The State Fair of Texas ends today, … didn’t get a chance to make it out there this year? (Or, you just simply weren’t in the mood to navigate a sweaty sea of humanity in the sweltering heat, intermittently pausing to open up your wallet and shake it until it’s empty?) Well, I have good news for you and your taste buds … but, bad news for your cholesterol count. A variety of deep-fried, State Fair favorites are now available, indefinitely, at none other than … Walmart. Yep, you read that correctly. It’s such a delightfully perfect pairing (and I do not think I need to elaborate as to why that is).State Fair Treats has opened up shop inside of the Coit Rd. location in Plano.
Isaac Rousso, three-time winner of the Big Tex Choice Award for “Most Creative” deep-fried offerings, is the mastermind behind this amazing marriage of commerce and culinary delights. (You can thank Rousso for the imagining of past delicacies including the Fried Pop-tart, Smoky Bacon Margarita, and Deep-Fried Cuban Rolls.) State Fair Treats features a 45 snacks and treats from the requisites like corn dogs and nachos to indulgent sweet treats like Funnel Cake Fries, Fried Oreos, and the Texas Bluebonnet (a cream cheese-stuffed, deep-fried blueberry muffin topped with whipped cream and more blueberries). I may have had one two, and it was admittedly delicious. Rousso’s award-winning Cookie Fries will join the lineup of goodies this week.
While you won’t find any livestock or midway games at State Fair Treats, it’s definitely worth stopping in for an indulgent goodie or two … and bonus: you’ll still have enough cash left to buy whatever a goodie from Walmart on the way out.
Add another gem to Collin County’s increasingly impressive lineup of Dallas hotspots making their way north because Pakpao Thai just opened their third location in West Plano Village. Highly accessible (located at Parker and the Tollway), plenty of parking, and a great patio situation; what more could a Suburbanite such as myself ask for? Well, great food, for one thing. Luckily, Pakpao delivers.
Pakpao and celebrity chef Jet Tila welcomed guests at a grand opening with some of their favorites: their take on the swirled margarita, the “Chula-Rita“- featuring premium tequila infused with lemon grass for 10 days ($9). With a cocktail menu featuring an array of fittingly exotic ingredients (think tamarind, lychee, and Thai basil), you’re sure to find something new to try (and love). Pakpao features an assortment of Thai beers (in addition to the usual suspects), and a nice assortment of wines, which are, well … not Thai. (This isn’t a bad thing.)
We started out with an array of appetizers, including the Beef Jerky Trio–Salty Thai, Spicy BBQ, and Massaman Curry jerky–each paired with a local beer ($14). If there are two things Texans love, meat and beer and high on the list, so I don’t really see how Pakpao can go wrong with this offering. Personally, I was impressed by the Crispy Morning Glory Salad … because, speaking of things Texans love, THIS WAS BASICALLY A FRIED SALAD, Y’ALL. Crispy Thai Spinach, shrimp, shallot, yum dressing, and cucumber relish ($12) … I promise you, you are going to want this “salad” in your life.
We sampled a variety of entrees, including the Chicken Pad Thai ($12), which I heard more than one diner proclaim to be their favorite pad thai in DFW. The Drunken Noodles ($12) were also a big hit, with just the right balance of Thai basil and a savory sweet sauce. If noodles aren’t your speed, try the Short Rib with Massaman Curry, with tender braised short rib, sweet potato, tamarind, peanuts, and massaman curry sauce ($19), definitely a hearty meal worthy of sharing. I would be remiss not to mention an unassuming little side dish that was unceremoniously placed our table, the Coconut Jasmine Rice ($5). Holy crap, you guys. Get this. It was one of the most talked about dishes of the evening, with its perfect creamy texture and mildly sweet flavor; a total crowd pleaser.
Save room for dessert, because the Thai Donuts ($7) are pleasantly reminiscent of delicious beignets; except for the accompanying plum jam and condensed milk, which as it turns out are perfect for dipping.
Pakpao Thai also features a brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The brunch menu is really interesting, and definitely a departure from your requisite Eggs Benedict. Pakpao offers a happy hour Monday-Friday, 4-6pm, featuring $5 Chula-Ritas, Thai beer, and house wine, in addition to select appetizers available for just $5.
