It’s almost time for my favorite weekend of the year..that’s right- the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival. This year, the festival will be held March 30 – April 1, 2017. Tickets just went on sale, so don’t wait- or you will be sorry!
Here is a recap of last year if you need more convincing of how awesome this weekend truly is.
Houlihan’s is bringing craft cocktails to the chain restaurant scene with their new 10-drink menu. (At least as much as a chain of its caliber can.) Houlihan’s introduced new drinks for our tasting pleasure at the Prestonwood location in Addison over a week in May. Using unusual techniques and unique spirits, Houlihan’s new drink menu looks more like something out of a hipster speakeasy than a suburban chain restaurant.
Take, for example, their Oak Aged Manhattan. This cocktail is aged on-site, using a mix of orange peels and oak staves for a barrel-less aging process. Houlihan’s mixologists claim this technique gives a smooth, subtly nuanced spirit in less time. When I tasted it, there were undertones of maple and vanilla. It is a simple but well-balanced cocktail–just as it should be. Mine came served with a salty, fatty, perfectly candied bacon.
My second drink, the Houdini, took a decidedly sweeter, fruity direction despite the high-proof spirit used. Henry McKenna Single-Barrel Kentucky Bourbon mingles with maple syrup and homemade ginger-peach syrup. This is refreshing cocktail is a perfect patio drink.
The rest of the new drink menu really has something to suit all tastes. One of the more classic additions is a slightly remixed DirtyMartini, shaken up with the addition of huge olives stuffed with pungent gorgonzola cheese and some delicious candied bacon. They even offer a tiki drink–the Blue Taboo. It looks like a sugar rush in a glass, but it’s more than just that; the drink is undeniably sweet, but it is well-balanced by the addition of Owl’s Brew Coco-Lada, which is a handcrafted black tea brewed in coconut water with chai spices and pineapple juice. Now I didn’t sample it, but the Bleeding Rose is definitely one of the more original creations offered on the new drink list. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Absolut Hibiskus and fresh sour mix create the base of this cocktail which is poured over an Aperol-tea ice cube. The melting Aperol, a blazing orange-colored bitter Italian aperitif, will change the flavor profile of the Bleeding Rose over the course of the drink. And on another positive note even the ice is made of alcohol –so it’s the drink that keeps on giving!
Let’s not forget the food, because drinking on an empty stomach rarely ends well. I tried out the avocado toast with burrata. This summer special has a ton of fresh avocado smeared on top of toasted rustic bread and is seasoned with jalapeño, cilantro and garlic, to give it a bit of kick. A sweet, creamy burrata cooled the heat and added to the overall decadence of the dish. The portion size was generous enough to make for a light summer dinner. And not letting an opportunity get away to try something else from the limited time menu, I went with the Mahi-Mahi salad, complete with jumbo lump crab and a sweet and tangy citrus and pineapple salad.
The 10 new cocktails are only available at the Prestonwood location, but eventually they will roll out to Houlihan’s restaurants around the country.
… I guess, for now, we are the lucky ones. Cheers!
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.)
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.
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.
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).
If you are a twenty (or thirty)-something living in Dallas right now, you’ve heard of The Eberhard. (If you haven’t … it’s one of the more recently opened unst unst scene places on Knox/Henderson.) I guess they finally figured out that being the cool new kid on the block is fleeting, so it seems they’re stepping up their food game–starting with brunch. (Because, Dallas.)
The space itself is unique and versatile with two giant areas of living room-style seating and plenty of room, both inside and outside on their wraparound porch. The DJ booth, located up a spiral staircase, keeps the party going all night, and they offer a Mezzanine overlooking the rest of the space for private events … or “VIPs”. Oh … and the sixty-five-foot bar eliminates the wait time (relatively).
For their brunch, they have, of course, your go-to standard Mimosa. (#ProTip: If you go in before the end of May, they’re only $2!) They also have three signature sangrias to choose from along with signature brunch cocktails. Their Coco Colada (coconut vodka, Coco Real, and pineapple juice) is sweet and fresh. My personal favorite was the Eber’s King Julep (bourbon, honey ginger syrup, peach bitters and mint ), because … ’tis the season.
