Baking Recipes, Savory, Uncategorized

Chickpea Stew Recipe

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, and frankly it’s been a while since I’ve made something from a recipe! I’m definitely one of those cooks who makes it up as they go, but sometimes you need a little inspiration. I’ve recently become obsessed with chickpeas and I’ve been wanting to find a recipe that’s both easy and delicious using them! Thank goodness for Pinterest because I found an awesome recipe that’s also vegan and gluten free! I know, I’m pretty proud of myself. 😋

I used canned chickpeas, solely because it’s easier and takes less time, but be sure to soak your chickpeas overnight if you aren’t going the canned route! This recipe was so easy and simple it will definitely become a staple in my house. It was very delicious and full of flavor that this carnivore didn’t miss the meat! I recommend pairing this with some rice, I chose jasmine rice in this case, to really soak up the flavors!

I highly recommend this recipe from Healthier Steps for your next family dinner, it’s definitely a keeper!

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Beef, Fort Worth, Mexican, Seafood, Tacos, Uncategorized

Bartaco- Fort Worth, TX

Y’ALL. I’M SORRY.

I know it’s been over two months since I’ve posted an actual blog, but I’ve been eating lots of delicious foods this summer that have been documented on the ‘Gram (@critiquingcarnivore) Nothing has been really blog worthy…so lame and a poor excuse, but that’s what it is. Anyway, I’m back and back in the state of Texas and how else was I going to spend my first night in the heat than spend money I don’t have and eat some great tacos! One of the newest additions is Bartaco.

Across from HG Sply, along the Trinity in Westbend is Bartaco, the white building catching your eye walking by the river. You walk inside and it has a Mexican beach look, wicker notes and white plank walls. The hostess was inviting and accommodating while we waited for a table, although the front is pretty tiny and not great for several parties to be waiting for a table. However, the bar is located directly to your left as you walk in, inviting you to pull up a chair and have one of their amazing cocktails while waiting.

We were sat down and our waitress was cute and asked if we had been before. Two out of four of us had not, but she didn’t care to explain the system of how things work thoroughly. She explained some how to order, but some things she wasn’t clear about. I understand, half of us did know, but regardless an explanation of the different kind of service offered is always welcome for newcomers. With that said, she did explain that you order almost the way you would sushi. You mark on a personal piece of paper what you’d like to order with a pencil, marking the item and quantity. Upon completion, I later figured out, you place a card to flag your server (you do this almost every time you want their attention). They go through everyone’s order to confirm and you’re done! It’s a different way for ordering tacos, but for the kitchen it may be easier to help fire food.

If you don’t know this about me then here you go: before going somewhere new I always check them out on instagram beforehand. One thing I learned from instagram is that the drinks are incredible, fun combinations and well made. One drink that has had some recognition is called Smoke on the Water. With mezcal, watermelon, lemon, and mint this drink is super refreshing and not sweet! For a hot day it’s perfect and overall the prices were not astronomical. Also, they make for cute pictures…look how pretty!

A couple of things pertaining to the tacos. These guys are small, only four inch tortillas. I recommend at least three, maybe four plus. They also aren’t full of lettuce or tomato, it’s loaded with your main ingredient and topped with herbs and some extra flavor enhancers. Another tip…keep track of who got what. They brought the tacos out at once and some orders were put on the same trays. Make sure everyone got the right amount and right options. Then, divide and conquer.

Guys, look at me eating seafood in Texas! Yes, I just saw the cod and couldn’t say no. It was a nice piece of fish with a good fry to it, but I would’ve loved some more cilantro or something with it. Definitely recommend adding some pepper sauce (there are three different kinds on the table, jalapeño and habanero are two options) to add some flavor. I would’ve added some pepper for seasoning as well. Prepared well, just needed some kick.

Next up, pork carnitas! A taco staple, carnitas are slow cooked pork, shredded to delicious perfection. These carnitas were delicious with some more condiments and flavors coming together than the fish. The tangy mojo sauce added some nice elements, this was a favorite of both instagram and myself.

Lastly, the fan favorite of all is the chicken pastor: achiote marinated chicken with grilled pineapple this is definitely the most flavorful of the three tacos. The chicken was grilled and marinated wonderfully, the pineapple adding that acidic tang to balance the taco. By far this was the best taco, I was sad I only got one.

