Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ

Growing up Texan, I basically came out of the womb eating brisket and ribs. I mean, what Texan didn’t? Eating brisket burnt ends are like biting into a piece of heaven… with bbq sauce… okay anyway. If you love good BBQ and great atmosphere you are sure going to love this place. I know I did.

Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ is definitely the spot to hang out at. This fun spot serves up smoked meats, unique cocktails and oh, a 50-foot working Ferris wheel. The place is dog friendly, hosts occasional concerts and events, and has games like cornhole and jenga if you’re the competitive type.

As much as I wanted to eat everything on the menu, I stuck with a two-meat plate. I ordered turkey, and of course, I HAD to get burnt ends. Let me just say, that this is the best BBQ I have had in a long time. As a self-proclaimed BBQ eating professional, that is saying a lot. The brisket had amazing flavor and just melted in my mouth. The turkey was moist and soft, and left me in a coma afterwards. Served alongside are your choice of two sides, so I asked the bartender for his recommendation, and without hesitation told me to get okra. The okra was seasoned perfectly and was just the right amount of crispy. I had to stop myself from eating the entire basket.

This place is so Texas. Their cocktail menu proves it—they even have Lemon Chills. That’s right … their version of the old school lemon treats that we shouldn’t have been allowed to touch because they are gazillion grams of sugar. Turns out, they’re better when there’s booze in ’em. This refreshing drink will take you back to your childhood and give you a buzz, how great is that? I’ll take 3.

Their cocktail options aren’t limited to over-the-top sweet options. Look for a little more heavy-handed options like the Old Timer (an Elijah Craig bourbon old fashioned) and the Gentleman’s Handshake (a Lone Star tall boy & a shot of Evan Williams whiskey). Take it easier with one of their local beers—canned or on tap. And as wines go, they have glasses and bottles of a variety of options. You can even get a little chi-chi at the BBQ joint with a bottle of Veuve for $110.

Courtesy of Ferris Wheelers

You should know, thought, that this BBQ spot is more than just a restaurant. Keep an eye on their event schedule for upcoming concerts and special events!

Ferris Wheelers left such a good impression on me, through food, atmosphere and service. Come check out this smokin’ hot place, make some friends and ride the Ferris Wheel! You won’t regret it.


FERRIS WHEELERS
ferriswheelers.com
1950 Market Center Boulevard (Design District)
(214) 741-4141

Casa M. Spice Company Gives Bland Chicken Hope

I’ll be honest, I’m not a great cook. It seems like everything I try to cook just ends up bad, blah, or (unintentionally) bruléed. I tend to have a problem of going to the store, standing in the spice aisle, and buying all of the spices on the shelf in hopes that my chicken will turn out not … bland.

After trying Casa M. Spice Company‘s spices, I now see a glimmer of hope for my kitchen. These spices can make anything delicious; your brisket, pork, watermelon, or even cocktails! This awesome company has flavor covered.

Why this company is different: because it is all about family. When I met the owners Mike and Manny, I was taken aback by how much they truly care for their spices and the people that support them. They are committed to making every meal great. As said on their (super cool) website, “Here at Casa M Spice Co™, we prioritize great flavor, because great flavor makes great food, and great food makes great memories.”

All of their spices are:
– Gluten Free
– MSG Free
– Low Sodium
– Dairy and Nut Free
– Animal Product Free
– Made in Texas

They care about their customers so much that they’re completely transparent about their mixes; their website lists exactly what goes into each blend.

Chain Reaction. The perfect spice to rim on a mango margarita! This base spice complements a margarita well and it would be perfect for a day at the beach or by the pool. You can also add this to a bloody mary or a corona for a little extra kick!
Ingredients:  salt, garlic, paprika, spices, peppers, & onion

Cattle Drive. This rub was my favorite! It was delicious on the brisket we tried and it added an extra texture to the meat. Add this rub to any beef, and you’ll be sure to be the best grill master in town. I’m drooling thinking about it … so please hold while I wipe my keyboard.
Ingredients:  spices, sugar, onion, salt, garlic, paprika, & peppers

These seasonings are sure to make everything you eat and drink amazing. Sign up to be the first to know when these spices launch! They’re sure to spice things up in the kitchen … and the bar. (We had to use the pun. Sorry, not sorry.)



CASA M SPICE COMPANY
casamspice.com

Andaz Napa—a Napa Valley Respite

Napa is hard. (Stick with me here.) Between multiple wine tastings and tours of more barrel rooms than you can count, rich food at every meal bloating you up (who can eat like that every meal!?), and the long drives through the valley, it all makes for a wildly exhausting “vacation”. So, after the long days of fun on my last trip to Napa, I was delighted to come home to the Andaz in Downtown Napa.

