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.
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.
So … my company started a fitness challenge. This isn’t your ordinary “Biggest Loser”-type weight loss challenge … it’s serious. They gave us a meal plan and a daily exercise regimen–the types of things that I just can’t get behind. Needless to say, I planned my own fitness challenge–start running on a regular basis again and stop eating pizza. The ladder of the two has nearly killed me. Case in point … the team that handles Coal Vines’ PR had a media night the second day of my fitness challenge. (Seriously?!) If it were nearly anywhere else, I’d have told them that they can keep their pizza and I’d delight in their other offerings, but I cannot say no to a Coal Vines White Pizza. It’s just not possible for me. So, I ran a little further that morning and ventured in with my friend for dinner.
We started the evening with their fried zucchini chips (which haunt my dreams) and a bottle of 2014 Astica Cuyo from Mendoza, Argenita, which, as it turns out, retail for a hot $5 a bottle at your local wine shop. (I think my dad had the right idea when he went in to the wine business.) I will say that, despite the low price tag, we enjoyed the bottle … all of it. (I mean … it was a Tuesday, so why wouldn’t we?) Coal Vines has done a damn decent job of finding wines at a reasonable price whose taste doesn’t disappoint.
New chef, Angelo Landi, has really done well with the menu. As mentioned previously, I eat their white pizza like it’s my job. (Or at least I did when I was completely obsessed with this place and ate there at least once a week 2008-2011 … they knew my name.) Luckily, this meal forced me to try some of Angelo’s new items and seasonal offerings like the watermelon and tomato salad situation that I’ve tried to replicate in my own kitchen a few times since. Honestly … it was ridiculously good. The tomatoes were fresh and the watermelon wasn’t drowned in the light dressing … all great. Then came the Burrata, which was also really damn delicious. The cantaloupe added the perfect sweetness to the garlic-kissed cheese and greens. To keep it a little less healthy (yuck yuck), we also ordered the Calamari which is served with tomato basil dipping sauce and lemon garlic aioli–a standard that they’ve kept constantly satisfying for years.
Enough foreplay … let’s get to the pizza, shall we? Their schtick is New York-style pizza from a wood-burning oven … think somewhat thin with a perfectly bubbly crust. My love affair with their White Pizza has lived on for no less than eight years and I dare say that it’ll remain for years to come. It’s the perfect blend of Mozzarella and ricotta cheese spiced up with parmesan and oregano. When I say “perfect”, I really kind of mean it. Don’t f**k around and order the White Special–while it’s good, it’s like putting an engine on a flying unicorn* … it just doesn’t need anything else.
Coal Vines is in the same location in Uptown, but they have a few new tricks. Stop in and see what Chef Angelo is cooking up. (Obi, make sure to order the White Pizza. And be sure to meet Wolf, their bartender that has been there for at least eight years! He’s the kind of guy that you just know has some amazing stories to tell if you could only get him started.)
If you want to read a seriously old review about their brunch, you can check it out here.
*It’s 1:30am. I’m not sure where that metaphor came from … but I don’t hate it.
I love supporting up-and-coming businesses and brands; especially when they are local, and especially when they have a truly awesome product. Ironroot Republic is a new craft spirits distillery, located right in our back yard, in Denison, TX. I had the opportunity to attend Ironroot Republic’s launch party last month, where I met the Likarish brothers, co-founds and distillers at Ironroot Republic, who were as friendly as they were interesting to chat with. Oh, and they brought us some really tasty booze to try. And plenty of it. (Gotta love that.)
Jonathan and Robert Likarish practice their art by employing a “grain to glass” philosophy. Ninety percent of the ingredients used in Ironroot Republic products are grown within 60 miles of the distillery. Take, for example, the lemongrass grown by Head Distiller Jonathan Likarish himself, or the coriander grown by the distillers’ MOM (I’m sorry, but how adorable is that?). Additionally, Ironroot mashes, ferments, distills, barrel ages, and bottles all of their product on-site.
