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.
ZIO CECIO ziocecio.com
4615 W Lovers Lane (West Dallas)
Who loves Mediterranean food? If your hand is up, head to Terra for dinner and drinks. Their food menu is extensive and covers all the basics.
Terra Mediterranean Grill has two great options—a lunch buffet for those of you who aren’t ready to commit to a single dish (or just want to stuff your face) and a traditional dinner menu for those who don’t have a fear of commitment or a binge eating disorder. I personally was not well-versed in Mediterranean food, so I first went to Terra for lunch to try all the things. Once I found my go-to lunch order, I knew I needed to head back for dinner.
I fell in love with on the of the most basic items on the menu—the gyro. I’m telling you, this meat is out of this world good. (Don’t judge me, but I have thought about it more than one time this week. Whatever.) The roasted lamb is cooked to perfection; tender, juicy, and full of flavor. If the meat isn’t enough, the gyro comes with saffron rice and perfectly grilled vegetables.
My favorite appetizer was the Haloumi Cheese. The cheese is grilled and has a salty flavor that compliments the pita bread nicely. It is so buttery-delicious. You can’t go to Terra (or any Mediterranean restaurant, really) and not order the hummus, it’s a must. Their hummus is delicious, light, and creamy, and it goes great with their baked-fresh-daily pita bread. The bread is fluffy and perfectly cooked … and they won’t judge if you ask for more. (I know, because I asked.)
Ok, ok, ok … food food food … now let’s talk drinks. Terra has a full bar and a damn decent wine selection. I tried a few of the cocktails and was not disappointed by any of them. My favorite has to be the house red sangria. Even though it seems simple enough, there are good sangrias and not so good sangrias. I also enjoyed the pineapple mojito. Even better news, both of these drinks are on the happy hour menu (see below). Because drinking and spending less makes them taste that much better. The bartenders are super friendly and know how to make great cocktails.
What would you say if someone asks you to go to a gas station for dinner? Well, Susie asked me to go dinner at a gas station … in Watauga … that Guy Fieri visited … and write about it. (Are you f**king serious? I really thought it was a joke.) But I went.
Chef Point Cafe, located in Watauga at a legit gas station. And I’ll tell you … this restaurant puts the tacos at Fuel City and the BBQ at Buccees to shame. (Hate mail for that comment can be directed to Susie.) It’s a sit-down restaurant about 20 minutes from Fort Worth and 40 minutes from Dallas, and it needs to be on all DFW resident’s bucket list. Drive up and you notice the working gas pumps, walk in and you notice the glass door beverage coolers. Yes, everything still resembles a gas station, until you look around and see the kitchen, the bar, and all the diners enjoying great food and drinks. To top it off, they have a huge, pet-friendly patio.
For starters, you must try the Lobster Mac n Cheese. While it’s on the appetizer menu, I could’ve handled it solo—not because it was small, but because it was that good. It is creamy with the right amount of lobster to compliment the gooey cheesy goodness.
For dinner, I highly recommend the Chicken Pesto Pasta. The chicken is tender and juicy, with just the right amount of seasoning. The pesto sauce was rich and decadent, and complimented the bow tie pasta perfectly. Be warned, the bowl of pasta could’ve fed a family of 4 … but I wasn’t complaining the next day when I ate the leftovers, they were just as good. I also got to try the Better than Sex Fried Chicken. The chicken was crispy on the outside, juicy on the outside, and full of flavor. (I will withhold my comments about the name.) It was served with a side of country gravy that was perfect for dipping. And, if the appetizer and main course isn’t enough, make sure to try the Bread Pudding. It was like a giant roll soaked in delicious syrup.
If the food isn’t enough, the drinks are literally out of this world— they even have a Northern Lights Margarita to prove it. It’s a frozen margarita layered with a rocks margarita in the colors of the Aurora Borealis. One special touch at Chef Point is the bartender comes to each table to see if you have any questions about their drinks. I also enjoyed the Blackberry Smash which is TX Whiskey, Cointreau, and wildberry syrup. It was a refreshing, summer cocktail that goes down a little too easy! Chef Point has a full bar with a great cocktail menu.
The pièce de résistance that you may just have heard about is their “Bloody Best” Bloody Mary. It includes a double order of their spicy Bloody Mary and accompanied by a 16oz domestic beer and … well, a lot of things. Y’all … this thing has a slider, waffle fries, shrimp, fried chicken, and a hell of a lot of other things on it.
Another fun bit about that sprawling aforementioned dog-friendly patio? You can order something your furry friend from their Doggie Menu featuring things like the Hot Diggity Dog (a hot dog) and the Rover Easy (two scrambled eggs)—all served with brown rice.
