Hey, North Texas: there’s a new bourbon in town, and it’s goooooood. Ben Milam Whiskey—Bourbon and Rye—are now available in select bars and liquor stores around town.*
As some of you might know, I like to know the story behind what I drink—it somehow just makes it taste better. Ben Milam Whiskey has a great story for those tried and true Texans. For starters, the distillery is smack in the middle of our fare state, Blanco, Texas. Additionally, the namesake was involved in the Texas Revolution and led the attack on the Mexican Army in San Antonio on December 5, 1835. Unfortunately, Milam took a bullet to the head on December 7th during the battle for San Antonio, but, on December 9th, the Mexican forces negotiated a truce and surrendered San Antonio.
Owner, Marsha Milam, fell in love with bourbon by visiting the bourbon trail in Kentucky. She (yes, she) loved how relaxed the whole process is; you can’t rush bourbon. There’s a beauty in that.
Like the bourbon’s namesake, Ben Milam Bourbon stormed onto the spirit scene and won double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for its 86-proof single- barrel bourbon. For those of you who don’t know, this competition is a blind taste test. In order to win the double gold, every judge has to rate the spirit a gold—this is no easy feat.
Currently, the bourbon bottles state the bourbon is distilled in Tennessee and bottled in Blanco, Texas by Provision Spirit, LLC. When Marsha started down the bourbon road, she was very specific on the grain bill and flavor profile she was after. She she started with purchasing already distilled spirit that was aging in oak barrels. She brought the oak barrels to Texas to finish aging and to bottle the final product in Blanco. The distillery in Blanco is currently distilling the same grain bill that Marsha first purchased. Due to bourbon aging regulations it will take a few years for the first bourbon distilled and aged in Texas to be bottled, but the product is well on it’s way to being a Texas native.
The corn and the rye that are found in Ben Milam spirits are from the midwest, but the water is from Blanco. As a true bourbon, it is matured in new charred oak barrels and the recipe is 51% corn.
*Currently, Ben Milam products are available in Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth. In Fort Worth, you can find Ben Milam at Fixure, Proper, King’s, and Chicotsky’s.
The tasting room at Ben Milam Whiskey opened on Texas Independence Day (March 2) this year and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 1 to 6 p.m. Whiskey flights (which include both bourbon and rye), cocktails, and bottles are available for purchase. The tasting room is fairly small, but there is an outdoor seating area as well. Head to the website for more info on distillery tours. Blanco is located in the hill country, not a far drive from Austin or San Antonio.
It’s September, which means it’s time for Oktoberfests across the world celebrating all-things German—most often seen: beer and brats. (Have you ever understood why they aren’t actually in October?)
Here in North Texas, We’re lucky enough to have two world-class festivals—in Addison and McKinney. McKinney’s FREE* Oktoberfest, which happens to be their 10th this year, will be held September 22-24, and this family-friendly three-day event will offer everything from strudel and steins to entertainment like live music, children’s events/activities, and more.
Did we mention beer? Because there will be plenty of it. “McKinney’s Oktoberfest features authentic German bier such as Hofbrau Original and McKinney’s own beers from Franconia and TUPPS breweries. Oktoberfest offers an excellent opportunity to try multiple German flavors and styles all at one event with a bier garden that covers 14 blocks.” If you want to learn more about German beer, they’re offering Meet the Brewmaster sessions (reserve a spot online). They’ll also be tapping a rare 200-year old keg. 😳 Now, that’s not messing around with the devil’s brew.
However, if you DO want to mess around with beer instead of drink it (at least for a short time), you can enter the Hofbrau Stein Holding Competition. The winner will get a paid trip to compete in Vegas. No kidding. If you’d rather move with it, they’re also having stein holding and beer barrel races along with giant beer pong. (Times when a beer gut doesn’t come in handy.)
If holding a beer isn’t entertaining enough for you, they’ll also have live music on two stages, brat eating contests, weenie dog races, and children’s entertainment. (And you can’t forget the chicken dance.)
Friday, Sept. 22, 4 to 11 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 23, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 24, noon to 5 p.m.
*Some activities and food/drink require a nominal fee.
Admission and parking is free. Access a map of the free parking lots. A designated zone for drop-offs and pick-ups is located on the west side of Mitchell Park on Benge Street, between West Louisiana and West Virginia streets. Complimentary shuttle service is offered Friday and Saturday of the event. Festival goers can park off-site at First McKinney Baptist Church, and enjoy round trip transportation. Shuttles depart every 15 minutes.
