Category Archives: Downtown

Spaten Beer Dinner @ Cook Hall

Spaten I recently had the opportunity to check out Cook Hall’s new fall menu (read about it here). It was basically bomb.com (side note: I was kind of shocked to find that this URL doesn’t seem to be registered…hmm). That being said, I was SUPER excited when Cook Hall generously extended an invitation to check out one of their signature beer dinners! Cook Hall hosts a bi-monthly 5-course beer pairing dinner, with themes ranging from the creative (whiskey versus beer throwdown!), to the educational (i.e., brewery or variety specific pairings). October featured a Spaten Brewing beer dinner. Jackpot.

Lagers

First, a little about Spaten Brewing Company: They have been around the block a time or two. This Bavarian brewery has been one of the leading exporters of German beer for over a century. Spaten is pretty much committed to kickin’ it old school when it comes to their brewing philosophy; they continue to brew in the tradition of the German Purity Law, circa 1516 (!), decreeing that beer should only be brewed using malt, hops, and water. Shocking revelation that a historic German brewery would do things by the book, I know.

Cook Hall prepared a five-course menu featuring thoughtful and creative beer and food pairings throughout the evening.

We started out sampling Spaten’s Premium Lager (Munich Helles Lager/5.2%). This crisp, balanced lager was notably drinkable, and paved the way for our delicate yet delicious starter, Roasted Beet Salad, served with blue cheese, dried fruits, and nuts. The tender, sweet beets paired nicely with the maltiness of the Lager.

Lager and Beet Salad
Lager and Beet Salad

2nd Course brought us Spaten’s Oktoberfest (Marzen/Oktoberfest/5.9%)- one of the sanctioned beers of Oktoberfest Munich (i.e. “THE” Oktoberfest…sorry, Addision/Lake Highlands/McKinney!). This smooth, full-bodied Marzen, with its malty aroma, was slightly bitter yet balanced with hints of caramel. Paired with the creamy, decadent, Butternut Squash Soup with oyster mushrooms, this duo could not have been a more perfect way to welcome fall (Seriously…this soup is everything. Please come try it before it goes away).

Oktoberfest and Butternut Squash Soup
Oktoberfest and Butternut Squash Soup

3rd Course featured Spaten Franziskaner (Hefeweizen/5.0%), the brewery’s Bavarian wheat beer. Spaten’s hefe is lightly malty with  a creamy finish, bringing lovely notes of banana and clove to the table. The Franziskaner paired nicely with our next dish, Gulf Shrimp & Smoked Bacon, with papaya mustard and avocado. The smooth, wheaty finish of the hefe was a match made in Heaven for tangy notes of chili and cumin in the papaya mustard.

Franziskaner and Gulf Shrimp
Franziskaner and Gulf Shrimp

4th Course, they brought out the big guns; Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock/7.6%). I love a good doppelbock, and Optimator is about as good as it gets. This sweet, malty offering is heavy-bodied, and features notes of caramel and licorice. It was a rich, indulgent accompaniment for our main course, the Braised Short Rib with ginger and chive spaetzle. Oh man, this was the good stuff. The short rib was fork tender, and the ginger and chive were a lovely, surprising twist on this traditional German noodle dish.

Braised Short Rib
Braised Short Rib

The 5th and final offering was Spaten’s Dunkel (Munich Dunkel Lager/5.5%).  This medium-bodied dunkel is lightly sweet and moderately, complex, with caramel and toffee flavors. If you have never enjoyed a thoughtfully selected beer with dessert, you have been missing out, my friends. The Dunkel paired beautifully with Caramel Roasted Pairs, served with brown butter ice cream. Lighter caramel notes from the beer intensified the richer caramel flavors in this dessert dish, and it really worked.

Dunkel and Pears
Dunkel and Pears

Bravo, Cook Hall. Bravo, Spaten.

Cook Hall beer dinners are hosted on a bi-monthly basis. Each 5 course meal includes one full-sized beer, and tasting sizes of four subsequent beers. The cost is $55 per person (tax & gratuities not included)- a great deal! Presently, the next beer dinner is planned for early December (firm date and menu TBD- check back here for updates). Space is limited, so make your reservation ASAP!