The cocktails are amazing, but they aren’t to be undercut by the brunch food menu. Their chef provides some brunch staples taken to the next level. The Eggs Benedicto and Buttermilk Biscuits & Gravy don’t just look amazing. The French Quarter Chicken & Waffles paired perfectly with my Eber’s King Julep. They have an off-menu item that is a Breakfast BLT. Who doesn’t love banana nut bread? The Eberhard has taken a great American breakfast food and reinvented it. The Banana Nut French Toast served with Bourbon Brown Sugar Syrup and a fruit parfait.
While we all can begrudgingly agree that The Eberhard will continue to be a go-to place on weekend nights … it has now become what will be the new “it” place for brunch on Saturday and Sundays. Get in there before the end of May and take advantage of their $2 mimosas! You won’t be disappointed.
First: If you haven’t set foot in the newly open Westin Downtown Dallas yet, you should; it’s gorgeous. Secondly: Whenever you do set foot in the Westin Downtown Dallas, you should definitely pay a visit to Grill & Vine; it’s delicious.
The Westin Downtown Dallas Grill & Vine recently invited the SDD team in to check out the newly open restaurant and bar. I was immediately taken with the sleek, upscale-contemporary decor (If it feels vaguely familiar, here’s a spoiler alert: the Westin’s design team is also credited with the design of The Joule). Most of all, the view of the skyline is killer as seen through sweeping, floor to ceiling picture windows surrounding the dining room. The view alone makes this spot a great choice for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Speaking of cocktails … Grill & Vine offers a creative collection of a dozen of ’em. I sampled the Elderflower Fitzgerald (Dripping Springs gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, lemon, and angostura bitters-$11)–I found it to be delightfully light and refreshing, and begging for spring to hurry up and get here. Other intriguing cocktail offerings include the Smoke and Honey (Silver Star Texas Honey, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, cucumber, lemon, habanero shrub-$12), the Chamomile Mule (Chamomile-infused Absolut, lime, honey, ginger beer, $10),and the Provencal Lemonade (Dripping Springs vodka, Carpano Bianco, basil, lemon, and lavender bitters-$11).
Grill & Vine’s wine list features in the upwards of 50 well-rounded offerings, nearly all of which are available by the glass. A short but sweet list of local craft beer rotators are available, in addition to the expected line-up of domestics and imports. And, may the gluten-intolerant of you rejoice as they offer several gluten-free beers .
After enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail (or two three … ) at the bar, we moved to a table. With Executive Chef Bill Lundstrom at the helm, Grill & Vine’s culinary program is heavily focused on regional flavors utilizing local ingredients, and a seasonally rotating menu. I was lucky enough to stay for dinner, and everything I sampled was fantastic. The Smoked Beef Brisket Tacos (pickled onions, smashed avocado, brazos valley queso-$15) were a favorite, and the House Mac & Cheese, made with Brazos cheddar and smoked gouda, is not to be missed. Oh, and save room for dessert–the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with creme anglaise and orange caramel was basically to die for.
Grill and Vine (972) 555-6689
1201 Main St., Dallas, TX 75202 Reservations | Menu
Happy Hour: Offered daily until 7pm
$2 off wine by the glass, $5 local drafts, and a selection of craft cocktails available for $6
Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day, and like a good appreciator of all-things food, I don’t relegate my breakfast enjoyment to the morning hours. After a good night out, I can’t think of anything more enticing than ending it with some breakfast favorites: pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon and whatever else you can throw at me. Gone are the days of waiting in the drive-through lane for what seems to be an eternity for a dismal chicken biscuit and hello to “Midnight Brunch”.
Ida Claire’s is the new southern-inspired entry to Addison’s already buzzing restaurant scene. This eatery is the newest venture from the team that has graced us with Mexican Sugar, Whiskey Cake and other local DFW favorites. This place really helps to fill a void in Addison for non-chain, creative restaurants. Plus, their assortment of cocktails are a step up from most of their competitors.
I was excited to attend the appropriately scheduled preview (started at 11 pm) of “Midnight Brunch”, back in the end of September. (I know, I know … time for me to get back on the #SDDContributor wagon.)
Ida Claire’s has a charm all of its own: Think eccentric Southern great aunt meets 60s flower child. Whoever put the décor together for this place deserve a pat on the back–the place overflows with southern, vintage character and has just the right amount of quirkiness. Wood tables, birdcages hanging from the ceiling, and bright patterns form a welcoming and eclectic environment. And just because, there is a a kick-ass Airstream trailer on the patio decked out in various psychedelic prints. (In fact, the trailer can be reserved for private parties.)