Currently, the brothers are offering three diverse and exciting labels:
Blue Norther Vodka: created using a non-chill filtration process, and made from the finest hand-selected Texas grains; crisp citrus and caramel essence, followed by honey sweetness, and a rich, silky mouth-feel. Full-bodied with a long, vanilla finish. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine: Texas corn whiskey at its finest, made from rare heirloom red corn; hints of fresh honeydew, white peach, and dragon fruit, followed by lychee nut, dark berries, and a lingering sweetness. 90 proof; ABV 45%; suggested retail price $25
Texas Drought Gin: grain to glass, made from local juniper, European juniper, lemongrass, and coriander. The finish is long and sweet due to the caramel wheat malt base. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
I was treated to a number of delicious cocktails featuring the full lineup of Ironroot Republic spirits, and each and every one was delicious. The brothers were kind enough to share recipes with us, and I can assure you, they ALL bear recreating. Standouts in my opinion included the Martinez, which was delightfully complex, and the Mexican Martini, which was the crowd favorite of the evening.
Martinez 1.5 oz. Texas Drought Gin
1.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (Seriously, just hunt down the Luxardo. Don’t even bother with cheap imitations.) 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Mexican Martini (pictured as featured image) 2 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
1 1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur (i.e. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 oz. Margarita Mix
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 Splash of Sprite
Jalapeno Stuffed Olives, for Garnish
Pour the Moonshine, orange liqueur, margarita mix, lime juice, and sprite in shaker. Fill will ice and shake. Pour into martini glass, and garnish with jalapeño stuffed olive.
The Iron Word 0.75 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
0.75 oz. Green Chartreuse
0.75 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
0.75 oz. Lime Juice
Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.
Denison Donkey 1.5 oz. Blue Norther Vodka
4 oz. Ginger Beer
1/6 oz. Lime Juice
Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice, stir gently, and garnish with a lime slice.
One final thing you should know: the Likarish brothers have some really awesome stuff going on at the distillery, above and beyond what you would expect from your requisite Saturday afternoon tour. Yeah, they’ve got that, too, but here is a full lineup of all of the awesome goings on at the Denison distillery:
Friday evenings: the distillery bar is open from 5-9 PM; a tour is available at 6 PM.
Saturdays: the distillery bar is open from 2-9 PM; tours are available at 2, 4, and 6.
First weekend of every month: Bloody Mary bar with 20+ ways to dress it up. (personally, I am very excited to check this one out!)
Distillery tours cost $5; tours have a 20 person max. Your $5 ticket goes toward your purchase of Iroonroot Distillery swag!
A huge shout-out to the bartenders at Alamo Drafthouse Richardsonfor expertly preparing these tasty libations; I always forget how awesome the patio is here. I would go here just to drink, no movie attached. Seriously.
Corner Bakery is one of my personal favorites for a quick, wholesome breakfast or lunch, so I was very excited when they invited our team in to check out their new menu offerings: a series of breakfast and lunch “flats”, that are anything but; hence the name of this event, Corner Bakery’s “UnFlat Event”.
Corner Bakery has added three new breakfast flats and four new lunch (or dinner!) flats to their sandwich lineup. Each variety is loaded with fresh and flavorful ingredients stuffed into a pillowy grilled flatbread, and awesomely enough, they all boast a calorie count under 330 calories. I had the opportunity to try several varieties at this very tasty event, prepared fresh by Chef Ric Scicchitano, the EVP Food & Supply Chain- and they were ALL delicious!
The new breakfast flats include:
Avocado and Spinach Power Flat – scrambled eggs with fresh avocado and spinach, and cheddar & Parmesan cheeses in a grilled multigrain flatbread.
Applewood Smoked Bacon Power Flat – scrambled eggs with applewood smoked bacon and cheddar & Parmesan cheeses in a grilled multigrain flatbread.
Ham and Spinach Flat – scrambled eggs with smoked ham, cheddar & Parmesan cheeses, and fresh spinach in a grilled multigrain flatbread
The new lunch/dinner flats include:
Southwest Chicken – all-natural grilled chicken, zesty slaw, corn and tomato salsa, house-pickled jalapeños and avocado ranch dressing
Chicken Caesar – all-natural grilled chicken, romaine, bruschetta tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing
(my personal favorite..) Caprese – fresh mozzarella, bruschetta tomatoes, arugula and Parmesan cheese
BBQ Pork – pulled barbecue pork, tangy slaw, house-pickled red onions and avocado ranch dressing
One of the things I love about Corner Bakery’s menu is the way they really give you the ability to mix things up with all of their combos. The lunch/dinner flats can be ordered with your choice of two Grilled Flats (served with baby carrots), as a Corner Combo (pairing one Grilled Flat with a cup of homemade soup, Caesar Salad or Mixed Greens), or as part of The Trio (where guests can personalize their own meal, choosing from more than 5,000 combinations of specialty salads, homemade soups and now Grilled Flats). Personally, I am making it my goal to try them all.