Pakpao Thai – Plano pakpaothai.com
3310 Dallas Pkwy (Parker & the Toll Road)
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).
Lately, every time I turn around, another popular Dallas eatery or watering hole seems to be setting up shop in Plano. Being a person who doesn’t love detests Dallas traffic, this trend is more than OK with this Collin County resident. Along those lines, I was super excited to learn Dugg Burgerhad plans to open a second location in Plano (my ‘hood!), especially after hearing Susie talk up the Dallas location.
Dugg Burger Plano features the same ingenious burger crafting concept developed at their Dallas location. Your custom burger experience starts out with Dugg’s bun prepping system, resulting in a hamburger bun that’s as clever as it is delicious. The top half of each bun is “hulled out” using a fancy-pants, custom designed bun hulling tool, and then toasted on a magical, stainless steel, magnetic dome. This keeps your bun from falling apart (and also results in warm, toasty goodness).
Now that your bun has been sufficiently hollowed out, it’s time to choose your cheese (cheddar, Swiss, American, or pepperjack), and then stuff that sucker to the brim with your choice of 13 ingredients. Dugg offers 12 amazing toppings on a permanent basis–lettuce, grape tomatoes, dill pickles, Dugg sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted jalapeños, caramelized onions, crispy onion strings, and hickory-smoked bacon–then they offer an additional topping choice called the “Lucky 13,” and this one rotates regularly. The Lucky 13 ranges from mild to wild; during my visit, it was a habanero sauce prepared with a secret ingredient. (I’ll give you a hint: it was “magically delicious”. Yup, I’m dead serious.) You can check out the current Lucky 13 on Dugg’s website. The best part about the topping situation? Cheese, plus ALL of the toppings, are included in your Dugg Burger’s $7.75 price tag. Uhh-mazing.
While you are deliberating over the topping situation, Dugg Burger already has your juicy and delicious burger patty sizzling away on the grill, so you won’t have to wait long before sampling your masterpiece. You’ll definitely want to add a side of fries to your order; Dugg’s are perfectly golden and crispy, and served hot, fresh, and delicious.
But really, why stop there? Dugg Burger serves thick, decadent milkshakes prepared with the best ice cream on the planet, Henry’s Ice Cream. (EDITOR’S NOTE: it’s quite good if you weren’t born with a spoon or Blue Bell in your mouth like us normal Texans. ☺️) And, in case you’re wondering what happens with all of the “hulled out” bready goodness from the buns, well…you might want to save room for dessert. Yup, once you’ve polished off your burger, you can enjoy the rest of your bun in the form of warm, sticky, bread pudding.
Dugg Burger had a total of seven local craft beer offerings available during my visit, including labels from 903, Revolver, and Deep Ellum Brewing Company. They are also serving up wines by Times Ten Cellars. With summer bearing down on us, I must add Dugg’s Plano location has a great little patio perfect for enjoying your perfect burger.
“I love this place.” That’s the text I sent to Susie as soon as I finished my first dinner experience at CiboDivino Marketplace.
As this was my first event as a Susie Drinks Dallas contributor, I went into it with the belief that there was no such thing as being too prepared, so I brought along a fellow foodie friend (so I could pick his brain) as well as a brand new notebook in which I could take many a note about the dinner. (I was tempted to bring a voice recorder just in case there was a guided tour of the space (which there was), but I decided against alienating strangers with that level of intensity. Yes … I was that kid in school.) Furious writing in my composition book would just have to do. Since the evening was relaxed and enjoyable with great company and delicious food and wine, the note taking was downgraded from excessive to thorough.
The special five-course dinner was hosted by CiboDivino owners, Daniele and Christina Puleo, as well as Executive Chef, Ryan Olmos. I was enthralled by the passion and knowledge that the team has for all aspects of the meal: a fervent dedication to responsibly-sourced ingredients, simple, yet articulate preparation of the food, a thoughtful selection of Italian and Californian wines that are hand-picked by Daniele himself, and the crafting of a space that promotes breaking bread with friends and family. By the time we were done with Daniele’s tour of each unique part of the marketplace and cafe, my appetite was ready to tackle whatever delicious goodies he and Ryan had to offer.
