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)
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.
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!
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 …”
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!
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.