Yes, this is a booze blog. I hear you loud and clear … something seems a little weird here. BUT, I am known to DD from time to time and [GASP] … not drink. That said, I enjoy a nice drive every once in a while, and I was lucky enough to get a schmancy, brand new, fast as hell Lexus GS200t for my travels to the San Antonio Cocktail Conference last month. I’ll just say this: thanks to the car (and, sure, the company) I really enjoyed the drive.
This beauty got us there quickly (thank you, tollway around Austin!) and with an surprisingly small amount of gas. From Dallas we were able to drive to San Antonio and a quarter of the way back on one tank. The handling was also second to none, which is helpful since its acceleration is also impressive thanks to the 241 horsepower in the engine that got us up and moving to 60mph in just 7 seconds. (Ok, we didn’t test that feature … but we were tempted.)
So we’re checking boxes: fast, fuel efficient, handles like a dram dream … but this baby is more than just performance. The inside of the car is more like a cockpit than a car thanks to the seemingly endless features, and was much more spacious than expected. The trunk alone could have fit nine, maybe ten cases of wine and my two yoga mats. (Because that’s how I measure.)
The hardest part of the week with this car has been the time since they took it back … my neighbor that I park across from just got a brand new one–black exterior, black interior, just totally sexy. And I have to see it every damn day when I back into my garage. (Talk about torture.)
In general, especially for a low emission sedan, this car really raises the bar.
LEXUS GS200T Five-passenger sport sedan 8-speed direct-shift automatic “Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) and paddle shifters” Rear wheel drive 143mph top speed 0-60mph in 7 seconds 17.4 gallon fuel tank capacity 22 city/32 highway MPG
Disclosure: My team was provided use of a Lexus GS200t free of charge. Opinions are all my own.
Being a Texan, I’ve spent my fare share of time in San Antonio–both as a child exploring the Alamo and reveling in the bright colors and festive sights on the Riverwalk, and as an adult. Now, I can appreciate the vibrant culture, but also some different things about the city … the food, drink, and hospitality.
One of the historic hotels in Downtown, the St. Anthony, was built in 1909 and is steeped in history. One of the first hotels in the city, it was originally called “Waldorf on the Prairie”, as it was compared to New York’s Waldorf Astoria but was in a city that, at the time, wasn’t a metropolitan city (hence “on the prairie”). It’s said to not only be haunted, but also the place where Southwest Airlines was first conceived on a napkin at the St. Anthony Club …. which happens to have been the first place in the city to buy alcohol by the glass in 1959. (Bc that’s the kind of history I care about.)
I’ve stayed at the St. Anthony hotel thrice now, and each time it has been a better and better experience. My first visit was before its renovation, which took place 2012-2015. While that seems like a long time for a renovation, they did it slowly and thoughtfully as to not disturb guests too much and retain as much of the history behind the hotel as possible. And the result was goooooood.
Quite candidly, pre-renovation, the rooms were quite small and felt … tired. Now, they’re anything but with all the modern amenities that you’d expect from a luxury hotel, but also little bits of history here and there. Each hall and room have pictures and textures taken from the wildly extravagant annual Fiesta Coronation ball dresses, and event held at the St. Anthony for many years now. The rooms have more muted colors–grays, blacks, and dark woods–with pops of emerald green, the favorite accent color of Dorothy Draper who redesigned the hotel in the 1950s.
Perhaps the best of the upgrades? The beds and linens. I slept incredibly well during my stay … and I nearly refused to get dressed after cuddling up in the robes and towels. Luckily, I had meetings to get me out of the room or I may still be there.
The hotel’s long, opulent lobby overlooks Travis Park and is absolutely stunning. The piano that was once played twice daily when the hotel was first built has recently been reacquired and it’s back resting in the lobby under the lavish chandeliers that adorn the length of the lobby. Throughout we see the Draper green and furniture that’s a perfect marriage of old world, antique furniture and modern pieces.
New amenities include a heated pool overlooking Downtown (complete with cabanas and a full bar), a new, incredible restaurant, Rebelle (full review coming soon), and a craft cocktail bar, Haunt. Haunt offers some unique cocktails named after the chimeras that roam the halls (and bathrooms and libraries) of the more than century old hotel along with some less complicated options.
The service throughout the hotel was impeccable, from the room service to the valet and hospitality at the restaurants and bars. Everything was clean, well kept, and tidy. (Confession: I usually carry Lysol cloths and wipe down a room upon checking in, but I didn’t feel the need this time. Saves some time, for sure.)