Overall Bartaco is a great new spot for tacos in Fort Worth. With killer cocktails and an array of taco options (duck, redfish, pork belly, oh my!) this will soon be THE stop along the Trinity. All the bikers and runners will flock here to recoup, taking a breather and being sure to stay hydrated! 🍹

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American, Coffee Shop, Fort Worth, Mexican, Sweets, Uncategorized

La Zona on Magnolia- Fort Worth, TX

Yet another adorable spot has opened in Fort Worth and it would only be fitting that it land on West Magnolia. La Zona only opened this past January, but they’ve been all the buzz in town. Tapas and sangria is the name of the game and, although you’ll have to keep reading on my take of it all, the food is delicious and that sangria was like the nectar of the gods. La Zona is definitely a great addition to the city.

New restaurants typically get a ton of buzz and press, but then you hear they are kind of disappointing particularly when it comes to how smooth service is. Every new restaurants struggles with the new system of things, training, everything. That was the case with the newest addition to West Magnolia in Fort Worth. This is actually why I like to wait a little to go to new places, give them the time to work out the kinks with service and the menu. The changes from what I’ve heard to what I experienced prove they have improved greatly. Our waiter was great, a tad nervous perhaps, but the effort and time he put into our table was wonderful and he did a fantastic job.

Some critiques of the overall restaurants are small, but still key I think. The staff doesn’t have uniforms so it was hard to tell them apart from guests. You only knew they worked there if you saw them with food or they came up asking you about your meal. From observation a good portion of the waitstaff that night were men and I couldn’t help thinking that a simple, but universal button down of some kind would do just the trick. A second thing is the overall vibe. I was really excited about a tapas and sangria inspired restaurant, Fort Worth is missing that and this was the perfect opportunity for La Zona. However, it kind of fell flat. The items on the menu were delicious and the sangria was scrumptious, but it lacked the tapas menu I was looking for. The feel of the restaurant is perfect and cute and spot on, but the menu didn’t necessarily coincide.

With that last sentence on your mind, the vibe is great and the look of the restaurant is adorable. It’s on a huge amount of land for the Magnolia area, but the actual restaurant is really small. The majority of their seating is outside, which is perfect most of the time in Texas, but certainly questionable weather nights would deter me from trying to go. The inside is super cute with lots of colors and fun light fixtures. The bar looked comfortable and cool, a great first date spot for sure. They have movie nights where they set up a projector and have local DJ’s come to entertain the guests and fill the air with fun music.

Like I said the menu wasn’t what I was expecting. A lot of the starters sounded great and tapas like, but from a natural Mexican/Hispanic vibe I wouldn’t really think to order pizza. Some of the pizzas have Spanish flair and flavors, but again it wasn’t what I was expecting. However, I ordered the rioja pizza which had chorizo sausage, red peppers, and onions on it and that was a damn good pie. It was a super thin crust, which is what I like, and all the ingredients were fresh and tasted amazing. I wish it was cooked just a little bit longer because the weight of the toppings just barely sat on the pie, the dough a little too soft.

The sangria was absolutely superb. I’m not a huge sangria person mostly because they tend to be overly sweet, but this sangria was perfect. The sweetness wasn’t too much and definitely tasted to have come from the fruit, no added sugar. We all enjoyed eating the fruit too, which in the past I’ve seen some sangrias without fruit…so is that really sangria? No, but La Zona is serving up real and really good sangria.

Afterwards you have to walk next door to Saint Sofia. Don’t be confused, La Zona is two buildings with the main restaurant being named Hotel Madrid and the cute churro shop Saint Sofia (it’s all on the same property). The churros are all over Instagram when you look up La Zona’s location and rightfully so. It’s super small and cute and transports you to a place where you would see little shacks on a dirt road serving up the best food. The churros were fried to a nice crisp with a soft inside and doused in cinnamon and sugar to leave your taste buds happy.

Overall I really like La Zona and would go again. I think they could work on their “identity” a little only because they could fill the hole that they are saying they are that Fort Worth needs. They’ve found their niche, they just need to fulfill it. In the meantime, the food they are firing is delicious and they’ve already improved so much since they first opened. I can’t wait to see what happens here next.

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American, Beef, Burgers, North Carolina, Uncategorized

Hops Burger Bar- Greensboro, NC

This past weekend I got to make a very special trip to Greensboro, NC to see my sister and brother in law and it was full of extra tummy rubs…I’m going to be an aunt! It’s definitely all about the pregnant lady, but I made sure my food needs were known and I knew I had to try 2015’s best burger in the nation. Yes, this weekend we went to Hops Burger Bar.

