The State Fair of Texas ends today, … didn’t get a chance to make it out there this year? (Or, you just simply weren’t in the mood to navigate a sweaty sea of humanity in the sweltering heat, intermittently pausing to open up your wallet and shake it until it’s empty?) Well, I have good news for you and your taste buds … but, bad news for your cholesterol count. A variety of deep-fried, State Fair favorites are now available, indefinitely, at none other than … Walmart. Yep, you read that correctly. It’s such a delightfully perfect pairing (and I do not think I need to elaborate as to why that is).State Fair Treats has opened up shop inside of the Coit Rd. location in Plano.
Isaac Rousso, three-time winner of the Big Tex Choice Award for “Most Creative” deep-fried offerings, is the mastermind behind this amazing marriage of commerce and culinary delights. (You can thank Rousso for the imagining of past delicacies including the Fried Pop-tart, Smoky Bacon Margarita, and Deep-Fried Cuban Rolls.) State Fair Treats features a 45 snacks and treats from the requisites like corn dogs and nachos to indulgent sweet treats like Funnel Cake Fries, Fried Oreos, and the Texas Bluebonnet (a cream cheese-stuffed, deep-fried blueberry muffin topped with whipped cream and more blueberries). I may have had one two, and it was admittedly delicious. Rousso’s award-winning Cookie Fries will join the lineup of goodies this week.
While you won’t find any livestock or midway games at State Fair Treats, it’s definitely worth stopping in for an indulgent goodie or two … and bonus: you’ll still have enough cash left to buy whatever a goodie from Walmart on the way out.
Once upon a time, when I was starving college student, I worked at the mall. Upon clocking out for my 30 minute lunch break, my M.O. was to pick my sad granola bar from my purse or maybe grab a kids meal from Chik-fil-a (in my defense, it did come with a fun toy), because we all know $128 text books don’t pay for themselves. But once a month or so, when I was feeling particularly saucy, I would splurge and spring for a BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. I’m pretty sure in some instances that salad was the highlight of my month.
Admittedly, I haven’t visited California Pizza Kitchen much since my mall days ended. No real reason; I guess I just sort of forgot about it. Fast forward double-digit years: I recently revisited California Pizza Kitchen at their Willow Bend location to check out their new “Next Chapter” menu. I was excited to revisit an old favorite (but also anxious to see if they still served my coveted salad), and to see what their new menu was all about. I won’t make you wait in suspense: CPK did indeed still have my beloved salad along with several other familiar salad selections. The pasta and pizza selection also appeared relatively unchanged, with classic offerings like the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza and Thai Chicken pizza still gracing the menu.
So, that said, what’s in CPK’s “Next Chapter?” California Pizza Kitchen has recently updated its menu to focus on high quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients, and *most importantly* (OK, maybe that’s a matter of opinion, but barely) hand-crafted cocktails, and locally brewed beers.
Speaking of those craft cocktails; I’m going to go ahead and admit I was pleasantly surprised (if somewhat skeptical) when I looked at the new menu, which billed CPK’s cocktails as “unique and spirited”. The new cocktail collection features premium spirits paired with fresh fruit purées and herbs, with an extra surprise of unexpected ingredients. One such cocktail I sampled was the California Roots, (fresh avocado, shaken smooth with Svedka vodka, mint and lime, garnished with a fennel salt rim, $10.29). While I wouldn’t characterize the avocado flavor as identifiable in this imaginative cocktail, it definitely gave my drink a pleasantly rich and smooth consistency. I loved the zippy lime and mint, and the fennel salt rim was an awesome touch.
We also tried the Blueberry Ginger Smash (fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Domaine de Canton Ginger, $10.89). This one was packed with berry flavor, and about as summery as a whiskey drink can get. Most notably, the cocktails we sampled packed a rather surprising punch. I have tried my fair share of “fancy dranks” that look pretty and taste good but seem to be characterized by a relative lack of booze, but rest assured, this was not a problem we encountered. (I’ll note that it’s a dangerous thing to get mall-drunk … drunk shopping is real, y’all.)