Its beautiful, slightly rustic yet modern decor and the incredibly friendly valets welcome you and start your visit on a wildly high note. And to make the welcome complete, you’re given a glass of wine.       *Hello, new favorite hotel e-ver.*       The hotel marries natural elements and high-end design, giving guests a ridiculously comfortable yet luxurious experience. The lobby offers a ton of comfortable seating and is roomy enough to make sure guests aren’t crowded. (I mean, waiting on people is the whole point of a lobby, so you may as well do it comfortably!)

The location is right in the thick of things with easy access to the highway up to Yountville, Oakville, etc., and plenty of local shops and restaurants. Our room faced Main Street overlooking Oenotri, which ended up being one one of the many amazing meals we had in Napa.

The rooms themselves are clean and spacious with a comfortable flow. Look for hardwood floors, fireplaces*, a desk, and a fully stocked bar. Our room had a little sitting area that gave us an extra space to relax and unwind. Oh, and the bed … that bed was hard to leave. The pillows were perfect for a full cocoon situation.
Pro Tip: Looking at the room layouts while writing this made me sad that I didn’t think to request a balcony. So make sure you do that.

In my opinion, the most delightful part of these lovely rooms was its bathing options. Between the roomy eastern white marble bathrooms with rainfall showerheads in wildly spacious (curtainless) walk-in showers and a freestanding soaking bathtub in the bedroom*, getting clean was always an enjoyable process. And with so much room and Jack and Jill sinks, there wasn’t any elbow throwing to get mirror time.

Outside of the rooms, the hotel offered quite a few appealing elements. I was happy to stumble upon an outdoor oasis (apparently called The Mercantile Terrace) with cabanas and fire pits. I spent some time out there taking calls here and there and sorting through work emails in peace on their complimentary high-speed WiFi. Other standard perks like free non-boozy drinks and snacks in the room and wine tastings in the lobby made the us feel like we were real VIPs.

If all of this isn’t convincing enough, it’s a surprisingly affordable option when hotels in Napa Valley can cost you upwards of $700 a night. For my money, I’m staying here every visit. (They should just go ahead and put my name on a suite.)

I know this may sound like one of those “there’s no way this place was that awesome” kind of reviews, I have to insist it was. The Andaz Napa was such a delightful respite that it really is at the top of my list for future visits.


ANDAZ NAPA
napa.andaz.hyatt.com
1450 First Street, Napa, California
707-687-1234

Images courtesy of Andaz Napa. My visit to the Andaz Napa was partially comped.
*amenities available only in select rooms

ORNO—No Ordinary Wine Bar

I promise you, I had every intention of ordering wine when I arrived at ORNO last night. It is a wine bar, after all. As I walked through the front door, I saw the matte black wall of wine—individual bottles stood on floating shelves with their respective names and origins neatly written out in white chalk. Beneath this display sits a long, cushy leather banquette, the majority of which was already occupied by what I observed to be a big, happy group of friends who were enjoying the company and their meal.

Courtesy of Orno


The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood vibe with good music, perfectly low lighting, and a quirky live aquarium display on a large flat-screen TV set right in the middle of the back bar.


… now we come to one of the reasons why I never ordered the wine. I perused the cocktail list that the server presented, and quickly spotted a spirit that I didn’t even know I was craving: mezcal. As if on cue, the bartender walked over from behind the bar to say hello and ask if we wanted to order some drinks. My date ordered a sangria while I ordered an El Viejo.


Once I tasted the mezcal, I never turned back. Every cocktail I subsequently ordered centered around the smoky, agave spirit, and I only requested that each new mezcal drink be different from the last.

Turns out, the friendly bartender was Nael Rodriguez, the owner of this fine establishment. He was also a food runner, server, greeter, gracious host, and seeming jack of all trades. During the meal, he informed me that, during ORNO’s design phase, he made sure that everything in the build-out facilitated the ability to jump from one position to the other with as much ease as possible. From the bar, he could still an eye on the food coming out of the kitchen as well as on the front door to welcome guests. It’s actually brilliant.

Speaking of food coming out of the kitchen … ORNO’s cuisine offerings are top notch New American bites, and by “New American”, I mean it highlights aspects of many cultures that make up the fabric of our wonderful country. For example, I requested that he surprise my date and me with a three-course dinner of his choosing, no dietary restrictions or food allergies to worry about. Nael smiled and disappeared, promising that our first course would arrive within an hour (he’s a funny guy, that Nael!).

Within a few minutes, a dish of  sweet and spice lacquered pork belly bites arrived at our table, with earthy and sweet aromas wafted my way and made my mouth water. The meat melted in my mouth, and the fresh slaw of julienne veggies in the center offered an appropriate balance to the depth and unctuousness of the fatty pork.


Not a bad start, Mr. Rodriguez.