Before food, of course, there was wine (as it should be), and Daniele and Christina were very excited to introduce their new private label Puleo wines, currently available in Pinot Grigio and Chianti varietals. The Pinot Grigio is quite surprising–not as watery as I’m used to with most Pinot Grigios. Puleo’s expression is quite flavorful on the nose with stone fruit notes that round out into flavors of green tea and chamomile. As I would find out, this white wine paired very well with the first three courses of the meal. As for the Puleo Chianti, the wine was ripe with cherry flavors and dark fruits, and had a depth of flavor indicative of a Chianti without veering into a residual bitterness. I enjoyed this red with the meat course as well as with dessert. FUN FACT: all wines at CiboDivino are available for purchase at retail prices and can be opened and enjoyed on-premises at no additional charge. Personally, the option to enjoy a high-quality wine at a restaurant without the usual restaurant markup makes the wine taste that much better.
The appetizer course included a variety of Neopolitan-style pizzas fresh from the wood-burning Stefano Ferrara oven (flown in from Italy), quite possibly the most impressive charcuterie board that I have ever seen, and a smoked Tasmanian salmon appetizer bite that I swear encapsulates everything that CiboDivino stands for, which is “divine food.” I sampled two of the flatbread pizzas, one with a classic Margherita preparation and another with fig, arugula, and Gorgonzola cheese. Neopolitan-style is my favorite kind of pizza, and the crust was perfectly crispy on the outside with just the right amount of chew on the inside. While both were delicious, I was partial to the Margherita. (Pretty sure that I could eat a whole pizza in one sitting … I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.)
Can we just take a moment and appreciate this charcuterie board? Have you ever seen one so beautiful? It has three kinds of house cured meats, all smoked in-house: lamb pancetta, brown sugar and Serrano ham, and beef bacon (that’s right, you heard me, BEEF BACON). The lamb pancetta, which was aged for a whopping 70 days, had a soft gaminess to it that I loved, and the beef bacon was something I’ve never experienced before. To call it delicious would be a disservice, and apparently I’m not the only to think so. Ryan told us that it’s hard to keep the beef bacon in the display case because it sells out so fast. It was perfectly savory with a familiar unctuousness that I love about bacon, except it was unmistakably beefy and very satisfying.
The highlight of the appetizer course for me, however, was the smoked Tasmanian salmon bite with cucumber cream, caper berry, and a dusting of espresso. The salmon, also cured and smoked in-house, was a tender and salty punch that was balanced by the cool cucumber cream with a kick of briny freshness from the caper berry, and the espresso dust on top added an earthy note that rounded out all of the flavors. I easily ate five or six, since I clearly don’t understand the concept of an appetizer course. (Whatever.)
Pasta was the star of the second course was the Caserecci alla Norma, served with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and eggplant two ways on pea puree. The dish was light and flavorful, with the pea puree serving as a fresh, delicate sauce that complemented the natural flavors of the fresh vegetables beautifully.
The third course highlighted a different kind of pasta, Fettuccine al Limone. This was my favorite of the two pasta courses; the perfectly al dente ribbons were enveloped in an ethereally light and creamy marscapone cheese with fresh zucchini, leeks, fresh mint, and fragrant lemon zest. The flavors were full and satisfying without being overly filling. (I’m also a huge supporter of lemon on everything, so I loved every bite of this dish.)
Then came the fourth course, the crown jewel, which was brought out on a large wooden meat board. CiboDivino proudly serves 44 FARMS meats, and our group was lucky enough to sample the perfectly seasoned coulotte cuts served alongside caramelized onions and arugula. The marketplace is the only spot in town where you can go in and buy raw cuts of renowned 44 FARMS beef, and they will even grill it for you (free of charge) if you decide you’d like to enjoy your steak at one of the many communal tables inside or on the spacious dog-friendly patio.
Needless to say, by the end of the fourth course, I was stuffed. At this point, I was chastising myself for going HAM on the appetizers. That didn’t stop me from partaking in something sweet, though. For dessert, Daniele and Christina served bite-sized dessert offerings from their cafe. I, close to a food coma, still managed to snag a Raspberry Lavender Truffle, because no matter how full I am, a meal does not feel like it has concluded until I’ve had something sweet. This two-bite flavor bomb was a wonderful ending to an unbelievably delicious meal. The truffle was deeply chocolate with lavender lending an assertive floral note that cut through the richness beautifully.