CPK has also added a stellar sangria flight to their lineup. It includes Orchard Sangria (white wine, St. Germain Elderflower, Monin Stone Fruit, orange and cranberry juices), Red-Berry Sangria (red wine, Rémy VSOP, Monin Blackberry, raspberry purée, cranberry juice, lemonade), and the seasonal Harvest Sangria (Bacardi Superior Rum, St. Germain Elderflower, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay with muddled grapes, basil & fresh agave sour), all three for $10. In additional to being a pretty amazing value, all three varieties were very nicely balanced. Additionally, CPK has a variety of wines available in 6oz or 9oz pours as well as by the bottle. And they offer a “Wine Adventure Guarantee”, encouraging patrons to be adventurous and try a new wine … and if it doesn’t thrill you, they will replace it with your regular favorite.
Their craft beer selection is also slowly expanding with offerings from the likes of Chimay, Rogue, and Goose Island gracing the menu. Additionally, CPK has added a selection of local favorites, currently including Lakewood Hop Trapp, Lakewood Temptress (yum), and Nine Band Pale Ale.
After sampling so many drinks, it was a good thing CPK invited us to try several of their new menu items, too. They have a new collection of small plates and flatbreads, ranging from Crispy Mac ’n’ Cheese to White Corn Guacamole. We sampled the new Bianco Flatbread (whipped truffle cream, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella and fresh sage, $6.99), and the truffle cream was approximately as outstanding as it sounds, and the fresh sage was dee-lish.
CPK has added a variety of new entree options to their menu, emphasizing “globally inspired” seasonal ingredients. We sampled the Hearth-Roasted Halibut (wild caught from Alaska and roasted on a cedar plank with butternut squash farro, grilled asparagus and baby kale, $19.49) that was incredibly flaky and tender, and the butternut squash farrow was one of those dishes that just warms the soul. Even my husband, who tends to be somewhat of a “fish snob”, gave this dish two thumbs up. We also tried the Roasted Garlic Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables (a crispy-skin chicken breast in lemon-garlic sauce, with a medley of the seasonal vegetables) that was amazingly decadent and moist, bursting with buttery lemon garlic flavor. CPK is also featuring a new Fire-Grilled Ribeye (house-made pinot noir sea salt, topped with creamy bleu cheese butter and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic wild arugula salad, $25.99).
Overall, I was quite impressed with California Pizza Kitchen’s “New Chapter”, and I think this may be a “New Chapter” for CPK and I, as well (mall job not included).
Dallas has a lot of restaurants come and go and come back and go again. Upon Sfuzzi’s more recent exit from McKinney Avenue, Fat Rabbit, a new player took over its space … and brought along a logo with their own version of Harvey sporting a pretentious tux and jaunty spectacles. Fat Rabbit came to us from a North/South Carolina restauranteur, Peter Lloyd, as his first Texan undertaking. Apparently, we’ll see more from him as One Dallas is built (the new high-rise that is being constructed in the Hard rock Cafe field on McKinney) as he will be opening a restaurant in it.
The restaurant, complete with a generous patio and upstairs “VIP” bar (called Masque), bills itself as purveyor of American food. While that sounds a bit “done” for the area, they do it well. Their food selections are all over the place—just their appetizers offer items from tuna tartar to hummus to hot wings—talk about an identity crisis. The good part? They somehow seem to do it all right.
Fat Rabbit is in the heart of Uptown right on McKinney, so you know that they better either do their drinks really well … or really big. They offer a full beer list with some locals and the usual suspects, wine options by the glass and bottle, champagnes actually from champagne, and, of course, cocktails. I was honored to have been joined at dinner by Jackie of Pretty Petals (looking adorable, as always), and we had to stay away from fried things (I’m doing the Lent thing and gave it up), but aside from our limitations, we made some great selections if I do say so myself.