 

Cook Hall Dallas at the W DALLAS – VICTORY
cookhalldallas.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas (Victory Park)
214.397.4111

Mon – Thurs. 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Fri/ Sat. 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun. 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM
Reservations available online at Cook Hall Dallas, or via Opentable

Cook Hall Fall Menu Tasting

Cook Hall, located at the W’s Dallas-Victory hotel- has rolled out a new menu for the fall, and I was lucky enough to attend a tasting to see what they have in store for the season. In case you are unfamiliar, Cook Hall is an American gastropub, with a heavy emphasis on craft cocktails, craft beers (including some nice local offerings), and thoughtful wine selections. Their menu places a heavy emphasis on both small plates and family style dining options that encourage sharing and socializing.

I had the opportunity to try two of their craft cocktail offerings. Holy. Moly. Sooooo, so Good. It was really difficult to pick a favorite, but they really weren’t playing fair with their first offering, the Garden Smash (Nolet’s gin, cilantro, Fresno chili, and lime, $12). I’m pretty sure they must’ve known I was coming, because this drink was RIGHT up my alley. The Garden Smash was delightfully fresh tasting, and so interesting, with a bevy of strong, distinctive flavors playing off of each other in this zippy little cocktail. Apparently I do not stand alone in my enthusiasm for this drink, as I was informed the Garden Smash is their #1 seller.

Garden Smash

 

Next up was the Autumn Giant (Plymouth gin, Green Chartreuse, St. Germain, Lemon Juice, & Simple Syrup, $12). I really love gin drinks, so again, this was not a tough sell for me. The flavors in this cocktail were so unique, words don’t come easy to describe it. Sweet, but not too sweet, with an interesting kick. Totally refreshing, and would definitely order it again.

Autumn Giant

I was way sad our super-tasty cocktail hour was over, that is, until they began parading out our starters (“snacks,” per the Cook Hall menu). We sampled a small plate featuring Pecorino, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Pistachios ($9) which consisted of sourdough toasts accompanied by herbed goat cheese, Asian pears, and crushed pistachios; this tasty plate would be a great, light dish for sharing. Next was the Chicken Liver Mousse, and … my fellow diners thought this was great – I mean, they were really blown away by it … and moreover, I am apparently a 6 year old child at heart because I just can’t, y’all. I just can’t.

Moving on…to maybe one of my very favorite dishes I sampled all night … the Butternut Squash Soup with Oyster Mushrooms ($8). So-stinking-good, y’all. This soup was incredibly decadent and creamy, drizzled with a fresh pesto garnish, and chock full of delicate oyster mushrooms that added a seriously tasty element of surprise to this rich fall favorite. Basically, this soup alone is reason enough for me to come back.

Oktoberfest and Butternut Squash Soup

On to the entrees (“Plates”!). First, let me tell you about my very fav, the Crispy Sea Bass, served with roasted Brussels sprouts, heirloom carrots, and spiced apple jus (heh) ($28). This was one of those dishes that made me want to reenact the whole When Harry Met Sally Katz’s deli scene. My eyes rolled back in my head with every bite. Chef Nicholas Jimenez’s creative spin on this fish dish incorporates bold, surprising flavors, like horseradish and mint- which were perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the apple. I loved this unexpected dish.

 

Honorable mentions are rewarded to the ridiculously delicious Fresh Tagliatelle, with smoked bacon, tomato, jalapeño, and arugula ($19). I have to admit that I’m generally not a big bacon fan (I know, I’m barely human), but the smoky-spicy-bitter trifecta  (aka bacon-japs-arugula) really rang my bell. 10/10, would get again.

TagliatelleSeaBassScallopsShrimp

Also sampled:

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich – served on a ciabatta roll (baked by the delicious  Empire Baking Company in Dallas) with spiced fig jam, goat cheese, and arugula ($13); the sweet fig spread and delicious, fresh bread made this sandwich just special.
  • Seared Shrimp – served atop warm lentils, with Linguica sausage ($24); holy crap, this was buttery and decadent. I PROMISE YOU, you have never had lentils this good.
  • Caramelized Beef Tenderloin – with a red wine miso glaze & potato gratin ($38); tender and flavorful tenderloin, with creamy, cheesy, potato-y goodness.
  • Seared Scallops – in a soy yuzu broth, served top spaghetti squash ($26); surprising ingredients in the broth (burnt popcorn and Thai chiles) gave this dish a uniquely interesting kick.

