Category Archives: Reviews

Taking on Texas: A Tale of Two Whiskeys

As a Texas outsider, I have learned there are several moments when it is best to just shut up. For example, if you wade into an Alamo discussion and start talking about who possibly disobeyed orders and if everyone really should have died, you’re going to get yelled at. (Please yell at Susie – this is her website.) What I like about Texas is that, as a whole, it’s a land of contrasts. You can go from large cities to beautiful hill country to mountains to desert to lakes and everything in between. You find global businessmen alongside ranchers in ten gallon hats, first generation immigrants eager to start a new life and suburban moms … all standing in sometimes nervous proximity of each other.

While there’s a popular narrative for what Texas is, the best part about it is the narrative never quite fits everyone. That’s why I enjoyed the opportunity to look at two different takes on what Texas whiskey is from two different distilleries – Devils River Whiskey and Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey.

As an outsider, the Mainstream Texas Nationalism can sometimes overshadow some of the really cool things about our state – like amazing nature areas – including the Devil’s River (94 miles of mostly unspoiled and pure, limestone-filtered water right here in the southern portion of the state). If you like history lessons and whiskey, Devils River Whiskey combines both as they’ve built their brand around the river John Coffee Hays named back in 1840. The bottle features river shots, Texas, and just about every other possible reminder that this whiskey came from the Devil’s River.

On the other end of the spectrum, Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey is made in Dripping Springs, TX with a brand focused on being a well-made craft whiskey with global appeal. If you’re a sucker for cool stories about people chasing their dream like I am, this blog post is a great place to learn more about Swift.

Now that my four paragraph commentary is out of the way, it’s time for opinion sharing. I poured each of these neat to start and had a couple of different guest reviewers try them both that way, with a bit of water, and then on ice. We started with the Swift and the first thing we noticed was there was a lot going on in each sip. The bottle tells you are getting notes of toasted vanilla and chocolate laced with hints of rose and white peaches. It’s a smooth, sweet sip with none of these flavors overpowering the others, but it was very different from what we were expecting.

For the Devils River, all the talk of bold flavors is implied by the bottle, the implication you’re one sip away from the forbidden river journey you didn’t even know you’d been dreaming of taking. There is a pepper and oak taste to it, but it’s also easy to sip and eventually falls into familiar notes of caramel and honey. The tasting group agreed that this was the better of the two whiskeys to drink straight.

We moved to a simple cocktail portion for the whiskeys and made manhattans, old fashioneds and a few custom recipes shared by the folks at Swift for us to try that were a little more off the beaten path. Both whiskeys made good cocktails, but the complexity of the Swift definitely stood out in the mixology phase of the review.

The two cocktail recommendations from Swift were simple to make and are worth making next time you pick up a bottle.

Wallace Mountain
1 oz Swift Single Malt Whiskey
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Averna Amaro

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass, ice, stir and pour in to a big rocks glass or highball.

Barley and Limestone
0.75 oz Swift Single Malt whiskey
0.75 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
0.75 oz Cherry Heering
0.75 oz Meyer Lemon juice*

Pour ingredients into a shaker, ice, shake and strain in to a martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


Swift Single Malt
Nose: overall sweet with lemon and floral
Flavor: sweet and citrusy
Finish: long and dry – changes as it lingers with pepper as well
Aged: minimum 15 months
Proof:  (43% ABV)
Price: ~$55/750mL

Devils River Whiskey
Nose: sweet with hint of pepper
Flavor: honey and caramel with oak and a small amount of spice
Finish: warm, smooth and medium length
Aged: n/a + years
Proof:  (45% ABV)
Price: ~$29.99/750mL

Viva la #PatioVida at OTB

I’m a queso fiend … I’m not ashamed to admit it. Add a patio, some nice weather, live music, and friends, and I’m one happy girl. Since I was meant to be leaving for a trip to Mexico next week that fell through, I needed a little tequila and sunshine to soften the blow.

Turns out, On The Border was the spot to get both, because OTB is helping us take our patio happy hour game to the next level this summer with amazing food and drink deals. What’s more, select locations will have live music every Thursday on their patios across the country this summer. (Dallasites: you can enjoy fantastic live music and a lively patio at their Knox location!)