Their new cocktail menu launched last week and, thanks to the manager, Trevor’s suggestion, I started with one of their new Irish whiskey cocktails (because, if you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, you know that I’m a huge Irish whiskey nut), the Ron Burgundy (2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Benedictine, simple syrup, Peychauds & peach bitters). If I had my druthers, I would have stuck with this drink the whole night as it was perfectly light with enough kick to keep it interesting. Their bar program keeps it local when possible but not as a rule. They also play with some different (yet still mainstream) ingredients to make their drinks a bit unique.
Jackie started with the Peach Keen (Deep Eddy Peach vodka, lemon juice, raspberry), which was sweet, so it’s the safer play if you don’t like spirit forward cocktails. Their Summer Beer (Ketel Citroen, lemon, peach bitters, simply syrup, Revolver Blood & Honey) set the stage perfectly for the amazing patio season we have ahead of us–the peach bitters and the honey notes in the Revolver Blood & Honey both gave it just the slightest sweetness.
And … since apparently one cannot survive on booze alone (unfortunately) … we also dined. We started with Tuna Tartar (scallions, sesame sweet soy glaze, togarashi served with wonton chips) and they were nice enough to bring me lettuce since the chips were fried. The tuna came as a generous potion of fresh and tender tuna with just enough of the glaze to keep it interesting. We followed that up with the Lamb Burger Sliders (lamb patty with pine nuts topped with roasted red peppers and tzatziki sauce) which were quite good, but weren’t our favorite.
We weren’t ready to commit to a whole, single entree each, so we ordered a few things for the table. Again … we did well. Their Lobster Mac & Cheese was un-real. They add just a bit of truffle oil that balances the four cheese nicely without being overpowering. Our lovely waitress suggested the Breakfast Pizza (candied bacon, tomato, quail eggs, Sriracha aioli), which, if you remember back to Sfuzzi, they had their own version … so it just seemed fitting. I love that they candied the bacon for this pizza to give it a sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the Sriracha aioli (which I’d suggest getting on the side). The winner of the night was, without a doubt, the Brussels sprouts. I mean … hot damn, y’all. I wanted to plant a hair in them at the very end so they’d have to bring me another order of them. But that would be immoral … or something.
Fat Rabbit is open for lunch, dinner, and late night (SCORE) along with weekend brunch (I’m going to get my ass in there soon to try their red velvet pancakes and mimosa bar), and they also hold events from time to time. Tomorrow (Monday, March 13), they’ll be screening the final episode of “The Bachelor”–who do you think Ben will pick? And later this month, they’re bringing in the 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey’s brand ambassador, James Dillon, to host a whiskey pairing dinner on March 23–3 course and cocktail for $45? In … get your ticket to join me!
If the promise of good food and drink don’t pique your interest, maybe one of their weekly specials will.
Monday – $3 pints, 1/2 price dinner menu starting at 6pm Tuesday – Service Industry Night (1/2 price burgers, sandwiches, & flatbreads starting at 8pm Wednesday – 1/2 price bottles of wine Thursday – live music starting at 8pm Friday – DJ starting at 10pm Saturday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), DJ starting at 10pm Sunday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), live music starting at 3pm
Northern suburbanites, rejoice! Chef Tre Wilcox (of Top Chef fame) and Darcy Dudley of Trendine Restaurant group have brought southern cooking to Plano.
Conveniently located at Central Expressway and West Park Boulevard in the former Allen Wickers Pub location, Julia Pearl Southern Cuisine open their doors for dinner earlier this month. Darcy Dudley described Julia Pearl (named after the family matriarchs, grannies Julia and Pearl) as his life-long dream, finally realized. Darcy wanted to bring classic southern traditions of food, family, and friends to the Plano area. His vision was a menu featuring scratch-cooked southern specialties with modern twists and surprises. To help accomplish this, in addition to Culinary Director Tre Wilcox, Chef Jermaine Brown (formerly of Abacus; Brennan’s of Houston) was brought on board as Executive Chef. I like to think Grannies Julia and Pearl would be proud as a pair of peacocks.