Everything about dinner at CiboDivino was delightful. The marketplace offers so many unique goods, some of which are available exclusively there. Daniele and Christina, as well as Ryan, were all gracious hosts with evident love and passion for what they’ve created together. It’s rare to meet people who are doing exactly what they love to do, and then for them to do it well, and humbly. It was an honor to be a part of the entire experience. I personally cannot wait to visit again soon.
CiboDivino also has a wrap-around indoor/outdoor bar with 11 local beers and one Italian import beer on draft.
Paciugo gelato is also available at the cafe, along with Lavazza coffee.
Food menus are generally not published on the website, as dishes are determined by the freshest produce available at the farmer’s market on any given day.
The marketplace is open 7 days a week, from 8AM – 10PM daily.
They also host occasional wine and beer dinners and are currently prepping for their one-year anniversary party next month.
Who doesn’t love Freebirds? I mean, seriously … any place I can order a 5 POUND burrito is A-OK in my book. I lived within walking distance of a Freebirds location for a few years, and I’m pretty sure the steak nachos directly contributed to my “graduation” to a brand new pants size. Ahhh, those were the days.
Anyhoooo. Lately, it seems this College Station staple is seemingly popping up on every corner; burrito lovers, rejoice! One of the newest locations is the Castle Hills location in The Colony. This location is significant in that it features their updated design concept. Freebirds was kind of enough to invite the team in to check out the re-design, and of course, to be reminded of how awesome the food is. (As if I could have forgotten.)
The staff at Freebirds Castle Hills was obviously pretty gosh-darn proud of this re-imagined location, and it was easy to see why. Freebirds fanatics may be surprised upon entering the restaurant to note an absence of graffiti-style artwork, no motorcycle hanging from the ceiling, and … wait for it … no tin foil animals perched on every exposed surface. The new concept features a new, modern, industrial farmhouse design, incorporating digital menu boards, a reclaimed wood wall, cold rolled steel, and an open kitchen concept. The restaurant sure is perty.
But, let’s cut to the chase: The food continues to be worthy of an extra trip to the gym.
Freebirds is a freezer-free operation, meaning “fresh” is the only option. Freebirds focuses on premium ingredients, and just about everything you can imagine is prepared in-house; guacamole is prepared twice daily and on an as-needed, basis, the beans are cooked in-house (FYI- the refried are lard-free, thankyouverymuch), and the grass-fed sirloin is marinated in the restaurant for 24 hours prior to grilling. Heck … they even grate their own cheese. Freebirds insists upon “talent-based” cooking, which means recipes are far from formulaic. For example Freebirds’ carnitas are slow-roasted, and they are done cooking only once they have achieved perfect tenderness … and not when a timer goes off. Clearly, an exercise in patience and passion.
All of your old favorites- burritos, bowls, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and salads- are of course still available at Freebirds. If you haven’t visited in a while … first of all, I’m sorry. Secondly, Freebirds has rolled out a few new menu items in an effort to offer something for everyone. In addition to their delicious lineup of grass-fed steak, pork carnitas, and chicken, Freebirds has added a vegan protein option: Tempeh Calabacitas. This Mexican-inspired dish consists of squash, bell peppers, and nutty tempeh tossed with an authentic blend of spices. I tried it for myself- on a salad, no less (how healthy am I?*), and it was delicious, and certainly a welcomed deviation from the largely uninspired variety of vegetarian dishes available at many restaurants. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, but don’t want to sacrifice your meat (after all, this is TEXAS), Freebirds has got you covered.
New menu offerings include 6 entrees under 600 calories, and no, you don’t have to order a salad! IN FACT, you can still order a burrito. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
*Pay no attention to the various other cheese and meat laden entrees pictured in this blog
By now, it’s no secret that some of the best seafood in the Metroplex (as told by D Mag, the Observer, The Dallas Morning News, blah blah blah) is at Sea Breeze Fish Market & Grill, tucked away in Plano’s LakeSide Market just south of Preston & Spring Creek. Sea Breeze is already a neighborhood favorite; that said … Dallasites: If you haven’t been here yet, I would highly suggest working a Plano date night (or girl’s night, or an “I feel like eating good seafood” night, or a random Tuesday dinner) into the rotation … like now. With the introduction new menu items including a brand new craft cocktail program (SusieDrinksDallas readers: rejoice), there’s never been a better time to give Sea Breeze a try.