Tenderloin

PSA: If you don’t save room for dessert at Cook Hall, you’re doing it wrong. My favorite offering of the evening was the Autumn Cheesecake, decked out in a Riesling gelee and a crown of poached figs ($8); decadent ricotta cheese and a moist, cinnamon graham cracker crust set this cheesecake apart from the ordinary, and, the Riesling gelee … I mean, really? Need I say more? Also delicious were the S’mores with Graham Cracker Ice Cream ($8); house-made marshmallows? Yes please. And finally, the Warm Spiced Pear Crumble, paired with cinnamon ice cream ($7), which is basically like autumn in your mouth. I also want to go ahead and say that they serve up an amazing cappuccino ($5).

Cheesecake

Cook Hall features a multitude of very nice happy hour specials and signature events. For your consideration:

  • Check out Cook Hall’s 5@5 menu, featuring 5 cocktails and 5 snacks available for $5, at, you guessed it, 5 PM.
  • Live music and $5 draft beers are featured from 9:00-12:00 on Thursday evenings. Check out the live music schedule, here
  • Cook Hall features a bi-monthly beer dinner; I can attest that October’s was amazing (and you’ll get to hear all about it, soon! Stay tuned…).Their next beer dinner is scheduled for early December. Check back here for more details, at a later date.
  • Pro tip: You know how parking is like, really, really expensive for Mavs games/Stars games/concerts at the AAC? All you have to do is purchase one (delicious!) entree, and Cook Hall will hook you up with FREE PARKING during events, friends. Don’t forget to have your ticket validated- and don’t forget to tip your valet 😉
  • Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday, from 11:00-3:00.

Additional Info:

Cook Hall Dallas at the W DALLAS – VICTORY
cookhalldallas.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas (Victory Park)
214.397.4111

Mon – Thurs. 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Fri/ Sat. 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun. 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM
Reservations available online at Cook Hall Dallas, or via Opentable

 

Endless Appetizers at TGI Friday’s

So breakfast for dinner is kind of awesome.  But in my book, appetizers as your meal is even better.  TGI Friday’s is making appetizers for a meal a thing with their Endless Appetizers for just $10!  Pick one of their delicious, handcrafted apps and they’ll keep fresh, warm platters of ’em comin’.  They SAY that you can’t share, but a few of my writers, some of their +1s, and I ordered one of each and had at ‘em tonight.  A whole meal for 6 people for $60 with plenty of variety?  Not bad … not bad at all.

For Endless Appetizers, you can choose from:

  • Loaded Potato Skins
  • Pan-Seared Pot Stickers
  • Mozzarella Sticks
  • Garlic & Basil Bruschetta
  • Tuscan Spinach Dip
  • Boneless Buffalo Wings
  • Crispy Green Bean Fries

Hurry in, because this deal won’t be around for long!  (And PS … sit at the bar at the West End location and ask for Omar!)

TGIF_endless-apps

Buy one appetizer at $10 each (per person) and get free refills on same appetizer. Valid on select items only. At participating restaurants for a limited time. Dine-in only. One offer per person, per visit. Not valid in conjunction with any other coupon, promotion or discount. While supplies last. Tax and gratuity not included. © 2014 TGI Friday’s Inc. Please drink responsibly.

THE WILD SAINT | San Salvaje (CLOSED)

Stephan Pyles is a Dallas, nay, Texas culinary legend.  I was quite excited when San Salvaje invited me in to try some of their offerings … like … beyond excited.  Pyles has been a bastion of Southwestern cuisine and is branching out to a new cuisine … Peruvian.  Nestled in the former Samar space on Ross Avenue, San Salvaje opened May 13 with bar, restaurant, and outdoor seating.  The decor threw me a bit at first — it’s a bit of a juxtaposition of crosses and skulls (after some research, he apparently did it on purpose as his travels showed people leave church, do something sinful, and head right back into church).  Overall, expect bright colors and little touches just about everywhere in the open plan (the kitchen opens right up to the restaurant).

The entire staff was as considerate as they could possibly be.  (The valet walked me from my car to the restaurant and opened the door … that’s serious service.)  Out waiter, Tony, was very knowledgeable and helped us along the menu.  Our entire meal was determined by Chef Pyles himself and Molly Hagler, the bar manager.  (I have to admit … since I hate making decisions, that was the way to best enjoy a new restaurant!)

