Category Archives: Media Event

Toyota 86 + Summer Grilling Experience

Let’s press pause for just a second on all the talk about great cocktails, new pubs in town, and all the other great things that revolve around … well, libations, and talk about cars.

I drive a 2003 Pontiac Vibe. The sister of the Toyota Matrix produced by a company that’s not even around anymore. It’s maroon with gray plastic trim and rear bumper. It does have a sunroof, which is hardly ever opened except in tilt mode when parked, and only to vent the horrific Dallas summer heat. Super-sexy right? Yeah … not so much.

So when you receive an email that says, “Do you want to drive a brand new Toyota for a week?” Sign.Me.Up. Such a cool opportunity, and one I had never driven one before. Little did I know, they weren’t assigning me a specific car, Toyota allowed me to pick between 6(!) of their models.

This is the 2017 Toyota 86. I have never been much for orange, but I love this color Toyota calls “Hot Lava”. I’ll get in much more detail, but it comes standard with 17-inch twisted spoke alloy wheels and front fender-mounted vortex generators. With its mean looking LED headlights and sleek, compact design, this is one sexy car.

Toyota also invited us to attend a BBQ meal and grilling lesson with chef Matt Pittman of TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters” and the owner of Meat Church. We started the day by picking out our own cuts of meat, too. (And I thought it couldn’t get much better.)

We started at Rudolph’s Market in Deep Ellum where we learned about different cuts of meat and were given the choice between a 6 week aged ribeye or a filet. I chose the ribeye but had a twinge of regret when this guy started cutting the filets. The meat was so tender, it actually appeared to split open before the knife even touched it.

Once the meat was wrapped we all got in our Toyotas and headed down to Waxahachie. That is where Matt Pittman lives and runs his company, Meat Church, where he makes and fulfills orders for his amazing seasonings and teaches classes. His outdoor kitchen is as big as the house that I moved out of about a year ago. It has 3 Green Eggs, a giant smoker, and what seemed like eight other kinds of grills. He also has more Yeti products than I have ever seen in one place outside of a sporting goods store. Above it all … is a Big Ass Fan. (Thank God.)

Matt showed and allowed us to taste the difference between 3 different methods of cooking a steak on our own: traditional (just throwing it on the grill), sous vide, and the reverse sear method. I have to say, I had reservations about eating a steak which most of the process of cooking involved water (sous vide), but out of the three, it was my favorite (by an extremely close margin).

Holy Cow Seasoning

Much of the class was spent describing the Reverse Sear Method. I won’t go into all the details here because you can find the entire process in detail on his website.

The quick and dirty process:
1. Kosher Salt to tenderize, sit, rinse.
2.Let the meat rest.
3. Place in oven at 275º (~40 minutes for medium rare).
4. Let the meat rest.
5. Sear it on really hot open flame (grill) if you want it sexy (his words), or his preferred method, a cast iron skillet for 1 minute on either side.

The key items that Matt claims make a huge difference when grilling:
1. USDA Choice meat. He says if you can’t afford a place like Rudolph’s, Costco is where he gets most of his meat.
2. A digital thermometer. Matt said he spent $90 on the one he uses, but the price is worth it so you don’t overcooking your steak.
3. If using a grill for indirect heat or to sear, use lump charcoal (wood). The briquets we have use ? Yeah, they’re crap.

The amazing cuts of meat were seared to perfection. When it was time to eat, we were treated to an appetizer of smoked tuna dip, and the perfectly cooked steak was accompanied by grilled asparagus.

Now. Back to the car.

**Disclaimer** What follows is the ramblings of a 34-year-old man that has only driven a couple of (moderately) fun/fast cars in his life.

All I have to say is this car is bad-ass. I read the specs before I got it, but compared to the cars that I have driven in the past, this 2.0L, 205hp Boxer 16V engine with 156lb.-ft of torque made me grip the 86’s leather-trimmed steering wheel a little tighter. This thing is FAST. For you gearheads out there, the exterior is “expertly crafted to help produce wind-cheating drag coefficient of .29 Cd.” (That just means that it’s literally built for speed.)