Speaking of that cocktail program…
The new cocktail lineup was carefully selected by manager, Ryan Oruch and features premium spirits and fresh ingredients, with an emphasis on crafting beautiful drinks worthy of Instagram. Or Snapchat … whatever. Current offerings include:
Lakeside Mule – Stoli vodka, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime juice topped with ginger beer
Honey Badger – Maker’s Mark, Barenjäger Honey Liquor, fresh lemon juice and a dash of habañero bitters
West Plano Punch – Olmeca Reposado, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice, shaken with fresh mint
Texas Margarita – Silver Z tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, shaken with a jalapeño slice
Vanilla Old Fashioned – Bulleit rye, vanilla infused simple syrup with a dash of Angostura bitters
Sunset Lemonade – Bombay Sapphire, Lillet Blanc, shaken with fresh raspberries and topped with lemonade
I tried the Texas Margarita, and I loved the tartness of the fresh-squeezed lime juice in this citrus-forward cocktail. It had a subtle spice to make it interesting without melting my face. I also sampled the Honey Badger, and the sweetness of the honey was the perfect complement for the slow burn from the habañero pepper.
All cocktail offerings are available for $9, but, during their DAILY happy hour (read: including weekends) 4-7pm, they can be enjoyed for $6. Boom.
In addition to their new cocktail lineup, Sea Breeze has an interesting and well-appointed wine list reflecting a variety of guest favorites available by the glass and bottle. Each month, featured wines are available by the bottle for a special price. (Call for more info.)
While the cocktails I sampled were delicious, Seabreeze is, in fact, a fish market (and restaurant); so, let’s talk seafood. I spent some time chatting with owner Rick Oruch, and I am here to tell you … the man is passionate about seafood. “I always invite people to give our fish the ‘sniff test’,” Rick explained. “Good seafood shouldn’t smell”.
Rick flies in fresh, seasonal varieties direct from the source; be it Alaskan snow crab or Gulf snapper, you will only find it at Seabreeze if it’s fresh and in season. Rick explained he only buys whole fish, which they fileted on-site for maximum freshness. All seafood is hand-sorted and inspected, meaning only hand-picked selections ever make their way to the seafood counter, or onto your plate. After sampling a variety of items, Rick has me convinced; you can taste the difference.
We started out with the Sautéed Snow Crab Claws, nestled in a decadent lemon, garlic butter and accompanied by a buttery, grilled baguette ($16). The tender crab melts in your mouths and has a sweet, delicate flavor … an exercise in self-control was required to keep from sopping up every last drop of garlic butter with the toast. We also tried the new Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs, accompanied by arugula and a sriracha mayo ($7); the smokiness of the salmon and the spice of the sriracha played perfectly together. Rick brought us a cup of Seabreeze’s New England Clam Chowder ($4), proclaiming, “It’s something we are really proud of.” And I can see why; fresh clam flavor is the star of the show in this rich and hearty chowder, with a notable lack of distracting ingredients (read: bacon) frequently incorporated in other chowder recipes to mask inferior clams.
For our entrees (because we needed more food … ) we sampled the Cioppino ($25) and the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese ( $22). Cioppino is a San Francisco-style seafood stew. I am going to be completely honest; at seafood restaurants, I usually shy away from any dish with “seafood” in the title. I always assume this is where leftover odds and ends find their final resting place. Not in their kitchen. The Cioppino quickly bucked that notion as every bite of clam, mussel, shrimp, calamari, and fish tasted fresh and vibrant. The tomato broth base was spicy and begged to be sopped up with the delicious house bread. As for the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese … simply stated, Seabreeze does it right. Gruyere and white cheddar are the cheeses of choice in this dish, and nearly every bite I took was loaded with an impressively sized chunk of sweet, decadent lobster.
Speaking of lobster, one of the most popular menu items at Seabreeze is the New England Style Lobster Roll, served on a split-top bun filled with tender lobster salad ($16). The lobster roll is a perfect warmer weather lunch (and those days are rapidly approaching), and I can absolutely vouch for the deliciousness of this dish from past experiences.
