Last week I had the chance to host a date night with McKinney Moms Blog at Topgolf Allen! Guests were invited to enjoy live music, drinks, TG’s surprisingly delicious food, and some serious competition at the tee box. We started with tastes of their sangria, nachos, Mushi*, and Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls. (If you’re in charge of ordering, don’t miss Topgolf’s signature item, Mushi, which is cilantro sticky rice, beans, spiced chicken, and cheddar cheese rolled in a jalapeño tortilla.)
As mentioned, we were treated to some of Topgolf’s surprisingly good menu items. (I have to say that their prime rib was an unexpected delight.) They sweetened-up our game place by bringing by an order of Injectable Donut Holes (cinnamon-sugar dusted donut holes served with chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream).
As mention … it was a couple’s night. Since I’m single, I thought I’d play cupid a little and invite some single friends to see if some magic could happen. (Oh … and Susie’s solution to awkward first dates? Golf bags. These babies will cut all discomfort with a knife … just make sure that you have your Uber app ready.)
Chef Scott Gottlich and Andrea Maricich and Mixologist Seth Brammer “Breakfast In Bed” Cooking Demonstration
This was my first experience with a cooking demonstration, so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. The menu sounded decadent, and considering that it combines two of my absolute favorite things on this planet (my bed and breakfast foods), I was eager to attend. We walked into The Second Floor’s Privé private dining room and were greeted with a drink buffet of coffee, fresh squeezed juices, teas, a fire and roses strewn across the table. (Let’s just say that it was fittingly romantic.)
The chefs gave a short introduction and put an emphasis on learning the techniques they were about to share with us. They explained that, of course, once you master the techniques you can play with recipes for all tastes and occasions. They demonstrated each dish, and then we were delivered a sample from the back kitchen. You know … to make sure they did it right.
First Course: Red Velvet Crépes with Cream Cheese Mousse Filling and Raspberry Coulis Watching these chef’s make crépes made it all seem so simple. It’s all about the batter … if you can mix it right, you can really make any flavor–sweet or savory. The coulis only took about five minutes to reduce, and it made such a fresh alternative to syrup or Nutella. (Not that we’d ever consider replacing Nutella … we aren’t communist.) When it came time to sample this dish, there was definitely something left to be desired … in that I wanted five more helpings. They included orange zest in the filling, which was so refreshing and cut right through the richness of the cream cheese and chocolate batter. The raspberry coulis was the perfect combination of sweet and tart. Let’s just say I had to resist the urge to lick the plate.
Tip from the chefs: Make sure to turn the pan in a circular motion to spread all of the batter thinly and evenly. This ensures even cooking and a proper crepe.
Second Course: Oysters Eggs Benedict with Tasso Ham, and Wholegrain Mustard Hollandaise Sauce
This was another twist on a classic breakfast dish. Since this was one of the dishes Chef Maricich served when interviewing for her position at The Second Floor, I knew this was going to be a winner. The chefs went into detail about how exactly to mix the eggs and fat to emulsify properly in order to make the perfect hollandaise. They added stone-ground mustard and Tabasco to give it a little zing, and then moved on to poaching the eggs. They brought out the sample, and the portion was huge! The oysters were perfectly battered and crisp, yet still juicy. Unfortunately they served us regular Hollandaise and I was so disappointed. (I guess this served as more motivation to make the dish on my own.)
Tip from the chefs: Use a bit of vinegar and create a vortex of spinning water in the pot to helps keep the egg together and round.
Third Course: Lobster and Asparagus Omelet with Fontina Cheese and Arugula Salad This was by far the easiest of the dishes to prepare. (Which means I may try it first.) The lobster was fresh, sweet and not overcooked, and the asparagus added texture. There was plenty of cheese and it oozed out of the center with every bite. It was very rich, but considering the fact that this was all for a special occasion, I didn’t mind. (Who am I kidding? I never can have enough cheese, regardless of the occasion … gluten intolerance be damned.)
Tip from the chefs: You may add water in an omelet, but no milk! Milk is reserved for scrambled eggs and will change the consistency of the omelet.
Then it was time for cocktails! Mixologist Seth Brammer came out and demonstrated
A) a slew of drinks with fresh ingredients that were just what we all needed to liven us up for the remaining presentation, and
B) a bunch of pretentious drink-snob jabs while simultaneously being so full of knowledge and expertise that he was himself a real pretentious drink snob.
It was the perfect combination … not only did I learn how to make the best quality, fresh squeezed and strong mimosa, a made-from-scratch Bloody Mary and the tried-and-true Irish Coffee … I now know how and where orange juice is made and why it never really tastes like real oranges, what vodka ratio is the best for a true bloody mary (4 parts mix to 1 part vodka) and how to whip cream just perfectly thickened enough for any dish or drink. In Seth’s own words, “people don’t whip their own cream anymore, and that’s what’s wrong with America.” (Amen, my friend.)
Tip from the mixologist: In order to make the cream float on top of the coffee in an Irish Coffee, flip a spoon upside-down and pour the cream over the back of the spoon.
After we all had each of the three cocktails, the chefs came back out and did a quick demonstration of a simple and classic “Egg in the Hole” paired with The Second Floor’s own maple-cured salmon. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to eat this dish! This was a huge menu, and Chef Maricich even joked that she maybe “bit off more than she could chew.”