Make it your goal to try them all, too! We’re giving away $25 to Corner Bakery! Just tweet @drinkdallas and tell us which flat you’d like to try! We’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, June 30!
So Henry’s Majestic is delicious, right? But it’s such a bother that you have to wait until dinner to enjoy their onion dip, Marrow Burger, etc. UNTIL NOW. Henry’s Majestic in Uptown is now open for LUNCH Tuesdays through Fridays from 11am to 4pm.) Let the confetti fall from the ceiling and release the doves.)
Let’s face it … sometimes you need to get away from the office and have one interrupted hour of screen-free socializing. Henry’s gives you a great option to get away for a bit and enjoy a delicious meal and perhaps even a cocktail. (They do have one called the “Never Let the Boss Know”. I mean … that’s all the permission you need, no? And don’t worry … “screen free” doesn’t mean you can’t take a picture of your snapworthy meal.
We tried the following dishes that I recommend:
Red and Golden Beet Salad – this dish was delightfully fresh and flavorful; the beets and the citrus balanced incredibly well. I’d recommend getting this as a warm-up dish to share.
Rustic Meatball Grinder – this … sandwich. I imagine that this would be a sandwich that Joey Tribiani would enjoy. (I’ve been watching too many late-night “Friends” reruns.) It was really filling but wasn’t overwhelming.
Rotisserie Chicken Wrap – when I hear “wrap”, I immediately think that I need to order something more substantial to make it through until dinner. Not the case with this wrap thanks to the generous helping of chicken. Definitely try this one!
Cambria Hotel and Suites has opened a brand spankin’ new Plano property on Parkwood Blvd, just steps from the suburban booze/fine dining/shopping wonderland we call Shops at Legacy. This is most excellent news for out of town guests, business travelers, bachelorettes, and packs of prowling cougars alike.
In addition to being an ideally located crash pad, the Cambria Hotel & Suites just so happens to be kind of awesome. The 129 room, 4-story hotel features comfortable luxuries (think spacious rooms with over-sized living areas, spa-inspired bathrooms, etc.) coupled with practical and useful features, like a multi-functional media hub for your undoubtedly excessive number of electronic devices. The Cambria Plano offers 2,400 square feet of meeting/conference space if that’s something you need … and, a full service bar and lounge area, if THAT’S something you need, in addition to a contemporary bistro. They also have a really sweet pool area, featuring a notably swanky looking cabana setup (complete with fire pits for the colder months, ThankYouVeryMuch).
I was excited to attend the Cambria’s grand opening celebration earlier this month, for a few reasons, really; in addition to checking out this cool new property, I got to experience not only a sampling of the impressive cuisine Cambria Chef DeMaria dreamed up for this event, but also a series of beer pairings offered up by five of DFW’s very own local craft breweries. This wasn’t just any ol’ beer tasting event, though- oh, no. Each of the five breweries in attendance were charged with the task of presenting their finest suds to a panel of judges, led by former Plano Mayor Phil Dyer, in order to determine which of the five offerings would earn a tap behind the Cambria bar. The offerings of the evening, in no particular order, consisted of:
Lakewood Lager, Vienna Style Lager, 4.6% ABV- this has always been one of my go-tos- it’s just so darn drinkable with its light maltiness and balanced bitter hop. I felt this was a contender due to its versatility (but it doesn’t matter what I think, because I’m no former mayor).
Community Mosaic IPA, India Pale Ale, 7.5% ABV- If you haven’t tried this beer, it’s about as hoppy as this guy. If you love hoppy, well-balanced beers, you will love this beer. I felt this was a brave offering from Community, seeing as it makes such a bold statement.
Peticolas Velvet Hammer, Imperial Red Ale, 9% ABV– this smooth, malty red ale is slightly floral, lightly sweet, and moderately full-bodied. It will also knock you on your ass in a relative hurry. That said, it’s interesting and delicious. Nice choice.