Worth mentioning: Rick also shared with me Seabreeze is now offering an off-menu Surf and Turf Burger, featuring fresh ground chuck from Hirsch’s Meats crowned with lobster salad and arugula. Oh. Hell. Yes. Call ahead before visiting to see whether the burger is available; Rick will only make the burger when he has fresh beef on-hand from Hirsch’s. (Just another testament to his insistence on quality.)
Here’s one more thing you may not know about Seabreeze: They offer bi-weekly “demo-style” cooking classes, where guests will learn to prepare 3 or 4 recipes and then taste those creations with wine pairings. Classes are $50 per person, class size is very limited and reservations are required. Reservations can be made by calling 972-473-2722.
With nearly 200 restaurants packed into 4.5 modest miles, it’s getting tricky for restaurants to stand out in Addison. Newcomer Panevino, located at Addison Walk, manages to do just that. Indulge yourself in just one meal here and you’ll agree.
Owner and chef, Joseph Ajro, describes Panevino as a fusion of traditional Italian and European bistro elements featuring a wide and varied menu catering to all tastes. That is to say, you won’t find Chef Boyardee twirling his mustache anywhere near the kitchen of Panevino. Contrarily, executive chef Javier Perez (formerly of Sfuzzi) and his staff make everything in-house, using only the freshest, top-notch ingredients painstakingly selected and imports from the best regions in the world. Following the delightful evening I spent dining with Arjo in his restaurant, I left with the impression he is more or less obsessed with quality when deciding what makes the cut in his kitchen. When I tasted the product of his careful selection process, I understood why.
Panevino boasts an equally thoughtful wine selection featuring wines from around the world. Some of the offerings on the wine list deviate from the expected; Merkin “Chupacabra” Red Blend, anyone? Yeah, that would be an Arizona wine produced by none other than the guy from Tool. (That said, it was delicious.) Clearly, their sommelier, Noah Patridge, isn’t afraid to think outside the box when making recommendations for a new wine to try with dinner. He paired a different wine with each course we enjoyed at dinner, and all of his couplings were spot-on. Original cocktails influenced by European roots round out the drink menu, and a variety of craft beers are available on tap.
But, back to the food. There was not a single dish we tried that fell short of ridiculously good … and some dishes may or may not have made my eyes roll back in my head a little. First, I surprised myself by selecting the Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna as my favorite appetizer of the evening. Served on a bed of artichokes and roasted peppers, the delicate flavor of the seriously fresh rare tuna was perfectly offset by the peppery sear. I’m not usually a big fan of rare tuna, but I would order this dish again … and again.
One of my favorite dishes of the entire evening, however, arrived in the form of our salad course–the Heirloom Caprese Tower. A glorious tower of the freshest Buffalo mozzarella I have ever tasted, interspersed with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, fragrant basil, and a balsamic glaze, this “salad” was an emotional experience. I wept.
It was difficult to select a favorite entree from several excellent dishes we sampled, but WHEN (and not if) I return to Panevino, I plan on ordering the Homemade Gnocchi so I can stuff every last one of those perfect little ‘tato dumplings into my face hole. Crowned with tangles of delicate prosciutto, basil, shaved parmesan, and a rich tomato cream sauce, this is one of those dishes that manages to warm your very soul. If I had a little Italian grandma, I would probably have to lie to her when I lovingly professed her gnocchi to be superior. (Lucky for me, my descendants are Russian and English, so there aren’t many culinary white lies to be told ‘neath the branches of this family tree. Borscht? Kidney pie? idk.)
My husband’s favorite dish of the evening was the Lobster Ravioli, which I’m pretty sure speaks for itself; except for the fact that the ravioli happens to be crowned with scallops and lump crab meat, so it’s basically one big crustacean brigata on your plate. Also noteworthy was the Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, filled with lump crab meat, plated atop lemon marscapone risotto, and drizzled with a citrus beurre blanc. Yowza. Panevino does seafood well.
Do save room for dessert. They are all made in-house, and they are not an afterthought; you cannot go wrong here.
Happy hour details:
4pm-7pm Monday through Friday
$5 Sangria, $5 House wines, and $2 off all Texas beers