My favorite hotel indulgence is morning room service and spending a lazy morning wallowing in bed. The food arrived faster than expected and it was all perfect (and surprisingly less expensive than other setups I’ve enjoyed). Humblebrag, but actually true … I think the croissant was perhaps the best one I’ve eaten since I lived in Paris.
With rates starting around $200, the location and overall experience can’t be beat. I’m personally looking forward to a return visit … especially once the spa that’s slated for later in 2017 opens.
In anticipation of the upcoming Breck Trek nights in Dallas this week, I stepped in to the actual Breckenridge Brewery for a pint and a tour. The state of the art brewery recently moved to a brand new facility in the Littleton neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. The beautiful mix of industrial metal and rustic wood creates the perfect atmosphere for beer connoisseurs and curious minds alike to enjoy an afternoon learning about the beer making process. I may not know much about beer, but the smell of the brewery alone was enough to make me want to start home brewing.
I started the tour with a nice glass of the Bumps N’ Jumps Session IPA, which is an exclusive and limited collaboration between Breckenridge and Vail (two awesome CO ski resorts). It accompanied the tour beautifully with light bitterness and full hop flavor. We then learned about the German-engineered tanks that are used in the facility the process and some of the things that make Breckenridge Brewery unique. My favorite tidbit was the fact that all of the spent grain (grain that the brewery no longer needs, which has been separated from the sugary liquid that will eventually be turned into beer) goes directly to a local farmer to feed his cattle. Efficiency, people.
The best stop on the tour was the barrel room, where all of the barrel-aged beer is stored for a period of time to absorb the taste and smells of the barrels themselves (much like aging a spirit). This room smelled like HEAVEN. The aromas of wood and rum and vanilla all played so well together that I refused to leave. They have several beers on rotation through the barrel room, but one beer that they always have available is their Whiskey Barrel Aged 471 Double IPA with Citra hops, which gives off aromas of tropical fruits and citrus flavors.
You may think that a brewery tour is all there is to do at the Breckenridge Brewery … EHHH! After the tour, I got to indulge myself in lunch at the Farm House, their on-site restaurant. Rustic rocking chairs, plush and comfy seating, and a stone fireplace provide for a mountain-esque ambiance. We started our meal with—what else—a flight of beer. Up for review was the Nitro Orange Chocolate Stout, the Break IPA, the Ophelia Hoppy Wheat, and the Whiskey Barrel Aged 471 Dry Hopped with Citra IPA. All were delicious and has citrus-y flavors, but my favorite was the Ophelia for its lightness and Mosaic hops.
Up to the challenge of satisfying my hunger were several plates, which we shared as to try the most items. We chose the chicken pot pie, the venison chili mac and cheese, and the salmon with risottoand asparagus. I don’t know which I enjoyed more because I didn’t stop to breathe between bites … everything was that good. As for desert, and my stomach said “no” but my eyes and my head said “OH YEAH, BABY. You have months before bathing suit season.” Guess which won? We indulged anyway and ordered the Apple Galette, a warm apple pie/strudel served in a cast iron skillet and topped with house-made vanilla porter ice cream.
This experience was the perfect lead in to the Breck Trek tour, which will be traveling across the US to give the other states a taste of the Colorado lifestyle. Live music, beer education, and of course Breckenridge Brewery beer sampling will occur at every stop on the tour. The Breck Trek will hit Dallas the week of January 16th, check out times and locations here.
I am always saddened by peoples’ dismissal of New Orleans as a party town … I mean, it totally is, but there’s a lot more to it than the partiers who are laissez les bons temps rouler-ing. I was delighted to get out of the French Quarter bubble on my last trip to visit the new Ace Hotel in the CBD (Central Business District) and dine at Seaworthy, the slightly “hidden” seafood restaurant marked by the eerie glow of a green neon sign.
The space is old school New Orleans, a little hipster and a little southern with elegant touches of brass here and … well, everywhere. You can choose to sit at the bar by the entrance that is both for booze and oysters–both of which were fresher than expected in many ways–at a table in the dimly lit dining room, or on the patio. Their patio is just about the closest thing as I’ve found to heaven in New Orleans (without being a tiki bar) thanks to the preservation of the building itself, the minimal (yet unmistakable) nautical decor, and the globe lights adorning every inch of the place.
The drink program here is very well done with bar director Lauren Schell at the helm. (See what I did there?) The cocktail list was a mix of classics (think Fishhouse Punch and Sidecars) and more “au courant” options like the Holywater (spiced rum, cognac, Green Chartreuse, almond syrup, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and angostura bitters) and the Good Ships/Wood Ships (the Tales of the Cocktail Daiquiri Seasonal Feature with El Dorado 5yr rum, Genepy des Alpes, pamplemousse liqueur, and lime). The wine and beer list are respectable with very limited but well selected options in both categories. (Really … there are only 11 by the glass options for wine making it a snap to choose which to order.)