The menu offers a wide variety of Southern-influenced dishes that tend to be on the heavier, lesssss healthy side, but that’s what I am looking for late at night. As the night went on, the plates kept coming and we kept eating …
Sweet Potato Chip Duck Confit. Freshly fried sweet potato chips smothered in duck fat gravy, goat cheese fondue and topped with a sunny side-up duck egg. Trust me, this one was as good as it sounds.
Crawfish Corn Fritters served with a smoked mustard remoulade. These were crispy on the outside and buttery on the inside, just the way a proper fritter should be.
Brisket Egg Burger. Ida Claire’s spin on a classic burger topped with B&B pickles, pimento cheese, black pepper aioli. This burger was huge and is definitely big enough to share, if you’re feeling generous.
And of course, the quintessential Southern breakfast food – Chicken and Waffles. Ida Claire’s version was jazzed up with chicory maple syrup and hot sauce butter. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The drink menu is no less thought out than the food menu. Naturally, a good Southern restaurant wouldn’t be caught dead without Juleps and I opted first for the Tobacco Peach Julep. Here, Tennessee whiskey, mint, tobacco syrup and peach bitters mixed for a true taste of all things Southern. Maybe a tad bit heavy on the ice, but good overall. From there, I went for the Vieux Carre (rye, brandy, Benedictine, sweet Vermouth, angostura and Peychaud’s bitters); it wasn’t a drink for the weak of heart. Throwing caution to the wind (no not Gone With the Wind), my wife opted to go with the Airmail, a refreshing and potent drink crafted from gold rum, lime, honey and sparkling rosé, which apparently now rivals the classic Moscow Mule as her current favorite cocktail. Her nightcap, a Scarlet Letter (Bonnie’s bathtub gin, hibiscus tea, honey, grapefruit, lemon and seltzer), was as you would expect from the ingredients: sweet, sugary and fruity, but all in a good way.
I have been fortunate to attend a number of events (thanks to Susie) and this one is certainly one of the more memorable ones. From the delicious food and drinks to the overall ambiance of the place, Ida Claire has a lot to offer. I will definitely be heading back sometime soon. While our food and drinks were on the house this time, the prices looked reasonable considering the quantity you get and the quality of the items.
Hats off to Ida Claire for providing Uber credit for transportation to and fro! Southern hospitality at its finest.
I’m admittedly a sucker for experimenting with unique and creative cocktail ingredients. That being said, I jumped at the chance to check out ChaiElixir, a brand of all-natural, non-alcoholic, sparkling chai tea beverage. ChaiElixir contains reduced sugar, and is available in three intriguing varieties:
Vivid – a blend of crisp green tea and citrus
Smooth – oolong tea with vanilla
Essence – white tea with peach infusions
I dutifully sampled all three varieties in their pure, unadulterated states (sans-booze, that is), and I found all three flavors to be light and refreshing. The tea flavors are not muted, so if you are so-so on tea, these babies are not meant for you. I was immediately struck by the potential for versatility; ChaiElixirs would make an excellent mixer for lighter brunch drinks, but would also pair handsomely with whiskey, rum, or vodka for a crafty evening libation.
Equally appealing is the fact that ChaiElixirs flavor profiles are complex enough to be interesting in very simply cocktails with limited ingredients. To illustrates that idea, here are some two-ingredient cocktails recommended by ChaiElixir:
Vodka Chai – Two parts non-alcoholic ChaiElixir Fusion; one part vodka or choice. Enjoy on the rocks or finished with an orange peel, cinnamon stick, or other spice garnish for added touch of “Refreshing Effervescence”.
The Mojito Essence – Replace tonic water with two parts bright, lightly carbonated ChaiElixir Essence mixed with one part rum to create an easy and delicious twist on a decadent mojito. Add seasonal fruits muddled, pour over cubed ice and garnish with fresh mint for a classy look.
Chai Bellini – “When in Rome”, dive into sparkling refreshment with the delicious peach infusions ChaiElixir Essence mixed with Prosecco or sparkling wine. Present in a chilled flute glass for a sophisticated, uplifting experience.
