Wed July 1, 2015 2:56 pm By Jessica Dupuy

Looking for a festive way to celebrate Independence Day? We’ve got a roundup of summer sippers perfect for any patriot party. 

Jack Rose Shandy
Recipe by Michael Sammons of Houston’s Weights & Measures, 13 Celsius, and Mongoose vs. Cobra

2 ounce Laird’s applejack 
1 ounce lime
.5 ounce grenadine
2 ounces Texas Honey Cider by Eastciders

Combine ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass and serve over ice. 

Patriot’s Punch
Recipe by Edward Morgan at Travaasa Resort and Spa, Austin

1ounce pomegranate juice
1.5 ounces Dulce Vida Blanco Tequila
.5 ounces blue curaçao
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
2 slices jalapeno

Pour pomegranate juice directly into a clean Collins glass, then add ice. Using bar spoon, add blue curaçao so it layers. In a separate glass, muddle citrus and jalapeño in with tequila, and strain into the pomegranate/curaçao mixture. The ingredients should layer. Finish with lemon wedge.

Bombs Bursting in Air 
Recipe by Jesse Torres of San Antonio’s  Mezcaleria Mixtli

1.5 ounce Montelobos mezcal
.75 ounce Lime Juice 
.75 oz Watermelon Cordial
Dash Blue Curaçao for garnish

Add all ingredients in a Collins glass and pack with crushed ice. Top with Blue Curaçao, add a straw, and garnish with seasonal berries.

Lone Star Lightning Bug
Recipe by Judd Fuia of Irving’s The Ranch at Las Colinas

2 ounces bourbon
.5 ounce Texas honey syrup (cut 2:1 with water)
.25 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
.75 ounce lemon juice
loose handful of mint
2 ounce club soda

In a shaker, combine bourbon, honey, St. Germain, lemon, and mint, and shake with ice. Add soda. Strain over fresh ice into a collins glass. Garnish with a lemon slice and a mint sprig.

Mon June 29, 2015 9:35 pm By Jessica Dupuy

The Wine:
Duchman Family Winery, Sangiovese, 2012

Who Likes It: Jennifer Eby, Rosewood Mansion at Turtle Creek, Dallas
A recent addition to Dallas by way of Botero restaurant at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Eby has been pleasantly surprised to explore the Dallas wine community as well as the wines of Texas. Having worked with a predominantly Italian wine list when she was living in Las Vegas, Eby was particularly happy to discover the wines from Duchman Family Winery, which produces a wide number of Italian varietal wines. 

“I have a special love for Italian wines and I was so delighted to learn that Italian varietals are doing so well in Texas,” says Eby. “I was thrilled to add the Duchman Sangiovese to our list at the hotel.” 

The Grape: 
Sangiovese is a common grape variety throughout Italy. (It’s the most planted red grape across the country.) But it has won particular favor in the Tuscan region where iconic appellations such as Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti and Chianti Classico produce some of the world’s most prized Sangiovese wines. 

Why She Likes It: 
“Showcasing a distinctive ‘sense of place’ is a tradition at all of the Rosewood properties, and this wine has wonderful terroir, which is the perfect wine descriptor for ‘sense of place,’” says Eby. “I really enjoy living in a state that is passionate about all things Texas, including its wines! Duchman makes a terrific Aglianico as well, which is a grape grown in Campania and Basilicata in Southern Italy. This is a winery that is on the right track with the Italian varietals and I would love to see them experiment with some Sicilian varietals in the future.”

Suggested Pairings: 
“The Duchman Sangiovese is very Tuscan in style, with bright red fruits, aromas of smoke, earth, and herbs,” says Eby. “It will pair nicely with grilled and roasted meat, a nice juicy burger, charcuterie, tomato-based pasta dishes, cheeses, and of course, pizza!” 

Note from the Winemaker: Dave Reilly, Duchman Family Winery
“The grapes for the 2012 Duchman Sangiovese all come from the Reddy Vineyards, located in Brownfield (southwest of Lubbock),” says Reilly. “The vines were planted in 2006, and are still young, but only yield better and better fruit as the roots dig deeper into the dry Texas soil to look for water. Sangiovese is ideally suited to the hot, dry soil here, and this wine is proof of that.”   

Mon June 8, 2015 1:55 pm By Jessica Dupuy

As you stroll through the shelves of various wine aisles on one of your day-to-day wine-shopping ventures, you’ll probably notice them if you haven’t already—the opaque, almost black bottles displaying simple white oval labels with F, I, E, AR, or CA in large lettering on the front. And for a limited time this month, you may spot the latest addition to the lineup: TX. 