I ventured out the last couple of Thursdays to enjoy the festivities with friends, and each was more bold than I when ordering. I’m a creature of habit–if I know I like something, I go with it. (Mostly because I’m too lazy to be bothered to order something else.) I took a bit of a chance on my last visit and used OTB’s #PatioVida Quiz that suggests food and drink pairings. (My result was their new Limeade Fresca and Empanadas … which I promptly enjoyed.)

Since I’m hugely into drinks, we’ll talk booze first. Starting in May (and ending September 4), OTBs across the country started offering a seasonal margarita, a Watermelon Margarita, made with watermelon purée! To make it more exciting, OTB is offering this fresher-than-fresh margarita for just $4 all day on Thursdays! (For $1 more, make it a grande, and for $2 more you can make it a Coronarita!)

Not into tequila? (I hear you, friends.) OTB is now offering four new non-tequila cocktails–the Limeade Fresca,  Cuba Libre, Padre Island Tea, and Poncho Punch–all unique, new options for OTB.

They didn’t stop at new drink options–they are also offering new food items on their bar menu that launched last month. If you want to try all of their new items, make sure you’re in for happy hour (4-7pm weekdays) where you can get snacks starting at just $2. (If you’re too cheap to shell out the $2 for queso, go ahead and sign up for Club Cantina and get a free queso or sopapillas!)

So, cheers to inexpensive happy hour snacks and booze at OTB this summer. And make sure to snap pictures of your visit and post them using #PatioVida!

 

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of On The Border . The opinions and text are all mine.

Buda Juice Cleanse

Being a food, drink and travel blogger, I often eat and drink … a lot. And a lot of it isn’t healthy. (“Yes, I’ll try all four desserts. Thanks much.”) That said, after returning from a two week tour of England and Ireland, I needed some extra help righting myself after all of the fish & chips and Indian food before heading to Kauai for a week.

Enter: Buda Juice’s cleanse

Since a lot of the foods we eat “contain additives made from petroleum products, pesticides, and other toxins”, sometimes it’s nice to flush your system and get rid of all of that ick. Their cleanse helps to do just that. Other pluses? It can help you lose weight, boost your energy level, brighten your skin, think clearer, sleep better, improve your immunity, and even increase your … ya know … desires. (Bingo.)

Buda Juice’s products are all certified organic, cold-pressed at 35º, pesticide-free, and not pasteurized, so they all bare an exacting expiration date that should be respected. They bottle everything in glass bottles to avoid potentially harmful plastics, and you can return the bottles for a $1 credit per bottle.

I chose to do a three-day cleanse to give myself a couple days to sweat it out at Camp Gladiator before starting my juice-only diet. (You’re not meant to work out while doing the cleanse, so I just walked for the three days.) Each day was the same six juices, and each flavor was unique and purposeful.

– Breakfast: No 01 Green Juice (spinach, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, ginger, kale, parsley) – this was a great way to start the day and gave me a little boost of energy
daily veggies + vitamins, detox + alkalizing agent, gut soother
– Mid-morning: No 04 Blue Lemonade (apple, cucumber, lemon) – this was my favorite of the juices, which is great because I got to drink it twice a day!
post workout electrolytes, alkalizing energy elixir, hangover cure
– Lunch: No 02 Red Juice (celery, apple, beet, ginger, parsley) – a filling option as a lunch substitute and it happens to be an absolutely gorgeous color
stamina booster, stress reliever, blood purifier
– Mid-afternoon: another Blue Lemonade
– Dinner: No S1 Basilato Soup (tomato, cucumber, sea salt, basil, olive oil) – This was a treat every day of the cleanse. I warmed mine and added a bit of pepper a couple of the nights. (And it was nice to have something to chew!)
healthy heart lover, kidney flusher, detox + digestive aid
– Dessert: No M1 Almond Milk (water, almond, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom) – sweet and definitely as good a nightcap as you can get without adding booze …this was a real treat each evening. I added a bit of cinnamon to mine.
healthy cholesterol support, balanced vegan protein, smart hunger quencher

All in all, I felt refreshed and a bit lighter (both physically and spiritually) after three days of (albeit delicious) juices. But I was ready to eat all the pineapple, mai tais and fish Kauai had to offer … not because I was hungry (the juices give you enough calories for a healthy daily intake and I never heard a grumble from my stomach), but because I just wanted to chew something!

