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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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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Dallas, Fort Worth, French, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

Rise Soufflé- Dallas, TX

Qui penserait à aller à un restaurant soufflé à Dallas? 

No need to Google translate that (how do you think I was able to start a blog post in French?), but seriously who would think to go to a soufflé restaurant in Dallas, TX? I’m sure few people think of French cuisine when entering this great state, but a small company of restaurants is making us rethink this. Rise, with “rise no1, no2”, and “no3” are making themselves known for the French classics, one in particular. 

For those of us who don’t know, soufflé is a classic egg based French dish known for its puffy, airy look and texture before collapsing. Many people see soufflés as a complicated dish to make, achieving an airy whipped egg center and risen browned exterior. With locations in Dallas, Houston and most recently Fort Worth, “rise” is taking the metroplex by storm.

It’s almost as if you’ve walked into a “mom and pop” front in Paris. Toned down colors of purple and red, adorations like wine bottle chandeliers and Parisian styled decor welcome you. The location in Dallas is small and quaint, bursting with energy and laughter. Just as the wall says “Smile you’re at rise”, you can’t help but abide. 

The menu is quite classic, but I am certainly happy if you’re reading this before going. It’s an experience, with a cheese cart and way to order, and so many different options. Here they take your order for everything up front as it takes time to create and cook these soufflés. I’m glad I went with my friends, Diana and Jonathan, because they knew how it worked and had their own recommendations. One thing we all agreed on was cheese and marshmallow soup.

At rise they have a cheese cart where you can order anywhere from three to five to however many different cheeses, all from Europe including France, Italy, and Spain. They have a real deal spinning cheese board that as you crank the handle it shaves the cheese into small triangles (note that many of the special dinnerware items and dish towels are for sale). Another notable, and what they are quite known for, is the marshmallow soup. No, it’s not real marshmallows, but rather a nice thick tomato soup with goat cheese “marshmallows” on top. Yes, goat cheese marshmallow balls. This soup is heavenly and honestly I don’t think it needs much description, you just need to know goat cheese balls and then check out pictures below. And yes, that’s homemade pesto drizzled on top.

Now onto the star of the night, the soufflé! For the first visit I had to go classic with the jambon (ham) and gruyere. Two very French ingredients harmoniously combined in this spectacular dish. The soufflé came out piping hot, risen to a nice height with a golden brown top. The eggs were cooked beautifully, perfectly whipped and fluffy. There was a good ratio of egg to ham and cheese I thought, the ham diced into small cubes. The flavor was all there, seasonings coming together and filling my stomach, heart, and taste buds with warm happiness. 

Naturally you can’t get a first course, main course, and indulge in the cheese cart without trying the dessert soufflés…right?! They do have seasonal specials for both savory and sweet options, this night the strawberry soufflé was speaking to us. Our waiter, who was absolutely the cutest, highly recommended it and offered it with the strawberry, chocolate, and grand marnier sauce. He was a keeper, speaking our language of food. Again, beautifully risen soufflé with a gorgeous brown top. The fresh strawberries had a ton of flavor and all the sauces only enhanced the sweetness alongside the base. 

The overall look and feel of Rise is just adorable and welcoming. The dishes are beautiful, full of color and had an authentic homemade look. The decorations at the Dallas location make it feel intimate and special, I’m sure the same look applies to the Houston and Fort Worth locations. The staff always had a smile on their faces, our main waiter being absolutely phenomenal and showing true pleasure in his work in serving us and making sure we got the full experience. 

Rise Soufflé is quite the dining affair to find in Texas. I continue to be proven wrong as I find higher end restaurants serving cuisines other than steak and potatoes (which I never object to, but you know what I’m getting at). It’s so wonderful finding places like rise’s French cuisine and ambiance that as you leave and are given a quote for the evening you really just look around and feel grateful that you get to enjoy fantastic and special meals with beautiful, supportive friends. It’s truly a blessing going on this food journey and having a fun blog, but it’s the people you’re enjoying these meals with that you will never forget. 

