Category Archives: Reviews

The Bloody Buddy

Do you love Bloody Marys but hate the hassle of having to find the perfect mix to alcohol ratio? Fear no more, because The Bloody Buddy has arrived.

TBB is Texas’ first and only ready-to-drink Bloody Mary. (Yes, alcohol included!) Straight from Dripping Springs, TBB is a corn-based (gluten free, hollaaa!) vodka infused with real chili peppers for about a week. Their house Bloody Mary recipe contains organic tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, lime juice, and other secret spices.

Not only does this mix taste good, it does actual good, too. There are no artificial flavors, additives, or preservatives, and they use recycled plastic bottles which make TBB perfect for golf courses, lakes, beaches, hikes, pools, hotel mini-bars, the symphony … ya know … anywhere. And at 10% ABV, there’s just enough booze to hit the spot.

The Bloody Buddy is the easiest and tastiest way to get your Bloody Mary fix in a flash. Just open, poor over ice, and serve.

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TBB is available at most Spec’s locations.

Driving, Not Drinking: Toyota Prius Prime Plus

I’ve gotten three speeding tickets in my life—one on the way to get my braces off (I mean, can you blame me?), one in a company car, and my most recently in a Prius. That’s right … I got a freaking speeding ticket in a Prius. Whoever thinks these babies don’t have any get up and go, is wrong.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to drive a Toyota Prius Prime Plus for 10 days, and it’s the second time I haven’t wanted to give the car back after a media loan. It was much more exciting than expected. (Yes, I had a little bias against the Prius before experiencing one myself.) The car had a luxe feel without sacrificing the looks. I mean … the non-hatchback version is so much nicer.


The plug-in hybrid vehicle had the usual trappings of the 90s hipster-before-we-knew-what-they-were favorite, especially the incredible fuel efficiency. Not only did I not have to fuel up the entire time it was in my possession, but I had a bit of fuel left when they collected it!

The interior was delightfully roomy, and the seats were comfortable (enough so to enjoy the short road trip I took it on) and cradled my body nicely. The standard 11.6″ media and navigation display was so big that I felt, at times, like I was driving a spaceship. However, it was incredibly nice to have such a large map to keep me on track and the display was very intuitive and user-friendly.

Beyond being a lovely car, it handled like a dream … if your dream is a seriously responsive, nimble car with some nice pickup. I felt in control every second driving it. As previously mentioned, the TPP wasn’t slow, though it took a bit of time to accelerate.

For the price tag, it seems a bit of steal for this luxe hybrid. So, if anyone wants to gift me one of these babies, I’m all in.

Starting at $27,100
Seating capacity: 4
Range: 25 mi battery-only
Horsepower: 121 hp

***All pictures taken by Aaron Hendrickson***

Wine & Magic

Didn’t think wine night could get any more fun? Think again.

Checkered Past Winery, located in the Southside on Lamar building, is making sure your wine night is never boring. Their $20/person Wine & Magic nights happen once a month, and let me tell you, this isn’t your ordinary magic show.

I’m glad Susie sent me (because magic makes her uncomfortable), and I’m glad she did.  The magic host, Trigg Watson, puts on a modern and entertaining (dare I say frustrating?) magic show. His tricks kept us on the edge of our seats and scratching our heads in awe.

While our team has been longtime fans of Checkered Past, we were excited to visit in a new capacity.

With over 60 wines and 20 local craft beers, the last thing you’ll be worried about is running out of options. To compliment the wine, Checkered Past offers an array of spreads (all made in house), charcuterie, and pizzas. Don’t forget to end your evening with one of their delicious desserts!

Upcoming Wine & Magic nights are March 10 and April 14. Stay tuned to Checkered Past’s website for other events and future Wine & Magic nights.

Checkered Past Winery
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TGI Friday’s Releases Its New Fire-Grilled Meats and Two New Cocktails

With their competition reinventing their menus with less items, there’s a new fire under TGIF’s behind. Their answer: do what they do, just better and for less cost to the consumer.

