Category Archives: Food

The State Fair of Texas

Howdy, folks! The State Fair of Texas is in full swing and I got the low down on what you should eat, including some classic fan favorites and some fried bites that are new to the scene this year. 

While the meteorologists are telling us a cold front is giving us a respite from the heat, the temps are still pretty high, so I definitely suggest starting at what the Fair calls a “soft space”—an area where people can sit and relax in the shade, maybe with some water-mister action going on. Try the Magnolia Beer Garden, located just southeast of Big Tex himself. Here you can delight in a Deep Fried Cuban Roll or a a full Cuban sandwich, which is packed with loads of juicy meat. My favorite from this spot is the Cowboy Corn Crunch (fried balls of corn casserole stuffed with bacon and cream cheese). Don’t forget to dip it all into the mojo sauce for an extra kick. And with what should you wash it all down, you ask? The Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer by one of our friendly Fort Worth breweries Martin House Brewing. 

Moving from one cool location to the next, the food court is a stop you never want to miss at TSFOT. Here you can find countless stands with food of all varieties conveniently placed under the same roof with some really strong AC. From the “It’s All Greek to Me” stand with some of the best salad and gyros in Dallas to the classic Cinnamon Roll stand that will top your roll with extra icing … if you ask very politely. But there’s one stand that has been around for so long, you might not even think to consider spending your coupons there. Under a red awning that reads Ruth’s Tamale House, you’ll find some of the best tamales in Dallas as well as some delicious Thanksgiving Stuffing Egg Rolls that will blow your mind. But that’s not what we’re here for this year—2019 is a special year for Ruth because she won the Fair’s food competition for Best Tasting in the Savory category with her Stuffed Fried Taco Cone. If Ruth’s sweet smile doesn’t warm your heart, her prize winning taco cone surely will! 

New to the scene this year is Smokey John’s Stuffed Turkey Leg. The turkey leg is topped with dirty rice, Cajun cream sauce, grilled shrimp, and loads of parmesan … be sure to bring your appetite for this one! A food stand that is new to me (for some odd reason) but has actually been there since 2013 is Chef Cassy’s stand, which features her famous Fried Collard Greens. These delicious pieces of culinary artwork come with or without ham and have just the right amount of seasoning to keep you wanting more. I will be making a stop at her stand every year from now on just for those! 

Last but certainly not least is the timeless classic Fletcher’s Corny Dogs that has been a mainstay of the Fair since 1942. Everyone knows how good their original corn dog is, but they have some other options that not everyone might be aware of. These include the Bird Dog (a turkey-filled corn dog), the Cheesy Dog (a (you guessed it!) cheese-filled corn dog), a Veggie Dog and a Jalapeño Dog. So no matter what your corn dog preferences are, Fletcher’s is sure to have one for you. Just know that they firmly believe the only true condiment for a corn dog is mustard. 

No matter what you eat at TSFOT, it’s bound to be deliciously fried and leave you looking forward to next year’s creative creations. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes so you can walk it all off and make some room for one last bite before it closes for the year on October 20th.

Susie’s note: If you’re after “cheap beer”, seek out Icehouse on the Midway, the home of the cheapest beer since 2014!

THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
bigtex.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
2019 season: September 27 - October 20

#statefairoftx #bigtex

Elm Street Cask & Kitchen

Elm Street Cask & Kitchen may be filling the spot of Grayson Social, but they are certainly setting themselves apart from the previous southern-style restaurant. This new joint has all the comfort food you could possibly need … and the whiskey list to match, The space lends a feel of porch sitting at Grandma’s after enjoying a home cooked meal.

They’re all about the whiskey and bourbon at Elm Street Cask & Kitchen, and if their “Whiskey Bible” doesn’t do it for you, then I don’t know what will. The extensive book features history lessons, cocktail recipes, and plenty of information on whiskey. As for their cocktail menu, they feature drinks such as their Maker’s Mark Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, Whisk(e)y Sour, and even whiskey flights. (For non-whiskey drinkers, they also have wine, beer, and various signature cocktails available.)

I went with the Kentucky Buck (Four Roses whiskey, fresh muddled strawberries, lemon, ginger, and bitters), and it was SOOOO refreshing—perfect for those wanting to get into whiskey drinking, but not necessarily be hit with it like a sack of bricks.

Now, as a Southerner, I take my Southern-style cuisine very seriously. They do a great job providing traditional Southern fare alongside current crowd favorites like hushpuppies with roasted chili honey butter and Crushed Avocado (aka guacamole) with chimichurri and black pepper crackers.