BUDA JUICE
budajuice.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

1 day cleanse: $65 (6 juices, 16oz each)
3 days cleanse: $195 (18 juices, 16oz each)
5 days cleanse: $325 (30 juices, 16oz each)

Pictures courtesy of Buda Juice

They do warn you that, as with any detox, there are some potential side effects. While ridding your body of toxins, you could “experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, skin blemishes, constipation, as well as other digestive issues. All should be temporary …”

Antonio Ristorante – Tasting Tuesdays

If you’re looking for a new date night idea, or if you’re  constantly on the hunt for authentic Italian food (the Northern states have all the luck with that), boy do we have a treat for you.

Antonio Ristorante, nestled away in Addison Circle, will transport you to the Italian countryside with its food, wine, and atmosphere. Classically trained Chef Antonio hails from Calabria, Italy and brings a hint of French cuisine to his tables for their $20 Tasting Tuesdays. Guests are served three lightly-portioned courses and wine pairings for each course. Even better, they’ll send you home with a simple and authentic recipe to try out the dishes in your own kitchen.

Chef Antonio prepares the main dish in front of restaurant goers and explains the recipe over a microphone; a waiter then explains the wine pairing with the notes that are to be experienced. Reservations for upcoming Tasting Tuesdays can be made here.

All of Antonio Ristorante’s food is ordered often to ensure freshness. If a customer especially likes a certain dish, the Chef will take note of their email and phone number to let them know the next time they have that dish. They also offer a few wild game options for the adventurous. Wine bottle prices are 30% cheaper than at other Italian restaurants with bottles starting at $27 – which we all know means you can spend that extra money on more wine.

A new food special will be available soon, and it’s a doozy. Their #LateNightDateNight offers a free pizza with any wine bottle purchase. Coming next week (the week of 5/4) for your date night needs, Thursday through Sunday after 9pm!

Antonio Ristorante
Website
Facebook 
4985 Addison Circle (Addison)
(972)458-1010

Lunch Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-4pm
Dinner Hours:
Mon-Thurs 4pm-10pm
Fri 4pm-11pm
Sat 5pm-11pm
Sun 4pm-10pm

TX Bourbon by Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.

Back in January, Amanda gave us the good news that Fort Worth’s own whiskey distillery, Firestone & Robertson, debuted a bourbon to accompany its sweet blended whiskey. More recently, we were delighted to be invited to taste the new expression with the distillers and proprietors, Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, at the distillery. The partnership was unexpected–both were separately making plans to open a whiskey distillery in Cowtown when they got wind of the others’ plans. F&R was born and has flourished–much to the surprise of the owners, but no surprise to the consumers who love their original blended whiskey.

Firestone, Robertson and head distiller, Rob Arnold, set out to create a new, unique expression with a providence that can be appreciated using local ingredients (corn and wheat from Hillsboro and a yeast derived from a Pecan tree on a friend’s ranch in Glen Rose), and of course, they decided it had to be a bourbon because it’s “America’s spirit”. And the product … is good.

The spirit is surprisingly smooth with notes of dried fruit and a warm, long finish. The approachable yet deep flavors make this a unique intoxicant. It’s no surprise that it has been in such high demand.

Nose: oak, honey
Flavor: vanilla, honey
Finish: smooth, short
Aged: 4+ years
Proof: 82 (41% ABV)

While bottles of the TX Straight Bourbon have been a beast to get your hands on, they’ve recently released additional inventory to liquor stores. If you aren’t a fan or hunting for bottles, stop into the distillery where you can buy one bottle each month. (And yes, they keep track.)


The distillery itself is quaint, yet puts out a hell of a lot of product. (And they have to in order to keep up with demand.) One of my favorite things, beside the liquid itself, is the corks. Each one has a piece of cloth, leather, fur, etc., making each bottle unique. F&R works with local bootmakers to source the leather, and they’ll even work with you to create completely custom bottles using materials you bring them … but you have to ask nicely.