On the other hand, if you are up for the challenge of preparing something a bit more complex, here are some ChaiElixir recipes from New York Mixologist Jason Walsh you might enjoy:
Vivid D’Amour 1/4 muddled orange
1/4 oz Crème de cacao
1/2oz Ginger syrup
3/4oz Fresh lime juice
In mixing glass, muddle quartered orange slice. Add all ingredients, and add ½ cup ice; then shake moderately. Strain over new ice and top off with ChaiElixir Vivid. Garnish with an orange twist.
Cucumber Kiss 1 muddled cucumber wheel
1.5oz Aperol Italian Aperitif
1/2oz Fresh lime juice
1/4oz Blended yuzu juice
Muddle cucumber in mixing glass, then combine all ingredients except ChaiElixir Fusion in mixing glass. Add ½ cup of ice and shake well; strain into a martini or coupette style glass and top with ChaiElixir Fusion. Garnish with cucumber slice.
I love supporting up-and-coming businesses and brands; especially when they are local, and especially when they have a truly awesome product. Ironroot Republic is a new craft spirits distillery, located right in our back yard, in Denison, TX. I had the opportunity to attend Ironroot Republic’s launch party last month, where I met the Likarish brothers, co-founds and distillers at Ironroot Republic, who were as friendly as they were interesting to chat with. Oh, and they brought us some really tasty booze to try. And plenty of it. (Gotta love that.)
Jonathan and Robert Likarish practice their art by employing a “grain to glass” philosophy. Ninety percent of the ingredients used in Ironroot Republic products are grown within 60 miles of the distillery. Take, for example, the lemongrass grown by Head Distiller Jonathan Likarish himself, or the coriander grown by the distillers’ MOM (I’m sorry, but how adorable is that?). Additionally, Ironroot mashes, ferments, distills, barrel ages, and bottles all of their product on-site.
Currently, the brothers are offering three diverse and exciting labels:
Blue Norther Vodka: created using a non-chill filtration process, and made from the finest hand-selected Texas grains; crisp citrus and caramel essence, followed by honey sweetness, and a rich, silky mouth-feel. Full-bodied with a long, vanilla finish. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine: Texas corn whiskey at its finest, made from rare heirloom red corn; hints of fresh honeydew, white peach, and dragon fruit, followed by lychee nut, dark berries, and a lingering sweetness. 90 proof; ABV 45%; suggested retail price $25
Texas Drought Gin: grain to glass, made from local juniper, European juniper, lemongrass, and coriander. The finish is long and sweet due to the caramel wheat malt base. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
I was treated to a number of delicious cocktails featuring the full lineup of Ironroot Republic spirits, and each and every one was delicious. The brothers were kind enough to share recipes with us, and I can assure you, they ALL bear recreating. Standouts in my opinion included the Martinez, which was delightfully complex, and the Mexican Martini, which was the crowd favorite of the evening.
Martinez 1.5 oz. Texas Drought Gin
1.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (Seriously, just hunt down the Luxardo. Don’t even bother with cheap imitations.) 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Mexican Martini (pictured as featured image) 2 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
1 1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur (i.e. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 oz. Margarita Mix
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 Splash of Sprite
Jalapeno Stuffed Olives, for Garnish
Pour the Moonshine, orange liqueur, margarita mix, lime juice, and sprite in shaker. Fill will ice and shake. Pour into martini glass, and garnish with jalapeño stuffed olive.
The Iron Word 0.75 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
0.75 oz. Green Chartreuse
0.75 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
0.75 oz. Lime Juice
Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.
Denison Donkey 1.5 oz. Blue Norther Vodka
4 oz. Ginger Beer
1/6 oz. Lime Juice
Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice, stir gently, and garnish with a lime slice.
One final thing you should know: the Likarish brothers have some really awesome stuff going on at the distillery, above and beyond what you would expect from your requisite Saturday afternoon tour. Yeah, they’ve got that, too, but here is a full lineup of all of the awesome goings on at the Denison distillery:
Friday evenings: the distillery bar is open from 5-9 PM; a tour is available at 6 PM.
Saturdays: the distillery bar is open from 2-9 PM; tours are available at 2, 4, and 6.
First weekend of every month: Bloody Mary bar with 20+ ways to dress it up. (personally, I am very excited to check this one out!)
Distillery tours cost $5; tours have a 20 person max. Your $5 ticket goes toward your purchase of Iroonroot Distillery swag!
A huge shout-out to the bartenders at Alamo Drafthouse Richardsonfor expertly preparing these tasty libations; I always forget how awesome the patio is here. I would go here just to drink, no movie attached. Seriously.