Everyone loves a good coffee table book, but how many of those books are actually useful? We found one that’ll look just as good displayed on your table as it is essential for your bar cart.
Cocktails with Benefits, 40 Naughty but Nourishing Drinks by Nicole Herft is cocktail recipe book with four main categories: Fruitylicious, Drink Your Greens, Totally Tropical, and Smokey, Spicy, Sour, Sexy.
Herft uses only natural ingredients in her recipes, giving you a healthier way to consume your “naughty” cocktails. She leaves out the refined sugar and makes use of natural sugars like fruits and vegetables. That said, the drinks lead to less hangovers thanks to the natural ingredients.
I went ahead and tested out a recipe from the Fruitylicious category, the Iced Mixed Berry Sangria.
Iced Mixed Berry Sangria
2 cups fresh mixed berries (1 cup extra for the pitcher)
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1 (750ml) bottle Rosé Rioja
Equipment needed: Small saucepan, Sieve, Cocktail stirrer, Serving pitcher, and 4 glasses
Place the mixed berries, 3/4 cup water, and agave nectar into a small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and pass the mixture through a sieve. Press the berries with the back of a spoon to make sure you get all their juices. Leave the mixture to cool.
Half-fill your pitcher with ice cubes. Slice the extra strawberries and halve the blackberries and add these, and the other mixed berries to the pitcher with the berry syrup and then the Rosé Rioja. Stir well and serve.
Cocktails with Benefit:, 40 Naughty but Nourishing Drinks Author: Nicole Herft
Price: $14.95 online or in store
In San Francisco, you have no shortage of offerings—from ridiculously amazing seafood restaurants (thank you, California) to hiking spots and historic monuments … all of which will astound you—or at least the price tag will. That’s why it’s important to get as much from every aspect of your visit as you can. I chose, on my last trip, to stay at a historic hotel, the Kimpton Sir Francis Drake, so that my entire visit was meaningful … and had some nice perks.
The building, originally opened in 1928, is gorgeous with opulent high ceilings and gilded touches, and thanks to renovations that kept the original charm of the 1928 hotel, it integrity of the historic building was kept intact. During WWII, some rooms were even used to house military on the way to the front. The building also houses a historic venue. The venue offers a beautiful space for large events with a grand staircase as an accent.
The Union Square hotel offers more than history and a great location; since it’s a Kimpton hotel, you know it’ll be a luxe experience. (And I absolutely love Kimpton Hotels … like too much.) They kept the hotel’s original opulence and added to it with modern touches and furniture. They also kept the unique touch of their greeters dressed as beefeaters; they couldn’t be more courteous and make your arrival less stressful.
All Kimpton Hotels come with great amenities and perks—free local wine in the lobby at 5-6pm daily, a great restaurant attached, and IGH Rewards (formerly Karma Rewards) offer free WiFi and dining credits. (Sign up … it’s free!) Kimpton Hotels also ensure their rooms are comfortable, and they have some of the most comfortable beds you’ll find during your travels.
There’s plenty of to while you’re at the SFD; visit Scala for a delicious rustic Italian meal, grab a drink at Bar Drake, or venture up to the Starlight Room for live music, cocktails, and a great 21st-floor view. Bar Drake is their over-the-top lobby bar with plenty of seating and a well thought-out cocktail menu. You’ll find plenty of fellow guests and locals at the bar after hours.
Looking for some slightly off-beat entertainment while you’re there? Join the SFD in the Starlight Room on Sundays for their famed Drag Brunch. At $77 a seat (includes tax + tip), you get great entertainment and a wonderful meal.
When visiting the Bay Area, remember the Sir Francis Drake for a unique lodging experience. Just don’t forget to spend your free dining credit and enjoy your free booze in the lobby!
Amenities: pet-friendly, robes,yoga mats in every room, on-site restaurant and two bars, private dining, large event venue, meeting spaces, concierge, laundry service, daily newspapers, fitness center, free bicycle rentals,
Fried chicken enthusiasts, listen up: you need to check out Chicken Moto, now open in Richardson.
While there are plenty of spots in Dallas that pride themselves on their renditions of this southern favorite, I can assure you, you’ve never had fried chicken like this before. (Well, unless you’ve been to Bb Bop, in which case, maybe you have.) That’s because Chicken Moto was imagined by the owners of Bb Bop—husband and wife team Greg & Sandy Bussey, Steve Shin, and Sam Osee. They wanted to open a concept revolving around Bb Bop’s very own “Not Your Mama’s Fried Chicken”.