Keep an ear out for news on their new distillery, set to open late summer 2017. Expect a shiny, new distillery, aging warehouse, offices, an event space … and maybe even a driving range. My team is stoked to take a trip to the 109-acre facility once it’s complete.

Firestone and Robertson Distilling Co.
frdistilling.com
Instagram | Facebook
901 W. Vickery Boulevard (Fort Worth)

They offer distillery tours on select Saturdays.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco (Denver, CO)

I’ve always been a fan of Kimpton Hotels. To start, they just smell so damn good, and don’t get me started on the kitschy, Jonathan Adler lamp-filled decor.  Kimpton hotels have a distinct feel, and the Hotel Monaco Denver is no exception.

In the heart of Downtown Denver, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is a respite from the hustle of the city. (Or at least what was hustle before weed became legal.) The staff at the hotel made me feel welcome and important, and I cannot think of a better customer service experience I’ve had in recent years. To round out the stellar customer service experience, the doormen are extremely courteous and nearly make your day anytime you enter or leave the hotel. (I may have forgotten something in my room and, after remembering, intentionally walked outside before turning around so they’d chat to me  briefly.)

Possibly the best part of my last stay at the Hotel Monaco was the discovery of their daily happy hour in the lobby. (Oh, did I mention that it’s a FREE happy hour?) They offer snacks along with featured wine for a couple hours each afternoon to spoil guests.  The second best part was learning that they have hotel bicycles that guests can borrow … also for free.

The hotel’s decidedly western-inspired yet contemporary decor feels comfortable yet haute thanks to little touches and rich textures. Then the real comfort is realized when you first sink into their soft-as-they-could-be beds and fluffy pillows. The beds are comfortable enough that you may even forget to close the curtains, only to be woken up by the light streaming in, then refusing to get out of bed to close the curtains because you’re too cocooned-in to move.

If you can make it out of bed, this Hotel Monaco’s on-site restaurant, Panzano, is sure to please. From thoughtfully crafted cocktails to some of the best Italian-inspired food I’ve had in a while, it’s a great stop for lunch or dinner. (Just make sure to arrive in stretchy pants.)

As Kimpton hotels go, the entire experience was delightful from the aforementioned comfy bed to the plush, animal print robes. I’ve decided that it’s my new jumping off point for all Colorado ski trips going forward … and maybe a random night or two when Denver sounds like a nice getaway.

HOTEL MONACO – DENVER
monaco-denver.com
Facebook: /monaco.denver
Instagram: @monacodenver
1717 Champa Street, Denver, CO
Reservations: (800)990-1303, hotel: (303)296-1717

Amenities: pet-friendly, robes, on-site salon and spa, 24-hour fitness center, free bicycle rentals, yoga mats in every room

Ancho Reyes Verde

Who couldn’t use an extra spice in their life … or at least in their cocktail? In Texas, it is completely acceptable to add salsa or peppers to most any dish, so why shouldn’t we do the same to our cocktails?

I recently had the privilege to try a liqueur made from poblano peppers, Ancho Reyes Verde, that just became available in Texas. For those of you who are already a fan of the original Ancho Reyes, this is its new, “fresher” counterpart.

Ancho Reyes Verde is made from the same poblano chile as the Ancho Reyes, but the peppers used are green chiles harvested a bit early, then roasted. The original uses the late-harvest, sun-dried peppers . The heat that comes from Ancho Reyes Verde seriously tastes like a freshly picked poblano pepper–it even smells fresh and earthy.  Surprisingly, the liqueur has notes of ginger along with fruits like pineapple and a slight tomato flavor.

Both Original and Verde Ancho Reyes liqueurs are quite versatile, which makes it a perfect element for cocktails. Original mixes well with brown spirits, whereas the Ancho Reyes Verde seems to mix better with clear spirits. I personally loved the Verde in a cocktail, but the flavors when sipped alone were quite pronounced.