To complement the speed and acceleration, the 86 has Front MacPherson® Strut and Real Double Wishbone Suspension, which, honestly, I had to get used to being accustomed to my loosey goosey Vibe steering. When you open it up on the freeway, you can actually feel the way the car’s exterior design actually pushes it down to grip the road and give it better aerodynamics. This is a dangerous proposition for someone to drives fast in crappy cars. (Yes. I am ashamed to say that actually is a radar detector in my windshield. C’mon guys, have you ever driven Hwy 114 in Irving?)

Moving on. The guy I took delivery from asked me if I knew how to drive a standard. “Of course!” I said. Seemed like it was a bit late to ask that question. Little did I know, the only standard that I had ever driven (albeit for 10 years) was a 5 speed, loose, crappy transmission. This short throw 6-Speed Close-Ratio transmission was INSANE. (Don’t tell anyone, but when trying to back out of my driveway, it took me 5 minutes of putting it in first gear before I finally had to pull out the owner’s manual. Turns out there is a pull-up mechanism on the shifter that puts it in reverse.)

As for the interior…

When you first sit in the car, the racing-style seats give your hips a comfortable hug. I’m a big guy (more on that in a minute), so many of the sport-style seats are too narrow for my shoulders. Not these. I could drive this thing cross country and still be comfortable.

Combine that with the Granlux (suede-like) material accents, extensive Bluetooth features (because, safety), 8-speaker Pioneer audio system, AUX and USB input ports, and 6 standard airbags to protect you, this car is (almost) as fun to ride in as it is to drive.

My friend Wes wanted to go for a ride in this impeccable machine. His statement perfectly describes the controls in the Toyota 86: “I love how simple it is. Even the touch screen display is simple to use.” As a UX designer, I was impressed. I hadn’t thought much about it because I was just using it, not trying to find all the controls.”

Oh, and the trunk is spacious enough to fit two large suitcases and a backpack, in addition to the “back seat” space. Let’s be real, to ride in the back seat would require the front passengers to be 3′ tall … the backseat passengers, too. (So use it for storage unless it’s absolutely necessary to take additional riders.) But, for real, four seat belts mean lower insurance rates, y’all.

Two things I feel I have to mention:

  • The Toyota 86 has a 4.9″ ground clearance and a total height of 50.6″ (4.22′). I am pushing 6’3″, but amazingly, getting into this beauty was no problem. The space inside was surprisingly roomy, even for me. However, when getting out of it in a parking lot, especially at work where most garage spots are compact car only, I felt like I needed an assist. By the end of the week, I had a system.
  • Again, this is a sports car. A sports car that has no overdrive. This means in 6th gear it does not operate at a lower RPM. When you push on the gas, there is no delay … it goes. That said, it is premium unleaded only and gets 21 city/28 highway.

All that said, neither of these would prevent me from purchasing this vehicle were I able. These are negligible to how much I absolutely loved driving it. The morning the car was scheduled for pickup, I got up early, (which I never do). I took it out for one last drive, grabbed some breakfast tacos, and received the call that it was time … they were about 2 minutes out from my house. I won’t admit to tears, but a hard sniff may have happened.

Now that I have tasted the sweetness of the Toyota 86, I kinda want to die when I get in my Pontiac. It is what I can only imagine it would be like to drive a school bus with donut tires meant for a compact car.

Toyota 86
2 door sports car
2.0 liter, 4-cylinder 205 horsepower Boxer 16V engine

Short-throw 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission
Front-mid engine, Rear-wheel drive
136mph top speed
0-60 in 6.4 seconds
21/28/24 mpg

 

 

Disclosure: We were provided use of Toyota 86 free of charge. Opinions all my own.

Chicken In The Front, Party In The Back

If you’re a fan of the Truck Yard atmosphere and grandma’s quality southern fare, then you’re in luck.