Friday’s is overhauling their entire menu, meaning new apps, entrees, sides, drinks, and more. TGI Friday’s new Choose Two menu dropped today and it’s all about fire-grilled meats … and good ones, at that. There are 15 different combinations for you to try, each for just $14.99.

First up: Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls and the Philly Cheesesteak Burger. We have yet to find someone who doesn’t love egg rolls (we held a poll in the tasting to prove ourselves right), so it only makes sense to American-ize them into a Philly Cheese-take (pun intended) appetizer.  The burger’s patty is juicy and topped with a cheesy pepper concoction that you’ll fork off the plate after it falls off the burger. Don’t worry – if you order the burger, you get an egg roll on top. (Because burgers are better with an appetizer on top.)

As for the new Grilled Meats menu … all of Friday’s meats are grilled fresh on the fire and never frozen, and they’re moving to higher quality cuts that give the guest a nicer amount of meat with less effort cutting around the less desirable bits. We won’t go through all the different meat and side combinations you can get—they’re all pretty damn good, so just pick your favorite(s). We will, however, tell you about all the juicy, fire-grilled meats you can now get …

Premium Center Cut Sirloin: 6oz seasoned with hickory smoked sea salt, topped with parmesan butter.
Dragon Glazed Salmon: Atlantic salmon fillet brushed with sweet and spicy Korean BBQ sauce, topped with mango pico de gallo.
Big Ribs: 30% meatier, bolder, tastier premium pork back ribs, cooked low and slow in house. (The new ribs launched in October and have been a hit.)
Parmesan Crusted Chicken: topped with a white poblano queso and toasted with crispy parmesan bread crumbs.
Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Shrimp: two skewers of three large jumbo shrimp, wrapped in hardwood smoked bacon and brushed with parmesan butter sauce.
14-ounce Bone-In New York Strip: this cut is ridiculously juicy and flavorful … not to be missed. It’ll give some steakhouses a run for their money.

New sides were also recently introduced to accompany these delicious meats—crispy Brussel sprouts, baked mac & cheese and giant onion rings. All of which were equally “souped-up” recently. Their standard mashed potatoes aren’t anything to shy away from, though … they fold in cheese to make them rich and they’re nearly impossible to hold yourself back from eating the whole pile.

The important thing to remember here is your eyes may be hungrier than your stomach, but that’s okay because they have to-go boxes for you to take things home.

Along with the new entree options, they’ve released two new cocktails, the Magic Lemon Drop Martini and their take on a Hurricane. They’ve been making efforts to move their bar to a “clean bar” concept—no fake colors or ingredients, just good, clean, quality ingredients.

The Magic Lemon Drop is cool on many fronts—visually, because of it’s greatly contrasting purple and yellow colors; experientially, because you get to be your own mixologist with the garnish by dropping it in and watching the color change; and Boomerang-worthy, because they use butterfly pea tea extract. The BPT extract is a new, trendy cocktail ingredient that makes a cocktail blue, and then changes color when some ingredients are added—purple with acidic ingredients, pink with a high pH ingredient. Less new, but still a stunner, their take on the traditional hurricane is fresh and delicious, made so partly because of the fresh passion fruit puree they use.

TGIF’s is stepping up it’s game again, y’all.

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Moviehouse & Eatery

Long gone are the days of “dinner and a movie”. There’s now a slew of dinner-movie combo experiences available, but my new favorite is Moviehouse & Eatery. It’s one of the newer movie/meal concepts and has locations in Flower Mound, McKinney, and Keller. Here’s why it’s awesome …

For starters, when you walk in, you’re greeting not by the ticket counter, but instead by a full sized bar. (Because that’s the best way to start just about any experience.) IMO, almost anything is made better with a great cocktail. Of the tipples I tried on my last visit to MHE’s McKinney location, the Stormy Weather (Bacardi 8 rum, Malibu rum, lime juice, bitters, ginger ale), was the stand out.

