The food menu was created by Chef Graham Dodds and he has a team of incredible mixmasters behind the bar.  Some of said talent (ahem, the badass Reid Lewis … she’s a lady) was just recognized as one of the seven best mixologists in the city by “Modern Luxury Dallas”.

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As drinks go, previously you were meant to simply chat with the bartender and he (slash she) would whip up a perfect cocktail crafted to your specifications.  As of late, they’ve rolled out menus to make things a bit easier on those of us who have a paralyzing fear of making decisions when put on the spot.  That’s right … leisurely peruse the menu … or you can still chat with the bartenders if you’re into that.  (Which I am.  Like, really into.)  The menu offers classics, and then classics with a twist … each drink has also been reimagined by one of the bartenders.

Another new addition to their offerings to keep up cool on these 100º days–popsicle cocktails.  The popsicle menu totes four options that’ll sweeten you up and cool you down while packing a punch.

The food here is also surprisingly good.  The Fried Brie is a ta-reat with seasonal compote accompanying the melty, cheesy, crunchy goodness.  Oh, and the chicken salad–dubbed Mom’s Chicken Salad because it’s actually his grandma’s recipe–was somewhat addicting.  (And unfortunately it’s frowned upon to ask for seconds at a media tasting … whatever.)  Also, (I’ve been told) the potato chips are even pretty epic.  They have bleu cheese which is a no-no for this girl.

If you’ve never stopped in, make it a priority.  Get all the drinks … and all the food … (That doesn’t really narrow it down for you, does it?)


BOWEN HOUSE

bowenhousetx.com
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2614 Boll Street, Uptown (valet is located on Howland Street)
214.484.1385

Header photo courtesy of Bowen House.

True Wilcox Cooking Concepts

You know that saying, “Those who can’t do, teach”?  Tre Wilcox completely disproves that one with the recent opening of Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts in Frisco last month.  The space will serve as a cooking school (for group cooking classes, private sessions, and even team building exercises), a catering prep kitchen, and an event space.

You may remember Tre from his time on Bravo’s “Top Chef” or one of the amazing restaurants around Dallas he’s lent his expertise to over the years–ahem, Abacus, Marquee Grill, Loft 610.  Oh … and he was a nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef” award … twice.  I mean … whatever … he’s real damn talented.

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The 3,200 square foot space has a full commercial kitchen that the team will use for prep and event catering.  The sleek spaces also has a wall lined with top-of-the-line ranges and ovens begging to be fired-up and used to make one of the unreal dishes dreamt up by Chef Tre.  The shiny appliances will be put to good use in the group classes and even for the aforementioned team-building games–choose from the “Iron Chef Battle”, “Market Basket Challenge”, and the “Family Dinner”.  Sounds like a fun way to get back at Janet in accounting who keeps eating your lunch.

Don’t enjoy the thrill of competition?  Grab a spot in one of the upcoming events where Tre will team up with other local chefs or even wine experts for tastings.  His casual teaching style makes the techniques feel more approachable–even perfect, homemade risotto seemed attainable after his demonstration at our media preview.  (I may need a refresher before trying it again myself.)

One pro tip he gave us was, if it takes less than 20 minutes for a restaurant to bring you risotto … they’re making it wrong.

TRE Cooking Concepts
www.trewilcox.com
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8200 Preston Road, Suite 135, Plano
844-776-8200