Quincy’s Chicken Shack is the newest family style, neighborhood picnic-esque restaurant to pop up in Coppell. Now, all you Dallas folk are thinking, “Coppell? That’s way too far just for some chicken…” but I assure you, it is well worth the drive. This fresh, family-friendly place will have you fed and on the way to your fried chicken coma in just 11 minutes. 

First, let’s talk atmosphere. Located right near Coppell Old Town Pavillion, the restaurant features an outdoor patio that’ll make your heart sing. Full bar, truck-turned-stage for live music, and string lights to make all your pictures Instagram gold. 

Speaking of the bar, Quincy has come up with some outstanding cocktails to go with your meal, and the southern theme is strong. Our favorites in our group were:

Mint Julep: bourbon, home grown mint syrup, soda water

Grandma’s Secret (personal favorite): sweet tea vodka, taverna, lemon, black tea

Shoofly Punch: Enchanted Rock peach vodka, peach puree, ginger liqueur, lemon, champagne, topped with a peach ring! This one is a southern spin on the French 75

Backyard Party: frozen lemonade spiked with your choice of citrus vodka/blueberry vodka/sweet tea vodka/ whiskey with mint

Dee’s Lunchbox: beer cocktail with white rum, orgeat, lemon, topped with IPA

Bottled Manhattan: a perfect manhattan made with Herman Marshall whiskey, vermouth, bitters, luxardo cherry

Tequila Mockingbird: Blanco Tequila, lemon, triple sec, watermelon juice

Now, let’s get to the food. The restaurant serves its offerings family style, so come prepared to share … or prepared for a fork fight.

First up is some black-eyed pea hummus to keep things light and fun. Then you have a choice of a fried chicken or a rotisserie chicken dinner basket for the table. Each one comes with cornbread, rotisserie potatoes and loaded potato dip, southern beans, and a seasonal side. What makes this chicken so darn good is that all of it’s cooked in the rotisserie, and then either served like that or flash fried for 3 and half minutes. 

Luckily, their lunch options aren’t all family style. Some lunch options they offer are a BBQ Chicken Sandwich, which is pulled chicken with Quincy’s root beer BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and rotisserie potatoes, and the Fried Chicken Sandwich, which is fried chicken tenders (available regular or Nashville Spicy) with garlic aioli, bread & butter pickles, coleslaw, and rotisserie potatoes. They also have a lunch salad, which features pulled rotisserie chicken on mixed greens topped with cowboy vinaigrette, green apple, corn, black-eyed pea hummus, and cornbread croutons. Lunch options will be available starting today, March 11th. 

If you’re still hungry after all that, they’ve got you covered. Desert is a bowl full of egg-free cookie dough (not today, salmonella!) and a seasonal handpie served with vanilla bean ice cream. 

Quincy’s Chicken Shack
QuincysChickenShack.com
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505 Houston Street (Coppell)
(469) 251-9080

  • Tues– Sat: Dinner only ; Sun & Mon: Closed
  • Tues – Thurs: 5pm–9pm, Bar open at 4
  • Fri – Sat: 5pm–10pm, Bar open at 4

Montes Wines – It’s a Family Thing

If ever you’ve felt like your wine needed a heartfelt backstory, Montes Alpha and Kaiken Ultra wineries have one for you.

Aurelio Montes Sr. and Aurelio Montes Jr. are the father and son of the century with their love for good wine as well as their heritage. The chilean duo not only have a namesake winery with a special commitment to the Chilean community, most notably a study scholarship given to the winery workers and their children alongside complimentary health and life insurance, but also like father, like son, Aurelio Montes Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and opened up his own winery, Kaiken, in order to experiment with new terroirs and other winemaking practices such as biodynamics.
Fun fact: the Kaiken Ultra Winery was the second winery in the world to be awarded the Sustainable Certificate. Good for the community AND good for the earth? I don’t know what more you could want but they probably have it.

At Salum, a group of wine enthusiasts were treated to a tasting of wines from both wineries, as well as a paired luncheon. As we tasted the wines, Montes Sr. and Montes Jr. explained the back story of each wine and how they vary between the two wineries. 

Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2014
Alcohol – 13.9%
SRP – $19.90
Tasting notes: Shy in node expression.

Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay 2014
Alcohol – 14%
SRP – $20
Tasting notes: Bigger and deeper expression of oak and fruit.

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Alcohol – 14%
SRP – $19.90
Tasting notes: Fruity expression with red berries, blackberries, chocolate, and mint.

Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Alcohol – 14.8%
SRP – $20
Tasting notes: Tastes of strawberries with a round mouth and soft tannins.

Montes Alpha Malbec 2014
Alcohol – 14.5%
SRP – $19.90
Tasting notes: Leaner, spicier, edgier, rougher.

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2014
Alcohol – 14.5%
SRP – $20
Tasting notes: Riper with a wide mouth, gentle tannins, and tastes of dark fruit.

Montes Outer Limits CGM 2015
Alcohol – 14.5%
SRP – $24.90
Tasting notes: Velvety texture. Montes Sr. described this as “a wine for the younger generations who want to drink something different than their parents.”

Kaiken Obertura Cabernet Franc 2014
Alcohol – 14.7%
SRP – $35
Tasting notes: Best paired with light meals, salads, cheese.

Montes Alpha M Red Wine 2012
Alcohol – 14.7%
SRP – $98
Tasting notes: A Bordeaux blend with a bouquet that comes along elegantly.

Kaiken Mai Malbec 2013
Alcohol – 14.8%
SRP – $70
Tasting notes: considered a real taste of Argentina.

Montes Taita Cabernet Sauvignon 2007/2009/2010
Alcohol – 15%
SRP – $249
Tasting notes: “Taita” describes the emotion of speaking of your father with devotion and admiration and he gives back his wisdom with loving care. This wine spends 18 months in barrels and then 4 years in bottles before being released.

Salmon and scallop crudo with Texas grapefruit, orange blossom oil, pea shoots, and parmesan crisps
Paired with the Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and the Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes 2016

Braised lamb, rosemary puree with plum gastrique
Paired with the Montes Purple Angel 2013 and the Kaiken Obertura 2014

Bittersweet chocolate and sticky date pudding with stewed red fruits and Mexican vanilla chantilly
Paired with the Montes Alpha M 2012

 
Montes Wines
monteswines.com
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Salum Restaurant
salumrestaurant.com
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4152 Cole Avenue (Uptown)

Yolk Media Event

There are people who like breakfast, and then there are people who LIVE for breakfast. I fall into the latter category and have been known to eat breakfast meals at any hour of the day. Eggs, bacon, avocado, fruit, pastries, waffles — I truly believe that you can satisfy any craving with breakfast food.

That said, I’m stoked to share my experience at the newest location of breakfast favorite, YolkThe breakfast and lunch spot’s first-ever Dallas location was right next to Tei-An in the Arts District, but now they have an even more accessible location in Preston Center! This brightly colored, family-friendly, sit down restaurant serves a variety of sweet and savory breakfast plates as well as some standard lunch fare daily until 3pm. 

I know some of you are a may want some suggestions on what to order, so I went ahead and tasted all of their best sellers for you (it’s a rough job, I know). Here’s a quick rundown of some go-to favorites that you can’t go wrong with:

Eggs Benedict: classic, rich, savory. Always a solid choice with an english muffin, Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and a side of potatoes.

Chilaquiles with Chorizo: for your Spanish side. This option comes with house made corn tortilla chips, salsa verde, avocado, jack cheese, red onion, crema, and is topped with two eggs any style. Side note — this plate is also gluten free!

Chicken & Waffles: Oooh boy. As their top selling item, it’s easy to see why people can’t get enough. Bacon waffle topped with crispy fried boneless chicken breast and sausage gravy, served with a side of warm maple syrup. 

Citrus Blast Salad: for those who aren’t always in the breakfast mood. This refreshing salad has a little bit of everything–mixed greens, grilled chicken, apple, avocado, pecan, raisin, mandarin orange, dried cranberries, bleu cheese crumbles, and mango chardonnay vinaigrette.
Heads-up: this option only comes in one, large size, so either come hungry, share, or be prepared to take some home.