The wines are a novelty project from famed winemaker Dave Phinney of Orin Swift Cellars in St. Helena, California. In his Napa winemaking career, Phinney has made wines for Robert Mondavi, Opus One, and White Hall. His Orin Swift Cellars has garnered a cult following of wine aficionados who appreciate the bold flavors he blends in the bottle and his eclectic, artistic style.

The Locations brand was a separate project allowing him to select fruit from quality vineyards in specific locations around the world to make wines that reflect the authentic flavors of those regions. Much like the country-coded bumper stickers you may see on cars, the lettered labels represent France, Italy, Spain (España), Argentina, California, and now Texas. 

The Texas project was an idea Phinney tossed around with one of Texas’ most reputable winemakers, Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars. The two met in 2013 at McPherson’s winery in Lubbock and, following a few glasses of wine and dinner at McPherson’s wife’s restaurant La Diosa, had the idea to add a Texas wine to the Locations lineup. 

“This is the first step in getting Texas more recognition as a great wine producing region,” says McPherson. 

To him, the only way Texas is going to make a name in the global wine market is for Texas wines to be distributed outside of the state. To date, few Texas wines make it outside of the state lines, most being consumed within the Lone Star State. The lack of national distribution is partly due to the small quantity of grapes produced in the state. While McPherson admits it’s a short-term problem, but he doesn’t agree that it’s a reason to hold back. 

“Right now, I’ve got just enough that we can at least get wines out there,” says McPherson whose McPherson Cellars label is currently distributed in Washington D.C., Maryland, and South Carolina in addition to Texas. “Getting national distribution helps solidify that we’re bonafide as a serious wine region. I’m getting tired of saying it when I’m traveling to other parts of the country. But if my wines are found in other states, that just helps.” 

What’s in the TX wine? A little bit of everything. It’s primarily a Rhône blend—Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsaut, Syrah and Grenache—making up about 88 percent of the wine of Texas appellation. To complete the collaboration, the remaining 12 percent is from Phinney’s California stock with Bordeaux reds and Petite Sirah to add rich color and a little more alcohol.  

As of last week, the Locations TX wine is on retail shelves throughout the state, but they’re likely to go fast. For this first run, McPherson only produced about 600 cases. Your best bet is to visit a store where you’ve already seen other Locations labels. (Whole Foods Market and independent wine merchants are a good place to start.) 

McPherson anticipates that the next release could be within the next year. And it’s likely to be close to double the production of this year. While Phinney has asked for 5,000 cases, a quantity of that size—roughly 50 percent of McPherson Cellars’ overall production—isn’t likely to happen for a few more years. 

The demand for McPherson Cellars wines alone has increased his 2015 projected production by 30 percent and he’s relying on friend and business partner Andy Timmons of Lost Draw Vineyards to help provide the fruit to make that happen. To date, Timmons has the most vineyard plantings in the state, but most his vines are young and not quite ready to deliver the bulk of what McPherson needs. In the next two to three years, things will be different. 

“This is a start. And I think it’s at the right time for Texas. Having our wines sold in other parts of the country is the sort of thing that will trigger 30,000 acres of vineyards in the state rather than the roughly 4,000 acres we have planted now,” says McPherson. “We’ve just got to pull that trigger.” 

Note: Don’t read into the number “3” printed on the back of the label. It’s part of a Locations labeling code. There aren’t any number “1” or “2” wines floating around out there.

Tue May 19, 2015 7:52 pm By Pat Sharpe

The First Annual Texas Fried Chicken Throwdown will take place on Sunday, June 14, from 2 to 4:30 p.m., at Royers Round Top Café at 105 Main Street in the tiny Central Texas town of Round Top. Five chefs—two from Austin and two from Houston, plus Bud Royer, the founder Royers Cafe—will vie to cook the most irresistible fried chicken.

The purpose of the contest is, besides providing an excuse for attendees to take a drive out to the country and eat themselves silly, is to promote the tiny town of Round Top (population 93 as of 2013) and raise money for Meals on Wheels.

The participating out-of-town chefs are Jack Gilmore (Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin), Hoover Alexander (Hoover’s Cooking in Austin), Brandi Key (Punk’s Simple Southern Food in Houston), Ana Amaya (Max’s Wine Dive in Houston), and Ronnie Killen (Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland).