I recently had the privilege of attending a Grey Goose mixology class at Texas de Brazil in my fair city of Fort Worth. It was a night full of great cocktails that was enjoyed alongside other cocktail enthusiast and, lucky for us, a really elegant spirit.
Grey Goose uses fresh, French ingredients and is distilled only once using a continuous column distillation process; this single distillation process ensures the profile of the wheat remains in the vodka. Grey Goose uses wheat from three farming cooperatives in the Picardy region of France. Fun fact: the grade of wheat Grey Goose uses is called “Blé Panifiable Supérieur”, it is the same grade used in high end french bread and pastries.
This class was all about staple summer cocktails. I knew I was in for a treat when the table was set with a plate of fresh fruit and a bottle of Grey Goose. (Susie’s attitude has always been “good + good = really good”. And this qualified) The first cocktail that we mixed was the Le Grand Fizz—one of the easiest cocktails to mix, and so refreshing. I decided to keep this one on-hand for my next pool day.
Next, we made a Caipiroska, which is a twist on a traditional Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha. The best part about this cocktail is that you can use a lime or muddle whatever fruit you like. The name loosely translates to “Little Countryside”. Mix in whatever fruit you have on hand and you are good to go! I loved pineapple in mine, which drove home the summer feel.
Le Grand Fizz 1 1/2 parts Grey Goose vodka
1 part St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1/2 part fresh squeezed lime
2 parts chilled soda water
3 wedges of fresh lime
Build in an over-sized cabernet wine glass with ice. Add Grey Goose and St. Germain. Squeeze fresh lime and discard. Top with chilled soda water. Stir and garnish with fresh lime wedges.
Caipiroska 2 parts Grey Goose vodka
2 tsp. Demerara Brown Sugar
Fruit of your choice
Quarter the lime and muddle with sugar in the base of a Boston shaker glass. Add Grey Goose vodka, then cubed ice and shake. Empty all contents into a rocks glass without straining.
Who wants to spend a long time mixing a cocktail and delay pool time? (My hand is not up … is yours?) Try out one of these simple, yet delicious, Grey Goose cocktails, and even batch them out if you’re feeling bold … you won’t be disappointed!
Some people say you haven’t done Dallas if you haven’t been to The Perot, or a Cowboys/Mavs/Stars game … others would say that you have to visit Reunion Tower, the Dallas Zoo, or Pioneer Plaza to genuinely do Dallas right. While all of those experiences are uniquely Dallas, I would argue that you haven’t really done Dallas right until you’ve eaten at Y.O. Ranch.
Currently the oldest steakhouse in the city following the unfortunate closing of The Palm (we know Wally and Bruce will be back in even more legendary fashion before we know it), Y.O. is quintessential Texas. It’s chef-owned with a menu offering some of the best meats and game Texas has to offer with a Hill Country twang and a bar offering creative takes on classics.
The restaurant has all the romantic charms of ranch life; think antler chandeliers, brick arches, supple leather seats, a hostess stand wrapped in cow hide … it’s basically Texas in a restaurant. Soak in the ambiance as classic country plays and head to one of their two bars to try the new set of cleverly crafted cocktails.
I started with the cocktail of the month, a riff on an Old Fashioned, the El Jefe; a bold Anejo tequila-based drink with orange zest, agave nectar, and a dash of cinnamon. The Anejo is complemented well by the cinnamon and orange zest for a taste that has that familiar tequila zing, but the richness of a whiskey based drink. It starts to transform into something slightly sweeter that actually leans towards an Old Fashioned as the melted ice, orange oils, and cinnamon dovetail with the tequila at the bottom of the glass. Next up was a Black Manhattan. It’s an interesting new take a on the classic—rye whiskey, vermouth, and black walnut bitters. Smooth, sultry, and draped in rye; it’s a solid way to start and end an evening. Thus, I opted for another drink since the night was just beginning. The last spirit I imbibed before diving into dinner was the Dirty Marshall, arefreshing cocktail bristling with citrus from the lime garnished grapefruit beverage made with Herman Marshalls’ excellent rye whiskey mixed with mint simple syrup, The Dirty Marshall is an exceptional summertime sidekick.