We started with a Peruvian Welcome Drink (Pisco Porton, Chica Morada, passion fruit foam) which was as flavorful as it was colorful.  The foam made it really delightful and extremely unique and the tartness struck just the right balance.  Round 1 of food was the Three Cheese Arepa (a small corn dough filled with cheese and served with salsa verde), the Causa Limeña Classico (no words — the best I can do is a Peruvian deviled egg on steroids topped with shrimp and a little quail egg hidden inside), and the Sweet Corn Humita (a lobster and avocado corn tamale-type delight).  I could have left a happy woman after the first course.  I am no foodie, but I know that food was day-yam good.

Drinks flowed and food just somehow appeared on the table.  If I wrote that much about each course, you’d check out like … a paragraph ago. (TL;DR below).

DRINKS:

  • Pisco Margarita (Pisco Portón, lime, simple syrup, lemon juice) – I posted a picture of this almost-too-pretty-to-drink cocktail on Instagram in real time and said that this margarita gets me as close to me liking a margarita as it’s going to get.  The rim is festooned (this verb is deserved here) with lime and lemon zest, and it enhances the flavor if you don’t drink it from the straw.
  • Saoco (rum, coconut water, hibiscus reduction) – this drink could be the best summer drink like … ever.  Order one of these out on their patio this summer.  My notes say, “It has coconut water … so that means it’s healthy, right?”
  • Rabo-de-Gajo (Cachaça, vermouth, sugar, angostura) – the Old Fashioned lover in me died for this drink.  Other than a cool name, it was the perfectly sippable drink for those of us who like a stout drink.  (Oh, and they use Luxardo cherries in it.)
  • Rum flight – we shared a few sippable rums to accompany dessert.  Ask Molly for recommendations as she knows the options inside and out.

FOOD:

  • Quinoa Salad – this was a delight and the slight crunch from the dried cherries were the perfect touch.
  • Yellow Fin Tuna Ceviche – the tuna pairs incredibly well with Kaffir lime and virgin coconut water.  This dish is served in a coconut and best enjoyed with a bit of each component … including the coconut meat.
  • Sea Scallops Tiradito – while this dish was extraordinary, it was my least favorite of the dishes we had.  It was very mild and perhaps a good starting point for those who aren’t ready to dive head-first into ceviche.
  • Pork Belly Tacu Tacu – weird word, delicious dish (it’s typically a Peruvian rice and bean fried cake).  The pork belly was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the fig compote that accompanied it.
  • Wild Mushroom-Huitlacoche Emanada – get this … and don’t skimp on the guava sauce dip!
  • Fried Squid Taco – effff me these were incredible.  The tempura had to have been some magical mix of spices and it was perfectly fried … just perfectly fried.  Excuse me while I lose myself in a trance thinking about these tacos.
  • Fried Whole Red Snapper – served completely whole, this is more than just amazing presentation.  The flavor is mild and the fish tasted like it was caught an hour before and was easily forkable.  (That’s a word … right?)  The pickled lightly fried green beans were slightly sweet and were only somewhat addictive.
    Ask your waiter to carve it tableside for you.
  • Heirloom Bean Feijoada – I couldn’t pronounce this work for all the rice in China.  This was a large dish and the flavor was powerful, but wasn’t my favorite of the night.
  • Lucuma Suspiro – I can’t exactly describe the creamy goodness that was served to us, but I’ll say this: yummmmm.  It was topped with Maracuya meringue and served with a uniquely shaped funnel cake-type swirly thing (all of those are technical culinary terms).

DESSERT:

  • Alfajore Torte with Dolce de Leche – I’m not a huge torte fan, so this wasn’t my favorite.  While I’d be a good sport and share it with a buddy, I wouldn’t order it myself.
  • Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream – again … sounds silly, but this is serious dessertage.  The donut-type pastries are tossed with cinnamon and sugar with a slight hint of anise.  Don’t miss the ice cream.  Just don’t.
San Salvaje - Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream
San Salvaje – Picarones with Guanabana Ice cream

Something amazing about this meal was that we ate (and drank) a LOT and I left upbeat and satisfied, yet not too weighed-down … a testament to the brilliance behind the stove and bar at this new restaurant.

TL;DR: This place is a revelation.  The food and drink are unique and unexpected.  Try it out for a splurge dinner or enjoy their tapas and drinks to unwind from a tough day.