Royers Café has been an institution in Central Texas ever since Royer moved his family to Round Top in 1987 and took over the tiny 40-seat Round Top Café. He quickly built a following among travelers with a menu that was quite sophisticated for the setting, in contrast to the place, which was pure country.

Tickets for the throwdown are $20 and can be purchased here. The price of admission includes fried chicken and sides. Beverages, pie, and ice cream will be available for purchase. Music will be provided by the Black Cat Choir of Round Top.

All proceeds will be donated to the charity Meals on Wheels in Austin and Houston.

Thu May 14, 2015 3:22 pm By Layne Lynch

Last week, the enormously popular New York burger chain Shake Shack opened its first Texas location in Austin.

Cue the judgment! It’s no secret that Texans are serious about their bovine, especially when a newcomer waltzes into cow town. But Danny Meyer—the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns Shake Shack—is nonetheless determined to win over the Lone Star state.  

Below, Meyer discusses his love for barbecue, Texas ingredients, and committing burger polygamy.

What inspired you to go into the burger business?

I grew up in St. Louis, and from the moment I got my driver’s license at sixteen, my friends and I spent every weekend night visiting roadside burger and shakes joints, mostly so we could hang out in the parking lots and be together.

When we had an opportunity to open a place like that in the middle of a beautiful New York park, we jumped at the opportunity. I should also mention that we’ve had a great burger on the menu of my first place, Union Square Cafe, since the restaurant first opened in 1985.

I have to ask: What makes Austin over any other Texas town the right location for a Shake Shack? 

We absolutely fell in love with Austin—and the entire Hill Country—beginning fifteen years ago when we started our research for Blue Smoke.

We’ve been back to participate in the Austin Food & Wine Festival and SXSW, and each time we came, we couldn’t help but want to come back again and again. The town loves to eat and have fun. If we continue to enjoy the rousing welcome Austin has given us, we’ll for sure want to explore other Texas towns.

Texans are very, very serious about their burgers. That being said, how did you approach deciding whether or not Texans would accept an out-of-town burger venture?

Each time we’ve introduced Shake Shack to a new town it is usually because someone on our team wants to live there and also because we have friends—sometimes chefs or restaurateurs—who have been asking us to come. We love going to places that love burgers. After all, New Yorkers can’t get enough of them.

Most true burger-lovers are polygamists when it comes to the category. So long as they’re good, they love their burgers in all different shapes and sizes and don’t pledge their loyalty to just one. We just hope Shake Shack will earn a spot on the rotation.

Will there be any incorporation of local vendors, meats, etc at the Austin location?

Shake Shack’s culinary director Mark Rosati is an expert in scouting out the most delicious bites in a given city and figuring out how to incorporate them into our menu so that each Shake Shack can feel like it belongs to its local community.

We’ll be serving a Lockhart Link Burger using a jalapeño cheese sausage from Kreuz Market. Our Uchi-konkrete features a miso hazelnut blondie from the excellent Uchi & Uchiko, and the Shack Attack concrete blends in dark chocolate chunks from Kiskadee. All of our beers will be local, too, like Hops & Grain, Independence Brewing Co., Karbach, Real Ale and Austin Eastciders.

Are there any burger joints or restaurants in Austin or Texas that you admire?

I love Uchiko. The general manager, Leo Barrera, was a colleague of mine back at Gramercy Tavern and Tabla. I’m also a huge fan of Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Taylor Cafe, Louie Mueller’s, South Side Market, Cooper’s, and of course, The Salt Lick. And I never have enough time to try all the tacos I want to sample or to dance at The Broken Spoke.

Out of pure curiosity, do you notice different food interests among your locations?

Some locations sell more beer and wine than others. We expect that to be the case in Austin. Other than that, our sales mix is pretty consistent. Even though we are called Shake Shack, it has taken some newer cities a little longer to understand how amazing our frozen custard is.

In all your years of business, what is the one thing you would say you’ve learned most about the burger business?

There’s a reason it’s the single biggest and most beloved food category in the United States. It’s satisfying, doesn’t ask for a special occasion, can be eaten with one hand, and provides all kinds of options for how to prepare.  

Let’s say you’re designing your perfect Shake Shack meal. Lay it all out for me.

Cheeseburger with a slice of raw onion, fries, and a Fair Shake - our awesome coffee shake. Often, I’ll throw in a hot dog – griddled until crispy and topped with fried shallots and sport peppers.