The main dishes are packed with flavor and cooked perfectly. I suggest the Beer Can Chicken with apple cornbread stuffing, almonds, charred carrots—order it with can of Lonestar for just an extra $2! The Bourbon Braised Short Rib with Lakewood Bourbon Barrel Temptress glaze, asparagus, and brown butter mashed potatoes was also quite intriguing and we decided was worth a return visit for us. If you’re into fish, you might enjoy the Pan Seared Salmon with black-eyed peas, ham hock, pickled shallot, and watercress.

 

The only logical way to end a filling meal is to overstuff yourself with delicious sweets—am I right? It’s pretty hard to choose between the Cast Iron Bread Pudding and the Banana Cream Pie … so just go ahead and get both.

Courtesy of Elm Street Cask and Kitchen

 

Elm Street Cask & Kitchen offers Happy Hour pricing Monday-Friday from 2pm to 7pm featuring $5 bites, $5 select drinks, and $12 chili dog/draft beer/TX bourbon shot combos.


Elm Street Cask & Kitchen
ElmStreetCaskKitchen.com
1525 Elm Street (Downtown)
Facebook | Instagram

*Header photo courtesy of Elm Street Cask & Kitchen*

Charleston Wine + Food 2019 – Here We Go!

I couldn’t be more excited to be heading back in Charleston after being away for more than four years. My first visit to Chucktown was life changing for many reasons, and not the least of which was thanks to their progressive food and drink scene. Thanks to my amazing friend Elise Cordell whose parents happen to live in Charleston, I was encouraged to attend Charleston Wine + Food … and here I am.

The Holy City’s culinary carnival is more than just tuck and tipples; the festival offers education opportunities (from tastings to hands-on classes), excursions, and paired meals rounded out by various wellness opportunities like yoga classes and aliment ambles.

To make us all feel better about stuffing our faces with great food and drink, it’s all for a food good cause. “Charleston Wine + Food is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports Charleston and the Lowcountry’s diverse culinary + hospitality community.” Cheers to that.

If you find yourself in the area March 6-10, join me for a drink or three at one of their 100+ events! Tickets for select events are still available!

Follow along on my social handles this week to see what trouble I get into!


CHARLESTON WINE + FOOD
March 6-10, 2019 | Charleston, South Carolina
charlestonwineandfood.com
Facebook: /ChsWineandFood
Twitter: @chswineandfood
Insta: @chswineandfood

Pictures courtesy of Charleston Wine + Food

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)
Instagram | Twitter

 

*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!)

Tricky Fish

One of the newest restaurants in the Waterside development over in Cowtown put a twist on brunch.

Tricky Fish describes themselves as costal/Cajun vibe. The menu is as southern as you can get—think fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, eggs benedict, po boys, and more. Once I was done sampling all our treats, I really felt like I was deep in the heart of New Orleans … but it smelled a lot better.

“Days spent on the water and evenings spent with good friends, a cold beer and amazing food. Eating out should be a break from the real world. It should be fun, relaxing, a chance to get away from all the things that make our lives…well, complicated. A good meal, spending time with family and friends, trying local craft beer or a glass of wine on the patio – that’s what Tricky Fish is all about.”

The Brunch menu isn’t extensive, but it really packs a punch. The fried green tomatoes are on my must-order list—the batter on the tomatoes was light and crunchy, and it was topped with remoulade and blackened shrimp that complimented it perfectly. My personal favorite dish was the shrimp and grits—the Shiner Bock BBQ sauce gave the dish an extra twist that I wasn’t expecting. If you can restrain yourself from getting too full, the bananas foster monkey bread or pancakes were the right amount of sweet to complete the meal.

Pro Tip: Find some friends who like to share to take here, then order a few plates and eat family style. The portions are big and this way you have a reason to eat off your friend’s plate. They also offer a Couples Brunch for two—two entrees and a Banana’s Foster Monkey Bread for dessert for $25.

Not only is the food great at Tricky Fish, but the drink selection was a perfect way to round out the brunch menu. (You knew we’d get to the booze pretty quickly, right?) The cocktail list for brunch is about what you’d expect—they offer a DIY Mimosa Bar, an Instagram-worthy Bloody Mary (complete with pork rind, okra, and boiled shrimp), and a list of seasonal cocktails.

I tried the Lemon Wedge (Black Tea Tito’s Vodka, limoncello, honey) which was basically an adult sno-cone—and the Blossom (Bacardi Rum, Berry blossom tea, strawberry jam). The Blossom was a little sweet for my taste, but they said that it’s one their most popular drinks. Gotta love those with a bit too much of a sweet tooth ruining it for the rest of us.