Deep Ellum Brewing Company Dallas Blonde, American Blonde Ale, 5.2%- I hear it goes down easy (that’s a joke…remember this?). But, it’s true; this delicate golden session ale is exceptionally drinkable. For that reason, I considered Dallas Blonde to be another favorable horse in this race.
Franconia Dunkel Lager, Munich Dunkel Lager, 4.4%- it’s the bier from here, y’all. Brewed following the practice of German Purity Laws, this dunkel is toasty and malty, with a light, chocolatey finish. I have always enjoyed the straight-forward, no-nonsense approach these guys take to their craft. While this may have been the darkest beer offering in the race, it was no dark horse, in my humble opinion (#jokes).
Five fine contenders, vying for one coveted tap behind the Cambria bar. While all five of these local offerings were winners in my book (or more accurately, in my belly…), there could only be one. And there was. The judges made a unanimous decision.
Are you ready?
Here it comes:
The Cambria will be serving…
Wait for it…
Community Mosaic IPA
There you have it. Community Mosaic IPA will be available behind the bar at the Cambria, in addition to three other craft handles, and twelve domestic offerings on tap. I did not correctly guess that such a bold offering would win the judge’s affection, but I loved the plot twist. I’m sure it was a difficult decision, but I’m not sure the judges could have gone wrong. To quote former Mayor Dyer, “I believe in beer”.
Because variety is the spice of life, Cambria’s bar and lounge features also an ample selection of liquor and wine. Featured cocktails include the Cambria Margarita $7, and the Blackberry Mojito $9.
I would be remiss to wrap up this event re-cap without mentioning how delicious the food offerings were. We were able to sample a variety of creative and delicious dishes, ranging from Cambozola Mac n’ Cheese to my personal favorite, a Franconia Dunkel braised sausage, served atop mashed potatoes with pepper-onion tapenade and a mustard gravy. Yes. Featured menu items in Cambria’s contemporary bistro include inventive dishes such as the Pesto Drummies Appetizer served with blue cheese & butter ($10), Sriracha Glazed Salmon, featuring house-made Sriracha, served with green chile grits ($13), and the Flat Iron Steak with garlic spinach and Idaho fries ($19). I also hear tell that Cambria serves up a killer house-made Tres Leches Bread Pudding topped with lime zest ($7). Run and tell that, homeboy.
Cambria’s bistro is open for breakfast from 5:00 AM- 10:00 AM. Dinner is served from 5:00 PM- 11:00 PM. The bar and lounge is open nightly from 5:00 PM- Midnight.
Cambria Hotel & Suites Plano – Legacy 7500 Parkwood Blvd., Plano, TX 75024
(972) 473-9010 Online Booking
BBQ and BYOB; Two acronyms Dallasites get pretty dang excited about.
With a plethora of BBQ heavy hitters in Dallas proper, I’m here to implore you not to forget about a seriously solid purveyor of pig that has been serving Collin County (and wise visitors from beyond) since 1978: Hutchins BBQ. The senior location is located in historic downtown McKinney, and the Hutchins family opened up a secondary Preston Road location in Frisco just last year. And here’s the marvelous thing about the McKinney location: it is, in fact, BYOB. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
I was lucky enough to attend a media dinner at the McKinney location earlier this month. (Thanks, Susie … I’m not trying to squeeze into a wedding dress or anything). Tim Hutchins (GM and son of original owner Roy Hutchins) and co-owner Dustin Blackwell were our gracious hosts for the evening, and their passion for the fine art of smoking copious amounts of meat was evident with every (frequently excessive) bite.
Their BBQ process really is a labor of love. As we stuffed our happy faces, Tim described the 15-17 hour smoking process executed on a daily basis in order to produce the perfectly moist, tender slab of Heaven that is Hutchins’ brisket. The flawlessly executed smoke ring speaks for itself and seemingly doesn’t warrant an explanation, but Tim explained the importance of the wood selection in the smoking process; the Hutchins family uses a one-two punch of oak, followed by pecan. Hutchins uses predominantly Prime grade beef (subject to availability) that is free from hormones or antibiotics.
