Category Archives: Reviews

Picnic with Ponies

What goes better with sunshine than a delicious rosé cocktail and a spectacular view of horses galloping in a field? I’m a little hard pressed to come up with anything else. That’s why I visited Black Star Sport Horses in Rockwall, Texas with a bottle of rosé in-hand!

Black Star Sport Horses is a full service training, show, and sales facility featuring an International Federation of Equestrians trainer. They offer riding lessons for all ages and skill levels, so no worries if you don’t know the tail end from the nose, they’ll help you figure it out!

The rosé I brought along is the Inspiration Rosé from Château de Berne,  a 1,235 acre vineyard in Provence, France originally built by the Romans. On the CDB property is an 18th century 5-star château-style hotel, a Michelin Star restaurant, and an award-winning spa and visitor center. Oh, and they make some really fantastic wine. I’ll take a one-way ticket, please!

 

Château de Berne Inspiration Rosé is one of three bottles from the Provencal range of classics, only recently brought to the US. This dry rosé, with fresh strawberry, cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate notes has been awarded the 2018 Bronze by Texsom International Wine Awards and the 2018 Silver by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of American Competition. At 12.5% alcohol, it pairs well with light cheeses and a side of fruit.

The day we made it out to Black Star, it was pretty warm, so we decided to batch out a rosé cooler to cool us off a bit more. Picnics can also get messy, so it’s best to batch any cocktails out before heading out.

SUMMER PEACH ROSÉ COOLER
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups frozen peaches
4 cups rosé (I chose Chateau de Berne’s Inspiration Rosé)
1 liter club soda
Rosemary for garnish

Puree the peaches with water and sugar.


CHATEAU DE BERNE
Château de Berne
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Featured: Inspiration Rosé, ~$20

BLACK STAR SPORT HORSE FARM
BlackStarSportHorses.com
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5565 FM 549, Rockwall, TX 75032

Jackson Family Wines + Harwood District Wine Dinner

The Harwood District has given Dallas some of (my) favorite new restaurants and spaces in the last few years—Mercat Bistro, Marie Gabrielle, Magnolias: Sous Le Pont, etc.—so it was surprise to me when I realized I hadn’t yet visited Dolce Riviera when I was invited to a wine pairing dinner there. I couldn’t say no. If it was anything compared to the other restaurants in the district, I was in for a treat. Bottom line: the food, the wine, and the “show” were all incredible.

The wine dinner featured Jackson Family Wines and was led by none other than Julia Jackson herself, daughter of the famed winemaker, Jess Jackson who began the brand in 1974. Each course got an introduction from someone from the restaurant, an overview of the paired wine and a colorful anecdote from Julia, and a step-by-step demonstration by Executive Chef Michele Scarpa.

Jackson Family Wines is a family-owned and operated wine company that owns vineyards, wineries, and brands throughout the world with brands spanning price ranges and various winemaking techniques. They continue to product incredibly wines and push teh envelope when it comes to innovation—both in winemaking and in eco-friendly practices. Well-known US brands include Freemark Abbey,  Kendall-Jackson, and La Crema.

The.meal.was.amazing. Each course was beautifully prepared and the paired Jackson Family Wines were exquisite and paired flawlessly. The risotto and Valodorna Supertuscan pairing was, by far, my absolute favorite. I’ve never been much of a risotto fan, but Chef Scarpa’s was life changing. Not kidding. The Supertuscan pairing was perfect as its bold notes of black cherry and spices cut the creaminess and richness of the risotto.

The food at Dolce Riviera is inspired by Chef Scarpa’s roots in southern Italy and dishes are authentic, but with a slight French slant. Everything is made with fresh ingredients from scratch to finish and is beautifully and intricately crafted to not only taste authentic, but to be presented beautifully as well. Dolce Riviera aims for simple, yet elegant.

ANTIPASTO: Half Crispy Quail over Green Asparagus with Quail Eggs and Sauce Mornaise
Paired with Cambria Clone 4 Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley, USA)

CRUDO: Venison Carpaccio with Wild Herbs, Late Radicchio Salad with Dried Apricot and Fresh Red Currant in White Balsamic Dressing
Paired with Yangarra Grenache (McLaren Vale, Australia)

PRIMO: Risotto Carnaroli with Pomegranate
Paired with Valodorna Supertuscan (Tuscany, Italy)

SECONDO: Veal Tenderloin Rollatino with Truffle Heart, Mix Wild Mushroom Sauce
Paired with Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, USA)

Harwood District gives diners incredible opportunities to dine delightfully with various events like these wine dinners, DJ Brunches, and more. Make sure to watch the Harwood District events page and their social channels to be up on all of the offerings coming from the district.


JACKSON FAMILY WINES
jacksonfamilywines.com

DOLCE RIVIERA
dolceriviera.com

HARWOOD DISTRICT
harwooddistrict.com

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.


THE BLOODY BUDDY
TheBloodyBuddy.com
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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.


TOYOTA PRIUS PRIME PLUS
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 or wineandmagicdallas.com for other events and future Wine & Magic nights.


CHECKERED PAST WINERY
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.


TGI FRIDAY’S
tgifridays.com
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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
Downsizing
Ferdinand
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The Greatest Showman

Moviehouse & Eatery
themoviehouse.com

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
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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
trulyspikedsparkling.com
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#LiveTruly
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.