Category Archives: pairing dinner

Urban Rio Fall Cocktail Dinner

If you’ve ever paid a visit to Plano’s increasingly popular Historic District, chances are you are already familiar with the deliciousness that is Urban Rio. Hopefully, this also  means you are well-acquainted with Urban Rio’s breezy, rooftop watering hole, On the Rocks Cantina. In case you’ve been missing out:  This “Next-Mex” eatery features inventive menu items influenced by Mexican and Spanish flavors and ingredients from the Rio Grande Valley. Urban Rio places a heavy emphasis on fresh, creative menu items, with scratch-made ingredients (they grind their own corn for their tortillas). On the Rocks Cantina features 14 beer taps (10 of which are craft, including local selections), 8 frozen liquor taps, a creative variety of handcrafted cocktails, and assorted vino.

Even if Urban Rio is heavy in your rotation (as it should be), here is a little tidbit you may not know: Each month, Urban Rio features a  five course cocktail pairing dinner, and it’s only $34.90 per person. Let that sink in for a minute.  The average price tag of a craft cocktail in Dallas is in the double digits. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further on what a ridiculous deal this is.

I happily attended Urban Rio’s November Fall Cocktail Dinner. The menu was both festive and creative, with some delightfully unexpected offerings thrown in.

5 Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Soup

The first course paired a decadent Pumpkin Martini with a velvety Butternut Squash Soup.  The Pumpkin Martini (spiced rum, pumpkin spice syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, crowned with house-made pumpkin whipped cream) made me feel like I was abusing my grown-up powers and indulging in dessert before dinner; this baby was sinfully creamy and delicious. The Butternut Squash Soup was prepared with a puree of onion and celery, which gave the soup a lovely, smooth texture without being overly rich. This gourd-centric pairing slapped us in the face with autumn-y goodness.

Our second course featured the Berry Breeze cocktail, paired with Berry Jalapeño Shrimp. The Berry Breeze (pear vodka, apple juice, and cranberry juice) was lightly sweet with a lovely pop cranberry. The sweetness of the cocktail was offset by the garlicky shrimp, accompanied by  a zesty berry-jalapeño sauce and a strawberry pico.

Berry Breeze

For the third course, we were treated to a Maple Old Fashioned, paired with Roasted Ham. The Maple Old Fashioned (maple rye whiskey, cranberry bitters) was surprisingly sweet and decadent for a spirit forward cocktail with only two ingredients. The sweet maple flavor paired beautifully with the smokiness of the ham, which was crowned with a zesty maple mustard sauce, served atop creamy leek mashed potatoes.

Maple Old Fashioned4 Ham

“Why stop at just one entree?” asked Urban Rio. The fourth course featured the  Pecan Dream cocktail, paired with Pecan Crusted Salmon. This pairing was my favorite, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. I heard all kinds of praise songs being sung for the Pecan Dream (house-infused toasted pecan rum, banana, vanilla vodka, walnut liqueur, and sugar). This one-of-a-kind cocktail was reminiscent of delicious banana nut bread. It paired beautifully with the flaky, pecan-crusted salmon, which was prepared with mustard in the crust for just the right amount of contrasting bite to offset the sweetness of the cocktail. Bravo.

8 Pecan Dream7 Pecan Salmon

Finally, our fifth and final course paired the Chocolate Covered Raspberry, a beer creation, with an indulgent Chocolate Mousse. So, the Chocolate Covered Raspberry (Grapevine Brewery’s Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout with Lindemans Framboise) was technically not a cocktail … but, I am totally OK with this, because it was freaking delicious. Aptly named, the sweet, jammy, raspberry goodness paired perfectly with the rich, creamy chocolate mousse. I don’t usually consider beer when pondering after-dinner libations, but I definitely will going forward. Yum.

9 Chocolate Raspberry & Mousse

To tide you over ’til Urban Rio’s next amazing cocktail dinner in December (scheduled for December 16, at 6:30), the kind folks at the On the Rocks Cantina were kind enough to share a duo of festive holiday drink recipes you can create for yourself, at home.

Cranberry MuleCranberry Mule
2 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka
1 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Fresh mint
Ginger beer

Fill copper mug with ice. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with fresh mint. Strain into mug and top with ginger beer (we prefer Gosling’s!). Garnish with fresh cranberry skewer, lime wedge and sprig of fresh mint.

Winter VixenWinter Vixen Cocktail
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1.5 oz POM pomegranate juice
Champagne
Fresh pomegranate seeds

Fill the bottom of the champagne flute with pomegranate seeds (about ten). Layer St. Germain and pomegranate juice in the champagne flute and top with champagne.

Urban Rio Cocktail Dinners are hosted on a monthly basis, typically on the third Tuesday of every month (check out their events calendar to confirm future dates and times). Once again, the cost is just $34.90 per person (tax and gratuities not included)- such an amazing deal! Space is always limited, so make your reservation ASAP! For reservations, call 972-543-8911 or email elana@urbanrio.com.