If you’re looking for a relaxing brunch out west or in Richardson, Tricky Fish is the place to be.



TRICKY FISH
tricky-fish.com
Fort Worth: 5917 Convair Drive
Richardson: 1251 State Street, Suite 750

facebook.com/TrickyFishWaterSide
@tricky_fish_

HAPPY HOUR
Monday – Friday, 3pm-7pm: $2 off draft beers, wines, and seasonal cocktails
> Monday- $5 mules all day
> Wednesday- half off wine
> Thursday- $2 off craft beers all day

Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10am-2pm

Casa M. Spice Company Gives Bland Chicken Hope

I’ll be honest, I’m not a great cook. It seems like everything I try to cook just ends up bad, blah, or (unintentionally) bruléed. I tend to have a problem of going to the store, standing in the spice aisle, and buying all of the spices on the shelf in hopes that my chicken will turn out not … bland.

After trying Casa M. Spice Company‘s spices, I now see a glimmer of hope for my kitchen. These spices can make anything delicious; your brisket, pork, watermelon, or even cocktails! This awesome company has flavor covered.

Why this company is different: because it is all about family. When I met the owners Mike and Manny, I was taken aback by how much they truly care for their spices and the people that support them. They are committed to making every meal great. As said on their (super cool) website, “Here at Casa M Spice Co™, we prioritize great flavor, because great flavor makes great food, and great food makes great memories.”

All of their spices are:
– Gluten Free
– MSG Free
– Low Sodium
– Dairy and Nut Free
– Animal Product Free
– Made in Texas

They care about their customers so much that they’re completely transparent about their mixes; their website lists exactly what goes into each blend.

Chain Reaction. The perfect spice to rim on a mango margarita! This base spice complements a margarita well and it would be perfect for a day at the beach or by the pool. You can also add this to a bloody mary or a corona for a little extra kick!
Ingredients:  salt, garlic, paprika, spices, peppers, & onion

Cattle Drive. This rub was my favorite! It was delicious on the brisket we tried and it added an extra texture to the meat. Add this rub to any beef, and you’ll be sure to be the best grill master in town. I’m drooling thinking about it … so please hold while I wipe my keyboard.
Ingredients:  spices, sugar, onion, salt, garlic, paprika, & peppers

These seasonings are sure to make everything you eat and drink amazing. Sign up to be the first to know when these spices launch! They’re sure to spice things up in the kitchen … and the bar. (We had to use the pun. Sorry, not sorry.)



CASA M SPICE COMPANY
casamspice.com

ORNO—No Ordinary Wine Bar

I promise you, I had every intention of ordering wine when I arrived at ORNO last night. It is a wine bar, after all. As I walked through the front door, I saw the matte black wall of wine—individual bottles stood on floating shelves with their respective names and origins neatly written out in white chalk. Beneath this display sits a long, cushy leather banquette, the majority of which was already occupied by what I observed to be a big, happy group of friends who were enjoying the company and their meal.

Courtesy of Orno


The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood vibe with good music, perfectly low lighting, and a quirky live aquarium display on a large flat-screen TV set right in the middle of the back bar.


… now we come to one of the reasons why I never ordered the wine. I perused the cocktail list that the server presented, and quickly spotted a spirit that I didn’t even know I was craving: mezcal. As if on cue, the bartender walked over from behind the bar to say hello and ask if we wanted to order some drinks. My date ordered a sangria while I ordered an El Viejo.


Once I tasted the mezcal, I never turned back. Every cocktail I subsequently ordered centered around the smoky, agave spirit, and I only requested that each new mezcal drink be different from the last.

Turns out, the friendly bartender was Nael Rodriguez, the owner of this fine establishment. He was also a food runner, server, greeter, gracious host, and seeming jack of all trades. During the meal, he informed me that, during ORNO’s design phase, he made sure that everything in the build-out facilitated the ability to jump from one position to the other with as much ease as possible. From the bar, he could still an eye on the food coming out of the kitchen as well as on the front door to welcome guests. It’s actually brilliant.

Speaking of food coming out of the kitchen … ORNO’s cuisine offerings are top notch New American bites, and by “New American”, I mean it highlights aspects of many cultures that make up the fabric of our wonderful country. For example, I requested that he surprise my date and me with a three-course dinner of his choosing, no dietary restrictions or food allergies to worry about. Nael smiled and disappeared, promising that our first course would arrive within an hour (he’s a funny guy, that Nael!).