Indeed they were named the best burger in the nation, a title not to be taken lightly. Over the years of having some pretty amazing burgers I’ve concluded for myself (sorry if you disagree, but this is my blog) that most burger places are kind of the same, but in a really good way! Having fresh quality beef and ingredients is the norm now and how amazing is that! Now it’s down to the variations and overall vibe and story of a place and Hops lives up to that expectation. 

With a couple locations they’ve obviously done well for themselves, attracting the crowds enough to need to expand. Upon walking into the Lawndale location the aromas of beef and hops fill the air. An array of chalkboards dazzle the board with what’s on tap and the burger of the month. A good size restaurant bustling the middle of a Friday…you definitely know it’s going to be good and worth it. 

The menu of burgers is a huge selection, from the many options of burgers they’ve concocted to being able to make your own made it a difficult decision on deciding what to order! I was literally stuck between three burgers and putting my favorite parts of all three on one burger was just not going to mesh well. So upon asking our waiter of his thoughts, I ended up with the fan favorite…The Spicy Goat.

As you can put together so far about the burger it has goat cheese along with applewood bacon, sweet and spicy pepper jelly and topped with lettuce. In the end it’s just really hard to pass up goat cheese! I’m so happy I got this burger because in one bite I was on goat cheese cloud nine. The biggest hunk of cheese sat in between the incredibly juicy burger and crisp fresh lettuce. The sauce had a tangy sweetness and then would finish with just the faintest spicy kick. The combination was superb, all the flavors melding well and complimenting each other. 

Perhaps the only thing that could steal the show would be the crispy fries. There’s a pretty extensive menu when it comes to the fries, but the classic ones are done perfectly…super crispy yet soft and warm on the inside. I loved the plain old fashioned, having tried the Parmesan and truffle ones they really weren’t winning me over. But look at these golden brown beauties:

Of course more and more restaurants are aware of dietary restrictions and choices, but it’s pretty cool walking into a burger place and seeing gluten free buns available as well as vegan friendly substitutes like veggie patties!

Hops Burger Bar lives up to their title of being the best burger in the nation. Although some time has past since they’ve been given that honor, they are serving up some really great, well made burgers. Like I said, I can’t wait to go back and try more!

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American, Bakery, Breakfast, Brunch, Coffee Shop, Dallas, Fort Worth

Magnolia Table- Waco, TX

One week ago Fixer Upper fans watched the final episode of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s broadcasted projects. The Magnolia cult is not dead though, from a Fixer Upper spin-off to the Silos in Waco, TX Chip and Jo are pretty set for life. Why stop there though? Fans everywhere rejoiced when Chip changed the Elite Cafe sign to ask “Avocado Toast?” and the Gaines’s made their official announcement to open Magnolia Table.

Y’all I can’t lie, I’m a huge Fixer Upper fan and I’ve tried so hard not to fall in love with Waco (Go Frogs), but I can’t help it. Waco has grown on me and I love Chip and Joanna and everything about them and their Magnolia brand. When Magnolia Table opened I immediately opened my calendar, called my best friend Hannah Haston (she’s an amazing professional photographer who works in the DFW/Waco/Austin area, click the link!!) and we made plans for a Monday, months into the restaurant being opened. I have been waiting forever to eat, see, love, and write about Magnolia Table for so long! Two things before we dive in: this blog will contain somewhere around thirty photos (y’all IT’S SO PRETTY I LOVE YOU JO) and it 100% met my expectations from design to food. 

Going into a place that’s been so hyped up and can, let’s be honest, ride on the name to get business I was unsure if the food and service would be any good. And after seeing so many professional photos and the episode of it being fixed up (haha see what I did there?!) I wasn’t sure if it actually would be as stunning in person. I was proven wrong on all fronts. Yes, it was an hour and fifteen minute wait, but you know that going into this it’s going to be a long wait. And that’s when checking out the Take Away section and outdoor waiting area are two smart ideas on their end. The Take Away is primarily there for people to grab either chicken salad, strawberry butter, chicken salad, pimento cheese, or chicken salad (maybe they’ll expand the options soon) as well as some Magnolia merchandise like shirts, tea towels, mugs, and some food extras like coffee and honey. The outdoor waiting area is really well done with some tables and chairs, bench seating around the perimeter, and a shaded area for those hot Texas days. You can grab a coffee while you anxiously check your place in line on your phone. Sipping on a delightful lavender coffee was just the ticket to pass the time. It had just a hint of lavender that wasn’t too much or too little! (Now I bombard you with more outdoor photos 😁) 

Then you walk inside and it’s almost a whirlwind, if that’s not too dramatic to say. You want to take it all in as you’re being seated, the interior really is stunning. From structurally speaking to all the detailing it’s truly eye catching in person as much as in photos. Hannah and I were seated in the back room that had some private seating as well as their community tables and bar seating. We got lucky and got our own table with patio viewing and all of that natural light Jo loves! 