Here are some other noteworthy Urban Rio happenings:

Check out On the Rocks Cantina’s 7 Deals for 7 Days specials, featuring:

  • Monday- $1 off all beer
  • Tuesday- $2 off cocktails on the rocks
  • Wednesday- $3 off Crown and Down
  • Thursday- $4 frozen drinks
  • Friday- $5 glasses of wine
  • Saturday- $6 beer-ritas
  • Sunday- $7 off bottles of wine

Be sure to check out their events calendar for additional drink specials and live music offerings.

logoSister restaurant Urban Crust is pairing with Urban Rio to throw a festive NYE bash at Urban Crust’s Rooftop Event Spot The “Cocktails and Confetti” NYE party  will feature live music from the Josh Goode Band, small bites from  Urban Crust, and a cash bar with signature drinks from Urban Rio  (credit cards also accepted).  Tickets are $50 and will go on sale on December 2. Tickets can be purchased here

I hear that Urban Rio will be offering a new series of quarterly beer dinners, launching in 2015. Just like the cocktail dinners, the five-course beer dinner will be offered for only $34.90 per person! The inaugural event, featuring Texas beers, take place on March 17, so make your reservations and mark your calendars!

URBAN RIO
1000 E. 14th St. Ste. 100, Plano, TX 75074
972-422-4466

Hours of Operation: Open Daily: 11 AM – 2 AM
Brunch Menu offered Sat. & Sun. from 11AM – 3PM

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

An Unforgettable Experience: Asador’s Harvest Dinner with Cocktail Pairings

Last Friday I was lucky enough to have a seat at Asador’s 3rd Harvest Dinner. If you take anything away from this review, understand that you MUST dine here. I was quite honestly blown away with every dish and every cocktail. I was also impressed how friendly and obviously talented the executive chef and mixologist were. Asador did one of the very best executions of farm to table high-end dining I’ve experienced. With the current craft cocktails trend being craft cocktails with “everything but the kitchen sink” muddle in (where some bartenders sacrifice taste for shock value), I was happy to discover that Asador’s cocktails were inventive, but with a real purpose behind every ingredient.

Let’s dive in, shall we? The Harvest Dinner took place in the new ballroom and rooftop terrace at the Renaissance hotel, which boasts great views of the Dallas skyline. It was a perfect summer night, and I enjoyed taking in the beautiful sunset while enjoying Asador’s amuse course, which was a Bay Scallop Ceviche and the Classic Rum-Brandy Punch, with nutmeg sprinkled on top.

The full menu can be found here, but in efforts not to write a novel, I’ll just cover my personal highlights of the evening.

photo 2 (11)The second course was Octopus Carpaccio, comprised of paper-thin slices of octopus paired with pickled plums and jicama. It was a light and refreshing summer dish, but the octopus made it a bit more substantial and very flavorful. The paired cocktail was called the Air Mail, which was a crowd favorite (lime juice, honey syrup and Prosecco). It brought out the sweetness of the pickled plums and tempered the acidity of the octopus.

The fourth course was Mesquite Roasted Texas Rib Eye with corn pudding, charred corn succotash and grilled baby jewel lettuce. This was truly one of the best pieces of beef I’ve ever had–it was cooked perfectly rare and melted in my mouth. (I’m sure there’s a pun here, but I’ll skip it.) The cocktail pairing was the Bourbon Thyme Smash. I stay away from bourbon drinks normally because I’m a ‘fraidy cat (to Susie’s everlasting disappointment), but this cocktail was tangy and refreshing thanks to the clove and honey syrup and fresh lemon. I’d come back just for a cocktail.

Last but not least … dessert! I audibly gasped as I tasted the fruity yet savory dessert, Texas Grapefruit Curd, topped with toasted coconut, a shortbread cookie and just the best whipped cream I’ve ever tasted. They paired the dessert with a simple Aperitif Cocktail of Amaro Nonino. This was the perfect ending to an absolutely flawless meal.

The executive chef explained that he had created the courses keeping in mind that it was just a bit warm outside (good joke), so he made sure every course was light and refreshing. #nofoodcoma

Everyone I interacted with at the Asador was genuinely friendly and hospitable. This would be a great place to take parents or to go for a romantic dinner because you can be assured that both the service and the experience will be impeccable. Even if you just have time to stop by for a cocktail, you are in for an absolute treat. And don’t forget that it’s restaurant week, so this is a perfect opportunity to try Asador out for the first time or for a refresher evening.

Thank you to Asador for the spectacular evening!

 

ASADOR
A Modern Texas Farm to Fire Cuisine located in the Renaissance Hotel
2222 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas TX 75207
(214)267-4815
www.asadorrestaurant.com
Facebook | Twitter & Instagram: ‪@Asador_Dallas

HAPPY HOUR SPECIALS
Monday-Friday | 4pm – 7pm

  • $4 Draft Beer & $6 House Wine
  • $6 Select Specialty Cocktails
  • $1 Appetizers