After enjoying my spirited visit to the bar, I decided it was time to take the plunge into Y.O.’s renowned cuisine. The meal started with the Wild Game Mixed Grill, a wild boar sausage link, venison with mozzarella and jalapeño-wrapped in bacon, and chicken fried quail breast all resting on a bed of wild rice made me wonder why they led with a winner. The boar was spicy, juicy, and cooked just right. The bacon-wrapped venison hid cheesy, peppered, elk under its salty crunch; and it was delicious and exciting like the nostalgia of finding the hidden toy inside a box of Cracker Jacks. Finally, the chicken fried quail was an surprise with its eager crunch blanketing a moist and flavorful breast. All of this masterfully made game framed by precisely prepared wild rice was a superb way to start the meal.
The Tomato Burrata Salad (fresh buffalo burrata, beefsteak tomatoes, and fresh basil drizzled with EVOO and balsamic reduction) was a refreshing palate cleanser to prepare for the Chilean Sea Bass. Caramelized and crusted for the perfect crunch and served with a sweet miso glaze, it is buttery, flaky and flavorful. Done a la carte, the Maple Dijon Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon were astonishing. Lightly roasted and wilted on the outside with a savory, earthy crunch on the inside; these are hands down the best Brussel sprouts I’ve ever had, and I usually hate the little green monsters. Not to be outdone, their Buffalo Filet Au Poive, YO’s signature dish, is served crusted with black pepper and crowned with a green peppercorn cognac cream, this is a truly memorable dish. Lean, rich, and flavorful, I enjoyed every bite.
Resting in a nearly comatose state, I didn’t think it could get better … until they brought out their Lemon Brittle topped with Prickly Pear Sorbet and fresh berries. Beautiful, tart and bitingly sweet, I could only handle a few bites before a brain freeze/sugar high kicked in.
My time at YO was a revelation. After a meal that made dining a borderline religious experience, it’s easy to see why US News and World Report were such big fans. The new dinner menu is fantastic and the specialty cocktails are well balanced and creative takes on classics.
While there are many ways to experience a city, I’d like to offer a close-minded word of advice: Don’t come to Dallas if you aren’t planning to go to Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse. Otherwise, you won’t be authentically visiting the southwest, you won’t be genuinely visiting Texas, and you definitely won’t be legitimately visiting Dallas; you’ll just be simply be wasting your time.
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.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … the only thing better than drinking is drinking for a good cause.
And that’s why I’ve enjoyed The Ultimate Cocktail Experience (the event formerly known as Trigger’s Toys). The event has, for five years already, brought the bar industry together for one spectacular event featuring pop-up bars, entertainment, and a hell of a lot of fun for a really incredible cause.
The general idea is that, one bar is great, but six make for a real party. So, each year, a theme is selected for the event, then captains conceptualize pop-up bars with their teams under the year’s theme. This year’s captains, cocktails, and bar themes are: – Mexico City: Brad Hensarling & Megan McClinton, The Usual (Margarita) – London: Omar Yeefoon, Shoals (Gin and Tonic)
– New Orleans: Keisha Cooper, Shoals (Sazerac) – Hong Kong: Robbie Call, frmly of Filament (Rob Roy) – Casablanca: Andrew Stofko, Hot Joy (Mule) – Havana: Ravinder Singh, Rapscallion (Daiquiri) (Each pop-up will also be accompanied by a food truck.)
In past years, the event has featured bar and hospitality talent from some of the best venues right here in Dallas. This year, the event has beaconed talent from across the country—and from as far off as Australia—to participate. Making the trip to support the cause will be Ash Hauserman of Blacktail in New York (Best New American Cocktail Bar*), Iain Griffiths from London’s Dandelyan (Best International Hotel Bar and Best Cocktail Bar in the World*), Ezra Star from award-winning Drink (Boston), and Mitch Bushell formerly of Melbourne’s internationally renowned Black Pearl.
Trigger’s Toys, the charity to benefit from the event, is a Dallas darling. “The organization is dedicated to reducing the financial and emotional stress placed on chronically ill children and their families by providing financial assistance and supplemental therapy to those in need.” Last year’s event raised more than $200,000, and their goal is to surpass that in 2017.
General Admission – $65
Event entry (6:30pm)
Champagne upon entrance (while it lasts)
Passport to all (6) bar concepts with cocktails
One food truck item
VIP – $125 (Limited Quantity Available)
Early entrance (6:00pm)
Champange upon entrance
(3) Vegas Area Tokens – $60 value
Complimentary Valet Parking – $20 value
Passport to all (6) Bar Concepts with cocktails
One Food Truck Item
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.
Three of my top ten favorite things: burgers, bacon, and beer. And it happens that there is a new place adding to the renaissance of the Lower Greenville area in Dallas within walking distance of where I live. Their description? “Slater’s 50/50, Burgers, Bacon, Beer”. This is incredibly dangerous to my waistline because, when the opportunity arose to try it out, I loved it.