Ancho Verde Margarita
1 part Milagro Silver Tequila
1 part Ancho Reyes Verde
1 part fresh lime juice
⅓ part agave nectar

Add all ingredients to a shaker, add ice, shake hard and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass with half its rim salted. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Verde Chelada
1.5 part Ancho Verde
0.5 part lime juice
Big pinch of salt
12 oz Mexican lager beer
Salt for rim

Rim a cold beer glass with kosher salt. Add salt, lime, ancho verde to the cold beer glass and stir to mix. Add ice and beer. Garnish with a lime wheel.

 


Ancho Reyes Verde Poblano Liqueur
AnchoReyes.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

80 Proof/40% ABV
Retail price: ~$33/750mL

Ancho Reyes Verde was launched in New York in 2016 as a limited edition spirit, and it is now available in the lucky states of Texas, California, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, and Florida.

(Recipes and select cocktail images above provided by Ancho Reyes)

Chicken In The Front, Party In The Back

If you’re a fan of the Truck Yard atmosphere and grandma’s quality southern fare, then you’re in luck.

Quincy’s Chicken Shack is the newest family style, neighborhood picnic-esque restaurant to pop up in Coppell. Now, all you Dallas folk are thinking, “Coppell? That’s way too far just for some chicken…” but I assure you, it is well worth the drive. This fresh, family-friendly place will have you fed and on the way to your fried chicken coma in just 11 minutes. 

First, let’s talk atmosphere. Located right near Coppell Old Town Pavillion, the restaurant features an outdoor patio that’ll make your heart sing. Full bar, truck-turned-stage for live music, and string lights to make all your pictures Instagram gold. 

Speaking of the bar, Quincy has come up with some outstanding cocktails to go with your meal, and the southern theme is strong. Our favorites in our group were:

Mint Julep: bourbon, home grown mint syrup, soda water

Grandma’s Secret (personal favorite): sweet tea vodka, taverna, lemon, black tea

Shoofly Punch: Enchanted Rock peach vodka, peach puree, ginger liqueur, lemon, champagne, topped with a peach ring! This one is a southern spin on the French 75

Backyard Party: frozen lemonade spiked with your choice of citrus vodka/blueberry vodka/sweet tea vodka/ whiskey with mint

Dee’s Lunchbox: beer cocktail with white rum, orgeat, lemon, topped with IPA

Bottled Manhattan: a perfect manhattan made with Herman Marshall whiskey, vermouth, bitters, luxardo cherry

Tequila Mockingbird: Blanco Tequila, lemon, triple sec, watermelon juice

Now, let’s get to the food. The restaurant serves its offerings family style, so come prepared to share … or prepared for a fork fight.

First up is some black-eyed pea hummus to keep things light and fun. Then you have a choice of a fried chicken or a rotisserie chicken dinner basket for the table. Each one comes with cornbread, rotisserie potatoes and loaded potato dip, southern beans, and a seasonal side. What makes this chicken so darn good is that all of it’s cooked in the rotisserie, and then either served like that or flash fried for 3 and half minutes. 

Luckily, their lunch options aren’t all family style. Some lunch options they offer are a BBQ Chicken Sandwich, which is pulled chicken with Quincy’s root beer BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and rotisserie potatoes, and the Fried Chicken Sandwich, which is fried chicken tenders (available regular or Nashville Spicy) with garlic aioli, bread & butter pickles, coleslaw, and rotisserie potatoes. They also have a lunch salad, which features pulled rotisserie chicken on mixed greens topped with cowboy vinaigrette, green apple, corn, black-eyed pea hummus, and cornbread croutons. Lunch options will be available starting today, March 11th. 

If you’re still hungry after all that, they’ve got you covered. Desert is a bowl full of egg-free cookie dough (not today, salmonella!) and a seasonal handpie served with vanilla bean ice cream. 

Quincy’s Chicken Shack
QuincysChickenShack.com
Facebook
505 Houston Street (Coppell)
(469) 251-9080

  • Tues– Sat: Dinner only ; Sun & Mon: Closed
  • Tues – Thurs: 5pm–9pm, Bar open at 4
  • Fri – Sat: 5pm–10pm, Bar open at 4