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American, Fort Worth, Italian, Uncategorized

Piattello Italian Kitchen- Fort Worth, TX

Can you believe I found another Italian restaurant that is actually good in Texas? And I’m from Boston, the best Italian restaurants are next door to my house. Well, as Fort Worth is growing and becoming more “cosmopolitan” the restaurants are coming in and adding more depth, culture to the city. Now a BBQ loving country boy can get decent, authentic Italian food. Yet another Italian restaurant has made its debut in Fort Worth, tucked in the back at Waterside, and that’s Piattello.

Waterside, located just past the Trinity River off Bryant Irvin, is just one of the several new business sites in the city. Where the Fort Worth Whole Foods famously sits, Waterside is home to other chain restaurants and some retail stores. The one standout is Piattello, the only non-chain restaurant in the complex. It sits sort of behind everything, just down from Steel City Pops. It has a small outdoor patio that is their own, but opens out to the courtyard area behind Whole Foods and Taco Diner.  With twinkling lights in the trees, children playing, and the fresh air it all adds to Piattello’s ambiance. The inside is pretty subdued, fun light fixtures adorn the ceiling, otherwise there is nothing too special. There is a lot of space, you can see when your waiter has picked up your food, and in one corner I noticed a wine shelf. Again, nothing too spectacular.

Our waiter was very present during our meal, filling our water glasses and checking on us frequently. For a Friday night it wasn’t too crowded, but it was certainly bustling so the fact that he was checking on us as frequently as he did proved how much he was trying. 

We started with the ricotta cheese appetizer, simply just ricotta with olive oil embedded on top and toasted bread. Simple, but very delicious. That bread was so addicting!

Now whenever I am about to go out to a new restaurant I always check Instagram for photos from the restaurant and public posts from other people (that aren’t staged and photoshopped). Photos, even though I’m a blogger, speak loudly and cooking is a visual art. So when I looked Piattello up it seemed to be that the pasta dishes are what makes them stand out. Ten points to Instagram and the general public because this is so true! Even the simplest pasta dish, strozzapreti cacio e pepe (cheese pasta essentially) was scrumptious. Great flavors and mixture of cheeses with parmigiana and pecorino, perfectly cooked pasta, and seasoned just right, nice and creamy. Again Piattello is demonstrating that sometimes you just have to go simple.

With that being said the above pasta dish was great, but I shouldn’t have gotten it. My friend who enjoyed this meal with me ordered the sweet potato ravioli. I should’ve gotten that just to take home for later. In a brown butter and sage sauce, those ravioli were superb. The flavors were spot on, the ravioli constructed and cooked magnificentally, it was by far the better of the two. I almost went to dinner the next night alone just to get the ravioli. They were that good. I mean how dreamy do those look?

Piattello also serves pizza and by photos they look pretty good so definitely will need to get back there to try them out. They also advertise quite a bit about their coffee service in the afternoon so with the nice outdoor space that’s something to check out too. 

Overall Piattello was a great experience. Although there wasn’t a lot of character with the interior, the food spoke volumes and provided great decor, until devoured. The service was good, no complaints there. If you have the chance get over to Waterside and treat yourself to a nice Italian meal at Piattello.  

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American, Beef, Burgers, Fort Worth, Ice Cream, Sweets, Uncategorized

Hopdoddy- Fort Worth, TX

Another burger joint has graced Fort Worth, sharing their fresh ingredients and spreading community outreach within the city. Hopdoddy has made an impression on Fort Worth after only been open for three months. From the fresh and delicious food to the overall atmosphere, Hopdoddy is a great addition to the city.

Located on West 7th, across from the Barcadia/Parkside area, is Hopdoddy. This area is just now being built up with new apartments and a grocery store just behind. The area is definitely growing and being close to downtown is another plus. The space is a decent size, the inside has a large round bar in the center with booths and tables along the perimeter. There is some outdoor seating, but certainly room for a couple more tables, including a long table for larger parties. The vibe inside is cool and relaxed, it isn’t terribly loud and attracted a nice, middle age crowd. 