Let’s talk sausage. Hutchins makes theirs in small batches, using a 50/50 ratio of pork and brisket. Their jalapeño cheese sausage is made with jalapeños procured from a local market. (And for the record, the portion I sampled on this particular evening packed a serious punch of heat.) The ribs, which fell off the bone, were perfectly charred, with a lightly sweet brown sugar glaze. I was surprised that one of the most enjoyable things I sampled all night ended up being the fried catfish. I usually don’t even like catfish, but I felt it was my duty to take at least one bite, for science. Dang, ya’ll! Perfectly crisp, not remotely greasy, with a beautiful cornmeal breading- and most importantly, no trace of that all too familiar “earthy” taste to be found. So, I guess I like catfish now?
If you’re like me, you might suffer from ordering induced anxiety when you first visit an establishment such as Hutchins. (Ya know, one where everything looks, smells, and sounds amazing, and you’re terrified you’re going to miss out on a special snowflake and then see a Foursquare tip after your order that has an off-menu gem that gives you serious FOMO?) Hutchins solves that delicious problem for you, by offering an All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE- hey look, another acronym!) option for just $18.99. As if you might actually have extra space in your abdominal region after you get done sampling allllll tha meatz, that price includes sides (pinto beans, potato salad, green beans, corn, coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, and potato casserole), AND dessert (peach cobbler, banana pudding, soft serve and toppings)! Here’s hoping your post-meal itinerary includes one stop: bed. But, don’t worry: if you aren’t feeling brave (or if you need someone to set limits for you because you are well aware that you are incapable of exercising self-control … not that I can relate to that scenario or anything …) you can certainly order off of the traditional menu (meat plates, et al.).
Since this event was BYOB, Grapevine Brewerywas kind enough to B some B for us. I was excited to try two Grapevine craft beer varieties that were new to me: Sir Williams English Brown Ale and NightWatch Oatmeal Stout. The Sir Williams English Brown Ale (4.9% ABV), as it so happens, was the recipient of the Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal in the English Brown Ale category. One sip, and I understood why. Sir Williams, you are a gentleman and a scholar, with your lovely, roasty malt and your smooth finish. The Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout (6.3%) is on the lighter end of the stout spectrum, with a subtly malty chocolate note that feels like it is giving you permission to drink it year round. I’m a fan.
A bit ago I attended a happy hour with Ballast Point Brewing and Distilling at Bird Cafe. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Ballast Point before going to the happy hour, and I learned that Ballast Point began as a small group of home brewers in San Diego, California. Most of the beers are named after fishing terms. The labels have illustrations of fish to pay homage to the brewery’s origin’s. After they made a name for themselves through their beer, Ballast Point began distilling. The company now has seven spirits they call their own.
I began the night tasting some of Ballast Point’s beer on tap. For those of you who like hoppy beers, go for the Grunion Pale Ale (5.5%). It has a nutty flavor as well as a summer fruit aroma. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer silver award. Next, I went for the Scotch ale. Piper Down (5.8%) is now in the running as one of my favorite craft beers … it’s not super heavy and it has a smooth taste. I tasted a chocolate, sweet after taste with this brew. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer gold award. The name came from Scottish bag pipers that drank too much … the piper became top heavy and people would yell, “piper down” when they began to fall. (I have to admit, I went back two days later for more.) My last tasting was the Victory at Sea Coffee/Vanilla Porter (10%). As expected, it was a dark, smooth brew. I am not a coffee drinker, but that didn’t not stop me drinking this beer. It had more of a vanilla taste than coffee.
Moving on to the spirits, I was curious about the first cocktail on the list–the San Diego Street Car (Devil’s Share Moonshine, Ancho Chili liqueur, corn water, lime, Burlesque bitters, egg white). I was puzzled by this concoction, so I had to ask the bartender how he came up with this interesting drink. He said it was his version of elotes in cocktail form. He wanted to bring out the corn flavor of the moonshine rather than mask it. After understanding the background of the drink, it made me enjoy it all the more.
I would urge you to go to your local liquor store and try out some of Ballast Point’s spirits. Here’s your shopping list:
–3 Sheet’s Rum: made from pure cane sugar rather than molasses (80 proof)
–Fugu Vodka: Filtered 15 times (80 proof)
–Devil’s Share Moonshine (whiskey): hints of tropical fruit (98.6 proof)
–Devil’s Share Burbon: American oak barrels, hints of caramel and vanilla cream (92 proof)
–Old Grove Gin: made from juniper berries, rose, and coriander (88 proof)