After sipping on your drink, you can head back to your theater and take your reserved seat in their special, fully reclining (oh yes), luxury leather chairs. (In fact, they’re so comfy that, if you weren’t there to watch a movie, I’d say you should take a nap in those bad boys.) Shortly after you sit down, a waiter appears to give you the run down and take your order. The whole menu is delicious (AND they have a brunch M-F 11am-12pm and weekends 11am-2pm!) and much better than one could expect from a movie/eatery. A couple of my favorites are the Big Jake Burger and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza.

The Big Jake Burger is a fresh-ground steak patty topped with pepper jack cheese, house-made bacon (yus), horseradish aioli, red pepper relish, and bourbon bbq sauce. They serve this bad boy with fries, topped with creamy queso blanco, and a whole pickled jalapeño.

The Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza is house-made ranch dressing with grilled chicken breast and house-made bacon. Then, it’s topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh green onions. I’ll say it … it’s surprisingly good for a pizza with so many qualifiers.

Even if you don’t have any problems eating wheat (like my butthead of a stomach does), you should always end your visit with the warm Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I promise you won’t even notice there’s no wheat, and they might end up being your favorite cookies ever. I’ve honestly never tasted such delicious cookies before and I’m quite picky about my cookies. So take that GF business and run with it.

People always love seeing movies with family around the holidays, so here’s a list of what’s playing after December 14th so you can plan your ultimate dinner-and-a-show experience:
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Pitch Perfect 3
Father Figures
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The Greatest Showman

Moviehouse & Eatery

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Truly Spiked and Sparkling

I, like the rest of the world, seemed to be on a La Croix kick this summer. Light, sparkling water with a subtle flavor—sound like the perfect drink for hot weather, right? (And since our fall has been so warm, I’m still guzzling away.) Well, I might have found something even better than La Croix. (For real.)

Truly is not only a really delicious tasting sparkling water … it has an added bonus: alcohol. That’s right, booze. When I first tried, it I knew I wanted to use it as a mixer in my pool and tailgating cocktails, but I tried it on its own to start because, science. (Or something.) I had no idea that I was drinking spiked sparkling water. And this can be a good and bad thing—each Truly is 5% ABV, so be careful!

I am a Moscow Mule lover.
Reason one: they’re easy to make.
Reason two: they’re super refreshing.
I thought this would be the perfect cocktail to make with Truly Colima Lime. And after going through Truly’s website, I found that they had the same idea. I used their recipe to make my cocktail. It turned out really nice—not too sweet and just the right amount of fizz.

6 oz Truly Colima Lime
1 oz Vodka (I used Deep Eddy)
2 oz Ginger Beer (I used Reed’s)
Fresh squeezed lime
Lime slices for garnish

Visit their website for quite a few more Truly cocktail recipes (including ones that will take you into the cooler months).

All flavors of Truly have just 100 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and are naturally gluten-free. Flavors include: Colima Lima, Grapefruit and Pomelo, Pomegranate, Sicilian Blood Orange, Lemon and Yuzu.


Truly Spiked and Sparkling
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Find Truly at Target, select grocers, gas stations, and liquor stores, or use their product locator

Disclaimer: I was given samples of Truly Spiked and Sparkling for editorial purposes.

Hennessy Paradis Impérial + Josh Henderson | Made of Precision

Discerning drinkers, rejoice. Well known cognac label Hennessy recently released a new expression, Hennessy Paradis Impérial, an exquisite, ridiculously smooth, and beautifully  balanced liquid in an almost-as-perfectly-crafted vessel.

Hennessy has one of the most extensive collections of eaux de vies (a brandy made from fruits other than grapes) in the world. In 2011, Hennessy 7th Generation Master Blender, Yann Fillioux dipped into the library to craft this recently-released expression, giving only 10 of their 10,000 eaux de vies the chance to be in this beautiful spirit. The ultra-precise selection of eaux de vies along with a unique maturation and blending makes this one of the most beautifully crafted liquids I’ve ever had the chance to try.