Our waitress was super cute, feeding into the lightness you’d expect from the employees working here. She loved giving us her opinions when we asked, checked on us frequently, and always had a smile. 

Okay, remember Cara (hi that’s me, I’m at the bottom of the post in those overalls) this is a food blog…SO LET US TALK ABOUT THE FOOD! Oh y’all…it is so scrumptious, delicious, met my brunch food expectations. They aren’t riding on their name, they are firing really amazing food here. 

We started with Jo’s buttermilk biscuits with fresh strawberry butter. They weren’t layers of dough, it was almost more of a British scone than a Southern style biscuit on the outside. The inside was, however, pretty classic and a lovely crumbly mess of fluffy buttery goodness. The strawberry butter was superb, with no apparent added sugar it seemed to be just butter and fresh strawberries mixed in one spreadable piece of joy.

Now those of you who know me personally know that before going to a new restaurant I do ample research on the menu and check Instagram for visual reference…Table was no different and I knew way ahead of time what I was going to order. I mean, how could I (a lover of Chip Gaines) not get Chip’s ham sandwich?! 

A plate of beauty really. Let’s start with them tots, these are not your average tater tots. They were fantastic, packed with potatoes that were so light and fluffy with a crispy exterior fried to perfection. Fresh Parmesan and chives were the perfect topping. 

The ham sandwich, consisting of sliced ham steak, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese on a buttery croissant (I prepped my body for the carb intake by not eating that weekend) was everything and more. It was precisely what I would expect Chip to want for breakfast. The croissant was flaky and flavorful, the eggs fluffy and light, and ham cooked with obvious love with those stove-top burnt bits. Cheddar cheese melted in these layers and I was ready to take on the afternoon, grab some shiplap and start a demo day. Well done chef and Chip, you’ve won that cooking baton.

I told you I took a bunch of photos! Magnolia Table didn’t disappoint me at all, not that I was expecting it to, but it certainly could have. It fulfilled my foodie tastebuds, pleased my interior designer eye, and had my Fixer Upper heart full…and my stomach. The Gaines’s have made it quite clear: they aren’t abandoning their fans or passions, simply feeding into our lives one of the best ways possible. They’re opening their hearts and doors saying “Meet me at Magnolia Table…where everyone has a seat at the table.”

“Come and Get It

             -Chip”

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American, Chinese, Ethnic

Gung Ho- Dallas, TX

There are several different areas within the city of Dallas.  When it comes to going out and having a drink most people will tell you to go to Deep Ellen or Uptown. However a just as fun area, less crazy and just as popping, is Lower Greenville and that’s exactly where we went and had the pleasure of enjoying Gung Ho.

The new Chinese-American spot only just opened its doors this past February, right next to its sister restaurant HG Sply Co. It’s prime location is central on Greenville Ave, smack dab in the middle of everything. At first my friends and I walked right past it, HG right next door almost covers it up if you’re walking north on Greenville. Once we back tracked we couldn’t believe we walked right past it. People were dining on the small outside area with others flooding out the doors around the bar. The staff is very accommodating, even on a bustling Saturday night, always checking on us while we waited for a table at the bar. 

The interior is super cool, fun lighting and texture ceilings, intimate booths and Asian inspired decor. The biggest eye catch is the green lit “Gung Ho” bar background enticing you to get a closer look…and a drink. The drinks menu is next level featuring liquors from fig infused rum to famous grouse scotch. Egg whites and lapsang tea accompany other ingredients in these decadent cocktails, new ideas pouring over the back bar. The Lapsang Penicillin featuring famous grouse, lapsang tea, honey syrup, ginger and lemon was a fiery delight. 

The food menu is very inviting, classic Chinese flavors and ingredients with some exciting new twists. They recommend getting a couple of different plates and sharing, which is the best way to try a little of everything. With items from classic dim sum and kung pao chicken, the staff recommended some of the fusion dishes being their favorites. We started with the glazed eggplant featuring a fish sauce caramel, garlic, Thai basil and fermented chilis. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and the flavors really popped, the spicy chilis adding a great kick to it. The glaze added a light sweetness to the dish, this was a standout. 