As the name implies, the food menu is decidedly seafood-slanted. The oysters on the bar beg to be slurped as much as the drinks, so who were we to deny them the joy of being dinner? (Just ask for extra crackers if you’re into carb-loading your oysters.) Also not to be missed is their ceviche (Gulf fish, lime, brunoise of habañero chilies, sweet peppers, herbs) served with unexpectedly delicious grit crisps. The Gulf fish was surprisingly delicious and tender … and we may have ordered a second bowl of it.
Overall, the restaurant is worth a visit, if not for dinner for at least a happy hour with a couple (five) cocktails and a found of their fresh-as-they-get oysters.
SEAWORTHY at the Ace Hotel seaworthynola.com
630 Carondelet Street (Central Business District), New Orleans
I can tell you now that the moral of this story is that there’s more to Louisiana than New Orleans … like way more. So the next time you want to “laissez les bons temps rouler”, think outside (but don’t forget about) The Big Easy.
I recently enjoyed a visit to Lake Charles, the home of “The Spirit of Louisiana”, Bayou Rum, and then continued on to New Orleans. Throughout the week, we were treated to some really incredible, unique experiences courtesy of Bayou Rum and the Lake Charles and New Orleans CVBs.
After flying in, I settled into my digs at The Golden Nugget,a two-year old resort hotel and casino (read: still new and shiny) that is currently expanding, and gave the room a thrice-over. The rooms were surprisingly lovely … and huge … and all had balconies. Mine overlooked the giant Vegas-style pool complete with lazy river and cabanas, and the whole scene made me really angry for forgetting my swimsuit. (Luckily, there’s a shop that sold suits in the lobby. Worth it.) Rooms in the other tower overlook the river, complete with a private beach and dock for visitors’ boats. (Swanky.)
The resort offered quite a few restaurants–Vic & Anthony’s, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and more–including one at the country club that features an 18-hole course designed by Todd Eckenrode. The restaurant at the club offered steaks, seafood, etc. with a slight Cajun influence.
Lake Charles’s Downtown area has quite a bit to offer–horse-drawn carriage tours complete with ghost stories, baby alligators, and some serious dining. The abridged “ghost tour” we went on was led by a jovial man who told a good tale–mostly about a woman who still haunts their courthouse.
We dined at Restaurant Calla, run by Chef David Sorrells (formerly of The French Laundry), and the food and wine lists were an absolute delight. The restaurant sources its ingredients from local farms and ranches making the food fresh and delicious. The Blue Crab Beignets, Bone Marrow, Broken Arrow Venison, and Brussels Sprouts are not to be missed. (I wish I’d had the chance to try some of their tiki cocktail options … a return trip is obviously necessary.)
A short ride outside of Lake Charles, you can visit the Bayou Rum distillery in Jeff Davis Parish. Our tasting was led by the Master Distiller, Jeff Murphy, and Master Blender, Reiniel Vicente, and we tasted all of their expressions–select, silver, spiced, and their citrus liqueur, Satsuma. All are unique, and the select has found its way onto my bar cart permanently.
After tasting the rums, we were treated to a tour of the distillery, rack room, and the bottling line. Noteably, the distillery is the largest privately-owned rum distillery in the US using distilling process that are a blend of traditional and new methods using cutting edge distilling technology. And the rum is made with sugar cane grown right in Louisiana.
Oh, and we got to hold a baby alligator named Gumbeaux before our tasting and tour. How badass is that?
At lunch we were treated to some traditional Louisiana fare along with all the Bayou Rum we wanted, then were herded onto a bus and handed a Gator Bite–a hurricaneish cocktail using three of their four expressions. It was lethal, but delicious. Find other delish cocktail recipes on their website.
1oz Bayou Silver Rum
1oz Bayou Satsuma
1oz Bayou Spiced Rum
1oz orange juice
2oz pineapple juice
1oz cranberry juice
Juice of 2 lime wedges
To get a real feel for the area, we were treated to a nature tour by Grosse Savanne Waterfowl & Wildlife Lodge. We went on an abridged tour, but were able to see an alligator (or three) and plenty of other wildlife. The tour guides were knowledgeable about the area and … dare I say … ours was pretty damn cute. (I’m sure that note’s not for everyone.) The lodge apparently offers general “swamp” tours, hunting tours, birdwatching tours, and more along with lodging at their newly rebuilt lodge.
