Category Archives: Non-Booze

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

I am a Native Floridian (though this year will mark my 10th living in Texas … at what point does one become a Naturalized citizen?), and I am nothing short of delighted to discover that one of my favorite Florida lunch spots finally made its way to Dallas. In fact, Tropical Smoothie Cafe now has three locations in the Metroplex; one in Dallas, one in Frisco, and one Fort Worth along with new locations coming soon to Plano and Lewisville.

The name “Tropical Smoothie Cafe” might lead one to believe that this spot specializes in smoothies- and well, you’d be right about that. But, In addition to more than 25 smoothie creations- with an assortment of 16 supplements and add-ons you can choose to add to your sippable masterpiece- Tropical Smoothie also features a pretty awesome food menu. Tropical Smoothie’s Dallas location gave us a sneak peek to check out some new menu additions- and I was relieved to find many of my old favorites remain on the menu, as well. Whew.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe has always offered a great variety of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Their ingredients are chef-inspired and far from mundane; for instance, wrap options include a Thai Chicken variety, with wontons, carrots, sesame seeds cilantro, scallions, and Thai peanut dressing, and a Jamaican Jerk Chicken variety, prepared with southwestern rice, corn, black, beans, asparagus, read onions, mozzarella cheese, and of course, a zesty Jamaican Jerk sauce (each $6.99). Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s best selling sandwich is the Rustic Turkey & Apple Club, which consists of turkey, cheddar, gorgonzola, bacon, dijon honey mustard, and house-made kale and apple slaw piled high on a thinly sliced seedlicious bread ($6.99). 

New menu offerings include a lineup of Tacos with creative varieties that include Korean BBQ Steak (steak, house-made cucumber & kale slaw, sweet and spicy Asian BBQ sauce) and Smoked Jalapeño Chicken (grilled chicken, bacon, cabbage, tomatoes, red onions, smoked jalapeño spread; 2 for $5.49 or 3 for $7.99). Also new to the menu are a lineup of toasted flatbreads with offerings like the Tzatziki Steak (steak, red onions, sliced tomatoes, romaine, cucumbers, tzatziki sauce) and the Chicken Pesto (grilled chicken, tomatoes, parmesan, mozzarella, pesto; $4.49). 

Yes, the food menu at Tropical Smoothie Cafe is greatness, but, I can’t possibly go on without saying a bit more about the smoothies they’re serving up. TSC’s smoothie lineup includes a variety of classics (the Jetty Punch– strawberry & banana, and the Sunrise Sunset– strawberries, pineapple, mango, & OJ are two guest favorites), “Superfood” options (ingredients like açai juice, goji berries, pomegranate, kale and ginger), and “supercharged” options featuring added boosts of functional ingredients like protein, fat burner, or energizer. (Smoothies range from $4.49 to $5.49all smoothies are 24 oz.) TSC sweetens their creations with Turbinado (a raw sugar) unless otherwise noted, and sugar substitutes are available on request.

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My favorite part about Tropical Smoothie Cafe is the variety of supplements and add-ins you can toss into your smoothie creation for a small up-charge. Feel like you’re coming down with a cold? No problem; Add a shot of Vitamin C immune to your smoothie. Not enough time to sit down and eat a real lunch? Toss in a shot of whey protein, and suddenly you have a well-balanced, sippable lunch.  Most importantly, I asked owner Robert Causey what he would recommend to nurse me back to health after a long night of, well, Drinking Dallas. He recommended an antioxidant rich Superfoods Smoothie like the Acai Berry Boost (acai, pomegranate, banana, blueberries, strawberries), with a shot of naturally energizing Vitamin B-12, for good measure. I will definitely be trying out his recommendation…probably sooner, than later!

Tropical Smoothie Cafe features a “Happy Hour” of their very own, with half-price smoothies from 6:00 AM-9:00 AM and 6:00 PM-8:00 PM.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe – Dallas
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4560 W. Mockingbird Ln., Suite 118, Dallas
(214) 351-7037

A great big thanks to Robert Causey and Tropical Smoothie Cafe for having me out. I’m so glad to see a little slice of Florida here in Texas! 