In the end, I could have certainly bitten off and chewed even more because this entire spread was top-notch. I’m looking forward to practicing and mastering the techniques they shared with us!
With the growing number of restaurants, brewing beer scene, countless prix-fixe meals, and weekly festivals, I find myself stuck in the Dallas bubble. Once the weekend hits, I stick to the familiar streets I know and the comfort of my bed. But once I discovered the land of Grapevine and its vast wine trails, my weekend routine might be left for afternoons of adventure and discovery.
Grapevine offers a “trail” (as some of us would call a “crawl”) of wineries and one vineyard (Delaney) that allow for daily tastings and special events throughout the year. An array of strong and bold reds to crisp and clean whites, you can sip on local grapes over a plate of charcuterie and learn the history of the city. (And did you know that Texas is actually the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the U.S. with Grapevine serving as a leader in the Texas wine industry for more than 25 years?) At the end of summer season, thousands flock to the streets of Grapevine in celebration of music, tapas, family-friendly activities, and, most of all, grape crushing at the annual GrapeFest in September.
Last month, the city added Sloan & Williams Winery to its lengthy list of wine makers. Owners, Alan Kunst and Ralph Mattison, are both military veterans that found they could put their “Code of Conduct” to the test when it came to the wine industry. One bottle to note at this stop is the 2013 Serenity white wine (65% Chenin Blanc, 14% Gewürztraminer, 11% French Colombard, 5% Roussanne, and 5% Viognier) is crisp, fruity, medium-dry blend that isn’t too dry or bitter. On another note, the 2012 Serendipity red blend (30% Carignan, 30% Cinsault, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Mourvedre, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) gives a rich spice of red fruit aromas that balance well with the boldness of the Carignan.
In addition to their wine menu, the winery offers an array of tapas from dips to breads. My one rule: You must have a flight of wine ice cream before you go. My favorite is the merlot.
However, the best way to discover the city is with a full glass and designated driver to steer you in the right direction. Grapevine Wine Tours shuttle guests from one tasting room to the next, while guides enlighten guzzlers on the history of wine-making through the North Texas region. Lunch and dinner tours are offered on most days, but itineraries rotate daily. More about Grapevine Wine Tours.
In Grapevine news: by the end of 2014, two more wineries are set to open.
Taking the holidays to the next level, the Christmas Wine Trains run each year from December 1 to 18 at 7 pm. Each guest receives a complimentary beverage in a special Christmas wine glass. Envision live holiday music, a festive train ride, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and even a special appearance by Saint Nick. Then come spring, enjoy the marriage of cool jazz and smooth wine aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. March 21 and 22 ride along the Jazz Wine Trains in 1920s classic railroad cars. The trip includes a box dinner and wines from Grapevine’s wineries and tasting rooms. Tickets are $55 per person.
Besides the wine (said no one ever), Grapevine boasts more than 80 locally owned shops, boutiques, and art galleries with 200+ restaurants to choose from. Word on the street is that an Uber from Dallas to the downtown square runs for about $30. Split that between your group of friends and you’ll rejoice in one hell of a deal. I suggest making a day of it and getting to know the faces of some local artisans such as Dr. Sue’s Chocolates and Tolbert’s Restaurant, along your journey through the grapes of Grapevine.
So … I’m all about unconventional outings–for dates, girls’ nights, and Tuesdays. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of dodge and head to the ‘burbs, and Grapevine Wine Tours offer a fun evening away from the Big D that highlights Grapevine’s wine options.
I was lucky to join a group of media people on a wine tour on a Wednesday evening. The group met around 5:30pm and piled into one of their small, air conditioned busses to visit three wine-centric stops in Grapevine led by a GWT representative who fed us fun facts about the city of Grapevine and its wine offerings. (Fun fact: Texas is the 4th largest wine producing state!) Each tour will visit three of the seven partners in Grapevine, some vineyards, some tasting rooms, and some restaurants. The tour lasts around 4.5 hours and always includes a meal.
Our group’s itinerary was:
Homestead Winery – this cute, little home close to Downtown Grapevine produces wine from vines grown in Ivanhoe, Texas. The owner of the winery walked us through a tasting of their wines (15+ — yikes). They have some wines that are incredibly unique and were happy to talk us through the flavors and nuances of the wines we were tasting.
Delaney Vineyard – this vineyard is the only local vineyard and boasts 10 acres of vines, a winery, and gorgeous tasting room onsite. We were treated to a tour of the entire site and a tasting of their offerings. (I left with a bottle of wine from their gift shop … because I have a shopping problem.)
Winewood Grill – we enjoyed a three-course meal at Winewood, complete with suggested wine pairings. I opted for the BBQ ribs, and it was a solid choice. They had live music in the bar, which was a nice bonus.
GWTs will coordinate with your party to determine an appropriate itinerary and pick-up location (at one of three Grapevine hotels, Embassy Suites Outdoor World, Hilton DFW Lakes, or the Gaylord Texan). Each tour is customized based on your group’s size and preferences.
Call 817.259.WINE (9463) or visit www.GrapevineWineTours.com for tour prices, schedules, group rates and other details. Tours typically cost $79.50-89.50. You can save 10% discount on a lunch or dinner tour using the code BLOG10 (offer expires 9/1/14).
****I was invited to experience a Grapevine Wine Tour free of charge.****