I think the coolest little gem in Lake Charles is the Mardi Gras Museum. Housed in an old elementary school, it has the Mardi Gras kings’ and queens’ costumes from the last 40 years or so along with neat facts about the celebration itself. (We even got to try on a few of the lavishly ornate hats … we were fancy AF.) Bonus: there were King Cakes waiting for us after our tour and, unbeknownst to me until that point, boudin king cake exists. There is a God … and I think he’s Cajun.
After two fantastic days in Lake Charles, we were swept away to New Orleans for more unique experiences. Stay tuned for my recap of the shenanigans we got into in The Big Easy. Big thanks to the Lake Charles CVB and Bayou Rum for all of the fun!
Dallas is a great city. With more restaurants per capita than any other city in the US, it’d be impossible for me to put together a full list of my favorite spots to eat and drink (because I eat and drink a LOT), but I’ve pulled together SOME of my favorite restaurants and a couple other spots I enjoy for visitors to our fair city. I’ll add to it in the future … but it’s a good place to start!
EAT & DRINK
An Irish pub fashioned after a pub in Dublin, Trinity Hall offers a wide selection of whiskeys, food for any special diet needs, live music, and too many events to begin to list. Go for a refreshing Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Moscow Mule on a warm evening on their patio … it doesn’t get too much better than that. (If you want to try Crabbie’s for yourself, check it out at a tasting or event next week during Crabbie’s Week! They’re doing fun activations all over Dallas.) 5321 E Mockingbird Ln #250 (Mockingbird Station), trinityhall.tv
E BAR TEX MEX If you were a fan of Primo’s back in the day (like eight years ago), then this is your spot; the owners and chefs from Primo’s moved here when the new owners took over. It’s by far my favorite Tex-Mex in Dallas–though I’m not sure if it’s the food or the nostalgia. 1901 North Haskell Ave Suite #120, ebartexmex.com
This craft cocktail spot is one of my favorite places in all of Dallas. The bartenders know what they’re doing, so trust them and don’t be a dick. Visit on a week night to get the full effect or during happy hour (which is surely one of the best values in Dallas) or while it’s raining. (They offer their hh prices anytime it rains!) 2418 Allen St (Uptown), parliamentdallas.com
POKEY O’S COOKIES AND ICE CREAM Guys … you’ve got delicious cookies and Blue Bell Ice Cream and they make them into a sandwich. It doesn’t get much better than that. 3034 Mockingbird Lane, pokeyos.com (Full disclosure … my parents own this place. But try it out and tell me it’s not delicious enough to be on this list.)
SOCIETY BY JACKSON VAUGHN
This little candle and knick-knack shop is impossible to leave empty-handed. They have clever Dallas-centric cards 403 N Bishop Ave (Bishop Arts District), shopatsociety.com
This minimalist home goods and furniture store may be a chain, but they always have the coolest haute barware and even some unique goodies like bitters and syrups to try out. Don’t miss their section featuring goods from local makers or the wine candles. 5307 E Mockingbird Ln #100 (Mockingbird Station), westelm.com
Ladies can get a little hippy dippy here with a fun selection of clothing, jewelry, and accessories and fun home items. 2928 N Henderson Ave(Henderson Ave), the-gypsy-wagon.com
The goods and duds from this local shop are fresh and delightfully subversive. Because, really, “Dallas: it’s what everyone in Dallas is talking about.” 1909 Greenville Ave (Lowest Greenville), bullzerk.com
With all the drinking I do in dark bars, sometimes I need to spend time in the sunlight.
CEDAR RIDGE PRESERVE
This is about as good as “hiking” in Dallas gets without making a day of it. Enjoy plenty of trails and some decent views, just make sure to take plenty of water. 7171 Mountain Creek Pkwy (Cedar Hill), audubondallas.org/cedar-ridge-preserve
KLYDE WARREN PARK
The park perched on top of a highway offers daily, free activities, and plenty of green space. Check out the food trucks that are different every day and Savor for a cocktail. 2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Suite 403 (Downtown), klydewarrenpark.org
I love outdoor activities, and outdoor events that you can take your own goodies to are even better. That’s why the concerts at the Arboretum are a can’t-miss for me. Take a picnic (complete with booze) and enjoy the themed music, or simply visit to enjoy the grounds. 8525 Garland Road (Lakewood), dallasarboretum.org
***I am a paid endorser for Halewood International Limited and received compensation, including free product, for support of Halewood International Limited and its products.***
Sometimes you need to just not be home. (Come on … you can’t tell me you’ve never wanted to tell your friends you’re out of town, turn off your phone, and just disappear. Ok, I’ve never actually done it, but I’ve thought about it. Like … hard.) I had one of those feelings recently, so it was perfect that I was invited to spend a weekend at the Hilton Anatole right here in Dallas’s Design District.