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

 

The Original Pancake House

Written by Anna Tomczyk

Most great nights out leave me surprisingly hungry, despite any late night burger runs. When Susie asked me to visit the newest location of The Original Pancake House in Irving for a Saturday brunch, I was a bit confused. (I mean, one would assume that a booze-less brunching normally wouldn’t be Susie approved. As it turns out, OPH truly sets themselves apart with high quality ingredients and top-notch hangover mitigating breakfast favorites.) Their menu offers a large selection of breakfast and lunch dishes and there’s something on the menu for everyone.

The staff at the Original Pancake House in Irving was eager to please and greeted me quickly. After being seated, I was given a full breakfast and lunch menu along with their specialty coffee menu. This particular location has a full service espresso and brew bar to serve up your favorite coffee beverages all day. PRO TIP: order a pick-me-up drink at the bar while you wait. Their brews are locally sourced and their espresso (a blend of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Brazilian coffee) is brewed in-state. I ordered a vanilla latte and it was perfectly balanced with a surprisingly savory finish.

Every great brunch place has to get the basics right, so I started out with the sugar-cured, thick-cut bacon and buttermilk pancakes with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. I can tend to be pretty picky about my bacon and it didn’t disappoint–it was perfectly crispy. Some places have a hard time freshly squeezing juices and managing to chill them the same day before serving, but not OPH. It came out chilled and very refreshing. And the best part of this plate, of course, is the pancakes! The owner of this location let me know it takes five days to make their famous pancakes and guaranteed they would not disappoint. I buttered my pancakes with their soft, whipped butter and smothered them next with in-house pancake syrup … and they were indeed delectable and just as fluffy and flavorful as I was promised.

Since I have a strong European ancestry and my hubby is 100% Polish, it’s comforting to see dishes such as the OPH potato pancakes and the Dutch Baby on the menu. For those who are unfamiliar with potato pancakes, they’re shredded potato, egg, onion, and flour all pan fried to golden brown resembling the more popular (but less delicious) hash brown. My mother-in-law makes traditional Polish-style potato pancakes and they are a homemade favorite for everyone in our family. Amazingly enough, OPH serves really fantastic potato pancakes with your choice of savory sour cream or sweet apple sauce–I’m convinced they would be mother-in-law approved. The Dutch Baby was just as amazing (if a bit more oddly named), and I was eager to try this signature sweet offering. This traditional German pancake has a slight lemon flavor without being overpowering. The flaky, golden baked treat is topped with whipped butter, lemon, and powdered sugar.

Dutch Baby (Picture courtesy of OPH)
Dutch Baby (Picture courtesy of OPH)

OPH offers quite a few other breakfast dishes–omelets, crepes, dutch pancakes, other egg specialties, and some really fantastic sandwiches and random other lunch items. The restaurant truly made me feel like a friend of the family and I was able to see the fun culture and pride that everyone from the servers to the owner to the head chef have for the food they make and the guests they serve.

This is the place to keep in mind to frequent with friends and family alike when you want to give your kitchen a rest but still enjoy made-from-scratch, hearty goodness.


The Original Pancake House

ophdfw.com
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LOCATIONS

***OPH invited me in for brunch.*** 

Lord Levington’s nuts are great … but they’ll leave a mess on your hands

There’s always been something a little off-putting about sharing a tiny cup of cocktail peanuts in the middle of a crowded bar while mingling hands with strangers (or even drinking buddies). The experience always gets easier with a few drinks, but, when sober, bar nuts fall somewhere between stale bag of crackers and mushy banana on the snack spectrum.

Luckily, someone decided bar mix could reach an actually enjoyable level, and all it takes is a good product and a ridiculous amount of kitsch to drive home the point. Meet Lord Nut Levington, made in Dallas. (I, however, am still coming to you from Rhode Island.)

Before we even move forward, it’s probably worth poking around the website for a few minutes. The packaging style is a mix of old timey artwork, sex puns and random STD penicillin references – but regardless of whether or not you get a chuckle out of it or not, the product inside is seriously good.

The flavors are fitting over the top, ranging from Zesty Chile Lime to Thai Curry & Lemongrass to Spicy Bloody Mary (Susie’s favorite). Each flavor is covered in a dust that is clearly derived from some version of crack that makes you keep chowing down while your hands slowly get covered in a thick gunk you haven’t seen since you stuck your wet fingers in a Cheeto bag as a child. PRO-TIP: use a spoon or lid to tip the nuts directly into your mouth to avoid looking like a large adult son who had too much Mountain Dew before snack time.