There are so many great burger joints in Dallas. TBH, when I heard about it, I was like, “Another one? Do we really need it?” My tuned changed after a visit and a meal.
The space is incredibly well designed and the layout flows nicely. I took my wife along for the visit, and, as a healthcare interior designer, she admitted that she liked everything about the space. The large, u-shaped bar offers plenty of seating, and an impressive collection of beer taps. Additionally, there are plenty of TVs so you can sample all their beer offerings while watching the game.
There are some things about Slater’s 50/50 that make it really sizzle. (Pun intended.) First, bacon serves a primary function in everything they do. (As God intended.) From their burger patty made of 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon to bacon cocktails, ketchup, milkshakes, and even a bacon brownie … you get the sense of the theme. This isn’t just any ground beef though. Slater’s 50/50 uses only the freshest and highest quality ingredients—all patties contain premium, natural beef, made without hormones or antibiotics.
We started off with the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with mustard and white balsamic vinaigrette, shaved parmesan, bacon and fried sage. This was a great starter—one, because it is delicious. Two, it wasn’t too filling, which was excellent because I wanted to save room for what was to come next.
The Bison & Bacon Burger made with 100% Durham Ranch bison, thick-cut bacon, swiss, jalapeño bacon jam, tomato, green leaf lettuce, and sage and garlic aioli served on a honey wheat bun. This beautiful beast was incredible and the bison perfectly lean. I know, this isn’t one of their 50/50 beef and bacon patties, but I had to try it.
The wifey ordered the Rosemary Turkey Burger made with ground turkey, rosemary parmesan bacon, smoked gouda, spring mix, tomato, red onions, roasted red peppers, and sage and garlic aioli, served on a honey wheat bun. I highly recommend this one. The flavors of this turkey burger will knock your socks off.
The sides here aren’t just that, they could carry the show themselves. (And one could say we are connoisseurs of Onion Rings.) Sadly, there are very few places in Dallas where you can find top-notch onion rings (I am totally open to suggestions if you have them). However, the side of onion rings we got to share were fantastic. They are served with, wait for it … bacon ketchup! Great job Slater’s 50/50 … we all owe you.
And for dessert? OF COURSE, we got the Bacon Brownie—candied bacon, chocolate ganache, a la mode! I had my doubts—I have had many sweet treats paired with bacon, and I can honestly say, I have only really enjoyed a few of them, and mostly for the novelty. However, since literally everything we had eaten up to this point was served with bacon, our palettes were totally ready for this brownie. It was incredible. Though, after all the food and beer, we couldn’t come anywhere close to finishing it. (Though we made a noble effort.)
Speaking of the brownie, another thing that needs to be mentioned about Slater’s 50/50 is their philanthropy. They have partnered with The Boys & Girl’s Club of Greater Dallas, and for the rest of August 2017, if you purchase their Slider Pops (current Burger of the Month) or Bacon Brownie, a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit this amazing cause.
Aside from their unique signature burgers, you’ll notice their beer pairings that accompany every food item. However, every server in the joint is required to go through Cicerone certification. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a beer sommelier. So if a suggested beer doesn’t strike your fancy, or you are looking to try something new, the servers and bartenders can help you find the perfect beer from their 50+ local beers—each served at the correct temperature and in the glass that the beer is supposed to be served. The taps are constantly rotating due to being local and to make room for seasonal offerings. It’s the perfect location to find new beers to love and to see what the local crafts are producing.
If you aren’t a beer person, you won’t be left out. They have a wide range of signature cocktails, bacon and un-bacon. We got to sample a couple of them ourselves. The Peach Basket (whiskey, peach puree, ginger beer, orange squeeze) was wonderful. Also, their Across the Pond (Smirnoff Citrus, St-Germain Elderflower, grapefruit juice, soda) was incredibly refreshing. We agreed that’s great for these stupid hot summer days here in Dallas.
One thing to note: if you like to dine with your favorite pupper in your life, Slater’s 50/50 is dog-friendly on both their ground outdoor and rooftop patios AND offers a Doggie Menu! This menu includes their 50/50 patty, beef patty, turkey patty, chicken breast or 2 strips of bacon! So bring them along with you next time you visit and treat them to their own feast!
Altogether, Slater’s 50/50 should on your list of places to visit; it really is a one-of-a-kind experience. There is a pretty good chance you will see me there stuffing my face and sampling a local beer offering. Just try not to stare.