It’s a ‘walk up counter’ service kind of place, it actually reminded me of Wahlburgers in terms of the idea, atmosphere and food. What’s great though is they take your party number when you enter and assign you a table number. You don’t have to worry about finding a table after ordering food and they do their very best to accommodate you. Service was actually really quick, too, that kitchen is obviously working hard to fire food. Once you sit, you do have a ‘waiter/waitress’ who comes around if you need anything or want to order anything last minute, which is much appreciated if you want to go back and get that milkshake (which you should do, definitely get one). They checked in on us very often and always had a smile. 

The food, again, was very similar to Wahlburgers. The ingredients all tasted very fresh and that burger was so juicy and cooked perfectly. I ordered the Goodnight/Good Cause burger. For every one of these burgers sold, Hopdoddy donates $1 to a charitable cause. They’ve raised over $700,000 so far, they are doing amazing things with this delicious burger. On the angus beef patty is Tillamook Cheddar, Caramelized Onions, Jalapeños, Hickory BBQ sauce, and their signature Sassy Sauce (a mayo based dressing). This burger was so good, all the flavors coming together and that juicy patty just dripping delicious between a toasted, soft, fluffy bun. A very notable menu item is the Impossible Burger and I suggest that you go ahead and Google it. Here is the gist of it: it cooks like meat, it looks like meat, it’s supposed to have a similar taste to meat, but it’s not meat. It’s 100% plant based and I hope/promise to eat one and write about it. The idea is intriguing and as someone who obviously loves meat, I gotta try this thing out. I’ve heard mixed reviews, from it being truly mind blowing to being “meh” so I want to try and be honest about it. 

To go with such a great burger what else are you gonna have other than fries? Oh but at Hopdoddy they don’t just have regular Kennebec potato fries, they have Parmesan truffle fries. Man oh man were these fries good! Thin cut, nice and crispy yet soft inside, the right amount of truffle and covered in delicious Parmesan cheese, how could you go wrong? The sweet potato fries were equally as amazing, giving local Fort Worth favorite Brewed a run for their money, in my opinion. 

The milkshakes are also amazing, strong flavors and thick, I would suggest getting one, whether to save for later or share with a friend. Check their Instagram as they have special burgers and milkshakes over a certain period of time! When I went their special was the Banana Shake- enjoy the picture below. 

Hopdoddy is already proving that they belong in Fort Worth. A town with a strong food culture, they are on my list of top places in town and certainly a place I’ll be recommending to people, locals and visitors alike. Hop over to West 7th and check them out, whether that’s before or after you’ve already checked out the mouthwatering menu online or on Instagram. 😉

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Baking Recipes, Cookies, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

Harvest Fall Recipes

IT’S FALL Y’ALL. This carnivore is so excited that it’s finally the season of pumpkin and candy corn and cinnamon. With all of that being said, I tried two different fall themed recipes this week! The first is a savory chicken recipe that has so many delicious flavors and then a scrumptious pumpkin take of the classic snickerdoodle! 

I found each of these recipes on different blogs, the first being Well Plated by blogger Erin. When I first saw this recipe the ingredients really drew me in. Chicken with apples, sweet potatoes seasoned with thyme and cinnamon sounded so fall like! AND BACON. BACON. Read the recipe before starting (always), but especially here. She doesn’t just throw everything in together and I have to say I think it really did make a difference. Give the ingredients the chance to soak in flavors before combining everything. She originally called for brussel sprouts, but I’m not a huge fan of them so instead I threw some spinach in! Just as healthy and adds the green color! 

In case my kitchen didn’t smell good already (which it smelled amazing), lets bring some more cinnamon, add some pumpkin spice, flour and sugar and get to baking! These Pumpkin Spice Snickerdooles from Valerie’s Kitchen are so incredible, 9 minutes in the oven is the perfect amount of time. Still soft and gooey after cooling down, the cinnamon sugar coating not over baked on the outside. These flavors obviously work so well together, its like a pumpkin pie in cookie form. 

My apartment smelled amazing all day from these harvest recipes, I highly recommend trying them out this fall season and check out the blogs too! There are lots of fun recipes from both bloggers! I hope you enjoy these fall flavors and smells as much as I did this upcoming season, now go make happiness in your kitchen! 

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