The building that houses Chicken Moto previously served as an auto repair shop. This, coupled with Sam Osee’s passion for motorcycles, explains the chopper theme. Chicken Moto was designed to “celebrate the collision of cultures and lifestyles”, combining Texas Southern comfort with South Korean Seoul food. Guests get to experience Korean fried chicken and traditional sides with a fresh, unique twist.
Obviously, fried chicken rules the roost at Chicken Moto (pun totally intended), with “Not Your Mama’s Fried Chicken” available as a quarter chicken, half chicken, or whole bird. NYMFC is served with your choice of Soy Ginger (my fave) or Sweet-and-Spicy Chile glaze (or, you can skip the glaze if you aren’t feeling saucy). Gluten-free wings are available as well. Chicken and waffles were another winner—cornbread waffles smothered in GRAVY AND SYRUP. If boneless chicken is your thing, try “The Sandwich”, a boneless chicken thigh topped with cabbage, celery, and green onion slaw, with a sweet and spicy chili sauce served on Texas toast.
Chicken Moto offers half a dozen inventive appetizers, including Chicken Cracklin, Elotes with a Korean chile aioli, and Seasoned Fries with Kimchi Queso.
Chicken Moto’s southern influence is evident in many of their side dishes, with options like potato salad, bacon charro beans, and mashed potatoes in the mix.
If you’re looking to wash down that Korean spice, a variety of rotating craft beers and wine by the glass are available.
CHICKEN MOTO chickenmoto.com
2069 N Central Expy #200 (Richardson)
Let’s press pause for just a second on all the talk about great cocktails, new pubs in town, and all the other great things that revolve around … well, libations, and talk about cars.
I drive a 2003 Pontiac Vibe. The sister of the Toyota Matrix produced by a company that’s not even around anymore. It’s maroon with gray plastic trim and rear bumper. It does have a sunroof, which is hardly ever opened except in tilt mode when parked, and only to vent the horrific Dallas summer heat. Super-sexy right? Yeah … not so much.
So when you receive an email that says, “Do you want to drive a brand new Toyota for a week?” Sign.Me.Up. Such a cool opportunity, and one I had never driven one before. Little did I know, they weren’t assigning me a specific car, Toyota allowed me to pick between 6(!) of their models.
This is the 2017 Toyota 86. I have never been much for orange, but I love this color Toyota calls “Hot Lava”. I’ll get in much more detail, but it comes standard with 17-inch twisted spoke alloy wheels and front fender-mounted vortex generators. With its mean looking LED headlights and sleek, compact design, this is one sexy car.
Toyota also invited us to attend a BBQ meal and grilling lesson with chef Matt Pittman of TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters” and the owner of Meat Church. We started the day by picking out our own cuts of meat, too. (And I thought it couldn’t get much better.)
We started at Rudolph’s Market in Deep Ellum where we learned about different cuts of meat and were given the choice between a 6 week aged ribeye or a filet. I chose the ribeye but had a twinge of regret when this guy started cutting the filets. The meat was so tender, it actually appeared to split open before the knife even touched it.
Once the meat was wrapped we all got in our Toyotas and headed down to Waxahachie. That is where Matt Pittman lives and runs his company, Meat Church, where he makes and fulfills orders for his amazing seasonings and teaches classes. His outdoor kitchen is as big as the house that I moved out of about a year ago. It has 3 Green Eggs, a giant smoker, and what seemed like eight other kinds of grills. He also has more Yeti products than I have ever seen in one place outside of a sporting goods store. Above it all … is a Big Ass Fan. (Thank God.)
Matt showed and allowed us to taste the difference between 3 different methods of cooking a steak on our own: traditional (just throwing it on the grill), sous vide, and the reverse sear method. I have to say, I had reservations about eating a steak which most of the process of cooking involved water (sous vide), but out of the three, it was my favorite (by an extremely close margin).
Much of the class was spent describing the Reverse Sear Method. I won’t go into all the details here because you can find the entire process in detail on his website.
The quick and dirty process:
1. Kosher Salt to tenderize, sit, rinse.
2.Let the meat rest.
3. Place in oven at 275º (~40 minutes for medium rare).
4. Let the meat rest.
5. Sear it on really hot open flame (grill) if you want it sexy (his words), or his preferred method, a cast iron skillet for 1 minute on either side.
The key items that Matt claims make a huge difference when grilling:
1. USDA Choice meat. He says if you can’t afford a place like Rudolph’s, Costco is where he gets most of his meat.
2. A digital thermometer. Matt said he spent $90 on the one he uses, but the price is worth it so you don’t overcooking your steak.