Within a few minutes, a dish of  sweet and spice lacquered pork belly bites arrived at our table, with earthy and sweet aromas wafted my way and made my mouth water. The meat melted in my mouth, and the fresh slaw of julienne veggies in the center offered an appropriate balance to the depth and unctuousness of the fatty pork.


Not a bad start, Mr. Rodriguez.

Nael then took us from Asian-inspired fare to more Italian flavor with the Pig & Fig flatbread.  The crispy, thin crust held a light layer of Alouette Brie cheese that was topped with delicate slices of prosciutto, dollops of fig preserves, and bits of candied cayenne walnuts. Simple. Delicious. No one item overpowering the rest, each playing off one another so well that before I knew it, the whole flatbread disappeared. Oops!


So far, Nael is two for two. Where was he going to take us next?
To the Caribbean!

For our last course, Nael presented us with the Voodoo Shrimp—a half pound of jumbo (and I mean JUMBO) shrimp dressed in a Caribbean-inspired BBQ sauce that intrigued us to the point that we tried to identify as many spices in the sauce as we could. There was such complexity and depth of flavor that eventually Nael had to come by and reveal that there were no less than 18 spices that make up the sauce and that the sauce had to be made a few days prior to serving so all of the flavors could deepen.

It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As consumers, we go eat out at restaurants and the dishes we enjoy take mere minutes for us to consume and enjoy. We usually don’t think about the time and work that goes into composing our meals, but in the moments when we do stop to really consider it, it’s usually when some part of us recognizes that the food was made with thought, care, and love.

… and that’s ORNO.

I truly love it when a meal inspires me to wax romantic about the dining experience, and the best part about this meal is just how comfortable the setting was. The space housed around 24 seats in the dining room, and no more than maybe 8 seats at the bar. If I lived in the Cedar Springs area, I could see myself stopping in there at least once a day, even if just to say hi to the staff or to grab a cocktail.

ORNO is a neighborhood gem that’s bursting at the seams with soul. And, in a tricky restaurant city like Dallas where every week is a laundry list of flashy openings and abrupt closings, I hope that ORNO’s quiet charm and culinary approachability ensure that it’s here to stay a while.


ORNO Restaurant
facebook.com/ornodallas
3908 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas (Cedar Springs)
(469) 726-2004

Closed Mondays, Open Tues/Wed: 11AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat: 11AM-11PM, Sun: 11AM-4PM

2018 Dallas Chocolate Festival

“Chocolate Wasted” is an understatement. Prepare to get chocolate obliterated.

If you love chocolate, you are gonna love this. Dallas is lucky enough to have an annual chocolate festival. A yearly celebration of all things cocoa.

This year’s Dallas Chocolate Festival celebrates the “Future of Chocolate”, an exploration into where the chocolate industry is headed. A $35 ticket* gets you access to the main hub of the festival when all the demos and samples take place! 70+ exhibitors will be on show during the festival, which runs September 7th-9th at the Fashion Industry Gallery downtown.
Tickets to the main event on Saturday, September 8th can be purchased here.

The first night of the festival features a VIP Party with chocolate cocktails, treats, goody bags, and more. Most of the vendors will be at the VIP party so you can sample and purchase once you’re a little tipsy on the chocolate cocktails. (Make sure to Uber home!) Tickets to the Friday night VIP Party are $75, but you could buy a two-day pass that’s good for Friday and Saturday for $100.
You can purchase VIP Party tickets here.

The final day of the festival is when all the workshops take place. Here you can learn how to make chocolate from bean-to-bar and everything in between for just $100 per person, or you can take part in a very extensive tasting experience for $60 per person. If your tastebuds are still kicking, you could even do both for $150 for the all day pass. The workshops will all take place at the Preston & Forest Whole Foods.
Tickets to the workshops can be purchased here.

No matter what day you choose to go to the Dallas Chocolate Festival, you’re bound to taste some delicious chocolate made by local chocolatiers … and you may just learn something about the chocolate industry.

I was lucky enough to attend a preview for the Dallas Chocolate Festival, and there’s a lot to look forward to. Make sure to get your tickets online and plan to ramp up your sugar intake in the week before so your sugar rush isn’t a handicap at the festival. Because there’s a lot of chocolate to be had.

 


THE DALLAS CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL
The Dallas Chocolate Festival
September 7-9, 2018

Event being held at The Fashion Industry Gallery (FIG)
Fashion Industry Gallery
1807 Ross Avenue (Downtown Dallas)

*$5 for kids under 10)