Several staff members recommended the crack chicken, and it did sound amazing boasting fried chicken in a mala seasoning (yes please) along with those fermented chilis and herbs. This dish was really good, spicy flavors really coming through from the seasoning and chilis, but it was pretty basic being just a fried chicken dish. The meat was delicious and juicy and we got our protein for the night, but not as big a standout as the eggplant. 

The star dish of the night goes to the crab and coconut rice. Our waiter set the dish down in front of me and the aromas of coconut immediately hit me. I was actually worried that because there was such a strong coconut smell that it would mean an overpowering taste. I was totally wrong, the perfect amount of coconut flavor paired with crab and delicious rice and egg topped with fresh scallions left me incredibly fat and happy. A subtle sweetness balanced the other spicy dishes out and left me continuously adding more to my plate as my taste buds kept calling for it.

Gung Ho came as a recommendation from my friend Jonathan who enjoyed the restaurant, but certainly Gung Ho has worked out their new restaurant kinks. They changed the menu up a little and improved the service, from exact timing of our wait time to fast food delivery all on a crazy Saturday night. The cool cocktail menu and delicious coconut crab rice will bring me back to Gung Ho along with its cool interior and fusion vibe. 

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Dallas, Ethnic, Thai, Uncategorized

Crushcraft Thai Street Eats- Dallas, TX

Have you ever looked at your TV guide, seen a show like “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” and flipped it on to see Guy Fieri in your town? You’re probably thinking one of two things: he’s at one my favorite places or he’s at a place I’m going to have to try. Well, Crushcraft Thai applies to both responses. Either you’ve been a bunch of times or you had never heard of it. In the case of today’s blog, it was my first time. “This…is Crushcraft.” Lets dive in!

Guy Fieri really liked this place, praising it and saying he would return whenever he’s in Dallas. I can totally see why, from the location and interior to the food, Crushcraft is producing some great stuff. Fast, flavorful, punch in your face Thai classics located right in the heart of Uptown Dallas, you can’t beat that. In a small strip of other cool looking restaurants (will have to get back to this area for some food/bar hopping) Crushcraft is right in the middle of it all. They are open late (Three in the morning Friday and Saturday) catering to that late, drunk, “I need food to absorb the alcohol crowd”. Never would have thought of Thai to do that trick, but how have I not thought of that? Good on you Crushcraft. 

The interior is really cool, replicating a street market in Thailand. Colorful strips of fabric encircle the main dining area, a swirling tunnel of light and happiness. Boxes along the walls also create that street market feel, making it a tad more authentic when it comes to the overall look and vibe. They have plenty of seating from the main dining area to the front having some tables. Certainly late night group friendly as well as intimidate date night friendly. 

The menu is really classic with the Thai ingredients and flavors. You see the menu as soon as you walk in and you look it over and are unsure what to get. It all looks so good, but you know nothing will be bad. Everything is reasonably priced too, especially for the quality. I personally had to take Guy Fieri’s advice and try the classic Thai drunken noodles (phat ke mao).

The kitchen is firing food as fast as a hot knife cutting through butter. I swear it took no more than five minutes until I heard my name being called for my food. Seeing the noodles made my heart leap, it was colorful with the red of the tomatoes popping out and bright greens catching my eye. The aromas wafting up into my senses made my mouth water, my taste buds preparing for the spicy goodness. Concocted with chicken, the classic wide rice noodles, fresh basil, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and chilies this drunken noodle was possibly the best I’ve had. The flavors came through strongly, but not overpowering. They all harmoniously complicated each other sending my senses into happiness. Each element was cooked perfectly, the chicken being juicy and tomatoes bursting in your mouth. With a kick of spice, it wasn’t “tongue on fire” spicy just the perfect amount (they also have samplings of different Thai sauces you can grab so if you want super spicy you can make it that way). Guy Fieri knew what he was talking about and I’m glad I took his advice and chose this dish. Another notable dish is the green curry, a little more spicy and and some different flavor profiles. The jasmine rice was a little creamy making it melt in my mouth goodness and it was full of flavor. The curry wasn’t really soupy either which I personally liked…it was possibly one of the best green curry dishes I’ve had.
Casual, fast dining Thai is the general gist of Crushcraft, but don’t let either of those words scare you. The food they’re making and presenting in Uptown Dallas is incredible, packed with classic Thai flavors and fresh ingredients. The interior look and feel of being at a Thai street market adds to the food experience, creating an overall cool and interesting vibe. With that prime location in the heart of Uptown, Crushcraft is certainly crushing it. 

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