3. If using a grill for indirect heat or to sear, use lump charcoal (wood). The briquets we have use ? Yeah, they’re crap.
The amazing cuts of meat were seared to perfection. When it was time to eat, we were treated to an appetizer of smoked tuna dip, and the perfectly cooked steak was accompanied by grilled asparagus.
Now. Back to the car.
**Disclaimer** What follows is the ramblings of a 34-year-old man that has only driven a couple of (moderately) fun/fast cars in his life.
All I have to say is this car is bad-ass. I read the specs before I got it, but compared to the cars that I have driven in the past, this 2.0L, 205hp Boxer 16V engine with 156lb.-ft of torque made me grip the 86’s leather-trimmed steering wheel a little tighter. This thing is FAST. For you gearheads out there, the exterior is “expertly crafted to help produce wind-cheating drag coefficient of .29 Cd.” (That just means that it’s literally built for speed.)
To complement the speed and acceleration, the 86 has Front MacPherson® Strut and Real Double Wishbone Suspension, which, honestly, I had to get used to being accustomed to my loosey goosey Vibe steering. When you open it up on the freeway, you can actually feel the way the car’s exterior design actually pushes it down to grip the road and give it better aerodynamics. This is a dangerous proposition for someone to drives fast in crappy cars. (Yes. I am ashamed to say that actually is a radar detector in my windshield. C’mon guys, have you ever driven Hwy 114 in Irving?)
Moving on. The guy I took delivery from asked me if I knew how to drive a standard. “Of course!” I said. Seemed like it was a bit late to ask that question. Little did I know, the only standard that I had ever driven (albeit for 10 years) was a 5 speed, loose, crappy transmission. This short throw 6-Speed Close-Ratio transmission was INSANE. (Don’t tell anyone, but when trying to back out of my driveway, it took me 5 minutes of putting it in first gear before I finally had to pull out the owner’s manual. Turns out there is a pull-up mechanism on the shifter that puts it in reverse.)
As for the interior…
When you first sit in the car, the racing-style seats give your hips a comfortable hug. I’m a big guy (more on that in a minute), so many of the sport-style seats are too narrow for my shoulders. Not these. I could drive this thing cross country and still be comfortable.
Combine that with the Granlux (suede-like) material accents, extensive Bluetooth features (because, safety), 8-speaker Pioneer audio system, AUX and USB input ports, and 6 standard airbags to protect you, this car is (almost) as fun to ride in as it is to drive.
My friend Wes wanted to go for a ride in this impeccable machine. His statement perfectly describes the controls in the Toyota 86: “I love how simple it is. Even the touch screen display is simple to use.” As a UX designer, I was impressed. I hadn’t thought much about it because I was just using it, not trying to find all the controls.”
Oh, and the trunk is spacious enough to fit two large suitcases and a backpack, in addition to the “back seat” space. Let’s be real, to ride in the back seat would require the front passengers to be 3′ tall … the backseat passengers, too. (So use it for storage unless it’s absolutely necessary to take additional riders.) But, for real, four seat belts mean lower insurance rates, y’all.
Two things I feel I have to mention:
The Toyota 86 has a 4.9″ ground clearance and a total height of 50.6″ (4.22′). I am pushing 6’3″, but amazingly, getting into this beauty was no problem. The space inside was surprisingly roomy, even for me. However, when getting out of it in a parking lot, especially at work where most garage spots are compact car only, I felt like I needed an assist. By the end of the week, I had a system.
Again, this is a sports car. A sports car that has no overdrive. This means in 6th gear it does not operate at a lower RPM. When you push on the gas, there is no delay … it goes. That said, it is premium unleaded only and gets 21 city/28 highway.
All that said, neither of these would prevent me from purchasing this vehicle were I able. These are negligible to how much I absolutely loved driving it. The morning the car was scheduled for pickup, I got up early, (which I never do). I took it out for one last drive, grabbed some breakfast tacos, and received the call that it was time … they were about 2 minutes out from my house. I won’t admit to tears, but a hard sniff may have happened.
Now that I have tasted the sweetness of the Toyota 86, I kinda want to die when I get in my Pontiac. It is what I can only imagine it would be like to drive a school bus with donut tires meant for a compact car.
Toyota 86 2 door sports car
2.0 liter, 4-cylinder 205 horsepower Boxer 16V engine Short-throw 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission
Front-mid engine, Rear-wheel drive 136mph top speed 0-60 in 6.4 seconds
Disclosure: We were provided use of Toyota 86 free of charge. Opinions all my own.
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.
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)
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)