Nael then took us from Asian-inspired fare to more Italian flavor with the Pig & Fig flatbread.  The crispy, thin crust held a light layer of Alouette Brie cheese that was topped with delicate slices of prosciutto, dollops of fig preserves, and bits of candied cayenne walnuts. Simple. Delicious. No one item overpowering the rest, each playing off one another so well that before I knew it, the whole flatbread disappeared. Oops!


So far, Nael is two for two. Where was he going to take us next?
To the Caribbean!

For our last course, Nael presented us with the Voodoo Shrimp—a half pound of jumbo (and I mean JUMBO) shrimp dressed in a Caribbean-inspired BBQ sauce that intrigued us to the point that we tried to identify as many spices in the sauce as we could. There was such complexity and depth of flavor that eventually Nael had to come by and reveal that there were no less than 18 spices that make up the sauce and that the sauce had to be made a few days prior to serving so all of the flavors could deepen.

It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As consumers, we go eat out at restaurants and the dishes we enjoy take mere minutes for us to consume and enjoy. We usually don’t think about the time and work that goes into composing our meals, but in the moments when we do stop to really consider it, it’s usually when some part of us recognizes that the food was made with thought, care, and love.

… and that’s ORNO.

I truly love it when a meal inspires me to wax romantic about the dining experience, and the best part about this meal is just how comfortable the setting was. The space housed around 24 seats in the dining room, and no more than maybe 8 seats at the bar. If I lived in the Cedar Springs area, I could see myself stopping in there at least once a day, even if just to say hi to the staff or to grab a cocktail.

ORNO is a neighborhood gem that’s bursting at the seams with soul. And, in a tricky restaurant city like Dallas where every week is a laundry list of flashy openings and abrupt closings, I hope that ORNO’s quiet charm and culinary approachability ensure that it’s here to stay a while.


ORNO Restaurant
facebook.com/ornodallas
3908 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas (Cedar Springs)
(469) 726-2004

Closed Mondays, Open Tues/Wed: 11AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat: 11AM-11PM, Sun: 11AM-4PM

2018 Dallas Chocolate Festival

“Chocolate Wasted” is an understatement. Prepare to get chocolate obliterated.

If you love chocolate, you are gonna love this. Dallas is lucky enough to have an annual chocolate festival. A yearly celebration of all things cocoa.

This year’s Dallas Chocolate Festival celebrates the “Future of Chocolate”, an exploration into where the chocolate industry is headed. A $35 ticket* gets you access to the main hub of the festival when all the demos and samples take place! 70+ exhibitors will be on show during the festival, which runs September 7th-9th at the Fashion Industry Gallery downtown.
Tickets to the main event on Saturday, September 8th can be purchased here.

The first night of the festival features a VIP Party with chocolate cocktails, treats, goody bags, and more. Most of the vendors will be at the VIP party so you can sample and purchase once you’re a little tipsy on the chocolate cocktails. (Make sure to Uber home!) Tickets to the Friday night VIP Party are $75, but you could buy a two-day pass that’s good for Friday and Saturday for $100.
You can purchase VIP Party tickets here.

The final day of the festival is when all the workshops take place. Here you can learn how to make chocolate from bean-to-bar and everything in between for just $100 per person, or you can take part in a very extensive tasting experience for $60 per person. If your tastebuds are still kicking, you could even do both for $150 for the all day pass. The workshops will all take place at the Preston & Forest Whole Foods.
Tickets to the workshops can be purchased here.

No matter what day you choose to go to the Dallas Chocolate Festival, you’re bound to taste some delicious chocolate made by local chocolatiers … and you may just learn something about the chocolate industry.

I was lucky enough to attend a preview for the Dallas Chocolate Festival, and there’s a lot to look forward to. Make sure to get your tickets online and plan to ramp up your sugar intake in the week before so your sugar rush isn’t a handicap at the festival. Because there’s a lot of chocolate to be had.

 


THE DALLAS CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL
The Dallas Chocolate Festival
September 7-9, 2018

Event being held at The Fashion Industry Gallery (FIG)
Fashion Industry Gallery
1807 Ross Avenue (Downtown Dallas)

*$5 for kids under 10)

Velvet Taco’s New Uptown Home

When Urban Taco outgrew its Uptown location on McKinney, we were all left wondering what would take its place in such a walkable and restaurant-filled area. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that another taco joint has taken its spot. But boy am I glad it’s not just any taco joint—it’s Velvet Taco.

While this new location is quite close to the existing location at Knox and 75, this location offers all the same tacos you know and love (and a couple new ones), just with a new patio view of McKinney Avenue instead of a highway.

Their menu features tacos with delicious base options like fish, chicken, beef, pork, and many others. My two favorite tacos, you ask? The Spicy Chicken Tikka taco and the Bacon, Egg Frittata Taco. Taco prices range from $3.50 to $6.75 and they allow substitutions if you’re a little picky or have an allergy. They also have “WTF” tacos and brunch tacos served all day in case “normal” tacos aren’t enough for you.