I packed up the car Friday before work and scooted over there from the office after dropping off the pup with Grandma.* The valets were the perfect welcoming committee and helped me unload my box of birthday gifts without complaint. (I had a really busy week after my big birthday party, so I thought taking my gifts on my staycation to enjoy opening them slowly would be a blast.) I was welcomed with goodies, a lovely room, and a great view of Downtown.
The hotel itself is huge, consisting of at least four main buildings that sit on 45 acres in the heart of Dallas. The complex offers 1,600+ rooms, multiple dining and drinking options, event spaces, a full fitness facility, spa, a VIP lounge offering snack and beverages for select guests, and 1,000+ art pieces thanks to the owners, the Crow family.
One of the restaurant options the Anatole offers is SĒR on the 27th floor. This is one button I enjoyed pushing entirely too much. But I pushed it … and I pushed it good. My friend Tiffany joined me for dinner and we were absolutely blown away by each and every one of the courses presented by Executive Chef Kevin Spencer and the drinks by Colin Silva.
SĒR offers reimagined versions of some basic options like their Steak Tar Tar that closely resembles a deviled egg, but brings so much more to the table. The Caesar Salad was such a stand-out that made me visit SĒR again Saturday night for another plate of it. The culinary and bar teams on the 27th at the Anatole are all top notch and you can expect innovative food and drink options to keep your taste buds disoriented yet delighted. Check out my whole review of SĒR.
The weekend was incredibly relaxing, yet somehow I kept myself busy the entire time. I kept my evening plans with friends, but spent the days relaxing in the fitness center, sauna, the VIP Lounge, and walking the grounds.
As they always do, the Sunday scaries crept in while I was packing to leaves, so to spoil myself a bit more I ordered some room service. (Because who doesn’t love waffles that you don’t have to make?) The bacon was perfectly crispy and the coffee was exquisitely brewed. (If you want snacks or specialty coffee options, they have a coffee bar in the lobby offering little goodies.)
The coolest part of this staycation is that I got a little preview of Jadewater, the $22M pool complex that opened this past Friday, July 22. This isn’t your run of the mill pool complex. Expect two water slides, a large children’s play area, a 23 seat swim-up bar (YESSS), new art pieces, private cabanas and daybeds, and, the kicker, a 630ft lazy river. The pool will be for hotel guests only, but the cool thing is that you can get a couple rooms for the night and have full access for less than a night at Great Wolf Lodge. That’ll get you howling.
Las Vegas usually means overindulgence, high price tags, and glut. Sometimes you just need a relaxing meal out of the hustle of The Strip–enter: The Haute Dogger. This simple and clean quick-serve restaurant on the LINQ Promenade offers a respite from the action and some seriously delicious hot dogs and goodies … and air conditioning, which can come in handy in this 112º desert heat.
While it’s a chance to have something basic in the midst of the overdone, they don’t shy away from the more haute options. They offer dogs ranging from the basic Undressed Dog all the way to their Billionaire Dog, complete with foie gras serve atop a Kobe beef frank and topped with truffle mayo. Yeah … that happened in my mouth on my last visit. Other standouts (though you can’t go wrong here) are The Rising Sun (Kobe beef frank, crispy yam strings, nori furikakte, and tempura avocado) and The Fug-Ghi (char grilled Frank, mushrooms, caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, and truffle mayo). I’ll just say of what I tried that I was upset that I ate dinner the night before and wasn’t able to eat more than one. Not kidding.
Perhaps my inability to eat more than one hot dog was also attributed to their classic “Old Vegas Special”, shrimp cocktail that they pedal for just $1 (not kidding), or their delicious crinkle cut fries (with the option to add chili … omg) and poutine side options. The poutine was surprisingly delicious thanks to the fresh cheese curds and savory brown gravy.
Lest you think they are all dogs and fries … no, no, no … they also offer burger. And, my friends, these burgers aren’t your run-of-the-mill bun and patty situation. Imagine the basic alongside options like the Southern Smokehouse, or “The Perfect Burger” (their quote, not mine) with gruyere cheese, bacon, lettuce, roast tomato, onion, mayo, ketchup, and just a dab of marmalade.
I know about a few things … a bit about cocktails, just a tinge about social media things (ahem … my day job), and enough about Vegas to be able to do it well. That said, trust me on this one. Spend some time off The Strip on the LINQ Promenade and grab a hot dog, a Sprinkles Cupcake from their ATM, grab a boozy, fresh pressed juice from Squeeze, hitch a ride on the High Roller, and do a bit of shopping.