SAN SALVAJE by Stephan Pyles
sansalvaje.com
2100 Ross Avenue, #100 (Downtown)
(214) 922-9922

 

Wild Salsa

I’m always stoked to try new places and the new taco joint (if you can call it a joint) on Main was a pleasure.  Upon walking up to the front door, I was worried that the entire place would take the lead of the awkward sign in front, but it certainly didn’t.

The decor was complete with backlit Patron bottle columns (top right), authentic Día de los Muertos art from Mexico City, and a curtain separating the walkway from the bar seating area with rose designs on them.  It was quite a festive atmosphere and I look forward to heading back to explore the concrete bar further – it spanned half the restaurant!

The patio was lit by large string lights and was complete with tables and one in particular with a fire pit smack dab in the middle.  I look forward to heading back to enjoy the patio when it dips below triple-digit temperatures to watch the beautiful people frequenting the adjacent Mercantile pool.

Once at our table, our waitress recommended the Wild Rita … the Wild Rita was no slouch.   It was spicy, fragrant, rimmed with chili-lime salt, and it was BIG.  I’d give the drink a AAA rating – and I don’t even like tequila!  They also have Negra Modelo, Dos Equis, and Bud light on tap, a drink list with five interesting margaritas and six cocktails to choose from.

The only thing better than the margarita was the food.  The chips were just about average, but the avocado salsa was to die for; it’s no wonder that this place is called Wild Salsa (I went through two bowls myself before our food came).  They offer other salsas for a cost and sadly my dinner guest didn’t feel the need to try them … bummer.  I partook in the three-taco platter with rice and beans and tried three different ones … including a “lengua”, or beef tongue, and it was delicious!  They use local ingredients and they are listed on a chalkboard at the front of the shop.

Bottom line: I like a swanky place that can still keep its focus on the food and drink, and Wild Salsa does just that.  Definitely put a night aside to jump in here and enjoy the unique fare and strong drinks.

Extra info: they have a great wait staff, everyone is very friendly.  Food is served late on Fridays and Saturdays (but I don’t know how late).  ALSO, they may be opening for some serious late-night drunk taco action because they have what looks like a to-go window on Main.

Drink strength: 4.5
Overall: 4

Wild Salsa 
www.wildsalsarestaurant.com
1800 Main St (Downtown) | 214-741-WILD

Specials:
Monay-Friday | 4-7 p.m. | $3.50 beers, $4 house margaritas, $4 wells

holler for a … palmer? (CLOSED)

New to the Dallas happy hour scene, Charlie Palmer is a gem.  Like some of the other upscale restaurants around our fair city, Charlie Palmer offers to-die-for drinks and sumptuous food to snack on at a good price compared to the usual prices.

The hotel (The Joule) is intriguing with somewhat out-of-place decor that seems to still work – site: the large wheel in the lobby (their bathrooms are pretty interesting, too).  The restaurant has a nice ambiance if it is a little close to the Downtown traffic – but it is very chill and the patio is laid back with really interesting people watching.  Sit back in their comfy chairs and watch the beautiful people checking into the hotel and the businessmen and women hustling around after work – just keep your eyes open for the guy on the street that may try to sell you poetry when you’re waiting for your car at valet.

Speaking of valet, it’s $10.  Try to park in the parking garage across the street and it’s only about $5.

The drinks … let’s talk about the drinks … they.are.a.ma.zing.  They are incredibly creative and quite delicious.  You have your choice of six fancy cocktails for half off along with the Charlie Palmer private label ISC Pinot Noir or single malt scotch. Try the Perfect Pear which is perfectly sweet or the Thin Mintini which will take you back to your days in the Girl Scouts (or at least it did for me!).  If you want to feel that you’ve done your part to save the planet for the day, get the Treetini; Live it Green and VeeV will plant a tree for each one sold.

Get a little snack to go along with your drink.  I recommend the fries; while they come in a trough (which is somewhat troubling if you think about it) but the bearnaise sauce makes up for any discomfort about the serving plate.  Also try the lobster corn dogs … yum.  Enjoy a taste of the incredible restaurant’s small bites menu for 1/2 off during happy hour!

Try Charlie Palmer for its happy hour – at least so you can try their amazing fare and drink!  I know I’ll be back for more.

Charlie Palmer at The Joule
www.charliepalmer.com | @thejoule
1530 Main Street | (214) 261-4600

Specials:
Thursday and Friday | 4-7 p.m. | 1/2 price small bites menu and selected drinks