The new tacos available at this location are:
– Chicken & Waffles – crisp tenders, country gravy, green apple slaw, maple syrup, peppered bacon, red chili aioli, chives, waffle tortilla. $4.75
– Monte Cristo – strawberry jam, honey ham, gruyere, strawberry jalapeño salsa, powdered sugar, micro mint, French toast flour tortilla. $4.25
– Flank Steak & Egg Frittata – crispy potatoes, Sambal hollondaise, arugula, tomato, pickled fresnos, queso fresco, micro greens, flour tortilla. $5.25
– Ahi Poke (Raw) – sesame soy vinaigrette, arugula, pickled red onions, pickled fresnos, seaweed salad, wasabi crema, pickled ginger, black sesame seeds, lettuce wrap. $6.75

 

 

 

Don’t forget to grab a margarita and a side dish like Red Curry Coconut Queso ($4.95), Elote Corn ($4.25), or my personal favorite: Crisp Tots & Local Egg. The Crisp Tots are tater tots covered in herb goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado crema, chili butter, and peppered bacon, then topped with an egg for $5.25.

If you happen to look up from your tacos for a breath of air, you might notice some pieces of art work portraying Marie Antoinette. Well, you do know what her most quoted phrase was, right? “Let them eat cake!” And red velvet cake you must eat when frequenting Velvet Taco.

 


VELVET TACO
VelvetTaco.com
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NEW LOCATION: 3411 Mckinney Avenue (Uptown)
OLD LOCATION: 3012 N Henderson Avenue (Knox-Henderson)

Savor the New Happy Hour at Savor Gastropub

Savor Gastropub in Klyde Warren Park hit us with the real deal—their all-new happy hour menu has arrived … and I’m just wondering what took it so long. With great deals on drinks and food, there’s no reason to not make it in to their (air conditioned!!) digs and try it out sooner than later.

For those who haven’t been yet, Savor Gastropub is a glass box-esque restaurant right on the North Western side of Klyde Warren Park. They have a chef-driven menu with shareable plates (or not shareable if you’re anything like me) and options for lunch, dinner, brunch, and even a pre-show option if you’re in a hurry to catch the latest performance downtown.

During their new happy hour, you can expect to see these great choices:
$3 select beers
$6 Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, French 75s, Moscow Mules, Oleo Daiquiris, select wines, and their dangerously delicious frosés

Also included in the Happy Hour are these tasty dishes:
$3 Tator Tot Poutine smothered in cheese curds, gravy, and bacon
$10 Margherita Flatbread
$6 the Q Dog drowning in bacon, onion, relish, cheese, ketchup, and mustard
$6 Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders with horseradish pickle, roasted onion, maple vinaigrette on a brioche bun
and so much more!

Their delicious and highly flavorful happy hour runs 4-7pm Monday through Friday. Even more clutch, they offer happy hour ALL DAY when it rains or temps rise above 100ºF, which kind of makes the heat somewhat bearable.


SAVOR GASTROPUB
SavorGastropub.com
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2000 Woodall Rodgers Freeway (Downtown)

Book Review: Booze & Vinyl

Cocktails and vinyl records—two of my favorite things. So, when Susie sent this book along (because she knew I’d enjoy reviewing it while my record player spun out a tune), I immediately started thinking of what I’d listen to while reading.

Brother and sister duo, André and Tenaya Darlington, collaborated to create an amazing book that pairs records from the 1950s through the 2000s with a perfect set of cocktails. Each highlighted album has a Side A and Side B set to a complimentary cocktail pairing. There are seventy featured albums including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, Thriller, Pet Sounds, and Hotel California … classics we can all appreciate.

Of course, the book is all about the cocktails, but it is so much more. The pictures are amazing and the authors also included tips on throwing your own boozy listening party. The book is broken up into four genres—rock, dance, chill, and seduce. (Ohh la la.) No matter what mood you are in, you can easily find a cocktail and record to compliment.

I picked two cocktails out of the book for a sampling; the Harvey Wallbanger paired with the Saturday Night Fever album. The Harvey Wallbanger dates back to the 1970s and is basically a jazzed-up screwdriver. The jazziness comes from the addition of Galliano, a sweet, herbal liqueur.

The Suffering Bastard is a classic tiki cocktail that the authors urge you to serve in a simple glass. This has become the drink of choice in my house lately. The combination of gin and bourbon is fantastic. This went nicely with the Johnny Cash Folsom Prison album, though I’d have thought they’d go for a bit more tropical since it’s tiki.


BOOZE & VINYL
Purchase From Amazon
boozeandvinyl.com
Author Website
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Susie knows all things boozy …