Since this is a booze blog, it’s also important to point out the flavors paired pretty well with their corresponding drink. The Spicy Bloody Mary and Hot Buffalo went great with spicy cocktails, the lemongrass was tangier and went with anything, the Zesty Chile Lime was good with tequila, and White Cheddar & Jalapeño went well with beer. My personal favorite was the Hot Buffalo, but there really wasn’t a bad flavor in the pack. (And my wife quickly stole most of the Thai Curry & Lemongrass and refused to give them back. I’m letting her have that one since she recently gave me a child.)

So yeah, I’ve spared you about five different “deez nuts” jokes and a couple of other puns, so I’ll just end by pointing out that you should either look for this snack in stores or order a sample pack online today. It’s a nice break from the usual drinking snack fare and, assuming you can avoid making a mess of the place, might be a nice snack to keep around your home bar or for parties.

To find a store near you that carries Lord Nut Levington, just use their store locator tool: http://www.whoislordnut.com/locate/.

Oh … and this brand was on “Shark Tank” at some point … if you care about that sort of thing.

My Fit Foods “Pays Fit Forward”

I love being a contributor for Susie Drinks Dallas … it affords me some amazing opportunities to try the most incredible variety (and quantity … ) of  some of the most delightful food and drink D/FW has to offer … and on a pretty frequent basis. In addition to an untold number of delicious things I eat and drink on my own time, outside of the realm of the blogosphere. I think what I’m trying to say is, I end up indulging perhaps a tiny bit more than I ideally should (especially since I am getting married in three weeks and training for a marathon, but that’s neither here nor there). So, when I received an invitation to attend an evening of healthy food and fitness in support of My Fit Foods’ “Pay Fit Forward” campaign, I decided that was probably something I needed to take advantage of.

Bless you, My Fit Foods.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, My Fit Foods is a healthy kitchen concept with 9 stores in the Dallas area. They offer a variety of pre-made meals made with fresh, healthy ingredients, with options that are designed to fit any diet or lifestyle. They offer a number of meal plans, featuring a multitude of choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

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In honor of North Texas Giving Day, My Fit Foods is “Paying Fit Forward” on Fridays during the month of September. When you purchase a meal on PayFitForward Fridays, you will receive an additional meal for free, which you can elect to give to a friend, or donate to a local food bank. So, while you’re doing something good for yourself, you can share your healthy choice with a friend- or, with a stranger- for free!

In the spirit of sharing healthy habits with a buddy, My Fit Foods hosted a fun partners circuit workout at the store, led by Lea Genders of Running With Ollie. After we worked up a sweat (and an appetite) we were treated to a tasty and healthy meal of our choice from the My Fit Foods kitchen. I chose the “Beef it Up” meal, which consisted of a natural beef tenderloin, accompanied by cauliflower mash and fresh green beans. It was seriously hard to believe this meal, which was plenty filling, contained only 270 calories.

Be sure to PayFitForward on 9/25; if you haven’t checked out My Fit Foods yet, this is a great opportunity for you and a friend to give it a try!

MY FIT FOODS
www.myfitfoods.com
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Various locations

Mixing it up with ChaiElixir

I’m admittedly a sucker for experimenting with unique and creative cocktail ingredients. That being said, I jumped at the chance to check out ChaiElixir, a brand of all-natural, non-alcoholic, sparkling chai tea beverage. ChaiElixir contains reduced sugar, and is available in three intriguing varieties:

  • Vivid – a blend of crisp green tea and citrus
  • Smooth – oolong tea with vanilla
  • Essence – white tea with peach infusions

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I dutifully sampled all three varieties in their pure, unadulterated states (sans-booze, that is), and I found all three flavors to be light and refreshing. The tea flavors are not muted, so if you are so-so on tea, these babies are not meant for you. I was immediately struck by the potential for versatility; ChaiElixirs would make an excellent mixer for lighter brunch drinks, but would also pair handsomely with whiskey, rum, or vodka for a crafty evening libation.
Equally appealing is the fact that ChaiElixirs flavor profiles are complex enough to be interesting in very simply cocktails with limited ingredients. To illustrates that idea, here are some two-ingredient cocktails recommended by ChaiElixir:

  • IMG_0015Vodka Chai – Two parts non-alcoholic ChaiElixir Fusion; one part vodka or choice.  Enjoy on the rocks or finished with an orange peel, cinnamon stick, or other spice garnish for added touch of “Refreshing Effervescence”.
  • The Mojito Essence – Replace tonic water with two parts bright, lightly carbonated ChaiElixir Essence mixed with one part rum to create an easy and delicious twist on a decadent mojito.  Add seasonal fruits muddled, pour over cubed ice and garnish with fresh mint for a classy look.
  • Chai Bellini – “When in Rome”, dive into sparkling refreshment with the delicious peach infusions ChaiElixir Essence mixed with Prosecco or sparkling wine.  Present in a chilled flute glass for a sophisticated, uplifting experience.

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On the other hand, if you are up for the challenge of preparing something a bit more complex, here are some ChaiElixir recipes from New York Mixologist Jason Walsh you might enjoy:

Vivid D’Amour
1/4 muddled orange
1.5oz Brandy
1/4 oz Crème de cacao
1/2oz Ginger syrup
3/4oz Fresh lime juice
ChaiElixir Vivid

In mixing glass, muddle quartered orange slice.  Add all ingredients, and add ½ cup ice; then shake moderately.  Strain over new ice and top off with ChaiElixir Vivid. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cucumber Kiss
1 muddled cucumber wheel
1.5oz Aperol Italian Aperitif
1/2oz Fresh lime juice
1/4oz Blended yuzu juice
ChaiElixir Fusion

Muddle cucumber in mixing glass, then combine all ingredients except ChaiElixir Fusion in mixing glass. Add ½ cup of ice and shake well; strain into a martini or coupette style glass and top with ChaiElixir Fusion.  Garnish with cucumber slice.

 

CHAIELIXIR
chaielixir.com

ChaiElixir provided me with complimentary product to sample for this review. Thanks, guys!

Corner Bakery’s UnFlat Event & Giveaway

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!

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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!

The Corner Bakery
www.cornerbakerycafe.com
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**Corner Bakery sponsored this giveaway.**

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JK Chocolate

The holiday season is upon us. Traffic is unreal, grocery stores are out of chocolate chips, and you have neither the time nor the inclination to bake homemade cookies for that White Elephant party/teacher gifts/hostess gift/birthday party. Now that you’ve decided to outsource your holiday baking, you’re faced with even more decisions: Are cupcakes too childish? Are cake balls still in? Will that whole cake get eaten? What exactly is a fruit cake?

Enter: JK Chocolate.

Purveyor of Microchip Cookies, cakes, and unfairly decadent chocolate sauces and the brainchild of Julie and Karleen, the roots of JK Chocolate reach back to 1984 when the two friends would prepare homemade chocolate sauces for their children’s teachers. The word spread quickly about their confections, and the teachers- bereft of the heavenly sauces after the kids grew up and headed to college- begged the duo to sell their products. The rest is cookie history.

IMG_7566JK Chocolate sells seven flavors of their perfectly munch able treats: Midnight Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Chip Crunch, Peanut Butter Chip with Sea Salt, Six Spice Gingersnap, Pecan Sweeties, Cheddar Cheesies with Texas Heat, and, of course, The Original Chocolate Chip.

Available in 11- and 20-ounce cans, the flavors are also available in gift packs, party favor sets and multi-pack sets of smaller IMG_75711.5- and 2-ounce jars. You can mix and match flavors, cookies, sauces and mini-cakes for the perfect hostess gift, holiday snack, party favor or office presents.

The jar of Original Chocolate Chip Microchip cookies I brought home lasted a whopping two hours, so plan on buying more rather than less. They might be small, but they pack a hefty, homemade taste that’ll leave you craving more.

For store location, hours, online ordering and serving ideas, visit their website at www.jkchocolate.com.

JK CHOCOLATE
www.jkchocolate.com | FacebookInstagram
4710 W Lovers Ln, Dallas, TX 75209
(214) 350-0427

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