Patty Melt: substantial lunch choice. Fill-er-up with this char-broiled burger, gilled onions, American cheese on grilled rye with a side of onion chips.

Stop in for some yummy breakfast and lunch options between the hours of 6am and 3pm.

YOLK
eatyolk.com
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Preston Center: 8315 Westchester Drive, 469-351-0344
One Arts Plaza: 1722 Routh Street, 214-855-YOLK
Sundance Square Fort Worth: 305 Main Street, 817-730-4000
Many locations in Illinois and Indiana, also!

Milagro Tequila

To me, it always seemed that tequila was the shot you ordered after you had a few too many and needed an excuse for eating late night pizza. After my night of tequila tasting with Milagro Tequila, the spirit is so much more to me.

milagro-3

The night was an in depth look into the smells and tastes of different types of tequila. Before tasting anything, we were given an aroma kit with samples of all the different notes you get from tequila. (I think of doing this when tasting wine, but not tequila.) The twelve aromas ranged from lemongrass and pineapple all the way to black pepper.

milagro-4

 

 

 

Now, Milagro is no ordinary Tequila. When the owners tasted the final product, they said it was a miracl (hence the name Milagro). The owners wanted to pay homage to the heritage of tequila, and it shows in the process. This tequila is made from 100% blue agave tequila from the Jalisco Highlands. (Blue agave is sweeter and creates a more fruity and aromatic tequila.) The master distiller employs a century old cooking method using a traditional hand built brick oven. The agave is slow-roasted for 36 hours. That is a long time in the tequila world, but it creates a much better tequila. Once the agave is roasted, it goes into Milagro’s two pot system for the distillation, a pot still and a column still. The column still creates the smoothness found in Milagro.

 

Curious as to how good Milagro really is? Milagro entered the San Francisco World spirit competition in 2007. The Select Barrel Reserve Repasado was awarded best of show. Not only did it beat out other tequilas- but rums, gins, and vodkas. Milagro currently has more awards than any other tequilas. Milagro ranges from $37 for Milagro Silver to $102 for the Select Barrel Reserve Anejo. My personal favorite is the Milagro Añejo. It has been aged in American oak barrels between fourteen and twenty-four months. This aging process gives this tequila a spicy and savory taste.

core_family-1

MILAGRO TEQUILA
milagrotequila.com
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(Rum) Running Around Louisiana: Part 1, Lake Charles

I can tell you now that the moral of this story is that there’s more to Louisiana than New Orleans … like way more.  So the next time you want to “laissez les bons temps rouler”, think outside (but don’t forget about) The Big Easy.  

I recently enjoyed a visit to Lake Charles, the home of “The Spirit of Louisiana”, Bayou Rum, and then continued on to New Orleans.  Throughout the week, we were treated to some really incredible, unique experiences courtesy of Bayou Rum and the Lake Charles and New Orleans CVBs.


LAKE CHARLES

After flying in, I settled into my digs at The Golden Nugget, a two-year old resort hotel and casino (read: still new and shiny) that is currently expanding, and gave the room a thrice-over.  The rooms were surprisingly lovely … and huge … and all had balconies.  Mine overlooked the giant Vegas-style pool complete with lazy river and cabanas, and the whole scene made me really angry for forgetting my swimsuit.  (Luckily, there’s a shop that sold suits in the lobby.  Worth it.)  Rooms in the other tower overlook the river, complete with a private beach and dock for visitors’ boats.  (Swanky.)

The resort offered quite a few restaurants–Vic & Anthony’s, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and more–including one at the country club that features an 18-hole course designed by Todd Eckenrode.  The restaurant at the club offered steaks, seafood, etc. with a slight Cajun influence.