Hennessy Paradis Impérial has notes of jasmine and orange blossom with a delicate smokiness. It’s smooth, rich texture makes it almost too easy to sip. And that’s exactly how you’re meant to drink it—sipped neat.

The liquor itself is a work of precision, but the bottle holding it is also a work of art. They commissioned Baccarat designer, Stephanie Balini, to create a unique crystal decanter that’s a take on the traditional Hennessy shape and is finished with an 18-carat gold and silver piece adorning the collar. Since limited bottles were created, each is numbered.

Thanks to the amazing flavor and smoothness, it was easily enjoyed, and so good that we asked for a second (and third) dram.

Hennessy teamed up with Josh Henderson of “The Arrangement” and “Dallas” for the brand’s first global campaign, Made of Precision. To launch the campaign, he joined some lucky media representatives (one of which I was lucky enough to be) at NOBU for a private dinner pairing their amazing sushi and fresh fish with Hennessy Paradis Impérial. Henderson and Hennessy ambassadors spoke about the precision of the spirit and joined us for a delightful dinner.

Nose: floral freshness of jasmine and orange blossom blended with the subtle herbal notes of freshly cut grass
Flavor: a fine, light structure. The floral notes of the bouquet are also present in the flavor, tinged with a smoky, spicy accent that leads into a subtle persistence
Color: light amber
Price: ~$2,800/750mL

Images by Clark Cabus Photography

Zio Cecio Celebrates Six Years

Lovers Lane’s Zio Cecio recently celebrated their 6th anniversary, and while resident Sardinian Chef, Francesco Farris, doesn’t like to fix what isn’t broken, they’ve decided to add some new items to their menu to celebrate this milestone. We got to test out the new dishes along with wine pairings from Eroz Spinozzi Selections.

If you’ve never been, Zio Cecio is known for their upscale rustic Italian cuisine with Sardinian touches to each plate.

After some light finger food and a glass of prosecco, we sat down for the antipasti in true Italian fashion. First up: Carpaccio Di Manzo ai Copperi, which for non-Italian-speaking-folk is thinly sliced beef tenderloin turned in citrus and topped with parmigiano and capers.

Then, a Carpaccio Di Tonno Con Bottarga, which is fresh thinly sliced tuna served with shaves of bottarga. To finish this first course, we then had various cheese and meats paired with Simone Capecci Ciprea Pecorino, a light, crisp white wine.

New on the pasta and risotto menu, and beautifully paired with Picus, Rosso Piceno Superiore (an Italian red made up of 60% Montepulciano, 40% Sangiovese):
Gnochetti Sardi al Cinghiale, a Sardinian “tear drop” pasta made with a wild boar ragu.
Bucatini del Gennargentu, hollow pasta made with smoked pancetta, caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes in a zesty tomato sauce.

As for the meat and fish course, you can now find Mailetto Ai Mirto, a Sardinian style suckling pig roasted in their wood burning oven on myrtle leaves, on their menu. The meat from this is absolutely the most tender and juiciest meat you’ll ever find and you’d be a fool not to try it!

Su Kostale, a bone-in aged ribeye marinated and garnished with Italian herbs and oven roasted to perfection. Filleto di Pagnello Alla Bottarga, which is fresh red snapper fillet pan seared and served with shaved Bottarga from Porto Cervo. You can easily pair any of these dished with these wines: Le Muraie, Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, Recchia (personal favorite of the evening!) or Ca’Bertoldi, Amarone Della Valpolicella, Recchia.

If you’ve made it this far and still want more, you’re in luck. For desert, you have the choice of:  tiramisu, limoncello cake, and Sa Carapinna, which is the chef’s homemade creation of the day. Pair with Mirto to finish the evening.

No matter what you order at Zio Cecio, you know it’ll be delicious because Chef Farris creates each dish with his home country of Sardinia in mind. And, with a famiglia mind-set, he’ll tailor each dish to your specific needs.


4615 W Lovers Lane (West Dallas)

Pictures and copy by Peyton Meersman