Julia Pearl’s menu is small but thoughtfully constructed, featuring a variety of expected southern fare, with the occasional vaguely Cajun twist. Shareable starters include Julia and Pearl’s Chicken Wings (served three ways: BBQ sauce, Hot Sauce, & Lemon Pepper) ($11), Deviled Eggs ($6), crowned with crispy chicken skin (yes, you read that right), and a crowd-pleasing Black-Eye Pea Hummus ($7),served on crostini. My personal favorite was the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($10), served atop a delicate lemon mustard sauce, dotted with parsley oil. The crab was tender and moist, and the sauce provided a perfectly tangy compliment. Julia Pearl boasts a house-made Gumbo($9),prepared with shrimp, crab, and andouille sausage, served with fried okra. The gumbo, which I found to be brothier than average, received high marks from my fellow diners. I am not a Native Texan, and not a gumbo aficionado but I have noticed you Texans take your gumbo very seriously…and therefore, color me impressed.
Julia Pearl’s featured entrees include Cornmeal Crusted Catfish, served with whipped potatoes, green beans, and a caper lemon butter sauce ($15), Marinated Jumbo Texas Shrimp with Spicy Cheese Grits, served with broccoli saluted and a smoked red pepper sauce($20), and a Grilled Bone-In Pork Chop served with bacon cheddar grits, collard greens, and a ham hock maple glaze ($18). My preferred dish of the evening was Julia Pearl’s Southern Fried Chicken, served with a homemade biscuit (whole cut-up bird $21/ half bird $11). The breading was thin and crispy, with a notable lack of grease, and the chicken was moist and meaty.
Julia Pearl’s cozy bar area features a cocktail menu with eight southern-inspired cocktails. To name a few: the mild-mannered Pearl’s Old Fashioned- Jacob’s Ghost (Jim Beam) White Bourbon, Bitters, Orange; the sweet and fruity Jazzy Belle- Strawberry, Pineapple, & Tito’s; and my personal favorite, the particularly potent Julia’s Berry Mint Julep- Blackberry, Old Smoky Moonshine, and Fresh Mint (all cocktails $10). Julia Pearl features seven local drafts on tap, in addition to a carefully appointed wine list.
Reservations are encouraged; stretchy pants strongly suggested.
Julia Pearl Southern Cuisine www.juliapearlsoutherncuisine.com Facebook | Twitter: @jpsouthernfood | Instagram: @jpsouthernfood
2301 N. Central Expressway, Ste 195, Plano, TX 75070 Reservations
***A huge thank you to Julia Pearl for having me in to enjoy a delightful media sneak peak, and a subsequent food coma.***
Bite by Eddy T recently opened in the former Cyclone Anaya Kin Kin Urban Thai space on Oak Lawn. Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin (affectionately known as Eddy T … because, who can say that name?!), brought his concept over from Fort Worth in December offering American cuisine with an Asian influence. The restaurant will offer lunch and dinner, an extensive wine list, teas, and a full bar complete with a menu of rather interesting cocktails.
I was intrigued by the cocktails which use some local spirits and infusions made in-house. My favorite, which is also my Fort Worth contributor, Amanda’s favorite drink at Bite, was the smoked bourbon, sweet tea, limoncello, and St. Germain business. When delivered, the mason jar is capped to keep the smoke chambered. Hot damn. (Literally and metaphorically.)
Dinner was fantastic and my favorite was the Parmesan Soufflé. I was so pissed that I hadn’t ordered that myself and had to settle for just two bites of it. The Braised Short Rib (not pictured, also not ordered by me) will be what I return to eat. Dessert was a different story … it was delicious–every.damn.thing was delicious.
The food and drink satisfied all of us at the media event, which was capped off beautifully by their homemade lollipops. The staff was incredibly friendly, the restaurant lovely (if a bit dark… always tough to get decent pictures of the food!), and the atmosphere charged.
Check out Eddy’s newest restaurant in Dallas soon … and make sure to have a smokey drink and lollipop for me!