The Golden Nugget Lake Charles, 2550 Golden Nugget Boulevard (Lake Charles), goldennugget.com/lakecharles

Lake Charles’s Downtown area has quite a bit to offer–horse-drawn carriage tours complete with ghost stories, baby alligators, and some serious dining.  The abridged “ghost tour” we went on was led by a jovial man who told a good tale–mostly about a woman who still haunts their courthouse.

We dined at Restaurant Calla, run by Chef David Sorrells (formerly of The French Laundry), and the food and wine lists were an absolute delight.  The restaurant sources its ingredients from local farms and ranches making the food fresh and delicious.  The Blue Crab Beignets, Bone Marrow, Broken Arrow Venison, and Brussels Sprouts are not to be missed.  (I wish I’d had the chance to try some of their tiki cocktail options … a return trip is obviously necessary.)

Restaurant Calla, 1400 Market Street (Lake Charles), restaurantcalla.com

A short ride outside of Lake Charles, you can visit the Bayou Rum distillery in Jeff Davis Parish.  Our tasting was led by the Master Distiller, Jeff Murphy, and Master Blender, Reiniel Vicente, and we tasted all of their expressions–select, silver, spiced, and their citrus liqueur, Satsuma.  All are unique, and the select has found its way onto my bar cart permanently.

After tasting the rums, we were treated to a tour of the distillery, rack room, and the bottling line.  Noteably, the distillery is the largest privately-owned rum distillery in the US using distilling process that are a blend of traditional and new methods using cutting edge distilling technology.  And the rum is made with sugar cane grown right in Louisiana.

Oh, and we got to hold a baby alligator named Gumbeaux before our tasting and tour.  How badass is that?

At lunch we were treated to some traditional Louisiana fare along with all the Bayou Rum we wanted, then were herded onto a bus and handed a Gator Bite–a hurricaneish cocktail using three of their four expressions.  It was lethal, but delicious.  Find other delish cocktail recipes on their website.

Gator Bite
1oz Bayou Silver Rum
1oz Bayou Satsuma
1oz Bayou Spiced Rum
1oz orange juice
2oz pineapple juice
1oz cranberry juice
Juice of 2 lime wedges

Bayou Rum, 20909 Frontage Road (Lacassine), bayourum.com

To get a real feel for the area, we were treated to a nature tour by Grosse Savanne Waterfowl & Wildlife Lodge.  We went on an abridged tour, but were able to see an alligator (or three) and plenty of other wildlife.  The tour guides were knowledgeable about the area and … dare I say … ours was pretty damn cute.  (I’m sure that note’s not for everyone.)  The lodge apparently offers general “swamp” tours, hunting tours, birdwatching tours, and more along with lodging at their newly rebuilt lodge.

bayou

Grosse Savanne Waterfowl & Wildlife Lodge, 1730 Big Pasture Road (Lacassine), grossesavanne.com

I think the coolest little gem in Lake Charles is the Mardi Gras Museum.  Housed in an old elementary school, it has the Mardi Gras kings’ and queens’ costumes from the last 40 years or so along with neat facts about the celebration itself.  (We even got to try on a few of the lavishly ornate hats … we were fancy AF.)  Bonus: there were King Cakes waiting for us after our tour and, unbeknownst to me until that point, boudin king cake exists.  There is a God … and I think he’s Cajun.

Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, 809 Kirby St # 229 (Lake Charles), visitlakecharles.org/things-to-do/history/mardi-gras-museum

After two fantastic days in Lake Charles, we were swept away to New Orleans for more unique experiences.  Stay tuned for my recap of the shenanigans we got into in The Big Easy.  Big thanks to the Lake Charles CVB and Bayou Rum for all of the fun!

CiboDivino Dinner ft. Puleo Wines

“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.

Wine

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.

charcuterie

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.)

salmon

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.

rustica

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.)

linguine

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.

beef

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.

Picture courtesy of CiboDivino Marketplace

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.


CiboDivino Marketplace
www.cibodivinomkt.com
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1868 Sylvan Ave., Suite #D-100 (West Dallas in the Sylvan 30 Complex)
(214)653-2426

True Wilcox Cooking Concepts

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

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

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

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

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

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